Homunculus: Chapter 26: Motive

“I really don’t have anything else to add,” Douglas explained to the police officer sitting across the table from him. “Once I realized what was going on, I called 911.”

“Yes, I know,” replied the officer, “I’ve listened to the recording. That was good thinking, though it would have helped if you had explained to the poor dispatcher first what was going on.”

“I know,” Douglas said, looking up at the light above the table. It was disappointingly the same sort of fluorescent ceiling light he’d find back at the office. He wasn’t asking for a free-hanging lamp or anything, but the lack of a bare incandescent bulb sort of ruined the mystique of the interrogation room. “But I didn’t want to risk the kidnapper finding out I was calling the police.”

“Well, that’s all I have for you for now,” the officer said, standing up from the table.

“So,” said Douglas, following suit, “I’ll be able to see Liz when…”

“Once she’s finished giving her statement. Until then, you can wait in the, um, waiting area.”

“Right. Thanks. Oh, and when you find the guy, I’m willing to overlook any police brutality that might come into play.”

The officer smiled and waved Douglas towards the door. “It doesn’t really work that way.”

“Right.”

Douglas left the room and sat down in one of the chairs in the waiting area. He had driven to the police station as soon as he had gotten off the phone with the 911 dispatcher. The police had already been on their way to Liz’s apartment at that point, and they arrived with her at the station about half an hour or so later. He hadn’t had a chance to say anything as they rushed her somewhere in the back, but from what little he had seen, Liz looked like she was OK. That at least was a relief.

As he waited, Douglas took stock of the situation. At this point, he had to assume the backup Simulacrum had already been compromised. He could also assume that if whoever presumably had broken into his condo wasn’t the same as Liz’s attacker, they were at least working together somehow. Unfortunately there probably wasn’t much of a chance now of the police recovering any fingerprints from his condo, but he had been assured they’d send someone by in the morning to try the safe anyway, just in case.

Douglas would also need to meet first thing in the morning with Jessica. Scratch that; for this he’d best go straight to the top. They had lost integrity of both systems, and the attackers would have network access to the backup until he could finally get someone over in that office to pick up their phone. He added that to the to-do list forming in his head: establish 24-hour contact procedures for the backup site.

Also on that list was instituting duress codes for all critical remotely accessible systems. Even he hadn’t been paranoid enough to suggest that earlier, but that evening’s events had clearly shown that threatening a password out of someone was no longer a possibility they could afford to ignore.

On the plus side, maybe now that evidence was piling up of the lengths to which someone would go to attack them, management would give him the budget and authority to actually mount a proper defense of their systems. Doing things correctly from the beginning might be expensive, but it was certainly going to be cheaper than cleaning up the mess.

“Douglas!”

Douglas looked up and saw Liz running towards him from across the lobby. He jumped out of his chair and caught her in his arms, holding her body close to him.

“Are you OK?” he asked.

He felt Liz nod her head. “I’m fine.”

“I was worried he was–”

“Douglas?”

“Yes?”

“Shh.”

They stayed in that position for what Douglas thought was not nearly long enough before Liz loosened her hold of him.

“So what now?” Douglas asked.

“The officer suggested I stay with someone else for a few days, in case the guy who attacked me tries coming back,” Liz replied.

“Well, ordinarily I’d offer my place, but that’s not a good idea right now.”

“Oh?”

“I’m not certain, but I think my place was broken into last weekend while we were out. It’s probably not going to be safe there either.”

“It was? Why didn’t you say something.”

“I didn’t really have any strong evidence it had. It was more of a… a hunch. To be honest, I thought I was being paranoid about it. Yes, I know. But I don’t know how else the guy would’ve thought to ask me for what he did.”

“What was it, anyway?”

“It’s not important.”

Liz looked at him doubtfully.

“Well, it is important, but it’s not important right now. What is important is that you’re safe, and you stay that way.” After a few seconds, he added, “I don’t suppose you know how to use a gun, do you?”

“No.”

“It’d probably be a good idea to learn. I imagine getting shot in the face is a pretty good deterrent for someone trying to attack you again.” Douglas added that to his own mental to-do list as well.

“Isn’t that going a little far?”

“Maybe, maybe not. We know the threat exists, at least. Now you’ve got to either make it less likely you’ll be attacked, or make it less likely they’ll succeed if they try. And as long as we’re together, you can’t assume the likelihood of being attacked are going to go down any.”

“Well, at least you’re not going to nobly suggest that for my own protection we can never see each other again,” Liz said.

“It wouldn’t work anyway. Come on, let’s get out of here. I’ll take you… well, maybe not home, I guess.”

As they descended the steps in front of the police station, a realization struck Douglas. It was obvious the three attacks were connected, or at least it was unimaginably unlikely they were merely coincidence. But if they weren’t coincidence, that meant….

“Liz?” he asked.

“Yes?”

“Who knew about us going camping last weekend?”

Liz looked at him. “What do you mean?”

“Let’s assume they broke into my condo Saturday night and stayed there until sometime the next morning.”

“How can you assume–”

“Just go with it. That means whoever was behind it knew I wasn’t going to be there. I only told a couple people, and they’re all at the office. Which means that they most likely found out that I was going to be away from you.”

“Wait, you don’t think I had something to do–”

“What? No!” Douglas exclaimed. “Listen, Liz, I…” He turned her body to face him. He looked into her eyes and held her hands in his. “Liz, I need to tell you something.”

Liz stared back into his eyes.

“Liz, I trust you.”

“And I l– wait, what?” she said.

“But that doesn’t mean someone you know can’t be trusted. So, who knows we were going camping last weekend?”

“Oh. Well, let’s see, I posted on my Facebook that I was going with someone, but I didn’t say who because I’ve never been able to find you on Facebook.”

“That’s not going to change. So who knows about me specifically?”

“Hmm. Not many. Just a couple friends I know.”

Douglas handed his phone to Liz. “Here, show me.”

“Why?” Liz asked, confused.

“Means, motive, and opportunity. We’ve narrowed down the list of who had opportunity: the people who knew you’d be going camping with me last weekend, and thus away from my condo. I want to know if any of them might have had motive to use you to get to me.”

“Can’t you look them up yourself?”

“I don’t do Facebook. Please, Liz, this is important. It might even be the key to figuring out who attacked you.”

“OK, maybe you’re right,” Liz said, taking the phone and tapping at its screen. “Here’s Tess. I’m pretty sure I talked with her about you after our first date.”

Douglas studied the profile on the screen, looking for anything suspicious. He wasn’t sure what would qualify as suspicious; he hoped it would sort of jump out at him when he saw it.

“Who else?” he asked.

“Well, then there’s Connie. Actually, she’s the one who gave me the idea for the camping trip in the first place.”

Douglas scrolled through it as well. It also looked fairly generic, until something caught his eye.

“She works for Insight Pharmacology?” he asked.

Liz looked at the profile. “I guess so. I think she’s mentioned it once before. Why? Is that important?”

“Insight is one of Medimetics’s chief competitors. They’d have plenty of reason to try to steal our technology to reverse engineer it, or use it themselves. At the very least, they’d be interested in stopping us from using the Simulacrum to get new treatments to market and squeezing them out of market share. Constance Wainwright. Do you know what she does at Insight?”

Liz shook her head. “We’ve never talked much about her work. But it can’t be her. We go back for years. She’s not the kind of person who’d do this.”

“Well, she’s our biggest lead so far. Probably not enough to go the police with yet. I mean, we don’t even know for sure there was a break-in at my place yet. Even then, she might not be directly involved, if at all, but it might at least give me a clue what I’m up against. Who else have you got?”

Liz went through another four Facebook profiles, but none of them struck Douglas as being a likely suspect.

“If it’s any of them, it has to be Constance,” Douglas concluded.

“It just seems so ridiculous,” Liz said. “Why go through all the trouble, anyway?”

“It would be the first time a bad guy tried to manipulate someone by threatening the person they loved.”

“I guess that makes– wait, did you just say you loved me?”

Now it was Douglas’s turn to ask a question while confused. “Well, yeah. Is something wrong?”

“No. No! Not at all! It’s just… why didn’t you say so earlier?”

Douglas shrugged. “I thought it was obvious.”


Chapter word count: 1,714 (+47)
Total word count: 45,722 / 50,000 (91.444%)

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