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“Stop where you are,” declared the mustachioed detective, in a European accent, as he entered the Assembly chamber.

“There has been a murder here in the Capitol!”

Legislators looked puzzled. Had they entered an Agatha Christie novel?

A progressive Democrat said: “We are unaware of any murders, other than our usual killing of moderates’ political careers.

Who’s your victim?”

The detective held up a handkerchief bearing the monogram, “HSR.”

“That can’t be!” shouted the governor, who had rushed to the chamber upon hearing that international media might be present. “The only HSR we know is high-speed rail, America’s most ambitious project. And it’s not dead.”

The detective arched an eyebrow. “How can you be so sure?”

“Because I’m saving it,” the governor said, “by downsizing the San Francisco-to-L.A. project into a Merced-to-Bakersfield route.”

“Governor, you have just confessed!” the detective replied. “Proposing a $100 billion train between two cities without a Michelin star restaurant between them demonstrates homicidal intent toward the very concept of passenger rail.

“Next question: Governor, did you act alone?”

“Are you accusing me, Detective?” the Assembly speaker said from the dais. “Who are you anyway? How did you get here?”

“I’m M. Hercule Poirot and I was on the express to Istanbul when Interpol called. I flew Turkish Airlines to SFO, took BART to catch the Amtrak to Sacramento, which was lovely but empty. Then I made the mistake of trying Sacramento light rail, which smelled like a crime scene … but, Mr. Speaker, you haven’t answered my question.”

“Well,” the speaker replied, “you can’t be suggesting that the Democratic lawmakers from Southern California killed it. We’re simply trying to make high-speed rail better, by repurposing some of the money from the Central Valley to regional rail projects.”

Poirot furrowed his brow. “Repurposing? A curious choice of words. And you are doing this by denying the project $4.2 billion in voter-approved bond funds. Mr. Speaker, the legislature tops my list of suspects. I don’t care about your campaigns; none of you may leave Sacramento.”

“Why are you crediting the Democrats for the murder?” interjected the Republican leader. “We’ve been working to kill high-speed rail for years.”

“What good is a confession from a party that claims the last election was rigged. High-speed rail is a big economic stimulus for the Central Valley, which many Republicans represent. How does killing it make any sense? You are engaged in self-harm. I’m having you held for observation and psychological evaluation.”

There was noise from the gallery, as lobbyist streamed in to watch. One stood up and said, “Detective, I’m from the building and construction trades, and you’re wrong. Our labor organizations are powerful and doesn’t want this dead. We want to build it. We’ve protected high-speed rail for years—including from legislative oversight.”

“And hasn’t that worked well?” the detective asked rhetorically. “Also, you demand wages that would be considered extortionate even among the guilds of the European continent. Your demands have made building high-speed rail, or anything else, scandalously expensive in this state. Please consider yourself under suspicion for the death of this project and the California dream.”

Another visitor spoke up. “I represent the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and I assure you we are still constructing high-speed rail and are committed to finishing the project.”

“I’m sorry. But do you have all the land assembled to build the rail, 14 years after voters approved the project?”

“Not yet, but …”

“How about the utility relocations?”

“We’re almost halfway there in the Central Valley.”

“And does the authority have the necessary staff to manage such a project?”

“I can’t speak to that. I’m just one of the consultants.”

The detective surveyed a legislative chamber full of suspects. He thought for a minute.

“This reminds me of a case from much earlier in my career, written up in a book called Murder on the Orient Express. A train got stuck, and a man was murdered.”

“I had a wide variety of suspects. The passengers all made a great show of saying they were trying to save the victim. But in the end, all were guilty.”

“The difference between California high-speed rail and that railway murder is that on the Orient Express, those killers had the grace to acknowledge what they’d done. So, I showed them mercy.

“A recent poll shows Californians still want high-speed rail, so you refuse to confess. You’ve killed HSR already. But you can’t admit the crime.”

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.

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Inside the gruesome murder of social media star Bianca Devins by friend who posted pics of her dead body online

A PAL of murdered YouTuber Bianca Devins has told how she was horrified to find pictures of her friend's dead body online.

Social media star Bianca, 17, was returning from a concert in New York City with Brandon Clark in July 2019 when he brutally slit her throat in Utica.

5Bianca Devins was murdered in July 2019Credit: Instagram 5Brandon Clark killed the teen before taking pictures of her bodyCredit: Oneida County Jail

Vile Clark then took selfies next to her dead body and shared them online after filming the teen being murdered.

The gruesome snaps were then distributed on social media - leaving Bianca's loved ones in shock.

In a new CBA documentary - The Online Life & Death of Bianca Devins - her friend opens up about finding out she had died through messaging platform Discord.

She said: "I woke up, picked up my phone and noticed my group chat was buzzing about something.

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"I looked at it, and it was a photo of my friend and it looked like she was dead.

"Some people on the Discord actually had to call the police.

"Before I knew it the photo was being circulated around my community and then beyond it."

Clark, who was 21 at the time of the killing, was sentenced to 25 years to life in jail for the murder.

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He pleaded guilty in February 2020 but then attempted to withdraw the plea, it was reported.

A judge ruled that he could not withdraw his plea.

At the sentencing, he apologized to the teen's family and said: "I hate myself for what I did to her.

"I don't understand how I could do something like that. It disgusts me."

In the new documentary, which airs tonight at 10pm ET, her devastated mum Kimberly Devins tells how she refused to believe her daughter had been killed.

She said: "I remember just standing up and saying 'no, it's not her'.

"I stamped up my stairs saying 'it's not her, it can't be, it's not my baby."

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The heartbroken mum also says she was subject to cruel memes, with some made from the horrific pictures.

She said: "They were sent to me, they were sent to varaious family members."

5Bianca's mom Kim has told how she refused to believe her daughter had been killedCredit: CBS 5Clark was jailed for 25 years for the murderCredit: ABC 5Bianca and Clark had been to a concert together in New York CityCredit: Instagram

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