Monday, July 2, 2018

Query 1.19: The Bigger Picture

Py sat hunched over a laptop on the center workbench of Dr. Whitechapel's lab, pouring over tables full of data and typing complex queries. The giant smart board at the far side of the room displayed a map of Delphi, pins of different shapes and colors constantly appearing and disappearing, shuffling about as Py typed his logical incantations.

“What’s all this about?” Ben asked, entering the room and moving to lean on the far side of the table where he had a clear view of the giant map.

“Just running some numbers. With all of the excitement going on I never got the chance to finalize my estimate of how many people I think Alleyman may have killed in Old Town.”

Py didn’t look up from his work, seemingly unable to break away from the flood of streaming numbers. His posture trapped in a calcified slouch, his face pinched in concentration.

“That’s interesting.” Ben replied, his tone a little suspicious. “But you seem anxious, what else is going on?”

Py leaned back and rubbed his bloodshot eyes. Ben didn’t know the last time Py had moved, but his whole body seemed to creek as he stretched his arms skyward.

“A lot of these values just don’t seem to line up. We saw the Alleyman attack a woman a few nights ago. He could’ve killed her straight off, but it seemed like more of a game to him. If I look for murders or missing persons where the victims match the basic age and description of that woman an interesting pattern emerges. A steady stream of crimes going back years, in an almost perfect distribution across the whole city. New crimes often falling in areas within days of older crimes in the same region going cold or getting closed. It’s patient, systematic. The Old Town murders start to spike only a few months ago, and not only do the majority of victims fail to match the previous pattern, but crimes against young women in general declined steadily as the rate of other murders increased.”

While everyone else was congratulating themselves on the capture of the Alleyman, Py was busily stumbling headlong into his next misfortune. This is what made Py invaluable to Ben, he never rested. Never left a stone unturned, nothing was too small or grandiose. Saving a cat or saving a city was all the same to Py. He tugged and pulled on Alice, stretching her and forcing her to grow. Py’s data was like gold and the Doctor relished it greedily.

“Looks like you’ve done it again.” Ben smiled.

“Oh, god^” Py sighed as the pins on the map settled into place, patterns of red and blue and green starting to solidify over the majority of the dots while a smaller minority of pins continued flailing wildly. “There was never only one….”.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Lilith stood opposite the glass of the quarantine room, as a heart rate monitor sang its steady song. Cartwright looked peaceful. Well, as peaceful as you can look in his condition. A sturdy neck brace held his head in place. His legs were strapped to the bed to prevent him from sliding to the ground. Most prominent, even in his comatose state, the half grin Lilith despised seemed only a twitch away.

Lilith picked up Cartwright’s chart. They’d done x-rays and CT scans of his whole body, head to toe. The number of fractures was impressive, especially the skull, which looked like a lace doily wrapped around a big, lumpy potato. The neurologist was ready to call it a complete loss, although he promised to do what he could, trying to appease the numerous law enforcement agencies who were lined up to question the patient as soon as he so much as wiggled a toe.

The door to the scrub room slid open and a squat, balding man in his white doctors coat jumped in surprise to see her standing there casually swiping through the patient's file.

“Miss, you really shouldn't be here.”

“It’s okay,” Lilith cooed, putting the tablet down and turning to face the man. “I’m Doctor Elizabeth Hensley. Consultant with the FBI on our John Doe, here.” Lilith tapped a badge on her chest that indeed read Dr. Elizabeth Hensley with ‘F.B.I.’ big and bold in the foreground. She offered her hand to the nervous little man, which he shook in a perfunctory manner.

“My specialty’s in neurology. The F.B.I. wants to know if he has any chance of recovery or if it’s case closed.” Lilith said, quickly releasing his hand. “I’ve been briefed on the basics, but I’m a little fuzzy on the details.”

The man let out a sigh and glanced towards Cartwright.

“I’m afraid there’s not much to tell really. His body’s broken. Reflex response is nonexistent below L2, and if you got a glance at his skull x-ray you already know it’s a web of fractures encasing what might as well be jello.” The doctor turned back to Lilith with an exhausted expression on his face.

“While I understand the FBI’s enthusiasm here, your consultation’s a little premature.”

Lilith gave a polite smile and nodded, pretending like she gave a damn.

“Personally, I tend to agree, but they want me onsite in case he wakes up. I thought since I’m here anyway I might as well get a look at the patient.”

The doctor gave a snort.

“I can’t say I understand, but you’re welcome to take a look. I assume as a medical professional you understand the complexities of containment protocol?” The man was being deliberately snide. Lilith just continued smiling and gave another nod.

“Yes, I’m familiar,” Lilith said, deliberately moving her gaze to the containment suits hanging on the wall. “If I need a closer look I’ll be sure to follow procedure.” Lilith picked up the tablet with Cartwright’s chart on it again and began scrolling through. “Sorry for taking up your time doctor. I’m sure you’re busy.” It was a dismissal, a soft dismissal, but still, a clear end to the conversation. Lilith hoped the bald turd took the hint.

“...yes, well, perhaps we could get lunch later in the cafeteria? Maybe I can clarify any questions you have on his condition?” Lilith glanced up from the tablet again, gave a quick flash of her teeth and nodded once more. Anything to get the spud to leave.

“I’d like that doctor, thank you.”

The man smiled, perceiving some imagined triumph. He turned and exited the room and Lilith was left once more with nothing but the steady rhythm of the heart rate monitor.

Lilith put the tablet back in its holder and walked straight into the containment room, ignoring the suits entirely.

“Hey Lulu.” Cartwright moaned, extremely sore but very much alive. “Nice of you to come and visit.” One of Cartwright’s eyes was open and the grin that never quite went away pulled at his face.

“Shut up Cartwright. You made a huge mess out there. What were you thinking?”

“Listen Love, you had the FBI and half the DPD stuck right up your buddy’s arse hole. You should be thanking me. Besides, I wanted my last night in Delphi to be a memorable one. I’ve really come to love this place you know. The old girl’s been good to me.”

“That’s your excuse! You have the whole city in an uproar. We’ve never been under greater scrutiny.”

“You’re missing the bigger picture. They caught me, they’re done. They’ll pat themselves on the back and move on to the next thing. Just make sure the new guy’s got a fresh angle and everything will move right along. Anyway, I tried to warn you. Third time I’ve come face-to-face with that big fellow, by the way. It’s not a coincidence Lulu, somebody’s watching.”

Lilith just stood there shaking her head. “I don’t even understand how you managed it?”

Cartwright tried to force a shrug around his neck brace. “It’s their own fault. Law enforcement guys, they see something a little strange and they fall right back on their training. Makes them easy to control, and precisely too. Plus all the guns and grenades. It’s like they wanted me to wreck up the place.”

“You realize people are lining up to interrogate you.”

“Please, I’ll be out of here in a few days at the most. I just need a minute to get my legs under me. Then I’ll stage one last great escape, never to be heard from again, not in this country anyways.”

“And what do you think your doctors are going to do when they see you tap dancing on your bed tomorrow? You think they won’t notice? They’ll send a slice of you to every lab in the world.”

“Well hurry up then if you’re in such a twist. Grab a wheelchair and let’s go. We’ve only got to make it as far as the elevator. Once I’m out of quarantine I’m just another sad sap on his way to get his prostate massaged. I oughta talk to the boss man anyway. He’s got a new situation brewing and I don’t think he’ll be too pleased about it.”

Lilith cocked her eyebrow at that. With the media coverage, crime scene reports, and the cult’s own intelligence she couldn’t imagine Cartwright had anything of value to add.

“If you’ve got something to say, you can say it to me.”

“Under the circumstances I’d rather do it myself. I’m not sure how much of my valuable insight is making it up the chain, and this time I demand to get heard.”

“I don’t think were going to need any more of your valuable insights.”

The smug grin dropped from Cartwright’s lips. Lilith had waited a long time to wipe that shit eating grin from his face.

“Oh, so that’s how it’s gonna be. You poor bitch. You’re fucked two ways and you don’t even know it.”

“I brought you a surprise”, she replied, producing a small evidence bag from one of her pockets. Slowly she opened the bag, retrieving a pearl handled razor. “Jack has something he wants to say.”

“That’s a great way to get it done,” Cartwright replied, attempting an approving nod, seemingly finding some strange peace in the poetry of his end, “finally got one right.”

Lilith stepped up to the bed. Cartwright’s neck brace had a lovely hole in the front, fashioned so that doctors could have easy access to the windpipe in case of emergency. Now, it was a gateway. Jack slid along the chin in a gracefully arch, tracing a crimson line in Cartwright’s throat. There was a gurgle. A spitting as Cartwright tried to draw breath.

The steady rhythm of the heart rate monitor sang a final long note.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Somehow, through every fault of their own, Py and Logan were sitting once more at the Pie Bird dinner. He’d thought Logan had first chosen the place as something of a pun on his nickname, but it turned out the man just really liked the place.

“Things at the DPD are a shit show.” Logan said around a mouth full of blueberry and streusel. “It’s going to take months to sort out the paperwork and years to work through all the lawsuits. I can’t believe one man was responsible.”

“Yeah, it seems impossible.” Py replied, pushing his food around on his plate. “And they still haven't found his weapon, or how he was able to tailor the visions so specifically?”

“I've done as much as I can to push the investigation along, to make sure we get a conviction. Well, let me rephrase that, I’ve been making copies of everything, photographing evidence and hiding the pictures everywhere. I feel like a nut, but I’m still not sure who I can trust. We never did find the mole if he’s out there. Somehow I feel like we won’t know until it’s too late.”

“Listen, Logan.” Py spoke, giving up and pushing his plate aside. “I want you to consider leaving the DPD to come and work with me at Vergeron.”

Logan stopped chewing just long enough to grab a glass of milk and clear his mouth for proper conversation.

“What? Where is this coming from?”

“I never would’ve caught the Alleyman without you. From the second I first encountered him I’ve been relying on you to follow the clues, to keep me alive. Before I even knew it you were there holding things together.”

“Please don’t make me blush, people will think you’re proposing or something. Besides, Alleyman’s in custody now, trust me he’s not going anywhere.”

“I know, but it’s not enough. I don’t really understand everything that’s happened, why or even how, but I don’t think it’s over. I think people are in danger, and if we don’t protect them, I don’t know who will…”.

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