Third Law – Chapter 18


I woke up feeling under the weather. It wasn’t from being ill or sick from eating rotten apples. I couldn’t convince my body to wake up. I didn’t bother to dress and went straight downstairs. It was week-end, even if it didn’t feel like it.

I think it was phone call that woke me up, despite not answering it. I had left the phone downstairs last night and was thoroughly disgruntled for missing it.

After moment alone sniffing coffee powder in the can, I felt slightly better, but it was clear it wasn’t going to be my day. Still, I put the filter in the brewing basket and landed 3 mighty teaspoonfuls of coffee grinds in it. I added the water and started the machine. Only to hear it let out long whistle and then nothing. There was no coffee running in the carafe.

I scratched my back and stared at it for a long minute, waiting. Nothing.

I snipped my lips. I wasn’t going to begin my day without my obligatory shot of caffeine, but I didn’t want it in tea, I wanted it in my cup in pitch black and sweet as candy. I would have loved an ice cream floating in it, but I was out of that.

I switched the machine off, grabbed the carafe, turned the filter inside down in it and switched the boiler on. I was going to get my coffee, the machine liked it or not.

Just as I was about to pour the boiling water in the carafe, I heard someone knocking on the window near the door. I sighed in despair and decided I wanted coffee more, but the repetitiveness of the knocking said it was urgent, so I let the water sit and decided I’ll continue my odyssey later.

I opened the door and saw a middle aged man with short raincoat buttoned up to his saggy chin. His fists were hidden in his office pants together with bulky gun he was probably hiding on his belt next to his left pocket. So, left handed officer, I thought.


Hi, my name is investigator Charles Bertwick, may I come in?”

Why did every man want to come in so badly? I eyed his certificate with suspicion, but decided then that the last thing I needed right now was an angry police on my back.

I was wondering if I could ask you few questions, miss?” he drawled, walking straight in the living room and I followed him.

Miss Helder. May I see your badge, please?” If he really was official, then he was obligated to show it to me, right?

The edge of his jacket crawled upwards and he revealed both the gun and his badge. It looked genuine, though it looked nothing like I’d seen before. Had to be Social Movement then, I hadn’t seen theirs yet.

About what?”

Do you know anyone around here named Devil Nettle?”

Was that even legit excuse to come bothering me this morning? I shook my head and lied. That is, I really didn’t know, but wasn’t gonna tell him either. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”

I knew what he was talking about, but I didn’t know that it was human. It was listed in Ida’s papers and I thought it linked the experiments somehow, because it kept coming up. Common yarrow – I thought it had some importance for doctor’s work, some chemical they got from the plant.

Have you heard anyone refer somebody by that name?”

No.” Though I couldn’t shake off the feeling I already related the name with someone.

How long have you lived here?” he changed the subject, eyeing me suspiciously.

Not very long – I just moved here. Couple of weeks? So…” I counted the weeks, “End of May.”

Oh, then you don’t know.” He sounded disappointed.

Was it that obvious? I continued playing innocent bystander. “Know what?”

How did you move here?”

Got a new job offer,” I lied, “I applied for a house and got an offer. Later I paid the deposit and moved in.”

Are you sure this is the only reason you got this house?” He asked, not amused about of my sarcasm.

I didn’t know how to respond to that. He was getting very odd.

Do you know your neighbors?”

I shrugged. “Not really.”


I had enough. “I’m sorry, what is it about? Do I need to know something?”

He got awfully defensive all of a sudden.

We both know what this is about! You’re not answering your calls anymore!”

So they sent you to check on me?”

He shrugged.

I wasn’t able to answer their calls, I was occupied.”

You know they have other ways of persuading should you not comply?”

I can’t answer every phone call they make! I get caught and the entire operation is off!”

You’re not the one calling the shots here!”

I’m not calling anything! I just tell you as things are – I can’t answer every call I get!”

Try harder! Or they will find someone else to take the deal to him!” He made the scariest face he could manage and I followed him at the door. “No, no. We are just investigating recent burglaries, nothing very big. Keep your windows shut!” he tossed out and went.

Have a nice day then!” I waved while he hurried away and frowned harsh. The way he asked his questions – he couldn’t hide he was fishing for information, but why? They have it loads more than I did. Why ask me anything? Perhaps because Saul was the Devil Nettle?

No, that couldn’t be right!

I turned and glanced at neighbor’s house and saw immediately Saul standing there, frowning at me hard.

I wasn’t in the mood to play meek sheep, so I replied with even harsher frown and returned inside. I heard from the open window in the kitchen how he jumped over the bushes and moment later my front door flew open.

I clicked the coffee machine back on, realized then that it was broken and switched boiler on instead.

What did he want?” He asked immediately. “What did you tell him?”

Information.” I joked.

What did you tell him?” he demanded again.

I have no idea! Why didn’t you tell me, you’re Devil Nettle?”

What makes you think that?” I expected him to freeze or shout, but instead he pulled back and didn’t correct me.

The way he was asking the questions.” I punched him lightly. I brushed him by and headed out to get the morning papers. “Such a dog!” I knew he’d follow, so I didn’t bother to check. I pulled the mailbox cover back and reached for my papers. “After all this…”

Suddenly the branches next to us moved and the investigator appeared out of the blue next to us. I shrieked and jumped back.

You two fighting over me?” he asked sweetly.

I gave him a warning look, sensing Saul-Erik’s growing anger. He wasn’t in the mood to tolerate him that morning. Neither was I, but I deemed him beating the guy up to be worse outcome so I moved my weight to my left side, feeling him pumping gently in me.

I smiled the intruder back and hinted he’d interrupted private conversation. “You don’t look like his dog with bladder problems?”

Had I turned around, I would have been welcomed by Saul-Erik’s wide eyes, but instead I pressed his attempt to pass me back. I did not need two bulls trying out their horns.

He doesn’t have a dog.” The inspector stated flat and clapped his mouth close, eyes fleeing from me to the mountain behind me.

I thought it was his dog, who pissed on my bushes…” I said with genuine surprise, pointing at the brown ring low around the junipers. I was surprised, yes, but not because Saul-Erik didn’t have a dog. After nine weeks I could guess that much.

The detective glanced at me and back to Saul, who granted him a frown. He apologized quickly and went, nearly running away.

I automatically took the newspaper and headed back in my house, shock still settling in.

He is spying on you?” I asked Saul, when we reached balcony.

He shrugged. “He’s done it since I moved in.”

I stepped on the stairs and turned to look at him when I asked him the next question.

Has he admitted it?”

No,” his gray eyes locked in mine. “Rasmus scanned your place last week.”

Oh, thank you.” We walked silently through the hall and he closed the front door. Wait, what? “Last week?”

You weren’t home.”

Now that was a revelation.

I gathered that much.” I went back in the kitchen.

You’re bleeding.” He grunted, passed me and went ahead, starting opening the cabinets and searching for the med kit.

I recalled scratching it on the mailbox, but didn’t think it was anything serious besides itching. I turned the left hand and looked at it. It was bleeding, but it looked worse than it was.

No stitches needed.” I gave it my expert assessment and sat, unfolding the morning news. “Pour the water on the coffee, will you?”

He halted his search and eyed the makeshift coffee machine.

There’s more if you want one too – the yellow box on the right.”

He at least contemplated the option, I figured, watching his hand reach for the box, then pass it down and grab the metallic one instead, where I held my medicals. I had no children and thus saw no need to hide it. Except Hardy. Now that I thought of it, I did have Hardy come in often enough.

With the kit found he sat on the chair opposite to me and pulled the hand closer, ripping open the alcohol wipes and started methodically cleaning it.

Your mom did say you were clumsy.” He murmured. I shifted on my seat and pulled the hand away. He followed it with stern stare. “And you don’t take poking well.” He huffed, watching my lips turn into thin line as I turned my attention back on the newspaper.

I felt his fingers tugging in my fist and slowly I gave in, letting him pull it back on the table and he finished cleaning the wound. It wasn’t small enough to cover it with bandage and I watched him expertly form a bigger one from the medial tape and dressing.

I pulled the hand back and turned my attention back on the paper. He slowly packed the kit up, but didn’t leave. I could feel his stare on me, making me squeal on my seat, but I remained calm and reserved and made sure my ass was not following any other orders besides my brain.

You’re in bad mood today?” he stated, pushing the metal box out of the way and leaned over the table.

My coffee keeps not happening.” I murmured the second thing that came in my head. The first was to point out that his mood wasn’t much better, rolling his anger down on me like that, but figured he didn’t need to be reminded. He’d do it all over again.

He eyed the mess on the counter. “What happened to your machine?”

Stopped working.”

The water has boiled?”

Yup.” I moved my eyes on to the next article.

He huffed. “Alright then.” The chair cracked, when he got up and went for the counter to fill our coffee craving. He sniffed the thing I had in the yellow box, commented on how I was in need for something better than cheep tar I was buying, though I reminded him I didn’t drink it black, and tossed two more spoonfuls in it before pouring it all over with the hot water.

I pretended reading, though my eyes were on him all the time his back was towards me. I loved watching his muscles move under the mossy t-shirt.

He turned and I switched my eyes back on the paper, searching the last line I had read about passing some economical bill. It was dead boring, but better than being caught staring.

You said you don’t like it black.” He reminded me.


You put sugar in it, what else?”

With ice cream.” I said matter-of-factly.

Oh yes,” he said, like remembering something and it drew my eyes up.


Instead he was already searching my freezer for ice cream, freed the caramel one from its paper and pushed it slowly head down in my cup.

The newspaper fell on the table as I watched the miracle walk towards me. He placed it in front of me and then went back for his. After he sat down and leaned back for comfortable pose, I divided the newspaper in two and gave him the local news while I turned back on the boring economics. Neither of us really wanted any questions asked and I sure didn’t want to answer any. I relished the offered peace and quiet.



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