Jul 28 2013 9:00am
Dangerous Women: “City Lazarus” (Excerpt)
We are very excited to be able to preview Dangerous Women, a new anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, and featuring 21 new stories from some of the biggest authors in the science fiction/fantasy field. The anthology is available on December 3rd from Tor Books!
Every morning until July 30th, we’ll be previewing excerpts from the stories, returning you to the world of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Brandon Sanderson’s cosmere, and even Westeros itself. Keep an eye on the Dangerous Women index to keep track of them all.
Today we are pleased to present “City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland, a noir tale of murder and betrayal.
A grey dawn and low tide revealed the body at the water’s edge, facedown and partially buried in the silt. One arm drifted in the sluggish current as the river plucked at it. A fetid scent drifted to the people standing on the levee, though the odor likely had more to do with illegal sewage than the corpse.
Rain plopped onto the mud in scattered drops as the flatboat inched out to the body, a thick rope dragging in its wake and doled out by workers on firmer ground. Captain Danny Faciane watched from his vantage on the levee and scowled beneath the hood of his raincoat. He fully understood the necessity for the slow progress across the silt, but he still chafed at it. The tide wouldn’t wait for them to complete their business, though, at the moment, it was more the early hour and the lack of coffee in his system that frustrated him. Yet it paid to be cautious with this river. Since the collapse of the Old River Control Structure, she might not have the teeth she once had, but she still had a few tricks left in her.
Danny’s attention drifted to his right, toward the two bridges that spanned the river. The headlights of cars only crossed along one of them. Not enough traffic anymore to warrant having both. Across the river, a grounded ship leaned drunkenly in the mud. Light flickered from a dozen places, the cutting torches of workers fighting to salvage what they could of the trapped heap. Danny wondered if the salvage workers would attack the unused bridge next, like termites drawn to wood.
“I need to learn how to weld,” a detective grumbled from behind him. Danny glanced back to see that Farber’s attention had also been caught by the crawling lights on the defunct ship.
Danny shook his head. “They’ll be gone as soon as they finish. Only a few ships left to cut up. Probably not even a year’s worth of work left.”
“Maybe so, but in that year those fuckers’ll make three times what we do. Besides, I still think the city’ll have work for ’em. New Orleans has a way of taking care of itself.”
Danny let out a snort. He had little doubt that the welders made more than Farber, but he knew damn well that they didn’t come close to matching his own take. And he sure as hell didn’t share Farber’s bright-eyed optimism about the future of the city. “Filthy work,” he said instead. “And dangerous.”
“What we do is dangerous,” Farber protested. Danny cocked an eyebrow at him, let out a low bark of laughter.
“Only if you’re doing it wrong,” he said, then hunched his shoulders against the gust of wind that sought to drive the sluggish rain into his face. “Like this. Fuck this early morning shit.”
The muttered commands and curses of the men in the flatboat drifted to him as they reached the corpse. They fought the pull of the tenacious mud as the river held on to her prize, but finally managed to get the corpse free of its partial grave. It flopped into the bottom of the boat, one mud-covered foot still on the edge as the workers onshore pulled the flatboat back.
Danny walked over as the men pulled the body from the boat and set it on the ground. “Can you wash his face off?” he asked nobody in particular, waited as someone found a bottle of water and dumped it over the victim’s face. Danny scowled as he crouched by the body, and only part of it was because of the rank smell of the mud. “It’s Jimmy Ernst.”
“Jesus,” one of the men from the flatboat muttered. “We crawled across the stinking mud for that piece of shit?”
Danny’s mouth twisted in sour agreement as he cast a practiced eye over the body. The crime scene tech pulled a pair of gloves out of the side pocket of her pants and held them out for Danny, but he shook his head. He had no intention of touching the corpse and risking getting dirty. Coroner would take care of cleaning the fucking muck off before they did the autopsy.
“Well, that’s damn interesting,” he said, tilting his head.
“Whatcha got?” Farber asked, crouching beside him.
“He was murdered.” Danny pointed to the two scorch marks on the dead guy’s neck. Maybe there were more, hiding beneath the filth, but those alone would’ve been enough. Latest generation of Tasers left that sort of mark, delivering enough punch to paralyze for about half a minute. Long enough to get cuffs on a perp. Or a few licks in. Whichever they deserved more.
Danny straightened, let his gaze drift over what was left of the Mississippi River. This wasn’t the first body to be pulled from the sucking muck and it wouldn’t be the last. The banks were a morass of sinkholes and unpredictable currents. Easy enough to die, especially after a couple of jolts from a Taser.
“I’ve seen enough,” he told the crime scene tech as she snapped her pictures in an aimless, desultory fashion. She didn’t give a shit about Jimmy Ernst any more than he did.
“See you back at the precinct,” Farber said.
Danny nodded, turned away, walked back over the rocks of the nowpointless levee, over the weed-covered train tracks, and up to the street.
“City Lazarus” © Diana Rowland
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