Plot Idea Provided by Winston the Dog

4 years ago

A lot of the credit for Trust Your Eyes has to go to a dog named Winston.

He lives with our friends Marian and David, and ever since they got Winston I don’t go over to their house that often because I am allergic to dogs -– a sad situation, since I love them –- and Winston is about the size of a pony, so whatever it is dogs put into the atmosphere that makes me sneeze he puts out like a crop duster.

But already, I digress.

When the Google car, that one that’s been traveling every street on the planet taking pictures for the Street View site (I’m guessing there might actually be more than one of these cars), drove past their house, it captured a picture of Winston looking out the window.

Credit Image: ollographik on Flickr

If you look up the house online, there he is, probably wondering why that car passing by the house has this strange contraption strapped to the roof that’s taking pictures in 360 degrees. Or, it could be he sees a squirrel in the yard.

It’s a funny shot. And when I saw it, I thought, what if it weren’t a dog? What if the camera had caught, by chance, something just a little more sinister?

Like a murder.

Trust Your Eyes was born.

What if, I thought -– and most thrillers start with a “what if” –- a camera car that was mapping out the streets of lower Manhattan just happened to pass a tenement building at the moment someone was being murdered in a third-floor window?

What you’d have is a crime that had as many potential witnesses as there are people on the planet with a computer. But even though billions of people could see this crime, someone would have to know where to look.

Or they’d have to stumble upon it. But what are the odds someone would take a virtual trip down this particular street, and pan up to this particular third-floor window?

That would have to be somebody who spent every waking moment on the Internet, wandering through the cities of the world from the comfort of his home.

Enter Thomas Kilbride.

I think Thomas may be the best character I’ve ever come up with. He’s a map-obsessed schizophrenic. He’s in his thirties now, but even as a child, he loved maps. He collected every map he could find, acted as navigator on family car trips at the age of seven. For someone who loves cartography that much, the virtual maps and streetscapes on the Internet are a dream come true.

Thomas spends every day on a site called Whirl360. He doesn’t just explore every street of all the major cities in the world. He memorizes them. Anything he sees, he retains. And he’s not just doing this as a hobby. Thomas is on a mission. He thinks he’s working for the CIA, and when cyber-terrorists destroy all the online maps one day, as he believes they will, he’ll be an invaluable resource.

And during an online exploration of New York, Thomas lands upon that window, and sees what appears to be a woman being suffocated. Thomas, and his brother Ray, would have been a lot better off if he’d skipped this street altogether.

I don’t know whether I’d have come up with this story without Winston. I suspect he doesn’t care much about royalties or movie options, but at the very least I should buy him a bag of Milk-Bones.

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