Dime Store Detective – Part Two

The office was quiet. Faint moonlight shone through the window marking a square on the floor that angled onto a corner of the desk. The building was too high for the glow of streetlights. Thomas considered adding a faux light source, but was rarely in the office late enough to bother.

The text on the digital file looked blurred and Thomas rubbed his eyes. He squinted in the dark office and looked for the old Union Station clock he’d bought at auction. It was past three. The excitement at having a case, that caused him to jump around the office and bounce in his seat when he started to work, had faded.

He worked hard and made headway, watching footage from the dead scientist’s datacoil, reading his notes, and even studying up on the techniques used in the procedure. The screen timed out, making the moonlight seem brighter. Thomas scratched his head and yawned. His eyes closed and the information flowed through his mind.

“Thomas.” Rachel came from the front office. Light flooded in from the open door.

He jumped in his seat and snorted awake. “Hmm?”

She giggled. “I found some information on the girl. I have an old address, probably out of date, and I’ve got the name of her high school. Beyond that, there’s nothing.”

Thomas pushed his tablet away. He glanced at the clock, twenty minutes had passed. “Great. Thanks. I think we did enough for tonight.”

Rachel uploaded her notes to the network and smiled. “You did well today.”

He smiled back. “Sorry I kept you so late.”

“It’s fine.” She yawned. “I’m taking half a day tomorrow.”

Thomas stood up. “Of course. I’ll be out following these leads.”

“Does that mean I can sit in your chair and pretend to be you?” She walked back out to her desk and gathered her bag and coat.

“If that’s the sort of thing you like to do.” He put on his overcoat and hat on the way out of his office.

“You should know. I thought you were a detective.” She switched off the light as they walked into the hallway and locked the old wooden door.

Thomas looked at his name painted on the glass panel. “I am now.”

They walked to the elevator and rode it down to the transportation level. The doors opened on to the platform on the fiftieth floor. A set of tracks ran out of the building, north and south, with feeder tracks on each side. The level was double high with an arched tile ceiling and expansive concrete floors running up to the rails. Tables and benches were scattered around the space and vending machines lined a wall on both sides.

Rachel squeezed his arm and crossed the bridge to the other platform.

Thomas called to her. “Thanks again.” His voice bounced off the empty floors and walls.

Her feeder car came and she disappeared behind it. Thomas sat on a bench, and watched it rush away. A moment later, the train cruised through the station at top speed, sending gusts of wind bouncing around the platform. It pulled at Thomas’ hat, and he had to hold it to his head.

The platform was quiet and empty. Thomas yelled hello and listened to it echo and fade. Even though the place was well lit, he felt nervous, and looked over his shoulder to see empty tables and chairs. He shook his head, smiling at himself, feeling silly. The case was exciting, but apparently, he though, tired from working into the night, it was getting to him.

The feeder car he was waiting for broke him out of his thoughts. It stopped and the doors opened onto the platform. Thomas got on and found a seat. The doors closed and the car accelerated out of the station and onto the tracks fifty stories above the city. The train caught up and the feeder car matched its speed to line up next to it. The doors locked together with a hiss and click and opened, making three connections for passengers to cross. Normally, passengers would be moving between the two trains, but Thomas was the only one in the feeder, and no one on the train, it seemed, needed to get off at the next station.

Thomas walked through the opening and sat down in the nearly empty compartment. The doors closed and the feeder fell away. Stretching, he rubbed his eyes, trying to stay awake. A man was sitting across from him on the other side of the carriage. Thomas thought he was watching him over the ebook he was reading, but he shrugged it off. People often stared at him in his odd outfit.

The man was dressed fashionably in a multicoloured suit and augmented tie that flipped through moving images selected by the wearer. The train caught up with the feeder car for Thomas’ stop, and he walked over and stood at the door, waiting for the connection. The man got up and stood behind him. Thomas wanted to look back, but fought the urge. He shook his head again and in inhaled deeply, trying to dislodge the paranoid feeling.

The doors opened and they walked through. Thomas leaned against a pole, positioning himself so he could see the whole car. The stranger sat down and continued reading his book, but glanced over the top, scanning the car.

They detached from the train and it pulled away, slowing. It stopped in Thomas’ building, at a platform nearly identical to the one at his office. Thomas stepped onto the platform and walked to the elevator. The man joined him a moment later, absorbed in his device. The car rushed off to chase the train. The elevator doors opened and they went in. Thomas pressed his thumb to a scanner to select his private floor, 261. The man stepped up and pressed the button for floor 259.

Thomas clenched his teeth and pushed back against the wall of the small box. Even though he lived on a floor to himself, and there were hundreds of people who lived in the building, he didn’t recognize the man.

He licked his lips and eased away from the wall. “Sorry to disturb you.” He waited for the man to put down his ebook. “Hi, I’m Thomas, I don’t think we’ve met. I live on the two hundred sixty-first floor.” He held out his hand.

The man looked at his hand, but didn’t move. “I’m on two fifty-nine.” He went back to his book.

“I can see that. What’s your name? Thomas pulled back his hand.

“John.” The man continued to read, not making eye contact.

“What’d you do John?”

“Sales.”

“Really? Where?” Thomas fought back a yawn, covering his mouth with the side of his fist.

The elevator smoothly stopped and the doors opened. The stranger walked out without looking back.

“Nice to meet you.” Thomas cupped his hands, hoping to get the words through the closing doors.

The elevator made the short trip to his floor. It opened onto an entranceway with a large wooden door that opened to the single apartment. Thomas stood outside the door, letting the camera scan him. When it finished, the door slid open and Thomas was home.

He slipped out of his jacket, hanging it, and his hat, on a rack, kicked off his shoes, and went straight for the bathroom. The shower turned on to his specific setting and temperature as he crossed the threshold. Thomas stripped and walked into the large glass stall and under the hot water. It reddened his skin and sent billows of steam into the bathroom. Soap was automatically added to the stream, creating bubbles as it hit him. As he scrubbed, Thomas tried to convince himself that the man was just a tenant he hadn’t seen. He spent most of his time at the office anyway.

The water stopped and warm blowing air dried Thomas and the shower. He picked up his dropped clothes, dumping them in a chute that went to the building’s laundry service, brushed his teeth, and stumbled to the bedroom. The blinds were open, showing the bright skyline and the CN Tower below. His bedroom was small compared to the rest of the apartment. The bed took up most of the floor space and the two walls that met in the corner were floor to ceiling windows.

“Bedtime.” The command closed the blinds, dropped the room’s temperature slightly, turned off the lights, and set an alarm for seven in the morning. “Cancel alarm.” He flopped into bed and was asleep before he could put on his boxers.

The day came early and Thomas felt his late night like a weight pinning him to his bed. His movement reversed the automatic settings from the night before, opening the blinds and starting coffee in the kitchen. He leaned back in his bed, stretched, and was woken back up by his wristwatch that sensed his lack of movement as falling asleep and vibrated.

“Fine, Fine. I’m getting up.” The vibrating continued until Thomas was sitting with his feet over the edge of the mattress. He slipped into a pair of slippers, pushed himself up, yawned, cracking his jaw, and went to the bathroom. The smell of coffee drew him, still naked, to the kitchen next. He thought about making bacon and eggs for breakfast. The kitchen could do it for him, but he couldn’t find out how to override the maximum amount of butter allowed, so he cooked it himself.

He sipped his cup of coffee and checked the time. It was already ten and he didn’t want to start his day too late after the progress he’d made the night before. He poured the coffee into a travel mug, put on fresh clothes, specially wrinkled from the laundry, and left, deciding to get food on the go.

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One comment

  1. I really enjoyed part one. Its what brought me to read part too. While this one does slow down a bit there a lot of elements that had enough intrigue to keep me reading part two. Elements such as your vision of the not so distance future and all the little thing that will make our lives just a little easier. Self cooking kitchen, smart showers, and the use of the tablet in his antique office were all i nice touch. I also liked the idea of hundreds of people living in one building. Reminds me of judge dredd and the mega cities.

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