Hacker’s Heart – potential opener

Detective Heart knew that the call was coming even before her earbud crackled.

To an observer watching, the woman might seem almost psychic, judging from the way that she reached down for her phone a half second before it rang, not flinching as the buzzing sound cut through the air.  But Detective Heart wasn’t psychic, although that skill would be useful to possess.

Instead, she was simply observant.  Her partner, previously slumped back in the passenger seat of their cruiser, perked up and leaned forward as his neural implant vibrated.  That little twitch of a reaction was enough to warn Detective Heart of what was coming.

In her mind, the detective felt a little irked at how the officers with the neural upgrades always got the call first, even if it was only a half-second’s lead.  It wasn’t like it was her fault that she was ineligible.

The irritation passed in a brief flash, however, as her phone rang.  Detective Heart hit the control on her phone, hearing the little bud in her ear crackle to life.  “Heart,” she spoke aloud.

“Hey, Leah.”  Detective Heart jerked upright, flashing into full wakefulness.  That wasn’t the voice of the dispatcher.

“Chief?” she said back, the slight lift in inflection turning the response into a question.

On the other end of the line, she heard a sigh.  “There’s another one,” the man spoke up a moment later, his voice sounding more tired than Heart could remember hearing.  “This one’s downtown, Fifth and Park.  Get here right away.”

Heart didn’t have to glance over at her partner to see if he had been listening; she knew that he’d been keyed in to the radio as well.  His neural implant automatically linked him in, even offering him the option of responding directly by thought without speaking aloud.  Smartly, however, he’d kept his mouth – and his thoughts – to himself.

The female detective didn’t waste any time talking to him.  Her finger slammed down on the police cruiser’s ignition button, and the engine sprang into gently rumbling electric life.  Her foot slammed down on the accelerator, and they took off.

As she navigated deftly past the other vehicles on the road, often slipping around them even before they had a chance to respond to the automatic signals being broadcast along with her wailing siren and pull over to the side of the thoroughfare, Heart ran through the clues from her most recent case in her head, mentally cursing.

Damn it, the man had struck again!  She didn’t know how he got around, how he chose his victims, or even why he kept on killing.  This case stubbornly refused to conform to anything Heart had previously witnessed, to snap into some sort of sense.

She did know how he killed, at least.  Small comfort that was.

The killer simply tore his victims bodily apart.

Up until now, the man seemed to mainly target those poor souls unfortunate enough to be on the streets late at night, mainly vagrants and the homeless.  But from the sound of the Chief’s voice, the case had just taken a new turn.  And it didn’t sound good.

Normally, the drive to Fifth and Park would have taken about fifteen minutes.  Heart made it there in seven.  But even as she skidded to a stop, the electromagnetic brakes nearly locking up under her heavy foot, her heart dropped down from her chest, landing somewhere in the pit of her stomach.

The intersection was painted in flashing hues of red and blue, projected from the lights of half a dozen other squad cars blocking off traffic.  Cops were already at work, rolling out caution projectors and herding bystanders away.

Something had changed.

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