Sunday, 24 November 2019

Murder in the Multiverse by R.E. McLean


Murder in the Multiverse by R.E. McLean
Published in the UK by Catawampus Press on the 22nd November 2019.


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The Multiverse Investigations Unit - fighting crime across the Multiverse.
Alex Strand is finding her way as the newest and most ginger member of the University of Berkeley Physics Faculty.
But when the murder of reclusive internet billionaire Claire Pope proves insoluble, she’s recruited to the top-secret Multiverse Investigations Unit.
Hidden in the parking lot of San Francisco Police HQ, the unit investigates murders by sending officers to parallel universes in which the victim is still alive – for now.
Alex needs to prove herself. With the help of the mysterious Sarita Jones, the bizarrely-bearded Sergeant Mike Long and Schrödinger the quantum cat, can she track down the murderer, prevent the same crime from happening in a parallel version of San Francisco, and get back before closing time?


Excerpt

This is the third chapter in the novel. So far, we have witnessed the mysterious murder of reclusive internet billionaire Claire Pope and met our protagonist Alex Strand, a Scottish quantum physicist working at the University of Berkeley, San Francisco. Alex is working on the Cheshire Cat experiment and has discovered something that could change the way humanity views the universe. Now she’s arriving home to see her somewhat unusual cat.

Alex opened the door to her apartment block. She took the steps two at a time, desperate to talk to someone. Schrödinger wouldn’t understand a word she was about to tell him, but at least he made a good listener. That is, if he’d chosen to be alive today.

The first time Schrödinger had died was the second worst night of Alex's life.

She'd had a tough day at work, just two months into her new job and learning how to find her way through the maze of Berkeley’s faculty politics. She hadn’t made any friends yet, and was sure when people looked at her they imagined not a small, geeky physicist but the girl from Brave. She’d heard mutters of ach, wee lassie follow her around the building.

She arrived home looking forward to a long, hot bath and a beer or three. The streets were dark and chilly; it was early November and Hallowe’en still hovered in the air.

"Shrew?" she'd called as she fell through the front door. "Puss, puss?"

Schrödinger—or Shrew as she had taken to calling him after realizing that his name made her look like a bit of a dork—was an old-fashioned kind of cat who would respond to all the silly, clichéd noises and mewings she could direct at him. Even in French, which she found impressive.

But that night, there was no response.

She hurried through the apartment, calling his name in increasingly strident tones.  But he was nowhere. She tested all the window latches, checked behind the couch and under her duvet.

No cat.

Finally she arrived back in the kitchen. On the table, left there from the previous night, was a cardboard box. Maybe he'd climbed inside.

The top was closed, but not sealed. If he'd climbed in and gone to sleep, there was a chance it had fallen shut over him.

Slowly, her heart thumping in her ears, she lifted the lid.

And there he was, curled up in the bottom of the box. Lifeless, motionless. Dead.

She reached a trembling hand inside to touch his fur. He was cold. She let out a high-pitched gasp and plugged her mouth with her fist. She reached out again and laid her hand gently on the top of his head. It was still.

Nausea rose up from her stomach. Overcome by tears, she rushed to the bathroom and dry-retched into the toilet.

She sat on the bathroom floor for a few minutes, recovering her breath and checking that her stomach had calmed down, then ventured back into the kitchen.

The box was still there. It was still open. And, head poking up from it, looking confused, was Schrödinger.

"Meow", he said.

She rushed to him, pulling him out of the box and spinning him around at arm's length above her head.

"Shrew, ya wee bampot,” she crowed. "You had me going there."

He said nothing (he may be a quantum cat, but he was still a cat) but threw out a paw to hit her in the eye. She laughed and put him on the floor. He rubbed against her legs and trotted over to his bowl, munching noisily.

Alex was tempted to tell her fellow Physics postdocs—but couldn't quite bring herself to. A cat that lived in a state of quantum flux, that was both alive and dead until she actually, well, looked at him—would be a marvel, fit either for the circus or the lab.

So his strange habit of dying had become their little secret.

Tonight she was worried about him. He didn’t like it when she worked late. She crossed her fingers as she climbed the stairs, muttering an atheist’s prayer under her breath.

She heard movement behind the door to her apartment. She blew out a long, relieved breath and fell through it, ready to pick her cat up and give him a tight hug.

“Shrew?”

“Meow?” he poked his head out of his box on the kitchen table. Had he been dead until she’d called him?

“Good boy.” She kissed the top of his head. “Eww. Have a wash, boy.”

He smelled odd. Sharp, like he’d spent the afternoon gluing his whiskers together.

“Shrew?”

She shook her head. There’d been no glue in the lab, and there was none here.

She gathered him up and switched on the TV. The news was a murder. Nothing new; this was San Francisco. Sometimes she missed her sleepy hometown.

Alex grabbed a beer and slumped onto the sofa. Schrödinger jumped out of her arms and onto the coffee table, staring at the screen. Someone called Claire Pope had been stabbed. A billionaire who’d made her fortune manufacturing pet food.

“That’s your favorite, Shrew.”

He continued staring at the screen. The newsreel was showing footage of the victim’s apartment—something luxurious in Pacific Heights. Then it flipped to images of Claire Pope on her wedding day.

Schrödinger hissed. Alex put a palm on his back.

“Hey, boy. Shush, it’s ok.”

His back arched against her hand. His fur was damp, the way it got when he’d been fighting.

“You don’t like that guy’s specs, boy? Nor me.”

She flicked to the next channel and Schrödinger calmed. He sidled into her lap and she leaned back to stare at the ceiling, musing over what she’d seen on Dr Katz’s monitor last night.


Meet the author

Greetings, budding Multiverse Investigator!

My name's RE McLean and I'm the author of the Multiverse Investigations Unit books and stories.

When I'm not fighting off quantum cats, jumping between parallel universes and wondering how my character got turned into a ten-foot rabbit, I spend my time geeking out with my two sons, laughing at my (very stupid but totally unquantum) cats and planning the next story.

Do YOU have what it takes to become a Multiverse Investigator?

Join Alex Strand and her team of oddballs as they hop between universes, solve crimes, and always get back before closing time. And find out how Alex's cat Schrödinger became a quantum cat in his EXCLUSIVE origins story. All at multiverse-investigations.com.

Author links: 
Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Website



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