The Art of Drowning – Episode 2.4

Must We Be Enemies – by Phil Huston

Silk and powdery perfume, who appeared to have sent herself to the dry cleaners along with her clothes, glanced up from behind her large, glossy, empty-but-for-a-phone desk. “I’m sorry, you can’t…Caswell? You again?”

“New shoes, Elise.” He put his left foot on the edge of her desk. “Just for you.”

“How thoughtful.” She grimaced, ran her hand down the side of his shoe. “Well done. They almost look like leather.” She waved her hand at the pink Boots bag in his hand. “For me as well?”

“Your charms are eternal, but not today. I picked you some flowers, but had to chuck them. Fair Shona’s allergic.”

“Everyone in this game is a pathetically transparent liar. Dunning is in.” She collected a small purse from her desk drawer, caught Caswell’s eyes. “You will give me time to excuse myself.”

Silk and powdery perfume stepped to a door that appeared from nowhere and vanished the same way into the paneled wall behind her desk. Shona gave Cas a sideways glance.

“It’s a job, Shona. Someone needs to keep the riff raff at bay or the Empire would topple. Leaving us to let ourselves in gives her deniability should today be toppling day.”

“Resulting from riff following raff through that door?”

“I didn’t live so long leading dangerous charges, Shona. Ladies first.” He opened the tall door without knocking and ushered them in.

The startled, starched and balding man behind a larger polished desk looked up, frowned, caught it and offered a practiced politicrat smile. “Detective Nevill. Always a pleasure. Caswell.” Dunning flipped through a leather clad desk calendar on the pretense of reading it. “As your last visit, you don’t appear to have an appointment.”

Caswell opened the pink Boots bag and dropped his scorched, glass bottomed work boots on Dunning’s desk.

“Goddammit, Caswell…” Dunning held his hands up and away from his desk, now covered in tiny pieces of sand turned glass. “What the hell?”

“Last visit we asked you for data from the Juliette Simone. Who were the handlers and who were the victims of the gas that melted brains like rage melted sand under my feet while fetching Dr. LeClare fifty-three bags of –”

That’s what we need to discuss, before whatever shit fit you feel obligated to put on over the demise of an old pair of boots.” Dunning had put Caswell’s boots back in the Boots bag and scraped a folded piece of paper across his desk, pushing the bits of glass to one side. “You need to let your Dr. LeClare know she is relieved of that monumental project. We will make the determinations and connect the bones to their living relatives. Can’t have you lot dropping in on the families, handing off bodies in bin bags and scaring them shitless with tales of vengeful sand.” He pushed a translucent blue flash drive across the cleared part of his desk. “This is what you wanted. I hope at least one of you remembers your encrypted access passwords.”

Caswell pocketed the drive without acknowledgement. “Kylie won’t like it. She takes a personal interest in her bones.”

“Dr. LeClare’s happiness is your problem. I will get the bodies sorted and their stories told.”

“With what stories and how well sorted?”

“That’s my problem. Bones are bones. We can’t run DNA on every finger joint you pulled out of there. The proper skull and a box of bones, here’s old Uncle Charley. That’s all I can promise.”

“Shona’s missing person’s data?”

“This is a budget wrecker, Caswell. I have a dozen anthropology students on educational intern grants tracing ancestry based on myths we’ve fed them. All in an effort to assuage your theory of some connectivity curse based on an unfortunate circus of errors committed a hundred years ago. Start with what you have. Detective Nevill will get more of what she needs as it comes. Daily if need be. You may then connect the dots as you will.”

Cas glanced at Shona who nodded. “Right, then. I’ll have the regional Doc’s clearance for whatever we need to do at Cliftonwood House with Evelyn Blanchard and we’re less the burden for today.”

There was a moment of extreme tension between Caswell and Dunning, broken when Dunning let his breath go. “Cliftonwood…That’s a bit steep.” He clocked Caswell’s expression. “But doable.” He pushed the Boots bag across the desk behind the drive. “As for you and yours, any Juliette Simone investigation begins with Detective Nevill’s recovered and returned missing person and goes forward. Use the data on the drive, daily updates and our combined underaged research talent to find out why, who might be next.” He paused, only for emphasis. “Leave the bones and their tales to me.”

He watched Caswell open the tall, mahogany door and hold it for Shona, brushed a pile of glass into an open envelope. “Leave yesterday well alone, Caswell. What have you done for us tomorrow, eh mate? Stay in touch.” He punched his phone as the door closed. “Elise? I need a vac…Elise? Elise?”


Silk and powdery perfume, topped with a large, fashionable anti-CCTV hat, stepped out of the doorway of a pastry shop and fell in step with Shona and Caswell. “They want the bones to test for trace evidence, and the hell with you and the truth. Without evidence, it can’t come back to them and you’re on your own with whatever is out there.”

“Ever thus,” Caswell said. “Has anyone been in? Defense, Navy? Other ministry shit shovelers?”

“No. The flag wrapped nurse made ripples for twenty minutes with the alarmists. Dunning had them let it go when the body failed to connect. The Bee woman was chalked up to a drug mugging. Too many bodies along the coast and in the shadow of Cliftonwood, Cas. If I see anything go missing on the way to your reports I’ll text. You know where to find it.”

“How long did my wife ask you to try and keep me alive after she was gone?”

“Until I couldn’t. Or you quit this devil’s game and proposed.” She stopped, caught his arm. “Ketamine and Xanax is reality for most at Cliftonwood. What the hell do you hope to accomplish out there on the cliffs?”

“We need to unravel a psychotic woman’s murderous dreams and follow the thread down whatever magic rabbit hole this is.”

“Stay out of the rabbit hole of the Juliette. All of you. They’re looking for an excuse to get rid of it. And Kirklin. Arm’s length rule on both till the curtain falls on this.”

Shona turned to ask a question and Elise was gone. “You know the most fascinating people, Caswell.”

“Chase ghosts long enough and you meet spooks. One day she’ll tell me what my wife really said.”

“One day you’ll tell me what you really do.”


Shona sat cross-legged on the floor, Caswell leaned against the wall of Kylie’s candle-lit exam theater and they listened while Kylie read Wordsworth’s Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey as she walked among the fifty-three black bags of bones. Her voice soft, full of poignancy, consolation and hope. She finished, clutched the book to her chest schoolgirl fashion and addressed the assembled bags.

“A few more tests and you will all be going home. Leave whatever tragedy brought you to the Juliette Simone behind. And embrace your families.” She sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” quietly as she walked the bags again, touching each of them. She left the candles burning and followed Caswell and Shona out into the hall when she was finished.

“You’re free to phone Dunning’s minions now.” Kylie looked over her shoulder at the exam theater door. “They were so sad. And confused. But now, I think…They just needed to know that someone…That we…” Her eyes welled up. Caswell squeezed the top of her shoulder, Shona put an arm around her and led her down the hall to the coffee machine.

Kirklin rose from his seat behind an open newspaper. “Tears. Emotion. Touchy feely, hugs and tea. That’s why it’s so bloody hard to work with women. They wrap a shit job in nurturing and domesticity.”

“We could all be a bit more humane, Kirklin. ‘The dead have their needs’.”

“They do indeed.” Kirklin lit a black cigarette under the No Smoking sign, pulled a knit cap from a pocket as he walked toward the exit. “And she put a right shine on Wordsworth for them.”


“Don’t roll your eyes and play at not being home!” Caswell shook both arms of Evelyn’s rocking chair. “You’re as daft as I am, you old bat. Talk. To. Me.”

“Daft as you, daft as you,” she parroted in a cackle. “Ask me a question, I’ll riddle you half and half’s enough to tell you all if half a wit you’ll be.” She laughed another insane cackle and spit on the floor between them.

Cas shoved himself off the rocker’s arms, motioned for the pair of orderlies. “Take her back.”

They lifted her out of the rocker by her shoulders where she hung, limp and uncooperative. Caswell glared when she shuffled past. “Nothing. Not a bloody thing but food. You’ll see what you see and then you will talk to me.”

Evelyn wheezed, her voice cracked and hoarse. “Why do you hate me so? Have I done you some harm?” He could see the blood in Evelyn’s eyes. “The food is shite. The drugs? Nothing.” She squirmed against her handlers. “All of them, their hands are cold and clean and the sheets smell of bleach and death. I haven’t hurt you. I want my room. I want my room and my bed and my window and I want you GONE OFF ME!”

The stainless-steel orderly’s cart in the corner of the room began to vibrate until it reached an audible pitch. Shona saw it coming, barked a warning.


The cart exploded. The only sound it made was pieces of it whizzing through the air.


The staff doctor handed off a bandaged but ambulatory orderly and a clipboard to the two paramedics. “I have him down for an x-ray and a scan. Keep him overnight.” He turned, stared at the floor where the blood had begun to coagulate under the body of what had been the other orderly, severed in two just above his hips by a piece of the stainless-steel cart. He glanced up at Caswell. “You have a criminal pathologist with proper credentials on the way?”

“Yeah.” He looked down at his own bloody corduroys, the left leg slit open and dangling from the triage that had removed another piece of the serving cart’s shrapnel from his thigh. Twelve stitches and a tetanus shot.

“The nature of our ‘guests’ prohibits a direct police inquiry.” The doctor paused, seemed to weigh Caswell. “I place a call, they send someone. Based on paperwork received just this morning, that someone would be you. Or someone like you. Correct?”

Someone like me.”

“Only younger. Unsympathetic and no doubt distastefully humorless. Pick up your antibiotic and pain medications at the desk when you’re finished. Follow up with your GP or return here in ten days.” He took the clipboard Caswell had been holding, scratched his signature across the form attached to it, handed it back. “You’ll live. Consider ending your relationship with salt, you’ll live longer.”


Evelyn Blanchard drummed her fingers on her window sill, the last golden shafts of sunset ricocheted off the crystal wine glass she’d kept wrapped in a seaman’s rough bandana and stored in a drawer for forty years.

“The blood of the lamb says the church.” She rolled the glass by its stem, watched the rainbows dance on her wall and guests. “Salvation? Lamb’s blood it is, as sacrificial they are. And many’s the soul as found desolate salvation in the grape and cup.” Her lips tightened into a stiff smile. “Must we be enemies, Caswell?”

“Shrewd, but not a shrew?” Caswell poured her a touch more wine. “We’re not enemies, Evelyn. All we want are answers. We can’t right a hundred year wrong without them.”

Evelyn sat back, swept her hand in a broad arc. “All will become as it should, if only I will speak? Well speak I did, and blood covered the floor. More of that you want? Me, speaking? Then more of that you’ll have until you learn to listen.” She went back to drumming her fingers. With the sunset gone and no more games of light and crystal to entertain her, she took her stare somewhere beyond the sea’s distortion of the moonlit horizon and sighed.

“What you want is not from me,” she whispered. “I know his rage. I feel his longing. I touch his soul as he touches mine. But I’m not him. He fears naught but to be forgotten, yet all forgotten is what most he desires.” She looked at all of them, her eyes resting on their faces. “When all that was, died? When vile intent was loosed on the unsuspecting, the innocent, the loved and the lovers…What did they in turn expect? Pastoral nightmares? Orderly chaos and a well-mannered English death?” She held out her glass to Shona, who filled it half-way. Evelyn set the glass on her window sill, resumed her stare.

“The one who cannot die searches for those who failed him his death. He persists only to leave more blood in his wake that cannot sate him. He is Fugitif.” Evelyn tapped the window with her index finger, smiled at the fireflies in the dusk. “And I am Vessul.”

She turned to them, her tired eyes glassy. “Solve the riddle. Of death. And love. Or death and madness will be in the air until the air itself is scourged with sand and our blood.  Listen to me, my angels three. Undying death.” She turned back, put her hand gently on the window, let the fireflies dance on her fingertips. “And undying love…”


Cas limped to the X5, opened the passenger door and fell in. “This has love story overtones gone more horribly wrong than Shakespeare ever imagined, Shown. We take a few days, regroup on Monday with everything we have, go back to the beginning with Evelyn and the Juliette Simone.”

“Dunning said –”

“Fuck Dunning.” He turned, grabbed her headrest one handed. “The male nurse in the flag? The dead nurse, Bee? That kid in there today? Your original missing? Look close enough through Dunning’s data and we’ll find their deaths have been on the books a hundred years. It took whoever he is a while to get to here, that’s all.” He fell back in his seat, fastened the harness. “I need a drink.”

“You need a shower. And some trousers with both legs.” She pulled out of the gravel lot, hit her high beams and stuck her foot in the X5. She checked Caswell, tapped the clock. “And we both need to eat.”

He sighed, rolled his window down, smelled the sea in the air, caught himself letting a field of fireflies carry his thoughts away. “I’m beginning to think Kirklin was right about working with women.”

“Say what?”

“I said it’s too cold to go swimming.”

“Brilliant. Fox and Goose it is. Hey, Cas?” She smiled, reached over and punched his shoulder. “Fuck Kirklin, too. Where would you be without us?”

“Dead.” He managed a wry smile her direction. “Or bored next door to it.”

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts



The Art of Drowning – Episode 2.3

A Brittle Sigh on the Night Air – By Jac Forsyth

Shadow, form and reform. Fold words with the unfold of 10,000 fireflies, ‘Rescue came against my will, yet you presume to judge me on the choices I make? Hauntings always did run common in the halls of your reason, Caswell.’

Time and crime. Sleeper stir, lead with the sanctified. And alchemy of insects come flick-click dripping. Four walls in a crippling.

‘Would you have me hide silent in sandstorms when I am fallen with the crown of Anjou?’ A sigh, bone brittle on the night air, ‘Come, my love, you know me better than that. Every beg, every borrow, every stolen, lays another gilding on my memory. Silent is the one thing I cannot be.’

Sleep crumble in moan and mumble. The seabirds cry. But dreamchaser know the meddling of birds. Sanctuary of dawn is just another trick of the dark.

‘Still you refuse me audience?’ Shadow falls soft along the seams, tears in the too late of this meeting, ‘Ah, my love, my love. In sword and arrow, I know more than most how shame hides refugee in the strangest of places. But the last of our choices were abandoned along with the tide. And it seems to me that the walls you have built between us would benefit from a touch of graffiti. Or perhaps something a little more, permanent?’

Insects take. Sleeper wake. Red on white cotton. Words never forgotten.

From the devil we came and to the devil we must return

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts

Looney Lunes #108

Oh, I am so Crushed for You! (Not)

It just seems to me that a billionaire can come in and get whatever he wants and run roughshod over average millionaires like myself.

Crescent Park (Palo Alto, California) Neighborhood Association president Norm Beamer

I’ll get out my violin as soon as the guy down the street pays the city $25 to haul off the toilet by his trash can that four-foot-tall weeds now think is a repurposed designer planter.

The Art of Drowning – Episode 2.2

Steep and Narrow – by Ash N. Finn

Evelyn watches the young nurse make her bed. Fresh covers. Five days and three hours without a change of bed linen. Bee had known to change them every day.

“We’re short-staffed at the moment, Mrs. Blanchard, sorry about that. What with nurse Beatrice, eh,” the girl swallows and clears her throat, “away at the moment, and Steve out sick as well. There, your bed is lovely and fresh now. Not that it smelled like it needed changing badly.”

“It’s Evelyn, child. Do call me Evelyn, please. It’s not about the smell. It’s the sand, it gets everywhere, the sand, and especially into the bed. The sand burns my skin, you see,” she holds out her arms for the nurse to see, “And it gives me fever, and makes me shiver, and then my visions, they, they take me to – no, I’d rather not say, you wouldn’t understand.”

Sleeping in the bed the second night had given her burns on her arms, hands, and legs, even on the soles of her feet. No blisters thanks to her quick reaction and escape into the armchair by the window in which she has slept fully clothed every night since, but her skin had turned a fiery red. It’s still red even now and hot to the touch. The soles of her feet hurt most of all, and hobbling around barefoot is all she can do. As little as possible. Her entire frame is sore from sitting in the armchair for hours on end. It will be good to lie down on the bed again.

“Mrs. Blanchard, eh, Evelyn, may I ask if you have taken your pill today? You should take it now and then go to bed, and have a good rest. Here, hold on to my arm, let’s get you over to your lovely fresh bed.”

Of course, the young woman thinks her mad. After all, isn’t this why she is in this place? Should she give up trying to make them see, trying to warn them? Yet, something tells her that the nurse is in danger. There is something familiar about the woman’s features and the unflinching openness in her doe-like eyes. Is she poor Bee’s child? Evelyn’s eyes fill with tears.

“Are you her child?”

“Oh Evelyn, please, don’t cry. What is it? Is it the memory of your last episode upsetting you so much? Try to calm yourself and go to sleep. I’ll stay with you a little longer. Hold my hand, close your eyes. You are safe here, always remember that you are safe here. Shhh.”

“The visions, they, they take me to – it’s a dark place – a steep narrow staircase – deep down – rags and bones – angry sand glowing red – so hot, too hot – scorching, torching – burning drumsticks in my head – bonfires roaring inside my blazing skull – get them out – don’t let it take them there – not their children, too – no, not the children – Bee – too late – so sorry, so sorry. Will you be able to forgive both the silence and the telling?”

“I don’t think anyone is angry with you,” the nurse places her hand on Evelyn’s forehead, “You’re running a bit of a temperature. Sleep now, you’ll feel better in the morning. Oh, and nurse Beatrice doesn’t have a daughter as far as I know.”

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts

Looney Lunes #107

Don’t Bother Praying in Coach

The Lord may travel in mysterious ways, but his “messsengers'” travel like oil company execs and politicians.


Think about this before you throw another dollar at man-made salvation, and then double that dollar and donate it to a local food bank, women’s shelter or charitable religious organization (that you know does some good) of your choice. Please, don’t buy these self aggrandizing airbags a bigger plane.

Thanks to JTK

The Art of Drowning – Episode 2.1

The Perfect Metaphor – by Phil Huston

Caswell was down on one knee, sand drifting through his fingers when the dog stuck its wet nose in his ear, pulled him out of his reverie. He put his arm around its neck for an instant before it was gone, barking birds off the Juliette Simone.

“Saw the video. Christ, man.”

“It’s just sand, Kirklin. It has no form, no stasis.” Cas picked up another handful, opened his hand and let it drift from his palm, between his fingers, watched the breeze scatter it. “The wind tosses it into the air, drops it somewhere new. Where the wind stops, the ocean takes over. Look around. The kids over there, the dog, you, me. Our footprints disappear. As far as the sand is concerned where we were never was.” He brushed his hands, straightened. “Sand retains nothing, has no intention. But it’s always in motion. Always in the moment. A perfect metaphor, a perfect vehicle for thought. Good or evil.”

“Dust in the wind. Appropriate. But a bit derivative, eh?” He put one hand on Caswell’s shoulder, waved backhanded at the ground with the other. “This was where he blew?”

“Yeah. You’d never know.” He stared out past the Juliette into the cold fog that hugged the shore. “This was rage, Kirklin. Not the sea breeze, not sand drifting like a thought through a footprint that was never there, not the predictability of the tide. Pure rage.”

“The evil thoughts and nothing footprints of a mad man?”

“Or woman. We have another body.” He shifted his gaze to the Juliette. “Letting it run through the system, but I know it’s ours. Body was wrapped in a French flag, so the terrorist boys wanted first go. Inside two hours they knew what the victim had for breakfast in 1993. All that deep background eliminated the body from any sphere of theirs, but the free research sent it straight back to Shona’s missing persons ‘psychic witness’ Evelyn. They didn’t see it, a male day nurse for a government house of nutters. Of no consequence to them, and the bloody elephant in the room for the office of secrets best kept. Too bad they don’t talk to each other.” He stared at the ground where Aqualung had been, raised his eyes to his friend. “The DNA from this ship of the damned tells the story of a hundred years of victims with familial ties. We’re going to have to clean her out. It’ll be a circus if I make it official. Can you still manage footprints in the sand?”

“I was born invisible. Like me, the ministry of secrets and lies have no doubt hacked the Doc’s camera since your visit to the Tower. I can fix that for as long as we need to get the job done.” He dropped a black cigarette butt, ground it out in the sand. “Your young associates won’t like it. Being usurped and shoved aside.”

“I’ll tell them they’d like it less if whatever happened where we’re standing happens again with them in the madness’s crosshairs.”

“I can’t find the proper words, at the moment, to express my gratitude for being deemed expendable.”

“You’re getting old. Pretend you’re looking for your glasses in the morning. You’ll find them.” He took the frisbee from Kirkland’s hand, sailed it long and low for the setter. “I’ll have a dog again. When I retire.”

“If we live that long I’ll help you look for one. You’re free to borrow mine.”

“She needs a bath.”

“Settled, then. I’ll pick her up tomorrow.”


Caswell watched from the bed of Kirklin’s farm truck as the X5 without light turned a wide arc and backed in next to him. “I told you two to stay away, Shona. Now bugger off.”

Kylie hopped from the passenger side of the SUV. “And you told me we were a team. I know how I want the bones bagged. You bugger off if there’s buggering off done.”

“Kylie –”

“The camera went offline and sent me an alarm notice. Dunning and the secrets keepers rarely check it. I get notices about that as well. It had to be you.” She nodded past him. “Or your friend.” She pulled the surgical mask up from under her chin and over her nose, grabbed a handful of thick trash bags from the open hatch. Shona exited the driver’s side and did the same. She caught Caswell’s eye, raised her eyebrows and shrugged.

“I’ll pick. Shona will archive, you will bag and tag. Grab the bags, Caswell, we don’t have all night.”

Kirklin hung back, grabbed the back of Caswell’s jacket. “Truth told they know what they’re doing and you’re padding your CV?”

“Something like that. Stay up here, keep them alive from this end for me. I don’t come back in an hour, call for reinforcements.”

“There’s a Viagra joke in that I’m going to leave alone.”

We’re the Viagra jokes, Kirklin.”


Caswell wiped the sweat from his face with his shirt tail and was ready to chalk it up to age and exertion when he noticed his two younger partners had shed their jackets and were dripping sweat as well.

“Last bag, Shown. Torso fifty-three.” Kylie wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “Hotter than bloody hell in here.” She absently leaned her hand against the Juliette’s hull and found it cool to the touch. “You would think, as hot as it is in here, that there would be some transference. Like if the sun was heating this old piece of iron.” She looked down and the sand was glowing an angry orange-red. She lifted one foot and the bottom of her trainer pulled away like it was covered in hot sidewalk chewing gum. Shona screamed, rocked back on her heels.

“Out.” Cas handed Kylie the bag, spun her around and shoved her through the hatch in one motion. “Up the stairs. Take the bag. Get out.” He turned back, grabbed Shona around the waist and threw her over his shoulder. He ripped her beach slippers off with his free hand and they burst into flames when they hit the sand. She screamed again and pounded his back when she saw the thick, hard rubber soles of Caswell’s work boots start to pool under his feet in the sand that had begun to run as liquid glass.


Shona sat in the open hatch of the X5, stared at the surf where Caswell, his pants rolled up to his knees, had gone to stand. “I wouldn’t have feet now, if not for him.” Shona nodded slightly toward the beach. “That’s two.”

“Two?” Kylie, barefoot like Shona, was examining what was left of her trainers.

“Life savers.”

“I looked up your archives on the Henry the Eighth’s headless wives case. He said in the press conference you saved his life and netted the killer.”

“He said that because I’d have got the sack if I fucked up again.” She rubbed the balls of her feet, glanced off at Cas in the surf. “I netted the killer, and would have wound up dead as Henry’s ninth if Cas hadn’t known I’d do something he’d warned me off. Can you imagine if we’d done this alone, like you planned?”

“Do you think he knew?”

“Who knows? We act like he didn’t and he’ll never say. Last time I fall for your girl’s world we do it better alone speech.” She grinned at Kylie. “And the last time I wear comfortable shoes on this one.”

“Can’t say I won’t make that speech again,” Kylie grinned back. “This is the last time I wear expensive comfortable shoes on this one.” She frowned at her trainers and bagged them. “Where’s Caswell’s friend?”

“Somewhere he can see and can’t be seen. He needs to surface, though. Soon. We need his truck to haul the bones and Caswell back from cooling his toes.”

“Who is he?”

“I was told Kirklin is what 007 wanted to be when he grew up. Caswell says he’s the most dangerous man any of us will ever meet. And the only reason that Kirklin’s retired and still alive is the secrets keepers don’t know where his box of secrets is.”

“That sounds so mellodramatic. Like an overacted black and white film full of off-handed bikini sexism and fake karate chops.”

“We didn’t have computer driven special effects back then.” They both jumped out of the X5 when Kirklin materialized leaning on the hatch door frame. “Tell us where the bones are going. Cas and I will be along.”


Kirklin and Caswell bounced down the road in the old truck in silence. Ten minutes and a mile away, Kirklin held his hand out the window and pressed a button on what looked like a keyless entry fob. His phone on the seat next to him lit up with live video from the Juliette. “We’ll be on CCTV in the parking lot at the hospital where your baby Doc’s lab is. This won’t be a secret long. I heard fifty-three from both rooms, based on skulls?”

“How did you hear that?”

“The same way I heard them plotting to do it on their own. Your singing smart ass doctor isn’t the only one with tricks up her sleeve. One pin head piezo and the entire ship is a microphone. Enough power and it’s a giant speaker. I wonder how much of your banshee was real, and how much help it had.” He tossed the fob into a door-less glove box. “What’s your real plan with the bones?”

“Pressure. They have to give us the information on the test subjects and responsible crew from the Juliette that they’re sitting on. Doc catalogs the DNA, Shona crosses it with missing and living relatives, we quietly return the bones to the families for ‘closure.’ Or it’s a hundred-year serial killing spree spawned by the Crown’s miscreant boffins playing loose with their ethics and chemistry kits.”

“That’s the best bit. When they know it’s their asses and you get to squeeze them, watch them squirm.” Kirklin slowed, navigated a narrow, wooden bridge. “So that was some or your angry sand tonight, eh?”

“The sand grains on the steps were tiny, glowing balls, Kirklin. The steel itself was the same forty degrees as outside. Everywhere underfoot it was molten glass. None of it has made sense so far.”

“Madness seldom does. Your toes okay?”

“I thought steel toed boots were a safe bet.” He snort laughed, put a bare foot on the dash. “The tops of my toes feel like a long day in the sun, and a good pair of boots are done in. I’ll live.”

“I was afraid you’d say that.” Kirklin took both hands off the wheel, lit one of his black cigarettes. “Here I was all set to enjoy my retirement.”

“You’re a piss poor liar.” Cas grabbed the steering wheel with his right hand. “And a worse driver.”

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts