Present Day – Detroit
Tom and Jack turned toward the door and Tom motioned for the officers to open it. Jack began capturing shots almost immediately. He had taken about twenty when he slowly lowered the camera and just stared. Tom was a couple of steps farther into the entry room of Schallers’ condo and had also stopped. His eyes took in the horror of the room. His mind could not comprehend what he was seeing. Tom looked at Jack, and seeing a terror come over his friend, moved to him and offered a quiet prayer of peace and strength for them both.
After a few moments, they had gathered themselves and continued their investigation. Tom turned back to the officers at the door and ordered a crime scene clean mat for them when they were ready to leave the condo.
An inspection of the door showed no forced entry, however, it looked like someone was trying to get out. The marks around the palm unit and the blood smeared across the plate showed frenzied activity. Tom scanned for fingerprints and came up with only one: Schaller’s.
Jack was busily imaging the room ahead of Tom. It was his practice to enter first and record in macro and micro in both visible and extra-visible bands before the other officers entered the room. He had long ago learned not to ‘see’ what he was recording but remained focused on the functions and task of doing his job.
When Jack started in this position, he hadn’t taken the advice of his trainer to disengage the part of the brain that acknowledged what he saw. The death and mistreatment he had seen had driven him to Touch. The relief he found in Touch was instant, but temporary. It also came with a price. The relief it provided was not only temporary, it lost it’s effectiveness with continued use and required more and more stimulation to achieve the same results.
Touch worked by altering sensory input. This was achieved by contacting a site on the internet. For a fee, you would download stimuli that could, for example, block incoming sensory activities. Other sites took this stimuli and tweaked it to enhance sensory activities. Some even switched sensory receivers, so that a touch sensory input would be received in the hearing center of the brain. An entire set of sub-cultures had developed surrounding the various combinations of Touch derivatives.
End cases of terminal Touch addicts actually died when they broke contact. Everyday held news stories of addicts dying because of a lost network connection. The break in contact sent the addicted user into sensory overload.
Jack had been close to the edge and only survived the step-down from his addiction by being constantly attended to by his wife and his friend. The prayers from these two, and many others recruited for the task, fought the battle on the spiritual front. The victories there led to his physical recovery.
Jack finished the entry way, the kitchen, bathroom, den, and began to image the living room. Although ravished and covered with blood and other fluids, Jack could tell that this room had once held expensive items, furniture, paintings. The wall had scratches running horizontally around the room. They were about 12 inches from the ceiling and tore the wallpaper in jagged strips.
The sofa was standing on its end, leaning against the far wall. The chandelier was lying crumpled in the corner. Broken glass from the picture frames was scattered underfoot. The communications camera was undamaged, however, as was a small framed document on a built-in shelf.
The imager’s eye took everything and dutifully converted the reflected light into digital files. Jack had tried to mimic the imager. Just record the scene, don’t reflect on it.
With the living room complete, Jack looked back at where Tom was working in the kitchen. “I’m going to the back of the unit, Tom. It looks like a master bedroom and a spare.”
“Yeah, O.K.” came the distracted response from the other room. Tom was looking at the countertop. It was gray granite with a stainless-steel sink. The water jets in the sink were set in to spray clockwise around the sink. The backsplash was white glazed tile with gold veins twisting throughout. Tom looked out the ‘window box’ unit and noticed the picture was a coastline shot of the East Coast. As he approached it, the picture activated and swooped down several hundred feet before soaring and turning. The horizon tilted crazily and then settled down as the picture flew along the coast. Waves splashed along the shore and birds wheeled among the rocks and water.
Tom located the panel and flipped through the menu. Snowscapes, mountains, river rapids, sunsets, night skies, the usual upscale options were all here.
Tom opened the custom folder and looked at the offerings. Only one listing didn’t seem to fit the rest. The title was ‘Investments, Royalties, and other Diversions’. Tom opened the file and watched the opening. The first few scenes were filled with monetary terms and philosophies. Tom began listening to the flow and cadence of the speech.
The talking head looked like any other on ‘vision these days, but the pattern was somehow different. He observed the pattern and made a note that this may be of interest in the future.
Turning his attention to the den, Tom tested every tech connection and found that they were direct to the bandwidth assigned to them. No deviations or loop-backs, no double-blind grafts, either.
Tom made a note to check the magnetic images that Jack took of this room. The wall covering offered no help of itself but could be hiding recording devices. The jungle pattern was bas relief and Tom’s experience told him that opportunity for clues lie just behind the surface of this room. Tom lingered in this room looking at all four walls then headed to the next area of carnage.
Jack shot the hallway leading from the living room to the bedrooms. The blood was smeared in wide swaths on either side of the hall. He quickly turned his eyes back to the imager and looked through it’s lens, hoping to shed some of the emotion that had been building since he stepped into this unit. As soon as he stepped into the condo, Jack had felt an uneasiness pressing him, wearing him down, and impeding his thoughts and progress.
The master bedroom was ripped to shreds. The curtains were torn, the furniture was broken and strewn around the room, and the bed was leaning crazily against the open door to the bathroom. Jack imaged the room and contents following his usual pattern, and then started on the connected bathroom.
The floor of the bathroom was slick and the smell that had pervaded the unit was stronger in here. The walls and mirror held the bloody handprints of the victim. Footprints in the blood were situated so that the victim must have been looking at himself in the mirror over the sink. Perhaps this was the last thing he saw before he was taken out into the atrium and flung over the railing.
Tom turned his attention to the living room and began at the right of the entry and examined the room counterclockwise and top to bottom. When he came to a small wooden desk that looked to be an antique, he paused and studied it from every angle. Something here also seemed to be different or out of place. He finally put his gloved hand on the floor and bent down to look at the underside of the desk. The carpet oozed fluid between the fingers of his glove as he strained to see what was or was not under the desk.
After an hour of imaging, Jack had finished his work and made his way back to the den where Tom was looking into the broken remains of a writing desk.
“Take a look in here, Jack. Tell me what you see.”
“Well, it looks like a scrap of paper, and, well, what do you know? It looks like …”
Tom interrupted, “Yes, that’s what I thought. Make sure you get that in detail.” Tom waited until Jack finished and then reached into the desk and retrieved the paper.
The crumpled scrap had been torn from a calendar or planner. Several days of whatever month it been a part of were clearly visible. So was some scribbling. Numbers and letters, symbols and odd shapes were crabbed across one side. The other side was blank.
Tom reached back into the cavity of the desk and pushed the button. He had no idea if it still worked or what would happen. Would it call security? Would it activate a silent alarm? Would it signal someone that he was preparing to leave and to have his car ready?
Tom and Jack stood looking around the room waiting for something to happen. Neither moved for several seconds. Jack heard it first. A quiet whirring noise coming from the back of the unit.
Tom followed Jack’s eyes and saw him looking down the splattered hallway. Tom and Jack turned and began down the hallway, pausing every few steps to locate the sound again. They entered the spare bedroom and the noise grew louder. They traced the sound into a closet filled with clothes and boxes. As they worked together to remove the items, they noticed the sound growing louder. As they moved the last box, they jumped back, startled at the sudden movement of the wall.
What they saw astonished them. There, hidden in the wall of the closet, was a card recording deck and a copier. And stacked neatly beside it were hundreds of cards.
Tom looked in the machine and saw that it held a card. He opened the machine and took it out, placing it into his coat pocket. Looking down at the copier, he noticed a card that had been ejected. He pulled that card out as well but placed this one in his inside pocket where it joined the copies of the security video.
As they finished the initial investigation, Tom led the way out of the condo. He paused at the kitchen and asked Jack if he had imaged inside the cooler, cupboards, gray water disposal and fridge.
“No, I didn’t, but I usually don’t. I guess that this could qualify as an ‘unusual’ crime scene, so I’ll take some unusual shots.”
Tom stood behind Jack as the imager began opening cupboard doors and exposing the contents to the eye of the capture device. He shot all of the cabinets including the tops which at one time held knick-knacks.
As he opened the fridge door, he staggered back and knocked into Tom. There on the top shelf were a pair of lungs. Blood had congealed on them and the shelf they rested on. Beneath them, the shelves held various body parts of the late Tom Schaller.
The meat drawer held the heart, ripped from the chest of Schaller while it still pumped blood and fear through the destroyed body.
The rest of the kitchen appliances held other pieces of Schaller’s body. By the time they had examined everything, they were able to account for all of the pieces of Schaller’s abdominal and thoracic organs and tissues, much to the physical unease of both Jack and Tom. Even the lens could not screen out what Jack saw. They left the condo stunned and silent.