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Playing Hot and Cold

Suzanne was sitting back from her new project schedule, rubbing her eyes, when her phone rang with "I Want a Cape to Call My Own." She pounced on it gratefully and said, "Hello, Ira," when the call connected.

"Hi, hon," the old man said. "I've got some news for you." His voice wobbled a little, and she couldn't tell whether it was excitement or something else.

"What's up?" she said.

"Another body," he said.

"Oh, no," Suzanne said, swallowing hard to keep her voice level and the damnable ghoulish "oh, yes!" out of it.

"Yes," he said. "I just saw it breaking on the news ticker. You better talk to your friends and get more details."

"Will do," she said. "Thanks, Ira."

"Hey, what are trusty sidekicks for anyway?" he said -- she could hear his smile -- and hung up.

She spent her entire lunch hour crouched in the mother's room of her office (no mothers had it booked), on the phone and on her new Gold Stars tablet, slamming out a new blog post. She hit the post button as she walked back to her desk, starving but teeming with guilty excitement. Guilty because the whole case was horrible. Excited because she'd stolen a march on Vita... again.

She'd checked. Twice.

Some people might accuse her of being vindictive. And Vita would be right.

Her project schedule just didn't hold the same dull fascination it had before lunch, but she plodded through all the necessary contortions anyway. She resisted checking for comments until her three o'clock break.

Suzanne hadn't realized that she had quite that many readers until she saw the email at the top of her inbox. She grabbed up her tablet and sent money for the bandwidth overage immediately to get the story back up.

She left work at 5 pm on the dot and practically floated home. Her exhilaration deflated rapidly when she saw who was waiting on her doorstep.

"Hello again, Mrs. Feldstein," Watson Holmes said, straightening up from her slouch against the tree in the yard.

"Simon and I are getting along very well, thank you," Suzanne said, trying to be arch and not managing the right tone. In fact, she'd sounded downright pleading.

"I'm very glad," Watson said with a flicker of a smile. "But currently irrelevant. I'm here to propose a collaboration. You have a good deal of information. I could gather the same data, but it would take time. I don't think we have that much time to prevent another murder."

"You're... talking about the serial killer," Suzanne said, frowning. "You think my information can help catch the killer?"

"Yes," Watson said. "Especially given the new information that I have that I'm willing to share with you. I promise that my information is entirely exclusive to you, Mrs. Feldstein."

Suzanne stared at the mousy bespectacled woman for another moment, then turned toward the front door and said, "All right, come in. But for god's sake, call me Suzanne."

When they got inside, Suzanne called, "Ira, we have a guest!" Just in case. He'd always been very good about, you know, not running around in his underwear (which showed better manners than his son ever had), but one never knew.

Ira popped out of the living room with a smile (wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and khaki trousers) and seemed startled by the fact that he didn't recognize the woman behind Suzanne.

"Ira, this is Watson Holmes," Suzanne said. "She's got some information to share on the case."

"Oh! Miss Holmes!" Ira said, his smile restored to its original wattage. He shook Watson's hand warmly. "I've read about some of your cases. Particularly that one in New York with the heiress, the potted plant, and the locked freezer room! That was brilliant!"

"Thank you," Watson said urbanely.

They settled in the living room, Ira playing host and fetching everyone drinks, Suzanne alighting in her computer chair, surrounded by piles of paper and her computer setup. Watson ran an eye over the room, turned a straight chair backwards, and straddled it. She accepted the glass of iced tea from Ira with murmured thanks.

"Well," Suzanne said, when Ira had settled in his favorite easy chair. "Here we all are."

"I have reliable information as to the approximate whereabouts of the killer," Watson said, with what Suzanne thought remarkable, if startling, brevity.

"Approximate?" Ira said, at the same time Suzanne said, "Really?"

Watson took a drink. "Yes. He -- and we are certain it is a he, as if statistics weren't enough -- is either on the set of or in near proximity to... the It's a Wonderful House set."

Suzanne managed to avoid a spittake, but it was a near thing. Ira choked on his tea.

"Reliable?" Suzanne said.

"Eminently," Watson said.

"Why aren't you going to the police with this then?" Ira said. Then his eyes narrowed. "Telepath," he said.

"Very good," Watson said.

"Not... Renata Scott again?" Suzanne said.

Watson's eyebrows lifted, the first sign of a reaction Suzanne had really seen in the woman. "You've heard of her?"

"She tipped me to Yanaye Smallwood's story," Suzanne said, deciding that it wasn't worth playing games with Watson Holmes. Simon!

"Interesting," said Watson. "For reasons we needn't go into here, she can't give us more precise information."

Ira said, "I wouldn't want to go trawling around in a serial killer's head either."

Suzanne scowled. "How are we going to tell Si-- the-- the--"

"The inmates?" Watson said. "Megan's offered to catch Simon on his day off and make sure he knows. We'll have to rely on him to warn the others."

"Not the boys, surely!" Ira said, almost offended. "We don't know whether one of them is the killer or not."

"Simon's not," Suzanne said definitely.

"I'm willing to admit Simon to our confidence," Watson said, "given the stellar character references." Suzanne thought Watson might have been smiling then, just a little.

"Well," Ira said, "at least not that Tom fellow or that Brad."

"Brandon," said Suzanne.

"Whatever," Ira said, waving a hand.

"In any case," Watson said, "we've got it covered. Now, I need everything you know about the newest victim. Especially anything you didn't put in your blog post."

"My information is somewhat sparse right now," Suzanne said, bringing up a file on her tablet and scanning it. "Dani Williams, age 20. Last seen Tuesday night at a fraternity party on the Wonder City U campus. There was just one thing I didn't put in the post," Suzanne said, handing the tablet to Watson.

Watson glanced over the screen. "Had advertised online, trying to gain clientele as a professional dominatrix. Interesting, very interesting."

"I didn't put it in because... well, I didn't know whether it was relevant," Suzanne said. "Or even true. I couldn't find this online ad the police report said they'd found."

"They probably had it taken down," Watson said, handing back the tablet and rising. "Thank you. I have some contacts that may have more information."

"Exclusive, you said," Suzanne reminded her, standing as well.

"Yes," Watson said. "Believe me, I'll pass along any information I can find. This needs to be a real collaboration."

"I'm glad to hear you say that," Suzanne said. "How shall I contact you if I get more information?"

"I entered my phone number on your tablet," Watson said, definitely smiling. She allowed Ira and Suzanne to escort her into the front hall.

At the door, Watson turned suddenly. "Mister Feldstein, I had a question on a different case you might help me with."

Ira looked startled, then pleased. "Of course! Whatever I can do."

Watson pulled a photograph out of an inside pocket of her jacket and handed it to him. "Do you remember anything interesting about the building in the center?"

Suzanne peered over Ira's shoulder. It was a black and white photograph of a section of the city she vaguely recognized; at the center was a high-rise apartment building, squared off in Deco style.

Ira nodded. "Oh, yes, that's the Marshall Building. One hundred and thirty-seven units, the old advertisements said. Pretty darn posh when it went up, but after the big crash, the whole neighborhood went downhill, and Professor Fortune bought it for a song. He bought up almost everything in the area. Housing for the poor, he said, though I don't think anyone really poor ever lived there."

"My research showed that it was bought by a small holding company," Watson said, eyebrows rising.

"Oh, yes, but everyone knew it was the Prof," Ira said. He gazed down at the photo fondly. "They knocked the old place down last year. Putting up some sort of luxury condos, I heard." He handed the picture back to Watson. "They'll probably be ugly as hell."

"No doubt," Watson said, slipping it back into her pocket. "Thank you both, you've given me much food for thought and investigation."

Suzanne shut the door after Watson and turned to Ira. "What do you think that was about? The photo, I mean."

Ira shrugged. "The whole building's gone. It must be a really cold case."

---

From the Author:
As a followup, I did get an apology from Zazzle management, and they retracted their judgment of the t-shirt as offensive, protesting that they are a very gay-friendly company, etc etc. All very well and good, but I'm not going back to them. I don't feel like having this fight with their illiterate reviewers again. Am currently taking a look at Red Bubble.

Comment incentive in June: if I get 50 total comments from readers in June, I will post twice weekly through July. As before, if you all post 75 comments, I'll post twice weekly through August too. Get up to 100 comments, the twice-weekly postings continue through September.









Date: 2011-06-28 06:58 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Ira is just too fucking adorable. NO HURTING IRA

Watson ran an eye over the room, turned a straight chair backwards, and straddled it.

WHOO. //fans self

Professor Fortune? Hmmm....

Date: 2011-06-29 11:28 am (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Ira is adorable, isn't he? Don't fret, I used Ira as a punching bag in the last book; I've got plenty of shiny new punching bags in this one. :)

Writing Watson's soft butch makes me anxious to get G back so I can get back to writing her dashing butch.

Date: 2011-06-29 02:27 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Ira is SO CUTE. And yeah, I _miss_ G! (Poor G. The bit with the cats....)

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