Cyberpunk Detective 6

murder in New Kowloon. a work in progress

6. SEVEN PATTERNS, NOW EIGHT

Murder scenes are lots of things: their circumstances sometimes obvious, other times mysterious or downright bizarre. Usually bloody. Always tragic.

See enough of them they become routine in a sad kind of way. Terrible to admit but there it is. It’s the job.   

They’d always struck me as intrusive too; as if the act itself wasn’t violation enough to then have a horde of technicians descend upon your body. Complete strangers in Tyvek one pieces, masks, and gloves mincing around your floodlit corpse, photographing it from every angle, sampling, poking, prodding, scraping away at the minutia of your final moments. A state of ultimate vulnerability clinically analyzed for every last awful secret.

All murder scenes are terrible in their own way. The howling made this one worse.

The victim had been found in a motorcycle repair shop, a single grungy bay tucked behind a D-Grade cloning bank for exotic pets. The scent of blood thick in the air, dozens of copies of copies of copies of puppies and parrots and miniature jungle cats were barking, whining, screeching, yowling as the soundtrack to some poor bastard’s end credits. 

I knew the officer at the holo-tape. Jen Cheung. Sergeant. Good head on her shoulders. Two cyber-arms. Helluva right hook.

“What? You’re not inside?” I asked as I approached. “Your delicate female sensitivities acting up?”

She deadpanned. “That sounded like a sexist remark, Detective. I see a Sensitivity refresher course in your future.”

“Long overdue,” I agreed, and stopped beside her. “How bad is it?” 

She spit, nodded. “Very.”

“Is it the same as the other seven?”

She squinted at me. “Sure looks like it, Zek. But what do I know? That’s your job isn’t it?”

I waved a hand at the surrounding buildings. “Anyone see anything?” Unlikely, but I had to ask.

Sergeant Cheung shook her head. “We got called for the noise. Wan found the body.” She jerked a thumb at a young constable seated in the back of a NKPD HiAce van. He looked lost, pale. I’d have sworn he was no more than twelve.

Shit, I sound like an old cop.  

I was an old cop and he was deep in conversation with a Forensics bot so I let him be.

“Garage owner been contacted?”

Cheung nodded. “Already at the station.”

“ID on the victim?”

Cheung blinked as she connected. “Henry Lau. Systems Manager for WayGo, the self-driving transport company. Address is 1397 Hab C3. Hung Hom. District One.”

I let out a low whistle. “District One.”

She nodded, spit again. “Yup. Now it’s a real crime; a rich person’s been killed.”

Funny/not funny. And true. Lau had been an Edger. Not Upper City, but as close as we got down here. Maybe added pressure would make Captain Lee devote more resources now. Other than ramp up his indignation and yell louder each time another body was found, like they were being dumped in his district for the sole purpose of making him look bad.  

Captain Lees were part of the job too.

Time to see the body. “You taking the test soon?” I asked as I passed through the tape.

“Why, you finally looking for a new partner?” she snorted.

I avoided that question. That memory. “LNK needs good detectives.”

“You can say that again, the bang up job you’re doing with this mess.” She grinned to take the edge off it. “And to answer your question: yes, next month.”

I smiled back at her. “Good luck, then. Let me know after and we’ll drink to celebrate.”

“Will do.”

I went toward the open bay door.

“Hey,” she called after.

I turned.

“Catch this guy already, will you? You’re the famous ‘Stonecutters Island Detective.’ You have a reputation to uphold.”

I gave her a look of mock indignation. “Guy? Now who’s being sexist? Never make detective like that, Sergeant. Clinging to preconceptions and stereotypes.”

“Just get whoever this is.”

I felt the weight of the faraday pouch in my jacket pocket. “Working on it.”  

Turning back to the garage, I made a mental note to mention Cheung’s name to a couple friends higher up the chain of command. I had no doubt she’d crush the exam, and Lower New Kowloon really was in desperate need of good police. Compared to Captain Lee, Sergeant Cheung was Joan of Arc.

The tiny repair bay was bright with dozens of LED strips that brought every dingy corner into stark relief. The regular oil and rust smells were overpowered by the reek of blood and offal, while the Forensics team had their formaldehyde undertone of sanitizer and sterile gear.  An old friend, Ed Cho, was kneeling by the body, pecking away with a bio-scanner.

“Tell me you have something,” I said. A desperate hope.

He looked up at me, shrugged once and went back to scanning.

I surveyed the body: naked, male. Mid-thirties. Looked ethnic Chinese.  Mr. Lau had been chopped into pieces, his blood congealing under jointed body parts that had been carefully arranged in a bizarre pattern – a different pattern each time.  

Seven patterns, now eight. 

“Time of death?”

Cho had a soft, raspy voice. How I’d expect a chain smoking toddler to sound. “Twelve hours. A hair less, maybe.”

“He drugged same as others?”

“Too early to tell. Hundred eYuan says the blood shows traces of chloral hydrate though.” 

I wasn’t going to take that bet. I nodded at the forensics kit on the floor by his boots. “You must have found a sliver of evidence this time. Give me something. Anything.”

“Blood samples say our victim had been drinking. Judging by the food particles on his lips and cheeks, he ate recently too. Anything more, you need to wait for the lab report. ”

“Other than him?”

Cho shook his head. “Older fingerprints, samples of biodiesel, poly lubes, cleansers. More food scraps, smears of chili paste and peanut oil from those takeout containers.” He jerked his head at an overflowing trash barrel next to an ancient 3D metal powder printer.  Soy Park stalls did serious business with the mechanics here.

Ed Cho then aimed his scanner at one of the white-suited techs on the perimeter of the scene. “I can tell you the door was forced recently. Julie found fresh hits on the jamb and threshold. Best guess is someone broke in, saw the body and bolted.” 

“How old? Any chance whoever that was saw the murder?”

“Very recent, a couple hours ago. So definitely post-mortem.” 

I remembered Fat Quan’s comment and considered chatting him up again. Show up as ‘Detective Pemburu’ for sure. Bring Sergeant Cheung and maybe borrow the Special Duties Unit from Captain Lee for something more resembling real police work.  

“Still, they might have seen something.” I blinked and linked to the NKPD Net. “The door sample have an ID match?”

Another shake of the head. “Unregistered. Homeless or a recent ‘fugee scrounging for something to pawn.”

I nodded at Cho’s DNA sniffer. “Anyone else?” 

“I’ve been over the whole place. Database matches the garage owner, two mechanics, and some unknowns who are probably clients. Except for the door knocker and Mr. Lau here, it’s all forty-eight hours old or more.” He shrugged. “Lab might have more later, but…”

“So we’ve got nothing really. Again.”

“Nothing again.”

Nothing.

Exactly what I didn’t want to hear. Exactly why I’d visited Loi. Exactly why I was carrying disgrace, summary dismissal, and a prison term in my jacket pocket.  

Henry Lau’s head lay at the bottom of his severed left leg like the period to an exclamation point. His right hand was cupped behind his left ear as if listening. His hair was slick and sticky, his face blood speckled, the eyes rolled back. A half-opened mouth revealed perfect teeth shining bright blue-white in the harsh light.

A weird little part of me imagined an augur in mid-vision ecstasy uttering mysteries. The rest of me saw the twisted handiwork of a serial killer.

Not half an hour past, I’d been willing to peer inside that head for clues. Listen to those revelations. Now, looking at what had become of Mr. Lau, I touched the lump of the faraday pouch through my jacket.

I didn’t know if I wanted to whip it out and use it right then, or if I was warding off evil spirits.

 

Let’s get our head on straight about this

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This ‘Sin’ issue, I mean.

This article below prompted a long-standing theological issue to surface yet again.

https://www.dailywire.com/news/39037/listen-popular-christian-singer-lauren-daigle-not-amanda-prestigiacomo?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=062316-news&utm_campaign=benshapiro

Basically a nice young Christian music celebrity can’t say for certain if a practice – homosexuality in this case – is a ‘sin’ on a TV talk show.

Not real news, right? There’s been a lot of hedging, loads of waffle and mince on this one lately, so this can’t be a huge shock.

So… she can’t? She won’t? Is our poor celebrity cowed by secular pressure? Choosing the ‘fear of Man’ over the ‘fear of God’? Is she more concerned about fame, approval, and music sales than her Christian testimony and a public declaration of Biblical morality?

Maybe. But maybe she simply doesn’t know. She said as much during the interview. I mean she had to know the question was coming, but perhaps she gave an honest answer.

Call me Reverend Obvious but “SIN” is definitely in the Bible. Jesus forgives us of our sin and saves us from our sin. That’s the whole point of the Old and New Covenants, or Testaments; God helping us address our sin problem. Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 to see what I mean.

That said, we need to return to a very subtle but critical understanding: we ‘sin’ because we’re ‘sinners’. Not the other way around. Doing a ‘bad’ thing doesn’t make you ‘bad’. The bad we do stems from a dark part of us. Each of us. It may come out different from our neighbor, but it does come out. Oh yes it does.

Basic Bible doctrine is clear that in every human being that ever lived, lives, and will live, there are two natures: the Imago Dei, or Image of God – And the Fallen, or Sin Nature. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our creator  – and  yet we have a part of us that is isolated, broken, and defiant.

It’s from that second, dark part that selfish, cruel, manipulative, petulant, deceptive, rebellious character and conduct emerge.  This is a ‘Root’ versus ‘Fruit’ thing; the actions are symptomatic of a much deeper problem.

Of course many of us learn and grow. We sometimes see our errors and flaws, regret them and change. We lean into the Imago Dei to improve, to be better, to love more. But that other part, that Fallen bit, that twisted taint never leaves. Not ever.

It’s that deeper problem that concerns God. It’s the one Jesus came to address.

Now I don’t have my finger on the pulse of American Churches, but I need to emphasize real Christian Conversion isn’t Repression, it’s Regeneration. It’s not Indoctrination, it’s Transformation. We’re not talking behavior modification or the memorization of religious dogma. Genuine faith is supposed to engage the individual on a profound, personal level.

raizes_profundidade1

A couple problems seem to stem from forgetting this vital dynamic: First is the idea of ‘grading’ sinful acts and the people who commit them. (I’m bad but not as bad as *points finger*)

No, I’m not suggesting moral equivalence – that a starving beggar stealing food is the same as ethnic cleansing. That’s ridiculous. I am saying however that individuals pointing fingers starts to sound like people in the Emphysema Ward belittling Cancer Patients. Do remember Lucifer fell from Pride.

And second, that God’s unconditional love somehow doesn’t distinguish between the two parts of our nature. It does. Fact: God loves you. Next Fact: That doesn’t automatically ‘save’ you.  Read this carefully: “God so loved the world, He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

I take it you’ve heard that before. Somewhere.

God loves us but we’re gonna perish because the Fallen Nature/character we’ve expressed in various willful denial, disobedience and defiance acts separate us from Him. I’m not talking mistakes, or accidents or ignorance. These are the willful deeds. The ones we know deep inside are bad, yet do anyway. Those are the ones that will indict us at Judgment.

At the end of the day, we disqualify ourselves.

Salvation is about admitting that. Confessing to that dark part, those dark acts, accepting forgiveness and allowing God to work in there on the Root. The bad fruit of that poison tree? If the root is dealt with, whatever it may be eventually withers away. Sure, for some, it might take longer and it’s not all going to get pruned on time. But the deeper issue has been resolved.

Simply put, faith is trust. Christian faith is trusting Jesus, not your own nice, possibly substantial  but ultimately insufficient good intentions/philosophy/religious affiliations/charitable deeds to compensate for the times you blew it.

So why this and what does it have to do with writing fiction?

As a Christian, I felt the need to put it in the public arena once more.

As a Christian who writes, I am once again reminded to invest my characters with genuine conflict and complexity. If they’re going to do any real heavy lifting, they have to be real enough to bear the weight.

Have a great day. Art Hard.

A Prayer to Saint Strelok

possible cover2

 

There is more fiction in the pipeline but my latest short story is now available at Amazon. For those familiar with the STALKER or METRO 2033 video games, this should feel familiar – like the worn stock on your trusty AK-47, or the snug, sweat-soaked bands on your respirator.

Release date is 16 December. You can pre-order now if you like.

Enjoy and Spasibo.

A Prayer to Saint Strelok

Three Quick Thoughts on Writing

Once upon a time

It’s work. No getting around this. I get flowing with inspiration but most of the time you’ve got to take a deep breath, dive in and trust inspiration to follow. Writing begets writing. Anything worth doing is worth the time and effort to do well. Step back. Take a breather, fine. But don’t give up. Keep your butt in the chair.

The field is overwhelmingly crowded. It’s up to what, a million books published per year in the US now? 2/3rds of those are indie/self published. So 8,760 hours in a year, that’s 114 books per hour.  There is a flood of new titles every time I log onto Amazon. All of them best sellers, each the latest hotness, fulled with explosive action/steamy romance/engaging plot lines ripped from tomorrow’s headlines/spine-chilling horror… Many of them with double, triple, even four times the number of reviews of established classics in their genres. Any writer with a lick of self-awareness can’t help but wonder how their work can stand on its own, let alone get noticed. But that’s the playing field now. And yes, it’s even more work piled on top of the actual writing work.  

I can’t not write. We’ve all been ready to throw up our hands in despair. If you haven’t, you’re either a colossal self-deluded egotist, or you’ve got to give it more time. That said, if story-telling is in your bones, you’ve got to keep going for your own sanity’s sake. I wish you massive commercial success: foreign language rights, weeks on the best seller list, movie rights… but for many of us, the real pay off is not going to be the silver we get in our bank, but the iron we get in our souls by persevering in the creative process. What, you really going to give up and watch TV?

Have a good day. You’re going to make it.

Need a kick in the butt? Read THE WAR OF ART

Shattered World’s excerpt

lone_tower_by_m_hugo-d6aioqg

Eresh’s Chimney looked like a mud castle made by a giant. A mish-mash of crude bricks, rough boulders, and hewn beams the thickness of tree trunks, the spire gnarled its way skyward, knobby, crooked, and enormous.

There was a single entrance at the ground level, two massive doors of stone. They were  the color of storm clouds and seemed to take forever to open.

The sun had started its drop toward the western edge of the horizon when Levi, Gibs and Addas watched Snat delicately unwrap a leather bundle of long wire instruments and with a wink, get to work on the mechanism. “Have us in before you can say ‘Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.'”

Twenty minutes later, he was still fussing with it with his tools, but muttering in goblin under his breath.

Levi steeped up behind him and peered down over his shoulder as he worked.  “Legend has it that lock was fashioned by Völundr himself, sort of a payback to Eresh for helping him escape an island where he’d been imprisoned. Cunning genius that he was, I’ve read the smith crafted such things looking in a mirror. That way, spying eyes would be hard pressed to understand, let alone copy the secrets of his trade. Perhaps if you imagined yourself inside the lock—”

“Credentialed in gobermouch before the Shattering, were you?” the goblin snapped. “Cause you’re a bit mouthy to have been a picklock.”

“Ah, it’s just we should gain entrance before the sun sets. While there’s still light, you see.”

“I see.” The goblin gritted his teeth, put one pointed ear against the lock plate. “If you’d quite yammering. I’m—” A grin. A soft click. “There!”  He tugged gently. The massive stone door whispered open.

Snat knelt and wrapped his tools back up. “In you go,” he nodded. “While it’s still light.”

Back at it.

worst-apology-everBeen a while here. The last three months have been crammed with work deadlines, disability/health issues, the birth of grandchild number 4, writing-related adjustments, plus the usual Real Life grind, and in all that, writing and blogging were put on the back burner on Low. Real low.

I apologize to any of you who glanced this way for new work or posts. Certainly don’t mean to disappoint folks who are kind enough to spend time here or with my work. Apologies to Dave Alderman in specific: my promised read and review fell off the edge of my world. (There be dragons) It’s next in my reading queue.

I’ve managed to beat back the tangle and started in again. After all, forward is the only direction we’ve got. More stuff coming soon.

I am sincere here, but this was too funny not to post.

Have a good day.

false-apology-cards-tony-carrillo-f-minus-comics