The damp, smoky smell of the GRIT wreckage reminded Sergeant Jaysara Priyantha of the whiskey her father brought out on special occasions. Like him, she’d never made alcohol a regular habit, but on this chill morning, as her gloved hands pried a warped metal filing drawer open to find nothing but a dusting of ashes, a stiff drink was sounding good.
It was fortunate, at least, that the RCMP had gotten in right after the blast last night. Explosions, by their nature, had a way of scattering evidence, but the constables had managed to find potential bomb fragments and even some fresh blood right before the skies had opened and the night’s hammering rain had washed away hope of further breakthroughs. The blood likely belonged to Dr. Nathaniel Sturgis, Director of Research, the only person reportedly in the building at the time of the explosion. It was unclear if he’d been an intentional target; neither he nor his remains had been found.
Jaysara stood and stretched, cracking her back. Even at her full height she felt dwarfed by the shattered building. She’d never been the most imposing person on the force, but in this grim context she felt particularly small and more than a little helpless. Especially in the face of confusing evidence.
The fragments of steel pipe they’d recovered suggested the sort of device a low-resourced agitator might have put together after a trip to a home improvement supply store. But even if the RCMP hadn’t already received a cryptic inquiry from a U.S. government official about the incident, Jaysara would have had second thoughts based on the physical evidence.
When extremists got angry enough to blow things up, they usually aimed to take out people. This bomb hadn’t been mailed or placed in a public access area to go off during the day; it had gone off deep in a restricted-access area near a lab in the dead of night. Plus, the blast had been huge and hot; nearly half of the building had been damaged. Homemade pipe bombs just didn’t work that well. And there had been no warning, no manifesto.
That the whole thing might have been an accident hadn’t been ruled out by the engineers they’d called in. When it came to the type of science this facility conducted, Jaysara was in way over her head. She’d never heard of anything biological spontaneously exploding in a way that would cause this sort of damage, but she wasn’t sure what chemicals they might use to preserve specimens or clean equipment. Given how deserted the building had been at that hour, an unattended chemical leak wasn’t out of the question, and the steel pipe fragments could have been coincidental.
To Jaysara, though, the evidence hinted at premeditated expertise. Certain file drawers near the center of the blast appeared to have been emptied before the bomb went off, and the explosion was perfectly placed to wipe out electronic data. Add that to the fact that they’d had no luck recovering security footage, and she simply couldn’t rest easy with the idea of an accident, or with moving too quickly to blame it all on some violent but amateurish anti-biotech extremist.
Constable Renaud’s movement in Jaysara’s periphery caught her attention, and she swiveled toward the lanky man and frowned. “Where are your gloves, Renaud?”
He shrugged and gestured to the damp remains of the evidence. “I think we’re past being delicate at this point, Jay.” She’d asked everyone on the force to call her Jay because she was tired of hearing her name mispronounced.
“Procedure,” she reminded Renaud, and to his credit, he did his best to stifle his eye roll as he hunted for his gloves.
A muted ding from Jaysara’s phone alerted her to a new message, so she stepped away and removed one of her own gloves to check it. The results from the blood sample were back already. Since Sturgis’s DNA wasn’t likely to be on file with law enforcement agencies, she hadn’t been expecting results at all, so this was good news.
“Who the hell is Katja Obinger?” she said aloud to the screen.
The jingling of keys cut through the droning of TV news in the next room and drew Cosima’s attention from the student papers she was making notes on at the kitchen island. Delphine was on her way out the door, running late to her BioThreat meeting, where she’d be playing ethics consultant to a bunch of government suits.
“Bye, I guess,” Cosima said, setting down her old-school red pen.
“Ah!” Delphine snapped out of whatever reverie she’d gotten lost in and turned back toward the kitchen. “I’m sorry. I thought we had already said goodbye.”
“Nope,” said Cosima. She didn’t rise from her chair, stubbornly making Delphine...