Police tape blocked off the alley, but it did little to keep away the curious citizens of Andromeda. The fact that it was 4:26 a.m. made no difference in the big city. People fluttered around the alley like flies on a fresh trash heap. Most slowed their pace and tried to look past the officers barring the way. After a glimpse of the blood smeared wall, or maybe of the body bag, they continued on. Others had nothing to do and a mind full of morning curiosity. They tried to wedge themselves in between the other onlookers to get a better look at the scene. One of the police officers told them to stay behind the line, while the other nudged someone back using his baton.They paid Argyle no mind as he pulled up behind one of the police cruisers and stepped out onto the sidewalk. He stood beside his hover-car, rapping his knuckles along the smooth surface of the hood, enjoying the sound of metal on metal as he surveyed the area. Any one of them could be there culprit he thought as he scanned those gathered around the scene along with the people who continued to walk on by. His eyes picked up one criminal in the group, but she was a small-crimes type of woman. Someone into petty theft didn’t quite fit the m.o. for this one, so Argyle paid her no mind as he walked into the edge of the crowd and slowly made his way to its forefront, gently nudging people aside. He ignored their grunts of protest. As he got to the officer holding back the rougher folk in the crowd, Argyle pushed the rubberneckers back with little effort then held his hands up.
“I come in peace”, Argyle said, smiling with flow-metal lips. The officer was slightly taken aback. He reached for the stun-gun in his belt. “There’ll be no need for that. I’m with the Federal Bureau, sent to assist with the case. Word should have been sent ahead of me about my coming, but...it wouldn’t be the first time where things didn’t go so smoothly.” Argyle glanced at the other officer who already had his stun-gun out, but lowered. Humans were always either hesitant or too quick to react when startled. Argyle was glad the former case was taking place.
“I’m slowly reaching into the inside pocket of my coat,” Argyle said while performing the action as he spoke, “and pulling out my badge. Slowly. There, see?” He held up his ID while the cop closest to him looked it over. The other officer lowered his stun-gun a bit more, then let out a sigh of relief and holstered it when the first officer nodded and stepped aside.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” Argyle said as he nodded, touching the rim of his hat, then held up the police tape and went under it. He didn’t stop to look back at the crowd that was now dispersing, but heard the mumblings of, “thinking-machine,” and, “that’s a bad-omen,” that always followed him wherever he went. He stared at the blood-caked wall as he approached the small huddle around the body bag.
“Still no clues?” the woman crouched over the body bag asked her associates. She took a drag from her cigarette while peeling back the top of the bag with her free hand.
“Nothing,” a man replied, then coughed wildly and fanned away at the smoke that floated up to his face. “Geeze, could you put that out? Who smokes anymore anyway?” The woman rolled her eyes and unzipped the bag further, revealed more symbols etched into the deceased.
“I smoke, and it’s not going out until I’m done with it. Have we figured out what these symbols mean yet? Are we sure they are the same as the last three?”
“Some are the same, some, different,” the man took a step back and leaned away from the plumes of cigarette smoke. “It’s like they all have a pattern of hieroglyphs. It goes on for a few...lines, then repeats. They each have a different set though. Our typographer said they all seem to be written by the same person. Well the last ones, anyway. The symbols are laser precise though, so I wouldn’t doubt it if a rogue bot did this.”
“I thought we cleared out all the rogues,” a second man said while clawing at the scruff on his face. “Wasn’t there a nation wide manhunt fifteen years ago or so?”
“Yeah, but they’re tricky as fuck,” the woman said, shooting up a glare that made Argyle’s circuits shiver.
“Oh-uh yeah, of course, I’m sorry Mariella.”
“That’s Detective Evrin,” she said, jabbing out with her cigar, “you’ve lost your first name privileges, Cap’.”
“Eh, whatever,” the man stepped over the body bag to stand beside Mariella. Seeing the man’s face, as he ran his palms down his scruffy face in a way that made Argyle think of an old cartoon, Argyle was able to identify the man as Johnny Robinson, Captain of the Andromeda Police Department. “Just keep working on it. This shit’s already way out of hand. Subduing the press isn’t gonna be possible soon enough.”
“You don’t say. I mean, every murder is getting harder to examine and clean-up fast enough to cover our own asses.” Mariella held the cigarette between her teeth and bobbed her head towards the mess on the wall.
“It’s gonna get harder once that feddy gets here,” the man still facing away from Argyle said, coughing some more. Argyle smiled to himself and took the comment as his que. He reached into his coat and stepped forward.
“Greetings detectives, Captain,” Argyle said. The man with his back to Argyle jumped and let out a shout of surprise. Captain Robinson paled and took a step back while reaching for his sidearm, but almost stumbled over in the process. Detective Evrin whipped a Glock out of her coat in one swift motion and squeezed the trigger. The Glock boomed in the alley like thunder. Argyle pulled out his badge and brought it up to his face just in time to catch the bullet with the steel of the badge and his palm.
“Federal Bureau agent number 29351, Detective Argyle, at your service.”