You Can’t Protect Them All…


 Things moved quickly: At eleven o’clock van Doorn called Shah and Bailey. “You’re both back in the field.”

            “What about Stickel, sir?” Bailey said. She seemed to have hardened since the shooting, as if the event had burned away her uncertainty. Shah wasn’t sure that she hadn’t lost something else with it. Her innocence. He felt sad for a moment.

            But as soon as the lieutenant hung up, they both did a little jig around the desk.

            “Thanks,” Shah said. For saving me, from a bullet, or a disciplinary hearing, depending how things had panned out.

            “De nada,” Bailey said, suddenly shy again. Then she added, with a hint of defiance. “I couldn’t afford to lose a partner so early in my career.”

            Shah nodded, smiling inside.

            Twenty minutes later, he was dancing again. He put through a call to van Doorn and the others. “Sunny’s first murder victim – the Boston hooker – was called Sharon Wilmette.”

            “How’d you find that out?” van Doorn said.

            “When I checked the Boston death rip against that old Oregon clip I found some weeks ago, I realized it was the same girl. They felt the same. Trouble is, she was born just before The Burning Time. When the secessionist guerillas unleashed a virus into the Census Bureau database they trashed most of it, but not everything.”

            Van Doorn ran one rip after the other, again and again. “I’d say you’re back to full speed.” A smile eased the tension from his face “Damned if I’d have made a connection.”

            “See the way in both clips she hugged herself when she was nervous?” Shah couldn’t resist a little grandstanding. “And she liked the same flavored gum. Inconclusive, but enough to be worth following up.”

            “So what do we have on this… Sharon Wilmette?”

            Shah uploaded the details: born April 17th 2025, Sharon had been a few months short of her twenty-second birthday when she was murdered. “He dumped her body into a vat of acid,” Shah said. “Damaged it so badly there was no way of identifying any seminal fluid or other contact residue. The DNA was broken down into pieces almost too small to identify.”

            At the time only the teeth had matched any local records, to a ‘Sharon Portland’ registered to a Boston practice. No one seemed too broken up about her, Shah thought. I guess that should’ve given someone the idea she was from out of state. But there are so many of these people. We can’t find them all.

            Shah said, “That earlier rip, from the Oregon – California state border. She’d have been about sixteen at the time, ran away to the Silicon State, but probably got picked up by a slaver gang instead. For what it’s worth, Ma and Pa Wilmette posted a Missing Persons on her nine years ago, but they’re both dead. There’s no next of kin for Boston PD to notify.”

            “She ended up in Boston, how?”

            Shah said, “Dunno. How important is it?”

            Van Doorn considered. “Reasonably. If we can trace her back to Oregon, maybe we can nail the traffickers. Less important to us than other forces but it gives us a few points should we need to call in favors in the future.” He added, “We already earned ourselves a few with Boston by clearing up this case.”

            “I’ll keep on it.”

            “Until something critical crops up.”

            Shah’s eyepiece pinged. It was building management, even more irritated than the last time. “Another package for ya.”

            Shah spread his hands wide and explained.

            “I’ll send a uniform,” van Doorn said. “We haven’t got time to piss around.”

            Shah settled down to search the web for tags to girls of the right age at the right dates. Then screened the tens of thousands of hits by possible geography and ethnicity where it was listed, and settled down wade through the results. Even watching only the first few seconds with Bailey’s help meant brain-draining hours of tedium.

            Shah surfaced for a break an hour later with an aching head.

            In the meantime the uniformed officer had collected the package, opened it, screened the CD that was in it, and uploaded the message on it to Shah’s eyepiece. Shah’s voice said, “You can’t protect them all, you know.”

            Shah shivered.

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