Irregular Verbs

Irregular Verbs by Matthew Johnson Read Free Book Online

Book: Irregular Verbs by Matthew Johnson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Matthew Johnson
skull, like a man afraid of lice. “They barely consented to making two copies, one for us and one for the Graphologist.”
    “And Physical Sciences will tell you it is a sheet of paper such as can be bought at any stationer’s,” Louverture said, “and the ink is everyday ink, and the envelope—if they remember to examine the envelope—was sealed with ordinary glue. They will not tell you what the letter smells like, or the force with which the envelope was sealed, because these things cannot be measured.”
    “Which is why we need you,” Trudeau said. “Concentrate on the text for the moment: the other parts will fall into place in time.”
    “I take it there was no ransom demand?” Louverture said; Trudeau nodded. That was why they had called him, of course: his greatest successes had been in finding the logic behind crimes that seemed, to others, to be irrational. Crimes they thought a little black blood made him better able to solve.
    “No daughters of prominent families missing, either, so far as we know,” Clouthier said. “We have
gardiens stagières
canvassing them now.”
    Louverture smiled, privately, at the thought of the group at the café being called away on long, hot velocipede rides around the city. “Of course, the families of kidnap victims often choose not to inform the police—though rationally, they have much better chances with us involved. Still, I do not think that is the case here: if a kidnapper told the family not to involve the police, why the letter to us? Tell me, Commandant, to whom was the letter addressed? Did it come by mail or was it delivered by hand?”
    “By hand,” Clouthier said before Trudeau could answer. “Pinned on one of the flames of Reason’s torch—a direct challenge to us.”
    “Strange, though, that they should give us so much time to respond,” Trudeau mused. “The thirteenth of Fructidor is just under two décades away. Why so much warning? It seems irrational.”
    “Crimes by sane men are always for gain, real or imagined,” Louverture said. “If not money, then perhaps power, as a man murders his wife’s lover to regain his lost power over her. The whole point may be to see how much power such a threat can give this man over us. Perhaps the best thing would be to ignore this, at least for now.”
    “And let him think he’s cowed us?” Clouthier said.
    “The Corps de Commande is not cowed,” Trudeau said gently. “We judge, sanely and rationally, if something is an accident or a crime; should it be a crime, we take the most logical course of action appropriate. But in this case, Officier Louverture, I think we must respond. If you are correct, ignoring this person would only lead him to do more in hopes of getting a response from us. If you are incorrect, then we certainly must take action, do you agree?”
    “Of course, Commandant,” Louverture said.
    “Very good. I have the Lombrosologist working on a composite sketch; once you have findings from him, Graphology, and Physical Sciences, the investigation is yours. I expect daily reports.”
    Louverture nodded, saluted the two men, and stepped out into the hall. Clouthier closed the heavy live-oak door after he left, and Louverture could hear out his name being spoken three times in the minute he stood there. He hurried down the steps to the cool basement where the scientific services were and went into the Lombrosology department, knocking on the door as he opened it.
    “Allard, what do you have for me?” he called.
    “Your patience centre is sorely underdeveloped,” a voice said from across the room. “Along with your minuscule amatory faculty, it makes for a singularly misshapen skull.”
    The laboratory was a mess, as always; labelled busts on every shelf and table, and skulls in such profusion that without Allard’s cheerful disposition the place would have seemed like a charnel house. Instead it felt more like a child’s playroom, the effect magnified by the scientist’s

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