6,045 / 50,000
And with this part, I finish my tangent, and start getting Martin to UniCon, the fictional massive fandom convention held in Boston. Because I wasn't going to come right out and just call it DragonCon.
Anyways, other papers picked up the story, my photo was used across the state, and even in a few New York state papers across the border, all looking for the person who had set the fire. My suspicions naturally leaned towards the person still being local, if he had a KSU shirt, and probably wouldn't go far if he thought he hadn't been seen.
Most students who went to KSU were local, or at least Vermonters. It was hardly a large campus, and only a few steps above a community college, which may well be a little harsh towards my alma mater, but the facts remain. The odds of anyone who was from out of state, and owning one of those shirts was slim to none, and he was likely a current or former student.
The police ended up agreeing with me, and they got a few more clues when they asked around to the surrounding buildings to that alleyway, and where it came out. Several people confirmed someone wearing clothes from KSU, male, and looking nervous that day. They didn't get too many other details about the suspect, but shifted their investigation to the college itself.
The case was not broken by classic sluething however. The person responsible for the fire became scared, plain and simple. The fire wasn't exactly an accident, as a local gang he had gotten in with dared him to try and rob the place as part of an initiation ritual. Things went south very quick, and panicking, the guy knocked out Dwayne, but his cigarette fell onto a pile of old comics. The rest can be figured out with ease from there. Old, dry, brittle paper plus flame do not a happy store make. So, while the fire and death may not have been planned, and it may have been accidental, it was still what it was, and there would be consequences. Fleeing the scene the moment things went south didn't help any.
Once the news hit the paper that it may have been arson, the poor guy just became even more scared. Still, he didn't really think the cops had anything solid on him, and things quieted down for a few days, or so it seemed, as they focused their investigation around the burnt remains of the comic store.
When the cops started asking around the campus of KSU, that's when it really got bad. I was there to take a few photographs while an interview was being conducted after he was in jail, and he told the reporter how he didn't even leave his dorm room for a few days. When I found out where he was staying, I of course knew it, and had actually stayed in the floor above him my freshman year, but on the opposite side of the complex. Small world.
Not unlike Poe's story "The Tell-Tale Heart", the slow procession of knocking on doors by the police as they moved through the building that fateful day slowly ate away at his guilty conscience as the noise drew ever closer.
Before the cops even made it to his dorm room, he was huddled in the back of his room, as far from the door as he could get, a pillow bent over his head to try and cover his ears, but he still claims he could hear the knocking, until he could take it no more and burst out of the room, shouting a confession. He's lucky the cops didn't shoot him on the spot from the noise he had kicked up, from bursting through his room's door, to the shouting, and flailing his arms around in a panic. Fortunately for justice, cooler heads did indeed prevail, and while guns may have been drawn, none were fired at him, as much as I'm sure Dwayne's family would not have minded at all if someone had accidentally pulled the trigger on their service revolver.
He plead guilty at the trial, and showed true remorse, if I had any say in it. He was being punished for his mistakes, and when he got out of jail, he would probably be better for it.
All that lead to my star being truly on the rise at the Telegraph. A simple click of a button at the right time, and getting a little hint that put the cops in the right direction when I blew up the photos. I was offered a full time staff position by Cami almost immediately, and the editor in chief endorsed it whole-heartedly.
Much to their surprise, I'm sure, I turned down the position, opting instead to keep my current duties as they were, having grown accustomed to them, and wishing to complete college to better serve the paper in the future, once I graduated.
Cami kept the offer open ended, and made a request repeating it on a regular basis, almost making it a running joke between us, as we grew closer. Our first outing for coffee became a regular thing over the winter that year, and we officially started dating as the ground started to thaw out some time around May of the following year.
The relationship was short lived however, and we mutually put the brakes on when we both agreed it was not good to have me dating my boss, at least not openly, and neither of us were ready for a secret tryst.
We remained close friends, and continued to meet over coffee, and closely collaborated on things for the paper on occasion, as well as Cami's assistance proving invaluable on my final thesis, providing insights I never would have thought of without her.
Once college was over and done with, I did indeed take the paper up on their offer, one which they were more than willing to have kept open for me, as I'd have several more incidents of being in the right place when the need arose, however nothing quite as spectacular as the conflagration that really made me known around the offices.
My work on the newspaper was only my day job, though. Over the intervening years, I had begun to build a presence online, helped out by the social photograph sites like Flickr, as well as having my own website and an online journal. All of those would blend together, split apart, and recombine in various ways over the years.
With my love of comics, getting to know folks online, and having an interest in journalism, eventually lead me to doing a little work on the side, mostly volunteering my time and skills, to an online site devoted to comicbook news and reviews. And that's where the real story starts to kick off.
During my time writing for Comic Times Online, I'd been enlisted to attend several conventions in the area, and a few that weren't so much in the area. This was all, naturally, against my will. Who in their right mind would want to go to a place where like-minded people hang out, shop for comics, talk about the latest and greatest, and watch cute girls in homemade costumes of their favourite characters wander around the convention floor? Not me, that's for sure!
Who am I kidding? I live for that stuff.
One of the earliest conventions of every year, and what many consider to be the start of the convention circuit, is UniCon in Boston, Massachusetts.
UniCon was formed about twenty years ago, when a group of people wanted to hold a gathering for their entire group, spread across the country. They had a love of everything from science fiction novels, teleivison shows, anime, comics, and damned near everything else a fanboy could be in love with. That was why they named it UniCon, as it was a place for all fandoms to come and gather once a year. Everyone was welcome, and all fans would be united for that one weekend out of the calendar.
Personally, I always thought it was called that because someone in those initial meetings to organise the thing loved unicorns, and they were making fun of his Boston accent with UniCon. I could never prove it, and I'm sure no one in that original group of friends would ever admit to it, but I stand by my beliefs, as crazy as they may be. My hypothesis was supported by a unicorn being the official mascot of the convention, although that could just be coincidence, or came along because of the similarity between the words.
That first year started off small, kicking off on Memorial Day, 1985, and things grew with each passing year, not long until it had taken over the host hotel they had made arrangements with, and spreading to a nearby hotel as well.
By the time I started attending, it had already devoured even a third hotel, although that was still in it's early stages, and only a few events were being held there, mostly for gaming.
The attendence numbers were pretty huge, and while this was far from a comics convention, and not a place to disseminate news amongst the community, that did happen in a small amount. UniCon was much more for the wider fandom, touching on all corners, and sometimes the comicbooks were put on the back burner over everything else.
With so many different things going on all weekend long, there was something for everyone though, and I often had trouble paring things down to just one event at any given time, when there was so much happening.
I enjoyed attending it just for that very reason though, having so many different things to see and do, it made the weekend never boring. Another perk about UniCon for me is that it was probably the closest big convention to where I lived, and it was very easy for me to just drive down to this one, rather than take a plane to distant corners of the country. And the occasional middle. Since it was in New England, the Kraftsbury Telegraph also had some minor interest in the phenomenon of conventions, and while the stories weren't hard hitting news, they usually made space for anything I might send them in the back sections, as human interest stories, one of the few times I actually published something in words, rather than pictures. The paper was more than willing to give me the time off to head down for the extended weekend and cover the convention, sending back anything good back over my laptop which I'd gotten just a year earlier, and thanks to the digital camera I'd also aquired after graduation. I still preferred real film, and missed the developing process when it came to digital photographs, but I just could not deny the ease of use, the amount of photos I could take at a much reduced cost, less space, and send them on to the paper the same day I took them.
Unlike so many of the other people in attendance every year, I always went to UniCon without a costume. Some people brought more costumes than they did clothes, sometimes changing multiple times in the course of the day, but I stuck with my 'civilian' clothes of jeans and tshirts, with comfortable sneakers for all the running around I do over the weekend.
I wasn't exactly the most svelte person on the planet, to put it nicely, and I'll be damned if I'd be caught dead in public in spandex, even if everyone else was doing it. As a member of the press, both online and - more importantly one could say - offline, I wanted to not completely blend in with the crowd, and be somewhat professional. I was there to take pictures of people, not have my picture taken. Although with all the flashes going off, that was inevitable, but mostly as a person wandering through the background.
But mostly because it would be a truly horrifying sight to see me in spandex.