Questions for Paranormal Officers 4:
(A series in which we ask the officers in the 77th Precincts squad room questions. We’ve confiscated their car keys and transit tokens, so they have to answer before they get to go home.)
You all live in Philadelphia, which has some stunning art museums and statues. What’s your favorite piece of art?
Shira Lourdes (stress telekinetic): I like the room in the museum with all the armor. What? It’s in the art museum and it’s art. Just…in metal. It’s just cool.
Carrington Loveless III (skim-blood vampire): No, Shira, you’re right. Don’t let these Philistines make fun of you. The art of weaponry is underappreciated and the museum has some stunning pieces. I’m not sure I can pick one thing, though.
Amanda Zacchini (post-cognitive): No cop outs, Carr. Pick a thing and don’t sit there giving us a lecture on it.
Loveless: Fine. There’s an Anselm Kiefer sculpture called Palette with Wings. That speaks to me.
Jeff Gatling (teleporter of fruit): Of course it does, Carr. You pick one of the darkest artists in the museum. I see your brooding modern artist and raise you the board game sculpture at the Municipal Building. Something, you know, bright and fun. Vance? You have a favorite?
Vance Virago (intermittent Firestarter): I don’t do art.
Gatling: You like the Rocky statue.
Virago: *shrugs* It’s okay. All you smart asses are gonna pick on me and say it’s stupid and cliché and shit. But my favorite thing in this stinking city’s the stupid Love sculpture. It’s bright and happy and nobody’s gotta explain what the hell it means.
Zacchini: Hey, that’s not cliché. You like something and you know why. I like the bronze Pegasus guy in Fairmount. His poor little wings wouldn’t lift an overweight bumblebee, but he’s cool. Makes me smile. Kash?
Vikash Soren (paranormal talent unclassified): There’s a Henry Ossawa Tanner painting I love. The Annunciation. The colors are earthy and I like how he sets the scene with Mary young and not really sure she wants to hear this. That’s how it looks to me. With the angel as a…almost a spear of light. So different from any other annunciation ones.
Kyle Monroe (talent absorber): I like the painting called Two Dragons In Clouds. ‘Cause it’s two dragons. In clouds. And boy does that make me sound like an idiot. Um, Greg?
Greg Santos (waterfowl telepath): Nope. I answered the last question and none of you chuckleheads helped. Sitting this one out.
Wolf (wolf cursed into human form): I like the swan fountain. It’s art and it’s a fountain.
Krisk (lizard humanoid): *double tail thump*
Soren: You guys have been drinking from it again, haven’t you?
Wolf: It’s hot out. Don’t judge me.
Kyle sat up straighter, shifting to see between the heads in front of him. Soren looked like a poster boy for the model police officer, tall and straight, uniform crisp and sharp. He stood at parade rest beside the lieutenant impassively surveying his new colleagues. A little knot of resentment lodged in Kyle’s stomach. At his own introduction to the Seventy-seventh, he’d been nervous and fidgety, freaked out by the collection of…freaks. How can he be so calm?
“Officer Soren transferred from the Harrisburg PD—”
“Don’t they have enough freaky shit of their own up there?” Wolf called out in his rasping growl.
“—since Harrisburg is in our jurisdiction,” she continued with a quelling glance. “He’ll start out partnered with Monroe.”
“What does he do, ma’am? That it’s safe to put him with Kirby, er, Kyle?” Shira Lourdes asked as she flicked nervous glances across the room at Kyle. An empty chair slid away from her and fell over. Her partner, Greg Santos, shook his head and righted the unfortunate piece of furniture.
“Officer Soren’s abilities are his business, which he may or may not choose to share if you ask. And don’t bully him about it either, any of you.” Lieutenant Dunfee swept the room again, pinning each of her officers with her needle-laser gaze like captive butterflies. “Monroe, my office after briefing. Info on your current case.”
She dismissed them, stalking from the room with thunderclouds in her eyes. Kyle found himself approaching the new guy and trying his best not to be awkward. Did he offer to shake hands? Was it safe? Would the guy flinch like so many people did at the sight of Kyle’s scarred hands? Soren was even taller up close, six-foot-three of lean inscrutability, his blue eyes startlingly bright against smoky bronze skin.
“Um, hi, I’m Kyle Monroe.” Kyle fidgeted when Soren didn’t offer his hand either. “You’re with me, I guess. I’ll show you our spot in the squad room.”
Soren followed him silently and Kyle was starting to wonder if he was like Krisk in the not-speaking department until he finally spoke in a smooth, soft baritone, making Kyle startle and miss a step. “Why do they call you Kirby?”
“You’d hear it sooner or later, I guess.” Kyle shrugged. “It’s this thing I do, absorbing other people’s talents temporarily. If they’re close to me. Or touch me. Like Kirby, the little pink dude in the video game.”
Just that? Soren didn’t edge away, or change expression at all. Was he made of stone? “It’s a thing. Everyone here has a thing.”
After a few more steps, Soren asked, “Always?”
“What…oh, was I always like this? Who knows? I mean, maybe I’ve picked up stray thoughts or something, but no. It’s pretty recent. Knowing that I do this.”
Kyle took a wide arc around Vance as he entered the squad room, pointing to the double desk in the far corner, well removed from everyone else. “That’s ours. Coffee’s over there, but you might not want that coffee. Let me grab my file and we’ll go see the lieutenant.”
“So what’s your story, Soren?” Vance called across the squad room. “What flies your freak flag?”
“Yeah, what do you do?” Jeff Gatling stopped ’porting his banana from one corner of his desk to the other.
“I don’t really do anything,” Soren answered as he hefted the empty coffee pot. “Guess I’ll make fresh since I’m the new guy.”
He opened the top to remove the filter and every human voice in the squad room yelled out, “No!”
Most people would have startled, maybe dropped the carafe. Soren just blinked at the roomful of people gesturing wildly. He took the filter out and emptied it over the trashcan. “Why not?”
“You don’t want to do that.” Kyle stayed by his desk, a nice safe distance from the coffee station. “That’s Larry’s job.”
“Larry’s not keeping up then.”
The container of sweetener packets began to rattle. It shivered across the counter and leaped to a messy end, ceramic shards skittering across the floor. The desk that Krisk and Wolf shared rose from the floor several inches and slammed back down. Wolf fled with a squeaking yelp just before the desk flipped on its side.
Soren glanced toward Kyle. “Larry’s not a cop, is he?”
“He is…he was! A dead cop. Larry’s a ghost. He gets ticked if anyone else makes the coffee. Put the stuff back, please!”
“Larry?” Soren raised his voice but to all appearances remained completely unruffled. “I’m new here. I’m very sorry I invaded your jurisdiction. See? I’m putting the carafe back. Closing the top. Are we good, Larry?”
A breeze ruffled through a stack of papers, but no further mayhem ensued. The carafe slid from its pad on the coffeemaker and floated to the water cooler where Larry, who never manifested in a visible form, whistled tunelessly while he filled the carafe.
From his dim corner of the room, Carrington said in his dry, genteel way, “Welcome to the Island of Misfit Freaks.”
Lime Gelatin & Other Monsters by Angel Martinez
Series: Offbeat Crimes
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Pages: 91 • Cover Artist: Emmy Ellis
Published By: Pride Publishing
Pride • Amazon • Kobo
Kyle Monroe’s encounter with a strange gelatinous creature in an alley leaves him scarred and forever changed, revealing odd abilities he wishes he didn’t have and earning him reassignment to a precinct where all the cops have defective paranormal abilities.
Just as he’s starting to adjust to his fellow misfit squad mates, Kyle’s new partner arrives. Tall, physically perfect, reserved, and claiming he has no broken psychic talents, Vikash Soren irritates Kyle in every way. But as much as he’d like to hate Vikash, Kyle finds himself oddly drawn to him, their non-abilities meshing in unexpected ways. If they can learn to work together, they might be able to stop the mysterious killer who has been leaving mutilated bodies along the banks of the Schuylkill.