Girl in Pieces

Illustration by Tony Shasteen, from Realms of Fantasy

Girl in Pieces is the fifth of The String City Mysteries, a series of fantasy noir detective novelettes that form a prelude to my interdimensional thriller novel String City.

This story begins when a golem bursts into the office of our hero and deposits a girl on the carpet. Unfortunately, she’s in pieces – 11,395 of them to be precise. The big question is – did the golem do it? The only way to find out for sure is to get the girl back together again. But that could be trickier than you think. Especially if you don’t like spiders.

This is the most horrific of the stories so far. I started with a single startling image – the golem emptying a garbage can full of body parts on to the PI’s carpet – and the whole thing spun itself naturally from there. The zombie cops turned up again and I found a suitably disgusting new villain in the form of Arachne. And the girl? She might be in pieces but, as the PI says, she’s a real peach. What more could you want? And, for the record, actually I quite like spiders.

  • “A magnificent urban fantasy giddy with hardcore horror imagery” – Locus
  • “… plenty of suspense and action … I was torn between shuddering at the icky parts, and snickering at the tongue-in-cheek humor” – The Fix
  • “This is a delightfully witty and funny story and provides a much-welcome sense of B movie humor” – The Green Man Review

Girl in Pieces by Graham Edwards was first published in the April 2008 edition of Realms of Fantasy. It was long-listed for a Nebula Award and reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s anthology The Best Horror of the Year Volume One. Illustration by Tony Shasteen.

Extract from Girl in Pieces

I was changing the filter on the coffee machine when two tons of wet clay crashed through my office door. The clay was wearing a yellow municipal jacket and dragging a garbage can. The clay was eight feet tall and bright like a satsuma. The clay was a golem.

‘I thought you apes took the garbage out,’ I said, clipping the coffee filter back.

‘You a private detective?’ said the golem.

‘That’s what it says on the door.’

‘You gotta help me.’ The golem held up the hand that wasn’t holding the garbage can. It was holding a blood-streaked axe.

Rain gusted in, driving flecks of orange clay off the golem’s legs. The carpet round his feet went dark.

‘Don’t they give you waterproofs?’ I said.

‘There ain’t enough to go round. You gotta fight for them. Little guys like me – we don’t stand a chance.’

I started backing up: I don’t like golems. ‘I’ll take your word for it. Now, say your piece and get out.’

‘But you gotta help me.’

‘No, I don’t.’

‘But I got no place else to go.’

I’d backed up to the filing cabinet. I reached round and pulled open the second drawer. Rummaging blind, I found what I was looking for. I yanked it out and aimed it at the golem.

‘What’s that?’ said the golem. The clay of his brow sagged to make a frown.

‘Water pistol,’ I said.

‘You what?’

‘Don’t be fooled by the size. The cops use these for crowd control. The clip’s got a wormhole feed from the Styx. I pull this trigger, it unloads sixteen tons of river water in about three seconds.’

‘Won’t that make a mess on your carpet?’

‘That mess will be you, pal. Now get out of my office before I turn you in.’

The golem stood there, still frowning. The rain poured through the door.

I heard police sirens.

The golem brought the axe handle down on the garbage can lid. The can rang like a gong. ‘They found me!’

I flipped the safety off the water pistol.

The golem’s gigantic head swung from side to side as he searched for an escape route. The cop cars rounded the intersection, sirens screaming.

My finger tightened on the trigger.

And that’s when the golem dropped to his knees.

‘Please, mister! I ain’t done nothing wrong. I know what you people think of us golems. But I ain’t like the others. You gotta believe me. You’re my last chance. Someone done a terrible wrong and the cops think it’s me, but it ain’t. And if they take me away, whoever done it … they’ll get clean away. And that ain’t right. That ain’t right at all. So, you see, you gotta help. You gotta find out who done it. You gotta put it right. And if you won’t do it for me, you gotta do it for her!’

The golem stood up again. He flicked the lid off the garbage can. It crossed the room like a frisbee. Then the golem picked up the can and emptied its contents on the floor.

A girl came out. She was in pieces: sliced arms and diced legs, chunks of muscle and slops of gore that might have been lungs or liver or lights; spears of white bone like blank signposts poking out of the whole hideous mess. Handfuls of soft pale flesh slimed with crimson. Worst of all: a pretty face, unmarked except around its ragged edge, floating in a lake of blood.

I put my hand to my mouth. I’m no pussy when it comes to dead bodies, but this was messier than autopsy school.

Outside, six cop cars pulled up with screeching tyres.

The golem looked down at the girl’s remains. At first I thought his face was melting. Then I saw he was crying.

Each cop car pumped four armed officers into the rain.

And, so help me, I put the water pistol down.

The String City Mysteries

The String City Mysteries by Graham Edwards

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