I was already oversubscribed that day, too many clients. Really stressed, which wasn’t normal for me. I held things together very well but when the next client came in, the brief already told me I faced a total train wreck. The guy was spakked out, and been since not long after he’d landed at The Mission in the City.
I’d just seen Jungle Man Jesus off; he’d been capsuled for a month before they would release him into the next retention. This lasted three months then our Jungle Man would face a lifetime of check-ins meds and therapy, otherwise he’d be sanctioned and that was no fun. He’d have a strict regime of psychotropics, CBT and The Buzz, essentially a process which physically restrained people to a limited perimeter of movement with progressive levels of liberty. If they breached it-they got zapped, like a strong tazer.
Personally I would have let him go before that but the company wouldn’t have a bar of it since there were other people involved, you know, people high up in The Club who insisted we did the full banana on the guy. So off he went…blessed be!
Fuck me I was scared of Grimwade, the new client. He was the only one I have ever been scared of and I have seen everything you can imagine and more. He had an insect like head, weirdly shaped, like an apostrophe. He parted his short grey hair in the middle, combing it entirely flat to his head which, you know, did not help in the charm department. He was really long and skinny, almost syndactylic, long long skinny arms and legs of unnatural length and proportions with spoon shaped fingers and I could just imagine him eating a fly and scuttling up the side of a wall or something. He sat there with his knees together and his hands inserted in between his legs which he rhythmically squeezed. His tongue kept rimming his thin wide mouth in five second cycles; I counted.
“Can I call you Bob, Mr Grimwade?”
Silence. Lip licking.
There was a good few minutes that passed and neither of us said a word nor moved. I sighed. He looked up abruptly, spoke in a gravelly whisper and looked at me intently.
“Yesss yess they all sigh in the end, just at the end after the breath leaves them. They sigh. They sigh, they are tired of the pain, it is easy to let it all go then.”
I had this falling sensation in my guts. I knew it wasn’t the bots he was talking about. They don’t sigh when they get shut off, they just you know, stop with a click, not with a bang nor a whimper.
“The bots don’t feel pain.”
He knocked his knees together and smirked.
“They don’t. It is true. They feel …nothing.”
“Are you talking about the others?”
“Others?” He smirked again.
I was fishing with a little bait which was my knowledge of psychopaths, his extensive file and my intuition.
“Oh, well, what you did with the bots was incredible! I have to applaud you on how you stalked them, how you laid out your traps and the final moments of your catch…well I have been in this business for many years and I have never seen such skill. Masterful! It seemed that you really have studied the art of dispatch. Wonderfully done.”
He waggled his head and a grin formed a tight rictus on his face.
“Thank you, thank you. Yes, I have done a bit of a brush up on the process, anatomy, forensic science and so forth. Most interesting what happens in the last moments before the body dies.”
It took effort but I played my part well and I smiled broadly at him.
“What do you think then? I’ve always wanted to know, so what actually happens?”
He suddenly rocked back in his chair throwing his crossed ankles upwards with his hand still clasped tightly between his thighs. Alarmed I threw out a hand to steady him.
“Whoa! Careful there!”
He dropped forward into the first still position but leaned forward to say in that weird uncanny whisper, mocking them.
“They plead. They all plead. They say please oh please don’t, ohh don’t, don’t hurt me, please don’t I have children, I have a wife, I have a husband, I have a mother father sister brother I’ll give you money I’ll give you my daughter, they’ll say ANYTHING (here he spat it out in contempt) but they NEVER say the right thing.”
“What is the right thing?”
He smiled and those eyes, those eyes like the stinking winking arsehole of Satan himself, closed a little and he leaned back in his chair folded his arms and said nothing at all, later in the same conversation, nothing in fact ever again after that day.
The DNA tests pinned him to forty-seven murders. Indiscriminate, no pattern, random people races ages sizes, random places, all blitzed with Smack, carted off, strung up, some raped, in fact all the children were. Some were sliced away in slivers, truly a death of a thousand cuts.
I ran through the first vids of his arrival at the City base where every person he came into contact with registered an uptick of blood pressure, heart rate and breathing, everyone without exceptions and oddly all his victims knew inside them by their very cellular energetic response that this guy was evil but no-one would believe that they knew they intrinsically knew. How many red flags have to get waved? How many sirens and alarms go off? How well we all train ourselves not to listen to ourselves. I dunno, it beats me.
We truly have great professionals here. I looked at the exchange between Grimwade and Amy Schaeffer. She is the end to end concierge who checks clients in and out. I checked the vis reports she had sent me about Grimwade.
I watched on the screen as she slipped her psyfilters on when she started her shift and dutifully gazed into the monitor which read all her stats did a quick appraisal on her mental health rating and with a little bling sound, a little pink cherub with a golden harp and wings floated on the bright blue screen and she began her day, processing the first guests returning from the City.
“Good morning sir. I hope you are well and have enjoyed your stay in The City. May I have you face the monitor please sir and place both index fingers on the glass pad? Thank you sir.”
Grimwade gave that little tight lipped movement, he thought approximated a smile and complied. His eyes flicked sideways unnaturally fast, almost like nystagmus.
He wore beige. Beige pants, some kind of print shirt underneath his beige bomber jacket. I mean, who wore bomber jackets anymore? He also wore black lace up leather shoes with white socks. The trouble with guys like this is similar to flying through what seems to be clear skies then suddenly the plane bucks and jumps, it might fall a thousand feet or more but no-one sees it coming, no radar shows the approaching pockets of turbulence. But Amy Schaeffer did. She used her failsafe button; good ol’ fashioned intuition and pressed the red alert which was done with her eye movements, rapidly flicking right to a sensor and blinking twice. It was for these particular talents that she was placed in this critical position.
“Mr Grimwade, thanks so much. Now can I get you to go into the booth to the right and take off your clothes putting them into the basket provided. We have provided your clothing apropos to your specifications and you can change in the booth now.”
The biosensors were switched to ultra-mode as Amy’s own registered an alert status. Grimwade didn’t know it but thousands of receptors were already reading data from every nasty cell in his body. During the pre-testing several flags had been raised on the guy but the levels of concern were not sufficient to bar him from entering the City at that point but while it is a profit making company, there ain’t no profit to be made from bad press. A couple of years ago, we had a reputation that made us look like a pig with lipstick and worse for a few years back, we were getting the interest of the government folks in what we were doing and our security systems. We couldn’t shed a follicle without it being appraised and measured by an intergovernmental panel of experts. Then damn, bam, thank you Sam, suddenly they turned around and chipped in to pay for some edgy new fandangle biometric processor I don’t have a clue about but the company was real happy. All we had to do was send them the high end customers reports. One might argue it was a breach of privacy but seriously, who believed that was possible anymore? Back in the twenties chipping newborn everything became mandatory.
It was arguably the most controversial thing that happened apart from the next step, social crediting. Well of course that started in China earlier and was kind of unique to them for a long while because of the way their society is structured, all carrot and stick to a nicely tamed and regulated populace. That and the massive governmental reach into every tissue used to wipe away a tear for a disappeared relative, to every nail banged into the coffin of freedom. China led the way but the technology was mostly American, Israeli and British.
Everyone complained but gradually the propaganda and staged events succeeded in winning people over. When I say staged events, it was quite complicated, it wasn’t as simple as getting a bunch of actors to bite on blood capsules and run amok screaming into the streets, ‘There’s a gunman there’s a gunman!’ No, no. There were layers to this. Take for example microchipping your pets, for their safety and your security. Then taking your shoes off at the airports; for your safety and security. Then whole body scans, immunisations for every conceivable and inconceivable disease children, teenagers, adults, cats, dogs, chooks. Then the cameras on every doorway porch vestibule street and building, the drones that hovered like bees, the environmental taxes, the geoengineering of earth sky and sea well that didn’t work out so well did it as the solar minimum kicked in and we froze our arses off for ten or fifteen years. The Black Army was on the stroll wherever you went. The facial recognition scanners, iris readers, emotiscans, infrared, blueray, 5G, spraying the troposphere, the stratosphere, GMO everything, the move to mandatory veganism or if you were rich, manufactured meat to secure the world’s biomes. What the fuck we were supposed to be scared of was ridiculously clear; ourselves. People should be scared, should be terrified of the enemy because the enemy was ourselves, we the people, homo ferox.
They didn’t ever mention the cost though, the rise in taxes to pay for all this unnecessary shit they just quietly slugged us until in the end, the most worked their lives out for the few. Hasn’t it ever been thus? The few, well many of them spent their easy earned here, at the City of Pleasures.
Anyway, one of the offshoots, just like the microwave oven was the offshoot of a NASA program, was SEA; Sensory Erudition Actuation. Basically it read the tiniest fluctuations in biodata which fed into an extremely powerful program called Alph, created by our company. What Alph did in the beginning was data matching on a vast scale to sift and find bits of codes, track algorithms, find and store every database since Adam and Eve played River Raid on a Nintendo, sniff down all the conscious and unconscious data we so carelessly flung about in our digital lives and project likely outcomes and plans. There was nothing Alph didn’t know about a single solitary soul who ever breathed the smart nanoparticled air of this world. Thus we caught the interest of government intelligence agencies and snared filthy pieces of evil shite like Grimwade.
So when our erstwhile Vacationer finished his sojourn into the City, then stepped into the booth to remove his shoes and socks, unbuckle his belt and slip his beige pants over his pale thighs, take off his Captain Underpants and sweaty shirt, he had handed over every piece of evidence via shed epithelial cells pheromones and follicles any forensic lab could want. Within minutes Mr Grimwade warmly embraced the biometry of Alph, mix’n matched, signed sealed ‘n delivered; the serial killer the cops had been after for a frustratingly long long time.
Like all psychos and malignant narcs, underneath their careful planning, they couldn’t help themselves. They wanted the spotlight, craved the attention of authorities because firstly they didn’t know the difference between fame and notoriety and secondly their contempt for all authority meant they ultimately had to have a showdown with it. In their delusion they dreamed they would always best it, could always cock a leg and piss on the tree of authority marking out their grand territory. To a malignant narc or a psych (often they were two in the same) everything around them was theirs, or was an extension of themselves. So when Mr Grimwade saw the lure of the City of Pleasures where his every vile sick fantasy could be fulfilled with no consequences, he bit on the hook that dragged him in to us.
While in the City, he’d painstakingly recreated some of his most vicious and worst crimes not on humans this time but like a dog returning to his vomit, he visited these homicides on replicants (the bots) reproducing the scenes of the crimes some fourteen times in the week he was there.
Waiting outside the other doorway where he thought he could be on his merry way were two robocops which took him into custody and read the charges in a nicely modulated female transatlantic accent. He didn’t have the pleasure of voicing his innocence or his objections to a human audience, he saved that for me.
He looked up at me much like an iguana, motionless on a rock, turns its eyes upwards.
“I’m interested in how you reconciled having a family with also being a serial killer. Tell me more about how you did that.”
“Why should I?”
“For posterity, Mr Grimwade, for posterity, our elucidation! You as master teaching us- your students. Oh I admire your skill Mr Grimwade, I do, really, I do, you have such a… such a, way of doing things. Such perfect planning.”
Clearly he was flattered as a small contemptuous smirk flickered over his face.
“Perhaps, yes, perhaps. Yes I am the best of the worst aren’t I?”
“Oh most certainly. But for example when you snatched young Carmen Pinheiro, she was the same age of your own daughter?”
He shifted slightly and I read the graph status on the screen in my reader. Cognitive dissonance scaling way up.
“She was nothing like my daughter.”
I projected the split of two children’s images on his screen, Carmen playing, Carmen with her baby brother, Carmen eating an ice-cream with delight, then his daughter Josie playing, Josie with her baby sister, Josie sitting in front of a tofuburger staring up at the camera blankly, unhappily.
“Kids,’ I softly laughed. “Kids … they’re all the same, greedy little buggers, but I bet you she just loved that ice cream you bought her didn’t she?”
He was silent. I continued.
“Now take Josie.” Here I slid a hologram in front of him of his daughter at thirteen, entering a store and trying on a very expensive dress. While she stood in front of the store mirror it recorded everything and sent it to a sales team which looked up her family financials calculated her credit and spat the result onto the wrist screen of the shop assistant.
“Oh she couldn’t afford it! What a shame, she looked so pretty in that dress and I guess she really really wanted it. Oh look there’s you! You look so pissed off! I don’t blame you, it would be infuriating to have a mere shopgirl tell you what you can or can’t buy your child.”
Enter the hologram of Carmen Pinheiro with the shopgirl trying on the same dress.
“Wow! K’ching! Look at that! Somehow she’s got all the financials behind her thanks to her daddy being a director of Alco and look how she leaves the store with the dress meticulously wrapped and a smile on her face. How nice is that! She is sooo happy!”
He gripped the arms of the chair he was restrained to but leaned as far forward as he could.
“Little bitch! Little bitch! It was MY daughter’s dress! MY daughter’s!”
I listened silently as he went on.
“I dispatched her slowly you know. She cried for her daddy to help her. No daddy, no daddy sadly. Only me.”
“And did Carmen say the right thing?”
He sat there peering at the hologram of Carmen aligned with Josie.
“What is the right thing to say, Mr Grimwade?”
I leaned over towards him and said forcefully injecting all the loathing I felt for this piece of shit.
“Didn’t that little girl say the right thing Mr Grimwade as you raped her and cut her small throat?”
The Cognitive Dissonance meter pinged off the scale but he only smiled that tight lizard smile.