Authors: Grant Boshoff
Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Thriller, #Legal, #(v5)
A novella by
The Copy is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, organizations, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Grant Boshoff
All rights reserved.
Kindle Second Edition
For my son, Alex
"THE SMELL OF BLOOD was thick on the air. Unmistakable. When you been on the job as long as I have you recognize it like your own face in a mirror. Soon as Kelly opened the door I knew what to expect."
"You're referring to Detective Jameson Kelly, is that correct Sergeant?"
"Yeah, Jim Kelly."
"And Detective Kelly entered the room first?"
"You're sure about that?"
"Sure as the nose on my face."
"But you said earlier that you were the first to see the body."
"I'm sorry, Sergeant, but I don't follow."
"Kelly breached the door, I put my weapon and an eyeball around the doorjamb to cover him, then he went in."
"Understood. And can you please describe for the court what you saw when you first looked into the room."
"I seen a pool of blood in the middle. One of those fancy rugs, Persian I think but I wouldn't know for sure, soaking up the most of it. I seen a body lying on the rug, missing most everything from the neck up. Bits of brain and skull floating in the puddle. Strange to see something like that. You never get used to it."
"What else did you see, Sergeant?"
"There's a shotgun lying next to the body. One of those expensive hunting numbers like I'm sure Mr. Bartell has plenty. Worth a month's wage for a working stiff."
"And did you see Mr. Bartell?"
"Not right away, no."
"Okay. Please take us through what happened next."
"Well, I give Kelly the nod. He enters and I follow. We sweep the room. Looks clean at first. But it's a big room, and the lights are low, so we don't see Mr. Bartell right away. We hear the tapping first. Then we seen him. He's sitting against the far wall, facing the body. He's got his knees pulled up to his chest and the thousand yard stare on his face. Looking but not seeing nothing. He's holding his knees with his hands and his right index finger, it's just steady tapping away."
"And did you question him then?"
"No, he wasn't there, if you know what I mean. We tried to talk to him but he was checked out."
"Would you say Mr. Bartell was in sho-"
"Objection, Your Honor! Speculation."
"Sorry. Sergeant, have you seen this kind of behavior before in your line of work?"
"And would it be fair to say that Mr. Bartell's behavior was consistent with the shock and remorse commonly observed in perpetrat-"
"Objection, Your Honor, leading the witness!"
"Sustained. Strike that from the record. Tread carefully, counselor."
"Sorry Your Honor. Sergeant, from what you observed that night, could you possibly consider this death a sui-"
"Sustained. Last warning, counselor. Find a different tack."
"Apologies, Your Honor. Detective Sergeant Gunderson, you've been on the force thirty-six years, am I correct?"
"And, if my facts are accurate, you have in that time personally investigated over six hundred and fifty homicides, correct?"
"Give or take."
"Yes or no please Sergeant."
"And Sergeant, in those six hundred fifty some homicides, have you ever encountered a scenario similar to this - specifically a scene involving a dead body, a weapon, and another person on the scene at the same time."
"Plenty, yes. About one in six."
"One in six. Alright. Now, regarding those cases, let's say around one hundred of them, in which you found at the scene two persons, one dead, one alive, and the weapon in question, how many of them, once thoroughly investigated and resolved, were determined to have been a suicide."
"Yes, Sergeant, how many were determined suicides?"
"Not one, Sergeant?"
"Not a one."
"Thank you, Sergeant. No more questions, Your Honor."
GEOFFREY BARTELL SAT UP in bed and looked across the room at himself.
He shut his eyes and rubbed them with the heels of his hands. His mouth felt filled with cotton. His head throbbed as if he'd done a hard night's drinking - which he didn't recall having done. Slowly reopening his eyes he focused once again on the chair across the room, and again saw himself sitting there.
"So it worked?"
"Indeed it did."
"I feel disoriented. Groggy. Like I'm hung over."
"Did we celebrate last night? I can't seem to remember anything."
"No, we didn't."
"Then why-" he stopped and ran his hands down his chest. Felt the wires and cell-motivator patches there. Looked down to inspect his arms. Saw IV tubes and pulse monitors. "Am I-"
"Yes," said Geoffrey Bartell sitting in the chair across the room. His face lit into a broad smile. "You're the copy."
"But I don't feel like it. I feel like me."
"I would hope so," said Geoffrey, his eyes intense. "You should feel like you. Like me. Like us."
A silence filled the room as the two inspected each other, trying to digest the face so intimately familiar in the mirror yet now animated in the flesh. At length Geoffrey stood from the chair and crossed to the bedside. "We should call you Jeff. To avoid confusion."
"I prefer being addressed by my given name."
"I know you do. I do. But we will need rules; and structure."
"I'm not convinced that you're not the copy."
Geoffrey smiled down at him. A tender smile with a hard edge. "What's your last memory?"
Jeff sat back against the pillow. Closed his eyes and tilted his head toward the ceiling. "The cerebrum scan," he said finally. "Last night. I left the office, had a late dinner with Camilla, then came here. She was annoyed as she wanted me home with her. She'd had contractions in the afternoon and was convinced the baby would come early. The thought of the baby intensified my need to get this done. We argued, it escalated, I ended up storming out and coming here. The last thing I recall is strapping myself into the scanner and activating the program." Opening his eyes, he found Geoffrey looking through him with an unfocused gaze. "What?"
"I haven't thought about that in eight years," Geoffrey said, his voice coarse.
"Camilla. The baby. That night." He sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed, weariness plain in the slope of his shoulders. After a long moment he looked at Jeff. "She miscarried you know."
"Christ," Jeff began, then stopped. "Hold on, are you telling me it's been eight years?"
"That's exactly what I'm telling you."
"But I had the host almost ready. The DNA matrix had taken hold and cell regeneration was underway. It should have-"
"You don't have to tell me what should have happened," snapped Geoffrey, "I was there. But it didn't. The native genes reasserted. They amalgamated with my matrix and altered the cell structure. I had to scrap the host and start over. A number of times."
A dark weight settled over Jeff. He felt like a stranger in his own mind, both native and foreign simultaneously. I am me, he told himself, I think therefore I am. Yet a voice inside him said: Well, not entirely. With creased brow he looked at Geoffrey. "We never had a baby girl then?"
"No, we did; a year later. But by then things were different. Camilla resented me for that night. Bitterly. And I've been preoccupied with the clo-, with you. And with the company. The attacks we've endured these last ten years. It's too much for one man to handle."
"Which is why we needed a clone - needed me - in the first place."
"Yes. And we can put things right now. If we work together, we can put things right." Geoffrey twisted his torso so that he faced Jeff square on. He placed both hands on Jeff's shoulders and locked him into a cold stare. "But we need to understand that there are rules. And there's a pecking order."
"By we, you mean me."
"Yes you, but also me. We must operate for the good of the whole, and as such it's imperative we be honest with ourselves. This will only work if we remember - remember very carefully - who we each are."
Jeff nodded. He understood of course, because this is exactly how he had planned it, though he'd never imagined finding himself on this side of the fence. "I understand," he said softly.
"So," prompted Geoffrey, "who am I?"
"You're Geoffrey Bartell the Third."
"Good," Geoffrey nodded, that tender yet cold smile forming once again on his lips. "And you, Jeff, are the copy."
"MS. BARTELL - MAY I call you Camilla?"
"You may not."
District Attorney Alton McBride blanched. Had he misjudged her? By all accounts she and her husband were on the rocks. They were barely civil to each other in public and, from what he'd learned through sources, openly hostile at home. There were divorce papers pending in the circuit court - he'd seen those with his own eyes. And with her family's fortune she didn't need Geoffrey Bartell's money - what little he might have left after the criminal and civil courts were done with him. From all Alton McBride could ascertain, Camilla Bartell had absolutely no vested interest in protecting her soon to be ex-husband. So why the cold shoulder?
"As you wish. Ms. Bartell, how long have you and Mr. Bartell been married?"
"And in your experience, during those years, has Mr. Bartell been inclined toward violence?"
Camilla's jaw tightened. She raised her chin and looked over the heads of the jurors. Alton watched her pupils twitch back and forth as her eyes followed dust motes dancing in the amber morning glow that filtered through the stained glass gallery windows. "He is a passionate man," she said simply.
Alton smiled and spread his arms. "Thank you, Ms. Bartell, we are all familiar with your husband's passionate nature, as you phrase it. But what I'd like to know are specifics. Such as, did he ever physically abuse you?"
Camilla's head snapped toward him, her eyes dark and intense. "My husband would never lay a hand on me," she said in a cold, metered tone.
What is she playing at? Alton mused. Why protect him now?
"Are you absolutely certain of that?"
"Yes, he has never-"
"Mizz Bartell, remember that you are under oath."
"Objection, Your Honor, badgering the witness." James Scott May was on his feet flapping his arms in Alton's general direction. He certainly didn't look like one of the best defense attorneys money could buy, but Alton knew from bitter experience that he was a brilliant adversary.
"Sustained," intoned Judge Grayson Lemar, "Mr. McBride, I'll thank you to mind your manners with the young lady." He cast a weathered paternal smile at the witness.
"Yes, Your Honor. And my apologies, Ms. Bartell, but let me be more specific. During your marriage, your husband has had at least one episode of violence at home, has he not?"
Now it was Camilla Bartell's turn to blanch. "I'm not sure what you mean."
"What I mean is violence, Ms. Bartell. Volatile emotion leading to damage of persons or property. Has your husband had any episodes of such behavior during your tenure?"
"He has never laid a hand on me."
"Has he ever caused harm to your person, Ms. Bartell?" Alton's voice was rising, becoming more insistent.
"I told you he has never-"
"Yes or no, Ms. Bartell, has he or has he not ever caused harm to your person?"
"Objection Your Honor!" James Scott May was on his feet again.
"Overruled," barked the Judge. He leaned toward the witness stand and cast a compassionate yet stern look upon Camilla. "Ms. Bartell, please answer the District Attorney's question."
Camilla straightened in her chair, took a deep breath, and lifted her chin. "Yes, my husband hurt me once, some years ago."
"Thank you for your honesty, Ms Bartell." Alton McBride approached the witness stand and leaned upon the rail. His eyes roamed distractedly above the jurors box. "Now, when exactly was that?"
"Eight years ago, in the spring."
"And would you please tell the court what occurred?"
"My husband came home highly agitated. He was under a lot of stress in those days. We got into an argument during dinner. It was silly," Camilla's eyes lost focus as she spoke, a palpable weight of emotion descending on her from across the years. "He wanted to go back to the office, I wanted him to stay home. So stupid really."
"And what happened then, Ms Bartell?"
"We argued. It escalated, as these things tend to do. Geoffrey got so mad he stood up and overturned the dining room table. He didn't mean to hurt me."
"But he did hurt you, didn't he?"
"Yes. The table landed on my foot, and broke my ankle."
"You were pregnant at the time were you not, Ms Bartell?"
"Yes I was." A tear leaked from her eye.
"And was there any untoward effect on the baby?"
"So the baby was fine then?"
"No." Camilla's voice broke. "The baby miscarried. But it wasn't related."
"I see. So, your husband, he just snapped?"
"I suppose so."
"Had he ever done such a thing before?"
"So what do you think caused him to snap?"
Alton raised his hand toward the defense table. "I'll rephrase," he said as he began pacing the floor. "Ms Bartell, you said earlier that your husband was under a lot of stress, correct?"
"Could you please describe the nature of this stress, or stresses as the case may be?"
Camilla looked across the room towards her husband sitting at the defense table. Their eyes met for a moment. "The FDA had filed an injunction against GenLabs, forcing the shutdown of all experimental research. He was fighting them in court, while concurrently defending a lawsuit from the BioEthics Alliance. The primetime talk-shows couldn't get enough of dragging his name though the mud. The Christian Coalition had protestors picketing his office, and even our home. They were difficult times."
"Thank you, Ms Bartell. So, in your opinion, these pressures became too great and your husband snapped, like any man would?"
"I suppose, yes. He was a different man then."
"A different man indeed." Alton stood nodding as he digested this statement. "Now, Ms Bartell, your husband is under similar pressures currently is he not?"
"Yes, there have been attacks. Politically and legally. But not like before."
"But your husband has been under some intense stresses these last few months, yes or no?"
"And would you describe him now as you did previously? How did you say? A different man?"
"Yes I would."
Alton smiled covertly at the defense table. "How so exactly, Ms Bartell?"
"Well, Mr McBride, my husband has changed significantly. I don't know if it's because of the current pressures or in spite of them, but for the last few months my husband has been unusually patient, attentive, and caring." She looked up once again at the defense table, her eyes moist. "He's been, quite frankly, every bit of the man I fell in love with sixteen years ago."