Infected: Throwaways (Mean Streets #2) by Andrea Speed
Cover Art: Anne Cain
If you Google “Proust character questions”, you’ll find a list of questions that the French author supposedly came up with to get to know your characters better. I’m going to use it as a game, and randomly ask Roan, Holden, or Chai one of the questions. To make it even more challenging for me, I’m using random numbers to pull up the questions. This could be great, or this could be a disaster. Let’s find out together!
~ Andrea Speed Interviews Roan, Holden and Chai ~
1. What is your greatest regret?
Holden: It is too early in the day for that question.
Chai: Honestly? That I didn’t rip all of Paul’s clothes out of the closet and burn them in the parking lot when I had the chance. Not that I’m bitter.
Roan: Greatest? That I didn’t have more time with Paris.
Holden: Way to bring the room down, Roan.
Roan: You haven’t answered yet.
Holden: I try not to regret anything. It gives you wrinkles.
2. What is your most marked characteristic?
Holden: What the hell does that even mean?
Roan: I’ll name yours if you can’t.
Chai: Um, that’s actually a tough one. I think I’m pretty reserved.
Roan: You’re introspective. That’s not a bad thing.
Holden: I guess that makes me the big old extrovert.
Roan: No. You’re street name is Fox, right? You’re a clever son of a bitch. And the worst thing is you know it.
Holden: Look at mister smarty pants here. I guess that’s yours.
Roan: I actually thought mine was my stubbornness.
Holden: Dude, the answer is lion. It’s always lion.
3. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Holden: All of them.
Chai: Purity. Why? What good is it? How does it help you? It seems really pointless.
Roan: I agree with Chai. That one seems sexist and encouraging submissive conformity, which is all insidious. Same with obedience, which just makes my skin crawl.
Holden: How many five dollar words did you use just now?
Roan: Fifteen dollars and thirty five cents worth.
Holden: Thirty five cents?
Roan: There has to be tax.
4. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Roan: I could say a whole bunch of things, but I think living in a big, futuristic library on another planet. With my husband, of course.
Holden: Oh God. Roan, how the hell could being a space librarian be your idea of happiness? I feel so bad for you.
Chai: I … um. I sort of feel bad admitting this, but I wouldn’t have lost my leg or gotten these scars, and I would probably live in a big mansion in a tropical paradise, with many different kinds of pool boys at my beck and call.
Roan: I like your scars.
Holden: So do I. Although I feel like my statement means more, because Roan is scarred up like a ratty old tom cat, and it’s ridiculously, infuriatingly hot.
Roan: You haven’t said what yours is.
Holden: Three words: no straight people.
5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Roan: I wouldn’t be infected.
Chai: Similar answer – I’d have my leg back.
Holden: And here I was just going to ask for a six-pack. Way to make me feel shallow, guys.
6. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what do you think it would be?
Holden: There’s two answers for that. Person would be a soap opera star. Male or female, but probably female.
Chai: You do like drama.
Holden: Do I ever. And if I came back as a thing, I think it would be a butt plug. A really good one.
Chai: That was too easy.
Holden: Don’t blame me. I didn’t come up with these questions.
Chai: Uh, person? I’d hope I’d be a Bollywood star. So I could dance and sing like a lunatic and get paid for it. I’m not even going to speculate about thing, ‘cause … that’s a slippery slope.
Roan: As Holden said, the answer is always lion.
Holden: So no different than now?
Roan: *stares intensely at Holden*
Holden: Okay, so, let’s wrap this up before I get eaten. In a bad way.
From the Infected Universe
Former prostitute and street kid turned private detective Holden Krause is asked to look into the murder of Burn, a black-market dealer, who turns up dead near the infamous homeless encampment known as the Jungle. It’s a place Holden is familiar with—and his memories of it aren’t entirely bad. The settlement has been taken over by sinister people but Holden isn’t afraid to take them on. A big part of his PI gig is cover for his more dangerous vigilante crusade: exacting justice for the people the system ignores, the throwaways—people just like the ones living in the Jungle.
It’s getting harder and harder for Holden’s partner, Chai Nayar, to look the other way while Holden searches out retribution beyond the confines of the law. When one of their associates is shot and Holden realizes—far too late—that he’s in over his head with this case, Chai is left to pick up the pieces and hopefully save their lives. He resorts to the only solution he can find and calls Roan, who is more lethal than ever. Will it be their saving grace, or a fatal mistake?
As far as Holden knew, Burn had no family, here or anywhere. He was a man without a country, a home, a basic understanding of dental hygiene. All that was generally known about him was that his appetite for drugs was bottomless, and if you needed something questionable fast—untraceable gun, pharmaceuticals, car of dubious provenance—he was the guy to see. He’d been around since Holden had started his life on the streets. Burn could be found at the dirtiest bar in town, swilling cut-rate hooch at a back booth, dealing drugs in the filthy men’s room. He was the man your parents warned you about, no matter who your parents were. He was a tragedy and a warning at the same time.
That was about all Holden really knew about him. He knew Burn’d done time, but he didn’t know what for. He knew he’d taken to meth recently, but only because of the chemical smell he gave off and the sad state of his teeth. Holden knew he went missing for days, sometimes weeks or even months, but he always popped back up, and nothing was ever said about it. Except for this time. This time, his disappearance was a prelude to his death.
Kevin told him where to find the morgue, and Holden didn’t have the heart to tell him that he already knew where it was. He was quite familiar with it. It wouldn’t be his first time visiting the place, and given the circles he ran in, not the last either. Holden was now glad he’d quoted Dahlia such a late time, as this probably wouldn’t be a quick jaunt.
The morgue was an unobtrusive building downtown, so desperately anonymous you knew it was trying to hide something. Some wag had spray-painted on a neighboring building Don’t Open, Dead Inside. They deserved points for general humor, but some had to be deducted for the obvious cultural reference.
Inside, it was air conditioned to death—no pun intended—sterile, and smelled mostly of toner and coffee, like any other office. The hallways were long and bland, purely industrial, clinging to normalcy as a counterbalance to its grim reality. A receptionist along the way pointed him in the right direction, and Holden knew he was in the right place when he saw Kevin Robinson.
Kevin was a chunky cop in his dress blues, with the same hangdog expression he always seemed to wear. Holden was reasonably certain he was born with that expression on his face. He also had the bone-deep weariness that suggested he was halfway done with the world and all its shittiness, which was a state Holden had reached roughly fifteen years ago. You didn’t become the gay Punisher because you thought people and the world were ever going to get better.
Kevin nodded upon seeing him and gave a high sign to a medical technician, who apparently unlocked a door for them before Holden followed Kevin into a room full of body drawers. Holden wondered briefly at the security for an area devoted to corpses, but what was that about people being shitty? Hell, they stole some of Roan’s and Paris’s blood samples from a lab, all to infect new people. For the millionth year in a row, humans proved themselves to be the absolute worst.
Kevin walked over to one of the lower drawers and pulled it open as white fluorescents buzzed overhead and threw stark, unflattering light on everything. “Do I even need to warn you about looking at a dead body?” Kevin wondered.
“I worked with Roan, so no,” Holden replied. There were quiet layers here, ones concerning his gay Punisher status and the fact that Kevin had heard those rumors but had no proof of anything. Holden knew if Kevin found that proof, he’d nail him to the wall with it. No matter that Roan was a mutual friend and that they were both gay men—although Kevin was still closeted. They were essentially cop and hustler, and they’d always be adversaries. They were just more polite than most.
“Speaking of which, heard from him lately?” Kevin was trying to act like it was a casual, spur-of-the-moment thing, but for a police officer, he was a terrible liar.
Luckily, Holden knew he was a great liar. He shrugged a single shoulder. “Got an email from him a couple days ago. Hard at work on his book.”
“That’s good,” Kevin replied. He didn’t sound all that mollified, and Holden didn’t blame him. But what was going on with Roan right now was not his news to tell. If Dylan wanted to share it, he would. Besides, he could see it causing Kevin nothing but pain. Sometimes the fear was better than the knowledge.
“Don’t they identify bodies by fingerprints nowadays?” Holden asked.
“Usually. But his fingerprints are all scarred up. Looks like he tried to obliterate them several times before. Can’t get a clean read.”
Kevin had pulled the drawer all the way out, and inside was a partially zipped body bag. The head and upper chest were exposed, and Holden looked down at a ghastly pale man with bloodless lips, messy, greasy black hair, and a clean gash in his torso right where the heart was. His eyes were closed, but he had the same angular cheekbones and pointed nose of the hood rat Holden knew in passing.
“Yeah, that’s Burn. Holy shit, someone killed him?”
Kevin nodded, zipping up the bag. There was a smell, but considering how Burn usually smelled, it wasn’t that bad. It was probably the cleanest Burn had been in some time. “His body was found just outside the Jungle last night. We don’t know if he was killed there or just dumped there. The residents aren’t exactly being cooperative.”
“What, homeless people being scared and suspicious of cops? Who’d have thunk it?”
Kevin closed the drawer and turned to him with a nasty look, which was semi warranted, but then his expression changed. It lightened as if he’d just realized something. “Do you know if he was living there?”
“In the Jungle?” Holden shrugged. “I have no idea. He could have a condo in Queen Anne. Everything I know about Burn could fill a bottle cap.”
“Do you know people in the Jungle?”
Holden realized what Kevin had just twigged to. “Is this where you ask me to ask around in the Jungle about Burn’s death?”
About the Author
Andrea Speed is a thought collective from beyond time and space, disguised as an ’88 Toyota hatchback hidden in an illegal dump somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. If you find her, she has to grant you three wishes, but they’ll all have terrible twists, like the sandwich you wished for will be made of Silly Putty, or the pot of gold you request will be full of gold paint. Really, it’s not worth bothering. Also there’s a family of possums living in the hatchback, and the mother can be kind of mean.
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