Matt confronted Perry before they went into the daily meeting.
“The chief scheduled a mandatory meeting with my shrink. I’ll need your help moving stuff afterward.”
“Yeah, sure. I have something coming out of the oven in a little while. I’ll bring it with.”
“Sounds good.” Perry was one of the few people that he trusted. He thought about telling him that the city tracking system sometimes failed to record the presence of people at all, like the two who attacked him. Was it possible that some of the colonists had faulty palm units? It made sense; nothing ever worked perfectly, defects happened in all product lines. Why not palm chips? A person with such a chip could wander the city with impunity. They would also not have access to buildings, money, or anything else a person would need to survive. How would they live, was it possible that someone could live on the fringes in a colony like Sirius?
Another thought occurred to him. Was it possible to make palm chips that could be turned off? He could see how it could be useful for the government or certain corporate entities to have people that could move around untracked. The men who attacked him certainly didn’t look like people who survived from hiding, begging, and stealing. The Trust? If such an organization did exist, the killer could be one of them.
Matt whispered, “I need you to look into whether it is possible to turn off a chip’s tracking feature, or if it’s possible to for that to be faulty.”
“I don’t think so, but I’ll look.”
“The two who attacked me; the system was up, but it said I was alone.”
“Yeah, will do. Catch up with you afterward. Meet me here.”
“Perry,” Matt said. “The chief thinks I’m hallucinating. Nevertheless, they were there, I need to know why they didn’t register.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Inside, Rishards and Doctor Taylor sat around the table and viewed the data scrolling down the screen; the chief was not in attendance.
“It’s impossible,” Taylor announced. “Five murders and not one molecule of analyzable data.”
“I’d like to bring up something, an idea,” Matt spoke quietly. “But it’s out of left field.”
“At this point,” Rishards said. “I’ll listen to anything.”
“I was thinking about Sherlock Holmes.”
“The fictional character?” Perry announced.
“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains must be true.”
“Makes sense,” Perry agreed.
“I see where this is going,” Taylor announced.
“You’re saying we’re getting too caught up in trying to figure out how they are doing the impossible?” She slumped back into her seat.
“Yeah,” Matt said. “If it’s impossible, then it cannot be done.”
“And seeing as how it has been done five times, then it cannot be impossible.” Perry mused aloud.
“So what would the killer have to know or be able to find out to commit these murders during the ‘blackout’ periods,” Rishards said.
“How would they know when and where they could perform these killings without witnesses?” Taylor added. “Some of the killings took time.”
“The killer’s timing would have to be perfect,” Perry said.
“And the victims,” Matt asked. “Do we have any way of determining how the victims were chosen? Did they have anything in common?”
“We haven’t found any,” Rishards said.
“Maybe the victims were chosen at random, in the wrong place at the right time,” Perry said. “Is it possible that they were targeted simply because they were in an isolated place at the time of a blackout?”
“The killer would have to be patrolling remote areas, looking for victims.” Matt thought aloud, “If they were very observant, and mapped out the patrol patterns of the police, as well as the flow of human traffic within the colony, they might be able to pick locations and times when they would have the time to kill with impunity.”
“Perhaps,” Rishards allowed. “But how could they know about the blackouts?”
“Let’s leave that alone for a moment,” Matt suggested.
“But how can we just ignore–” Rishards started.
“Because,” Matt cut her off sharply. “He does. One way or another, the killer knows. It doesn’t matter how. We need to simplify this equation. We don’t need to know why Y is Y if we just accept it; it gives us one less variable to deal with.”
“I was just saying it’s an important fact.” Rishards said dully.
“I’m sorry,” Matt told her. “We’re all a little short.”
“Okay,” Taylor agreed. “Y is Y. What about A? Why did the killer choose a different way to kill each victim?”
“Creativity?” Perry offered.
“Time?” Rishards added.
“Maybe both,” Matt added. “Doc, is it possible for a killer of this type to plan multiple ways of killing? I mean really give it thought, plan them out in advance.”
“Please use my correct title,” she admonished. “Yes, I suppose it is. More difficult, but I think it could be possible.”
“Then, all that would be necessary is for a person to stumble into the wrong place, at the right time. The killer would know how much time they have and choose their methods to match time and place.”
“But how could they know how much time they have?” Rishards protested.
“I don’t know. Maybe you’re right; maybe there are segments of the population that can feel the black-outs, people who for some reason are sensitive to the flares. If they can feel them, then maybe the intensity of the flare can determine how long they have.” Matt was getting frustrated with her inability to grasp the concept. “But is there any doubt that somehow the killer knows?”
Everyone in the room sat silently, and a couple of heads bobbed in the affirmative.
“Then we are asking the wrong questions.” Perry offered.
“We don’t need to find a link in victims; it’s random. Location and time are based on best time and place during a blackout, a method is predetermined by the killer based on how long the blackout will last.” Matt summarized. “Assuming all this to be true, what are the new questions?”
“Who keeps a file cabinet of murder plans?” Perry asked. “Is there any way to find out about the black-outs apart from being told by the colonial government? I mean there are other signs, such as producing radio static.”
“Now that is a good question.” Matt sat up. “Can you look into that? It’s still just window dressing.”
“Sure thing,” Perry volunteered. “Just as soon as we get out of here.”
“Is it possible to run a search for anyone who might have been wandering around the murder locations days or even weeks before the events?” Matt asked.
“Possible, but getting the warrant won’t be easy. “Rishards remarked.
“I bet it’s a lot easier to get today than it would have been yesterday,” Taylor added.
“Doctor?” Rishards returned.
“You will learn that those with authority move much quicker and more decisively when it is their families in danger.” The doctor replied.
“That’s cynical,” Rishards told her.
“But most likely true,” Matt said. “Request the warrant and let’s see what happens.”
“Okay,” Rishards stood up. “Chief says you have good hunches; we’ll try this. I just had a thought. What if our killer was operating on a hunch?”
“What?” the thought stunned him.
“You said that hunches were just your brain processing unconscious clues into something the mind can use.”
“What if all of this is right.” She continued. “What if the person has some way of detecting a blackout, they see the traffic, have a few good ways to kill someone publicly and just have really good hunches about when and how to do it?”
“That theory could also explain why they targeted the good detective here.” The doctor mused. “I mean, even I have heard about your extraordinary hunches, Dales. If Rishards theories were correct, then you would be the only opponent worth defeating.
“A psychic murderer?” Perry earned a dark look from Rishards.
“I’m not psychic,” Matt said. Still, he couldn’t help but think what if the killer had dreams such as his. His blood ran cold. “Is it possible to get a list of anyone who has demonstrated that kind of potential?”
“Maybe, we can search the medical records. They might show up as psychological symptoms.” Rishards added. “Okay, let’s get on all this. Matt, do let us know if you have a hunch.”
“This time tomorrow?” The doctor asked.
“If we haven’t caught them by then,” Perry said.
“In that case, I hope we don’t have to meet,” Matt said as the others left the room. “I really hope not.”
“Amen.” Rishards walked out, leaving Matt alone watching the door. He turned off the displays and stared at the blank screen.