Excerpt: Death & the Detective


July 1, Friday 7:30 am

After his morning jog, Miles took a shower at his townhouse and sat on the porch with his coffee. He was looking forward to the daily bicycle ride of the women on the white bike.

Sure enough, at 7:30 on the dot, she came peddling down his road.

That’s when he recognized her. The woman from the hospital! Of course. That’s where he had seen her before. She was his Lady of the Bicycle. Emboldened by his discovery, he decided to call out to her this morning. When she was in hearing range, he leaned forward.

“Hi there!”

“Hi!” she shouted back.

She had acknowledged his existence. He felt elated. This was already going much better than he had imagined.

By then she was zooming past him. Still, he felt happy. The conversation had not been a total disaster. Whistling to himself, he returned inside and settled down at his desk to get to work on the Herle case.

Eva White handed him another letter from Alephander Guiscard. The Magician had sent a new, identical invitation, without fail every morning. Magician wanted him to hook up with someone to take a job.

Finally, Miles wrote a reply. 

To Whom It May Concern,

I’d be happy to discuss doing a job for you, Mr Guiscard, if you leave my love life out of it.

Miles Malone

Miles left the letter on top of the mailbox, but it disappeared before the mail man arrived. He looked everywhere for it, assuming it dropped, he even asked Eva if she took it, but she said no, and also confirmed that the mail man hadn’t come by yet. 

Aggravated, Miles Malone picked up his phone. He called the Sheriff’s office. Cody Lawson answered.

“Hello, Sheriff,” Miles said, “I’d like to report a stalker. Someone is sending me letters in such great numbers that I think it constitutes harassment. Can I get an injunction against this person?”

“Who is this?” demanded Sheriff Cody Lawson. “Miles Malone? Is this who I’m speaking with?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“Did the letters contain any threats?”

“No, just a demand to take a job and find a date.”

Sheriff Cody’s voice became extremely dry. “Are the letters from your mother, Miles?”

“No, they are from Alephander Guiscard.”

“The Magician? The internationally famous billionaire celebrity is harassing you? The Magician who owns that big, honking castle on the hill? The Magician who has an army of personal secretaries, a legion of lawyers, and all the employees he needs to do whatever he wants already, so why would he need to offer a job to a nobody like you? That Magician?”

“That’s what he calls himself. It’s not my fault if he’s a pretentious prick.”

The phone clicked.

Miles laughed to himself and got back to work. If Cody was the one who had informed the Magician about the Dumpster Incident, maybe Cody would also pass on Mile’s message to leave him alone.

* * *

July 1, Friday 16:37 pm

A crack of glass made him snap his head to the door. A moment later five goons in black ninja outfits jumped through the broken French doors and attacked him. They were swathed from head to toe in black cloth, with only their eyes showing. And there was something strange about their eyes: they were huge and extremely bright, as bright as jewels under a hot spotlight.

Five-on-one weren’t good odds, but Miles shoved his desk over and leapt behind it, drawing his gun. He shot one of the ninjas in the shoulder, and that one went down, but the others leapt around like acrobats. Nimble as he was, Miles had nothing on these clowns. He did manage to grab the scarf covering the face of one of his assailants. He had a brief vision of snow blue hair, sapphire eyes, tilted eyebrows, and pointy tipped ears.

In movies, enemy ninjas always attacked one after another, giving the hero a chance to beat them up one at a time. Not these ninjas. They were too smart for that, the bastards. They attacked him all at once.

Two of the goons grabbed him by either arm, a third punched him a few times and the one whose face he had uncovered lifted a gun and pointed it at Miles’ temple.

Miles was about to say something really witty (“What kind of shoes do ninjas wear? Sneakers?”), in the hopes that his captors would banter back, and he could buy at least a few more moments of life. Unfortunately, these didn’t seem to be the sort of goons that engaged in helpful dithering. 

The pointy-eared man shot Miles in the head.

* * *

July 1, Friday 16: 55 pm

That evening on the way home, Mercy thought about the man who had said hello to her in the morning. She wondered if he would still be on his porch. Something about him had perked her curiosity, although she couldn’t put her finger on what. It wasn’t like her to be intrigued by a random human.

As she passed his home, she heard something. Her ear feathers—her auricle feathers—were extremely sensitive to certain sounds. Sounds that were in the physical mundane realm, and yet not necessarily within human hearing, could be augmented by her magical ears if it reverberated with the psychic energy of someone near death. Her Valkyrie auricle feathers transmitted those sounds to her because, as a reaper, she needed to hear them. Traditionally, this was how a Valkyrie located the warrior she was meant to reap on the battlefield. Even in the midst of hundreds of groaning dying warriors, she could home in on the death agony of a single man.

She was hearing the death agony of one man now. She could hear the gargle in his throat, the death rattle of his last breath. Mercy peddled faster and was horrified when her auricle feathers led her to the very townhouse of the man who had waved at her in the morning.

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