An Infernal Interrogation

on November 1, 2009 in Other Tales

Author’s Note: This is the third incentive story, concerning a demonblood professor at MU. I’ll be tagging this one later so that the tags don’t spoil, in case anybody’s guessing.


“I’ve never had contact with the deceased,” the professor said to the gray-robed wizard who sat on the other side of the table. They were in a small meeting room that had been turned over to the investigators. “She hasn’t been in any of my classes. This doesn’t mean that I have no sympathy for her and her unfortunate fate, and certainly I’m eager to help in any way that I can, but I’m afraid I don’t know why you’d be interviewing me as part of the investigation.” She took off her glasses, folding the arms over each other, and gave the man a piercing look. “Or rather, I’m very much afraid I do know. You don’t look like an IBF agent, Mr. Malcolm.”

“I’m with a special detachment,” Malcolm said.

“Infernal Affairs?”

“That never gets old. You aren’t under suspicion, Ms. Bohd,” the investigating wizard said. “Though I’ll say again that if you would like to have a lawyer present…”

“If I’m not under suspicion, then I don’t see why I would need a lawyer, Mr. Malcolm,” Elizabeth Bohd said. “I’ve already sent one away today, which I’m sure I’m going to be hearing about. And it is Dr. Bohd, if you please… or ‘Professor’, if you’re feeling studious.”

“Very well, Doctor,” Malcolm said. “Well, to start again: you aren’t under suspicion. We’re just eliminating certain possibilities in order to proceed with our investigation.”

“Well, allow me to help you eliminate, then: when I started working at Magisterius University, it still took clerical certification and permission from the proconsul for a demonblood to be hired in most fields,” Professor Bohd said. “And while those days are long past, I have no doubt that you have already pulled my file and thus you will see that not only are my dietary needs decidedly non-fatal, they would not have been served at all by my attacking the unfortunate victim in question.”

“Really?” the investigator asked. “I understood that the victim was slain in human form. Blonde human form. That is your trigger, isn’t it? Blonde hair?”

Bohd gave the imperial agent a thin, fixed smile.

“‘Blonde hair’ isn’t how I would describe a mane of silvery-white feathers,” she said. “But perhaps it struck someone as close enough for imperial work when they were filling out one of your forms. I’m not in a position to say whether I would have found them appetizing or satiating.”

“When was the last time that you fed?”

“Twenty-seven days,” she said. “I won’t need to do so again for another thirty-nine.”

“And how do you procure material to feed upon?”

“Well, I find it, mostly,” she said. “That’s the thing about hair. People leave it everywhere. In all the time I’ve been teaching here, I’ve never had two months go by where I couldn’t find a strand of blonde hair left behind by one of my undergrads.”

“And yet there was an incident where you tried biting a man’s head,” Malcolm said.

“Yes, in spring of 213,” Bohd said. “That was… well, you’ll notice I specified ‘undergrads’. There are quite a few more students of sylvan extraction among my graduate students. Their hair is frequently of the correct coloration, but utterly unsuitable for my needs. I must have consumed it for three or four feeding cycles in a row without realizing that it wasn’t sating me.”

“You couldn’t tell?”

“It was… well, it tasted good. Like ‘junk food’, I suppose,” she said. “It was only in retrospect that I realized how hungry I had grown over the course of the academic year, and why. Since then, I’ve avoided ‘grazing’ except when I can be reasonably certain that the donor is human. If I have any doubt, I take another sample from another source.”

“You don’t do that routinely?”

“I don’t care to overfeed that appetite,” Bohd said.

“What would the consequences of that be, do you imagine?”

“I don’t care to imagine,” Bohd said. “This is among the reasons that I do not do it. I take into consideration that it is possible I could be ‘shorting’ myself unwittingly, but I consider the risk from an occasional missed meal to be minimal, considering that it took half a year for me to feel the effects the last time.”

“But even if human hair is what you need, non-human hair is appealing to you?”

“Elven hair has proven to be so. I daresay I haven’t tried any dwarven or gnomish follicles,” Bohd said. “And I’ve never tasted a feather that I can think of. Mr. Malcolm, I don’t go around sampling these things at random. I eat what I need to answer the needs of my marginal infernal ancestry. You know, I’m only one-sixteenth demon. I have more djinn blood in me than demon blood. I have tried so hard to not let either facet define me wholly, and I find it disheartening that at this stage in my life I’m still having the ‘demonblood’ identification thrust upon me.”

“Well, I’m sorry this murder investigation is hurting your feelings, Dr. Bohd,” Malcolm said. “But I have a job to do. That’s not just catching a possible murderer, it’s also protecting you and your students, and clearing everyone who’s innocent of suspicion in the process. So let’s get down to it. Can you tell me where you were between the hours of one and three in the morning?”

“I was in my lodgings in the faculty quarters,” she said.

“Was there anyone there with you?”

“You mean, any witnesses? Do I have an alibi?” Bohd said. “I was revising some notes on a project right before bed. If you check the time stamps on the central sphere, I’m sure you’ll find at least one update was filed sometime after one.”

“And after that?”

“I went to bed.”

“What time was that?”

“I never consult a timepiece before going to bed,” Bohd said. “I do not have one in my bedroom. As an insomniac, knowing the exact time that has elapsed since I decided to bed down for the evening does me no favors.”

“Do you ever use anything to help you sleep?” Malcolm asked. “Nightcap? Elixir? Sleeping spell?”

“I don’t drink,” Bohd said. “And I don’t use arcane measures every night. Last night certainly didn’t warrant them. I fell asleep relatively quickly.”

“But you still didn’t look at the time?”

“I don’t habitually evaluate my likelihood of falling asleep and then make a decision whether or not to have a timepiece visible from my bed that night,” Bohd said. “Last night was a good night for me, in terms of sleep. That means I laid down in bed and I was asleep in less time than it took for me to become distressed that I wasn’t falling asleep.”

“So what’s a bad night like?

“That’s when I lie there in bed until I decide to get up.”

“And what do you do when that happens?”

“I don’t go wandering down the road to the main campus in a bloodthirsty fugue state,” Bohd said. “If that’s what you’re driving at.”

“I am not driving at anything,” Malcolm said. “I’m simply trying to get all the information here.”

“I think you would find that I lead a shockingly boring life,” Bohd said. “When I can’t sleep, I make some herbal tea.”

“What sort of herbs?”

“Chamomile,” she said. “Mint. Lavender. Sleep spore, if I’m very, very, tired. That’s if I’m still trying to get to sleep. If I’ve given up for the night, I make something peppier and pick up a book, or get some more work done. I don’t go wandering outdoors in the middle of the night. There would be no reason to.”

“Do you ever work late at your office on campus?”

“Until one in the morning?” Bohd asked.

“Just answer the question, please.”

“Sometimes,” Bohd said. “At some times of year, I’ll even stay towards midnight or later. But yesterday I was only on campus at all for approximately four hours, from just after noon to a bit after four. I do not know if the filing system will have recorded where I was working from, but if it does, then it’s sure to reflect the fact that I was not in my office or anywhere else on campus when I filed my last update. I’m sure you can check on that. You probably already have.”

“That would be somebody else’s department,” Malcolm said. “I’ll make sure it gets mentioned, and that our divination services people look for anything that would confirm your whereabouts. Do you have contact with any other demonbloods?”

“Not in the capacity of being demonbloods.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’m a professor,” she said. “I have students. I’m not a member of a society for the advancement of infernals or anything of that nature.”

“But you do know Miss Mackenzie Jo Blaise.”

“I didn’t know her middle name was ‘Jo’,” Bohd said. “Are you using three names already? Does that mean she’s a suspect?”

“I’m just being specific, ma’am,” Malcolm said.

“Ms. Mackenzie, as she calls herself, is in one of my classes,” Bohd said.

“How would you characterize her?”

“I don’t know that I’d care to.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I’m leery of supplying any adjectives to you that might be run through a thesaurus until something unsavory is found,” Bohd said.

“So you’re protective of her?”

“Are you going to ask me about all my students?”

“We’ll start with her,” Malcolm said.

“Are you asking all her professors about her?” Bohd asked. “She’s a student. She has demonblood. I have demonblood. I hate to see her wasting her potential… I hate to see anybody wasting potential, but she has more potential and more ways to waste it than many of her peers. I give her what guidance and encouragement I can. I haven’t given her a detailed genealogy or asked her for hers.”

“Do you ever talk to her outside of class?”

“No,” Bohd said. “Well, once in my office, but it was a classroom matter.”

“What was the subject of the discussion?”

“Her potential.”

Malcolm sat impassively, staring quietly into Professor Bohd’s eyes for several seconds. She returned his gaze unblinking.

“I think that’s all that I need from you for now,” he said finally. “We’ll be verifying your whereabouts. If everything is as you’ve said, then chances are you won’t be seeing me again. If not… well, if we have to chat again, I think your employers might insist on the lawyer. If they don’t, you should find one for yourself.”

“I don’t like lawyers, as a rule,” Bohd said. “But, Mr. Malcolm?”

“Yes?”

“I dislike civil rights attorneys less than other types,” she said. “Please keep that in mind if you decide that making my heritage an issue is a sufficient substitute for progress towards a solution.”

“Dr. Bohd, we’re not out to get you,” he said. “We’re trying to inconvenience you as little as possible. It isn’t to anybody’s benefit to pin what happened on a member of the faculty or administration of a highly-regarded university unless he or she has actually done so.”

“Yes, well, our government has been known to do such things pro bono,” Bohd said. “And I’ve had more than enough of its charity for a lifetime.”


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4 Responses to “An Infernal Interrogation”

  1. Zukira Phaera says:

    …is it too soon for this to get tagged for the cloud?

    Current score: 2
    • Lythar says:

      Apparently so, even after 5 years…

      Current score: 3
  2. Miniver Cheevy says:

    I can honestly say that the bit about governments doing ‘pro bono’ work and the result being charity is truly brilliant writing, and is apt to be appropriately misquoted in the future.

    Current score: 2
  3. BlackWizard says:

    Reading this as a Black man certainly got my blood up…Although the current ‘red headed step child’ in the U.S. is the Muslim or Arab, they don’t forget to keep giving their ‘pro bono’ work to a brother or two….*sighing* The times we live in. Still better than my mother’s time which is still better than my grandmothers but we still have a ways to go to not being blamed or suspected for all the ills of our country…

    Current score: 8