The frantic warble of Rhet’s communicator woke him from a nightmare, sending him bolting upright in his bed, panting and gasping. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, shivering as cold sweat came in contact with the warm air of his apartment. Rhet reached for the communicator and tapped it, murmuring a grumbling, “Hello?”
“Rhet, sorry for the early call, but we need you to come in,” came a feminine voice familiar to Rhet. The senior investigator, Tara. His boss.
“Damn it,” Rhet growled, glancing at the digital readout on a nearby monitor, “is it another one?”
“Another one,” confirmed Tara, steel in her voice. She sounded angry.
“All right. I’ll be in as soon as I can. Send me the location.”
“Already done. We’ve got the area cordoned off, but we’re waiting on you before we get started.”
“Fine,” Rhet said, ending the call. He groaned, rubbing at his head as his temples throbbed; his head felt like it was pressed in a vice. He stood up, wincing as the room grew darker and blood rushed to his head, almost dizzying, but he stalked determinedly through his apartment to the kitchen. He grabbed his medication off the shelf and poured himself a mug of water. Within minutes of taking his meds, he felt a little better, the headache subsiding as he downed the rest of the water and ate a quick protein bar. As he dressed for work, he paused to eye himself in the mirror.
Rhet looked awful. The dark bags under his eyes were getting worse, and he felt exhausted all the time. “Maybe I should get an appointment,” he murmured to himself. The doctors at the lab had said to come in if any serious side-effects presented themselves.
Or it could be the case he’d been working the last month.
Rhet shrugged to himself, pulling on his work boots and tucking his pants into the tops. If the past few weeks had been any indication, this would another messy day.
“You look like shit, Rhet,” Tara said.
“I feel like it,” Rhet replied, rubbing at his eyes and stifling a yawn.
Senior Investigator Tara had her dark hair pulled into a ponytail, tight on her scalp and up and away from any attempt at style. She’d obviously put function over form this morning, Rhet thought, because she looked as thrown together as Rhet felt. “I swear, this psychopath has a vendetta against regular working hours,” Rhet groused.
“If only our serial killer were so considerate, but when you deal with the unhinged, you deal with their habits, too,” Tara replied, leading him towards the crime scene. A blue and white Cutlass patrolled overhead, keeping a half-dozen ships with Galactic Spectrum News logos emblazoned on their sides at bay.
Rhet and Tara stopped at the erected barriers, displaying their badges to the officers on the scene. “Nobody’s been in there yet, right?” Rhet asked.
“Once they realized that it was another murder, they cordoned off the area and called us in. It’s about as pristine as it can be, considering this one was done on the damn street,” Tara replied.
Rhet stepped over the barrier and walked towards the small tent in the middle of the area. A few other investigators stood nearby, searching the area. Rhet pulled his mobi-glass out of his pocket and settled it over his ear, the device immediately extending its screen over his right eye and projecting information and data. “All right. Ready.”
“After you,” Tara said.
Rhet stepped into the tent and grimaced at the smell. No matter how many times he’d stepped onto a crime scene, he’d never, ever gotten used to it. The scent of blood made his head throb, and he idly considered taking a second dose of his meds before remembering he’d left them at home. He looked down at the body.
It was an older man, wearing business attire. His dark hair was matted with blood, and he had a grisly, gaping wound that went around his neck. He’d nearly been decapitated. Rhet grimaced, kneeling down and muttering a few commands to his mobi-glass. It began recording information, scanned the man’s face and irises, and returned a match from the database within moments. “Harald Gussman. His information says he works for GNP. He’s the president of their local division.”
“Well, looks like that’s a pattern falling into place. Whatever this suspect is up to, he’s got a vendetta against GNP.”
Rhet nodded, pulling on some gloves in his back pocket. He tapped the palm of each glove, activating them and linking them to his mobi-glass. The fingertips pulsed with a subtle haptic feedback, telling Rhet they were active. He reached out and touched the body of Harald Gussman, running a fingertip over the wound gently. The mobi-glass responded immediately as the gloves sampled everything, from residue on the skin to the blood around the wound. There was a lot of blood. After a few moments of analysis, the mobi-glass began reading out information. “He had been drinking. A fair amount, more than enough to impair him. Based on the analysis, he was killed about three hours ago.”
Tara was rifling through the dead man’s pockets, searching him. “A few credit chits and a identification card for GNP.”
“The marks on the neck are consistent with the others. Some type of metallic, high-tension wire was wrapped around the victim’s throat and pulled tight until it cut through the skin.” Rhet said, grimacing at the ligature marks around the neck.
“Awful. But at least it all matches. This is definitely our killer,” Tara said.
Rhet stood up, grimacing as his headache grew worse. “I need to step away. Can you handle the rest?”
“Yeah, I’ve got it. Send in your analysis before you leave the scene.”
Rhet entered his apartment, heading for the kitchen. He’d taken lunch early, to get his meds. The bottle sat out on the counter, right where he’d left it. Rhet grabbed the bottle and opened it, pulling out two small blue pills and taking them dry, wincing slightly at the chalky taste, before he sat down on a small bench. He sighed, the relief from his headache coming in waves as the pain and throbbing slowly went away. Rhet rested his cheek on the cool top of the lacquered wooden case next to the bench, sighing slightly, before he pulled it open, revealing white and black keys. He ran a hand over the keys gently, hearing the gentle tinkle of musical notes. He closed his eyes, breathing slowly, willing the images of blood and bone out of his head, willing away his headache, and began to play. The sound was a haunting one, soulful tones that built on one-another. Rhet nodded in time to the meter of the piece, his hands climbing the scale, but just before the crescendo, his communicator beeped frantically. His eyes opened, the melody echoing in the sudden absence of the music, and he begrudgingly answered the call. “Hello?”
“The analysis from the lab is coming through, we need you back here. Apparently there’s some new details they discovered, they’re going to brief us once we’re all here.”
Rhet sighed, tapping the middle C key gently. “Great. On my way.”