Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chapter One of Murder on Muritai

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By Genesis Cotterell

Arrival on Earth: 6 April 1905.
Landing Place: Patrick’s Well, Tipperary, Ireland.
Number of First Arrivals: 150 – consisting of 100 men and 50 women.
Reason for Coming to Earth: Ryxin’s sun burning out (Ryxin is now a dead planet).
Witness: James O’Grady, ten years old (now deceased), reported feeling heat coming from the sky before seeing a blue flash. He did not see any aliens before they changed into Human form.
18 April 1905: Aliens had changed into Human form and began to infiltrate Earth.
“The Ten”: These are ten Ryxin couples, who were ordered to mate only with each other so as to ensure the ongoing purity of the Ryxin race (whereabouts unknown).
Government Ryxin Breeding Law: All Ryxins are required to breed only with pure-blood Humans.

Government Working Party Briefing
– January 2020
Tensions between Earth’s two dominant species (Humans and Ryxins) are rising. All laws concerning Ryxin breeding are to be strictly enforced. For your own safety be mindful that disputes including/involving one or more Ryxin individuals SHALL NOT BE POLICED. Human police and security personnel are FORBIDDEN FROM INTERFERING. Those who disobey this directive face lengthy prison terms and will lose both their jobs and pensions. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Chapter One
Curtis listened carefully as his first client told him her story.
“It was no accident, Mr McCoy. Roscoe’s throat was cut. To be precise, his left carotid artery – and that was before his van went over the edge. I’m telling you, he was murdered. And I had a dream the other night: Roscoe was trying to communicate with me and he told me that blood was gushing from his neck and he had tried to stop it. But then he said he’d passed out even before the van became airborne and hit the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. He knew he was finished.”
Curtis observed the blond woman seated on the other side of his desk. Her eyes were green and she twisted the strap of her lime-green handbag around her mittened fingers. He instinctively knew she was Ryxin, just as he was.
“You mean the beekeeper, Roscoe Chamonix? I always check the basic details you see. It’s part of my training not to take anything for granted.”
He was writing in his notebook as she spoke, but he looked up every now and then. He remembered seeing her at the funeral though he hadn’t known her name then, only that she’d been Roscoe’s partner. Her face looked haggard and worry lines marred her forehead. She’d likely not been sleeping much.
“Yes, he was my partner. You heard about it then? How his van went over the cliff at Moa Bay. And they said it was Ryxin error? Huh.”
“I was passing near there soon after it happened. I also attended his funeral.”
He looked at her hands. It was a hot day yet she wore mittens. Definitely Ryxin.
On the day in question, Curtis had gone round to visit Claudette Peace, a writer from the mainland who had come over to Muritai Island for a few weeks to work on her third novel. She was an old friend of Marzy’s, his ex-wife, but had remained friends with Curtis after the divorce. Claudette had been able to see the fiasco their marriage had become and how unfairly he’d been treated.
He recalled vividly seeing the police car by the cliff edge at Moa Bay. There was a small gathering of people silently looking down. He’d parked his car and gone over, then seen Roscoe’s van, crumpled and beaten on the rocks below. As he watched, the woman next to him said, “We’ve just lost one of our own, you know. No one – not even one of us – could survive that.”
Curtis had turned and seen her tears. When she brushed them away with her hand, he saw she had six fingers, the nails painted bright pink. By ‘one of us’ she had meant that Roscoe was Ryxin, like herself.
“I loved him like a brother,” the woman sobbed.
Curtis had walked away, understanding the woman’s feelings of grief. The loneliness he still experienced since his breakup with Marzy was a constant reminder of how losing a loved one can cut you up inside. But he was also aware of how little he really knew about how other Ryxins lived. He’d grown up in a predominantly Human world. Learning how to be inconspicuous meant he’d never had to deal with what it meant to be Ryxin – not until he fell in love with Marzy.
He came back to reality with a jolt. There was Janux Lennan, still twisting the strap of her handbag and looking at the floor as if she were studying it in detail.
“Why did you come to me? Haven’t you told the police?”
“Ha!” She threw up her mittened hands. “Don’t tell me about them. I know already that they’ll be useless. I’m the only person who cares about what happened to Roscoe. This island is like a book and it has conveniently closed its pages. Nobody is interested in how Roscoe died. But I know he was murdered, even if it was made to look like a terrible accident. You’ve got to help me. Please. You do believe me, don’t you?”
Her voice had become faster and louder. Her lovely eyes filled with tears. Curtis put down his pen. He was inclined to believe her, but needed more facts. Even he, a relative newcomer to the island, knew that the police force here consisted of two constables who were eyeing up their retirement pay-outs, and Detective Soubert. Soubert was in charge and had a reputation for bungling important cases. She looked down at her hands, now folded in her lap. He thought she was rather beautiful. Like a Madonna with large, sad eyes.
“Okay, but you must understand that this is my first case and I won’t be fully qualified until I have solved it and presented a detailed report. Only then will I be a bonafide PI. I have also lived here for less than three months. How did you find me?”
“I saw your advertisement on the supermarket noticeboard – down in the village. I guessed you were new here, but that’s the way I like it. You see, I don’t want everyone to know what I’m doing.”
He had advertised himself as Private Investigator, willing to take on all cases. Considering the island was no more than fifteen kilometres from end to end and populated by around 20,000 people, he reckoned she was right in thinking that almost everyone would know each other. He had the advantage of relative anonymity.
“Let’s get started then. I will need a down payment of $1500, and the rest when the job’s done. Of course, the final figure will depend on how long it takes. Okay?”
She looked straight at him. “Yeah, sure, whatever you say.”
“Do you have any suspects? For example, someone who had a grudge or who hated his guts?”
She scowled. “There’s that big-shot Sly Onyx. Roscoe drank at the same pub as Sly and had a few encounters with him. I did too once. I reckon he’s capable of murder – he’s got no soul. They say he’s the leader of a group of Ryxins who are out to make trouble. I’ve heard a few things lately.”
“Does it have anything to do with Changeover Day next month?”
“I dunno. But he tried to hit on me one time – in the pub. Told me he could get me pregnant and I could have my own baby on the mainland, that he’d see to it the papers were okay. I told him I wasn’t interested. He got mad then, but Roscoe turned up, so he went away.”
“So you kept to the breeding laws, I take it?” Curtis asked.
“Of course we did, and adopting a Human child didn’t appeal to me and Roscoe.”
“Okay, but this Sly fellow was willing to get fake papers for you if you allowed him to father your child?”
“He likes to throw his weight around, but I’m just not interested in him or any of his kind.”
“What kind is that?”
“I’m told he’s a pureblood and likes to portray himself as some sort of authority figure. I’m not into bowing and scraping to anyone.”
Curtis found the determined set to her jaw appealing. “Here’s my card. Let me know if you think of anything else. I’ll begin the investigation immediately. And don’t worry – if it’s any comfort to you, I am also Ryxin.”
She smiled, and immediately looked even more beautiful.
After she left, Curtis picked up the paper from the front steps where it had been thrown earlier, and retreated to his back porch. It was the only paper printed on Muritai and came out once a week, on a Sunday. From this side of his cottage he could look out onto Tauiwi Bay, which always soothed his mind and gave him hope for the future. Admittedly he hadn’t always felt such hope, especially when he’d first arrived on Muritai. For one thing, this was now to be his permanent home, having once been his and Marzy’s holiday home, although he would be living here alone. Marzy had remarried – this time to a Human, with whom she hoped to have plenty of legal children.
Curtis had told Marzy he was Ryxin before they married, but she’d said it didn’t matter to her. They were both in love, and although her parents didn’t know, Marzy said she’d tell them when the time was right. She never did. Then one night, a few weeks after they were married, her parents invited them over for a barbecue, and her mother saw his bones glowing. He’d forgotten to wear his anti-glow bracelet. No amount of apologising and friendly gestures on his part could thaw her mother’s open hostility towards him after that.
Marzy told him her mother’s prejudice was based on her inbuilt fears of her daughter having a child born with alien features. ‘Defects’, she called them. Marzy told Curtis her father didn’t mind, but her mother threatened to disown her if she didn’t get a divorce straight away. Marzy immediately began using contraception.
Curtis could see how her mother’s attitude was changing Marzy irrevocably. She became distant and told Curtis she had to have a fully Human child, as her mother insisted. On no account could she conceive with Curtis as the father. Marzy eventually gave in, and shortly after the divorce started dating a Human of her mother’s choice. Curtis knew this man had been chosen to father children with Marzy and it sickened him to the bones of his male being, which glowed even brighter at night with the heightened emotion.

He opened the paper, and on page two there was a large advertisement for the upcoming Changeover Day celebrations set for the 18th of April.  The ad stated there would be a marquee set up on Sly and Mistle Onyx’s property in Ngahere Road. All Ryxins were invited to attend, but first they must come to the Onyx home and be screened to prove their Ryxin ancestry. Curtis studied the ad, then carefully cut it out and pinned it to the corkboard in his study. Now he had a reason to visit Sly and Mistle Onyx.
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