Monday Stories

New Fiction Every Monday

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This story was originally part of my novel Pacifica which if all goes well will be available in some form or another by early 2017. This entire story line has been removed from that novel, so hey, I guess I can put it up here.

People have used a lot of words to describe Julian Baum. People who see him on the street with a data feed flickering on his mirrored shades would call him a tech rat. Cops call him a street punk. People who work for him call him an optimistic idiot, and people he works for generally call him “number one” or “lieutenant” or “that smarmy guy we hired”.

Oddly, very few people call him the names that are most descriptive, like “philosopher” or “poet”. They see his bright, cunning smile and short-cropped blond hair and they rarely see beyond those.

These days, Julian generally called himself a sinner.

Not that Julian was religious, far from it. But in his travels and studies he had come across the concept of sin and he couldn’t help but apply it to his current behavior.

Every new technology brings three things with it: a great help to humanity in general, a great diversion, and sin. Take television (Julian said to himself to distract himself from where he was going, the place his heart was racing to get to). Television gave us the ability to share audiovisual information across the globe. People could see places they could never afford to go in person, and the whole global community got closer. It also gave us mindless television programs, which ultimately overtook the original noble purpose. And it also brought late-night sleaze that was sinful, in the sense that it subverted the standards of the society that had created it. Ditto the internet. Did the internet change the world for the better? Yes. Was there a lot of mindless fluff on the net? Sure. Was there a lot of sleaze and sin on the net? Yes. It happened every time.

And it had happened again. (Julian thought about what had happened again, and turned a corner into a slightly less well maintained area of town) When the Spine had been invented it came with a neural interface that changed everything. Doubtlessly, it had brought a lot of good with it into the world. People had direct access to their information, interfaces were smaller and rapidly becoming cheaper than ever before, but already the world had shifted and new art forms were being created, as well as new ways to teach, new ways to operate on other people, new ways to build…the world had changed because of the Spine.

And the games were only a little bit behind the invention. There were tons of games for the Spine, tons of ways to disconnect from your immediate surroundings and let yourself explore a new and different world. There were great games, artistic games, but the majority of them were simple basic shooters that hadn’t changed much since the first computers. People still liked to pretend to blow things up without the risk of being hurt in the process.

And the sleaze had followed, as it always does. But even that wasn’t the bottom in this case. Something else had come. Something that wouldn’t have worked in any previous medium. And there was no other word for it than Sin.

It wasn’t any of the temptations of the flesh re-created in digital form. It wasn’t art, it wasn’t poetry or math or anything else so mundane. All those things worked through the senses, but this bypassed sense entirely.

Julian entered the house, the next few moments an unholy ritual. He paid the person standing at the desk, he got a small gray square of metal and a single, spoken number. He entered the door with the number he had been assigned. Inside the room was a…nest, a soft place where he could lay down, all his limbs supported. He sat back, uncovered the access port on his Spine, and attached the square to the access pad. Then he lay back.

The square wasn’t a program; that would have been distributed over the Internet. It wasn’t something that could be replicated in software; though many had tried. inside that small box of metal with its golden contact points was a wafer of graphene with imperfections in it. The graphene was a perfect conduit from every contact to every other contact point, meaning that every sense that flowed across the Spine’s neural contacts was relayed not only to every output, but also to every other input, where it would be reinterpreted and generate a new signal. The Spine would usually shut down the person’s actual motor controls at this point, sensing that such a feedback would send them breaking their arms and legs and head as they flailed like crazy.

But the sensations flowed. Sensations that had no earthly analog. Light color sound music violence love death heat death learning dying living hating exploding running every sense you’d ever had and more were poured into every sensor in your brain, echoed and reverberated over and over into sensations and thoughts and colors and patterns that couldn’t and wouldn’t exist anywhere ever again.

Because of the imperfections in the graphene sheet. As the impulses flowed across the sheet it would heat up, and impurities in the carbon would heat at different rates, making holes in the sheet, changing the flow of signals, repainting or reorchestrating the patterns as they flowed at differing speeds around those holes. The experience would change, would mutate into something brand new, but still similar, still carrying echoes of the previous experience. the longer you left it connected the more imperfections would blow out, until at last the sheet was in tatters and the gold connectors starting to melt. The chip had one logically wired chip that would sense when the sensations were starting to die down. It’s job was to slowly exclude various inputs from the sensations flowing across the graphene. Sight would slowly return, then hearing, then feeling, then smell, then taste. Finally you would be left back in the real world, usually close to where you lay down originally, but not always. You would lie there, spent, heart racing, your mind still swirling with color and feeling and light…and you would pull the small rectangle off of your Spine’s input pad and drop it in the trash. the rectangles were expensive to manufacture, and could only be used once. Every subsystem in the square was burned out by the heat of the graphene destroying itself. Occasionally the chip that was supposed to bring you back to earth malfunctioned and you would just black out when all the connections broke, your Spine forced into a reboot.

But you would throw the chip in the trash and walk outside into the real world and try to cope with the dull predictable colors and feelings and sensations and cause and effect and all the things that made the real world so boring.

Not many people had Enhancements yet, and fewer still would waste the obscene amounts of money this form of entertainment cost. But those that tried it always came back, because it was that good. And the fourth time Julian found himself considering killing a rich-looking person just to pay for another square he realized what it was.

It was Sin. It was the real essential thing. These days nobody outside of Bonneville actually believed in “sin” as a concept. If you weren’t hurting someone else you weren’t doing anything wrong. As long as everyone involved was happy with what was happening you were fine. This was definitely how Portland thought of most things. It was a most tolerant city.

But Sin wouldn’t leave you there. You could try to control it, try to budget for it even, only buying a square when you could afford it. But it wouldn’t let you. You would imagine it every moment of the day, mentally walking back to that place where you experienced it, reattaching that square in your mind’s eye a million times a day, letting the wave roll over you, disconnect you, take you to where everything was amazing. Your heart would race, you would almost feel as if you were really there again.

But only almost. It wasn’t the same thing. And you would look up, realize that at your current budget you were still a month away from being able to afford it, and you would reason that you could do without a few things to afford it right now, because then you would make it a month, no problem.

And that’s when you realized you were addicted. But people have been addicted to things forever, and humanity was pretty good at dealing with addictions. But addictions were bad things, right? Things that would eventually kill you. Things like booze, or…drugs. Julian had always been straight edge, partially because he didn’t like the idea of addiction, partially because “straight edge” sounded cool. But this was so far beyond that. This wasn’t anything that actually harmed your body. It was just feelings, and you can’t get hurt by feelings, right?

Only then you realized you needed those feelings again. You needed to get back to where you felt like that, because this life wasn’t a real thing. Only those feelings were the real thing.

And that was the Sin. You got the bait first, and then you discovered the hook. You got dragged along by it, you would do anything to have it again. You, a person who was definitely a “good” person, would cheat, lie, steal, whatever, just to get to that next little gray square. Every time you would tell yourself it was over, you had finished. Every time you would go back. You would find yourself walking randomly around town, right back to the same house. You would tell yourself every step of the way there that you were going to turn aside, you were going to go do something else, but you never did, you never did.

The nameless thing hadn’t existed for very long, maybe a year. And Julian had only discovered it four months ago. The people who ran the house were careful to keep people from seeing one another there, but Julian had been there often enough to see people, see what they looked like after they had used it. And he was starting to look that way too.

So he would go back to work, work hard, work with his mind clear and fight to keep it clear. But a week, or a few days, or even a few hours later he would find himself mentally walking those roads, back to that place, his heart racing as he imagined getting that little gray rectangle between his fingers, imagining its cool surface, imagining the sheet of experiences that hid within. And soon he would be back there, shaking just a little as he got ready for another three hours of the only thing that actually mattered.

Arguing With My Brain

Note: It’s NaNoWriMo! As usual, I’m participating! Also as usual, I’m behind. So this week’s story is less of a story and more of what’s going on in my head these days. I’m hoping my novel will spin off a few useful stories that I can give you in the next couple of weeks, and more intensive new fiction will start happening again in December.

Okay, we’re here, our laptop is open and on, and it’s time to start writing. Come on brain, let’s do this.

Or we could watch Netflix!

No. We don’t need to watch movies or silly TV shows. Binge watching is getting us nowhere.

We could watch Doctor Who!

Well, that sounds like a good idea–WAIT. No. Writing time.

In that case, we should check our email.

No. We are not checking our email either. This is where we actually make good on what we always say we are. We keep telling people that we’re a writer, now it’s time to actually write something.

YOU keep telling people that we are a writer. I am a lump of pink wrinkled fat sitting inside your skull. You write.

Listen, you know I can’t do this without you. I mean, I can’t really even be having this conversation without you. This whole conversation is basically you talking to yourself. I’m confused.

We both are!

ANYWAY I’ve opened Scrivener, and now it’s time to put smart words into our new book.

What’s in it for me? I’d rather just watch old re-runs of TV shows. Come on, you know you want to do that as well! If we watch TV, I’ll release a bunch of dopamine and we’ll feel good!

Well, if we write a bunch and get a sense of accomplishment we’ll feel good too.

Yeeeeeah, that seems like a lotta work.

That’s kinda the point. Yeah, it’s more work, but then we’re better for it, and maybe we can actually get something published this year instead of just saying we will and never doing it.

We have a job. We don’t need to write books. We need to relax after all that stress at work

Look, if we write books we won’t have to stress about work, because we’ll be rich and famous.

You’ll be rich and famous. I’ll still just be a lump.

Look, this isn’t “movie star” style fame we’re talking about, it’s literary fame. “From the mind of Nate Dickson” they’ll say. That’s you! You are the mind of Nate Dickson! If we do this, you’ll finally have your dream!

Smart people saying nice things about me?

That’s the one! But you know what people will say about you if we just sit around and watch re-runs?


Nothing. Nobody talks about people who watch re-runs all day.

… Okay. Let’s write something. Start with this: “It was a dark and stormy night…”

Thank goodness for first drafts.

Time in a Bottle

Livid purple clouds convulsed in lightning-shot whorls as days, sometimes whole weeks, were destroyed. The wars had exacted their toll and the universe was still paying.

Inside the Enclave, however, it was quiet. The Archivist and his young friend the Acolyte were walking through the polished stone hallways. The Archivist wore soft shoes over his four feet, to reduce the noise made in this sacred place. The Acolyte went barefoot in respect. The Acolyte had his four arms folded under the drape of his robe, the iridescent blue of the robe a tasteful compliment to his iridescent purple carapace.

“It was good of you to come, dear son,” The Archivist said as they walked towards the museum wing of the Enclave. Age and worry had dulled the Archivist’s carapace to a mottled, matte purple, but the Acolyte revered rather than judged him for that. He wore the marks of his service like a badge, and deserved respect.

“Of course, revered one,” the Acolyte said. “I would obey your summons without question at any time, but your missive seems to imply that you have something of import to show me.”

The Archivist fluttered his wings in amusement. “You were ever the quick student. Indeed, I have been given permission, or rather I was asked, to bring you into a rather select circle of researchers. Your efforts in repairing the damages of the time storms have gained you quite a reputation.”

“I serve, as do we all, Magister.” the Acolyte said simply. His former master nodded and they walked in companionable silence until they reached the massive mechanized door of the museum. The Archivist led the way through the grand gallery, past the domed and arched public displays and through a smaller but more ornately formed door near the rear of the massive central chamber. The Acolyte’s trained eyes observed the minute play of light across the surface of the door; a subtle but sure sign that the door was phased, existing in many times at once, its reality a fabric rather than a thread. Whatever it was protecting was important indeed.

Beyond the phased door was a smaller but no less ornate room. On the walls hung rich tapestries, woven patterns displaying the flow of time through the weft and woof of reality, a symbol of the work they all did in the Enclave. But impressive as they were, the tapestries were not what drew the Acolyte’s eyes.

In the center of the room was a large dais, roughly five feet high. On this stood a wide shallow basin, made of a bronze-colored metal, and with a plethora of jewels set in the rim in patterns that would defy human imagination. All these were there to contain a Time Bubble; a captured and protected span of what the universe had been. It appeared as an oblong of dark space with two minute stars gleaming inside it. The Acolyte walked around it, observing. “It is quite small, perhaps fifteen thousand years?”

“Only nine thousand, but it is roughly thirty-six cubic light years.”

“So much space and so little time?” The Acolyte wondered.

“The species this Bubble contains is somewhat special, my friend. Come, observe.” The Archivist rested his four hands on four groups of jewels, his fingers caressing and sliding across the controls in intricate patterns. A large lens slid into place in front of them and focused on one of the two stars in the bubble.

“This is the home star of the species. They speak many languages, and even in their predominant languages there are many words for this star, but the ones we have chosen are Sol, or the Sun. The other star has a number of names near the beginning of the span we were able to capture, but near the end the species has settled on Alpha Proxima.”

“Such musical names,” the Acolyte commented. “And what does this species call itself?”

“Again, they are multilingual so there are many names: humanidad, ihmiskunta, katauhan, dynoliaeth…and a host of others.” the Archivist clicked the strange-sounding syllables. “But the one we have settled on is ‘humanity’. It has an odd double meaning in its host language. It refers both to the species as a whole and to treating others with respect.”

The Acolyte nodded. “And what is it that makes them worthy of such a grandiose environment?”

“There is a quality to humanity; not a physical quality, but one that seems built-in to the personality of each human. They believe that they are able to make the universe around them better through action.”

The Acolyte considered this ridiculous statement. The universe is just the universe, it is indifferent to the actions of an individual or a species. But he did not want to contradict the revered and august Archivist. Fortunately the Archivist continued.

“I know what you are thinking, indeed it’s what we have all thought when brought in contact with humanity and it’s odd ideas.”

“And what do you call this…odd quality of theirs?”

“Again my young friend we need to use one of their words here. They call it “aspiration”, another word with two meanings; for it means both ‘working to improve your lot in life’ and ‘breathing’. Apparently they consider one as essential to life as the other.”

“Revered Archivist, while this quality is interesting, it hardly seems to merit such an enclosure.”

The Archivist again fluttered his wings in amusement and said. “No? Observe with me.” The Archivist began manipulating the controls, setting the lens to a particular set of four-dimensional coordinates, speaking as he worked. “When we first contained this species, we had set it in a more traditional container. We captured just their world, and built a orrory around it to give them the appearance of a working solar system. They observed, and were able to tell that they were in a geocentric environment.”

“They discovered it? How?”

“They were, even then, before they had discovered electricity, planning to go to the stars. Through their observations they correctly deduced that the stars at the time were only a few miles beyond the atmosphere, and decided that such a trip was not outside of their abilities. Even though, at the time, it most certainly was.

“So we expanded their enclosure. We went back to the moment of capture and brought in the rest of their solar system. It wasn’t a perfect operation; we accidentally cracked the ninth planet in two, but in our naiveté we assumed they would never notice. What happened was interesting. Some of them maintained the idea that the universe was geocentric, while others did new experiments and discovered the heliocentric nature of space, and that the stars were much farther off than previously thought.”

“But…how did they retain that? From their point of view the universe never was geocentric…”

The Archivist shrugged, an odd, alien gesture he had picked up from humanity, and one that looked extremely odd when performed by a being with four arms. “We thought it was just an anomaly, but we’ve been running up against their racial memory over and over again. When we captured their world we removed some of the more fearsome predators so we could study the sentient beings. Their world had flying serpents that breathed fire, and we eradicated them. This was done before humanity had any written language or even a very strong oral tradition. We figured that the stories would die out eventually. But they held on to those stories throughout their history.

“At any rate, they kept surprising us.” The Archivist brushed the controls again and centered in on a small, unlikely looking craft moving very slowly along a beach until it suddenly left the ground, carrying a lone passenger. “Observe the time when this happens. This is humanity’s first powered flight. They were born without wings or any method of flying but decided not to let that stop them.”

“How novel,” the Acolyte admitted. The Archivist brushed the controls again and the picture jumped forward but a few decades and moved back, showing the planet as if in low orbit.

“Within the lifetimes of most members of the species, they went from that first crude flying machine to this:” As he spoke a bright light shone out and something came climbing up a column of smoke twinkling and winking bright as it climbed. The Acolyte leaned in for a better view.

“Are they…did they just…Are they leaving their atmosphere?”

The Archivist nodded. “In the most insane way possible. They are using barely controlled chemical reactions to propel themselves upward and out of their atmosphere. In just a few years they will land on their satellite. And here is where their history gets troublesome again.”

“How so?”

“In a few years they will do far more sophisticated measurements of the universe and discover that it’s curved around them. Again, a product of the time bubble. After that they will make plans to go to their nearest neighboring star. Well, we got worried; they clearly have every intention of doing just that. So we, that is, I, expanded the time bubble again…and they noticed, Again.”

“Surely not!”

“For quite a while inflationary cosmology was in vogue, and we were thankfully subtle enough that they never quite proved or disproved it. But by then we had a number of other problems. We’ve had to take a more active hand with this enclosure than any other. For example, two of them discovered the Cold Star technique.”

“But that would destabilize the enclosure entirely if it got out of control!”

“Indeed. We hastily modified the enclosure again, and after the first few experiments it stopped working. Then they discovered how to tap into the theta-wave network, which from their internal perspective appeared to be particles moving faster than the speed of light. They were able to send a few test signals from one part of their planet to another before we shielded the enclosure in this room.”

The Archivist had been tuning his controls so the lens showed each of these events in turn. The Acolyte grew still as he saw the evidence of his former master’s words.

“Sir, to what end do we keep this enclosure? They seem almost too dangerous.”

“Perhaps, but what is danger here at the end of time? Observe one more thing, and then I would ask a favor of you, my son.”

The Archivist tuned the lens to another point, near the end of the time span, far out from the home planet of the remarkable little race. “Do you see that craft?”

“Yes, sir.”

“There are three hundred humans on board, traveling toward Alpha Proxima. At sub-warp speeds. The craft, if it is lucky will get there in four hundred years. The problem is that they don’t have four hundred years, this enclosure runs out only seven years later. So we need to help them a little.”

“How do we do that?”

The Archivist tuned the lens back a bit. “At this point, when they are contemplating a trip to Alpha Proxima, they are considering another problem, and one that is, again, an artifact of the time bubble. They call it ‘dark matter’. You see, they have once again discovered that the apparent size of the universe and the amount of observable mass in the universe are widely disparate.”

This time the Acolyte didn’t comment. There was no way they should have made such a discovery, but he was beyond being surprised. The Archivist continued.

“They waste quite a bit of time and research on what is, of course, an insolvable problem, instead of working on propulsion or even hyperwarp travel. So we’re going to rectify the difference, far before they start studying it, and hope that they can refocus their efforts.

The Acolyte nodded. but had to ask, “Sir, to what end?”

“Think of what they have already accomplished. Perhaps, if we give them enough time, they can find a way to stop the storms and war outside, and through them we might find a path beyond our limits as well.”

The Acolyte nodded and the two silently began to work, minutely adjusting the equations that made up reality inside the fragile little bubble. It was intricate work, but familiar, and the Acolyte’s mind wandered a little.

“You are quite good to humanity, Master. If only…if only our own captors were as generous.”

“If only.”

Broken Wings

Paperwork. A lot of cops hated it, but Tremain always liked sitting in his office doing paperwork. It helped that he had an office, of course. But that wasn’t why he liked it. He liked doing paperwork because it meant he wasn’t outside getting yelled and/or shot at. Paperwork was a vain but pleasant attempt at making any form of sense of the world outside.

He was just getting ready to start writing up a requisition when there as a knock at his door. “Hey, Tremain, we’ve got someone here to see you.”

The door opened and a small, scared girl…no. She was tiny, but she was an adult. A small, scared woman entered his office, her eyes wide.

“Can I help you?” Tremain asked. He stood and motioned her to a chair in front of his desk. She sat silent for a few seconds, clearly gathering her courage and said, “Are you Alan Tremain?”

“That’s me. How can I help? Are you in trouble?” He looked the woman over quickly. He was able to take her appearance in without spending a lot of time looking at her. Her long brown hair was neatly combed, but not recently washed. Her dress was a simple floral print, a little too big for her. The style looked like it should have been a knee-length, but on her it went to mid calf, even when she was sitting. It was of a very conservative cut or else it would have been quite revealing up top. It was also at least twenty years out of date; suggesting she bought it from a thrift store. She carried no purse, just a small wallet. Her eyes were wide and scared. She was tiny, her skin tone a light olive shade, possibly Italian. Her features were finely formed and flawless; only a very careful examination of her face, particularly her eyes, belied her real age. Passing her on the street you could easily mistake her for a young teenager.

“It’s about Liz…She says she trusts you.”

“Liz… You mean the lady who calls herself ‘Angel Liz’? The one who keeps writing to me?”

The woman nodded. “She told me you would know who I am. I’m Jenny.”

Tremain had read all of Liz’s letters over and over. “Jenny…from the first letter? The roommate that she saved from Vincent?”

Jenny seemed to shrink in on herself even more when he mentioned Vince. “Where is he?” She asked in a small voice.

“Last I heard he’d been transferred to a federal prison. Between Liz’s testimony, some… things we found out behind your old trailer, and some things we found in his apartment, he’s going to be there for quite a while.”

“Like a rabbit,” Tremain thought. “She didn’t relax when I told her that, she just decided she doesn’t have to run away right this second. She’s still terrified.”

“But, if you’re Jenny, what are you doing here? I thought you were in California.”

Jenny smiled a little, and only briefly. “No, I never went to California. That was just something Lizzie told Vince so he would stop trying to find me. I live…I live downtown now.”

Tremain had heard that specific slang before. “You mean you live in the tunnels, right? The runoff tunnels, under the city?”

She looked startled, then nodded very slightly. “Liz found me a place, and found someone to help take care of me down there. It’s a good place! It’s warm and safe and I’ve got a nice bed and walls. Lizzie brings me money and food when she can. Now that she’s taken care of Vince we’re looking for an apartment again.”

“So Liz lives down there too.”

Jenny just looked scared.

“Okay, never mind, Jenny…Richards, right?”

“Richmond, actually. Lizzie…isn’t good with names.”

“Okay, Jenny Richmond.” Tremain resisted the urge to write that down somewhere. “Why did you come to see me?”

Jenny shifted in her seat. She looked down at her hands for a long moment, then looked up into Tremain’s eyes, looking for help. He realized he was sitting on the edge of his desk, towering over her. He stood up, didn’t react when she cowered away from him, and sat behind his desk. There, now he was farther away, there was a desk between them, and he was closer to her eye level. In a quiet voice he asked again. “You came to see me, and said it’s about Liz. Is there a problem? Is Liz in trouble?”

Jenny looked him in the eye and nodded. Having a desk between them seemed to help, and she found her voice again.

“It’s that guy she brought back from Idaho. Benny.”

“The one she calls ‘Bigfoot’ in her letter,” Tremain prompted. Jenny nodded again. “When she brought him here she thought she had him under control. She told everyone…downtown…that he was tame now. But he never looked tame. He…he snarls a lot and looks at people…like they’re food. But Lizzie seemed to be able to keep him in line, so we believed her.”

She seemed to run out of steam, or the next part was hard to admit.

“Anyway, she went to the Bellagio to verify what Benny had told her, and when she saw she couldn’t fix the problems herself she went and wrote you that letter. The problem was, she left Benny downtown. When she’d been gone a little while he looked up and smiled, but it wasn’t happy. He looked at me and said “I’m free,” and then turned and walked out of our little house down there. He…He hurt some people, and scared a lot of people, kids even, and…and he stole some money and food. I don’t know if you know what it’s like down there…but you don’t do that, Detective. You just…you can’t.”

Tremain put a hand over his eyes wearily.

“Anyway, some people caught him and held him, and threw him in the pit. And when Lizzie came back from the Bellagio, they took her as well. She’s being held in a cell down there.”

Tremain put his head in his hands. “Liz Liz Lizzie Liz,” he mumbled. “Why did you have to go and start thinking you’re an angel?” He asked.

“What makes you think she isn’t?” Jenny said sharply.

“I’m…sorry?” Tremain looked up. Jenny was sitting up tall, looking defiant. Scared, but defiant.

“You’ve never met Lizzie. You’ve never even seen her, have you? So how would you know she’s not an angel?”

Jenny was leaning back now, the fear overcoming the defiance, but she kept talking.

“I’ve seen Lizzie do things that no human could do. I’ve seen her power. Detective, Lizzie is an angel, just like I’m part elf and you’re…” she broke off suddenly.

“I’m what?” Tremain asked quietly, but Jenny sat back, hand over her mouth and shook her head.

“What am I, Jenny?”

“Lizzie will tell you,” Jenny whispered.

Here’s where you know how good you are, Tremain told himself. I could turn bad cop. I could shout and scare it out of her. I could terrify her, be a man, be a big ball of violence and authority. Or I could realize it’s not that important, and let it drop.

He let it drop.

“What do you want me to do?” He asked instead. Technically people having their own courts underground was illegal, but Vegas is a big city and there are a lot of illegal things going on all the time and at least this one is semi-orderly.

“Liz wants you to come arrest Benny. That way he’s out of the tunnels and they’ll let her go if he’s out of their way.

“But…detective…There’s a condition.”


“You can’t…you can’t arrest anyone else. I know that living downtown is probably illegal, and there’s probably stuff going on down there that you don’t want to see as a cop…”

Tremain waved her off.

“I don’t have time to arrest people for trying to stay alive. Okay, Liz wants me to walk down to the tunnels, I’m guessing without any other cops,right?” Jenny paused, then nodded minutely. “Once I’m down there I’m supposed to take custody of a huge violent man she imported from Idaho. I thought she said he was in Utah?”

Jenny just shrugged, and Tremain continued.

“So what’s in it for me? Why would I do this? Why wouldn’t I just re-arrest Liz? If she’s an angel, why doesn’t she just set herself free?” He asked. That last question was deliberately mean, and he immediately felt bad about asking it.

To Tremain’s chagrin it worked. Jenny sat up again, smiled serenely, drawing on some strength that hadn’t been there before. “If you need there to be ‘something in it for you’, you’re not the man Lizzie thought you were.”

Tremain sat back, stared at the ceiling. This went against everything. Everything. You don’t go off on your own, you don’t make deals with criminals, even low-level ones whose only crime was staying alive. You don’t “turn a blind eye” to things to make an arrest.

Well, okay, lots of cops do these things; all of them. All the time. Police work isn’t all black and white, there’s a lot of give and take. But still, this…this went against…

He stopped arguing. He was going to do it. He knew he was. So why argue with himself? Instead he stood up, took his coat off the back of the door and said. “Okay. Take me to your angel.”

Health and Wellness

Good Morning, and welcome to the DynaStar™ LifeCare™ Pavilion. I am CareBot™, and will help you prepare for your visit. A certified LifeCare™ provider will be with you shortly. Please undress and re-dress in the provided gown.

Now that you are dressed, please answer a few questions so that our LifeCare™ provider can help you reach your wellness goals.

What is the reason for your visit today?

I sprained my wrist playing racquetball

I am sorry to hear that you have sustained a sports-related injury to your wrist. Our LifeCare™ providers are experts in sports medicine. Please answer a few more background questions to ensure that the care you receive will meet your personal care profile.

Do you drink?




Take any recreational drugs of any sort?


At any time in the last 7 days have you felt hopeless?


At any time in the last 7 days have you felt helpless?

It’s really hard to type with a sprained wrist.

I apologize if the input process is causing you any additional pain. All LifeCare™ providers are highly rated in the area of pain management. We will be gratified to help you meet your pain goals. If you prefer, I can enable audio input for this questionnaire. Would you prefer to give audio responses, bearing in mind that your responses may be recorded for quality assurance and legal review purposes?


You may now answer verbally, and I will transcribe your responses. At any time in the last 7 days have you felt helpless?

No, I’m fine.

What is your goal for your visit today?

I want my wrist to feel better so I can go back to work.

I appreciate your honesty. All LifeCare™ providers are highly rated in the area of pain management. We will be gratified to help you meet your pain goals.

Just a few more questions.

Our records show that you are not married or in a relationship. Has this changed?

What? Why are you asking?

We are working to provide a care plan that will encompass your entire life. We seek to provide solutions that fit harmoniously with your preferred lifestyle. We have found that understanding a person’s emotional landscape is indispensable in providing top notch care.

Fine. No, I don’t have a spouse or significant other.

Looking at your accounts on social media, it does not appear that you have close relationships with your family. Is still the case?

How did you sign into my social media accounts?

When you became a client of the DynaStar™ family of services you consented to some limited studies of your online profile, with the understanding that such information will only be used to help us care for you. Rest assured that DynaStar™ will not share your information–

Fine. No, I’m not close with my family.

Input is not required at this time. Rest assured that DynaStar™ will not share your information with any third parties, and that information gleaned from social media will be handled in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws. It does not appear that you ave close relationships with your family. Is this still the case?

I am not particularly close with my family, no.

Our records show that this is your seventh visit to the DynaStar™ LifeCare™ Pavilion in the past twelve months. DynaStar™ understands that life has its ups and downs. While DynaStar™ is always here for you, most of our LifeCare™ clients visit between two and four times per year. Furthermore your visits have been more frequent than normal over the past three years. Are you suffering from an undisclosed chronic condition that would explain your higher-than-average number of visits?

no. Look, I just sprained my wrist, it’s no big deal.

How often, per week, do you exercise, where “exercise” is defined as a specific physical activity, designed to strengthen the body, and lasting for at least thirty minutes per session?


Please rest assured that all answers to this wellness survey are confidential and you may be entirely honest. Would you like to amend any of your answers up to this point?

No. I really play racquetball or go running around four or five times a week. That’s how I sprained my wrist.

While we understand your desire for privacy, your LifeCare™ provider can only supply the kind of world-class care you have come to expect from DynaStar™ if your answers are entirely honest. Given your height, weight, current resting heart rate, and frequency of visits, your answer to the question about exercise seems unlikely. Would you like to provide a new answer?

2 times per week. Is that the answer you’re looking for?

Thank you. Your new answer has been accepted and the previous answer replaced. DynaStar™ is grateful for your increased trust in our services.

Expressed as percentage, what would you say your wellness quotient is at this moment?

Um, I guess…75%?

I see. Please help me understand. Your reason for visiting is a sports-related injury to your wrist. On average, our LifeCare clients rate such an injury as having a seven percent impact on their wellness quotient. Are you suffering from any other conditions that would explain the 18% discrepancy between your answer and others?

I…what? I don’t know. I guess I’m just a little sick and tired of this and —

I understand. Feelings of fatigue and general malaise can indeed have a major impact on your overall wellness. Thank you for your responses to this questionnaire. I am now reviewing your responses and formulating a wellness plan for you.

Fine. Whatever.

May I take that as permission to enact a wellness plan? Giving permission in advance will expedite your care and help us serve you without delay.

Yes, fine, you have my permission. Let’s enact this health care plan.

Thank you. Your response has been recorded. I am now reviewing your case with a LifeCare™ provider, so that they will be aware of your situation and able to provide top notch care.

Okay! I have formulated your care plan. We have taken your responses and information from other sources, and found that your wellness quotient is 3%

What? I said 75%

Input is not requested at this time. Your answers, your social profile, your propensity for lying on questionnaires, your frequent visits to health care providers have led to our AccuScore™ assessment of your overall wellness. Furthermore, your lack of connections suggests that other DynaStar™ clients would be better served by ending your care, as doing so will free up resources for dynamic and active health care participants.

Hey, why is this door locked? HEY!

Input is not requested at this time. We would like to thank you for your pre-approval for our healthcare plan. We are pleased to say that your insurance has also approved this plan. Given your wellness quotient, we have implemented the InfiniRest™ carbon dioxide life cessation therapy. While InfiniRest™ is a gentle end-of-life solution, for the safety of our other clients we have sealed the door of your care suite.

Look, it’s just a sprained wrist! Let me out! I’m fine! yawn

The InfiniRest™ process should be complete in just a few minutes. You should be feeling relaxed and at ease now. For your comfort in this time of transition, please stop trying to open the door of your care suite and lay back on the exam bed. Thank you for choosing the DynaStar™ family of services for your end-of-life care.

Children of the Desert

It had been three weeks since the last note from “Angel Liz”. Alan Tremain had put her almost entirely out of his mind when he was heading into work, mentally preparing himself for a peacefully boring graveyard shift.

The moment he walked into the office, however, it was obvious the night had other things in store. Several officers were getting into heavy padded gear…the bomb squad.

“What’s up?” Alan asked the first person who would hold still long enough to answer the question. The officer looked up, smirked and said “hey, Chief! Detective Tremain is here!”

Tremain walked over to the chief’s office. “Did you want to see me, Chief?”

The Chief of Police looked up and said “We got another letter from your girlfriend, Detective. Why don’t you give it a once over?” and he passed a paper over the desk to Tremain.

“Where was this one found?”

“On your desk, which is frustrating because we have cameras all over this office and…”

“And there’s a glitch in the recording. Before the glitch, no letter. After the glitch, letter. I really wonder how she does it.”

“So do the I.T. guys. They’re about to move in with Frodo and renounce technology over this one. Anyway, read this, we’ll talk after.

The letter seemed to be printed on the same cheap paper, with the same cheap printer as the last two. A small corner neatly cut from the bottom corner said that someone in forensics was making sure of that fact. The letter said:

Hello again Alan! Did you miss me?

I’m sure you did. I’ve been up north, learning about what it means to be an angel. Studying the ways of the Children of the Desert. Did you know that people up there already knew that humans were angels? They have it backwards, though. they think being a good person makes you an angel. They don’t realize that you’re an angel from the beginning, and eventually your angel-ness makes you good. But they taught me a lot, and tried to teach me a lot more. But I’ve got other things on my mind.

For example, I met Bigfoot. Did you know he was real? Do you know why nobody ever really sees him, or finds his dead body? Because he’s immortal! And there’s only one of him. He’s been around forever, and until now he’s been in Utah scaring Mormons, which he thinks is funny.

He is an evil creature, evil to the bones of him. But I have bound him with my Angelic Word, and he cannot go against me now. He must do as I bid, even though he thinks he’s secretly plotting against me. Isn’t Evil funny that way? They’re always convinced what they’re doing is their idea. Like Vince. How is he by the way?

Anyway I have Bigfoot here with me. I bound him and brought him with me. I mean, just because he’s a walking hairy ball of fury doesn’t mean I can’t use him. In fact he’s already been useful.

I’ve been foolish so far, Detective. I thought I was the first, maybe the only, Other to know what I was. I’m not of course. Bigfoot knows some of them, and to gain my trust he sold out one of his buddies here in LV to me. And while he may be a monster I know his information is real. So I’ll tell you.

The Beast that sleeps beneath the Luxor has weakened a critical electrical breaker box in the Bellagio. In a few days, not sure when, it’s going to short out. When it does it will start a fire that will spread quickly, killing any who are in the hotel or casino. An electrical short wouldn’t burn down a building by itself, duh. But the Beast has planted a bomb in the large emergency generator under the Bellagio, and when the power spike hits that bomb the building will go up. Get someone over there now, find that bomb, find that short, and you’ll see that Angel Liz is doing the work of Goodness and helping you in your work as well.

I have a feeling that the day of our meeting is not far off now, Detective. I have already bound one Evil minion to my will, I hope soon to join with you, not as a minion or master but an ally, both of us doing the work of Light.

I’ve been realizing something. I’ve always been a mirror, just, like, reflecting everything the world has chosen to send my way. But I can’t be that any more. I’m an angel. I’m a light on a hill. I’m a lens, focusing the light.

Speak to me of your fears and I will help you carry them.
Speak to me of your suffering and I will bear you up.
Speak to me of your burning passion and I too will catch fire.
Speak to me of your ardent faith and I will be strengthened.
Speak to me of duty and I will try to understand.
Speak to me from a committee and I will ignore you.

Angel Liz

Tremain read the letter and sighed. She was getting worse, and now apparently she had help.

Just then the Chief poked his head around the corner. “Alan. The squad just radioed back. They found an explosive device under the Bellagio, and have disabled it. Whoever built the thing was rich, it’s one of the most sophisticated they’ve seen in a while. They’ve got electricians in looking for a fault. in the wiring, but it looks like your Angel was right.” The Chief smiled broadly and said, “Be sure to tell her thanks when you have your ‘meeting’ with her.”

Much Too Fast

There are several problems with trying to travel faster than light.

The first, of course, is getting matter to move that fast without expending all the energy in the universe. The “c” in E=mc2 seems to be a firm speed limit.

But humanity has never been fond of limits, and eventually found a way around that speed limit. With great pomp and ceremony the first ever “super-c” ship was launched…and crashed almost immediately into a micrometeorite. The explosion was fascinating and quite pretty; it’s not every day an explosion seems to suddenly appear and then shrink back down to a single point, then explode again as time and lightspeed catch up with the event. This led to the second problem with trying to travel faster than light: you can’t really see where you’re going, only where you’ve been. It’s like a metaphor for life. And, much like life, things you didn’t see coming can ruin your day.

Continue reading

Vincent Wakes Up

He didn’t write it down; that would have looked like he believed her. But Tremain found that, unconsciously, he was counting the days until Liz’s alleged victim would wake up. It was just a coincidence, there was no way she was as good with the drug she used to actually dose someone accurately. Still, he checked with the hospital a few times a day, despite their promises to alert him as soon as there was any change.

In any case, three days isn’t very long to wait. Unless you’re the one doing the waiting.

The bomb team had gone through Tremain’s apartment, followed by the bug sweepers and even a guy from forensics who wanted to play with a fancy new spectrograph analyzer or whatever it was he said. It was supposed to show up any traces of human interference. All three teams came up clean, not even finding anything to make fun of Alan for. So they teased him for that. His house was neat, tidy, and uncluttered. “You need a wife and kids to make the place look lived in,” the forensics guy said. “At least smear some grape jelly on the arm of the sofa. It’s just not natural.”

But, natural or not, they didn’t find anything to worry about, so the next night Alan slept in his own bed. The third night after he was assigned to the Liz case he lay in his bed, but didn’t sleep. He kept looking at his phone, not expecting it to ring, but wondering if it were going to ring. Of course he didn’t believe it, but it was possible…

the phone rang. “Detective Tremain? Your patient is awake.”

“I’ll be there in fifteen. Thank you, nurse. How his he?”

“Groggy. He’s looking around a little and has accepted some juice, says his mouth is dry.”

“Okay, thank you, let me know if he says anything else. On my way.”

Vincent Davis wasn’t a large man, at five foot eight he was a little shorter than Tremain, but he was built along smaller lines. He had dark hair, and after three days his goatee wasn’t as neatly trimmed as he normally wore it. Also, after three days in a hospital bed his tan was starting to fade. his natural skin color was a light olive shade once the effects of the tanning bed and bronzer wore off. Basically, nobody is at there best in a hospital.

His dark eyes looked up incuriously when Tremain walked in. “Hello Detective,” he said, his voice oddly detached, and yet still seeming sllightly amused.

“Hello, Vincent. It’s good to see you awake.”

Vince just nodded.

“I’d like to talk to you about how you got here. Have the nurses told you what’s going on?”

Vince smiled weakly. “They don’t know what’s going on. But what do you want to know? I don’t remember much.”

“Do you remember being attacked?”

Vince shook his head. “The last thing I remember was coming home from work. I opened the door to my apartment and the next thing I remember is being here.”

Tremain stood breathing quietly for a moment, trying not to grind his teeth. “Do you know someone named Liz?” he asked, and described her as best he could from the descriptions he had been given. Again, Vince smiled weakly. “Yeah, I know Liz. We don’t have what you’d call a healthy relationship. And anyway I haven’t seen her since…since…”

“Since Jenny?”

“Was that her name? Little brunette girl? Yeah, since her.”

“Do you happen to remember Liz’s last name? Or Jenny’s last name?” It was a long shot.

Vince just laughed weakly. “I didn’t even remember Jenny’s first name, what do you think? And no, I never knew Liz’s last name. She was just my girlfriend’s annoying roommate until…”

“Until she beat you up?”

“Is that what she said happened? Naw, it wasn’t like that. I was pretty messed up on….I wasn’t feeling well, and when she got home I guess I’d been pretty rough with Jenny. Don’t look like that. she liked rough treatment. Anyway I guess I’d gone too far, because next thing I know Liz is taking Jenny out the door to the hospital. Somehow Jenny’s arm got broken. That was the last time I saw either of them. I woke up the next morning in their crappy little trailer and when nobody brought any food home that night I went home.”

“I,” Detective Tremain told himself, “am a professional. I do not get emotionally involved in things like this. I will not berate or harm a source of information, especially in a hospital.” Instead he counted to ten and said “How long ago was this?”

Vince shrugged. “Six months? I guess? I dunno man, It’s not like I wrote it down in my journal.”

Tremain nodded. “Okay. Do you know the address of the trailer?”

Vince didn’t know an address, but he gave a pretty good description and direction. Tremain thanked him and walked out the door. Once in the hall he asked the officer on duty, “how much of that did you hear?”

“All of it, Detective, like you asked.”

“Good. Keep our boy here until the police decide he’s clear to go, then take him downtown. We’ll probably have a few more questions for him once he’s put back together. I’m gonna go follow up on the one lead I’ve got.”

“Yes sir.”

The trailer park didn’t deserve the name. Three trailers surrounded by the remains of a fence out in the middle of the desert with one electrical connection shared between the three. There was a noisy pump in the middle of the “park” and some really rough pipework running to the three trailers. The place was just about as off-the-grid as you could get, because the grid didn’t want it.

One of the trailers stood dark and empty, the other two had lights on as Tremain rolled up. One of the lit trailers had the word “manager” spray-painted on the side and a bunch of noisy kids playing outside, so Tremain knocked on that door.

The “Manager” turned out to be a harrassed, sunken-eyed woman with long, greasy hair and another baby on her arm. She definitely remembered Liz and Jenny.

“Yeah, Jenny and her little angry friend. Jenny was a sweet girl.”

“Do you remember either of their last names?”

“Jenny…I want to say Richards. Yeah, that sounds right, Jenny Richards.She’s the one that always paid the rent, so I remember her name. They were the last ones to rent that trailer right over there.”

“The empty one? Mind if I take a look around?” Tremain asked. “Without a warrant,” he didn’t add.

“Nah, go ahead. Why? Is someone in trouble?”

“We found Jenny’s old boyfriend, Vince.”

The manager’s face darkened at the mention of Vince. “Yeah? well, if you’re looking for evidence against him go right ahead.” She grabbed a keyring off a hook by the door. “Here’s the key.”

Inside the trailer was a disaster. A low coffee table lay split in half, the cheap IKEA paper unable to hold up to whatever had been thrown down on it. A futon on one wall was covered in clothing and fast food wrappers. The sink was full of dishes and teh smell of the place said that even in the desert things had stayed wet enough to rot. The only clean place in the entire front room was the dining table. The only thing on that table was an envelope…

With his name on it.

Impatiently he pulled the letter out of the envelope and laid it flat on the table. He snapped a picture of it with his phone and sent it to headquarters, along with a request for a forensics team to get out to his location, with a warrant if possible. And then he sat down on a chair that didn’t quite collapse under him and read what Liz had to say now.

Hey Alan, how’s it going?

If you’re reading this Vince is awake and lying. But at least he gave you this address. He’s not good for much, but at least he did that right. he probably told you about Jenny too. Listen, Jenny’s fine, I told you that a while ago. You don’t need to worry about her. What you should be worrying about is Jenny’s first roommate in this trailer. I found out about this first roomate yesterday, when I called Jenny to tell her what I did to Vince.

“Did you kill him?” she asked me, which is weird for her.

“No, I killed the demon in him.”

“Liz, he didn’t have a demon in him, he was a demon. You should have killed him”

“I can’t do that now, Jenny, I’m an Angel” I told her, but she still doesn’t believe me. She plays along though. “If you’re an Angel, Lizzie, be an avenging angel and get rid of Vince.” She said and the she told me that Vince used to date her roommate, and that he killed her. And then he moved on to Jenny.

So here’s what I want you to do, detective. Walk out the door, walk around to the back of the trailer, and walk 100 feet out into the desert. Then start digging. but use a spade, you’re not going very deep.

I’m leaving Vince in your hands, Detective. See what you can find out about Vince’s poor girl. P.S. the manager never knew me; she only knew the girl you’re about to meet.

Also Jenny knows you’re going to call. She’s willing to talk to you, but be gentle with her; she’s had a bad life.

I’m glad you’re sleeping in your own bed again, Detective. Don’t worry; your home is your castle, and it won’t be violated.

See you soon, talk to you whenever,

Angel Liz

Tremain read the letter and his phone started ringing. It was HQ and apparently they had just finished it as well.

“WE just put two more guards on Vincent’s room, and we’ve got a forensics team with lights and sirens on their way to you. They’re excited, they never get lights and sirens. They’ll be there soon Detective.”

And then Detective Tremain walked out into the desert where he really hoped he wasn’t going to find Jenny’s body.

Something’s Different Here…

The keen-eyed among you will have noticed that the header on this site looks different…strange. Perhaps it’s because it says “Monday” instead of “Friday.” Yes, that could be it.

That’s right, kids and people, Friday Stories has become Monday Stories! I know this is earth shattering, so I’ll lay out the logic in a simple, clear, Q and A style.

Q: Why?

A: For a couple of reasons. First, “real” domains, like, say,, are better searched and indexed than subdomains like A second and not unrelated fact is that was already taken. Third, and perhaps most importantly, posting new stories on Monday gives me the entire weekend to work on them. I’d like to pretend that I’m well out ahead of these stories, but yeah, not so much.

Also, moving out from under the “” domain is another step towards making this a platform where other people can submit work and have their stuff put out for the wider world as well. If you have a story you’d like to tell I’d love to see it, and if it won’t offend my wife or kiddies I’d be happy to put it up on the site!

Q: I’m one of the four people on earth who has ever read your stories, and I have already bookmarked the old domain. Are you going to make me change my bookmark? That sounds like seconds of hard work!

A: Nope! the old domain will redirect to the new domain. Because subdomains are free you can keep using the old one pretty much forever.

Q: What else is changing?

A: That’s pretty much it. New stories will come out on Mondays instead of Fridays. There’s a new domain name, and new stories will come out three days later or four days earlier, depending on where you fall on the pessimism/optimism scale. Just to make it up to you, because I love you guys, I’ll try to have something out this Friday and then something new on the site next Monday, and we’ll be back on schedule. Okay? Okay. We’re good.

I’m glad we had this little talk.

Detective Tremain

Note: everything in They Never Left is included in the letter the detective reads in this story. Okay, as you were.

Detective Tremain read the note found in Liz’s cell and looked up. “Okay. Narcissistic personality, but that’s nothing new. Persecution complex, but those are a cottage industry around here, and it sounds like she came by it honestly. Okay. where did you find this letter?”

“In the cell where the suspect…”


“…In the cell where Liz had been held after being taken into custody.”

“And where is Liz now?”

“…She’s gone, Detective. That’s why we called you in.”

Tremain sat back. He wasn’t angry, not at the moment anyway. Things happen, people on the force shouldn’t beat each other up when they do. He’d get angry later, maybe, if it was worth it.

“Why don’t you walk me through the events of the night, let’s get a picture of what happened.”

The desk sergeant nodded and looked down at his form.

“At 18:22 we got a call on a domestic dispute in an apartment complex. Officers Brady and Cooper responded. When they arrived they found apartment 21 open, and the suspect…Liz…standing in the room over the prostrate form of the alleged victim…er,” he looked up the name of the alleged victim, trying to avoid getting asked, “Vincent. Emergency services were called and Liz was taken into custody. She was processed and held in the cells. At 21:30 after shift change I made the rounds and found her cell was empty.”

Tremain nodded, running his hands through his sandy hair, wondering irrelevantly if it was time to dye it again. Or maybe it was finally time to let the gray grow out. He focused again. He pretty much knew the answers to the next few questions he was going to ask, but he had to ask them anyway.

“Who was on duty?”

“Cooper. He was talking to the suspect in another cell. He didn’t hear the cell door open or close.” The Sergeant knew what questions were coming as well and rattled off the answers without being asked. “The door seems entirely sound, the lock works and was engaged when the cell was found empty. all keys are present and accounted for. And here’s the security footage.”

He turned his monitor towards Tremain and hit the space bar. The video was already queued up.

It showed a girl sitting in a cell, writing. Presently she finishes and then sets the letter on the pillow of the little bed in her cell. Then she looks at the camera and…

four seconds of static fill the screen. When the static clears everything is the same except there’s no girl sitting in the cell.

Tremain nodded and sat back. “Someone is hoping to make this a very long night for us, Sergeant.” The desk sergeant just nodded. “Okay, so, what do we have? Inside job? Does she have any friends?”

“Doesn’t look like it. She didn’t even have ID on her when we brought her in, so even the name Liz is just what she told us.”

“And the victim, how did she kill him?”

“Um, he’s not dead, Detective.”

“Okay, how did she almost kill him?”

“He’s not even wounded. No physical damage, nothing in his blood, he seems fine…”

“I’m guessing there’s more to it than that…”

“He seems fine except he won’t wake up. There’s nothing in his blood, no narcotics, some alcohol and pot but that’s clearing out. His liver and kidney function are both normalfine, brain shows no signs of trauma. Doctors say it’s like he’s sleeping, even dreaming from time to time. But it’s been hours, and we’ve picked him up and moved him around quite a bit. If he’s just a deep sleeper then he’s a very deep sleeper.”

Tremain sat back and misquoted the most famous detective line ever.

“I’m getting too old for this kind of…”

“We all are, Detective.” The Desk Sergeant had heard it before. Whatever else he was, this sergeant was good, so Tremain picked his brain a bit more.

“What do we know about the victim?”

The sergeant dug out a file and handed it over. “If anyone should be put in a mystery coma, it’s this guy. We can corroborate some of what the sus…Liz…said in her letter. He’s been brought in multiple times for harassment; pretty much once per girlfriend, it seems.”

“What leads do you have? Any Id on this roommate that moved to California? Any idea where Liz might be from?”

“Detective, they could be anyone. We don’t even know which casino Liz worked at, if she worked at one at all. She never gives a last name for her friend, and the only person who knew both of them is currently taking a nice nap. I know you’re just getting up to speed, but we’ve already asked all the easy questions and got nothing. That’s why we called you.”

Tremain just nodded. “okay, do you have Liz Doe’s mug shot?”

“Nope. Just a corrupted image file where it used to be.”

“This is getting frustrating, Sergeant.”

“I’m aware, Detective.”

“Can you tell me what she looks like?”

“She’s still got the Technicolor hair she mentioned in her letter, except now it’s blond, blue, and purple. But obviously don’t expect that to last. Skin tone is somewhere between caramel and milk chocolate, eyes appear copper colored, but that could be contacts. Height, weight, etc. is all in her file. Oh, and one last thing, Detective. She didn’t kill the alleged victim, nor is there any sign of any sort of attack on his person, except for the fact that he’s asleep, and this.”

The Sergeant handed Tremain an evidence bag. inside was a wickedly-curved dagger with a wire-wrapped hilt and an angel-wing motif on the needlessly large crossbar. The blade was stained brownish-red with drying blood.

“Don’t tell me.”

“It’s a perfect match, sir. This is Vincent’s blood. It was wet when we found it.”

“But there’s no…”

“But there’s no matching wound anywhere on the victim. If this is a hoax it’s a good one. But we can’t figure out what else it would be. And, again, without an actual crime, the best we can do is bring her in for questioning. We can’t get a warrant for her arrest. Unless she does something else, she’ll have to come freely.”


“I’m glad I’m not you, Detective.”

It would be nice to say that Detective Alan Tremain was the best the LVPD had to offer, that he was the one they went to when all others failed. It wouldn’t be true, but it would be nice.

In reality Tremain just happened to come on shift when this particular case came up. He was assigned to it because he was next on the duty roster.

But if someone had put some thought into it they might have chosen him anyway. Tremain’s specialty, if he could be said to have one, was not getting angry at infuriating suspects. He would sit back, smile, run his fingers through his hair, and just…talk to them. Maybe offer them a doughnut or some pizza. It was like he was doing the whole “good cop bad cop” thing but without the bad cop.

But his style was even more unique than that. He did a lot of work before interviewing people. He would study them, find out as much as he could. He’d read up on their family, look at their tattoos…anything that could give him a sense of who this person was. And then he would walk into the room where the suspect sat, and tell them the story of what happened. But not like a cop. He’d tell it from their perspective. His stories weren’t of the “on the night of April 14 you and several accomplices were seen approaching the bank. At 22:48 an alarm was triggered…” style. Instead he would sit down, look the suspect in the eye, and say, “you’re new in this gang, you’ve gotta get some respect. So when people are talking about how to get some cash you speak up, say you know a bank you can knock over…”

It didn’t always work. He wasn’t always right. Sometimes he got better results when he was at least half wrong. A lot of people would correct him and fill in details, seemingly out of a desire to be recognized, maybe even understood. It annoyed the other detectives no end.

Of course, right now he didn’t have anyone to interview. He went down to the lab, got a look at the knife and asked what tests were being run on the blood samples from the non-victim and the knife. He went over to the hospital and looked a some charts and graphs that said this sleazeball…sorry, possible witness…should be up and awake instead of acting like a vegetable. And finally, around two in the morning, he went home.

There was a letter taped to his door. That was never good. If someone knows where you live you should sleep somewhere else until the boys have a chance to check it out. Knowing this Tremain walked up to the door and ripped the letter off and walked away from his apartment.

The letter read:

Detective Alan Tremain,

Congrats, man. You just got stuck trying to find me. This is gonna be fun. Because you’ve got a lot of questions & I’m not going to answer the ones you want, but the ones you need.

Go ahead, look down at the signature, It’s Liz, of course, and no I’m not going to tell you my last name, you would do things the boring way if I did.

The scumbag you have in the hospital: he’ll be up and around in 3 days, but he won’t be like he was. Turns out 3 is an important number to angels, I guess. Look it up. Anyway he’ll be better than he was, I killed the demon, not the man. I coulda killed both.

Look Alan, I know you think I’m crazy. I would have thought that too, a while ago. But I’m not. And the thing is, you’re going to be part of this, too. I can sense Others now. They have like, a glow. And you’re one of us. Wouldn’t you like to know what you are?

I’ll give you a hint: go try some peyote. I know you have some at the station. Go take it, find a quiet spot in the desert, and let the Holy Smokes bring your spirit animal into focus.

Your apartment is fine, Detective, sleep well tonight, knowing an Angel is watching over you. I’ll see you again soon, but you won’t be ready to see me for a while. But when you are we’ll clean this place up.

No, not Vegas. Vegas can’t be saved. I mean the world. We got a lotta work ahead of us.

–Liz the Angel.

Tremain called the precinct. “Listen, is that cell still empty? The one Liz was in. Look, I got some new evidence for you, and I need a place to sleep tonight. Okay, I’ll be there in twenty.”

Uncharacteristically, the desk sergeant offered up some information freely. “Oh, Detective, news from the lab. They found some,” –here the sergeant rattled off an eight syllable chemical name– “in Vincent’s blood. Not a lot, but they say it could be why he’s out cold. We’re checking the knife to see if it’s got the same chemical.”

Tremain laughed. “So our self-proclaimed angel had some help from a local chemist, huh? Thanks, sergeant. That’s good to know.”

Putting his phone back in his pocket Alan Tremain turned back to the parking lot, not looking around. But behind him, and above him, he heard someone laugh.

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