Cyberpunk Challenge: Menoko Boi 7

After investigating the fourth crime scene for an hour, Varriano sat on the victim’s couch and activated the holo-vid function on his phone. “Hey, Racine, H, come over here!”

Racine emerged from the kitchen, where he’d been looking over the victim’s dirty dishes for signs of what he last ate. “Is that how it is between us now?”

“Huh?” Varriano asked. “I didn’t mean anything by it. Are you offended?”

“I’m not offended. Call me H and call me often.”

“Sit down, will you?”

“You mean on your lap?”

“No, not on my lap! Just sit next to me! I want to show you something!”

“That sounds interesting.” Racine sat down. “Is it okay if our legs are touching?”

“I don’t know how to answer that question.” Varriano suspired. “You have to be kind of close because my holo-player is only yay-big. Just sit down and shut up.”

“I like it when you take charge.” Racine smiled.

Varriano scratched at his ear, the right one this time. “You have a cute smile for a guy. Generally speaking, you have a pretty mouth for a guy… Look, you need to stop distracting me! This is serious business!”

“Whatever you say, Rick.” Racine replied. “Slick Rick.”

“Stop that.” Varriano said. “I’m not supposed to show you video from my investigation. It’s against company policy, but I’m going to show you anyway…”

“Oh, look at you! You just toss caution to the wind, don’t you?”

“Didn’t I tell you to stop? Just watch the videos and tell me what you see.”

Each of the two videos showed a courier pulling up to the curb in a small truck. The courier moved a medium-sized wooden box from the back of the truck and onto a dolly. The courier then rolled the box toward the front of a house.

“These are the Kennet and Kerensi deliveries you were talking about?” Racine asked.

“That’s right.”

“The couriers are from different companies.”

“But the boxes look the same. Can you estimate a height and weight for them?”

“They’re as big as a mini-fridge, but they don’t look too heavy.”

“The Tweenie models on Yuni Novelties are forty-eight inches tall and weigh fifty pounds. Would you say that’s about right for those boxes?”

“Roughly, yes.”

“And your guy from yesterday ordered one of these, so where the hell is it? We know that these people are into kinky sex…”

“You mean pedo sex.”

“Is it pedo sex if they’re imitation children?”

“I see your point.” Racine acknowledged. “Let’s go with kinky sex for now.”

“One delivery is a genuine Y.N. sex doll, that’s from your guy. From my two people we’ve got two boxes that could have been from Y.N. That’s three missing sex dolls. Where the hell are they?”

“Maybe the dolls were returned and we haven’t discovered any receipts for them yet?”

“Maybe, or maybe the dolls came to life at night and killed their masters!”

Racine gave him a long, perplexed look. “Say again?”

“It makes perfect sense.” Varriano detailed. “These people at Y.N., they’re pretending to be Japanese, but they’re based here in Stem City. They find out that these people are into kinky sex and they try to blackmail them. When the victims refuse, the Y.N. people override the doll-brains and kill the victims. What are the dolls made of?”

“Collagen, I guess. Collagen over some kind of poly or metal-based frame.”

“I looked it up last night.” Varriano admitted. “They’ve got metallic cores covered over with pliable poly and collagen epidermis. I’m betting the dolls are strong enough to bash a guy’s head in with one good punch, except the damage might show on the doll’s hands. So they bash a guy once to daze him, and they pick up whatever is handy for the strangulation. There’s the clean getaway: no perp because nobody is thinking to look for a four-foot robo-killer, no fingerprints on anything because the dolls don’t have any and the dolls may not even set off any motion or heat sensors because the sensors might dismiss them as being pets.”

“I don’t have a better explanation.” Racine decided. “We have not found any evidence that this present victim had anything to do with Y.N.”

“I bet you we’re not looking hard enough.” Varriano replied. “Let’s walk the scene all over again, from the start.”

It took a while. The best they could do was when Varriano upended a trash bin outside and found a number of packing peanuts.

“Your people didn’t even check the trash.” The detective remarked.

“We’re short-staffed.” Racine said. “It’s been that way ever since the Defund The Cops movement. This doesn’t prove anything. We don’t have a packing slip, we don’t have the actual box the doll came in; all we have are a few peanuts that could have come from anywhere.”

“These Y.N. people are smart.” Varriano determined. “They know how to erase their digital trail, and they know how to erase their physical trail too.”

They had better luck at the house of the fifth victim. They didn’t find the sex doll or any packing materials, but they did find pictures the victim, a fifty year-old woman, had taken of the sex doll. The doll had the appearance of an ebony girl. The detectives saw the doll both with and without clothing. She was a menoko boi model.

“I think I saw one that looked like this on the website.” Varriano commented.

“I could not stand that website.” Racine grimaced. “I didn’t get past the first page!”

“I get that, but I want to solve this case.” Varriano said. “I think I should call my super and give him an update.”

“Can I listen in?” Racine asked.

“No, because if that comes back to bite me in the ass, I will never speak to you again. Do you really want to take that chance?”

Racine made a pretty pout, but he did step away.

“Hey, you probably have some kind of ear-radar, don’t you?” Varriano guessed. “You can overhear people talking on the phone, can’t you?”

“No.” Racine said, but a second later, he said, “Yes.”

“I have a scrambler.”

“I know. It’s listed on your police profile.”

“You shouldn’t be offended when I turn it on. You can’t listen to me talking to my super, you understand?”

Racine pouted, but he did nod.

Varriano walked out and across the street before he made his call. He made sure to keep his face turned away, in case Racine could lip-read from that far.

Varriano and Racine spent the rest of his four-hour shift parked in front of the Yuni Novelties showroom. The picture window showcased several of the Tweenie models and only a couple of adult-size sex dolls. Surprising to both men, the store had a steady stream of traffic going in and out, and not all of it was of the typical male pervert variety.

“Chances are good that the judge will grant us a search warrant.” Racine said. “That’s the good news. The bad news is that I probably won’t get it until tomorrow morning.”

“Early?” Varriano asked.

“Yes.”

“Shit. I hate getting up early.”

Racine turned to face him. “Your time is almost up. What are you doing tonight? Are you going to the movies again?”

“I hadn’t planned on it.” He answered, seeing the hopeful face looking back at him. “Did you want to go to the movies with me?”

Racine nodded. “Yes!”

“Let me see what they’re showing.” Varriano consulted the theater listings from his phone. “They have a Terminator marathon going on starting at six. I love the first two movies, but the rest of them are self-combustible trash.”

“Terminator?”

“It’s an apocalyptical, cyborg sci-fi thriller. You like action movies?”

“Sure, I can go for an action movie. I just haven’t heard of this one.”

“The first one is from the 1980s.”

“Well, no wonder! That’s last century!”

“Some of these directors from back then, they made some pretty good guesses about how things were going to turn out nowadays. Like I said, I’ll watch the first two but not the rest of them. That means I’ll be there from six to ten, give or take.”

“It’s four o’clock now. I’ll drive you home and I’ll pick you up at five-thirty.”

“You don’t have to do that.” Varriano said. “We’re not that far away from my house. I can catch the bus.”

“I said I’ll drive you home.”

He sounded serious, dead serious. When Varriano turned to look at Racine, the lieutenant started laughing.

“I’m just kidding.” Racine smiled. “You can take the bus if you’d like, but I will pick you up when I said I would. I don’t often get the chance to dress up. Rick, can I tell you something?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Usually, I work alone. The reason is because a lot of people can’t handle me. I’m too… weird. Do you think I’m weird?”

“Yes, I do, but don’t sweat it. I think I’m weird. I usually work alone myself.” He started getting out of the car. “I’ll see you later, babe. Oh, sorry. I hope that didn’t offend you.”

“It’s okay.” Racine smiled.

“I’ll see you later, uh, guy.”

Racine waved as Varriano walked away.

Tonight was shaping up to be one very unusual date, he thought.

To be continued.

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