Two troubled homicide detectives race to find a serial killer in a town filled with surgically reformed murderers, in this captivating near-future SF thriller.
In a small religious community rocked by a spree of shocking murders, Detectives Salvi Brentt and Mitch Grenville find themselves surrounded by suspects. The Children of Christ have a tight grip on their people, and the Solme Complex neurally edit violent criminals - Subjugates - into placid servants called Serenes. In a town where purity and sin, temptation and repression live side by side, everyone has a motive. But as the bodies mount up, the frustrated detectives begin to crack under the pressure: their demons come to light, and who knows where the blurred line between man and monster truly lies.
File Under: Science Fiction [ Pure & Savage | Hard Boiled | Bright Spark | Finding Serenity ]
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
AMANDA BRIDGEMAN is an Aurealis Award finalist and author of 7 science fiction novels, including the bestselling space opera Aurora series and apocalyptic drama The Time of the Stripes. She studied film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University, earning her a BA in Communication Studies. Perth has been her home ever since, aside from a nineteen-month stint in the UK where she dabbled in film & TV extras work.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One The Vic
Detective Salvi Brentt stared at the dead body. She wondered what had been going through the killer’s mind at the time of the attack. It was meant to be a quick, easy mugging. But a hard shove, the victim fell back, and his skull met horribly with the pavement. The mugging had turned into murder. And for what? An expensive smartwatch and a gift card to Kiki’s virtual shopping service.
The perp had run. They always ran. But in the dead heart of the city that was a useless thing to do. With the constant rotation of police drones, watching everything from on high, there was little one could get away with out in the open. And if you shove a man, he dies, and you run? The police have you. And if you manage to get away, they have your face and they will track you down. They’ll get you for the murder, and the city will lay a compensation claim for the cleaning of the bloodied pavement.
That’s why many thought the security companies ruled the cities. In a world where no one trusted anyone, everyone wanted evidence – not just the cops. Cities watched residents, businesses watched employees, people watched their property, their spouses, their kids. Of course, some people made good money hacking these systems and erasing all traces of certain goings-on. But not this perp. No, he was a fool who lived just one block away. One block… At first Salvi couldn’t decide whether he’d been desperate or just plain stupid.
When they found him, he ignorantly answered the door. He took one look at her, Mitch, and the holo-badges glowing at their chests, then slammed the door in their faces. When her partner barged into the apartment, hot on his heels, the perp was already at the window climbing onto the fire escape. Salvi ran back down to the street to meet him head on. Well, it was more like side on. She kept herself hidden behind a wall and heard him running toward her. As he raced by, she kicked out her leg and sent him slamming down to the ground, his chin and hands raking along the sidewalk. He barely had time to give her a panicked look before Mitch was on top of him. Despite the circumstances, the perp still tried to struggle free, but her senior partner soon put an end to that. With an arm around his throat, Mitch hauled him to his feet, then slammed him hard against the wall, where Salvi swiftly snapped a pair of digital cuffs around the man’s wrists.
Turns out the guy had lost his job and had four kids to feed. So, he was both desperate and stupid. Regardless, he took an innocent life. The man had to pay.
Salvi tapped the glass display of her console, closing the image down. She finished reading over the report, ensuring all the detail was there. Riverton, the department’s dedicated AI, always prefilled the data for them; transcriptions from interviews and the like. But it always took a human to add the finishing touches and ensure the thing was readable and would stand up in court.
When she was done, she pressed her left thumb against the authorization panel beside her console. It flashed blue as it read her print, then green, indicating the department’s system had accepted it. She then scrawled her signature onto the scratch pad. It registered on the display, then she tapped “File Report”. And off it went. Another case closed.
She heard the soft whirring sound of Sadie approaching, the homicide department’s assigned robo-cleaner. Salvi looked up as it moved past her desk, sweeping the floor. Rounded and white, it looked much like a rubbish bin with a ball-shaped head atop. It swiveled its face toward her, lights flashing where eyes, nose and mouth would normally appear.
“Good morning, Detective Brentt,” its electronically generated voice sounded.
“Morning, Sadie,” she replied as it swished on by.
Chimes sounded across the six screens on the wall to her left. The mugshows were being updated. Salvi watched as the screens went black, then one by one, the new images appeared featuring the latest persons of interest. Five were male, one was female, all mixed races.
The mugshows still gave her the creeps. Staring at a single photo was one thing but watching moving footage was something else. As if on cue, one by one the persons of interest turned, offering a side profile. Creepy, yes, but valuable. Seeing footage of a criminal, of how they moved, their mannerisms, twitches and tics, even the way they smiled or frowned, made it that much easier to identify them in real life. They turned again, offering the view of them from behind. She waited until they came full circle and faced the front again. When they did, she scanned the row of faces, trying to etch each one of them into her memory. If the drones in the sky didn’t pick them up, maybe she could.
Hernandez approached and stopped by her desk. His dark eyes shone with curiosity, but no smile met his mouth. She studied the thick gold chain he wore around his neck and the wide collar of his shirt. He was always one for keeping up with the latest trends, but this outfit was reminding her of some weird fashion from almost a century earlier that probably should’ve stayed there.
“Morning,” she said.
“Guess who we ran into last night at the Chinese takeout?” he said, running a hand over his dark gelled hair.
“Who?” she asked.
“Old man Stan.”
“Old man Stan!” Bronte’s deep voice thundered as he came to stand beside his partner. A good head taller and muscular in build, Bronte’s dark skin made Hernandez look white.
“Yeah?” she gave them both a slight smile. “And how’s Stan doing?”
“Good.” Hernandez nodded, dark eyes studying her. “He asked how you were doing.”
“Yeah?” Her smile broadened. “He asked about me, or was he asking about the job? He misses it, doesn’t he? I knew he would.”
Bronte beamed a big smile. “He’d never admit that, but yeah, he misses it. But he did ask about you, Salv.”
“How’s Mia doing?” Hernandez grinned, imitating Stan’s New Yorker accent.
“Don’t call me that,” Salvi said. Stan had given her the moniker because she reminded him of some character from an old film. “I don’t look a goddamn thing like her,” she said, crossing her arms.
Hernandez chuckled. “Spitting image, Salv. You got the dark brown bob, the red lips, and you’re always wearing the white shirts and black pants. You’re Mia!”
Bronte laughed and walked off toward his desk on the other side of the bullpen.
“So,” she said, pulling Hernandez’s attention back. “Stan. How’s he doing?”
“He’s doing good. You should go see him sometime. I think the old guy would appreciate that.” He glanced over to the empty desk opposite hers. “Where’s your new partner at?”
Salvi checked the time on her police-issued iPort, a thick data-enabled wrist cuff. “He can’t be too far.”
“How’s he been doing?” Hernandez’s eyes sharpened on hers. “It’s been nearly four months. You must have a good feel for him by now.”
“He’s doing fine.”
“Really? Seems to me he’s been drinking a bit.”
Salvi went to respond but Ford called out from her office. “Brentt and Grenville! You’re up!”
“The boss calls,” she said to Hernandez, then stood and glanced at Mitch’s empty desk, wondering where the hell her partner was. Hernandez checked his iPort and pursed his lips, just as Mitch finally walked in.
She caught her partner’s eye. “Ford’s office.”
Mitch nodded as he made his way toward her with two takeout cups of coffee in hand. He held one out for her and she took it. For whatever reason, every morning he brought her a coffee. At first she thought it was just a gesture from one new partner to another, but three and a half months had now passed and he was still bringing her one every day. She wasn’t complaining.
“What’s up?” he asked, pulling his dark wraparound shades onto his head.
“You’re late,” Hernandez said, studying him. “Big night?”
Mitch’s hair was still wet from a shower, his face unshaven, his eyes a little bloodshot, but he smelled of aftershave and mints. He smiled and pointed at Hernandez. “You’d make a good detective, you know that?”
Salvi grabbed him by the arm and ushered him toward Ford’s office before Hernandez could respond.
They found Ford sitting at her pristine desk, which was empty aside from her console display, a hologram of her wife and kids, and a cup of what smelled like Strawberry Cofftea. Back in the day she’d been attractive, athletic and known to hold her own in the field and in a fight, but now she carried a little extra weight and the stress of being detective lieutenant.
Salvi eyed the large glass screen affixed to the wall behind Ford, displaying a map of the city with various lights glowing and flashing, indicating the current location of all callouts. She wondered which one would be theirs.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” Ford said as they took a seat in the guest chairs, her light blue eyes fixed on her console’s display. “You got a drive ahead of you.”
“Where’re we going?” Salvi asked.
“The body of a young female has been found inside her home in the unincorporated community of Bountiful, just outside the city. Looks pretty nasty and the sheriff’s office is small, so they don’t have the manpower to work it. Weston and Swaggert will be handling the forensics. They’re already on their way. This is a first for the community so it’s big news. You heard about Bountiful, right? It’s one of the tech-pullaways.”
“Survivalist or religious?” Salvi asked.
“Religious,” Ford said. “But Bountiful was founded before the Crash.”
“How religious?” Salvi asked. “Cult religious?”
“Cult’s a pretty strong word,” Ford said. “Let’s go with extremely devout.”
“I think I heard about that place,” Mitch said. “Bountiful is the one next door to the Solme Complex, right?”
“Yeah,” Ford said, resting her elbows on the table. “I need you to get out there and get a handle on it. Let’s be discreet on this one. We want to keep the media out of things if we can. The first place people will be looking to throw blame is the Solme Complex given what it houses. We need to manage that. From everything I hear, the place is doing good work and the people of Bountiful have accepted them. But I guess you never know. So, get out there, see what you can find out.” She turned back to her console and tapped at the screen. “I just uploaded the case file to your accounts. The contact out there is Sheriff Holt. He’s expecting you.”
Mitch stood and tapped his iPort, checking the information had come through. “We’ll get on it,” he said.
“Maybe use the autodrive today, huh?” Ford said, studying him carefully.
Mitch looked back at her.
“I can see the red in your eyes from here, Grenville,” Ford said, “and I know it’s not your comms lenses.”
“I’m fine to drive,” he said.
“Next time use some drops, for Christ’s sake. At least try and hide it.”
Mitch didn’t say anything, but gave a nod, then turned and left the room, his long black coat swishing behind him.
Salvi watched him leave as she stood, then glanced back at Ford.
“He doing OK?” Ford asked.
“Seems to be,” she said with a shrug.
“Keep an eye on him, huh?”
Salvi eyed Ford curiously. “Something I should know?”
Ford shook her head and looked back at her display. “Just making sure the new guy is settling in.”
The drive to Bountiful from their police hub took an hour in Mitch’s sleek black Raider. It was the latest model in unmarked police-issue vehicles, with plenty of grunt under the hood and an array of features set into the dash that essentially provided them with a functioning office on the road. Every team was assigned one, but the senior officer was the one who got to claim it as theirs and take it home at night. The windows were unbreakable, the locks unpickable, and inbuilt cameras transmitting data back to the station’s AI meant that thieves knew to keep walking.
Between the Raider and the fact that they were outside peak traffic, heading north away from the Bay Area, they made good time. Despite Ford’s request, Mitch refused to engage the autodrive, taking the wheel himself. Salvi didn’t bother arguing the point. He hadn’t once used the autodrive since she’d known him. She often used the autodrive in the Zenith, her own personal vehicle, but with just about everything in life now automated, she admitted that it felt nice to occasionally take the wheel herself and be in control.
Staring out the window, she noted how quickly the concrete, glass, and bright flashing LED lights of San Francisco slowly gave way to fields and hills and swathes of trees bursting with golden autumn leaves. The hustle and bustle of traffic and stereos fading into the sounds of silence. It was both refreshing yet strange at the same time. All that open space. All that fresh air.
“The quiet life,” they called it. And it was growing in popularity by the day. Different communities of like-minded people were springing up, establishing their own way of life off the grid, away from the cities – yet still within easy reach of them. The movement started with religious and survivalist groups, each decrying the Crash as the start of the end of the world. They thought the only way to secure any future for the human race was to pull away from technology and go back to the simple way of life of their ancestors.
For some people, though, it was simply more cost effective. They worked in the cities for their cash and just wanted to get away from them as soon as they were done. With the high speed “SlingShot” trainline running the coast from LA to San Jose, San Francisco and Seattle, and servicing smaller communities along the way, it was easy for people to dwell away from the dark, neon shadows of their local metropolis. Away from the technology. Away from the stress. Away from each other.
Salvi actually liked living in the city. It had its faults, sure, but she liked the anonymity of it all. Walking the streets, she was just another face. Invisible to people when she wanted to be; hiding within its claustrophobic confines. After spending the day soaked in murderers, she was happy to be alone and away from everyone, trapped up high in her Sky Tower apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
“It’s quite picturesque out here,” Mitch thought aloud, breaking her reverie.
“Yeah,” Salvi said, eyeing the trees and hills as they flew by. “I’ve never been out this way before.”
“No? You haven’t lived in the Bay Area your whole life?” Mitch asked.
Salvi looked at him. Despite having been her partner for a few months now, they hadn’t really talked much outside of case work before. Polite talk, sure, but nothing that ever ran deeper than the weather or good restaurants. He’d been one to keep his personal distance, and so had she.
“No,” she said. “I grew up east of here.”
Mitch eyed her, then looked back at the road. The dark sunglasses he wore to hide his bloodshot eyes matched nicely with his dark shirt, black jeans and black coat. And his black car. The mysterious man in black, she thought, mulling over both Hernandez’s and Ford’s comments that morning, wondering if there was something she didn’t know that maybe she should.
“What about you?” she asked, taking the line of conversation and giving it a little tug. “Were you a Chicago native before you moved here?”
Mitch nodded. “Born and bred.”
“So, are you adapting to our city?” she studied him. “Or maybe not. That what those bloodshot eyes are about? You homesick?”
Mitch glanced at her again, then back at the road ahead. “I thought I transferred to a unit of homicide detectives. Not hall monitors.”
A smile curled Salvi’s mouth and she shrugged. “People tend to notice when you turn up hungover during the working week.”
A loud whoosh sounded and they both looked to their right to see a SlingShot train race past them. Running parallel to the road it looked like a hurtling gray snake with mirrored windows and curved cabins.
“We’re almost there,” Mitch said, ignoring her comment.
Salvi looked through the Raider’s windscreen and saw a large handpainted wooden sign approaching them on the left-hand side of the road.
Welcome to Bountiful. Population 3,271.
Excerpted from "The Subjugate"
Copyright © 2018 Amanda Bridgeman.
Excerpted by permission of Watkins Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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