A police lieutenant with the elite "Red Dogs" until she retired at twenty-nine , Aud Torvigen is a rangy six-footer with eyes the color of cement and a tendency to hurt people who get in her way. Born in Norway into the failed marriage between a Scandinavian diplomat and an American businessman, she now makes Atlanta her home, luxuriating in the lush heat and brashness of the New South. She glides easily between the world of silken elegance and that of sleaze and sudden savagery, equally at home in both; functional, deadly, and temporarily quiescent, like a folded razor.
On a humid April evening between storms, out walking just to stay sharp, she turns a corner and collides with a running woman, Catching the scent of clean, rain-soaked hair, Aud nods and silently tells the stranger Today, you are lucky, and moves on--when behind her house explodes, incinerating its sole occupant, a renowned art historian. When Aud turns back, the woman is gone.
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June 08, 1999
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Excerpt from Blue Place by Nicola Griffith
An April night in Atlanta between thunderstorms: dark and warm and wet, sidewalks shiny with rain and slick with torn leaves and fallen azalea blossoms. Nearly midnight. I had been walking for over an hour, covering four or five miles. I wasn't tired. I wasn't sleepy.
You would think that my bad dreams would be of the first man I had killed, thirteen years ago. Or if not him, then maybe the teenager who had burned to death in front of me because I was too slow to get the man with the match. But no, when I turn out the lights at ten o'clock and can't keep still, can't even bear to sit down in my Lake Claire house, it's because I see again the first body I hadn't killed.
I was twenty-one, a rookie in a uniform so new it still smelled of harsh chemical dyes. My hat was too big. My partner and I had been called to a duplex on Lavista. It was me who opened the bathroom door.
As soon as I saw that bathwater, I knew. Water just doesn't get that still if the person sitting in it is alive: the pulse of blood through veins, the constant peristaltic squeeze of alimentary tract, the soft suck of breath move the liquid gently, but definitely. Not this water. It was only after I had stared, fascinated, at the dry scum on the bar of soap, only after my partner had moved me gently aside, that I noticed her mouth was open, her eyeballs a gluey blue-grey where they should have been white.
I wake up at night seeing those eyes. The sidewalks around Inman Park are made from uneven hexagons, mossy and slippery even without the debris of the recent storm. I walked in the road. A pine tree among the oaks smelled of warm resin, and the steam already rising from the pavement brought with it the scents of oil and rubber and warm asphalt. I smiled. Southern cities. People often say to me, Aud, how can you stand the heat? but I love it. I love to feel the sun rub up against my pale northern skin, love its fingers reaching down into muscle and bone. I grew up with the sub zero fjord winds edged with spicules of ice; to breath deep and feel damp summer heat curling into delicate bronchioles is a luxury I will never tire o# Even during the teenage years I spent in England, when my mother decided the embassy could get along without her for a week or two and we all went up to Yorkshire to stay with Lord Horley, there was that end less biting moan over the moors, the ceaseless waving of heather and gorse. No, the American South suits me just fine.
Atlanta is lush The gates and lawns and hedges I walked past were heady with the scents of trumpet honeysuckle and jasmine, the last of the pink and white dogwood blossom. By June, of course, all the small blooms would wilt in the heat, and the city's true colours, jungle colours, would become apparent: black-striped tiger lilies, orchids, waxy magnolia blossoms. By the end of August, even those would give up the ghost and the city would turn green glossy beryl banana trees with canoe-sized leaves, jade swamp oak, and acre upon emerald acre of bermuda grass. And as the summer heat faded into the end of October, the beginning of November, the green would fade with it. In winter Atlanta became a pale black and white photograph of a city with concrete sidewalks, straw coloured grass and bare, grey trees.
Thunder rumbled to the southwest and lightning turned the clouds the pink of Florida grapefruits: a long, long wait until winter.
I lengthened my stride, enjoying the metronomic thump of boot on pavement, the noisy sky, and when I took a corner wide walked smack into a woman running in the opposite direction.