The iFactor Chapter 41

Chapter 41

Matt was unsure how long he’d been in the cell, but he’d had several visits from his psychiatrist, his police advocate, and he’d lost count of the number of times he’d been fed. His career was over, Jill was gone, and he’d most likely brought down the reputation of the man who had vouched for him. He wanted to feel bad about Ken, but he was just numb.

Matt wanted to be left in his cell to rot. He was worse than dangerous; he was useless. He couldn’t even to protect the woman he loved. Somehow, he knew that they would not be so accommodating, without a weapon, he wouldn’t be a threat to the colony. They would let him go, and he’d have to face the world, the colonists that he terrified, and he would see the disappointed pain in the face of the Chief.

Vanderhaar eventually arrived at his cell wearing the same, soul-crushing look on his face that he’d imagined many times as he stared at the blank walls. The thought of hurting his friend crushed what was left of his heart.

“I’m sorry Chief.” It didn’t feel right to call him by his first name.

“Dales, don’t. Just don’t. It was my fault. You can’t run a department on sentiment. I let our past friendship cloud my vision. That and my belief that you might have some psychic ability to catch this killer. Maybe not even that.” The chief’s gaze bore into his conscience. He had the look of a man who had failed when it truly mattered. “I’m sorry. I should never have put you in this position.”

“I did my best.”

“The psychologist report says that you can’t handle the pressure, even with the meds. Honestly, you’ve been having flashbacks, haven’t you? That’s what happened in the park wasn’t it.”

“I had to get away. I couldn’t stand to think of losing Jill, I ran and then I was back at the riots. I thought I was being fired on.”

“It’s a miracle that no one was hurt.” Vanderhaar sat on the edge of his bunk. “Matt, it was pure luck you didn’t shatter the dome. You could have killed everyone.”

“I know. What now?” He dreaded hearing that they would send him back to earth. He wasn’t sure that he could stand the trip. Going through the mind rip again, he wanted to start screaming just contemplating the possibility. He swallowed hard, waiting for a response.

“I don’t know. There will be a hearing. Your doctor’s report will prove you are ill so I don’t think the judge will lock you away, but Dales, your days of carrying a weapon or any kind of badge, those are over.”

“I see.”

Vanderhaar stood up. “I’ve arranged for you to be released pending a hearing. Don’t leave town.”

“Yeah, right. Did they find Jill?”

“Nothing yet,” he responded. “But the blood in the apartment, it was hers.”

“Okay, thanks.”

“I’ll see what I can do for you. Maybe we can find you an office job somewhere. I’ll see you at the hearing.”

“Thanks, “Matt said. “For everything.”

“Yeah,” the chief said and walked out.

It would have been better if he’d screamed and yelled and called him an idiot. It was the compassion in Ken’s voice that hurt more than anything else. It meant that Matt was truly no longer an officer; he was a broken thing to be pitied.

He wondered briefly if a person could volunteer to have their memories burned out. He could wake up every day still a detective, still thinking that he and Jill would be together, that she was alive. He began to envy every burn out he’d ever met.

They released him shortly after his meeting with the chief. He retrieved his clothing and possessions, sans badge, gun, and uniform. He left the station wearing an ill-fitting gray colonial maintenance unitard. It was probably an indication of his prospects.

He strolled toward his apartment; intending to lock himself inside, to become the hermit that deep in his heart he wanted to be. All his things from his office filled a small bag. He looked through it as he walked. There was an old picture of himself and Ken from back in Texas when they were partners. Several notes, all about private matters, since all the official ones had been confiscated. There was a folded paper in the bottom of the bag. He reached in to open it. Ken was probably trying to say goodbye without the surveillance cameras recording everything. It wasn’t Ken’s handwriting, but he had seen it before, on the door of his apartment.

I’m sorry, Dales.

Even though his doctor had him on a heavy regimen of drugs the entire time he was in custody, he could feel himself losing control again. He was out in the open, and there was no way to get back to his apartment safely. Gaining control of the situation was imperative. Matt could feel the drugs in his system, keeping his emotions from surfacing with full intensity, the intensity that caused him to lose control as he had in the park. Knowing with absolute conviction, however, that an unknown someone really was trying to get you made a fool out of anyone who wasn’t paranoid.

A few deep breathing exercises helped him clear his mind. The psychopath was still watching him, most likely even as he folded the letter and returned it to the bag. That was fine with Matt. Let the bastard come; he wanted to take him on. Out in the open, however, exposed, the odds were not at all in his favor. Why should the killer, bother? The bastard had won. The villain he had defeated Matt in every way possible, except one. Matt would be waiting when he arrived to take his life. Let the killer watch from a distance, until he was ready to turn the tables.

The killer had a head start. Matt found a building with a long flat wall and a lawn five meters or so wide between it and the walkway and leaned against it under the shade of a tree, studying everything around him. He could escape to either the right or left if he felt trapped. Exposed places meant escape routes, and he was studying each of them, as well as his fellow colonists as they walked along.

Once he made it home, he could lock himself in and take more meds to calm his mind and plan his next course of action. It the killer was fixated on him, maybe he could do something to make himself more of a target. Matt wanted a confrontation; he wanted to beat the man to death with his own hands and feel the life slip out of his body. He wanted the killer to know what a horrible mistake they made when they went after Jill. Tears started to well up. He used the loose unitard sleeve to wipe his eyes.

He stood there, unmoving for over an hour. A shift change resulted in a dramatic reduction in foot traffic. Soon there was almost no one on the footpaths, and he could be certain that he wasn’t being followed.

It took Matt quite a bit longer to get home than it normally would have, but he no longer had anything else to do, so he walked the long way, taking paths he rarely traversed. He went blocks out of his way rather than enter a blind alley. Grassy trails were more open than pavement. He even waited in a small crowd at the train station, just to slip away into a patch of nearby bushes when the train came. He was almost exhausted when he finally reached his door. This time the message read,

They are coming for you. Run!

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