The Newru Trail
Science fiction murder mystery novel
enjoy a free sneak preview from draft 2, Chapter 1: Pols
There was no avoiding the dawn, not in a tent. And everything stank of canvas. Industrious rustling, coughing, and moving dapples of thin light intruded from beyond the gently billowing wall: those with shit to do, already up and getting on with it. Kura reluctantly threw back the flaps and let herself into the morning.
New to the suburb she liked to set her bones opposite something fancy if she could; a Georgian Colonial overflowing with lace. Just so's scowling at it made first order. She stretched and crunched the kinks loose from boxy shoulders, making ant trails of idiots shamble around to get by. Plenty to be said for the miracle power of scowling.
The house stared her down. Blank. Impenetrable. Wires lax and curling in the yard, bile-coloured weeds flat to the ground but the paint never peeled, did it. No roof up and down the street so much as sagged beneath slithering dropping leaves. Morbid fuckers might well stand proud and empty 'til the rest of the world was dust.
The nearby gutter sluiced with slow-moving waste. Threw off a shimmering miasma that curled nostril hairs; which was what you got for rolling up late with all the plum spots taken. Kura inhaled deeply, perversely. That je ne sais quoi of civilization: the promise of decency, at least in moderation, and a rough consensus of sanity. Every damn thing that pols stood for.
This looked like a good autumn neighbourhood. It had gathered quite the population—Kura couldn't spy footpath for tents, had to crane on tiptoe to peer across the faded tops, which produced an alarming pop in her back.
No knowing how it'd shake out when the season turned and folk re-scattered through the districts. Inevitably there'd be bodies. Split by sun or frost, poor bastards, still clawing at cracks in the pavement like they could find their way through to somewhere better.
Kura treated her partner's swag to an affectionate punt, the whump rewarded by Rashmi's blissful snore choked into a grunt. Rashmi was into grunting lately, as singlemindedly as Kura loved glaring. This was clearly the "five minutes" grunt.
Five minutes, Kura's rosy cheeks. Rashmi'd been at it again all night. When Kura got up to make a midnight contribution, wobbling with one foot either side of the gutter, that incriminating square of light had beamed through the swag. Other campers on nocturnal business had flicked fingers down sleeves as they passed, superstitiously redirecting evil away into the ground. The earth around Rashmi's little patch of heaven must be lousy with bad vibes by now.
Convenient, the two of them pitching so close together. Chafing her
lumpy hands to get some circulation going, Kura told herself it was practical. Easier on the ego than straight up admitting neither had much going on besides work.
She spun on her heel in a slow circle, sniffing the nippy air. There. The unmistakable burn of homebrew metho led Kura through the canvas labyrinth to a vendor huddled over a leaky spirit stove. He looked three quarters asleep with his luxurious oriental mustache drooping in the pot, but managed to avoid blowing them both sky-high long enough to ladle out a gloop of his watery-ass excuse for congee.
A scrawny rag of a kid, the guy's own or perhaps a rental, came scrambling from the shivering lean-to behind and tried to push a scarred plastic bowl into Kura's hands. Kura unclipped her own from her belt. 'No, fuck off, I've got my own.'
The vendor snatched the bowl off the kid to wave indignantly. 'Clean!'
'Clean, like ass. My bowl.'
Daring the communal crockery'd be a capitol way to go down with a raving fever. What was going around this year? Blood blisters, or something equally repulsive. The kid tried on the big watery blubber so Kura treated him to an extra serve of stink-eye, sent him scurrying. Modern upsell was getting so intrusive.
With that charming interaction the super ironic "on the house" was unlikely to pop up, so Kura wrinkled her nose and pulled out her wallet. Some camps liked having pols around and would grease the wheels. Some'd run you out for the same reasons. At least he didn't charge extra for the mustache dip, as he abso-fucking-lutely would have for five minutes with his shitty bowl.
'None!' The fellow shook his wrists agitatedly and rattled on in what was probably English before producing some actual words. 'No coins. We don't coins here.'
'Sounds about fucking right,' Kura groaned, sweeping the pitted metal discs back off his folding table. 'What do you take?'
Sneaky fuck craned his wattly neck to peer in her wallet. She held the bulky sleeve away, treating him to one of her special scowls. This one designed to reintroduce balls to the body cavity of the recipient's choice.
'Paper,' he grumped sulkily, stroking congee clots from his mustache. 'Paper money.'
'Fine.' She slapped a note down, wanting this over. A line of disheveled early risers was forming and she hated having people at her back. Even though folding money's worth was near double the equivalent in coin. There was more you could do with paper. Write on ...
THE NEWRU TRAIL