06 March 2009


By Curtis C. Chen

Jake sat across the table from the man he'd been investigating for six months. Harlan Anderson's face stared back, but the eyes were wrong. Jake could always tell by looking at the eyes. Of course, the DA wasn't going to take Jake's word for it. So they waited.

The door to the interview room opened, and Andy walked in. He dropped a file folder on the table. Jake opened the folder and flipped through the lab printouts.

"Scarring at the base of the skull consistent with interface penetration," Jake read. "Tox screen detected phenol compounds indicating breakdown of Ferris drug within the last six hours. EEG shows increased activity in PPRF region. Hey Andy, do you know what the PPRF region controls?"

Andy crumpled up a twenty-dollar bill and threw it at Jake.

"That's right," Jake said, pocketing the cash. "Eye movement. How 'bout that? You learn something new every day."

Harlan's arms yanked on the handcuffs attached to the table. "Can you please take these off now?"

Andy said, "Lieutenant wants us to take her with us. And a tech with a portable interface."

"You're kidding," Jake said.

Andy shrugged. "The brass want a photo-op when we bring him in."

The technician, Karl, met them in the motor pool. Jake drove, Andy rode shotgun, and Karl kept looking over at Harlan's body.

"I'm not him," Harlan's voice said.

"I know," Karl said. "It's just weird, seeing his body."

"Speaking of which, how do you guys deal with this stuff dangling between your legs all the time?"

"You'll get used to it," Andy said.

"Oh, I hope not."

The woman's name was Jennifer Nathans, and she lived at 5028 Montana Street, Apartment 7, on the ground floor. Jake could tell as soon as he pulled into her parking space that they were too late.

The front door stood slightly ajar. Andy and Karl stayed in the car while Jake followed Harlan's body through the ransacked apartment and into the kitchen. Shards of glass covered the floor.

"How much cash was in there?" Jake asked.

"Almost five thousand." Harlan's face looked close to tears.

"Anything else missing?"

Harlan's head shook from side to side. "Shouldn't be hard to find him, right? You've put out an APB for my car. And I don't have a passport."

"He's probably ditched your car by now," Jake said, holstering his weapon. "Maybe shaved off your hair and got a wig."

"My hair?" Harlan's voice sounded horrified.

"It's not his body," Jake said. "He doesn't care what happens to it. But cheer up. If he's smart, he's already swapped it for another one. Someone we're not looking for."

Harlan's face didn't look cheered. "This is the worst day of my life."

"No," Jake said, "that's tomorrow, when you find out the Ferris transfer is permanent after twenty-four hours."

"Please tell me you're joking!"

Jake waited until he couldn't suppress his grin any more. "Yeah, I am."

Harlan's palm smacked him across the face.

"See?" Jake said. "You're feeling better already."


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