If you guys are very, very quiet about it, I’ll give you a quick peek at the next Ylendrian Empire novel, Peripheral People. (*)
But seriously, you’ve gotta keep it on the downlow. Don’t go posting it on the internet or something, okay?
* Title, prose, and pineapple content subject to change.
Inspector Corwin Menivie surveyed the wreckage of the living room with a wary eye. It was a deceptively simple case, and it would have been easy to dismiss it as routine, to let the details go because they didn’t seem to matter in the face of the overwhelming evidence. The fact of the matter was, the Imperial Enforcement Coalition shouldn’t have been called in at all, but the victim was a relative of the Counselor from Ethris, so here they were.
The implement of death hadn’t been hard to identify, what with it being clutched in the victim’s hand. Corwin refused to think of it as a murder weapon until they confirmed the planetary authority’s findings. Everything else had gone off to the lab, and they were left to try and piece together as much of the crime as they could before heading there themselves. His partner, Inspector Nika Santivan, was checking upstairs for any further signs of a struggle and from what Corwin could discern, fellow investigators( and he used that term lightly) Shears and Gavin were outside sniffing the rosebushes. When Shears spotted him through the window, he looked up and waved. Corwin swallowed down his annoyance and turned away, back to the misplaced couch and overturned knick knacks.
A minute later, the front door opened, hitting the wall with a loud thump, and Agent Westley Shears sailed into the room, followed by his Ground, Agent Gavin Hale.
“Someone had a wild party.” Eyes sweeping the room while he hovered in the wide doorframe, Shears looked a little puzzled, before his gaze settled on Corwin. “What’s shaking, Cor?”
Corwin took a deep breath, lowering his voice and keeping his eyes firmly on the wall to the left of Shears’ head. “You are aware that a woman died here tonight, aren’t you?”
“Very.” Shears turned as he replied, picking up a picture from the mantle.
“That could be evidence, Shears.”
“Wearing gloves.” He lifted a hand into view and wiggled his fingers at Corwin. “It’s not actually my first crime scene, you know.”
“Then treat it with the respect it deserves.” Corwin was going to regret snapping, but not enough to stop him from doing it. “A life ended here, and the least you could do is act like that matters, instead of skipping around the yard smelling flowers and invading the privacy of someone’s home.”
“Hey, back off.” Gavin’s folded arms and glare were clear warnings, but he kept his voice as even as Corwin’s. “You want to talk about respect, try not picking a fight with a colleague in the middle of the crime scene you’re so worried about.”
“It’s fine, Gav.” Shears set the picture down and turned back. He waited until the local officer left the room with another bag of evidence before he said anything else, then began ticking off points on his fingers. Corwin’s blood pressure seemed to spike with each digit.
“First off, I’ve got nearly as much field experience as you do. Second, we were trying to get a look at the flower beds surrounding the house, to see if anyone had been near the windows. She wouldn’t have stepped on her own flowers, would she? Third, I’m not invading her privacy. She’s dead, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I doubt there’s anyone in the room more qualified to tell you that she is, without a doubt, not here anymore. She has no privacy to invade, and I seriously doubt that looking at a picture of her is going to cause her unrest in whatever afterlife she may or may not have believed in.” Clearly wound up, Shears stepped closer. “And finally, I’m a Reader, and that means that sometimes I touch things to find out what happened to their owners. No matter how much you hate us, you can’t be totally ignorant of how it all works, Inspector.”
A moment passed where Corwin felt damn near rooted to the ground, just inches from Shears, the tension between them a prickling sensation on both his skin and mind. It didn’t break until Shears frowned and looked away, seemingly confused. “Although apparently I’m not a very good Reader, because I’m having a really hard time picking up anything from this room.”
Corwin stepped away, scanning the bookshelf, grateful to defuse the moment. There were a few spots of blood, but nothing like the huge pool that had soaked through the carpet by the window, where she’d finally died. “It looks like the struggle, such as it was, began here. Maybe the impression will be stronger in that area?”
Shears’ questing mind glanced off Corwin’s defenses, and Corwin pushed back without hesitation. Shears went stiff and silent for a moment before he turned in place, graceful as a dancer as his gaze raked over the room. Corwin went back to the desk, rifling through the stack of invitations and letters with perhaps more force than the task required. The light footsteps across the carpet gave ample warning as Shears managed to invade even that small corner of sanity.
“I can’t get anything here.” Corwin turned his head to catch sight of Shears, entirely too close by Corwin’s estimation. “It’s like the entire room is full of white noise, and I can’t read anything from the objects in it. I need to see the body to give you anything useful.”
“Well, that will surely prove to be an invaluable addition to the case file. Thank the stars you were here to offer the insight of the Imperial Psionics Academy.”
“I’m sure it will be easy to slip into your report, Inspector. ‘She died of blood loss, and I don’t care.’ Did I piss in your porridge this morning, or did you forget to have a wank last night?” Voice a soft counterpoint to the sounds around them, Shears betrayed none of the venom of his words in his expression. Corwin, who knew full well he looked perpetually annoyed, almost had to envy someone who could convey their dislike with laughter.
“Fine. We’ll go to the morgue next. Try to maintain a modicum of professionalism in the meantime and refrain from turning the rest of my crime scene into some poor attempt at a joke.” Corwin spun on his heel and marched toward the stairs, intent on finding Nika, and any measure of calm left to him.
* * *