Cyberpunk Challenge: Menoko Boi 4

The second victim was named Parys Kerenski. The story was similar to Kennet’s. Kerenski lived in a fancy house inside of a gated community. He didn’t go out much and he had a kinky sex life. And lastly, he’d been murdered the same way after walking into his bedroom: blunt force to the head followed by strangulation. No murder weapon and no trace of the killer.

Varriano did figure out one thing that a second investigator would have caught. Kerenski was in his fifties, but through 3D age regression he’d been rejuvenated to look like one of the John Does in Kennet’s Greco-Roman sex fantasies. He called his supervisor, assigned to him by his boss Engstrom.

“So picture this.” Varriano detailed. “Kennet and Kerenski never had sex together, but they both used 3D modeling while recording themselves doing the nasty. The software allows them to erase their real partners and substitute fake partners to create new videos with fantastic settings. In this case, I’m guessing that Kennet sold her 3D rendering to Kerenski, or maybe they just traded even with each other. Kennet puts Kerenski’s young man face on a centaur, and here she is in a holo-image or holo-video getting fucked by it. Kerenski isn’t as adventurous. His video shows him meeting Kennet at a nice restaurant and taking her home. They have normal sex without the bells and whistles in Kennet’s version.”

“And they passed their renderings along through the Deep Web?” The supervisor asked.

“Yes, that’s what I’m thinking. I haven’t found their Deep Web accounts yet, but I’m pretty sure they went that route. If they’d passed their video recordings around on the normal Net, they risked getting hacked and blackmailed. It might have happened anyway.”

“As soon as we can spare the manpower, we’ll take a close look at their computers. No clue as to why they were murdered yet?”

“I’m still working on that part.” Varriano admitted. “I may not get very far because if they have hidden money accounts, I won’t know where to look for them.”

“All right.” The supervisor acknowledged. “You’re off our clock in less than ten minutes. No work off company time.”

“Got it. I’m signing off and heading home then. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Varriano had the community security people lock up after him, with strict orders not to let anyone inside because the case was still open.

While he waited for the bus to come by, he had an idea and called up the local police precinct. After he introduced himself, he spoke with their homicide lieutenant. There were three other cases in that end of town that had the same M.O. as the two he was investigating. Varriano made an appointment to come in and compare notes with the lieutenant the following day.

The man’s name was Hunter Racine. He was a full female to male conversion, having decided early on in life that she was meant to be a he. Hunter made it a point to explain all of this to Varriano as a way of testing him, apparently.

“Look, if you can do the job, you can do the job.” Varriano told him. “All I’m worried about is getting results.”

“A lot of people don’t see it that way.” Racine replied.

“I’m about to test you.” Varriano said. “Use your scanner if you don’t believe me, but I don’t have a single cyber upgrade on me, past my ID chip on my shoulder.”

That made Racine less apprehensive. He and Varriano had chosen to walk their own paths in life, despite that most of society would look down on them in some way. It almost made them friends, believe it or not. Varriano filled Racine in on his two victims, and Racine returned the favor for the other three.

“I can take you out to the victim locations.” Racine offered.

“Okay, let’s go there.” Varriano agreed. “I’m not allowed to take my work home with me. That means I’ve got a lot of video surveillance I can go through while you drive.”

The drive to the first location took all of ten minutes. Racine parked his patrol car in front of another nice house, but this one was not inside a gated community. The neighbors had a private security / Neighborhood Watch thing going on. Before they exited the car, both Varriano and Racine had leads to work on.

“As far as I can tell,” Racine said. “These three victims had no ties to FVL. I don’t think they knew each other, unless they were trading 3D renderings through the Deep Web.”

“Give me a few more minutes.” Varriano replied. “I’m fast-scanning video showing the front of Kennet’s house. There were some deliveries made that I want to check out. You know what I think is the strangest part? My two people could have had video recordings from inside the house, showing the murders taking place, but apparently they both decided to turn their cameras off.”

“Nowadays, people just let their cameras run all the time, in case something unexpected happens.” Racine replied. “Especially wealthy people.”

“Would you say it’s rare that a wealthy person would not have their cameras on? Because if you say it’s rare, and I’ve got two people already, chances are this is not a coincidence.”

“You can add my three victims to that list.” Racine said. “No active cameras on any of them during the day of their murders.”

“That means somebody erased the video at five different murders. That’s not easy to do. They would have to get into the victims’ heads to get their passwords out, and use the passwords to get into the surveillance systems without being caught.”

“A hacker might be able to do that.” Racine figured. “But a hacker would not be able to get into housing as secure as what we’re dealing with. Your people had gates and security patrols. My people had expensive alarm systems to warn them of unauthorized entries.”

“This is about money.” Varriano guessed. “It has to be about money.” He paused for a long second to think.

Killer waits, hiding, hiding.

Lots of time, biding, biding.

Victim shows, order, order.

Killer strikes, murder, murder.

“Is everything okay with you?” Racine asked.

They were in the next victim’s house, taking in the social / living room, before they moved on to the bedroom where the murder had taken place.

“Yeah.” Varriano nodded. “Why do you ask?”

“What was that thing you just did?”

“You mean the poetry? My ex-wife was a gifted woman. She had the unique, innate ability to piss me off by giving me a phrase, not even a complete sentence. She could do it with certain looks she possessed, or that possessed her if you want to see it that way.”

“And you turned to poetry as a way to… what, calm down?”

“I did. You see, I had a certain level of stress coming from my ex when I was at home, and I had a different level of stress, of pressure, when I was a beat cop out on patrol. Combining two distinct kinds of stress ain’t like putting a piece of chocolate into some peanut butter. It’s more like rolling off a bed of nails and onto a bed of broken glass. So I went to the department shrink, and she recommended I take up a hobby that takes my mind away from the shit at home and the shit at work. I asked the chick, what do you do to take the edge off? She says poetry. I gave it a try and it’s been stuck in my head ever since.”

“You’re not good at it.” Racine said.

“Oh, yeah? So you’ve got a background in poetry all of a sudden? Why don’t you grace my ears with something you thought up? Come on, I’m waiting. Show me up.”

Racine grinned back. “I’m a man that likes women…”

“You call that a poem?”

“I’m not done yet! I’m a man that likes women, but you appeal to the feminine side of me. I find that odd about myself that I think you’re attractive.”

“Not you too!”

“I don’t understand.”

Varriano told Racine about the two women who had hinted at going out with him.

“Obviously, I’m not interested in your Stem Corp credentials.” Racine said. “At least with me, it’s something else. It’s like you’re broken and don’t realize it. It makes you cute.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m so broken I’m completely broke.”

“How long did you say you’ve been single?”

“Going on five years now.”

“Maybe that’s part of it.” Racine theorized. “You’re not giving off signals to attract women because you said you don’t want a girlfriend. You’re also not giving off signals to attract men, since you are straight. You are straight, right?”

“I do identify with being an straight man.”

“See? You’re doing it again. The way you explain things, like you’re talking to a child. It’s cute the way you do that. But I was saying; you’re not giving off any signals, so what are you giving off that catches people’s attention? It’s something like your natural charisma, your natural charm. The closest I can come to explaining it is how if a guy with a foreign accent walks into a local bar, the women flock to him because they naturally think that his accent is cute. You’re doing it without realizing you’re even doing it. You’re a person who is full of quirks, and your poetry is just one more on a long list of them.”

Varriano pinched his face, looking like he’d just bitten into a sour lemon.

“Look at you!” Racine chuckled. “Even when you try to be serious it comes out cute! I don’t date men, but I will date you. Even if we don’t go all the way, I’ll date you. You just look like you’ll be fun to hang around with.”

“Can we check out the bedroom now? I mean where the dead guy was, and not in any kind of flirtatious manner.”

Varriano almost expected Racine to wink at him, and was glad when he didn’t.

To be continued.

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