Rated R: Contains violence
The Tricks of London
by Elizabeth Bear
“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 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.”
About the Author
Sarah Bear Elizabeth Wishnevsky is an American author who works primarily in speculative fiction genres, writing under the name Elizabeth Bear. She won the 2005 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Tideline”, and the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for “Shoggoths in Bloom”. She is one of only five writers who have gone on to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (the others being C. J. Cherryh, Orson Scott Card, Spider Robinson, and Ted Chiang).
About the Narrator
John Trevillian is an English novelist, poet, shaman and award-winning author of three dystopian sci-fi novels (The A-Men, The A-Men Return and Forever A-Men), plus writer of many other short stories, poetry collections and travel journals. He is also creator of the Talliston House & Gardens project, which could use your support – please see: Trevillian.com & Talliston.com.