The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 30

Well…

Welcome to November.

Yee-fricken’-ha!

October was a fascinating month. Did a lot of work and got little done. Had two computers die (dishonorably, I might add), a major software kerfuffle, following up on a book release, editing my next release to get it to the editors, attending meetings, …

An author’s work is never done.

And now-a-days, with the advent of self-publishing and indie authors, books aren’t done even when published. It’s too easy to find errors that snuck past every freakin editor, first reader, and critiquer (dedicated they are, those tyops! at least persistent!).

Long story short, I got minimal work done on The Alibi, which means I’m taking some time to print out all I’ve written so far and give it a thorough edit.

Scary, yes?

And Hallowe’en was yesterday (as I type this).

But sharing what I’ve already written before inundating you with yet another set of edits…

Enjoy.

The Alibi – Chapter 30

 
Briggs Lane stood at the window of his Lane, Cuomo, and Greenberg top-floor corner office and held a pair of MIL710 Optical Enhancers to his eyes. He adjusted the focus so Innovation Square showed with such clarity building images could cut glass. “That stupid bastard. I should’ve insisted he clear his plan with me. Doesn’t he know enough not to shit where he eats?”

He placed the MIL710s back in their padded box, placed that in a desk drawer, closed the drawer, and pressed his thumb against a lock. The drawer hissed as the desk sucked it a microscopic inch or two further in and sealed it in place.

Lane stepped over to The Great Wave off Kanagawa. He lifted his fingers to his lips, kissed then touched his fingers to the carving’s frame.

The wall opened and revealed what Lane’s deep intimates referenced as variously “the weapons locker,” “the Predators’ trophy array,” and “Elon Musk’s wish list.”

That last one always gave Lane a chuckle.

Musk was an ass.

Never invited Briggs to any parties, never accepted Lane’s invitations to dinner when he was in Boston.

What a fucking ass.

Lane lifted a smallish disco dance club’s glitterball from its birth in the hidden compartment to reveal a small, gold nameplate with HIVE engraved on it.

Lane turned the glitterball over and placed his hand inside. A moment later the HIVE – a prototype Human Immersion Visual-audio Enhancer – hummed and Lane fitted it over his head.

The HIVE’s separate facets, much like an insect’s compound eyes, captured video and audio feeds from whatever was available – a newscast, a store camera, municipal video, people livestreaming, devices uploading to the cloud – and built a real-time 3D immersive environment for the wearer. Tilt your head forward and you walked forward, lean forward and you ran, turn your head and you saw from side to side, tilt your head back and you looked up, down was down and so on.

Lane ran the HIVE through traffic to SkyHook headquarters. Emergency vehicles were already on site. Police were detouring inbound traffic and searching outbound. Pedestrians were herded into Fan Pier Garage for questioning.

Something hummed overhead. Lane looked up.

Whose drone is that?

Lane stood on his toes.

The HIVE adjusted to tap into the drone’s feed.

Two channels active?

And one is blocked?

Lane smelled ozone and heard a soft crackling. The back of his head grew warm, then hot.

He pulled the HIVE from his head.

The back of the HIVE buzzed then popped, its electronics cooked. The ozone smell wafted up and he drove down the urge to sneeze, instead opening his eyes wide at the smoking HIVE. “Somebody blocked me?”

The HIVE fell from his hands. It rolled on the carpet and hid behind the reef tank like a dog knowing it’s about to be punished.

Lane watched it stop. “Somebody blocked me?”

He went back to his windows, reached up, placed his palms on the glass and yelled. “Nobody blocks Briggs Lane!”

His office, more like a penthouse suite than a business office, was soundproof for moments such as these.

No one heard him. No one entered.

He went back to his desk and tapped his intercom. “Ginni, please have that mute janitor report to me. And when he’s done, come in with your notepad. I have something I’d like you to review. Thank you.”


Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 29

Yet one more not completely brand new. Pieces from previous chapters rearranged and edited for story flow and continuity.

I’ve learned to live with such things. Hope you can, too.

Enjoy.

The Alibi – Chapter 29

 
Cranston grabbed the railing as he jogged up the stairs to Precinct House 17. He may have been a linebacker in college, but that was thirty-five years ago and now he needed to pull himself up inclines when he jogged them.
He snapped his hand back as if he touched a high-tension line.
The railing was shaking?

Sure, ’17 was one of the oldest precinct houses in Boston, still brick-and-mortar as they say, and with wide-paneled hardwood floors and high ceilings and big fans hanging down because putting AC in a building about to be decommissioned was a waste of tax dollars, but that decommissioning order had been on the books for twenty years Cranston knew of. The city discovered it would cost more to put up a new precinct house rather than get rid of this old one, but somehow the money set aside for a new precinct house never made it into a working AC system.

Cranston made it a point to dig deep whenever he had to investigate a city or state official. He was going to write a book once he retired and call it “Fuckers I Have Known.”

Old or not, ’17 was still solid. Granite anchored the railings. They could shake? Like that?

He looked up and down the street. No fifty-three foot TT or heavy construction vehicles in sight, but dogs barked and pulled on their leashes. Pigeons, robins, and starlings took flight. The leaves on sidewalk maples, willows, and elms shivered as if chilled by a late October wind.

He touched the railing tentatively, one finger stretched forward, his body slightly turned and ready to pull away.

Nothing.

He shrugged and continued up the stairs. The desk sergeant looked up and nodded as he entered.

Cranston returned her nod. “You feel that?”

The desk sergeant shook her head. “Feel what?”

Cranston continued up the next flight to the offices. Leddy’s ring on his mobile stopped him at the doors to the precinct’s central office.

“POP?”

He went cold. Something happened to Leddy. That’s what he felt that nobody else felt.

Her ring again. “U OK?”

Cold yielded to confusion. “K U?”

The precinct’s wall mounted blues flashed ON-ON-off ON-ON-off. Chairs screeched across the hardwood floor.

Leddy TXTed “C THS?” and Cranston’s attention returned to his phone. Leddy sent her video through. “SIMON GOT IT ALL!”

She’d sent him pictures at every stage of SIMON’s development and had them made into a tshirt collage with the heading “Leddy’s Little Project.” She gave them to her friends, people on their street, people on the subway, and a 4XL for him.

She loved it.

But “SIMON GOT IT ALL!”?

SIMON’s cameras moved through hazy clouds flecked with ash. Cranston wasn’t sure what he was seeing until the drone cleared the clouds. It flew just above street level and revealed the clouds as billowing smoke.

“WRU”

“BPL Johnson w Pen.”

Captain Marete opened the central office door. “Bill. SkyHook just blew up. We need all hands on deck.”

Cranston followed Marete back into the office. Most uniforms and plainclothes had their mobiles in one hand, their landlines in the other, and held two or more conversations at once checking up on allies and reassuring family. A small group stood by the east facing windows. A puff of smoke seemed to hover above their heads before slowly dispersing.

Somebody called out, “Channel 5’s got it already.”

Cranston glanced at the wall screen. “That’s Leddy’s feed.”

Marete looked up from his phones. “Your daughter got this?”

Leddy’s TXT dinged in Cranston’s hand. “SLD 2 NTWRKS!”

“Yep.”

A uniform at a far desk announced, “4 and 7’s got it. And NECN.”

Another uniform added, “So do Fox and the CW.”

Marete snorted. “Busy girl you got there. Maybe UAS should hire her. She got there faster than our own drones did. Tell her we’ll want that video. And anything else she got.”

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Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 28

Another not completely brand new chapter. Pieces from previous chapters rearranged and edited for story flow and continuity. Again.

As noted previously, I’ve learned to live with such things. Hope you can, too.

Enjoy.

The Alibi – Chapter 28

 
Thorne let the Lady Eglesia‘s systems bring it into the harbor while she dozed on the deck, barely moving from where she slept through the night. She headed out to deep water after hallucinating being back home and visited by the Wergaia mythical water being, the Bunyip, and assumed overwork and stress.

But her hallucinations were becoming more frequent. She’d been visited by Galaru Snakes and Wadjinas, Rain People, several times since then, and it didn’t matter how much work or play or sex she’d had, they persisted.

She wondered. Maybe they weren’t hallucinations after all? Usually a quick trip home cured such things. She’d take SkyHook’s corporate jet and be there and back in four day’s time. One day to get there, two days with her people, one day to get back.

But her last trip home she visited the Mandjilwa, a traditional Sickness Dreaming place, despite warnings from her father’s people.

That trip took a week. She left Shaul in charge, not her next-in-command but capable never-the-less.

The Eglesia‘s alarms sounded. A shoreside distress signal. Somebody breaking into SkyHook HQ and caught in her team’s latest tech gadgets?

She sighed and her eyes fluttered open to the Boston skyline, the morning sun at her back.

A man bobbed in front of her boat about fifty yards out. Like her, he focused on the Boston skyline.

The man turned towards the Eglesia as if suddenly realizing it was there. The sunlight shone off the water making him difficult to see.

Thorne shaded her eyes then opened them wide. “What the – ”

It wasn’t a man. Same shape, same outline, but not human.

Her mobile alarmed.

The thing in the water dove and was gone.

Thorne read the message on her mobile. She shaded her eyes and looked towards SkyHook HQ.

A cloud of gray smoke climbed the thirty story Innovation Square tower. Swirls of denser smoke pulled and pushed the cloud up the side of the building like some Ngolngol King Kong, a Cyclone Wind Spirit larger than she’d ever seen before, waving its arms and legs.


Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 27

No, not completely brand new. Pieces from previous chapters rearranged and edited for story flow and continuity.

I’ve learned to live with such things. Hope you can, too.

Enjoy.

The Alibi – Chapter 27

 
Rexall Shaul stood quietly at the top of thirty flights of stairs. He made it through antoher day without suspicion. As before, he was the last one to leave the offices.

But he hadn’t left the building yet.

And Thorne was a nasty bitch when fucked with. She didn’t like being out of the loop. Any loop.

Her he could handle. Her and five or six of her people? Not so much.

He received word the NXS had gone active but he didn’t know where. Somewhere along the Atlantic shelf, he suspected but couldn’t be sure.

He hadn’t seen any more ghosts since close to a month ago.

He hadn’t heard any Beatles, either. That cleaning crew quit a few days later.

Connection?

He handed it off for others to handle.

He’d discretely pumped Thorne about any new tech SkyHook had in the works. Nothing. And he knew her tells. She was good, he was better.

He missed the Beatles music and smiled. That cleaning crew really had a thing for the Yellow Submarine album.

Check his watch, relax, breathe.

Two-forty-five seconds later he walked around his Exige, the pilot inspecting his craft before takeoff.

Satisfied, he stopped at the driver’s door, pulled out his phone, tapped a number.

The Exige rumbled to life and the driver’s door opened. Patches of the Exige’s antireflective coating glowed as if several flashlights shone all it, all in close proximity. Shaul turned around.

Nobody.

More tech? Something popped and he looked up.

A crack started in the concrete wall behind the Exige. Shaul watched it crawl like a crazy ant down to the corner of the garage. His jaw ached. He clutched his ears. Tinnitus like coming up too quickly from a dive, or climbing too high without oxygen.

An explosion shook SkyHook HQ’s building down to its foundations, and pieces of Rexall Shaul embedded themselves in the concrete walls at the front of his car.


Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 26

Yes, brand new. I know it is. So there. Phphttt!

Enjoy.

The Alibi – Chapter 26

 
Jensen hurried to Bates’s sonar station. “What is it?”

Bates put an incoming signal on speakers. “Hear that?”

Jensen looked at the speakers. “It’s what we heard before, right? Or something similar? This sounds more like some kind of church organ or calliope. Some kind of music. This is from in the water?

Bates turned volume down. “You’re close regarding instrumentation. Don’t know if it’s music. What you’re hearing are what musicians call voices. Like in an orchestra, each separate violin is a voice within the strings, each trumpet is a voice within the brass.” She adjusted some sliders on her boards. “Here they are with more separation.”

Jensen’s eyes went wide. “My god, how many voices is that?”

“Sherlock separated close to a thousand ranging from infra- to utra-sound.”

“Whoever’s doing this has some incredible sonoscopic equipment. Better than ours?”

Bates made more adjustments. “Listen again. What do you notice?”

Jensen shrugged.

Bates handed her a second set of earphones. “Now listen. What do you hear?”

Jensen closed her eyes, focused, and a moment later removed the headphones. “Can’t be. You bullshitting me?”

Bates put the signal on speakers. “Breathing. And organic, not machine-made. Sherlock scanned for AI telltales and came up with none.” She flipped some switches and a monitor showed eight waveforms, two across and four down. “Notice anything else?”

“There all the same note? Frequency? Pitch?”

“Close enough and only becuase Sherlock’s showing it that way. Those voices – that chorus – is probably the most powerful LRAD in existence. Except it produces a much tighter and more concentrated phonic beam. It’s an acoustic laser.Imagine a sound so concentrated it can explode things, like a soprano shattering a wine glass, except this could explode water. Lots of water. Sonoluminescence on overdrive, on steroids, like nobody’s ever imagined before.”

“Origin?”

“There’s the rub. It’s coming in from about three-hundred miles out. At the shelf break.”


Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)