ANTISUN GREY Presents | A Brian Franklin Story
2Signs and Stairwells

“Murder, through and through,” Merc said, bending over the body of a beautiful young woman. “Why do pretty girls always go for the psychos?”

“Because psychos are sexy and interesting.” Kari snorted. “Murder it is. But there’s so little blood, even though she’s been lying here the whole night. No signs of struggle. And this knife – I’ve never seen anything like it.” A blade almost as transparent as glass yet clouded as if some duppy swirled within.

Merc walked towards the patio, stopping for a moment to admire the spectacular view of the city. Buildings leaking neon from their sides and windows. Roads at their feet awash with a festival of lights. “What’re you thinking, Kari?”

She got to her feet, massaged her throbbing temple. “There’s precision here, a lot of it. And the way the body’s been positioned. Looks almost ritualistic.” For all she tried, she could not pull her gaze away from that beautiful, dead face. The young woman looked only a good shake away from wakefulness. A bloody fingerprint marked each eyelid (so symmetrical) and similar fingerprints were all over the knife and one of the whiskey glasses on the end-table close by. Does the murderer want to be found? Was this some kind of show? It was unheard of. Murders in the city were rare, and in any case murderers hardly ever wanted to be found. Despite that the cases that did happen were always resolved within days.

Merc whistled and she looked up at him standing in the doorway. His hands were thrust deep into his pants pockets, and the wind tossed his clothes like flags about his thin postern frame. Yet, oddly enough, he seemed to fill that door-less space.

“Ritualistic, huh?”

“Yes,” Kari said. “Look.” She motioned to the body. “This girl’s arms are outstretched. Her right arm’s pointing to the whiskey glasses. The left one follows the angle of the knife’s blade to the bed. Her hair’s been laid out flat like a black halo around her head. And her body is at ninety degrees to the Eye – directly in its view. I’m guessing that whoever did this wanted it to be seen, wanted to see what would happen.”

He turned and stepped back inside. “That’s quite a guess.”

“I know. But … I got this feeling, you know?”

“I learned long ago not to question a woman’s feelings. At least, only when they feel they don’t love me.” A smile touched his lips and was gone. Scratching his greying sideburns he turned to regard the watercolour of a nude woman on the wall beside him. “But it looks to me like a crime of passion. The guy found out she was horning him, et cetera, he got angry, and so on, maybe embarrassed, blah, blah, then violent; the usual story.”

“Maybe in your day. You and I both know those kinds of crimes no longer happen.” She crossed her arms. “The Eye sees everything. And … and people just don’t kill each other for such reasons anymore.”

Merc looked at her for what felt like an uncomfortably long time before turning away. “You sound pretty convinced. Enough for your report?”

“Maybe.” She sighed. “Yeah, yeah.”

“Then let’s head out.”

“To the Eye?”

Merc laughed. “You know better than to ask that.”

“They would have seen! The killer wanted to be seen.”

“I hear you. Listen, they’ll get your report and then contact us when they find this asshole. Same as always.”

“We can get this sorted today,” Kari hissed, her fists tightening so hard her fingernails bit into her palms.

Merc rested his hands on Kari’s shoulders. “What’s gotten into you, Kari? We’ll get this guy, no worries.”

“I … I’m sorry. It’s just … how dare he. How dare he kill someone right in full view of the Eye? He knows he’ll be caught, why would he do it? To prove what?”

“People are cunts, same as they were when I first started out. Always seeing how much they can get away with. Come on. The quicker your report gets done, the quicker we can see this guy in a prison cell. And a workaholic like you’ll get that written up in moments, I’m sure.”

“We should kill him.”

Merc’s eyebrows shot up. “Say again?”

“Set an example. We’re building a better world and he … how dare he …” Easy, Kari. Get a hold of yourself, girl. Merc is a vet with thirty years on the force. Do you really want him to think you’re a novice who’s barely in control? “But yeah. We’ll get justice for this girl.”

“Right,” Merc agreed. But his eyes lingered on Kari’s before she looked towards the door.

She followed him as he left the loft, brushing past one of the Investigators; mute men and women who catalogued every square inch of the crime scene and uploaded it to the Centre. They glided into the room on feet that hardly seemed to move, their eyes down and averted from hers.

Kari let them pass before heading outside into the main hall. They would soon have a lead – as always – a task made all the easier by the abundance of evidence the murderer had left behind. She smiled and shook her head. People never learn. She thought. You cannot escape justice! Even after all this time, people never learn. But maybe if we were harder. If we showed them just what a bad idea breaking the law is…

The condominium was quiet at this time of night and so devoid of life as to seem abandoned. The corridor through which they walked was unpainted, revealing the coarse limestone surface. Recessed LED lighting illuminated most of the place, but shadows seemed to lurk at the periphery of her vision, disappearing when she turned to regard them. A gust of wind nipped at her hands and neck, so very cold that she felt goosebumps rise along the length of her skin.

“Very soon there won’t be any need for people like you and me,” Merc said, his hands still in his pockets, his eyes turned to the floor. “Heard they’re installing some new software for the Eye. Making it more accurate, more consistent. More … real-time, even.”

“Why are you saying it like it’s a bad thing? It will be able to intervene in crimes as they happen, putting a stop to theft, rapes and murder forever.”

“Well you’re certainly a proper convert. I just wonder where my pay-checks are going to be coming from when that goes live.”

Kari frowned at him. At times she didn’t know what to think of the man. They were detectives, part of the city’s front-line defence against crime. What could be better than having a system that would fight crime more effectively? Wouldn’t something like that be worth sacrificing your job, if it even came to that? She sighed and turned her attention on the elevator and stairs as they drew close.

Merc called for the elevator and turned to her with a half-smile. “Taking the ride?”

“No. Why do you keep on asking me that every single time?”

“Just trying to encourage you to face your fear.” The elevator chimed and the doors slid open. Merc stepped inside and turned back to her. “And even if it does stick, it’s not like you’re going to be trapped in here alone. You’d have a big sexy man to keep you company.”

“I’ll see you at the car,” she said, turning away and heading down the stairs. She thought she heard the man snicker, but then the elevator doors closed and he was falling down into the gut of the building.

Twenty flights to ground level. Kari stopped five flights down and sat on the steps. She massaged her knees, took deep breaths. Her phone rang. Probably Merc to tease her about how he was going to grab some pudding and souse, eat it, then circle back to pick her up when she got to the bottom of the stairs.

Sighing she pulled out her cell and saw another face on the glowing screen. She stared at it for what felt like forever before answering.

“Hey,” the man on the other side of the line said. “You at work?”

“I do have a job, remember?” Kari replied.

He chuckled, mirthlessly. “Listen. Sorry about last night. I shouldn’t have said––.”

“Stop calling me.”

“Kari, Kari. Let me apologise, okay? I love you. I want to be with you. I’m … not perfect. You’re not perfect. But––.”

“I am perfect. Bye.”

She ended the call. The cell felt warmer than her hands did. Warmer than her heart. A dry breeze curled down the stairwell, licked her goosebumps. She thought she felt a presence but she was alone. Alone as ever.

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