For Pride month, enjoy a snippet of my WIP

Yes, it’s a new Infected story, and this snippet is unedit, so you get what you get.

He left the car with Dyl, as the hotel wasn’t too far from Capitol Hill, where he and Dropkick had scheduled to meet. On the walk over, he was a little amazed – and saddened – by how much gentrification had carved away at the gayborhood. There were still bits of it here and there, and certainly there were still rainbow flags hanging from apartments, but a lot of the bars and other hang outs were gone. How could they have closed the Eagle? It was as old as he was. Damn, another thing he outlived.

But there were tiny bits of weird Seattle left, such as the place Dropkick wanted to meet. Amy’s Free Range Tea Shop sounded exactly like twee bullshit gentrification, but it was actually an all vegan coffee shop run by a throuple of middle aged women, and as soon as he heard that back story, he knew it could only exist on Capitol Hill, in spite of everything. And cops wouldn’t be caught dead there, which is why Dropkick wanted to meet him there. No chance anyone from the cop shop would see them.

The shop was very small, and if wasn’t for the sign on the sidewalk advertising today’s special – Tamarin’s exotic tea blend – he might have walked past it entirely. Inside, it smelled predominately like peanut butter cookies and coffee – and a million other things, but he was trying not to fall into a scent coma today – and it had few tables, all of which were round and only had two mismatched chairs apiece. He took one farthest from the window, and looked at the bulletin board it had on the wall. Lots of flyers for local things – at least that was still happening – and some notices, for roommates to lost pets. Also, someone was trying to sell an electronic keyboard. In this tiny corner, it felt like the old neighborhood for a moment.

He ordered a dairy free green tea latte, as the shop was a dairy free zone – along with anything that involved an animal at any point – but that was okay, as he was violently lactose intolerant now. He had pills he could take so he didn’t have to say goodbye to ice cream or an occasional pizza, but that was about it. And he didn’t miss it in his green tea latte – yes, he could taste the oat milk in it, but it wasn’t terrible. It probably wasn’t even noticeable to people with ordinary taste buds. Also he got some of the gluten free peanut butter cookies, because they smelled delicious, and they were. He was pretty sure it was just cooked peanut butter with a pinch of sugar and some stabilizer, but he didn’t care. They were still warm and delicious.

He was still working on his first cookie when Dropkick arrived, looking put together as always in a dark suit and pale blue blouse, her badge probably hidden in her coat. The only anomaly was a dark messenger bag slung over her arm. She could almost pass as a hard charging business woman if you didn’t notice how her stare could eat up a zone in a second, or the slight bulge of a shoulder holster. She had a new haircut, shorter, stylish, and her hair was a new kind of black. He waited for her to have a seat before he asked, “You’re coloring your hair now?”

She tilted her head and frowned. “How did I know you were gonna mention that? That or the cat. It’s going gray. And I don’t need any more old crone jokes than I already get.”

“Do I need to kick someone’s ass?”

“Fuck you. I kick my own asses, thank you.”

“Nice color. Think if I used it I’d look any more normal?”

She stole one of his cookies, which was fine, as he intended to share them anyway. Who didn’t like a fresh cookie? She snorted briefly before having a bite. “You know that’s just an invitation for a joke, right?”

“Yeah. It’s been a while, I figured it was only polite if I gave you an easy lay up.”

“I don’t need your charity.” She glanced at the cookie, and looked mildly surprised as she put it down on a napkin. “That’s good.”

“What, you’re telling me you never had the cookies?”

“I never know what I’m going to get with gluten free. Sometimes it’s okay, and sometimes it’s terrible.”

“I get it, but Dylan’s kinda turned me around on that. He even introduced me to gluten free bread that wasn’t bad. It’s no substitute for carbs, but hey, what is?” After a brief pause, he asked, “How did we get so fucking old?”

She sighed, nodding in agreement, when her coffee was announced. It was half-caff, which Roan assumed was another compromise due to aging. It was better than the alternative, but some days not by much.

Once she returned, she put the messenger bag on the table, and opened it. “So I can take as written tell no one, you didn’t see this, yada yada yada.”

He nodded. “I’m aware of the drill.”

She took out a couple of manila envelopes, and slid him over the first one. “Okay, this is one of two cases I’d like your input on. First up is the homicide of one Jack Khachaturyan on April 14th. He lived in an apartment on Clay and 2nd. No family, no friends we could track down, worked at a call center. He was killed by a single blow of a hammer to the head, one that was owned by the victim.”

“Ouch.” Roan opened the file, braced for anything, but she was kind enough not to have victim photos at the front.

“There was no obvious signs of forced entry, but the locks at his place were pretty shit, and anyone who knew that could have gotten in very easily. Twenty minutes or so earlier, a bike was stolen at Occidental South and South Lander, by a seventeen year old named Brady Youngblood. For whatever reason, just about everyone wants to pin the Khachaturyan murder on him.”

“What? There’s no fucking way he got from Lander to Clay in under twenty minutes. Unless he was Quicksilver or something. Why do they want to pin it on him?”

“Because someone slightly higher up the chain decided he was our best suspect because he committed another crime that night, and the the Khachaturyan crime scene gave us nothing but the hammer, which was wiped clean of prints.”

Roan wished he hadn’t heard of something this dumb and cruel before, but he used to be a cop, so yes, he had. “Let me guess – Youngblood black?”

“Close. Native American.”

He sighed, as that was his second guess. Third would have been Hispanic. “Okay, well, this is bullshit up and down the line. Also let me guess – they want to charge him as an adult?”

She gave him the most depressed finger gun he had ever seen. “I’m getting pressure to either go along with this or cough up another plausible suspect, and I can’t do either. This is where I was hoping you could help me … and I just got your X-Men reference.” She shook her head and frowned. “How do I ever forget you are such a giant nerd?”

“Personally I’m impressed you clocked it.” Roan looked through the file, glad the crime scene photos weren’t too bad. It was a quick kill, pretty clean if you overlooked the half caved in skull. But one blow, huh? Either it was lucky, or the person in question was very strong. Or, perhaps not. The thing about head injuries was they were always a gamble. You could get shot in the head and live, maybe even suffer few ill effects. But you could slip in the shower, hit your head on the tiles, and die. The brain was either extremely resilient or super fragile, and there was no in-between. And he should know, as he was starting to feel like the aneurysm king. “So what motive did they assign to why Youngblood could have done it?”

“A half-assed one. They said he got into the apartment to steal something, was surprised by Khachaturyan, and in a panic grabbed the hammer and hit him. Then fled without taking anything.”

Roan grunted, a small, derisive laugh. “Yeah, makes sense. Surely a kid who’s into petty theft would become a hammer murderer next. That’s a natural progression.”

She sighed heavily. “This is all so fucked up. I’d quit if I didn’t know they’d railroad this kid as soon as I’m gone. We used to actually investigate shit, not just hurry to close a case because it was politically convenient.”

“It’s cheaper to railroad.” Or at least that’s what the higher ups generally believed. Whether it was true or not seemed irrelevant. They just wanted to close a case. Closing a case correctly was a totally different story. “I assume the crime scene is off limits.”

“Yeah. The landlord couldn’t wait to have cleaners come in, and flip the apartment for almost a cool thousand more. Seattle housing is such a fucking joke right now.” She paused, squinting at him. “Why do you keep scratching your forearm?”

Roan had been unaware he was. “Oh, new tattoo.” He held up his left arm and pulled back his sleeve to reveal the tiny, brutalist sans serif message that was his new ink – This Machine Does Not Know The Difference Between Metal and Flesh, Nor Does It Care.

She leaned forward briefly to squint at it, and sat back with a scowl. “Dude, what the hell?”

“It was a warning message on a piece of industrial equipment, and honestly, it reminded me of me.”

“I thought you were getting sexy mothman.”

“That was last month. It’s on my leg. I can show it to you later.”

“No thanks. I’ll settle for a photo of it.”

“You got it.” Roan considered what he could do. It wasn’t as hopeless as it first seemed. “Okay, and I know what a huge ask this is. but if I could get access to clothing from the victim, and something of Youngblood’s, and then got access to the murder weapon, I will be able to tell you if Youngblood ever touched it. I would happily come to court and say it in front of a judge or jury.”

Dropkick sighed heavily. “If you’re willing to come by the cop shop with me on the late shift, I got enough favors that I can probably make all of that happen. Except for the court thing. But do you really think you can get a scent on the murder weapon?”

Roan stared at her across the table. “Do we really need to do this? I can tell you what everyone in here had for breakfast this morning. My synesthesia has kicked my senses into overdrive. It is so easy for me to vapor lock now it’s crazy.” For instance, he could tell her her aura was a pale lavender, shot through with tendrils of red and gold, for anger and anxiety, respectively. But that sounded a bit new age woo woo, when Roan was fairly certain this was a fucked up reading of ambient emotions, translated into colors due to his current condition.

“I thought I smelled peppermint.”

“It doesn’t even help that much. It has like, three good minutes, and then I’m in the scent soup again.”

She sipped her coffee, which had cooled to only mildly scorching, and seemed to think about something for a moment. “So are you like Daredevil now?”

That made him smirk. “And you called me a nerd.”

“It’s not that nerdy anymore, it was a series on Netflix. And hey, he was a redhead too. So many similarities.”

“I have never fought a ninja in my life.”

“That you know of.”

Roan shrugged. He couldn’t prove that.

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