Police Procedural with a Twist
“So detective, what did you call me here for again?” I asked, tossing what little was left of a cigarette next to the corpse lying in front of me.
“Well, it’s a funny thing,” the detective replied, “the only evidence we’ve got at this crime scene is this comic called Paradigm Shift.”
“Paradigm Shift? That sounds like a line from a Dilbert strip.”
“I know, I couldn’t figure it out either, just like I can’t figure out why a self-proclaimed Doctor would be smoking a cigarette after learning about the dirty things contained in each one.”
“Good thing it’s just a pseudonym, then.” I said, crushing the cigarette underneath my shoe. “So, this comic, does it take place in Chicago-Chicago? Or is it really the suburbs of Chicago?”
“You can tell the difference?” The old detective raised his eyebrows, “Not many people can.”
“I have an uncle who lives in the ‘burbs, but it’s easier to say Chicago than to visualize the place he actually lives. It’s like Lewis Black saying he’s from DC when he’s actually from Silver Spring, MD.”
“Doc, we didn’t invite you hear to talk about the ‘burbs, we asked you to find why this guy is dead over a webcomic.”
“You’re right, detective.” I said, stepping under some yellow police tape, “We gotta review this comic before this artist strikes again and makes this whole exchange obsolete. Lemme have a look.”
Not only did I want to see the comic, but I had to move quickly before they realized my only experience in this line of work was the occasional rerun of Law and Order: SVU that popped up on TNT.
After about an hour’s worth of studying the surprisingly long strips, I started to piece together the story: this Paradigm Shift comic appeared to be a police procedural set in Chicago, but there was an extra dimension to the story. It started off with two detectives named Kate and Mike busting some fat guy living in a penthouse. It continued along this “police procedural,” storyline as the cops tried to track down a killer who seems to be mauling random people around the city. But then the artist threw in a few new quirks. Mike’s got fancy Kung Fu moves and the ability to speak in fluent Chinese, and Kate may or may not be a werewolf with anger issues.
“Hey man, watch the monologuing!” the detective shouted from behind me, “You don’t want anything here to spoil already, do ya?”
“I didn’t say anything, how were you able to hear that?”
“There’s no time to explain that, we’re on the trail of a webcomic artist, now can you help with him or not?”
“Oh, I don’t think he needs much of my help, though I do question why the hell he structured the archives so that 5-6 pages are stuck together in one huge vertical scroll. The thing can also get pretty text-heavy in parts.”
“In parts?” The detective scribbled something down on a yellow notepad, “What about the rest?”
“Actually, there’s some pretty detailed background work in these things. He actually makes pretty vivid references to what I remember of downtown Chicago. Everything from the buildings to the freaking cars is rendered in pretty extreme detail for a black and white comic. Even the characters are pretty well drawn, though I question why Kate has aerodynamic hair in the front.”
“Hey buddy, don’t diss the black and white. It's still got its charm these days."
“Says the detective who still has a cassette player in his car and is just two days from retirement?”
After a brief pause, the detective put on his best stoic face and asked, “How did you know?”
“I can smell these clichés a mile away.” I smiled, handing him the strips I had collected over the past hour, “But this comic…this comic is pretty damn good. It’s rare these days you see a comic on the Internet that tosses in a werewolf—”
“Alleged werewolf.” The detective interrupted.
“Alright, fine, alleged werewolf.” I reluctantly agreed, “But still, though the possibility of a werewolf tearing up people in Chicago does make for an interesting twist on its own, it actually focuses more on the police than the lycanthropy, and I never thought I’d say this about a comic with a werewolf, but the police work seems to add a little more realism to the story.”
“So then how did the corpse appear? We couldn’t find any prints or any shell casings around the scene.”
I walked past the police tape to look at the corpse again, “Apparently, this guy couldn’t believe a comic with werewolves in it was actually this decent. He probably died of shock.”
“Hey! I found something!” A young cop shouted from the corner of the crime scene, “It looks like a map of the various crime scenes from this story!”
“Wow, this will come in handy.” The detective began to walk over to the other side of the room when the crack of a sniper rifle boomed across the quiet streets of Chicago, striking him in the chest and sending him crashing to the ground on his back.
“Dammit,” the detective wheezed, struggling to locate the bullet in his body, “I was just two days away from retire—“
I rushed over and held a finger up to his lips while the cops in the area scattered, “If you’re gonna die, please don’t spend your last breath on a cliché saying.”