A Time Travelers Guide To Solving Murder
“Very few of us are what we seem.” – Agatha Christie
October 3rd, 2020
Hera Jones ducked under the florescent yellow police tape, rested her hands on her hips
and stared up at the climb in front of her. Vietta Cliff, a mass of stone and soil curling outwards like
a claw, was the highest natural point in Talston City. It cast an ever present shadow over the
factory district, a cloud of smoke gathering under the outcropping where it was collected and
turned into steam. The top, a sprawling lawn of vibrant grass fenced in by seven feet of
unbreakable, almost invisible glass, gives one a breathtaking view of the rest of the city. The
glittering skyscrapers, the sprawling park, the Ocean District and the decorated turbines
suspended just below the clouds, pulling in pollution and spitting out clean air.
Police swarmed across the hill like ants leading to the top, Sergeants barking out orders to
teams of identically dressed officers. Hera walked past them, hiding a satisfied smile as officers
snapped to attention as the detective passed. She was nothing if not intimidating, especially with
the rumors that surrounded her like fog. She easily reached six feet with hair a mass of dark curls
the colour of ink. The left arm of her bronze leather jacket cut off at the shoulder, giving way to
smooth metal forming the complex plates of her prosthetic arm. Set into the inside of her wrist was
the golden face of a watch, its second hand ticking steadily backwards, occasionally stuttering and
leaping forwards hours in a dizzying spin. It often gave people pause, stopping to consider if it was
really possible that she could travel through time. Hera had stopped taking non believers so
personally after the first hundred years.
Her target lay at the top of the hill; a body that was reportedly mutilated in a way that
required a detective’s eye. The call had come in an hour earlier, the voice on the other end
belonging to a woman who could barely talk past through her panic. Hera tucked her hands in her
pockets and started walking, sidestepping a few scurrying police officers still struggling to tape off
the entrance to the cliff. Sometimes the incompetence of the Force baffled her, but most of the
time she just reminded herself that they didn’t have a few thousand years of experience like she
Halfway up she was joined by a balding, heavy set man with skin the colour of dried glue,
“Detective Jones.” Hera hid her distaste. Of all the cops to be waiting for her, it had to be the one
who was notoriously doubtful of her skills.
She stifled a sigh, “Deputy Wright.” The man had to almost jog to keep up with her, “Any
news?” Her voice was smooth, layered with an accent that sounded vaguely British.
“Nothing, except that the cameras don’t show anyone going up the cliff around the
estimated time of death.” he wheezed.
“So the killer went up during the day and stayed until nightfall,” the detective commented,
“Do the cameras show anyone leaving?” Deputy Wright hesitated, hands moving to tug on his belt
that was clearly two notches two tight, another cause of his labored breathing. The buckle had a
studded motorcycle on it, ironic, considering Hera knew for a fact he had never touched a
motorcycle in his life.
“The cameras appear to have… “ he struggled for a word, shrinking back under the
piercing glare the woman turned on him, “They were deleted.”
Her face didn’t change, although her voice dropped low, “Of course they were.” They
reached the top of the cliff and she sighed, “Just show me where the body is.”
Visibly relieved to be free from that conversation, Deputy Wright straightened and puffed
out his chest, “Right this way.”
The body belonged to a young woman and was in two pieces, split evenly in half at the
waist. One half dangled by its feet from a branch, the other half draped leisurely on a bench like
she were enjoying the view. Blood painted the grass in broad, sweeping stripes. Her mouth hung
open gently as if letting out a sigh, gold hair plastered against her fair skin with blood. Bruises had
turned her neck a putrid purple and yellow. The end of her severed torso had bled its all, bits of
bone and flesh falling between the slants in the bench onto the grass. Her clothes were
untouched, although drenched in splotches of dark, dried blood.
Hera crouched down beside the bench, slipping on a pair of obnoxiously blue gloves,
“Interesting. Killer must’ve had a very sharp knife.”
Deputy Wright sputter indignantly, “Is now really the time for jokes?”
She stood and leveled a withering glare at the man, “I was being completely serious.” She
pointed at the body, “The wound is incredibly even. Anything blunt would’ve torn the skin. It’s very
likely the killer had two weapons, a knife for her skin and a saw of some sort to cut through bone.”
Very gently, the detective reached out and tilted the woman’s head left to right, “She was dead
before the wounds were made, thankfully.”
“A purse was found a short ways down the trail,” the Deputy huffed, straightening up like
he’d just solved the case.
“Good to know.” Hera rested her knuckles against her hips and pursed her lips, “If no one
reports it then it’s likely hers.”
Leaving Deputy Wright where he stood, Hera walked to where they’d found the purse,
letting herself fall into the situation the evidence pointed at. The woman was ambushed from the
bushes, strangled there and dragged up the hill. Her body was lain sideways, sliced with a knife
and carved with a saw. A length of yellow climbing rope was used to tie the feet around a tree
branch before the killer carefully arranged the top half on the bench and descended the hill,
sneaking in, deleting the camera footage and continuing along with their merry life.
Taking a deep breath, Hera flagged down the nearest officer, “Make sure all this evidence
gets back to the station and organized into a case file.”
The officer nodded her head vigorously, “Yes Ma’am, of course Ma’am.”
Hera started down the hill towards the barrier and her car, “If the Deputy asks, I’m heading
back to the station to see if I can find anything else like this. Or make up something fun, your
Hera clicked through the pictures, then clicked through them backwards. Three hours of
this hadn’t given her anything. The clock blinked at her from the bottom of the screen: 5:45 am.
Sighing, she stopped on a picture of the woman’s upper half, unnerved by how haunting her blue
eyes were as they stared blankly out at the horizon.
“Who are you?” Hera mumbled, chin resting in the cradle of her prosthetic fingers. Nobody
had claimed the body yet, and very few were willing to come look at its present condition. The
detective was so absorbed in running through the evidence and any possible solution that she
didn’t notice that someone else had entered the room until he spoke.
“Hera Jones?” Her head shot up, meeting the eyes of a young, but startled, man. His left
hand held a paper to-go cup an inch above her desk while the other balanced a large tray holding
more cups. He was dressed in a white button down and slacks, the edges of a tattoo curling out
from under his collar. Against the backdrop of the police station, he felt almost like a ghost.
“That’s me.” She finally offered an answer to his question.
His eyes flicked down to the nameplate on her desk, “Yeah, I know.” He raised an
eyebrow and placed the cup down on her desk before moving onto the next onto the next, “Here’s
Her grey eyes rested on the cup wearily, “I didn’t order coffee.”
The man didn’t even pause in his rounds, “I know that too. You happen to be the only
person who hasn’t given me an order, so I had to guess.” He jerked his chin towards the cup she
was eyeing with suspicion, “Cappuccino with one brown sugar and cinnamon. How did I do?” The
smile he offered told Hera that he already knew the answer.
She raised the cup to her lips, impressed and still confused, “How did you know?”
“Simple.” He tucked the now empty tray under his arm and moved towards the door to
grab a box, “I asked some of the other officers what they thought you’d drink and did the
Hera scoffed and tucked a few stray curls behind her ear, “How many said I’d drink it
black?” She swirled the mug and took another sip, glad to have something decent to drink for
once. Cops weren’t very handy with a coffee maker.
An uncomfortable laugh slipped past his lips, “Too many.”
“What about you?” She challenged, “How do they assume a Native American takes his
He handed her a bagel, completely deadpan, “With the blood of white men, or Agave
nectar.” His face twisted in disgust at the very thought, “Who even uses Agave syrup anymore?
Didn’t that fad die out in 2016?”
Hera raised her hands in defeat and sat back in her chair to eat her newly acquired bagel,
“You’re asking the wrong person.”
“Right.” He ran a hand over his buzzed hair, “Time traveler.” His lack of belief didn’t bother
her in the slightest. She watched him continue the same path around the room dropping off bagels
the same way he dropped off the coffees. Finishing off her bagel, she tossed the napkin into the
trash can across from her and narrowed her grey eyes skeptically.
“Who even are you?” Hera tapped her fingers on her desk, eyes still narrowed.
“Officer Citlali LaRoche, although I’m less of an officer and more of a glorified coffee boy.”
Citlali offered a mock bow, flattening the box in one quick snap and tossing it in the recycling. He
wandered up the center aisle to stop by her desk, sharp brown eyes taking in the picture pulled up
on the screen. Footsteps could be heard coming from the lower floor, the thundering sound of
boot clad feet. Letting out a ‘huh’ he continued down the aisle.
“Good talk.” He stopped himself at the back door and turned around, gesturing towards
her computer, “You do know that blood behind her spells out an ’E’, right?” Hera whirled to face
her computer, clicking rapidly through the pictures until she found one of the blood itself. Citlali
was right; now that she had the idea she could clearly see that the blood created the four lines of
a letter. Originally she had contributed the shape to the places where the killer had to drag the
halves, but it was clear now that those lines were deliberate. Almost like they had used a
paintbrush to fill in the edges.
“How did you-” She spun back around and froze. The room was empty, almost cold, no
sign of Citlali’s presence except for the coffee awaiting the people beginning to spill into the office
Hera turned back to her desk and grabbed her case file.
A Time Travelers Guide to Solving Murder Chapter 2: Galahad
In a lone apartment on the third floor of a squat brick building, something stirred. It started as an innocuous clicking from behind thick blue curtains, then grew to a rattling sound. There was a crack, the sound of a window sliding open, and a hand burst through the curtains, throwing a thin rectangle of light across the dark apartment. A second hand followed, using the curtains as an anchor to pull their body into the room. Slowly and with much effort, a figure crawled into the dark space and landed in a crouch with a soft ‘thud’ before straightening up.
The curtains behind them fluttered in the cold wind that pushed through the window, white light flooding the apartment. Beyond the thick panes of glass there was nothing but an expansive silver void that shifted and swirled and stretched on as far as the eye could see. A thin silver strand was tethered to the back of the newcomers neck, which ran down their back and out the window. With tired hands, they reached back and pulled it out of their neck, then turned to shut the window and curtains.
The figure stretched their hands up to the ceiling with a sigh. “Finally. Figures Hera’d leave all the windows locked.” They pulled a thin piece of dark glass from their pocket and taped in a few key places, the screen lighting up under their fingers, “First things first, let there be light.” They tapped the screen once more and the square lights on the apartment ceiling flickered to life.
The newcomer smiled and tucked the screen away, “Now, let’s see what we have here.”
October 4th, 2020
Precinct 5, Talston City
The police chief was an older woman who had ruled her Precinct with an iron fist for as long as anyone could remember. She was a woman with features like a marble statue and copper hair coiled into a tight bun at the base of her neck. There was no mincing of words with her, and she never used two words where one would suffice. Other Precincts found her no nonsense attitude and firm deadlines too strict, but no one could deny that more crimes were solved in Precinct 5 than any other. Her officers worked until they got results, because the Chief always got results, and when she didn’t…
There was hell to pay.
Which was exactly the reason she’d brought Hera onto the team, despite the absurd rumors that she was a time traveler. She got results, taking charge with such confidence that you either followed her lead or got left in the dust. The Chief had only one issue.
Once she had an idea, she never let go until she was proven absolutely wrong.
Hera loomed on the other side of her desk now, a towering mass of dark curls a shade darker than her skin that leaned menacingly on the edge of the Chief’s desk. The dim yellow light bulb in the room cast a faint golden light on everything. Her metal hand had a death grip on a rather empty manilla folder as she stared the other woman down. It was a battle of slate grey against powder blue.
After a few tense moments, the Chief leaned back in her chair and tented her fingers before her face, “So, you’re telling me that you think this there is a rising serial killer on the loose and this is their first murder.”
Hera’s lips twisted into a frown, “Just… Trust me, Siobhan?”
Siobhan let out a long sigh and pinched the bridge of her nose, “I do trust you, I just need proof. If you can at least give me something, then I can authorize you for a complete investigation beyond just a murder case.”
Flipping open the file, Hera pulled out the picture Citlali had shown her and handed it over, “He signed his work.” She traced the letter with one finger, “It’s incredibly common with serial murders. Sociopathic tendencies and all that. Taking trophies is another big one, but nothing is missing from the body.”
The redhead glanced over the photo before handing it back, “It could just be a coincidence that the blood laid out like that.”
Tucking the file back under her arm, Hera straightened up, “And if that’s all it turns out to be than that’s marvelous, but I can’t give up until I know for sure.” The other woman let out a relenting sigh and started to fish around in her desk for the proper papers while Hera continued, “Also, I’d like to bring on an assistant.”
Siobhan raised an eyebrow, “I thought you worked solo, Jones.”
Hera’s left foot had started tapping an impatient beat on the floor, “Officer LaRoche is the one who noticed the signature in one glance. I think he’d help this case tremendously.” Everything about the Chief’s air changed. She froze mid signature, pen frozen above the form. Her free hand came up to pinch the bridge of her nose and she let out another long sigh.
“Of course he did. Sometimes I swear he does these things on purpose.” Siobhan raised her blue eyes to meet Hera’s, “You do know he’s family, correct? I’m married to his older brother.”
“I was… unaware but that doesn’t change my position on this matter.” It was another tug of war between gazes, and in the end, Siobhan relented.
“Fine.” She finished signing it, some anger in her strokes, “You’ll find him at La Terre on the corner of 49th and 5th.” Hera took the paper she offered and moved towards the door, only to be stopped by the chief’s voice once more, “Hera. If you lose him, it’s not just me you’ll be answering to.” From where she sat, Hera was nothing but a silhouette against the light of the of the room beyond. The only thing that stood out was the emblem on the back of her bronze jacket; a triangle so gold it almost glowed, surrounded by a black circle. Her body was tense, her hands clenched tightly by her side.
Hera took a deep breath and straightened her back, forcing her hands to relax “Don’t worry, Chief. I’ve only ever lost one person, and I’ve been doing this for a very long time.”
La Terre was a squat brown building lined with ivy that was best known for its coffee. It had the honor of boasting the only five star rating in the stretch of restaurants on 49th street. The inside was bright, all hardwood floors, plants in the windows and soft yellow lighting. Brightly patterned woven rugs covered the floor under wide mahogany tables and metal stools. When Hera pulled up, feeling very out of place on a motorcycle that wasn’t hers and didn’t even exist in the current year, the cafe was bustling. There was a bearded man playing guitar on a small stage in the corner. At all tables, people were working diligently on laptops or chatting loudly with friends over steaming cups of coffee. The strong smell of coffee and the warm, sleepy scent of fresh bread washed over Hera the second she opened the door.
Somehow this place managed to make her feel even more out of place than usual.
Luckily so did Citlali. He wasn’t wearing any flannel and didn’t have enough piercings to fully blend in. He had definitely seen her enter, but since then hadn’t taken his eyes off the notebook in front of him. Tucking her hands in her pocket, Hera made her way towards his table, weaving through people waiting for their orders and ignoring the many stares she was getting. The fingers of her metal hand twitched involuntarily.
“Watching for suspicious hipsters, Officer?” Hera slid into the stool across from him.
Citlali glanced up from his writing briefly, “Don’t blow my cover, Detective.”
Saying nothing, Hera pulled the case file from her coat and slid it across the table, flipping it open to reveal the form on top. It laid out all the legal things that allowed Hera to follow the murder case. There was a dotted line at the bottom that had been highlighted: Partner Signature. Citlali glanced at it quickly then up at her before he held the file up so he could look through it. For someone looking through pictures of a woman cut in half, his face remained very unresponsive. Pulling a pen from his pocket, Citlali signed the line with a flourish and passed the folder back,
He braced his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his interlocked fingers, “So, where to now, Partner?”
Hera tucked the case file back in her coat and smiled, “The morgue, but first I need to grab something from home.”
“Lead the way.”
Hera’s apartment building was a squat brick building nestled at the edge of Midtown. The entrance was manned by a tired looking wisp of a man who barely looked up when he heard the door open. Hera marched right past without a care and up a short flight of stairs to the elevator, which they took to the third floor. Suddenly, Hera stopped mid step in the hall, eyes frozen on the thin gap between the bottom of her apartment door and the floor. The lights were on, a thin rectangle of yellow glow seeping into the hallway; her right hand crept towards the gun holstered at her waist.
Citlali, who had barely avoided crashing into the frozen detective, tucked his hands in his pockets and tried to play his almost blunder off, “Something wrong?” His eyes finally settled on the gun now in her hand, “Ohhkay, yeah, something’s wrong.” Hera clicked the safety off and pressed a finger to her lips before moving towards her door. She was followed closely by Citlali, who was armed with nothing but his empty coffee cup. Hands tight around her weapon, Hera took a step back and readied herself to kick the door down.
Right as she went to kick, the door swung open and a bright voice rung out from behind it, “Kicking down your own door?” Hera staggered into the door, then righted herself and leveled the gun at the figure lounging in the open doorway.
“Long time no see, Jonsie.”
At first glance they seemed like a teenager, the brightly coloured hair and beanie resembling people Citlali saw regularly at La Terre. There was something distinctly nonhuman about them the more he looked; the white ring around their pupil, the artificial tinge to their eyes, the faint orangey glow that emanated from their body.
Hera’s jaw dropped slightly, and her arm fell to the side. “Galahad?”
They offered a dramatic bow, “The one and only! You really need to start unlocking your windows, I almost had to break one this time. By the way, how do you like the new look? It took me all day to program, y’know.” Galahad ran a hand through their fluffy hair, “Apparently this ‘succulent inspired’ hair dye is really ‘in’ at the moment, and I have to admit I kinda like it!”
Their hair did oddly resemble the bright plants: the minty green fading to a pink red at the tips. Most of their wild hair was corralled into a black knit beanie. Their grey sweater, worn over ripped black jeans and tall brown boots, had the same emblem as Hera’s jacket, the gold, almost glowing triangle inside a black circle.
Hera holstered her weapon and went to speak, but Citlali interrupted, “Wait. Who is this? What did you mean by ‘program’ and,” he took a deep breath, eyes fixed past her on the apartment stretching through the door and voice rising slightly, “What is wrong with your apartment?”
Hera’s apartment was, for lack of a better word, impossible. It had a wide living room, a spacious kitchen and from his one spot by the door Citlali could see three doors leading off into other rooms. There was no way that an apartment this size could fit into the building. Not to mention that past the tall windows there was nothing but a swirling, silverish void.
Galahad fixed their electric green eyes on him in surprise before turning to Hera, “How new is this guy?” Their eyes were startling,
Citlali let out a small laugh and stepped into the room, “Very. As of this morning.”
“Wait,” they turned to Hera, face twisted in something like confused horror, “You brought him here without explaining anything?!”
Hera dragged Citlali into the room and shut the door before rounding on the green haired teen. “Galahad, get out.” She went to grab them, but they moved faster, taking a step back and swiping one finger down the underside of their forearm. The skin light up in a green strip and with a flurry of sparks, Hera’s metal arm dropped.
“What did you do?!” the woman grabbed at her shoulder, eyes narrowed. Her whole body was slanted to the left, like the sheer weight of her arm was pulling her down.
Galahad continued typing on their arm, their skin lighting up like a touch screen everywhere their finger landed, “I just disabled your arm for a bit, stop being so dramatic.” They stopped typing and crossed their arms over their chest, “First off, you need me. Secondly, this guy deserves an explanation.”
Citlali, who was still trying to wrap his head around how the room managed to fit into a small building held up a hand, “I second that. Someone please tell me whats going on?”
Hera rubbed the spot on her shoulder and scowled at him, “Fine, but you’re getting the abridged version. I’m a time traveler from the year 3125, I’ve been traveling for thousands of years and solving crimes for longer than that. I move through time using this,” She turned her metal arm over to indicate the spinning watch on her wrist, “and the apartment. It’s a bunch of rooms linked together by the doors and I can link the whole unit up to a single door. That silver void is the space time continuum, that’s where Galahad lives, since I may or may not have pushed them out the window.” She glared at Galahad, “Did I miss anything?”
Galahad shrugged and released their control on Hera’s arm, “Good enough.”
Citlali was still staring wide eyed, “Sure, let’s go with good enough.”
Hera rolled her shoulder and straightened up, stormy eyes fixed angrily on the green haired teen, “Get. Out.” They didn’t even flinch. Staredowns with Galahad could be dangerous; look too closely into the stratosphere eyes and you can loose yourself the scrolling lines of data and programming behind the layer of neon green. Silently, Hera turned and stalked down the hall to a different room. Finally free from the prison of Hera’s gaze, Galahad turned to Citlali. He had leaned back against the door and closed his eyes, fingers tented against his lips as he processes the vast amount of unbelievable information that had been thrown at him.
Galahad frowned, “Hey?” They said softly, waiting until he looked up to speak again, “Just…watch.” They took a deep breath in through their nose and as they breathed out, their appearance began to disappear. Pieces of them faded away until there was nothing but a blank human form of white lit panels. Those same green eyes blinked back at him.
“You’re… you’re a robot?” Citlali let out a breathy laugh, “Of course you are. Makes perfect sense.”
Slowly the puzzle pieces of Galahad’s appearance clicked back into place until they looked exactly as before, “I’m an Android, technically.” They tucked their hands in their pockets and offered a smile, “And I used to be human. I was dying and they managed to download my mind into this body before I died for good. I stuck with Hera after that, until…” They cast a glance over their shoulder at the window and the silver void beyond, “I got Claimed by the continuum. I can only spend a certain amount of time on this side before it calls me back.”
Everything was starting to make a weird sort of sense, and Citlali found that his legs could fully support his weight now, “You live out there?”
“Yep.” They shrugged it off, but their voice dropped a hint, “For about three thousand years now… And I guess I’m going back.” Turning back towards the window slightly, they frowned. Back out into the lonely expanse of white light and their little island of scrap metal and tech they use to build and repair gadgets.
Citlali took a step towards them, “You said we needed you. Why?”
They sighed, “Hera’s going to use a device on her body that revives the mind for a short period of time. It was broken pretty badly last time she used it and I managed to fix everything except for the battery…”
“But you can use yourself as a powersource.” He finished, running one hand across his buzzed head.
Galahad turned and grinned, “You’re a fast learner.” Citlali just laughed. Before either could say anything else, a door opened somewhere down the hall and Hera’s foot steps moved towards them. She looked much calmer, as if all the fight had been drained from her while she was gone. Galahad ducked their head and Citlali had to fight back a wince at the sight.
She rested an easy gaze on the android, “Do you know where the Defibrillator is?”
“The table.” They jerked a thumb over their shoulder towards it, “I was making sure it still worked well enough.” Hera moved past them quickly to snatch it off the table. It was a long cylindrical device with a thin spike on one end and a long grey cable trailing off of it. It bore the same symbol that Galahad and Hera wore. The woman checked it over and then tucked it into the messanger bag she’d thrown over one shoulder.
“Alright. To the morgue we go.” She opened the front door and ushered Citlali out before turning to Galahad. They stood shock still in the center of the room, arms crossed tight across their chest and gaze fixed on their shoes. Their shoulders twitched back towards the window involuntarily, the continuum pulling them gradually back into its lonely, fatalistic void. Three thousand years out there, Hera thought, a frown tugging her lips down at the corners. She could almost feel Citlali’s stare burning into her back.
Finally she sighed, “Are you coming or not, Leaf head?” Galahad’s head shot up, eyes wide in shock before a wide grin split their face. They jogged forward and out the door, running right into a brotherly hair-ruffle from Citlali.
“Technically it would be more like cactus head.” They clarified.
“Whatever. I liked your old hair better anyway.”
“You say that every time I change it!”
“Yeah, that’s because it keeps getting worse.”
It was a feat of magic that all three of them managed to fit on Hera’s out-of-place motorcycle, and even more impressive that they didn’t almost die taking any turns. Hera technically wasn’t allowed to take the TCPD cruiser without Siobhan’s approval, and she didn’t want to risk anyone questioning Galahad’s presence, so it was the motorcycle’s time to shine. Luckily, the green haired Android had an easy solution to getting theirself inside, since they weren’t even registered as existing yet. In a short burst of static, they had activated some kind of cloaking technology and aside from a slight waver where their form was, they were invisible.
With Galahad nothing but a shimmering shadow hanging onto Citlali’s sleeve, the three of them made it into the morgue with ease. The kindly man at the front desk showed them the body and after a few pointed comments from Hera, he left them to do their work. The room was brightly lit and freezing, sleek metal panels lining the walls. The body was on the table in the center covered in a pristine white sheet. The three of them crowded around it.
“Oughta get that man a bouquet!” Galahad reappeared in a flicker, “Making this nice and easy for us.”
Citlali fought the urge to hold his nose against the strong chemical smell, “Let’s just hurry up then before he comes back and we have to live with the crushing guilt of betraying that man’s trust.” Hera nodded her agreement and pulled back the sheet as Galahad riffled through their backpack for the Defibrillator. When they saw the body however, they let out a shriek and Citlali had to lunge to grab the device before they dropped it.
“You didn’t mention the fact that it’s been sawn in half!” Galahad whisper yelled at Hera, colour draining from their face.
“Just plug in and we can get this over with!” The detective snapped. Still staring, they plugged the end of the grey lead into the back of their neck and the device came to life in Citlali’s hands. He passed it quickly to Hera and covered his mouth and nose as he watched her plunge the pointy end into the woman’s heart. Galahad let out a hiss of pain and clamped their hands down on their ears, hunching their shoulders down like they were trying to curl around theirself.
Hera twisted the gold ring on the top, “Come on Gala, you can do this.”
“I remember this thing taking a lot less energy!” They snapped through gritted teeth. The light on top flickered to life and suddenly, the dead woman took a huge breath of air in through her mouth. Her eyes flickered open, two milky white orbs devoid of any life. Air whistled between her swollen lips through her damaged throat, and Citlali swallowed hard. Even though he had a vague idea what the device did, it was much harder to watch in person. He moved to stand near Galahad, who was leaning limply against the table like a discarded doll. They’d shut down all non essential programs to divert energy to maintaining the Defibrillator.
Hera spoke very calmly for a woman talking to a dead body, “Can you hear me?”
“Y-yess…” The voice didn’t come from the woman’s mouth, although it moved to form the letters, but instead came from Galahad’s. It was still the woman’s voice, quiet and worn from all the damage to her throat. The android’s head tilted back green eyes frosted over as the haunting voice came through their open mouth.
“Oh god, that’s… not good.” Citlali took a step back, not sure where exactly he should stand to avoid all the weirdness.
Judging by Hera’s frown, she agreed with his statement but continued questioning, “Can you tell me your name?”
The ghostly voice hesitated, “What happened to me?” It mustered up a little more urgency in its tone, “Where am I?”
Hera’s voice was soft and soothing, “You’re safe. Can you tell me your name?”
“L…Laurel… Steinman…” Galahad’s shoulders jerked and Citlali reached out to steady them, “What happened to me?”
“You were found of Vietta cliff, can you tell me why you were there?” Hera’s grey eyes had moved from the woman’s face to rest of Galahad’s back with some degree of worry. Under Citlali’s hands, their skin was starting to heat up.
“Viettaa… I was… I was…” The voice hitched, “I died. He jumped from the bushes, hands around my throat, pulling me to the ground.” Her body started to shake violently.
Suddenly, Galahad’s body jerked to life and their eyes flew open, “Unplug me, unplug me, unplug me, unplug me!” Their voice was theirs again, rising in panic as their limbs jerked involuntarily, “She’s in my head!” Citlali lunged for the lead at the back of their neck, wrenching it free with a flurry of sparks that burned his hands. They staggered away from the and crumpled to their knees, clutching at their head. Running footsteps echoed down the hall. Hera wrenched the device free and tossed it to Citlali before yanking the sheet back up over her.
“Galahad, disappear!” She grabbed the device back from the man and shoved it in her bag.
The android’s form flickered but stayed visible, “I-I can..can’t.” Their voice was cutting in and out like a bad radio signal. The door handle rattled and Citlali, mumbling an apology under his breath, dragged Galahad’s glitching body under the table. They curled up around themself as the door flew open.
A security guard burst into the room, gun drawn, “What’s the problem, I heard screaming.”
Citlali stepped forward, phone in hand and face forced into an embarrassed smile, “Sorry, voicemail from my sister. She’s got young triplets and I was supposed to visit them today.” His voice dropped down to a secretive grumble through the side of his mouth, “But I might have forgotten and they were very upset.”
The security guard frown and holstered his weapon, “Next time, try and be more careful sir. It sounded like the living dead in here.”
Citlali nodded vigorously, “Of course officer, It won’t happen again.” Once he left, both of them let out a long sigh of relief before Hera dropped quickly to her knees.
“Galahad?” They didn’t answer her, just curled around themself tighter, like they could disappear if they got small enough. Just become a tight, shuddering bundle of brightly dyed hair and ripped jeans and leave everything else behind.
“Well that was a disaster.” Hera settled back on her heels and chewed on her lower lip.
Citlali joined her on the cold floor, “At least we got her name, right? That’s a start.”
Galahad’s muffled voice rose up, “We’ve got more than just her name.” They heaved theirself to a sitting position and rubbed their face, still shaking. Galahad dragged their hand down to reveal their eyes and Hera felt her breath hitch in her throat. What had been bright, unnatural green was now a foggy, pupiless blue. Their body was still shaking violently as they accepted the hand Citlali offered them. Once shakily on their feet, they leaned heavily on his shoulder to stay upright.
“What do you mean?” He asked, looping one arm around their shoulders so they didn’t fall.
Galahad let out a long breath and tapped one finger against their forehead, “Because I just got all of her memories.”
A Time Travelers Guide To Solving Murder Chapter 3: Thought Process
October 4th 2020
Talston City Morgue
While Galahad attempted to isolate Laurels memories Hera ran a full check of the body with Citlali flicking between the two of them like a hyperactive hummingbird. She had been right about the strangulation factor, although the word of a dead woman wouldn’t hold up well in court. The hole in her chest had healed over again, another perk of being able to use incredibly advanced technology before the concept even existed. She flicked through the autopsy report, but there was nothing she hadn’t already guessed. Her eyes flicked up to find the other two, Galahad sitting against the far wall with their eyes closed, fingers tapping along the inside of their left arm while Citlali seemed to be pacing the length of the freezer in a fit of feeling useless.
Citlali finally seemed to find something to push all his worry on, “Wait, there are camera’s in here that just recorded us reviving this dead woman.”
“Galahad took care of that.” If Citlali didn’t know any better he’d have thought he heard a hint of pride in Hera’s voice, “They can hack anything.”
That earned a mumbled ‘heck yeah’ from the seated android.
When Citlali’s wayward patrol brought him closer, Hera let a comment fill the empty air, “You’re taking this better than I expected.”
He slowed his pace and came to stand on the other side of the table, “You and me both. Granted, this is the first case I’ve been on in almost a year and it’s turning out to be far more…exciting than I expected.” he accepted the autopsy report she handed him, “Ever since Siobhan married my brother I’ve essentially been a glorified coffee boy.”
“Let me guess,” Hera tugged on the edge of the sheet to straighten it, “Overprotective brother, who didn’t want you to become a police officer in the first place, got a voice nagging in the back of his new wife’s mind that something bad could happen to you in the field. So Siobhan, being the slightly paranoid woman of steel that she is, put you on the safest job she could find at good ‘ol Precinct Five.” She peeled of her gloves and pushed a wave of curls out of her face with a sly smile, “How did I do?”
Citlali raised an impressed eyebrow, “Pretty much spot on. I’m still surprised Siobhan agreed to this.”
“Probably because she didn’t realize what you were getting into,” Galahad said from where they sat. “Once everything sets in and you realize that all this time madness is true you’ll change your mind.”
“Galahad.” Hera snapped. “That’s not a fair assessment.”
They shrugged, “It happens more often that not.” Curling their legs under them, the android stood in one fluid movement, “Memories have been more or less isolated, but there are a few…other problems.” Their sideways grinned turned sheepish.
Citlali replaced the file on the tray table to his left, “What kinds of problems?”
“I may or may not have fried a few circuits disconnecting that fast, and she,” This was said with a pointed glare at the sheet covered lump on the table, “tried to root around and find information. So the cloaking tech is out of the question and my cognitive processor took a hit.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but,” Citlali rested his hands on his hips, “that doesn’t sound good.”
They shrugged and ran a hand through their fluffy hair, “The cloaking tech just means I have to leave through that window, but…” They paused and worked their way around the words they needed, “If I don’t get back to the continuum soon I’m going to start losing programs, and that’s not a good thing.”
“Well, we’ve got all the information we’re going to get so let’s get a move on.” Hera nodded to Galahad and they made their way to the window, prying back the glass pane and pulling themself up. Once they were securely on the ground beyond, she passed the bag through to them and closed it, watching their boots retreat towards the parking lot. Once Galahad was safety out, she borderline dragged Citlali from the room, walking down the hall at a pace that almost left him behind. Hera stopped to exchange a few polite words with the security guards before ushering her companion out the door.
Galahad stood by Hera’s motorcycle, face tilted back towards the sky, “What are those?” They pointed up at one of the colourfully painted turbines that bobbed in the air above the skyscrapers. The magnesium alloy cable that anchored it to the ground on the street corner swayed gently in the wind.
“What, you don’t have those in the future?” Citlali rested his arm on Galahad’s shoulder and followed their eyes, “They’re pollution turbines, taking in carbon dioxide and fanning out oxygen. They were decorated by the community so it was less of an eyesore.”
Hera’s metal fingers tapped an impatient beat on the handlebars of her bike, “They do exist in the future, just not ours. Talston City itself doesn’t even exist in our universe.”
“Ah, the joy of alternate universes.” Galahad added, finally taking her hint and getting on the very back of the bike.
Citlali waved them on absently, “You guys go on ahead, I’m going to take a walk.” He needed to clear his head after the hectic morning. His mind still wasn’t sure how exactly he was supposed to be feeling about learning Time Travel was real, meeting an android who looked like a teenager, and resurrecting a dead woman to try and get her memories.
Hera just nodded and forced her helmet over her wild hair before shoving the other one towards Galahad, “Fair enough, Galahad will need time to sort themself out. Don’t get killed.” The android in question cast one last apprehensive glance at Citlali before cramming the helmet on over their bright hair.
The man offered a smile he hoped looked more reassuring than it felt. “I’ll try my best. I’ll probably just grab some food, want anything?” Galahad let out a long string of muffled, unintelligible words, shuddered and then a flurry of sparks burst from the hidden port on their neck. They frantically clamped one hand over the spot, the other tightening on Hera’s jacket.
“We need to hurry.” Hera twisted back to make sure they were still functioning, “Just…take your best guess for me, and Galahad only eats rice. It’s a story I can tell you when they’re not in danger of blowing up.” With that, she took off down the road, taking a sharp right turn and leaving Citlali to his thoughts.
So he walked, his hands tucked in his pockets. He regretted that he’d forgotten his coat to shield him from the early October chill. Organizing his thoughts was proving harder than ever; too much information in a six hour period and not enough caffeine in his system for it to latch onto his brain in any coherent sense. The only good thing about being forcibly demoted to a coffee fetcher was that he knew every cafe in the city like the back of his hand. He knew which ones were fastest, which had the best food, and more importantly, which ones would cut the price of a chili mocha with a well timed flash of his otherwise useless badge.
Unfortunately it had also left him with a dependence on the stuff early in the morning to even think straight.
Stifling a sigh he ducked into the nearest cafe he could find and joined the line. He had to start simple: ordering food was simple. There was a thai place on the way back to Hera’s apartment and if he ordered now it would be ready by the time he got there. Quickly, Citlali double checked the distances from where the detective lived, mouth twisting into a frown. Everything was within five minutes; the Precinct, the mourgue, even including time to get food or go shopping.
Citalli had a feeling that time seemed to be on Hera’s side in more ways than one. Time Travel. Sure, he could wrap his head around that one easily enough, he’d read a million excerpts on Einstein’s theory and seen Back to the Future. The apartment he thought he understood. It existed in a sort of continuum and used the door as an anchor to a certain point in time.
Galahad was another story. A human mind in a highly advanced robotic body from the far future. They couldn’t be more than eighteen or nineteen years old judging by how they looked. Then again, Hera looked to be in her early thirties and she’d clearly been doing this for thousands of years.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Citlali let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. There was too much going on to be questioning everything. Right now he’d just have to believe what the two impossible people had told him and keep moving.
Just keep moving.
“Good news,” Citlali nudged open the door to Hera’s apartment with his foot, balancing a drink tray in one hand and a bag of thai food in the other, “I’m not dead.”
Hera barely glanced up, “That’s good.” She sat on the edge of the leather couch, a laptop sort of thing open on the coffee table. It looked more like a thin keyboard connected to a floating screen. There was a small cylindrical container filled with a weird, swirling green glow attached to the keyboard by a short lead.
Sitting next to her, Cilali passed over a cup of tea and started unpacking the food, “Where’s Galahad?” Hera jerked her head sideways towards the window and continued typing. Through the small gap between the dark velvet curtains, Citlali could see of flash of bright colour.
“Well,” He held out a carton of rice, “this is theirs.” The woman finally stopped typing, the white box obstructing her view of the screen. Her slate eyes flicked from Citlali’s face to the carton before she sighed and grabbed it from his hand.
“Stand back. The continuum will grab you if it can.” Hera waited until he had scooted far enough away before pulling open the curtains. White light poured into the room, and once he saw what hovered beyond the thick window panes Citlali felt his breath hitch in his throat. Floating like a discarded puppet Galahad hovered outside the window a thin silvery line trailing from the back of their neck and disappearing into the void. One hand was wrapped gently around a thick metal cable that was connected to something else out in the void. They bobbed gently in the invisible tide, head bowed and hair floating around their head like a brightly coloured halo.
Hera leaned forward and tapped one metal finger on the glass, startling the motionless figure into action. After blinking a few times they pulled themself over to the window along the cable and clung to the window frame while Hera pried it open.
“Here.” Hera crouched and slipped the cartoon to the teenager. Galahad pushed themself down so they could grab it and poke their head just slightly into the room.
“Thanks,” They directed their first comment at Citlali before rolling over to float on their back and look up at Hera, “Do you happen to have a fork? I’ve got the Defibrillator, an Enabletron 3000, and a Vortex Device, but no eating utensils. ” Citlali tossed her a plastic one from the bag and Hera passed it to Galahad.
Hera moved to shut the window, then dropped down to one knee, “Wait, do you have a nose ring?” Her tone was almost accusatory.
“Yeah, like it?” Galahad grinned, tucked their rice under one arm and monkeyed their way out of sight along the wire. The woman shut the window with a long sigh and pulled the curtains closed.
Hera sat back down, “I’ve been going through Laurel’s memories, but there’s not much.” She tapped the device plugged into her laptop, “This is everything Galahad could get, but she didn’t see much of the killer.” She let out a terse sigh, “So we don’t have much.” Citlali pokes absently at his food as he thought. The woman beside him leaned back and crossed her arms, metal fingers tapping on her leather jacket.
“The file said the security cameras at Vietta had been deleted, right?” Citlali had a feeling she wasn’t going to be happy with his plan but he went for it anyway.
Hera looked at him like he’d suddenly grown a new nose, “Yes it did. So it’s a dead end.”
“Not with Galahad it isn’t.” He insisted, “You said it yourself, they can hack into anything. Finding deleted files would be a walk in the park.”
She stared at him, mouth twisted into a miserable line, “I hate it when you’re right.”
Citlali allowed himself the victory of a smile, “You’ll have to get used to it, Partner.” Grumbling as she stood, Hera chose to ignore his comment and went to the window again.
“You’re not taking my motorcycle.” She warned before leaned down to open the window. Citlali finished eating.
Galahad slipped into the passenger seat and pulled their knees up to their chest, “How far away is this cliff?”
“20 minutes.” Citali answered, twisting in his seat to reverse out of the parking space, “And that’s not accounting for traffic.” They groaned and slumped further in their seat, prompting a smile from the man.
So they were a teenager after all.
“So who are you?” He prompted, keeping his brown eyes fixed on the road in front of him.
“You mean besides a 3119 year old android who lives in a void?” They snorted, “I only know what everyone tells me. The middle child of Carmen and Maximilian Holtzmann, the founder and leader of the Mannheim Institute of Robotics and Interdimensional Travel.” Galahad spoke like they were telling a story, “My mother left my work obsessed father before my younger sister was born, then died in a car crash three years later and darling little Guinevere was sent back to live with the rest of her prodigy family in their own gilded cage.” For a moment Citali could vividly imagine them standing in front of a wall of glass windows, copped skin lit up by the sun, so close but so far to the city beyond, “That’s all my father cared about anyway. Arthur was the top engineer for the IT Watches, and well, apparently all I did was play pranks and hack into things. We just kept advancing and working and he stayed ‘happy’.”
“Then along came the Institutes golden girl: Hera Jones, so dedicated to the cause that she gave up her left arm for her IT watch to be in complete sync with her. My brother and I built her the most powerful watch we could, I went along on her first test run, I died, got uploaded into this body, lost most of my memories and now I’m here.” They took a deep breath, “Any questions?”
Citlali drummed his fingers on the wheel, thoughtfully, “If you’re German, why don’t you have an accent?”
They turned to face him, bright, unnatural eyes like steel, “Spend 3,000 years in a void and see if you come out with everything intact.” The car fell into an uncomfortable silence. Traffic was fairly light, speeding their way towards Vietta Cliff. It rose up above the shorter buildings of the Fifteenth District Like a towering giant. Galahad pressed their face against the window with a soft ‘oh’. It was impressive even from below, the whole thing held up by the soot stained factory beneath it. None of this could be seen or heard from uptop due to the pollution turbines and extensive noise dampening technology.
The second Citlali had parked the car, a security guard hurried over from his post near the front entrance.
He snapped to attention when the man got out, “Anything the matter, Officer?” The cliff was still closed off with police tape, and all the officers on duty seemed very on edge. The officer in front of Citlali seemed young and in need of sleep; his name tag read ‘Johnston’.
Citlali passed his badge and the warrant he’d gotten from Siobhan over, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Galahad had snagged one of the police force jackets from the backseat before joining him, “Officer LaRoche. This is my… assistant Galahad Holtzmann.” The other officer looked the android over with some degree of skepticism, noting the oversized police coat, their wild hair, their inhuman eyes and freckle splashed cheeks, “We’re here about the security camera files from the night of the murder.”
Johnston handed his ID back and gestured towards a small shack building at the far end of the parking lot, “Of course, right this way.” he lead the two people towards the building, casting a glance over her shoulder at Galahad every few seconds. Clearly he didn’t trust them and their unprofessional appearance. There was something about the crazy, succulent coloured hair, the nose ring and the shoulders back way they walked that made them seem like they were going to go start a fight instead of assisting an investigation.
The inside of the building was small and cramped and lined with rows of computer monitors. Each showed a different section of Vietta Cliff and two guards sat boredly inside keeping watch. They perked up with Citlali ducked into the room, sitting up straight in their chairs as Johnston introduced them. All the protocol was starting to make Citlali understand why Hera just bulldozed through it all. He was there for files, not to scrutinize every little thing these underpaid guards did.
“Alright,” Galahad clapped their hands together, “Introductions over, can I just find these missing files now?” They moved towards the main compute, but the guard in front of it held up one hand and glowered at Johnston.
“There’s no way I’m letting this punk kid touch these camera feeds.” he huffed. Galahad’s face twisted into a snarl, but Citlali put one hand on their shoulder. It was one of those universal ‘let me handle it’ motions.
“The two of us are here to investigate the murder of a woman. The one who was cut in half, and is highly suspected to be the first kill of a serial killer.” Citlali pointedly raised one eyebrow, “Do you really want to be guilty of intervening in that investigation?”
The guard evacuated from his seat faster than Citlali thought possible.
Galahad moved to take his spot, casting an impressed look over their shoulder at Citlali, “Looks like Hera’s rubbing off on you already.” They sat down and started typing, oblivious to the man’s frown, “Alright, so we’re looking for October 2nd, late at night…” Their fingers flashed across the keyboard, eyes bright from the screens glow. The taped a few more keys and then leaned back to scan the screens. All but two of them showed footage from that night.
“What two sectors are those?” They pointed at the blank screens.
“Third.” Johnston piped up from behind. The android set right back to typing, flicking and discarding files with lightning fast flicks on their wrists. They let out a troubled hum and paused, mouth pulled to one side.
“Whoever did this was a professional.” They sighed, “They didn’t delete the files, they took them.”
“So we’ve still got nothing.” Citlali rested his hands on his hips.
“Not quite.” Galahad hit a few keys and the screens changed to show the glass wall surrounding the cliff. They zoomed in on the reflection in the glass. Warped by the glass was the blurry image of the killer.
“Well done, Galahad.”Citlali clapped them on the shoulder and turned to the two guards, “We’re going to need copies of these.” He finished coordinating things with the guards and ushered Galahad out of the small shack with one last thank you.
Making progress had filled Citali with energy and a sort of brotherly pride for Galahad’s computer skills, “With these and Laurel’s memories we might be able to fit together a suspect list.”
“We’re looking for a man, blonde hair combed over to the left and blue eyes, he’s about…” Galahad’s eyes were closed and they fished for the words they needed, “He’s roughly 5’11”.” They held out their hand and a small figure made of green light appeared looking exactly as they’d described. The man just stared at it, dumbstruck.
“While you were policing I had Hera send me Laurel’s memory of the killing, then spliced it together with the camera files I just downloaded.” They closed their fingers around the projection with a smile.
Citlali smiled and shook his head, “Galahad, you’re a goddamn genius.”
A Time Travelers Guide To Solving Murder Chapter 4: Thus The Plot Thickens
October 6th, 2020
No matter what year you live in, sleep is a luxury few can afford. The homeless, high schoolers and mostly immortal time travelers are among those who cannot.
Hera had long accepted the fact that she’d never get a full night of sleep in her line of work. She’d been around too long and watched too many loved ones fall prey to time to sleep like a baby. There was something easier about traveling through eons and solving crimes when you disconnected your heart.
She left her room and walked slowly down the long hall, metal fingers trailing along to wall over nametags that designated which room was which. There were sixteen in total, eight on each side and varying in size and shape. The only light came from the massive, uncurtained window on the end and the dim, square lights on the ceiling. She could rearrange them at will, like a child playing house, changing their designations, design or size with a tap on a screen. It had been fun at first, having such a power, but as time went on and time set in it just became a rarely used luxury.
The living room was still as dark as usual when she entered, aside from the slightly glowing lump on the couch. Galahad had opted to stay in the finite world for as long as they could before returning to their void-like prison. ’Sleep Mode’ as they called it meant parking themself on a vaguely horizontal surface for six to eight hours at roughly the same times as Hera did. Now they were curled up on the couch like a radioactive turtle, as tightly curled around their body as they could be. If she had any guilt about being directly responsible for their life in the Continuum it was buried under three thousand years of indifference. With one last glance at the android, Hera made her way to the kitchen.
The last two days had been spent searching for suspects based off Galahad’s pieced together description. So far, they’d had very little luck. Vietta got so many visitors it was a slow process trying to pick out every blonde, blue eyed, 5’11” man. Even with the help of an advanced android’s technology skills it was slow going. It was taking its toll of the already paranoid Siobhan, who was frequently requesting updates.
Hera figured it was only a matter of time before Citlali got pulled from the investigation.
Before she could even begin to move through the motions of making food, a wave of staticy feeling washed over her and everything electronic in the room flickered before dying. The place where her arm met her shoulder stung like hell. Stifling a sigh she shouldered her way out the door and made her way to the living room as the lights slowly began to flick back on. As she suspected Galahad was awake, eyes wide and crazed at their head shot up to meet her eyes. Their body shook like a leaf in a hurricane, their hair sticking out every which way. The air in the room still crackled slightly with the remains of their emp burst.
“I didn’t realize androids had nightmares.” Hera crossed her arms over her chest.
Galahad let out a small, borderline hysterical laugh, “Y’know the funny thing about dying before all your memories get uploaded into your new body? Those old ones get corrupted, like a virus. You know what artificial sleep does? It plays your old memories as dreams.” They ran one hand through their hair, smoothing the hyper small nanos into some semblance of neatness.
“So the remains of your old memories are corrupted and haunting you.” The woman’s voice was flat, like all the life had been knocked out of it when Galahad took out the power, “And these ‘nightmares’ set off your electricity… abilities.”
Galahad halfheartedly mimed jazz hands, “Yay. And I can’t delete them, thanks Arthur.” They sighed and pulled their knees up to their chest, “You’d think that they wouldn’t bother me after three thousand years.” Hera sat down next to them, spreading her dark fingers across the fabric of the couch. She knew all too well just how long that type of pain took to fade.
Hera watched them smooth down their hair against the static, “Time can’t heal everything.”
A knock on the door drew both their gazes, Hera’s hand immediately creeping towards where her gun holster lay on the table. Galahad tapped a few times on the underside of their arm and their eyes lit up in thin white lines, layers of the wall peeling away to reveal the infrared blobs of people behind it. One of them knocked again, this time at a more impatient volume.
“There are three of them, all armed.” The android hissed under their breath and Hera pulled her gun free and moved towards the door. They got up and followed, placing themself on the other side of the door before disappearing from view. Hera tapped a button on a panel beside the door, waiting until her apartment had shifted to the appearance of a normal one bedroom space before opening the door as much as the chain would allow. They were dressed in suits and dark sunglasses like a cheap imitation of the Men in Black. She could tell from their uncomfortable stances that they all had guns tucked into the back of their belts.
She kept her gun behind her back and raised an eyebrow, “Yes?”
The first of the men stepped forward and flashed a badge, “Hera Jones? We’re with the FBI, can we come in?”
Doubtful, Hera thought, “Of course, one second.” She closed the door and removed the chain from its lock, pausing for a few beats.
“Right behind you.” Galahad’s invisible form whispered. Hera just gave a small nod and opened the door. She watched them file in, free hand on her hip before closing the door behind her. As expected, the second her back was turned she heard the telltale click of a gun.
She raised her own weapon, face almost bored as she turned, “You all do know that’s not how the FBI works, right?”
The two in the front exchanged a glance, but the third just powered on, “Where’s LaRoche?”
“Not here.” She tucked her other hand into her pocket, “What do you want.”
“We’re…” One of the men in the front cleared his throat, “We’re here to kill you.”
Hera scoffed, “Good luck.”
“It’s three against one,” the other man yelped, “You can’t win.”
She smiled coldly, grey eyes filled with a frigid malice, “Want to bet?” Suddenly electricity was coursing through the two men in front, their bodies writhing as lightning arced across their skin like living Tesla coils. The third man leapt back, gun falling from his hand as he watched them crumple to the floor like rag dolls, smoke rising from their clothes. Before he could react, an unseen force slammed him back against the wall, crushing the air from his lungs on impact.
Galahad fizzled into view with a wild grin, “Remember me, Officer Johnston?” The man in question seemed paralyzed in fear, his sunglasses askew on his face to reveal his crazed eyes. They flicked wildly from his compatriots on the ground to Galahad and back.
Hera stepped over the other two men and raised a questioning eyebrow, “Friend of yours?” She stepped over the two unconscious men to tower over Galahad’s shoulder.
“He’s the officer who gave us the security tapes.” They shrugged, “Should’ve figured he’d show up again. This is rather fast though.”
The man’s voice escaped from his throat in a shrill gasp, “What are you?!”
Hera snapped her hand forward, gun pressed against his forehead, “Doesn’t matter,” She snarled, slate eyes burning, “Start talking?”
“We- we were sent to kill you by some guy, I don’t know who it is I swear!” Johnston babbled, still pinned to the wall by Galahad, “He was offering us so much money to get rid of you and that other one, more money than we could ever need. All we had to do was kill you and your partner and he’d help us disappear.”
“So easily bought out.” Galahad snarled, “Citlali might be in danger.” Hera pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed his number, walking a few paces away. Galahad slammed their fist into Johnston’s face and he crumpled to the ground. Casting a not so subtle glance at Hera, they crouched and rifled through his pockets.
Citlali picked up on the second ring, “Hello?” she could bustle of a crowded space in the background. That was good, it’s harder to kill someone in a crowded place.
The woman bulldozed over a normal greeting, “Where are you?”
“The station.” He had that nervous, eyebrows furrowed, tone of voice that he’d used when he heard something he didn’t quite understand, “Why?”
“Three people just broke into my apartment to try and kill me, they might be after you too.” She turned and glared at Galahad, who had three phones in their hands. Covering her phone with her free hand she mouthed ‘that’s evidence’.They gave a weird shrugging flail of their shoulders back at her and spread them out at their feet to search through their contents.
He let out a nervous laugh, “Oh joy. Well, I live alone and I left early in the morning, I haven’t seen anythi-” There was a commotion on the other end, and the solid sound of Siobhan’s voice barking out orders, “I have to go, we just got a call.”
“Good or bad?” She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. Sometimes she really hated this job.
Citlali’s voice didn’t give her much hope, “From the looks of it, very bad. I’ll call you back.” She tucked her phone back into her pocket and turned to Galahad, who had pulled all the files from all three phones out to float in the air before them.
They flicked a few files away and continued searching through, “They all got emails like he said, except they’re all from different addresses.” They tapped three of the green squares of code and linked them together, “All the sources are spam emails, no connections between them.”
“Keep looking.” Hera ordered, moving towards the door.
“Oh, and you’re going to get a text from the Chief in a few seconds.” Galahad flicked an unwanted file away with a frown, “They found a body, well three actually, in a hotel. The woman who found it speaks German, so If you need help let me know. Your officers had no idea what she was saying.”
Hera holstered her gun and grabbed her coat off the hook by the door, “You’ve hacked into the station’s phone lines?”
Galahad gave her an incredulous look over their floating interface, “I can hack into anything.” Hera’s phone let out two short buzzes, prompting one last chirp from the android, “Don’t be late!”
Hera adjusted the lapels on her leather jacket, “I‘m never late.”
The Hotel De La Belle Chante was already bustling by the time Hera showed up. She’d called for a car from the nearest Precinct and piled the three unconscious bodies in before she headed for the Hotel. A team of people in bright white, full body suits trailed out the wide double doors holding cases and taped paper bags of evidence. Two officers, who she swore were the same two from Vietta, were taping off the front doors with obnoxiously yellow police tape. A pair of Dobermans prowled around edges, noses pressed to the ground in an attempt to find anything suspicious. Citlali stood by the front doors, razor focused on the conversation he was having with a short, plump woman wearing a white hotel uniform. Hera moved to approach them when someone blocked her path.
Stifling a sigh, Hera crossed her arms behind her back, “Deputy Wright.”
He squinted up her her, disdain clear on his face, “Siobhan call ya?”
The woman was saved from having to answer his obvious question by Citlali, “Oh thank god you’re here.” He jogged over and grabbed her arm, pulling her towards the front doors, “This is going to be something.” Deputy Wright followed them into the main foyer and into the small, mirror lined elevator. He borderline lunged for the floor three bottom before Citlali could hit it, scowling at the man like he’d just kicked over a trash can.
He was about two seconds from getting a metal fist to the face.
Hera crossed her arms, fingers tight on her arms so she didn’t deck the officer, “Alright, LaRoche, give me a run down.”
Citlali had been glancing between Deputy Wright and her with a face like a man who was watching a mouse antagonize a lion, but he snapped back to his serious façade when called upon, “Right. One of the housekeepers found the bodies early this morning when she went into clean. She said no one answered the door so she just walked right in and discovered the bodies.”
The elevator slowed to a stop and the doors slid open and Hera stepped out into the carpeted hallway, “Bodies?”
“Three of them to be exact,” Citlali fell in beside her, their fast pace forcing Deputy Wright into a wheezing jog, “The receptionist gave me their names: Joanne and Charles Pine, along with their five year old son Mark. Their daughter came with them as well, but no one can find her. Siobhan’s got search parties out looking for her.”
Hera’s eyes widened a fraction, “They killed the son too?” Citlali nodded, “This just keeps getting worse. Killing three or four people is one thing but killing a child is another. Have you seen the bodies?”
The man shook his head, “No, but we’re about too.” They rounded the corner. The door they needed stuck out like a sore thumb, guarded closely by three officers and boxed off with yellow tape. A few more officers lingered around the outskirts interviewing the other people that were staying on the floor.
As Hera and Citlali approached one of the officers stepped forward, speaking with a heavy New York accent, “Detective Jones,” she offered a smile at Citlali, “And with Officer LaRoche no less! Nice to see you back in the field Citlali.”
He returned the gesture, “Thanks, Kate. It’s certainly been exciting.” Mentally he tacked ‘insane’ and ‘confusing’ onto the end of his sentence.
Kate handed them both a pair of latex gloves, “Forensics already did their job and got everything squared away so you just need the gloves. The bodies haven’t been moved, but the female victim had a gun in her hand, Forensics took that with them.” Hera tilted her head gratefully to the woman, and after a moment’s consideration slipped a glove onto her left hand, the latex sticking unpleasantly to the metal. She wrangled her curls away from her face into a ponytail before ducking under the tape after her partner. Deputy Wright had finally caught up, one hand clutching his spine as he sucked in air.
He moved to duck under the tape, but Kate blocked his path and glanced back at Hera, “He with you?”
Hera turned back, expression puzzled like she had never seen the man before in her life, “No.” Behind her, Citlali covered up his laugh with a forced cough. The woman allowed herself a few minutes to savor the satisfaction and the pure rage that had risen up of the Deputy’s face before turning to the door.
As she moved to push it open, the other guard offered his advice, “Careful. It’s messy in there.”
Casting one look back at Citlali, Hera pushed the door open and was immediately hit by the overwhelming stench of blood and something that smelled sickeningly like cat litter. She took a deep breath through her mouth, the smell burning in her sinuses, and stepped inside.
Citlali followed and froze midstep when he took in the scene, “Oh god.”
The living room itself was fairly small, containing a long couch in the center of the room and an ensuite kitchen separated by a half wall. Had it not been the scene of a gruesome murder it would’ve been downright luxurious, with wall to wall carpeting custom frames indie paintings on the gold wallpaper amid vases of white lilies and champagne in a rose gold bucket of ice.
The first two bodies were on the couch, the woman lying flat on her back with one arm draped across her chest and the other trailing over the edge to the floor Her son knelt on the ground beside her. There was a gunshot wound through the side of her head, dripping blood onto the plush velvet cushions. There was a long curving slash in her stomach, deep enough that there was more than just blood staining the area around her. With a sickening drop in her stomach, Hera noticed the thick layer of cat litter around the couch, covering the stench of bile and blood. The boy was kneeling beside her, face hidden in his arms like he was crying. The back of his shirt had been cut away to reveal the sharp angles of a ‘W’ carved into his back.
“More letters.” Hera said, her voice sounding loud and foreign in such an environment.
“A ‘j’ and a ‘w’.” Citlali agreed, forcing himself to join her by the couch, “That’s two out of three, so where’s the third?”
Hera jerked her chin towards the kitchen and stepped carefully around the couch towards the room. The cat litter crunched under the heels of her boots as she walked.
The man’s body was slouched over the table, his arms hanging off the sides and his face pressed to the blood stained wood. He was surrounded with beer bottles, almost three packs worth of them. They were scattered on the table, and the floor, all still closed and filled with liquid. Under the man’s hand was a photo that Hera gently tugged free. It featured the three victims in the hotel foyer, all surrounding a young girl who hugged an award to her chest and looked up at the woman with a huge smile. There was a red streak over the girl’s face, like someone has sloppily tried to block her out of the picture.
“Must be the daughter.” Citlali said, leaning over her shoulder to look at the photo. Hera hummed her agreement and turned the photo over. Written on the back in a substance that was most certainly blood was a ‘Q’.
“More letters, you wer-” A solid thud interrupted Hera’s sentence, and her hand immediately flew to her gun.
A second thud followed shortly after, coming from the living room.
“Oh no.” Citalli’s face had drained of colour, “I really hope this isn’t going to be what I think it is.” He pushed past Hera and moved into the living room, motioning quickly for her to follow. He shushed her attempt to ask him what he thought it was and instead crept slowly towards a door at the far left. A closet was Hera’s best guess; The door shook with another thud. Citlali grabbed the doorknob and looked back at the detective, who clicked the safety off her gun and nodded once, before pulling it open.
Hera felt her blood run cold.
Huddled against the wall, covered in blood and staring up at them with crazed eyes, was the young girl from the photo.
A Time Travelers Guide to Solving Murder Chapter 5: Theseus
October 6th, 2020
The Hotel De La Belle Chante
“It’s just like at Vietta.” Galahad’s face flickered on the thin sheet of glasslike material locked in Hera’s fingers, “Any security camera files have been moved, hard drives wiped, even the little sensors that pick up the sound of your voice have been disabled.”
“You have to have something.” Citali leaned over Hera’s shoulder, breath fogging in the cold air outside the Hotel. The bright flashes of ambulance and police lights mixed with the chatter of officers and bystanders around the building. She could just barely see the girl’s hunched figure wrapped in blankets near one of the ambulances, several EMTs hovering around her. More than anything Hera wished her watch was working. A simple redial, turning back the clock to prevent any of this from ever happening, would save this girl from so much pain.
The android sighed, running a hand through their bright hair, “I managed to pick up a tiny, faded voice clip that was picked up by the room next to theirs. I’m not sure you really want to hear it…”
“Play it anyway.” Hera brought her arm up so the screen was between her head and Citali’s. Galahad grumbled angrily in German and after a few seconds of typing the clip played, the voice faded and gravely like a bad Batman impersonator:
“Unfortunately I can’t kill you, you don’t fit my narrative.”
Hera lowered her arm again, “That voice doesn’t sound normal.”
Galahad raised an eyebrow, “No kidding, Sherlock. He’s using a voice modulator to hide his actual voice. And no,” they pointed at the screen, seeing Citlali move to speak, “I can’t just… unmodulate it. Without knowing exactly what settings he used I’d get millions of possible voices.”
Citlali sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Great.”
Hera held up a hand, fighting back a similar sigh of despair, “Let’s just work with what we know. This guy has some sort of ‘Narrative’ to fulfill, and he’s using these kills to show it.”
“He’s also rich, like ‘richest man in the world’ rich.” Galahad flicked around a few floating files off screen, “You should see the number of zeros on the paychecks he was offering those guys he sent to kill you.”
“I don’t suppose the actual richest man in America matches the killers description,” Citlali offered.
“Unless the killer is secretly Bill Gates, no.” Galahad let out a short laugh, “Although that would be a plot twist.”
“Yes, yes,” Hera wanted this conversation to be over. “Very funny I’m sure. So he’s probably using illegal money. Or money he doesn’t actually have.”
Citlali shrugged, “Black Market money is pretty easy to come by, so that’s more likely.” A long silence followed his statement, both time travelers just staring at him in a mix of worry and confusion.
He glared back at them, “I was an undercover agent. Do you all seriously have that little faith in me?”
Hera chose to ignore his question, “So the killer’s rich, he’s got some ‘narrative’ he’s trying to create with these kills, and he’s good with technology.” Siobhan had to believe her about the Serial Killer theory now.
“Speaking of this mystery narrative, I’m going to see if I can talk to the girl.” He clapped Hera on the shoulder and started towards the ambulance. Hera watched him go, knowing fully well that she would only make things worse. The only person who was worse at human interactions than her was Galahad.
Citlali approached the ambulance slowly, mulling over what he needed to say and how. Diplomacy was a strong point of his, and while he’d been in enough bar fights to know how to throw a punch he’d rather talk his way out of the situation. If he’d managed to talk a mob boss into trusting him with all his illegal resources then he should be able to talk to a girl who’d just witnessed the death of her whole family…
Finally, Citlali strode forward and showed one of the EMTs his badge. He relinquished the gun he kept tucked in the back of his belt and waited, flexing his toes against the leather of his dress shoes and rubbing his palms together impatiently, while one of them went to make sure the girl was stable enough to talk.
Finally the EMT returned and gestured with his head back towards the ambulance, “You’re all set, just be careful with her, alright?” Citlali nodded; he was always careful.
The girl was sitting near the doors to the Ambulance, shoulders hunched and arms curled around herself as she stared out blankly at the scene. If she heard Citlali approach, she didn’t show it. There was a thick grey blanket draped around her shoulders and the lower halves of her arms were swathed in bandages. Someone had taken the time to clean the blood from her hair and pull it back from her face into a loose ponytail.
Citali cleared his throat softly and waited until her eyes had focused on him before speaking, “May I join you?” She blinked slowly at him, processing his question before she gave a small nod. With as much nonchalance as he could muster, he climbed up into the seat across from her. He was silent the whole time, resting his elbows on his knees and following her gaze out onto the police milling about. She needed to initiate conversation first, despite what TV might tell you, he thought. An interrogation would get him nowhere with the victim of a traumatic event.
Finally she spoke up, voice low and scratchy, “Who are you?”
“A detective. Kind of. It was an unclear promotion.” He gave a small shrug, “The name’s Citlali. You?”
“You’re one of the people who found me.” She blinked at him, wide-eyed before speaking again, “My name is Zoe.” She swallowed hard and looked at her feet, “I’m guessing you’re going to ask me about what happened?”
Citali smoothed out the edge of his shirt idly, “Only if you’re willing. It’s never pleasant to talk about these things.”
Zoe was still huddled around herself and her voice was still barely louder than a whisper but he had her full attention, “You’ve been through something like this?”
Taking a deep breath he ran a hand over his buzzed hair before responding, “My younger sister was killed by one of the upperclassmen at her school. She was only 16. My brother and I were both in college at the time, so we weren’t there when she died.”
Silence reigned between them for a while, until Zoe curled her arms a little tighter around herself and spoke again, “What did you do after that? I don’t know what I’m…” Her voice broke off and her gaze met the floor, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now.”
“You find a reason to keep going. Leave something small behind so you can move forward.” He repeated the same gesture from before, running a hand over his hair, “I used to have really long hair and my sister hated it. So I gave myself a week to mourn, then I buzzed my hair, dropped out of college, applied to work in the Police force and told myself to keep moving.” He let out a long sigh, “It sounds stupid to say out loud, but it worked for me.”
She drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her bandaged arms around them, curling around herself as she prepared to speak, “I don’t even know how he got in. My brother and I were getting ready to go to bed, when we heard my mother open the door and then muffled screaming. I told Mark to stay behind and run out, but Mother was already dead. He shot her through the head, and then turned and shot my father as he came out of their room. It happened so fast, I just tried to turn and run back into our room to call for help, but he grabbed my arm and threw me aside.” She pulled her bangs back from her forehead to reveal a purple bruise, “I hit my head hard on the table and blacked out. When I woke up, he had killed Mark and had finished… setting up. I tried to get up and run, but he had a knife.”
Her gaze fell on the bandages around her arms, “He attacked until I stopped fighting, then tied my hands and dragged me into the supply closet. Right before he closed the door he said something, but his voice was weird, like he was talking through one of those machines that makes you sound like a robot. He said: ‘Unfortunately I can’t kill you, you don’t fit my narrative. Better to have you rot on the side.’ ” Her voice died out and she turned her face away, hiding it in the crook of her elbow.
“Hera will find him,” The certainty in his own voice startled him, “If anyone can it’s her.”
Zoe just closed her eyes, “You sound like you really believe that.”
“You’d be surprised how far you can go on trust.” Citlali replied, getting to his feet, “Rest up, kid.” She didn’t answer him and he took that as his signal to leave. Hera was waiting to one side, her arms crossed over her chest and a strange look on her face like she had just swallowed something bitter.
Citali bit back a sigh, “You heard all that, didn’t you?” she gave a short nod, “Well, if you’re planning on saying anything about it, don’t. I’ve heard every version of ‘sorry for your loss’ under the sun.”
She regarded him for a few silent moments before her lips twitched sideways in what he swore was an attempt at smiling, “Was the tattoo because of your sister?” She inclined her head towards the black and red lines visible on the side of his neck.
He actually laughed a little at that, tucking his hands in his jacket pockets, “No, that was me making bad decisions in college.”
Now Hera was actually smiling.
She shook her head, somewhat fondly and somewhat vexed, “Anyways, I found something that might give us a solid lead.” After fishing around in her pocket, she pulled out an earbud and handed it to him, “To keep in contact with Galahad.” She tapped the one in her own ear and turned towards an alley beside the Hotel. Citlali followed her down the dark passageway, stepping over a gutter of murky water and the scraps of fast food wrappers. There was a chainlink fence at the far end, supposedly blocking access to the road beyond except for the fact that the gate was wide open. There was a strip of tattered grey cloth splattered with blood pinned in the fence gate.
Hera knelt by it and pinched it between two of her metal fingers, “Cheap sweatshirt material.”
“Think it’s from the killer?” Citlali ventured, “Don’t suppose we could borrow a dog from the canine unit back there?”
Hera shook her head, “Killer yes, dogs no. We don’t need one.”
“Finally!” Galahad said, “I’ve been wondering when you were going to use this.”
Hera turned her arm over, taking hold of the silver ring around the outside of the watch face in the metal and twisting it two notches to the right. Red lines like molten lava spread up the lines between the metal sheets into her wrist, then her palm to gather at the ends of her fingers. Hera pulled the piece of cloth free and it was washed in a red haze the second it touched her hand. It dissolved into a storm of miniscule red squares, stacking together to form a bird’s eye view of the city; a winding path of roads and alleys were highlighted in white.
The smugness in Galahad’s voice was overwhelming, “Welcome to the future, LaRoche.”
Citali felt a headache starting behind his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Oh good, more crazy science. Do I even want to know how that works?”
“Being an infiltration unit, I have sensors in my eyes that let me track where people have gone based on the imprints they leave behind in space and time.” Galahad explained, “Murders leave a very distinct trail because they’re constantly affecting different paths of ‘fate’ so they’re easy to track; like a fancy GPS. I reverse engineered those sensors so that it would work with Hera’s IT watch. Luckily she managed to get that part back. She’s still missing the actually important time travel part but that’s another story.”
Hera narrowed her eyes at Galahad’s last comment and Citlali sighed, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but: you can use this piece of bloody cloth to track a criminal because he leaves behind an ‘imprint’ in time?”
“Yes,” The android answered, although the confidence was starting to trickle out of their voice, “There’s…Really no way to make this easier for you to understand without prior knowledge.”
Hera cut into their conversation, “Do you know the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur?”
“Sure, Theseus was going to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, but King Minos’ daughter fell in love with him and gave him a magic ball of thread that lead him to the center so he could kill the beast.” Citlali shrugged, “I did go to school for history before I became a police officer.”
“We’re Theseus, and the killer is the Minotaur. We’re using his DNA as the ball of yarn to find him in the labyrinth, which in this case is space and time.” Hera finished, using two fingers of her other hand to zoom in on the map in her palm. Citlali mulled it over in his head and gave a short nod, finding that version easier to wrap his mind around.
“I’m going to have to archive that one,” Galahad commented as the two started to follow Hera’s trail, “That’s a good way to explain it.”
“I try.” She replied, voice dripping with sarcasm, “I’m sending you the coordinates, Galahad. See what you can get.”
Hera turned to Citlali and gestured through the gate with her free hand, “Come along, Theseus. We have a minotaur to catch.” The alley turned a corner and then ended at a main road bustling with people. Hera curled her fingers around the image to hide it from view and wove through the crowd. People parted quickly in front of her; a perk that came with being over 6 feet tall and constantly wearing an expression of ‘get out of my way now’. Three turns later and another dark alley, the two detectives found themselves looking up at a dark, abandoned mill building.
“There are tons of these buildings in the bay area, but I thought they were under constant surveillance.” Citlali craned his head, trying to see if there were lights in any windows.
“Most of those camera’s aren’t actually monitored.” Galahad answered, “They’re just there to encourage people not to break in.”
“Well, we’re going to take that encouragement to heart and ignore it.” Hera moved towards the boarded up door.
“Wait!” The android cut her off frantically, “I’m not picking up any heat signatures from inside, but this building is practically covered in security and cameras. Also the door is locked and alarmed. Uh… there should be two loose bricks to your left, ten bricks up from the ground. There’s a panel behind it that requires a passcode to disable the trap on the door.”
Hera followed Galahad’s instructions. The bricks came away easily, revealing a passcode lock far too new for the old building.
“The code is…” Galahad paused, mumbling a few things to themself under their breath, “1242.” Hera entered the code and the pad let out a long beep, the small light on its panel turning green. Citali pried the boards off the door and nudged it with one foot. It swung open silently into the dark building.
“The alarm is off, right?” Hera replaced the bricks and joined Citlali by the door.
“Yes…?” They sounded less than confident.
Their voice was quiet, “Just… be careful. With the amount of money this guy has, there could be DNA sensors or even shielded alarms that I can’t see.”
“Joy.” Hera pulled her gun from its holster and clicked the safety off, “Well, it’s not a good case until your life hangs in the balance.” With that, she stepped into the dark.
Nothing started beeping or flashing and the door stayed wide open, so she took that as a sign that it was safe to move. Citali followed her in, gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other to light their path. The inside walls were half crumbling messes of cement and bricks, scraps of wood and metal piled into the corner in a messy attempt at keeping the main floor clear. There were holes in the ceiling, leaking a modicum of light in from the boarded up windows on the upper levels. Thanks to the thick layer of dust covering every surface, a set of footprints was clearly visible on the floor.
Galahad’s voice was muffled and underlaid with static, “There’s a sensor on the far doorway, two inches off the ground – be careful.”
“You’re cutting in and out.” Hera hissed back, her voice still echoing around the space.
The android cursed in German under their breath, “The cement’s interfering, let me see what I can do.”
Avoiding the trap Galahad warned them about, the detectives moved further into the building. The footprints led them to a rickety staircase in a side hallway, then up into a room that was almost identical to the one below.
“Wait.” Citali grabbed Hera’s shoulder, his eyes trained on a spot on the ceiling, “Do you hear that?” She cocked her head, ears straining for whatever sound he was talking about. After a few seconds she heard it, a low humming noise that buzzed in her ears.
“Machinery.” She whispered back, scanning the room for another staircase, “Hard drives and things like that. Galahad makes that noise, too, if you really listen.”
“There’s- staircase on the far end of- can’t see- sensors.” The further into the building they got the more Galahad’s voice cut in and out. Hera exchanged a look with Citlali, who just shrugged helplessly. Taking a deep breath, she continued following the footprints and hoped that Galahad had said ‘can’t see any sensors’ instead of ‘can’t see a path without sensors.’ They made it to the next floor without incident, the doorway to the open room blocked by a tarp. Hera readied her gun and carefully pushed through, breath hitching in her throat at the scene beyond.
The small room had been tarped off and lit by a dim orangish bulb that illuminated the rows of computer monitors across the far wall. Each one showed live camera footage of a different part of the city, the insides of shops and buildings, even footage of Vietta Cliff. A printer churned away in one corner, spilling papers onto the floor from its full tray. The pictures were dark, their ink smudged and streaked as they piled up on the grimy floor. There was a table pushed against one wall holding a few boxes of tacks, some spools of yarn and a bundle of bloody clothes. On the corkboard above the table there were a slew of pictures pined and linked with string.
Pictures of Hera and Citlali included.
“Oh good.” Citlali whispered into the dusty air, eyes scanning the scene, “A true sociopathic serial killer.”
Hera swallowed hard and moved towards the table, trading her gun for her phone to take pictures, “The Chief needs to see this.” she whispered. Citali moved to the printer, toeing through the photos on the ground after Hera had gotten a picture. They were photos of Laurel’s death he realized after a sickening moment, mixed in among the new ones featuring the hotel murder that were still constantly printing. He kept riffing through until he found one that made him pause.
“Hera…” He said over her shoulder, “You need to see this.” Gingerly picking it up, he stood and held it up so she could see it. It was a photo of her, standing on Vietta cliff. Scrawled across the photo in shaking script was the words: ‘Too Close.’
“Too close to what?” She muttered, taking the photo from him.
He shook his head, “No idea, we don-” He was cut off my a painfully high pitched noise and suddenly Galahad’s voice cut through, clear and loud and panicked.
“You need to get out of there!” They yelled, “That place just started broadcasting a signal, he knows you’re there! I don’t know how he’s doing it, but I can’t stop him- you need to get out!”
Hera grabbed Citlali’s arm and ran, her partner at her heels. If Galahad says run, it’s not a suggestion. The two skidded down the stairs, shoes slipping in the dust and grime as the alarm continued to blare above them. It grew progressively louder and faster.
Seconds after Galahad’s voice, the room above them exploded. Hera threw her arms over her head, shielding herself from the onslaught of debris that showered from the ceiling. Chunks of cement started to fall free and, consequences be damned, Hera reached out with her metal arm and stopped them in their tracks. They froze in place, caught in the grip of time.
The drawback was the burst of pain that seared from her shoulder across her chest, making her vision dance with black spots. She let out a hiss of pain and Citlali doubled back, casting a concerned glance at the frozen rubble before helping her straighten. With his help, she managed to keep running, feet carrying her down the stairs and into the last room. There was a second explosion, from practically under her feet and in the back of her mind Hera recalled the sensor on the door.
Hera reached out again and pulled time backwards, like a magician pulling a tablecloth out from under a place setting. The world rewound back to just before they stepped through the door, and fighting through the searing pain she managed to get a warning out.
The explosion never happened.
The last stretch to the door was a blur for her, her head swimming and arms shaking violently. Slumping to her knees she forced herself to breath, the frigid air actually easing the pounding in her head.
“Note to self,” She coughed, pressing the side of her hand to her nose and wiping the blood off on her pants, “don’t use that programming without the correct pieces.”
Sometime between getting out and Hera trying to breath, Citlali had sat down next to her. “You weren’t kidding. You really can stop time.” He shook his head and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes.
“You’d be surprised how far trust can get you.” Hera mumbled back, “And also how much trouble it brings you. Things like this is why I work alone.” Pushing herself unsteadily to her feet she closed her eyes, waiting until the world stopped spinning. Citlali stood up as well and had to half lunge to steady her as one step almost had her face down in the dirt.
Citlali let out a sigh, “We should get you home. We can figure out how to cover this up later.” Hera mumbled something in agreement and with Citlali’s help managed to walk in a relatively straight line back to the main road. They got a few weird looks as they walked, being covered in dust and bits of stone. The walk back seemed to drag on, until they were finally in front of Hera’s building.
A flash of green darted from the doors and suddenly Galahad had their arms around both of them, “Oh my god I was so worried! When the room exploded I lost your signal and-” They had pulled back and finally seen the state Hera was in, “What did you do?”
Hera winced, “Had a little fun with time, we can talk about it later because I really need to sit down.”
Galahad draped one of Hera’s arms over their shoulders and nodded at Citlali, “I’ve got her, you should probably get home.” Before he could answer they shouldered the door open and helped Hera inside, hitting the elevator button with their elbow. They might have felt bad for abandoning Citlali if they hadn’t been so worked up.
Once inside they let out a long sigh, their shoulders dropping, “I thought you guys had died.”
Hera raised an eyebrow, offering a half smile, “You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
They chewed on their lower lip, “Well, clearly you’re trying to test that. You know what happens when you try and use those programs without the Timepiece.”
“I know, I know. But better to drain my lifeforce than to have us both die.” She replied as the doors opened and they started towards her door.
There was a twinge of bitterness in their voice, “Since when have you cared about other people?”
Silence reigned between them until Hera dared to speak again, “Regardless, I think I might actually get a full night of sleep tonight.” Galahad didn’t laugh, just kept worrying at their lip. They had to lean her up against the wall to unlock the door but once inside she managed to make her way to the couch by herself. After disconnecting her arm with a roughness that sent a shock through her chest and dropping it on the table, they moved to get their tools.
A short series of beeps from a spot on their arm stopped them in their tracks, “Hölle,” They turned the alarm off and glared at the closest window, “Out of time.”
“It’s fine.” Hera told them, kicking her feet up on the table, “You can fix it tomorrow.”
Their mouth pulled sideways, “You sure?”
“Yeah.” She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, “I don’t need it right now.” There was silence from where they stood, then some mumbling about how the explosion must have messed with her head before footsteps moved towards the window. The window yanked open with a horrible scraping noise and Galahad sat on the edge, frowning at Hera. After a few moments of the window not closing she opened her eyes and looked at them.
“You’ll solve this.” Galahad said, one leg dangling into the void beyond, “You always do.”
“I know, I will,” Hera met their green eyes and they froze, seeing worry laid bare in her gaze, “I’m just afraid that for once in my life I’ll be too late.”
A Time Travelers Guide to Solving Murder Chapter 6: Loose Ends
A lone figure pushed through the door to the crumbling warehouse, face obscured by a hooded jacket. The sensors clicked harmlessly, attuned to his presence as the only one allowed within the dusty and broken walls. He walked quickly, cutting across the room to climb the worn stairs up to the third level. It was in shambles, pieces of metal shrapnel and hunks of paper hanging from the holes in the floor and embedded in the walls. Standing in the doorway, the man regarded the wreckage with a deathly air of calm. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small disk, holding it up so it caught the weak moonlight.
It was an intricate weave of golden circles lined with glowing red designs that fit in the palm of his hand. The pattern of the circles changed every time he looked at it, circles within circles orbiting and swirling around each other. It seemed to shift the air around it, like it had been pulled from another world and didn’t quite fit into this space.
The effect was mirrored on several bits of rubble on the other floors; signs that she had been there.
A twisted smile split the man’s face and he tucked the disk back into his pocket, “Your move, Hera Jones.”
October 8th, 2020
In all seven years that Citlali had been with the police force, he had never seen a group of police officers look so invested in their work. Most had their heads bent low, busying themselves with their cases, or getting forms filled out, even cleaning their desks. All eyes remained dutifully fixed away from Siobhan’s office.
The Chief’s voice rang out, followed by the sound on hands slamming on a desk in rage. The ever calm undertones of Hera’s voice were drowned out in the angry lecture. Thankful he’d been spared the lecture from Hell, Citlali took a sip of coffee. He technically didn’t have a desk so he’d resigned himself to leaning against the counter in the back between the old malfunctioning printer and the coffee machine.
Which was probably the reason he was currently on his third cup in two hours. Letting out a resigned sigh he emptied the mug and put it in the sink, content to let some other lowly officer deal with it later. He was about to go find something to do when someone called his name.
“Officer LaRoche!” A canine officer approached, a greyish brown pitbull at his heels and a grin on his face, “There you are!” Something about the officer was weirdly familiar. He looked average enough; the british accent, dark green eyes, unkempt brown hair, slightly crooked teeth. That and he seemed overly friendly, like the two of them had met before.
Citlali crossed his arms, “Here I am.” he raised an eyebrow, “Have we met?”
The Officers smile twitched up at the corners as he made his dog sit, “Forgotten me already? I’m Officer Galeas DuLac, the canine officer who helped you and Detective Jones find that warehouse two days ago.”
“Right…” Citali drew out the word, the name nagging at him like there were dots to connect that he just wasn’t picking up on.
Galeas pulled a paper bag from his coat and offered it to Citlali, “Jones told me to pick up breakfast for you guys. Figured it was the least I could do, after all you both helped speed along my transfer request back to England in exchange for helping you out.” Now Citlali was downright confused. This was undoubtedly part of some Hera plan that he clearly hadn’t been filled in on. Galeas was still wearing that smile, the one that said ‘I’m part of a joke and we’re almost to the punchline’.
Citlali dropped the bag on the counter, “Who are you?”
“I’m exactly who I told you I am.” Galeas wound the leash around his hand, eyes darting towards Siobhan’s office. It had gone eerily quiet in there, the argument having died down.
“Nervous?” His green eyes practically burned into Citlali, “Hera won’t let you get kicked off the case. You’re too valuable.”
Citlali turned, resting one elbow on the counter and giving the young man his full attention, “What do you mean, ‘Valuable’?”
The smile was back, “You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed? Hera didn’t bring you onto the case because she liked you, it’s because she needed you.” the canine officer waved a hand dismissively, “Hera gets hyper focused on the big picture and can’t pick up on the little details like you can, and she’s horrible at talking to people…”
“Something I’m good at.” Citlali finished that train of thought.
The other man shrugged, “Don’t take it personally. She takes great care to not get attached to anyone so she’s got nothing to lose. That, and she’s too proud to ask for help. Enlisting you via the Chief was the directest approach to getting you on her side.”
“How do you know all this?” Citlali glared, “I don’t even know who you are.”
Galeas laughed, leaning down to scratch behind the Pitbull’s ears and Citlali was hit by another pang of familiarity, “You haven’t figured it out yet? Come on, LaRoche! I thought you were a history major.”
Before Citlali could answer, the door to Siobhan’s office swung open and Hera walked out, “LaRoche, DuLac, let’s go. We have places to be.”
Galeas gave her a salute as she stalked towards them and pushed through the door to the back staircase, “Yes ma’am.” He followed Hera out, with an increasingly confused Citlali in tow. Hera didn’t slow her pace, the sound of her heels clicking on the stairs echoing in the high ceilings.
“Could someone please explain what’s going on?” Citlali jogged down the stairs after her, keeping one eye on Galeas’ dog so he didn’t trip over the poor thing.
Hera pushed through the outer door and out into the cold October air, “The Chief was a little mad that I went off without orders and blew up half a mill building.” She stopped on the sidewalk and turned to face him. It felt more like a standoff; her eyes were hard, daring him to say something against her. The thought hadn’t even crossed his mind.
“I figured that much,” He jerked his head at Galeas, who was standing a little to the side rubbing his Pitbull’s ears, “Who’s he?”
“Rough day, LaRoche?” Galeas stood up, his figure shifting and shuddering only to fall away and reveal a very smug looking Galahad standing in his place, “I laid all the clues out for you, even my name was a dead giveaway.”
Citlali sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, his mind finally connecting all the dots, “That… makes a lot of sense, actually.” They grinned at him and crouched to devote all of their attention to the pitbull in front of them.
“I meant to tell you I was having Galahad go undercover sooner, but,” Hera’s expression turned sour, “Siobhan caught up with me faster than I had anticipated.”
“You’re losing your touch,” The android said, looking up at her, “Soon you’ll start being late to meetings!”
Hera shuddered, “All the more reason we need to finish this case quickly and find the Timepiece.”
“What does it even look like?” Citlali crossed his arms, assuming his ‘I am an officer of the law’ stance.
Galahad made a circle about three inches across with both hands, “About this big, a bunch of circles within circles, and a chip. Its gold with little red lines all around it, looks like it belongs in an antique store despite it being from the future. It sorta warps everything around it when it’s not inside the IT Watch. It’s hard to miss.”
“I already checked all the stores in the city.” Hera answered the question she knew was coming, “Moving on: I promised this dumb Cactus we’d go get supplies for the dog, so let’s go.”
“You’re keeping the dog?” Citlali stared at her like she had grown a second head. She knew what he was thinking and he wasn’t exactly wrong; keeping a dog in an apartment that floats in a void of space time wasn’t her best plan.
A promise was a promise, and Galahad had promised to keep Galeas stored in their memory if she ever needed them to go undercover in exchange for letting them keep the dog.
“Pitbulls need space to run, not very good for apartments.” He added.
“Her name is Sigi. Also, I have it taken care of.” Galahad elbowed Citlali in the knee and stood up, grabbing Hera’s wrist, “Let’s go!” They pulled her down the sidewalk, Sigi trotting beside them. Running a hand across his hair Citlali sighed and followed, figuring he should at least enjoy the three minute walk to the nearest pet store.
The second they were in the store, Galahad disappeared behind the shelves to start collecting things, leaving Citlali and Hera by the door. They darted back into view a few seconds later, dropping a few toys and a bag of treats on the counter.
“I’m surprised you’re letting them keep her.” Citlali commented, brown eyes tracking Galahad’s trips to gather things.
“Taking care of a dog can’t be any harder than taking care of Galahad.” Hera replied, flexing the fingers of her metal arm.
“You’ve got a point there.” He laughed. An old man, with a nametag that deemed him the owner, was instructing Galahad on certain things. He kept one eye on the pile of things they were going to buy, clearly tallying up the money he was going to make off the green-haired teenager. Once they had everything they needed, which was a rather impressive pile of things, Galahad darted over and snatched Hera’s wallet from her pocket.
“Need this!” They grinned.
The wizened store owner behind the counter smiled at the two by the door, revealing a rather distinct lack of teeth, “It’s very nice of you to buy all this for your son.”
“Oh god no,” Hera waved her hands, hastily flicking them between her and Citlali, “We’re not… together. They aren’t our-”
“They’re not my parents.” Galahad clarified, fighting the urge to burst into laughter, “More like an unwilling guardian and an older brother.” Hera cast them a withering glare and they turned back to their pile, tugging their beanie higher up on their head. Sigi was oblivious to the mishap occurring, too busy winding the leash around Galahad’s legs in excitement.
Citlali ran a hand over his hair and jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the door, “I’m going to go find a cab.” As the door closed behind him, a sputtering laugh burst through Galahad’s composure before quickly being smothered. They gathered all of the bags into their arms and passed a few to Hera, making their way towards the door while trying not to trip over Sigi’s leash.
“Thanks!” They called over their shoulder to the store owner as they ducked through the automatic doors, Hera right behind them.
Heading towards the cab that Citlali had managed to stop, Galahad lowered their voice, “I forgot to tell you earlier, but I think I figured out the narrative the killer’s trying to get.”
She turned to them, grey eyes questioning, but they waved it off as best they could with their hands full, “I’ll tell you once we get back to the apartment.” Before she could get another word out they had hurried ahead to dump their things in the trunk. Hera frowned. There was a lot Galahad wasn’t telling her and they were good at keeping important information to themself. Of all the days to choose to be difficult…
She sighed to herself, “Typical.”
Once back in Hera’s apartment, Galahad disappeared down the hall, leaving Hera and Citlali to set up the room with everything they bought. While they unpacked, Sigi explored her new home, running from the living room to the kitchen and trying to trip Hera while she worked. Once everything was in its place, Hera flopped down on the couch and started flipping through the file; Citlali leaned up against the far wall with nothing else to do.
Sigi trotted over to Citlali and sat down at his feet, looking up at the man expectantly. She bumped her grey head against his knees until he let out a long sigh and bent to rub her ears. Her tail worked like a rotor, a whine escaping her throat every time he tried to straighten back up.
“Little attention hog. You’re barking up the wrong tree, I’m more of a cat person.” Citlali mumbled, crouching down to scratch under her harness and then directing his next question at Hera, “Where’d you get her?”
“Rescue. Galahad wouldn’t have it any other way. Be careful around her neck, she’s got a few scars from her past owner.”
“She’s pretty friendly despite that,” He commented, craning his head back as Sigi tried to lick his nose.
“That’s Galahad’s influence. They smothered her in love when we brought her home.” She let a small smile curl her lips, “Never really had any pets. Lived in an apartment in London that didn’t allow pets, and the Mannheim Institute didn’t allow them either, so I might also be responsible for wanting to keep her.”
“Three thousand years and you’ve never had a pet?”
“Three thousand and thirty two years, technically,” Galahad said, shuffling back into the room, “But that’s beside the point. I need the picture of the first kill, wide shot if you’ve got one.” Hera dug the requested photo out of the file and passed it to them. Sigi ran to their side, only to be shooed to her bed in the corner.
“Ok, so. I was looking around in the memoir room trying to figure out what Galeas should look like and I found this,” The green-haired android held up an old, slightly faded photo of two people playing in a park. One of the people, a young man with squarish glasses and a well styled undercut, was typing away on a laptop. He was focused completely on his work, unaware of the disaster that was imminent just behind him. The second person, a kid with unruly brown hair and a smattering of freckles, was in the process of falling out of a tree behind him.
Hera’s fingers curled into a fist, “I’ve told you not to go in that room.”
“You told me to base Galeas off what I used to look like,” Galahad snapped, defensive, and pointed at the person in the back “It’s been three thousand years since I looked like this, I needed a refresher.”
“Wait, that’s you?” Citlali interrupted, taking the picture from their hands to get a closer look, “You look so normal!”
“And my brother, Arthur, yes.” They sliced at the air with one hand and raked a hand through their wild hair, knocking their beanie to the floor, “We’re getting off topic. Compare that to how the first kill was staged.”
“Two people at a park, one’s on a bench enjoying the view… what about the legs?” Citlali looked up, “What’s that supposed to be?”
The androids shoulders dropped, like the answer was obvious and no one else was getting it, “It’s a kid! That’s what kids do at parks, we climb trees and do stupid things!” They looked up at the rafters above them and after a few seconds leapt straight up to one. Citlali added ‘super jump’ to his list of ‘weird things Galahad can do’.
They hooked their knees over the beam and hung from it, just like the picture “See, this is the sort of dumb thing a kid at a park would do. A mother and her child.”
“Then the next kill features a dead mother, a mourning child and a drunk father.” Hera stood, linking the clues in her head to match Galahad’s theory, “So we’re looking for a white, tallish, super rich blond man with blue eyes, a dead mother and an alcoholic father.”
“Not to mentions he’s got a vendetta for Hera.” Citlali added, resting his hands on his hips.
Galahad jumped back down to the floor, “Unfortunately… with the way this case is going I don’t think we’ll be able to catch him until he’s finished his narrative.”
The weight of their statement fell heavily on the room. Silence reigned between them, stirred only by Sigi twitching in her sleep and the humming noise of the Continuum beyond the windows. Galahad’s shoulders twitched back towards the window, their eyes landing everywhere in the room but on either of the other people. Citlali stared at his shoes, arms crossed, and felt a sinking feeling of dread.
Curling around themself, Galahad looked up, “Hera… what do we do?”
“Well…” Hera met their eyes, storm grey meeting wild green, “We can’t bloody well give up now, can we?”
Citlali let out a bitter laugh, “So what now, Sherlock? We sit around and wait for this guy to finish killing?”
“Time Traveler isn’t much of a title when you can’t control time, is it?” The android said softly, almost regretfully. Hera frowned down at the watch face set into the inside of her arm, the device she gave her life for, the device Galahad gave their life for. It was starting to seem like more trouble than it was worth. To Citlali, the two of them seemed a world apart from him; two impossible people trapped in a constant state of motion. Two people with lives so impossibly complex that he wasn’t sure he’d ever truly understand them.
He wondered if, by association, he was just a little bit impossible himself.
“Let’s see what tomorrow brings.” He offered, pushing away from the wall.
“What if tomorrow brings nothing?” Galahad turned their head to look at him through wild strands of green and red hair, their voice tired “What then?”“Then we keep counting tomorrows.” Everything was too overwhelming to deal with now. “We count as many as we need until we solve this thing, because if we can’t solve it,” Citlali let that hang in the air for a long moment, “There’s no way anyone else will be able to.”
A Time Travelers Guide to Solving Murder Chapter 7: Allusion
(Roughly 3:00 AM)
(October 9th, 2020 | Relatively)
Galahad was falling. The smooth glass of a building rushed by next to them, reflecting Talston City behind their falling form as cold air mixed with flecks of snow whipped through their hair. An incessant beeping rang in their ears, getting progressively faster the farther they fell. Galahad gritted their teeth and threw their arms out to the side to keep themself steady in the air as they plummeted downwards towards the busy road below. The beeping reached a fever pitch and their vision washed a searing white.
Galahad was falling, again. Slower this time, a more controlled descent instead of a flailing free fall. A fall designed to show them something. Blocking out the beeping noise, Galahad focused. Their reflection slid across the glass, a blur of green and red, the white tether of the Continuum trailing out behind them.
The world slowed, a lethargic force like the second right before a car crash. The glass ended, curving back to accompany for a balcony that sat in the side of the building. The doors burst inwards, kicked in by some unseen force and suddenly Galahad was spiraling away, falling faster and faster and deafened by the beeping until everything dissolved in white-
The Android jolted awake with all the grace of a two legged cat, synthetic heartbeat racing in their chest. They flailed their arms in the cold everything of the continuum in an effort to get themself upright. Hera’s apartment was on their left and their little ‘tech cave’ was below them. It was less of a cave and more of a room with one of the walls ripped off that they had filled with pieces of technology that had found its way into the void. Pointing one arm at their half room, they flexed their wrist and a thin cord shot out, embedding a small claw in the outside of the wall. Reeling themself in, Galahad swung inside and let the artificial gravity of the room pull their feet to the floor.
The last strands of the dream was was being filed away into their memory and Galahad pressed one hand to their forehead and screwed their eyes shut, “Androids don’t dream, huh?” They mumbled to the empty air, “Well what was that then?” Letting out a long sigh they ran a hand through their hair and grabbed their beanie off a hook near the entrance. Once it had been pinned in place, they jumped up and grabbed the cord that connected their room to Hera’s apartment, pulling their way across the expanse of void to the main building. There was no real ‘right way up’ in the Continuum it was relative to the person, or in this case Android, that was there. By concentrating on the rooms in relation to theirself, Galahad could walk along the outside of Hera’s apartment and jump between rooms without drifting off. It was a little like walking on the moon.
They crossed the smooth outer walls to the kitchen and wormed their way inside through the window. The lights were off for some reason, the Android sighed as they climbed into the room, body giving off enough light that they could at least see where they were putting their feet. Fumbling for the tablet glass in their pocket, Galahad tugged the thin white lead from the back of their neck and kicked it back out the window. Fishing out the thin piece of glass they swiped one finger up it and turned the lights on.
“It’s not like you pay for electrical bills, Jones.” They grumbled, picking their way around the table to scavenge for something to eat, “Leaving the lights on isn’t much of a problem.” There was a leftover carton of rice in the fridge, helpfully labeled with a ‘G’. They didn’t need to eat, but it was a weirdly comforting ritual, bringing them a little closer to being human again.
Also it recharged them and their backup batteries needed a boost.
Dumping the contents of the carton into a bowl Galahad grabbed a spoon and shuffled out of the kitchen, down the short hall that led to the living room. Hera was there, sitting on the couch with a book in one hand and Sigi’s head resting on her leg as the dog slept. The TV played quietly in the background, a boring news report dictating the weather and the latest celebrity scandal.
“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Galahad shoved a spoonful of rice in their mouth and flopped down on the other side of the couch, drawing their knees up to their chest.
Hera didn’t even look up from her book, “I don’t sleep.” Galahad rolled their eyes and turned their focus to the TV. It was playing some blurry footage from a concert with too many flashing spotlights.
“Hey, I didn’t know Beyonce was in this universe!” Galahad poked Hera’s arm until she looked up as well.
The woman raised an eyebrow, unimpressed, “She’s in most of them.”
The green haired android gave an appreciative nod and continued eating, “Ah, Beyonce. The one constant in our ever changing lives. What a gift.” Hera hummed in that ‘I’m not actually listening but I’m acknowledging that you’re making noise’ kind of way and the two of them fell into silence again. Hera continued reading, Sigi slept on and Galahad finished their rice and slid the bowl onto the side table.
The TV switched, swapping out concert footage for a woman standing on a bustling street corner outside the Hotel De La Belle Chante. Hera scoffed under her breath, grey eyes glancing up long enough to gather what was going on. The woman on screen started her report, explaining a very bad overview of the murder that had taken place and started taking the blame on the building security.
Galahad changed the channel, “So, what’s on the agenda for today, Sherlock.”
Hera shut her book, tucking her thumb between the pages to save her place as she turned her icy gaze on the android, “Interrogating the men who tried to kill me, comparing my theories with what forensics gathered, more interrogating of possible suspects, and trying not to anger Siobhan.”
They pursed their lips and picked at the rips in their jeans, “Annnd what am I supposed to do?”
The woman reopened her book, “Take Sigi for a walk.” Hearing her name, the pitbull jerked awake, swiveling her head around to blink at her owner. Galahad let out a long sigh and stood, whistling for Sigi to follow as they moved towards the door to grab a leash and the sweatshirt they’d dug up from Hera’s expansive closet. Once they had wrestled the dog into her harness, they slipped out into the hall and slammed the door behind them.
Sigi blinked up at the green haired teen, her stump tail wagging, oblivious to their slight anger. Galahad looked down at her, bit back another sigh and started down the hall.
“‘My names Hera Jones,’” they muttered under their breath, faking a british accent to sound more like the woman they were complaining about, “I have no friends because getting attached makes you weaker and emotions aside from anger and distain have no purpose in my life. I only deal with Galahad because it’s my fault they’re forever bound to a white void, but I don’t feel guilty about it anymore because guilt isn’t one of my carefully selected emotions to feel.’” They slammed their fist against the elevator button and tapped their foot impatiently. Sigi sat beside them, anxious to be outside.
“I mean, it’s not my fault everything about me in synthesised!” They stepped into the elevator and hit the button for the lobby, “It’s not my fault someone programmed me to feel things like remorse or anger or sadness, I had no choice in the matter!” Sigi barked up at them and they leaned down to rub her ears, “Sorry, didn’t mean to rant at you. You’d think I’d be used to her being an ice queen after a few thousand years.”
Stepping outside into the cold October air, they set off in a slow jog towards Talson Public Gardens. They’d always enjoyed running, the feeling of all their servos and shock absorbers kicking into gear as they moved. Sigi kept pace with them, a steady beat of right, left, right as they made their way towards the gardens. The sidewalks were practically empty at 4 am, clear aside from a few early risers heading towards work and drunk partygoers stumbling home. A few cars darted past, lingering at red lights before screeching off onto some other road with a haste unneeded for such an early morning. The sky was a dark blue, brightening slowly as the sun crept up through the buildings.
Scattering a flock of pigeons as they passed through the stone archway leading to the Gardens, Galahad let their mental processes drift, falling into an easy autonomous rhythm. A whole day with nothing to do, since Hera didn’t trust them to go near the precinct ever again looking like a ‘delinquent. They’d looked up ‘normal human activities’ once but they all pretty much had factors that made little to no sense when performed by someone made of metal and nanos. Eating had little to no purpose aside from giving them an small energy boost, and all they really had a taste for was rice. Movies just seemed like a waste of time, a notion that had been drilled into their head as being one of the worst things they could do. Besides they could download any movie they wanted from any time period. Wandering around the city and doing impossible science were their only two options.
Suddenly Sigi pulled up short, almost sending Galahad face first into the ground, her teeth bared at something ahead of them.
Galahad regained their footing and frowned down at the dog, “What?” Sigi growled and snapped her teeth, eyes fixed on a small clearing up ahead. Wrapping the leash once around their hand, the android crept closer, systems on high alert. The scene came into view slowly; rows of chairs, the edge of a temporary stage and then-
Galahad’s entire being went shock still, “Oh god.”
A man in a tattered suit was on the stage behind the podium, a long thin pole stabbed through his chest so that when the bottom rested on the ground he was suspended mostly upright, his chin slumped against his chest. Quickly slinging Sigi’s leash around the arm of a bench so that she would stay Galahad moved down the aisle between the rows of chairs, eyes wide. His arms were held up by pieces of fishing wire tied around his wrists and secured to the lighting supports framing the stage. Blood oozed slowly from around the metal spike in his chest, dripping down onto the wooden stage floor to create a pool of half dried blood. Scrawled in dripping, oozing streaks of blood across the projector screen behind the podium was a single letter ‘P’.
The back-of-the-teeth cold feeling of synthetic fear was worming its way into Galahad’s mind but they shut it out, separated it from their processes and eradicated it. Now was no time to lose their head. Bending slightly to see the man’s face, the Android scanned it and ran it alongside the Talston’s visual database. The man was a sickly pale color, with blonde hair sweeping across his forehead and lifeless brown eyes staring down at the floor. It sent an involuntary shudder through their frame, a faint wave of static rising from their arms. A tense feeling of paranoia crept along the back of their neck, like there were eyes on their back. Galahad pushed the scan to the back of their mind to run in the background and slowly, oh so slowly turned around.
Painted in blood across the rows of chairs behind them, were eyes. They took up every inch of the metal, sloping and dripping thin streams of blood that merged with other splotches of the substance. Hundreds of red eyes focused on the green haired android, burning into them.
Swallowing hard, Galahad backed up until their legs hit the edge of the stage and pulled the thin piece of glass from their pocket. Sigi had stretched to the edge of her lead, whining at her owner’s distress as they held the glass up. It rang once, twice, three times before Hera’s annoyed expression swam into view on its surface.
“What.” She snapped. Galahad’s vast list of words filed away in their mind was nowhere to be found. Instead they lifted the glass so that Hera could see what was behind them, eyes glued to the multitude of other eyes painted on the chairs. Even though they were only painted on, the scene held a terrifying eeriness that had fused itself to their visual processors.
They heard a sharp intake of breath from Hera, “I’ll be right there.”
“Wait.” Citlali held up one hand, partially to pause the conversation and partially to put some distance between him and Deputy Wright, “So now this is all my fault?” He crossed one arm over his chest and pinched the bridge of his nose with the other. Four in the morning was far too early to be dealing with the unsavory deputy. Police swarmed around him; taping the scene off and turning away civilians.
“Well you’re on scene rather early, aren’t you,” Wright huffed, a spray of crumbs leaving his mouth from the aftermath of his breakfast, “Awfully suspicious since we didn’t learn about it till after you arrived.”
Citlali was quickly loosing his patience, which was something that took a great deal of effort on the other persons part, “I told you, I live on the other side of the park and I know the witness. They called me after they called her.” He was fairly sure he had scared a handful of people, half sprinting towards the park like a madman. Galahad had been full on sparking when he got their, barely holding together. Talking them down had taken time, but now they were parked on a bench behind him with Sigi.
Wright tugged on the collar of his police jacket and huffed again, “I’m just saying it’s suspicious that he refused to speak to anyone but you and you’re one of the leads on this case.”
“They.” Citlali corrected, “Are Hera’s intern so of course I know them.”
“Wright!” A voice broke through all other sounds like glass, an enraged yell from the path behind Citlali. Hera moved like a hurricane, the people parting before her as she stalked towards the two of them with anger swirling around her. She wound back one hand and hurled something at Wright, the pair of mangled handcuffs hitting him in the chest with a fury driven force.
She thrust a finger in his face, voice barely contained behind her gritted teeth, “You have two. Bloody. Seconds. To tell me why you put my witness in handcuffs and accused them of doing all this, or I swear to god I will have you doing Detective LaRoche’s old job for the rest of your pathetic life.” Deputy Wright clutched weakly at the cuffs still pressed against his chest and gasped for words, suddenly at a loss of accusations in the presence of such an angry force. Hera towered above him, six feet of pure rage and wild curls.
“You handcuffed Galahad?!” Citlali spun around, searching for the bench where he’d left them only to find their seat empty, “That’s a great idea, let’s handcuff the traumatized teenager and accuse them of murder!”
Wright took in the condition of the handcuffs, their chains mangled and the cuffs snapped open, “How- What- How did you get these open?!” Hera’s metal hand curled into a fist and Wright’s eyes widened a fraction and suddenly excuses were spilling from his lips.
“They.” Citlali corrected, again.
“-Was the one who found it and refused to talk to anyone but you or LaRoche and they seemed very skittish and suspicious like and they resisted arrest-”
“Get.” Hera leaned down, the full fury of her grey eyes trained on the sniveling man, “Off. My. Crime. Scene.” He needed no further convincing, retreating down the path with the last scraps of dignity he had left. Half way down the path he jumped, yelling like he’d been shocked before breaking into a fearful run.
Galahad moved between Hera and Citlali, shoulders hunched as they flicked the fingers of their left hand, “That’s the least he deserves,” They grumbled, tucking both hands in the pocket of their sweatshirt, “The Drecksau.”
Hera scoffed and some of the tension drained from her shoulders, “Come on, Cactus. We’ve got a murder to investigate.”
“His name is Jakob Steiner.” They offered, pronouncing it the German way, “He services vending machines around the city. Night shift, takes him all over the place.”
“Not someone who would draw attention if he was killed.” Citali sighed and tucked his hands into the pockets of his jacket. Hera hummed in acknowledgement, eyes fixed on the gruesome scene. Her mind was already hard at work. Pulling a handful of latex gloves she passed two to Citlali and pulled one over her non-metal hand.
“Galahad, see what you can get from the cameras.” She ordered, “Anything at all that could help.” The android clicked their tongue and moved back towards the bench where they had tied Sigi.
Citlali offered a wry smile, “After you, Sherlock.” Hera scowled back at him and started towards the stage. At first glance she didn’t see anything Galahad hadn’t told her about. As she stepped onto the stage, that was a different story. There was a bullet wound in the back of his head from a sniper rifle, the blood around the edges of the wound clotted and dried.
“He was dead before he got…” Hera pressed her lips together, “Impaled.”
“If that’s supposed to make it better, it really doesn’t.” Citlali called over his shoulder and he inspected the chairs in the front row, “This paint, blood, whatever, is still tacky. This was done pretty recently.”
She nodded, “The body’s still bleeding slightly. Gross, but it means we’re not far behind.” A thin triangle of white paper was sticking out of the man’s pocket, and Hera carefully tugged it free. Most of it had been stained illegible with blood, but Hera could make out enough to piece the writing together.
“‘Vote for’ someone.” Hera read, passing the paper down to Citlali, “The names been ripped off and it’s covered in blood but that much is readable.”
“So the killer is a fan of the Democratic process?” Citlali refolded the map and waved over one of the Forensic detectives that had just arrived. Hera stepped down off the stage and they moved away from the scene to let the Forensics unit do their job.
Galahad unfurled from the bench as they approached, unhooking Sigi’s leash, “Walk with me.” Not bothering to wait for an answer, they turned and started down the path. The two detectives followed. The android walked fast, pausing at turns to close their eyes and mumble incoherently to themself.
“What are we doing?” Citlali asked after Galahad led them out of the park. He didn’t mind the walk, but he generally liked to know where he was going.
“The files at the actual scene are gone – again- but they didn’t get all the other cameras.” Galahad explained, “Our friend the killer was caught on camera further away dragging Jakob towards the stage. I’m retracing those steps to see if I can find where he was killed.” The rest of their walk continued in silence, Galahad striding ahead of them with Sigi beside them while Hera maintained a frosty quiet as she walked. Not all the fury had leached out of her, it simmered just under the surface of her stony facade.
They stopped short all of a sudden, “His trail starts here. It’s odd, the cameras must be glitchy or something. He was only ever on screen for a short time before disappearing.”
“Glitchy cameras, whatever,” Hera waved away their sentence and started down the alley they had stopped in front of, “Let’s see what we find.” The alley was short and ended in a short turn off point occupied by rusting dumpsters and discarded cans of beer. There was a small pool of blood and dirty water near the corner, along with the crushed remnants of a bullet casing.
“Sloppy.” Galahad muttered, handing Sigi’s leash to Citlali and gesturing for Hera to step aside, “Mind if I take a look?” They stepped into the center of the turnoff and held their arms out. Flicking their fingers, tiny green particles flooded from their body and coated the surroundings.
“Jakob was… 5’8” and the entry wound was in the back of his head so he was standing here and facing… This way.” They flicked one hand over their shoulder and a hologram in Jakobs likeness appeared made of those same green particles, “The blood on the edge of the dumpster there means he was standing when he was shot, and then fell into the puddle there. That would mean that with his height and the entry and exit wounds the shooter was…” They scrolling in the air with their fingers like they were doing calculations, eyes closed and mouth twisted to the side, “On the roof of that building.” The building they pointed too was an older office building that was starting to light up as workers began filing in for the morning.
As Galahad recalled their green hologram particles, Citlali pulled out his phone, “Well done. I’ll call the station and see about getting a few officers down here to check it out. Someone still needs to go interrogate Johnston.”
“I can do that.” Hera said, tucking her hands into her pockets and turning to head out of the alley, still cold as usual, “Galahad you should head home.”
“Yeah.” The android’s face twisted in distaste, “I think I’ve had enough of this universe for one day.” They seemed exhausted, even for someone who’s emotions were synthetic. Citlali clapped them on the shoulder and handed over Sigi’s leash as they trailed past him down the alley behind Hera. They offered him a half hearted thumbs up in reply.
Once the two Time travelers had disappeared around the corner, Citlali turned his phone on. There was a text from Galahad, ‘You’re the diplomatic one, I’m the science one. We all have our uses.” He frowned; he had really hoped that whole tool conversation wouldn’t come up again.
Something moved on the roof behind him. Citlali whipped around, immediately regretting that he left his gun at his apartment and now only had his phone as a weapon. The alley was silent, aside from the muffled sounds of the street. He stayed where he was, ears straining for any sounds.
A sharp pain burst in his neck and Citlali recoiled, frantically ripping a small dart like syringe from the spot. He staggered backwards against the far wall, legs suddenly refusing to work in any semblance of order and went crashing to the ground. He couldn’t move, his whole body numb and ignoring the warnings that his mind was screaming.The world swam in and out of focus, a blurring mass of reddish brick and grey cement that was interrupted only by a face looming into view. Cold metal pressed against his forehead, the barrel of a gun unwavering against his temple. His world closed in on itself until that was all he could feel.
And then he felt nothing at all.
A Time Travelers Guide To Solving Murder Chapter 8: The Price Of Fear
October 9th, 2020
Hera Jones only started to exist when she was 20 years old. She was someone else before, someone…less. Not existing had suited her for a long time. It was a comfort, something solid for her to fall back on should she need too. And then she existed.
The problem with existing when you didn’t exist before is that you had to find other people to exist with. Easier said than done while one is attending the most prestigious scientific academy in the world, and had rarely spoken to anyone outside her family before. She was a new name and a new face that rose to the top of her class within weeks, favored and fortunate, but alone.
A loose ceiling tile had delivered her Galahad. Wild and constantly climbing around places they shouldn’t be, they had quite literally fallen into her life. Existing wasn’t easy for them either; they only existed inside the Mannheim Institute and nowhere else. Galahad had led them to others, and existing became a little easier for her.
Then she had woken up on a flat metal table, all of time whispering in her ear and an arm that wasn’t quite right and felt the chilling fear as she realized that now, she would exist forever. It had gotten a little easier, as the years went on. She had Galahad, which was a mixed blessing, and various other people along the way, but they were always left behind.
Through the one way mirror behind the Interrogation room, Hera sees Johnston. His chin rests on his chest, his shoulder hunched, as Siobhan stalks around him. As she watches, she wonders distantly how long ‘Officer’ Johnston has existed. Not long, she guesses, if his half decorated apartment was anything to go by. The Police had found moving boxes scattered around, dishes half unpacked, clothes being pulled from boxes when they needed to be worn. Flipping the file in her hand closed, Hera left the watch room and entered the interrogation room itself.
Siobhan and Hera were matched in intimidation. Where Hera instilled fear through sheer emotionless cold, height and wild hair, Siobhan intimidated through brilliance. Confidence radiated off of her; she never had a dark hair out of place or a wrinkle on her jacket. She intimidated through the sheer willpower of having her life together better than everyone else.
The temperature in the room seemed to drop a few degrees. Johnston’s head shot up, his eyes locking on her’s and filling with horror. Hera’s face remained passive, save for the near imperceptible tightening of her jaw, as she walked to the front of the table and placed the file down.
Siobhan paused in her pacing, “Detective Jones.”
“Chief.” Hera inclined her head, and at a nod from the other woman, sat in the cold metal chair across from Johnston. The detective took in his appearance with a glance, the chewed down stubs of his finger nails, the wild, hunted look in his eyes, the grey tinge to his pale skin. He was a tool, nothing more, nothing less.
Johnston’s eyes darted around, to the door, then to the mirror, and then back to Hera. “Where’s the other one, the green haired one?” Hera had almost forgotten about Galahad’s little stunt, how it was their right hook that had put Johnston under.
“Not here.” She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms, metal over real, “Chief, mind if I handle this alone?” Siobhan nodded once and left the room, although Hera knew she had just ducked into the watch room that she herself had been occupying earlier.
Flicking the file open, Hera rested her cold gaze on the man in front of her, “Hurting for money? My intern,” She would pay for that lie later she was sure, “tells me that you were promised a lot of money to kill me.”
“You have no idea.” Johnston let out a shaken laugh, his eyes still darting around the room. “He offered twice that for me to frame those two thugs once we got you out of the way. Could’ve done it, too, if you weren’t a freak of nature with your stupid green haired friend. Had it all set up to get them out of the picture and get paid until you ruined it.”
“My deepest apologies.” She said with no real feeling in her voice, “Why would you need me ‘out of the way’?”
“You were too close,” he snarled, “Too close to finding out who he is, too close to figuring it out.”
Hera raised an eyebrow, “Well maybe he shouldn’t leave kill a girl’s family and then leave her in a closet in the crime scene next time.” Johnston’s eyes fixed on her, two crazed pinpricks of blue, “How much do you know of him?”
“Nothing except what I’ve told you.” His voice had gotten weaker, almost like he was breathless. “Doesn’t matter anyway. I won’t be around for much longer.” Johnston laughed again, high pitched and crazed, spit gathering at the corners of his mouth. He was deteriorating, his eyes glazed over as his mind started to rip at the edges like an old painting.
“What do you mean?” She leaned back in her chair slightly, a warning feeling beginning to raise red flags in her mind. Johnston never answered.
His shoulders jerked upwards once, his hands straining against their restraints before his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed to the table. Hera lunged forward and grabbed the front of his shirt as his body began to convulse. Foam and spit overflowed from his mouth and in one last burst of movement, he wrenched free from Hera’s grip and slumped motionless to the side. Siobhan burst into the room, officers on her tail and numbly, the detective backed away from the table to give them room.
One of the officers pried Johnstons mouth opened, revealing the chewed remnants of a blue capsule stuck in his back teeth.
“Cyanide.” Hera supplied, mouth twisting into a frown, “It must have been leaking into his stomach while we were talking.”
Siobhan crossed her arms and regarded the scene that was beginning to get cleaned up, “Think his Boss put him up to it?”
“Doubtful.” She moved towards the door, fighting back the sour taste that was rising in her mouth, “If Johnston knew more about it I would guess it was the killer, but he knew almost nothing.” She didn’t want to deal with the mess Johnston had just caused, selfish as that may seem, there were more important things for her to dedicate her time too.
“So he killed himself?” The chief followed Hera to the door, lingering there while the other woman continued down the hall, “Was he that afraid of going to jail?!”
“He wasn’t afraid of us,” Hera reached out and grabbed her jacket off the coat hook beside her, “Rather, he was a afraid of what would happen to him when his boss decided to make him pay for his failure.” She continued walking, mind already moving on. Siobhan watched her go, a determined, complicated sort of twist to her mouth.
Hera’s mind worked easiest in straight, analytical lines. If she came across a problem she reduced it to its most basic ideas and then solved it in the most efficient way without flitting around occupying herself with trivial things. She had learned very early in her career that hobbies and excess emotions got in her way. Liabilities were unacceptable, mistakes lead to disaster, and happiness lead to pain. She had taken these things and wrapped them around herself like a second skin, learning how to talk, how to see, how to solve better than anyone else could so that there would be no liabilities or mistakes.
Losing the Timepiece had been a mistake that was costing her dearly.
Bringing herself back to the present before she got lost in a useless train of thought, Hera zipped up her jacket and stepped into the cold. Officer Johnston had been the first item on her list and with that more or less checked off, it was time for item two: Galahad.
Setting off towards home, Hera checked her phone. There was nothing from Citlali, which was odd since he was supposed to be keeping her updated on what he found in the alley, and one message from Galahad.
Added a new room for that project I started, it read, last door on the right, I’ll be in there if it works.
Since it wasn’t bound by any of the laws that normal buildings had to conform too, Hera’s apartment could contain as many rooms as it needed to at the time. She didn’t quite understand the science behind it, but then again, she didn’t need to. Every room had a panel on the wall beside the door that kept it anchored to the rest of the rooms, displayed its name, and controlled a few other aspects if one was willing to spend time messing with the settings.
Stepping through the door, Hera found the living room empty. She ditched her coat by the door and started down the hall, ducking quickly into her room to grab something. Dealing with Galahad tended to involve a lot of bribery in order to get them to do what she wanted. If they were mad or in a foul mood, they dug their heels in and refused to budge until given enough of a reason to.
Hera knew she has brought it on herself, with having essentially added a layer of cold to all of their conversations a few thousand years earlier. The two of them had fought almost constantly, and in the end she had driven the android into the Continuum for almost three hundred years.
That bond was a slow healing process with a few more permanent cracks.
Biting the inside of her cheek, Hera ducked into her closet and approached a small, squarish machine sitting on a table at the back, behind rows of earth toned turtlenecks and leather jackets. The machine had no official name, but it could make any article of clothing in a matter of minutes. Hera had brought it into semi-existence through the Continuum when she had gotten tired of cutting the left sleeve off all her shirts to accompany her prosthetic. She placed her metal hand onto the pad at the front and told it what she wanted, the machine whirring to life inside its metal shell.
It deposited a dark blue jacket and a small enamel pin into her arms a minute later. Over the years it had gotten easier to know what sorts of things would get the android back on her side. With her bribes in hand, Hera left her room and walked down the hall.
It was easy to find Galahad’s new room since they had named it “Galahad Does Science™” and the door was their hair’s very distinct shade of pale green. At the very bottom, about an inch up from the floor, there was a second, dog sized door. Rolling her eyes, Hera shouldered her way inside.
And entered a room even more impossible than everything else in her life.
It was a huge grassy field at least half the size of a football field, dotted with tall grass and clumps of wildflowers. Sigi bounded around, barking excitedly and snapping at stray pieces of grass being blown around. A patch of dense forest sat to her left, leaves blowing gently in the warm breeze. The sky, or at least it looked like the sky, was cloudless and brilliant blue and while there was no visible sun, the whole room seemed like it was bathed in sunlight.
“Like it?” Hera ripped her eyes away from the scene to find Galahad sitting on the ground a few paces in front of her, their knees curled to their chest. They looked exhausted and drained, their hair pulled messily away from their face. She had to commend the engineers at the Mannheim institute, they certainly made their androids lifelike.
Lacking any better words to describe the situation, Hera moved to stand beside them, “How?”
“I’ve been messing around with relative dimension theory for a while now.” They shrugged, “Anything’s possible in the Continuum, y’know, since there are an infinite number of different universes where anything could be possible, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I only just got it to work.”
“It’s impressive.” She admitted, watching Sigi chase a butterfly, “Sorry about earlier, with Deputy Wright.”
“Eh, guy seems to have it in for you,” They craned their head back to raise an eyebrow at her, “What’s the deal with that?”
Hera brushed a stray curl from her face, “When I joined the police force I essentially took over his spot as detective. He got demoted to deputy and didn’t take kindly to it.”
Galahad harrumphed, “Hey, hiring someone with three thousand years of experience is an opportunity you really can’t pass up. Also, uh.” They rubbed the back of their neck, “Thanks for sticking up for me against him? I guess?”
“You’re welcome,” Hera inclined her head, “I guess. Besides, I think Citlali was about to punch him if he misgendered you one more time.”
Shrugging again, they turned back to watch Sigi roam, “I can’t really expect everyone to understand. I know I never really fit into a box back when I was human but… I’m a robot, and without any memories to help sort that out, I’m genderless by default.”
“Well,” Hera said, “I have something for you that might help clear the air with other people.”
Standing, Galahad picked a few pieces of grass of their jeans and then crossed their arms, “Alright, what do you need done?” There was something sad under their voice, an unspoken ‘so this is what our friendship has become?’ They had accepted that Hera only ever gave them stuff when she needed something from them, and at the moment they lacked the synthesised effort to try and pretend there was any other reason for it.
Hera forced herself not to feel the sting of regret and flicked the pin to them, “Accept them first, and then ask questions.”
Galahad ran their thumb across the pins silver surface and looked up with a hint of amusement in their eyes, “Easier to just make it obvious from the start, huh?” The pin said ‘They/Them’ in curled black letters, big enough to be read easily but ‘not in your face’ print. Hera just shrugged in response and held out the jacket. It looked exactly like the one they had grabbed from the back of the Police Cruiser, except under the TCPD patch on the sleeve there was a second one with the symbol for the Mannheim Institute: a black triangle inside of a gold circle.
Taking it carefully from her hands Galahad turned it around, taking in the wide white lettering that spelled out “Holtzmann’ across the back. They shrugged it on, pinned their new pin to the front and then tucked their hands in their pockets.
“Ok.” Their expression remained even and controlled, “Now what?”
“I know you’re not a fan of being on actual crime scenes, but you’re known to everyone else as my intern now. While it was a split second decision, it would be good for you to get out of here sometimes.” Galahad raised an eyebrow, prompting Hera to cut to the chase, “I’m suggesting we work together. Again. I know our… disagreement was mostly my fault, but I’m hoping we can move past that.”
The bright haired android’s mouth quirked into a sideways grin, “What did Talston City do to you, Hera? First you take on a partner, now you’re asking me for help and admitting that you messed up?”
Hera rolled her eyes, mouth twitching into an almost smile, and held up her arm at a slight angle across her body, “Partners?”
Galahad stared at her for a second like they were seeing her for the first time, then raised their arm and bumped their forearm against hers, “Just like old times.” Hera nodded once and then crossed her arms, falling back into a stoic quiet. The two of them stared out over Galahad’s impossible room in silence.
“Y’know…” Galahad started gesturing vaguely with one hand to everything around them, “You haven’t asked me to explain how this all works.”
Hera shrugged and turned towards the door, “Gives you more time to think of an explanation that Citlali can understand.” She started walking, taking long strides towards the green door.
“Wait!” Galahad jogged after her, “Where are we going?”
“A detective’s work is never done. There are always suspects to be spoken to, clues to be found, evidence to be filed, deductions to make, etcetera.”
“I take it back, I don’t want to team up anymore! That sounds like a lot of work.”
A Time Travelers Guide To Solving Murder Chapter 9: Mind Over Matter
October 9th, 2020
The North Side, Talston City
Halfway to the Precinct, Hera got a call from Siobhan. Jakob Steiner’s wife had made herself known, diverting the detectives path to the Northern end of the city in search of clues. Galahad was behaving themself for once, they hadn’t complained at all about the amount of walking or the change in plans. Although, unlike Hera, their legs didn’t get tired. The train system could’ve gotten them across the city in a few minutes, but metal detectors didn’t tend to agree with either of the two Time Travelers.
The Northern Side was a hub of culture. Dominated mostly by those of european origin, there were festivals every month, brightly coloured restaurants and bars and street vendors selling more delicious food than one could eat. The pollution turbines suspended in the air above the city were brighter in this part, painted and decorated with more care and life to them. Galahad loved them, pointing out their favorites as the two of them walked. In 3125, everything ran off of clean energy and the pollution issue was fixed so there was no need for the balloon like turbines that pulled smog out of the air.
Craning their head back to look up at the white plaster building in front of them, Galahad took in a deep breath through their nose, “Wow, everything in this part of the city smells like bread.”
Hera double checked the address Siobhan had given her, “A lot of people of Italian descent live here. Lots of bakeries.” Clicking her tongue, Hera put her phone away, “This is the place. Stay quiet, just observe. Let me do all the talking.” There was a police car parked outside, so someone from the force was either guarding Mrs. Steiner or Siobhan had sent her back up.
“Isn’t this what we need Citlali for?” Galahad followed Hera to the door, blinking a few times as they adjusted their eye colour to something a bit less neon, “Where even is he?”
“I don’t know.” Hera frowned slightly, “Haven’t heard from him all day.” Galahad’s mouth tightened but they remained quiet the entire trip up to the apartment. A woman in a police uniform was waiting by the door, her hands crossed loosely behind her back.
She stood to attention when Hera got closer, “Detective Jones, I’m Officer Kate Thompson.”
“I remember you,” Hera stifled a sigh of relief at having her there, “From the hotel killing, glad to have help.” She was horrible at comforting people anyway.
Kate nodded, “Siobhan sent me over to keep track of things.” Her gaze landed on Galahad, who was subtly trying to hide behind Hera’s back, “Who is…”
The detective put a hand between Galahad’s shoulder blades and pushed them in front of her, “This is Galahad Holtzmann, my intern.”
“Yo.” Galahad offered a two finger salute and then shoved their hands back into their pockets. It had been a couple thousand years since they’d had to interact regularly with people aside from Hera, so they were very out of practice. If Kate noticed, she either ignored it or chalked it up to a simple case of nervousness.
She smiled, “Nice to meet you. Shall we go in?” At Hera’s nod, she turned and knocked on the door. A few moments later a woman, probably in her early forties at least, opened the door. A pair of watery blue eyes stared out at them from behind a messy curtain of blonde hair. She had clearly been crying for a while and had only recently stopped.
“Mrs. Steiner?” Kate asked, pulling her badge from her belt to show the woman, “My name is Officer Kate Thompson with with TCPD, this is Detective Hera Jones and her intern Galahad. May we come in?”
The woman nodded and opened the door slowly, “Yes, of course. I apologize for the mess.” They filed into the small apartment, stepping over a scattered pile of mail as Mrs. Steiner lead them to the couch. Hera took a moment to look around; The apartment was fairly small, painted in light pinks and creams with floral curtains and paintings from some countryside lining the walls. They looked hand painted, and judging from the small, paint stained table near the window, Mrs. Steiner was their creator. There was a general sense of clutter around the place, made even more messy by dirty dishes piled up in the sink and a pile of unwashed clothes in a hamper by the bathroom. Grief tended to make any mess worse.
Mrs. Steiner eased down into an armchair, Kate perching carefully on the edge on the sofa near her to ask a few non-essential questions. Galahad had stopped by a bunch of framed photos on the wall of Jakob, his wife, and their two children. A gentle hum of static drifted from them, and Hera tapped their shoulder to snap them out it it; the last thing she needed was Galahad’s particular brand of electric outbursts to blow the power in the entire sector. They turned to face her, a quiet, determined sort of fury burning in their eyes, but the static faded. Hera moved towards the others, Galahad lurking behind her, and sat beside Kate.
Kate took the lead, “What can you tell us about your husband, Mrs. Steiner?”
The woman’s lips turned down at the corners, “My husband was… some would call him difficult. He was a very driven man, he took his work very seriously. Jakob was a computer programer during the day and serviced vending machines at night to pay for this apartment…” Her voice trailed off and turned soft, “He worked so hard so I could dedicate my time to painting and my friends.”
“He doesn’t sound like the type of person to have enemies.” Galahad said.
Mrs. Steiner shook her head, managing to focus her misty gaze on them, “He was cold at first but a genuinely kind and caring person once you could get him away from his work. It’s hard to imagine someone could have a vendetta against him.”
“The victims don’t seem to have any connection to the killer himself,” Hera brushed a few stray curls out of her face, “I know this is hard, miss, but I need to know if there was anything suspicious going on around the time of your husband’s death.”
Mrs. Steiner took a deep, watery breath before speaking, “Everything seemed normal, I don’t know…” She trailed off, her voice tired, “I tend to spend most of the day at home painting while my husband works. He does programming during the day, then services things around the city.”
“Did your husband mention seeing anyone weird following him, or around where he worked?” Kate encouraged, her tone softer that anything Hera could ever manage, “Anything at all?”
She turned to gaze out the window, face contorted as she thought, “He did mention that there was a man hanging around his usual stops, and his phone had been having bad connection recently…”
Galahad looked up at that, glancing quickly at Hera before speaking, “Wait, do you happen to have his phone here… uh, Mrs. Steiner?”
She blinked and then her cloudy eyes focused on the kitchen table, “Yes, I believe the police returned his belongings, it should be with them.”
“Do you mind if I…” Galahad wrung their hands and glanced at Hera again, “Take it apart? I think I might know how they found him.”
Kate started to protest but she was cut off my Mrs. Steiner, “Of course, if you need to take any of that for examination again that’s fine. Anything that can help you find whoever did this.” Kate frowned, but didn’t say anything as Galahad moved towards the table.
“Oh, we’ll find him.” Hera said, voice bordering on the edge of a snarl. The other officer raised an eyebrow, then turned her attention back to the older woman to ask some easier questions. Hera took that as her cue to check on Galahad. They were bent over the table, turning Jakobs phone over and over in their hand. Half-buried under bright green, lines of text scrolled past on their eyes as they flipped it around.
“At least there’s something I’m good at.” They murmured, gently pulling on Hera’s sleeve until she had moved to completely block Kate and Mrs. Steiner’s view of what they were going to do. Galahad pressed the phone between their hands, and with a buzz of static and a gentle pop, the two halves of the phone’s outer shell came apart.
“Gotta love being able to magnetize your own body.” They said under layers of sarcasm, prying both halves off their hands to place them on the table. Producing a soft shell case of tools from the inside of their new jacket, Galahad plucked a pair of tweezers from the inside and carefully pried something from between the plates on the inside of the phone.
“Bugged.” They held the small, circular device at eye level and scrutinized it with the focus of an expert jeweler who was just handed the Crown Jewels. “Must have…wired his phone while he was on break on something, only a few of the wires had been connected. Had to be the killer too, this model is very high tech. Would’ve cost a small fortune.” The other two women had drifted over, everyone crowding around Galahad’s find.
“Is it still on?” Mrs. Steiner asked, wrapping her arms tightly around herself, “There’s not someone still listening to us, right?”
The Android frowned slightly, “This one’s only supposed to be activated when the phone was used, so I don’t think so.” They paused and cocked their head slightly, like they were listening. ‘I don’t think so’ was their way of saying no. It was easier to suggest that they were taking a guess than to explain that they were electronic themself and a scan had told them that the device was off.
Latching on to Hera’s sleeve, they spoke, “Hera, we need to talk for a second.”
“I’ll make some tea for us all.” Mrs. Steiner started towards the kitchen, “Officer Tompson, would you help me?” Kate nodded and followed, but not before casting a worried look over her shoulder at them.
Galahad pulled on Hera’s sleeve to turn her so their backs were to the kitchen, “If I give this bug something to listen too, I can probably track the signal. If I rewire it back into the phone and then track where the signal goes it might lead us to someone.”
Hera raised an eyebrow, “Ok? So why didn’t you tell them that?”
Galahad glared at her, “Because they would’ve asked how I’m going to track the signal and I can’t exactly tell them I’ve got a computer in my head!” They dropped their voice to a fervent whisper and waved their hands between the two of them, “So you need to figure something out.”
“Why do I have to do it?” Hera hissed, crossing her arms across her chest.
“Look, I am almost two thousand years out of practice with talking to people and you’re not.” They pinched the bridge of their nose, “See, this is why we needed Citlali. He’s actually good at this talking thing.”
Hera sighed, “We all have our weaknesses. I’ll think of something, you work on rewiring.”
They offered a two finger salute, “Yes, ma’am.”
Hera stepped out onto the street and suppressed a shiver at the sudden change in temperature, “I can’t believe you made me leave tea behind.”
Galahad hopped down onto the sidewalk beside her and rolled their eyes, “Right, I always forget you’re British.”
Buttoning up her jacket, she sighed, “Yeah, I guess the accent’s starting to fade. Not as much as yours though.”
They threw their arms up in the air like they were appealing to the sky, “Don’t blame me, blame the void! Stupid thing took my life and my accent!” Hera laughed at that, causing Galahad to recoil in exaggerated shock and surprise.
“Did you just…” They covered their mouth with both hands and their eyes widened in mock horror, “Laugh?! Who are you and what did you do with Hera?!”
She socked them hard in the shoulder with her metal arm, “Shut up and get tracking.” Galahad rolled their eyes and opened their hand, projecting their path in the air for a few moments. Trapping their fingers around the image, they set off.
“I’m surprised you got Officer Kate to agree to this.” Galahad clicked their tongue as they walked.
“Tell me about it.” Hera stuck her hands in her pockets, watching the cars flash past as the lunch rush began, “I wasn’t sure she’d actually buy my story, but it seemed to work.” They shrugged in return and kept walking.
After a while, they stopped. “This is it.” Galahad closed their hand and looked up, their eyebrows furrowing as they took in the brick building, “Whoever it is, they’re in there.” It was a simple, five story building that had been abandoned some time ago. A sign out front had it slated for remodeling into luxury apartments within the next two years.
Hera rolled her metal shoulder, “We’re going to have to be quiet about this, now’s not the time for all guns blazing.”
The android shrugged and dug a hair tie out of their pocket to tie their wild hair back, “No problem, I was built for quiet.”
She nodded and jerked her head up at the roof, “Come in from the top and we’ll clear the levels from both sides.” Galahad gave her a thumbs up, coiled their legs under them and then leapt up to grab onto the rusted fire escape on the side. A few more inhuman leaps and they disappeared over the top. Hera curled her metal hand into a fist and moved for the door. The inside looked a lot like the last warehouse she had been in; dusty and crumbling slightly.
Hopefully this one wouldn’t blow up.
The first level was clear, so she started slowly up the staircase in the center, sticking to the railing to avoid creaking steps. She kept one hand on her gun, just in case. Even if she wasn’t planning on using it, it was better to have it close. Whoever was listening to the bug was probably on a higher level to get a better signal, which meant Galahad would reach them first. That was a part of Hera’s loosely formulated plan. Either Galahad would zap the person before they could run, or they’d be chased right into Hera’s path and earn a faceful of metal.
She hoped it was the latter, electrical burns were hard to explain.
Halfway across the second floor, she heard commotion from the floor above her. A wave a static rolled over her, buzzing in the back of her teeth. Two explosive gunshots followed, coupled with the echoing thud of running feet. Hera continued walking, eyes fixed on the door leading to the stairs.
A man wielding a shotgun burst through the wooden door, face half covered by a bandana, and received the full force of a metal fist to the underside of his chin. The impact knocked him off his feet and he crumbled to the floor.
Hera brushed her hand off on her coat, “Well, that was easy.” she nudged the man with the toe of one boot, nose wrinkling slightly. He was out cold. That begged one question: where was Galahad?
Turning her face to the top of the stairs, she raised an eyebrow “Galahad?” No one answered. Swearing under her breath, Hera grabbed the railing and swung herself up, taking the stairs two at a time. Galahad was slouched against the wall in the process of snapping their shoulder back onto its joint, their head skewed at an unhealthy angle.
Hera stopped near their feet and tilted her head, “Do I want to know?”
Galahad let out a long sigh and grabbed their head with both hands, “I went up against a shotgun,” They snapped their head back into its proper place with a sickening popping sound, “I lost. Threw my head and shoulder off track.” They searched around with one hand for their hat.
“Painful?” She offered a hand and hauled them to their feet.
They rolled their neck and winced, “You have no idea. Whoever decided to program pain into this thing was a sadistic human being.” Their eyes flicked to something over her shoulder, “There’s also… that.” Hera turned. A patch of the floor in the far corner was stained with blood and scattered with torn bits of rope.
She swallowed hard, “Lovely. Can you figure out whose it is?”
Galahad rubbed at the sore spot on the back of their neck and brushed past her, “We’ll see. Are you sure that guy down there is out cold?” They crouched stiffly by the blood stain, holding their hand just above the ground to scan it.
Hera flexed her metal fingers, “He’s not waking up anytime soon, trust me.” She crossed the room to the stairwell to check anyway, giving a small nod when she saw he was still face down on the floor.
“Oh god.” The detective spun to see Galahad backing away from the blood, one hand covering their mouth as they stared at it in horror.
“What?” Hera grabbed their arm and spun them towards her, “Galahad, whose blood is it?”
The amount of horror in their eyes was enough to make her blood run cold, but their answer was far worse.
A Time Travelers Guide To Solving Murder Chapter 10: News Flash
The TV cast a sterile white light across the dark living room, casting hard shadows on the planes of Hera’s face. She crossed her arms over her chest, one foot braced against the table as she watched a tall, blonde haired man take the podium in front of The Spire. The massive, 170 floor, glass building served as one place to house all the city officials, including the mayor.
While she watched, Galahad moved through the city like a ghost, scouring the streets for Citlali. Alexander VanHerald, the mayor’s son, stood like a titan behind the podium as he addressed the crowd of people packed tightly into the courtyard. He looked unmoveable, like there wasn’t a force in this world that could possibly push him aside. While his father had been an amazing speaker, Alexander had quickly proved to be just as good when he started his campaign to follow in his father’s footsteps.
The cheering died down, and Alexander spoke, “Citizens of Talston. I come to you in this frightful and dire time to offer strength and unity. The violent murders that have been sweeping this city have not gone unnoticed. The police force works diligently day and night to hunt down this killer and put an end to their violent tendencies.”
Galahad’s voice cut through the thin piece of table glass balanced on the armrest, “I’m at the alley.” Hera’s jaw tightened a fraction, the fingers of her prosthetic hand curling into a fist.
“This is a time that will not be easy to bare for many of us, but I implore you all to remember what this great city has always stood for.” The man raised his hands towards the sky, voice carrying out like thunder, “Unity. Strength. Bravery. The unbreakable will to stand as one is something that cannot be taken from us, no matter what tragedy is thrown our way.”
“Hera, I found more of Citlali’s blood and his phone, but it’s smashed to hell and back again. Everything else that we had found here has been completely wiped away.”
“Keep looking.” Hera said.
Alexander brought his fist down on the podium in a move of sheer emotion, “I promise you, citizens of Talston, that we will find this killer. We will find him and put an end to his reign of tyranny and you will not have to fear like this again. Until such a time comes, I urge you all to keep safe. Make sure to lock your doors, be cautions, and do not stay on the streets too late into the night. But in this time of suspicion do not forget that your neighbors are just like you. Do not give in to your fear and turn it into hate for your fellow citizens. Now more than ever, we must stand together against this threat.” The crowd burst into an uproar of applause and cheering, bright flashes of cameras lighting the space.
Once they died down, Alexander continued and a familiar figure joined him on the stage, “I have asked one of our best police chiefs to offer her advice on ways to keep safe in this time, please welcome Chief Siobhan Tabris.”
“Hera.” Galahad’s voice was urgent, pulling Hera’s attention away from the screen as Siobhan started her own speech.
‘“I think I found him.”
October 10th, 2020
Residential District, Talston City
“This doesn’t make any sense.” Galahad crouched on the roof of the building across from the one Citlali lived in, their invisibility cloak vanishing in a shudder, “Like, I live in a void of time and space and this makes less sense than that.” They tapped on the screen in their left arm, pulling their lower lip under their teeth as they went over their readings again.
“What’s going on, Galahad?” Hera’s voice verged on impatient.
“If I’m reading my scan right…” They gave a confused and helpless shrug, “Citlali is in his apartment right now.”
“There’s someone in his apartment and whoever it is matches his DNA, so unless Citlali has a twin he’s never talked about than-”
“Ok, I get it.” Hera snapped, cutting them off mid sentence, “It just doesn’t make sense.”
“You don’t say.” Galahad ran a hand through their hair and sighed, “Missing for two days, leaves behind a pile of blood and then ends up in his apartment? Yeah, that’s just a little odd.” They stood carefully and shook out their legs, balancing precariously on the edge of the roof, “I’m gonna go talk to him.”
“Yeah, I will. I’ll keep you in the loop.” They tapped a spot behind their ear and the white noise of static faded out as they hung up. Everything looked so small from where they were standing. Tiny little people bustling past on their way to work, too invested in their own shoes to look up and see the person standing on the roof above them. City noise drifted up to them, the rumble of cars and above ground trains mixing the chatter of people talking.
Galahad let out a long breath through their nose, walked around the edge of the roof to the side and jumped. They landed in a kneel, their legs soaking up the impact and leaving a slight buzzing feeling in their feet as they stood. Zipping their jacket up, they set off towards Citlali’s building.
It was a fairly average apartment building with a password coded keypad by the inside door. Almost a million dollars of research had gone into making those keypads unhackable and unless one was a highly advanced android form the future, there was a very good chance they weren’t getting into the building.
Thankfully, Galahad happened to be a highly advanced android from the future.
They pressed their hand against it and bypassed the security measures with ease, glancing oh-so casually over their shoulder to make sure no one was watching. Once the door had clicked open they slipped through and beelined for the elevator.
They had no idea what they were going to say to Citlali once they actually saw him. Starting off with: ‘Hey by the way, you’ve been missing for around two days now and you left a lot of blood behind, want to explain that?’ probably wasn’t a great idea. Galahad chewed on the inside of their cheek as the elevator slowly rose towards the fourth floor. They didn’t exactly have a weapon in case something went wrong, just a lot of electricity and their naturally sturdy form to prevent them from harm. Guns weren’t their thing and the energy cannon they had been planning to build into their arm was still nothing more than a blueprint in the back of their mind.
Stepping out of the elevator, Galahad made their way to the right door and knocked a few times before they could chicken out. Their other hand curled into a fist, containing a knot of electricity just in case. They went to knock again with more force just as the door swung open, which nearly lead to them punching Citlali square in the jaw.
“Oh god, sorry! That could’ve been bad,” Galahad’s emotions cycled rapidly through panic, concern and relief at seeing him there, “Wait, why are you here? I’m glad you’re alive but I’m really confused and also wow you look horrible.”
Citlali scrubbed a hand across his face and stepped aside so Galahad could enter his apartment, “Nice to see you too, I think.” While their assessment of his condition was a little on the nose, they weren’t exactly wrong. Citlali looked a little like someone had just pulled him back from the dead; his skin had a sickly sort of grey hue and his eyes weren’t quite focused. He also had a killer headache that no amount of pain killers seemed to be able to cut through. It was like the world’s worst hangover minus the party before hand.
But Galahad had been expecting to track down a dead body, so they were much happier with these results.
“Wait,” Citlali pinched the bridge of his nose and moved past them towards the kitchenette crammed in the far corner of the living room, “Why did you think I was dead?”
Galahad threw their arms out to the side and trailed after him,“You’ve been missing for like, two days, we found your blood in this old warehouse, and I just found your phone smashed to bits in that alleyway.”
Citlali grabbed a bottle of water from his fridge and opened it, giving the android an unimpressed glare, “Very funny, Galahad.” As he tried to move past them Galahad blocked his path, their expression dark.
Their voice was eerily flat, “What’s the date today?”
“It’s the… ninth.” He snapped, his usual patience stuck behind the pain in his head, “Day after we found the alley where Jakob was killed.”
“It’s the tenth actually.” Galahad pulled their phone from their pocket and held it up to show him the date, “You never called in the forensics squad that day, and we didn’t hear from you at all until well… just now.” They bit down on the sore part of their cheek, “What happened to you?”
Citlali’s expression morphed into something pained and conflicted, “I… I only remember being in that alley and then waking up here.” His voice rose in panic, “The rest is just… empty, I don’t remember anything.”
The android grabbed his shoulders, “Woah hey, Citlali, breathe.” He managed a ragged deep breath, “Just… Breathe, we’ll figure this out. I promise.” They loosened their grip on his shoulders and then carefully reached out to the side and snagged a dishcloth off the sink, “You’re side is bleeding.” There was a red stain on Citlali’s side that was rapidly growing, seeping through the fabric of his button down.
He let out a short, pained laugh, “Well, that explains why everything is spinning…” Galahad pressed the dishcloth to the spot on his side and he gritted his teeth against the burst of pain.
“You, sit down and hold this tightly to your side. If you die on me, the Chief will turn me into scrap.” Citali snorted at that as Galahad half lead, half pushed him into the nearest chair and shoved the cloth into his hand, “I’m calling an ambulance.”
Citlali waved a hand at them, closing his eyes so the room would stop spinning, “I’m fine, don’t worry about it. Totally… fine.”
Even with his eyes closed, he knew Galahad was glaring at him, “You’ve been missing for two days and now you’re bleeding, its not fine.” They pressed their tablet glass to their ear and waited anxiously for someone to pick on, their eyes flicking back to Citlali every few seconds to make sure he was still breathing.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“Hi, uh.” Galahad pinched the bridge of their nose, “I found a police officer who’s bleeding really bad, I think he’s been stabbed or shot or something.”
“What’s your location?” Galahad read the street and apartment number off for the responder, “We’ll send an ambulance to your location.”
“Uh, thanks.” Galahad hung up and then winced, “Oh god I probably wasn’t supposed to do that.”
Citlali gave them a wry smile, “Yeah, you’re not really supposed to hang up on 911.” he curled slightly around his wounded side and watched Galahad start to pace. Harmless sparks of electricity generated around their fingers.
“I swear, when we find this guy I’m gonna kill him.” They growled, hands curling tightly into fists, “And then I’m going to revive him and kill him again!”
“Why?” Citali asked, “Why now of all times?”
Galahad threw their hands in the air, “Because you’re my friend you idiot! And no one messes with my friends and gets away with it.” Citlali took one look at them, arms wide out to the side and their face looking like they were going to punch the universe in the face and dissolved into senseless laughter. It nearly made him double over in pain but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been moved to laugh that hard. Reaching out he grabbed Galahad’s arm and pulled them down so he could wrap his free arm around their shoulders in a tight hug.
He let out a long laughing sigh, “Thanks, kid.”
“I think this blood loss has made you crazy.” They mumbled into his shoulder, “That ambulance better hurry up.”
A Time Travelers Guide to Solving Murder Chapter 11: Short Straw
October 10th, 2020
Talston Memorial Hospital , Talston City
Hera found Galahad sitting in the hallway outside one of the room. They were hugging their legs to their chest, their chin resting on their knees as they stared at the tile floor. There was an unfocused sort of look to their eyes like that of someone who had been exiled to the hallway for longer than their attention span could handle.
“Galahad.” Hera touched their shoulder lightly and their eyes snapped up to her in a blaze of electric green. They didn’t look worried or angry, so she was going to assume Citlali was fine and they had been exiled to the hallway.
“Oh good, you’re here!” They unfolded from the chair and stood, scooping a plastic bag off the ground from beside their seat “Annnd with Officer Kate?” The second officer was a few steps behind Hera, her arms crossed casually behind her back.
“Siobhan insisted that I have an escort,” The detective inclined her head towards Kate, who smiled, “and she was kind enough to step forward.”
Galahad shrugged, “Fair enough. They should let us in now that you’re here, any longer and I think he might have tried to jump out the window.”
Kate let out a soft laugh, “That sounds like him.” She took up a position by the door with her arms still crossed behind her back.
“Yeah, well, I bought him coffee, so,” Galahad held up the plastic bag as they opened the door, “He can’t complain.”
“I heard the words ‘coffee’ and ‘he’ in the same sentence,” Citlali’s voice carried through the thin curtain separating the room from the doorway, “and I really hope you were talking about me.” Galahad shouldered through the curtain and rummaged through the plastic bag in their hand until they found the glass bottle. While Galahad passed the drink over and then hopped up to sit on the second bed, Hera took in the room almost wearily. Hospitals had never been her cup of tea. Everything in the room was white and brightly lit by the fluorescent ceiling lights, thin panels set into the wall were set to monitor vitals gathered from sensors on the bed itself.
“You look like you’re waiting for something to explode.” Citlali commented lightly, his tired gaze following her as she moved slowly into the room. He looked beyond exhausted and drained, but he was alive. That thought filled her, surprisingly, with relief.
She stopped by the foot of his bed, “Let’s hope I don’t find anything then.” He let out a short laugh, wincing as the motion aggravated the wound on his side.
Galahad wrinkled their nose, “Can we go a few more days without an explosion? There have been way too many explosions in this investigation.”
Hera shook her head, an amused smile working its way onto her lips, “I would say this is a new record.” She raised an eyebrow at Citlali, “How are you feeling?”
“Fairly good,” He said, easing carefully into more of a sitting position, “Considering I’ve been drugged, stabbed and missing for two days.” His gaze held her’s evenly, “What did I miss?”
“Well,” Running a hand through their green/red hair, Galahad started counting out on their fingers, “We had a suspect die in custody, we lost you, we talked to a lady about her dead husband and then Hera punched some guy in the face who was tapping the dead husband’s phone and then I went looking for you and now here we are.”
Citlali raised his eyebrows and took a drink of his coffee, “Wow. Thanks, Cactus.”
“Anything for my only friend.” They gave him a two fingered salute in response and curled their knees back up to their chest.
“And,” Hera added, her smile being quickly replaced with a scowl, “that man we found confessed to being the murderer this morning.”
“What?!” Galahad practically leapt to their feet, outrage lacing their voice, “That’s impossible!” A hundred reasons why lined up on their tongue, ‘he’s too tall,’ ‘he’s not blond,’ and on and on and on.
She held up a hand and they clenched their fists but quieted, “I’m aware, but our case isn’t closed yet. We have time. Also Siobhan is on her way.”
Citlali’s expression morphed into a terror like he had just been cornered by a rabid bear, “Oh god, please tell me my brother isn’t with her.” Hera shrugged, but Galahad flipped their left arm over and started typing away on the keyboard hidden there, their tongue sticking out of their mouth in concentration as they hunted for something.
“Well, is he as chiseled and cheekboney as you are?” They paused in their typing and gestured around their face for emphasis. At Citlali’s nod, they dropped their arm, “Yeah sorry he’s here.”
Citlali dropped his head back and sighed, “I think I’d rather get stabbed again than have this conversation.”
The android huffed and rolled their eyes in Hera’s direction at the man’s theatrics, “Oh come on, he can’t be that bad.” The sound of the door opening stopped him from answering their question. Galahad darted from their spot to the other side of Citlali’s bed so they could stand just a little behind Hera, using her as a human shield against social interactions. Siobhan entered first, stepping through the curtain and holding it open for Citlali’s brother to step through. He was as ‘chiseled and cheekboney’ as Galahad had mentioned, except he was shorter than his brother, had a lot more hair and there was a permanent knot of worry between his brows.
“Detective Jones,” Siobhan rested her steely gaze on Hera, who inclined her head, “And Detective LaRoche, good to see you’re awake.”
Citlali’s jaw tightened, although his smile was amiable, “Odd to hear you call me an actual title, Siobhan.” His eyes flicked to his brother and his smile faded, “Nate.” Citlali’s brother pursed his lips, expression filled with something Hera couldn’t quite place. It was either disdain or disappointment and either way she was starting to realize she really didn’t like it.
“Citlali.” Nate said, “I see you-”
“Wait,” Galahad interrupted, their trickster smirk falling into place as they took a half step out from behind Hera, “since we seem to be going around saying everyone’s name, I’m Galahad.”
Siobhan raised an eyebrow skeptically, “So this is your…intern. I didn’t realize they were a teenager.”
“Technically an adult actually, no matter how terrifying that idea is.” Galahad held up their hands in a comical shrug, “I’m nineteen. And you won’t find a better hacker- sorry ‘tech expert’- anywhere else.” Citlali rolled his eyes, a smile twitching at his lips that was somewhat fond. Hera found herself somewhat irked by Nate’s facial expression again, as he stared Galahad down with a look that told her he had already decided that their opinion meant nothing. Apparently today was going to be one of those days where every little thing got on her nerves.
“Anyway, Chief.” Citlali sat up a little higher, wincing, “Do you actually need something or are you just here so that your husband stops pestering you?”
Nate moved to say something but Siobhan held up a hand, “You got hurt on the job, it’s my duty to check up on you.”
“Well I’m fine.” Citlali’s voice held thinly veiled venom, “Wonderful actually. It’s been so long since I’ve had a real job and all, it’s nice to be doing something with my life.”
Galahad let out a small huff, “Note to self: Pain meds make Citlali turn into Saltlali.” Hera cuffed them upside the head, but the comment had the intended effect of dispelling some of the tension. The tightness in Citlali’s shoulders drained away, although his scowl remained in place.
He sighed, “Is there another reason why you’re here?”
Nate gritted his teeth, “You’re going to get yourself killed in this job.”
Citlali snorted, “I could just as easily die crossing the street. Have you seen the way people drive in this city?”
Glowering at him, Nate took a step forward, “Its danger-”
Citlali tented his fingers, “So you’re going to try and make me quit but you’re letting your pregnant wife stay on the force?”
The room fell silent. Nate’s gaze flicked between his brother and Siobhan, who was glaring murderously at Citlali, who stared back evenly. Galahad was torn between jumping out the window behind them and traveling back to Mannheim to kick their brother for programming ‘awkwardness’ into their system. Hera remained expressionless as always. She’d noticed a lot of changes in the Chief’s behavior and reached the same conclusion.
“Uhh, herzlichen glückwunsch?” Galahad tried not to cringe too hard at their own words. Probably wasn’t the best time to wish someone best wishes.
“Detective Jones.” Siobhan snapped through gritted teeth, “You have three days to get me evidence that the man we have in custody isn’t the actual killer as you claim.” She turned and left the room, Nate trailing after her.
Hera turned her disapproving gaze on Citlali, “You’re far too proud of yourself for that.”
Citlali smirked, “It’s the small things in life.”
October 11th, 2020
It had been a long time since Hera had a flatmate and even then the woman who had roomed with her had been a disorganized IT student. Now she was living with a hyperactive android and an officer with a caffeine addiction.
At least Citlali cleaned.
He was sitting cross legged in front of the coffee table when she entered the living room, wielding a pen across a map of the city while fragments of security camera footage played on Galahad’s laptop. Sigi was flailing around with a rope toy, mere inches away from hitting the table and disturbing all his papers. Despite the various bits of tech scattered across the rest of the room, the resident android was strangely absent.
“Morning.” Citlali glance up briefly to assure that it was actually her before returning to his work, “I made coffee -big surprise there. Didn’t realize you had a magic fridge.”
“It’s not magic.” Hera rolled her eyes, “It’s just… selective.”
Citlali looked up and raised an eyebrow, “It rearranges to include exactly what you need at a given time.”
“I live in the void of space and time, and you’re amazed by the fridge.”
“I have low standards.”
The door opened and both their heads turned to look. Galahad slipped inside, kicked off their shoes and threw their back against the door. Sigi bounded up to them, tail working like a rotor as she bumped her head against their knees. They rubbed her ears distractedly, running their other hand through their bright hair to tug their beanie free and hit it against their leg to rid it of morning dew.
“Am I interrupting something?” They asked, looking like they were two seconds away from rolling their eyes. They had on a dark hoodie that was definitely not theirs and a drawstring bag slung over one shoulder.
“Hardly.” Hera rested her hands on her hips, “Where have you been?” Citlali stood up slowly so as to not reopen his wound and came to stand by her.
“Vietta Cliff. Where the first victim was.” They swung the bag off their back with a long sigh, “And I found something that you’re really not going to like.” Rummaging around in the bag, they pulled out a hexagonal sort of device and tossed it to the woman.
Hera turned it over in her hands and ran her thumb across the smudged blue glass, her lips tugging down into a frown, “I never thought we’d get this desperate.”
“Wait, what is it?” Citlali peered over Hera’s shoulder to get a better look at the device, “And where did you find it?”
Galahad’s expression was grim, “It’s a Teleporter. It allows someone to jump back through time without the rewinding process that comes with the Timepiece but it’s dangerous. I found it while I was looking around Vietta; all of our tech is designed to ping me when I’m nearby so that we know if anything’s been left out that shouldn’t be in that time period. If it senses that it’s in the wrong time period and we’re not going to get it anytime soon, it blows up. Same rule applies to me; can’t let anyone get their hands on an android before they’ve been invented.”
They sighed and pinned their beanie back on their hair, “In this case, I got a ping that there was a teleporter that shouldn’t have been sitting out in the woods.”
Hera looked up from the device and met Galahad’s grim, apprehensive gaze, “Only an android or someone with a Timepiece can use this without dying.”
Their mouth twitched, “And you don’t have a Timepiece.”
Citlali tented his fingers in front of his mouth and inhaled through his nose, “So you’re telling us that we send you back in time to when the first victim is murdered so you can see who it is?”
Galahad shrugged and tucked their hands into the pockets of their sweatshirt, “Sounds about right.”
“Is that…safe?” He glanced between Hera and Galahad, their expressions telling him that it was very, very not safe. When was anything in their lives ever safe?
Hera took a half step towards them, “Gala-”
“We have no choice, Hera.” They took a deep breath and took the Teleporter back from Citlali, “This needs to recharge first. I marked the spot where I found it so tonight we have to go back.” Before anyone could say anything else, they had crossed the room and wormed their way out through the window and into the Continuum beyond.
Silence fell heavily around them until Citlali took a deep breath and broke it, “What now.”
Hera stared after Galahad, grey eyes almost white from the bright light washing over her, “We wait.”
“Ok, it should be just up here.” Galahad tapped quickly on their phone, leading the other two up the hill. Vietta Cliff had closed for the night, but Citlali had convinced the night guard to let them go up and look around. A few scattered lamps gave off enough light that none of them tripped but once they ventured off the beaten path they had to rely on Citlali’s phone’s flashlight and Galahad’s inherent glow.
Galahad knelt in a tiny clearing between a few trees and rummaged in their bag for the Teleporter, “Here we are.”
Citlali shined his flashlight around the trees, “This is where Laurels bag was found.”
Hera nodded, expression blank, “You’ll have to be fast, Galahad.”
They glowered up at her, “I know what I’m doing. I was built for this remember?” They plopped the Teleporter down on the ground and made sure it was secure before powering it up. Once they had plugged in the date Hera read off for them, the frosted glass in the center lit up in a brilliant blue.
“Are we sure this is a good idea?” Citlali’s voice was a touch strained.
Galahad tossed their backpack aside and stood, “Do you have a better idea?” Citlali remained silent at that, and Galahad sighed, “Figures. Well. I’ll be back. Hopefully.”
The Teleporter burst into light and Galahad leapt through the lingering tear it created, their sensors registering the flash cold of jumping between times before they landed in the same grass of Vietta weeks before. Dropping to one knee, they swiped one finger down the length of their forearm, activating their cloak. Once they were sure they were invisible, Galahad swiped three fingers down their arm, disabling their voice and dampening their electrical abilities. Better safe than sorry.
Muffled screaming made their head shoot up. They had experienced Laurel’s death through her memories, but seeing it with their own eyes was a different story. It was like passing a car crash on the highway, everything and everyone slowing down with a morbid curiosity to watch the destruction.
Laurel fell, and Galahad closed their eyes. Fear threatened to rise up but they buried it
You’re not here to save her, they reminded themself, she dies and you can’t stop it. Just like you can’t stop the killer from cutting her in half. It wasn’t a very comforting thought. Opening their eyes, they stood stockstill as the Killer, dressed in dark clothes with a hook pulled low over his face, hefted Laurel over one shoulder. He turned and started towards the top of the hill, and silently Galahad followed.
A voice broke the silence, “Hey! Stop!” It was a security guard, a young man and rather inexperienced by the looks of it.
The Killer stopped and turned slowly, raising his free hand. The security guard’s gun wavered. Something gold and circular glinted in the palm of the Killer’s hand, the space around it warped and twisted like a concave mirror.
If Galahad’s body had blood it would have run cold. The Timepiece.
The Timepiece went red, and Galahad dropped to a crouch, digging their hands into the ground as the white tendrils of light reached out from the Timepiece and latched onto the security guard. An invisible force pushed out as the tendrils dug into his skin, his screams fading to a strangled gurgle. The Continuum reached out through the time piece and devoured him, wiping a life from eternity. The force had blown the killers hood off, revealing his face.
Galahad stared with silent, seething fury at Alexander VanHerald. A deadly calm drowned out the roiling mess of emotions in their head. They curled their shaking legs under them and stood.
Somehow they made it back through the Teleporter without collapsing, but the second they were on the other side their knees locked up and they dropped. Hera grabbed their arms and eased them down, kneeling with them as their blank green eyes tried to focus on something.
“Galahad.” Hera shook them so they would look up at her, “Galahad, are you ok?”
They swallowed hard and turned their vocal processor back on, “I’m not sure which is worse.” Their voice sounded gravelly and weak, “The fact that the killer is the Mayor’s son, or the fact that he has the Timepiece.” Hera froze, grey eyes blown wide and for some unknown reason that made Galahad laugh. Short hysterical bursts of laughter that shook their shoulders.
Hera wrapped an arm around their shoulders and pulled them close as their laughter dissolved into muffled sobs. They covered their mouth with both hands and curled, burying their face in her arm.
Citali knelt slowly beside them, meeting Hera’s eyes over the top of Galahad’s head, “Now what?”
Taking a deep breath, Hera closed her eyes, “I have no idea.”