"It's a pair of legs alright," Harl Brodin shouted above the wind and rain, water draining from the brim of his hat and down the back of his neck. Storms always smelled weird on Red, like the air composition was just a little bit off.
Holding his scanner above the bloodied, half-crushed legs, he watched as the completion bar slowly filled, shifting from orange to green. Even though the trains had been held at the station a mile away he still felt nervous kneeling on the tracks, up on the high rail bridge which snaked its way through Paloxic. He could see the station's lights arcing into the night sky.
The stumps were cut just above the knees, the bone flattened onto the rails from where the train had sliced its way past. Probably wouldn't have happened if Red used proper contactless trains, but they were weird like that. Two things in particular bothered Harl - first, even the wheeled trains on Red still had a tiny stopping distance, and there was no way someone could have got onto the elevated, walled-in track without the sensors being alerted. Second, there was no body. Two legs, and nobody to claim them.
"How's it coming?" The shout came from the open gull door of the police car, which was hovering at the edge of the bridge. Inside was Kasen Reider, the best detective Harl knew on Red.
"Coming through now!" Harl shouted back, wiping the water from the scanner's display. The data pinged back from the police's central database and a face and name shone into the darkness, lending an eerie green-blue glow to the scene. It was the second time Harl had seen that face and name tonight: Selkin Grischlag.
Standing, Harl pulled his collar tighter, frowned, and made his way back to the waiting car. He climbed into the open passenger door, the vehicle dipping momentarily under his added weight.
"You're drenching my car," Kasen said.
"It's raining out there," Harl muttered. "You might not have noticed while sitting here in your heated seat.
Kasen shrugged. "Told you I'd bring you out here. Didn't say I was going to get my hands dirty."
"Yeah, well. Get your team in to clean up." He held up the scanner's hologram. "The name Selkin Grischlag mean anything to you?"
"Of course it does," Kasen said, frowning. "He's a bit of a hero on Red. Was one of the leading scientists on the portal merging project twenty years ago. The only one from Red to get the gig."
"No kidding? Well, you got his legs out there, so that's a nice story for you all to tell the kids." Harl held the scanner closer, scrutinising the man's face. Sharp nose, small chin, beady eyes, thin beard. Looked like an academic type.
"Want to tell me how you knew they'd be there?"
Harl pulled the door down, sealing the noise of the storm outside. "Yeah, but get me back to the gate. I got somewhere to be."
It had begun earlier that night, back on Blue. Harl worked a district in Stripe, the biggest east coast city, which had always been dimensionally twinned with Paloxic. Crime usually stayed one side of the gate or the other, but sometimes you'd get a fugitive try to cross through under the misapprehension that it'd help them escape.
Being a detective was all that Harl had ever wanted to do, so he'd done it for twenty-five years and he'd done it damned well. He'd been about to clock off for the night when the call came in of an explosion down on 56th. That wasn't really his thing but it was more-or-less on his way home, so he'd tagged along with the forensics guys.
The side of one of the building's third floor apartments had been entirely blown out onto the street below, which was now a piled, scattered mess of masonry and glass. Fire crews had it under control - apparently there hadn't been much actual fire - and were largely mystified as to what had happened. They had a guy and a girl wrapped up in silver blankets, sat on the back of an ambulance while they were being checked out.
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A Day of Faces (complete novel)Science Fiction
WATTY 2016 winner! In Kay's world, weird is normal. Girls have tentacle dreads, there's a ruling class of flying angels, some folk have fur or horns and others can see heat signatures through walls. All of this made total sense to Kay until she met...