Authors: L. EE
THE COLLECTED CHRISTOPHER
Text copyright © 2014 Lindsay Eimert
All Rights Reserved
To Jenny for not being disturbed when I said, “Hey, I’ve
got this book about a dismemberment scavenger hunt.”
And, of course, to my family for their faith and support.
EXCERPT FROM THE PERSONAL CASE JOURNAL OF PRIVATE DETECTIVE GAIL LIN
Case ID: CC25 – Connery, Christopher
I was talking to Amar yesterday, one of my old
precinct colleagues – and more notably one of the only ones I never wanted to
set on fire. He’d just come off a bad case and he put an interesting thought in
my head. He wanted to know how I rationalized all the shit we see. He knows
I’ve been working the Connery case for years, so he asked me how I figured a
nasty bastard like Christopher Connery could come to be. What kind of world
lets such an evil piece of shit exist? The answer is simple: our world, and
more specifically, our city. Our New Crossbridge.
Even now, decades and decades after the Academy of
Magicians got done mopping the streets with the anti-magical governments, most
of the world is still an unlivable wasteland. So, with nowhere else to go, we
squeeze like rats in these independent cities of ours, keeping contact with
other cities only in a cautious ‘we won’t start anything if you don’t start
anything,’ kind of way. That kind of crap breeds distrust toward all outsiders
and fierce loyalty to our own little rathole, no matter how poorly run or
corrupt it is. And New Crossbridge is both.
Yeah, sure, it New Crossbridge may be the most
powerful of the independent cities, with the most fertile farm domes and the
largest and most powerful Academy. The Academy’s supposed to keep us all fed,
entertained, and in good water. And for the most part, they do okay – so long as
you aren’t one of the poor bastards down in Gracetown – but the richer and more
powerful a place is, the darker its underbelly.
The darkest spots on New Crossbridge’s underbelly are
people like Christopher Connery. See, in the upper echelons of New Crossbridge,
populated primarily by magicians and those laymen rich enough or lucky enough
to squirm into their inner circles, all that magic and magical technology has
led to two things: time and money. And while most people spend time and money
going to picture shows and gambling with attractive strangers, some people try
to make something of themselves and some of them do it on the wrong side of the
law. Christopher Connery was one of those. Born in the Academy, he apparently
got sick of living a life of comfort and leisure and left to pursue other
interests. Unfortunately for everyone in New Crossbridge, Connery’s main
interest was vernix and how much money he could make selling it.
: a chemical compound that increases
magical power, allowing magicians do more difficult magic than usual. Effect on
magicians? Kind of like three extra cups of coffee without the jitters. Result
of overdose: Slight headache. Effect on laymen? Vivid hallucinations. Result of
overdose: Psychosis and eventual death.
Naturally, it’s always been a big hit among the rich
and the bored as well as the poor and the miserable. Since only a little vernix
leaks out of the Academy at a time, those who get ahold of it in quantity often
end up involved in a very lucrative – and very illegal – enterprise. Of course,
if you’re Connery then the vernix doesn’t leak so much as pour. I’ve been
working this case for years, and I never did work out who his contact was. He
must have had more than one, but whoever they were, they kept damn quiet. I don’t
flatter myself that they were scared of the layman police, or even the magician
police (the Illuminators). No, they were scared of Connery. And when someone is
really fucking scared of someone else, no bribes or threats will force a peep
out of them.
So New Crossbridge in all its glory and fuckery gave
Connery the opportunity to become the biggest and most dangerous professional
criminal in modern memory, and his particular talent for being a scary, evil
bastard kept him on top.
Or at least it did until he finally did everyone a
favor died. Yep, that’s right, at least my answer to Amar’s depressing question
had at least a sort of happy answer. Even the evilest bastards eventually die.
Two days ago, Christopher Connery breathed his last breath on this earth. And
good fucking riddance.
Date of Writing: 6/15/350
Gail was used to receiving strange letters. The person
who used to rent the tiny space that served as her office had apparently been a
prostitute with very interesting clients and said clients refused to believe
that he or she had changed locations. And then there was Gail’s work
correspondence, which was weird enough in its own right. Most of her income
came from taking cases that the regular cops either couldn’t or wouldn’t and
that often meant take some very unique undercover assignments. Once she’d spent
three weeks pretending to be a member of a local circus act in hopes of getting
closer their resident magician, a key link in Christopher Connery’s vernix
chain. She’d found the drugs, but had never gotten the hang of the tightrope.
But this letter was different. First of all, it had come direct
from the Academy, which had been a rare enough occurrence even when she had
been reporting to them regularly while arms deep in the Connery case. Second,
the letter contained only a few lines of print, stating that if she signed the
bottom of the page, she would be given more information but would also be sworn
to secrecy. Now, normally Gail didn’t sign things without knowing exactly what
she was agreeing to, but her curiosity – and the fact that rent was due pretty
soon – got the better of her and she scrawled her name at the bottom of the
page. After a moment, new letters swam up to replace the contract and Gail got
the first look at her new assignment.
And that was when things got really weird.
The contract wasn’t particularly straight forward – letters
from the Academy never were – but she got the gist of it. They wanted her to
But Connery was dead. During the most recent raid, when
they’d finally nearly cornered him in his hideout, some of his lackeys had
panicked and torn him to pieces.
When the cops and Illuminators had slammed their way
inside, there’d been nothing left but a bloody smear on the floor. If one of
the Illuminators – the Academy was convinced that the laymen police couldn’t
handle Connery on their own – hadn’t confirmed that Connery had died there,
Gail probably would have suspected a set-up.
But, no, the Illuminator had done his magic and gone
sickly pale, breaking the spell only seconds after casting it and rubbing out
the chalk circle with his shoe.
“Messy?” Gail remembered asking, but he hadn’t been up to
answering and she’d had to wait for his report to get the full story. She
supposed messy was one word for a man butchered and carried away in pieces,
though the Illuminator couldn’t define just how big those pieces had been. And
since chunks of flesh and bone couldn’t stand trial, Gail had assumed that had
been the end of that.
Pushing her empty coffee cup out of the way with her
elbow, Gail read through the letter more carefully. She had plenty of other
work to do – Connery’s sudden death had created a vacuum in New Crossbridge’s
underworld, a vacuum that many of his former lackeys were rushing to fill – but
she couldn’t help being curious. Why would anyone would want to find pieces of
a dead man, especially a dead man that no one liked?
She scanned the letter three more times, then snatched up
her phone, slamming in the number the Academy had provided for her if she “had
“Hi,” she said when a bored-sounding magician picked up.
“This is Detective Gail Lin and I have a lot of fucking questions.”
After about an hour on the phone, she had a basic idea of
what they wanted. And what they wanted was absolutely nuts.
Apparently, based on fragments of Connery’s personal papers
recovered during the raid on his hideout, the Academy had discovered that he’d
been performing magic that hadn’t been successfully performed for a century or
more. Gail’s contact on the phone had reluctantly admitted that even the most
powerful of Academy magicians were absolutely at a loss as to how he had
Gail didn’t think that was all that impressive by itself.
The Academy always seemed to be reviving some old magic or another. Only a week
ago, she’d read an article in the paper about a recently revived spell that
turned drops of blood into sound. Impressive, she thought, if limited in
application. But clearly the Academy thought different and they were all in a
tizzy about Connery’s scraps. They kept coming back to one fact: they needed
Connery in the flesh, no matter how many pieces that flesh happened to be in.
They were sending one of their promising young
Illuminators out to search, but they wanted Gail to join the investigation as
well, “because of her long experience working with Connery.”
Did spending several years trying to arrest someone count
as working with them? Gail didn’t ask. Anyway, she had a strong feeling that
they really wanted her to babysit their fledgling Illuminator, who had
apparently never worked a case outside of the Academy before. In her
experience, even the best and brightest magicians were absolute shit at booking
hotel rooms and not getting their wallets stolen, so laymen police were often
recruited to run interference so they didn’t get hit by cars or lose all their
money to rigged card games.
“And what are you going to do with Connery if we find
The response on the other end of the line was muffled.
“Say that again?”
“I said, the body will be returned to the Academy where
it will be revived and questioned.”
“Once the necessary information has been extracted, he
will be humanely returned to his former state. Now, Detective Lin –”
“Wait a second, you want to bring Connery back to
“Yes, Detective Lin. Now –”
“Because according to the greatest and most highly
educated magicians in this city, the knowledge he possesses could drastically
improve the quality of life of the entire population of New Crossbridge. If you
help us with this investigation, we are willing to offer you compensation to
the tune of –”
Gail snorted. “Connery
lives? That hasn’t
been his pattern so far. I really don’t like the sound of –”
The voice on the phone offered a sum.
Gail’s mouth snapped closed. She looked at her
battle-scarred desk which always tilted slightly to the left, at her unpainted
walls which served as a home for what sounded like half the rats in the city,
and finally at her ceiling which would soon be leaking despite the half-hearted
magical waterproofing the landlord had done twice a year.
Well, shit, it looks like my professional integrity
has a price after all.
“Okay, when do I start?”
“Tomorrow, seven AM. Would outside of the police station
work for you?”
Gail rapped her pen against the edge of her desk. It was
always a bit awkward going back to the precinct, but that kind of money would
more than pay for a little awkwardness. “All right, I’ll be waiting on the
“Thank you, Detective Lin. Half of the promised amount
will be transferred into your account within the hour, the rest upon receipt of
the – items.”
“One dismembered dead bastard coming up.”
The only response was a soft click and a dial tone.
Setting the phone down, Gail turned her chair to look
through the small window behind her. Her apartment didn’t have any windows and
honestly, she preferred it. Sure, the air got a little stale, but all the air
in New Crossbridge was a little stale and she hated looking at the goddamn
And in New Crossbridge, she had to look at rain a whole
lot. Gail didn’t think she had seen the sun since last Wednesday and that had
been a watery self-effacing kind of sun that had taken every opportunity to
duck shyly behind the nearest cloud. And they hadn’t even hit the proper start
of the rainy season yet.
Worse, the rain wasn’t even good for anything except getting shit wet
and poisoning anything or anyone stupid enough to drink too much of it. The
farms on the borders of New Crossbridge had magical domes to keep the
unpurified water away from the crops, but the magicians said that maintaining
one over the city itself would require too much energy and too much manpower
and, as they always added, “The filtration plants provide plenty of clean water
for our citizens, so it’s not as if the rain truly hurts anyone.”
No one you know,
thought bitterly. She gave the rain splattered window one last moody look and
turned her back. She’d better start planning for her new assignment.