“Boswell continues his genre-defying series in this ambitious adventure…” –PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY
Murder rocks the seaside town of Crab Cove, but to solve the crime, Detective Simon Grave must first deal with the curious incident of the cat in the daytime.
Murder has come yet again to the seaside town of Crab Cove, testing the mettle of Detective Simon Grave, his “almost invisible” partner, Sergeant Barry Blunt, and his new assistant, Charlize, a simdroid (an android lookalike of a famous person) who fancies herself a match for Sherlock Holmes, in the simulated body of Charlize Theron.
When a body is discovered on a deserted beach, alongside a deactivated Betty White simdroid, the game is afoot. Grave must not only deal with the murder, but also come to grips with a deadly prognosis for his retired detective father. The murder and his father’s illness take them on a tour of local cemeteries, including a new graveyard that features multiscreen videos celebrating the lives of the deceased.
They soon discover that the only way to solve the murder is to first deal with the curious incident of the cat in the daytime.
|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Edition description:||First Printing ed.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.53(d)|
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Her long-sleeved black dress and preternaturally tiny waist gave her the appearance of a segmented insect as she scurried through the buzzing crowd from food station to food station, gnawing at cheeses and nibbling at hors d'oeuvres, her head on a swivel, looking for the next delectable morsel or more, perhaps a whole ham or prime rib of beef she could grasp in her mandibles and drag back to the nest. Detective Simon Grave looked down at his empty wine glass, his third, then set it aside on a nearby tray. Enough was enough.
The first day of the 17th Annual Crab Cove Conference on Crime, or C4 as it was known in the law enforcement community, had gone about as expected, with one boring lecture leading inexorably to an even more boring workshop, interrupted only by brief bathroom breaks where attendees had to choose between relieving their bladders or filling up on coffee and donuts supplied by Crab Cove's nearly famous Skunk 'n Donuts.
Fortunately for Grave — and perhaps explaining his indulgence in more than a single glass of chardonnay at the cocktail reception — his own part in the conference, a lecture on his most recent case, The Hawthorne Mansion Murders, had gone well and was thankfully over. The audience of fellow professionals had seemed rapt by his description of the murders, the role played by simdroids, and the ultimate conclusion to the case. Only one person had asked him a question, and he had handled it easily.
Or so he thought.
He could see the questioner, a detective from Baltimore, working his way toward him, which made him instinctively snatch another glass of wine from the tray of a waiter working his way through the crowd. He took a sip, braced himself, and offered his best attempt at an indulgent, welcoming smile.
The man launched right in. "I've been giving your answer some thought, and I can't help wondering about it."
"Oh," said Grave, "in what way?" He glanced over the man's shoulder, where he could see that his boss, Captain Henry Morgan, had spotted him and was heading his way with some purpose, which was never a good thing.
"That a detective's job is more about revealing logic than using logic," the man said. "I find that illogical."
Grave took a long sip of wine, trying to polish it off before Morgan reached him. "Well, nothing is absolute, of course, even with logic."
"So you say, but —"
Captain Morgan interrupted, stepping between them and pulling Grave aside.
"Come," he said to Grave, "we have a body."
Grave didn't need to be asked twice, and was happy to be rescued, giving the Baltimore detective a shrug and a wave, and moving quickly through the crowd with Captain Morgan, the effect of the wine creating a blur of people and a whir of sound as he tried to keep pace.
Then he had a pertinent thought. "I didn't bring my car."
Captain Morgan's enormous face suddenly appeared in front of his. "No need. The body is just outside, on the beach. Sergeant Blunt is securing the area, and I've made a call for the medical examiner."
"Polk or Withers?" His voice sounded strange. Had he slurred Withers?
"Polk, of course. Or have you forgotten that Withers retired."
"Oh, right. That medical thingy."
Morgan nodded and took his best shot at a reverential, solemn tone, which was a stretch for a man who personified gruff. "Yes, inoperable tumor. Damned shame."
He gave Grave an appraising look. "You all right?"
Grave tried his best to put on a non-tipsy look. "Yes, I'm fine."
"You seem a bit wobbly."
"The wine, yes, I'll be fine. Just point me in the right direction."
They made their way through the lobby and out through the revolving doors, Morgan grabbing him by the arm and turning him sharply left. Grave could see the lights around the murder scene and a grayish cloud hovering over a body. That would be Sergeant Blunt, a man so nondescript he was invisible to all but the practiced eye, looking more like a mist or a cloud than a man.
Four simdrones were hovering over the site, providing additional light, and Grave could see a few more flying along the beach, searching the shoreline. The use of robots had exploded after the Hawthorne case, and the local manufacturer, Ramrod Robotics, had been more than eager to provide simdroids — robots that closely resembled famous people — to the masses. The people of Crab Cove could simply not get enough of them, and the police force was no exception. Simdroid patrolmen had been added to the force, mostly to handle parking violations; and then there were the simdrones, highly advanced drones no bigger than a Frisbee that provided enhanced search and apprehension capabilities. Grave, a self-confessed Luddite, was having a hard time keeping up with the new technology.
His cellphone, a new and maddeningly non-intuitive iPhone 37 Police, began to ring and vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out and fumbled with it, finally coaxing it to life. His father was calling, again.
"My father," he said, turning it off and sliding it back into his pocket.
Morgan, who was no fan of Grave's father, the former Detective Jacob Grave, now retired, grunted his disapproval and picked up the pace.
Grave was happy to be outside in the evening air, which though still warm, was infinitely cooler than the air in the people-packed conference center ballroom. He could feel the effects of the wine lessen as he raced to catch up with Morgan, who had suddenly stopped twenty yards ahead. The scene, save for Sergeant Blunt, came into sharp focus: a body spread-eagled on a blanket in the sand, a simdroid standing beside it, motionless. Robots? he thought. Again?CHAPTER 2
She stood apart, lurking in the darkness along the shore, and watched the two men approach and walk into the bright light of the crime scene. She recognized the tall, square-jawed Detective Grave immediately, the curious Dudley Do-Right of a man who had made the presentation earlier in the day. She had spent the entire lecture trying to figure out why she was attracted to him. He certainly wasn't handsome, at least not in the traditional sense, but there was something about him — his pale blue eyes, his thick black hair, his speed bump of a nose, and the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled — that made her feel a deep heat.
The other man seemed to be Grave's antithesis. He was short and stocky, with a block-like head and a flattened blob of a nose that suggested he had run into a wall at great speed. Even so, she could tell by the way the men were interacting that this other man was Grave's superior.
Grave was the first to spot her, and motioned her forward. She picked up her shoes where she had left them in the sand and walked into the light, trying her best not to look at the man lying there.
Grave was startled to see the segmented insect from the cocktail party, who now stood before him, an insect turned woman, and a beautiful woman at that, albeit a very thin one. She was one of those bony, hollow-cheeked young women you would see on fashion runways, the kind you wished would eat a cookie. Her eyes, which appeared to be larger than life, given the thinness of her face, were lavender and set wide above a long, thin nose that may have been the result of surgery. She had pulled her black hair into a tight bun, which had certainly done nothing to dispel her insect look. All she needed was antennae. "Um, I understand you were the one who found the body?"
She extended her hand. "Yes, Pippa Wobbly. I was trying to walk off some of those hors d'oeuvres from the party."
She wiped the corner of her mouth, hoping there were no traces of the food she had thrown up into the lapping waves along the beach.
"I so enjoyed your lecture."
Grave took her hand, which was thin and cold. He had the feeling he could crush it with little effort. "Thank you. Now, tell us what you saw. How you happened upon the body."
She smiled up at him. "As I said, I had eaten far too much, so I thought a walk on the beach would be just the thing. And then, there he was. I practically tripped over him."
"Did you see or hear anyone leaving the scene? Anything?"
"No, nothing. Anyway, I called 911, and here we are."
"And why are you here, Ms. Wobbly?" said Captain Morgan. "Attending the conference?"
"Well, yes, sort of. I'm the new reporter at the The Claw & Mallet."
Morgan couldn't help rolling his eyes. The local paper had been the bane of his existence, so he certainly didn't want her snooping around the crime scene. "Well, then, we may want to talk with you further, but you can go now. Leave your contact information with Sergeant Blunt, and we'll be in touch."
Wobbly looked around. "Who?"
"Me," said a disembodied voice in front of her.
She tried her best to make out the man, but he seemed to be no more formed than a vapor.
"Don't worry, ma'am," said Blunt. "I get that all the time."
She squinted in the direction of the voice, vague outlines of a large man coming into fuzzy focus. "Oh, there you are."
She turned back to Grave and Morgan. "I'd like to stay, if you don't mind. As a reporter."
Captain Morgan shook his head. "No, I'm afraid that will not be possible. Integrity of the crime scene, you see."
"I see. Well, then, will you at least grant me an exclusive, given that I discovered the body?"
Morgan smirked at her. "You already know more than any other reporter." He glanced around, knowing that TV trucks would be arriving any minute. "And you have a head start. Write what you know, and I'm sure you'll be well ahead of the game."
Wobbly frowned. "As you wish." She looked back and forth between Morgan and Grave, and gave them a little smile. "Well, then, I'll say goodnight."
She turned and walked out of the light, trailed by the cloud that was Sergeant Blunt.
Morgan watched her go, then turned to Grave. "Just what we need. A reporter as witness."
"And here come the rest," said Grave, pointing back toward the conference center, where several TV trucks were pulling into the parking lot, their antennae and satellite disks moving into position.
"Oh, Christ," said Morgan.CHAPTER 3
Jeremy Polk, the medical examiner, went about his work in silence, examining the body with great care and grunting from time to time as if he had noticed something unexpected, or at least significant enough for a grunt.
He was a small man, but held himself in a way that suggested a much taller small man. The effect was so startling, your first reaction was to look down at his feet to see if he was on tiptoe, which he never was. Captain Morgan called it a Napoleonic stance. Grave called it hall-of-mirrors weird.
Finally, Grave could not stand another grunt. "Okay, Polk, what have you got?"
Polk peered up at him, his beady, close-set eyes narrowing even further. "A moment," he said, then turned back to the body, sniffing at it like a hound with his little pug nose, which was gray and shiny, like a fish washed up on the beach.
"What is it?" said Grave.
Polk stood and stretched himself up to his full height, which still required that he strain his neck in order to look up into the face of Detective Grave. "Crabs."
"Crabs?" said Grave.
"Yes, he smells of crabs."
"Polk, the entire population of Crab Cove smells like crabs."
"No, you misunderstand me. He absolutely reeks of crabs, from his shoes to his hair. Even has a little crabmeat under his fingernails. He's a crab worker of some kind. A picker, I would think."
Captain Morgan leaped to the obvious, which was a special talent of his. "So he worked at Crab Cove Pick 'n Pack, right?" Polk turned to Morgan and smiled. "Very perceptive, Cap'n."
Morgan, a natural sponge for praise, beamed back.
"So what else?" said Grave.
"Well, it's all a bit odd, or maybe it's nothing at all. No signs of trauma whatsoever, which suggests this old man just gave up the ghost here on the beach. A heart attack or some such." He paused.
"Yes?" said Grave. He knew Polk was teasing him.
"Then again, his wallet is missing and there are clear drag marks that run from the parking lot to this spot."
Grave looked quickly around. He hadn't even noticed the marks, but there they were, along with deep, wide footprints that could only be made by a simdroid, most likely the one slumped over near the body, motionless.
"So the simdroid dragged the body here? Why would it do that?"
Polk shook his head. "No, look at her. She's small, petite even for a droid. Reminds me of an old actress. I'm not sure which one. Anyway, to the point, the droid prints are too far away from the drag marks, and —"
"What about these?" Grave pointed at a set of smaller prints that seemed to weave back and forth across the droid prints.
Polk gave out a little puff of exasperation. "Really? They're obviously from a small animal. A cat or small dog, I would suspect."
"Do you think?"
"No," said Polk with a firm shake of his head. "Not related. Not important. May I continue?"
Grave nodded and took a step back, which Polk seemed to appreciate.
"So," Polk continued, "the droid was walking along, following whoever was dragging the body, a person who had the good sense to wipe away his own footprints, coming and going." He looked at the droid again. "Of course, maybe the droid came later."
Grave thought to ask when the small animal might have come along, but thought better of it, giving Captain Morgan a chance to weigh in.
"What about the droid, then?"
"It's curious," said Polk, walking over to it. "See here, its dipstick thingy is missing."
Grave knew exactly what that was: a simcortex, a thin device that activated a droid when it was inserted into its back and that deactivated the droid when it was removed. Everything that made a simdroid what it was — programming, memory, capabilities, and personality — was stored on that device.
Grave nodded. "So the killer removed it, right?"
Morgan joined the nodding. "And it's gone?"
"Yes and yes," said Polk. "Buried, thrown into the bay, or carried away."
Morgan threw up his hands. "Crap!"
"I'll put the simdrones to work on that," said Grave, reaching for his phone. "If it's here, they'll find it."
Several swipes, pushes, and miscues later, the phone came to life with a series of beeps that summoned one of the simdrones that had been scanning the beach.
A simdrone broke from its pattern and whirred its way to them, coming to a hovering stop in front of Grave's face. "Sir," it said.
The voice was unmistakable: Morgan Freeman, a famous actor, now long dead, but with a voice that lived on. One of the signature features of all simdroids and simdrones manufactured by Ramrod Robotics was their distinctive voice programming. Buyers could select from more than a thousand voices of actors, actresses, singers, world leaders, or other personalities. The Crab Cove Police Force had selected Morgan Freeman's voice for all their simdroids and simdrones. And all the police simdroids actually looked like Morgan Freeman, who personified just the quality of authority they were looking for.
"What is your name?" asked Grave. He didn't need to ask — all the simdrones had the same name. It just made life easier, and they didn't seem to mind.
The simdrone whirred and clicked. "Larry."
"All right, Larry, I have an assignment for you and the other simdrones."
"Anything, sir. I fly to serve."
"Good. I assume you are familiar with simcortexes."
Grave pointed at the motionless simdroid. "This simdroid here is missing its simcortex. I want you and the other simdrones to scan this beach and as far out into the bay as you deem appropriate to find it."
Larry dipped his front propellers down to simulate a nod, then wobbled a bit to indicate he was in deep thought. "Yes, sir, given the weight of a simcortex for this model and the maximum throwing distance by a top athlete, that would be exactly 131.758 feet. We'll adjust that upward to 175.637 feet, given the known currents here."
"That works for me," said Grave.
Larry whirred loudly and lifted away to begin the scan.
Grave turned back to Polk. "Has anyone taken overhead photos of the crime scene?"
"No, not yet," said Polk.
Grave pulled out his phone again. "Okay, I'm on it."
One of the features of his phone was that it could fly and hover, at least across short distances. He pressed a few buttons, and the phone lifted from his hands, hovered over the scene, clicked off ten clean shots of the scene, and returned to his hand.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Simon Grave and the Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime"
Copyright © 2019 Len Boswell.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
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