This story appeared in Future Perfect, volume 16 of the Indian Creek Anthology series published by the Southern Indiana Writers’ Group and will soon be reprinted in Spec the Halls, a holiday anthology to benefit Heifer International.
By the Light of the Silvery Moons (Excerpt)
by T. Lee Harris
The twin full moons’ eerie silver light sucked color out of everything, making the familiar streets of New Chicago look strange to Sergeant Lloyll Apogee. She didn’t like strange. Not many cops did.
Moonlight also bathed the well-appointed courtyard of one of the city’s high-end residence blocks. As she watched, the last of the gawkers wandered back inside, the open doorway spilled golden light against the silver, stretching the retreating three-legged shadows long over the imported grass and manicured landscaping. The door closed, abruptly cutting off light, music and the babble of voices leaving only the light of the moons. It lent the area a deceptively peaceful, pastoral look — that is, if you ignored the uprooted shrubbery, smashed flower planters and churned up soil that marred the perfection of one corner of the yard.
She closed her eyes, clenched her fists and took a deep breath, sucking in the familiar scents of the police cruiser: her Canid partner’s grooming powder, coffee, spicy fast food and faux leather. Counting slowly to ten, she released the breath, opened her eyes and called up the cruiser’s on-board computer system. A small, holographic keyboard appeared in front of her. Placing her fingers over the virtual keys, she managed to type a few words before her fists clenched again. She hated writing reports. She hated it almost as much as she hated domestic calls. Domestic calls that involved a triad of Kyjolians cranked up the scale a bit. Domestic calls involving Kyjolians during their three-week Solstice Festival shot the meter off the scale.
She grabbed her coffee cup and took a pull on it. The ceram-mug had done a pretty good job keeping it warm, but the rich liquid did little to calm her down. Most of the year, working this upscale sector was a dream, but the last week and a half had been insane. This domestic dispute they’d just dealt with had been all too typical. When she and her partner, Sergeant Euff Gral, arrived, the three spouses were in the courtyard in front of their home bugling inarticulately and throwing things at each other. Large things. Kyjolians’ tri-lateral anatomy and heavy world origins gave them immense strength. They usually concealed it well, combining a sharp intelligence with a pleasant demeanor that made them the perfect merchants throughout the Alliance. However, when Festival arrived, all bets were off. No givil beans were in evidence during her inspection of the premises, but she was betting booking’s tox screen would be farther off the meter than her piss-off factor.
Privately, she wanted to round up every damned Kyjolyian a week before Solstice and shove them all in cryo pods. If they kept them in stasis through Festival, police overtime would be halved at least. She was torn about what to do after the celebration passed. She waffled between turning them loose until the next Festival and shooting them into space, cryo pods and all, to orbit whatever Alliance world they came from until the system’s star novaed. Currently, she leaned toward launching them. She’d never voice that opinion or she’d wind up spending yet another month with NCPD’s Sensitivity Coach. She rubbed the new bruise ripening along her jaw thoughtfully. The primary spouse of the triad had clipped her a good one as she was trying to clamp the restraints on him — her — it — whateverthehell it was.
Resolutely, she plunked the ceram-mug back into the holder and glared at the keyboard glowing patiently in front of her. Her duty belt creaked against the cruiser’s pilot seat as she sat forward to resume her carefully emotionless report.
“How’s it going, Lloyll?” Euff asked. As soon as they’d gotten back to the cruiser, Euff had jacked his seat back as flat as it would go and lay with eyes closed, dog-like muzzle pointed at the roof of the vehicle. Claimed it cleared his senses. It was his usual reaction to a bad call—and this one had been spectacularly bad. She’d taken a clout on the jaw, but Euff, being the larger target, had been dodging flying patio items.
“Not bad,” she lied, fingers hovering over the keys. “Do Kyjolians have actual eyes? I mean—will it make sense if I say the Tertiary was repeatedly punching the Secondary in the eye when we arrived on the scene?”
Euff’s large, fur-tufted ears twitched in thought. “I dunno. Why not just say the Tertiary was beating the shit out of the Secondary when we arrived? That’s what I’d do.”
Sergeant Gral didn’t fill out reports, claiming his Canid digits were too thick and clumsy to work the keyboard of the onboard system. This was total crap, but Lloyll let it slide. Whenever he’d been forced to write one, they wound up getting kicked back to the senior member of the team for clarification. Senior member. That was her. She viewed writing them herself as cutting out a step.
“Yeah. I know you would.” She resumed typing. What the hell? If she got the body part wrong, the Captain would just kick it back for clarification. So much for the skipped step.
She was putting finishing touches on her antiseptic prose when the cruiser’s com crackled. The night dispatcher had one of those sexy, breathy voices that was a pleasure to listen to no matter what sex or species you were. “Unit Thirty? Report in, Unit Thirty.”
Great. Now HQ was hailing them. She gritted her teeth and kept typing. Euff pretended to be asleep. He was definitely pretending; he snored a helluva lot louder when he really was. It was probably just booking wanting their paperwork. The wagon would have delivered the angry triad to the station a while back. Tough. They could cool their heels in the holding tank a little longer.
The com crackled again and the voice changed from velvet to brass. Captain Sellers, himself, had grabbed the channel. Unlike Apogee’s own heavy world mutt lineage, the Captain was pure Terran human and strictly no nonsense. He sounded even more irritated than usual.
“Apogee! Gral! One of you lazy slugs pick up! Sensors say you’ve been sitting in the same spot for fifteen minutes.”
Lloyll hit Send on the compscreen, watched the little animation of an old-style envelope whiz away, then touched the icon next to the com. The green LED for the live link winked on. “Apogee here, Captain. The incident report should be at booking now.”
“Screw the incident report, Sergeant, we have another call close to your current location. We got a body. There’s a pair of uniforms helping to secure the area and crime scene techs are already working it, but you two need to haul your sorry asses over there to take charge of the investigation. Now.”
Apogee stifled a swearword. “Close tor their current location” probably meant more Kyjolians and more givil beans. Glancing at the timepiece in the dashboard, she said, “Sir, our shift is over at the top of the hour—”
Captain Sellers interrupted. “Looks like you’ll get a nice chunk of overtime, then. Report back here when you’ve assessed the situation. If I have to call again, you’ll both be pulling Officer Friendly safety duty for the Educational Liason for the foreseeable future. Got me?”
Apogee grunted. That seemed to be enough, but Sellers raised his voice. “Gral?”
“Yes, Sir!” Even the Sergeant’s voice was at attention.
“Then, why aren’t you moving, people?”