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Authors: Elizabeth Bear

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Garrett Investigates

BOOK: Garrett Investigates
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Garrett Investigates
Elizabeth Bear
Subterranean Press (2012)
Rating:
****
Tags:
Historical Fantasy, Elizabeth Bear, new amsterdam, Alternate History

The following five stories comprise some of the matter surrounding the life of Lady Abigail Irene Garrett, Th.D., sometime Crown Investigator. They are previously uncollected. One is new; the others were only previously available as bonus chapbooks with the limited editions of various novellas.

Garrett Investigates

 

Elizabeth Bear

 

 

Subterranean Press 2012

Garrett Investigates
Copyright © 2012 by Sarah Wishnevsky. 

All rights reserved.

Cover art Copyright © 2012 by Patrick Arrasmith. 

All rights reserved.

Print interior design Copyright © 2012 by Desert Isle Design, LLC. 

All rights reserved.

Electronic Edition

eBook ISBN

978-1-59606-543-7

Subterranean Press

PO Box 190106

Burton, MI 48519

www.subterraneanpress.com

Table of Contents

 

The Tricks of London:

London, April 1879

 

The Body of the Nation:

New Netherlands, April 1897

 

Almost True:

New Netherlands, 1900

 

Underground:

Paris, April 1941

 

Twilight:

London, 1941

Introduction:

 

The following five stories comprise some of the matter surrounding the life of Lady Abigail Irene Garrett, Th.D., sometime Crown Investigator. They are previously uncollected. One is new; the others were only previously available as bonus chapbooks with the limited editions of various novellas.

Because of the fragmentary nature of the narrative, I’ve provided a timeline of all the so-far extant New Amsterdam stories. It’s below, for your convenience.

 

A New Amsterdam Chronology:

 

*The Tricks of London:
London, April 1879

The White City
:
Moscow, January 1897

*The Body of the Nation
: New Netherlands, April 1897

~Lucifugous:
Over the Atlantic,
March 1899

*Almost True:
New
Netherlands, 1900

~Wax:
New Amsterdam, April 1901

~Wane:
New Amsterdam,
March 1902

~Limerent
: New Amsterdam,
October 1902

~Chatoyant:
Boston,
December 1902

~Lumiere:
Paris, December 1902-January 1903

The White City
:
Moscow,
May 1903

Seven for a Secret
:
London,
1938

*Underground:
Paris, April 1941

*Twilight:
London, 1941

ad eternum
: New Amsterdam, March 1962

 

~collected in
New Amsterdam
, Subterranean Press, 2007

*collected in
Garrett Investigates
, Subterranean Press, 2012

Italicized
titles are published as stand-alone novellas

 

 

Garrett, of course, was inspired by Randall Garrett’s “Lord Darcy” stories; she was named after him, and after Irene Adler.

Introduction to “The Tricks of London”

 

Even Detective Crown Investigator Abigail Irene Garrett was young once. This isn’t quite that—but it is an outside view of her from early in her career, when she still had a great deal to prove. Set in London, it shows far more of the inner workings of the Enchancery than any of the other stories, including those collected here and those available in other volumes.

The Tricks of London

London, April 1879

 

One foot up and the other foot down

That’s the way to London town

—Nursery rhyme

 

“That’s the third damned dead whore in seventeen days,” Detective Inspector Rupert Bitner said, his educated tones incongruous to his choice of words. He slurped tea loudly from the chipped enamel lid of a vacuum flask. Before Detective Sergeant Sean Cuan could warn him of the narrow figure approaching through the shadowy line of uniformed constables behind, Bitner continued, “And why we’re out here in the rain because somebody’s doing us a favor, can you explain that to me?”


Hello
, Crown Investigator,” Cuan said, louder and sooner than necessary. He pushed past Bitner, the wings of his greatcoat brushing the senior investigator’s legs, and dropped his hastily capped fountain pen into his own coat pocket. Cold rain dripped from the rim of Cuan’s tipped umbrella and somehow worked past the brim of his bowler to trickle down his collar. He firmed his jaw to hide the flinch and extended his right hand.

“This is DI Rupert Bitner. I’m DS John Coen. We’re with CID.”

Introducing the DI first wouldn’t mollify Bitner
enough
—nothing would sweeten his mood after an encounter with one of the Crown’s Own, especially this one—but it might help blunt the edges. Unfortunately, reciting their ranks made it a little too plain that the newly established Criminal Investigations Division was modeled closely on the Crown Investigators—and that Garrett ranked them.

Cuan cleared his throat and finished, “We’re certainly relieved to see you.”

Someone leaning out one of the lamplit windows two or three stories above catcalled. Someone else hollered at him to shut up. Cuan didn’t look up to mark from which rooms the noises issued. The Detective Crown Investigator squinted at his hand as if unfamiliar with the appendage, but after a moment she transferred her blue velvet carpetbag to her left hand and laid her dainty glove across his palm before withdrawing it just as quickly.

She didn’t carry an umbrella, as if impervious to the rain, but Cuan noticed her dress was sturdy, warm wool rather than silk or organdy. Her back was straight in her corset and her expression never flickered, even when Bitner snorted and slurped more tea, deliberately discourteous.

“DCI Garrett, Detective Sergeant.”

Of course Cuan knew it. She was the sole woman in her service, possessed of a notoriety that outstripped both her beauty and her expertise—neither of which was inconsiderable. As evidenced by the way Cuan’s voice caught in his throat on a stammer when she arched the smooth eyebrow over one alert pale eye. He looked away quickly, but not quickly enough to miss noticing how the corner of her mouth curved now as it hadn’t before. Apparently, his discomfiture was more amusing than Bitner’s rudeness.

Perhaps that was something to build on.

She turned, her walking dress mud-stained and swaying soddenly at the hem. He watched with some approval as she neatly sidestepped whatever filth some vagrant hurled from an unrepaired window above. She might seem serene, but her awareness was honed to a fine enough edge that the missile barely splashed her hem.

“I do hope you haven’t dripped tea on my crime scene,” she said tiredly to Bitner, then crouched in polished boots as if heedless that her navy skirt puddled on filthy stones. She set the carpetbag down beside her. It made more noise on the cobbles than her boots did, and Cuan wondered how she managed that. Maybe the same way she managed to move like a sylph, despite corset bones.

“Begging your pardon, ma’am,” Bitner said. “But there’s no sign of thaumaturgical interference in these cases. You’re rather wasted here.”

“We do mundane crimes too, when they’re unusual,” she said. Her voice stayed mild and light. Cuan wondered how much practice went into that, and if it were more or less than had provided her perfect posture. “Did he leave any footprints before the rain got to them? This is a lot of blood for there to be no traces.”

Bitner blew across the top of the tea, still steaming despite the patter of raindrops on its surface, and slurped ostentatiously before leaning over to Cuan and mouthing by his ear, “You know, they say she slept her way into the service.”

When Cuan moved away, he didn’t follow. Nor did he move to prevent Cuan from stepping up to the Crown Investigator’s shoulder.

She turned her head enough to let him know she’d seen him there. “Coen?”

Cuan said, “There were footprints in the muck by the back wall, but no sign he scaled the building, and they stopped abruptly. Near sheer brick, not by the gutter. In the rain—” He shrugged, shoulders hunching against the cold.

She turned away. “Ah. Get a look at the size?”

“About average for a man,” he said. “Big for a woman.”

She flexed her fingers, rubbing her palms together as if the gloves had not kept the chill out of her bones, either. Then, as Cuan had expected she would, she drew a twisted blown-glass rod from her sleeve, touched it to the draggled fur of her raincape collar, and said, “Shield your eyes.”

He placed the flat of his hand between his eyes and the DCI, hearing a shuffle behind him as Bitner pointedly turned his back. There wasn’t much of Bitner to turn—he must have been scraping his feet pretty hard to make as much noise as that. Fortunately, his coat collar and the hand beside his face let Cuan hide his smile as well as his eyes.

As he had known it would, the first flare of stark blue light from the DCI’s glass rod outlined the bones of his hand. But then the brightness moderated, brighter than moonlight but the same cold color, casting the same relentless shadows. A rumble of voices rose from the uniformed officers and the bystanders leaning from their windows, dropping away as did the intensity of the glow.

When Cuan looked up, he saw the DCI silhouetted, runnels of water trickling from her hat sparkling like sapphires as they caught and refracted the rays. She wedged the tip of the rod between stones and rose on the balls of her feet, one hand outstretched for a moment as if she expected it to fall. But it stayed, shining through the falling droplets, illuminating the blood-and-rain-washed alley with uncomfortable clarity so that Cuan could see clearly what he had previously observed only by lanternlight.

Blood on the cobbles was the least of it. The body lay under a heavy oiled canvas tarp, though the weight of the rain was such that he could see the victim’s outflung arm and doubled-under leg as if nothing but a wet sheet draped her. The rain wouldn’t be doing the trace evidence any good, though Cuan had fitted sieves across the gutters on the faint chance that they might catch something important before it washed away. If it hadn’t all washed away before the patrol officer even found her.

Cuan’s fingers itched in their gloves when he watched the DCI brace her hands on her hips and slowly turn to take in the scene. He wondered what she was seeing, besides the puddles of blood clotted to seaweedy strings in the rain, besides the rain itself, bucketing down to make every inch of the job harder. He wanted to see it too.

The DCI interlaced her fingers before her mouth and nodded, exactly as if someone had asked her a question. She said, “Detective Sergeant? Lift the canvas, if you please.”

He could have protested that what lay under that cloth was no sight for a lady, but somehow he thought it probably wasn’t the first time she’d heard that caution. Without turning to see if Bitner was paying attention, Cuan closed his umbrella, hooked it at his elbow, and bent down to expose the body. The DCI’s steely conjured light gleamed sickly on the glossy exposed surface of the victim’s liver, the swelling pearls of subcutaneous fat. Someone in a window squeaked; someone else moaned. Cuan heard the unmistakable sounds of vomiting.

“Somebody’s canvassed them?” the DCI said, without looking away from the grotesque display of flensed meat and spilled organs.

“Constables have been around,” Bitner said, surprising Cuan with how close he’d slipped. “They have names, for what they’re worth. A pair are still taking statements, and we’ll bring the likeliest back to the station house for further interrogation. You can’t do anything unobserved in a place like this, but anyone who heard her scream and looked, and is willing to talk to us, only saw a slender figure in a cape and helmet, vanishing into the dark. At least one said he looked like a peeler, in that helmet, but I don’t know of any policeman who’d come into a rookery like this alone. It could be worth your life.”

Now that something was actually happening, Bitner was either warming up to the DCI’s presence or his curiosity was getting the better of him. Not only was he speechmaking, but he’d crossed behind Cuan and came up on the opposite side from the DCI. Cuan let the slick, weighty canvas slip from his fingers. It folded up at his feet like a collapsed fan.

Cuan said, “What are you going to do now, ma’am?”

“I’m going to make another examination for evidence. And before the body is released to the coroner, I’m going to try to reproduce the weapon,” the DCI said, shaking a lank pale strand out of her eyes.

She’d bobbed her hair like an actress, so it swayed across the nape of her neck and stuck to her cheeks in waterlogged locks. Cuan found himself resisting the urge to push it off her face.

“Curse this rain,” she said. “I could believe it follows me. Your brolly, please, Detective Sergeant?”

Cuan laughed, and opened the black oilcloth device in such a manner as to flick water away from both the crime scene and his fellow investigators. He used it to shelter the DCI while she rummaged in her carpetbag, so he could sneak glimpses of what she fetched forth. Paraffin, he thought, watch-glasses and forceps, a tiny camelhair brush that she grimaced at and returned to its loop on the inside of the bag.

“Right,” she said. “Detective Sergeant, please bring the umbrella over the victim.”

Some of her performance seemed no different from what Cuan and Bitner had done already. Some of it was alien to CID’s procedures, but comprehensible. And some of it was utter arcana. Cuan itched to ask her the purpose of her muttering and the passes in the air she made over the body with a black-handled dagger, but he also thought breaking her concentration might be a rather perilous proposition. So instead, he held the umbrella open over her hands and working area as best he could, and tried not to breathe down her neck.

For her part, the DCI seemed to ignore him. When she sat back on her heels, though, she caught his eye. “Thank you, Detective Sergeant.” She packed away her tools, dousing the glass rod with a pass of her hand. The brilliance of her light extinguished, Cuan noticed that the sky was graying around the rooflines.

DCI Garrett stood as easily as if she were drawn erect on a cord, and turned to Bitner. “Your scene, Detective Inspector. Gentlemen, I’ve served my purpose here. As far as I’m concerned, you may release the victim to the coroner whenever you’re finished with her. I should have a report for you within twelve hours. I assume I may rely on you for copies of the witness depositions?”

Bitner looked up from screwing the chipped lid back onto his vacuum flask. “Absolutely, ma’am,” he said. Arms folded over his chest, he held her gaze until she nodded thoughtfully, turned and walked away. Cuan came up beside him, his shoulder level with Bitner’s ear, and tried not to let the umbrella drip on the DI’s head.

Bitner turned slightly to sneer at Cuan from the corner of his mouth. “Goddamned toady.”

Cuan sucked his lower lip between his teeth, tasting the salt of nervous perspiration, the soot flecks washed out of the London smog. The DCI had already disappeared into the lightening morning. “You think she’s really His Highness’s mistress?”

“Bit old for it, isn’t she? Got to be thirty, thirty-five if she’s a day.”

Cuan glanced over his shoulder. “I don’t care if she’s fifty. You think those grow on trees? I was just asking what you thought of the gossip.”

Bitner spat out of the corner of his mouth. “Why? You fancy your chances?”

Cuan snorted. The rain had slowed to a mist; he snapped the umbrella shut and shook it off. “And what if I do?”

“Women and Irish,” Bitner said. “Taking over society, if you ask me. It can’t end well.”

 

***

 

It was closer to fourteen hours than twelve before Cuan managed to present himself at the gray stone Enchancery to deliver transcripts of some dozen depositions to DCI Garrett, but he hadn’t slept in the interim. He had managed a change of clothes, and shoes and socks that did not squelch, and that was a boon—as was the approximate gallon of hot tea with sugar and lemon with which he’d washed his insides since the night before.

The Enchancery’s doorman might have been chosen to look the part. A tall man who hunched like a question mark, he wore his lank dark hair combed across a freckled pate, a crisp black suit buttoned over a spare midriff. “Good afternoon,” he said, with a glance at the sky.

Cuan, not tall and at a disadvantage due to the doorstep, craned his head back. “I’m expected,” he said, fumbling inside his coat for a visiting card. “Detective Sergeant Coen, for DCI Garrett.”

The doorman extended a gilt tray for the card. Cuan laid it gently across the concerned-seeming face of an embossed Narcissus and stepped through the door as the doorman stood aside.

“Please wait in the receiving room,” the doorman said, indicating the appropriate doorway with a white-gloved flourish.

Cuan stepped through, and stood just inside the threshold with his elbows cupped in the palms of his hands. The receiving room was not large, but it was comfortably appointed, with militarily pleated drapes that reminded Cuan of coffin velvet. He could sit on one of the needlepoint chairs, but that seemed like an unnecessary risk.

He was still standing when Garrett appeared in the doorway.

Cuan had expected the doorman again, someone come to usher him deeper into the bowels of the former mansion. The sorcerer herself, clad now in a plain blue dress with sleeves that buttoned to the elbow, came as something of a shock.

“DCI—” he stammered, heat spilling across his face. “I—”

“You didn’t need to deliver those personally,” she said, extending a pale hand. “A messenger would have sufficed.”

He slipped the documents in their oilcloth case out from under his arm and handed them to her. “I chose to assume the responsibility. I wanted—”

BOOK: Garrett Investigates
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