The black unmarked rolled up on the park side of Fifth Avenue, directly across from the Livingston townhouse crime scene. The front curb was still crowded with marked police cars, and uniformed cops milled around with their hats on, playing on their syncs and waiting for somebody to let them go home. Crime scene pulses sectioned off the townhouse, while on the far sidewalk a crowd of people in costume stood together, some of them crying.
Detective Charles Arden sipped cherry meltwater. Arden was a big man, wide across the chest, but now growing soft, a former athlete past his prime. His body spread across the center line of the car, encroaching on the passenger seat where his partner, Detective Dwayne Sanders, sat. Sanders had a runner’s build, tall and slim, the kind of perfect mannequin frame that made even off-the-rack suits look perfectly tailored. He watched NY1 on his sync: the New York Braves had overrun Los Angeles in the invasion of Normandy, the crushers had expired three Synthate rebels in the Brooklyn conurb, and tomorrow’s rain would be six percent acidic.
Arden studied the containment dome that covered the lower portion of Central Park, which had become a tangled mass of overgrown vegetation. Eight years had passed since the dome’s construction by the genetic conglomerate Genico, and the covered area was still too radioactive for habitation. Too expensive and dangerous to ever fully decon, the dome kept the contaminants in place and turned the most expensive real estate on the planet into an overgrown wilderness.
Ahead of them, news trucks lined the block. Sanders flipped off his sync. “Ever get this much coverage in the Synthate Zone?”
“Kidding me. Synthate gets expired, just roll the body up and call the crushers.”
Sanders nodded toward a fat man in a musketeer outfit. “Recognize him?”
“That would be Senator Livingston. Pulled him out of enough midtown pleasure parlors to know.” Arden pointed out another man dressed Gordon Gekko–style with slicked hair and suspenders. He stood away from the crowd, a massive security-model Synthate behind him. “And that’s Harold Lieberman. Number two guy at Genico.”
“How do you know that?”
“Genico built half the Synthates in the Zone. You get to know who owns them. Doesn’t look like he was at the party, though,” Arden said. “Must have come after.”
Senator Livingston’s residence took up the entire corner of the block. Two emergency service trucks had erected light towers at the edge of the park while crime scene units unpacked gear from the back of their vans.
The interior foyer of the townhouse featured pink-and-white marbled floors and columns amid fluxglass 3Deeing Venetian carnival scenes. Detective Rojas, assigned to the Crime Scene Unit, waited for them in front of an oil painting, some sort of large castle with a lightning bolt overhead.
“That painting would look great in your living room,” Arden said.
“It would really complement my da Vinci.”
“Someone’s been studying their art history.” Arden and Sanders both shook hands with Rojas.
“What do we got?”
“Three dead naturals.” Rojas led them toward a waiting elevator. “Two were a married couple, both hacked up, name of Reynolds. The third was security. Guy named Greeley.”
The elevator carried them upward. Arden’s sync chimed a reminder that it was time for his daughter to take her meds. He would call his nanny, Pisces Flyer, when he was done here.
“Some sort of costume party going on at the time,” Rojas continued. “Like a hide-and-seek sort of thing. Around forty guests. Some security people. And maybe fifteen or so maids, chefs, etc., all Synthates. So far they’ve been a little hesitant to talk to us. But their bioprints are all pretty calm. Oceans. Rainbows. Shit like that. I think we can eliminate them as suspects.”
“Maybe. Lot of Synthates learning to control their bioprints, though,” Arden said.
“I say we just pin it on a Synthate and call it case closed.” Sanders looked bored.
“Grab one of the usual suspects.” For many in the squad, that had been an easy way to close open cases. Grab a Synthate with a record and pin whatever had gone down on him or her. The department wanted homicides solved, and Synthates couldn’t defend themselves. You just had to pick one up, call the crushers, and throw some evidence around. Worked out for everyone. Except, of course, in high-profile cases. When the public inconveniently demanded the real killers be brought to justice.
The elevator doors opened to a floor crowded with more uniforms. The trio walked down a long hallway that ended in a luxurious private library. The room had twenty-foot-high ceilings, a gilded fireplace on one wall, and a chandelier the size of Arden’s kitchen table. Windows looked down on Central Park, the abandoned zoo visible through the dome, rusting and overgrown.
A gorgeous brunette natural in a tight calfskin dress with a feather in her hair sat crying in the corner of the room, being comforted by a man in a tricornered hat and breeches.
“Who’s she?” Arden asked.
Sanders snapped his fingers and pointed at the girl. “Pocahontas next to Napoleon.”
Rojas shook his head. “No, no, no. You’re way off. It’s Sacagawea and Thomas Jefferson.”
“No, I meant, who is she? What’s she doing here?”
“Oh,” Rojas responded. “Synthate found the bodies initially. But these two were the first naturals afterward. She and Betty Boop were hiding in the study next door. Thomas Jefferson is—”
“Napoleon,” Sanders interrupted.
“Whoever.” Rojas looked annoyed. “That’s her husband. He was in the billiard room at the time.”
“Aside from the two dead bodies? Nah, she didn’t see anything.”
Arden studied the room. Opposite a wall with a grandfather clock, broken glass lined the floor. A smaller room was also visible, recessed from the library.
“Looks like our two victims were in some sort of concealed back bedroom. Apparently there was a mirror with one-way glass on the bedroom side. It opened with a remote.” Rojas raised his eyebrows. “Whatever that was about. Anyway, the two victims were found inside there. Some shell casings. Looks like some shots were fired. No weapon recovered, though. Help yourself.”
The Evidence Collection Team, or ECT, was already on scene. One of the officers crouched down as he placed a yellow marker over what appeared to be a shell casing on the floor.
“I suggest it was Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the revolver,” Sanders said as they stepped over the broken glass and into the once-hidden bedroom. The bed’s comforter was pulled back and bloodied red. The body of a man in surgical scrubs lay sprawled face-down on the floor. On the bed was a woman dressed as an angel.
“Detectives Arden and Sanders,” Rojas said. “Meet Dr. and Mrs. Reynolds.”
“Yeah, Dr. Reynolds. Had a Genico lab identification card in his pocket.”
“What’d he do over there?”
Rojas grimaced and looked at his shoes.
“What?” Arden asked. “What’s with the glum look?”
“Synthate design work. He was also in charge of the Black Rain program.”
“Oh.” Arden exhaled, then scuffed the ground with his shoe. “Well, I guess this guy won’t be coming up with a cure anytime soon.”
Excerpted from BLACK RAIN © Copyright 2016 by Matthew B.J. Delaney. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
About Black Rain (47North, September 2016)
In a darkly warped near future, lucrative disease cures are brokered on Wall Street’s Genetic Stock Exchange. And the hottest consumer products are artificially synthesized humans that serve as everything from domestic slaves to combatants in savage gladiatorial games. For Jack Saxton, the young heir to genetic design powerhouse Genico Inc., these Synthates are just a fact of life…until the murder of a high-profile genetic scientist leads a pair of seasoned NYPD detectives to Genico’s door.
As a small band of Synthate rebels steps up its attack on the status quo, Jack encounters a pleasure-parlor girl who opens his eyes to their cause. When he dares to sympathize with the rebels, Jack is hunted down and arrested for the murder. Sentenced to die in the brutal games on Bloomberg Island, Jack will be forced to fight—for his life, for the future of all Synthates, and for a chance to uncover the mind-bending secret buried in his past.
About the Author
Matthew B.J. Delaney published his first novel, Jinn, in 2003. Winner of the International Horror Guild Award, the novel was optioned for film by Touchstone Pictures, was featured as People magazine’s Page-Turner of the Week, and received a Publishers Weekly Starred Review.
Delaney received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dartmouth College and a master’s in public administration from Harvard. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, he left a career in finance and moved from Boston to New York City to join the New York City Police Department. He has been a member of the NYPD for twelve years and has been assigned to precincts throughout Manhattan and the Bronx as well as within police headquarters and the Intelligence Division. He is currently a decorated Special Operations Lieutenant serving in a Brooklyn violent crime suppression unit. He continues to write in his spare time.