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Small Change

"What're you working on, sweetheart?" Ira said as he lowered himself stiffly into his chair. He put on his glasses and prepared to read the newspaper.

Suzanne looked up from where she was leaning her head on her hand. "Still that murder case," she said, taking a swig of soda from the brown bottle at hand. "I've found three more that fit the MO, but nothing before September of 2008."

"Six in a year and a half," Ira said, brow furrowing. "What do the police think?"

"The police think it's a gang spree," Suzanne said, scowling at the folder her informant had given her. He'd been a valuable guy back in her reporting days; now he was even more valuable because more than ten years of service had put him in an office job with a lot of access to information. She was glad she'd continued to stay in touch.

"But you don't?" Ira said.

"I don't know any more," Suzanne said, riffling through a stack of papers and finishing her soda. "I guess I originally thought it was a serial killer, but the population is really strange for the typical serial killer. They usually go for women, or gay men, or children -- people who are less powerful, you know?"

"And these victims are all middle-aged men, right?" Ira said.

"They were scraping a living," Suzanne said thoughtfully. "So I suppose you could argue that they weren't particularly powerful because they were poor. But they were all middle-aged white men, which is a really unusual pattern for a serial killer."

Ira got up and peered over her shoulder through his thick spectacles at her list of the dead: Green Eel, Buzzboy, Ferrodyne, The Merlin, The Steel Man, The Hammer. He made a thoughtful noise. "None of them were gang sorts. They were just... minor crooks. Hired on for one-offs with bigger crooks. None of them were mob or anything like that."

This struck a note in the back of Suzanne's head. Of course. Ira had done this for a living once upon a time. He still had more current contacts than she did in the para community, kept up on it. Whereas she'd done her best to not think about the para community for 10 years. "Ira," she said, "I'm out of practice with thinking about this. Can you help?"

Ira's smile was so bright and delighted, it reminded her about the little gold trophies on the shelf in his room: "Best Smile in Wonder City" for 1961, 1962, and 1963. "I'd be glad to, Suzanne." He cracked his knobby knuckles. "All right, first thing to think: what was our serial killer doing before September of 2008? Where was he?"

Suzanne looked at him carefully. "You think it's a serial killer too?"

"Let's assume you're right," Ira said. He tapped the screen. "Look for other, similar deaths."

It was hours of hunting on the newspaper databases, serial killing databases, and a few databases Suzanne wasn't really supposed to have access to, but had wrangled just for this project. Ira pulled his chair up next to Suzanne and watched what she did, rubbing his eyes periodically and asking her to read the screen, making suggestions from time to time. The afternoon flew away and it was well into evening when Suzanne stood up and paced the room, rubbing her own eyes.

"Nothing," she said. "Nothing, nothing, nothing like this at all. What was he doing before September 2008?"

Ira looked at his own laced fingers. "There was that run of women in Pittsburgh," he said. "All strangled, like the men here. Left at the river side."

"But it's much more typical," Suzanne said, raking fingers through her hair. "Young women are the usual fare of the serial killer."

"What if it was practice?" Ira said. "What if that was how he started out?"

"Why would he change after coming to Wonder City though?" she asked, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"That's the question, isn't it?" Ira said. "Something changed. His power? His position? Maybe he's being paid, somehow, to do this, and it's satisfying the sickness enough -- or he doesn't have time -- to keep him from going after his original victim type."

"Or this is a totally different guy," Suzanne said, looking at her screen despairingly.

"Do the women in Pittsburgh have anything in common with our small-time supervillains?" Ira asked thoughtfully. "Come from the same part of town or anything?"

"I don't know," Suzanne said. "But I can find out."


From the Author:
Happy MLK Day! Fortunately, I now work for a company that actually gives MLK Day off. It's a pleasant experience after so many years without so many holidays. The arm is somewhat better, but we're expecting a storm tomorrow, with 3" to 7". Whee!

I'm posting twice weekly during January. If you like this twice-weekly thing, I'm doing it again in January: if January's posts draw 50 comments total, I'll post twice weekly through February too. As before, if you provide a comment bonanza, I'll extend appropriately.

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction! It's just a few clicks! We've fallen down the list!

Date: 2011-01-17 09:21 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Hah! Go Ira! I'm glad he's contributing; it's gonna make him much happier.

Date: 2011-01-19 11:17 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
I'm hoping. Ira's a good guy. Reminds me of my grandfather -- my mother's father, who was in WWII.

Date: 2012-01-28 04:36 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
I'm really glad Ira gets to do something in his old age. This gonna sound kind of ghoulish, but it's almost like Josh's death opened up the opportunity for both him and Suzanne to move on and do their own things at last.

Date: 2012-01-28 05:42 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Not ghoulish at all. Being a caretaker for a dying person sucks all sorts of energy out of a person; there's nothing to spare, really, even if that dying person is comatose, etc. It's natural that after that burden is lifted, both Ira and Suzanne have to try for a new normal.


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