Chapter 12

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I view academics with suspicion.

This is partly because they spend so much time trying to convince you of their importance by referencing qualifications and studies that are only important because other academics say that they are.

And partly because they are a bunch of self-absorbed apologists who only take breaks from competing over funding so that they can self-promote or stab a colleague in the back.

Figuratively that is. Most of them wouldn't have ever done anything as practical as stab someone.

Partridge was different.

She was smart, damn smart. But she was also practical. Whenever she lectured me about - well, lots of things - there was always an immediate application to her words.

"You are a fool, Mr Waters."

Case in point.

"The reason I gave you six spray devices was that I needed at least two applications to ensure a concentration of the compound that was sufficient to maintain constant monitoring for any length of time." I was beginning to recognise the little tremors that resonated in her voice when Partridge was genuinely angry.

"But you didn't -"

"Do not presume, Mr Waters. You informed me that you would use all six of the dispensers. Six."

Well, yes.

"You gave me no indication that you would consider the possibility of using less than six. Six."

OK, also true. But I'm agile that way.

"Therefore I saw no reason to inform you of the necessity of a strategy that you had already committed yourself to."

"But my strategy was flawed. I realised that I was underestimating Trip-G. I had to adapt."

Partridge sniffed. "It would appear that I too, was guilty of a degree of underestimation."

Ouch. "What does it matter? I could still see where Trip-G was on the crystal this morning." Trip-G had spent the night split between the crime scene and the Headquarters of Melchi Prime Security. The tracker showed that she had only moved between those two locations for the whole night. When I had handed the crystal to Partridge that morning, Trip-G was still at HQ.

"The matter, Mr Waters, is that you have masterfully reduced yourself to a forty-eight-hour window for tracking. Twelve of which she has already spent in the station. A second application would have granted you a week, at least. The third, a month."

"Can you do anything to improve the tracking?"

Partridge gave me a long look. She turned back to her bench, reached under the counter and pulled a couple of trays of cartridges from a drawer. She handed them to me. "Here, Mr Waters. You are ready to practice with these rounds. Shoot both trays while I consider your problem."

I looked down at the cartridges. They were yellow-tips. Partridge had finally graduated me to the medium cartridges. She couldn't have been that angry with me after all. She wasn't a bad sort, really.



After firing six of the yellow-tip cartridges my hands were throbbing. By twelve it felt as though I had broken my right hand. The recoil was brutal.

I made a show of cleaning my revolver after I had fired the twelfth cartridge. I gave her all the long and loving care that she deserved. When I was certain Partridge wasn't looking, I would shake my hands and try to massage the feeling back into them.

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