I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She sat there distraught, sobbing uncontrollably. It was no use questioning her right now. I'll have to let the Soothers take her to the Medical Ward to calm her. I should be able to interrogate her tomorrow morning.
"He's gone, they took him, my George." She uttered, rocking back and forth, arms wrapped around herself.
She kept repeating this over and over. There was no signs of forced entry, no signs of struggle. Security tapes in the common areas of her domicile and the hallways showed nothing out of the ordinary. Yet, she was right. Or at least partially right. Her husband, George, was gone. Seemingly dissappeared without a trace.
We scanned the area, three times. Infrared, X-Ray...Nothing. These dissappearances are becoming more and more frequent. They went from one every two months, and now over the course of the last ten years have increased over time to now almost once a week.
Some believe that there are moments of an intense, unknown radiation that seeps in, collecting in random areas that completely de-atomize a person should they walk through it. However, no evidence of this has come to light. A select few swear it is the work of the dead from ages past, when Earth was habitable from the surface.
I even requested the location chip to be activated to ping a location. No results, is what I was told. That always meant one thing. The person is dead. Now though...
"Yes, Patrolman Baker?" His voice shook me out of my own head. "My apologies, I was thinking."
"It's alright sir, I know these disspearances are weighing heavily on you as they are on all of us."
"It has, it is. Now what is so important that you had to interrupt my train of thought?"
"Oh, yes. We think we may have found something."
"How is that possible, we scanned the area three times?" I muttered as Baker took off towards the sleeping area. He turned his head back and bulged his eyes at me, urging me to hurry and follow.
A team of Scrutinizers were all huddled around the bed, peering at every inch with large magnifying glasses. Baker tapped one of them on the shoulder while he whispered something in her ear. She reached into her lab coat pocket and pulled out a small containment baggie and handed it to him.
"Here, sir. Take a look at this."
I quickly snatched the bag from his hand and pulled it up to my eyes peering hard. The mechanical actuators in my eyes increased the magnification. It was hard, somewhat transparent, crescent shaped.
"A fingernail?" I said in a disspointed tone. I blinked hard to reset my eyes and handed it back. "You get my hopes up that we finally found something that could crack this case wide open; and I get a piece of grooming scraps that the scrub-bots missed?"
He pushed my hand back and looked at me like there was something obvious I was missing.
"Sir. It wasn't found in the couple's domicile." His left eybrow raised slightly as he tilted his head; a teasing smirk crossed his face.
The surprise in my eyes was more than enough for him to continue. My mouth stood agape.
"What you are holding there is a significant chunk of George's fingernail from his left ring finger. You see that chunk there?"
"Yes? What is that?"
"That, from what the Scrutinizer said, is a piece of the root of the nail." Baker's smugness gave me a short image in my mind of me slapping that arrogance right out of him.
As if he had discovered this himself. I thought.
"Ok smartass; what does that prove?"
"It indicates the nail was ripped out."
Those words sinked in, deep. Never, in my time as a Patrolman, Protector, or Detective have I heard of anything like this. Not in twenty years.
"Ripped out? Like, self inflicted?"
His smile widened and his eyes got bigger. "Follow me sir and let me show you where it was found."
We exited the domicile. I could see beyond the small crowd that gathered to figure out what all the commotion was about, a Shuttle Box carrying a Soother and her two assistants on the rail in the center of the pathway. The lighting on the ceiling in the hollowed out cave indicated that it was getting late in the evening. If I'd ever experienced one, I would call it a sunset. Down here, electrical and mechanial means mimicked the wind, stars, clouds, and our Sun that were found in our historical library; and the bedtime stories we were told as children.
It was a good thing too. If all I had to do was stare and a cave walls all the time, I would go mad. You knew, living here, that our population was burried a few thousand feet in rock. The Council, our ruling governement, took great strides long ago to make life comfortable, sane, and safe.
We walked past at least seven occupied domiciles, to the end of the row opposite the central shaft that connected the other thirteen levels above and below us. I looked up and noticed that the last three feet were not covered by the security cameras that monitored the pathway. I reasoned that there was no need since behind the all viewing eyes of the camera there was nothing but rock there.
"Right here, Sir." Baker kneeled and pointed at a specific place in the wall of the cave.
In front of me there was a series of lines, faintly carved into the stone. In fact, if you spit on them and rubbed them a bit, they would have dissapeared. I put my hands up to them, they aligned closely with my fingers in a spread position. I was in disbelief. I looked down at the ground, varying my optical implants, zooming in and out, searching. Looking for anything out of the ordinary.
"Definitely not self-inflicted. George was dragged, abruptly. But...how? These marks indicate he would have been in a horizontal position and eleveated at least a foot off the ground! Which would implicate an immense feat of strength."
I continued surveying the immediate and surrounding area. Baker started looking around as well.
"Sir, what I want to know, is why George was in this area to begin with. And where was he dragged to? There are still no signs that he was taken anywhere in particular. Also, his wife saw something. She kepts repeating that they took him."
"No no...I do not think she saw something of any significance. My best guess is she, like everyone growing up, heard the fables our parents would spin to get us to do what we were told as children. You remember those stories, right?"
"No Sir, my parents never told me anything like that. That seems like an unpleasant way to grow up."
"Wait, wait, wait. You were never told about the creatures that would come through the walls at night and take you if you weren't sleeping? And that once a year, a special treat would be left at the foot of your bed if you had been good? Or that if you hadn't been caught not sleeping when they came by, but they knew you had misbehaved, they would leave you something unpleasant instead?"
"No Sir, why would parents say such things to their children? Why instill fear in someone as not yet matured to get them to do what was best for them? So cruel! How uneducated does one have to be to spin such falsehoods to their offspring like that?"
"Let me guess, you aren't old enough to procreate yet are you?" I couldn't help but stiffle a small cuckle.
"I don't see how that makes any difference, but no. I'm in the twenty-second year of my lifespan. I was certified for courtship last year and have found a mate. I have one year left to begin the life continuation training and screening for procreation."
I extended my hand to him in a gesture of friendship, he looked at me confused.
"Take it." I said bluntly looking at my hand. "I have decided I want you to be my assistant. With it carries the rank of Protector Third Class. This is a promotion for you. You have a sharp mind and it is obvious you are a dedicated officer of the law. I am going to need help with this case, and others. Rest assured, you and your mate will benefit from this promotion."
His face was that of shock and disbelief. He reached out his hand and grasped mine a lot firmer than I was expecting. He shook it hard.
"Sir...I...I...I am honored. I...I....just...I don't know quite what to say!"
I grabbed his hand with my other one to brace against the pain my shoulder was experienceing from him treating my arm like it was a hose, whipping about!
I looked him dead in the eye as I slowed the rythmic movement of his hand, "Say, YES."
"Y...y...yessir, oh yes, yes sir, absolutley yes!"
If his eyes grew any wider with joy, I was afraid his eyballs were going to fall out of their sockets on their own. I pulled my hand away and gave him a hearty pat on the shoulder.
"Good. Thank you. I will submit the paperwork and have you transferred under me first thing in the morning. There is the standard ninety day trial period before it will become official, but I do not forsee that being an issue. It looks like there isn't much more here that we can gather. I think we should make our way back and wrap things up."
His face was smiling so hard I was certain it would stick like that. He nodded in agreement and with a pep in his step that wasn't there on the way up, he began walking. I followed in step behind him. He was slightly taller than I, so his strides were a bit longer. I had to walk almost twice as fast to join his side. When I finally caught up with him, he stopped and looked at me perpelxed.
"What is it?" I asked.
"I was just thinking, sir. Based on the information we were gathering before you arrived. There wasn't a single person who claimed they saw or heard anything. Yet, we have evidence that something did happen. George was taken against his will. No screams, no struggle. What was he doing down in that area?"
I decided to continue walking and he followed me. I slowed down my pace so that we could have a bit more time to discuss. Thankfully, his mind was racing enough that he instinctively shortened his stride to match mine.
"Well, I suppose that someone did hear or see something or both. Either they did, but what they witnessed didn't register to them that it was part of this crime, or...another explaination is needed. I think it would be prudent for us to retrace this man's routine, question the neighbors again. This is the first time we have a lead on a dissapearance. The one thing that puzzles me is how was a fingernail ripped out without spilling any blood?"
"Good point. We'll have to ask someone in the medical field to explain it to us. The other huge mystery here is...where is the damn body?"
Yes, indeed. Where was the body? Why are there never any bodies? We walked in silence each contemplating the questions that we just shared. His mind is very sharp, I like that about him. He has a respectful, yet strong demeanor. An air of confidence and strength, and at the same time, respect and sincerity.
A blood curdling scream caught both of our attention. We were only a few houses from the scene of the crime. We both took off in a sprint. For me being twice his age, I didn't have too much trouble staying with him. As we arrived in front of the larger crowd that had gathered, there was much commotion and shouting.
Repeated screams from a horrified woman, "No, you cannot take her. She is mine!".
We pushed our way through the crowd. I saw one of the Patrolman carrying a wad of blankets. Two Protectors along with the Soother was desperately trying to subdue and calm the woman down. To no effect. She was lashing out, angry, violent. She threw around the Protectors like they were nothing. Each time they came back. Finally one of the Soother's assistants rushed the woman with a shiney tube-like triggered device. She jumped on her back and put the tube to her neck and pressed the trigger.
Within mere moments the lady slowed down. Her ranting became softer, her body became slower until finally she collapsed on to the ground. I ran up to the Soother, Baker assisted with crowd dispersal.
"I am Detective Jim Stollack, senior officer in this investigation. This is MY crime scene. I demand an immediate explaination!"
The two Protectors immediately helpled the assistant up began putting restraint devices on the victim.
The Soother looked me up and down and with a cold stare she answered, "Stand down Detective. This woman was caught with an illegal. She will be incarcerated and formal charges filed. We have reason to believe she killed her mate when he found out. So she will be charged with murder, or at least conspiracy to commit murder."
I could do nothing but stand there in awe. Why didn't our scans pick up the illegal?
As they loaded her in a Shuttle Box and prepared to depart, the crowd began to dwindle, Baker returned by my side. The Soother, barking orders.
"Sir? What happened?"
"They found an illegal and are convinced that her husband found out and she had him killed, or killed him herself."
"An illegal? I do not understand. What is an illegal?"
"It is an unliscensed/unregistered birth of a child."
"How? That's impossible! The devices that are implanted in the males prior to puberty prevent sperm production."
"No, in extremely rare instances, in certain men with specific genetic markers, there is a slight chance that they overcome the restrictions of the implant. Usually, these men are marked at birth and are monitored closely. Which means, there will be more incidences where his tracker was activated."
Baker slumped to the ground and sat down. Many like him are unaware of Bunker Hollow's dirty little secrets. This, was one of those that rears its ugly head once in a while. An unfortunate side effect of strict population control efforts. However, I am not so convinced the Soother was right.
He finally looked up and with a sadness asked, "What happens to the baby?".
I could see the sorrow well within his eyes.
"I don't know." I lied.