Fantasies: part 2
Let the bodies hit the floor
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The Triverse is
Mid-Earth, an alternate 1970s London
Max-Earth, a vision of the 26th century
Palinor, where magic is real
Previously: Two bodies have been found in an alley behind an exclusive, very expensive high-rise apartment complex called The Lighthouse. Detectives Kaminski and Chakraborty are investigating…
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On duty: DC Zoltan Kaminski & DC Nisha Chakraborty
It was still a surprise to Chakraborty that when a human body hit the ground at speed, it didn’t stop with a crunch but instead more of a splat. The sudden pancaking of a fleshy body didn’t fit with her understanding of physics, as it had been trained into her by countless action movies and cartoons as a child. The point was that a body didn’t simply stop upon impact but instead kept going, compressed between the hard surface and its own inertia, until the skin burst and it all went sideways.
As such, it wasn’t immediately obvious that there were two bodies in the alleyway. The mess went halfway across the ground and up one of the walls, as well as covering the side of the two huge waste bins. It was only through careful examination that the presence of two former humans became apparent: a high-heeled shoe here, the remains of a man’s suit jacket there, a mop of long hair perched on the corner of one of the bins, a still-tied tie devoid of a neck.
She heard Kaminski light up. “Cause of death,” he muttered, the cigarette between his lips, “I think might be falling from a height.” He looked at her, his eyes half closed. “What do you think, Detective Chakraborty?”
She walked around the scene, giving the splatty mess a wide berth. “Jesus, what a mess. Imagine having to be the people who clean this up.”
“That is why I do the thinking, not the mopping.” Kaminski shielded his eyes and arched his back, looking up the side of the building. “Where the hell did they come from? You think double suicide?”
“They’re dressed pretty smart for that.” She crouched down, careful not to actually touch the floor with anything but the soles of her shoes. “But, then, it takes all sorts.” She spotted something that might have been part of a brain. Or maybe an intestine. Christ. “Get the feeling we’re going to need to get them over to Dr Wong before we have much hope of identification.”
“Yeah, probably a dental records job. Unless we find some ID in the area.” He stopped looking up and blinked several times. “These two were clearly dressed up for something.”
“It’s a fancy place. How about we go in and ask around?”
Leaving the human omelette behind, they walked around to the front of the building. The filth of the alley gave way to the polished steps and glass doors of the Lighthouse, the residents of which came and went either oblivious to or not caring about what had happened a short distance away. There was no situation in which Chakraborty would ordinarily find herself going inside a place like this. One of the perks of the job: going to weird places and temporarily having more power than anyone else in the room.
“What about the koth who reported it?” she asked as they climbed the steps to the entrance.
“In the wind. Can’t see us being able to get hold of them again. Why, you think they’re connected?”
She shrugged. “Not really. A koth could have lifted two humans up high and dropped them, I suppose?”
Kaminksi thought it over and nodded. “Huh. I never thought of that.”
“You don’t think like that?” The doors opened automatically and they walked into the foyer, a grand affair with a deep red polished floor that did not hold back on declaring how much it had cost. “I’m always thinking up new ways that things could go bad. You’re not doing that all the time?”
Kaminski exhaled smoke. “I mean, not really? Bad things happen or they don’t.”
They approached the desk. “I’m always planning like five steps ahead. What could go wrong, what to do about it. What if someone walks in with a gun? What if a car drives through the front windows? What if there’s a fire and it blocks the main doors?”
He looked appalled. “Have you always been like this?”
“Yes! Maybe? I might have got worse.”
“It sounds awful. Nisha, you need to sort that out. Take up smoking or something.”
“Solution to all our problems.”
The concierge looked them up and down somewhat disdainfully, but managed a smile. “And how can I help you two today?”
Chakraborty held out her badge and introduced them both. “Unfortunately there’s been an incident out the back of your premises. We’ll need to investigate the area, and likely talk to residents and visitors.”
A tightness spread over the man’s face, his upper lip twitching as if he had just eaten something sour. “I see. You are welcome to explore the open areas of the Lighthouse, but you will need a warrant to enter any residencies without the owner’s permission. We value the privacy of our residents above all else. May I assist with your inquiries, perhaps?”
She could already sense this was going to be more trouble than it needed to be. Glancing around the foyer, she wondered whether the concierge had already pressed a concealed button to warn ahead.
Kaminski dragged a stone ashtray across the reception desk, slowly, noisily, then stubbed out his cigarette. “Here’s the thing,” he said, lighting up another. “We’re still very early days on this case. We don’t have suspects or any reason to believe that something nefarious went down. We’re just looking to talk to people. Nobody’s getting accused.”
Nodding, the concierge placed his elbows on the desk and rested his chin on his laced-together fingers, staring unblinkingly at Kaminski. “That’s lovely, detective. You are of course welcome to talk to anybody who is willing. This is a very private place, though, I’m sure you understand.”
“Oh yeah?” Kaminski grinned. He looked around the foyer in a theatrical manner, then squeaked a finger along the marble-topped desk. “How much they pay you?” He leaned in as well, so that his face was uncomfortably close to the other man’s. “I’m guessing you don’t live here?”
The concierge straightened, his lip curled up in a little snarl, and turned to Chakraborty. “If you have any pertinent questions, detectives?”
“Were you on duty last night?”
“I was not.”
“Can you get us the contact details of any staff who were?”
“I can talk to my manager about that, yes.”
“We think there may have been an accident on the rear side of the building. It’s possible that some of your residents fell from a window.”
He shook his head. “No. That is not possible.”
Kaminski tapped his cigarette on the ashtray. “Why isn’t it possible?”
“The outer windows do not open in any of the apartments. We are fully air conditioned.”
That was interesting. Chakraborty raised her eyebrows at Kaminski, who shrugged. “What about the roof?” she asked. “The penthouse got anything fancy on top?”
The concierge’s jaw clenched and unclenched. He’d revealed more than he’d intended, and he knew it. “There is a rooftop garden, yes, exclusive to the penthouse suite on the top floor.”
“Who owns it?” Kaminski glanced towards the lifts.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” the concierge wittered. “Once you have the proper permissions, we will of course fully cooperate. Until then, I cannot divulge personal details of any of our clients.”
“OK,” Chakraborty said, “well, how about we take you down to the station and you can answer some questions there.”
“Oh,” Kaminski said, pointing a finger, “but then there’d be nobody manning the desk. Shit. What a predicament.”
“Fine,” the concierge said, clearly deeply unhappy. “It’s owned by Mr Boorman. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.”
“Should I have?”
Chakraborty thought the name sounded familiar, but she couldn’t place it. Wait, no, it was coming back to her: “Is he a rich white guy?” Just a wild guess.
Kaminski clicked his fingers. “Shit, yes! I knew it. It was right there, I just couldn’t remember.”
“Patrick Boorman is one of the top five richest men in London, probably in the Kingdom,” the concierge said, looking personally affronted.
“I mean,” Kaminski said, sliding his cigarette around to the side of his mouth, “I assumed you wouldn’t let him live in the penthouse suite out of charity.”
Chakraborty was becoming impatient. “We need to talk to Mr Boorman. Can you contact him? Call his room?”
The concierge glowered. “It’s hardly ‘a room’. I really would rather not call him, it’s very early in the morning.”
Kaminski nodded. “OK, that’s fine. That’s reasonable. Detective Chakraborty and I will come back later once everyone’s had a coffee and some breakfast. Isn’t that right?” He tapped her on the shoulder and gestured back towards the foyer and the exit to the street.
She could tell already what he was up to, and followed with a wry smile on her face - hidden from the view of the concierge. They made as if for the door, then Kaminski pivoted them around and towards the row of lifts, one of which had just arrived and opened its doors. “Actually,” he said, raising his voice and pointing, “we’ll just go talk to him ourselves.”
They hopped in and Chakraborty jabbed at the highest floor button. The doors closed, but not before she got a glimpse of the concierge’s enraged face. The lift was otherwise empty. “They’re going to close ranks on us,” she said.
“Probably already have.” Kaminski sighed. “I thought this case might be a good one, but I’d forgotten how fucking annoying the super rich are.”
“Can’t be all of them.”
“Yeah, all of them.”
She smirked. Kaminski had been more like his old self of late. Droll, acerbic, cynical. Funny. Straight to the point. None of the second guessing and tip-toeing that had characterised their partnership for most of the year. Partnership. That was one way of putting it. Would they even still be talking if they didn’t also work together? It had been a bad year. Or was it two years? It was hard to keep track. Kaminski had nearly died stuck in a cargo container. Then they’d been shot at while in Addis. Then they’d both nearly died from Palinor’s insane wildlife. It was a miracle either of them were alive, let alone talking. Maybe they just needed more time. Or maybe time was the problem, and they should just get on with it. She thought back to how she’d felt when Kaminski had gone missing, and when they’d found him again on Max-Earth. What had happened to that feeling? No, wait, it was still there. She’d just been hiding it, pushing it down and out of sight. It was dangerous. Distracting. It meant commitment.
Glancing over at him, she pondered hitting the emergency stop button and jumping him right there in the lift. Probably not a good idea. But, god, they needed to sort out their shit.
There was a pleasant ding and the doors opened. She had no idea how many floors they’d gone up. They emerged into even more opulence, another hall that led off to a busy restaurant in one direction, presumably serving breakfast, and a bar in the other. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, which Chakraborty estimated had the diameter of her entire bedroom.
The bar looked good. Well stocked, though the clientèle was a little sparse at that time of day.
“This doesn’t look like a penthouse suite,” she said, examining each of the corridors and doors leading away from the central area.
“Doesn’t even look like the top floor,” Kaminski said. “Maybe we didn’t go high enough?”
“That lift doesn’t go any higher,” said a man, approaching them with the swagger of a person possessing a supremely swollen wallet. He indicated another, single lift on the opposite side. “You need to use that one.”
Chakraborty examined the man. Perhaps early thirties, immaculately dressed in sharp and clearly expensive, custom-tailored shirt and trousers, clean-shaven with hair perfectly in place and a complexion so smooth she wondered if he was wearing make-up. His jawline cut the angle of a catwalk model and his smile managed to be simultaneously welcoming and a warning. “How do you know?”
“Oh. Because I own it.” He offered his hand. “Patrick Boorman. I’ve been expecting you.”
Thank you for reading!
It’s been a while since we’ve had Chakraborty and Kaminski doing their thing. They’ve had a rough time of it, one way or another, so I enjoyed letting them have a bit of fun this week.
I had an odd thing happen. I’ve gained the same number of subscribers in the last week and a half as I did in the previous four months. Or, pre-Notes it would have taken about seven months for that kind of growth.
Madness. Thank you, again. If this is what happens when I try to be useful, I suppose I should keep at it.
Talking of notes,posted this absolutely golden list of serialisation rules:
As with all rules, feel free to break any of them. But as a starting point, this is a brilliant and very concise guide on How To Do It. S.E. knows her stuff.
Also: I received my first issue of Delayed Gratification. The inimitableput me onto this a few months back but I faffed about for a while before subscribing. Very glad I did - have only dipped into the latest issue but it’s a gorgeous thing from a design POV, and the quality of the writing so far looks promising. Slow, accurate and in-depth news analysis. Brilliant!
This was an interesting read from:
I spent a long time fiddling around with a comment to share on Anne’s post, but couldn’t quite get the words in the right order. Something about how my problem is increasingly not with AI, or even generative AI, but with the mega-corps that are pimping the tech. AI is revealing - or reminding - us of how horrible big companies are, which has nothing to do with AI and everything to do with the same old worker struggles we’ve had for centuries. Outside of the entertainment business, AI is being applied in all sorts of exciting ways:
It’s been a while since I’ve updated my thoughts on AI. Maybe I should return to it, following the Hollywood strike resolution.
Finally: have you read Nimona? Or watched the stunning Netflix adaptation? You really should do both. Anyway, if you are a Nimona fan, be sure to check out this mini follow-up sketch/sequel/thing from-
Triverse is two years old, which is a really long time for readers (and, er, me) to remember everything that’s happened. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, as previous events aren’t directly relevant to the current story. At other times, such as Chakraborty thinking back on all the weird stuff that’s happened to her and Kaminski, it only works if the reader knows what is being referenced.
Hence this bit in today’s chapter:
It had been a bad year. Or was it two years? It was hard to keep track. Kaminski had nearly died stuck in a cargo container. Then they’d been shot at while in Addis. Then they’d both nearly died from Palinor’s insane wildlife.
Figuring out the balance of those reminders is tricky. It needs to be enough to jog the memory of regular readers. But what about newer readers, who maybe haven’t read those earlier storylines? How important is it to fill people in? Those little memory jogs in that paragraph above aren’t going to be much use in that case.
Does it matter if a reader doesn’t have full context? Does it matter if someone starts watching a TV show halfway through the third season? It’s harder in streaming shows, where every episode is super plot-heavy (often to it detriment, IMO), but in older shows or those rare shows that still target 20 episodes and standalone episodic storytelling, it’s probably fine.
There’s a few different ways to do it, though. You can insert it mid-flow, like I did here. The trick there is to do it in a way that doesn’t turn into this:
You don’t want Character A telling Character B about something they both experienced. It’s weird. That’s why we get Chakraborty’s inner monologue, but we don’t have her reminiscing about those experiences directly with Kaminski, even though they’re both in the scene together. I suppose that’s an advantage that prose has over TV or film, where it’s harder to do inner thoughts without resorting to awkward voiceovers.
The other option is to do a ‘previously on’ intro. Which, of course, I also do! I always have that little intro paragraph to act as a quick reminder of what went down a week prior. You’re all busy reading and watching and doing a million things in-between my chapters, and I don’t want to presume that you’re going to prioritise Triverse in memory.
There’s another option which I don’t use but could be interesting, which is to embrace hyperlinking. In the paragraph example above, I could have linked each of those events to the actual original storylines. That way newer readers could hop over to check them out, and regular readers could remind themselves. It’d be a new way to navigate around the series. I don’t do this, mainly because it feels like something that would be quite distracting, but I still find it an intriguing possibility. I suppose I could link to key storylines/chapters in the intro paragraph, rather than interrupting the main text?
Right, see you next week.
Thanks, and have good weekends!
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