Ignoring the Wyse, I grab my hat and coat, and walk out of my office, and down the hall to security to run some checks on Monsieur Boucher. Grey's a *damn* good rent-a-cop, and gets me the info that I'd suspected even as the Queen of Antarctica was giving me her spiel... Boucher had been found dead in his own apartment nearly three days ago.
I thank Grey and toss him a spare silver dollar (probably worth the Denver Mint in the condition it's in currently), and make my way towards the front doors and yet another long walk to Boucher's apartment. I'm almost suprised when the doorman smiles and says "your car's back from workover, Mr. Smith. Here're the keys." Parked at the curb is... you guessed it... an old 1972 Dodge Polara, metallic green, and in *damn* good condition. Hmph. Not necessarily driving and styling, but I doubt I could pilot one of those floating lead sleds, no matter *how* much phantom skill I'd picked up from just being "me".
I start the car, and realize that, for the first time in quite awhile, it's silent. No soundtrack is following me around as per usual. I'm not sure if I miss it, or if I'd prefer the permanent rest on the sheet music.
I drive until I get to Boucher's apartment complex, and find my way to the scene. I guess PI's get more respect nowadays, 'cos all I had to do was flash my ID and the manager was all too happy to let me cross over into the secure area.
Now, a lot of things haven't changed much. The entire room has been marked off by four odd-looking orbs, one in each corner. They're projecting this holographic, scrolling message warning everyone who's literate that the scene of the crime is being held in a temporal stasis field and that anyone caught within would obviously be punished for attempting to disrupt the evidence.
And the evidence was gruesome. The body had been carted away days ago, but they immediately put the room into the time-freeze. *Nothing* had been moved save for the meat I notice that I'm starting to slip into the lingo myself here), so there's nothing changed from the moment his body was found. So far, it's been ruled a suicide, but I think otherwise.
Moving into the kitchen, I begin to mount a thorough search for anything very suspicious. It looks like he'd made himself a cup of tea, as the teapot is still on the range, and the table is set for two. Nothing here, or is there?
I begin to file through the kitchen drawers and cabinets, and realize there's something strange about the setup within one of the storage areas. Sure enough, one of the panels in the side of a cabinet just doesn't fit. IF find a catch and bingo, a secret compartment with a manila envelope inside.
I open the envelope and nearly choke. It appears that Mrs. Levitt had *many* Kodak moments, none of which would be very suitable for any family album. Where her wardrobe earlier left very little to the imagination, these shots would pretty much strip a man of that mental function, along with those of thought, reason, and complex arithmetic. Hell Id' be suprised if the average guy would still be able to count to ten.
So, it's obvious that Boucher was trying to frame Mrs. Levitt with these incriminating photos. This is what she wanted me to do: prove that he had taken these shots of her, then did some touching up on the shots to make it look as if she werehaving an affair.
Still, it doesn't sit well. I'd think that, these days, (and I'm talking about 2028, not 1992) it'd be much simpler to fake up a picture... and *these* are and obvious hoax. A dead giveaway.
Okay. The framing doesn't matter. I've got a murder on my hands.
As I'm walking out of the apartment, I come face to face with her. She looks very pleasant... *too* pleasant... and says "Wonderful! You've found the evidence!" It was *not* a question.
"I'm afraid not." I lie. "There's absolutely nothing in there."
At this, I catch a flash of anger in her eyes, but her expression doesn't change. "What do you mean? I know he has photographs of me in there, he showd them to me..."
"The night that he died? I don't think so. I think that your actual affair was with *him*. You wanted to leave your husband, and eventually marry Monsieur Boucher, but he didn't see it like that. In fact, I *do* believe that M. Boucher is quite loaded." With this, I'm stepping back into the living room, slowly, and her smile is melting along with her ice-queen facade.
"If you could marry him, you'd stand to benefit if he somehow, "ceased to exist". But that wasn't likely, and you had another plan to get his load. By killing him off by using some form of poison, then planting this 'evidence'," and I pull out the faked photos on that cue "somewhere in his house, you'd be set."
By this time, her demeanor is *totally* gone. She makes a lunge towards the pics, and I sidestep her easily, throwing her into the center of the room. She gets thrown into the time-freeze, and just sticks there, the perfect picture of the perfect bod, right on the verge of landing quite unceremoniously on her face in the shag carpet on the floor. I casually toss the photos in behind her and watch them freeze in mid-air as well, and continue speaking as if to her.
"I did a little studying up on some of the weird laws that are in effect in this time, Mrs. Levitt. All you have to do is prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that any person, living or dead, has infringed upon your rights, and you're entitled to as much as fifty percent of that person's estate.
"Living or dead. Living, Boucher could have *easily* proven that he was totally innocent. Even his affair with you, although not really making him a saint, was legal. Dead, he's not able to say anything in his own defense. Those pictures would have been perfect, and considering the man was dead, you'd have gotten *all* the loot. Which is a good reason why I think the laws in this future are fucked."
"I'm afraid I'd have to agree with you, son."
This voice just scared the hell outta me, but I do my best not to jump. Guess it wasn't good enough, though, as it continues, "Sorry if I startled you. I'm Sergeant Resco of Eight Squad. I was about to ask just what the hell you were doing standing around here soliloquizing, but I caught the last little bit."
"That's alright, Sergeant, but I wasn't necessarily talking to myself." I reached down and flicked a tiny stem on my tele-watch, and the face pops open, revealing a micro-chip about the size of one of the now out-dated dimes in my pocket. I pull it out, and hand it to him. "I recorded everythingthat happened starting sometime last night, when she spilled out her fake sob-story."
"Thank you, Mr. Smith. The apartment manager gave us a call after letting you in. He said that some other freak dressed all in white tried to get into the room the other night and raised one hell of a ruckus before finally leaving."
"Luckily for the manager, Captain Bleach-O was probably just trying to set up a diversion so *she* could sneak those photos into Monsieur Boucher's apartment," I say to the Sergeant. "That guy about iced me last night..."
Resco nods and interrupts me. "We heard about that. He was a hired assassin, about the best there is. He works alone, so you won't have to worry about any of his buddies trying to pull off a revenge hit on you."
Resco proceeds to tell me that, besides the murder charge, she'll be charged with breaking world-wide laws concerning the kinapping of other individuals from their own points in time, namely me. Apparently, the process that she had her people use to bring me here was very unstable compared to the more popular (and much safer) methods, and I should've snapped back to my own time and place hours ago.
I leave the apartment complex (and Mrs. Levitt to the tender mercies of the local civic guard), and drive back to my office, my Wyse, and some serious thought. For one, I'm back to my original quandry: how the hell am I going to get home?
Something has kept me stabilized in 2028, and I can only assume it's an outside force of some sort. I sit down and kick back at my desk, and decide to play around with my little hologram-projecting watch. After awhile, the mindless drivel I'm scanning bores me to no end. I try to remove the watch and... the clasp sticks!
No big deal. I examine it a little more closely, and realize that it's not merely stuck, but the clasp itself is bonded shut... my watch is locked onto my arm! The pen knife in my desk drawer does nothing to the polymer that is the watch band, so I can't cut it off, so I start searching for other alternatives.
It takes a few seconds, but I finally notice the odd object lying on the floor just inside the door, the small rod that looks like a pencil. But the only writing it'll ever do is the death warrant of anyone who happens to be on the wrong end when it's activated. I guess my rent-a-cop friends aren't as thorough as they should be.
I pick the device up and do a quick study. I can only assume that it's a disruptor of some sort (again, I just *know* this, without actually knowing it), but I have no idea how to fire the damn thing. I click the end like a ball-point and a little jet of light zings out of the other end and vapourises a stack of papers on my desk.
Now comes the fun part. I need to fire this thing at my watch without taking off my hand, my wrist, or een my arm up to my *ear*. I decide against pointint it straight at the watch, 'cos I'm sure it'd punch a hole right through, so I aim just across the top of the watch face and "click" the end again.
I look at the device again, aim it at the garbage can sitting next to the printer and reduce it to its component atoms. Once more, I take aim on my watch, but it's not there. Wait a minute. Printer? There's no printer in my office.
I'm standing in the middle of the Fairchild basement lab. I run to the terminal I was sitting at when this ordeal began, and sure enough, there's my stuff... my book bag, my walkman, my munchies. I *know* that what I just went through was real, I'm holding a souvenir, right here. No, now *it's* gone. Even the fedora and leather coat are history, and I'm wearinng my street clothes.
I sit down and gather my thoughts, and decide I've just experienced a weird series of hallucinations that took less than a minute, and a quick check of the time on the mainframe confirms that it's still the same night it was when I looked up and was approached by a brunette out of an old detective flick.
After a few moments of relative silence, I gather my belongings and sling them over my right shoulder and make to leave the lab. Since I feel like I haven't eaten or showered in ages, I'm not going to stop for anything... or so I think until I look down and see a photograph of Mrs. Levitt on the floor, wearing nothing more than a transparent teddy and a smile...