Archive for June, 2012

Toby eased the door shut behind him, keeping the knob turned. Once it was closed, only then did he let up and allow the striker to slip home.

Nothing stirred within the apartment; nobody had responded to his key in the door, nor answered his soft greeting. That was understandable; it was, after all, getting pretty late. It would’ve been nice if John was still up, and it wouldn’t have been all that late for him to be, but it wasn’t all that surprising.

Somewhat more so was that he’d pulled out the sofabed in the living room and gone to sleep there. Surprising, and probably not a good sign; guests aside, they mostly used that bed if one of them wasn’t feeling well. That hadn’t been the case when Toby went to work, but a lot could change in ten hours.

The fact that he hadn’t called Toby at work suggested it wasn’t too dire, at least.


As chance meetings went, this one had turned out pretty good.

Jenny had been walking down Denton Street, keeping an eye out for one of the many lonely men in the city with more money than charm who might be in need of some company, and trying to keep out of the wind and rain without sacrificing that, when she’d met him. Tall, fit, good-looking, nice smile – not her usual sort of client; she’d smiled back, waved, said hello, and started to go on her way.

“Rough night to be out,” he’d said. “Want to duck inside for a coffee or something? My treat.”

She’d been surprised; she’d laughed. “You know, hon, if you’re looking for company you don’t need to go through all that fancy stuff.”

“Oh, I know,” he’d said, and smiled even wider. “That’s not what I’m after. Call it professional courtesy. I won’t keep you long.”


For some time – maybe seconds, maybe minutes – Ash just stared at the blank surface of the door in front of him, his heart hammering in his chest. The view offered him neither answers nor reassurance.

He took a breath and tried to remind himself that he’d been invited here. It wouldn’t be an imposition to announce that he was here, even if he had got to this spot a bit early. It might be something of one if he let himself be late.

Another breath, and he glanced at his chrono. Despite the eternity that he felt like he’d been standing here, he was still a few minutes early – he hadn’t frittered away that much time, at least. Best to get moving on this before he did.

Which would be so much easier if not for the contents of the little bag dangling from his tail, and just what his would-be host had said about this visit that prompted that package… but if he went down that mental road, he’d probably freak out and bolt.

Instead, he stretched up on his toes to reach the door chime.


It can’t be done, they’d all said.

Why not? Jofrey had asked.

But then, that could describe much of the young man’s life to date. He’d always chafed under rules and restrictions, the more so when nobody could give him a good answer why those rules existed in the first place. Some of them made perfect sense, at least once he was old enough to see other people as people and not mobile scenery. He wouldn’t want his possessions taken from him, so he shouldn’t take things that belonged to others. Fine.

But why couldn’t he walk through the orchard instead of around it? Why was this treat only made around Midsummer when the ingredients were always at hand? Why did he need to approach dray lizards always from the left? Why was it so important to use this fork for the main course and that one for dessert?


He sat apart from the crowd, nursing his drink, but he watched them. In the cut and colour of clothing, in the flow of the crowd, in the movement of individual bodies, in every gesture, his keen gold eyes looked for patterns even as they saw beauty. In each footstep, each heavy beat of the music, his ears detected a rhythm that his heart found itself following. He never focused on any one person for long, but he watched almost always, only rarely turning his attention to the bartender for a refill and that for as little time as he could manage.

He couldn’t sustain that sort of scrutiny forever, especially not as the drink and the beat collided in some corner of his mind and started to dull his senses; and as his picture of the crowd came to be dominated by motion over form, he lost himself in the flow, his sight losing focus as his thoughts turned inward.


The lights were off. Aside from the moon and stars outside the window, only a digital clock gave any form to the darkness.

It was enough for Jekkrand Tramessor to see the figure on the couch, Authority blacks broken by the white shirt under his open tunic collar. The wolverine’s night-eyes weren’t the best – not like some on his force, who could read a book in a room like this, and that wasn’t even considering people with augments – but he didn’t need to see well to know something was gnawing at the panther. Nobody ever sat so still, in a slouch like that, whose mind was at rest.

The ragged sound of his breaths was almost reassuring. It at least told Jekkrand that the man was alive and conscious.


It was just a trick of the light. It had to be.

Eric couldn’t really have seen himself, wearing fine clothes and fancy jewellery, in the crowd coming out of the subway station. He hadn’t worn his good suit and months, and he didn’t even have that much jewellery, couldn’t possibly afford it.

It must have just been a reflection of his face happening to match with someone better-dressed. Right?