Cyberpunk Detective Ch. 9

A technoir crime story in progress

***

9. PUZZLE PIECES

I don’t remember leaving the morgue.

Sonia said later I walked back into the autopsy room and stared at the corpse of the brain-popped ganger for a full minute. Utterly still, not a word. She didn’t know who looked worse, me or the dead guy. She asked what was wrong but I left without as much as a glance. 

I must have turned my Chip back on at some point because the next thing I remember was the back seat of an autocab.  It was stopped at a red light and the bloody glare smeared on the lexan window stung my eyes.  My joints ached, my nerves were on fire. It felt like my brain had been split by a hatchet.

The taxi started moving. My phone rang: Jen Cheung. “Am I bothering you?”

Images battered at my mind like moths at a screen. A woman’s face, a loop of club music, laughter. “Yes.”

“Bullshit. I know you’re not asleep. Locater says you just left the Morgue. What were you doing there?”

Lau screamed. My hands kept wiping at phantom blood, sticky and hot. I clenched my fists to stop. “Looking at Lau’s body one more time hoping something would happen.”

“Did it?”

I truck horn blared. I flinched, felt my head lift off my neck. Revulsion and relief heaved through my body. “No.”

“Well, I got something for you.”

I tried to focus, bit the inside of my mouth for real pain and tasted blood. Bad idea. “What do you got?”

Jen Cheung was excited. “So I’ve been going over the crime scene photos, yeah? The Butcher. Dismembering and arranging the body parts is a display, I know. Part of a sick ritual. But the first six were patterns. Symmetrical puzzle pieces, but just patterns, right?”

The Voice shouted, furious and insistent, muffled like the other end of someone else’s phone argument. Lau was sobbing. Warmth spread at my crotch. I didn’t look to see if it was real. “You getting to a point? It’s late and I’m dying here.”

“Point is the last two were different,” Cheung said with certainty.

I shook my head to clear it, sat up. “Different how? What do you mean?”

“I mean not symmetrical. Obviously. At first I thought the killer was going abstract. Psychopath art. But something bugged me; the torso sideways just so, an arm bent there, the head under the leg here. It felt specific, you know?”

Damn. I’d missed it, juggling too many other things. I blinked and logged into the NKPD Net to access the Forensics files. The constant updates were annoying and intrusive, and I’d put off that month’s, so my connection lagged. “So what are you thinking? Specifically.”

“That the Butcher isn’t just showing off their kill. It’s something else.”

I squeezed my eyes shut and concentrated on Jen’s voice. Other noises fell silent. The pain subsided. My Chip finally chimed a secure connection, but Cheung was already explaining.

“So this afternoon I found a drone shot from victim number eight taken from the garage ceiling. Straight down over the body. That’s when I saw it.”   

The taxi rolled to a soft stop in front of my apartment. “Saw what?”  

“The WayGo Transport logo. The company Henry Lau worked for. Get this: the Butcher used his body to make the corporate logo.”

My skin goose-fleshed. “Holy shi… Are you sure?”

The cab door lifted. I blinked payment, climbed out and headed for the front of my building.

I heard her smile. “Bet your ass. Sending images now.”

My optic flickered as two photo files arrived: a CSI image and a GIF off the WayGo letterhead.  I opened them. The pictures dropped to fifty percent opacity and merged, one over the other, Hanzi lines with severed limbs.

 “Alamak,” I breathed. The shapes matched.

I stumbled though the lobby, stopped. “Wait…You said the last two bothered you. What about number seven?”

“That was tougher,” Cheung said. “But it turns out that victim was a per diem at a Sino-Biopharm lab in D-Five.  And SB is part of the CP Group.” She paused. “Check this out.”

The blandly named CP Group was a founding member of the Asian-Pacific conglomerates club, with direct influence in seven countries in this hemisphere alone, and a corporate security force to rival all but the top twelve standing militaries. A quick check on the Wiki entry for ‘omnipresent global financial entity and soulless multinational’, CP Group would be Item One. 

Two more images in my display. I watched CP Group’s logo blink open and melt into another CSI shot: Theresa Tse laid out on a green floor, arranged just so. 

The blood drained from my face.

“I think our killer is anti-globalist somehow. A Seattle 2049 manifestant,” Jen Cheung concluded. “I mean, if these aren’t anti-corporate statements, I don’t know what is.” 

I was alone in the elevator. The images hovered in my peripherals. My body was one giant dull ache. My brain had crashed. Cheung’s voice cut through the fog. “Hai, Zeki. You still there?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m buffering.”  Jialat. I was drained. It was past time for sleep.

Jen waited a moment, then, “So the killer hates corporations and knew them, right? That what this means?”

The elevator doors slid open. I shook my head. It was frighteningly empty right then. “Knew of them, stalked them maybe. Easy to find personal info online.” 

I stopped at my apartment door. “You went over the other victims’ files. They weren’t corp?”

Cheung snorted. “This is new New Kowloon, who isn’t corp to some degree or another?”

I nodded absently. “Hey, I’m home. I’m spent. First thing tomorrow I’ll go over the other vic’s profiles to see if they have any connections. To WayGo, each other… Any common thread.”

“I can do it.” Cheung said.

“You must really want to make detective.”

“I’m going to make detective, Detective. Do you think Tse and Lau were targeted because they were corp? ”

“Looks that way but I can’t be certain. I’ll dig. A per diem pharm-tech is probably clean but maybe Lau was dirty: IP theft, espionage, embezzlement, a mole for a rival, something.”

“Maybe WayGo was in some kind of trouble,” Cheung suggested. Tired as I was, I could hear her wheels turning. “Financial, a takeover… something that.”

 Cheung definitely will make detective.

“Get some sleep,” she said. “I’ll let you know what I find in the morning.”

I signed off, opened my door. The hall light went on as I shuffled in and kicked off my shoes. I’d made it to my bedroom when another NKPD message appeared: the IRA software patch was complete. My aerial drone was ready and I was scheduled for synchronization tomorrow, first shift.  

“Flying Shit Cakes,” I mumbled.

I went to undress and found the front of my khakis were damp. Dark.  

I’d pissed myself in the cab. Me, not Lau.  

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