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Investigation: Can you design a more predictable D/ST Scoring Scheme?
Hi everyone, it's your "Defensive Maneuvers" projection guy here. I'm excited to (hopefully...) get back to weekly projections and accuracy scores in a couple months. But for today, I have this little oddball topic, to mix up your news-feed. I've done some analysis of the D/ST scoring scheme, to investigate whether it could possibly be improved. I know that this post won't appeal to everyone, but if you're curious then read on. TL;DR - D/ST scoring can be made a bit more predictable (correlation increasing from 0.15 to 0.20) while focusing on strictly defensive traits alone. Projection models could give correlations of 0.42 instead of 0.37.If you want less variance and more predictability from your league's D/ST position, then: (1) reduce the reward for TDs to 2 points, (2) crank up the effect of yards-allowed while shrinking the effect for points-allowed, (3) eliminate sacks, (4) shrink-- but don't eliminate-- the reward for turnovers.
Since I have worked so closely with forecasting D/ST scores with statistics, I have long wondered if we could improve fantasy predictability by changing the points structure. For example, some people have suggested reducing randomness by making TDs count less. Contrary to popular belief, I recently showed that the predictability of the D/ST position is actually decent, when compared to other fantasy positions (during the last 3 years). But still-- can we improve the score weightings, to improve consistency and reduce variability?
Framing the problem
I defined my target as creating the most "meaningful defensive predictor", based on 4 criteria:
The new scoring should use the same, familiar variables (sacks, ints, fr, score, yards, tds).
The variables should be weighted in simple linear combination (no arbitrary "tiers").
The best solution should best reflect that "past fantasy scores are useful for predicting future fantasy scores."
As a final but soft target, it is necessary to define a range of outcome scores. I wanted my scheme to produce a narrower range than usual, more similar to kickers-- approximately 0 to 20 fantasy points. Avoiding negative scores is important, in order to avoid the strategy of "maybe I just won't roster a D/ST at all".
In other words, a D/ST scoring scheme will be considered "best" if it optimally "predicts itself", and is based on purely defensive traits (not tuned to the predictability of opposing offenses).
Remark on chasing predictability alone
I often see a comment that fantasy is already so random that we should use any opportunity to remove as much randomness as possible. It turns out that, if you only care about predictability, then you will end up strongly weighting outcomes that are controlled by the opposing offense-- but the point should be to reward skills under the defense's control. Furthermore, chasing predictability alone would make the D/ST position almost equivalent to betting on Vegas lines. So I disregarded this line of optimization, believing it gets away from the spirit of things.
Predictability of individual variables
For reference, let's first understand how predictable ("self-predictable") each component variable is. I.e. "How well does a defense's season average of TDs (or sacks/ints/etc.) predict future occurrence of the same thing?" So here is a chart of the correlation coefficients between running averages and weekly outcomes, using fantasy data covering every week of the last 3 years 2017-2019: For most defensive factors, there is a very low correlation between season average and weekly outcome, indicating that these events are not very predictable. Note that the first bar ("D/ST score allowed") actually describes an offensive trait; its high correlation reflects the fact that such offensive traits are more consistent than the less-predictable defensive results. You can read for more insight in my recent post about points-allowed for all positions. The second bar represents the a typical D/ST scoring system (ESPN default), and it is shown for comparison against the predictability level of its components. It is also evident from the chart that "yards-allowed" is the most consistent defensive variable = best at predicting its own future outcome, with correlation 0.175. This is already better than the value of 0.145 you see for default D/ST scoring. We will next see that this fact makes Yds-allowed the dominant factor in an optimized D/ST scoring formula.
Sacks essentially just add randomness, once you have already accounted for yards etc. Besides this covariance, another reason sacks disappear is that they depend more on the opposing team. I investigated more and found that defensive sacks have an especially strong tendency to "regress to the mean"-- meaning that defensive sacks trends tend to correct themselves (e.g. if there have been recent fluctuations up or down). This is another way to explain why sacks are worse indicators.
Points-allowed comes out weaker (but mostly because it is so covariant with yards allowed, which is more consistent).
TDs don't go away as much as Ints and FRs. This does not mean TDs are predictable of future TDs (they are not), but it implies that TDs are indicative of an ability to limit yards-- and that the ability to limit yards may be predictive of future TDs. Somehow TDs are complementary to yards-allowed, but not so covariant as to disappear.
D/ST scoring can be made more predictable, but it's up to you to decide how significant that is. I've shown that D/ST score self-correlation can be boosted from today's 0.145 up to 0.20. This is desirable and would make D/ST become more self-consistent than RB/TE/WR. Furthermore, the potential accuracy of a full D/ST projection model could get boosted from correlation 0.37 to above 0.42-- higher than QB and every other fantasy position. Nevertheless, I'm sure it's not a big enough jump to convince everyone to change their settings. But if you do feel like playing around with modified scoring, then I suggest: (1) reduce TDs to 2-3 points, (2) crank up the effect of yards-allowed while shrinking the effect for points-allowed, (3) eliminate or reduce the reward for sacks, (4) shrink but don't eliminate the rewards for turnovers. The result will be that it becomes easier for you to choose a D/ST based on its own historical results; while at the same time your opponent's D/ST is a bit less likely to explode unpredictably.
Day One Here Day Two Here JULY 3RD A FEW HOURS AFTER MIDNIGHT The night fighting on Culp’s Hill was slow and torturous. The Confederate assault from Johnson’s division had to cross rough terrain and a river before it even started going uphill, which at night was an incredibly miserable task even without Union troops firing at them. Union skirmishers played hell with their progress, and after brushing them aside, Johnson bumped into a defensive line that his Union counterpart Geary had spent all day perfecting. As mentioned yesterday, their only success was to grab tiny footholds on the Union side of Rock Creek, which ran between the two hills. As the fighting died away and the bone weary soldiers on both sides crashed asleep hard, Lee plotted. He smelled blood; on July 1st, they’d carved up the Union men good and drove them from the field. Yesterday, on the Union left, they’d wrecked a Union corps under Sickles, smashed into the Union center and almost broke it (damn those blue belly reinforcements showing up in the knick of time), and even gained a toehold on the Union right. The men’s morale was high. Lee decided to repeat yesterday’s plan, but better executed. Simultaneous attacks on both flanks should overwhelm them, and J.E.B. Stuart could make it up to all of them by chasing down the shattered Army of the Potomac to scoop up all the heavy guns and supplies and wounded that could not retreat rapidly. To which end, Lee sent Stuart on a super wide flanking attack around the Union right so as to be in position to strike at the right moment. Lee generated the orders in written form and sent them off by messenger to his corps commanders. Meanwhile, Meade had another war council face to face with his generals. They decided to stand pat, to neither attack the Confederate positions nor retreat back towards Washington. The terrain massively favored them and Lee would (more likely than not) walk into their gunsights again. A defensive stance, however, doesn’t mean pure passivity. A few hours after the Confederate assault petered out and Lee’s decision was made, the Union started a counterattack on a small scale. ———————————————————————— DAWN At dawn, the Union right flared up. Fresh troops had marched in overnight and Meade wanted his damn hill back. The extreme end of the Confederate left flank (which is of course opposite the Union right) found itself getting hammered in front of Culp’s Hill by artillery from the Baltimore Pike. Clearly, such a bombardment was meant to be followed up with an assault to retake the bridgehead. Johnson, having received his orders from Lee and being under the impression that Longstreet was attacking in tandem a mile and a half away on the other side of the hills, attacked Culp’s Hill again before the Union could attack him first. The plan was what the plan was; pressure here, successful or not, was needed for someone to break through somewhere. But Longstreet wasn’t attacking. Later on, Longstreet would claim to have never received the order to advance, but the sources I have assert this is untrue- he received the order, he just didn’t do anything about it. Instead of spending the night getting his troops on line to attack Little Round Top and the southern chunk of Cemetery Ridge, he just sat tight and did nothing. Oceans of ink have been spilled over the years speculating as to why. The Lost Cause narrative asserts that Longstreet was a Yankee-loving turncoat who deliberately sabotaged Lee’s plan and lost the battle on purpose. Others think that Longstreet's conviction that attacking here was insane and that they should fall back and look for battle somewhere else on more favorable terms had been strengthened by the results of July 2nd, and as such was dragging his heels trying to not attack again. Or maybe it was just the general haze of Civil War era incompetence taking its toll again. ———————————————————————— MORNING As Johnson’s men gamely attacked the untakeable Culp’s Hill and were cut down by accurate rifle fire and close range cannon fire, Lee hunted down Longstreet to demand an explanation for his borderline insubordinate refusal to attack. Longstreet pitched his idea again. He’d spent all night scouting the Union line. The enemy line was unbreakable. They shouldn’t try to attack them here. They should slip around the Union left, south of Big Round Top, to threaten the Union supply lines. Do that, they would make the Union respond to them, fight them on more equal terms. That’s the plan Longstreet had been preparing for all night, not a suicidal- Lee cut him off with a raised fist. There would be no tricky maneuver around the flank. They would assault the Union line under the present conditions. To the north, Johnson was still getting his teeth kicked in. Lee sent orders to call off the assault, but it would take a while for the messenger to get there and for Johnson to get word to his brigades to stand down and fall back. Meanwhile, across the way on Cemetery Ridge, Meade stalked his line, double checking all the positions for any confusions or errors to correct, emitting confidence and good cheer. Lee scoped out the Union center personally, being in the area anyway. His complex double flanking maneuver wasn't working. A new plan was needed. Lee figured that Meade had reinforced Little Round Top and the surrounding area yesterday, and that those troops hadn’t gone anywhere since. The Union defense at Culp’s Hill has been similarly fierce that morning, fierce enough to threaten Johnson with an offensive. If both flanks were strong... the center must be weak. Yesterday, a small Confederate brigade had crossed the Emmitsburg road under fire and smashed into the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, just south of Cemetery Hill. They had straight up routed the enemy- had there been more men available to back them up and follow through, that small brigade might have won the battle outright instead of being pushed back as they’d been. Lee was satisfied. The Union center was brittle, undermanned, and the best point to hit it was at that same place. Meanwhile, J.E.B. Stuart was stepping off on his flanking ride. ———————————————————————— LATE MORNING Johnson’s last big push up Culp’s Hill was heroic. By that time, all of them knew how strong the Union position was. They surely walked into this with their eyes open. A three brigade front set up for a shock attack, backed up by four more to exploit the hoped-for opening. Among them was the famous Stonewall Brigade, Jackson's old unit that he’d raised up and trained personally before being tapped for higher command. The Stonewall Brigade was, arguably, the elite of the Confederate army. The year before, they’d outmaneuvered and outfought a Union stab at Richmond coming through the Shenandoah valley. The charge was cut down and butchered like all the others, and Johnson fell back. Williams, whose batteries on the Baltimore Pike had kicked things off that morning, got a little overexcited and counterattacked without orders. His orders to attack the Confederate flank left his subordinates sickened with dread, but were obeyed nonetheless. Once the Union counterattack was butchered in retaliation by the entrenched Confederates, combat on the Union right ceased after six straight hours of gory, hopeless combat. Meanwhile, Confederate artillery under the command of Colonel Alexander set itself up on a mile wide front, all carefully sited and positioned both for protection and for good lines of sight on the Union center. A brief but fierce artillery duel kicked off as each side tried to knock out the other’s firing points before the big moment, but was soon cut off to preserve ammo. Lee mustered his available forces, bringing in troops that were only now straggling in and combining them with some units that had fought the day before. It was a haphazard and frankly half-assed piece of staff work- veteran units who hadn’t fought at all in the last two days were left in reserve, while exhausted troops who’d already suffered 50% casualties were included. Many of the brigades who were to charge Cemetery Ridge had green colonels in charge because their generals had been killed or wounded the day before. The gap between the northern half of the assaulting force and the southern half was four football fields long, and nobody seemed to notice or care. The division commander to lead the north side of the assault, General Pettigrew, was selected not for any rational consideration or advantage, but because he happened to be standing nearby when the decision was being made. Longstreet, who by this point wanted nothing to do with any of it, was placed in overall command. It took a few hours to organize this clusterfuck into something resembling a coherent unit- three divisions spread over a mile wide front, with Pickett on the left, Pettigrew on the right, and Trimble behind them to provide some depth to the big push. There is no particularly good reason why the upcoming Pickett’s Charge is known as “Pickett’s Charge”. Pickett was not actually in charge of it, or even in charge of most of it. He was a division commander who had never seen proper combat before- in every battle since 1861, his unit had been held in reserve or absent. This was to be his first chance to get in this war. I suspect it’s known as Pickett’s Charge because he and his men were Virginians, and it was fellow Virginians who would pour over the battle to find out why the wrong side won. Accordingly, they conceived of it as being a Virginian affair, overshadowing the Tennesseans, Alabamans, North Carolinians, and Mississippians who formed the other two-thirds of the attack. I was surprised to learn that we have a hard time figuring out how many men were actually involved in Pickett’s Charge (this being a basic narrative history, I am sticking with the common name for it despite the inaccuracy); I attribute this to the confusion involved in organizing it. I’ve heard as low as 12,500 men and as high as 15,000. I’m going with 14,000 men because it’s a nice even number that is approximately midway between the upper and lower limit, so don’t mistake my choice as being accurate or even evidence-based per se. Regardless, the agreed upon number of Union defenders is 6,500. The Confederates would outnumber the Union by about 2-1 or greater at the point of contact. These days, a lot of people show up at the battlefield and stare out from Cemetery Ridge at Spangler Woods where Pettigrew would have emerged from (or stand in Spangler’s Woods and stare out at Cemetery Ridge, same difference) and wonder what the hell was going through Lee’s head. The ground there is now flat and devoid of cover, the exact kind of terrain that time and time again had proven to be a death sentence for infantry assaults. The answer is that the ground changed between 1863 and today. Just before World War One ended in 1918, the field over which Pickett charged was artificially flattened for tank training. Before that, it was the kind of rolling terrain that Buford’s skirmishers had exploited on day one- an observer from a distance would see the troops disappear and reappear as they went over and down each gentle slope. The 14,000 attackers would have some cover as they advanced- not perfect terrain to keep immune from artillery and bullets, but not explicit suicide either. ———————————————————————— EARLY AFTERNOON By 1 PM, Alexander had his guns set up the way he liked them. What followed at his command was the single largest coordinated artillery mission that the Western Hemisphere had ever seen. In the south, cannons at the Peach Orchard suppressed the Union firing point on Little Round Top. All along Seminary Ridge from whence the charge would spring, cannons lined up practically wheel to wheel for a mile, aimed at wrecking Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet was in what you might call a high stress kind of mood. He was having second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts about attacking, but orders were orders and he was in charge of this damned charge. As the guns began their bombardment, Longstreet did something that frankly goes beyond the pale of any command decision I’ve ever heard of. The film Gettysburg and the novel it’s based on cast Longstreet in a very sympathetic light, as a kind of deliberate pushback against the reductive myth that Longstreet was personally responsible for losing the battle and by extension the war, leaving Lee off the hook to stay firmly in the saintly canon of the Lost Cause. But here, Longstreet indisputably abdicates any pretense of the responsibility of command. He fired an order off to Colonel Alexander, telling him:
If the artillery fire does not have the effect to drive off the enemy, or greatly demoralize him, so as to make our effort pretty certain, I would prefer that you should not advise General Pickett to make the charge. I shall . . . expect you to let General Pickett know when the moment offers.
Allow me to reiterate in case you were reading this on autopilot. Longstreet, the man in charge of the whole offensive, was telling a lowly artillery colonel that the decision when and if to attack was on him and no one else. Alexander was a subject matter expert on artillery and not infantry for a reason. This order hit him from out of left field. He wrote back for clarification, and the professional in him mentioned that since the plan is to use every single artillery shell they can spare, if there is any alternative plan to charging Cemetery Hill at the end of the bombardment then they’d better tell him before he runs out of ammo. And Longstreet reiterated his first order. He told Alexander to advise General Pickett whether or not to attack. And with that on his shoulders, Alexander gave the order to open fire. All told, somewhere between 150 and 170 guns opened up at the same moment. The 75 Union cannons they had on hand briefly engaged in counter-battery fire, before being ordered to go quiet and save ammunition for the infantry assault to come. For about an hour, the Union troops just had to sit still and take what the Rebel had to give them. What Lee was doing was classic Napoleonic tactics. Massing artillery against the weakest point on the enemy line was literally by the book soldiering. The problem, as was noted here before, was that technology had changed. Napoleonic could bring his cannon close to the frontline with the reasonable expectation that they wouldn’t be shot, since smoothbore muskets are basically harmless from 200 yards away. But that was no longer the case. The long stand off distance that the enemy rifles dictated meant that the cannonfire was proportionally less accurate and devastating. The smoke covering the field concealed the truth from the Confederates- their artillery fire was off. Most of the shells flew high overhead and exploded behind Cemetery Ridge. Some shells hit the target area- Union men did die screaming by the score. But the positions on Cemetery Hill were only lightly damaged, and the units manning them were intact and cohesive. Most of the damage done was to the rear echelon types- surgeons, supply wagoneers, staff officers, that kind of thing. Such men were massacred as the shells aimed at men a quarter mile away arced over and found marks elsewhere. Meade, of course, was on hand, showing a brave face and cracking some jokes about a similar moment in the Mexican-American War 15 years back. Throughout the hour, as his line endured the steel hailstorm, Meade’s engineer mind was working. He’d already suspected that Lee was about to hit his center- he’d predicted as much the night before- and now the shot placements confirmed it. He was already ordering troops into position, getting ready to reinforce the line on Cemetery Ridge if needed. He hedged his bets, putting them in a position to relieve Cemetery Hill as well, just in case. Little Round Top became somewhat less defended as men marched out, using the high ground to mask their redeployment. Irresponsible and insubordinate though Longstreet was at that moment, he was right. Lee’s improvised plan had already failed, though it hadn’t happened yet. Pickett’s Charge wasn’t going to slam into a fragmented and demoralized Union line. It was heading into a mile long, mile wide kill zone backed up by a defence in depth. ———————————————————————— Pickett’s Charge Confederates were getting mangled before the charge even started. Union artillery fire reached out and touched out them in Spangler’s Woods, rolling solid iron shot and explosive shells into their huddled ranks. Longstreet rode the line, exposing himself to the artillery fire to set an example of courage. The men didn’t need such an example- or rather, they’ve seen such examples in a dozen battles over the last two years and have already learned valor as a second language- but there’s something to be said for showing the groundpounders that their boss is in the wrong end of the shooting gallery the same way that they are. Just before 2 p.m., Alexander decided if it’s gonna happen, it’d have to be now. He needed at least a small reserve of shells to function after the battle and he’s running out fast. He dashed off a note to Pickett telling him to step off. In keeping with the standard of Confederate comms thus far, Pickett then took Alexander’s note to Longstreet in person for confirmation, because nobody had told him that Longstreet was trying to dodge the responsibility of command. Longstreet was desperate for an out, and in one crazed leap of illogic he thought he found one. Alexander was low on shells, with only a tiny reserve of ammunition left over for self-defense! Longstreet issued orders to halt in place and delay some more, so that they could replenish their ammo chests from their strategic reserves. I really feel for Alexander, man. I've had bosses like that too. Alexander had to break the news to Longstreet that there was no strategic reserve, he already told him, they were shooting every round they got. Longstreet was shocked- apparently nobody on Lee's staff had been paying attention to how fast they'd been burning through their artillery rounds. (Meade's staff paid attention to such banal details- that's why they now had tons of ammunition standing by their guns on Cemetery Ridge, patiently waiting for something valuable to shoot at). Even then, Longstreet couldn’t bring himself to actually say the words to order the attack. He just nodded, mute and numb. At 2 p.m., the attack started. 14,000 men rose up and walked forward, a giant line of infantry one mile across. In lieu of specific instructions about where they were going and how to get there, the order was to aim for a copse of trees on the objective- an easy visual marker that was easy to remember. As long as you kept the trees in sight and kept moving forward, you were right. (Miles and miles away, J.E.B. Stuart’s flanking maneuver was being countered by an equal force of Union cavalry. Their clash had one of the few cavalry-on-cavalry battles of the Civil War; fun fact, this was one of the fights that put Custer’s career on the map, until getting killed off by the Cheyenne at Little Big Horn 13 years later. The battle was intense, but a draw; Stuart couldn’t break through. Even if Pickett’s Charge worked, there’d have been no way to follow up and finish Meade off for good. Lee’s plan was well and truly fucked.) Things immediately stopped being clean and neat, as per the usual. The center of Pickett’s Charge sprang up and walked before the flanks did, but the brigades on the south and the north of them set off late, leading to a kind of droopy effect where the center bulged out unsupported. When the Union soldiers manning Cemetery Ridge saw the Confederate advance begin, they began to chant “Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!” Just a little “fuck you” from one set of veterans to another; at Fredericksburg eight months before, Union General Burnside had ordered several such suicidal attacks on prepared defenses which the Confederates had gleefully blasted into chunky salsa. 70 odd guns opened up on them all. To give a sense of the skill involved, the artilleryman in charge of the Union guns, Colonel Hunt, had written the book on artillery- literally, because his work Instructions for Field Artillery was the go-to manual for the US Army- and at West Point had personally taught most of the Confederate artillery officers across the way everything they knew about the big guns. One must not mistake this as just plopping down the cannons and pointing them in the right direction. Hunt was an artist with his weapon systems, and the pattern of explosions that snaked into the advancing infantry had been painstakingly designed by a master craftsman. At the distance of a mile, it was iron shot and shell that carved bloody little holes into the line. The Confederates took the beating, closed ranks, and pushed on. On the south, the cannons on Little Round Top delivered particularly hideous effects from the flank, driving their line into disorder; some brigades cut in front of other brigades, and what should have been a line became a muddled column. On the north, a brigade under General Brockenbrough bumped into a small detachment of 160 Union men who were jutting out north of the road. The Union men fired a small but devastating volley that raked them from the side and broke their nerves. Brockenbrough’s men ran- the first to break, but not the last. Similar small detachments of skirmishers dotted No Man’s Land between the armies. Between their vicious little ambushes and the massive shock of massed artillery, Pickett’s Charge slowed down. Slowing down just left them in the kill zone for that much longer. When Pickett’s Charge reached the Emmitsburg Road, they were further delayed by the stiff fencing that lined it. As they clambered over it, Union infantry opened fire at long range. The casualties skyrocketed as the Confederate line absorbed the fire. If you want to know what it was like under fire, picture the start of a rainstorm. The water droplets go taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap... that's how the survivors described the musketry that pelted the fence they were trying to climb over. One small contingent of Davis’ brigade (you recall how roughly they were manhandled on July the 1st) accidentally got ahead of everybody else and found itself standing right in front of the Union line all alone. The guys closest to the Union defenses surrendered as one; the rest got shot up bad and ran for their lives. Pickett’s Charge was pure chaos by then- their mile wide front that had surged forth from Spangler’s Wood had shrunk down to about a half mile, partly from taking casualties, partly from brigades running away after the shock of massed fire, and partly from bridges shifting north away from flanking fire from their right side. From the fence line on the Emmitsburg to the stone wall that protected the Union defense was about two hundred yards. This is a long shot for a rifle, especially under pressure- that’s the whole point to volley fire, so that everybody shooting at once will create a sort of probability cloud of danger even at long range. Some Confederates, desperate to hit back after enduring hell, shot anyway. Their fire was ineffective. It is a very, very short shot for an artillery piece, even under pressure. A battery of cannons placed just behind the Union line switched to canister and blasted massive bloody holes in the bunched up Confederates. A lot of Confederates huddled up behind the fencing and stayed put. It is marginally safer than moving two feet forward past the wooden railings, and the spirit had been knocked out of them by the mile long charge and the mile long shooting gallery they’d been subjected to. The left side of the attack had been stopped dead and turned back; the right side pushed on, disregarding any thought but closing distance. 1,500 men blitzed those last 200 yards to the stone wall Scores of them died from rifle fire as the cannons reloaded. The surviving Confederates, running on pure adrenaline, reached the stone wall at a place called the Bloody Angle. The Union line was disjointed, with the Northern section slightly back from the southern section. The Angle was the little joint that connected the two walls; it was also right by the copse of trees that everybody was racing towards. A fierce firefight broke out once the Confederates reached the wall. Most of them stayed behind the wall; like their buddies to the west still behind the fence on the Emmitsburg pike, they’d finally found a few square feet that was sorta kinda safe, and every instinct they had in their brains screamed at them to stay there. The Union troops were outnumbered at the point of impact, and backed off in good order. Reserve regiments were already marching up to plug the gap that didn’t exist yet. Units north and south of the Bloody Angle shifted in place to fire at the beachhead. Behind the Confederates on the Angle, there was a small ocean of blood on the ground and a mile long procession of silent, mangled dead and writhing, screaming wounded... but no follow on reinforcements to help exploit the breakthrough. General Armistead, the only Confederate General there still on his feet, still believed in all that chivalrous Walter Scott romantic nonsense, still thought that raw valor and heart could somehow beat a superior enemy. He stuck his hat on his sword as a makeshift battle flag and rallied his men to leave the safety of the Bloody Angle and close distance. Just as the pitifully few Confederates got on the east side of the wall, the cannons shot canister again and puked metal death all over them. After shooting, the artillerymen ran back to safety before the rebels could stagger up to them. Hundreds of men surged forward by inertia; hundreds out of the 14,000 that they’d started with. They drove off the understrength Union regiments with the bayonet and capture those hated big guns, turning them around to use against the inevitable counterattack. This failed; there was no more ammo left for the guns. Colonel Hunt had measured out the number of rounds needed for the job at hand with the utmost precision. The counterattack was messy and bloody for everybody involved, for the brawl saw everything available used as a weapon- bullets, bayonets, rifle butts, pistols, knives, rocks, boot heels, bare hands. But the Confederates all just dissolved after a short while. Nobody ordered a retreat; nobody was alive and of sufficient rank to order a retreat. Thousands just plopped down where they stood and waited for Union men to come out and collect them. They were too numb and exhausted to walk anymore. Others streamed back to safety in ones and twos. For every Confederate who died, four more were maimed and crippled. For every wounded man, another was taken prisoner. It was an unmitigated disaster for the Confederate cause, and correspondingly it was a triumph of humanity as the stalwart defenders of the slave plantations died in droves. Remember, like I said, we’re rooting for the Union. The battle wasn’t over, not really. Not was the campaign. But it certainly was decided. ———————————————————————— RIGHT SO Interestingly, at first it was kind of ambiguous who won. Meade got fired from the job after Lee got the Army of Northern Virginia home intact. Lincoln was seething that Meade hadn’t shown some aggression and had failed to destroy Lee’s army as he had been ordered. Meade, however, didn’t have much of an army at that point, just a diverse collection of units that had suffered 50% casualties and were in no condition to do anything. Moreover, there had been no way to bring the retreating Lee to battle without taking a lot of risks that might see all the good done at Gettysburg undone. Still though. Meade was out, and Grant, riding high after his conquest of Vicksburg, was in. Lee initially claimed victory in the Richmond papers, and it was hard to gainsay him at first. He had indisputably invaded north and thrashed the living shit out of the Army of the Potomac so bad that they could not invade again in 1863, which was indeed partly the point of the strategy. But soon the facts of life made themselves clear. Lee had holes in his ranks that simply could not be filled anymore. Southerners didn’t want to die in a losing war, and coercing in them into the ranks through State violence only gave him shitty recruits who would desert the second they were put on guard duty. In contrast, tens of thousands of men poured into training depots across the nation, all armed and clothed and fed by the grandest industrial base in the world. Thousands of experienced veterans re-upped their contracts in Gettysberg’s wake to become these new recruits’ NCOs and commanding officers. Lee has gone north to break the will of the Union to continue the fight. Gettysburg had, if anything, demoralized the Confederacy and reinvigorated the Union instead. I do not believe that Gettysburg started this trend, but I do think it sped it up significantly. Patterns that might have taken a year to come to fruition instead took months. Gettysburg, in my opinion, is significant not because of any great gains or losses on the material level, but because of its effects on the minds of voters and soldiers and politicians in the North and the South. To crib C. S. Lewis really quick, what matters was not whether a given action would take a specific hill, or seize a certain road; what matters is whether a given action pushes people to either dig their heels in and seek victory at any personal cost, or whether it pushes them to back down and seek a safer compromise. Gettysburg pushed all of the American people in the directions they were already heading down, that’s all. Any conclusion beyond that is on shaky ground, I feel. Having said that, I shall now irrationally contradict myself; Gettysburg can also act as a Rorschach test with symbols and images and stories in lieu of the ink blots. Like I said, it’s a place of religious significance to me to an extent far beyond appreciation for its historic value. I just don’t think it’s possible for that many people to die in such a short period of time, in so compact an area, and with such blunt contempt for the foreseen probability of violent death, and not leave an indelible and ineffable mark on the land itself. Like, if humanity went extinct and Earth got colonized by Betelgeusians a hundred years after, I am certain that the aliens would somehow feel a chill in their exoskeletons when they walk over the soft leaves and through the bare trees of Herbst Wood, or tromp around the south side of Little Round Top, or poke about on the steep slope of Culp's Hill, or splash across the Plum River in the Valley of Death. I’m not saying I’m right, of course. But I am saying how I feel.
I Read It So You Don't Have To: Secrets of the Southern Belle (by Phaedra Parks)
I hope the past few days have been restful and rejuvenating for you all, but -- as I'm sure you must have learned by this point -- the journey to personal betterment is an eternal endeavor. We haven't got a moment to waste, so let's bid adieu to the sunny serenity of the California coast and settle in down South with Real Housewives of Atlanta's Phaedra Parks, as she descends from her ivory porch swing and illuminates the esoteric in Secrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off Moment. True to the title's descriptive and straightforward sentiments, Phaedra begins the book with a concise synthesis of the worldview she hopes to present:
I believe every woman should be a Southern Belle or minimally aspire to being more ladylike, charming, and intelligent, because we should all be treated well.
As she continues, we get our first glimpse of the deep well of compassion that underlies Phaedra's mission to improve the lives of those around her.
Honestly, I sometimes feel sorry for women of northern persuasion. There they are rushing around in their baggy, drab clothes, doing everything for themselves and looking like they just rolled out of bed. They don't seem to understand there's a better way.
Thankfully, I no longer have to count myself among that witless horde. I feel like, until this fateful moment, I have been living like one of those people from the black-and-white "before" footage of an infomercial -- haphazardly bumbling through the most menial of daily tasks with no way of knowing how much brighter my world could be. Phaedra has freed me from Plato's Cave, and I have no choice but to follow her instruction and strive to shape myself in her image. A true Southern Belle is known -- first and foremost -- for her fundamental kindness and compassion towards others, so it is only appropriate that the book's first section is succinctly titled, "Be Nice." However, even this simple directive has been trampled by the corrupting influence of the modern world. As Phaedra laments,
Unfortunately, as we see more migration from other parts of the world, we also see an increase of poor manners and rude behavior.
She elaborates, providing specific examples of the personal injuries incurred as a result of these unmannered interlopers.
I find it particularly odd in business, when the salespeople or tellers don't speak or thank you for your patronage. Don't they realize that without customers they would not have a job?
I, too, find it offensive when minimum-wage workers have the nerve to act like actual human beings rather than automatons at the mercy of my personal whims, and I appreciate that Phaedra is bold enough to ask the question that has undoubtedly been on the tip of our collective tongue. Yet somehow, she still remains humble enough to freely admit where she has room to learn; here, she lets the reader in on "something I've never quite understood about non-southerners:"
They're suspicious of basic southern warmth because they're worried it's insincere. But at the same time, they will tell you the most inappropriate things! They tell you stuff about their health that you don't want to know. They launch into crazy stories about their terrible childhoods and how misunderstood they are. They complain about what happened long ago, and they fret openly about the future. Then they tell you what they paid for things and you want to crawl under the table. Frankly, that's not very attractive.
What is attractive, then, you may ask? Effusive compliments, for one thing -- "I don't know why some people are so concerned with being sincere, when being nice is so much more effective." We also learn to "never contradict anyone, even if you know they are wrong." Phaedra illustrates this particular lesson with the following example:
If someone tells you that your taxes are due on April 30 instead of April 15, you look puzzled and say, "Goodness, I had no idea. Did they change the date?"
And what happens after that? Either the person says yes and you're forced to play along with whatever bizarre delusion and/or power-play your companion is currently indulging, or they say no and you say -- what? "Right, of course, I knew that the whole time!" Or, "Gotcha! It's April 15th, you incompetent fraud!" Or maybe, "I don't even know what taxes are -- money is for menfolk!" I just can't imagine any of those scenarios playing out with less discomfort than a simple correction, but after four years living in New England, I can only assume that's just northern negativity clouding my vision. We are next presented with a list of "compliments that come in handy," a few of which I've transcribed below for immediate incorporation into your own phrasal repertoire.
What an interesting way to think about it. (Good for a point on which you disagree with someone.)
You thought of every little detail; I love a meticulous lady!
Wow! That is so original. I would never have put it together like that. (In this South this might mean, "I hate it," but in a polite way.)
Boss Babe is out -- Meticulous Lady is in! Phaedra reminds us to keep health concerns -- "especially female issues" -- far from polite conversation, then shifts gears to a much-needed lesson in verbal comportment. It's not just their "attractive regional accents" that distinguish Southern Belles from their less-attractive northern counterparts; they also devote great attention to evoking grace through their cadence and tone.
Sometimes northern women can sound awfully abrupt. It's just a habit they have, poor things.
If you'd like to take your place amongst esteemed gentility, however, I urge you to change your ways! For one thing, when speaking, "slip in something affectionate so that a very harsh reality doesn't come across as rude or abrupt." For example, see how much unpleasant confrontation is avoided with the following turn of phrase:
Darling, don't you know you're too smart and pretty to be the town drunk?
Silly girl, haven't you heard? Addiction is for ugly people! You should also feel free to use these compliments liberally throughout conversation -- "You don't have to mean it, you know." As an example:
If you can tell that someone has put a lot of effort into a particular aspect of her outfit, just draw attention to it. Sparkly stars-and-stripes high heels could be terribly tacky, but you bet they're supposed to be noticed, so go ahead and do it. "Those are certainly patriotic shoes!"
Let me take a crack at it -- This book certainly has a lot of words in it! Writing a book is such an impressive achievement -- I'm sure it feels so rewarding to finally see it In print! And I love the way you occasionally use infinity signs as bullet points -- it's so evocative! I think I'm getting the hang of this! "Another southern difference?" As Phaedra informs us, "we try not to make direct requests. It just sounds so forward and frankly unpleasant if someone comes right out and says what they want from you." Phaedra's Starbucks barista must really despise her -- If it isn't too much trouble, could I bother you for something to drink? No, anything's fine -- I wouldn't want to impose. Almost like a modern-day Rosetta Stone, the next passage introduces us to the nuanced connotations that pervade a true Belle's vocabulary. For example, Phaedra tells the reader that "if I tell someone 'Goodness, you must have spent all day on your hair. I am so impressed!' it really means I hate it." Before I manage to convey how impressed I am by the book before me, I read on to learn that "when you're discussing a homely girl, you generally say, 'She's so smart!' The general thought is you can't be both ugly and dumb. God wouldn't be that cruel." Please excuse me while I take a few hours to re-analyze every compliment I've ever been given in my entire life. Now that that's done, here are a few more translations to help you decipher the Belles in your life.
Belle-Speak: She's a nurse-in-training. Unvarnished Truth: She dates only old men.
Belle-Speak: She's a butter face. Unvarnished Truth: Everything looks good but her face.
Belle-Speak: Hope he's got money. Unvarnished Truth: He's unattractive and pays for affection.
The second one is not even really a euphemism so much as Phaedra trying to demonstrate her knowledge of hip modern slang, but I digress. We transition into advice for conversation starters -- "don't throw them complicated or controversial subjects like politics, animal rights, or local zoning." Truly, I can't tell you how many times I've been approached at a party with an opener about municipal ordinances, and it just kills the mood like nothing else. Worried about how you'll ever find something to talk about under these restrictions?
Don't worry about sounding interesting. "Interesting" is an overrated notion. Just fill the empty air.
That…explains a lot, actually. Our next lesson is in reference to dinner parties -- "don't make a fuss, unless you're complimenting the cook." In case you're confused as to how this guidance should be interpreted, Phaedra clarifies with some examples -- "'Is there meat in here? I'm a vegetarian' is the wrong kind of fuss." Since I typically ask this question while flailing my arms wildly and making intermittent whooping noises, I completely understand how it could be disruptive amongst refined company. Although I'm starting to get a bit nervous that I won't be able to keep track of these seemingly countless rules, Phaedra's next assurance puts my mind at ease: "If all else fails, remember the secret weapon of the Southern Belle is delicate helplessness." In the next passage, we learn that, "if there's any characteristic that defines a Southern Belle, it's her habit of firing off little notes on any occasion." Just as with verbal compliments, these notes require little to no basis in factual reality -- "obviously it's perfectly all right to exaggerate." But while truthfulness is more or less dispensable, your choice of writing implement could have grave repercussions. As Phaedra exhorts, "Never, ever write a letter in pencil. You might as well not bother at all." Within the realm of pens, however, "blue and black are perfectly acceptable, even if they do lack panache." We return once again to the topic of appropriate subjects for conversation, and are cautioned against asking anyone their age. Of course, wild speculation is encouraged, "as long as you're out of earshot." In the next tip, Phaedra declares: "Don't discuss the cost of anything. Any discussion of cost is just in poor taste." I just can't help picture how much of a nightmare this woman must be at a fast-food drive-through. Our final instruction?
Don't discuss hair color. Men always pretend they don't dye their hair, so you just have to go with it.
At first glance, this seems reasonable enough, especially in the context of the social graces espoused by the book so far. However, Phaedra's attempt at further explanation quickly begins to careen off-course.
For women, it's a little bit more complicated because you have the question of whether the drapes match the carpet, so to speak. And I do know some who dye the carpet to match -- that was the big thing in high school. Now with all this weird waxing, you don't have to do as much dyeing, but that's another thing you don't talk about either!
Let's see if I've got this straight: I should always believe a man about his purported hair color no matter what, but if a woman tries to lie about hers, she'll get caught…because I will inevitably be forced to confront the realities of her pubic hair? An intimate partner, sure, but I just can't imagine this situation arises with enough frequency to merit even the few lines its given in this text. And honestly, at this point, I don't even think I want to know what Phaedra means by "weird waxing." This section of the book concludes with a final catalog of "the 'She did what?' mistakes." The list starts off strong with "wearing white to another woman's wedding." However, by the time we end on the most unimaginable of atrocities -- "drinking beer from a bottle" -- I'm beginning to wonder if this list was actually supposed to have been titled "things the sexy homewrecker does in a bro-country music video." The following section is titled, "Work Hard," and I am immediately inspired to do exactly so by the implicit challenge thrown down in Phaedra's opening lines, in which she coquettishly asks, "Who always delivers a presentation on time, with the printed materials perfectly written and proofread?" I'm usually quite good at taming my most pedantic impulses, but contrarian passions I never knew I had are foaming at the mouth to find an upcoming typo and self-righteously call her bluff. Although perhaps I should find a more feminine way to phrase that; as Phaedra cautions, "we don't like to think of ourselves as driven, because that sounds so neurotic and unpleasant." We next learn that "you cannot be a Southern Belle unless you understand what it is to be ladylike." But unfortunately, it is all too easy to be caught up in the ways of the world and lose sight of this primary calling.
A lot of women today enjoy being the feisty, brassy, foul-mouthed kind of gal who drinks with men and shows a lot of flesh. They think it's cool.
Phaedra continues and reflects that, "I've heard the argument that this is progress, from the feminist point of view, but I don't necessarily agree." I can never remember -- which wave of feminism was the one with all the feisty gals? But clearly, their agenda has gone too far! How, in contrast, does a delicate Southern Belle behave?
She looks as if she's heard of sex, probably has had sex, but has no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings.
I'm not sure exactly how to convey this highly specific sentiment in any other way than purchasing a t-shirt custom-printed with the phrase, "I have heard of sex, have probably had sex, but have no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings," so I hope that approach will suffice for now. Phaedra follows up by cautioning us that,
A lady never puts in the shop window what isn't for sale.
Personally, I like to think of myself as more of a museum than a gift shop, but to each their own! We next learn more about the delicate balance a Southern Belle must achieve in order to maintain her esteemed position. For example, while "she doesn't cuss and doesn't talk dirty," frigidity is similarly unbecoming -- "if somebody tells a good dirty joke in her vicinity, she'll laugh." I'm barely a third of the way through this book, and I'm already exhausted at the prospect of having to remember all of these hyper-specific edicts. It's no surprise that the Southern Belle has to remain consistently vigilant; as Phaedra intones, "coming from a Pentecostal family, I hate to see a woman down more than two drinks." It seems to me like the simplest way to avoid such emotional turmoil would be to simply refrain from compulsively tallying the beverage intake of strangers, but I soon learn there are far more perilous hazards lurking around every corner. Phaedra shares her personal strategy for avoiding the very implication of incivility in the following excerpt:
I don't ever go to the bar at a party; I think that just looks terrible. If I must have a glass of wine or crave a fruity adult libation, I'll ask a nearby man to procure it for me.
Sir! Procure me a fruity adult libation -- tout de suite! But I would hate to diminish the male gender by implying that they're only good for the acquisition of potables; no -- men can be leveraged in an increasingly broad array of day-to-day tasks. As Phaedra shares:
I have friends who have never in their lives pumped gas for their own cars. They will ask a complete stranger to do it for them. One of my besties from New Orleans will flag down a man, give him her credit card, and have him pump and pay for her gas.
Honestly, I can't help but wonder if this might actually be some kind of avantgarde performance art, in the tradition of Marina Abramović's Rhythm 0. Because the idea that this gambit has never gone horribly, horribly awry truly strains credulity. As I read on, however, I learn that my current train of thinking is sorely misguided.
Sometimes when I'm at a grocery store the fellow bagging the groceries will ask if he can take them out to my car. Why would you say no to this? But sometimes women do. And I look at them and sigh and think, "Poor thing. She has a lot to learn."
Thankfully for my personal development, the next chapter -- titled "A Crash Course in Being (Selectively) Helpless" promises exactly the sort of content that I so desperately need to understand. As Phaedra explains, a Southern Belle is "never intimidating, because some things she just can't do on her own." She goes on to offer concrete examples of how to incorporate this ethos into your life on beginner, intermediate, and expert levels.
Experts: assume help will arrive. Flat tire? Pull over to the curb, and don't sweat it. Can't figure out which wrench to buy at Home Depot? Or how to program your DVR? This is what former boyfriends and other gentlemen are for. Believe me, the age of chivalry is not dead.
Rent due? Don't sweat it -- a gallant gentleman likely already has a check in the mail. House burning to the ground around you? You should know a Belle doesn't walk down the hallway on her own two feet! Bear attack? I'm sure a male bear is just around the corner, ready to jump in and defend your honor! Without a hint of irony, we transition to Phaedra's advice for the workplace. We learn that the quintessential gentlewoman is savvy, competent, and always at the top of her game. For instance, at her workplace, "she figures out how to work the coffee machine and the copy machine." With that kind of go-getting attitude, the Southern Belle will be bound for the C-suite in no time! Provided, of course,
She never does that thing I hear of in the North sometimes of telling you how little she paid for something. Why would you brag about bargains?
I can't hear the phrase that thing I hear of in the North in anything other than the voice of Tinsley's mother, Dale. Except she would probably use it in reference to something like "giving compliments to your daughter" or "weight gain." Regardless, a more appropriate question at this juncture might be, "Are you sure this book was proofread quite as judiciously as you claimed?" As I scan the page, my eyes happen upon the line:
10 percent for tithing, if your religion encourages tithing, which mines [sic] does.
Of course, it would be entirely uncouth for me to brag about my typographical superiority in this context, so now seems as good a time as any to exercise some of my newly acquired techniques. Oh, Phaedra -- bless her heart! I suppose we can't all be detail-oriented, can we? It must be nice to be so casual and carefree when you express yourself! Without further ado, however, we move along to our next lesson -- "People don't know when you're hungry, because they can't hear your stomach growling, but they definitely know when you're homeless." To be honest, the more I think about this statement , the less sense it makes to me (people…can hear your stomach growling?). Luckily, with the jam-packed schedule of a Southern Belle, I simply don't have time to dwell on the issue for a moment longer! Our next tutorial? " If you have one fabulous pair of shoes, you will wear them to church. It is the very least you can do for Jesus." As we all know, Jesus loves sweet kicks, so he loves nothing more than to see you rock the newest styles when you drop by on Sunday. And besides -- the higher the heel, the closer to heaven! Phaedra summarizes the Southern Belle's can-do attitude with the line: "We all may not be sitting around big ugly Formica boardroom tables, but we get things done." As someone who has only ever attended meetings held around moderately sized tables, I find this to be a validating sentiment. When it comes to extracurricular pursuits, "beauty pageants are important." However, "as much as she loves performing, the Belle will not take to the stage: some of those theater people are just too peculiar, bless their hearts." Honestly, Phaedra and I come down on the same side on this one. But I will have to heartily disagree with her next passage -- with respect to traditions of stepping within Black Greek Life -- in which she states,
The traditionally white organizations don't have anything comparable.
Um, excuse me? Have you never seen this iconic video?! However, Phaedra does reassure us that she's far from ignorant in the ways of the world. As she states, "I have read about hookup culture and known a few easy women." Of course, easy men don't exist -- or at least, that's what I've read in all the most prominent textbooks regarding hookup culture. But don't mistake Phaedra's awareness for acceptance -- "that doesn't mean I like any of it." However, this sentiment is belied just a few paragraphs later, when our author recalls:
I offended the mother of one of my best friends once by booking some exotic entertainment at this friend's birthday party. My friend loved the anatomically exceptional dancer, but her mother was livid.
I'm sure that it was only your friend who loved the "anatomically exceptional" dancer, and I assume this must have been one of your aforementioned token "easy" friends, besides. A Southern Belle, in contrast, is interested in serious, long-term relationships. And for this purpose, "it would be much better to marry a young man that you can train. I have always said that I would rather be a babysitter than a geriatric nurse." Yet even these kinds of discrepancies seem trivial in comparison to the boundless passions of eternal love. As Phaedra shares,
I want Apollo and me to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, so I try to overlook momentary annoyances.
That aged well. Bless her heart. We're soon treated to a cheeky list of "what her husband doesn't know," which echoes several key themes from earlier in the book -- most notably in its bizarre fixation with pubic grooming.
He doesn't know what her true hair color is, because the curtains always match the carpet.
He doesn't know how often she waxes, or exactly what waxing entails.
He doesn't know that she has her own credit card, her own savings account, and a safe-deposit box.
I've got to say, that last one hits just a little bit different with hindsight. Always timely, however, are Phaedra's views on the importance of the homemaking arts. In this evocative passage, she describes the primal horror of an encounter with a woman tainted by an unimaginable curse:
A nice lady from another part of the country recently confessed to me that she doesn't know how to do any crafts. In fact, she said, she gets all nervous and antsy in crafts stores, because they're so full of things she doesn't understand. I laughed like I thought she was joking, but really, I felt bad for her. Imagine not knowing how to make all those cute objects that brighten up lives in the South! I shudder to think what the inside of her house looks like!
With that fable still ringing in my ears, we transition to the next section of the book: "Look Pretty." Phaedra reflects, "I am always shocked when I leave the South and encounter the enormous number of women who don't seem to understand how their clothes should fit." Now feels like an appropriate time to draw attention to the book's back cover, in which an open-mouthed Phaedra swivels her torso in such a way as to create a bulging protuberance across one half of her chest. In awe of her commitment to inclusivity, I now realize this could only have been an intentional choice to make herself seem more approachable to us northern oafs, and for that I am eternally grateful. Phaedra goes on to inform us that, "personally, I prefer skirts and dresses over pants." However, although "high-waisted pants and pants with visible hem cuffs are quite elegant and ladylike," one should take care never to forget that "minimalism and menswear looks are just puzzling and not appealing to a Belle." I, too, must admit that I find menswear looks puzzling -- a girl? in boy clothes? I just can't make heads or tails of it! And this is far from the only contemporary fad that baffles the true Southern Belle. As Phaedra continues:
I've never understood the appeal of the natural look. It's so easy to improve your appearance; why wouldn't you take advantage of the many beauty aids available to you?
In a frankly unexpected dig against the ceramic arts, Phaedra notes that "unless you are a professional potter (and I don't think Southern Belles generally are), your nails need to be clean and filed." More generally, your physical proportions should remain mild and inobtrusive:
Ever since voluminous behinds became fashionable, I often see these lumpy, huge derrieres on women with legs as thin as a chicken's, and I think God would never put a rump roast on toothpicks, so why did you do that?
That's why I always caution my friends to pair their butt implants with a battery of leg implants, in order to really round out the overall contour of the body and mimic that structurally stable, God-given look. After all, as Phaedra quips: "'Knowledge is power' -- that's my motto." But this knowledge doesn’t come without a price; being as world-wise as Phaedra often requires direct confrontation with the atrocities of today's world. As she recounts, for example: "I was astonished to find out that not every woman possesses a lint roller." It's truly a tragedy to learn how the other half lives! We are next informed that, "you have to have your ears pierced, but only one hole in each ear." The consequences for an infraction of this critical edict are left unvoiced, from which I can only assume that they are swift and merciless. Any self-respecting Southern Belle has a taste for the finer things in life, and Phaedra is no exception. As she remarks:
I love diamonds; I'd have a diamond duvet if I could afford it.
Because I am less fiscally endowed, I have had to settle for stuffing my duvet with assorted Swarovski crystals, at least for the time being. However, I'm eager to upgrade -- I can only imagine that the extra hardness of the diamonds will add a satisfying acupuncture affect to my nighttime regimen! Phaedra moves on to fashion advice, and cautions the well-heeled Belle to remain conservative in her fashion choices. But don't worry -- there is a time and a place to let loose and express your more artistic side. Or, as Phaedra says, "something a little funky or ethnic may even be appropriate from time to time." To further illustrate this principle, she explains: "If I were going out West, for example, I might wear some turquoise bracelets." But some things are a bridge too far! Any woman with a modicum of dignity would know never to be caught dead in "polar fleece," "a naughty-nurse costume," or "footed pajamas." We are also encouraged to carry around a hand fan -- "the elegant way to stay cool" -- as well as a "small leather-bound notebook for jotting down inspirations." I lose my train of thought for a moment, caught up in a daydream about the ingenious wonderings that must be contained within Phaedra's hallowed journal. But I'm brought back to reality by a declaration of "what's not in my purse," beginning with the stern pronouncement: "any kind of contraband substance." Our pilgrimage to polite society continues with a comprehensive exploration of the monogram's social gravitas. As Phaedra intones, "I've even seen cars with a very discreet monogram on the driver's door." But with light must come darkness, and the next chapter bravely confronts an issue many others would fear to face: "Looking Like a Tramp" ("There, I came right out and said it," Phaedra breathlessly gasps below the harsh text of the passage's title). She gathers herself together and courageously reports, "some women look downright sleazy." Alas -- even more tragically -- couture catastrophes are not restricted to those of legal majority. Phaedra heroically pulls back the curtain on a nationwide epidemic of wardrobe misconduct being perpetrated against society's most vulnerable:
I saw a picture not long ago of some hippies or hipsters or whatever you call them from some remote city. The parents looked the way you'd expect them to look, a little bit bedraggled, but the worst thing was they had this adorable little baby all done up in a black onesie. And as far as I could tell, it wasn't even Halloween!
How to combat this terrifying trend? Phaedra offers words of wisdom: "Little Southern Belles always look sweet and appropriately girlish." Specifically, we are encouraged to incorporate design elements like "tasteful, conservative rickrack." By way of further explanation, she clarifies that, "what they don't do is dress like Lady Gaga in dresses made of butchers' best cuts of beef." I'm disappointed to learn that my idea for an Etsy store selling bespoke meat-based children's clothing might be a nonstarter, but I suppose I appreciate our author giving it to me straight. Another childcare commandment?
No costumes outside the house. Of course every little girl loves to play dress-up. But I truly dislike seeing Snow White or a fairy princess trailing along behind her mother at the Piggly Wiggly.
As she sits in her living room, most likely waiting for a man to come to her aid for some reason or another, Phaedra is struck by a sharp, blazing pain. As the flash of blinding torment subsides, she catches her breath and shakes her head wearily -- another costumed child has gone into a grocery store. Forgive their guardians, for they know not the harm their actions have caused to our author's delicate and genteel sensibilities. But it does us no good to dwell on the darker side of life! Rather, we'll move right along into the book's final section, "Have Fun." However, this does not seem to be exactly the same kind of "fun" colloquially mentioned in mainstream circles. Rather, the Southern Belle defines fun with the principle, "everybody needs to know that you made an effort." For example, "if you're pouring punch into paper cups for a gaggle of seven-year-olds, put a spring of mint in it." My previous experiences in the general vicinity of children lead me to believe that at least 75% of the seven-year-olds in this group would respond to this elegant enhancement by dumping the punch out on the ground because it has a gross plant in it. Maybe that's part of the fun? No analysis of Southern culture would be complete without a discussion of that most hallowed of pastimes -- college football. And although "only a really unusual woman watches football alone," it is imperative that a Southern Belle attend the social events associated with the on-season. What's more, she should take care to do with impeccable style. As Phaedra laments:
Sometimes I see pictures of women in store-bought football jerseys and I feel sorry. A store-bought jersey does nothing to flatter the feminine body.
As for the game itself, minimal understanding is required -- "Naturally a Belle knows how much men enjoy telling her things, so she isn't shy about asking questions." True to her generous spirit, however, Phaedra nevertheless provides a basic primer in the rudiments of the sport:
Basically each team is trying to get the ball through the tall H-shaped goalposts at the end of the field. […] The problem is that the ball can look awfully little from pretty much anywhere in the stands. There's no shame in watching the video replay to see what really just happened.
As a final tip, Phaedra suggests that "belles whose husbands have season tickets might even invest in matching linens and china." Our next unit of instruction concerns the arrival of a newborn bundle of joy; as we learn, "the birth of a baby is a big deal in a southern family." It's so interesting to learn all of these unique cultural details! I don't know if I've ever heard of another culture that places such importance on birth -- I'd love to get an anthropologist's take! There are also strict guidelines to which one must adhere regarding the naming of a debutante-in-training:
A Southern Belle's name: -- is obviously feminine. -- is two syllables or more (names like Ann or Joan seem abrupt, like so many Yankees). -- is a real name, not a geographic feature like Sierra. -- means something. Preferably something nice.
Once born and appropriately christened, children should be painstakingly shielded from the contaminating influences of the world at large. Phaedra explains that "pop culture is full of children behaving disrespectfully." Without the slightest suggestion of self-reflection, she goes on to declare that "besides, we think TV characters are basically tacky." Phaedra reiterates a few of the courtship commandments mentioned previously, most concisely in the adage, "Belles don't date losers." And, as any suitor worth his salt should know, "a date with a Belle is no time for a boy to experiment with 'alternative' clothes or grooming either." Instead, a Southern Gentleman takes care to keep his language clean from distasteful or offensive language -- "For instance, why say 'liquor' when you can say 'adult refreshment'?" As we near the end of the book, it seems only fitting that we take a few pages to cover the traditions and rituals associated with life coming to a close. Buttressed by her extensive knowledge of mortuary science, Phaedra instructs us:
Postmortem is no time to experiment with cosmetics. No one wants their sweet aunt Gertrude looking like some ashy Jezebel when she meets Jesus.
The passage concludes with the brassy observation, "we don't usually cremate in the South; we figure if we wanted to burn we'd just live recklessly and go to hell." Before the book closes in earnest, Phaedra shares a few of her special, meticulously developed recipes. The most evocative of her culinary optimizations is a recipe for sweet tea, in which she thoughtfully informs us, "sweetness can be personalized by adding more water or ice to the tea." The book's final pages contain an instrument designed to measure the effect of the preceding 252 pages on one's essential courtesies, charmingly titled "The Belle-O-Meter Quiz." As Phaedra explains:
So, ladies, how are you doing? I'm sure you've all been very attentive to my suggestions and are amazed by the results. You're probably totally used to a steady diet of compliments and flirtation and invitations. But here's a little quiz in case you feel the need to measure how far you've come.
If you'd like to take the full quiz, you can do so here. But if your busy Belle schedule doesn't permit you to devote that much time to something so self-indulgent, a few example questions are provided below:
Your routine greeting when you meet a new person is: a. A surly glare. b. "Hi." c. "Well, hello! How are you today?"
If your gentleman friend brought you a corsage to wear on a date you would: a. Put it in the refrigerator. Nobody wears corsages nowadays! b. Pin it to your coat collar and check your coat. c. Pin it in an unusual spot like your waist or behind your ear, after extracting one little blossom to put in his lapel.
The answer key informs us that answering mostly C's means that "you are a genuine Southern Belle." As Phaedra goes on to suggest, "maybe it's time to share your new skills with a friend and pass along this book. I hope it's been helpful to you." As a book hoarder of the highest order, I will have to skip that suggestion, but I am nevertheless thankful to move one step closer to self-actualization with the help of another Real Housewife. Until next time! Upcoming plans in comment below!
Hi everyone! This is another unsolved case from Spain. This one in particular has been ranked by various Spanish crime and mystery polls as one of the most intriguing cases of our country. This is, as always, a long read. But I hope you can enjoy it. Here it goes;
Madrid, Spain Wednesday, August 13th, 1969 A 20-years old firefighter walked into an old abandoned farmstead colloquially referred to by locals as Casa de la Viuda (Widow's House), near the municipality of Hortaleza. He would later tell LE that he frequented that place on his spare time; the old house was spacious, and he liked to go there to exercise and keep himself in excellent shape -as his job required him to be. Since it had been abandoned, the farm was frequented by locals at night only, as at the time it was used as a lover's lane. However, the morning of that August 13 his routine would be shattered in the spookiest way possible. There were lots of old tools, furniture and other agricultural paraphernalia there. Among these there were several large tinajas(a type of jar-like and big recipient typical of Mediterranean and North African cultures, often used to store water, oil, or grain). One of these was particularly big. That morning the firefighter, motivated by curiosity, decided to peek inside that big tinaja. And that's when he made the disturbing discovery. There was a dead woman stuffed inside. Knowing that the police would secure the area for preserving evidence, the firefighter exited the house avoiding touching anything. He got into his car and drove to the nearest police station, informing LE about the gruesome finding. A team of investigators drove to the scene. The woman was naked. A black turtleneck sweater was wrapped tightly around her neck. Her blue jeans and her panties were later found down around her ankles. She was young, her age at the time estimated to be somewhere in her 20's. Her bleached hair was of a very pale shade of blonde which, along with her at the time fashionable late 1960's clothing and her silver shoes and purse, inspired a there present LE investigator to eloquently define her appearance as 'like a space doll'. She stood 160 cm tall (or 5'3''). Slender complexion. He face had been battered, but later on it would be ruled that the cause of dead had been mechanical asphyxiation. More specifically, her killer had squeezed her throat hard with one hand, as the finger-shaped bruises on her neck attested. She had numerous defensive wounds in the form of bruises. Death had taken place less than 48 hours earlier, and her body was barely entering into the first stages of decomposition. The swelling in her face wasn't due to the decaying process, but due to the blunt trauma-induced inflammation. This detail would make the identification process much harder than expected. There was some dry blood on her cheeks and her clothing, but no traces of blood were found on the tinaja nor around; she had been murdered somewhere else and then dropped there later. The contents of her purse, as well as the pockets in her jeans, were examined. This didn't produce any evidence that would point at the woman's identity. A strange piece of evidence was found trapped between her clenched teeth though; a small golden medallion with the following inscription embedded on it; LUCI 13-12-1962 Could her name be Lucía? And what was that date referring to? Obviously, it couldn't be her birth date, since the body belonged clearly to an adult woman. Investigators at the scene pondered that maybe it could be the name and birth date of her daughter. This clue was used in the investigation. The soil at the abandoned house showed that her killer had dragged her all the way to the tinaja where she was found in. It also showed that a car had been there. Based on the tire's pattern and the approximate wheelbase of the vehicle, investigators concluded that the car used to take the woman to there was a Renault 4L, a very popular car back then in Spain. What is more; they could also find a dent on the metal frame of the property's narrow gate. It was likely caused by a car speeding through it. Although the gate was narrow, anyone who could drive a car could easily go through it slowly. However, it seemed that someone -likely the killer- had rushed through with their car, hitting the frame in their way out, and probably full of anxiety about being seen dropping a body there. The investigators managed to retrieve samples of red colored car paint from the dent, which gave them more information about where to look. A red Renault 4L. It seemed that the tinaja, which was made of clay, had created conditions on its interior that had slowed down the decaying process in spite of the summer temperatures -tinajas make a rather cool storage space by keeping the heat out. Because of that, LE investigators managed to produce an excellent fingerprint profile from the murdered woman. It took the team just twelve hours since sampling her fingerprints to find a match. Keep in mind this was back in 1969, before fingerprint registries were in electronic form; the team had to split into several groups to compare (visually) the fingerprints with the registries of different public agencies. Twelve hours was a really quick time for a fingerprint match back then. The fingerprint match came with a strange surprise. It was found by the team that had been assigned to compare the sample with the fingerprints from the Registry of Foreign Passports. According to the match, it belonged to Kerry Payne, an American citizen. Born on December 25th, 1944 in Venice, Italy. Her parents were Richard and Nuria. The additional information in the registry mentioned 'housewife' as her professional occupation. With the new data about her identity, LE tried to contact her family and relatives to tell them the unfortunate news about her death, as well as to move forward with the murder investigation. However, things would just start to get weirder and bizarre. Payne's parents could not be located. Neither the US embassy, nor the personnel from the nearby USAF base in Torrejón de Ardoz could find anything about her within their databases. However, a matchbox advertising for a nightclub in Raleigh, North Carolina, had been found in the crime scene near the tinaja inside of which the woman had been found. The presence of this item had made investigators to put a lot of faith in thinking that sooner or later a relative of Kerry Payne would be found. The matchbox set them to contact North Carolina's authorities, leading them into another frustrating turn as this move didn't produce any results; There were no matching records of any Kerry Payne fitting the woman's personal information. It was almost like Kerry Payne, also known as Tinaja Girl and Space Doll, didn't exist. So who was that dead woman really then? Where did she come from? And of course... who killed her, and why?
Chameleon among Wolves
Having clear that the whole Kerry Payne ID was fake, the investigation had stalled. Without knowing the woman's ID, solving the crime was off question. They couldn't trace down her last movements, nor question her family nor acquaintances. The investigators split once again in teams to look for other fingerprint matches, which took a bit longer time than the initial twelve hours before the first match. After a couple of days of arduous work the investigators managed to produce a second match -which turned out to be legit. Here's another surprising aspect of the discovery of this match; it came from the team looking for results on the public mental health internment records. And so they finally had a solid name. She wasn't American, nor Italian. In fact, her origins weren't at all exotic; she was Spanish. Natividad Romero Rodríguez (commonly addressed as "Nati") was born in the small town of Siles, located at 130 km (80 mi) east of Jaén, in the middle of the semiarid, deep Manchegan countryside. Nati came to this world on July 15h, 1941, which means that she was 28 years-old when she was killed. Her mother and her brother positively identified the body by an old scar on her right forearm. Picture of a young Nati Nati had been problematic from a very young age; volatile, kleptomaniac and narcissistic. She also developed an addiction to alcohol and used drugs during her teenage years. Her working-class family could not manage to deal with her extremely difficult behavior. At the age of 16 she was committed to a mental institution in Jaén, for a total of seven years, after two suicide attempts. In the first one Nati had jumped from the window of a 4th floor. The second time she had tried slicing her wrists on the bathtub. Nati, circa 1965 The investigators' inquires revealed that Nati escaped from the mental institution and moved to Madrid in 1964. She quickly adapted to the underworld and the night life of the big city; first as a pickpocket and confidence trickster, but soon as a prostitute too. She used the name "Tania" as her identity at the time. Fifty-something questioned people later (being shown Nati's pictures), the investigators found that she lived with a man named Juan between August of 1964 and some point of the fall of 1965. There isn't much information about Juan, except that he was a black man and had a large scar on his face. He apparently was a soldier, and was sent to serve at a navy base in Rota (some 480 km, or 300 mi, southwest of Madrid). Nati didn't follow him to Rota; instead, she remained in Madrid, surviving by making money 'out of the night'. Sometimes known by the name of Tania, sometimes by the name of Luci... and yes, also known as Kerry. She also liked to change her hair color very often, sometimes up to three times a week. These questioned about Nati -including other prostitutes- stated that she often 'worked' at the bars and nightclubs near the USAF base in Torrejón de Ardoz (active from 1953 to 1992), targeting American soldiers looking to spend some of their money on local women. She seemed to have a preference for black American soldiers, as she was often seen with them. When she was not heading to a hotel room escorted by an African-American soldier, Nati catered to local patrons posing as an American woman. She was reportedly very good at feigning an American accent, and she had discovered she was better paid for her services because of that. As for her personal life, Nati claimed to be a lesbian that the only thing she wanted from men was their money, and many people recalled her being physical with women (paid or not). Nati had, however, a worrisome tendency to seek very young girls for her personal pleasure. Her acquaintances also mentioned than Nati always looked 'off' or 'sleepy', like on drugs. Although when considering this point it's worth remembering that Nati was an alcoholic and frequent drug user, on top of suffering from serious mental illness. When she didn't look drugged Nati was seen either drinking, looking for patrons or just looking for a fight; she was a violent woman who made an extensive use of foul language and profanity. As the whole story unraveled, the investigators bumped into a big 'a-ha' moment when they learned that Nati had married in 1966. The name of her husband? Leonard Payne. American citizen. USAF Airman First Class, stationed at Torrejón de Ardoz Air Base. And yes; he was African-American. Nati and Leonard, around 1966 The marriage was blessed with two children later on. It was also blessed, more obscurely, with generous money transfers from the US. These transfers amounted an average of around $2,000 a month, which in 2020 is the equivalent to about $16,000, or some 14,000€. It's not clear what kind of family background Leonard had, but his monthly salary at USAF certainly wouldn't match such amounts of money. The origin and motive of these money transfers has never been clear. The couple had rented a very expensive flat to live in. Nati, with one of the children she had with Leonard In early 1968 Leonard, who has an avionics expert, was sent to Vietnam, leaving Nati alone in Madrid. At some point of that year Leonard went MIA in Vietnam, and soon presumed dead. Seems like not long after the news of Leonard's tragic demise were received the money stopped coming, and Nati's behavior became even more erratic and unpredictable. She was eventually arrested for drugging a teen girl and sexually abusing her, a crime for which she was sent to the Ventas Prison for Women. She spent eight months there. During her time in prison she became an inmate most of the women there avoided; Nati was too volatile, too unpredictable (except for the fact that she'd resort to aggression sooner or later) and always trying to smuggle alcohol inside. In one occasion she and other two inmates ended up in the infirmary after a disastrous attempt to produce moonshine; their drink contained enough methanol to poison them. Nati and one of the two women survived. The other one died. She was often getting into scuffles there, especially taking into account the nature of the crime she'd been sent there for. One night another inmate made fun of Nati's deceased African-American husband, using a pejorative racial slur. Nati reacted by walking up to that woman and smacking her with a heavy oil can so hard that the woman needed several stitches on her face. After her release from prison in early 1969 Nati moved in with one of her friends -a former prostitute- and her boyfriend. It's not clear if this couple was taking care of Nati's children while she was in prison, or if the children were sent to the US to live with Leonard's family. Soon after Nati was kicked out of that residence, after she had been caught stealing from them; this friend's name was Lucía, and she was the owner of the golden medallion that would later be found between Neti's teeth. Apparently, Nati had found a job at a club, but she was fired soon after for being frequently caught drunk at work. From this point up until her death six months later, Nati's movements become unclear. One night of late February a police patrol car found her lying unconscious and bloodied on the sidewalk at El Retiro Park. Someone had subjected her to a savage beating. The policemen drove Nati to a hospital and, after she received treatment, they tried to convince her to fill an assault report. However Nati -concussed and with her lips grotesquely swollen- refused to do so. She also claimed that she didn't know the person who had attacked her. The policemen didn't believe that, and suspected that she had been beaten up by a pimp or a patron. According to other sex workers, Nati had spent the spring and summer of 1969 resuming her routine of trying to get black USAF soldiers to pay for her services. However, she had also expressed some concerns about her own safety, confiding to her friends that she felt 'followed'. She didn't seem to explain to them further about these feelings though. Nati was seen alive for the last time at around 4:00 AM of August 12th, 1969. Whatever happened to her between that moment and the morning of the following day when the firefighter discovered her body was a complete mystery. By early 1970 the investigation had stalled and the case became cold. Ironically, it would take one particularly cold night about one year later to warm the case back into life...
Thugs and Knives
Madrid, Spain Saturday, January 30th, 1971 7th Barbieri Street, early morning hours. The Piloto Bar was full of patrons, as it was habitual on weekend nights. Everyone was having a good time on that gelid winter night under the warm roof of the bar. Patrons drank, smoked cigarettes and chatted with their friends, probably about football. Others would bet rounds of beers among their friends over a game of table football. A barman in his 50's named Pedro Herraiz was the owner of the bar. That busy night the 32-years old waiter Álvaro Coque was working alongside with him, as well as another waiter, a kitchen porter and the cook. It was a busy, but peaceful night until that guy and his friends walked into the bar. His name was José Antonio Sánchez Gil, but everyone around knew him by the nickname 'Pepe el Guapo' ('Handsome Pepe'). His good looks and his success with women made his nickname self-explanatory. He was a tall, intimidating man who, along with his friends, regularly terrorized the neighborhood. The 29-years old Pepe was a ruthless pimp with many girls under his 'protection services'. He used that fearsome reputation to drink as much as he pleased at the local bars without paying a cent. Standing up to him would mean having Pepe and his friends doing a number to the bar, trashing the place and assaulting the staff. Pepe ordered whiskey, as he always did. And he invited his friends to drink, as he always did. Everyone at the Piloto Bar knew that standing up to Pepe was a very bad idea. However, that night Pepe made a big mistake. It would be his last one. Apparently, Mr. Herraiz had stood behind the counter looking at Pepe as he drank, not hiding his animosity towards that thug. Then Pepe, probably feeling challenged, decided to cap the night off with the ultimate humiliation; he invited Herraiz to drink a glass of his best whiskey. A drink which, of course, Pepe had zero intentions to pay for. The 'invitation' was met with a counter-offer from Herraiz; Pepe and his friends should leave the bar immediately and never come back. Herraiz had had enough, and that drink suggestion had been the straw that broke the camel's back. Pepe then grabbed an empty beer bottle from the counter and smashed it against Herraiz's forehead, dazzling him. Almost immediately Pepe jumped over the counter and started beating up Herraiz; his friends soon joined the beating, and the floored Herraiz was at the receiving end of a brutal barrage of kicks and stomps. The Piloto's staff wasted no time; they all grabbed ham knives from the kitchen and rushed back out to help their boss. Pepe and his gang pulled out their switchblades and a violent knife fight ensued. It didn't seem that things would go well for the staff, as they were being outnumbered by the thugs. The cook suffered a severe stab wound in one of his buttocks. But the waiter Coque managed to catch Pepe off-guard (the criminal was distracted fighting someone else) and drove the long knife blade into his ribcage, slicing part of his heart. Pepe collapsed almost immediately. Probably emboldened after seeing Pepe finally being at the wrong end of a knife blade, many of the patrons that night at the Piloto bar joined the fight too, siding with the staff. Pepe's gang was now overwhelmed with punches, beer bottles and even bar stools. Around this time several police officers reached the bar. All except for a couple of Pepe's friends managed to escape the beating and flee running down the street. These who couldn't had to be rescued by the police officers; the scuffle and the agitation were so intense that the officers had to use their batons to dissuade the patrons from continuing their attack on these thugs. Herraiz, who had been badly beaten, was taken to hospital, and so was the cook because of his stab wound. Both men eventually made a full recovery. Pepe, on the other hand, was pronounced dead at hospital. His violent death surprised no one, and saddened no one either. In fact, locals joked around afterwards noticing the irony behind the fact that 'Handsome Pepe' had died, literally, from a broken heart. It seems that the man who put an end to his life, the waiter Álvaro Coque (a husband and a father of two kids who had no criminal record), faced minimal or no charges. That night the police officers made some arrests. Obviously the thugs that didn't manage to escape were arrested, as well as the most aggressive patrons that had still some fight in them. But they also arrested a patron in particular, one who during the melee had been seen trying to not to get involved and leaving the scene discreetly. His name was Gregorio Ávila Sotoca, more known locally as 'Goyo'. The reasons he had tried his best to avoid the fight had nothing to do with ethics or pacifism; Goyo was well known by Madrid's LE at the time. At 28, he was a mugger, thief, and a drug dealer. But he was known especially as a pimp. He had been the subject of a search and arrest warrant for the previous six months due to a string of robberies he was a suspect of, and had spent that time trying to keep a low profile to fly under LE's radar. A picture of Gregorio Ávila Sotoca, alias 'Goyo' Goyo was placed on a cell at the main police station -something he wasn't unfamiliar with. The police chief on command of Goyo's arrest that night was a man named Manuel Lista. Mr. Lista was a tall and big man who, in spite of his intimidating appearance, never used physical force against any detainee -back in the 1970's Spain police brutality was the norm rather than the exception, especially when the detainees were regular offenders like Goyo was. Instead, Lista preferred a slow and patient method of interrogation; without even raising his voice (looking almost fatherly, in fact) he would come up with the same questions over and over, staring into the offender's eyes. He would also question the detainees at early morning hours, waking them up several times a night. That weekend Lista was reportedly trying to make Goyo confess to pimping women and robbery charges. However (according to him and his subordinates) something extremely unexpected happened. Goyo finally broke down and said; "It's about that Tinaja Girl, right? Well, I killed her". Why would Goyo supposedly admit that is not clear. Apparently, he blurted that out after Lista had asked him many times "to start talking", but no one at the station expected him to have anything to do with Nati. Goyo told them that the night of August 11th, 1969 he was very drunk and had met Nati at a café-bar. They drank some more there and then Goyo proposed Nati to go to his place, to which she refused. Then he drove her in his car -a red Renault 4L- to the abandoned house where Nati's dead body was later found. Goyo reportedly told Lista and his men that once there they 'couldn't reach and agreement and Nati started nagging and making fun of him'. This enraged Goyo, who described to Lista how he put both hands on Nati's throat and squeezed until she passed out. After that Goyo slapped her face, trying to wake her up, until he realized that Nati was dead. Finally, Goyo stripped her naked, took her money and her jewelry and hid her body inside the big tinaja. Goyo also described how he was so full of anxiety when leaving that his car gazed the gate's frame, scratching the bodywork. By the morning he had stayed at one of his girl's apartment, and Goyo told her he was leaving later that day 'for a road trip'. He told her he was leaving to León (340 kilometers, or some 210 miles, northwest from Madrid) for a few days. However, Goyo moved into the apartment of another of the prostitutes he pimped. He later called the first girl and told her he was in León, although he hadn't left Madrid. He asked her if someone 'had asked about him lately'. Goyo returned from his 'trip' a few days after Nati's body was found.
An international affair?
With that unexpected confession Goyo thereby became the main suspect for the mysterious murder of Nati Romero, the Tinaja Girl. When the word that Goyo had been arrested as a suspect for murder spread around, many girls mustered enough courage to speak up to LE about Goyo. It turned out that Goyo was a sadistic and violent pimp whose girls feared him enough to not to report even the most gruesome abuse. LE considered the girls' statements as very likely, as apparently they were quite consistent. In one particularly disturbing statement, Goyo had locked up one of the girls in his apartment and beat her up very badly. The girl managed to endure the beating, thinking that that would be all. But then Goyo had pulled out a pocketknife; this girl feared so much for her life that she jumped from the window (a 2nd floor) onto the street, and then hid under a car while a deranged Goyo screamed that he was going 'to rip her heart out' while looking for her. This girl had been found later that day by a police officer, who asked her who had attacked her. She insisted that a gang of teenage boys had jumped on her to take her money, never mentioning Goyo. What is more; Goyo had a big collection of 'tools' at home (he called them 'his toys') that he would use to discipline the girls. According to the women who came forward after his arrest, Goyo would administer, in his own words, 'pain or pleasure, depending of what the girl in particular required'. The full nature of these tools is never specified, though. A total of 54 women had come forward to tell LE what kind of monster Goyo was. Thanks to these reports, Lista and his team though they got a solid suspect in custody. It matched what they already knew about Goyo beforehand. He was often involved in street fights and had a reputation of being quick to pull out his knife when challenged or threatened. He was a very violent man, and the girls he extorted were absolutely terrified of him. Goyo was brought to trial. And then, when everyone thought that he'd be facing a long time in prison for the murder of Nati Romero, the whole case fell apart. First, Goyo denied ever having confessed killing Nati. He told the judge that he had been coerced into a confession and that he had been physically tortured. This wouldn't have gone further if not for what the defense came up with. Goyo had stated many times (according to the questioning with Lista) that he had used both hands to strangle Nati. However, the forensic doctor that had performed the autopsy had noticed that it just couldn't have been that way; whoever strangled Nati did so using only his right hand; the killer had used his left hand to pin Nati's right arm to the ground, making her more defenseless. Also, whoever killed her had hands much bigger than Goyo's (who was an average sized man). That wasn't all; Goyo said that after noticing that Nati had passed out he smacked her face several times trying to make her regain consciousness. But again, this didn't fit the forensic findings. Nati's facial injuries didn't suggest a few slaps in the face; they suggested a brutal beating, probably punched or knee'd several times in the face. Also, the facial injuries happened, in all likelihood, before being strangled, not after. The scenario provided by the forensic doctor and his team didn't suggest a quick murder like the one described by Goyo's confession. Nati had put up a tremendous fight against her attacker, reason why the killer had to pin Nati's right arm to the ground. The high amount of defensive wounds found in her body supported this scenario. If she panicked when she was attacked, she certainly did not freeze in fear. The confession is one of the darkest spots in this case. Manuel Lista was said to have never engaged in physical torture -which Goyo accused him of. However, his questioning methods could be considered psychological torture, at least nowadays. It's stated, though, that when Goyo was finally transferred from the station's cell to jail he had gone from 'dangerous hardened criminal' to a 'sobbing little boy' in the matter of a weekend. Because of the lack of evidence and the forensic findings pointing at a different story, Goyo was declared non guilty of the murder of Natividad Romero. This didn't mean he walked free though; he was sentenced to five years in prison for his pending pimping and theft charges. Goyo's lawyer appealed to the Supreme Court about his sentence; the appeal was rejected. Meanwhile, Nati's killer was still unidentified and likely at large. The Crime Brigade handed the case to the superintendent Antonio Viqueira. Viqueira (1916-1998) was a highly esteemed detective with an impressive resume; in 1958 he was behind the team that managed to catch the first official spree killers in Spain, José María Jarabo. He had also cracked several cult-related crime cases in the 1960's and 1970's, as well as apprehending a serial rapist who targeted prostitutes in the 1960's, using a clever strategy with the collaboration of the sex workers. Because of his brilliant career he was often invited for talks at Universities aimed at Crime Science students. Reportedly, he used to explain to these students that 'not only dead bodies talk; the objects found in the crime scene talk too'. And also that 'simplicity, along with logic, brings the truth to light'. Viqueira put his method to work in the Tinaja Girl case. Following his own experience, he paid attention to the objects found at the crime scene. Let's remember a particularly unusual item found near the tinaja were Nati ended up in; the matchbox. This matchbox was traced to a nightclub in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the United States. There was no way to buy it in Spanish territory, and locals would buy matches from Spanish companies. USAF airmen didn't frequent the abandoned house Nati was found at, making extremely unlikely that the matchbox had been there before Nati's murder. There were just two likely scenarios; a) Given her involvement with USAF African-American airmen -let's remember she had married one-, the matchbox belonged to Nati and b) it belonged to the killer. The Torrejón de Ardoz Air Base became the target of Viqueira's attention. He believed that the killer had ties to there. More so because according to the girl whose flat Goyo had hidden at, one time she casually discussed the Tinaja Girl case with him (whose investigation was often making headlines then) and Goyo had expressed; 'I think the Yanks did it, but don't go around talking about it'. In fact, Viqueira's inquires eventually led him to an USAF airman. He was known for patronizing prostitutes, was a physically large man... and he was also African-American. It seems that Viqueira managed to gather a significant amount of evidence against him, but the airman was never prosecuted. Some have speculated that neither American nor Spanish authorities wanted the case to move forward. A few words about US-Spain relations at the time. In December of 1959 Dwight Eisenhower became the first American president to make an official visit to Spain -some ten years earlier Truman had expressed his hatred towards the Francoist Regime, vowing to never visit Spain for as long as Franco ruled the country. Spain wouldn't receive the visit of another US president until October of 1970, when Richard Nixon met with Francisco Franco and the Monarchy at the Moncloa Palace. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson had avoided visiting Spain while they were in office; both were vocal about their opposition to the Francoist dictatorship. US-Spain international relationship was not at its best during that time, and it started to improve slowly with Nixon. There had been recently another incident that had created a conflict between both countries, creating a sense of distrust among Spaniards towards Americans; the 1966 Palomares incident, whose social consequences had an impact even up to 1986, year in which a public referendum was held in Spain about remaining in NATO -Spain had joined in 1982, but not without a significant opposition from a good percentage of the Spanish people. By early 1970's both countries had improved their diplomatic relationship significantly, a trend that would later continue with Gerald Ford (who visited Spain in May of 1975, six months before Franco's death). Because of this, some believed that the Tinaja Girl case couldn't move forward. However, this was not the first case Viqueira had to accuse an American citizen of a serious crime; in August of 1960 an American woman named Mildred A. H. had rushed her 22-month old daughter Marcella H. to the Torrenjón de Ardoz Hospital with severe head injuries. She said that the little girl had fallen from her bed. Unfortunately, Marcella succumbed to her injuries that night. An investigation led by Viqueira ended up proving that Marcella's injuries had been caused after she had sustained a beating at the hands of her own father, Allen W. H., USAF sergeant stationed at Torrejón de Ardoz Air Base. Both husband and wife were arrested for the murder of the little Marcella; Allen as the culprit and Mildred as accomplice. Allen W. H. faced a court martial and was sentenced to prison. He ended up at the Leavenworth Penitentiary, in Kansas, where his sentence included penal labor. Apparently, the day after he murdered his daughter Allen had showed up to work, and his coworkers didn't notice anything odd or amiss; he looked absolutely calm and collected.
Whatever the true reason may have been, the African-American airman was never arrested. It could have been because the evidence gathered by Viqueira was not enough to warrant an arrest, but there's not much information about this. Gregorio 'Goyo' Ávila Sotoca has been the only person to ever face trial for the murder of Natividad 'Nati' Romero Rodríguez. Besides the African-American airman, no other suspect has come up in subsequent investigations. Once all the forensic work was done, Nati was buried on August 25th, 1969 at her hometown of Siles. While her family was very saddened about her early dead, they said that they were not surprised; Nati had been a very difficult person since a very young age, and was a matter of time before she would end up dead. She lived very fast, and died very young. Another picture of Nati Goyo Ávila Sotoca passed away in September of 1998. He was 55-years old. The case remained cold until it expired in August 13th, 1989 due to statute of limitations. The investigation was abandoned more than 30 years ago.
Effort post: Why hatchlings ARE a problem, and how to fix it without disrupting the rest of the game.
Before anything else, it should be emphasized that the developers of the game agree that hatchlings are a problem. Nikata said the following in the 0.12 podcast:
The thing is, the initial problem of Hatchlings is that they are playing as not intended -- they just rush into some places and get [a] LedX or key or something valuable like hoses and screw nuts and they just die and disconnect. This is not cool at all and this is one kind of problem that I want to fix in the game.
Maybe you disagree with Nikita and think hatchlings are fine. Allow me to elaborate further, then. 1. Hatchlings are not playing the game the way it was intended to be played Even if you ignore what Nikita said, it is still very clear that the game was not intended to be played this way. For one, the game is called Escape from Tarkov, after all. Hatchlings are not necessarily trying to escape. While some indeed bring a backpack with them, the strategy that most hatchlings are doing does not require that. They simply rush the best loot, use the secure container, die or disconnect and repeat. Streamers have shown themselves earning millions in less than an hour from this strategy. The game is not a foot race to the best gear. It's a military sim with survival and RPG elements. 2. Hatchlings hurt mid and late game progression for other players After a certain point, simply collecting whatever you can get your hands on is not as profitable as prioritizing certain items and spawn locations during a raid. This is because as a player progresses through the game, the value of the items they bring into the raid is generally going to increase. The three ways mid and late game players make a profit (extract with more loot than the value of the gear they brought in) is by looting high value locations, killing other PMCs and taking their gear, and by killing raiders and bosses. Hatchlings make this more difficult than intended in two respects. The first is obvious, they are more likely to get to the high value spawns than a geared player. Even if a hatchling and a geared PMC spawn equidistant and both instantly sprint to the loot, the hatchling will still make it there first because of the weight mechanic. The second problem is that hatchlings don't bring anything into the raid themselves. In fact, you're gauranteed to lose money by killing a hatchling because the bullet will be worth more than the non-existent gear they have. It's simple math, fewer PMC with gear, less potential profit. 3. Hatchlings make gameplay easier, and less interesting PVP is one of the things that makes Escape from Tarkov interesting. Even if you are not attempting to PVP, the risk of encountering a player who is adds an element of excitement, tension, and even terror. Rival PMCs are supposed to be a threat, not just to your income but whether or not you make it out of the raid alive. However, every hatchling is one less PVP encounter. They aren't there to play with you. It's like if you're in a football match and the other team is just jogging around the field. Sure, it will be an easy win for you, but where is the challenge? Nobody would pay tickets to see a boxing match if one of the fighters just stood there. Nobody would bet on a horse race if most of the horses are just going to walk. Even if a player is just trying to rat it up and hide from a more aggressive player like me, at least I still get the enjoyment out of hunting them down, or they get the enjoyment of getting away undetected. Hatchlings don't offer that. Hatchlings don't feel the thrill of life vs death in this game because the only thing they lose is matchmaking time. The Solution: Timed Secure Container We need a solution to this problem that addresses the three elements above without drastically altering the actual intended gameplay. The prior solution of making hatchlings tagged and cursed was rather clever and entertaining, but soon savvy player groups used it to bait scavs into easy kill zones. Proposals involving changing AI behavior or increasing the amount on the map or in an area are likely just too unreliable to be an effective deterrent to hatchlings. Limiting what can be put inside a secure container would also adversely effect regular players so that isn't a desirable idea either. This solution would be simple. For X minutes after spawning, players cannot put an item into their secure container, only take items out. The exact timing can be tweaked as necessary. Different maps would also likely need different timers. This addresses the problem that hatchlings cause at every level. First, hatchlings are required to play the game more closely as intended. Even if they make it to that graphics card, they still have to actually survive for a little bit before they can put it in their secure container. This would discourage the concept of the hatchling entirely, as they would likely decide to bring guns or armor to at least survive the first minutes necessary to make it out with their precious loot instead of just be a sitting duck. Second, because hatchlings are more likely to, well, not be hatchlings anymore, you now have players bringing gear into the game that other players can profit from if they claim their life. Considering that the hatchling can't even put something in their container for a few minutes, they are at the very least bringing a vest or a backpack until then. Third, even if someone still goes hatchling, at least the gameplay is made more exciting. If some hatchling needs to duck and weave, play stealthy, and avoid detection before they can die/disconnect with their valuables, at least they still have to play some of the game, and other players get to play with them. The secondary benefit of the timer is that it does not really impede on a regular PMC's ability to play the game, as most of the time PMCs are trying to survive longer than five or ten minutes anyway. It might suck if you are a PMC who managed to get the valuable loot early on, only to die before you can get it into your container, but I do not think this is a big enough problem to impede the entire idea. If anything, it would encourage more tactical and strategic gameplay around high-value areas, instead of the mad rush in and out that it is now. The timed secure container can also be modified. Perhaps the more gear you bring in, the shorter the timer on putting things into the secure container. This rewards players who bring more gear to the raid by allowing them to safely deposit valuables sooner than players bringing less gear (and thus taking less risk). For a player with 1 million rubles of gear, their secure container timer might only be 30 seconds. For a hatchling it might be 10 minutes or more. Another way to modify the timer is instead of having a single timer at the beginning of the round, the container can also enter a cooldown every time an item is put into it. This means that not everything can be put in at once, and it also has the added benefit of balancing the advantages of a container size a bit. I still think Battlestate Games should try a timer at the beginning first though. In Conclusion Hatchlings are not playing the game the way it was meant to be played to the detriment of other players in the game. Not only do they grab the most valuable loot at zero risk to themselves, but they also harm the progression of more experienced players by depriving them of a potential source of PVP loot. In addition, they make the game less interesting by entering a raid as neither a threat nor an entertaining target. They are playing the game like it's an offline experience. By adding some kind of timer to the secure container that prevents objects from being placed inside for the first few moments of the game, you will heavily discourage hatchling gameplay, and mitigate most of the negative consequences that it brings. EDIT: Another problem with Hatchlings: The Lack of Counterplay There is currently no counter-play to hatchlings. Like I said in my OP, if you spawn equidistant from the loot, they will beat you there because they are faster, and killing them once you finally catch up won't make a difference because they already "won" the race to the loot. In practice, this effectively means that the only way to beat a hatchling is to spawn closer to the loot than them, which is completely up to RNG, which you can't play against. What a secure container timer does is introduce counter-play. It's no longer about who had the better random spawn. It's about who can actually beat the other in fair competition. If the hatchling gets there before I do, then I have the chance to hunt him down and defeat him. If I get there before the hatchling...wait a minute...what is the hatchling supposed to do? And this is where player behavior changes naturally. The hatchling has to ask himself "If I don't get to the loot first, I won't have a chance to get it unless I bring a weapon. So I'm going to bring a weapon just in case." Now the hatchling is participating in the gameplay and interacting with the other players, instead of running around irrespective to what the other players do. FAQ Q: What about moslings, pistolings, and low budget runs? A: Moslings and pistolings are not really a threat to gameplay in my opinion. While not very valuable for a mid or high level PMC to kill, low level PMCs can gain from fighting them. Moslings and pistolings also present an actual threat to the survival of other players, and need to be dealt with despite their low gear. Q: I'm not good at the game, how am I supposed to afford things without hatchet runs? A: If you are not skilled enough to survive with your gear, then it is probably better to get more comfortable with less expensive gear first. While filing cabinets don't have as much loot as a tech room does, you can still make some decent cash from selling duct tape, bolts, and screws, that is more than enough to fund your budget loadouts. Q: What if I'm just trying to challenge myself by surviving naked or going from zero to hero? A: Then these changes shouldn't affect you. Q: How dare you tell me how to play the game? A: How dare you make the experience worse for everyone that doesn't play like you? UPDATED FAQ: Q: Can't hatchlings just hide until the timer runs out? A: Hiding is not always as easy as it sounds, especially around the valuable loot areas. Instead of instantly disconnecting as soon as they get the valuable loot, they have to actually move away from the area. In doing so, they will often run into geared players that are sometimes less than a minute behind them. Q: This won't 100% fix the problem, so why bother? A: Anti-cheat doesn't 100% fix cheaters. Performance updates don't 100% fix performance issues. New servers don't 100% fix server load issues. There is never a 100% fix to anything. It's absolutely true that some hatchlings will still exist, however that's not the point. On maps like reserve or shoreline I often see 4+ hatchlings every match. One of my raids last night my buddies and I were almost certainly the only PMCs with gear in that entire raid. Even if there are still one or two hatchlings in every raid, that's still a massive improvement to the way it is now. Q: Just lock the container for in-loot raid? A: This would work, but it would also unfairly punish geared players and players just trying to get some quests done. The timer is meant to target hatchlings specifically without impeding the progress of other players as much as possible. Q: Why not more AI? A: AI is unpredictable and unreliable as a balancing measure. We've all seen scavs wander far away from their spawn and wind up somewhere you would never expect. That said, more AI + a timed container would probably fix the problem for good. Q: Wouldn't this just discourage people from bringing in gear even more? A: I don't think so. Most geared players intend on surviving longer than the timer would affect them. I also think that this is where the option of reducing the timer based on how much gear you bring would come into play. Q: Wouldn't this slow down the game and make it a camp-fest for the first X minutes? A: That's entirely a possibility. I'm not sure if slower paced gameplay is necessarily a bad thing for Tarkov though. If anything, there's already too much action in the beginning of the raid, with very little action as the raid goes on. Slowing down early raid action would mean a wider dispersion of action across the entire raid, rather than half of it happening in the first minutes. Q: Isn't it "intended" gameplay subjective? A: To some degree it is. However hatchlings are not actually playing the game. Please read the rest of the post before asking this question. Q: Don't hatchling dogtags give you money? A: Yes, I forgot about that. Oops. That said, many players often ignore hatchling dog tags because they would rather not expose themselves for somebody they know doesn't have much worth taking. If I kill a hatchling from 100m away, I probably won't bother checking his body. Q: Should't I be entitled to use the container I paid $150 for?! A: First off, this isn't taking away your container. Secondly, you didn't pay $150 for it. You paid $45 for the game, plus whatever the value of a season pass, extra stash, and better trader reputation. The container is only a fraction of that cost. Finally, even if you did pay $150 for that container, it shouldn't be immune to balancing, lest the game be pay-to-win. All that extra stuff is a thank you gift for donating extra to the development of the game. Don't let it go to your head.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OC Tournament #5: Round 1 Match 20: Casey Williams and Manta Malaise?
The results are in for Match 18. The game was lasting quite a long time, with Red Carpet Renaissance’s more aggressive playstyle hardly giving the room to breathe to the carefully-crafted tactics of the Sharp Lookers, but those very same plans at once keeping them from finding themselves getting clicked. Violet Lange was watching, still, invested in how the hell this could keep on going, what might finally turn the tides, only for her cell phone to vibrate, a text message appearing on it from a contact registered under: “C. Williams”
Things seemed even for most of the voting period, with many of the votes being split, but late into it, a modest number of Sharp Lookers votes translated into a massive lead. For the first time, this resulted in votes splitting perfectly by .5s when the division was done, and since it would mean taking a point away from one side to give it to the other, that thirtieth pop point simply vanishes into the aether…
Half an hour later… “Uh… Kisa?” Masa asked, earning his partner’s attention. “You know how I said I’d watch the girl to make sure she didn’t pull somethin’ weird?” “Hm?” Kitose Saiko turned to face his friend, and noticed the lack of anybody he was standing beside. “Oh my god. How… How, Masa?” “I dunno!” He answered, sounding similarly bewildered, waving his hands as Kisa, in his frustration, lit up the entire remaining pack of his cigarettes and took a drag from each of them at once. “She just sorta… Was gone when I stopped paying attention.” “The woman is… Gone.” Dimitri was incredulous as well. “And there goes our hints on this Black Angel! The library is surely closed by now, so we’ve wasted a day and this town knows we’re looking.”
pranked again… violet lange, u r officially… epic
As Nebula’s synthetic voice remarked that and moved to silence, Ace couldn’t help but laugh. “Vitus is gonna be pissed too, that we were dragged off to play some game instead of tailing Peres… Haahhh, man, what were we thinking? This was her job, I bet. She just needed to waste our time awhile, get us heated and fighting each other, throwing piss around and playing dirty… Gave us the slip soon as our attentions were off her. Well played, I must admit… Well played…” “Distracting us from the Black Angel…” Dimitri stroked his chin. “And also from Peres? But I remember Laverne saying the Black Angel vigilante was banned from the Devil Blue, the hotel she works at. What could the common thread between them be..?” “Well, I’m annoyed too… Don’t just bail on an agreement you make…” Masa answered, before adding with a slight smile. “But hey, in some good news…” He held up a gift card, waving it between his fingers. “She left the CaraMel’s gift card, 200 USD just like she said, and that place? Not just to die for, from when Ray came back with stuff from there the other day, but I hear the ‘goss’ is ‘hot’ there too, as she said in that super-exaggerated little Valley Girl voice. What say I claim this card and treat you all? Call it a, uh… Ceasefire, for now.”
gonna be annoyed if its stale by the time i can actually eat it but ok sounds good
The game of assassin was fruitless, but the fruits of an assassination are still born, and two pairs of Stand Users fight to protect their local leaders from them. There’s still about a day to vote in that when this goes up. Scenario: South Aurelio - East of the Wormwood “I am so sorry, I just lost track of time… I got these four roped into this big assassin game, and I didn’t wanna bail, but…” Not long after Violet Lange officiated that little college game and the evening began to roll in that, again she found a Stand User’s company. Casey Williams, MFA member, sat in the passenger seat of a vibrant purple convertible, occasionally staring either at passing suburban scenery in the transition between the college town and suburban hellscape, or the way her companion’s lavender scarf billowed in the wind. “Look, I get it, I get it, shit happens, especially ‘round Midnight Sun. You don’t need to explain.” After a few moments of silence, tapping her hands against the outer door of the car as her arm hung over the window, Casey spoke up. “I, uh… Didn’t expect you to call me, but Kirk vouched for you. Why me, for… Whatever this is?” Violet had, that morning, asked Casey to aid her in an investigation after she finished up with some shit she had to do on campus, and still now, had said very little about what was going on sans its importance. “I trust you… For the same reason I took over the bifrost server, and the same reason I revealed myself to your team. André had faith in you all to do what was best, and, well, I have no idea what to do but follow his lead and use what power I have to do it. As for you in particular… I want to work with somebody my age, basically. No more than that.” “If you trust me so much,” Casey said, looking to the river to her left as the pair drove along a road opposite it, admiring how the setting sun reflected upon its rippling waves, “why haven’t you told me what we’re doing, then? You sounded like it was important, so I agreed to hear you out, but you’ve still been cagey.” “I wanted it to be in person, while we were speeding along,” Violet explained, looking out upon the road still, briefly glancing off in the distance and seeing a manor across the water, braking for a moment and pointing towards it. “See that house by the riverbank there?” She handed Casey a pair of binoculars, and the latter surmised, “looks like a dump.” “From the outside, and nobody has owned it for thirty years, yet…” She paused, as if she was about to say a name and reconsidered. “My contact - a high-schooler who comes and goes late at night, you wouldn’t know them, and I’m purposefully leaving them out of this, but I can vouch for their reliability - says that sometimes, late at night, delivery trucks bring perfectly good furniture to the bridge just North of here, and by morning, they seem to have just disappeared into the ground. I dunno if you pay attention to the news, but there’s a ‘Serial Killer’ who operates in this town, and besides that… Sixteen people who disappeared in this area are still missing, and haven’t had their bodies identified. The more research I’ve done lately, I’m completely certain of it. That ‘abandoned residence’ must be the ‘lair’ of this killer! It’s certainly big enough to hold that many people and then some… So I plan to break in.” “Serial killer..?” Casey’s head tilted slightly, then, suddenly, the words hit her as Violet resumed her drive. “Wait, what? So even if you’re right, you’re just gonna bust down this guy’s door without knowing what he’s capable of? Why this? Why you, and so covert?” “Because I’ve spent my life sneaking and slipping by to survive, clinging to stronger people. Because I used to roll with the kind of scum who would use Stands to do whatever the hell they wanted like we were better than everyone else. Because the last time I tried to get someone to take care of this killer, all she did was kill an innocent man in front of me! I’m tired of just being an ‘extra,’ moving pieces around and waiting in place, Casey. I’ve said that I just want to survive, but a friend of mine, every day, fights tooth and nail to make this place better. I’m going to be an adult and try, goddammit, and if you don’t want to do the same, I can just drop you off, and-” “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Casey continued, raising her hand up, and then offering Violet a confident little smile. “When did I say I was going to refuse? Hell, lives are on the line, pedal to the metal! I hear this town has like two cops, and I sure don’t see either of them around!” “That’s what I like to hear…” Violet’s own lips curled upwards slightly, and she stepped on the gas. “We’re gonna totally tear shit up today.” They drove along the bridge in silence from there, Casey contemplating things as they sped along, occasionally stealing glances towards the house just what was now South of them. Not long after, though, she began to grow uncomfortable, pulling her shirt’s collar over her nose. “Eugh… What’s that smell now? We pass a dead skunk or something?” “That’s… I know this smell. That isn’t a skunk.” Violet gave a glance to her rear-view mirror, and her face stiffened. “Casey… Get out of the car, now! Ditch it!” “What? What is-” Casey stammered, surprised and trying to hurriedly work her seatbelt off as Violet began to jerk the vehicle around, as if intended on steering the thing straight into the river. As she did so, she glanced behind her, and though the rising shape of a figure on the back of the car was hard to make out in the twilit evening, there was certainly a massive, and vaguely humanoid, and there were eyes on her. There were so many eyes. Slightly down the Wormwood River… Ah, the Wormwood River. This massive landmark is a symbol of Los Fortuna in many ways. It came to exist during the city’s foundational years, it runs from the Northernmost mountains into the city itself, and quite symbolically, it splits the affluent Eastern portions of the city, highly regarded centers of culture and quality of life, with the Western, the environmentally unclean, the poorer, the portions of the city in which the greatest safety and stability comes from being within the care of a territorial gang which has earned the ire of countless other districts. This divide was sharp and clear in the way it split the affluently beloved outer suburbs of the Woods of Aurelio, whose schools, fine homes, esteemed country club, golf course, town hall, and most of the town’s voting centers all sat in the East. Manta Malaise thought this symbol of all which they sought to destroy a poetic place to take their pollution this evening. “This Metropolis which is so very very burdensome to me, and this humble hamlet so tantalizingly close to it nearby,” they began aloud, just in the off chance somebody was around to hear it (and if not, rehearsal was always useful), while the diesel-burning gas-guzzling pickup truck they purchased on the resort’s tab began dumping a container’s worth of sand and grit, “I have heard it said that this location in which we are entrapped it on the decline… Yet nay, I say. At least, nary the full picture… This place is but a microcosm of all that surrounds it, a more blatant case of all that is true elsewhere, as well… A fine example for the world, it will make.” As they spoke, a ripped-away purple car door floated by on the river, distracting them from speaking about how, if they repeat this process for a few weeks (maybe buy a new car every time), they would be able to kill the fish eggs and microorganisms that make up the key bottom of the river life’s food chain, eventually add nitrogen to the mix to toxically increase ugly and deadly algal growth, and aloud, they spoke “curious… That is a recognizable door of a quality automobile… To whom might it belong? Ah, no matter!” Seconds later, a bloodied figure with several open wounds along its back burst from the water, clinging to dear life to the floating door and beginning to kick in Manta’s direction with surprising strength. He seemed to have tall blond hair, green pants, and a sleeveless shirt, though those all were obviously soaked and stained both with water and blood. As he reached the shore nearby them, within the range of ‘Morgana Courts Danger’, he gasped and turned onto his wounded back. The young man who floated towards Manta Malaise said nothing, and did not even seem to notice the effects of their proximity as they approached and turned him around to get a look at the other side of the sleeveless shirt-clad figure. The life was fading from the blond man’s eyes, and his lips trembled, a faint grin on them. He did not say a word, but as Manta looked down, they realized that the phrase on the outfit he wore said more about his final feelings, the state of his body, than his voice ever could.
“What… What on this fetid dying earth is going on here?” They weren’t concerned, per se, but curious about the sudden arrival of this man. He continued not speaking, bringing a trembling hand up and away, pointing softly with a single finger Southwards, slightly - towards a shabby-looking abode. “Do you… Mean to send me there?” His strong lips curled into a serene smile, his hand dropped, and his eyes closed. “Nghh… I had not the time to have his final sounds heard in life a rejection of this quest, perished for naught…” Manta remarked aloud, gritting their teeth. “As if I would simply traipse towards what is not my business… Though, how did he get here through the water? He seemed to appear so suddenly…” They looked towards their truck. The motor was still running, but it had emptied its load fine. “I am curious,” they remarked, and so, after cranking the heat and AC of the vehicle as high as it could go, they abandoned it, diving into the water to see where this dead lad may have come from. ??? Casey awoke to that same odor again, but less severely so, in an uncomfortable, unsheeted mattress in what appeared to be a bunk room of sorts. As she rose, she had to avoid scraping her arm on a rusty spring, rubbing her eyes all the while. “Nngh, what’s..?” She looked around, and after glancing past her a few times, saw Violet laying in a similar situation, a bizarre metal collar around her neck poking out behind the scarf, but otherwise looking unharmed. “Violet..! Wake up, Violet!” “Nnghh… What’s..?” She sat up, feeling around for her beret and putting it on, glancing at Casey. “You’ve got a weird collar on you, Casey…” She felt at her own neck, then. “Oh.” “Look out for those things,” a casual-sounding, low voice uttered, earning the attention of the pair; a woman with dark, wavy hair and a velvet dress was filing her nails on one of the springs. Nearby her sat a cone-haired, dirty-blond high schooler, built like a football player and a varsity away from dressing like it. “When ‘that person’ brings in a ‘Stand User,’ they get a collar like that… Likes to make up little game rules, and if they break ‘em or leave, uh…” She jerked her thumb towards a far-off wall of the room filled with a few dozen bunks, in which a bloody, smoky outline shaped like a person outstretched was dried against the wall. “Poor bastard didn’t listen because the floor wasn’t literally lava… Hey, don’t jump now, yeah? That’s not the game being played right now.” “Palmer, you’re scaring the hell out of them, and that really isn’t useful right now… We’re going to get out soon, I’m sure of it,” another young woman’s voice called out, and as the voice seemed familiar, the face confirmed it. Though her long neat hair was short in an uneven cut, the blue blazer’s sleeves were destroyed, and the bowtie was loose, it was absolutely TV personality Jillian Heart. “Jill..?” Violet asked, tone lightening up immensely. She took a moment to process that, but then nodded. “Hey, Lange. You and Reed doing alright? And, uh, this a friend of yours?” “Yeah, hi,” Casey answered, “Casey Williams… College student.” “She’s cool, yeah,” Violet promised, looking around, “where’s Chad? Not like him to run off…” “That’s why we’re getting out soon,” Jill answered, happily, “we noticed it when you two were brought in! Broke open this statue in the courtyard and found a waterway that ‘Worm’ - that’s what the killer goes by here - has to have been using to get in and out. They have one of those ‘Stands,’ but we all can see it, so they wear it like a costume and it guards them… But Chad’s the strongest person here, and he’s been our rock through all of this! After Worm left again, he volunteered to go through it and find help, and with him, that means it’s as good as done!” “I see… So that makes how many people left here, then?” Casey started counting on her fingers. “Sixteen, minus you two,” Miss Palmer answered, “I’m, uh… Palmer, by the way. Drama teacher at the high school out here. Same story as everyone else here, more or less… Bet the Superintendent’d be happy to hear Elton here and Swift Taylor are still alive, though.” ‘Elton’ said nothing, still, simply sitting there, while Jill took over a bit to talk about the place. “I think I’m gonna start getting the lay of the land, then…” Casey said, feeling the need to take the initiative. “I’ve still got my Stand with me, thankfully, and if we can’t leave just because help shows up, that means we’re gonna have to fight to get out when this killer shows.” “Careful,” Jill warned, “there’s traps all over the damn place here… And ‘Worm’ changes them when we’re not looking, just like they change the furniture, or what doors lock how. Makes everyday in this big house hell, and it’s worst of all around the edges. Makes up most of how people die here…” “I’ll be careful,” Casey said with a nod, stepping out into the halls of the bizarre home. The underwater corridor Chad had needed to swim through to get out was brutal, and even Manta Malaise had felt tense handling it. Over four meters underwater, less than two meters wide, and the top of the dark, dirty, dank area was lined with rusty nails, blades, and the blood of the man who had attempted it, across a forty-meter stretch of water - slightly shorter than an Olympic swimming pool, but so much more claustrophobic, and with pressure much higher. They managed it, however, and were they able to speak now, would have commended the amateur cameraman who only swam as a summertime hobby for managing fatally what they were able to get through unscathed carefully. At the end of this gauntlet was a straight shot up, illuminated by moonlight, and so, Manta hurried upwards, taking a breath as they surveyed the area they had come out in. It was a large fountain on the Eastern end of a long, statue-decorated courtyard full of thorny ground. The crumbled, destroyed remains of such a statue, presumably having once sat atop this passage, was now in pieces, only a pair of outstretched arms on either side of them. “Look out, you damnable fool! The arms, the arms!!” A theatrical voice called out, and Manta looked its way to see a figure in a top hat, three-piece suit, and black cape with a handlebar moustache and unibrow, and before they could process it, an automated voice emerged from the crumbled head at the fountainside.
Flow 24 Detected
The stone arms seized their neck firmly, and so soon after they had breathed, they could not again. It was no matter for their strong arms to easily smash these damaged ones of stone, however, and soon, they crumbled and descended into the deep. However, Manta felt a new weight around their neck nonetheless; a metal collar. “So… You are the ‘help’ that damned Kroeger sought? Imposing and impressive-looking for sure, but entrapped like the rest of us now.” The dapper fellow complained. “Who are you to criticise me, when you yourself are enraptured in this place as well?” Manta asked, spying the man twirling his moustache and moving to do the same with their own facial hairs as if in challenge. “You dare insult Los Fortuna Parking Lot Magnate Born Bad? I was celebrating turning a GarfieldEATS into one, when I thought I might make my next grand step the transformation of the entire Wormwood River into the world’s largest parking lot as well!” Bad was twirling his moustache hard enough one might have thought it would catch alike. “It would have been a fortune for me, and a record for parking lot-kind!” “That would destroy the ecosystem of all of Los Fortuna, you know… Ingenious, if more brazen and avant-garde than I might have done,” Manta answered, “tell me now. What have I been caught in?” Through much villainous posturing, Born Bad explained similar basics of the situation to Manta that Jill had for Casey. “So my own curiosity has laid me in this ‘Worm’s’ tunnels… Yet, at once, I think it will do to undo this as well. Entrapment here stands in my mission’s way.” That conversation was cut short by the sound of the Westernmost balcony opening its doors, several meters above them, and a young woman with brown hair, eyes, and skin was looking down at them. She appeared, at once, confused and intimidated by their presence, which was the response Manta generally wanted to evoke. “Hey, you! Are… Did Chad send you?” Casey asked, clearing her throat. “How is he? Is he alright?” “If you mean the youth who died luring me here without a word, he is certainly deceased… And has caused for me a definite predicament of a pickle.” “Wh…” She sounded taken aback. “He’s dead? H-how can you sound so indifferent? That guy risked his life to get help for us, and-” “And I knew him not, and he got me trapped here. Why should I shed tears for his passing?” Before this argument could escalate further, a large, pristine-quality monitor which framed the upper Northern wall of the courtyard turned on on its own, and in it, was an image of the entrance foyer of the manor. Slowly, from its floor, that that thing Casey saw before emerged, idly twirling a saber in its hand and lifting it over its head as it leaped several meters into the air. (Shout-outs to Skelly-tan for this art!) A voice, both distorted and gargling yet perfectly coherent spoke from its wide maw. “Good evening, everybody, thanks for tuning in! It’s me, you all know me, your hero, the Conqueror Worm! Let’s give it up for our guests tonight… We’ve got a lot going on for our last big ‘game night!’ That’s right, you heard me, last one! Much as doin’ what I have here has been fun, after this, I mean to move onto bigger and better things… But I’ll never forget this place, pinky-promise!” There was a sort of twisted, uncanny elegance to the way ‘Worm’ paced around, both as if it were limping in agony and gliding effortlessly, the camera focused on it at all times. “Yep, Aurelio, you heard me right… Conqueror Worm is done bein’ your killer! The lot of you left in here are the end of a generation, and y’all are absolute treats to work with! So, with three Stand Users here, good an’ collared and here to have a time and a half, let’s make this a grand finale for the BOOKS! Stand Users,” it pointed its blade towards a small entranceway behind it, “that door there is locked, but also, in the right circumstance, the one way you’re gettin’ off my property without explodin’ into funny lil’ chunks! See!” The screen, then, turned into a showing of two maps of the building, with several spaces highlighted. “I just got finished slitherin’ around droppin’ off three ‘chips’ which ya scan against your own specific collars, and then, if you’ve unlocked that mini-foyer behind me, boom! They’re off, and you’re free! I just gotta make sure you die before then, and I can do it with ease! With this body of mine, I can grab anything, put it in there, and pass through any surface I can fit on, see! And to the first person t’get out of it alive? A SPECIAL gift’ll come!” “Didn’t mention the master key?” Another voice asked. “Well no I didn’t, but no way they can get that offa-” The camera returned to its view of Worm, though Violet was standing directly behind it, directly waggling a keycard in between her fingers. Not much further back, Jill was covering her mouth with clear amusement. “Wh- Why you!” He swung at her with her blade, and she dodged back, and Worm threw his head back and laughed. “Well, I’ll be… How’d you manage t’pull that off? That’s on MY person, INSIDE here!” “I started to steal things just for the rush and attention of it when I was seven years old,” Violet said something then, which the audio blurted out and her mouth was off-camera for, but the sound of which shook Worm to his core, his laughing growing slightly incredulous. As she did, she swiped the card over her collar, and it clanked to the ground in pieces. “Yeah, that’s right, I figured out exactly who you are… and now your whole audience knows.” “I mean sure, think that if y’want!” “Right… You probably censored it then.” She pouted, then struck a cool and casual pose. “No matter… I’ll just show them your corpse.” A big bushy white hound emerged from Violet’s person, then, ethereal and snarling and beautiful, and she called out, “This is the start of a new me! ‘Forgive and Forget’ is putting you down, Worm!” As the Stand-dog rushed forward, he chuckled. “Keep runnin’ into white Stand-dogs lately, huh… It’s gonna end for you like it did the last one, too! You shoulda just run!” F&F leapt into the air, taking aim for the throat underneath Worm’s pungent armor, but he lifted one arm, and as fangs sunk into that, his other swung its blade. Violet’s face went wide-eyed and pale, and she looked down at herself, clutching her stomach and noticing how red poured out. “Ooh, did I reach bone there? Tough break…” Worm pulled back the blade, removing it from Forgive and Forget’s midsection as the white dog dropped to the ground before its user, fading away as she fell to her knees. “Aw, y’didn’t realize? This ‘Saber of the Gold Knight’ I perma-borrowed from our local museum ain’t just a conversation-starter… I wouldn’t take it for no good reason at all!” “Violet..?” Jill asked, stepping back towards another room, too afraid of Worm to rush to her friend’s aid. “What… What even happened? Worm swung at the air, and… And…” Panicking, despite her resolve, Jill ran into the other room, a look of clear terror and guilt on her face. “…I dunno, blanked out there!” Worm chuckled a bit, shaking off its bitten, uninjured-looking arm and retracting the sword inside its own fetid rolls of rotten off-white flesh. “But whatever happened, that’s ONE down!” He kicked Violet into a corner to the sound of her whimpering and sighed, pacing around a bit as he held up his master keycard and sucked that, too, up in his person. “Won’t cause me much trouble like that, but I know the other two of ya are in my courtyard… Funny startin’ place, since I like to use that place for when a guest wants to just say ‘I give up! End it here!’ Real useful tool for that bit of mercy, y’know? But anyway, the show goes on, and one-on-one is more interesting anyway! First one t’get to the end, I’ll even throw in an EXCLUSIVE interview to make it worth your while! But I’m not gonna keep the viewers at home waitin’ anymore saying more, since this is already goin’ on a little while, and you’re our stars still! So, without further ado…” “OPEN THE GAME!!! Man is that SATISFYING t’say!” Location: The estate of the Conqueror Worm, a two-floor building straight out of a Survival Horror. The whole place is hanging with an odd smell, and walls of most of the rooms are dotted with realistic murals of bones and various body parts - given Conqueror Worm’s ability, one must wonder how they were made. 1F MAP, 2F MAP. Due to interests of character limit, the details of each room in the estate can be found here. Most of the rooms are pretty simple, though, so don’t be intimidated by that. The players are denoted by the circles marked with their character’s initials, with Manta standing in the fountain on the far-East end of the Courtyard of Despair, and Casey standing on the Western second-floor balcony overlooking it. Worm, meanwhile, starts in the first floor’s entrance hall, marked with a question mark. The C marked squares and the M marked squares are the chips that Casey and Manta need respectively, scanning which against their collars will ‘count’ them as read. For what it’s worth, the Violet chips were in the hot tub, freezer, and conservatory, but that is completely irrelevant now. The circles with numbers in them represent the nonstand-using Survivors present in the area. Exact details on each of them aren’t particularly important, but a list of their names can be found here. The personality blurbs and occupations listed aren’t really relevant for the match’s sake; even the sports stars have been brought to a point where they have the same stats as everyone else. The X and Y marked rectangles are locked doors and their respective keys are somewhere on the map denoted by the X and Y marked diamonds; these function not unlike car keys; though they can be used to physically lock and unlock the door in person with a turn, it’s much more convenient that one press of the buttons on them can instantly lock and unlock every door on the map marked with the correct letter. The “F” marked square is the keycard that unlocks the finish line room. Several of these rooms have traps which Worm knows about, but the players will not be given foreknowledge of all of them. These are already set in stone, however, and it will be up to the attentiveness of the players in following the location descriptions not to fall victim to these; hints are provided, basically, and they’re designed not to be too hard to respond to if you see them coming. The rooms’ ceilings are generally quite high, three and a half meters above the ground, with about half a meter of space between the ceiling of one and floor above - basically, being a story directly above or below Manta is NOT enough to be within the range of Morgana Courts Danger. Goal: Casey and Manta, your own survival is priority number one here. Try to get yourself out of this situation alive! In order to do so, you must deactivate your own collar through the insertion of three chips placed around the facility, where labeled on the map. Free yourself and escape alive. That is your priority, and you are under no obligation to help anybody else if you have no desire to. Leaving the map for longer than five seconds without outright moving through the finish space marked on the map will result in the collars detonating, even if all three chips are inserted. Conqueror Worm, kill Casey and Manta by any means necessary. A player character will win if their score surpasses that of the Conqueror Worm’s, while receiving less will result in elimination. A tie will be regarded as normal. This match, thus, has special voting rules. Basically, there are four valid voting options in this: ‘Casey and Manta,’ ‘Manta and Worm,’ ‘Casey and Worm,’ and ‘Conqueror Worm,’ depending on if a voter believes that both players manage to escape, one of them is stopped by the killer, or both of them are. NPC Information: ‘Conqueror Worm’ Sheet (Plain Text Version) Additional Information: Unless noted otherwise, all doors are wooden. While there are several unique NPCs throughout the estate, functionally, all of them can generally be expected to act in the same way: they have 222 stats with irrelevant special skills, and generally speaking, do not want to die, and will act in accordance with things they believe to follow that end, though they are not particularly skilled in identifying traps on their own. Manta Malaise frightens them, however, so they may find they require a little more effort to convince people to follow them around than Casey would be able to. Born Bad (“1” on the map), a fellow Dastardly-looking villainous caricature and thus kindred spirit of theirs, is the sole initial exception. Violet Lange is bleeding and unconscious, and will in no capacity be able to assist, but still alive and should remain so as long as her particular injuries are not aggravated and the game does not take too agonizingly long. The killer has already forgotten about her. Through review of previous materials, the players do have sufficient information to correctly identify the user of Conqueror Worm, who is, in fact, a character who appeared in the previous Suburb match. They will be allotted one guess, accusation bolded, in the text of the strategy, to name the person. There is no penalty for an incorrect guess, but a correct guess will see ten bonus points awarded; to one side if only they guess it, while both receive five if both do. One hint: they were present at Match 8’s baseball game. The chips are extremely durable, but if they are rendered inaccessible or removed from the premises, a safety switch will force them to be treated as if they were simply activated and used; Worm isn’t interested in a game where victory or loss is impossible. The traps themselves will be revealed throughout the first segment of the killer’s strategy, and take up characters in as much, but the existence of these are an indisputable fact which the players must be wise to either avoid or work around. Though his durability and endurance are exceptional to the point where a fight would be immensely difficult, the killer also possesses a ‘master key’ which, if utilized, can be scanned against the collars to unlock them, unlock the front gate, and unlock any of the electronically-locked doors in the facility.
“No escape, huh? I didn’t want one anyway. That was never part of the plan.” You came here for a reason, even if you’re still trying to define what, exactly, that reason is to you. Whatever you think being a hero might mean in this situation, live up to the standard you define for yourself!
“The greatest threat to the peace of my heart isn’t Jotaro! It’s him! Josuke Higashikata!” This is an indubitably vexing situation into which you have been brought. While you abscond from this, make certain that you find clever ways to get back at that bastard who has entrapped you here!
“‘Misconceptions’ are the most terrifying things in the world… And the consequences are even worse if you’re overly confident that your abilities and talents are superior.” You’ve made an absolute deathtrap of your estate here, and it would be a damn shame for any of that to go to waste. The more of your traps successfully go off and seriously hurt someone, the higher your JoJolity rating will go!
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