Posted: Thu, January 17, 2013 | By: Fiction
by Mark Milton
Maryn didn’t bother looking up. At 156 stories the Pegasus Tower was just too high to make anything out. For a moment she considered whether he had intended any irony then brushed the errant thought aside.
Her aide, Tory, asked, “should we head on up and talk to the negotiator?”
Maryn lowered her screen for a moment and switched off the data feed. “I wouldn’t bother. The sim posits a 98.6% chance he’ll jump in the next 180 seco…”
A collective grasp from the crowd cut her short and she glanced up to see the small dot beginning to pick up speed as it fell. On reflex she touched the activation button to the side of her visor and the auto focus zoomed out to magnify and resolve the dot into the falling figure of a man. The sim software overlaid facial recognition algorithms, making a positive ID in milliseconds. Details flashed in a transparent overly to the left side of peripheral vision. Kristoff Belkin, 48, Line Production Manager for Bennett Software. She continued to record the vertical flight of Kristoff until it’s abrupt terminus. Unsurprisingly, there was nothing left worth examining without specialist forensic equipment so Maryn paused for a moment to review the video feed playback.
“It’s not the fall that kills you,” she murmured. “it’s the sudden stop at the end.”
“Pardon?” asked Tory.
“Just something my mother used to say.” Maryn shook herself out of her reverie. As she moved off to the building lobby, she gave the voice command that activated her phone and the slim microphone boom extended out of her visor arm. A moment with police dispatch saw her connected to the officer in charge at the jump site.
He was a tall thin sergeant who sigcomm identified as being on assignment to Pegasus Towers. “Inspector Bladen, what brings Special Homicide onsite? I called this in as a ‘suicide watch’”.
“Yes Sergeant, but he was flagged on our system. Seems our Mister Belkin was the holder of a Death Policy. Standard procedure for Special Homicide to be called in. I’ll need you to hold all active witnesses up on the top floor and have your men detain or otherwise take statements from any relevant witnesses on the ground. I’ll also want ID verification of all people in the area for the last half hour. We’re coming up to see you now.”
Sergeant Bannister seemed resigned. “I see. We’ll do as you require.”
And of course he did see. The last three decades had yielded three great achievements. The evolution of global communications and internet trade, the formation of the EuroZone government, and the triumph of medicine over death itself. 2012 had seen an obscure Australian lab succeed in reversing the aging process in lab mice. Spurred proof of concept, a group of three independent labs had discovered a similar process they believed would work on humans, and promptly sold out to a large multinational pharmaceutical company. By 2020 the company had set up human trials in Somalia, enabling them to do some creative circumventing of medical testing guidelines and 2025 had seen the first advertisement for commercial “GeneLine” therapies. Of course there were problems with cancer and other related issues but the results were undeniable. Companies clambered over each other to provide funding for the holy grail of human desire, immortality. The first customer, was a Billionaire from the United Emirates who, at 87 years of age had paid 3.6 Billion US to have his physical age rolled back to 45. The success practically forced government funding and support for the technology and 2027 had seen clinics begin to open globally. The process had gotten cheaper and the going base price these days was just under two million dollars. GeneLine treatments had become the new “Mortgage” of the century and most people could only hope to afford such a treatment through the purchase of a “Death Insurance” policy. It basically meant that people saved for GeneLine instead of home mortgages.
The problem here was, if someone cared enough to pay for life extending treatment, why would they commit suicide.
They were shown up to the top floor where the sergeant took Maryn aside. “I appreciate the protocols you have to follow Inspector but it seems a fairly clearcut case of suicide. When we arrived he was out on the railing. He’d used a gun to blow the lock on the window and climb out. He was ranting and the negotiator tried talking him down but he just backed further out onto the railing. Eventually he just pitched over and fell. His wife says he hasn’t been sleeping well for over a week and it looks like he just had a breakdown. Poor bastard.
Maryn called down for the forensics report and was given a ‘code green’. No drugs, no evidence of foul play, although, given the condition of the body they would have to get the remains back to the lab for a detailed scan to confirm no other causes of death. She replayed the video of the jump again and then approached the widow. “Mrs Belkin, I’m very sorry for your loss. I know this must be very difficult but I need to ask you a few simple questions at this point and then you can go.”
Malinda Belkin dried her red rimmed eyes, “of course.”
“Mrs Belkin, do you have a visor, synthphone, or similar device on your person?”
The widow straightened with a barely disguised look of shock. From the corner of her eye she could see the sergeant take a half step forward to protest but stop at a hand signal from her aide, Tory.
“Y,yes… I do. Wh,what does…”
“Could I see it please?”
She looked scared and started to back away a little. “N,no. No, you have no right. I want a lawyer!” Another half step backwards brought her up against Tory who had interposed himself discreetly. He looked up at Maryn who gave a small nod.
As he read out her rights, Maryn turned back to the Sergeant. “Amateurs.” She muttered.
To the confused officer she explained. “Kristoff Belkin was unconscious when he fell. Medical records indicate he’s strongly hypoglycemic. An extended period of stress followed by a prolonged period on the balcony probably triggered a sudden episode causing him to faint and fall. The wife knows his history and didn’t report it. Also, he didn’t have the gun on him. Unusual for someone suffering a psychotic episode. We’ll need to check her gloves for powder residue. I suspect she has used her visor to project psychotropic images to aggravate his condition, an examination of the visor will confirm this but the request for a lawyer is both an indication of guilt as well as the legal grounds to search her and check out the equipment. Records indicate she and her husband had a shared Death Insurance policy. Only enough to cover one of them.”
On the way back to the station she reviewed the crime and it’s motives again. Death Insurance…hmm.
Tory interrupted her thoughts with near prescience. “I tell you Inspector, the more things change, the more they stay the same.”