The iFactor Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Matt paced in front of Kossman’s apartment door. The warrant was slow to be approved; still, it was an appropriate excuse for him to relieve some nervous tension. The crowds around the murder site had left him agitated. He thought about the new medication and wondered if it was wearing off too quickly. He made a mental note to bring up the matter with his shrink.

“You’re making me nervous,” Rishards said. “If you want, we can break down the door. The ones in this section are not the strongest.”

“No, it’s best to wait for the warrant. We don’t want to taint any potentially useful information, especially if your theory that the burnouts being driven psychotic by the solar flares is correct.” He continued to pace. “I think better when I’m moving.”

“I thought you discounted that theory.” She said.

“It gave me the chills,” Matt stopped. “But it’s way too early to discount anything, even ideas I don’t like. We don’t have enough facts.”

A small box on her belt beeped. She picked it up and looked at it. “We have the warrant. Access to the apartment has been approved.” She walked over and waved her palm in front of the access sensor. The click of the auto lock was audible. She pushed open the door and walked in. Matt took a couple of deep breaths and followed.

“Lights,” Rishards said. The ceiling lights started glowing, illuminating the whole of the apartment. Matt felt better about the size of his apartment. Kossman was a low-level maintenance worker and as such only warranted an efficiency apartment, and a small one at that. The bed was along the far wall. The kitchen, such as it was along the wall near the entry door. A small table and chair sat before a small vid screen. The only other door let to a tiny bathroom. There wasn’t even a window. Air came in from the ventilators. It was a coffin. Matt involuntarily stepped back into the walkway. He’d seen larger prison cells. The clues would be inside, so he steeled himself and crawled in.

Pictures in small plastic frames sat on a tiny bed stand built into the apartment wall. Matt concentrated on the images. ‘Concentrate’ he berated himself and focused his attention on the photographs. They were positioned so that images were the first thing he saw in the morning and the last he saw at night. The largest picture was of a young brunette girl, perhaps thirteen or fourteen years of age. In a close cluster, other photos lined his bed stand, some of a blond woman and several photos of the three together, a happy family. ‘Most likely, his wife and daughter.’

Matt considered the picture of the girl. She looked familiar. Matt stumbled backward. Before he realized what he was doing, Matt was out into the hall and struggling to catch his breath. The girl’s face came back to him vividly, as one of many others strapped to a chair in a small black cell a small light illuminating a face that stared blankly into eternity. Her lips were moving in cadence with the chanting of the others. The unwelcome voices of children flooded his mind.

‘Go to sleep and go insane

Past and future all the same

See the world turn inside out

All you’ll do is scream and shout.’

“Don’t tell me you’re claustrophobic too.” Rishards appraised him from the doorway.

“Didn’t expect the apartment to be so small. How could he live without even a window?” Matt said.

“You know how it goes; apartments are assigned by need and status. Luckily, we have more status than someone from maintenance does. Look I’ll go in, just tell me what you’re looking for.”

“I don’t know what I’m looking for. Something that connects.” Matt straightened up and forced himself to return. “He lived alone.”

“Yes,” she said. “He had a daughter, but she didn’t survive the trip. The cause of death was listed as FTL exposure. He survived, and she didn’t.”

“Shorted?”

“Nothing was proven,” she said. “But probably.”

Matt thought for a moment about what that meant. To save Kossman, the doctors had to burn out not only the man’s memories but also his ability to make any more for the remainder of his life. For his daughter, the procedure didn’t take, or she screamed until she choked on her own breath, suffocating before they could help her. “I wouldn’t call what he does surviving.”

Across from the bed on the wall, written in large letters were the words “Your memory is gone,” This would have been the second thing he saw every morning after he awoke. Next to the message, the word ‘important’ was written on the wall and notes adhered under it.

‘Becky is dead. It was an accident.’ The man likes his information direct.

‘Read the book in the top drawer.’

‘You work in the maintenance quad four, section fifteen, room one ten.’

‘Your boss is Oliver.’

‘Get to work at four first shift.’

‘You get the 5th, 6th, 10th, 11th, 15th and 23rd off’.

‘If the clock says those dates don’t go to work. Buy food and do laundry.’

‘Wear Grey jumpsuit to work.’

“There is a book in the top drawer?” Matt asked.

“Yes, a diary, in the evidence vault. I read it. It was mundane. Just filled with daily encounters. Unfortunately, he filled it in at night. There was nothing of use in it for the day of the murder.”

“Nothing like, been a boring day, think I’ll do something horrific to a complete stranger today.”

“No, nothing like that.”

“Too bad, a confession would be useful about now.” Matt looked in the closet. Most of the clothing was hanging neat and tidy. There were a couple of shirts and pants hanging neatly; the rest were all work overalls. “He didn’t have much social life.”

“According to his diary, there was no one of note. Not one that he remembered to add to his diary.”

“Nothing at all of use?” Matt asked.

“I read every word. Nothing useful at all, a bit of self-pity and some guilt over the death of his daughter.” She said.

“Typical feelings, he brought her here to a new life in a crime-free utopia. Instead, she died.” Matt grew more anxious; he couldn’t shake the image of the girl. The room closed in around him. “What about the mother?”

“She died over a year before he left Earth. Killed in a robbery.” She said.

“Well, I think I’d like to see him now.” Matt was feeling couldn’t stand being in the room any longer. He kept his pace normal as he walked into the hall.

By the time the detectives reached the station, the medication had taken full effect. The new prescription felt stronger than the previous one. He could feel the apathy seeping over him. At least it was better than the alternative. His emotions were his worst enemy. If he could, he’d have gotten rid of them permanently.

They had Kossman moved into an interrogation room. There they watched him grow agitated in apprehension.

“How long are we going to stand here and watch him?”

“A few minutes longer,” Matt responded. “I want him tired and grumpy.”

“Why?”

“I want to see how he’ll react.”

“To what?” she asked.

“You’ll see, Okay. We can go in now.” Matt sauntered in, Rishards close behind him. He slumped down in the chair and stared down the large man who sat on the opposite side of a large table from them.

“Do you know why you’re here?” Matt asked.

“I was told that I’m accused of murder. But it isn’t true.” He said. “I’ve never killed anyone, and I’ve never met the woman. Why would I kill her?”

“We were hoping you’d tell us,” Rishards said.

“I want a lawyer.” Kossman sat back.

“You’ve already seen him. He was here yesterday. I can show you the recordings if you wish.” Rishards told him.

“Oh, yeah, right. I’m a burnout. I can’t remember.” Kossman said. “Then, I want to see my daughter.”

“Mr. Kossman, I’m sorry…” Matt started.

Rishards cut him off in mid-sentence. “She can’t come in until tomorrow.”

“Is someone looking after her? She’s a child, she needs supervision.”

“She’s being looked after.” Rishards continued her ruse.

“Look she’s a good girl, just a little wild that all. It wasn’t easy on her losing her mom. Sometimes a girl just falls in with the wrong crowd, you know. It will be all right now that we are here. No crime, no criminal boyfriends for her to fall in with.” Kossman ranted.

“We’ll keep an eye on her.” Matt lied.

“When’s my trial?” Kossman asked. “My work contract said I’m guaranteed a trial with ten days. They say no crime goes unpunished. You’ll find the killer, and I’ll be set free.”

“Not if you are guilty,” Rishards said.

“Look, lady; I don’t know why you’re so hot to pin this on me. But I didn’t do it. I couldn’t kill anyone, even if I did lose my memory.”

“How can you be sure?” Matt asked.

“I know who I am, even if I got no memory. I know who I am. I didn’t kill that boy on Earth, and I won’t kill anyone here.” Kossman said. “You said Becky’d be to see me tomorrow. Promise me you will come in and tell me.”

Matt stood up and looked at the man. “Yeah, sure.”

“He loves his daughter.” Rishards said once they left the room. “It’s easiest to let her think she’s alive.”

“Would he kill for her do you think?” Matt asked.

“Why would he, she’s dead.”

“You convinced him she was alive. What if someone else also did.” Matt walked back to his office.


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