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This Shoal of Space:

Zoë Calla & the Dark Starship

(World's First E-Book—Published On the Web in 1996 For Digital Download)

a Dark SF novel originally titled Heartbreaker

by John Argo

Preface   Chapter 1   Intralog  Part I-Chapter 2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52   53   54   55   56   57   58   59   60   61   62   63   64   65   Part II-Chapter 66   67   68   69   70   71   72   73   74   75   Outlog


Chapter 43.

Obits were coming in right and left, and Spike was busy. ZoŽ sat at her desk thinking warm thoughts of Roger Chatfield as she pored over the night police log. Jules sent her to cover a fire on Montclair Street. She drove to watch the red engines roll in. Men and women in silvery suits bumbled about with axes and hoses. Thick honey-yellow smoke filled the air, smelling of wood and what? A vision floated lazily in her memory: A cabin, covered with snow, smoke curling lazily from the chimney in a panorama of mountain peace, but it was not a calming vision; rather, it made her stomach knot up and her mind flutter...

The smoke turned black as a wall fell in and tires began to burn. A special Fire Department tanker truck laid down a viscous cloud of gray foam, putting out both the fire and her inner vision. She remembered to interview the battalion commander. This would make a nice piece: technology overcomes disaster.

Jules liked the story when she turned it in. She did not have long to bask. Eating lunch with one hand and typing with the other, she tallied the night's murders, rapes, suicides, and so on. She prepared the City Roundup article, a daily feature about The Violence We Live In.

At one, the copygirl made her rounds and dropped off a stack of interoffice envelopes at ZoŽ's desk. One caught her attention. It was addressed simply "Police Reporter" and had been submitted anonymously. ZoŽ spread the contents before her, yellowed clippings from various places and times with things highlighted in yellow marker and those things seemed to say Burtongale a lot. She grew afraid, remembering WARNED2's threat against Max. Nevertheless, she skimmed through the clippings with compulsive interest and with growing puzzlement as to who might have sent them.

SAN TOMAS (Special to the Herald). Dr. Wallace Burtongale proudly announced today that his son Gilbert finished his fourth year at Mainwether Academy, and will be attending the University of California, San Tomas in the Fall as a freshman...

ALTA LOMA (Allied Press Service) Police are investigating the mysterious deaths of two freshman UCST coeds at their off-campus apartment. Police say their hearts had been severed and the scene was a grisly one...

SAN TOMAS (American News Service) Police are investigating the motorcycle deaths of two reputed drug dealers, Frank P. Calla and James "Attila" Hunter. Det. Lt. Victor Lara of the San Tomas Police said that both men had been sought in the tire iron bludgeoning death of Charles Best, a local drug dealer and occult bookstore partner a week earlier. Calla's young widow, free on bail for child abuse charges, appeared hysterical in her courtroom appearance...

CHICAGO, Ill. (AP) Marshall Goldberg, Curator of the Abramowitz Orientology Museum at the University of Chicago, announced a major art burglary. Two guards had been brutally murdered by mysterious burglars who took artifacts from among the museum's many priceless objects.

The Yoreni Stone, a rough sculpture in iron ore, was taken by either two or three men, police are not sure. The sculpture had no intrinsic monetary value, Goldberg said. It had been brought to the U.S. during the 1920's by an anthropology professor and UC alumnus. It came from Ivory Coast in West Africa, where it was rumored to have strange and violent effects on native villagers. Another object, a small stone plate from Africa...

ZoŽ stuffed the clippings (there were more of them) back into the envelope and into her desk drawer. Should she tell Jules? Or keep quiet? Who was putting her up to this? The risks seemed to great for her to leap blindly into any further investigation. But the clippings stirred up old pain; somewhere, a cabin lay cozy and solitary, covered with snow, and dribbling smoke, but horrible...blood running out from under the front door and down the steps...?


Copyright © 1990-1996-2014 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.