Cruel Numbers

Cruel Numbers

by Christopher Beats

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After the North loses the War of Southern Secession, money buys power in the Magnocracy, and people can disappear in a blink. War veteran Donovan Schist's specialty is finding these missing persons. There isn't much money in it, but he sleeps a little better.

This time, Donovan is looking for a girl named Bridget Cleary. Her family's had no word from her for months. Donovan's certain he'll find her belly-up, but it seems her talent for analytical machines has made her a valuable asset to the powers that be—an asset that they're determined to keep hidden and out of reach. In over his head, Donovan enlists his friend Verhalen to help. The eccentric inventor may be unstable, but his steam-powered gadgets give Donovan the edge.

Donovan's no stranger to the rougher edges of society, but when the usual threats turn to attacks on his life, it quickly becomes clear that someone very important does not want him to find Bridget Cleary...

42,000 words

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426896088
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication date: 04/15/2013
Series: The Magnocracy Series
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
File size: 1 MB

Read an Excerpt

"Haven't seen her."

I scratched the left side of my mustache and coughed. "Could you at least look at her picture before you say that?"

The barkeep rolled his eyes and turned his head toward me slowly, like it was taking all the effort in the world. "You ain't even bought nothing."

Bridget's frayed yellow portrait still hung in my fingers, just inches from his face, but he stared at me instead with his faded blue, bloodshot eyes, ignoring the portrait.

"I'll take a stout." I slapped a nickel on the table.

"This is a Yankee bar," he spat. "We don't serve that Teague shit here."

"Then whatever you have on tap." I blew on my hands. It was nice to be indoors. I'd deal with cold bartenders over cold wind any day.

He turned his broad back to me and took a semi-clear mug down from the shelf. He drew up a line and squirted a foamy yellow liquid that reminded me of fresh piss and slapped it in front of me.

"Thanks," I told him. I fucking hate pilsners. "Mind taking a look?" I took a quaff and instantly regretted it. The beer had somehow conspired to be warm despite the frigid temperature.

This time he shot a glance at her and shrugged. "Haven't seen her."

I couldn't blame him. A thousand Bridgets a day came here, all fresh-faced from the country, ready for a big adventure in the Big City. Just like the pigs from upstate, they come here in blissful droves by train and steamer and carriage. More meat for the grinder. No one asks where most of these girls go. Unfortunately, I was being paid to ask, so this one mattered.

"You know anyone I might ask about her?" I put the picture in my right front pocket. It was the Cleary family's only copy. "She lived in the tenements across the street. She posted a letter from this address." I thumped the bar to add emphasis. It didn't mean this slouching prick knew anything, but it was the best lead I had.

He shrugged. "Lotta people drop their post off here." He snorted. "She's a Papist, right? Try the warlock 'round the corner. Good luck talking to him, though."

"Why? He mute or something?"

"Worse. He talks that filthy mick-speech."

As it happened, my ma brought me up in Gaelic, so the padre's communication skills weren't a problem. He was the opposite of the tavern-keeper but no more useful. He had plenty to say about a dozen Bridgets in his parish and more besides, but nothing about Bridget Cleary. If she'd been in the neighborhood, she'd not gone to church. The reverend made it plain that if she had, she wouldn't be in trouble now.

As if a priest could help anyone in this city. God knows that priests had never helped me. The worst thing that ever happened to me had been done by a priest. He'd married me to her.

When I left, he was still jabbering about Jezebels or Leviticus or something. His eyesight wasn't too keen so I doubt he noticed when I left. I had briefly considered the rite of confession while I was there, but I don't think the padre would have shut up long enough to hear me. If I'd confessed, it would have broken my nearly decade-long run of avoiding God, so maybe it was better I hadn't. Last time I'd asked forgiveness, it was from a chaplain on the front. Believe it or not, I'd done worse things since the war was over, though I doubt the Church would understand. No one who got three squares a day and a roof over their head could understand.

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Cruel Numbers 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's noir at it's best with the added bonus of a steampunk setting. I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author draws the reader into an engaging detective story with a descriptive narrative. The main character, a grizzled civil war veteran turned detective, describes the alternate timeline with the slang and language you would expect from a denizen of that universe. The slang takes a bit of getting used to, but it definitely adds to the environment the author had created. Can't wait to read Detective Schist's next adventure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't want to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started reading this in my spare time, only to find 3 chapters in I was hooked and couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago