Shad: ABC Is For
Artificial Beings Crimes
ABC is for: Artificial Beings Crimes
|With a foreward by H.R.H. Queen Mehitabel|
Jaggers & Shad
ABC is for: Artificial Beings Crimes
A Mystery Casebook by Barry B. Longyear
The Hangingstone Rat
The Purloined Labradoodle
The Colleton Ghost
The Sheriff's Tale
Murder In Parliament Street
When Sir Harrington Jaggers asked me if I could see my way to consent to pen a forward for this work, my reply to him was that I would have been terribly offended had I not been invited. This was not only due to my close ties with law enforcement programs over the decades, but due as well to my late father's and my own personal contributions to the following award-winning tales of the early cases of Detective Inspector Harrington Jaggers and his partner, Detective Sergeant Guy Shad. I am most pleased to be associated with these stirring accounts of Interpol's Artificial Beings Crimes Division's Devon office.
The following chronicles are set late during my father's reign which was early in the empire's efforts to come to grips with the special problems and issues related to the remarkable advances in Artificial Intelligence and biological engram-imprint technology. There were many regrettable mistakes during that period, injustices in profusion, and a great many things that from today's perspective seem simply silly. Nevertheless, that was the state of things in those days. It is to the credit of Interpol's General Assembly and the dedicated members of their Baghdad regional office, headquarters of ABCD, as well as the men, women, mechanicals, and bios of Interpol's ABCD that the law now applies equally to all, regardless of race, nationality, creed, religion, or self-aware neural control configuration. Sir Harry's accounts of those harrowing days of yesteryear, although ripping good tales in themselves, should be a lesson to us all. The courage, integrity, and ingenuity of the detectives of ABCD's Devon office were tested mightily by both the clever and the powerful, one of whom in particular would have left most of us I imagine helplessly entreating an answer to Juvenal's ageless question: Quid agas, cum dira et foedior omni crimine persona est?*
Jaggers and Shad had an answer.
*What can you do, when the man himself is more foul and filthy than any slander you can sling at him? —Juvenal, Satire 4
Matheson hadn't begun with a knock-knock joke, which meant he was troubled. The Miles Bowman death was the biggest story to hit Devon in decades. The wealthy and charismatic Master of Houndtor Down Hunts had died, I had gathered from yesterday's news reports, when he had been thrown by his horse during a run. Apparently someone in the park police was exploring another theory.
Val momentarily looked up from the table where she had been lapping her single cream. Seeing nothing to distress her, she twitched her tail as if to launch an unwelcome insect and resumed emptying the saucer. A sepia and golden Tonkinese, her soft coat colored in a random watermarked silk pattern, she was much too elegant ever to be observed using the litter box, although I supposed she must be using it. It was, after all, being used. Perhaps she had friends in.
"Jaggers? Jaggers, there. Pay attention. Blast! When are you getting a modern screen phone? Bloody hell. Jaggers?"
With a parting glance at my rapidly cooling eggs and bacon, I responded into the handset, "Yes, superintendent. You were saying?"
"Now, I've made a good number of allowances for you, Jaggers, because of your record. You were once an impressive detective. Do not take advantage. Am I understood?"
"You're going to want to get to the scene before it rains."
I shifted my gaze to the glass door that looked into the garden as Matheson continued. The mid-March sky over Exeter was gloomy gray with curtains of mist coming up from the river. "The park constabulary think they have their murderer, Jaggers. London wants us to go through everything. After all, artificial beings are our bailiwick. Ready to receive?"
I toggled the receive on my hand desk. "Go ahead, superintendent."
As the case file form and location instructions loaded, I mulled the late Miles Bowman's place in the scheme of things. In certain upwardly crusted circles, Bowman's death was immense. Houndtor Down had brought riding to the hounds and the good kill back to Albion after an eight decade hiatus dotted with less than satisfying drag hunts and those absurd experiments with AI equipped robotic foxes. Houndtor's answer was to introduce genuine bio fox amdroids for prey, but imprinted with human engrams. The fox, therefore, would be physically a fox, but no longer a fox according to the prohibition against fox hunting, in that the creature understood the consequences and could volunteer. In actuality, the vermin was a human in a fox's "meat suit," entitled under law to engage in whatever absurd, but legal, occupation he or she chose. Nevertheless, where one got volunteers was a puzzle.
I'd never been at the Houndtor Down Lodge, although I had witnessed a bit of one of the operation's hunts on Cripdon Down the year before when I was on an easily resolved poodle abuse enquiry. The amdroid poodle had undeniably abused her owner, a Harley dealer from Torbay. However both poodle and woman confessed to being consensual S&M partners in the area for a hunt, hence no crime. Too bad really. The poodle matter promised to be the most interesting case I'd been on since being assigned to the Devon office. Nevertheless, since I was on the moor then and a hunt was on, I watched. Except for the chase being followed above by a hoard of hovercraft, the hunt itself had been something caught in amber. Elegantly costumed riders mounted on magnificent steeds chasing a huge pack of handsome foxhounds, the peculiar warbling notes of the Master's tiny horn signaling the sighting of the prey. As long as you weren't particularly fond of foxes, it was rather uplifting.
The lodge was twenty-five kilometers southwest of the city just beyond the village of Lustleigh on the east edge of the moor. The enormously lucrative concession had its own skydock and the park detective in charge, one DCI Stokes, condescended to have a constable at Houndtor Down to bring us up to speed. "Superintendent, on the killing, did the park cops get a verbal?"
"No. This Stokes fellow is certain he has his killer, nevertheless: Lady Iva Bowman, Miles Bowman's wife."
Lady Iva Bowman. The image of that stunning beauty was fixed in the nation's memory. Her marriage to Bowman had been little short of a media coronation.
"Their theory is Bowman and Lady Iva, along with the hunt staff and some eighty followers and club members, were in the middle of one of their smaller commercial runs when Miles was found dead along the route. Lady Iva inherits and I gather from DCI Stokes she had just learned that her husband was bonking the company's lead second horseman, one Sabrina Depp."
"Motive and opportunity," I commented.
"They're up the wrong branch, Jaggers."
"You disagree, sir?"
"I knew Lady Iva years ago. For all her beauty, she is old school, very refined. I can't see her getting down into the muck and beating a grown man to death with what appears to have been a horseshoe, regardless of the provocation. In fact, I rather suspect Miles Bowman's horse."
"Yes. The horse isn't running on a human imprint, though. It appears a year ago a favorite jumper of Bowman's was near death from an injury and Bowman spent a not inconsiderable fortune to have the mount's engrams copied and imprinted on an equestrian meat suit drawn from the mount's own DNA."
"That which Miles rides shall never die," I dogmatized.
"Quite. I suspect Bowman's nag determined one lifetime under Miles Bowman's arse was sufficient."
"In which case, superintendent, it wouldn't be a murder."
"All of which I imagine Lady Iva would very much like to have established as quickly as is feasible. —Oh. Swing by Heavitree Tower before you leave for Dartmoor. You have a new partner: DS Guy Shad."
"You're having a laugh, right, superintendent?
"Guy Shad? Sounds like someone copied the name off an old action vid poster."
"That is his name, Jaggers. Shad is an American."
"Of course he is. Now, we agreed—"
"This isn't a negotiation, DI Jaggers. Shad has been assigned to this enquiry because of his prior association with two of the principles, as well as his familiarity with the artificial being end of the law enforcement spectrum. He'll be waiting at the skydock." That warning edge crept back into the superintendent's voice: "Grasp the nettle, Jaggers. It's up to you to make this work."
A significant pause, and then the superintendent decided to lighten the mood. "Jaggers: Knock, knock."
"Ringing off, superintendent. There appears to be someone at the door."
I quickly hung up the handset as I muttered, "Brilliant," to no one in particular. After the dreadful experience I had partnered up with the ever effervescent Ralph Parker, I thought Matheson and I had agreed I always work solo.
Guy Shad. American. He'll want to eat at Wendy McDonald's Kentucky Burger Hut and call me Bud, I mused. I certainly hoped Parker's meat suit was one of a kind. I'd go into retirement before I was made to work with another Parker.
I looked at Val and she was eyeing my bacon and eggs. "You may as well," I said to her as I petted her head and went toward the hallway to get my raincoat and hat. "I have to get to work. I'm on the Miles Bowman matter."
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"The superintendent's assigned me a new partner. An American named Guy Shad."
She looked at me with those stunning aqua eyes and said, "Give him a fair chance, Harry. I don't want to worry. Is Walter coming in this evening?"
Val looked at me for a moment then averted her gaze. "I'm sorry I can't cook for you Harry."
"You catch mice. That's quite as important."
"You're a dear, but you know Walter keeps this place so clean, there hasn't been a mouse to catch in months." She turned back to my plate and continued lapping at the yolk.
"Have a good day, dear," I said and closed the door.
As the division sky cruiser assigned to me headed south into the muck above the city, there probably wasn't going to be any need to get small; the animal android involved, after all, was a horse. Nevertheless, routine is its own reward, as the superintendent was wont to remark between knock, knock inanities. I ran up the mechs and they went through their system scans in case we'd have to copy into them. They were mechs of assorted sizes and configurations useful for obtaining evidence in places tight, high, or otherwise inaccessible to humans. Meanwhile, I checked InterNews on Miles Bowman's death. Indeed, Lady Iva had been taken into custody, Detective Chief Inspector Raymond Stokes of the Devon-Exmoor National Park Constabulary stated in his news conference, blah, blah, blah—
My mood was terrible and it was time I faced up to it. I was having quite a bit of trouble letting go of having a new partner thrust upon me. I knew full well why ABC Division had human imprinted animal androids as investigators. That's one criminal dimension that necessitated the creation of our component of Interpol. Still, almost every amdroid I ever worked with had such bizarre excuses for having wound up in a critter meat suit, I was convinced it couldn't help but have an effect on their work. It certainly had with Parker.
DC Parker had been the worst of a succession of amdroids assigned to work with me. It wasn't just the thick Estuary accent Parker affected, his odor, the incessant grunting, or that he had difficulty in controlling his bowels. It was Parker's effect on a subject during an interview. I don't think I'm being unfair when I say undergoing interrogation by a thirty-five stone mountain gorilla puts some people off. Banana peels and fruit flies all over the cruiser—fleas. I mean, really.
As the cruiser descended out of the overcast above the new Consolidated Police Administration Tower on Heavitree Road, I could see that the only living being waiting for me on the skydock was a Mallard duck complete with green head, white neck ring, chestnut breast, grayish-white feathers, yellow bill, and orange feet. "Showing at a crime scene with Daffy in tow; that'll put the yobs in a fright."
As the cruiser's computer control put the vehicle down in the center of the landing target, I declined a slot assignment, put the power on standby, and pressed the buttons to open both doors. I looked around briefly in waning hopes that this was some sort of practical joke, then resignedly got out of the driver's side and trudged over to where the duck was standing. "DS Shad?" I inquired.
"I'm Shad," said the duck in a voice that sounded very much like—a duck.
"Detective Inspector Jaggers," I introduced myself.
"I know just what you're thinking," he said. "My god, a duck! I sure feel safe now that poultry has my back. Where ever does he keep his handcuffs? What was that idiot Matheson thinking to saddle me with this fugitive from a Chinese restaurant! I ought to go down to the superintendent's office right this minute and put in for my walking papers! You've laid an egg this time, pigeon-brain. This is for the birds! Are you out of your bleeding mind? A duck!"
"Sorry. Didn't mean to ruffle your feathers."
He held out a wing. "Bird jokes? It's going to be bird jokes?"
"Actually, I was going to ask if you wanted to drive."
Shad lowered his wing, gave me a bit of a look, then flew into the open driver's side of the cruiser. "That went rather well," I muttered to myself. . . .
Into The New Millennium: Trailblazing Tales From Analog Science Fiction and Fact, 2000-2010
Includes Barry Longyear's J&S tale, "The Purloined Labradoodle"
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