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Stormcrows and Sympathy

As Suzanne was driving them through the evening sleet storm, Ira said, "By the way, hon, I found a new one in the archives."

Suzanne had been thinking about Simon and how she would get to see him next week and whether or not to try the little boutique hotel in town, or if they should run down to a B&B in New Hope for the overnight, so her entire romantic steam engine of thought had to come to a halt before she could switch over to the more prosaic Amtrak train. "New one?" she said to cover the hiccough in her usually-swift mental processing.

"Another murder," Ira said. "A guy named the Jellyfish was killed last December, not too long before... you know, everything. His body was shoved under one of the Staybird docks, instead of up in the park around the main town dock area like the rest of them. Little tiny back page item."

"Between the location and the timing, it's no wonder he was a back page item," Suzanne said, frowning. "No one likes to hear about violence in Staybird. It's supposed to be our quaint little Victorian town within the city or something, according to the tourism board."

"Despite the fact that it's always been one of the poorest areas," Ira said, looking out the window. "Anyway. I thought you'd want to know. I pulled the clipping out of the stack for you."

"Thank you, Ira," Suzanne said, pulling up at the curb. "Do you know anything about the Jellyfish?"

Ira shrugged. "He was a middle-aged thug, though he started out trying to be a hero twenty-odd years ago. Poor kid. You should probably check with your police friends to see if he was strangled too."

Suzanne nodded, stuffing her keys into her purse. "I'll do that." She thought of Ira, painstakingly poring over the clippings in that stack while she was at work, peering through his cataracts and a magnifying glass to find just one more clue, and finding it. She added, "That was great work, Ira."

Ira gave her his dazzling smile. "Glad to do it."

They got out of the car and Suzanne dropped a few quarters into the meter in front of the Stars 'n' Garters, squinting against the driving tiny stinging shards of ice. The blue door was a little kooky and inviting, though the sign hanging lopsidedly and the cracked windows were somewhat less attractive. The windows were steamed up, and Suzanne could only see a few shadowy figures moving ominously inside.

Then Ira opened the door, and the cheery little bell dissolved the threatening illusion. The inside was brightly lit and warm and comfortable, if a little shabby around the edges. The melamine tables were occupied by, mostly, Ira's contemporaries, several of whom she'd last seen at Josh's funeral. She smiled at Madame Destiny, who gave her a little wave. She nodded at the Damned Yankee, who blinked at her in confusion, apparently not recognizing her as the cute young thing whose posterior he had smacked with such vigor at his centennial birthday party. The Tinkerer, swathed in coats and sweaters and scarves and goggles and a hat, didn't even react to the door. Lady Justice rose to greet them, her straggling grey hair more or less captured by a rubber band at the nape of her neck. A slight, short-haired Hispanic woman in her twenties rose with her and grinned madly at Suzanne.

Ira shook hands with Lady J and said, "Lady, you remember my daughter-in-law Suzanne, right?"

"Of course," Lady Justice said in her husky voice. "You know, don't you, dear?"

"That one of your powers is to cause people around you to tell the truth?" Suzanne said. "Yes, ma'am." She laughed inwardly at herself -- she hadn't called anyone "ma'am" in quite that tone of respect in a long time. Simon was rubbing off on her. "If I hadn't known it before, reading Ms. Hernandez's excellent article would have told me." She extended her hand to the younger woman. "Ana Hernandez, I presume."

"Suzanne Feldstein, of course," Ana said, shaking her hand with enthusiasm. "You've been one of my journalistic idols since I was in school. We read your classic 'Masks In Silence' piece on sexual harassment on para teams. It was brilliant! It's such an honor to meet you."

Suzanne managed to keep her face from showing too much; she wasn't certain how she liked being a "classic." "You're very kind," she said, one of her standard platitudes dug up for the occasion. "And this is Ira Feldstein, my --" she quickly discarded her temptation to call him her "trusty sidekick" and just said "-- father-in-law."

"Mister Metropolitan!" Ana said, shaking Ira's hand. "I feel like I'm meeting so many legends because of meeting Lady Justice. It's all so amazing."

Lady J patted her on the shoulder. "You're seeing that we're all just human after all." She gave Ira a wry smile and shot an ironical glance toward the Damned Yankee. "Just one more word of warning," she added to Suzanne. "If you don't want to be forced to tell the truth, don't try to say anything at all."

"That's interesting," Suzanne said.

"No one's ever figured out if she just stops up the part of the brain that lets you spin tales," Ira said. "Didn't have the science to find out back in the 40s."

"And now no one seems very interested," Lady J said, mock-sadly. "Ah, well."

Tthey all settled down at their table. Flo, her orange beehive hairdo resplendent and her traditional waitress uniform crisp, emerged a few seconds later with a single menu that she handed to Suzanne. "Everyone else want your usuals?" she asked, snapping her gum.

"Yes, thank you," Lady J said, and there were affirmative murmurs from Ira and Ana.

"Just a cheeseburger and a diet cola for me, please," Suzanne said, returning the menu.

Flo nodded. "Flo," Lady J added as the woman turned to go. "Still no word?"

Flo gave the table a tight smile. "Not since the message from the Equestrian, no." She hurried into the back.

Suzanne and Ira gave Lady J quizzical looks. She said in a low voice, "Her daughter went off with the Equestrian -- some quest for the Young Cosmics, after one of their friends that got lost. Molly sent word back that Pacifica got separated from the group and they were looking for her."

"Lost in Faerie?" Suzanne said, voice low but appalled. "That's awful. Poor Flo."

Lady J nodded and Ana made a sympathetic noise. "Anyway, she's been waiting for any more news, but you know... Faerie." Lady J grimaced. "I just hope the poor kid doesn't have an experience like mine; it's hard to come back to a world that's run past you. At least now she's not likely to be declared dead while she's missing."

Ira patted Lady Justice's hand awkwardly. "She'll be fine. Molly'll find her, and everything I've heard about Pacifica tells me she'll find her way all right. She's got that true-of-heart thing going for her."

Lady J gave him a twisted smile. "So did I," she said.

They all fell silent at that, until Ana pounced on Suzanne in a frenzy of trying to overcome the mood. "So! You're taking up blogging! I've been reading your coverage of the murders, and I have to say, your evidence is pretty convincing. I can't understand why the police won't acknowledge it."

"I think I've shamed them with Yanaye Smallwood's story," Suzanne said, thinking back to the funeral, where she hadn't approached the family, but one of their friends came over to earnestly shake her hand and thank her. It was only after a short frenzy of conversation that she found out the woman was the sister of Renata Scott, her contact. Theresa Price was a dignified, matronly black woman of fifty-something, with only a few silver hairs in her perfect coiffure that weren't concealed by her hat, wearing a black dress that fit her perfectly, who had made Suzanne feel both welcome and awkward, as well as terrifically underdressed. She sighed inwardly and chalked it up, again, to a learning experience. "One of my contacts says that they're reexamining all the evidence, and they've contacted the Pittsburgh PD."

"I'm glad, though I doubt the impetus came from within," Ana said, with a cynical twitch of her eyebrows. "I'm betting you have a reader in high places who made a few phone calls."

"Oh, you're probably right," Suzanne said with a sigh. "I like hoping that maybe my golden prose will make a difference in and of itself."

"It probably did, dear," Lady J said. "Just not the way you hoped."

"As long as they're starting to take the serial killer proposal seriously," Ana said. "Maybe you can prevent any more deaths."

Suzanne pursed her lips doubtfully. "I expect we're going to get a few more bodies before the police manage to spot anything useful. Or maybe the killer will just move away, wait a little while, and change his victim profile again."

"They usually don't," Ira said.

"But he might, since he's done it once already," Suzanne said. "Or maybe we really are dealing with two separate killers and the Pittsburgh killer just moved to town to join in the fun."

"You'd think that in a town full of people who can see through walls and jump tall buildings in a single bound," Lady J groused, "we wouldn't have issues like this."

"What if it's one of the rooftop-dwellers, though?" Suzanne said. "What if it's someone all these noble protectors trust? Or are just used to seeing out there every night, and suppose him to be fighting the good fight?"

That silenced the group again, long enough for Flo to deliver their food and drinks.

Suzanne cleared her throat. "So. Anyway. Yes, I'm blogging. And I saw your call for fellow feminist journalists to work together on a group blog. If you don't mind an old fogey joining up, that is," she added with a lopsided grin.

Ana's jaw dropped open and her eyes shone. Suzanne kept her grin on her face, but was aware of Ira and Lady J at the edge of her vision, both trying desperately not to laugh. "Oh, Mrs. Feldstein, we'd be SO honored to have you on the team!"

"On one condition," Suzanne said.


"Do me a favor and never call me 'Mrs. Feldstein' again," she said, and swatted at Ira, who was giggling into his hand.


From the Author:
If you don't remember Ana Hernandez, you may want to read the Wonder City Interlude, "Truth, Lady Justice, and the American Way" as a refresher.

Have you seen the cleaned-up sketch [personal profile] meeks did of the faerie wedding? Go! Gaze upon its awesomeness! If you can tip, do tip, or at least leave a comment. You know artists and writers LOVE comments. It always makes my day to see my readers' reactions.

Speaking of which, through May, I'm running the commenting incentive again, because reading your comments is the most fun on the Internet I have all day. So if I get 50 total comments in May, I will post twice weekly through June. As before, if you all post 75 comments, I'll post twice weekly through July too. Get up to 100 comments, the twice-weekly postings continue through August.

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction. Noooooooo we iz fallin down the list into oblivion! (Apparently, my writing goes all LOLcat sometimes.)

Date: 2012-01-28 07:32 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Aw, I'm glad to see Ana and Lady J again! I liked that interlude a lot!


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