Notes From the Abyss Chapter One – Edited!
January 21, 2012
This is the edited version of Chapter One. From here on out the chapters will have at least one pass over them. This is closer (or will be) the version that’s going up for sale when it’s all spit-shined.
Hope you enjoy!
Most days on Metris are like this one; quiet, a little wet, sunny. That’s why my family built their home here, why I built my office here, and why I spend most of my non-work time here. It’s centrally located in the galactic spiral and it’s cosmopolitan enough to support my business. I work in Sapphire, the capital city of Metris, as a private eye. While there are plenty of dicks in any given city on any given planet, I’ve got an edge that most don’t. Before the first Golden Dawn transport matrix was built, before the Rosicrucians unlocked the secrets of space travel, there was a family in Pennsylvania that discovered the Arte of True Names. Patrick and James McCallan illuminated the secrets of speaking first to those who were dead, then that which never lived, then that which never was. Through generations of McCallans and Mac Callans perfecting the magic and honing it, I have inherited the training for these gifts. I use them to find missing jewelry and irate spouses.
I was sitting in my office enjoying a bit of whiskey and the evening post, catching up on the editorial war on the latest findings of the Galactic Astrolabe, when he walked in. He was tall, all clean lines and fine living with hair that said he played tennis and a suit that said he also played poker. He came into my office with the look of a man being followed but he wasn’t sure by who. He didn’t feel like he had an aura of darkness or any kind of curse or hex, so he must be suspecting a low key, old school black hat on his trail.
He sat down across from me before I could ask and said quickly, “Are you Jarvis Mac Callan? I need a detective.” He looked back toward the hallway, then leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “One that can find something I’ve lost.”
I folded my paper slowly and set it on my desk. “I am.” I held up a hand and cut off his response, “I’m guessing it’s something valuable to you, but not to most people. It’s something that is a responsibility of yours or your family’s, something embarrassing. To top it off, it’s difficult to locate. You fear that your life is in danger due to it being missing, or at the very least the life you’re used to. It’s hard to tell with socialites that conflate losing a tennis match with the Cataclysm. You’re looking for someone with my talent and you’re willing to pay to keep my work on this a secret. You also would also prefer my protection as I examine this case. Am I close? Perhaps I should go on.”
He nodded slowly, looking astonished, and said, “How did you know all these things? Did you secretly ask my suit or my shoes? I’ve heard you can do that. Or maybe you’ve been following me! Some kind of tracking spell? A door spirit? I was never much for arcanology myself, science was always difficult.”
I shook my head. “You came in paranoid. You didn’t go to the police because you didn’t bring an escort, either uniformed or plain clothed. You are not accompanied by an insurance agent, a lawyer, a barrister, or a personal assistant. You clearly have the money for these things all of them and for top consideration by the police. Given the lack of scuffs on your shoes you were brought here in a car you didn’t park yourself. Your hair is manicured but your manner is not. You are hurried, looking for someone or something behind you, but you don’t know how to protect yourself. You came straight to me, rather than going to someone else. These things tell me that you are in need of private, substantial, and effective detection of an object or person that is of great importance to the secrecy and success of your family.”
He nodded slowly. “Clearly I was given the right address. I have brought with me a package with papers, holos, and a Seal that is attached to the object. It’s a vase, closed and tightened, with an ancient curse inside. It’s been a secret of my family for generations and it was recently stolen from my complex on Parsus. It hasn’t moved since the Cataclysm, I don’t even know who might have known about it.” His face was flushed with worry, hot with both anger and confusion. I took up the leather package he had placed on my desk.
He instantly brought out his checkbook and wrote up a blank check for me. “I can afford whatever expenses you run into. Just please, please find my vase. My contact information is in that package.”
With that he left, just as fast as he had come in. I sat back in my chair and wondered if this is what my horoscope was talking about last week when it mentioned an unexpected windfall with a catch. I leaned back in my chair and looked at the check; Walter Gates, with a check that would pay directly in thaums from the Gates reserve on Gaia, the central planet in the settlement arc. I placed the check in my pocketbook next to a blank page for calculating expenses, then noted at the top of the page ‘Vase Case’.
After he had left, I opened the package and examined the documents within. It was an old vase, clearly of Earth origin. It was copied from an old Egyptian style, one that was popular during the first surge of occult interest on the old world, before the True Ways were discovered. If what he said was true, it sat in his home for at least three hundred years without moving. Presumably, his family had told nobody about where it was.
I made a few notes, set up some equipment for a spell the next morning, and I went to bed. It was going to be a long day, I was sure, but it would be over quickly. My first goal in the morning would be to try to locate the vase with a simple hunter-seeker spell, and if that didn’t work I’d have to find the shipping companies that evacuated the rich families during Earth’s destruction. Especially those that had helped settle Parsus. Hopefully I could find out if there were shipping manifests from the goods moved that hadn’t been destroyed. Going over the histories of the people employed at the Parsus complex by the Gates family would probably take up the rest of the day; it was a long list of everything from assistants to on-site sorcerers to manage spirits and creatures utilized around the house. Old money from old Earth came with its perks and privileges, I guess. Once I knew who might have known about the vase, I could narrow down who could have had enough access to steal it.
I settled in for the night and relaxed. I was sure this would be a simple who-done-it, no real complications. No one who was psychically sensitive wanted to hold onto a cursed vase for too long anyway. All in all it should be an easy job. A simple crime with, probably, a simple solution. Most burglaries are. At the end I would just ask the door frame to confirm everything and it’d be easy money from a big purse.