by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
Michael J A Tyzuk’s “Rude Awakening” began in issue 91.
Lada Samara woke up with the sun shining in her eyes. She cringed. Sunlight went badly with the bourbon she’d drunk last night.
She vaguely remembered having picked up someone for a one-night fling. She barely remembered meeting her at the bar, hitting it off nicely, taking her home afterwards, getting undressed...
For some reason her sink disposal kept popping up while she was trying to remember. It was broken, she knew, and the repairman was due today, at four o'clock.
Lada shook her head and turned around. There she was. Her date for yesterday. Lying in front of her. Crosseyed. Her tongue sticking out. Lada wondered why.
“Stop making faces at me...” she said, wondering what her girlfriend’s name was. Her bedfellow did not stir. She reached out and shoved her one-night lover gently.
Lada's blood ran cold. The woman was cold to the touch, like a side of ham straight from the fridge. She turned her to her back, and sure enough, blood had pooled on her abdomen, breasts and thighs.
Lada hyperventilated. “Oh, no. A naked dead girl in my bed! This can't be happening!” she thought, “I can never show my face at work again!”
Then, she calmed herself down. “Okay, think straight... I did not do it. She probably just had an aneurysm or something. But how will it sound when I call it in? ‘Hi, this is officer Lada Samara, from the Missing Persons Department, and I am reporting a naked dead woman in my bed’. No. I need a drink first. Damn, my head is splitting... Uh-oh...”
Officer Lada Samara ran to the toilet to puke. She dwelt there for at least 15 minutes, alternately drinking water from the tap and vomiting yellow and green gunk into the toilet bowl.
Finally she got herself out again, and was on her way to the phone, when she figured she'd have a better look at the body.
Her one-night lover was a young, shapely woman in good form, apart from being dead, of course. But there was one aspect of her that made Lada reconsider calling her death in just yet: she had been strangled.
“What if they think it was me? Uhm... they will think it was me. I am the only one here.” Lada checked her window. It was locked. She smiled at the kid in the adjacent building. He was waving. She waved back. The buildings were less than 10 meters apart, and the windows were large. Here on the 25th floor a burglar would have needed to use the window cleaner's equipment to break in, but that had happened only a couple of times in her building over the last five years.
“What a nice kid,” she thought as she waved.
Lada checked the front door. It was locked.
“The killer must be still inside. Or he has a key.” Disturbing thoughts. Lada decided to get dressed before checking under the bed. And then it dawned on her. She slapped herself on the face for her oversight. Of course the kid over in the next building had been happy to see her... naked.
Priorities, priorities... get dressed, then check for evidences of burglary.
Lada found no one. And now there was a new problem. Her partner, officer Tyzuk, was coming to get her in an hour. By law, he was obligated to get her in custody until the murder had been proven on someone else. One does not get paid when in custody.
Lada thought heavily about this. She would have to hide the body. But where? There was limited space in her apartment, limited indeed. She could stuff her under the kitchen sink... A capital idea!
Lada dragged the unidentified dead woman out of bed, and into the kitchen. She opened the door, and was about to start stuffing in the body, when she remembered:
The repairman was coming in today to repair her disposal, which was under her kitchen sink. It was a real nifty disposal, 2.5 horsepower of chicken-bone grinding power, but it kept malfunctioning. The last time the repairman had asked if she was grinding cans in it. What of it? she’d answered him; 2.5 horses are supposed to be able to handle a few cans! Damn it! And now the thing had been out of order for five weeks, and the repairman was finally coming. Lada considered upgrading to the new 3.2 horsepower unit. You could grind bricks in that thing.
The space under the sink was out. How about the refrigerators? Yes! Of course! Lada kept nothing in there that couldn't be thrown out!
Lada dragged the body to the fridge, and opened it. She almost fainted when she saw what was inside: a six-pack of beer; but, more importantly, another body!
It took her a whole minute to calm down again.
The body in the fridge was also of a woman, youngish, naked, her tongue sticking out. Lada slammed the door and breathed heavily. In a minute, she opened the fridge again, and got a beer. No problem. She had been drunk at work before. Nothing unusual.
Five minutes later, when she had calmed down again, she thought it over reasonably, and figured she'd just store the corpse in the shower. Neither her partner nor the repairman would go in there. So she did, and as she was closing the door behind her, the doorbell rang.
Lada opened the door, and there stood officer Tyzuk, whistling the theme from Hawaii 5-O. “Hi sweetness,” he said as he stopped whistling, and leered at her with a lopsided grin. “Ready?”
Lada found her sidearm and her badge, and grabbed her jacket before hurrying out, with her best “nothing special happened tonight” face on.
Tyzuk grabbed her behind as she locked the door. She wondered if he knew she was gay, and trying to turn her, or didn't, and was just being annoying. “Nice aroma,” he said, and continued whistling the Hawaii 5-O theme.
Lada forced a grin. She knew her apartment smelled like a brothel. She figured she had probably broken a couple dozen perfume bottles on the floor during a drinking spree, or accidentally poured the stuff on the floor while drinking it. Either way, she felt less sick when she got out into the polluted air of the city.
* * *
Some 25 million people lived in the city. Each year, a thousand persons disappeared, and it was Lada's job to find them. Most often they were found again, alive and kicking. But sometimes they were found dead, or lost indefinitely. Today, the 12th of August of 2688, thirty persons exactly were lost. A good, even number.
There was a new member joining the Missing Persons Bureau that day. Officer Andrea Doria was being demoted from Murder. The Murder Department was the most cozy job one could get. On a good day, they didn't have to interrogate anyone. The evidence was always there, right within grasp, and if the perps didn't confess right away, they were invariably caught on evidence.
But Officer Doria had to leave to make room for the Chief's daughter, and there were always openings in the Missing Persons Department.
Lada ignored her as she appeared, turned on her console, and picked the first case available. Verloren Gehen, daughter of Martha Gehen, owner of Martha's Vineyard, the largest vineyard in the city, had been missing for a week. There were four pictures of her within. She was a cute little thing, Lada thought. She'd sleep with her any day.
She also looked slightly familiar.
“See this woman, she looks familiar somehow,” she said to Tyzuk.
“Of course she is. She's always in the papers. There are some pictures of her in the latest issue of Seen and Heard.”
“Oh... I never read that one. I just pretend to read it when I don't want you to bother me.”
“That's nice to know. We should go and interr... talk to her mother.”
Lada loved being on the force. That meant her ride got souped up unbelievably. That also meant that Tyzuk took his own car when on assignment. He didn't harbor any death wishes, like he suspected her to, judging from her driving.
Lada arrived five minutes before Tyzuk, and used the time gained to smell the flowers, and look at the girls at the vineyard. She gave one a blink, and received a shocked frown in return. She smiled apologetically at the girl. Nothing meant.
Finally Tyzuk came, and they could go in.
Ms. Gehen was in her office playing solitaire when they knocked on her door. They introduced themselves, and started asking the questions:
“When you saw your daughter last, what mood was she in?” asked Lada.
“She was whistling when she left the house in the afternoon, let me remember... nine days ago.”
“The Hawaii 5-O theme?”
“Nothing. Were you on good terms with your daughter? Normally that is.”
“Yes. We were the best of friends. She called me a week ago on the phone. That was the last I heard from her. She just called to say she loved me.”
Lada looked at her pad, and scribbled, “Not seen for nine days, not heard for seven.”
“She did use to disappear for a couple of days at a time.”
“We took a look at her psychoanalyst report since last year...”
“She was getting over her father's death. It was worst for the first two or three months, and then she started smiling again...” Martha sighed serenely, and gave a faint smile.
“It says in the report that she blamed you for the disaster when the Monitor blew up.”
“That was a long time ago, she realized long since that I didn't will it to hit that asteroid. It was an accident, an act of God.” Martha crossed herself.
“There are two suicide attempts on record.”
“What? Whose file is this?” Martha half closed her left eye while Lada checked the file.
“Oh. Oops, silly me! I accidentally opened up your psych report! Sorry!”
“Enough of this. Go out and find my daughter. You have all sorts of technology at your disposal, now use it. Leave me alone.”
When Lada and Tyzuk had left the office, Tyzuk nudged Lada, and asked her, “What did you drink last night anyway? You behaved like a moron in there.”
“Why didn't you conduct the interrogation then?”
“You know how I am with people...”
“Hey, you are all right with me...”
Tyzuk's face lit up. “Do you mean it?”
“NO! I didn't mean it that way... I meant... Arrrgh!”
“I'm just messing with you,” said Tyzuk, and slapped her behind. “I'm going back to the station to check if I can find her on FR.”
* * *
FR. Face Recognition. On every corner in the city was a camera gazing at the masses, recording them as they went by. Convicted felons were tracked with their help wherever they went, and if need arose, so could anyone else. All you needed was a picture, and you could track back someone's movements throughout the week. Provided, that is, that this certain someone actually went outside. Verloren was a party girl. Those types were not likely to keep indoors for long at a time.
Tyzuk loaded Verloren's image in the software, and commenced search. A minute later, the computer came up with five possible matches; three women that looked similar to Verloren, a man in drag, and a cat.
Lada looked at the matches, and commented: “I don't think this works.”
“This only means she disappeared too long ago; the buffer has been re-used.”
It was known throughout that a face was only stored in the software for an exact week.
“Maybe we are just one minute too late,” said Lada.
Tyzuk gave a whimper. “Don't remind me.”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2004 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson