‘Stand aside the humans are here,’ I announced as we walked into the apartment. It was on the sixth floor of a grubby building on Mentone Avenue and the elevator was out of order so I was out of breath. ‘Sorry Briggs, didn’t see you there,’ I added.

Briggs was a beat cop – a throwback to the days before we got the machines. One of them stood in scan mode, lasers fanning over every surface of the crime scene analysing and cataloguing. There was so much information these days it took hours to read a report that invariably obscured simple facts that human wetware could pick up by traditional methods. That’s why we relied on the Algos so much when cases got complex.

‘No problem boss,’ he said. I wasn’t his boss, but unlike some people he knew his place in the hierarchy of the LAPD.

‘Where’s the body?’ Lara asked.

‘Bedroom,’ Briggs said.

‘Who called it in?’ I asked.

‘Girlfriend. Hadn’t seen her for a few days. Didn’t respond to messages and she missed a couple of dates. She got the caretaker to open the door for her,’ Briggs said.

‘Girlfriend as in female friend, or girlfriend as in lover?’ I asked.

‘The latter,’ Briggs said.

‘Interesting,’ I said. Lara gave me a dismissive look.

‘You got her deets?’ she asked as she walked over to the bedroom door.

‘Scan complete,’ the machine said.

‘Uploaded to the case file,’ Briggs said. ‘She talked to Grant and then we let her go.’

Grant was our resident shrink. She was a good woman. Got me to go to NA. Saved my career. Probably saved my life. Okay so I still drank, but apart from that I was a new man. Booze I could control; it was the pills I used to use as a mixer that were my big bugbear.

‘Okay, you can go,’ I said to Briggs. ‘We’ll pay the girlfriend a visit, but first let’s have a gander.’

Lara stepped aside and let me go first. Neither of us ever rushed to see a body.

There was another machine in the bedroom standing over the dead girl like some kind of sci-fi bogeyman.

‘Out,’ I said to it.

The thing complied, carefully stepping around Lara and out of the door.

It wasn’t the nastiest cadaver I’d seen but in some ways the fact that there was not a scratch on her made it worse. It was easy to look at a mutilated body like a collection of body parts rather than a person.

This one was different from the last – no cuts, bruises or blood. She was wearing pyjamas and lay on her side on a futon. Monday’s girl had been found in her bath tub.

I found balls of cotton wool smudged with dark makeup in the bin beside the dressing table. This one had followed her normal bedtime routine before topping herself.

An empty tranq inhaler was still in her hand. There was supposed to be some legislation going through to limit the size of the ampules, but it wouldn’t stop people buying them in multiples if they really wanted to kill themselves.

‘Looks simple enough,’ I said, even though the cotton wool balls were shouting at me that it was anything but simple. ‘Need to check her background, see if she had any problems recently. Need to talk to this girlfriend of hers.’

Lara held up a finger and closed one eye. I felt the back of my hand vibrate. While she read her in-i I read the same alert off the back of my hand. I didn’t want anyone digging around in my eyeballs and stuck with an old-school Nukenfeld hand display.

‘Shit,’ she said.

‘Shit indeed,’ I said.

‘You still think this is unconnected?’ she asked.

A third body had been found, another apparent suicide.

‘The first victim was a copy but not a Clarkson clone,’ Lara said. ‘This one is a normal decant. The one just called in is a natural.’

‘So?’ I said. I checked the body, but there was nothing to see. The girl had the usual console in her room and a few decorative holo projections scrolling on her ceiling. The unit was cycling through visualisations that had some cultural significance to the victim but were lost on me.

‘I thought we might have some kind of copycat killer trying to fake suicides, a Boluda sympathiser perhaps,’ Lara said. She was referring to some nasty business aimed at Clarkson clones a while back.

‘We’re busy, get Thompson and Van Dorn on it, but I want full details on my desk asap,’ I said when my hand vibrated again.

‘They all have dark hair,’ Lara said.

‘This one is dyed,’ I said and pointed out her blonde roots.

‘Why would someone do that?’ she asked. ‘I’d kill to be natural blonde.’

‘Fashion?’ I said with a shrug.

(C) 2015 Matthew Haynes extract from The Sun & The Rainfall.

Photo by manu schwendener on Unsplash