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Jes Battis - OSI 03 - Inhuman Resources

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Jes Battis - OSI 03 - Inhuman Resources

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    PRAISE FOR THE OSI NOVELS

    A Flash of Hex

    “Wonderfully detailed, easily visualized, and overflowing in paranormal crime scene action.The aspect most likely to capture the reader’s attention is the author’s talent in developingcharming characters who are passionate in both their professional and personal lives.”

    —Darque Reviews

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    “This procedural murder mystery with a biting supernatural edge is enhanced by the interplayof terrific characters. Battis delivers big-time, so make sure to add this series to your must-read pile.”

    —Romantic Times

    “Author Jes Battis has created a credible mix of science and magic, and the book’s strengthis its detail-oriented nature.”

—Sacramento Book Review

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    Night Child

    “Hooks you from the very first line.”

    —Keri Arthur, New York Times bestselling author of Moon Sworn

    “A good old-fashioned murder mystery.”

    — [http://ReviewingTheEvidence.com] ReviewingTheEvidence.com

    “Jes Battis takes the readers on a tension-filled journey of murder, mystery, and temptation .. . An intriguing story line; easy, flowing dialogue; and fascinating characters all combine tokeep readers engaged, but it’s the never knowing what’s around the corner that will havereaders coming back for more.”

    —Darque Reviews

    “Battis manages to make the world come alive as a workable universe with infinitecomplexity.”

    —SFRevu

    “[An] absorbing paranormal detective tale . . . The combo of cutting-edge technology and magichighlights a procedural thriller filled with ominous twists. Telling the tale from the point ofview of a stubborn, rule-breaking heroine keeps the tension high and the risk palpable.”

    —Romantic Times

    “Compelling new urban fantasy [that] mixes equal parts forensic investigation, modern science,and down-and-dirty magic to create something new and different . . . a great start to a newseries.”

    —The Green Man Review

    “Unique.”

    —Night Owl Romance

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    Ace Books by Jes Battis

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    NIGHT CHILD

    A FLASH OF HEX

    INHUMAN RESOURCES

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    THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

    Published by the Penguin Group

    Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

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    Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

    (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

    Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

    Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin BooksLtd.)

    Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

    (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

    Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

    Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand

    (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

    Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,

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    South Africa

    Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

    This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product ofthe author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Thepublisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author orthird-party websites or their content.

    INHUMAN RESOURCES

    An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author

    PRINTING HISTORY Ace mass-market edition / June 2010

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    Copyright ? 2010 by Jes Battis.

    All rights reserved.

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    No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronicform without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrightedmaterials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

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    For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

    eISBN : 978-1-101-18774-6

    ACE

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    Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

    375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

    ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

    [http://us.penguingroup.com] http://us.penguingroup.com

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    For Lynda Mae

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    Acknowledgments

    I completed this book immediately after taking a teaching position at the University of Regina,and I am grateful for the reduced teaching load, which gave me time for writing and editing. Iam also grateful for the attention and support that I received from various colleagues duringthe writing and editing process, including Medrie Purdham, Dorothy Lane, Gary Sherbert, TroniGrande, Rob Rose, and Susan Johnston.

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    And, as always, I am thankful for the patience, kindness, and brilliance of my partner,Sebastian.

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    1

    Luiz Ordeño’s apartment was on the corner of Davie and Pacific streets, where the city becameocean. The building was famous because it had a tree growing out of its roof. The height of thetree was supposed to echo the height of the Douglas firs that had grown all around hereoriginally. Precontact. The building was a tourist attraction, and celebrities haunted it whilefilming movies on the cheap. Jean-Claude Van Damme was reputed to own a suite, or maybe a wholefloor.

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    The penthouse belonged to Ordeño, and the tree was growing out of his ceiling. It made me thinkof the baobabs that could take over an entire world with their roots.

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    The lawn of the building was cordoned off, and strips of tape demarcated the borders of thecrime scene. On the inside of the tape, people moved with logic and efficiency. Exterior lampsmade the air hot. Colored evidence placards stuck out of the grass like candles on a cake.

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    A van for on-site forensic testing was parked in the entrance. Two houses down, an OSI tech waschecking the integrity of the first perimeter veil. She passed an alternative light source overa patch of dark air, and colors danced within the arc. The veil was working. The street stayedempty.

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    It takes work to stay invisible. We had to be at every scene first. We couldn’t leave a tracebehind. We damaged the environment and tangled atomic forces by creating veils. We messed withthe equilibrium of the universe. Our tests created pollution, both chemical and psychic. Therewas a whole section of the CORE devoted simply to erasing our metaphysical footprint, but theywere fighting a losing battle.

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    Often, in order to analyze a substance, we had to destroy the sample itself by annihilating itssubstrate. We moved over the surface of the event and left nothing but vague organic ruinsbehind.

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    The door to the building was open. Clean and bright lobby. Two symmetrical potted bushes framedeither side of the door. Their leaves were gone, and the branches looked like naked tendons.

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    The floor leading up to the elevator was tiled and spotless. A tech stood at the conciergedesk, reviewing security tapes and then recording them to a flash drive. She’d snuck in acoffee, which she drank in stolen moments, whenever her ranking officer left the room. Therewere probably dozens of hidden coffees throughout the scene, pushed behind notepads or snuckunderneath chairs. Their steam had to be messing up some of the detection equipment. Someoneprobably just filtered it out.

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    The keypad in the elevator had a button marked PH. They’d already lifted a print from itsmetallic surface, although it most likely belonged to Ordeño. Trying to print the entire lobbywas a fool’s errand. Maybe 10 percent of what they found would actually be catalogued in IAFISor its paranormal counterpart, DAFIS. The rest were shadows.

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    On the top floor, the air-conditioning hissed. Cables snaked across the carpet, attached tovarious light sources. Multiple laptops transmitted pictures via the CORE’s secure wirelessnetwork. Flashes lit up the polished concrete walls.

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    The door to Ordeño’s apartment was open. It looked solid. Not the sort of thing you’d breakdown easily. And even if you managed to pull it off, there’d be a nasty spell waiting for youon the other side. Nasty like explosive decompression.

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    The suite was floored in dark pine, which looked real. There were knots, gaps, and otherindiscernible shapes in the surface of the wood. It creaked under the pressure of multipleboots. The entryway was lit up, and every stray hair and mote of dust burned orange in thehalo. The floor looked clean.

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    Farther in, the hallway narrowed. There was a guest bathroom to the left, dark, except for thepurple shadows that moved across its length. Someone was checking the walls with short-wave UVlight.

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    The entryway branched off to the right, opening onto a large kitchen. A tripod was set up onthe tiled floor, along with a charging station for cameras and ALS batteries. All the littleglowing lights from the battery indicators looked like candles lit for mass. Even the blinking

LEDs.

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    A frying pan sat on the stove. There was cold oil inside of it, and traces of food. The digitalclock read 3:03 A.M.

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    At the very edge of the kitchen floor, someone had placed a marker. There was a blood swipe onthe tiles. Something had disturbed the blood while it was still drying, producing an abstractshape with skeletonized borders. A hand, maybe, or the side of a moving body.

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    The kitchen opened onto a living room with tall bay windows, all reflecting the samepatternless dark from outside. Bookshelves lined the walls. There weren’t many paperbacks. Thespines of the books were made of leather, hide, moleskin, and other materials. Some weremetallic, and one or two books were even pressed between plates of stained glass, likeminiature church windows.

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    One slightly recessed shelf, apart from the others, held something made out of smoke. It mighthave been a book, or something else. Nobody, as of yet, was willing to examine it further. Thevapor smelled sweet.

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    The living room was floored in darker wood, almost too smooth. You couldn’t tell if it wasreal or laminate unless you touched it.

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    “Jesus. Look at that.”

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    “What?”

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    “The couch.”

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    “It’s clean.”

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    “I know. It’s just so ugly.”

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    “Is it from IKEA?”

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    “Urban Barn. I recognize it from the catalogue.”

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    “We have an Urban Barn catalogue?”

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    “Yeah. We got it in the mail.” ? “When?” ? “Thursday.” ? “Oh, my God.” ? “What?” ? “How gay are you? Did you actually hide the Urban Barn catalogue from me, so that you could

    read it first?” ? “I didn’t hide it.” ? “Where is it right now? Is it in your bedroom?” ? “Maybe,” Derrick said. ? I shook my head and scanned the bookshelves. “Definitely an academic. Lots of books on legal

    philosophy, Roman law, and civil rights stuff.” ? “Did you happen to notice the book made of smoke?” ? “Yeah. I’m afraid to touch it. They took pictures, though.” ? “Who’s on photography?” ? “Becka. And Linus is looking at the blood.” ? “He left the lab?” ? “Yeah. He was one of the first ones here.” ? “Who else? Selena, right, and Tasha for sure.”

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    “You’re so transparent.”

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    “What are you talking about?”

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    “Oh, is anyone else at the crime scene? Maybe the special investigator who happens to be myboyfriend?”

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    He rolled his eyes. “Not just him.”

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    “It’s okay to enjoy having sex, Derrick. Someone should.”

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    “I guess. I just don’t want to appear too happy, you know?”

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    “That’s ridiculous.”

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    “Things go bad when you’re too happy. You get distracted.”

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    “You’re allowed to get distracted. Men are distracting. You can’t just anticipate thingsgoing to shit right away.”

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    “But things always go to shit. Look around you.”

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    “I’d hardly compare your relationship to the murder of a high-profile necromancer.” Iglanced down the hallway that led to the master bedroom. “Not that breakups can’t be fatal.Most homicides are domestic.”

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    “Ordeño was supposed to be single.”

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    “That’s indeterminable. He could have an army of lovers and we’d never know about it. Theguy’s a professor and a legal activist. You can’t tell me he doesn’t know how to cover histracks.”

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    “But that’s assuming this was a crime of passion. It could be an execution.”

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    “No way. Door was locked and armed with something heavy. Nobody’s walking away from that kindof magic. He let the attacker in. They knew each other.”

    ? Derrick started down the hallway. No pictures on the walls. Just a Doctorate of Law from the

    University of British Columbia, and beneath it, an undergraduate degree from the Universidad

    Complutense de Madrid. ? “Not much on family and friends,” Derrick said. ? “Probably too busy. Spent his life working.” ? “Any relatives?” ? “All dead.” ? “Is there going to be a funeral?” ? “On their side, I imagine. But we’re not invited.” ? The door to the guest bedroom was open. It had a leaded pane of glass, etched with two

    hummingbirds. I looked closely at them, and their edges blurred a bit, shifting to red. I felt

    something move across my scalp. ? “Has anyone touched this glass yet?” ? “I think they’re going to use cyanoacrylate fumes on it.” ? “On an active materia cluster?” ? He shrugged. “That’s what’s written in the log.” ? “Someone’s going to get their head blown off.” ? “They’ve all got insurance.” ? “True. The payout must be enormous.” ? “If you can prove that it was a paranormal event.”

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    I stepped through the entrance. Nothing happened.

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    Ordeño had a TV in his bedroom. It was a small one, sitting on a night table. I pictured himfalling asleep while watching Dateline . Red carpet at the foot of the bed—a color that wouldhave been called gules in the middle ages, like the kind they used to line the interior of aknight’s shield. Edges gilt in gold thread. It didn’t look like it had come from Pier One.

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    I’d only ever seen one other necromancer’s bed. Lucian’s was big and surprisinglycomfortable, with faded blue sheets. Sinking into them was like putting on your very favoritepair of worn-in jeans. Ordeño’s bed was a bit smaller, in fact. It had a black duvet, whichlay folded neatly to one side. No canopy. Just a regular bed in an ordinary room, belonging toa lawyer who obviously lived alone.

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    I looked up, and saw something drifting in front of my face, slowly, like a feather. Strands ofdefrayed materia were floating all around the room, visible as motes of dust. Something hadripped the magic from these walls like dogs tearing flesh off the bone.

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    “Tess?”

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    I blinked. Linus was staring at me, camera in hand. “Sorry. Did you say something?”

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    His mouth twitched. “I was just asking if you could hand me a bindle. There’s some fabriccaught in this blood spatter, and I need to tweeze it.”

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    “Oh. Sure—” Derrick was already handing me the envelope. I gave it to Linus. “Sorry I’m aspace cadet. Not enough sleep. Too much coffee.”

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    “Don’t use that word unless you’re willing to go get us some. We’ve got at least anotherthree hours to go.”

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    I turned to Derrick. “We’re missing Hell’s Kitchen.

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    “I don’t even want to talk about it.” He stared at the bed. “That’s a really nicecomforter. It looks expensive.”

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    “Man, you’re all about capitalism tonight.”

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    “We got salary bumps. It would be nice to spend some money on the house.”

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