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Samples From "The Painted Rule"

From Book 3, "Victorean", Chapter 1

The man sitting across from me inhaled deeply from the cigarette perched upon his lips. I watched the end of it burn up, turning slightly red, and the ash at the front got lighter for a little bit. He held the smoke for several seconds of silence then slowly blew it out through a small crack on the side of his mouth. I knew he was trying to intimidate me with these gestures (aside from having known the man for some time, it had been clear even from the moment he had arrived) and I knew the posturing was part of the set up for his request. My visitor had knocked only once at the door then waited there, his silhouette visible through the frosted, antique glass. As I could have expected, he waited until I had fully opened the door to look me over and announce himself, shaking my hand firmly and briefly. Once I'd gestured for him to enter, he had paced over to the plush chair I kept for such guests and sat down, folding his coat over his forearm and resting one leg upon the other. Of course, he'd waited for me to sit down on my side of the desk to light up.

"Inspector Victorean, I trust you're in decent spirits this evening?" he asked, as the smoke lazily floated across the air of my office and mingled with the dust particles that were similarly dancing there.

I only nodded, saying nothing. Part of countering and deflecting an aggressor's efforts is to avoid using your voice unless absolutely necessary - during my training I was taught that simple nods or frowns were usually all you needed to get by. The majority of the time, silence often accomplished what mere words could only hope to attain.

"The Regency Council has recommended I pay you a visit. I'm sure you're aware of the circumstances surrounding that request?"

Again, a simple nod. He pissed me off, though, because he just inhaled from the cigarette again. It was a bit silly of me to use tactics that were taught to me upon the very same people who had instructed me. I was, however, stuck. At this point I could have done one of three things:

  1. Speak. I could put my left hand up and run my fingers down the sides of my clean-shaven face while verbally indicating my understanding of the situation.
  2. React violently. On my desk I keep the following items:

    1. My ledger.
    2. My pen, which is next to my ledger.
    3. A ceramic mug. This is primarily because I am obsessed with ancient Terran private investigators. Ancient Terran private investigators used to drink a beverage called coffee out of such mugs when they were not drinking a beverage called whiskey.
    4. A leaded glass cup. This, too, is primarily because I am obsessed with ancient Terran private investigators. Ancient Terran private investigators used to drink a beverage called whiskey out of such glasses when they were not drinking a beverage called coffee.
    5. My stun pistol.
    6. A small placard with my name upon it.

      (A violent reaction, for example, might have been me brushing my hand across the desk and knocking those items to the floor, or possibly flipping the desk on its side.)
  3. Say nothing. I could keep mum and hope he would explain the situation without my voice being used.

To be quite frank, I'm not a fan of talking. Rather, I am very fond of articulating. The difference between those two words, despite their being similes, lies in that talking does not consist of anything substantial – nor is it about anything of actual import – whereas when a person articulates an idea it is something worth listening to, at the very least. With that in mind, option number one was ruled out because the fucker already knew what he was there for and he was well aware that I had already been communicated with regarding it. So, since for me to open my mouth and say, "You're here because of the prisoner I brought back from planet G1-5A1," would be completely redundant. No: There was no talking.

I would not classify myself as a violent person. Granted, I will use the threat of violence to achieve the required ends – usually assisted by my stun pistol – but I would never say I am fond of it and I honestly would prefer to avoid it. In addition, I have grown fairly attached to my pen, my antique mug, and my antique cup. Breaking those for something so trivial would not really make much sense so there were two reasons not to go with option number two.

Process of elimination would naturally lend one toward option number three: Remaining silent.

But!

Doing so would run the risk of creating an awkward moment. Or, worse still, not reacting at all might be viewed as insubordination since my visitor – the main regent, Phareus Ambrose – was of higher rank.

So I slowly leaned forward, reaching just as slowly across the desk, and gently gripped the cigarette in my fingers to pluck it out of his mouth. I took a drag from the cigarette in the same leisurely fashion. The asshole didn't expect me to do such a thing, obviously, since his intellect was nowhere near my level despite his rank. The carcinogenic smoke entered my lungs and I could feel the biting sting that accompanies it. I held it for the same amount of time that the regent had done only moments before. Since he'd not planned for my impromptu interrogative interruption, the jackass sat there with his mouth wide open. His gaping maw was, of course, absolutely perfect for me to place the cigarette right back into after my usurpation. I blew the smoke out in coils and smirked at him, wishing that Ambrose was overweight so that my internal narrative could include the descriptor, "fat-ass," and still retain its truthfulness.