Boston Jonson In Murder By Coffee by Biff Mitchell

EXTRACT FOR
Boston Jonson In Murder By Coffee

(Biff Mitchell)


Chapter 1 - Let us begin..."

It was a bustling place, crowded by late-night coffee swillers with throats like pipelines running high octane caffeine, but somehow they found a way to talk through the flow of java and they were all talking at the same time, drowning out the re-mixed jazz tunes from musicians who were mostly dried bones, which was mostly a good thing since they couldn't hear what the late 21st Century had done to their music. He guessed that most of the crowd were college students, meeting here with their holotops to work in groups on assignments from professors they'd never met in real life, eProfs who appeared as talking heads on their students' computers. The rest of the crowd looked like artists, writers and musicians who thought the digitally squeezed music actually said something. And then there were the coffee shop spooks, the ones who sat night after night guzzling into the wee hours because that's what they did. A few of them read books-print books, with paper pages.
Boston Jonson was looking at one of them now. She was a heavy woman, at least two hundred pounds, bent forward on a coffee high, book in one hand, the other grasping a porcelain cup between a massive thumb and index finger. She had that look of intensity that comes from reading too much, living in a world constructed by everybody but herself. And a connoisseur obviously-the print book in her plump hand was a hard bound with a glossy cover. They were rare. Most people used ereaders and holotops for interactive reading. She had a withdrawn intellectual aura, ragged clothing, and brush-lonely hair. Her skin was white. Pure white. White face. White neck. White hands. White enough to be dead. Not surprising though.
She was dead.
She'd turned into stone, white stone. Her hair, eyelashes and nails seemed normal. He ran is fingers over her forehead-smooth stone. He knocked lightly on her forehead-hard white stone. People strolled by on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows peering curiously at the guy with the shoulder length tangerine hair and Hawaiian hula hula shirt knocking on the overly white woman's head.
"She was a regular," said the short good-looking woman standing beside him. "She was here every night." Her name was Julie-not the stiff, the good-looking woman. She was the owner of the Tenth Cup. Brunette hair flowed over her shoulders, stopping just short of some interesting cleavage. She noticed Boston noticing the cleavage and smiled. "Her name was Brandy. She was a librarian."
Librarian, thought Boston. That would explain the print book.
"She didn't speak much, just drank coffee and read a different book every day." She put a sympathetic hand on Brandy's shoulder. "We found her like this an hour ago. One of the coffee consultants noticed that she wasn't turning pages." Julie gave her a wistful look. "She read quickly. She did a lot of page-turning."
"But not anymore, I guess," said Boston with what he hoped was the appropriate amount of inflected regret. He was sure that Brandy had been a good person, coffee addiction, print books, tattered clothing and all. "Did she have any enemies?"
A spark of suspicion ignited for an instant in Julie's brown eyes and Boston felt her mood chill a degree or two. He had that effect on people. "Just a standard question. I have to ask it."
The chill ducked into a warm place, the smile was back full-faced. "Of course. It's just, you know, strange... finding a regular customer suddenly turned to stone for no obvious reason. Do you think it was deliberate?"
"I've never heard of anyone turning to stone before. It's too early to even make a guess."
Julie looked at Brandy sadly. "We're going to miss her around here."
Two women sitting at the table directly behind Brandy's seemed to be frowning pointedly in Brandy's direction. Was that animosity in their eyes? "Did you ever notice anyone giving her a hard time, any arguments?"
She pursed her lips, squinted her eyes, trying to remember. "No... no. She was a loner. Kept to herself. When she was here, she drank coffee and read books. She never actually talked to anybody except the coffee consultants and me. I can't think of anyone doing something like this on purpose." She ran her hand across Brandy's cheek. "I can't imagine anyone doing this, period." She looked over at the counter where a dozen people had materialized out of nowhere. She turned back to Boston, put a hand on his arm, smiling, big brown eyes professional but playful. "I really should get back with the girls. This is one of our busy periods."
Boston smiled and nodded and scoped out her ass as she walked back to the counter. Nice sway.
A silver ID bracelet dangled on Brandy's wrist. He took out his wallet, opened it and tapped it against the bracelet. The screen in his wallet brought up her picture and ID. Brandy Williams. Born April 7, 2034. Occupation: Librarian. That was all. No address. No phone. No email. He snapped a picture of her with his wallet and looked around. No one seemed to be watching him.
It was time. The vibrations surrounding Brandy had a story to tell. That was their way. Everything was vibrations and when vibrations came into contact with each other, they left an indelible impression, a story that could be read of past events if you just opened yourself to their tale. He closed his eyes and relaxed his shoulders. He let his awareness sink slowly into his tan dien, the center of his psychic gravity. He slowed his breathing, letting the air glide through his nostrils and into his lungs, visualizing the energy of the universe flowing in through his head, down through his chest and deep into his stomach. He let the air drift up into his throat and seep out of his mouth as the energy of the earth flowed up his legs and into his stomach. After three breaths, he was in the zone, charged with energy and relaxed. He listened with his inner ear, waiting for the vibrations to speak to him about Brandy.
As usual, the vibrations said nothing. Somebody else did the talking.
"She was a pain in the ass." Surfacing back into the world, Boston focused his eyes on a woman with blond-streaked brunette hair with bouncy curls cascading down to her shoulders. Wide, dark-rimmed glasses gave her an air of smart and sharp. She was a knockout. "She was disruptive," she said with a sonorous voice that might carry to the ends of a large room without jarring a single eardrum. "She got into her books and forgot where she was, reading out loud half the time, and I mean out loud."
"Sometimes she'd yell," said the woman sitting across from her, another beauty with pitch black hair and matching eyes and skin lustrously pale, like something caressed by the moon. "I mean, she'd be reading, lip-mouthing with a low rumble, and then she'd suddenly yell 'NO! YOU DAMN FOOL!' She made me pour half a cup of coffee into my lap one night."
"She told my date and I to keep the noise down once," said the brunette. "And then she went into a yelling rage a few minutes later over some bim in one of her books opening the wrong door. She might not have any enemies here, but she sure doesn't have any friends."
Boston looked back at Brandy. She looked intense, but not frenetic. But then, people who read print books were a strange breed, throwbacks to an age when people expanded their libraries with shelves instead of memory, an age when you couldn't set your book to read out loud or change the end of the story to one you liked. Looking back at the brunette, he said, "Did anyone ever raise their voices at her? Tell her to keep it down? Throw heavy objects at her head?"
They both nodded no, looking at each other to confirm their nods, punctuating them with tight lips. "I think most people were a little afraid of her," said the woman with the moon tan. "I mean, she might blow a fuse and go ballistic." She turned around and looked at Brandy like something you might step over on a sidewalk. "She was probably harmless, but she was big. I wouldn't want to have someone like her coming at me hopped up on pumped caffeine and attitude."
Boston looked back at Brandy and nodded. Pumped caffeine. One of the marvels of 21st Century genetics. Caffeine with ten times the potency of the natural stuff. Java that could make you walk on ceilings. Your body had to adjust gradually to the strongest blends. Newbies sometimes went into cardiac arrest. Brandy on pumped caffeine would have been two hundred pounds of high volume fury if she'd lost it.
"Could you let me know if you think of anything else," he said, extending his wallet toward the women. The brunette tapped the bracelet on her right wrist against his wallet. "My name is Boston Jonson. I'm the consultative investigator assigned to this incident."
The women giggled. "We know," said the brunette. "You're, like, in the webloids."
"All the time," said the moon tan.
"Any chance of intros to any of those thirty naked pagan women from the Kilburn Blind Man case?"
Damn, thought Boston. Lesbians.
His wallet buzzed. He snapped it open. It was Laurel from CI Central. "Laurel, I just got here. I haven't had a chance to get into trouble yet."
"You're trouble the moment you arrive on the scene." She said it jokingly. She liked him even though he was the biggest pain in the ass in her life. "Have you been over to eReads yet?"
"Stopped off for some Brandy first."
"Brandy? You're drinking on the job? Boston... "
"The name of the dead woman."
"She's dead?"
"Stone cold."
"Same as the ones at eReads. Any ideas?"
"Not yet. Whatever turned her into stone did it fast, froze her into reading stance."
"Reading stance?"
"Print book reader."
"A Gutensaur." Laurel gagged a snarky laugh and forced the grin off her face. "Sorry."
Boston smiled. He liked Laurel. "So what's with eReads? I thought you sent someone in for a referral already."
"New guy. Thinks he's you. Even wears one of those outrageous hula hula shirts and dyed his hair orange. He recommended conflict resolution because they were in an argument when they suddenly turned into stone. We're sending him to a reality consultant."
"Reality's overrated."
"Well, here's a shot of overrated reality for you. Central wants... "
"Quick and dirty. Who's on my ass this time?"
"No idea yet. Somebody big."
"As usual."
"Check out the bodies at eReads. Maybe refer for an autopsy?"
Staring at Brandy's cheeks, he said, "I think we'd need a geologist for this autopsy. Here... " He pressed his wallet against her forehead and returned to Laurel. "Just sent you a spectrum. See if the boys can figure out what kind of rock she is. I'll get over to eReads now."
The woman in Boston's wallet smiled. "Just keep it simple and make a referral, Boston."
"What I always try to do, Laurel." He snapped his wallet shut just as a frown began to spread over Laurel's mouth. He winked at the two beauties. "Thanks again for your help, ladies." They nodded and smiled as Boston walked to the counter and signaled to Julie who was making an elaborate coffee concoction that seemed more whipped cream and spices than coffee. "I need the body to be undisturbed while I check on something. I'll be back in about an hour. Do you mind leaving her be for the time being?"
Julie gave Brandy a sympathetic look and turned back to Boston with a smile. "That's OK, Mr. Jonson." She winked. "I think she's earned a little breathing space before she leaves for the last time."

Boston Jonson In Murder By Coffee by Biff Mitchell

EXTRACT FOR
Boston Jonson In Murder By Coffee

(Biff Mitchell)


Chapter 1 - Let us begin..."

It was a bustling place, crowded by late-night coffee swillers with throats like pipelines running high octane caffeine, but somehow they found a way to talk through the flow of java and they were all talking at the same time, drowning out the re-mixed jazz tunes from musicians who were mostly dried bones, which was mostly a good thing since they couldn't hear what the late 21st Century had done to their music. He guessed that most of the crowd were college students, meeting here with their holotops to work in groups on assignments from professors they'd never met in real life, eProfs who appeared as talking heads on their students' computers. The rest of the crowd looked like artists, writers and musicians who thought the digitally squeezed music actually said something. And then there were the coffee shop spooks, the ones who sat night after night guzzling into the wee hours because that's what they did. A few of them read books-print books, with paper pages.
Boston Jonson was looking at one of them now. She was a heavy woman, at least two hundred pounds, bent forward on a coffee high, book in one hand, the other grasping a porcelain cup between a massive thumb and index finger. She had that look of intensity that comes from reading too much, living in a world constructed by everybody but herself. And a connoisseur obviously-the print book in her plump hand was a hard bound with a glossy cover. They were rare. Most people used ereaders and holotops for interactive reading. She had a withdrawn intellectual aura, ragged clothing, and brush-lonely hair. Her skin was white. Pure white. White face. White neck. White hands. White enough to be dead. Not surprising though.
She was dead.
She'd turned into stone, white stone. Her hair, eyelashes and nails seemed normal. He ran is fingers over her forehead-smooth stone. He knocked lightly on her forehead-hard white stone. People strolled by on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows peering curiously at the guy with the shoulder length tangerine hair and Hawaiian hula hula shirt knocking on the overly white woman's head.
"She was a regular," said the short good-looking woman standing beside him. "She was here every night." Her name was Julie-not the stiff, the good-looking woman. She was the owner of the Tenth Cup. Brunette hair flowed over her shoulders, stopping just short of some interesting cleavage. She noticed Boston noticing the cleavage and smiled. "Her name was Brandy. She was a librarian."
Librarian, thought Boston. That would explain the print book.
"She didn't speak much, just drank coffee and read a different book every day." She put a sympathetic hand on Brandy's shoulder. "We found her like this an hour ago. One of the coffee consultants noticed that she wasn't turning pages." Julie gave her a wistful look. "She read quickly. She did a lot of page-turning."
"But not anymore, I guess," said Boston with what he hoped was the appropriate amount of inflected regret. He was sure that Brandy had been a good person, coffee addiction, print books, tattered clothing and all. "Did she have any enemies?"
A spark of suspicion ignited for an instant in Julie's brown eyes and Boston felt her mood chill a degree or two. He had that effect on people. "Just a standard question. I have to ask it."
The chill ducked into a warm place, the smile was back full-faced. "Of course. It's just, you know, strange... finding a regular customer suddenly turned to stone for no obvious reason. Do you think it was deliberate?"
"I've never heard of anyone turning to stone before. It's too early to even make a guess."
Julie looked at Brandy sadly. "We're going to miss her around here."
Two women sitting at the table directly behind Brandy's seemed to be frowning pointedly in Brandy's direction. Was that animosity in their eyes? "Did you ever notice anyone giving her a hard time, any arguments?"
She pursed her lips, squinted her eyes, trying to remember. "No... no. She was a loner. Kept to herself. When she was here, she drank coffee and read books. She never actually talked to anybody except the coffee consultants and me. I can't think of anyone doing something like this on purpose." She ran her hand across Brandy's cheek. "I can't imagine anyone doing this, period." She looked over at the counter where a dozen people had materialized out of nowhere. She turned back to Boston, put a hand on his arm, smiling, big brown eyes professional but playful. "I really should get back with the girls. This is one of our busy periods."
Boston smiled and nodded and scoped out her ass as she walked back to the counter. Nice sway.
A silver ID bracelet dangled on Brandy's wrist. He took out his wallet, opened it and tapped it against the bracelet. The screen in his wallet brought up her picture and ID. Brandy Williams. Born April 7, 2034. Occupation: Librarian. That was all. No address. No phone. No email. He snapped a picture of her with his wallet and looked around. No one seemed to be watching him.
It was time. The vibrations surrounding Brandy had a story to tell. That was their way. Everything was vibrations and when vibrations came into contact with each other, they left an indelible impression, a story that could be read of past events if you just opened yourself to their tale. He closed his eyes and relaxed his shoulders. He let his awareness sink slowly into his tan dien, the center of his psychic gravity. He slowed his breathing, letting the air glide through his nostrils and into his lungs, visualizing the energy of the universe flowing in through his head, down through his chest and deep into his stomach. He let the air drift up into his throat and seep out of his mouth as the energy of the earth flowed up his legs and into his stomach. After three breaths, he was in the zone, charged with energy and relaxed. He listened with his inner ear, waiting for the vibrations to speak to him about Brandy.
As usual, the vibrations said nothing. Somebody else did the talking.
"She was a pain in the ass." Surfacing back into the world, Boston focused his eyes on a woman with blond-streaked brunette hair with bouncy curls cascading down to her shoulders. Wide, dark-rimmed glasses gave her an air of smart and sharp. She was a knockout. "She was disruptive," she said with a sonorous voice that might carry to the ends of a large room without jarring a single eardrum. "She got into her books and forgot where she was, reading out loud half the time, and I mean out loud."
"Sometimes she'd yell," said the woman sitting across from her, another beauty with pitch black hair and matching eyes and skin lustrously pale, like something caressed by the moon. "I mean, she'd be reading, lip-mouthing with a low rumble, and then she'd suddenly yell 'NO! YOU DAMN FOOL!' She made me pour half a cup of coffee into my lap one night."
"She told my date and I to keep the noise down once," said the brunette. "And then she went into a yelling rage a few minutes later over some bim in one of her books opening the wrong door. She might not have any enemies here, but she sure doesn't have any friends."
Boston looked back at Brandy. She looked intense, but not frenetic. But then, people who read print books were a strange breed, throwbacks to an age when people expanded their libraries with shelves instead of memory, an age when you couldn't set your book to read out loud or change the end of the story to one you liked. Looking back at the brunette, he said, "Did anyone ever raise their voices at her? Tell her to keep it down? Throw heavy objects at her head?"
They both nodded no, looking at each other to confirm their nods, punctuating them with tight lips. "I think most people were a little afraid of her," said the woman with the moon tan. "I mean, she might blow a fuse and go ballistic." She turned around and looked at Brandy like something you might step over on a sidewalk. "She was probably harmless, but she was big. I wouldn't want to have someone like her coming at me hopped up on pumped caffeine and attitude."
Boston looked back at Brandy and nodded. Pumped caffeine. One of the marvels of 21st Century genetics. Caffeine with ten times the potency of the natural stuff. Java that could make you walk on ceilings. Your body had to adjust gradually to the strongest blends. Newbies sometimes went into cardiac arrest. Brandy on pumped caffeine would have been two hundred pounds of high volume fury if she'd lost it.
"Could you let me know if you think of anything else," he said, extending his wallet toward the women. The brunette tapped the bracelet on her right wrist against his wallet. "My name is Boston Jonson. I'm the consultative investigator assigned to this incident."
The women giggled. "We know," said the brunette. "You're, like, in the webloids."
"All the time," said the moon tan.
"Any chance of intros to any of those thirty naked pagan women from the Kilburn Blind Man case?"
Damn, thought Boston. Lesbians.
His wallet buzzed. He snapped it open. It was Laurel from CI Central. "Laurel, I just got here. I haven't had a chance to get into trouble yet."
"You're trouble the moment you arrive on the scene." She said it jokingly. She liked him even though he was the biggest pain in the ass in her life. "Have you been over to eReads yet?"
"Stopped off for some Brandy first."
"Brandy? You're drinking on the job? Boston... "
"The name of the dead woman."
"She's dead?"
"Stone cold."
"Same as the ones at eReads. Any ideas?"
"Not yet. Whatever turned her into stone did it fast, froze her into reading stance."
"Reading stance?"
"Print book reader."
"A Gutensaur." Laurel gagged a snarky laugh and forced the grin off her face. "Sorry."
Boston smiled. He liked Laurel. "So what's with eReads? I thought you sent someone in for a referral already."
"New guy. Thinks he's you. Even wears one of those outrageous hula hula shirts and dyed his hair orange. He recommended conflict resolution because they were in an argument when they suddenly turned into stone. We're sending him to a reality consultant."
"Reality's overrated."
"Well, here's a shot of overrated reality for you. Central wants... "
"Quick and dirty. Who's on my ass this time?"
"No idea yet. Somebody big."
"As usual."
"Check out the bodies at eReads. Maybe refer for an autopsy?"
Staring at Brandy's cheeks, he said, "I think we'd need a geologist for this autopsy. Here... " He pressed his wallet against her forehead and returned to Laurel. "Just sent you a spectrum. See if the boys can figure out what kind of rock she is. I'll get over to eReads now."
The woman in Boston's wallet smiled. "Just keep it simple and make a referral, Boston."
"What I always try to do, Laurel." He snapped his wallet shut just as a frown began to spread over Laurel's mouth. He winked at the two beauties. "Thanks again for your help, ladies." They nodded and smiled as Boston walked to the counter and signaled to Julie who was making an elaborate coffee concoction that seemed more whipped cream and spices than coffee. "I need the body to be undisturbed while I check on something. I'll be back in about an hour. Do you mind leaving her be for the time being?"
Julie gave Brandy a sympathetic look and turned back to Boston with a smile. "That's OK, Mr. Jonson." She winked. "I think she's earned a little breathing space before she leaves for the last time."

EXTRACT FOR
Boston Jonson In Murder By Coffee

(Biff Mitchell)


Chapter 1 - Let us begin..."

It was a bustling place, crowded by late-night coffee swillers with throats like pipelines running high octane caffeine, but somehow they found a way to talk through the flow of java and they were all talking at the same time, drowning out the re-mixed jazz tunes from musicians who were mostly dried bones, which was mostly a good thing since they couldn't hear what the late 21st Century had done to their music. He guessed that most of the crowd were college students, meeting here with their holotops to work in groups on assignments from professors they'd never met in real life, eProfs who appeared as talking heads on their students' computers. The rest of the crowd looked like artists, writers and musicians who thought the digitally squeezed music actually said something. And then there were the coffee shop spooks, the ones who sat night after night guzzling into the wee hours because that's what they did. A few of them read books-print books, with paper pages.
Boston Jonson was looking at one of them now. She was a heavy woman, at least two hundred pounds, bent forward on a coffee high, book in one hand, the other grasping a porcelain cup between a massive thumb and index finger. She had that look of intensity that comes from reading too much, living in a world constructed by everybody but herself. And a connoisseur obviously-the print book in her plump hand was a hard bound with a glossy cover. They were rare. Most people used ereaders and holotops for interactive reading. She had a withdrawn intellectual aura, ragged clothing, and brush-lonely hair. Her skin was white. Pure white. White face. White neck. White hands. White enough to be dead. Not surprising though.
She was dead.
She'd turned into stone, white stone. Her hair, eyelashes and nails seemed normal. He ran is fingers over her forehead-smooth stone. He knocked lightly on her forehead-hard white stone. People strolled by on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows peering curiously at the guy with the shoulder length tangerine hair and Hawaiian hula hula shirt knocking on the overly white woman's head.
"She was a regular," said the short good-looking woman standing beside him. "She was here every night." Her name was Julie-not the stiff, the good-looking woman. She was the owner of the Tenth Cup. Brunette hair flowed over her shoulders, stopping just short of some interesting cleavage. She noticed Boston noticing the cleavage and smiled. "Her name was Brandy. She was a librarian."
Librarian, thought Boston. That would explain the print book.
"She didn't speak much, just drank coffee and read a different book every day." She put a sympathetic hand on Brandy's shoulder. "We found her like this an hour ago. One of the coffee consultants noticed that she wasn't turning pages." Julie gave her a wistful look. "She read quickly. She did a lot of page-turning."
"But not anymore, I guess," said Boston with what he hoped was the appropriate amount of inflected regret. He was sure that Brandy had been a good person, coffee addiction, print books, tattered clothing and all. "Did she have any enemies?"
A spark of suspicion ignited for an instant in Julie's brown eyes and Boston felt her mood chill a degree or two. He had that effect on people. "Just a standard question. I have to ask it."
The chill ducked into a warm place, the smile was back full-faced. "Of course. It's just, you know, strange... finding a regular customer suddenly turned to stone for no obvious reason. Do you think it was deliberate?"
"I've never heard of anyone turning to stone before. It's too early to even make a guess."
Julie looked at Brandy sadly. "We're going to miss her around here."
Two women sitting at the table directly behind Brandy's seemed to be frowning pointedly in Brandy's direction. Was that animosity in their eyes? "Did you ever notice anyone giving her a hard time, any arguments?"
She pursed her lips, squinted her eyes, trying to remember. "No... no. She was a loner. Kept to herself. When she was here, she drank coffee and read books. She never actually talked to anybody except the coffee consultants and me. I can't think of anyone doing something like this on purpose." She ran her hand across Brandy's cheek. "I can't imagine anyone doing this, period." She looked over at the counter where a dozen people had materialized out of nowhere. She turned back to Boston, put a hand on his arm, smiling, big brown eyes professional but playful. "I really should get back with the girls. This is one of our busy periods."
Boston smiled and nodded and scoped out her ass as she walked back to the counter. Nice sway.
A silver ID bracelet dangled on Brandy's wrist. He took out his wallet, opened it and tapped it against the bracelet. The screen in his wallet brought up her picture and ID. Brandy Williams. Born April 7, 2034. Occupation: Librarian. That was all. No address. No phone. No email. He snapped a picture of her with his wallet and looked around. No one seemed to be watching him.
It was time. The vibrations surrounding Brandy had a story to tell. That was their way. Everything was vibrations and when vibrations came into contact with each other, they left an indelible impression, a story that could be read of past events if you just opened yourself to their tale. He closed his eyes and relaxed his shoulders. He let his awareness sink slowly into his tan dien, the center of his psychic gravity. He slowed his breathing, letting the air glide through his nostrils and into his lungs, visualizing the energy of the universe flowing in through his head, down through his chest and deep into his stomach. He let the air drift up into his throat and seep out of his mouth as the energy of the earth flowed up his legs and into his stomach. After three breaths, he was in the zone, charged with energy and relaxed. He listened with his inner ear, waiting for the vibrations to speak to him about Brandy.
As usual, the vibrations said nothing. Somebody else did the talking.
"She was a pain in the ass." Surfacing back into the world, Boston focused his eyes on a woman with blond-streaked brunette hair with bouncy curls cascading down to her shoulders. Wide, dark-rimmed glasses gave her an air of smart and sharp. She was a knockout. "She was disruptive," she said with a sonorous voice that might carry to the ends of a large room without jarring a single eardrum. "She got into her books and forgot where she was, reading out loud half the time, and I mean out loud."
"Sometimes she'd yell," said the woman sitting across from her, another beauty with pitch black hair and matching eyes and skin lustrously pale, like something caressed by the moon. "I mean, she'd be reading, lip-mouthing with a low rumble, and then she'd suddenly yell 'NO! YOU DAMN FOOL!' She made me pour half a cup of coffee into my lap one night."
"She told my date and I to keep the noise down once," said the brunette. "And then she went into a yelling rage a few minutes later over some bim in one of her books opening the wrong door. She might not have any enemies here, but she sure doesn't have any friends."
Boston looked back at Brandy. She looked intense, but not frenetic. But then, people who read print books were a strange breed, throwbacks to an age when people expanded their libraries with shelves instead of memory, an age when you couldn't set your book to read out loud or change the end of the story to one you liked. Looking back at the brunette, he said, "Did anyone ever raise their voices at her? Tell her to keep it down? Throw heavy objects at her head?"
They both nodded no, looking at each other to confirm their nods, punctuating them with tight lips. "I think most people were a little afraid of her," said the woman with the moon tan. "I mean, she might blow a fuse and go ballistic." She turned around and looked at Brandy like something you might step over on a sidewalk. "She was probably harmless, but she was big. I wouldn't want to have someone like her coming at me hopped up on pumped caffeine and attitude."
Boston looked back at Brandy and nodded. Pumped caffeine. One of the marvels of 21st Century genetics. Caffeine with ten times the potency of the natural stuff. Java that could make you walk on ceilings. Your body had to adjust gradually to the strongest blends. Newbies sometimes went into cardiac arrest. Brandy on pumped caffeine would have been two hundred pounds of high volume fury if she'd lost it.
"Could you let me know if you think of anything else," he said, extending his wallet toward the women. The brunette tapped the bracelet on her right wrist against his wallet. "My name is Boston Jonson. I'm the consultative investigator assigned to this incident."
The women giggled. "We know," said the brunette. "You're, like, in the webloids."
"All the time," said the moon tan.
"Any chance of intros to any of those thirty naked pagan women from the Kilburn Blind Man case?"
Damn, thought Boston. Lesbians.
His wallet buzzed. He snapped it open. It was Laurel from CI Central. "Laurel, I just got here. I haven't had a chance to get into trouble yet."
"You're trouble the moment you arrive on the scene." She said it jokingly. She liked him even though he was the biggest pain in the ass in her life. "Have you been over to eReads yet?"
"Stopped off for some Brandy first."
"Brandy? You're drinking on the job? Boston... "
"The name of the dead woman."
"She's dead?"
"Stone cold."
"Same as the ones at eReads. Any ideas?"
"Not yet. Whatever turned her into stone did it fast, froze her into reading stance."
"Reading stance?"
"Print book reader."
"A Gutensaur." Laurel gagged a snarky laugh and forced the grin off her face. "Sorry."
Boston smiled. He liked Laurel. "So what's with eReads? I thought you sent someone in for a referral already."
"New guy. Thinks he's you. Even wears one of those outrageous hula hula shirts and dyed his hair orange. He recommended conflict resolution because they were in an argument when they suddenly turned into stone. We're sending him to a reality consultant."
"Reality's overrated."
"Well, here's a shot of overrated reality for you. Central wants... "
"Quick and dirty. Who's on my ass this time?"
"No idea yet. Somebody big."
"As usual."
"Check out the bodies at eReads. Maybe refer for an autopsy?"
Staring at Brandy's cheeks, he said, "I think we'd need a geologist for this autopsy. Here... " He pressed his wallet against her forehead and returned to Laurel. "Just sent you a spectrum. See if the boys can figure out what kind of rock she is. I'll get over to eReads now."
The woman in Boston's wallet smiled. "Just keep it simple and make a referral, Boston."
"What I always try to do, Laurel." He snapped his wallet shut just as a frown began to spread over Laurel's mouth. He winked at the two beauties. "Thanks again for your help, ladies." They nodded and smiled as Boston walked to the counter and signaled to Julie who was making an elaborate coffee concoction that seemed more whipped cream and spices than coffee. "I need the body to be undisturbed while I check on something. I'll be back in about an hour. Do you mind leaving her be for the time being?"
Julie gave Brandy a sympathetic look and turned back to Boston with a smile. "That's OK, Mr. Jonson." She winked. "I think she's earned a little breathing space before she leaves for the last time."