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Journeys

08/03/2015

Chap­ter One – Observation

Michael stood on the bal­cony look­ing over the crowd below. No one knew he was there, hid­den in the shad­ows as he was. The guests mean­dered around the room tak­ing their turns at the buf­fet table and drink bar, each in turn. Occa­sion­ally a group would gather just at the end of one sta­tion or another and cause the line of guests behind them to bunch up. This evoked wrath and scorn from those stuck in the jam. Even­tu­ally the cul­prits would move off and things would set­tle down.

The band alter­nated between the music of as many cul­tures and species as it was capa­ble. it was inter­est­ing watch­ing the par­tic­i­pants in the dance area change out on a reg­u­lar basis. Earth Human, Extra Solar Human, Anta­lain, and what Michael assumed, based on the rep­til­ian body and bird like head, was a group of Gre­gari to name a few. His spe­cialty wasn’t species iden­ti­fi­ca­tion but he knew the major groups, the one likely to have been invited to this event.

His assign­ment was sim­ple, observe and report.

He wasn’t wor­ried about being dis­cov­ered, his invi­ta­tion was tucked away neatly in the pocket of the blazer he wore.

Just as Michael shifted his posi­tion to the other side of the bal­cony three Potach walked in together from each side of the ball­room. Potach were def­i­nitely not the type to have been invited to an event like this, so it imme­di­ately grabbed his attention.

Potach were con­sid­ered the least desir­able species in the quad­rant. Many, if you believed the news feeds, wanted them to be ejected from the Com­mon­wealth. They were already banned from par­tic­i­pat­ing in any form of gov­ern­ment, be it local, global or otherwise.

This was some­thing Michael never quite under­stood. Of all the species in the Com­mon­wealth the Potach were the ones that looked the most human. They were bipedal, and stood about 3 meters tall on aver­age. Their head sat atop their torso and they even had binoc­u­lar vision like humans. True their skins were alabaster white, eyes are orange, have slightly sharp teeth, they had three arms, and a pre­hen­sile tail but that was a far cry from the gen­er­ally inhu­man look­ing denizens of the other worlds.

Michael glanced quickly at the rep­til­ian Gre­gari to make the point to himself.

He stood straighter as the groups began to con­verge and make their way toward the stage where the band played, directly under­neath the bal­cony he stood on, and as he did caught sight of Sable Marken­son, daz­zling in a long red dress, a faintly glow­ing blue drink in her right hand. She walked right in front of the Potach group com­ing in from the right side, one of which reached out and grabbed her by the wrist caus­ing the glass gob­let to tum­ble to the floor and shat­ter on the hard tile. Michael watched as the blue liq­uid slowly worked it’s way across the black and white tiles. Her scream caught the atten­tion of any party goers that weren’t already watch­ing the new arrivals.

As the atten­dees turned to locate the source of the scream the Potach pulled out weapons and started fir­ing ran­domly in the crowd. One of them stepped for­ward and spoke a brief mes­sage and even though Michael wasn’t able to trans­late, since he hadn’t brought his trans­la­tor, the mes­sage was loud and clear: Shut up.

He watched as the crowd slowly qui­eted down and the Potach made their way through the ter­ri­fied guests, exam­in­ing each face and com­par­ing it to some sort of device. Occa­sion­ally a scream would erupt as a guest would be rudely hauled to to wear the appar­ent Potach leader stood. The scream was quickly qui­eted by another assailant with a quick shot of their weapon. Michael made a men­tal note to find out how the weapons made it into the event.

He couldn’t inter­fere. He had to let the event’s below play out, no mat­ter how badly he wanted to. The pri­mary rule of the Corps was non-​​interference, and that rule was invi­o­late. The Potach began mak­ing their way toward the doors in which they had entered, wav­ing their weapons back and forth to pre­vent any of the sur­vivors from following.


The shuf­fling of feet and scrap­ing of chairs on the tile floor jarred Michael from his day­dream. For a moment, his eyes still stared, unfo­cused, at the green chalk­board on the far side of the room. Stu­dents were fil­ing past him, depart­ing from the recently ended class. He glanced at the mono­chrome clock hang­ing high on the wall above the bul­letin board and smiled as he once again came fully into the world and real­ized it school was done for the day and it was time to head home. He slammed his book closed and shoved it uncar­ing into his book bag, pry­ing him­self from the metal and wood desk-​​chair combo.

He half smiled and waved at the teacher with­out really look­ing, his eyes only graz­ing over the home­work assign­ment on the board as he plot­ted the quick­est course to the buses.

Coded for Murder

07/09/2015

Chap­ter One

Cor­nelius Apple­blaum MacGili­cutty Junior the Sec­ond (known to every­one sim­ply as ‘Cam’1) stepped care­fully through the door, mak­ing sure to place it blue footie cov­ered shoes on the marks on the floor des­ig­nat­ing where it was safe to walk.

He paused and took in the room, locat­ing Febs on the other side stand­ing near a cou­ple Detec­tives, one of which kept giv­ing the android dirty looks out of the cor­ner of his eyes.

The first thing that caught his atten­tion was all the weapons. Every wall, shelf, and desk were cov­ered with cut­lasses, scim­i­tars, maces, hal­berds, bolos, throw­ing knives, axes, clubs, ham­mers (includ­ing one he though might have been in a movie), staffs, spears, polearms, and some he wasn’t able to iden­tify. For the first time Cam was grate­ful for all the hours he had spent play­ing online fan­tasy games.

He knew that Nigolo N’anwarrow, the owner of the com­pound, was a col­lec­tor of ancient weapons, but had never had the priv­i­leged, nay, the honor to view any of them. He made a men­tal note to express his shock and awe to Nigolo later.

With extreme dis­ap­point­ment he pulled his atten­tion away from the weapons and looked around the rest of the room. Towards the back of the rather large room, directly lined up with the door but not directly lined up to the door sat a chair. In that chair sat Daniel Windtalker. Around Daniel stood sev­eral of San Bartholomews finest offi­cers. They were all hav­ing a rather heated, though not entirely non-​​violent con­ver­sa­tion. Of course the con­ver­sa­tion didn’t include Daniel as he was dead and the rea­son Cam was here in the first place. Well, Daniel him­self wasn’t exactly the rea­son, but rather his death was. More specif­i­cally, how he was killed.

The fur­ni­ture in the room made every effort to get in the way. There was no clear path from the door to the chair where the now deceased Daniel sat com­fort­ably. Instead one had to nav­i­gate through a labyrinth of desks and chairs with a few side tables and a grand­fa­ther clock thrown in for fun.

Twice Cam ran into the same desk. Once on his right side as he worked his way around and again on the left side as he fol­lowed the switch­back­ing path, pass­ing the desk again. Now, with both hips hurt­ing he stopped and stared at the desk. His week reflec­tion glar­ing back at him in the shiny mahogany fin­ish. As for the desk itself, it just sat there, silently ignor­ing him, like the inan­i­mate object it was.

As Cam finally began to make his way out of the fur­ni­ture labyrinth he focused on the group con­gre­gated around the chair and Daniel. As he expected, his cur­rent neme­sis, Detec­tive Samuel Mar­lowe stood there watch­ing his every move. Cam grinned to him­self and shuf­fled his feet the last few steps on one of the Per­sian rugs that cov­ered every square inch of the floor. In doing so, he again looked around the room and won­dered how all the desks and tables and lamps stayed lever with the var­i­ous lev­els of rugs. He remem­bered stum­bling slightly as he walked in and real­ized that the rugs must have been at least an cou­ple inches deep in some places.

"What’s he doing here," asked Mar­lowe extra loud, mak­ing sure Cam was able to hear him.

"Don’t start Sam. The Chief called him in. We need all the help we can get on this one. Big name. High Pro­file. Locked room. Things are going to get messy."

"He’s not even a real detec­tive," cried Mar­lowe with exasperation.

Cam reached out his hand to Detec­tive Mar­lowe as he approached, a smile glued to his face. Mar­lowe growled softly and reached out to take the prof­fered hand. Cam felt the twinge of elec­tric­ity as it jumped the rapidly clos­ing space between his bare palm and that of the Detec­tives. What he didn’t see, and didn’t really expect to see, was a reac­tion of any kind from his vic­tim. Instead his grin switch to a gri­mace as the Detec­tive tight­ened his grip on Cam’s hand.

"As I’ve men­tioned sev­eral times in the past Detec­tive, I am a board cer­ti­fied Detective."

Mar­lowe let go of Cams’ hand, "Your ‘degree’ is from a frak­ing cor­re­spon­dence course. That doesn’t qual­ify you to carry my shoes, much less solve crimes. And what about your toy? It keeps fol­low­ing me around!"

"Really Detec­tive? Do we have to go over this every time we meet? The Chief of Police, The Chief of Detec­tives, and the Mayor have been sat­is­fied with my work. In addi­tion, Febs also com­pleted the course, as rec­om­mended by the San­Bart HR and IA depart­ments. He has been throughly vet­ted and approved by every­one in the chain of com­mand. And this, " Cam waved his hand to indi­cate the room they stood in, "is exactly the type of sit­u­a­tion I would be called in for. Two very high pro­file indi­vid­u­als, both in the tech field, one dead, the other a sus­pect. This is the per­fect place for Febs and myself."

"That damned ‘bot is no detec­tive either," Mar­lowe grum­bled as he turned and huffed off toward the Fur­ni­ture Maze.

Cam smiled and turned to the other only other mem­ber of the group still at the chair, "Detec­tive Hen­der­son, how are you?"

Hen­der­son smiled and shook Cam’s hand, "You know bet­ter than to taunt him."

"He started it. He always starts it."

Hen­der­son laughed and slapped Cam on the shoul­der as he stepped past him, fol­low­ing in the loudly placed foot­steps of Detec­tive Marlowe.

Cam exam­ined the chair for a moment before turn­ing to his assis­tant. Febs stood slightly taller than Cam him­self and had human like qual­i­ties but would never be con­fused for an actual human. His shin­ing titanium-​​alloy exoskele­ton made absolute sure of that. He stood stark still fac­ing Cam, the sole excep­tion being his right hand which was cur­rently stroking a lar­gish, white, very furry cat. Which was purring and also stared at Cam through half closed lids.

"Febs? Why are you hold­ing a cat?"

"Lit­tle bug­ger man­aged to sneak in and started con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the crime scene with fur," Detec­tive Mar­lowe said. "For rea­sons no one here can under­stand your metal toy there was the only one that could get a hold of it. Seems to like it. Lit­tle fur­ball hasn’t moved since metal mon­key picked it up."

Cam threw a tiny glare over his shoul­der at the Detec­tive who missed it entirely.

"Okay Febs, give me the overview please."

"At oh eight thirty the wife of mis­ter N’anwarrow knocked on the door of the Library. Find­ing it locked she then pro­ceeded to locate the house­keeper who, at oh nine ten then unlocked the door and saw the deceased sit­ting in the chair. Misses N’anwarrow then proceeded…"

"Never mind that, just give me the ten thou­sand foot view."

Febs scanned the room, "I am sorry sir, but I do not think you would be able to hear me were I ten thou­sand feet in the air. Nor do I know of a way to achieve that sta­tus under the cur­rent conditions."

Cam turned to stare at his assis­tant. He nar­rowed his eyes, chang­ing the stare into a glare. His assis­tant either didn’t notice or chose to ignore the change to the visual hierarchy.

"Sounds like your ‘bot is in need of a refab Cam," one of the techs across the room said.

"No," replied Cam while tog­gling the posi­tion of his left eye­brow, "he knows exactly what I’m ask­ing for. He’s just being a smart ass."

"I regret to state, sir, that my while my ‘ass’ is made of a tungsten-​​steel alloy it does not con­tain any kind of pro­cess­ing ability."

The oth­ers in the room tried to sti­fle a gig­gle. A cou­ple of them actu­ally succeeded.

Cam leaned in, get­ting within cen­time­ters of Febs head, "If you don’t stop being a smart ass I swear I will rip out your cen­tral power core and replace it with a freak­ing blender."

"My apolo­gies, I was mak­ing an attempt at humor."

Cam grinned.

"Fine. So I assume that Daniel Windtalker here was the vic­tim, and I also assume that Nigolo N’anwarrow is the prime sus­pect. Correct?"

"Yes. Since this is his com­pound it has been assumed that he would have a way to get in and out of the room with it locked from the inside."

"So, since you and I have been called, some­one has deemed it a homi­cide rather than sui­cide. Since the body is still here the med­ical exam­iner hasn’t had time to do an autopsy. So …"

"Actu­ally Doc­tor Mendel­son was in ear­lier and did a full blood workup and scanned the body, allow­ing him to do a vir­tual examination."

Cam turned to look at Febs, who also turned to look at Cam. "Vir­tual autopsy?"

"Oh yes sir. You would have enjoyed it I believe. After a fairly quick scan of the body the doc­tor was able to project a three dimen­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the body in the air, and after mak­ings a few adjust­ments to straighten the arms and legs, he had unfet­tered, three hun­dred and sixty degree access."

Cam shook his head and smiled. He had built and pro­grammed Febs, mak­ing small tweaks and mod­i­fi­ca­tions of the years to fix glitches and bugs that popped up from time to time. The one thing he had never been able to fix and sub­se­quently fix was Febs propen­sity to saw num­ber. And you could actu­ally hear the num­ber being spelled out as he said it. One never had the impres­sion that Febs was say­ing ‘6’ but that he always, always said ‘six’.

The hows and ways of that par­tic­u­lar quirk is some­thing that has haunted Cam late at night. He con­sid­ered it a sign that Febs was exceed­ing the para­me­ters of his pro­gram­ming, which he was pro­grammed to do, but at the same time it scared him a lit­tle bit. Like releas­ing a child into the world, you never knew if they would grow up to help old ladies cross the street; or push them.

Cam shiv­ered and refo­cused his atten­tion on what Febs was say­ing, mak­ing a men­tal note to review the record­ing later so that he wouldn’t miss any­thing important.

"…row’s mother is upstairs in her room. She is appar­ently shaken by the entire inci­dent and has asked to be left alone for the remain­der of the day. Detec­tive Hen­der­son is going to take her state­ment first thing tomor­row morn­ing. Doc­tor N’anwarrow’s wife is in the green­house. That was the last update I received before you arrived."

Cam turned in a cir­cle, tak­ing in the great room once again. There were still sev­eral tech­ni­cians scat­tered around the room tak­ing var­i­ous read­ing and sam­ples and what-​​not. He again admired the antique weapons on the walls and shelves and desks.

FInally he sighed and turned back to Febs. "Take a full spec­trum scan of the room. I’m going to talk to Mrs. N’anwarrow. Join me when you are done," he said as he started to work his way back into the maze of fur­ni­ture, keep­ing a weary eye out for his old neme­sis, the desk.

"Mrs Watkin­son."

Cam stopped and turned again to Febs, "Sorry, what?"

"Mr. N’anwarrow’s wife didn’t change her name when they mar­ried. She kept her maiden name, Watkinson."

Cam paused, turned, turned back, paused again and finally said, "Oh". He then gave up attempt­ing to reply and headed off into the maze.

Chap­ter Two

Cam slipped care­fully through the gap in the door­way and into the warm, and slightly too humid air beyond. He closed the door care­fully and looked out over the green­ery that blocked his vision in almost every direc­tion. The green­house wasn’t huge, at least it hadn’t looked it from the outside.

The room was warm, and very, very humid. In fact, it was rain­ing in the far cor­ner. Which explained the bucket of umbrel­las by the door. Cam turned as he heard the green­house door slide open to see Febs walk in. Cam pointed towards the umbrel­las and Febs took a bright yel­low one, opened it and lay it across his shoul­der. Cam smirked.

"What do we know about Mrs N’an… Watkin­son," asked Cam when Febs caught up with him.

"Records do not indi­cate much. She mar­ried Dr. N’anwarrow seven years ago after meet­ing him dur­ing a Peace Corp mis­sion to help Azer­bai­jan recover from the flood­ing a few years before that. Other than that, not a lot to go on. A few social events, she attended a few char­ity events his com­pany put together and there are four occur­rences of over­seas trips. One to Azer­bai­jan a cou­ple of years after they mar­ried, the rest to var­i­ous places in China. Shang­hai, Zhengzhou, and Shenyang."

"So other than a cur­sory pro­file, we have nothing."

"Cor­rect."

"This should be fun then. Mrs Watkin­son, plea­sure to met you. My name is Cam, this is my assis­tant Febs."

Nancy Watkin­son extended her hand and shook Cam’s. She then turned and hes­i­tantly extended her hand towards Febs who took it gin­gerly and pumped it once before let­ting go and step­ping back.

Febs had learned long ago, thanks to some of Cams pro­gram­ming and sev­eral audio books that he had down­loaded ( a few ille­gally ), to read peo­ple body lan­guage and knew when his pres­ence made them ner­vous. After a few impromptu social exper­i­ments (involv­ing sev­eral cof­fee shops, two libraries and one depart­ment store (which he had never informed Cam about)) he can to the con­clu­sion that steep­ing back, and specif­i­cally putting some­thing between him­self and the other per­son seemed to put them slightly more at ease. That or he smelled.

"How many I help you?"

"I’m here assist­ing the police with their inves­ti­ga­tion into the unfor­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion in the study."

"Tro­phy room," Nancy responded, turn­ing back to the flow­ers she had been tend­ing to.

Cam nod­ded, "Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"

"I know this sounds cliché but I already told this to the detec­tives ear­lier. Do I really need to go over it again?"

"Nope, I can def­i­nitely ask them for copies of their reports. Thank you." Cam turned to go, nearly run­ning into Febs as he did so. "Oh, I meant to tell you, these are some very beau­ti­ful plants you have. I can’t even keep a cac­tus alive for more than a week. Not that it stops my mother from buy­ing them for me."

"Thank you. These are some of my most revered specimens."

"If I might ask, what is it you do in here?"

"I cross breed plants," replied Nancy as she took off her gloves and stuffed them into her pocket. "Specif­i­cally I take dif­fer­ent species that have ben­e­fi­cial traits and try to com­bine them so that their off­spring have those traits."

"Don’t you need highly spe­cial­ized equip­ment for that type of work," Cam ask­ing look­ing around the room.

"In some cases, yes. But are meth­ods and tech­niques other than genetic manip­u­la­tion. They are less reli­able and typ­i­cally it’s hit or miss with try­ing to get the traits I want, but it’s good to get my hands dirty once in a while. And when I need to get down to the mol­e­c­u­lar or genetic level I have the equip­ment in another room. Doesn’t make sense to keep expen­sive stuff like that in here," Nancy said wav­ing her arms around.

"Are you work­ing on any­thing genet­i­cally excit­ing cur­rently Mrs. Watkin­son," asked Febs.

"I do have one project that I’m quite proud of, though I’m not sure if I should tell you about it." Nancy I’ve cre­ated a new sub-​​species of the Antir­rhinum plant."

"I’m sorry, I’m not up on my plant lingo, what is a ‘anti harem’ plant?"

"Antir­rhinum. Com­monly known as the snapdragon."

"Oh! The ones that look like drag­ons when you squeeze them, yes? Aren’t there already about a bajil­lion vari­a­tions on it? What makes your’s special?"

"Mine are edible."

"Edi­ble? I um… don’t mean to over step ma’am, but aren’t snap­drag­ons con­sid­ered to be edi­ble already?"

"Yes, but mine aren’t just edi­ble flower petals, they are fla­vored flower petals." Nancy pro­claimed as she reached over and quickly snipped off a choco­late col­ored flower from a pot sit­ting to the right of Cam, "Try this."

Cam hes­i­tated. He was both curi­ous and ter­ri­fied as to what the botanist had cre­ated. And he was slightly afraid of insult­ing her so he gin­gerly picked off a petal and care­fully, slowly raised it towards his mouth. He drew out the action as long as he could, hop­ing that she would change her mind and stop him from putting it in his mouth. When that failed to come about he very del­i­cately placed the petal on his tongue and closed his mouth. Slowly.

When his teeth finally met the petal began to give off a slight fla­vor. It wasn’t imme­di­ately famil­iar, but at the same time wasn’t exactly for­eign. Tak­ing is tongue into his own hands (so to speak) Cam opened his jaws and moved the petal into place where it could be prop­erly chewed.

Which he did.

Caus­ing his eyes to pop open in shock. The dark, del­i­cate lit­tle flower actu­ally tasted, against all odds, like … blue­berry! He chewed with more gusto and quickly popped the rest of the flower into his mouth, least it be taken back, dropped, or the flower itself some­how fig­ured out what was hap­pen­ing and attempted to escape to save itself.

"Holy bis­cuits, it actu­ally tastes like blueberry."

Nancy smiled and Febs reached out to take a flower for him­self. Both Mrs. N’anwarrow and Cam watch in sur­prise as Febs mouth slot opened slightly wider and he pushed the flower in. A cou­ple of whirls and grind­ing sounds later and he turned to face Nancy. "Fascinating."

"Febs," asked Cam.

Febs turned to face Cam, "The flavonoids in the petals are much higher than expected. And the amount of flavan-​​3-​​ols is higher than in raw cocoa."

Cam blinked.

"Can you trans­late that into English?"

"Allow me," said Nancy, "all flow­ers have flavonoids. Their main func­tion is to color the flower to make it attrac­tive to pol­li­na­tor animals."

"Yep, got that. My ques­tion is what did Febs expect the flavonoid con­tent to be and why is it surprising."

"I would have expected a plant, even one that is a genetic hybrid that con­tains fla­vor­ing in the petals, to have a the same num­ber of flavonoids as any other plant of its type, unfor­tu­nate name by the way since flavonoids have noth­ing to do with the actual fla­vor of some­thing. For exam­ple a dan­de­lion will have gen­er­ally the same num­ber no mat­ter where it is picked from. This plant has forty three point seven six five per­cent more than the aver­age snap­dragon. And twenty six point two two one per­cent more than the aver­age for cocoa. That is sig­nif­i­cantly higher than I would have expected.

Not the men­tion the fact that the fiber con­tent is thir­teen point three two one per­cent higher than the aver­age for a flower of its type. And the glu­cose count is two hun­dred sev­en­teen point…"

"Okay Febs, we get the point. How did you man­age this Nancy? And what other fla­vors do you have?"

Nancy smiled again and turned back to her plants, wav­ing an arm around as she did, "Among the one you see here are nine­teen dif­fer­ent fla­vors rang­ing from banana to key lime to water­melon. As for how? That I’m not telling other than to say it’s an ancient Chi­nese secret."

She turned back to Cam to see the looks of ques­tion, con­fu­sion, and doubt wag­ing bat­tle across his face. Febs face was impas­sive as always but she felt the same ques­tion feel­ing ema­nat­ing from him. "No, seri­ously. The tech­nique is some­thing I learned from a friend in China who had it passed down through his fam­ily for thou­sands of years. I just took it to a new level with the tech­nol­ogy that my hus­band has devel­oped over the years."

"That is absolutely amaz­ing. You could poten­tially solve the worlds hunger cri­sis just by grow­ing flowers!"

Nancy laughed, "Let’s not get ahead of our­selves. Yes, it’s cool but there are a lot of steps between here and sav­ing the world. For one, each petal doesn’t pro­vide any­where near the vit­a­mins, amino acids, and other nutri­ents needs by the body. Sec­ond, I only have snap drag­ons right now. And they grow in a very nar­row range of con­di­tions. There is a lot of work before peo­ple in the Sahara or Alaska could grow them."

"Yes but it’s a start. I was won­der­ing, could you show me around? I don’t really know that much about plants myself, but I’d love to know more. Per­haps ask you a cou­ple ques­tions about Daniel Windtalker if that’s okay."

Nancy stopped smil­ing. "I’d be happy to show you around," she turned and glared at Febs, "but not him."

"What did he do?"

"Yes. What did I do?"

"He, " said Nancy as she leaned in towards Febs, point­ing a fin­ger at his chest, "took a flower with­out ask­ing. I would have given you one but you just took it. That’s rude."

Febs looked taken aback, which con­sid­er­ing his face was basi­cally a solid piece of metal with two eyes and a grill for a mouth, was quite an accomplishment.

Cam turned to face Febs, low­er­ing his voice as he did so. "Febs, why don’t you head back to the house and start pro­cess­ing all our data please. I’m going to talk to Mrs. Watkin­son a bit more then try to talk to Mr. N’anwarrow."

In response Febs sim­ply nod­ded. He then, with out a glance at Mrs. Watkin­son, rotated and marked out of the greenhouse.

When he turned the cor­ner at the end of the row he sur­rep­ti­tiously snatched a plant from the table as he passed. This one was white with red streaks radi­at­ing out from the end of the petals towards the tips, almost like veins. Febs quickly left the build­ing and made his way qui­etly across the com­pound before slip­ping into the car. Cam had watched his friend leave, fol­low­ing the bounc­ing yel­low umbrella as it made it’s wan across the greenhouse.

Chap­ter Three

Cam dropped the paper bag on the desk of Police Chief Don­ald Weath­erby. "He in?"

Chief Weath­erby took the bag with­out look­ing, dug around in side and pulled out a donut which he wrapped in a nap­kin before tak­ing a fairly small bite.

"Of course he is. I swear some­times he sleeps down there, "Weath­erby said look­ing up from his paper­work finally, "one of these days you are going to have to inquire about that. Can’t have my peo­ple sleep­ing in the morgue. City Hall would have my ass."

Cam grinned, "Can you give Febs access to the crime scene information?"

"Didn’t you take your own scans?"

"Yea, but they were there much ear­lier than I was, just want to make sure."

"Do not mess with them Cor­nelius. I mean it. Your record is the only thing keep­ing them from run­ning you over with an ice cream truck. And even then only because none of them want to be respon­si­ble for clean­ing it up."

Cam sim­ply shrugged, smiled and backed out of the room.


Cam bounced on his toes as the ele­va­tor took its time going down the entire floor to the base­ment. The entire trip was filled with hor­ri­ble grind­ing sounds, small pings, shak­ing and Cam swore he smelled smoke at least twice. It’s was only one floor. All of it was made worse by the fact that the radio, which usu­ally played hor­rid, bland, and sadly punchy ver­sions of the local hit songs was bro­ken. So rather than the usual cacoph­ony of dul­cet tones it merely rat­tled, vibrated, and hissed.

As the doors dinged open he quickly stepped out, eyes glued to the speaker just in case it had other inten­tions. Mak­ing his way down the hall he saw no one and he expected noth­ing else. One of the rea­sons the ele­va­tor was in such dis­re­pair was because no one used it. Daryl Ester­man was the city’s med­ical exam­iner and he didn’t like peo­ple. Well, not live ones any­way. Cam was one of the few peo­ple that Daryl would allow into the base­ments view­ing area. The oth­ers hadn’t been that inter­ested and so rarely, if ever came down. Usu­ally call­ing on Cam to deliver some­thing or pick it up. All com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Daryl went through an inter­me­di­ary. Cam or the com­puter. Even Febs wasn’t allowed down.

A com­par­i­son Cam still wasn’t over thrilled about. He swore to take the stair next time.

As a result they had started a chess game. Presently they were on their four­teenth game and the total score was fairly close at only four­teen to one. Cam had been research­ing and prepar­ing his next move for week. He was con­fi­dent he could pos­si­bly maybe not quite lose this game. Fif­teen to one was embarrassing.

He stood over the chess board for sev­eral min­utes while the sounds of mum­bling came from the closed room next door. He occa­sion­ally glanced up to see Daryl through the one-​​way glass and watched him for a sec­ond until he removed some­thing from the body he was work­ing on.

Cam reached out and ten­ta­tively took hold of his last remain­ing knight. At least he had one. Last game he had lost all his pieces except a pawn, bishop and his king. And the only rea­son he still had the bishop was because Daryl couldn’t be both­ered to take it off the board.

"Knight to E six."

With­out look­ing up or turn­ing around Daryl laughed. "Really? The Pim­seuler Approach? I’d think the Venci Strat­a­gem or the Michael­son Defense would work bet­ter here."

"You do real­ize I have no idea what the hell you’re talk­ing about. I still don’ get why you don’t at least try to play chess on a pro­fes­sional level. You don’t ever look at the board but you know exactly what move to make and can keep all that in your head. And I’m will­ing to be you are seven moves ahead aren’t you?"

"Ten."

"See," Cam exclaimed throw­ing up his arms, "you would wipe the floor with them."

"You know why I don’t."

Cam sighed and sat down in the only chair in the room, an old recliner that he had brought in a few years back. The leather made soft click­ing like sounds as his body set­tled into the plush­ness that was the chair. "Ya, I know. You hate peo­ple. Well, being around them any­way. I get why you don’t want to deal with the gum­balls upstairs but you and I get along fine. No peo­ple issues there."

"You aware that I can’t see you. Only hear. So in my head I can kind of pre­tend you aren’t real. No offense.."

"None taken. Bishop to A two"

"… and even on the days that I know you are real I’m not in fear of being touched. So it all works. Queen to G six."

"You could text in the moves. With your abil­ity to keep the board in your head you could play against the computer."

"But the com­puter wouldn’t be a com­puter would it? It would be a per­son on the other end that I would have to know about. I can’t do that. Deal with people."

"But that’s the thing D. You cut bod­ies up, peo­ple. I would have thought that would bother you just as much. And even if it didn’t, are you sup­posed to have issues with bod­ies and such? Not to men­tion you don’t have any of the ticks I’ve read about and you went to freak­ing med­ical school!"

"I’m what they call ‘high’ func­tion­ing. I’m not as bad as some of the ones you will find in your books. Besides, some of my peo­ple like math, some engi­neer­ing. Myself it’s anatomy. The body to me is a very intri­cate machine that I need to fig­ure out. Which is why I’m here and not at some hospital."

"Well, that and he’s peo­ple, " Cam snickered.

"Yes, that. Any­way, " Daryl put the lung he was weight­ing back into the body and pulled off his gloves, "you want to know what I found on Daniel Windtalker unless I’m mistaken."

Cam popped out of his chair and walked over the the mir­ror window.

"I hate to dis­ap­point you but there is noth­ing. Not a sin­gle trace of any­thing that would have killed him."

"So… old age? Disease?"

"Nei­ther. He was suf­fo­cated, that I know, but there are no fibers, no marks and no bruis­ing. It’s like he just stopped breath­ing and for­got to start back up again. There is petechial hem­or­rhag­ing in the eyes but no signs of force or strug­gle. I… have suf­fo­cat­ing as cause of death but I can’t give you any­thing more that that. I’m sorry."

"So noth­ing at all? No hid­den nee­dle marks, no soft tis­sue dam­age, no curi­ous bruises? Noth­ing weird in the least?"

"Sorry Cam. Well, there was one thing that was a tad odd…"

"Share it man."

"It might be absolutely noth­ing, but the soft tis­sue mem­branes of his laryn­gophar­ynx had some slight bruising."

Cam stopped and started through the win­dow. He started when he real­ized that Daryl was basi­cally look­ing right at him, even though Daryl didn’t know it. Or at least Cam didn’t know if Daryl didn’t know but he assumed he didn’t know.

"Laryn­gophar­ynx? What is that?"

Daryl fid­geted. "It’s the small area in the throat found between the hyoid bone and the lar­ynx and esoph­a­gus. It’s what reg­u­lates which direc­tion the air and food go. Basi­cally when you ‘swal­low wrong’ it’s because the laryn­gophar­ynx mis­fired or didn’t tog­gle in time."

"You seem… uncom­fort­able with this."

Daryl hopped down from the table he sat on, wring­ing his hands as he paced. Cam hadn’t seen the young man this upset since some­one had told him the recipe for the Twinkie had been changed.

"Well, thats because the bruis­ing I saw could very well have been caused by some­thing he had eaten an got­ten stuck."

"Did you find any­thing in his stom­ach that would cause it?"

Daryl stopped pac­ing and sat in his desk chair where he began rock­ing back and forth slowly, hold­ing his hands in front of him. Can could see the fin­gers in the exam­in­ers hand tense and release from where he stood. He knew he had to end this quickly and get away so that Daryl could calm down. Hop­ing he could push just a lit­tle more Cam stepped for­ward, plac­ing his hand on the glass, know­ing Daryl wouldn’t be able to see it.

"Just a lit­tle more Daryl." He said under his breath. He waited for his friend to answer, know­ing that ask­ing again in this state might send him over the edge.

"No. Just tea," came the meek response after sev­eral minutes.

"Can you talk to me D? Can you tell me why this has you so both­ered? Was there any­thing in the tea." Cam asked as he watched his friend.

"Some thing did this. Left no trace. Impossible."

"Slow, deep breaths D. I just have one more question"

Daryl stayed quiet for sev­eral min­utes, bounc­ing and fid­get­ing the entire time. After few min­utes he took a deep breath, "no, noth­ing spe­cial about. High qual­ity Oolong. Give me a day and I can tell you where it was purchased."

Cam backed way from the win­dow. He never knew what Daryl had to mon­i­tor the out­side room and where those mon­i­tors might be as well as the screens he could use to watch. But the med­ical exam­iner always seemed to know when he left. Tak­ing one last look back through the win­dow he said qui­etly good bye and left the room, turn­ing away from the trai­tor­ous ele­va­tor, not wish­ing to risk his life fur­ther and headed for the stairs.

Chap­ter Four

Cam stum­bled, lit­er­ally out of the bed­room. He turned to look at the trai­tor­ous towel in the floor, lying in wait to kill him.

"Febs? Why is there a towel on the floor," Cam asked tilt­ing his head, "and why is the shower run­ning? Did you wash your inter­nal sys­tems again?"

"No sir. You got in so late, I was not able to tell you. What did you do after I left the green­house that you did not get in until after 1AM?You weren’t flirt­ing the Mrs. N’arWarrow were you? She’s mar­ried you know?"

"Dude, back off. I wasn’t flirt­ing with any­one. I just met up with an old col­lege buddy and we went out for beers. He has a PhD in med­i­cine as well as foren­sic pathol­ogy and I wanted to pick his brain about ways to kill with­out leav­ing an iden­ti­fy­ing mark.

"And by the way, where were you ‘dad’? I looked for you when I got in but you weren’t at your charg­ing station."

"Yes, I was tend­ing to your…. um, visitor."

Cam froze. He turned care­fully on one foot, his fin­ger held to his lips. "Visitor?"

"Yes. That would be the per­son cur­rently in the shower."

"Who?"

Febs held out the pan he had been hold­ing, ges­tur­ing towards it with the spat­ula he also held, albeit with his other hand, "May I inter­est you in some eggs?"

"Febs. Who is in the shower?""

"Your vis­i­tor."

"Who is?"

"Who is in the shower."

Cam rub the bridge of his nose, "Yes, I gath­ered that. I want to know who it is."

"Per­haps now isn’t the best time to dis­cuss things, you haven’t had your three cups of cof­fee after all…"

"Febs? Who. Is in. The shower."

"The shower sir?"

"Febs!"

Febs sighed and hung his head in defeat, "Your sister."


Cam sat at the table, his cof­fee cup empty. Again. He was about to get up to fill it for the third time when the bath­room door opened and out stepped his sis­ter. She was dressed in a red, non-​​flowery, non-​​business, non-​​going on a date dress that fell to below her knees. It looked both insanely com­fort­able and yet com­pletely pro­fes­sional at the same time. Some­thing that irri­tated Cam just a lit­tle more. No mat­ter what his sis­ter wore she always looked like she stepped out of a magazine.

Though he knew that wasn’t strictly true it def­i­nitely felt like it. He was always the frump, no mat­ter what he wore. Even now, in a dress that any­one else would have con­sid­ered some­thing to wear around the house, and hair still wet from the shower, and no make-​​up he was 95% con­fi­dent she could have a date to a prom within fif­teen min­utes of walk­ing out of his apartment.

As she turned and saw him sit­ting at the table he became acutely aware that he was only wear­ing a gray hooded sweat­shirt with a green t-​​shirt in which one could only make out the let­ter ‘MN’ printed in a dif­fer­ent shade of green. And boxer shorts. And one sock.

"What are you doing here Ari­zona," he asked get­ting up from the table.

"Nice to see you too lit­tle brother," replied Cams sis­ter as she rubbed at her hair with a towel. She must have taken her clothes into the bath­room with her as she had come out com­pletely dressed car­ry­ing on the pre­vi­ously men­tioned towel and a small gym bag. The fully clothed aspect was one in which Cam was eter­nally grate­ful. Cams issue with the entire sit­u­a­tion was sim­ply that it was his sis­ter. And right now, clothed or not (though thank­fully, clothed) he didn’t really feel like deal­ing with her.

"Yes, cute. What do you want?" Cam lifted the cof­fee pot in her direc­tion as an offer to pour her a cup.

Ari­zona shook her head, sighed and pulled out the chair across from where Cam had sat. She tossed the towel at the back of Febs who caught it deftly with his left arm, never turn­ing to look at the extra soft and fluffy pro­jec­tile. "I’m here because mom is hav­ing a gala, or ben­e­fit, or … some­thing where she is going to be pre­sent­ing a human­i­tar­ian award to Daniel Windtalker for his work in try­ing to elim­i­nate hunger. She wants her dar­ling son to attend. In a suit."

"What’s the mat­ter," Cam teased as he leaned in, glanc­ing over towards Febs as he did so, "You too busy off sav­ing the rain for­est or free­ing a beached ele­phant or some­thing to attend?"

In the back­ground Febs, who had been wash­ing the dishes until Ari­zona had men­tioned Daniel Windtalker, care­fully folded and set the towel on the kitchen counter and began side­step­ping his way out of the kitchen.

"Nope. I’m going to be there as well, mostly to keep you from caus­ing trouble."

"You’re assum­ing I will be attend­ing. And get­ting into trouble."

"The ‘get­ting into trou­ble’ isn’t an assump­tion lit­tle brother. It’s what you do. Name one event where you didn’t break some­thing end up run­ning across the dance floor half naked."

Cam blushed. And scowled. Which only made the blush­ing worse. Ari­zona grinned.

"You are never going to let that go are you? Regard­less of the fact it was your fault!"

"It wasn’t my fault, you showed up late. You’re always late," Ari­zona replied stick­ing out her tongue, "too bad you couldn’t pro­gram­ming one of your toys to pre­tend it was you till you got there."

Cam sat up straighter (which basi­cally meant he wasn’t attempt­ing to curl into the fetal posi­tion in his chair) as his eyes lite up.

"Wait, what did you say?"

"I said it’s too bad.."

"No, skip that. The last part."

"Too bad you couldn’t pro­gram one of your thing to pre­tend it was you."

Cam stood, his chair slid­ing back­wards, scrap­ing across the floor with a goose bump induc­ing sound. "You know sis, you’re right. You are absolutely, one hun­dred per­cent cor­rect. I’ve been remiss in my broth­erly and sonly, is that a word sonly> Doesn’t mat­ter, I have failed in my duties. You can tell mom that I will cer­tainly be there for her big night. And wear­ing a new, clean, suit."

"You don’t have a suit Cam," retorted his sister.

"Febs, order me a suit." Cam walked around the table and took his sis­ter by the shoul­ders and turned her around. " Zon, I will be there. I swear. Now if you will excuse me I have a few things I need to do before I get ready," Cam said in an effort that he could see­ing fail­ing as he said it. He pushed her, firmly, but demand­ingly towards the door of the guest room where he expected. Hoped. Ari­zona had put her things when she had snuck in before he got home.

"It’s next week Cam."

"Yes, I know. They are a few really, really, big things."

Ari­zona turned to face him. She was taller, not by much but enough to make Cam always feel like he needed to get a step stool espe­cially when she was using the glare she had obvi­ously learned from their mom. She didn’t say any­thing, just stood there, eyes nar­rowed watch­ing the excite­ment bub­bling just below the sur­face of his emo­tional dis­play case.

"Fine. Go do what­ever you are going to do," she said smil­ing and wav­ing her hand, "I’ll fin­ish get­ting dressed and see myself out."

Cam nod­ded and dashed past her, "Febs! Where did you go? I need you!"

Chap­ter Five

Cam turned the know to Febs room and slowly pushed the door open, "Febs? You in here?"

He stepped into the room and took in the orderly, neat, almost pris­tine table on the far wall. The tables on the left and right had the same, never-​​really-​​used qual­ity. Cam walked through the room, not step­ping around things that weren’t strewn in the excep­tion­ally clean floor. He glanced at the shelves that didn’t con­tain books lined up in per­fect alpha­bet­i­cal order. Instead the shelves each con­tained a sin­gle item. One had a stuffed doll that Cam rec­og­nized from the first police case they had worked on. Another con­tained an immo­bile snow globe. Cam didn’t remem­ber where that one had come from.

A third bore a sin­gle plas­tic dinosaur, a reminder of Febs sin­gu­lar obses­sion with a tele­vi­sion show from many years ago. It never ceased to freak him out a lit­tle bit when he entered this part of Febs room.

He quickly made his way to the door next to the far desk.

As he walked into the room Febs had turned into an office he saw one screen was tick­ing through on-​​line arti­cles, search­ing for what Cam didn’t yet know. Another seemed to be run­ning pro­gres­sion charts, and a third con­tained what looked like the results of a search related to a plant of some kind.

The sight that most com­manded his atten­tion was also the most unset­tling. Even more so that the semi-​​almost bar­ren shelves in the front room. There, bent over a very small flower pot that con­tained a very small flower, both of which were sit­ting under a very small, and very bright lamp, stood Febs. In one hand he held a very small glass filled almost full with water. In the other he held a very small drop­per that was half full. The very odd thing was that Febs was very, very care­fully drop­ping a sin­gle drop of water at a time into the very small pot with the very small flower.

Off all the things Cam had pro­grammed into Febs over the years, all the upgrades, tweaks, mods, enhance­ments, imped­i­ments, boosts, refine­ments, expan­sions, and gen­eral improve­ments; he had never once installed any­thing that came even remotely close to gar­den­ing. Why an android like Febs would sud­denly take up the prac­tice was some­thing Cam wasn’t able to imme­di­ately answers. Nor, now that he thought about it a moment, did he really want to know.

"Febs, what are you doing?"

Febs fin­ished adding the last drop of water to the small flower pot and rotated to face Cam, "Run­ning an exper­i­ment. Some­thing about Mrs. N’anwarrows flow­ers has been nag­ging at my proces­sor circuits."

Cam paused.

"Some­thing about it both­ered you?"

"Affir­ma­tive."

"Any thoughts on what it might be that has you con­cerned. And can I say, out loud, how odd it is to be ask­ing you that question?"

"Under­stood. And it is slightly, but not quite, dis­con­cert­ing to myself to know that I am the focus of that ques­tion. And the fact of that fact fur­ther con­cerns me. If I con­sider it all for too long I sus­pect I will end up in an infi­nite loop."

"Best we avoid that," com­mented Cam as he made his way over the the desk chair that Febs insisted on hav­ing installed but never actu­ally used. See­ing as how he never needed to sit. Cam dropped into the chair with a ‘poosh’ of escap­ing air fol­lowed by a two soft sighs. One from the chair as the leather and foam padding allowed air to escape as Cams weight com­pressed them, the sec­ond from Cam him­self. It really was a com­fort­able chair.

Cam began to fran­ti­cally type, quickly bring­ing up his favorite search engine and enter­ing both "Daniel Windtalker" and "Nigolo N’anwarrow" as search terms. "So I’ve also been both­ered about some­thing," he said turn­ing in the chair to face Febs, "some­thing that I didn’t put together until Anne Marie said some­thing ear­lier. Both Windtalker and N’anwarrow are CEO’s for com­pa­nies that pro­duce pro­gram­ma­ble mat­ter. Com­peti­tors in fact."

"Pro­gram­ma­ble matter?"

"It’s some­thing new. Basi­cally it’s made of nano par­ti­cles, like… sand. The inner work­ing of it are secret so I don’t know it exactly works, but can be shaped into just about any­thing. A vase, plate, even a toy. But noth­ing elec­tronic or living."

"How is that dif­fer­ent from any other mate­r­ial? You can make any of those out of plas­tic, metal or wood. What make this special?"

"The fact that you can alter the shape or form. Today, a vase, get tired of the vase and repro­gram it to be a pic­ture. Get more and make it into a chair or a table. You can change it into any­thing you like so long as it con­tains the same mass and volume."

"Ah, yes. I see the ben­e­fits. A sup­ply of some­thing like this can be very help­ful in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. One could cre­ate mate­ri­als as need."

"Exactly. Only it’s a mas­sive pain in the ass to repro­gram. You have to have have a scan of what you want it to become, it takes days to repro­gram and usu­ally hours, some­times days to reshape. And there are appar­ently only a few peo­ple in the world that can do it."

"How is this rel­e­vant to the sit­u­a­tion at hand?"

"Becuase, Windtalker and N’anwarrow’s com­pa­nies are vying for a huge gov­ern­ment con­tact, the win­ner of which stands to make bil­lions over the next few years. And Windtalk­ers com­pany is about to announce a mas­sive break-​​through. They have fig­ure out a way to make the stuff pro­gram­ma­ble by just about any­one and have the reshap­ing only take a few min­utes, an hour at most."

"Which would mean N’anwarrow’s com­pany would lose the con­tract and the sub­se­quent bil­lions in profit. That def­i­nitely qual­i­fies as a motive.

What did Ari­zona say that reminded you of this?"

"Actu­ally, this isn’t what she reminded me of," Cam said typ­ing on the com­puter again, this time bring­ing up the images of the crime scene pho­tos taken by the police. "These are the imaged taken by the inves­ti­ga­tors before we got there. Com­pare them with your scan and tell me what you see."

Febs went slightly rigid. Cam leaned back in the chair, wait­ing for his assis­tant to come to the same con­clu­sion he had.

"THere is a small dif­fer­ence once I process the images to remove individuals."

"And that dif­fer­ence is?"

"On the man­tel there is a small object in my scan that does not exist on the police pho­tos. I sus­pected a glitch and re-​​ran the scan data but it is con­firmed. There was no an object on the man­tel in the orig­i­nal images, but there is an object in my scan. You noticed this on your own?"

"Sub­con­sciously yea. I didn’t know I knew how­ever, you know? I saw the room when we were there and when I glanced at the crime scene images last night some­thing felt off. Oni’s com­ment about pro­gram­ming some­thing to look like me reminded me about pro­gram­ma­ble mat­ter which trig­gered something…"

"There is a fur­ther complication."

"What?"

"I have tapped into the secu­rity feed at the N’anwarrow com­pound and am cur­rently look­ing at the Tro­phy Room. The object is no longer there."

"OKay, first that’s highly ille­gal and you know it. Sec­ond, we can’t use it in court, and third… what do you mean ‘no longer there’? That room has been under lock and key since [day]. No way some­one could get in there and remove it."

"Accord­ing to the access logs no one has entered the room since Detec­tive Michaels sealed it [day afternoon]."

"Seri­ously, stop hack­ing the sys­tem Febs," said Cam as he spun the chair he sat in.

"I am not hack­ing. Because of my cur­rent sta­tus as inves­ti­ga­tor I have the autho­riza­tion to access the secu­rity sys­tem. To address your sec­ond point, it would only be inad­mis­si­ble in court if we were to use the infor­ma­tion obtained to make an arrest. I am merely try­ing to ascer­tain the cur­rent loca­tion of an object."

Cam’s eyes lite up as he turned around in his chair, "Can you scan the room via the feed?"

"Neg­a­tive. That would require a Mark three Chu­vesti mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem with a level six pro­to­col upgrade. THis is a Mark four Chu­vesti but only has a level five pro­to­col upgrade."

"Fine, fine. What else can you see?"

"I am able to zoom to a degree. The object is cer­tainly gone, but there appears to be a pile of sand on the man­tel in the approx­i­mate loca­tion of the object."

"We need to get back to the N’anwarrow house."

"Agreed," replied Febs, "how­ever I too have infor­ma­tion I need to share."

"Now?"

"It might be rel­e­vant to the case. Regard­less, it does involve Mrs. Watkinson."

Cam grunted and flopped back into the chair, "Fine."

"She is a fraud."

Cam jerked upright again. He flinched as his neck pinched a bit and he made a men­tal note to stop doing that. At the very least never do it twice in a sin­gle day.

"Don’t leave me in sus­pense, spill it."

"Her edi­ble fla­vored, edi­ble flow­ers are not gen­uine. They are made with sugar water and fla­vor­ing. Specif­i­cally, crushed blueberries."

"Wait, you’re say­ing the flower she gave me wasn’t actu­ally nutri­tious but that she use a trick that they teach in grade school? But you ana­lyzed one and said it was legit." Cam spun around in the chair again.

"Neg­a­tive. I merely said that the flavonoids were higher than I would have expected and that the sucrose lev­els were excep­tion­ally high. The exis­tence of sugar water would explain the anomaly."

Cam popped out of the chair and walked over to where Febs had the plants grow­ing under the lights in two gigan­tic steps, "Is that what you’ve been doing? Attempt­ing to repli­cate the flow­ers in her gar­den? Didn’t you take a plant? Per­haps that explains why your are get­ting the read­ings you are."

"Please, sam­ple the plant on your left."

Cam did, tak­ing a petal from the brown­ish, open snap­dragon flower and lay­ing it to rest on his tongue. At first he got noth­ing, them the unmis­tak­able taste of blue­ber­ries came seep­ing out of the petal and began flood­ing his mouth s he chewed.

"It tastes exactly like the one I had that she her­self gave me. You’re going to have to do bet­ter than that to con­vince me Febs."

Febs stepped for­ward as well, com­ing to a stop beside Cams left shoul­der. He reached out, indi­cat­ing the plant that Cam had just taken a bite from. "That was pur­chased from the gar­den cen­ter yes­ter­day and set into a bath of sugar, water and mashed blue­ber­ries. It was orig­i­nally white, the poor absorp­tion of the inter­nal cel­lu­lar struc­ture is what cre­ates the muddy coloring."

Cam was shocked. His mouth hung open a few cen­time­ters as he took in the news. The woman who was try­ing to save the world by cre­at­ing plants that could feed and nour­ish the world had lied.

Cam shook his head, "Okay, wait… so she lied. Not nice behav­ior I admit, but what does that have to do with the case?"

"Her main mon­e­tary con­trib­u­tor was Daniel Windtalker."

"Talk to me Febs, is it what I think it is?"

"Affir­ma­tive."

"And?"

"And as you sug­gested, the has once again be changed. Or, to be more pre­cise, it has lost its shape. The pile of sand is in fact nano particles"

"Can you access it?"

"Try­ing to hack in now."

Cam smiled as every­thing finally fell into place. He grabbed his phone and quickly dialed the home num­ber for the San­Barts police chief. After three rings the chief answered, "This bet­ter be good Cam. I was just about to beat my wife at checkers."

"Febs and I cur­rently at the crime scene of Daniel Windtalk­ers death. I know why, how and why he died. Can you meet us?"

"Now?"

"No, it can wait until morn­ing. Assum­ing you want to give the killer an addi­tional 12 hours to fig­ure out how to dis­pose of the mur­der weapon."

"Fine, "came the less than pleased voice over the phone. Who else should be there?"

Cam smiled, "Everyone."


Febs stood in the mid­dle of the room. Occa­sion­ally he would turn every so slightly before return­ing to his not turn­ing, sta­tion­ary, and dis­turbingly quiet self. Only to shift again a few moments later, once again scar­ing just about every per­son in the room.

And every­one watched with semi-​​rapt atten­tion. In ran­dom suc­ces­sion each per­son would go through a cycle of start­ing; Febs, Cam, the chief and back to Febs. Over, and over.

The ear­lier death maze of fur­ni­ture had been cleared, with every­thing pushed to the edges of the room to allow the CSI teams to do their work. THe only fur­ni­ture left when Cam and Febs had entered had been a small extremely flow­ery couch, a desk and the chair that the vic­tim had been sit­ting in.

Dr. N’anwarrow and his wife Nancy had taken seats on the couch when they had arrived. The Chief, arriv­ing sec­ond, had recov­ered a small chair from the edge of the room and placed it oppo­site to where Cam now sat.

Cam was cur­rently sit­ting on the arm of the chair Daniel had been found in while Febs stood next to the small table that sat between every­one. The chair was still in the same place it had orig­i­nally been, in the back third of the room. THe new fur­ni­ture had been arranged to the right, mak­ing an odd cir­cle with Febs stand­ing in the mid­dle. Every­one watching.

Until sud­denly Febs stopped stop­ping and turned to face Cam.

"Febs?"

"Your the­ory is confirmed."

"See if you can trig­gers it’s shift and just get it off the frame. Doesn’t mat­ter what it becomes."

"Under­stood. It may take some time."

"That’s fine, replied Cam as he turned back to face the group. "Now, who wants to confess?"

"I’m sorry, what the hell are you talk­ing about," asked Nigolo.

"Mr. N’anwarrow, the item that killed Daniel Windtalker is here, in this room. Well, kind of."

"Kind of?"

Cam ran his hand over his face, "The sim­plest expla­na­tion this. Daniel was killed by pro­gram­ma­ble matter."

"Utterly impos­si­ble!"

"Sadly Dr. N’anwarrow, it’s not. Only highly improb­a­ble. How­ever I’m, well, I should say Febs, is hope­fully about to increase the odds in my favor."

"Cam, " said the police chief speak­ing up for the first time, "You have us all here, can you get to the point please?"

Cam smiled and nod­ded. He clasp his hands behind his back and began to place the room, "First a lit­tle back­ground. Every­one already knows what I’m about to say but it’s impor­tant to make sure it’s out in the open so that every­thing is in con­text. Daniel Windtalker is the founder and cur­rent CEO of Windtalker Electrics. A direct com­peti­tor to your own com­pany Nigolo Dynam­ics, cor­rect Mr. N’anwarrow?"

"Are you accus­ing me of something?"

"No sir, as I said, just lay­ing out the facts. Both com­pa­nies were pio­neers in the field of pro­gram­ma­ble mat­ter. That is to say the have to abil­ity to lit­er­ally cre­ate objects on demand out of exist­ing objects. It’s a bit more com­pli­cated and com­plex than that however…"

"Sub­stan­tially more com­plex I’d say."

Cam nod­ded again, this time in the direc­tion of Dr. N’anwarrow. "As I was say­ing, in addi­tion to his com­pany Dr. Windtalker was well know for being a friend to the lest for­tu­nate and down­trod­den. He has started mul­ti­ple clin­ics and pro­grams try­ing to help those that he can do more that merely sur­vive. If my infor­ma­tion is cor­rect there are sev­eral pro­gram­mers at his com­pany now that started out in one of his train­ing pro­grams. In fact he was going to receive a human­i­tar­ian award for all his work next week. Says a lot about the man."

Cam scanned the room, watch­ing the reac­tions of each per­son in the room before con­tin­u­ing. "I’ve learned that the Windtalker com­pany was about to release an update to their pro­gram­ma­ble mat­ter prod­uct cor­rect Dr. N’anwarrow, one that would prac­ti­cally guar­an­teed they would win the forth­com­ing gov­ern­ment con­tract with sev­eral mil­lion dollars?"

"I’m get­ting a lit­tle tired of your almost insin­u­a­tions. Chief Remark­able, do I really have to lis­ten to this?"

"For now," replied the chief.

Febs turned and nod­ded to Cam who walked over to the fire­place and extended to the pic­ture hang­ing there. He waited and after a beat what picked up what looked like a small rod about a foot in length and very nar­row. Cam smiled and turned back to the group. He bran­dished the object in front of him, "Dr. N’anwarrow? If you please?"

N’anwarrow stood up and walked over the Cam, snatch­ing the piece from him. The Doc­tor exam­ine the object closely, then from far­ther away. He held the object on one side, then flipped the piece over to exam­ine the other. A pat­tern that repeated four more times before he finally looked up at Cam. "This isn’t mine."

"Never said it was, " replied Cam, "but can you con­firm that it is in fact pro­gram­ma­ble matter?"

"Not with­out a full scan, but for the moment I’m will­ing to stake that it is. In fact, it looks like one of Windtalk­ers products."

"I believe it is. And I fur­ther believe it is in fact the newest ver­sion of their prod­uct. The one with the new pro­gram­ming inter­face that is eas­ier to use."

Dr. N’anwarrows eyes grew big as he real­ized exactly what it was he was hold­ing. "Why is it here? Are you say­ing some­one used this to kill Daniel?"

"You never answered my ques­tion ear­lier sir, with that new inter­face chances are Daniels com­pany would win the con­tract correct?"

Dr. N’anwarrows face scrunched up in anger, then relaxed into res­ig­na­tion, "Yes. But I didn’t kill him."

"And Mrs. Watkin­son, " said Cam turn­ing to the woman still sit­ting on the couch, "is it true that Daniel Windtalker was the main backer in your ven­ture to develop flow­ers capa­ble of mak­ing a dif­fer­ence with global hunger?"

Nancy sim­ply nodded.

"Tell me Nancy, is it also true that your entire research thus far, the very research that Daniel has been fund­ing, with money from his com­pany, the research which was the basis for the award he was going to be pre­sented with… is entirely false? That you have in fact been merely treat­ing exist­ing plants with fla­vored sugar water."

Nancy burst into tears, throw­ing up her hands to cover her face.

"How dare you," charged Dr. N’anwarrow. "How dare you accuse her of fraud!"

"He’s right," Nancy choked out between sobs. "My exper­i­ments failed and Daniel sus­pected. He con­fronted me a few days ago with his own evi­dence that I had been fal­si­fy­ing results."

"So…," stam­mered Dr. N’anwarrow, "you killed him? Why didn’t you come to me?"

Nancy looked up at her hus­band in fear. "No, she didn’t kill him. In fact no one did."

Chief Man­ning looked up at Cam as the oth­ers all turned to face him as well.

"Here we go," mut­tered Detec­tive Mar­lowe from behind the couch.

"Explain Cam," said the Chief.

"Sim­ple. He com­mit­ted sui­cide using his lat­est ver­sion of p-​​matter."

"Why in the hell would be do that? He was about to come into a crap load of money accord­ing to Dr. N’anwarrow."

"Because ‘Detec­tive’, it didn’t work."

"What do you mean it didn’t work," asked Dr. N’anwarrow.

"Febs?"

Febs turned to face Dr. N’anwarrow, "There is a pro­gram­ming defect in the pro­gram­ma­ble mat­ter. It will not hold its shape after 12 hours. It resets to it’s default state."

"Fix­ing it would set the com­pany back sev­eral months, if not years. Which would mean no con­tract, or at least no guar­entee of a con­tract. And Windtalker had already heav­ily invested in Mrs. Watkin­sons project. The loss of that con­tract would mean his com­pany would be pretty much bank­rupt. Add the poten­tial humil­i­a­tion of the human­i­tar­ian award pre­sen­ta­tion next week which has been pro­moted already and you have a rather nasty mix of emotions."

"So why here? Why now," asked the chief.

"That is some­thing I thin Dr. N’anwarrow is best equipped to answer. Doctor?"

"I invited him here to talk about our lat­est prod­uct. We are get­ting ready to announce our own next gen­er­a­tion prod­uct. One that will reduce the cost to pro­duce, open­ing up the mar­ket to the gen­eral public."

"Some­thing that would fur­ther devalue the worth of his company."

"I assume you have proof of all this?"

"Yes Detec­tive Mar­lowe. In fact Febs will trans­mit a copy of every­thing over to your net­work now."

"Thank you Cam. And Febs. Mis­ter and misses N’anwarrow.."

"Watkin­son."

"…what­ever. Please, both of you stay in town for a few days. You aren’t being charged with any­thing but I’d still like to take your statements."

Both Dr. N’anwarrow and Mrs. Watkin­son nodded.

"Come on Febs I wanna…" Cam turned to see Febs was once again hold­ing the furry white cat. "No."

"I checked, it doesn’t belong to anyone."

"You are not keep­ing it."

"But it likes me."

"No."

"Please?"

Cam threw up his arms, "Fine. But I’m not chang­ing the lit­ter box."

Febs smiled. Or at least tried to.


  1. That’s not entirely true. His mother typ­i­cally calls him Junior or sim­ply ‘J R’. Unless shes wants some­thing. Then it’s Cam. If she wants him to do some­thing for her it’s ‘Cor­nelius’. Or if she’s really mad, Cor­nelius MacGili­cutty. Basi­cally, the more names she uses, the greater the desire to hide.↩

The Homunculus Files

06/17/2015

3AM. National His­tory Museum. Wash­ing­ton, DC Light flared out of two win­dows in the back of the build­ing, cast­ing part of the alley­way behind the build­ing into sud­den and harsh real­ity. The shad­ows that remained deep­ened, cre­at­ing tiny iso­lated haven for all man­ner of things to hide. It was within one of those shad­ows that some­thing stirred.

It leapt out of the shadow cast by the dump­ster and dashed across the alley, press­ing itself up against the the build­ing itself. In the half light from the win­dows it’s fea­tures were impos­si­ble to make out, but it’s humanoid form wasn’t. It turned it’s head and peered into the win­dows, just the barest frac­tion of it’s hair­less and wrin­kled head cap­tured in the bright light.

Duck­ing, it ran under the win­dows in a mad dash stop­ping at the steel door on the other side. It pulled two pieces of wire from it’s body and picked the lock in just over a minute, slip­ping in qui­etly as the door hissed shut.

In the light the crea­tures fea­tures were clearer. Its skin was and orangish-​​red and looked like it was made from clay that hadn’t yet hard­ened. It has the pro­por­tions of a human but was much smaller, only hav­ing to duck slightly to pass under the red vel­vet ropes that cor­doned off the exhibits and halls. It paused and looked around, found a kiosk with a map of the exhibits and, after a few sec­onds, ran off down the hall and slipped into the Egypt­ian exhibit.

It made it’s way into one of the dio­ra­mas, made sure it’s shoes were hid­den by the other pieces of the dis­play and became com­pletely still. After a few min­utes a well dressed man entered the room fol­lowed by another man who looked like he had had a rough day. He kept look­ing behind him and in every direc­tion as if he expected some­one to be lying in wait.

Relax Mar­cel. I told you, no one is here. I had my peo­ple check the place throughly. Now, tell me what you dis­cov­ered at the Pentagon.”


Doc­tor Emily Carters turned a knob and made a note. She glanced up through the glass at the man sit­ting on the bed in the next room in the lotus posi­tion. She cringed slightly as the though of twist­ing her body like that, or sit­ting still for that long passed through her mind. She twisted another knob, made another note and set the clip­board down with one hand, pulling out her mobile phone in the other.

She quickly scanned through her mes­sages and calls, saw noth­ing since she had checked five min­utes ago, sighed and slipped the device back into the pocket of her lab coat.

He’s still chan­nel­ing,” came the ques­tion from behind her. She turned to see her new assis­tant car­ry­ing a bunch of folders.

It’s not ‘chan­nel­ing’ Alexander.”

What­ever,” Alexan­der said drop­ping the fold­ers on a desk. “It’s freak­ing me out.”

Then why take this job,” asked Emily.

Because it paid well. And I didn’t pick it per say. I was assigned to you. So what is he doing anyway?”

As I explained yes­ter­day, he is con­cen­trat­ing on con­trol­ling his homunculus.”

Okay, see… that’s what I don’t get. I mean, I know what a homuncu­lus is but I don’t get the con­trol­ling part. How does it work,” Alexan­der asked as he stared through the glass.

That we don’t know. He’s not pro­ject­ing or dis­plac­ing. He’s actu­ally con­trol­ling the lit­tle crea­ture thing that left earlier.”

Alexan­der turned and leaned against the win­dow, shov­ing his hands in his pock­ets. “But he can see and hear every­thing that’s hap­pen­ing here as well right?”

Yes, which is the rea­son he is in the iso­la­tion room.”

And tonights ‘mis­sion’ is to spy on a cou­ple of busi­ness men-“

Between two sus­pected spies.”

Fine,” Alexan­der said turn­ing around to watch the man in the room again, “but I still don’t get how no one notices his… thing run­ning around.”

Doc­tor Carters sighed in frus­tra­tion, picked up her clip­board and walked over to the bank of com­put­ers. “Because peo­ple, by default, aren’t really all that obser­vant. You ever have that moment where you are absolutely pos­i­tive that you saw some­thing out of the cor­ner of your eye, or in a shadow but noth­ing is there. Peo­ple are use to it, so much so in fact that other than a cur­sory look around we don’t really give it much thought.”

Doc­tor Carters sat in her chair and began slow­ing spin­ning around, tap­ping the floor with her feet to keep her motion, “So that gar­goyle on the side of the build­ing, or the statue in the park, or per­haps one of the fig­ures in the dio­rama might be some­thing other than what it seems. And there are enough alley­ways, rooftops and sew­ers to get almost any­where and every­where with­out being seen by cam­eras and people.”

They both jumped as the knock on the win­dow beside them. The man who had been sit­ting on the bed stood there him arms out­stretched above him and his palms pressed flat against the win­dow. He smiled and gave a thumbs up, “I got what we need! I’m bring­ing the lit­tle one back now!”

Impossible Things – 10/​6/​14

10/06/2014




1. Play­ing ten­nis with a tiger. (They tend to chase the balls)

2. Tiny steam­punk tur­tle samu­rai.

3. Aero­nau­tic starfish.

4. Evolved Jello.

5. Inverted stairs (You walk down to go up…)

6. Con­vinc­ing a cat to do…. any­thing really.

7. Diplo­matic Poi­son Ivy (It's asks per­mis­sion before caus­ing a rash)

#impos­si­blethings  

Shadows

10/03/2014


So the NYC Flash Fic­tion con­test thingy begins the sec­ond round tonight.  I didn't place in the top 15 for round #1, and I'm not really in a place to par­tic­i­pate in round 2 (and there­fore likely not going to com­pete).  That said, I'm post­ing the first round entry because here I want to. It's not my best work but con­sid­er­ing I hate hor­ror and have trou­ble read­ing and writ­ing it (I get creeped out to easy) but I think it's decent.

Jeremy gig­gled and reached out to grab onto the stack of lum­ber that sat on the ground wait­ing for tomorrow’s ship­ment. As he tot­tered around the cor­ner, he saw the wig­gling tail of the puppy he had been fol­low­ing dis­ap­pear into the shad­ows up ahead. 

As he turned the cor­ner again his bracelets caught on the stack of wood. The one with the base­ball bat had got­ten stuck, so he slipped it off and dashed for­ward. Ahead, he saw the puppy scram­bling into a metal tun­nel.

When Jeremy reached the tun­nel he climbed in after the puppy, the tin­kling of the base­ball charm on the remain­ing bracelet echo­ing around him.

Sud­denly a loud noise erupted and the tun­nel began to shake. Jeremy tried to back out, but couldn't. Instead he began to slip for­ward.

As he saw the blades com­ing closer, he screamed.

———————

Wal­ter Minkis walked up to the counter and dropped his pur­chases on it. 

"Did you find every­thing okay?" asked the blond stand­ing at the reg­is­ter. Wal­ter avoided eye con­tact, and nod­ded.

She care­fully placed each item into the bag as she rang it in. "That will be $24.50."

Wal­ter reached back and pulled out his wal­let. He stared down at it for a few sec­onds, stroked it twice and reached in to take out the money inside.

"Where did you get that?"

"Wha-​​?" he said, look­ing up quickly at the lady behind the counter, panic spread­ing across his face.

"I asked you where you got that." Her voice quickly shifted from sur­prise to anger.

"Lisa? What's wrong?" asked the only other cus­tomer in the store. 

"This guy has Matthew’s wal­let."

Wal­ter turned to see who Lisa was talk­ing to and nearly wet him­self. Strid­ing up the aisle was Michael Davis, town sher­iff.

Wal­ter tossed the wal­let at Lisa, who threw up her arms and screamed as he bolted towards the door. He reached it just as the sher­iff came out of the aisle. As Wal­ter ran he glanced through the store win­dows, see­ing the sher­iff stop­ping to check on the counter girl. When he reached the cor­ner of the build­ing he cut sharply left into the alley that ran along­side and ran for home as if his life depended on it. Which it did.

———————

The door shat­tered. Wal­ter flinched away from the suit­case he had been pack­ing, cov­er­ing his face and head from fly­ing splin­ters. The wood was still falling when the sher­iff and sev­eral state troop­ers swarmed into the room shout­ing and bark­ing orders. Some yelled for him not to move while oth­ers were telling him to put his arms up. Still oth­ers kept shout­ing to get on his knees. 

He darted for the back door, dodg­ing the offi­cer that dove over the worn and frayed couch try­ing to tackle him. The ply­wood and cin­der block cof­fee table crum­bled under the impact of the offi­cer. Wal­ter grinned and hoped he had been hurt.

As he turned the cor­ner into the kitchen he ran into another group of offi­cers. One grabbed him by the shoul­ders, wrap­ping his arms around Wal­ter to pre­vent any fur­ther attempt to escape while another fought to get his arms pinned behind Walter’s back and slip on plas­tic zip cuffs. 

The offi­cer hold­ing Wal­ter by the shoul­ders shoved him hard up against the refrig­er­a­tor, shak­ing the appli­ance so vio­lently that it knocked every­thing from the top. In the pile of mess that fell was a sin­gle sil­ver bracelet with a base­ball bat hang­ing from the end. 

Another offi­cer reached down and picked up the bracelet along with the paper box that sat upside down with its lid slightly askew. As he turned over the base­ball bat charm he saw the name 'Jeremy' engraved on the back. He showed this to the sher­iff, who motioned with his head for the offi­cers to sit Wal­ter at the round linoleum kitchen table.

"Why, Wal­ter?" the sher­iff asked qui­etly.

"Why what?" 

Sher­iff Davis reached out, back­hand­ing Wal­ter. The other offi­cers looked away. They all knew the sheriff’s son was one of the first to dis­ap­pear.

"I won't ask again."

"I remem­ber you now," said the offi­cer that had grabbed Wal­ter by the shoul­ders. "You're Wal­ter Minkis. You used to work down at the lum­ber yard when I was a kid. My dad worked there and would bring me in some­times. You ran the big saw."

Wal­ter glanced at the offi­cer, not mak­ing eye con­tact.

"You had an acci­dent there didn't you?"

"He lost his hand when he fell into the chip­per. Said he was res­cu­ing his puppy," said Sher­iff Davis, turn­ing the bracelet over in his fin­gers.

"Damn kids had hung Roger by his neck," screamed Wal­ter.

"Is that why you used a puppy to lure kids? Because some kids killed your puppy what, twenty years ago?"

"What are you talk­ing about?"

"Wit­nesses say they saw the kids that dis­ap­peared fol­low­ing a puppy into the lum­ber yard. Is that how you did it? Using a puppy?"

"I don't know any­thing about no damn puppy but those kids deserved every­thing they got!"

The Sher­iff frowned and stood up. "Get him out of my sight."

The state troop­ers yanked Wal­ter up so hard he yelped. They dragged him out of the house, kick­ing and scream­ing "They deserved it!"
———————

Just inside the woods that sur­rounded Walter’s house, in the dap­pled shad­ows of sun­light cast by the leaves of the trees over­head sat a small red and black puppy. His eyes flashed red as he pulled out a small bone and began chew­ing. As the puppy shifted his paws around to get a bet­ter grip the leaves cov­er­ing the other end of the bone slid to expose the skele­tal hand that still remained attached. Around the hand was a small sil­ver bracelet with what looks like a base­ball hang­ing from it.

Yes. I am alive. (somewhat long)

10/02/2014


What hap­pened?
The Good 
As I said, I'm alive. In addi­tion, a few weeks ago my edi­tor (one +Lau­rie Lal­ib­erte ) gave me feed­back on Chron­i­cles and a short story I've writ­ten. Both were extremely pos­i­tive. And she threat­ened me if I didn't fin­ish Chron­i­cles.  The Locked Room mys­tery was accepted by +Susan Joslyn and crew for pub in the upcom­ing mag­a­zine (hope­fully I have't been replaced).

A few weeks ago I went on vaca­tion. Didn't actu­ally go any­way (which turned out to be a good thing, see below) but took time off and did stuff around the house, did mini-​​adventures with Beck, etc…

The Bad 
The week after vaca­tion, my aller­gies and chronic pain kicked into full gear. Together. So for a week I hurt and felt like crap. Then, the cold went into full swing and I was mis­er­able and basi­cally camped out on the couch for a few days.

The Ugly
I haven't talked about this because… hon­estly I didn't know what do say and didn't want to have every­one giv­ing sym­pa­thies and all that. Not that I don't appre­ci­ate them, but I never know what to do with them. 

For the last year of so my mom has been sick. Not in the hos­pi­tal sick but jut gen­er­ally feel­ing like crap. Turned out the rea­son was because she had can­cer and being the stub­born woman she is never went to the doc­tor. I want to say it was breast can­cer but I can't find the com­mu­ni­ca­tions back and forth right now but I know it was aggres­sive. They did radi­a­tion (and if it was breast likely removed either the tumor or the entire thing) and put her on meds that she would take the rest of her life. Appar­ently her body wasn't able to han­dle the full fledged chemo and this was the alter­na­tive (again, I can't find the stuff to give details).

All that was a while back. Last year or early this year. In the pic­tures I've seen of her since she didn't look good. She didn't look like mom at all. 

Over the last few months she hasn't been feel­ing great and last week started hav­ing trou­ble breath­ing. Andrew (my step-​​father) finally con­vinced her to go to the doc­tor where they found sev­eral pul­monary embolisms (blood clots) and imme­di­ately had her admit­ted to the hos­pi­tal. While there they dis­cov­ered that her lungs and legs were rid­dled with clots, one of which con­cerned them. That was Tues­day of last week (Sept. 23). She died the next night.

They had done a biopsy of a cou­ple of the 'clots' and found out that one was in fact a can­cer­ous tumor that had attached and invaded a lymph node. It was very aggres­sive and they pretty much told us that it was sim­ply a mat­ter of time at that point and that it really didn't mat­ter if she had come in a cou­ple weeks ear­lier.  

So she died on Wednes­day and we left on Sat­ur­day to drive to Ten­nessee for the ser­vices and just got back.

So that's what has been going on and keep­ing me quiet (among other things)

What's next?
Hon­estly, I have no freak­ing idea. The past few days have been a whirl­wind. Over 2200 miles dri­ven in less than 5 days, recon­nect­ing with my brother (who I've grown dis­tant from in the 8 years since I'm seen him), learn­ing to for­give my step-​​father for the past…

But it hasn't actu­ally hit me yet. Some of you might recall that I've said in the past that my mom and I weren't that close, and we weren't, but we did talk and we did com­mu­ni­cate. It just wasn't all that often and tended to be short (both want­ing to avoid start­ing another argu­ment) so I haven't had that "Oh, I need to call mom…. damn" moment yet.

I will never again look at my phone and get ner­vous when I seen her name on the caller ID. I will never again get annoyed with her because she called me for the first time in months because she screwed up the task bar in Win­dows and can't fig­ure out how to fix it.

I will never again hear her attempt to sing happy birth­day on my voice­mail.

She will never see me get pub­lished.

So for now I'm just try­ing to put things together, find­ing out which pieces are miss­ing and how ti get along with­out them. Because no mat­ter how lit­tle we spoke or saw each other there are bits of my life miss­ing. 

All I can say at this point is to for­give and for­get. Hug those clos­est to you because even though she was sick, her actual death was unex­pected and came sud­denly. The last thing I was to her was a text telling her to rest (she had just got­ten back from the biopsy surgery) and that I'd talk to her tomor­row. It was mere hours before she passed. Had I known I still would have called and told her I loved her and just lis­tened to her vent and com­plain about the doc­tors and being in the hos­pi­tal.

So, I'm not back yet. I need time to work things through. I don't know when Impos­si­ble Things will return or when I will get back to post­ing more reg­u­lar, but I will eventually.

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