Before I dive into the actual story, a quick introduction: I’m behind on my normal writing trying to get one story out the door to magazines, so I’m dipping into the unpublished vignette archive a bit. I mentioned, in planning posts before Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol began to air, that I wanted to revisit the world of Sam Hill and Amber Brighton, inspectors in the City of Nexus, in the same sci-fi universe in which We Sail Off To War is set. This is a step in that direction. I find myself in the unenviable position of wanting to make dramatic changes after having already published a story; fortunately, it isn’t published in any particularly immutable format, so I can do that.
Amber Brighton, freshly minted as an Inspector-Lieutenant, takes the narration this time around.
Rain drummed on the roof of our unmarked car. Sam and I had been sitting outside Wilson’s building for hours. This was late in 345, soon after my promotion. Sam had pitched in on a handful of cases—four or five, maybe—before then, but it took Stein longer to come around to his value than it did me, and this case was the first I’d brought Sam in on under my own authority. It would have been Sam’s first stakeout, then. Stein hadn’t thought unarmed backup merited the name, but with Carpenter and the rest of the lot off raiding a warehouse across the dome, nobody else was at hand to keep me company during my case, and as a young, fresh-faced Inspector-in-Charge, I thought I didn’t need to let myself be bound by my old commander’s hidebound ways. I’m putting the cart before the horse, though.
Sam and I had chatted for a few hours to start the morning. We’d made our way through the typical stakeout topics, and were just about to run out of things to say when a figure wrapped in an overcoat and huddled under an umbrella left the building. I glanced down at the dash clock—1315—and nudged Sam. “He’s on the move.”
“We have a look around.” We ran through the rain to the awning over the building’s entrance. I showed my badge to the doorman, and he let us in. Sam shook the water off of his jacket. We took the elevator up to Wilson’s floor and found his door. I’d gone with the full breaking-and-entering kit, fortunately. Wilson’s electronic lock yielded to my police override code, and the mechanical deadbolt he’d added fell to the pick gun I’d brought along. Sam and I put on our gloves and went inside.
“It seems to me a more subtle mode of entry than usual,” he remarked, looking about the place aimlessly. Sam’s a people person. Nosing around for evidence is more my game than his.
I replied, “This isn’t Violent Crimes anymore. I can’t risk bringing Wilson in only to have to cut him loose, if this fishing trip comes up empty.”
We went down the hallway toward the apartment’s main living space. Sam gently pushed open a door as we passed, then stopped me with a tap on the shoulder. “It looks as though you have a nibble.” He moved out of the way, and I went into the room. It was an office, and what had caught Sam’s eye immediately caught mine.
Isaac Wilson was a person of interest in a number of corporate and network espionage cases. The only evidence we’d found to date was circumstantial, at best—Wilson was in the right place at the right time a little more often than I thought could be coincidental. State prosecutors want a little more than a hunch, though, so we’d decided to have a little look around Wilson’s place.