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Unknown Constellations

"The women in Pittsburgh were all para," Suzanne told Ira, spreading the photos and her neat notes on the table. "Minor paras, mostly. None invulnerable, naturally, since they were strangled."

Ira frowned, rubbing his chin. He was briefly distracted by the little strip of stubble left just under the left side of his jaw. He briefly contemplated giving up shaving, but thought that Suzanne would not want a crazy bearded old man living in her house. She was doing all right tolerating the crazy old man as he was. "What else?"

Suzanne shrugged. "About half were prostitutes. The police apparently figured they were all prostitutes, but I can't find any evidence of it in several cases. At least one woman had no time, given that she was working three jobs, two shifts a day." She flipped a page of her notes. "All of them were drug users, or used to be. They went to the same drug rehab outpatient program."

He nodded. "I assume the police looked at the staff of the program and other intersections."

She said in a bitter tone of voice, "I'm sure they did in their free time."

Ira gave her a look and she shrugged.

They both stared down at the set of photos of pretty, smiling young women. "The only thing here that doesn't seem to put these women in the most typical group for serial killer victims is that they aren't all the same ethnicity, and don't really resemble each other," Suzanne said. "White and blonde. Black. Hispanic. White and brunette. Hispanic. Black. Asian. Maybe his target was para over a particular appearance."

Ira reached across the table and pulled the sheaf of photos of the Wonder City victims out of the folder. He laid them next to the photos of the women. What did a bunch of minor league supervillains in their 40s and 50s have to do with 20-something drug users in another city?

"What do the men have in common," Ira said slowly, "other than being para and on the wrong side?"

Suzanne shook her head and flipped through the folder. "They were all having financial troubles -- a couple of them were close to bankruptcy, most of them were just plain poor. A couple of them were in the middle of divorces -- Buzzboy and The Merlin, I think. All of them, actually, had at least one divorce in their past. They didn't live in the same neighborhood. Only Ferrodyne has a history of serious drug use that's gone on past his 20s." She clenched her fist in her hair. "And none of them are likely victims of a serial killer. They're all white men. They're middle-aged. They're straight. They're para. Maybe it was the mob after all?"

Ira snorted, peering through his glasses at the photos. "It wasn't the mob. I know from the mob."

"Do they have any powers in common?" Suzanne said, rubbing her eyes.

He chewed on his lower lip. "Steel Man was a gizmo guy -- armor, etc. Buzzboy had vibratory powers and really minor flight. Ferrodyne could make his skin steel and electrified. The Merlin could levitate, and used a gadget to make it actual flight. The Hammer was strong, invulnerable, and had a gizmo hammer. The Green Eel could breathe underwater and, um, produce slime." Suzanne gave him a horrified look and he shrugged. "It made him hard to grab hold of."

Suzanne shuddered delicately. "I can understand his divorce now."

Ira frowned down at his knees, then looked up, struck by an idea. "What about their lawyers?"

Suzanne blinked. "Huh!" She pawed through her documentation. "Hum. Hum. Looks like the Merlin and the Hammer had the same guy. Oh, but Ferrodyne didn't. Buzzboy and the Steel Man had a woman. Green Eel liked to, apparently, represent himself. Badly."

Ira pounded his knee with his fist. "Busted again."

"I'll look closer at that," Suzanne said, "just in case the three lawyers had something in common -- a past with the same firm or something."

Ira nodded again. He was trying to think of another suggestion when Suzanne's email chimed.

She glanced at her screen, froze, then clicked the email open. "Hell and damnation," she said after a moment.

"What's up?" Ira said.

"It's from Vita," she said, not sounding at all pleased by this email from her college friend. "She says that the blog post I made about our six dead mystery men? Scooped her. And she wants a little chat over dinner."

Ira let out a low whistle. "Want a chaperone?" he said, only half-jokingly. "I'm an old man. She can't get too nasty around me, right?"

Suzanne leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "You don't know Vita. But thank you anyway." She looked back at the screen and sighed. "Hell hath no fury like a reporter scooped. I suppose I'd better put on my big girl pants and get this over with."

"I'll put a bottle of wine in to chill for when you get home," Ira said. "And I'll just pop out to get something nice for dessert. I doubt you'll want to linger."


From the Author:
Sorry for the delay in posting. I got distracted by a combination of arm issues and freelancing.

Wonder City Stories has been nominated for the Rose & Bay Award! Round 1 voting has begun -- see this post for the fiction category. I would adore it if you voted for Wonder City. Also note that there are other categories, including webcomics, art, and "other".

In the patron category -- separated into two entries through an unfortunate miscommunication -- are two Wonder City patrons who've been with me from the beginning: aerynvale and badfaun, known to readers as Dave and Lucid (of Lucid's Dream Party). They were my very first donors, and have been contributing comments and support of all my writing, public and private, for... nearly a decade now? Yeah, I think it has, in fact, been that long. Please give them some votes!

That said, I have many wonderful patrons/readers here, and I am grateful to each and every one of you. I am working on a way to thank you all.

I'm posting twice weekly during February. Thank you for all your comments! Please keep commenting while I come up with new ideas (or steal other people's ideas) for fan involvement. I love all your comments.

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction! Come on and click. You know you want to.

Date: 2011-02-09 04:30 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Oh hell Vita.


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