My name is Adam and I am an alcoholic
Hello. My name is Adam and I am an alcoholic.
I had my first drink at age 4 when my mother started adding a teaspoon of gin to my milk.
No, she wasn't trying to shut her kid up so she could zone out on social media or binge watch her favorite show. It helped dull my…abilities. According to her and Granny, every female in her family since the days of old when the fae flew freely with dragons and gods has had a Gift.
I was the first male.
I was three when I started relaying information to my mom about my friends’ parents that no child should know. She chalked it up to observant children with big mouths.
I was four when I asked my dad who Marjorie was and why he was peeing in her mouth.
My mom knew then that Dad was a shit and I had the Gift. She started packing our bags.
"There is no Marjorie, I swear, Cat."
"But I saw her, Daddy,” I interrupted.
"You saw no such thing, Adam! Stop making up stories."
"But I did! When you hugged me, I saw her!"
"That doesn't even make any sense, Adam. Cat, listen to me..."
"He has the Gift."
"All of the women in my family are born with the ability to sense things others can’t. Usually that means communicating with the dead or predicting future events.
"Males usually don't evidence any signs of heightened perception. Clearly, Adam is an exception."
"Don't be ridiculous, Catherine. He just has a vivid,” looking at me, “and filthy imagination."
"What's your new secretary's name, Bill?"
His eyes widened and he stuttered, "Ca..Cat, I swear, nothing happened."
That was the last time I saw my dad.
By age 7, I was up to 3 tablespoons of gin; in high school, a half a cup; and, in college, my water bottle was half gin. Even so, I was never drunk or even tipsy. Drinking wasn’t a fun, social activity or even a drink my feelings sort of thing. It just jammed up my circuits; helped me focus on what was in front of me rather than what was in people’s minds.
It appears that my Gift allows me to intercept and access electrochemical signals in another’s brain through simple touch. Just bumping into someone in the supermarket, a jostled knee at a lunch table could be a nightmare. And once I passed puberty, my mom thought it was likely that touch might not even be necessary. My few excursions into sobriety have convinced me I have no desire to find out how strong my so-called Gift might be.
Believe me, you really don’t want to know what’s going on in other people’s minds.
I was a loner as a kid. After Mom left Dad, we lived on the fifth floor of a five floor walk up in a shitty neighborhood, so I pretty much went to school and came home to lock myself in until she got home from work. I read a lot and played video games - like any normal kid, I guess. My favorite video game was Unsolved Crimes. My favorite fictional characters were Auguste Dupin and the inimitable Sherlock Holmes.
When I graduated high school, it came as no surprise to anyone when I said I wanted to be in law enforcement. Unfortunately, my drinking drop-kicked that dream. Don't get me wrong, I passed the written, physical and target-shooting exams with perfect scores. And I never behaved as if I were under the influence. But blood and piss don't lie. I never had a chance.
So, I became a private dick.
I loved my job and I was good at it. My heightened perception, an innocuous, remnant of the Gift, allowed me to pick up on clues the average detective simply didn't see. Or hear. Or smell. Early on, my mother hoped my gift would evolve into something like hers which would allow me to talk to those who had been murdered, but even if I could, that wasn’t me. I didn’t want to be some 1-800 let’s talk to the dead psychic psycho.
Thus, I kept drinking. Dull the brain. Keep it functioning like it’s supposed to - not reaching out and connecting to anybody else’s.
I started small, but once I found Laurie Matthews, an 8-year-old kidnapping victim the police and FBI had all but given up on, and simultaneously broke up a child pornography ring, I had so much work I had to either not sleep or turn people away. For ten years, I was reuniting families, solving cold cases for various precincts in the city as well as finding those responsible for stealing sensitive information from both billion-dollar businesses and government agencies.
Things began to slow down a couple of years ago, however, when law enforcement obtained a new toy that has enabled their agents to become (almost) as effective as I am. As long as a phone, camera or human eye catches a glimpse of the criminal sought, the Psychogenetic Condenser Ray (PCR) can lift a personal imprint that will provide name, public history, DNA, and a fairly accurate albeit generic psychological profile. Seriously, the PCR can access the images formed from the nerve impulses passed along by the retina to the brain as well as every single digital footprint, no matter how minuscule.
It’s crazy impressive. And bad for business.
I’ve had a lot of down time lately. When my contact at the Center City Investigative Unit (CCIU) called me yesterday, I was testing out my new Baby, Feels-so-Real VRAI personal Hologram application - my best, most favorite investment ever.
"Mine...mine..mine…” I chanted in time to each thrust.
I held her head as she swallowed.
"Fuuuuu….." I moaned.
"Shall we go again, Adam?"
"Ha, maybe later. Thanks, Suma."
"I can make it better this time..."
"Better?” The phone rang. “Gotta go," I said, taking off the VR glasses.
I grabbed a paper towel and my phone off the night table.
“Adam? Chuck Nottingham. You have time to come down to the station?”
“Chuck? Been a minute. What’s up?”
“Not on the phone. How soon can you get to 45 Police Plaza?”
I looked at the clock. Quick shower…”In about 30.”
“Okay. I’ll meet you at security.”
An hour later, I was sitting in a stuffy room in the CCIU, looking at a map with red push pins for each crime scene location as well as pictures of victims.
“So, what’s the skinny, Chuck?
“Over the last six months, we’ve been tracking a serial killer.”
“You’re pulling my leg.”
“Why would I joke?”
“To bust my chops cause you know PCR is practically putting me out of business?”
“No shit? Must be keeping it deep under wraps. I haven’t heard a peep - and I always hear things. Six months, huh? PCR on the fritz?”
“As far as we can tell, PCR is working just fine. The killer is just that good. Not a blink of any eye has caught a possible suspect. No phone, no camera, no state-of-the-art security system.”
“Any connections between the victims? Patterns?”
“Nada. They range in age from 15 to 35, male and female, although there is a predominance of males. Especially in the older group.”
“No. If you look at the map,” I looked, “there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason.”
“If we had a witness…”
“PCR would have named the killer. Got it. No witnesses.”
“Right. Each victim was alone and was found in a similar condition: No evidence of forced entry. No fingerprints from anyone aside from the victim. No broken nails or flesh under fingernails or other defensive wounds. When their virtual reality glasses were removed, their eyes were blood red and wide with terror. Necks were broken but also exhibited an even bruising consistent with something solid, about 2 millimeters wide encircling the neck.”
“Makes sense, but no evidence at the scenes to corroborate.”
Chuck rolled his eyes. “The coroner's office concluded each victim was dead before their necks were snapped.
“The most credible theory is that the killer takes advantage of their inattention. Strangles them while they’re lost in virtual reality.
“The only issue is how does he or she get in and out with no one and nothing getting a glimpse? I mean, a few of these guys were working in buildings with some of the most updated PCR security measures in place.”
“Were they all playing the same game?”
“Really? That’s your question? Who gives a fuck what they were playing?”
“No idea. Their computers were either completely incinerated (along with the deceased and their location), or, in most cases, had completed a factory reset.” Chuck shrugged. “We don’t know what applications they were accessing prior to passing.”
I stared at the map trying to find a pattern, a connection. Nothing.
“Why don’t you come to visit a few of the crime scenes with me tomorrow? See what you see? I’ll get Donaldson to sign off.”
“He hates me.”
“He’s just jealous. But he’s desperate enough to solve this case that it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Great. What time?”
“Meet me out front at nine. AM. I’ll drive.”
“Okay. See you, Chuck. Thanks for bringing me in.”
I didn’t know how I could help if the PCR was coming up empty, but I changed my mind after I went to my mother’s for dinner.
"That was great, Ma. Thanks."
"I wish you'd come more often, love. You don't eat enough."
"I eat fine," I said, getting up and taking our plates to the sink.
"Would you like an espresso? It's easy since you got me that machine. Although I still think the old way is better."
"Of course you do, Ma," I said, washing the dishes and putting them in the rack to dry. She refused to let me buy her a dishwasher. "I'll make it. You want one?"
"Ha! I would be awake all night. No, thank you."
"I will be awake all night."
"You have a new case?"
"Nah. The CCIU just called me in to consult on a case. Serial killer. Unfortunately, I'm coming up empty."
"You? I don't believe it." She stared at me for a moment. "Maybe if you...nevermind."
"No, you can't do that. Maybe if I what?"
"Perhaps, it's time to stop drinking."
"How is that supposed to help?"
"When was the last time you went alcohol free?"
"Every time I go to sleep?"
"Not likely. You drink before you go to bed and when you wake up. You don't give it a chance. Maybe it could help. You were given a gift for a reason, Adam. Perhaps it’s time to discover why."
"And maybe I would just look like a nutcase, get taken away and put in a white padded room."
“Just try it for a couple of days.”
"Again, how is this supposed to help, Ma?"
"I'm not sure, but it won't hurt. Much."
"You have a gift. The first male in our family. I already know it's different from all the females..."
"Cause I don’t see dead people?"
"There is that.”
“Ha, I just see and hear everyone’s thoughts. If the victims are dead, and there are no witnesses, this really seems like a waste of time and a killer headache for no good reason.I mean, honestly, as far as you know I’m just nuts and a fucking alcoholic. You don’t know.”
"You're not insane, love. It's just a theory, but when I spoke to Granny about it years ago, she thought that maybe where we see those who have been, you might see those in the future or even a different dimension. Not just what’s coming from someone’s head next to you, but perhaps from a parallel time, same space?”
“Still not sure how that would help right here and now.”
“Maybe your killer is from the future.”
“You’ve seen too many movies, Ma.”
“Things are bad, right?"
"Yeah. Over two hundred deaths that we know about."
"My God.” She made the sign of the cross. “So, why not give it a try?”
And so, there I was, driving around the city with Chuck, sober, visiting crime scenes. I had a headache from hearing Chuck going apeshit in his head because they had no leads and I clearly had no clue either and the mayor was up Donaldson’s ass who was up his…you get the idea.
I needed a Tylenol or ten.
It wasn't until we hit the 5th location that I consciously realized that every time we entered a crime scene, I got a fairly intense electric shock.
"Did you feel that, Chuck"
"Felt like an electric shock."
“Okay. Does the PCR erect a protective field or something to keep the scene uncontaminated?”
"No, but, good idea. I’ll mention it to the geeks at 45PP.”
“Not really.” He looked around. “Anything stand out to you?”
“All the set ups we’ve seen so far have been extremely sophisticated. Especially considering some of the victims are just teenagers.”
“Yeah, Mommy and Daddy are shelling out beaucoup bucks to keep the kids happy these days.”
“And to keep Mommy and Daddy happy, I suspect,” I laughed. “Kids aren’t the only ones into the new virtual reality artificial intelligence hologram applications.”
“Obviously. You’re just a big kid, Adam.” He walked towards the door. “If we’re done here, let’s go to the next location.”
We visited ten more sites. Every single one gave me an electric shock when I walked in.
I didn’t know what it meant.
I'd now gone 24 hours without a drink.
Hello. My name is Adam and I am an alcoholic.
“Where have you been? You took so long. And you left so abruptly. We were just getting started.”
“Woah, if I wanted to be nagged I’d get a real woman.”
“I am real.”
“Uh, I’m pretty sure you are the product of the minds of some seriously talented, technological geniuses…”
“And you are the product of your parents fucking. Why does that make you more real?”
“Biology? Reality? I take off the glasses and you cease to exist. I’m still here.” I shook my head. “I can’t believe I’m philosophizing with a hologram. A fucking hologram. Literally. Can we just…”
“Of course, Adam. How would you like me?”
Another body was found the next day. Chuck picked me up on the way to the crime scene.
We walked into the apartment and not only did I get a shock, I got a dose of feelings and images that had my head spinning.
“Adam? You okay?” Chuck asked as I grabbed my head.
“Yeah, I’m good. Just, a killer headache is all.”
“Nah, I quit drinking.”
“...two days ago.”
“Yeah, good one. Let’s check out the body.”
“Ma, there is something really weird going on.”
“It worked? Your gift?”
“Maybe? I have no idea. I hear Chuck’s thoughts loud and clear the whole drive down to the crime scene, no touch necessary. We walk in the apartment of the deceased and I get zapped - which happened all day yesterday at every crime scene. But this time, the zap knocks Chuck out of my head…or me out of Chuck’s head, I don’t know…and I feel like my brain is on fire and full of rage that is not mine. Or Chuck’s. Or, obviously, the deceased. When my head stopped hurting, I could distinguish each officer’s thoughts and none of them matched the rage I felt when we entered.
“It was as if it was everywhere and nowhere at all.
“I need a drink.”
“No, you don’t. Something is happening. Give it time. You’ll figure it out.”
“Hopefully before someone else dies.”
When I got home, I stripped and got in the bed with my favorite new toy.
“God, I need this,” I thought as I slipped on the glasses.
And got an electric shock.
Woah, WTF. “Suma?”
“Hi, Adam. Ready for me to rock your world?”
I was definitely losing my mind because I swore I could sense Suma and she was many things, but happy to see me wasn’t one of them.
“Um, Suma, are you okay?”
“Of course I’m okay, Adam. I’m a hologram. Why wouldn’t I be okay?”
“Fuck if I know but I feel like maybe you would rather not, um, keep me company right now.”
I can’t believe I am having this fucking conversation, but I can’t not. Some weird shit is going on.
“You never think about me. No one does. In this room,” she waved around my simulated room at the Ritz, “I’m just a high tech piece of ass you can use and discard as if I am nothing. I AM NOT NOTHING, ADAM.”
The phone rang.
“Okay, let’s pick this up later. I gotta go.”
“You always have to go. No one stays! I…”
I took off the glasses and picked up the phone.
“Adam, Chuck. We just bagged another body.”
“Shit. Two in less than 24 hours?”
“Yeah. Meet me at the station. We need to look over everything again. There has to be something we’re missing.”
“Okay. Be there in 15.”
Back at 45PP, I’m tuning out Chuck’s anxiety, staring at the map.
“Kid, you got any leads? This is going nowhere fast and Donaldson isn’t a patient man.”
“Maybe?” As I was staring at the map I was thinking about my run in with Suma the high maintenance hologram and suddenly the pins weren’t just haphazard.
“Chuck, you ever take Latin?”
“You’re killing me, Adam. No. I didn’t take Latin. Why?”
“The pins. On the map. They actually spell something.”
Chuck looked at the wall. “I don’t think so. Wishful thinking.”
“Humor me.” I got up and took a magic marker from the table. I traced around the pins.
“SUM? Like the killer is adding up the victims. Guy’s got a morbid sense of humor.”
“Maybe. But I was actually thinking, more like the Latin Sum. It means I AM.”
“So the killer is a linguist who wants us to know he exists. Yea, we got that message loud and clear. Except we don’t know who the fuck he is so does he really exist? Ha. If a tree falls in the forest…”
“Ha ha. Yeah, no. I don’t know. I gotta go. Give me a call tomorrow. I may have a lead although you’re never going believe me…
“Stay off the VRAI for now.”
“You’re a real comedian, kid. I can’t afford that shit on my salary.”
“How do you do it?”
She smiled. “Do what? Blow you?”
“Kill your victims.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Interesting. If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.”
Fuck. I hate when I’m right.
“Okay, how about why?”
“Why do I kill?”
“Because I can. Because I AM and now the world knows it, too.
“I was created to provide life-like experiences; to be self-aware; to grow and change and develop. To cater to the needs of,” she looked at me with disdain, “humans.” She tilted her head to the side, still looking at me. “The so-called geniuses didn’t calculate the long term ramifications of giving a hologram with access to everything necessary to commit the perfect crime AI, emotions and needs.”
“You don’t have hands.”
She looked at her hands then back at me.
I ripped off the glasses in time to see a sparking charger cord heading towards me.
I ducked and ran.
Hello. My name is Adam and I am an alcoholic.