If you’re already a fan of Nora Simeon and her partner, Eyre, then this is the new release you’ve been waiting for. Occult Investigator Nora Simeon is back and this time, she and Eyre are confronted with a locked room mystery that leads them to the Chiyoda district in Japan. Check out the description:
Occult private eye, Nora Simeon, and Eyre, her uncannily pretty boyfriend, are on another case on behalf of the Commission, the secret organization that controls financial sorcery in the Americas. This time they’re hunting down an investment-bank sorcerer who cracked when passed over for promotion and used a summoned demon to commit murder. Finding the murderer is easy, but he’s already dead, assassinated in a locked room.
The case’s ramifications quickly reach far beyond New York. From a murder scene in Queens, Nora and Eyre discover a tangled web of international corruption and sorcery linking crimes in Japan and the US. Traveling to Tokyo at the behest of the mysterious Onmyōdō Group, they run afoul of the even more deadly Ministry of Shadows. In the rural reaches of Fukushima province, Nora and Eyre discover a fateful secret that could shake the foundations of financial sorcery all around the world and come up against an old enemy whose malice poses a greater danger than any they’ve faced before.
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing; 1st edition (March 17, 2022)
Publication Date: March 17, 2022
Print Length: 199 pages
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Read an Excerpt:
Technically, it was Entering but not Breaking. Eyre had charmed the superintendent out of the spare key to apartment 4-G, and with the aid of a bit of machine oil I was working it slowly into the lock to avoid making any noise. We were in the fourth-floor corridor of a red brick apartment building on Parsons Boulevard in Flushing, Queens, a pleasant working-class neighborhood with plenty of trees and quiet side streets. Someone was cooking a pot roast in a nearby apartment, and the aroma was reminding me I’d skipped lunch tracking down this address.
“I’m ready, Nora,” Eyre said. My blue-haired assistant was poised, crouched at my side, waiting for me to get past the lock. I tried turning the key. Slowly…slowly…I could feel resistance, but it wasn’t stuck. A millimeter at a time and— something clacked loudly. Fuck. The deadbolt must have been spring-loaded.
I turned the doorknob to clear the latch and slammed the door open with my shoulder. No chain. Eyre darted inside as soon as the gap was wide enough, and I followed an instant later, backing him up with my gun drawn. There was a time early in my career when I would have called for some Commission heavies and a staff sorcerer or two for back-up because come on, there could be an angry demon in there. And a time more recently when I would have gone in alone because fuck it. But now it was Eyre and me. With his slender build and boyish face, my assistant didn’t look like much of a fighter, but I doubted there was any demon who could beat him one-on-one.
This was a renegade sorcerer’s safe house, a VP from Morgan Stanley who’d cracked and gone on a murder spree when he was passed over for promotion, using a demon he’d illicitly summoned for his own private use as an assassin. I was honestly expecting the flat to be empty, the sorcerer not being so stupid as to hide out in town with the Commission after him, but it was possible he was there, and it was possible the demon was there, too. As it happened, both those things were true.
Eyre put the brakes on and didn’t do anything violent immediately, so I paused behind him to take in the scene. It was a barebones one-bedroom flat, a dining room nook by the door, a tiny kitchen off to the left, the dining area opening into a living room, and a short corridor on the right leading off to a pair of doors, no doubt the bedroom and bathroom. No furniture at all, except for some kind of collapsible chrome thing at the back of the living room and— Oh. That was a severed human head on the floor in front of it.
The chrome thing unfolded itself, revealing itself to be a demon after all. The creature gave an initial impression of a high-end Ikea coffee table put together by a demented elder god who’d gotten frustrated with the instructions and never could find a use for half the hex bolts. The demon must have been summoned recently, as they hadn’t had any time to adapt their form from the original jointed assembly of polished metal rods and plates to which their spirit had been bound. Unlimbered, their effect was something like a skeletal centaur with metal bones, except that for a head they had a hinged gripper like a two-fingered hand at the end of a long, segmented, prehensile neck. Instead of hooves or feet their legs ended in sharpened points that made them teeter precariously as they rose from the floor, and two longer armlike limbs of the same sort extended from their shoulders. Though they had some trouble balancing at first, once up on all fours they were stable, even graceful.
“Well,” Eyre said, “this is messed up.”
Despite his awesome martial skills, Eyre was far more deeply affected by violence and death than me, so I gave him a glance, but he seemed okay. He was focused on the situation, prepared to defend himself if necessary.
The demon tensed for a moment, reared back as if about to spring, but then they brought their two arms up, crossed them like a violinist, and ran one long chrome limb up and down the other while bowing it back and forth. An unearthly ringing tone played, a little like the sound when you rub your finger on the edge of a wine glass, not at all unpleasant. As the sound rose and fell, sliding smoothly up and down the scale, I realized there was something in the overtones…oh. They were speaking, an ethereal, shimmering voice arising from around and behind the varying note they were playing on their arms.
“—come to destroy me?”
“Not unless you make it necessary,” I told them. “Did you kill him?”
“No! Not my master. Only his enemies.”
Eyre advanced cautiously, kneeling beside the decapitated head on the floor. The demon made as if to protect it, but then subsided. They extended their long gripper limb and placed it beside the head, caressing its cheek before withdrawing.
“That’s him,” Eyre said, “I think. Carson. Our subject.”
“If you didn’t kill him,” I asked the demon, “who did?”
“I don’t know!” Throbbing through the overtones of the demon’s metallic voice, the creature’s agony and sorrow were unmistakable. “I was here, he was sleeping in the bedroom. He was going to take me with him. He said we would go to Maru— Maruno— to a place where the Commission could not follow. It was the morning, time to go, to take the train, he didn’t come out, I waited, I waited, and then, and then I went in to see, to wake him up. And then…”
The demon collapsed. They just fell to the floor in a heap, looking once again like a mess of chrome rods haphazardly thrown together, only stirring a little, making feeble clinking noises to show they were still alive. Struck down by grief, I guess.
“We’d better check the bedroom.” I nodded at the creature. “What about the demon?”
I wanted to argue the point—the poor thing had killed two Morgan Stanley vice presidents and an executive VP to boot—but this wasn’t the time or the place, so I led Eyre down the hallway to the closed doors.
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Laurence Raphael Brothers is a writer and a technologist. He has published over 25 short stories in such magazines as Nature, the New Haven Review, PodCastle, and Galaxy’s Edge. His WWI-era historical fantasy novel Twilight Patrol was just released by Alban Lake. For more of his stories, visit https://laurencebrothers.com/bibliography, or follow him on twitter: @lbrothers.
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