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We Dream in Colours Borrowed from the Sea

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Phillip Ivy looked out of the window, gathering his thoughts for a moment, then back at the girl in front of him. Alisha Marques, he thought—not a name that said anything in particular. No affiliations or allegiances he was aware of. That was a good start, at least.

She sat on the other side of his desk, looking steadily back at him. Her hands were folded neatly in her lap and her gaze was steady, but her fish betrayed her emotions, swimming small and anxious loops in and out of her hair.

Of all the offices in the world, Ivy thought, sighing to himself. How did they always manage to find him, these sad girls with their broken hearts? It was always the same old story. The boy was trouble.

“How long has he been missing?” he said, noting down her information.

“Three days,” she said. “He was supposed to meet me Friday night.”

“And you’re sure he hasn’t simply took off? A weekend with the lads?”

“He’d never leave without telling me,” she said, quiet. “We’re getting married.”

Of course you are, Ivy thought, but settled for nodding. When would these girls learn, he wondered.

“You’ve talked to the police already?”

“I reported him missing after the first day,” she said, her hands squeezing together. “They told me there was little they could do. That’s why I came to you. You can devote more time. Go other places. Look for him in other ways.”

“I can’t make any promises, Ms Marques,” he said, vaguely pleased that she was doing the sales pitch for him. He’d never been very good at it, himself. “I have a few other cases at present, and I won’t be able to work full-time on this. But I do promise that I’ll do my best to find him. It would help me to get started if you could jot down some information about where he usually hangs out—work, friends, clubs.”

She nodded, taking the pen he gave her quietly. Everything about her felt frail—the soft hands, the quiet acceptance, the pretty but uninspired clothes. Still, there was something steely there, too. One of her fish was a wrasse, a brightly coloured, strong-jawed thing.

Of course, you never knew how much a thing like that would play in.

She stood up quickly once she’d finished writing, staring down at him.

“Please, Mr Ivy,” she said. “Find him. I don’t think I can live without him.”

She turned on her heel and left, and he stared after her.

Girls, he thought. How did they always find him?


It was raining as Ivy left his office—not enough to warrant an umbrella, but enough to dampen his clothes and his mood.

On days like these, he missed Sam more than ever.

He passed the South City Gate on his way, curtsying at the guards as he walked past. Maksoud was on duty today, standing glowering in front of the gates as his colleague scrubbed the rough shape of a wave from the heavy metal doors—graffiti, again. It was becoming a nuisance.

Ms Marques had given him some initial places to check, and he headed first for her fiancé’s place of work. It was one of the bigger accounting firms, right in the middle of the financial district. Everyone Ivy passed was well-dressed and handsome—clean cut and made up, with expensive clothes and sleek tanks made of shiny metal and polished glass. Ivy found himself fingering his own leaking brass joints self-consciously as he waited to be shown in, and made himself stop.

“Mr Harper has been an excellent employee, as far as I can tell,” the firm’s office manager said, waving Ivy into a conference room. “Refreshments?” she added almost mechanically.

It was probably meant only politely, but Ivy had never seen the point in turning down a meal.

“Thank you,” he said, taking the indicated container from the table and shaking a few flakes into his water. He could sense his fish start moving immediately, feeling energy return to him. He’d missed lunch today again. “So. Tell me about Mr Harper.”

She shrugged. “Quiet. He’s never been on the fast track for promotion, but he’s conscientious and thorough. And apart from when we had a strain of dropsy going around last year, he hasn’t missed more than a few days of work.” She frowned slightly. “He hasn’t even called in sick today. Did you say he’s missing?”

“Too early to say for sure,” Ivy said smoothly. “He might just have gone on an unauthorised little vacation. You know how lads can be at that age.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t have to tell me twice—got two of my own. Sometimes I wish they’d go missing. Just for a bit.” She laughed shortly, but with the frown soon returning again. “I wouldn’t have thought it of Mr Harper, though. He’s… well, he isn’t the type.”

Ivy waited for a while, to see if anything more was forthcoming, but she appeared lost in thoughts of her own.

“Would it be possible for me to see his desk?” he said, at last.

He poked around for a bit, feeling disheartened with the whole affair. The office manager was right—Harper did not appear to be the type to go on a wild weekend. Everything at his desk, did in fact, speak of what seemed to be an extremely boring young man.

The only thing of note Ivy could find was a small painting standing on Harper’s desk, depicting an open expanse of water, stretching out under a blue sky. That was unusual, actually; having something so overtly religious in the workplace.

“Let us know if you need anything else,” the office manager told him on his way out. “And I do hope nothing’s happened to young Mr Harper.”

“I shouldn’t think so,” Ivy said, dismissive. On a whim, however, he showed her the painting he had pocketed. “Couldn’t help but notice this. You said he isn’t the type to go off. Religious, is he?”

Her expression did something weird, her two angelfish swimming up quickly and crossing in front of her face—not exactly worried, but on guard. There was something there, Ivy thought. The lad was obviously not just your standard pious young man.

Then she laughed, shrugging lightly. “Bit of an ocean romantic, perhaps. I’ve never found it my place to ask. Thank you, Mr Ivy. Let me show you the way out.”


It was a quiet evening at The Anchor Chain, which was nice. It was never very rowdy, of course, but lately some of the city boys had been coming by more and more, “slumming it” as they liked to say with loud voices and obnoxious laughter.

“Anything fun happen to you lately?” Grover asked, sliding Ivy’s usual over to him.

“Nothing very exciting,” he said, raising the glass in thanks. “New case; old story. A girl. Left by a boy.”

“Huh.” Grover raised her eyebrows. “One of those. Yeah, I’m glad I got all that done early, personally.”

“Did you really? I can’t imagine you young and foolish.”

She gave him an unimpressed look. “Were you thinking that I sprung forth fully formed at thirty-seven, nose already broken and tattoos in place?”

Ivy shrugged. “More or less. I mean, apart from that one.” He pointed to a broken trident inked across her right forearm. “I was here when that particular bad decision was made.”

“Did you want anything tonight, Ivy?” she asked, giving him a fond middle finger and a grin. “Because I’ll be happy to leave you nursing that drink alone and go talk to customers who don’t insult my personal choices.”

He laughed. “Sorry, Grover. Got a question for you. Do you know anything in particular about any of these places?”

He slid Ms Marques’s list over to her, and she gave it a cursory glance.

“Nothing alarming,” she said, and then her finger stabbed down. “Except possibly this. The Polo Club. Rumours are that’s a shark’s den.”

Ivy felt something run down his back. There was something there; a foreboding ripple he’d learned to recognise. A sense of imminent danger.

“Ivy? Still with us?”

Ivy looked up at her, smiling. “Sorry. Just had a thought. I get the sense that this case might not be as simple as I thought.”

“Yeah? Feel it in your water, did you?”

“You are hilarious, Grover.”


He spent the rest of the night making a preliminary round of the places Ms Marques had noted down, getting a feel for what kind of company her fiancé kept. Most of the bars were the kind of high-end places a yuppie like Mr Harper would frequent, with nothing particularly out of the ordinary.

Ivy did, however, lurk in a corner of the Polo Club long enough to see one of the bartenders quietly slip a dark vial into the hand of a customer, who retreated into the men’s room to partake in private. The man returned minutes later with the tell-tale dilated pupils and flared nostrils of a blood high, and Ivy felt that sense of unease again. Sharks were not too uncommon among inner city boys and girls these days, true, but where there was blood trade, there was always trouble.

It was still raining as he made his way home some time after midnight, that steady, quiet little drizzle that Sam had always loved—saying he relished the way it freshened his water and made his fish swim in little circles.

Ivy stood for a long time outside his apartment block, feeling the water droplets hit his surface and wishing he could find it as soothing. Upstairs, the apartment waited, pragmatic and familiar and achingly empty.

Finally, he turned around and walked back towards his office. The armchair there usually served him well on nights like these.


He’d been planning to devote the following day to hunting down some of Mr Harper’s friends, but the very next morning he received a break in one of his other cases. Mrs Wu had engaged him to find out who had been introducing anchor worms into her customers’ water—a case he had been expecting to simmer for a while yet, which made it a complete surprise when he woke up to find an anonymous note slipped under his office door. It pointed the finger at a rival hairdresser, and Ivy spent the best part of the next two days following the woman around until he spotted her buying infected plants in the crossing of Fifth and Wilson.

All in all, what with the subsequent arrest, the tiresome interviews with the obnoxious new sergeant at the local precinct and the wrangling over final price with Mrs Wu, it was Friday before Ivy had time to fully devote himself to Ms Marques’s case again. She’d called once to update him that no, Harper still hadn’t returned. The police were involved in earnest by now, as well. Apparently Ms Marques had some pull after all.

“They’ve been looking through the hospitals,” she’d told him over the phone. “They think he’s hurt, Mr Ivy. Please, you have to find him.”

He’d reassured her as best he could. It was good news, however. If the police were searching the hospitals, that meant they’d come up short in the morgues.

Friday had turned out just as damp as the rest of the week, so it was actually a relief for Ivy to be able to barricade himself in his office with his telephone. He was calling around to all of Harper’s friends, trying to find someone with any pertinent information. So far, he’d been massively unsuccessful.

“Yes, thank you, Ms Bergsten,” he said, rolling his eyes as another in Harper’s long line of insufferable friends talked at length about how much of an ordeal this missing case had been for her. “Now, I’m sorry to ask you these things, but these are questions I need to pose. Do you know if Mr Harper ever—well, dabbles in the unusual, libations-wise?”

There was a short silence on the other end of the line, and then a scandalised screech.

“Are you suggesting, Mr Ivy, that my friend Colin is a shark?”

“I merely have to ask,” Ivy said, deciding not to point out that for someone wanting to appear shocked, she’d jumped awfully quickly to that particular conclusion of a pretty open-ended question. “He’s been frequenting the Polo Club.”

“As do I.” Ms Bergsten’s voice had grown extremely cold. “As well as all of our friends.”

“Ah. Then perhaps you’re not aware—”

“Good day, Mr Ivy.”

She rang off, quite violently.

Ivy sighed deeply, then reached out to the telephone to dial the next number. This one turned out to be just as annoying, albeit in a different way.

“Missing a week now,” Ms Johnson said, her voice thick. “Oh, Mr—Ivy? Yes, Mr Ivy, you don’t know how much a thing like this tests the faith. Colin is such a kind and—”

“Yes, of course, of course,” Ivy managed to cut her off. “And how did you first meet Mr Harper? Through your faith?”

That actually put a stop to her for a while. “No,” she said, sounding almost confused. “Colin isn’t—oh, he’s religious, I guess. But he’s not part of any congregation, as far as I know. Nothing organised. At least not—well, nothing official.”

There was something there. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. But Ms Johnson knew something, or she had something she wanted to tell him. Whether out of real concern or spite was impossible to tell, but at this stage, any lead was a lead. He made his voice as sympathetic as he could.

“I understand what a trial this has been for you. And you should know I’m doing everything I can to find him. If you have any idea—any idea at all—about where to start looking, could you help me out? We all just want Mr Harper safe and sound, back home again.”

There was a silence, and then she spoke hesitantly.

“Well—there is this place, that I think he goes to sometimes. A little out there. I’ve never been, you understand.”

“Of course not,” he soothed. “So what is its name?”

He took the details down from her and thanked her for her time, then ended the call. Grover had told him more than once that he ought to get a secretary, and it was at moments like these he thought she had a point. It would have been nice to have someone he could turn triumphantly to.

Maybe, this was a lead that might actually go somewhere.


The Ocean Floor was one of those places you could walk past a hundred times. The entrance was a small and grey door, halfway below street level, and it certainly didn’t advertise; Ivy had to descend the rickety half stairs and get right up to the door to even see the name scrawled onto a wooden board beside the door handle.

It opened easily enough, however, to a woman glaring cautiously at him.

“Yes?”

“Phillip Ivy,” Ivy said, deciding to leave the detective part out for now. “I’m here on behalf of Colin Harper.”

That made her stand back, her expression melting into something a little more welcoming. Her shoulders, however, had stiffened, and her left hand slipped into her pocket at the same time as her right opened the door wider.

“Come on in, then,” she said. “Any friend of Colin’s, and so forth.”

She motioned inwards, and he curtsied politely. As he passed her, he glanced down to confirm his suspicions—the shape of her hand in her pocket was unmistakably wearing brass knuckles.

The Ocean Floor proper, once Ivy had passed through a narrow hallway, turned out to be a gloomy, cramped little place. There appeared to be no natural light. A grouping of sofas took up the near corner to the entrance, where half a dozen or so young people were lounging, loose-limbed and heavy-lidded. There were eight or nine small tables scattered throughout the room, most of them occupied, although it was impossible to tell by whom. The only light in the room came from candles at those tables who had opted for it, and a paraffin lamp standing on the bar. Ivy could hear no music, only a quiet hiss of conversation; no one seemed to speak in anything louder than a whisper, and the group of people occupying the sofas didn’t seem to talk at all.

The bar was manned by an absolute mountain of a man. Ivy sat down in front of him, while the woman who had greeted him leaned against the further edge of the bar. She was fingering a necklace, half a conch shell on a chain, but with her left hand still held almost demonstratively in her pocket.

“Just a saltwater, please,” Ivy said.

The bartender gave him a sour look, but complied. He had something tattooed on the inside of his wrist that showed briefly as he handed Ivy his drink—a set of pointed teeth, Ivy thought possibly. He sighed inwardly. If he’d been led to another shark’s den, he was going to be very upset.

“I’m looking for someone,” he said, and the bartender looked positively offended at being addressed once more.

“Never heard of them,” he said flatly.

Ivy raised his eyebrows. “You’re not even going to try and make that denial sound plausible, then?”

“Drink your saltwater and shut up, like everyone else,” the bartender rumbled. “I’m not interested in your little lookie-loo.”

“I’m looking for Colin Harper,” Ivy pressed on. “I understand he’s been here.”

“Not here now.”

“I know. He’s missing.”

“From here, certainly.”

Ivy rolled his eyes. He’d met plenty of uncooperative people in his day, but this man was going for the gold.

“Look, he’s not in any trouble,” he tried. “At least not from me. And I’m not looking to shine a light on your business, either. I just want to find out where he is.”

He turned towards the doorguard, who gave him an unimpressed stare.

“Thought there was something creepy about you,” she said. “You’re a detective, aren’t you?”

“Not with the police,” he said lamely, and she sneered.

“Even worse. Look, we don’t want you skulking around here and asking questions.”

The mountain behind the bar nodded threatening agreement. “Not your problem, is it,” he rumbled.

“Fine,” Ivy bit out, growing tired of this game. “Keep your secrets.”

He took out his card, putting it down on the bar counter.

“But keep in mind,” he added, “that I’m trying to help a girl who’s just looking for the boy she’s supposed to marry. He’s out there somewhere. He might be in trouble. If you know anything about it, don’t you think you have a duty to help?”

Someone sighed behind him.

“Mr Ivy,” she said. “I didn’t think you cared.”

Ivy turned around, and found himself looking straight at Ms Marques.


Alisha Marques looked back at him calmly. There was something different about her than the last time he saw her—he couldn’t quite identify what it was, but for some reason it was making him feel incredibly uneasy.

“What are you doing here?” he hissed, taking her arm and leading her a few paces away, painfully aware of the man and woman at the bar listening in.

“I came to see my friends,” she said, staring back at him. “You haven’t found Colin for me. Did you expect me not to see my friends, either?”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this place, if you and your boy both frequent it?” he asked, baffled. “I only found out about it by chance.”

She rolled her eyes, crossing her arms. Her demeanor had changed—that frail girl who had come to him in his office replaced by someone hard and angry. He wondered which of them was an act; if she was putting on a tough front now or if she'd assumed that playing the broken-hearted girl would play more on his sympathies when she first retained him. Or, of course, possibly both were true.

“I’m surprised you did at all,” she said. “None of those vapid friends of his have any idea of what’s really going on in his life.”

“Then why did you point me in their direction?”

“If anyone has done anything to him, it’s one of those city boys,” she snapped. “Those damn snappers and sharks. And I don’t see why you’d need to know anything about this place. No one here would ever hurt Colin. We’re all family here.”

Ivy felt that ripple of warning again. Something here was wrong.

And suddenly, he knew what was different about her. Her wrasse was no longer in her tank, but there was a tiny blue goby swimming lazy loops in and out of her dark hair that Ivy couldn’t remember seeing before. The implications took some time to sink in, but once they did, it was like a punch to the gut.

“You’re sharing fish?” he demanded.

For the first time, she looked uncertain, but the defiance was soon back.

“We are,” she said. “And what’s wrong with it? It’s more natural, anyway.”

The shock must have shown on his face, because her mouth set in an even stronger line.

“That’s how it was done, back in the day,” she insisted. And then, as he was still processing that comment, she continued, “Back when we lived in the ocean.”

He stared at her, speechless. Everything clicked into place. Harper’s religious icon. This seedy little bar, hidden from most people’s view, with its darkened tables and whispered conversations. The bartender’s tattoo—not teeth, waves.

“You’re part of New Wave,” he said.

A strange sort of calm had come over him. Some boilerplate case this had turned out to be—ocean cultists with shark connections. And some detective he was. He ought to have figured it out as soon as Harper’s friend started warbling about unaffiliated faith.

Ms Marques was watching him cautiously.

“Once again,” Ivy said, attempting patience, “why didn’t you tell me this?”

“What does it have to do with anything?” she asked.

Ivy laughed. He’d thought her naïve when he first met her, but that paled compared to this.

“For one thing,” he said, “it opens up a whole new pool of suspects, if someone has done him harm in some way. You’re in a cult, love. Cults make enemies.”

She glared at him, her fish coming out of her hair all at once and gathering at the forefront of her tank.

“And you wonder why I didn’t tell you,” she said. “Let me tell you, Mr Ivy, we’re not the delusional ones. You are.”

Before he could say anything else, she turned on her heel and marched out.

Ivy wiped condensation off the glass of his tank, sighing to himself. Well. All of this was terrible. He had no idea of how to continue on from here, or even if he wanted to. It could be really bad to get mixed up with the New Wave.

He walked back to the bar and knocked the rest of his saltwater back, then left. The doorguard watched him with disdain, her arms crossed.

“Told you it wasn’t your business,” she said.

He glared at her, stomping past her into the hallway and pushing open the front door of The Ocean Floor. It was a profound relief to be back in open air again, away from that dusky room and the languid gaze of the fish sharing youths.

Or at least—it was until he heard the scream.


A crowd had gathered at the entrance of an alley. Most of them were standing eerily still and quiet, although one young man broke off from the back of the group to run back the way Ivy had come, looking pale and scared. Off to cry in seclusion, Ivy guessed, pushing his way through the rest of the crowd impatiently.

“What’s happening here? Has there been an accident? Has anyone called it in?” he demanded, but received only blank stares in reply.

And then he made it through, and saw what everyone was staring at. He suddenly sympathised with the young man who had run past him.

Colin Harper was lying sprawled on the ground, his tank shattered. And beside him, her last remaining water trickling from her tank, was Alisha Marques. There was water everywhere, fish flopping sadly on the concrete. Fittingly, it was impossible to tell which fish belonged to whom, Ivy thought with a sense of detachment; moments later he could feel the bile rising in his throat, disgusted at himself for the callous thought and horrified at the situation.

“Has anyone called an ambulance?” he shouted. “Water; we have to get them water!”

The crowd didn’t move.

“They’re dead, aren’t they,” someone said quietly, and another clasped his hands together.

“Ocean take them,” he said piously.

Curse these people, Ivy thought, turning to run back towards The Ocean Floor.

He met the doorguard woman just as he skidded to a halt above the half stairs. She was lugging a huge tankard, and when she looked up at him, it was with none of the previous hostility.

“We heard,” she said. “Kingsley has called an ambulance. How are they looking?”

“Her tank is intact, I think,” he said, panicked and trying to recall. “His is shattered. Have you called the police, as well?”

She gave him a look. “What do you think?”

He opened his mouth to protest, and she snapped, “Call whoever you want. But not from our place. There’s a pay phone across the street. Kingsley!” This was shouted over her shoulder. “Bring me a bowl, too!”

It seemed like she had things under control, so Ivy just ran onwards to the pay phone, swearing inwardly all the time. He should have seen it coming. But then, what exactly was it that had come? For all the revelations of this day, he didn’t feel that he was any closer to actually understanding what all of this was even about.

He’d just managed to get a call through to the local precinct when he saw two ambulances speed past, screeching around the corner. And as he made it back to the site of—what was it? Accident? Murder?—well, the site of the crime, his water sloshing dangerously in his tank, his fish caught in sickening ripples, he saw Ms Marques being lifted into one of the ambulances. The other ambulance had already closed its doors on Mr Harper.

“Can I come with her?” Ivy blurted out. One of the ambulance men gave him a look.

“And who are you?”

“I’m a detective,” Ivy said, patting his pockets inanely for a card. “I was retained by Ms Marques. She’s my client.”

The man gave him another searching look, then shook his head. “Sorry,” he said. “Only family members. You can join her at the hospital.”

“Let’s go; we have to hurry,” one of his colleagues shouted from the driver’s seat, and the man ran to join him.

They pulled off, leaving Ivy staring after them numbly, only realising as he saw them vanishing around the corner that they’d never said which hospital they were from.


The police arrived within minutes, and the crowd that had been lurking ghoulishly at the scene dissipated as if by magic. Soon enough, Ivy was alone with a confused young police officer, trying to piece together events that he didn’t know too much about himself.

“I just found them,” he said. “But I’d seen her just moments before—we ran into each other and talked for a bit.” He’d decided against involving The Ocean Floor; the doorguard had vanished as soon as the ambulances left and Ivy doubted very much that any of them would be helpful. “We’d only just said goodbye when I heard the scream. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes.”

“And the man?”

“I don’t know,” Ivy said helplessly. “All the fish were still alive by the time I got here. I think some of them were his. So maybe he’d only just fallen, himself.”

“And you don’t know anything about how it happened?” the officer asked, making feverish notes. He was new to the job, Ivy guessed, looking at the shiny emblems on his uniform and the fresh coat of blue paint on his tank. “Do you know if he was on anything?”

“The boy’s been missing for a week,” Ivy said. “As for why or what’s happened, I couldn’t tell you. The girl is his fiancée.”

“Do you know where the ambulances were taking them?”

“No, but I’m guessing the Sisters of the Shore. It’s the closest hospital, I think.”

The officer frowned at his notes. “Don’t you think it’s an awful coincidence,” he said, with the air of one coming to an insight. “She’s been looking for him for a week, and they both end up like this, now? Together?”

Ivy gave him a tired look. “You’re telling me, lad.”


By the time Ivy made it to the Sisters of the Shore, almost two hours had passed. When he managed to extricate himself from the young officer’s questions and make it back to his car, it was to find that some absolute ass of a young hooligan had drained it of gas—because this was apparently going to be one of those days. He couldn’t believe it had only been half a day since he was sitting in his office with a sense of accomplishment.

“I’m looking for two people, arriving about two hours ago,” he told the nurse manning a desk in the ER. “A young man and woman, arriving together but in separate ambulances. Both will have arrived without tanks. Ms Marques and Mr Harper, although I’m not sure they’ve been admitted under their names.”

She frowned at him. “Don’t think we have anyone of that description,” she said. “We’ve had two cases of cracked tanks today, but both of them arrived before lunch. Did you say Marques?”

She looked through her logs, slowly shaking her head. “No one of that name admitted today. Nor Harper.”

“How about unknowns?”

“Only two, both men and both over sixty. Are you sure they were headed for this hospital?”

“It’s the closest,” Ivy said helplessly. “But I don’t know.”

She seemed to take pity on him. “Sometimes patients are rerouted to Lighthouse General. Let me make a few calls.”

He sat on a bench near the desk, feeling lost and pathetic, as the nurse made first one call, then another and then another. Sitting here like this was bringing back bad memories.

Finally, she walked over to him.

“I can’t seem to find where they’ve ended up at all,” she said. “No one has had any admittances that match your description. Can you remember anything about the ambulance men? Did they give you a name? Or do you remember anything about their uniforms that might help us figure out which hospital they’re from?”

Ivy shrugged. “I don’t know; they just seemed like regular uniforms. White. Paramedic badge. Those red cross armbands.” He touched his upper arm to illustrate.

The nurse made a puzzled noise. “You touched your right arm.”

“Huh? Yes.” He saw her expression and realised that she was frowning. “Why?”

She held out her own arm. “The red cross is always worn on the left.”


“Hello, stranger,” Grover said, as he walked into The Anchor Chain ten days later. “Haven’t seen you in a dog’s age. Where have you been?”

“Busy,” Ivy said shortly. Searching for the strange ambulance men had been a fruitless task. No one seemed to know where they’d come from, or for that matter where they’d gone. No hospital had admitted any ambulances matching their descriptions, and Marques and Harper had seemingly vanished from the city at large. They hadn’t turned up in any of the morgues. Marques’s family hadn’t heard from her. And none of their friends seemed to know anything—that was, those friends that would even speak to Ivy now.

He’d started looking into New Wave, trying to see if they could give him some answers. So far, that had been a complete dead end. The police had little to no insight into their organisation, as evidenced by their inability to even get the graffiti off the streets. The Ocean Floor, Ivy’s only other connection, had been boarded up and silent every time he’d ventured back there.

“That case with the girl and the boy?” Grover asked, raising her eyebrows. “How did that shake out in the end?”

Ivy sighed. “I really don’t want to talk about it.”

Grover poured him his usual, then leaned on the bar in front of him.

“How are you, Ivy?” she asked. “Really.”

“I’m—”

“If you say fine in that dismissive tone of yours, I will get angry.”

He opened his mouth to protest, then sighed. “OK. It’s been a rough two weeks, I guess. This case…” He frowned. “There’s something about it. Something strange. The both of them, they’ve just—vanished. And it’s made me think…”

“About Sam?” Grover asked quietly, when the pause had stretched out a little too long. “It’s been almost two years, hasn’t it.”

“Next week.”

“Phillip.” She reached her hand out to his. “I’m so sorry.”

He took her hand, but frowned. “He wasn’t happy here for some time before that. Always felt trapped. Felt like—well, like the city was stifling. Like he was a prisoner here.” He smiled. “You know, he applied to the provisioner ranks, to be able to get out and go to other cities, but he was denied. And then one day, he was just—”

He paused, not really wanting to finish that sentence.

“The thing is,” he went on eventually, “now, with the New Wave people—I’ve met them. That’s what this case is all about, somehow. My client was involved with them. And it’s something about how they’ve disappeared, just like he did…” He paused. “You know how they believe the ocean is real?”

Grover frowned. “I haven’t really understood what their dogma is all about, actually. Isn’t that just part of the religious deal?”

“No, not like that. Not spiritually real. Real real; an actual, physical thing. Something we can reach now, alive. And something we were all once part of. And it just started me thinking. What if Sam believed that, too?”

“I thought you said he wasn’t religious.”

“He never seemed it, no. He never talked about the ocean or a life beyond this one. But I’m starting to think that maybe that was because he believed the ocean was something he could find in this one.”

“Phillip…”

“Just think about it for a minute. Maybe he left the city to look for it—”

“How would he be able to leave the city, Phillip? You know how tightly the provisioning trucks are controlled.” She was looking troubled, now, her eyebrows crinkling and mouth puckering. “I know how much you miss him. But you have to accept—”

Ivy cut her off. “Yes, I know. I know.” He sighed. “It’s just, all this—it made me think, is all.”

He stood up.

“Sorry, I think I’m just going to walk for a while.”

He could feel her watching him as he left.


Things went on as usual for a while. The case of Mrs Wu’s interfering competitor was settled out of court, but unfortunately this did not get Ivy out of another round of questioning. He had a string of cheating lover cases after that—they always made his skin crawl, but they paid the rent of the apartment he didn’t like to be in any more.

He ought to get a new place, of course. But something had always stopped him.

Four weeks had passed since Marques’s disappearance, and he was feeling increasingly restless. He felt like something was calling him, like his world had shifted and tilted, like salt had become sweet and no one had noticed.

Maybe he just needed his water changed, he told himself.

He was on his way home from the latest of the cheating lovers, and as he passed the South City Gate, he saw that Maksoud was on duty by himself today and looking almost cheerful. Ivy gave him a short wave first, then decided to go and say an actual hello.

“How’s tricks, then?”

“Hey, Ivy.” Maksoud shrugged. “Well, nothing special. New partner. Only they’re off sick for the day.”

“And they trust you with this important task all by yourself?” Ivy said, grinning. Maksoud was notoriously grumpy about what he called the pedestrian nature of his guard job.

Predictably, Maksoud rolled his eyes. “There’s a whole second shift within whistling distance. So never fear. Should a horde of people storm the gates trying to break out into the desert, I will be able to control them.”

“I will sleep safer, Maksoud. You truly are a hero.”

Maksoud made a rude gesture at him. “How about you, then? Still getting people out of bad marriages, one naughty picture at a time?”

“Someone has to do it,” Ivy said dryly. “Well, as a matter of fact no one has to do it. But you know how it is. It keeps the fish swimming.”

“Guess you’re right.” Maksoud rolled his eyes again.

Ivy was about to leave it there—they had a good rapport, but Maksoud’s particular brand of sarcasm was usually only enjoyable in small doses—when he noticed something. Around Maksoud’s neck was a chain, holding half a conch shell.

It could have been a coincidence.

“Hey, just apropos of nothing,” he said. “Have you ever been to The Ocean Floor?”

Maksoud’s expression said it all. His fish all changed direction at once, his face shifting from surprise to panic to an attempt at casual disinterest.

“What?” he said, but Ivy stepped closer to him, staring hard at him.

“You’re New Wave,” he hissed. “You bastard, you’re part of them! You’re feeding that woman at The Ocean Floor information about the guard shifts here.”

Those waves that always appeared on the city walls, with no one ever catching the perpetrators. Of course they had to be working with some of the guards, Ivy thought.

For a moment, he thought Maksoud was going to deny it. Then Maksoud sighed, defeated.

“Fine. Yes, I know them. Through Mara.” He fingered the conch shell. “It really just started with her,” he said apologetically. “It wasn’t meant to go this far.”

“How deep in are you?”

“Look, I just open the gates, all right? I don’t know who they take out, or where they go afterwards.” He looked at Ivy, and his face fell further. “Oh, ocean take me. You didn’t know?”

Ivy stepped back. “You’re opening the gates? You’re letting them leave?”

Maksoud rubbed his hands together nervously, staring back at him. “They really thought you were further along,” he said. “You really had no idea? What did you think this thing with the Harper boy was all about?”

Ivy opened his mouth, then realised he had no idea of how to answer that. When it came down to it, he really did know nothing.

On the other hand, he wouldn’t be much of a detective if he couldn’t figure out solutions on the fly.

“It has something to do with the blood trade, doesn’t it?” he suggested, trying to put it together. “If there’s a way to get the gates open, unofficially, that’s information the shark suppliers can use. It would open channels for the trade, give them ways to transport blood in a way the police will have harder to track. Harper had connections to sharks. If he was careless about his other interests, the blood traders could have found out. They could have been trying to make him talk.” He paused. “So am I close?”

“That seemed to be the gist of it, yeah.” Maksoud seemed to have given up. “As for how close the blood traders got or how much Harper told them, we don’t know. But Mara and Kingsley shut down The Ocean Floor, just to be safe.”

“And the ambulance men? I’m guessing you’re the one who made them disappear?”

“Not me. There are others. A few on every gate, I think.” Maksoud sighed. “I’m guessing they left through the eastern gate. That’s all I know about where they go when they leave here. In the end, they always head east.”

“Why haven’t you taken this to the police? You know what happened; how can you just let it go?”

Maksoud laughed shortly. “For someone as cynical as you are, Ivy, you have a blind trust in the system. It’s gone, man. Buried. No one is going to thank you for opening that up again.”

There was something about his tone that gave Ivy pause.

“Maksoud, are you in trouble?”

Maksoud sighed. “Look, Ivy, it’s under control. I’m removed enough that I’m under the radar. Can you please try not to stir anything up? You’ll just make things worse.”

Ivy stared back at him, torn. Everything within him was telling him that he should call it in. At the same time, however, Maksoud was right. The police obviously had no interest in following this line of questioning. The New Wave had always appeared to exist in a bubble of their own, untouched and unquestioned—as though the powers that be were trying to ignore them into disappearing.

“OK, fine,” he said, coming to a sudden decision. “I’ll let it go. But there is something I want you to do for me.”


It was two in the morning. Ivy pulled up his car in front of the South City Gate, where Maksoud was waiting, looking around himself nervously and shifting from one foot to the other.

“No one followed you?”

“Who would follow me, Maksoud?” Ivy said dryly. “But I took some measures to make sure. Where’s your partner?”

“Told them to take a hike for half an hour,” Maksoud said, looking around himself again. Something seemed to be weighing on his mind.

“You know you can’t come back, right?” he said suddenly. “These New Wavers, they always think they can return with a revolution. But you know that’s not happening, right? When you leave that gate, you’re gone.”

“Yes,” Ivy said, after a moment’s hesitation. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was expecting from this—he only knew that he couldn’t remain in the city any longer, always wondering what lay beyond.

It was almost sad, realising how quickly he’d been able to put his affairs in order. He’d finished up his last cases, left the rent for the coming month to his landlady and packed his car with all the water it could carry. That was all it took, apparently, to change your life completely.

The only sting was Grover. She was the closest thing to a friend he had, and he knew that she deserved a better goodbye than this. He’d left a note—Gone to find the ocean. He knew what most people would think that meant. Hopefully, Grover would see past it.

Maksoud put his hands to the winch opening the gates.

“Ready?” he asked.

The gates opened slowly, and Ivy drew in a sharp breath. He’d heard provisioners talk, but it was something else to see the desert stretch away outside the city walls, uniform, unforgiving and completely dry.

But also full of promise.

Ivy squared his shoulders, put his car into gear, and drove into the night.

 

THE END