Immortality: Part 1
Who wants to live forever?
The Triverse is
Mid-Earth, an alternate 1970s London
Max-Earth, a vision of the 26th century
Palinor, where magic is real
Previously: Detective Nisha Chakraborty has been struggling since being injured by a poisonous creature called a ‘dopur’. The SDC, meanwhile, continues to investigate portal-related criminal activity, from their new base in the Joint Council tower in London…
On duty: DC Nisha Chakraborty & DC Zoltan Kaminski
A hangover, technically, is what happens after you stop drinking. That’s what Nisha was counting on, at least. She returned the flask to the drawer of her desk and leaned back in her chair. It was fine - she wasn’t drunk, but it helped take the edge off those frayed nerve endings. There were medicinal herbs which would be far more effective as painkillers but they were illegal in England, which therefore brought her back to the bottle. The bright white décor of the Joint Council tower didn’t help.
She’d read in a magazine about treatments on Max-Earth for similar issues, but she couldn’t afford the ticket. If it wasn’t part of a case, there was no way she was transiting through any portals any time soon. The only dimension for her was the one she was already in, complete with crumbling healthcare, half-arsed technological advances and a slow motion socio-political train crash. It was easier to see Styles’ point about feeling trapped. She’d had a term for it: wrong world citizens, or something. Perhaps the dopur had infected Nisha’s mind as well as her body.
“Here you go,” Robin said, dropping a folder onto her desk. She spiralled a finger near her temple. “It’s a weird one.”
“Thanks,” Nisha said, flipping open the brown folder and spreading the papers across the desk. Photograph and background details on a murder suspect, by the name of Stan Lazarus. She blinked and put her finger on the line, re-reading it. “Stan Lazarus?”
Robin glanced over her shoulder, already on her way back to her own desk across the shiny office. “Told you it was weird.” She passed Kaminski, who was coming the other way with a mug in each hand.
“New case. Got a suspect, already in custody.”
“Sounds easy. Why have we got it?”
“The Met passed it over. Portals.”
“Portals. What this time?”
“Supposedly a murder case, but I’m not understanding the case outline.” She stood and pulled her coat from the back of the chair. “Let’s head down to the station and have a word with this guy.”
Kaminski looked at the teas sadly. “We’ll be back for you,” he said, placing them on Chakraborty’s desk. “Who’s the perp?”
The cells at Scotland Yard weren’t used often, being the only part of the building to have not been significantly renovated over the decades. It was used for non-sensitive, low-risk suspects, in the event of other local jails being at capacity.
“Hello, detectives,” said Stan Lazarus, waving his arms excitedly as they approach the bars. “You are detectives, yes? I’m so glad you’re here to tidy up this very silly mess. Welcome to my little room here at Scotland Yard. I’ve stayed in worse hotels!”
Kaminski glanced at Chakraborty. Her eyebrows were a little more arched than usual, but otherwise she remained straight-faced. He shuffled a cigarette out of its packet, took his time lighting it, took a drag. “Detective Kaminski,” he said, then angled his head towards Chakraborty. “Detective Chakraborty. You’re Mr Lazarus?”
“Stan Lazarus, yes, at your service. I do hope you’ll be able to get me out of here.”
“You know it’s not our job to ‘get you out of here’, right?” Kaminski stood before the cell bars. “We’re investigating a very serious accusation against you.”
Lazarus spread his arms wide. “Please. Do I really look like the sort that could murder someone? Such an ugly word.”
Pulling out her notebook, Chakraborty flicked to a recent page. “The victim was found this morning. Their daughter is the one accusing you of being responsible for their death. Do you know who I’m talking about?”
“Of course! Penelope Goddard. Annoying offspring of Arthur Goddard. And, yes, Arthur was a client of mine, many years back. I haven’t seen him for at least five years and had nothing to do with his death.” Lazarus sniffed and crossed his arms. “To be honest, I’d have thought Penelope would be pleased. She always hated the old man. Other than when she was borrowing money from him.”
Kaminski breathed smoke through the bars. “The file said you’re a travel agent?”
“Well, that’s a tawdry way to put it, and doesn’t nearly capture the grandeur, but it’s mostly accurate, yes.”
“Holidays?” Kaminski felt like he could do with a holiday. Chakraborty looked like she needed one.
“A little more complicated than that, but yes. Luxury excursions. To the far reaches of the triverse.”
Chakraborty made a disgruntled noise in her throat. “That sounds expensive.”
“I don’t deal with the riff-raff, if that’s what you mean.”
There was a noise at the far end of the corridor and a guard entered, holding a scrap of paper. He approached Kaminski and leaned close. “Just heard from the coroner,” he said quietly. “Goddard died of natural causes. Was just old.”
Kaminski nodded, then looked at Chakraborty and sighed. “OK, Mr Lazarus, coroner says there’s no foul play, so we’ll let you go. Might take an hour-or-so to process your papers, but we’ll get that in motion.”
“Don’t leave town, though,” Chakraborty said, pointing her pen. “We might have follow-up questions.”
The underground train did not smell good. While it was still a cool spring day up top, down in the tunnels it was a stifling, humid press of warm flesh. Chakraborty bumped next to Kaminski as the train rolled along the rails. Her mind was elsewhere, wondering why she was trundling along in such a nothing job. Moving to the fancy tower had somehow made everything less meaningful, like they were just cogs in a much larger machine. There was nobody left who knew what the machine was for. Maybe it was just the side effects of the dopur recovery making her feel weak again.
She needed Bakker to call another meeting of their little cabal. They hadn’t had much time to gather since the move. It had been too busy, and too dangerous. Too many eyes. But it would give her some real purpose again, and that’s what she needed. She thought of the drawer in her desk.
“Should have asked him about his stupid name,” Kaminski said.
They returned to the tower, scanned their badges on the way through the foyer, and took the lift down to the basement. Kaminski liked to think of it as their secret underground lair. Only it wasn’t secret, and was in fact far more high profile than they needed.
Robin jumped up as they entered the office. “You’re back!” she said, needlessly.
“Some of our detective skills rubbing off on you, Robin?” Kaminski said.
“Ha. No. My message must have just missed you at the Yard.”
“Just had more accusations made against Mr Stan Lazarus, from four new people.”
Chakraborty had headed straight for her desk. “Not murder again?”
“Not this time! They’re all claiming fraud. One of the call transcripts, and I quote, mentions ‘impending manslaughter’, which is a new one for me. Seems like they’ve all decided to do this as a group, at the same time.”
Kaminski scratched his forehead. “What’s this guy done to piss off so many people? What’s the actual fraud charge against him?”
“You’re going to like this,” Robin said, grinning gleefully. “They claim he did not deliver on advertised services, despite them paying up front and in good faith.”
“Yeah,” Kaminski said, waving his hand in a circle, “I can tell you’re drawing this one out. Come on, Robin, don’t keep us in suspense. What was it they all apparently paid Stan Lazarus to do?”
Robin’s smile stretched a little wider and she raised one hand dramatically above her head. “Nothing more than grant them immortality.”
Thanks for reading!
Always fun to start a new storyline. This is a fun one (mostly), and is probably going to be the last light-hearted instalment for a while.
This week I spent a lot of time working on the next year of Triverse, figuring out exactly where it’s headed and how we’re going to get there. I’ve always had a good sense of the story’s overall destination (I don’t like to write blind), but now that we’re getting into the back half of the project it’s time to bring it all into focus. There’s a lot of very exciting twists and turns on the way!
Stan Lazarus. What a name. Probably not his real name, to be fair. Why ‘Stan’? Primarily because I’ve recently replayed The Secret of Monkey Island and Le Chuck’s Revenge, so the used boat/coffin salesman Stan was in my brain. Fans of those games will note that Stan in today’s chapter has certain mannerisms that are similar - not least a penchant for waving his arms about.
It feels like a long time since we’ve had a proper Chakraborty & Kaminski storyline. They were knocked out of the picture for a while due to the dopur incident, and it’s good to have them back. They’re not good for each other, indulging each other’s cynicism, but what can you do? Hopefully someone will throw them a rope at some point.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a big folder of episode ideas. This exists separately to the overall Triverse plot. It’s not a method I’ve used before, as my previous books have been more traditional in their plotting. Triverse, though, borrows from episodic crime dramas, and everything is filtered through the individual storylines.
It means that I can pick out any of the episode ideas and slot them in whenever I want. They’re essentially standalone, so can fit in and around the overarching plot. The character development remains consistent, but each individual ‘case’ can exist on its own. I don’t know how much this works in practice for readers, and whether there are people who drop in for occasional storylines rather than reading the whole thing in sequence. It’s a useful way to write, though, and means I always have an idea to pull out of the folder. The specific episode idea then interfaces with what’s happening in the main plot, and off we go.
Right, have lovely weekends and I’ll see you next week. Thanks for all the support.
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Nice little detective yarn. Can't wait to see what old Stan is up to and they just let him go! Whoops. 🧐
What fun. Just discovered you. Will be reading more!