Love among the stars

So I heard it was a special day today – February 14. I haven’t really caught on to that whole thing, but I do have a brand new excerpt from my upcoming release to share! Yay. 🙂 Planning to set it loose on the world sometime in April.

Meet Timon and Samiel, everyone. 🙂

“Yes, what?”

Samiel jumped. He’d forgotten he was holding a phone. “Oh. Yes, hello, this is Doctor Hammond,” he said, the title almost tripping him up. “I’m calling from the university of –”

“You want me to vouch for Timon? He’s benefic. Oh, and this is D.I. Mannerley if you’re wondering. I’ll be there in twenty minutes. My guys are in the elevator.”

“The police are already here?”

“Yeah, we’ve got a team on every corner today. Saturn retrograde and all, you know?”

But Samiel didn’t know. Saturn retrograde? His forecast hadn’t shown anything of the sort. He’d heard something on the news about a week of overtime for the police, but he’d written it off as disinformation leaked from some hack company.

“Get your hands off me,” Timon barked.

“I’ll call security,” Feona yelled back, and Samiel put the phone to his chest.

“Feona! Feona, he’s benefic.”

“What?” She turned a forbidding scowl his way.

“He’s with the police.”

She scoffed. “The police? He’s a blanky, Samiel.”

“Don’t–” Samiel stopped, uncertain. Should he really tell Feona off in front of all her colleagues just because of one stupid insult? It would set an example, but it really wasn’t fair. She was just shaken up.

But even shaken up, people shouldn’t use words like that.

“Wait a minute.” He put the phone back to his ear. “Are you still there?”

“Huh? Yeah… hey Garett, you can go start the car, I’ll join you in a minute. Yes, what?”

“This Timon… what does he do?”

“Oh, he’s a scopiler. Strictly on a freelance basis, you understand, but we really can’t afford not to use his services. He’s the best.”

“Oh…” Samiel glanced at Timon. A scopiler? That rare breed of people who could intuitively deduce a perpetrator’s chart based on the crime, the forecast for the day, and the chart of the victim. His gaze snagged in the aura of professionalism, of confidence that was so incongruous in an Azod, and for a moment, he seemed to float above the scene. Nothing could touch him: not the pale corpse, not the hubbub, not Timon’s sullen good looks.

And then he was back in his body, and D.I. Mannerley was asking if there was anything else he wanted to know before she went down to the bleedin’ garage.

“Uh… no.” He rubbed his forehead. “Thank you, D.I. Mannerley.”

He hung up, just to be grabbed by a rough hand and pulled away from the doorway. “We’ll take it from here.”

Two policemen barged past him and started ordering people to leave. Inside the office, Timon was squatting by Professor Wright’s lifeless body, lifting a manila folder with a pencil, but he straightened up to accept a pair of gloves.

“You too, scram,” one of the policemen barked at Samiel.

Timon gave him a disgusted look. When he spoke, his soft voice cut through the noise like a knife. “He can stay, Garett.”

The policeman whirled on him. “What?”

“I need details. I can’t read everything on the body. I thought you knew that by now.”

Garett grudgingly let Samiel enter and nudged the door shut with his foot. The turmoil of the corridor was muffled. Grateful but shaken, Samiel watched as Timon folded up his shirt sleeves. It was such an impossible scene: an Azod, busy working, analysing – almost like a normal person.

Of course, the starless weren’t really starless. They’d just had a rough start in life. Many of them were adopted or foundlings. Some had been born in cabs on the way to the hospital, others had been delivered by distracted doctors who didn’t note the time. Some of them knew their sun and moon signs, the slowest moving houses, and sometimes their ascendants. Worst case scenario, they were born on the street by other Azods, and none of the strict routines were in place for them.

But they weren’t actually starless. That was just a term to say they lacked the requisite paperwork. They’d all been born under a particular constellation. The only trouble was that no one knew which one. And so they went through life like ciphers, unpredictable and threatening, unable to get a job since they couldn’t prove they were suited for it.

Well, except for Timon, it seemed. Somehow he’d managed to worm his way into a position of relative power: an impossible riddle. Was Timon so incredibly good at what he did that he’d surmounted the odds?

“You worked for him?” Garett jerked a thumb at Professor Wright.

Worked. Past tense already.

Samiel swallowed. “Yes.”

“Did he have a forecast?”

“Of course.”

“You know where he might have kept it?” Garett picked up the tablet that lay by the professor’s motionless elbow. “In this?”

Samiel stared at the tablet, his mind a blank. it was starting to sink in now. Professor Wright was actually dead. Like dead, dead. Never to return. Not just the head of the research team, but the old man who snorted into his coffee when Feona told her dirty jokes; the huggable human teddy bear who always had five minutes to spare when someone had personal problems; the thundercloud who could disperse a gaggle of reporters with one guttural bellow.

“If it’s password protected, Timon can crack it,” Garett said impatiently.

“Actually, I…” Samiel looked over his shoulder at the safe. “I think he prints them and keeps them in there.”

Walking across the room to open it, Samiel blinked away a sudden film of moisture in his eyes. He couldn’t show weakness now – shouldn’t even possess it, according to his chart. This was just a problem to be solved, nothing else. Treat it like Timon does. Like a puzzle.

“Well, the perpetrator is intelligent, that much is clear,” Timon said, stepping away from the desk. “Probably knows a thing or two about forensic astrology, so they’ve deliberately muddied the waters. Leaving him here instead of moving him to some place that would reveal things about their chart.”

“Like what?” Garett asked, pen and notebook in hand.

Samiel thought he could hear a tiny sigh. “Like burying it, and revealing a strong earth influence?”

Garett scribbled.

“But if they can deliberately go against their chart…?” Samiel frowned. “I mean… isn’t that impossible?”

Timon pulled off his gloves. “Some people can subvert their true charts. Takes someone bright, though. But the science of astrology isn’t one hundred percent exact yet. Shouldn’t you know that, Doctor?”

The subtle stress on his title wasn’t lost on him. One of the articles in his dissertation had treated on that very subject: the free will conundrum. But he’d only passed the needle’s eye a month ago, and he was standing before his murdered boss, for God’s sake. For all his Mercury conjunct Uranus, he couldn’t be expected to be a genius at a time like this.

“They’re never clever enough to hide their motivations, though.” Timon held out his hand towards Samiel. “Phone, please.”

“Oh.” Samiel had forgotten he was holding it. He handed it to Timon, who thumbed an app and started reading.

“Mm, yes… Mars was in the terms of Jupiter last night, so this was motivated by a sense of justice. A vendetta.”

“How can you be so sure?” Garett asked. “If they’re so smart, wouldn’t they choose a time for the crime that would muddy the waters too?”

Timon looked a little tired. “Well, that’s where my intuition comes in. Otherwise anyone could do what I do, you see? There has to be an element of the unknowable, the leap of faith, the insane. Otherwise it’s just another chart.”

“Speaking of charts…” Garett raised his eyebrows at Samiel.

“Oh… yes, of course.”

Samiel unlocked the safe. When the door swung open, Garett pushed him aside and grabbed the whole pile of folders. “We’ll take these.”

“But –”

“This is evidence now.” He gave Timon a wry smile. “Some light reading for wonder boy over there.”

Timon was pacing the room, scanning the ceiling, the walls, the bookcases, the window – noting everything, but taking nothing down. He had a phenomenal memory too? As Samiel watched him, a thought occurred to him: if Timon could read a stranger’s chart in clues left behind at a crime scene, he should be able to deduce his own chart. Or didn’t it work that way? Wasn’t the brain wired to understand itself? Samiel rifled through his memory for any literature on the subject, but couldn’t recall anything.

He glanced at the body by the desk, at the motionless form that had once been Professor Wright, the man who’d dedicated his life to finding the ultimate blood test. If they ever found it, they’d have to call it the Wright test.

But what if scopilers could already do it on intuition alone? What if Professor Wright’s work was all in vain? The body grew blurry, unfocused. What if this Timon guy could just take one look at someone and deduce their stars?

But it probably wasn’t that easy. If it was, scopilers across the country would already have made big money out of it. Samiel’s shoulders fell. What a perfect validation method that would have been – to have a scopiler tell them whether the test results were accurate.

“Alright, well, if you’re done, we’ll have regular forensics come in,” Garett said. He handed Timon the pile of folders.

Timon grimaced at the insane amount of paperwork. “Yay. The old man couldn’t have kept it all in a computer? This will take a month to compile.”

“I’ll help you,” Samiel said, taking himself by surprise.

“Really?” Timon gave him a sly look that made something flip in Samiel’s chest. “Well, thank you, kind sir.” He jerked his head at the door. “Let’s go?”

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