Intended to be a flash fiction challenge prompted by the BG of Ommwriter, wound up being a little longer than I intended. Entirely off the top of my head, written in the span of about a half hour or so. I didn’t know where it was going until the punch bowl–which became a running gag of sorts. I’d intended on warming up for Camp NaNoWriMo with this and suddenly…WEIRD.
I don’t have a topic for said event but am considering expanding this somehow. I’d better come up with something!
Fifty Strangers Live Together.
It isn’t an ideal situation. I’ve never seen quite such a mess before. It’s like a fraternity–only with less fun and more loud arguing. Not to mention the explosions. Yes, there is something to be said about this living situation. But it was the government’s idea, and there was nothing that could be done about it to fix it. Fifty strangers, all living together, in this little commune-thing, and all for the purpose of figuring out why this dead body is lying facedown in the punch bowl of Sigma Kappa Phi.
Again, I don’t know whose idea this was. It’s just a good thing that they don’t send all fifty of us out at the same time.
Otherwise, nothing would get done.
Right now, “us” consists of Lily doing the medical examination, Charles and Samuel cataloguing evidence, Esperanza questioning people outside–she’s the only one of us with the patience (or the balls) to deal with these people–and the new guy, who we just call “Bowie” because he looks a lot like David Bowie in his Thin White Duke arc. He’s in charge of the technological side of things. Right now he’s running around–well, not RUNNING–with two tablets slung at either side of his waist and an Ultrabook in one arm. He’s our techy-brain.
And of course, there’s me. I’m Pip. That’s all you need to know. I’m in charge of this racket.
While it is inefficient sometimes I have to say that the idea to set up all of us in this place wasn’t a bad idea. The fact that there is less drain on state resources by outsourcing this work to us versus giving the work to a police facility is part of it.
The other part of it is that we can consider things that the mainstream pigs wouldn’t.
Take for instance, this dead guy in the punch bowl.
At first glance, Lily thought he’d just dropped dead because the punch had been spiked, but that wouldn’t explain why everyone else was fine. The other option–his drink had been spiked specifically–wasn’t working either, since the quick testing method that Bowie’d developed revealed nothing that could have killed a man–just a lot of shit that could get a man really fucking drunk really fucking fast. That meant that someone out there at the party would have had to do something to this kid.
It’s completely bad form, but I don’t give a fuck one way or the other: I poke the dead kid with my pen. Bowie gives me a look.
“What, it’s not like he’d take offense.” I poke the dead kid again. “He’s done partying.”
“It’s a matter of respect,” Bowie protests. He gives me another look as I lift my finger, pantomiming getting ready to poke the dead kid a second time. These kids were a dime a dozen–underage, drunk, not giving one fuck about what he did as long as he could get drunk or high.
Of course, he was now about as high as he was gonna get.
I tell ya, Bowie’s respect for the dead has always struck me funny. Maybe he’s not telling the rest of us something. Maybe he’s like part vampire and no one’s talking. Maybe–
“I got something.”
A door shuts as Esperanza steps in.
“Vodka? Gin? Sterno fuel?”
“Nothing like that,” Esperanza says, taking off her glasses and giving me a look. She’s never found my jokes funny at all and apparently she won’t any time soon, either.
“Who had a reason to kill this guy?” I ask.
“Nailed it,” Bowie says, pulling a tablet out of a sling and doing some arcane gesture that brings up a program of some sort that I cannot identify from poking distance of a corpse.
Not for the first time, nor for the last, I begin to wonder who’s idea it was to just stick so many of us in one building and send us out as needed to solve things like this. Good idea on paper, but I’m guessing that none of them who thought of this shit had to deal with people like Esperanza and Bowie…
“As I was saying, Pip,” Esperanza said, putting about thirteen extra decibels on my name, “everybody here had a reason to want this guy dead, but none of them had the murder weapon.”
“He was poisoned,” I say. “Anyone could’ve spiked his drink.”
“Only one problem with that theory,” I hear, as Charles walks in, with his crew cut and badly matched outfit.
“Oh really? What’s the problem with that theory?”
“Simple. It doesn’t explain the dart in this kid’s ass.” That was Sam, walking in right behind Charles. The two might’ve been twins separated from birth and then given vastly different cybernetic bodies or something, for how closely they tended to think alike. It was uncanny, it was interesting, and it was INFURIATING.
More so, because they were invariably right. Probably that was why they got assigned to MY wing of this outfit. My squad had the best record out of the entire house–and it was probably because of this pair.
Esperanza gives them both a look and then goes around to the other side of the dead kid and takes a good look at the dead kid’s ass. TOO good a look at the dead kid’s ass, I think, but whatever lifts your luggage, I reckon. She grabs something under his jacket and then pulls.
When she pulls her hand back she shows us the most conspicuous looking tranq dart I’ve ever seen.
“Somebody mind telling me how this got missed?” Esperanza says, eyebrows raised.
“High,” Bowie says. He has a habit of talking in single words when he’s busy. While it does save time, the rest of us never know what he’s talking about until we ask.
It’s Charles that takes that role today. “We require more information than that, Bowie.”
“Did you see all those kids at this frat? Most of them were high.”
“…this isn’t INaccurate,” Esperanza admits.
“None of them were gonna notice a tranq dart in somebody’s ass, not when they were shootin’ up like that.”
“Anyway, we should get going.”
This time it’s my turn to interrupt Bowie. “Wait, we got a scene to solve,” I say.
“Outta our range, Pip.”
Sometimes Bowie’s terseness is useful and other times it’s just infuriating. “Why the hell would it be–“
Bowie turns his skinny computer around. The page he’s got loaded is full of information about the dead kid we’ve got here face down in the punch bowl.
…LOTS of information about this kid.
“I know, right? Probably a good thing that somebody got to him this quick.”
I stare at the screen a little longer. “So…what should we do with him, then?”
“Bowie, you’re going to have to start talking with more than one word at a time,” Esperanza says.
“We leave an anonymous tip. Then we leave. Set the place up with caution tape and get out of it. Nobody has to know. …probably safer, too. We get out, we file this, and we wait for our next assignment.”
We all looked at each other like he was talking crazy, but when Bowie used more than one word to explain something, he probably knew what he was talking about, and so it was in this case, too.
And we were NOT about to argue with him when there was a dead serial killer face down in the punch bowl in front of us with–well, FORMERLY with a tranq dart in his ass.
…Just another day at work, in other words.