D Is For Damien: Chapter 12
DAMIEN ARRIVED AT the crime scene shortly after four. He was annoyed to see cops swarming all over the place, but it was only a halfhearted annoyance, as he had other matters to deal with. As he pushed his way to the house someone tried to hold him back, but he smacked the hand away and heard the voice of Officer Jones, somewhere behind him, say in a sarcastic tone, "Hey, let him through. He's got detective work to do here."
Damien ignored him. Inside he found a circle of people with cameras and notebooks, snapping pictures and jotting down notes. He worked his way to Officer Slatinsky, who looked up as he approached.
"Where's Brown?" he asked, as several reporters moved aside to make room for him.
"Gone," Slatinsky replied. "Got a call about an accident on the highway." She was scribbling furiously on her pad of paper. Obviously making out some kind of police report. "Gotta ask you some questions. You know the routine."
"Shoot." Officer Slatinsky gave him a dirty look. Damien instantly felt his face grow hot. "No pun intended. I meant go ahead."
"Around what time was it when you called Morris," the policewoman asked, or more like said in a dull, almost bored-sounding voice, as if the body on the floor meant nothing. She knew the routine too, and didn't like it one bit.
"About two. I couldn't sleep and I had this funny feeling to call him up and see if he was okay or not."
She gave him an odd look but said nothing about it. "And what did Mr. Morris say?"
"Said he was doin' okay, he just liked to stay up late is all." Damien stuck his hands in his shorts pockets, eyeing the crowd a bit nervously. He hated being surrounded by so many law people. It made him edgy.
"Hear anything peculiar? Shouts or glass breaking or something to that extent?"
"No, nothing like that. I just heard these thumps and him muttering to himself, then he put me on hold and seemed to be talking to someone. 'What are you doin' here? How'd you get in?' or something like that. Then there was this loud popping sound like a cork makes when it comes out of a bottle really fast, and the phone went dead."
"Hm," Officer Slatinsky murmured to herself, jotting that down. "The pop was the sound of the gun firing. Must have used a silencer. Sounds like he also knew the guy." She capped her pen and stuck it in her pocket, turning to the group of people and raising her hands. "Okay, clear out! You got your photos and your news stories. Go make your mamas proud and get outta here!"
There was a general grumble from the gathering but everyone, save several policemen, filed from the house. Damien finally had the chance to look at Morris. The detective--late detective--lay on the floor, sprawled out on the carpeting with a bullet hole in his head and a surprised look on his face. Poor fella hadn't even known what hit him. At least there wasn't very much blood--surprisingly little, in fact. That at least was good; he didn't think he could stand the sight of any more blood. The singer's gaze wandered around the room. He saw the telephone receiver, still off the hook, dangling by its cord from the table. He looked at the wall. The line had been cut. He shifted from foot to foot restlessly.
"Mind if I take a look around?" he finally asked.
Officer Slatinsky shook her head, not even glancing at him. "Don't touch anything. Don't want any tampering with evidence."
Damien nodded and stepped away from the scene. He had to see if there was a clue--any clue--that might lead to involvement with Scorpio. Deep down he knew it had to be them. Who else would want to silence a snide, annoying, crabby but otherwise harmless investigator? He went to the stairway and started up, peering carefully at everything he saw, squinting in the dimness to get a good look for anything that might help. Officer Slatinsky followed him to the bottom of the stairs, watching as he ascended, but she didn't follow. As he rounded the corner to another room he caught the look in her eye, and paused. Find out who did this, it seemed to be saying.
Sure, "no tampering with evidence." Of course. Whoever said he was going to "tamper"? But that didn't exclude looking around a little. Just to find out who did this. He was sure he wanted to find out just as much as the cops did. He turned back to the other room and went in.
He found himself in what must have been Morris's study. It wasn't very big, just a small office-sized room with a desk, bookshelf, file, and a couple of chairs. An overhead lamp was turned on, shining down on a small slip of paper in the middle of the desk. Morris must have been downstairs to get something when the phone rang, distracting him from his earlier work. Damien walked around the desk, looking down at the paper. There were only two words on it.
Damien frowned, puzzled. That was it? That was what Morris had been reading? He started searching around the desk, trying to find anything else. He tried the drawers. All of them were locked. He knew he shouldn't be touching anything, but he just had to find out what the strange message meant. Try as he might, though, he couldn't find anything.
That was when he noticed the computer.
His hands stopped moving. He stared at the darkened screen, itself looking very much like a large, knowing, shadowy eye, wondering. Maybe--? He sat down in the chair and examined the keyboard. It couldn't possibly be that hard to make this darn thing work. He pushed several keys. Nothing. Of course. Then, remembering something Ez had tried to explain to him about computers and stuff like that, he looked under the screen, found the power button, and pushed. The screen flashed but nothing came on. He pushed another button on the computer itself. Words now came to the screen, white against black, glowing brightly in the dim room.
Code? He looked at the sheet of paper and bit his lip. It couldn't hurt any. The worst the thing could do would be to shock him or something. He pecked in what he took to be one of the codes.
The screen went blank. Damien stared at it, hoping something, anything, might come up that would give him a clue as to what could possibly be going on here. A moment or two passed with no results. He was starting to feel stupid for even thinking that the whole outlandish thing might even work when a message appeared.
He sat back with a start. What in the world--! He craned his head forward so his face was inches away from the screen, and asked the computer, "How do you know who I am?"
No reply. He sat back again, putting his hand to his head. This is getting too weird! On a whim, he typed in,
This time the computer answered him.
TO FIGURE THIS OUT BY NOW.
Damien responded in turn.
IF YOU REALLY ARE DAMIEN.
YOU MUST ANSWER THREE QUESTIONS
TO PROCEED WITH THE PROGRAM.
Somehow he had the feeling that Morris would, on seeing his birth records, remember the ominous pattern of his birthdate--666.
He should have known. He answered,
FOUND INNOCENT, DUE TO FALSE TESTIMONY?
Damien snorted. That one again! How many people could possibly know? The whole thing was a big pretense anyway, and everybody who knew of it knew that as well. So why did it have to keep popping up? But he steeled himself and typed in,
The computer responded.
IF YOU ARE DAMIEN, WHOM I TAKE YOU TO BE,
CONTINUE THE PROGRAM BY AGAIN TYPING IN
Damien did so.
His license plate number! He typed that in also, finding himself to be getting just the slightest bit agitated by all of this code mumbo jumbo. To his surprise, a list of words flashed in front of his eyes at what seemed to him to be the speed of light, then the screen changed to blue and presented something different.
ACCESSOR NAME: DAMIEN
# OF QUESTIONS CORRECT: ALL
ENTRY VALIDATED: AFFIRMATIVE
BY NOW YOU HAVE LOADED THE LEAN BEAST PROGRAM AND HAVE FOUND MY LETTER. GOOD WORK ON FINDING THE CODE NAME.
"Get on with it already," Damien muttered. He found the mouse and scrolled through the screen.
YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHY I LEFT THIS MESSAGE FOR YOU. IF YOU ARE INDEED READING IT NOW, THAT REASON IS OBVIOUS, AS I AM NOW DEAD.
Damien was baffled. How could Morris have possibly known?
YOU MAY ALSO BE WONDERING HOW I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN. THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT I DID NOT KNOW--I ANTICIPATED. I KNEW THAT IN CASE I WAS EVER FOUND DEAD, YOU WOULD SEARCH MY HOUSE FOR ANY CLUES, SO I'VE TRIED TO LEAVE A TRAIL FOR YOU TO FOLLOW.
Damien nodded. "Go on," he said, half to himself to keep reading, and half to the computer for no real reason other than to make the room seem less empty.
THE CODE NAME OF THIS FILE IS LEAN BEAST. IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T FIGURED IT OUT YET, LEAN BEAST IS L B, AND L B IS LUTHER BRODERICK.
He almost slapped himself in the head. Of course! It made sense now!
TO TELL YOU TRUTHFULLY, DAMIEN, I REALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHATSOEVER HOW TO CATCH HIM OR EVEN TRICK HIM. JUST AS JONES SAID EARLIER, HE'S A HARD ONE TO GET.
"You got that right," Damien muttered.
SO DON'T EXPECT TO FIND ANYTHING OF ANY GREAT IMPORTANCE HERE. ALL THAT THIS IS FOR IS TO TELL YOU WHERE YOU SHOULD START. YOU YOURSELF PROBABLY KNOW, THOUGH I DON'T--DIDN'T--KNOW THE WHEREABOUTS OF SCORPIO'S HEADQUARTERS. WHEREVER IT IS, LUTHER IS ALSO BOUND TO BE. BUT BEWARE. MANY TIMES WE'VE THOUGHT WE WERE ON THE RIGHT TRACK, ONLY TO BUST INTO SOME BIG EMPTY BUILDING.
Damien snorted. "Right again. But I know where I'm going."
BUT AT LEAST YOU'LL HAVE THE ADVANTAGE. I'M TELLING YOU TO TAKE CARE. I'VE BEEN AFTER BRODERICK EVER SINCE WE FIRST HEARD OF HIM, AND WHAT I'VE SEEN HIM DO IS NOT PRETTY. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN SO I WON'T GO INTO DETAIL. JUST WATCH OUT BEHIND YOU ALL THE TIME. SCORPIO IS HARD TO FIND BUT THEY'LL ALWAYS BE THERE, AND IF YOU LOOK CAREFULLY I'LL BET OFFICER JONES'S PATROL CAR YOU'LL FIND WHAT YOU'RE SEARCHING FOR.
Damien had to smile at that. The thought of Jones without his car... "I will be careful, Morris," he promised, Morris's message to "look carefully" finally making sense. "And I'll get him for you."
There was one last paragraph on the screen. Damien read it:
AND DAMIEN, SCORPIO ALSO HAS THEIR ACHILLES' HEEL. I'VE SEEN IT FOR MYSELF AND NOW KNOW IT TO BE TRUE. I CANNOT WASTE ANY MORE OF YOUR TIME, AND I CAN'T TELL YOU WHAT IT IS OUTRIGHT FOR FEAR THEY'LL FIND IT, BUT JUST KNOW THIS: SCORPIO HATES 71% OF THIS WORLD.
Damien sat back, confused. What? Besides the word world, there were the final words PUSH ENTER. Unable to think of anything else he could do, Damien pushed the key, hoping for more information. To his surprise, however, sparks suddenly shot from the central processing unit and he jumped back from the computer, startled by this strange reaction.
He stood back and watched as the screen flashed brightly, and then went black. The LEAN BEAST program had ended once and for all.