Thursday, 12 November 2015

Project Helix 004

Chapter 4

“Don’t say anything.” I Amy said to Franklin who opened his mouth to answer. “No.” Amy said putting up her index finger for emphasis. “As long as the kind police officers are here you are to keep quiet. Once they are out of earshot we have a little talk. We’ll take it from there. OK?”

Again Franklin was about to say something. Amy cut him short with a pointed look. He nodded instead. 

“Good.” said Amy. “Now,” she turned to the police officers whose mood forecast had just taken a turn for overcast weather with spontaneous gales of unwelcome third party interference, “please lead the way.” Amy smiled her best lawyer smile all teeth and sociopath eyes. 

The officers led the way back down to the street radiating a field of law enforcement as they moved through the corridors Amy could feel how the building itself caught its breath doing its best to look innocent while the spy holes in the doors looked the other way when they past in front of them only to look after them when it appeared that they could get away with it. The officers led the way with Amy and Franklin trailing after them. 

Franklin who usually looked like an olympian God, had shoulders that did their best to slump as best as they could defying their divine birth right. While Franklin’s face was now marked by grief and pain. 

They took the strains on their way back down which for Amy meant that the detectives were of the perceptive and competent type, making the situation more complicated that it already was. 

“I need to talk to my client in private.” Amy said as they arrived in the street. 

“Go ahead,” said McLean not showing even the slightest pretence of moving.

“In private, means alone.” Amy said sliding into the arms of sarcasm her old friend. “Why don’t you go on ahead and sit in your car for a while?”

McLean snorted. “And leave you and the suspect alone so that you can run away?”

“Running away…”, Amy exhaled. “On an open street. On foot. While you are sitting in a police car? And your friends at the precinct can ask the guys monitoring the CCTVs to track us while we make our mad dash to… where? The country?”

McLean took a step towards Amy her hands clenching into hosts. Hartley put a hand on his partners arm stopping her. “Let them. They are going to huddle together anyway. They might as well start here.” McLean turned towards her partner still stony faced. “And if they should try to escape,” he added, “you can shoot them with tranq darts for resisting arrest. Both of them.” he said looking Amy in the eyes when he said the last part. McLean unholstered her weapon deactivating the safety without taking looking away from her prey, saying all she had to say with that gesture before going to the police car. 
“Please, don’t do anything stupid.” Hartley said, in the voice of a man who had a lifetime of people choosing to be stupid behind him but had not given up hope just yet. He to turned away joining McLean in the police car. 

“Turn around,” Amy said when the car door closed behind Hartley.

“Why?” asked Franklin.

“Because I don’t want to risk discovering that the cops have some hidden lip reading talents.” Amy replied talking to a grey concrete wall that was attempting to maintain its innocence by hiding behind graffiti, only to appear more scandalous because of it.

“Can they do that?” Franklin asked.

“I have no idea. And I don’t want to find out.” Amy said, stealing a glance at Franklin, his gorgeous looks going a long way to restore her patience. 

“You are also a lawyer?” Franklin said turning towards her admiration in his eyes. 

“Face the wall.” Amy snapped. “And no, I am not a lawyer.”

“But you told the police that I am your client…”

“Because you are my client. They just seem to assume that I am your lawyer.” Amy said.

“You also sounded a lot like a lawyer.” Franklin said doing his best to keep looking at the scandalous wall. 

“It is one of my many talents.” Amy said. “And you are lucky that I am because I can keep you out of trouble until your real lawyer appears.”

“I don’t have a lawyer.” Franklin said.

“Of course you have, you just haven’t met him yet. I promise you that Lady Ashton Stone will not leave you without legal protection.” 

“Are you sure.” Franklin asked.

“Of curse I’m sure. That woman is madly in love with you.”

Franklin tried turning into several shades of red until he settled on the one that let him look the most smashing in his embarrassment.

“Now that we have that out of the way,” Amy said hoping to finally arrive at her actual point, “Who the fuck is Linda Curtis?”

Something broke in Franklin as Amy asked the question. The pain in him had found a way out and it would not be denied by his looks. The weight of the world dropped on him crushing the light out of his eyes, for a brief moment stopping his entire body. A flash of the numbness of death. When Christopher Franklin started talking again it was clear he wished that moment had taken him with it.

“Lind is… Lind was my ex.” he said tears now flowing down his face. His body shaking as he kept himself as much under control as he could. “We…” he paused for a long time. “… it was complicated.”

“Do you still love her?” Amy asked. She wasn’t sure if she was twisting a knife in a wound with her words, but she needed to know what the situation was and in the worst case scenario she hoped that Franklin’s grief was so great that her words would not add significantly to his pain.

“Love her…” Franklin considered her words. “No. I still care a lot about her, I wished we could have been friends and I had hoped that one day we would be….” he paused again. Tears streaming down the creases of his face broken by sadness. “She was. I don’t know. To aggressive? She kept pushing me. Never let me follow my dreams. Kept putting me down for having a vision and trying to get there. She always told me off. Tried to pressure me to be ‘realist’. You know? Put all the things I rally, deeply care about aside and just lead a productive life.” He turned his face towards Amy who hadn’t the heart to tell him to face the wall again. “Productive for what? I would have produced… what exactly? For who? I would have existed. But I would never have lived!” He turned back to the wall eyes cast down. “So… I left her. She didn’t take it well, she wasn’t the kind of person who takes no for an answer. Strange really. How someone who compromises so much to live a life as expected can be so uncompromising in nature. She became increasingly aggressive. Or at least it felt that way so I cut her out of my life. It was only meant to be temporary. But now she… she’s dead.” at this point Franklin started to cry openly sobs shaking his body as he sank to his knees rocking softly as he put his arms across his chest, trying to give him an embrace that the world right now just didn’t want to provide.

Amy stepped towards Franklin, crouched next to him and put an arm over his shoulders. She tried to think of something to say something comforting. But there wasn’t anything. 

She cast glance over to the police car. Hartley was leaning back in his seat haven taking an interest in the ceiling while McLean was still watching them her fierce determination slowly melting away. 

“Look.” said Amy. “I know this is hard but please don’t talk to the police. For now you will only talk to me and your lawyer when he arrives. OK?”

Franklin nodded.

“I have ask you a few more questions, but than can wait until we are at the precinct. Remember I am here to help you. Don’t trust the police, right now they are looking for a murderer, that makes them twitchy. Especially when they think they have found a promising suspect. The may be threatening or nice or business like or all of the above, but you will stay silent. They will be trying to get something out of you by any means possible.”

“But I didn’t kill anyone!” Franklin protested.

“I know.” Amy lied although she was inclined to believe Franklin. “But depending how the clearance rate of homicide is this month and how much pressure the department is under, they’d rather take the innocent in their hand than go chasing for the guilty in the wild…”

“They wouldn’t do that.” Franklin said. “They are the police…” 

“They shouldn’t. But they will, if it means keeping their department from punitive measures for not being effective enough in their police work.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Which makes you a good man in my book.” Amy said. “Now come. Let’s get this over with.” she extended a hand to Franklin and helped him up.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Project Helix 003

Chapter 3

Amy had decided that her first step was to go to Christopher Franklin’s apartment and have a look at the boiler with anger management issues. Someone would be there to assess and repair the damage but it had be arranged that he would not start before Amy had arrived at the scene and had had a look around. 

Franklin had offered her to drive her there but Amy had declined. She said that she still had to follow up some other casework and would join him in about an hour. 

That had been a lie. 

Apart from her collection of Scotch she had been high and dry for the last two weeks or so. The cold clammy weather was not one the inspired either idea of wild forbidden liaisons nor did it foster the the whispers of jealousy. People were to busy snuggling up at home very much hoping not having to leave the house at all. 
What Amy was doing instead was taking public transport. Going with Franklin would have been faster and vastly more comfortable however travelling her traditional way gave her time to think. When she was a pupil, perfect grades or not, the bus had been an ally. One of the few moments of the day where she was free to socialise with her few friends and to take care of the homework she did not deem worthy enough to spend any quality time on. 
Later as she was a student it expanded its role as mobile office giving allowing her more time to cram. There was never enough time for that back in those days. And after she was done with the university and opened her eyes to the world again she noticed that it was there where she could see the City and the life pulsing through it the clearest.
 Here in the buses that the metropolitan administration grudgingly granted the city grumbling about a marked lack in profits or down in the ancient metro that dates back to a time where excavating tunnels under the city to allow trains to run free was consider in term of human achievement, Amy was immersed in the blood of the City. In  car she was encapsulated in a bubble of her own reality. Hopping from one glistening point of interest rising from the urban murk to the next never coming into contact with anything else.
It was important for Amy not to lose contact with the wider world. It was easy to keep track of things happening somewhere else, but in ones own home especially if it was a continuously expanding metropolis like the City it was easy to forget that she was surrounded by many interconnected worlds existing in parallel. 
She needed this to stay connected, to stay grounded. She’s been the unwitting prisoner of her social world bubble for far to long. She would not get pulled into a new one. Not without a fight.
So there she was standing uncomfortably in an overcrowded bus. She was surrounded by people who wither still kept the dream going that everything around them was happening for a good just reason and that they just needed to keep working hard until they at last would be able to harvest the fruit of their labour. Others had their dreams already crushed, burnt out husks with no fight left in them. Some of them knew what had happened to them. Life, society their culture had crushed them, burning their remains to keep itself running, others did not even know that, they were just wondering what had happened to them, what happened to the days where they still were looking forward to something. What they all had in common was that they kept going. Not knowing anything else. 
Amy looked at them feeling rage and pity fighting over the drivers seat of her heart. These people thought that they were free and thus that everything that happened to them in their lives was somehow their own fault. Amy had been one of them once. But she knew that they were all just indentured servants. Their freedom only lasting as long as they kept working, being productive doing as they were told. Once they stopped the bills, the mortgages, the needs of their families came and either crushed them or put them back in line.
This was the reason she left her bubble as often as possible. She needed to see these people. She had to be constantly reminded of what the world around her really was like lest she forget like the others. She mustn’t be complacent. She had to keep her mind sharp. And this, this helped her. 

After she managed to secure her self a place to sit down she turned away from the people and looked out of the window looking at the city, glistening with rain and its lights. As her gaze turned outwards her thoughts turned inwards, towards her new case. The one thing that caught her attention the most was how ridiculous the alleged murder attempts were. 
Tampered with break lines… could have been an accident or simply a technical failure, seeing that Mr. Franklin was still alive they had either not been altered to kill but to scare or by someone rather incompetent. The latter fit well the ridiculous cleaning liquid at the gym plot. The boiler was more similar to the motorbike attempt in that it at least attempted to look like an accident. 
What would be important to know was the chronology of events. The boiler was obviously the last one. Now if the bottle of acid was the first one it might als have been the only one an event that had shaken Franklin enough to make him see ‘murder’ when his brakes needed inspection. However the timing of events was more then suspicious. Also what about the motive? Why kill Franklin in the first place? Or if this was only an attempt to scare Hellen Ashton Stone why the repeated attempts without any demands attached to them. 
Amy’s face lit up with a broad smile. This didn’t make the slightest bit of sense. Wonderfull finally a real case worthy of a proper detective. As the grey City passed before her in all its depressing majesty, Amy started considering buying a trench coat. For the first time in a very long time she was in a good mood. 

About half an hour later Amy arrived at Christopher Franklin’s apartment. Her dreams of classic Bogart style detective glory had faded far enough away that she could focus on her work again. 
She was surprised to find that Christopher Franklin lived in a part of the city that was dominated by big grey blocks of concrete trying half heartedly to look like human homes and failing to do so with the same lack of enthusiasm. This part of town was from a time when the municipal government had come up with some grand plans for affordable housing that were based on deeply rational thought. Carefully planning out how to best accommodate as many of the poor in as little space as possible in the most affordable manner. That this plan had been devised and pushed for by one of the largest contracting business in the region was of course of secondary concern. In just a few years the human silos had been erected, the cities poor unceremoniously dumped in them and then forgotten. 
Until of course these blocks slowly turned into place were crime rates were steadily increasing, vandalism slowly eroding what little amenities had been there in the first place. After that the administration had left with the political rhetoric version of ‘this is why you poor people can’t have good things’ leaving it to rot. 

Navigating this labyrinth had been hard when it was new. Most houses sharing the same number differentiated either by a letter or worse by a euphemistic nickname for the building. By now most of the external identifiers were gone, making it exceedingly heard to find the right building. Even after Amy had found what she though was the proper house she was confronted by a metal plate adorned with dozens of buttons that were marked only by numbers. The metal and glass display that once had house the paper correlating numbers to names had been broken open by someone who had had a very fundamental need for a sheet of scrap paper. 
Amy took out her cell phone and called Franklin who answered almost immediately. After a bit of back and forth Amy learned that she was in fact standing in front of the wrong house and that she had to walk around to the back and to another building that had somehow ended being enclosed by other buildings on all sides. Why waste all that open space on lawn or other frivolities anyway. 

Amy had wanted to take the lift but when the doors opened and she saw and smelt the inside of the thing she decided that she had still to much to much self-respect than to use that mobile torture chamber. The stairwell was dark, smelly and horrid, much better than the lift.

She did not know what she had expected from Franklin’s apartment but it certainly wasn’t what she was seeing now. Behind a door that was mostly just layers of peeling paint was a small comfy flat that seemed to belong to a different house in a different building. There is was again dignity growing in the most unexpected places. 

“The boiler repair man is already here.” Franklin said. “He is actually waiting for you Mrs. Anderson.” he opened a door showing Amy into bathroom that looked like it had been shelled. On one wall the boiler the charred remains of the exploded boiler were still frozen in mid explosion, bits of piping and metal sheets radiating outwards from where one of the gas pipes pointing towards shattered tiles. There where metal fragments stuck into the walls, floor and ceiling. The sliding door of the shower was heavily damaged, however Amy did not fail to notice that the worst damage had struck the wall opposite of the boiler while it had mostly done cosmetic damage to what lay to the sides of it. Might be coincidence, Amy thought, but worth keeping in mind nonetheless. 

The repair man was waring a deep blue overall, that looked suspiciously as if it had been put together by a proper designer, making it look more like an uniform. The repairman automatically looked more competent just wearing it. 
“You Anderson?” he asked looking up only shortly from the ruins of the boiler. Taking a double take when he noticed that Amy was a beautiful young woman. Amy let the admiration wash over her with the practised patience of the tragically pretty. 
“Yes.”, she answered when she noticed that the man in front of her was again master of most of his mental faculties. “And you are?”
“I’m Carlyle. I was sent here by Mrs. Ashton Stone to have a look at…” he pointed at the boiler, “this. She wanted my professional opinion.”
“So?” Amy asked. “Found anything interesting?” she shifted her stance into something slightly more authoritative.
“Well,” Carlyle said, “the first thing that is obvious, is that this thing here is as old as the house itself. From a perspective of energy efficiency this thing is a piece of crap. It uses gas to create an open flame, the flame heats water in the pipes and you have hot water. Only that most of the heat is wasted and goes out of the chimney.”
“OK. So its old and wasteful.” Amy said. “Is that also the reason why it exploded?” 
“No.” Carlyle said. “That’s the main reason why this should not have happened. This thing here,” he said knocking on a bent metal pipe with a wrench. “has the technical complexity of banging a couple of stones together. If enough soot builds up in the burner it will start to produce carbon monoxide and risk suffocating everyone in the bathroom. But that’s about it. Everything about this thing is massive and simple. I had a close look at all the pipes while waiting for you to arrive and they all look solid. There isn’t more than a bit of surface level corrosion. The part that actually exploded got destroyed by the detonation. However there is nothing here that would lead me to believe that this was an accident.” Carlyle said giving Amy a significant look. 
Amy arched an eyebrow. “Do you have any proof that this was caused by tampering?”
“No proof so far. But a professional opinion. If you want to have a look yourself go ahead, once you are done I’ll have a more through look at it and will take some samples back to the company where we can run some more tests. Those should produce some more evidence.”

Amy had a quick look at the boiler. However for her it mostly looked like contemporary art. “All yours.” , she said to Carlyle. She left the bathroom and was about to ask Franklin who had been standing in the corridor looking anxiously in what exactly had happened on the day the boiler exploded when the doorbell rang. 

Franklin opened the door revealing a man and a woman both sharply dressed. “Are you Christopher Franklin?” the man asked.

“Yes.” he answered, “and you are…?”

“I am officer Hartley,” the man said, “and this is officer McLean.” 

“What is this about? Did something happen?” asked Franklin who now was throughly confused. 

“Do you know Mrs. Linda Curtis?” the woman, McLean asked.

“Yes. why did somewhat happen to her?” Franklin asked.

“I am very sorry to inform you,” Hartley said with a frown somewhere between sympathy and suspicion, “that Mrs. Curtis was murdered.”

“What?” Franklin asked his voice braking slightly. 

“I have to ask you to come with us to the precinct Mr. Franklin. We would like to ask you a couple of questions.” Hartley said watching Franklin very closely. 

“You can’t possible think…” Franklin could not bring himself to finish the sentence.

“Right now we aren’t thinking anything.” said McLean with the professional coolness that is considered that minimal baseline for politeness. “Right now we are following every possible lead as we intend to find Mrs. Curtis’ murderer as quickly as possible.” there was an edge in her tone that implicated that Franklin was obviously guilty if he did not come with them. 

“OK.” said the deflated franklin with a weak voice. “Just let me get my things. I’ll be right with you.”

As Franklin passed Amy she put a hand on his arm and said, “Don’t worry Mr. Franklin I’m coming with you.” Franklin smiled weakly as he got his coat from the wardrobe. 

“And you are?” asked officer Hartley.

“Mr. Franklin is my client.” Amy said hoping to evade the question. 
Hartley regarded her with the look most police officers only reserved for the cockroaches and lawyers.