QSFers Reesa Herberth and Michelle Moore have a new sci fi book out:
Corwin Menivie and Nika Santivan are decorated veterans of the Imperial Enforcement Coalition, and are perfectly capable of solving cases the old-fashioned way. When they’re paired with Westley Tavera and Gavin Hale, the most powerful Reader/Ground team to emerge from the Psionics Academy, it could either be the best thing that’s ever happened to crime fighting, or the makings of a quadruple homicide.
During a routine investigation, West’s talent puts them on the trail of a brutal serial killer who traps his prey in a deadly mental playground. Then the killer starts baiting the team, laying psychic landmines at crime scenes and exposing IEC secrets. The strain of the case binds the agents closer together—so close that Nika and Gavin start sharing a room, and even the curmudgeonly Corwin finds himself as occupied with West as he is with the murders.
But as West’s visions of death grow more violent, the only way out for all of them may be straight through the mind of a monster. If they’re not careful, they may forget which side of the hunt they’re on.
Inspector Corwin Menivie surveyed the wreckage of the victim’s living room with a jaundiced eye. He had his orders, but if the Imperial Enforcement Coalition was going to call in a fly-by team for the death of every imperial counselor’s maiden auntie, they were going to have to run a lot more recruits through the academy.
As he glanced through the front windows, he caught sight of the newest additions to his team, and his eyes narrowed. On second thought, maybe they should raise the standards at the academy before choosing that new crop. From what he could discern, fellow investigators (and he used that term lightly) Westley Tavera and Gavin Hale were outside sniffing the rosebushes. Tavera spotted him through the window, and the bout of waving that followed was extravagant in its enthusiasm. Like almost everything Tavera had done since their first meeting, the expansive gesture set Corwin’s teeth on edge. He swallowed his annoyance and turned back to the misplaced couch and overturned knickknacks. His partner, Inspector Nika Santivan, was checking upstairs for any further signs of a struggle or break-in, and team building be damned, he wished he could find an excuse to join her.
A minute later the front door opened, hitting the wall with a loud thump, and Agent Westley Tavera sailed into the room, followed by his Ground, Agent Gavin Hale. Tavera hovered in the wide doorway, eyes sweeping the room before they settled on Corwin. “Someone had a wild party.”
Corwin took a deep breath, his eyes firmly on the wall to the left of Tavera’s head. “You are aware that a woman died here tonight, aren’t you?”
“Very.” Tavera turned and picked up a picture from the mantle.
“That could be evidence, Tavera.”
“Wearing gloves.” Tavera lifted a hand and wiggled his fingers at Corwin. “It’s not actually my first crime scene, you know.”
“Then treat it with the respect it deserves.” He was going to regret snapping, but not enough to stop him from doing it. “A life ended here. The least you could do is act like that matters, instead of skipping around the yard smelling flowers and invading the privacy of someone’s home.”
“Hey, back off.” Gavin’s folded arms and glare were clear warnings, although his voice was even. “You want to talk about respect, try not picking a fight with a colleague in the middle of the crime scene you’re so worried about.”
“It’s fine, Gav.” Tavera set the picture down and turned to face Corwin, then began ticking off points on his fingers. “First, I’ve got nearly as much field experience as you do. Second, we were trying to get a look at the flower beds surrounding the house to see if anyone had been near the windows. She wouldn’t have stepped on her own flowers, would she? Third, I’m not invading her privacy. She’s dead, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I doubt there’s anyone in the room more qualified to tell you that she is absolutely not here anymore. She has no privacy to invade, and looking at a picture of her isn’t likely to cause her unrest in whatever afterlife she may or may not have believed in.” Clearly wound up, he stepped closer. “And finally, I’m a Reader, and that means sometimes I touch things to find out what happened to their owners. No matter how much you hate us, you can’t be totally ignorant of how it all works, Inspector.”
Corwin’s blood pressure spiked with each digit, and he felt damn near rooted to the ground, inches from Tavera, the tension between them a prickling sensation on both his skin and mind. It didn’t break until Tavera frowned and shrugged.
“Although apparently I’m not a very good Reader, because I’m having a really hard time picking up anything from this room.”
Corwin stepped away under the pretense of scanning the bookshelf, grateful to defuse the moment. There were a few spots of blood, but nothing like the huge pool by the window, where she’d finally died. “It looks like the struggle, such as it was, began here. Maybe the impressions will be stronger in this area?”
He had been around enough Actives to know that hand flapping and squinty eyes were an unnecessary affectation, but he’d expected nothing less from PsyAc’s most infamous Reader. Tavera’s questing mind glanced off Corwin’s defenses, and he pushed back without hesitation.
Tavera went stiff and silent for a moment before turning in place, gaze raking over the room. Corwin turned away and began rifling through a stack of invitations and letters on the desk with more force than the task required. Light footsteps across the carpet gave ample warning before Tavera invaded even that small corner of sanity.
“I can’t get anything here.” Tavera said, too close by Corwin’s estimation, but there wasn’t a way to gracefully escape. “It’s like the entire room is full of white noise, and I can’t read anything from the objects in it. I need to see the body to give you anything useful.”
The same tentative brush of inquiry hit his walls, and Corwin responded with sarcasm verging on outright hostility. “Well, that will surely prove to be an invaluable addition to the case file. Thank the stars you were here to offer the insight of the Imperial Psionics Academy.”
“I’m sure it will be easy to slip into your report, Inspector. ‘She died of blood loss. The end.’ Did I piss in your porridge this morning, or did you forget to have a wank last night?” West’s expression betrayed none of the venom clinging to the quiet words. Corwin, who knew full well that he looked perpetually annoyed, almost envied someone who could convey their dislike with laughter.
“Fine. We’ll go to the morgue next. Try to refrain from turning the rest of my crime scene into some poor attempt at a joke.” He spun on his heel and marched toward the stairs, intent on finding Nika, and any measure of calm left to him.
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Michelle Moore has a well-documented obsession with travel, television, frappuccinos and flamingos. These, however, come in a distant second to her love of writing. Most evenings she can be found huddled over her laptop at the local Starbucks, dividing her time between actually writing and pretending to be a barista.
Reesa Herberth was born in Nevada and spirited away to California before moving to Hawaii, where she grew up on the Big Island. She tried Arizona for a few years, then lit out for the D.C. area, where her nomadic itch is regularly curbed by the nightmares of urban traffic. She’s held a handful of the requisite crazy writer jobs, including book store overlord, office goddess for an artisan ice cream maker, and cheese-cup scrubber at an organic goat dairy.
Michelle and Reesa have been writing together for over fifteen years. They are currently working on more Ylendrian stories, and a petition to have cat hair recognized as a form of currency.