Sorry for my suckage, or GBatB preview #2

July 29, 2008 at 2:00 pm (Jason Dane) ()

In order to make up for how utterly sucky the last few weeks have been, here’s the second half of the first chapter of The Good, the Bad, and the Blond.

Upper middle class families apparently lacked imagination because every house in the subdivision I could see was cookie-cutter similar. Lawns, and a few small bushes, were carefully tended with an eye for detail that told me none of the people inside the houses did the tending. Remarkably, to me, at least, even the cars were alike. While none of them were Ferraris or anything, all of them were the top of the line in whatever line they happened to be. If it hadn’t been for the police presence outside door three sixty-two, and the media presence kept at bay beyond that, it would have been a screamingly normal day in the neighborhood.
God, did I just make a Mr. Rogers reference? No cookie for me.
Stomping along behind me as I swaggered my way up the drive, Mason was breathing like a jet plane engine. Deep, calming breaths, I’m sure. An idea occurred me to as I bounced up the three steps leading to the front door. An idea so devious and delicious I couldn’t not do it.
Once I had the door open, I stood just inside and turned around to face Mason.
Smiling with the full force of my flawless teeth, I said, “Ah ah ah, Mason, must be thinner than door frame to ride.”
His face turned a shade of mauve I didn’t know was possible to produce in nature. When he spoke, his voice was very loud for someone hissing between clenched teeth.
“If you think I’m gonna let you in there—”
“Let me, Mason?” I couldn’t arch my brow in that suave, easily-put-you-in-your-place way, so I had to raise both eyebrows at him. “If you’ll recall, our lovely Chief of Police has declared that I get anything I want while I’m working on this case. And right now, I want nothing so much in this world than for you to be on the outside for once.”
I canted my head and held up my hand to do one of those little waves where you just bend your fingers at the knuckle. “Buh-bye, now.”
It was with great satisfaction that I swung the door closed in his face. Mason’s voice was clearly audible as he bellowed for someone to get him the chief on the radio.
My bright smile hadn’t dimmed at all when I turned to survey the room. Immediately inside the doorway was a ceiling-high shelf of books. I suspected they were never read because there wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere on them. No self-respecting bibliophile that I knew of would allow any kind of cleaning solution on their precious tomes. A step closer revealed the titles, they were old classics mostly, and then I knew they were never read.
Just beyond the bookshelf was a short step and then I was in the living room proper. Everything in the room seemed to say new money to me, but I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t like I would know. The couch was large, made of cushy brown leather, and very obviously expensive. An obscenely large TV sat opposite it, and I noticed with no small amount of envy that the screen was made of crystal for scrynet interface.
How the hell did people afford this stuff?
Sitting in front of the TV was a wire-and-glass coffee table. It looked old and beat up, so you knew it cost a pretty penny. The floor was hardwood, which I will never understand in a living room. Then it occurred to me that maybe it had cost more than carpet, but I had no idea of the cost of either. If I remembered I’d scry it later.
Maybe it’s just my morbid sense of humor, but I always find it immensely ironic when the victim’s body is in the living room. She was sprawled in the space between the coffee table and the big leather couch, but both pieces of furniture had been pulled out to get a better look. A ceramic bowl, chipped from the fall, lay just out of her reach. Popcorn was scattered all over, alerting me to the bowl’s contents.
As I approached, I noticed she was pretty. In a plastic, bleach-blond kind of way, but still. Her nose was fake and her hair was showing dark roots. I had instantly spotted the plastic surgery on her nose. It wasn’t hard; her aura didn’t flow through the artificial body part. Even though I wasn’t using my second sight to see her aura right now, the nose still gave off a sense of wrongness to me. She wasn’t supermodel thin, but she was skinny while still having the healthy amount of body fat. She was casually dressed in jeans and a pink t-shirt. I hadn’t noticed any shoes by the door, but she was barefoot.
At first glance you could almost believe she was lying on the floor because she chose to, because she was sleeping. There were no obvious wounds, and no blood that I could see.
Crouching over the body was probably the only person on the BPD who had been sad to see me go.
Jessica Parker was the PDS’s resident go-to gal. Though she was mundane herself, she knew more about magic than some mystics I knew. Most gals on the force tried to down play their beauty, but Jess didn’t bother. Her rich dark hair was curled to perfection, even drawn back into a ponytail. She was wearing some of those black-framed glasses with square lenses, and they perfectly offset her brows. Perhaps most shocking of all, though, was her fondness for make-up. There was nothing outrageous, just a light dusting of pale silver over her eyelids, and some lipstick just red enough to be pretty without looking artificial. Even that was more than you would see on the average girl-cop. Jess didn’t have the stunningly shaped features I did, but she sure knew how to work what she had.
“Hey, Jason,” she carelessly tossed up to me as she tapped the crystal on her camera.
“Hiya, Jess.” I squatted down next to her. “Whatcha got?”
“She hasn’t been dead for very long, thirty-six hours at the most.” Jess shuffled a bit to the side and aimed her camera again. The crystal set into the front glowed for a second, but unlike mundane cameras there was no annoying flash.
“Auric degrade?” I asked.
“One and a half,” she said.
She gestured with her head toward the body. “See for yourself.”
Rummaging around in my bag of tricks, I pulled out the instrument that would allow me to do exactly that. I guess the technical name for it was spectral illuminator, but I just called it my seeing stick. It looked kind of like a mini Maglight, except it was made of wood and the end was crystal instead of glass. My seeing stick was one of the more useful tools in my possession. Essentially, it was just a wand specialized for seeing the otherworldly.
Letting out my breath, I reached deep inside myself to touch the core of my being. In the most secret parts of my soul I found the shimmering ball of my power. I unwound a thin ribbon of the palest blue—the color of the second sight—and sent it through the handle and into the crystal of my seeing stick. The crystal lit up with the same blue of my power. I drew in a breath. All of this had happened in the infinitesimal space between exhale and inhale.
With my seeing stick illuminated even mundanes, such as Jess, could see the signs of magic that the beam fell on, but it was even clearer in my vision. If I had really wanted to, I could have accessed the second sight all on my own without any visual aids. But this was easier. I swung the beam slowly up and down the victim’s body, trying discern the separate bands of her aura.
Each human being has seven major energy centers on the body, which the Hindis call chakras. They generate all the power that keeps the body running, and then feed this power to the thousands of smaller chakras responsible for day-to-day operation. The seven main chakras were the top of the head (the crown), the forehead (third eye), the throat, the heart, the solar plexus, the sexual organs, and the base of the spine (the root). The four levels of the aura were split among these seven, two each, except for the crown. It got one band all to itself. Considering the crown runs the brain, I doubt the other chakras begrudge it this indulgence.
Some mystics didn’t like terms like aura and chakra because they felt they were trite and new age. I used them because they were simple, one-word descriptors of pretty complicated concepts. Why be a snob when it makes life harder on yourself?
Jess’s statement had been accurate; this girl hadn’t been dead for long. Chakras stop producing energy immediately after death, but there’s still some stored up. Only the fourth band of the aura was left completely intact, though it had lost its color and was a cloudy white. Over top of it was the misty remains of the third band, flickering on and off.
Quantitative measurements such as “half” weren’t very precise when it came to measuring auras, but it was the best we could do. There really wasn’t a better way to describe it.
Standing up, I shone my light over the rest of the room. “Any indication of what killed her?”
Jess shook her head. “Nope. There are no wounds on her, no visible signs of any poison, and no weapons in the house outside of kitchenware.”
I sighed. “So, we’ll have to wait ‘til she gets back to the lab to learn anything else.”
“Pretty much,” Jess said. She stood up, bending backwards a bit before straightening. “If she was killed by magic, only a thorough chakra scan will reveal that this long after death.”
Besides the various everyday items that came with magic, my seeing stick wasn’t picking up anything. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
“Damn,” I said, “I’d hoped to have something better to tell her parents.”
“Yeah,” Jess said, “I can’t even imagine what this kind of thing must feel like to the parents. Oh, you never asked what her name is. You always do. Her wallet said Christine Daniels.”
Most people try not to think of a body as a person during an investigation. They think of the body as an “it.” They treat it like it’s a thing, not a person. I understood that most people did it so they didn’t lose their lunches, but it just never sat well with me. The victim had been a living, breathing person once with friends, family, and a whole life. I’d always made it a point to learn their names, not just for records, or for the investigation, but because the body had been a person once.
Turning around to face her, I said, “I know who she is.”
“You know her?” Jess’s eyebrows rose.
Sighing, I replied, “I knew her as Chrissy. She’s the oldest daughter of Senator Jackson Daniels. Her brother was my best friend in college.”
“Senator Daniels,” Jess’s eyes were wide as she met mine. “The Unifier, Senator Daniels?”
I nodded.
Shit,” she whispered intensely.
“Shit,” I agreed.


  1. Zappaz said,

    *pets* Don’t worry about the past couple weeks. We all know that life happens.

    However, I’m not complaining about this further preview! Loved it, of course. Jason is great. ^_^

  2. jekloneo said,

    Chakras… Interesting. You’re into the occult and stuff, aren’t you?

    Oh, of course Jason’s great.

  3. Yahrlan said,

    Chakras aren’t so much occult as Hindi, I think, jekloneo… don’t quote me on that, though…
    And writing about magic and such in a street fantasy kind of genre usually works better if you take existing religions/myths/etc. and add more smoke and mirrors lol.

  4. jekloneo said,

    Well, it’s an interesting mix of religions/myths. Chakras are Hindi, Pentacle/Pentagram are probably Wiccan/Pagan… Plus all the succubae…

  5. jekloneo said,

    Pentacles/pentagrams are probably Wiccan/Pagan.

  6. Seth Gray said,

    Magic as presented in Jason’s universe is an entirely different animal than magic as presented in, say, the Mossberg brothers’ universe. For one thing, it’s a fact of life in Jason’s world, while in Devil Cares it’s still fantasy to the general public. That fact alone would change magic’s workings in the projects, even if I–creatively–wasn’t approaching it from two entirely different angles.

    Chakra comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “wheel” or “circle.” The belief was that the energy our body makes literally circulates through our body, and was believed to be as real as blood or oxygen. It’s a similar belief to the Chinese Qi (or chi, if you must). The concept of an aura is pretty much entirely new age, yes, but they base it on the ancient belief in chakras.

    Most pagan traditions claim to be the same ancient religions as practiced in ancient times. There’s very little scientific evidence for this, and at best they are reconstructions. It doesn’t make them any less valid as a religious path; with all religions the history has been “supplemented” with faith.

    Though I have taken many religious concepts into my view of magic, that’s not to say that magic is itself a faith-based system. In Jason’s universe, anyway, magic is a lot like science. What god–if any–you paste in front of it has precious little to do with how well it works.

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