Extract – Diplomancer

Have a bit of my novel, taken from near the beginning wherein one of the main characters gets hauled in by the cops.  This might be a tl;dr for some of you.

—————————————————————————————

 

The Department of Intrigue was, as far as Miranda could tell, the only office in the building that actually contained any detectives. It had been a long walk from the reception desk to Delorean’s office and they had passed through most of the station during their travels. For a city the size of Hull there was a disconcertingly small amount of police present in the station. It was, for all intents and purposes, a ghost town.

 

Of the fourteen separate departments she had passed on the way only three had contained any officers to speak of: Traffic, Littering and Religious Affairs. The officers in these departments were all asleep.

 

It came as a pleasant surprise, then, when Maxwell Delorean led Miranda into a room practically overflowing with life and bustle. The room was a maze of oddly shaped desks ranging in size from minivan-huge to bedside-small, all of them piled with precariously balanced files just begging to spill onto the floor. Somehow the officers were managing to rush around in the small spaces between the desks without even coming close to jostling the desks. Miranda thought this was an impressive feat, especially considering how many people there were dashing around. It was as if the entirety of the station had been emptied into one room.

 

Delorean ably guided her through the throng and din and gently pushed her into the lone office at the very far end of the room. Office, as a term of description, may have been stretching it somewhat. Delorean’s office was clearly no more than a larger than average cupboard with a desk jammed in,although when the door was shut it did a remarkable job of keeping out the noise from the department at large.

 

Delorean pulled out a chair – no small feat in a room as small as this – and politely indicated that Miranda should sit down. She awkwardly manoeuvred herself into the chair, banging her head on a low-slung shelf, as Delorean himself clambered over his desk and into his own seat. He sat there for a moment, staring across at her with his thick, dark eyes. He made her feel very uncomfortable.

 

Rummaging around in a drawer, Delorean produced a thick cigar and held it in his fingers. ‘Do you smoke, miss?’ he asked.

 

‘Not if I can help it,’ she replied, slightly less than truthful. Miranda had nothing against smoking, but she had everything against being offered a smoke.

 

‘I don’t smoke either, at least not anymore,’ Delorean said, flipping the large cigar into the carefully crafted mouth above his perfectly chiselled chin. ‘Still, keep some remnants of the old habit around though. I like the feel of them I guess,’ he paused to suck on the end of his cigar as thought it were an ice cream. Miranda could feel it coming. ‘Can I offer you one?’, he asked.

 

She wrinkled her nose but fought back the usual, venomous response to that question. ‘Why am I here?’ she asked, changing the subject with sleek, feminine skill. ‘All I did was call for an ambulance. Hardly worth dragging me down here, surely?’

 

‘Ordinarily, no. You’re quite right about that. This case, however, is of special interest to us,’ he said. He took the cigar out of his mouth and dropped it back into the drawer; Miranda wondered quite how many times he had done that and if some horrible puddle of spittle had formed in there. ‘It’s not every day you turn up to find a survivor of the St Judy’s Massacre huddled over the dead body of an Intriguing Person.’

 

Miranda was startled by this. Those records were sealed, no-one was meant to know she was at the massacre, let alone survived it. As far as everyone was concerned all the parishioners died and there were no witnesses. ‘What are you talking about?’ was all she could say.

 

‘Ah yes, Top Secret, hush hush, wink wink,’ he actually winked at her, she wretched. ‘Don’t worry your pretty little head over that. We’ve got a lot of resources at our disposal. Granted, we don’t use them too often but they don’t have pack a wallop when we do!’

 

He was smiling at her. His teeth seemed too white to be natural, almost reflective. In fact, Miranda was sure that, if she looked hard enough, she could see her reflection in them. She tried to ignore them. ‘What do you mean by “Intriguing Person”?’

 

‘No, not “Intriguing Person”, “Intriguing Person”. You need the right tone, the proper quaver in your voice.’

 

‘Ok then,’ she said, slightly irritated. ‘What do you mean by “Intriguing Person”?’.

 

Delorean beamed stupidly at her use of the right tone, and she worried that he may cut off his own head with that stupid grin. ‘You learn fast, I like that in a woman, but I can’t really tell you. All I’m at liberty to divulge is that your Erik Van De Squoir is… was someone that a member of my staff found Intriguing.’

 

‘That’s awfully vague.’

 

‘We do our best,’ the grin was even bigger now. Miranda was starting to wonder if idiocy and happiness came hand in hand, or whether Delorean had bought the combo deal. She didn’t like him at all, something was off about him. He was too confident and far too plastic. There weren’t enough creases in his head, that was it. When he smiled his lips moved but the rest of his skin didn’t. No wrinkles around the eyes, no cheek dimples, nothing at all. It was far too creepy.

 

Miranda was well aware that Delorean still hadn’t explained why she had been brought in but, before she could ask, he interrupted her. ‘The thing is, Miss Ertras, I was just wondering if you’d picked up anything from his apartment. You know, any evidence or anything that might help us work out the cause of death?’

 

‘Well the paramedics said it was natural causes, didn’t they?’

 

Delorean let out a quiet snort. ‘No offence meant to our medical compadres, but what they don’t know could fill an Olympic swimming pool. I’m not saying they’re wrong, mind. All I’m saying is that they haven’t looked at this from all the angles, and they don’t know what we know.’

 

He raised an eyebrow in a conspiratorial gesture. This guy is so sleazy he makes door-to-door salesmen look downright saintly she considered. Delorean clearly didn’t know what he was talking about, she decided, he was spending far too long trying to sound dark and mysterious. Still, the idea of evidence hadn’t crossed her mind when she had been there, she was too busy dealing with a dead body to worry about anything else. Anything at the apartment was probably in police custody by now, though, so little point in going back to have a nosey around. Would he have asked her if she had taken anything if they had found something, though? Probably not. Maybe snooping through Erik’s stuff would be useful, assuming she could get herself away from the sleazy arm of the law.

 

‘So you don’t think it was a natural death then?’ she asked.

 

‘Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. All I’m saying is that it’s an Intriguing event, well worth looking into.’

 

‘And that’s why I’m here?’

 

‘More or less,’ his grin faltered a little. ‘Ninety percent I’d say.’

 

‘And the other ten?’

 

His grin kicked back into full force. ‘Intrigue, miss. Like I say, it’s not everyday you get to meet a survivor of the St Judy’s Massacre, especially as there’s only one of you.’

 

‘I don’t do interviews, and certainly not about that!’ Miranda snarled. This man was starting to get on her nerves with all his talk of ‘intrigue’, specially accent or not. ‘If that’s all you wanted can I go now?’

 

For a moment Miranda thought she could see hurt in the man’s eyes although he quickly composed himself. ‘Of course. Would you like me to walk you out?’

 

‘I really wouldn’t.’

 

‘Oh. Well in that case, please, take my card. Just in case you remember anything else you think might be important.’ Reaching into his desk once again, he produced a thin business card. Taking aim he held it between two fingers and flicked it through the air towards Miranda. It is a skill that is difficult to master and very cool (although useless) to possess, and this was probably why Delorean failed miserably. The card fluttered impotently onto the desk in front of him. He stared at it sheepishly for a second, before snatching it up and handing it to Miranda the old fashioned way. She snatched the card and read it.

 

Intrigue Captain Maxwell Delorean

 

‘He built a crime-busting machine out of a Delorean’

 

Miranda didn’t find the quote remotely as funny as Delorean had intended it to be. She scrunched the card into a ball and dropped it into her pocket, making sure that Delorean saw every action, before storming out of his office.

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