Call me by my birth name, Darius Wood. I’m a Violent Crime Investigator. With the assistance of a TelePorter, a criminal found me…causing things buried within my soul to come to the surface.
I blow off viewing the 3-foot holographic stream of a homicide projected on the ready room desk. The Jo I poured from my thermos and pastry in hand had my attention. Chocolate and dark roast coffee combo, with homemade blue cheese and buffalo sauce babka, raged war on my muscular build.
Each bite of the cheesy delight brought on the guilt of missed workouts with a close male friend. I sigh as I look at my waistline.
“Pay attention to the stream Dee,” VCI Marcy Little chided. “Focus on work okay?”
We stare each other down. She breaks eye contact first.
Marcy is new to the Violent Crimes division. A unilateral transfer two weeks ago from Virtual Vice brought her to my department. I did a ‘personal’ background check on her and found she’s a corporate climber, hungry as a lion and wants to run things. I decide to hold the video I got from an informant that shows her and a female john getting down and dirty. Leverage like that could tame a wild beast clawing her way to the top of the corporate ladder.
“I’m watching the video,” I lie, taking another sip of coffee.
“The Captain wants us to use the TelePorter and Memory Library to catch this guy.” She tells me.
“And since you’re the lead investigator, you get to host me in your consciousness,” she says with a forced smile.
“I’d rather do it the old fashioned way,” I reply, nonchalant.
“That’s not what she said. Besides, it won’t be that bad, having a woman in your head as you work.”
“Have that already.”
“What?” I ask. She doesn’t answer.
We play the stare game again. This time I look away first. She acts like she saw me at the SoHo Stonewall Inn. I may have to use that video to get her out of the department a little sooner than I expected.
“Watch the stream Dee,” Marcy urged again as she restarts the video.
I acquiesced, finally eyeballing the image. A fair skinned male, with salt and pepper hair, choked a guy with bare hands. When the victim, identified as Kevin Batterton, age twenty-two passed out, the man wrapped a wire garrote around his neck. The sharp wire dug deep into his throat, slicing through the carotid artery on both sides of his neck, causing arterial blood splatter fit for a horror movie.
‘My name… is Paladin!’ His left eye twitched as he screamed over the lifeless body in the video.
My jaw drops as I watch now, vested on the perpetrator.
Within hours of the attack, the VCI network server, or Big Brother as Journalists call it, identified 33-year-old tattoo artist Theodore Paladin of SoHo sector 7 as the murderer and issued a warrant for his arrest. The BioChip GPS Identifier implanted in his shoulder and all citizens would be used to locate him where ever he was in the city. Marcy and I have been commanded to use the Dual Memory TelePorter to pop instantly to his GPS coordinates and arrest him for the heinous crime I observed on video. The TelePorter is new groundbreaking tech acquired by the crime unit. We’ll be the first on our team to use it.
My thoughts are focused on the perp when a scent mixed of iron, copper and body fluids fill the room. I scrunch up my nose then empty my mug of coffee in the sink. I toss the pastry in the garbage while scrambling to turn off the smell enhancement on the Holo video feed.
“Damn! Why’d you turned that on? I had the switch taped down,” I tell her waving the air frantically.
“That’s not what duct tape is for,” she tells me.“ I want to relive the full effect of the crime scene if you don’t mind.”
“Smelling blood, piss, and shit… I don’t need that. I got the point. He died,” I tell her with an eye roll.
Holding back retch, I rewind the stream back ten minutes earlier hoping the smell would retract also. It didn’t. That’s not the way it worked. My wishful thinking.
Marcy enhanced the video feed on the killers left eye. It had a tattoo of a yellow hornet. When his eye twitched, the wings on the bee appeared to flap as if it were flying. From that angle, it looked creepy.
She settled on the part of the video that showed Theodore Paladin yelling at Batterton about his name.
‘It’s not Theo, or hey Pal, or Paddington. It’s Theodore Paladin!’ his voice roared while beating the victim with bare hands before killing him with the wire.
‘Why is it so hard for people to say my name correctly?’ Paladin ranted in the recording while pacing back and forth, arms akimbo while standing over the body in his tattoo shop. His twitching eye had the hornet flying fiercely as if looking for someone to sting.
“He murdered the guy for saying his name wrong,” Marcy said incredulously. “Let’s get this guy off the street.”
“Slow your roll, OK? I have to pick memory enhancements from the library first,” I tell her while turning off the video and walking away. I pass a mirror down the hallway and stop to comb my hair in place. Thinking about Paladin’s actions, I decided he was provoked into ‘taking the matter in his own hands.’ His own hands! Hah!
My cheeks dimple as I laugh at my own joke.
In the VCI Memory Library I look through the list of digital training I could upload into my conscience. The memory uploads give the user all the knowledge and experiences of the subject picked. The equipment, called Dual Memory Technology, was a side project designed by trailblazers in human cloning. Connecting this tech to my neural implants would upload the data into my mind, giving me life experience on the subject, purging after 48 hours.
Only 48 hours so I carefully select the appropriate knowledge base for an angry garrote choking tattoo artist with a twitching hornets eye.
I choose Mind Control, by Ewan Steller and Contact Combat by Aviv Peretz. The two digital selections, one based on hypnosis from the 21st century and the other provided the best maneuvers to safely find him. It will give me the time I need to talk to him and fix this. I see Marcy waiting for me by the TelePorter. I tell her my choices.
“So, what do you think ?”
“Contact Combat is good. It’s based on Israeli defense techniques dovetailing our VCI training. But why’d you pick Mind Control? That training is wrong for this job. Maybe pick something to help with his psychological profile,” noted Marcy.
“I don’t want to analyze Paladin, just catch him off guard. He’s physical. Hand to hand combat techniques will help me overpower him,” I say, eyebrow raised. “Then use mind control to quietly bring him in. Simple science.”
“Hmm. Simple might get us killed” Marcy says with pursed lips.
“We don’t have to go after him in a Trekkie mind meld you know. We can go separate,” I remind her, hoping she takes the hint. I could better use the uploaded knowledge without her in my head or in my way.
“VCI protocols state we go as one, so that’s what we’ll do,” she says firmly.
“Alright, I was just giving you the option of not joining minds, if you’re not confident in my abilities,” I say, pushing a couple strands of jet black hair back into place. I wait for the ‘Okay, you’re right.’ It never came.
“This will be my first mind merge. I’m looking forward to it.” She says.
“Not me. I misplaced the inhibitor they gave us during training. Can I use yours? If not my thoughts will be open to your reading at any time. I hope you will use discretion while in my head.”
“I will, but damn Dee! You lost yours? The inhibitors are thin like a necklace to be worn so you can’t lose it. Besides that, each one responds uniquely to individual DNA!”
“So you can’t use mine. It wouldn’t work on you. God, you just don’t care about the tech given to you. Inhibitor or not we’re doing this.”
“Fine,” I say. “The network server’s got a lock on Paladin’s current location. Let’s talk to him.”
“Screw talk. We bring him in.” Marcy says. We lock eyes but she breaks contact suddenly.
“Give me a second. I need to do something before we leave. Be right back,” she tells me and takes off in the wind. I find out later Marcy keyed a command into the network server. She returned without mentioning it.
“I’m ready now. Let’s go.” She says.
‘The lion is ready to pounce,’ I say to myself.
The TelePorter display shows SoHo sector 7, the last Geolocation of Paladin. I stand on the transport pad. Marcy is lying on a stretcher near me, her head connected to electrodes and TelePorter. She twiddles her thumbs, waiting for her mind to transfer into me. When completed, we will be in the SoHo sector in seconds, rather I will with Marcy’s conscience residing in my head, her body still at headquarters. Inside my head, I feel us becoming one mind. Already she’s reading my memories. It’s like she opened my personal diary and started reading.
How far back she can see I don’t know. I didn’t pay attention to details during training. I know without my inhibitor I have no control over what she sees in my head. The only plus for me is she can’t read my current thoughts while reading my old ones. That means filter new thoughts as she reads my old ones if thats possible.
It will be more than embarrassing if my mind reveals my personal feelings about this case. With Marcy reading my mind I feel like I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. In this situation, a daydream could end my career.
“So, you miss going to the gym? Why did you stop the workouts?” Marcy asks me in my head.
“Stick to reading the combat strategies I just uploaded instead of my personal thoughts,” I tell her, trying to keep my cognitions from further betrayal. That thought was two days before I went to the Soho Stonewall Inn for Christ sake.
“I appreciate the way you explained to the division boys to let me get used to the job before hitting on me,” Marcy says. “Thanks.”
This is getting weird I think, then realizing Marcy might read this too. I try changing the subject.
“ I thought we would be there by now.”
“You should know it takes just 2 or 3 seconds,” she says. “The temporal jump between time and space seems longer to us TelePorting, at least that’s what they said during training. “We appear to be dimension traveling a full 5 minutes already.”
Her chatter is suddenly lost to a bright orange flash that causes me to blink. I realize I’m no longer on the teleportation pad at VCI Headquarters. Taking a look around I see we’ve been teleported to SoHo. A smell like sulfer is in the air, the other evidence of our instant arrival. A flash, a puff of smoke, and we appear out of thin air like a magic trick.
“Wow. Talk about pulling a rabbit out of a hat,” Marcy mentally tells me.
Looking around for Paladin, I take in our surroundings. The TelePorter dropped us in the middle of a cobblestone street. Empty outdoor tables and chairs fill the corners of what is a back alley. I recognize a closed high-end art gallery, a winery, and restaurant from the rear of the buildings. I see my reflection in the gallery window. Walking away from the view I suck in my stomach.
“Really? You’re worried about your appearance now? Where is this place? Marcy asks me internally.
“Were downtown SoHo. This is restaurant ally, the back end of high priced shops and eateries. It’s still morning. Everything opens late afternoon here,” I say as I look for signs of anybody in the secluded alleyway.
‘The network server is supposed to bring us within a few feet of the targets Bio Chip,’ I tell Marcy mentally.
“Nobody’s here,” I say out loud when I’m hit with a hard object on the back of my head. I take another blow across my ribcage, hearing a crack which painfully knocks me off my feet.
“What’s happening?” Marcy yells as I curl into a ball on the cobblestones. I try to protect vital organs when a 3rd blow connects to the side of my face. Red cobblestones turn grey as I begin to pass out. I wonder if Marcy will too. So much for my special training.
I feel like I’m sitting in a chair on a spacecraft or inside a robot, with the view of the world through half-open eye slits of a fallen giant.
“Darius! Wake up!” My commands are unheard inside his head. I see Paladin with bare feet pacing back and forth. His hand goes through Darius’s pockets removing his badge and hand weapon, tossing them several feet away.
He must have removed his GPS Identifier, then ambushed us. I hear him yelling at Darius but it feels like his rage is directed at me.
“Why would you come for me? It’s not my fault. If he’d said my name right I wouldn’t have done it. I knew this would happen one day! I knew it!” Paladin ranted. His pacing increased. So did the eye twitching.
White knuckles gripped a metal pipe tightly in his other hand. He drew back his arm like a pitcher. Another blow will kill Darius… and me. In his body, I’m helpless while he’s down. Paladin’s arm speeds forward for the killing strike.
A burst of lightning hits Paladin’s arm while in motion, forcing him to drop the pipe. A second strike fired from hand weapons drops him to the ground as I see my backup VCI agents move in and handcuff their man.
“Hell Yea Boys!” I shout and high five myself in Darius’s head. I’m grateful that I requested backup through the network server just before transporting.
“Thank God they got him,” I say with relief.
My first mind joining was a disaster, but I’m safe now, so I read more of Darius’s memories. Once I’m free from him, he will have to answer to me.
Without knowledge of my condition, the agents decide to drive us back to the TelePorter. Darius and I lie side by side on stretchers while the mind joining is reversed. Once separated they rush him to the hospital for treatment.
Geesh, what about me? I’m thinking, but the guys are already out the door.
This delay of emergency services I write down as another problem using the TelePorter. I drive my own car to confront Darius at the hospital and get checked out too.
There is a line in emergency when I get there. I could have shown my badge and gotten through faster but I thought about the other patients and waited my turn.
When the doctor finished with me I found Darius in a private recovery unit, still groggy from the pain meds they gave for 2 broken ribs and a mild concussion. Sensing a presence, he opens his eyes and focuses on me. I wondered how he got the fancy room but decided not to ask.
“How you feeling?”
“Like Paladin hit me.”
“Yea. You took a couple blows. It will get better,” I tell him.
“I was told our backup agents got Paladin. How’d they know our situation?”
“When I was in Vice, I always had a backup watching over me. I saw no reason to change my protocols in Violent Crimes.”
“I didn’t think I needed them. Guess I was wrong.”
“Yeah Dee. On so many levels,” I say in a sarcastic tone.
“What does that mean?” he said frowning from our conversation, not the pain of his injuries.
Darius tries to sit up but a spasm near his ribcage wins over. He lays back down.
“Okay what?” he settles on saying.
I give him a minute to settle down, then I lay it out.
“I’m leaving Violent Crimes. Heading up my own unit.”
Darius jaw drops forcing his mouth into an open oval shape.
“I know I messed up, but you don’t have to leave. I had a bad break, no pun intended.” He tries to laugh but held back.
“Some things I can’t forgive… or unread,” I say.
“It’s the mind joining thing right? he asks. I hear teeth suck and a loud ‘Tsk’ sound from his mouth.
“Yeah, Dee. Honestly, I really don’t care… but you have no girlfriend,” I tell him. I figured that out by observation and intuition a week after I started. The mind joining confirmed it was a cover, like that illusion you built by telling the guys I was hands off.”
Darius watches me but says nothing. He does a hair toss to flick his black strains in place. It didn’t work, but he made no attempt to comb it back. Maybe it hurt too much to lift his arm for vanity. I continued with my speel.
“Dee, your personal life was none of my business until it interfered with the law and my life. You knew Paladin all along. Actually worked out with him at the gym and spent a night at the Stonewall Inn with him. I read through your memories after I realized Paladin knew who you were during the ambush. Your plan was to help him escape to a sector outside our jurisdiction. Problem was he panicked and attacked us before you could tell him your plans to save him. He’s an idot like you.”
“I, I, think you got it wrong Marcy,” he stammers while looking at the floor.
“If I hadn’t called in backup, he would have killed you and my consciousness would have died inside your body. That makes mind joining too dangerous for the field, which I told Captain Richards.
“I think you’re right. That tech is too dangerous to use. It twisted my thoughts up,” he lied.
“You seem to forget I was there Dee. I saw what happened between Paladin and you. But that doesn’t matter now. Besides, I gave the Captain an idea for a better use of the mind joining. As soon as we iron out the specifics, we’ll use the tech in a controlled environment on felons to extract information.
It will be an asset to national security. I’ll lead the new unit tentatively called the Mind Interrogation Bureau or MIB.”
“Since you were prevented by Paladin from doing what you planned, I didn’t mention it to the Captain. But I read in your memories how you were going to give your lover a free pass because you believed he was justified in taking a life… for saying a name wrong. Then you planned on using mind control to keep me silent. Bottom line Dee, I can’t trust you as my partner so my move is best for both of us.
Darius laid back in bed. The expression on his face was more contempt than sorrowful. It didn’t matter. I said my piece and started to walk out the door.
“What about Lana Love?” He calls out with disdain. “How about I keep your secret so you won’t have problems going to this new MIB and you keep mine…just the details about me and Paladin. Deal?”
I walk towards his bed and challenge him.
“What about Lana?” I ask him. “Oh, you thought getting undercover dirt on me from Vice days would put me in your pocket? That video you got came from an informant I previously arrested. It shows me doing my job, no matter how intimate I got. So you got nothing.
Paladin is the one you should hope keeps your secret. Im sure he will tell all just to get a lighter sentence. You should worry about that Dee.”
I watch as Darius’s face turns red. He grabs the rail on his bed tightly.
“My name is not Dee. It’s Darius. You best get it right from now on.” He tells me, an obvious threat.
“If I were you Id think twice about threatening a MIB investigator that has the authority as of now to interrogate you at any time,” I exaggerate.
“By the way, you don’t know a damn thing about the tech you use daily, which makes you a danger to the team.
I’m on my way to speak to Captain Richards about having you step down as lead investigator while you go back to basic training. If she agrees, you have two months to complete training and score 80 percent or better if you want to keep your job. And while you’re in basic training, prepare to get basic pay.”
Darius sucks in a breath and does the staring thing, eyes filled with hatred this time.
If looks could kill…
“Find yourself a male partner Dee. You’ll be much happier.”
He closes his eyes. I hear a grunt as he tries to lay on his side with his back towards me. His patient gown opens slightly and exposes his ass. He makes no effort to cover it.
No question how he feels about me.
I close the private room door as I leave for the drive back to Headquarters.
“Mind Interrogation Bureau, run by Investigator Marcy Little,” I say in the parking garage. The sound of my voice echoes back.
I guess I am… doing okay as a corporate climber, hungry as a lion. No… more like a cheetah… Dee.
Copyright © 2019 Darnell Cureton. All Rights Reserved
A/N: I got the idea for this story from work acquaintances that have known me for years. At times for some reason, they would call me Darryl or Daniel, Not Darnell. If you just met me I would understand, but working with me for years…So this story was born.
Also, a blogger/author mentioned my character Darius should have a twitching eye. That gave me the idea of him having a tattoo on his eyelid of a hornets wings. As he twitched, the wings would flap. Thank you, Petra Jacob, for the idea! When time permits check out her blog INKBIOTIC. Better yet, get a copy of her book “Peddling Doomsday.” You can read my review of it here.
I appreciate everyone finishing this story. In this fast-paced world, most don’t have time to invest in fiction longer the 500 words but you invested your time in me and my story so I thank you very much! Have a wonderful day!