Crackle and Fire
Date Published: September 1, 2020
Publisher: Crazy 8 Press
Angela Hardwicke isn’t just any private eye. She’s a PI from Eternity, the cosmic realm responsible for the design, creation, and maintenance of the Universe.
When accountant Gil Haberseau hires her to find an intern with stolen corporate files, Hardwicke soon finds herself embroiled in a deadly case of lies, intrigue, and murder, clashing with vengeful gangsters, MinderNot rallies, and a madman who’s come a long way to get what he wants.
In Russ Colchamiro’s thrilling Sci-Fi mystery Crackle and Fire, Angela Hardwicke learns once and for all that when it comes to being an intergalactic private eye, there’s no telling what threats she may face on-realm and off… including the demons that lurk deep within her soul.
Bonus story included! The AI-themed Angela Hardwicke murder mystery, “The Case of Jarlo’s Buried Treasure”
At first glance there’s nothing special about Wazon Road. Just another hipster club along another hipster side street along Cobblestone Alley. The usual multi-color strobe lights and flashing orbs are in sync with the electronic music.
Yet there’s an energy here. An expectancy. Heads are bobbing.
Maybe it’s the booze and sweat and even the sweet peppermint being pumped into the air. Or maybe it’s the drugs—I spot four dealers and five prostitutes I know—but I’ve been to enough of these events to know there’s something else going on.
Normally I would’ve gone classic Hardwicke—pinstripe suit, fedora—but not tonight. My outfit needs to fit the occasion.
Lucky for me I don’t give a comet’s gas what these club punks think, so I busted out my black leather pants, leather boots with buckle clasp, white T-shirt, maroon lipstick, and thin-cut leather jacket. It’s got enough pockets to conceal what I need, but flows easily with my movements. No gun, but I’ve got my taser if I need it.
And if Wazon Road is like every other hipster club, there will be enough action to keep even the most focused mind distracted.
Since it’s a private galaxy unveiling, there’s some deep pockets in attendance. Waylan Gir is sipping a martini by the bar. Sarna Ri’n is in the VIP section, no doubt surveying for another sucker to bilk, and Evelyn Aaer-Von-Maroo, in her royal blue crepe-knit trumpet dress with off-the-shoulder neckline, is making her way to management’s private box overlooking the club.
She’s worth a second look.
I hate being in nightclubs more than I hate eating P’linco mushrooms, but you pick up a ton of actionable intel there. When money’s in the room, leeches follow.
A confection of magenta, yellow, and emerald lasers crawl along the ceiling. The music intensifies as the speakers unleash a gorgeous alto voice, nearly operatic, the woman producing a wordless song, a rolling stream of escalating and de-escalating aahs.
Nini hands me a cold beer. “Cheers.” She clinks it against her pomegranate cocktail. “You look hot tonight. Nice to see you out of uniform.”
She’s one to talk. Whistler was right. Damn.
Nini’s rocking a silver cowl sequined dress with an open back and split side. It dangles from her small, black body. If she wants a friend tonight, she’s getting one. She works long shifts in the ER covered in every fluid that can come out of a person’s body, but when she’s off duty, she’s glam all the way.
“I’m looking for Strident Eyes,” I say. “I bet there’s someone in the management box, but I can’t get up there.”
Nini raises her eyebrows, hands me her drink. She lets her hands fall along her hips, shuffles her dress, and puckers her ruby-painted lips. She’s even got my motor running. She winks at me.
“I saw Evie von M up there. I’ll give it whirl.”
Eighty or so guests undulate on the dance floor. Magenta lights flow over them. I stop a barback as he loads a black tub of discarded drink glasses, soggy napkins, chewed-up straws, and an empty prophylactic pill bottle.
“Strident Eyes,” I say. “You seen?”
He broods, as if I’m overlooking the obvious. I slip him a few credits. The barback gestures with his head. “Over there. By the tables.”
“I see ’em.”
He pulls away into a streak of light, revealing a MinderNot tattoo on his forearm.
“Nice ink. How goes the rebellion?”
“It’s not a rebellion,” he huffs indignantly “It’s a statement. The Minders need to unfuck E-Town before E-Town fucks us. If they don’t, we know once and for all there are no Minders. It’s the great big lie. Total con job.”
“One person’s lie is another person’s mantra. Sometimes the reverse. And usually… both at the same time.”
“Be ignorant if you want. But this town is fucked up. Way more than usual. If the Minders are really running the place… then run it. If not, we gotta tear this muthafucka down and start doing shit our own way. Fuck the Minders. They’re already fucking us.”
Ah, youth. So much angst and nowhere to stick it. They’re still too young to accept that responsibility isn’t a dirty word, but rather one of the most critical elements of self-worth. Yet they’re old enough to have learned that life is a helluva lot harder than they ever thought it would be. So they pick a new boogieman and call it a cause.
The MinderNots are pushing back against the forces of the Universe, convinced anything they can say, think, feel, or do will change the fabric of Existence.
That the MinderNots can exert control.
Who knows? Maybe they can. Wouldn’t be the craziest thing I’ve seen.
But this guy’s right about one thing. The Minders do need to get their shit together.
I’m about to make my way over to the Strident Eyes table when the club goes dark. There’s a collective murmur, then silence.
Normally I’d switch on my plasma sensor contact lenses that enable me to see and identify various particles floating in the air. Another one of Bernice’s little toys. But I forgot to put them in. I also forgot the scout orbs they synch to. They’re damn useful when doing recon. Roll them on the floor and they give a ground-up view of any room. Always nice to know what you’re walking into.
I reach for my leather jacket. With a press on the zipper, the teeth doubling as a fluorescent green glowstick—thanks again, Bernice.
A hiss of steam emerges from the center of the room, pushing everyone back. Outlined in purple fluorescent light, a square reveals itself on the floor. Ten feet away, another purple outline.
With an electrum hum, white panes alight within the purple-outlined squares. Platforms rise.
Standing atop the squares, one each, are a man and a woman.
Bindu and Barkley. The galaxy designers.
About the Author
Russ Colchamiro is also the author of the rollicking sci-fi adventure, Crossline, the zany sci-fi/fantasy backpacking series Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, editor of the sci-fi-themed mystery anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, and co-author and co-editor of Murder in Montague Falls, a noir-inspired collection of novellas.
Russ is also the creator and host of Russ’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster podcast, where he has interviewed several NY Times and USA Today best-selling sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery authors. Russ has also contributed short stories to more than a dozen sci-fi and fantasy anthologies.
He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.
For more on Russ and Russ’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster, visit www.russcolchamiro.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @AuthorDudeRuss, ‘like’ his Facebook author page www.facebook.com/RussColchamiroAuthor, and watch his podcast on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUb7MDUNQxyVRBDOTVEqOaw
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