Garrett Investigates - By Elizabeth Bear Page 0,1

before leaning over to Cuan and mouthing by his ear, “You know, they say she slept her way into the service.”

When Cuan moved away, he didn’t follow. Nor did he move to prevent Cuan from stepping up to the Crown Investigator’s shoulder.

She turned her head enough to let him know she’d seen him there. “Coen?”

Cuan said, “There were footprints in the muck by the back wall, but no sign he scaled the building, and they stopped abruptly. Near sheer brick, not by the gutter. In the rain—” He shrugged, shoulders hunching against the cold.

She turned away. “Ah. Get a look at the size?”

“About average for a man,” he said. “Big for a woman.”

She flexed her fingers, rubbing her palms together as if the gloves had not kept the chill out of her bones, either. Then, as Cuan had expected she would, she drew a twisted blown-glass rod from her sleeve, touched it to the draggled fur of her raincape collar, and said, “Shield your eyes.”

He placed the flat of his hand between his eyes and the DCI, hearing a shuffle behind him as Bitner pointedly turned his back. There wasn’t much of Bitner to turn—he must have been scraping his feet pretty hard to make as much noise as that. Fortunately, his coat collar and the hand beside his face let Cuan hide his smile as well as his eyes.

As he had known it would, the first flare of stark blue light from the DCI’s glass rod outlined the bones of his hand. But then the brightness moderated, brighter than moonlight but the same cold color, casting the same relentless shadows. A rumble of voices rose from the uniformed officers and the bystanders leaning from their windows, dropping away as did the intensity of the glow.

When Cuan looked up, he saw the DCI silhouetted, runnels of water trickling from her hat sparkling like sapphires as they caught and refracted the rays. She wedged the tip of the rod between stones and rose on the balls of her feet, one hand outstretched for a moment as if she expected it to fall. But it stayed, shining through the falling droplets, illuminating the blood-and-rain-washed alley with uncomfortable clarity so that Cuan could see clearly what he had previously observed only by lanternlight.

Blood on the cobbles was the least of it. The body lay under a heavy oiled canvas tarp, though the weight of the rain was such that he could see the victim’s outflung arm and doubled-under leg as if nothing but a wet sheet draped her. The rain wouldn’t be doing the trace evidence any good, though Cuan had fitted sieves across the gutters on the faint chance that they might catch something important before it washed away. If it hadn’t all washed away before the patrol officer even found her.

Cuan’s fingers itched in their gloves when he watched the DCI brace her hands on her hips and slowly turn to take in the scene. He wondered what she was seeing, besides the puddles of blood clotted to seaweedy strings in the rain, besides the rain itself, bucketing down to make every inch of the job harder. He wanted to see it too.

The DCI interlaced her fingers before her mouth and nodded, exactly as if someone had asked her a question. She said, “Detective Sergeant? Lift the canvas, if you please.”

He could have protested that what lay under that cloth was no sight for a lady, but somehow he thought it probably wasn’t the first time she’d heard that caution. Without turning to see if Bitner was paying attention, Cuan closed his umbrella, hooked it at his elbow, and bent down to expose the body. The DCI’s steely conjured light gleamed sickly on the glossy exposed surface of the victim’s liver, the swelling pearls of subcutaneous fat. Someone in a window squeaked; someone else moaned. Cuan heard the unmistakable sounds of vomiting.

“Somebody’s canvassed them?” the DCI said, without looking away from the grotesque display of flensed meat and spilled organs.

“Constables have been around,” Bitner said, surprising Cuan with how close he’d slipped. “They have names, for what they’re worth. A pair are still taking statements, and we’ll bring the likeliest back to the station house for further interrogation. You can’t do anything unobserved in a place like this, but anyone who heard her scream and looked, and is willing to talk to us, only saw a slender figure in a cape and helmet, vanishing into the dark. At least one said Copyright 2016 - 2022