Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Stalking Horse
GENRE: Steampunk

Detective Inspector Jacob Howell clenched his jaw and clamped down his temper. He was tired. Hungry. Overworked. Death never rested in London and neither, it seemed, did he. Today had begun early, studying a dead man in a dockside office, and progressively plunged downward.

At least Calvert’s office was more well appointed than the one from which he’d started.

To get here he’d had to drag his sergeant onto an overcrowded diligence, a feat since Chapel loathed traveling by air. Whores going home and labourers to work mixed with the Queen’s loyal subjects as they thronged into the city for Victoria’s Jubilee. They elbowed past him without begging pardon as the airship drifted into each station. Catching a young pickpocket’s fingers tickling his waistcoat, he’d been moved by her pitiable expression. He’d let her go and then discovered she’d already lifted five quid.

Being ignored by a haughty secretary who fancied himself better than the police because he sat in a chair all day fueled his ire. The young man had only glanced up briefly when he and Chapel first arrived, nodded toward wooden chairs, and returned to his writing.

Even the relentless scratch from the spidery configuration of gleaming brass rods and gears of the replicating arm grated on Howell’s nerves. Every office in the city possessed a copying device, but this one was so dainty and delicate he could easily smash it.

He curled his hands into fists, then stopped as bruised skin tightened over his knuckles.

12 comments:

Diane Scott Lewis said...

I am definitely hooked! The tension is high for this character. The "air bus" proves we're in an alternate world at the same time as Victorian London. What a great combination of fantasy and reality. This opening gave me chills and I want to know more.

BlackFyre Media Works said...

Hmmm I had to stop and think and then realized what an "airbus" probably was. Now I'm intrigued to see where in time and dimension we really are :)

J.Allen Hill said...

Great opening. Answers three of the classic questions: When - The age of Queen Victoria Where - London; What - fantasy and mystery. The missing two questions - Who and Why? have me hooked. If I had the entire book in my hand, I would not be able to stop reading.

Tracey Livesay said...

I want more! I'm definitely hooked. Love that we're in a alternate reality, even with the Victorian London touches. I want to know why he's in this office and I know there will be a price to pay for making this man wait!

Becky said...

I'm envious. You do a great job with steampunk, something I can't wrap my head around. This is a great opening, and I want more.

Anonymous said...

Great opening. Classic Steampunk pieces. Where are the goggles?

Anonymous said...

hooked, nice one

C.A. Marshall said...

I'm worried that this will turn into one giant cliche. Like the commenter above, I'm left wondering where the googles are as that's the only thing that you haven't mentioned in these 250 words.

Also, I feel like this is all backstory. I don't want to know about what happened this morning or how the guy got to the office. I want to know what he's doing NOW. Get past the set up and the tropes and show me the heart of your story and the unique voice you bring.

GSMarlene said...

I dunno, this felt like Sherlock Holmes with steampunk smashed on top. The writing is pretty good although I got lost on a couple pronouns.
I think your writing is very readable, just write the story and let the steampunk happen, don't force it.

Cat said...

I wonder, why steampunk is set in London so often. Also, I think there is an awful lot of settign in this snipet and not much about the character himself. But it was very well written. I probably would read a little more to see if something interesting came up.

R. S. Sorrentino said...

I'm hooked. The character grabbed me when he let the pickpocket go. I want to know what the office he's sitting in has to do with the body in the dockside office. Thought the steampunk elements were brought in as delicately as the arms of the copying device. Did not see it as backstory but as set up. Want more.

Secret Agent said...

I was totally on board until the third paragraph. To me, a dead body is always more interesting than travel. You start off with what could be a mystery, then rewind to the crappy day. Because of this, I would send a form rejection.