He’d lose his badge if they caught him doing this, but hell – he’d lose it if he didn’t.
Jimmy paced around the operating chair. It wasn’t bad enough the department was backing away from lethal force; they had to pattern the Disabler after a video-game controller. Jimmy wasn’t catching on like the younger guys.
He pulled out his cigarettes, then remembered where he was and stuffed them back in his pocket. Funny. They were about to illegally jack him, but light up in here and he’d really catch hell.
Dr. Yon opened the door and entered with short, mincing steps, as if he was afraid that larger movements would cause his white lab coat to flare out and fling away his dignity. His long-legged assistant slinked in after him. Her bleached blonde hair, too-tight nurse’s uniform and musky perfume made Jimmy wonder if this was the only work she did on the south side.
“Have a seat, Mr. Delaney,” Yon said as he busied himself with a hypo, “and we will begin.”
“Just one thing, Doc,” Jimmy said as he sat back in the chair. “When the jack is in…”
“Jack is such a distasteful word. The proper term is AugMentor.”
“Okay. Will anyone be able to watch what I’m doing?”
Yon hesitated, and the nurse laughed, “My husband worries too much about saying things exactly right.”
“Diana, there is nothing wrong with wanting to speak properly, I …”
“Not now, dear,” she said, placing a hand on Yon’s chest, and the tension leached out of him. She turned her blue eyes on Jimmy. “You’re thinking of an AugMonitor, like the ones the State uses on parolees. That’s not what you’re getting.”
“That’s what I told my wife, but she thinks you’ll be able to see everything I see,” Jimmy said.
“Silly thing!” she said. “Let’s get started.”
Jimmy sat quietly as Yon pushed the needle into his left arm. He felt the cold spread upwards and…
…woke in the chair. His right eye throbbed, and he felt intense itching behind his right ear. He reached up to scratch, but encountered gauze padding.
“Don’t touch the dressing,” Diana said from behind him. She walked to the door and called out, “He’s awake!”
Dr. Yon came into the room.
“How do you feel, Mr. Delaney?”
“Like I’ve been kicked in the eye.”
“That is to be expected. The pain from the optic nerve splice will subside in one or two days. We will give you a medication for that.”
“What about the itching behind my ear?”
“Soon you will not even be aware of it. Are you able to sit up?”
Jimmy pushed himself up and turned so his feet rested on the floor. He didn’t feel groggy at all.
“Excellent. Diana will give you your instructions. Good night.”
Yon left the room. Diana handed Jimmy an empty bag, then explained each of the items to him before dropping them inside.
She showed him what looked like a flash drive.
“This blue tooth transmitter is coded to your AugMentor. Plug it into your PC and you can download apps through your device.”
There were pain pills, and a copy of the Electronic Marksman app, in case he needed to reload.
“You have our special patient number if you need to reach us. Leave the dressing on until Saturday night, and don’t strain yourself for the rest of the weekend.”
She took Jimmy’s arm and led him to the door at the rear of Yon’s plastic surgery clinic. He pulled up the hood on his warm-up, took a quick look around to make sure no one was there, then walked over to his car – an orange, vintage Barracuda that so didn’t blend in anywhere, it was a good chance it had given him away just by being here. Good thing that the patrols tended to avoid the south side at night.
As he drove off, he warred with himself about where to go. He wanted to try out the app, but he couldn’t take the chance of anyone seeing him at the range with the bandages still on, or anywhere else, for that matter. Best to stay out of sight.
He thought about heading to the house, but Jill would be mad for a while, so he drove back to the motel that had been his home for the last couple of nights. He tossed the bag on the dresser, then checked himself out in the mirror. He looked normal, except for the band of gauze wrapped around his head to hold the dressing on his ear, and how swollen and red his eye looked. It throbbed, so he got a glass of water, tossed down a pain pill, then pulled off the warm-up and flopped onto the bed.
Jimmy thought he remembered getting up a couple of times the next day and taking some pain-killers, but wasn’t sure he had until he counted the pills that night. He stood in front of the sink and unrolled the gauze. With the dressing off, there was no sign that anything was different, except that his right eye was still a bit puffy and red, like he’d been on a bender.
Sunday, he went to the practice range with the Disabler and tried out his newly acquired expertise. Unlike his previous attempts to adjust from his old .45, this time it felt familiar in his hand. Once he’d placed a high-capacitance slug in each of the target’s limbs without having to focus, he knew getting jacked was the right thing to do.
When he got back to his room, he sat and stared at the phone, then finally picked it up and dialed. Jill answered on the fifth ring.
“Hi, Honey. You okay?”
“Did you get that thing put in?”
“Yeah. Friday night.”
“Then how do you expect me to feel, Jimmy?”
“Honey, I need this. It works great, and the doc says there’s no reason to worry – we’re not being spied on. You need to understand.”
“You know that’s not what this is about. You wanted to do something, so you did it. You ignored how I felt, like with your stupid car…”
“The Cuda is not a stupid car.”
“… and all the other times. Why don’t you take me seriously?”
“I do take you seriously.”
“Right. What about Josh?”
“You didn’t tell him about the jack, did you?”
“Of course not. I don’t want to sabotage your chances of talking sense to him. You’ve made it hard enough already.”
“Okay. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
Jimmy sat smoking on the dew-damp bleachers, while the high school team scrimmaged. He glanced at his watch. Half an hour since dispatch called, but he had to take care of this. He’d talked to Al, and she said she could handle the crime scene without him.
Josh stopped the running back at the line and drove him to the ground. He’s put some muscle on. Maybe I should have listened to Jill.
The coach blew his whistle and shouted “Hit the showers!”
Jimmy stood up and crushed his cigarette into the grass as the team started jogging away off the field.
“Josh!” Jimmy called as he ambled toward them.
Josh glanced at his coach, who nodded, and then he trotted over to meet Jimmy in the middle of the practice field.
“What’s up, Dad,” he said, pushing his sweaty, blond hair out of his eyes.
Jimmy reached out and gave Josh’s arm a squeeze.
“You’re bulking up pretty fast. Anything you wanna tell me?”
Josh shook his head in frustration. “You’ve been talking to Mom.”
“She’s worried about you. Those steroids can really mess you up. Are you using?”
Josh looked Jimmy square in the eye and shook his head. “Of course not, Dad, I’d get kicked off the team. I’m just taking in extra protein and working out more. Besides, I’m still growing. I’m supposed to be bigger than you when I’m done, remember?”
Jimmy reached over to pat Josh on the back, but Josh lifted Jimmy off the ground with a bear hug.
“Hey, take it easy on your old man!”
“Sure thing, Dad.” Josh let him down. “Hey, what’s wrong with your eye?”
“Nothing. Poked it shaving.”
Josh raised his eyebrows.
“When are you coming back home?”
“Great – see you there!”
Jimmy watched him jog off.
“Wish I didn’t feel like such a damn hypocrite,” Jimmy muttered.
Detective Allison March sat with her back to the mirror that Jimmy watched through, making entries on her BlotterTab. Eddie sat across the table from her. The jittery little man took off his glasses and wiped them on his white button-down shirt.
“So, you just happened to be in the alley when Mickey came out the back door?”
“Mickey Gialani. The man you shot.”
“Sorry. I didn’t know his name.”
“Why did you shoot him?”
“I don’t know.”
“You must have had some reason, Eddie. How can you not know?”
Eddie closed his eyes and grimaced, like racking his brain really hurt. “I don’t remember.”
After finishing getting their paperwork started, Al and Jimmy dropped by Gialani’s for another look at the crime scene, and then decided to take an early lunch.
“Al, Eddie’s a numbers runner – guns are against his religion. No way he shot Mickey,” Jimmy said.
“Yeah, I know it doesn’t fit,” she said as she moved salad around with her fork. “There are no signs of deception; he really doesn’t remember what happened. They’ll have to figure it out in Psyche. Meanwhile, there’s Mickey’s AugMonitor.”
Jimmy wolfed down a chunk of pepperoni pizza and shook his head.
“Mickey was shot in the back, Al. I don’t think he saw anything.” Jimmy felt the pizza stick in his chest.
“Jimmy, you really should stop eating that junk. At your age…”
“At my age, nothing. Damned if I’m gonna change the way I eat just cause I’m a little older,” he said, and started on another slice despite the burning in his gut.
Allison shook her head and went back to picking at her salad. “Well, we’ll take Mickey’s jack to Doctor Yon and see what spools out.”
Jimmy almost choked. “Yon? Why him?
Allison looked up from her salad. “You know him?”
“No,” he said. “Uhh, isn’t he a plastic surgeon?”
“He also installs AugMonitors for the state, and his office installed Mickey’s, so they’ll have the codes. Plus it’s one of the early prototypes, so we’ll need their reader.”
“Please, have a seat, Detective Delaney,” Yon said.
Jimmy dropped into the other chair in front of the desk, next to Al. Yon sat behind his desk, put on a magnifying visor, and examined the jack.
“I myself installed Mr. Gialani’s AugMonitor; the state commissioned it as a condition of his parole. Purely for monitoring, of course.” He brought up a file on the computer.
“That never made sense to me, Doc,” Jimmy said. “Why just monitoring? With slime like Mickey Gialani, why not control him?”
Yon continued staring at the screen, but said stiffly “Control is not an option allowed by the law, even in the case of ‘slime’.”
“But you can do that?” Jimmy asked.
“Although control is possible in theory, the use of the device for a purpose other than those prescribed by the courts, such as the monitoring of convicts or the treatment of certain medical conditions, is strictly forbidden. Were I to do more, I would face severe penalties.”
“Well, it’s a shame we can’t use it to solve a problem like Gialani.”
“The shame goes beyond the ability to control, Detective,” Yon said, and he became more animated. “We had intended so much more for the device when we invented it. We could improve the lives of so many, increase their capabilities, remove unhappy memories. It is most unfortunate that so many are frightened by science.”
Yon turned back to the computer. “I will need an adapter. If you will please wait here.” He walked out of his office with the jack.
Jimmy stood up and paced around the office. “I didn’t know he invented it. Something that big, you’d think he’d have retired already.”
Allison sighed. “Once the government realized the implications of his work, they took control of it on the basis of national security. They couldn’t let something so potentially corruptible stay in the private sector.”
Jimmy continued pacing until Yon returned to the office, with the jack now attached to a cable.
“I regret the delay, detectives. I had difficulty locating the adapter.”
He plugged it into the reader on his desk, pushed some buttons, then extracted the reader’s memory card and inserted it into a port on his computer. He turned the monitor so that all three of them could watch the screen.
They saw everything from Mickey’s perspective, looking down the stairs. Eddie stood at the bottom with his hands in his pockets, looking up so light reflected off his glasses.
“Mr. Gialani?” Eddie asked.
“What’s it to you?”
“I’m supposed to deliver a message to Mickey Gialani.”
“Well? Spit it out.”
Eddie pulled a Berretta out of his pocket, then spun out of the picture as Mickey turned his back to Eddie and reached for the door. The shots were accompanied by bright white flashes on the screen, and then the view bounced around as Mickey flopped down the stairs. The screen went blank.
“That’s not right,” Jimmy said. “Let’s see it again from the beginning.”
Yon went rigid, his shoulders almost rising to his ears. “That is all there was! Sometimes, if the body receives a severe shock, as Mr. Gialani obviously did, much of the AugMonitor’s content becomes unreadable.”
Allison looked puzzled, then said “Dr. Yon, we just want to watch it again.”
Yon sat back, and his shoulders relaxed. “Oh, of course you may, Detectives.”
He restarted the sequence.
Jimmy stood when it was done. “Eddie told us he didn’t know Mickey’s name, but he said it right there. Al, why don’t you report in to the captain while I finish up with Doc?”
Allison rose from her chair. “Thank you for your help, Doctor.”
Yon rose and shook her hand. “I am always happy to be of service.”
“I’ll be right there,” Jimmy called out the door after her. “Can I have that on a disc, Doc?”
There was an awkward silence as Yon sat down to copy the file, then Jimmy said, “Thanks for not giving me away, Doc.”
“The feeling is mutual, Mr. Delaney. I was much surprised to see you are with the police.”
“Yeah, well it wouldn’t be good for either of us if it got out.”
“On that we are agreed.” He handed the disk to Jimmy. “So, Mr. Smith will be out on bail, soon?”
“Not likely, Doc. They’re keeping him in Psyche for evaluation.”
“I see,” said Yon. He came around the desk and escorted him to the office door. “If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to call.”
When they returned to the precinct, Allison started on the procedures for accessing Eddie’s and Mickey’s bank accounts, while Jimmy worked on pulling their last year’s phone records. Once he had both sets on his BlotterTab, he ran them through a comparison app, then looked over the results. They hadn’t called each other, but there was one number that both had called. Jimmy was about to search for the owner when he realized it was Yon’s special patient number. Jimmy was lucky – if he had done the search, the link to Yon would exist in his Blotter’s logs. He didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to the doctor or himself.
His phone buzzed, and he answered, “Detective Delaney.”
“Property, here. Forensics wants to have another look at that AugMonitor you checked out.”
Damn! he thought, Yon still has it. “Not done with it yet. They can have it tomorrow morning.”
He hung up, then looked over at Al. “Any luck with those bank accounts?”
She looked up from her pad. “They just came in. What about the phone records?”
“Nothing so far.” He rose. “I need to meet Jill. See you tomorrow.”
Jimmy didn’t want any record popping up of calling Yon himself, so he drove a few blocks to a payphone where he could use a burner card. He dialed Yon’s number, and the receptionist put him through.
“Ahh, Detective Delaney. I was about to call you. It seems that I still have Mr. Gialani’s AugMonitor.”
“I know, Doc. I went through his phone records and saw where he’s called you a number of times.”
“Yes, Detective. We had occasional contact with Mr. Gialani to assist the state in monitoring his parole.”
“I get that. What I don’t get is why Eddie Smith was also calling you.”
“The situation with Mr. Smith is… complicated, much like your own.”
“You jacked him?”
There was a pause on the line, and then Yon said “It is better if you come in to discuss this.”
Diana met Jimmy at the door to her husband’s office. He got a good whiff of that musky perfume as she took him by the hand, and that got him wondering about her again. “Come in, Mr. Delaney. My husband is just finishing up with a patient. Please sit.”
She led Jimmy to a chair in front of the desk. He studied her as she slinked around the desk and slid into the chair behind it. She opened a drawer and pulled out what looked like a flash drive, but it could have been a lipstick, with the way she dragged it entrancingly along her lips.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Just something I want to show you,” she smiled, as she inserted it into the computer.
The sound of a gunshot ricocheted in the small room, echoing in the fog in Jimmy’s head. He grabbed for his .45, but found that it was already in his hand.
What the – where am I?
He tried to clear the cobwebs from his mind as he scoped out the place: white walls, a radiator by a barred window, dark outside. A bed, and a body lying crumpled on the floor in front of it, blood pooling by its head. Jimmy knelt down and turned the body over on its back.
The blood oozed from the wound behind his right ear.
Remove his AugMentor, a distinctly female voice whispered.
“What?” Jimmy jumped up and looked around, but there was no one else in the room.
Remove his AugMentor, came the other voice in his head. It was louder this time. And familiar.
Jimmy stared at the bloody hole in Eddie’s head. No way he was pulling anything out of there.
Remove his –
“Ahhrgh! No! No! No! No!” Jimmy shouted.
The door opened, and an orderly came in. “Is everything…” he began, but stopped as he found himself looking down the shaking barrel of Jimmy’s gun.
“Get over there by the window.”
He handcuffed the orderly to the radiator, then gagged him with a pillowcase. Jimmy slipped out of the room and made it outside just as he the alarms started clanging. He found his Cuda out front and roared away.
Jimmy let himself in through the back door of the clinic and crept to Yon’s office, where Diana and Yon were arguing.
“You have taken it too far,” Yon said. “He is a detective; you will not be able to get away with it.”
“You’re too timid, dear. And we’ll get away with it just fine.”
Jimmy came in and closed the door. The Yons, standing in front of the desk, turned to him.
“See, he’s here!” Diana said as she took a step toward him, “Hand me the…”
She stopped talking when Jimmy pointed his Disabler at her.
“Sit down. Both of you.”
Yon immediately sat in front of the desk.
“Sure,” Diana said. She started to slink around behind the desk.
“Not by the computer,” Jimmy said, pointing toward the other chair in front of the desk, “sit there.”
“Oh, fine,” she sighed, and slid slowly into the chair.
Jimmy decided it was better to keep his focus off of her, so he turned to Yon.
“Doc, you made Eddie kill Mickey. Why?”
Diana said, “He deserved it.”
“Please allow me to explain, dear,” said Yon, then turned to Jimmy. “Mr. Gialani, that worthless slime, discovered what I do to help people such as Mr. Smith and yourself. At first he blackmailed me into altering the feed from his AugMonitor, but he became more demanding.”
Diana blurted “He was too greedy for his own good. He had to die.”
“Leaving Eddie standing around in the alley wasn’t smart. What made you think you could get away with it?”
Diana said, “He was supposed to come back with Gialani’s AugMonitor.”
“He did not follow his instructions. Something went wrong,” Yon said, tenting his hands.
“Even if Eddie had come back, he would’ve eventually figured out what happened,” Jimmy said.
“No,” Yon said, “We would have removed any memory he had of the incident.”
“But instead he got himself caught, so you made me kill him,” Jimmy said.
“Good!” Diana said.
“So, you did kill him?” Yon asked, studying Jimmy.
“Must have. Still heard the gunshot when I came to.”
“Then you remember nothing before that. Did you bring the AugMentor?” Yon asked.
“No. I heard Diana’s voice in my head telling me to get it, but I wasn’t about to.”
“I see,” Yon said. Then he said to Diana, “It is as I told you, dear. You were able to force both of them to the point of killing, but it appears that that act was enough to short-circuit your commands.”
“I’ll get it right next time,” Diana said, as she rose and started to walk behind the desk.
“Stay away from that computer!”
Jimmy fired a Disabler round into each of Diana’s arms, causing them to spasm, and then hang uselessly at her sides. Yon jumped up from his chair, but Jimmy disabled his arms and legs and he fell to the floor.
“I’m taking you both in.”
Yon shook his head as he lay helpless on the floor. “No, you must not!”
Diana shook her head at Yon. “Don’t be pathetic.”
Then she smirked at Jimmy. “
Jimmy’s head was clamped in the operating chair. He heard Yon speaking behind him, but he was unable to turn his head
“Yes, dear, you are correct, of course.”
Jimmy tried to reach up to pry himself loose, but his arms were strapped firmly in place.
“Good, you’re awake,” Diana said. “Forty-seven minutes.”
She came into view to Jimmy’s left, her hand on his chest, her perfume cloying. “I wasn’t sure how long the blackout I programmed would last. Anesthesia would’ve been easier to predict, but they’d find it during the autopsy. Such a shame.” She looked over Jimmy’s head and said “Come over here, dear.”
Yon appeared at Jimmy’s right.
“As you can see,” he said, waving a scalpel for emphasis, “the effects of your foolish weapon have worn off.”
“What are you going to do?” Jimmy asked.
“He’s going to remove the AugMentor,” Diana said.
“The incision I make will not be noticed in the damage you will sustain from your unfortunate accident.”
“They’ll find your number in the phone records,” Jimmy said.
“Are you really a detective?” Diana smirked. “That number is unregistered. It can’t be tied to us; only one of our special patients would recognize it.”
“They’ll find Eddie’s jack,” Jimmy continued.
“That is a small problem,” Yon said, “but I could see from your feed that the device should have been destroyed when you killed him.”
“What feed? You said no one could see what I was doing.”
Yon smiled. “It can be very useful to keep track of our patients’ activities.”
“You lied, you sneaky bastard!”
“Now, now,” Yon said, “they may find remnants of Mr. Smith’s AugMentor, but these will not point to us.”
Diana leaned closer into Jimmy’s face and smiled, “We’re not the only ones who install jacks outside the law, you know.”
My life is in the balance and I’m distracted by her perfume, Jimmy thought as he tried to gain control. “You’re not gonna get away with this.”
“On the contrary, Detective,” Yon said.
Diana shook her head and sighed. “Enough small talk. Finish it.”
“Yes, dear,” Yon said. “Detective, you must not interfere with my concentration.
Jimmy heard voices as though they were coming through a long tunnel. He tried to open his eyes and got the lids to flutter up just enough to see Josh asleep in a chair at the foot of his hospital bed. The blankets were warm. Jimmy drifted off.
When Jimmy woke again, Al was in the chair. He tried to sit up, but he felt too weak. He sank back onto the sheets.
“Hey, take it easy partner.” She walked to the side of his bed. “Good to have you back.”
“What did Yon do to me?”
“Nothing you didn’t already know about. He was going to cut that jack out of your head, but we got there before he started. Captain had the doctors here take it out for evidence.”
“How did you find me?”
“When the report came through about Eddie, I checked your motel room and found Yon’s kit. Then Josh and I went to Yon’s and found you.”
“He was waiting for you, at the motel, saw me, and then followed me to the clinic. You should have seen him pin Yon against the wall while I disabled his wife. Is Josh on steroids?”
“No, he’s a good kid. Guess I’ll have to explain to him about his dad being a hypocrite.”
“Maybe you can tell him it was work-related. Captain was pleased with the quality of the evidence they got from the Yons’ new jack, and with watchdog groups always looking for ways to keep tabs on us, she’s going to recommend that everyone on the force gets one.”
“Thanks a lot, partner.”
The Detective Jimmy Delaney stories are available at many online retailers, and are (in order):
“In a Flash”
“The Right Idea”
“The Scent of the Crime”
“Killing Them Softly”
You can connect with William Mangieri, see the full list of his works, his writing blog, and links to his current promotions on his WordPress writing page at https://williammangieri.wordpress.com/Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in