June 15th, 2011

Proof of Death for killer in US west, 1855

I'm writing a story set in the California Gold Rush (the waning years), and one of my characters is a hired killer. He's been tracking a couple men for quite a while, and they've gone up into the mountains, alone. He follows them. Once he's killed them - how does he prove it? I know scalping was related to bounties, but that won't work to prove that specific individuals were killed.

Would it be crazy for the client to just accept my character's word? I've established him as a fairly well-known killer, so he'd have a reputation to protect, and wouldn't want to be caught in a lie. But is that enough?

Googled: 'proof of death' hired killer wild west, variations thereof

Thanks for any help.

Effects of waterlogging on paper

Setting: Generic fantasy kitchen sink Age of Exploration shenanigans (think Pirates of the Caribbean) with little regard for real historical accuracy and running mostly on "Rule of Cool" and "Whatever drives the plot"

Premise: Subvert The Little Mermaid with vicious man-eating merfolk; protag. is a merman who learns how to read and decides to become a human (and later a pirate) because of all the adventures he reads about, and because humans actually remember the deeds of those who've passed on.

Given that my merman loves books, I need to know a few things about the effects of water on books. The first book he encounters is from a sinking ship - how long would the book last, and how readable would it be? Let's assume it's a book made with high quality paper (for the time) and relatively water-resistant ink?

Second, on a sunken ship, how long would books of varying quality last, how readable would they be, and how easily would they disintegrate if touched/handled? I'd like a variety of data for how long the books have been submerged, what kind of sea life is around, and the qualities of paper. Is there any way to recover said books? (My protag doesn't have the means to do so, but I'm curious anyway)

Finally - Later, I'd like him to acquire a stash of books that he keeps in a cave near the shore (with the assistance of a human friend and just general cleverness). My species of merfolk can't survive indefinitely without water (they can last about as long as most crustaceans - basically they have gills that need to be kept moist, and their bodies also start to get uncomfortable if not at least damp). What are the best ways he could protect these books and keep them from being washed out with the tide? He's strong enough that he can pull himself a good ways out of the water and back, and he's dedicated enough to do this for the sake of his literature addiction. Would he need to use gloves of some sort to ensure the books last? They don't need to last forever - just long enough that he can finish reading them.

and unrelated to the question, if anyone has suggestions for books in his collection, I'd love to hear them. He has a little bit of everything, including really boring technical books (he just likes the experience of getting information from objects, as his people don't have anything like that), but I'm especially interested in French literature of the time period.

Google Terms Used: Effects of waterlogging on books, waterproofing paper, restoring books, restoring books from shipwrecks, recovering books from shipwrecks, water books, water paper
"Enniel Prussot"

Medical Student Practical Jokes

Setting is late 20th century Japan (1980s/90s-ish) and the main character is a somewhat serious, shy fellow who's apt to be the butt of jokes anyway. I'm looking for a few good stories about the kind of pranks/hazing that might happen to a medical student/intern, as well as the kind of stories doctors are apt to tell about Hilarity Ensuing during long shifts/graveyard shifts, etc. I've been searching "medical practical jokes", which netted useless results, and "medical student practical jokes", which got me a lot of silly stories that just didn't feel real, and "humorous medical anecdotes", which netted things like crazy things written on patient charts (which read more like the kind of spam jokes that turn up in ones inbox)