Hello everyone, I’m finally back. I did say I was going to have christmas updates, but I never bothered to write them so you didn’t get any. But never mind! You can have your christmas updates now!
Today’s update is over one thousand words long, which should make up for the recent drought.
Another Haul-centric chapter today.
There are, more or less, two kinds of children: those who ask why, and those who are asked why. The latter make up the majority of children (Jeffrey! Why are you doing that?) and usually grow up to become sensible, suit-wearing office types. They blend into society and function perfectly, you’d never even know they were there. The former, however, tend to stand out a little.
One of the problems of continually asking why is that you will, invariably get answers. Answers, in and of themselves, are poisonous things, if you have too many swimming around inside your mind they can present you with new ways of seeing the world, new avenues that the other children don’t notice. Answers can push you away from a conventional life, gently ushering you towards a slightly more eccentric life.
The people in the computer modelling department clearly fell into this group, Haul had decided. He had taken the peculiar weapon to them almost as soon as it had been discovered. The modellers had clustered around it as though it were some sort of Holy Grail, then snatched it off him and started their tests. Haul wasn’t exactly sure what they were doing, but they did seem to be enjoying it a little too much.
‘Er, guys?’ he said, ‘Could you possibly hurry this up? We’re trying to catch a serial killer here.’
One of the men looked up from his computer screen. He was in his early thirties, yet still had the look of an uncomfortable teen: spots, braces, thick rimmed glasses. He was wearing a black t-shirt with a “witty” slogan on it, grimy jeans and converse sneakers. Haul found it difficult to talk to people like this.
‘Mister Haul –’ said the man.
‘Sergeant Haul, this is going to take some time. We’ve never really seen anything like this before. The craftsmanship it’s, well, astonishing.’
‘That’s all well and good, but I need to know who made it so I can start tracking down it’s owner.’
‘You mean the company?’
Haul sighed. ‘Yes.’
The man scuttled over to his fellows and a brief conversation ensued. After a moment or two he broke away from the group and returned to his own computer.
‘It’s most definitely handmade, Sergeant.’
‘Handmade? You’re sure?’
‘Oh yes. We’re still quite early on in our examination of the device, but we can say for certain that this was custom built by someone of extreme skill and above average dexterity. It’s a work of art really.’
‘A work of art that has killed at least two people.’
‘Ah, yes, but look at this,’ he turned his monitor around to reveal a 3D cutaway of the weapon. ‘Look at how intricately designed it is! All the small pieces fitting together perfectly. To tell you the truth, we sometimes have to alter our models a little so that the computer understands how they work, but not with this one.’
‘You alter the designs?’ Haul asked, frowning.
‘Oh, nothing major. It’s just that, sometimes, things that work in the real world don’t seem to work in the computer. The rigid physics of the machine can be a little too… er, rigid? Real world physics seem to have a bit of give in them.’
‘You’ve lost me.’
‘Sorry. Simply put, all the working parts in this weapon, every single tiny component fits together so well that this could very well have been manufactured by a machine,’ the man was getting quite excited by this.
‘So how do you know it was handmade?’
‘Because I’m a professional. There’s something special about handmade things, a certain aura about them. You can feel it when you draw near. It’s why people are perfectly happy to pay above the odds for a shoddy handmade chair rather than a cheaper factory-made one of better quality. Also, you can see the tool marks.’
‘I thought you said it was good enough to be a machine’s work. How can there be tool marks?’
Haul’s head was starting to spin. Just being in the same room as these people gave him a headache, but trying to have a conversation with them made his mind all gooey. It was like pulling teeth, except less painful and more confounding.
‘Everything leaves tool marks, Sergeant,’ the man continued, ‘But what you should realise is that man and machine use them very differently. Our man did a grand job of covering them up and smoothing them out, but they are still there, and the technique tells us that it was indeed a man that built this fabulous device.’
Haul stared at the screen for a moment. The cutaway was very finely detailed, every little component was labelled and outlined. The model was in a loop that showed the firing mechanism, it was strangely hypnotic.
There used to be quite a few underground weaponsmiths in the city, but they had long since moved to pastures old. They had gone back to the old gangland cities, finding them to be much more lucrative than the more cosmopolitan, metrosexual life offered by the newer cities. Nowadays, the only people with the skill to create something as sophisticated as this (apparently) was could be found via Pyle.
Pyle was very good at pretending he was an honest businessman, but not too good. If he was too good then his dishonest business wouldn’t get any customers, and then he would have to rely on his front to support him, which would be uncomfortable. Everyone knew that Pyle headed up a loose association of assassins and hitmen, the confused.com of killers as some had called it, but the police mostly let it slide. Yes, they killed people, but there was rarely enough evidence to convict the murderer himself, and the contractor was more or less left high and dry at the end of it. Unless they were rich.
Haul would probably have to visit Pyle, again. His instincts were taking control now, pushing out the laziness of his usual persona, and replacing it with razor sharp detective skills. It was also making him hungry.
The man was still looking at him, his eyes bloodshot from a lifetime of staring at screens in the dark most likely, and Haul realised he’d been silent for almost a full minute.
‘Back to work,’ Haul said at last, ‘We need everything you can get from that device, if you please. I’ll need it to identify the suspect.’
The man spun the monitor back towards him then returned to clacking away on his keyboard briefly before looking up again. ‘I didn’t know you had any suspects.’
‘That’s because we don’t. Not yet anyway. I’m sure we’ll have an entire volume of them within the hour, though.”