On a dark and stormy night in Northport, three silhouettes leaned over a cheap table under a cheaper light bulb. One tall and square, one short and slender, and the last just plain tiny. Three sets of hands traced lines on a map of the city. Two and a half pairs—the smallest was pulling another cigarette out of her sleeve. She fell back and a collapsible chair caught her, barely noticing the impact. “Took you long enough to bring us in, Nan. Coulda wrapped this up a couple dead dames ago.” Calliope Edge brushed a strand of bright red hair away from her eyes and scraped a match across the desk. Across from her the petite detective curled her lips in a silent snarl. “Cal,” said the last figure, stern but soft. A full head taller than Nancy Rain or his brilliant partner, Bryce Meyers hadn’t shaved in days. Or slept, from the look of it.
Calliope rolled her eyes and puffed some smoke at the bulb. “Puh. I’m not wrong.” Nancy’s dark eyes narrowed in a glare, and her finger curled down at the map like a claw. “You know damn well why it took so long. If City Hall knew we were here, I’d lose my badge. If the Department knew we were here, we’d all lose more. This case has gone all the way up to Number 7.” She sat back and crossed her arms, sniffing the air. “So run it again, and prove this wasn’t a mistake.”
Bryce sighed and rolled his neck, hands twitching at an invisible bottle of rye. As Rain fell back, Calliope bounced forward, tugged by an invisible thread between them. She ashed her cig out on the map and rattled off, eyes coming alive. “Angel killer. First hit, six months ago. All women, black hair, pale skin, ladies of the night, dancers, cabaret girls—the gist.” Papers rustled as she swept aside the map for other notes. “Can’t tell how she kills them, but when she’s done she cuts them like they’ve got their wings torn off.” “Hold on,” Nancy frowned. “She?” “Yeah. She.” Annoyed, Calliope rolled along. “Someone’s been chopping them, real subtle, after they’re dead. Someone with the morgue or hospital. Not hiding evidence—it’s for safety.” “How is severing the spine post mortem a safety measure?” Bryce scratched his head and leaned down towards Nancy. “Best to just let her go, miss. Save it for the end.” Cal nodded at Bryce without looking at him. “No fingerprints anywhere. No sign of struggle. ‘S not the Ghost. Not the Triads, not the Family either.” Case files toppled to the floor as she swept through them. “Where do you get this stuff, anyways?” Photographs of a slender corpse lying on a tray, two bloody gashes down the back, shuffled out across the desk. “A source.” Calliope chuckled. “Gotta fill me in sometime, Nan. Some of the Fidelity chumps would kill for this.”
Another long drag, another puff of smoke across the room. The rain outside battered at the cheap panes, trying to get in. Thunder rolled off the tenements and brick hotels of the Garment District. “So. What you have here…are auditions.” Nancy uncrossed her arms. “Keep going.” “Aww, no questions? I like the questions, they’re my favorite part. ‘Auditions? Her? A soup spoon?’ You’re no fun.” Calliope pouted until Bryce looked down at her, weary and unamused. With a sigh, she went on. “Auditions. Someone very powerful and very picky is looking for someone special. Very particular. The right mix of classy and tawdry. A lady with a taste for the passions of life.” Nancy tapped her foot, waiting. Calliope gave it another moment before sulking. “A hussy, alright? The perfect good-time girl. He’s calling the shots, but he’s not doing the snuffing. That’s another lady—one of his ladies—but nobody knows she’s his. That’s part of the game. He gets to pick exactly what he wants and when he gets it nobody finds out but him. He’s always running the show, always dealing the hands, and once he finds his girl, poof. Gone. No more angel killer. He’s got his angel.”
Nancy drummed her fingers on the desk. “So two perps. And the corpse cutter” “Why stop there? Bet he’s done before. Bet he’s got a whole bunch of them. His own little choir of angels.” “…let’s just…focus on the two for now. We get her, we get him, we get the lot.” Bryce leaned all the way down to the floor to pick up the photos and lay them out, one by one, across the desk. “The White Ghost.” “NOPE!” Calliope tossed the beautiful portrait across the floor. “Ruled out. She’s an informant on this one, Bryce! What a world, huh? Mr. Lo’s trigger girl, helping bring in a perp.” Nancy caught the photo with a snap and slammed it back on the table. “My source tells me—” “The Carmichael guy?” Detective Rain blinked. “Now he’s a new one. Think we’ve talked to him actually. Shows up out of nowhere, sets up in a cheap hotel in the Garments—” Calliope poked the lightbulb for emphasis, sending the shadows careening around the room “—and starts knocking off work half as fast as all of FID. Taking some high end clients off us, from what I hear.” The young sleuth went right into whistling, innocently staring at the ceiling, as Nancy picked up. “Source. Tells me. She knows who it is. But doesn’t want to talk about it.”
Bryce reached up to adjust his tie. “Oh.” “What, Bry?” Big, callused hands reached down to push the photographs apart, leaving only one at the center. Calliope whistled, this time out of recognition. “Damn. That’s gotta be our girl.” Nancy looked at the dossier, and her eyes bulged. “Aww, hell.” “Beautiful girl, pale skin, black hair. Gloves, no fingerprints. Everyone thinks they know who’s she is. Wealth, access. And the last person the Ghost would want to be a killer.” Bryce looked down at Nancy, grim and resolved. “Sure you still want a piece of this, Miss? Think even the Department would balk at this one.”
Detective Rain tapped her holstered pistols and ran a finger across the dossier. “There’s a lot of girls dead, Meyers. Don’t care if it’s the Prime Minister’s wife, the Queen of Orland, or Amoxtili herself. You kill my people in my city, and I’ll find you.”
Thunder echoed outside. Calliope grinned and burned a smudge into the desk as she put it out. “Now we’re talking. Who do we have to bump to get on his schedule? Always wanted to meet old Mr. Lo.”