DETECTIVE MOXLEY, Part 21: “A Confluence of Factors”

Friday, May 22, 2015
By Phil Elmore

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“Oh dear,” said Councilwoman Sara Lindsey. “You don’t look at all well, young man.”

“I think you’re taking liberties with the title,” said Moxley. Holding his ribs with one arm, he gestured to doorway.  “May I come in, ma’am?”

“Well I can’t have you dropping dead on my doorstep,” said Lindsey. She moved aside to let him enter. She was not quite fast enough to hide the gun behind her back.

“You won’t need that,” said Moxley. “That’s quite an antique, ma’am. I don’t believe I’ve seen one of those in quite a few years. Chrome or nickel-plated?”

“Nickel,” said Lindsey. “Edgar, my husband, hated chrome. The Makarov belonged to his grandfather. A family heirloom.”

“You can still buy ammunition?”

Lindsey gestured with the gun, which was as heavy as it looked. “There’s a specialty shop in Gunpowder Heights that remanufactures it for me,” she said. “Sabot rounds with explosive cores.”

“More firepower than you’ll require just now, I think,” said Mox.

“True,” said Lindsey. She tucked the gun into her waistband behind her back. “I could probably knock you down barehanded,” said Lindsey. “You had better come take a chair in the study.”

Mox did as she suggested. Lindsey’s home was located in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Hongkongtown, the northern and western most quadrant of the atoll. Her home as appointed as one might expect from an elderly politician. It was extremely tasteful, very expensive, and looked more like a prop than a place someone lived. The books in the study appeared to be expensive, too. Or they were selected specifically because they looked expensive. Nobody bothered to read paper books anymore; they were props for the wealthy.

“All of them,” said Lindsey.

“I’m sorry?” said Mox.

“I see you looking,” said Lindsey. “I’ve read them all, Detective. Every book in this study.”

Moxley smiled. “You know my name.”

“When a man saves your life, you take the time to ask after him,” said Lindsey.  “Tell me, Detective, to what do I owe the honor of your intervention on my behalf?”

“How do you know that’s what it was?” said Mox. “The Goops weren’t convinced.”

“Please, young man,” said Lindsey. “Don’t insult my intelligence. I know what I saw. And it would take an idiot not to draw a connection to the attack on Theopolis. He wasn’t the only one, either.”

“Just doing my civic duty, ma’am,” said Moxley.

“In a pig’s eye,” said Lindsey. “Would you like some tea?”

“I, uh, yeah,” said Moxley. “Yes, ma’am. I would like some tea.”

“I’ll mix in some Anycaine,” said Lindsey. “Should help dull some of the pain. Who worked you over, Detective?”

“Sort of a… confluence of factors, ma’am,” said Mox.

“Spoken like a man who works for insurance companies,” said Lindsey. She offered him a slight nod and then disappeared through the doorway. Moxley sat puddled in one of the study’s overstuffed chairs, grateful for the respite.

The kitchen was adjacent to the study. He could hear Councilwoman Lindsey filling a kettle with water. Rich people, he thought. Always doing things the hard way.

“How did you know, Detective?” said Lindsey. “About the assassination attempt.”

“It’s part of a case I’m working on,” said Moxley from his chair. “I strongly suspect that somebody is producing a new kind of… well, robot isn’t right. It’s an artificially intelligent creature of some kind. A friend of mine called it a ‘synthoid.’ I thought they had been manufactured to imitate certain people, to get close to their targets, but now I think maybe they have the ability to imitate other people. Allows them to infiltrate better and get closer to their targets. In Theopolis’ case, somebody killed his bodyguard and one of these synthoids took the dead man’s place. Then it killed Theopolis.”

“So the man from the square today—”

“A synthoid assassin,” said Moxley. “In the form of a Goop named Siengold.”

The Councilwoman reappeared in the study, this time carrying a silver tray.  She put the tray down on a small serving table in the study and handed Moxley a teacup on a saucer. She sat down and took a sip from her own cup. “So this Mister Siengold is probably dead,” she said.

“Most likely,” said Moxley. He took a tentative sip from his tea. It was surprisingly good. The warmth that spread through him was familiar. She hadn’t been kidding about the Anycaine.  “This all started when I began looking into the last days of a friend of mine. Ray Neiring. He was a Government Inspector. I think he was killed by one of the synthoids. In searching through his old case files, I discovered the link between you, Theopolis, and the other assassinations. But I haven’t been able to figure out why.”

“You seem like an intelligent fellow,” said Lindsey. “Why haven’t you put it together?”

“I haven’t had time,” said Moxley. “People have been trying to kill me. I need some time to skull out the data. It’s all in Ray Neiring’s files, I’m sure of it. And I’ve got one of the synthoids. It took the shape of someone I knew. A guy named Sheb. Probably killed him too, although that’s not a definite. I don’t know as Sheb was anywhere nearby. Possibly it just needed to take my be surprise, get my guard down.”

“If your friend was killed, I’m sorry,” said Lindsey.

“I’m not,” said Moxley. “Didn’t like him much.”

Lindsey finished her tea and set the cup and saucer on the serving table.  “What is your next step, Detective?”

“Well, ma’am, I think for one, you should assume people are still trying to kill you,” he said.  “If you’ve got security measures here, I would activate them and stay holed up. Don’t trust anyone. Anybody you know could be—”

“Oh, Phillips,” said Lindsey.  “I didn’t hear you come in.”

Mox looked up and turned pale. Standing in the doorway of the study was an older man in a three-piece suit. If not for the slack look on his face, the detective would have taken him for a butler. Directly behind the butler was a woman in a maid’s uniform.

“Councilwoman,” said Moxley.

“Detective Moxley,” said Lindsey, “this is Phillips, my assistant, and Valma, my housekeeper. Phillips? Is something wrong?”

“Something wrong?” said Phillips. “No, ma’am.” In his right hand, he held an enormous carving knife.

Behind Phillips, Valma moved her hand from behind her back to reveal the machete she carried. Moxley pushed himself to his feet.

“Councilwoman,” said Mox.  “Run.”

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