When Living is not Living
“As soon as there is life there is danger.”
The robot’s green eyes stared right at her, no, not right at her, right through her. Kassie stared straight back, saying nothing, thinking nothing. They had been like this for hours. Kassie had barely noticed. She had forgotten why she was staring at her father like this. How long had Kassie been standing there? The robot’s eyes flashed in a sort of automatic blink. Kassie blinked back. A ping came from the robot’s speaker. Kassie’s father turned around and rolled down the hall. He disappeared around the corner.
Kassie stood in the the hallway waiting for the nothing that would never come. Or possibly, the nothing was already there. Maybe the nothing was all Kassie’s life was. Maybe everything that ever existed was nothing at all. Everything that ever mattered to her (Which was nothing of much importance) was blanketed in nothing.
She moved her foot forward one inch, two inches, three, down. Kassie stared at her heavy feet as they shuffled. For some reason unbeknownst to her, it seemed like they were not her feet. Somehow the feet seemed to have detached themselves from her feet and found another person to carry around. She took another step and watched as the padded floor rose around her white shoes. Another step. Her hand touched the padded wall. Kassie looked up at the fake sunlight pouring from the fake windows. For a second she wondered what actual sunlight felt like. She froze. Why had she thought that? Sunlight was dangerous, the government said so. She could be thrown in jail for at least a month for just thinking about sunlight. Kassie held her breath. She waited for alarms to sound. None went off. Within seconds, the thought was forgotten and Kassie was left wondering what she was doing standing in the middle of the hallway.
Her mother came around the curved corner carrying the portable IV in her padded robot hands. Her usual monotone voice came on. “Time for lunch, Kassie.”
Kassie’s feet moved again and she was walking out of the hall and into the dinning area. She sat on the white padded floor and took the padded white IV from her mom. Kassie lifted her white shirt a couple of inches revealing pale white skin that had healed around a closed tube. Kassie took the tube from the IV and locked it into the tube that disappeared inside her. Kassie touched the start button lightly. A clear fluid filled the tubes and vanished inside of her. Three minutes later lunch was done. Kassie relaxed a bit. She had heard that lunch, breakfast, and dinner were the most dangerous parts of the day. Mom had told her that the government was working on making IVs safer. Kassie carefully unhooked the IV and stood. The robot bent over and picked up the IV. Kassie watched. Something shiny and pointed stuck out of the robot’s back.
“Mom, can you stop?” Kassie moved closer and the robot froze. It was an odd object. She had never seen anything like it in real life. Maybe she had seen something like it in the dangerous listings. What was it called again? ...Metal. That’s it. Metal. Kassie reached out and hesitated. This was wrong. She should not touch it. She should call the police and turn Mom in. Mom was dangerous. It would be the right thing to do, wouldn’t it? Kassie looked down at her mom. But, it was her mom. Would Dad notice if Mom left? Kassie looked at the metal sticking out of her mom’s back. She stared and turned her head to watch the fake light reflect off of the tip. The thing was so beautiful. Kassie’s hand shook as she moved closer. Her fingertips were inches away from the tip. Touching it once could not do any harm, could it? Even closer still. Perhaps everyone was wrong. How could something so beautiful be so dangerous?
Kassie poked the metal. She screamed.
Mom jerked up as Kassie snatched her hand back. Alarms blared through the house. Doors locked and the light flared. Kassie stared at her finger. It was throbbing slightly. A dot of red sat on the tip of her finger. She stared at the droplet and watched it fall to the ground. The padded floor soaked up the red and it spread through the fibers. Another droplet formed on her fingers. For a moment she stared at the droplet. Kassie hesitated then touched her finger to her lips. She licked the red dot. Something funny happened to her mouth. Her spit seemed to change and be different. She spit on the ground trying to make the funny spit go away. Mom stared at her. Her blue robot eyes blinked simultaneously.
The padded door swung open. Three men and a woman walked in wearing helmets and thick suits. The three men walked straight over to Mom and opened the control panel. One of the men punched in a code. Mom followed them out the door. Kassie looked away from Mom and the men. The woman was standing by her, waiting with a large medical kit. Kassie held out her finger for the woman. The woman bent over and opened her medical kit. She took Kassie’s finger and wiped away the red. The wipe dissolved in the woman’s hand. The woman brushed the remains away and the floor cleaned up for her. Kassie watched silently as the woman took out a lighted wand. The woman pressed the wand against Kassie’s finger. When the wand was removed, there was nothing to prove that the red had leaked from Kassie’s body.
The woman smiled and put her equipment away. “Now go lay in bed. By morning you will have forgotten everything terrible that has happened today.”
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
The Science of Deduction
“There you go Detective Sherlock.” Camie Greer set the cuppa down on the table next to the dark, brooding man. He never looked up from the photos of a crime scene.
“Thank you.” His eyes shot up to her. “How did you know?
Camie smiled.”When you cam in, you put a magnifying glass in your pocket. As you came in, you observed the whole room and found nothing of interest so you sat down in the window seat to watch the streets incase anything of importance did pass by. And trust me, nothing hardly ever does. I came over and you were on your computer. The homepage was set to the Science of Deduction blog written by Sherlock Holmes. The way the page was sets up tells me that you write the blog. You paid me right away because you never know when you’ll have to run. When you opened your billfold, the ID clearly read Sherlock Holmes. So, Detective Sherlock Holmes, simple.”
“Are you a fan?” His voice was dull. “Fans are boring.”
“No, I am a doctor of deduction... Nearly. I’m exactly like you.” Camie put her notepad back in her apron.
“Really?” He raised his eyebrows. Sherlock started clearing up the papers on his table. He took two and handed them to her. His eyes glanced at her name tag. “What’s missing? One is at the site the other is ten minutes later and the mortuary.”
The woman in the photo was middle aged, blonde, and one side of her head had been smashed in. Camie winced. The jewelry had been left on the woman and anyone who had that much gold would be very rich.
“One of her rings is missing.” She pointed it out to Sherlock. “The silver one. It wasn’t an engagement or marriage ring, just jewelry.”
“Correct. This is Ann Humblr, an antiques dealer. The ring was engraves with Sekmet’s symbol, the sun disk.”
“The Goddess of warfare, right. So she was a part of a Egyptian blackmarket cult.” Camie handed Sherlock the photos.
“Yes. Most likely in Memphis and Leontopolis.” Sherlock stood and put his long grey trench coat and scarf on. “I’ll have to tell the Detective Inspector that it was simple. Shame, I was bored. Drop by my apartment tonight, 221B Baker Street.”
“Why? I hardly know you. How can I trust you?”
“You know you can trust me. You’ve observed it haven’t you. And we know enough about each other already, isn’t that right?” He smiled. “My assistant is out of town this week at a medical meeting in Glasgow. I need a replacement.”
He nodded to her and left quickly. Camie watched Sherlock call a cab and step in. She smiled and went back behind the counter.
Camie’s cousin Rosalie watched her as she shut the cash register. “Who was that bloke you were talking to?”
Rosalie raised her eyebrows.
“He’s a detective. On the police force. There’s nothing wrong with him.”
“He could be lying.”
“He had a badge.” Camie crossed her arms and leaned against the counter happy for the slow hour. “He had police photos from the crime scene and crime scene reports. He’s not lying.”
Rosalie sighed. “Right up your alley then. Taken a fancy to him?”
“I don’t know, but I like him, Rosie.” Rosie smiled at Camie’s smile. “He invited me to his flat tonight.”
“Business or pleasure?”
Camie grabbed four white mugs and rolled her eyes. She started to fill them with decaf. “Business. And he doesn’t seem like the pleasure type.”
“You sure about that?”
Camie shook her head. “Yes, I am sure Rosie. I can handle myself and I’ll be fine.”
“Alright!” Rosie put her hands up in defeat. “I know you can. I’m just saying he could be a creeper or psychopath or something.”
Camie put a pot of coffee and the four filled mugs on a tray. “I’ll bring my pepper spray and rape-cat. Would that make you feel better?”
“Only if you let me drive the escape car.”
Camie laughed. “Okay, whatever. I’ll be fine though, don’t worry.”
Camie knocked on the door of 221B Baker street. She shivered as the cold Autumn wind blew through her black tights. A muffled shout came from inside. Nerves twisted in her stomach and she started to reach for her pepper spray. Her cell phone vibrated with a text from Rosalie. Rosie was probably wondering if she was dead or not. And if Sherlock had murdered her.
The door swung open and a little old lady with dyed blonde hair and a purple dress smiled down at her from the top step. She was single, no wedding ring, either the landlady or Sherlock’s mother. Camie hoped she was the landlady.
“Hello dearly. If you’re here for Doctor Watson, he’s away on a trip.
Camie let go of the pepper spray. “Actually, I was looking for a Sherlock Holmes. He told me he lived here.”
“Oh, yes he does. Are you a girlfriend? We never really have women around here except Doctor Watson’s girlfriend, Sarah. I like her. No boys either, mind you. Mr. Holmes really isn’t the relationship type of person. Come on in, come in.” She waved Camie though and shut the door behind the two of them. “So are you his girlfriend? He’s never had a girl before. It will be so good for him.”
“Oh, no. I’m not his girlfriend. He offered me a job. As his assistant.”
The woman sighed. “Shamed, would be nice to have another woman around. Sherlock’s upstairs.”
“Thank you, Mrs....”
“Hudson, dearly.” She smiled and disappeared into a different room.
Camie scaled the old, dark stairs quietly. She couldn’t hear Holmes moving above her and wondered if maybe that was bad. If he was moving, she would know that he wasn’t hiding from her. There was a room at first flight. The light was on. Tables and desks were covered with papers and boxes. On her left, another opening showed a table covered in tubes, liquids, and vials like some sort of chemistry project. Camie went into the first room. The floor was relatively clean. And bookshelves lined the walls. There was a couch with a coffee table in front of it. Sherlock sat in one of three chairs, facing a lit fireplace. The fire was about the only light in the room. It made everything glow gold, an effect Camie had always loved.
“Please, take a seat.” He waved her over and she sat in the chair without the British flag pillow facing Sherlock Holmes.
“Hello, again.” Camie smiled.
“Hello.” Sherlock opened his eyes. He had lost his black blazer and draped it over the other chair’s arm. The sleeves of his cream colored shirt were rolled up showing one skin colored nicotine patch on his arm. The first button of his shirt was undone.
“I let you observe me. Not let me observe you.” Sherlock smiled. “If you don’t mind.”
“Good. Let’s begin.” He sat back in his chair, his fingertips pressed together to form a steeple, and watched her. “First off: clothes. The fact that you can dress yourself well and wear all black tells me you’ve lived in the city all your life. But your accent tells me you aren’t from London, probably Glasgow. From the state of your hands and the depressions in your nose, I know that you read and write a lot and you wear glasses. Writer, maybe, but your arms and legs are toned. Says you do a lot of walking, so from your age, twenty-seven, I can see that you are a Post-Graduate going to university in London for her Phd. On your notepad you had a Mr. Braxton and a phone number written on it. The Mr. Tells me he’s older and only on business terms. You are a post-grad still trying to pay off debts after nine years of university. Most likely you are looking for cheeper rent so Mr. Braxton must be a landlord. How much did her offer?”
“700 pounds a month.”
“Shame, Mrs. Hudson has a room upstairs for 250 a month.” He paused, collecting his thoughts. “You don’t trust me.”
“No.” Camie shook her head. “But I am starting to.”
“You’re struggling to pay. And you aren’t going to anyone. Your parents haven’t sent anything so they either don’t speak to you or they are dead. No close extended family. No boyfriend.” Sherlock paused then nodded. “How did I do?”
“I live with my cousin Rosalie. She’s moving to Brixton with her fiancee and I need to find a new house because I can’t afford my current flat without Rosie. I am a university student studying for my Phd. My parents and sister were killed by a drunk driver fifteen years ago. I am not in debt, but my personal account has been running lower and lower.” Camie sat back and put her purse on the floor.
“Sherlock kept studying her. “Shot in the dark. Didn’t expect to get everything. You hide your life well.”
“Why did you bring me here?” Camie stroked the arm of her chair and stared at the fibers.
“I need someone to talk to. Watson’s gone and Mrs. Hudson tossed my skull.” He glanced at the fire place mantle where his skull used to sit. “Help me solve a crime.”
“Do I get paid?”
“Depends. Move in and I’ll get Mrs Hudson to give you the first month free.”
“I’ll take the job and assist you, but I’m not sure about the flat.”
Sherlock smiled. “Good. It’s settled then. Now, tell me, when will you be moving in?”
Camie smiled. He was clever. “Tuesday or Wednesday.”
“I’ll tell Mrs. Hudson.” Sherlock jumped up and walked over to the window. Below, a police car flashed it’s lights, but there was no siren. “Up for a murder?”