Relative State

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(Word Count: 997)

"You were murdered, Rob."
Moments before, Detective Robert Foss had been hunched over the precinct's conference table, rereading his notes, engrossed, when he suddenly felt he wasn't alone.
His police instinct proved correct.
A grey suited man, thick glasses, hair combed back from a high forehead, stood on the far side of the room.
It can't be, Robert thought, easing back in his chair. I've lost my mind.
Before questioning his sanity further, he suddenly stopped, trading puzzled expression and furrowed brow for a genuine smile.
"My brother Jake was developing a personal projection," Robert said, loosening his tie. "Planned on streaming himself to parallel Earths. All very hush."
Jake spread his hands. "I finished my projection project, Robert. I'm in a room over here."
Now, Robert ran a palm over thinning hair. Murder. Alternate Earth, alternate Jake, alternate Robert, murdered...
"He worked the same case," Jake said, eyes falling on the gory photos also on the table.
"And was killed because of it," Robert said.
Rubbing his face with both hands, Robert felt days of stubble on his cheeks. When had he last been home?
"Your department thinks so, yes." Jake's voice reverberated slightly. "I want Rob's killer caught."
Standing, he eyed the case documentation on the table. With a sigh, he shuffled to the coffee carafe in the corner, poured cold sludge into squeaky styrofoam, took a gulp.
"And you think we can help each other?" Robert asked.
"Your Earth's the closest to our own," Jake said. "I do believe we might."
Eyes closed, dead teenage girls filled Robert's mind. Had the other Robert been haunted as well? Twelve naked bodies discovered on church steps, spikes driven through wrists. So much blood. One a month for a year now.
Robert shook from his reverie. "What do you have?"
Jacob said, "Your phone."
Snagging his phone from under papers, he watched Jake draw out a similar phone, tap his screen. Rob's phone almost instantly vibrated. He grinned. Blu-tooth. Phone syncing to phone on another Earth. Amazing.
Rob tapped the series of day, month, year folders that had appeared.
Quickly, he skimmed various newspaper articles regarding the murders on Jake's Earth; the Robert Foss murder was here, too. Bludgeoned to death by hammer, left in an alley.
Damn!
A quick thumb sweep revealed the words Sheep's Clothing circled several times. He swallowed, recognizing his hand writing.
"In Rob's notepad," Jake said. "His last entry. A clue maybe."
Robert's mind raced. "This Earth, it's the closest version to your own you said."
"For now."
"So, things being exactly the same on any Earth...?"
"Highly unlikely."
"Names, ages, even the churches where the bodies were discovered, they appear exactly the same on each Earth..."
Jacob shrugged. "I only know what the media tells us here."
Rob said, "Something must be different."
Suddenly, he spun to the table, flipped through his notes, scattering pages.
"The dates, Jake!" Robert couldn't contain himself. "I know my case. Each victim here was killed the day after your girls were..."
Jake offered a blank stare.
"Not two different killers," Robert explained. "One. And it starts on your Earth."
"No, no... we can't send real people over -"
"It's staring us in the face, Jake. Or rather," he said, "yours."
His eyebrows knit together.
"Sheep's clothing. A disguise. You stand here, wearing a Hugh Everett projection you created. Why Hugh?"
"Because... Because I admired Hugh. I mean it was his original theories regarding parallel Earths that paved -."
Robert interrupted. "And?"
"And, so you'd know instantly who I was, where I was from."
"So we could focus on my murder without delay. And, you certainly didn't want to appear wearing my dead brother's face."
Jake nodded.
"I would have seen a ghost. Bear with me. Hugh's your default projection, right? You travel to other Earth's, you want people to see Hugh's face, not your own -"
"You got the looks."
Ignoring this, he said, "But you have an original projection, Jake. Your true face. Someone gained access to that projection, someone you work with... After killing on your Earth, this killer comes here and relives killing the same girl again..." He took a breath. "A quantum killer."
Jake said, "You can't manipulate objects as a projection-"
"But a mind can be manipulated." Rob paced the room, hands clenched, frenzied. "Imagine someone with a mental illness seeing a Christ-like figure appear..."
"Christ-like-?"
Robert couldn't contain his smirk. Jake picked up on where this was heading. Wearing Hugh's image as his projection, Jake appeared coiffed, presentable to all who saw him, but Jake, the real Jake, wore long hair past his shoulders, had a weathered face and sported a beard. No argument, a perfect stand-in Jesus.
Rob continued, "Jesus tells a mentally troubled individual to murder in the name of God..."
Jake said, "I'll find out who used my program last."
"Over here, I'll start looking for your killer's puppet."
They were silent, eyes locked.
"Thank you, Robert."
"But how?" Robert said, without preamble.
"How?"
"Yes. How did I figure out your personal program was being used? Unless I was in the program and..."
"What?"
"Am I married?"
"Yes."
"Me too." An idea had formed in his mind. Made sense, too. "I expect I planned to murder my wife..."
Jake gasped. "What - ?"
"I suspect my wife is having an affair, Jake. Here, I'm avoiding home. On your Earth, I no doubt discovered she was. Jake died before completing his projection project here. There, my plan to murder my wife was the same as our serial killer, I suppose. I knew your project, obviously. I expect I tripped an alarm, letting our killer know a cop was snooping. I had to die."
"My brother wasn't capable -"
"Maybe. Just a theory." He offered a weak smile. "Go home, Jake."
When Jake vanished seconds later, Robert grabbed his jacket off a chair, shoved his phone in a pocket and headed towards his reality.

THE END

About the Author: 
Graduated from the Creative and Freelance Writing course at St. Lawrence College. I've been recognized for various short stories . Twice long listed in Kingston's Literary Awards and took 2nd place at the 'Scene of the Crime' short story contest. I've also been paid for various freelance articles submitted.

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