Monday, October 25, 2010

Corpse Flower

The trail of blood led to a glasshouse, one of those massive Victorian affairs that were all Romanesque arches in wrought iron, white paint peeling away from the red iron undercoat thanks to the heat and humidity inside. White followed the little yellow triangles as the climbed up the numbers, each one marking a drop of some poor bastard's precious life fluid.

A young constable handed him a blue paper suit at the door. "It's the plants sir. Some of them are irritants."

"I'm irritated already and I haven't even gone inside yet."

"Yes sir." The constable's expression was frozen between sympathy and impertinence. "Just follow your nose. Do you want a mask?"

"No need. I've seen enough bodies in my time."

"It's not the body, sir."

"I'll have one." Peters caught up and snatched a paper suit and mask. He began putting them on. "The victim is a lad called Milford Brooks. Twenty four years old and worked at the steelworks down by the railway on Goodge Street. Married to a woman called Melanie with a six year old daughter, Bella. It looks like he crawled here looking for help."

"In a greenhouse?"

"Yes sir. Apparently the owner has lights on a timer to simulate the tropics. The victim must have thought there was someone here."

"Let's see, shall we?" White pulled open the door and stepped inside. He wrinkled his nose. "I thought you said he died last night."

"He did sir." Peters took out his notebook. "What you can smell is a flower, an Amorphophallus titanum or Giant Corpse Flower. Very rare, so I'm told."

"What will they think of next?" White looked up at a series of long tubes hanging from a vine. "I've seen these before. Arboreal Pitcher plants, yes?"

"Yes sir." Peters waved away a fly. "All the plants in here are either carnivorous or have some connection to decomposition."

"Fascinating." White moved on, pausing at the body to stare at the hundreds of worms, maggots and flies that covered it. "Do we have a cause of death or did the arboretum?"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cutting Edge

Samuel looked at his image in the monitor, flicking through to the overhead camera and zooming in to see the back of his own head. He stroked the smooth surface with his palm as if brushing back an errant cowlick. "What do you think?"

The speakers on Dill's installation came to life. "Nice cranial transplant, bro." His biometric monitor flickered with activity as the neural implant accessed the cameras. "What about further enhancement? Is there an access port?"

"But of course." Samuel depressed a hidden button, allowing the stainless steel cranial shell to recede into the forehead construction, exposing the brain in its case, fed by wires and tubes. "Easy access to any section of the tissue for cybernetic enhancement or biological replacement."

"Sweet." Dill's speakers crackled. "This was the best time to become zombies. Right at the profitable cutting edge of Tech."

Sam closed his cranial cover and grinned with what little remained of his lips. "Cutting edge, yes. Quite literally."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Emergency Generator

The demon tilted his wings to a angle better suited to reflect the sun on his upper torso. "I'm bored." He picked up his drink and sucked delicately at the straw. "England is so tedious in August. All year long they complain about the cold and the damp them presto! In August they complain about the heat and the lack of rain."

"There's always the old emergency generator, sir." The imp refilled the demon's glass with fresh lemonade. "I could dig that out for you."

"Gosh, yes. I'd forgotten all about that. Pull it out then, little fellow. Let's give it a crank, shall we?"

He folded his wings as the imp opened the shed and dragged out a rusting piece of hardware that looked like a cross between a barbeque and an air raid siren. He studied the faded lettering on the dial. "Let's see. Invasion from Mars? Nuclear Attack? Rise of the Mud Men?" He shook his head. "No wonder we haven't used this since the fifties." He took out a sharpie and wrote a new label: Zombie Apocalypse.

The imp clapped politely. "Oh, very topical, sir."

"Super." He began to wind the crank.

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Unexpected Visit

Inspector White rapped on the green-painted door of the Herbage but took a surprised step backwards at the outburst of furious barking from inside. The letterbox rattled and a snout poked out, the brown nose taking noisy intakes of breath and huffing them out again. He could make out the end of a paw, too.

"Stimper! i lawr! Dewch i ffwrdd!" Meinwen's accent sounded muted since the last time he'd spoken to her, as if the dampness in her throat had been dried by the Wiltshire chalk. The sounds of a scuffle filtered through the oak boards but eventually the door opened a crack, Meinwen's curl-framed face at the height of White's waist and the brown-speckled head of a dog at the level of his knees.

He took another step back, almost clocking himself on the head against Meinwen's hanging basket full of chives and pansies. "Hold the dog back, please."

"Inspector! What an unexpected pleasure. Let me put Stimper in the study. He wouldn't harm a fly but he's a bit excitable."

"Right you are, Ms. Jones." White checked his phone while he waited, wondering what the flashing orange envelope meant. A moment later the door opened fully.

"Sorry about that. My brother's gone to Greece for a fortnight and I'm looking after his spaniel. He's from Cardiff and doesn't understand my accent."

"Could you not have put him into kennels?"

"Oh no." Meinwen stood to one side to let him pass. "He was set on seeing Athens."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Murder Victim

" Like a painting, we will be erased.
Like a flower, we will dry up here on earth.

Like plumed vestments of the precious bird,

That precious bird with the agile neck,
We will come to an end."

White used the end of a pencil to pick off a scab from the body. "Find out where that's from, Sergeant. it could be important."

"It probably is important, to judge by its position." Eric Chambers lifted the mask from his face and allowed it to dangle around his neck. "My guess is it took an hour or more to carve that into the victim's chest. It must have been excruciating."

"He certainly came to an end. Is that the cause of death?"

"Actually, no. " Eric twisted one of the victims legs to one side. "That little cut there was."

"Femoral artery?" Chambers nodded and Write straightened. "Do we have an identity?"

"Jonathan Hill. Taught modern languages and history at the technical college. Constable Bride recognised him from her evening class in Spanish. He was a good teacher, she said. Everybody loved him."

"I beg to differ." White peeled off the pair of blue latex gloves and handed them to a SOCO. "Somebody didn't like him at all. You could say..." He donned a pair of sunglasses. "Our murderer cut and ran."