Please, please, please don’t drive while intoxicated.


BLOG: YOUNG PEOPLE: Please let me be your Internet dad for a minute.

I saw this on our local news last night, and it broke my heart. Here’s today’s LA Times:

The Los Angeles County coroner has identified a Palmdale teen who authorities said was killed when a suspected drunk driver crashed into her home and hit her while she slept.

Giselle Mendoza, 16, was pronounced dead at her home early Sunday after Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies said Roberto…

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The Widow Wore Gold - Week 13


Charlie smiled. “Yes, please. And yes, it is why I’m here. But I think you knew that. Mrs. Von Staten authorized the appointment, after all.”

Doctor Cabrio smiled softly and handed Charlie a cup filled just shy of the brim. It smelled like genmaicha, with that characteristic slightly acrid aroma of toasted rice. The cup warmed Charlie’s still wind-chilled hands. “She did at that. Although I’m afraid that it might not be within your power to resolve her mystery in time.”

Charlie sipped the tea and tilted his head, responding. “What do you mean? Something wrong with her pregnancy?”

Doctor Cabrio’s eyes softened and she let out a long sigh. She tapped out a few commands on her desk as she continued. “Nothing’s wrong with it, really. Except that it’s physically impossible as near as I can tell. And it’s… advanced.”

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The Widow Wore Gold - Week 12


…Doctor Cabrio, like everything else in this clinic so far, was not at all what I was expecting. I’d come up here expecting an office specializing in bugs, and what I got was a melting pot of patients from all over the Fed. An AI janitor who dug on show tunes was a completely new one on me, but then again this whole case was turning into a new one. I added it to the pile of Weird Shit I’d Laugh About Later and came face to face with the doctor who kept Stanley Von Staten’s wife in tip top shape.

Doctor Cabrio was Human, not a Jaxi-Vass as I’d expected, which threw me for the biggest loop so far. The general rule was Bug Patient, Bug Doctor; there were too many unusual physiological idiosyncrasies to trust to a physician outside ones own species, no matter how well trained they might otherwise be. The Jaxi-Vass were especially notorious about keeping non-natives out of their medical schools, which when you get right down to it is why the Wiki was straight up sparse about most of the things I absolutely needed for this case. But still, there she was: Doctor Cabrio. Middle-aged, maybe no more than sixty, trails of grey in her hair and the quiet lines of someone whose late nights and long hours were nowhere near behind her cutting a soft-but-distinct map around her eyes and mouth. She wore a crisp white lab coat over a well-worn set of scrubs, something most doctors eschewed these days in favor of disposable, step-in sterile suits. Something about the good Doctor Cabrio spoke to me of practical methods and even more practical solutions to the problems of her patients…

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The Widow Wore Gold - Week 11


Chapter Six
Doctor Doesn’t Always Know Best

…I stepped out of the hopper, sliding my hand over the pay-scanner and nodding a quick thank you to the cabbie, imminently grateful for the well guarded and overly-engineered safety barriers between me and the dead-man’s drop that waited for me just the other side of the cab terminal. Up Town loomed all around me, glittering spires reaching thousands of stories into the air, gracefully holding court high above the regular joe-normals of the lower levels of the Metro. Hoppers and private spinners flitted along well-maintained, orderly flight corridors, cab drivers and chauffeurs more or less along for the ride like their passengers. Really, pilots these days were mostly there in case of emergencies. In the event one of the thousands of Metro Flight Control centers had an issue, or an emergency occurred in the vehicle, they could handle it with all the level-headed skill of a combat medic on the front lines. My regular cabbie was out today, her wife had gone into labor and it was time to greet the new face of her family, but her replacement was no doubt just as skilled in emergency scenarios, just as ready to lend a hand in case of medical or psychological distress.

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The Widow Wore Gold - Week 10


Charlie pulled on a glove, pressing a stud on the cuff and reaching out to take Melody’s free right hand. “I was thinking I’d start with her doctor, but now, I’m not so sure. The aesthetician is where the numbers drift. She goes in and gets five kilos of gold applied, but…”

“But she comes out five point five kilos heavier,” Melody finished Charlie’s sentence for him. She had his hand up to her cheek, now, and had drawn herself up fully onto the bed. For several moments, she said nothing, eyes closed, lips slightly apart as her chest rose and fell slowly. “I saw the clippings for the resorts on your cork board,” she finally said, voice just above a whisper. “You forgot to take them down before you went to sleep.”

“No,” Charlie replied. “I didn’t forget. We need a vacation.”

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The Widow Wore Gold - Week 9


I shook my head and pinned another page to the board. “At first, maybe, but no. They have just as much to lose by him going down the nature trail to an early grave as anyone. Von Staten dies, the entirety of his estate goes to his wife, and for all their bluster and brass, the last thing they’d want is for Von Staten’s empire to get into the hands of a Jaxi-Vass. Their leaders have actually penned quite a number of editorial and opinion articles for the news wires on exactly why they think Mr. Von Staten should divorce Muriel and get himself a ‘proper’ Human wife.”

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The Widow Wore Gold - Week 8


Chapter Five
Two In The Morning And Nobody’s Awake But Me And My Girl

…The thing you have to remember about the mesh of nano-engineered computer networking in my skull, my oft-maligned and malfunctioning AGENT, is this: it never goes to sleep. Sure, my flesh and blood body might be asleep, down deep in the low-end of the sleep cycle between REM peaks, but the AGENT? Hell, that good looking mirror image of my very own mug never slept, never took a day off, never once asked for overtime pay. My AGENT, as much as I knew I had to get it fixed before its inappropriately timed pieces of noir narrative drove me absolutely crackers, was still a damned good investment and had paid for itself at least a half-dozen times over.

Even now, in the imaginary office I kept in my head as the interaction interface with the AGENT’s more mechanical functions, that inner image of myself sat at the desk, going over the various pieces of information from the day. His hat hung silent and sleeping on the rack by the door, a damp umbrella and a damper coat drying out by the antique radiator standing just this side of the door. A half-empty bottle of brandy and an empty highball glass - three ice cubes absently clinking against it as they melted dejectedly, all but forgotten - took up a small corner of the desk, while folders full of papers controlled the rest like a one-sided game of “Risk.”

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The Widow Wore Gold - Week 7


Richie Lurch had told Charlie that Muriel Von Staten would have been under immense social pressure to stay on one of the Jaxi-Vass home worlds. As a brood-bearing female, the survival of her species was laid pretty squarely at her six chitinous feet. Charlie wasn’t sure what it meant to be the daughter of a Queen Mother, but he imagined it was even more demanding and had greater expectations than a normal Jaxi-Vass female might come across. Further, she would normally be surrounded by, or at least keep her primary interactions with, neutered males of her own species, or persons or objects treated with female hormones: all reasonable things to keep her from entering her breeding cycle.

Charlie paused at a corner news drone, frowning as he saw the latest edition of the Metro Chronicle wasn’t yet ready. Hourly updates seemed like too long to wait for verified news sources, but anything faster and the truth index of the articles couldn’t be validated. Palming the pay scanner, Charlie queued the next edition up to his AGENT anyway, and turned to look down the street and out into the bay. The Wiki said that the average breeding age of a mature Jaxi-Vass female was seventy-five to eighty years, Earth Standard. Muriel Von Staten was forty, if she was a day. So she was hitting her cycle at roughly half the normal age: not unheard of, but hardly the routine. So something out of the ordinary was definitely going on, here. But that was obvious, patently so.

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