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Est. Completion: 
Fall 2010

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Chapter 1 - Lupo (Excerpt)

I come into orbit around Soho Beach at 8:00 AM local time, drunk, tired, and achy as hell. It’s a twelve hour float from the Ganderson barracks, but in the cramped quarters of a cruiser it feels like twice that, especially if you don’t dose. I never touch the stuff – not even for long distance runs. Booze gets out of the system faster, and, while the hangover can be pretty fierce, it’s quick and dirty. A finger down the throat and a few cups of strong hot black, and I’m as good as gold. The effects of a dose, on the other hand, can linger for days; days that can make or break an investigation.

“Soho tower to Ganderson vessel, you’re clear for landing at Bay 42.” The voice is a harsh buzz that rattles the speaker casings in the dash. “Please disengage manual and we’ll bring you in.”

“Roger that, Soho. Disengaging.”

The nav panel flickers as the cruiser takes on a life of its own. I unscrew the cap on a bottle of spiced Jamaican rum and take one last hearty swig in preparation for the roller coaster ride to the surface. The cruiser jerks forward violently, and the freefall begins. A “doser” would sleep through this – me, I like to take in the view.

From ten thousand feet, Soho Beach looks like a blur of grays, greens, and deep navy blues. At five thousand feet the lights from the mining colony below twinkle like tiny stars on black velvet. At a thousand feet, you can see it for the shithole it really is – miles of massive machines and towering smokestacks puking fire and lime green filth into the atmosphere, bookended by banks of soulless concrete buildings and steel bunkers, and bordered by a frothing black sea that lashes the coastline like an oil slick tsunami. Just over thirty thousand call Soho Beach home, whether they like it or not.

The descent slows, and the cruiser rights itself as it’s drawn toward a pair of bay doors, flanked on either side by mammoth commercial freighters that make my ship look like a pimple on their asses. The bay doors part, revealing a scrambling crew in crimson jumpsuits and respirators. They signal wildly at one another as the cruiser comes to a jarring halt. One of the red suits hops onto the still-steaming nose of the cruiser and gives me thumbs up as he peels of his mask.

“Good to go,” he mouths, and the cockpit yawns open.

My bones snap and pop like a percussion ensemble as I slide out of the cockpit, grab my duffle, and step out onto terra firma. A man in a silver-gray business suit charges toward me with a smile so wide it makes my cheeks hurt.

“Welcome to Soho Beach, Detective Lupo,” he says, thrusting his hand in mine. “I’m Rochelle Carmody, Assistant Director of Operations for Lynodyne. I…uh…wish I could say it was a pleasure, but, under the circumstances… ”

I wave him off.  “S’okay, I’m used to it.”

“I imagine you’d like to start with the body, yes?” He whispers.

“Actually, uh, before we get started, I’d like to get some coffee?”

“Of course,” Carmody says. “How rude of me. You must be exhausted.”

“Yeah, sure. Exhausted,” I slur.

“There’s a cafeteria in the terminal, but if you can wait there’s a fantastic little bistro downtown that serves a French Roast that’s out of this world,” he says. “And, if you’re hungry, they’ve got these bacon and marjoram scones that are…”

“The cafeteria will be fine,” I interrupt.

Carmody’s bulletproof smile fades, but only a little. “The cafeteria it is, then,” he says. “Just…uh…grab your things and follow me.”

The man shuffles ahead to the elevators. “After you,” he demurs.

I nod and step into the tiny lift. “So, do they always send suits to greet the new arrivals, or am I a special case?”

Carmody’s meticulously groomed eyebrows arch into dagger points. “Come again?”

“Why’d they send you? Why not someone from Soho security? Certainly you being a director…”

Assistant director,” Carmody interjects.

“Okay,” I say. “It’s just that I would think that an ‘assistant director’ would have better things to do than babysit me.”

Carmody laughs. It’s brittle, like everything else about the man. “I wasn’t sent to “babysit” you, detective. I’m only here to make sure that you get everything you need to make your investigation go as smoothly and as quickly as possible. Lynodyne wants you to know that you can expect nothing but our utmost cooperation in this matter.”

“Well I sure do appreciate that,” I say. If Carmody catches the sarcasm he doesn’t let on.

The doors hiss open, revealing a bustling terminal filled with a mix of grimy freighter jockeys, mothers with screaming babies, and sat-phone chewing business types. Carmody can barely mask his disdain as he weaves through the crowd toward the neon emblazoned cafeteria at the far end of the terminal. The server – an Asian kid with dyed blonde dreads and a Rastafarian hat – gives me the once over as he spoons out a wad of slop onto a snot green tray.

“How much for coffee?” I ask.

The kid holds up two fingers.

“Talkative fella, ain’t ya,” I say, dropping two credits on the counter.

Carmody slips between me and the register, waving plastic. “I’ve got it, Detective.” He slides the coins back toward me. “Do you want cream and sugar?”

“It’s self-serve,” says the kid, plopping down a Styrofoam cup and nodding toward the end of the counter.

“Of course it is,” Carmody sneers. He picks up the cup and examines it as though it were the first time he’d seen disposable dinnerware, and then hands it to me.

I elbow my way through the crowd to the coffee station and fill up. The java’s piss warm, stale, and weak, but I chug it down anyway and start to fill my cup again when I notice the distressed look on Carmody’s face.

“What?” I ask.

“Nothing,” he says. “I mean, it’s just that I only paid for the one cup.”

“Well, I’m only using one cup,” I say.

Carmody frowns. An elderly man walks past and lets out a rattling cough that sends Carmody scurrying behind me. He produces a shimmering silk handkerchief from his pocket, places it over his nose and mouth, and scowls at the man. “We really should get going,” he says.”They’re expecting us at the morgue.”

I finish my second cup, and top off a third for the road.

“Alright, Mr. Carmody,” I say. “Let’s go see that body.”

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