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Clockwork Dolls - FF

BOOK: Clockwork Dolls - FF
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First Edition
DarkFuse

P.O. Box 338

North Webster, IN 46555

www.darkfuse.com
Clockwork Dolls
© 2013 by William Meikle

All Rights Reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

For friends and family,

the only answer I need.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the whole team at DarkFuse who pulled this project together.

June 11th

Dave Burns sat with his head in his hands.

At least they’ve taken the cuffs off.

The police interview room was colder than the night outside; the chair he’d been dropped onto was barely functional, and the glass of water on the table in front of him looked like the last occupant had spat in it. The only light came from a stark neon bulb overhead that swung at the end of a fraying cord, just enough to be irritating.

But all in all, this is better than the alternative.

“Happy days
,
” he whispered.

He sat on one side of a table that had a distinct lopsided slope to the left. Opposite him on the far side of the table sat a large, bored-looking cop. The cop noticed that Dave had looked up.

“Whenever you’re ready, son,” the big man said. “I’m listening.”

“She meant the world to me,” Dave said.

“Spare me the self-pitying crap. This is a murder inquiry, not a RELATE session,” the cop replied.

“I loved her.”

The cop laughed and leaned forward in his chair.

“You have no idea how many people have sat in that chair and said that,” he said.

“But I meant it.”

“They say that too. Being in love is no barrier to a murderous rage. But you know that already…don’t you, Mr. Burns?”

“I’ll be the first to admit that I know a bit more about rage than I’d like to. But I didn’t kill anybody,” Dave said. He heard the tremble in his voice. He didn’t know whether the cop believed him.

Hell, I don’t even know if I believe it myself.

“You’ll have to prove that to me,” the cop said.

“That’s what I’m trying to do.”

A car engine revved in the distance, and Dave jumped, almost falling out of his chair. The noise cut off as suddenly as it had come.

Dave eyed the corners warily.

Did that shadow just move?

“We might not have time,” he said.

The cop interrupted him and sighed theatrically.

“I know, you told me already. Something big and bad is on its way.” He waved his hands in the air and laughed. “Help me, the boogie man is coming. I’m so scared, I’ve
shit
myself.”

Dave almost smiled, but humor was a long way off.

And might not be coming back.

“It doesn’t really matter whether you believe me or not,” Dave said. “The Cosmos doesn’t care.”

“What’s all this
Cosmos
crap?”

Dave ignored the question and asked one of his own.

“Are you a religious man, officer?”

The cop smiled.

“Just a poor pilgrim trying to find his way.”

“I don’t understand that in a cop. Not with the things you must have seen. How can you believe in God when there are so many things wrong in the world and it is obvious that he doesn’t care?”

The cop smiled again.

“The Bible says that God is love. And part of His loving nature is that He allows people to have free will. As a result, we have evil, pain and suffering, due to the choices we and others make.”

“So I was right. He doesn’t care?”

“Of course he cares. He sent his only son to die for us. That’s how much he cares. He could intervene and control everything about our lives but then we would be just robots and not truly free.”

“That’s the bit I never got,” Dave said. “He gives us free will. Then, when we use it, he punishes us for not doing what
he
wanted in the first place. That’s not free will. That’s tyranny.”

The cop took him seriously enough to answer.

“God does not violate our wills by choosing us and redeeming us. Rather, He changes our hearts so that our wills choose Him,” he said.

“So, if, to be saved by Christ, I must give up my free will, then do we truly have freedom? Is it really our choice to be saved if, in the end, we do not have the ability to choose salvation for ourselves?”

“I’ll tell you what my priest told me,” the cop replied. “When you accept Christ as offered in the gospel, you receive salvation by your own decision. As such, salvation is your work.
You
must initiate the act. But it is also God’s work, for it is God who offers salvation to you. Without Christ, there is no salvation.”

“So all I have to do is ask, and it shall be given?”

“If your heart is pure. Yes.”

Dave laughed. It was almost a sob.

“Ah, there’s the problem, right there.”

“Look,” the cop said. “Why don’t we skip the philosophy and get on to the business end of things?”

“I’m getting there. Just let me tell it my way. It’ll be faster.”

Dave looked at the shadows in the corner once more before concentrating on the cop’s face.

“Ask and it shall be given? That’s what you said, right? Well, I’ve got a story for you.

“It started last month. Jane and Jim Barr invited me over to dinner. I almost turned them down, but any chance to see her was better than none at all.

“And I had to get drunk before I could even bring myself to look at them.”

May 13th

Dave was getting roaring drunk. He wasn’t enjoying it, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that two of the other three people in the room were his best friends, and they were better than Dave; better at their jobs, better in their sex-lives, better at
life
.

But I’m the better drunk.

The others around the table had made an effort and were smartly dressed for dinner, but Dave had deliberately chosen a tired and faded shirt. He had the sleeves rolled up to show his skinny white forearms, and he wore a very old pair of denim trousers that he’d owned since back in the day.

When I was the better man.

The remains of a large meal and a heavy drinking session were strewn across the table, with most of the empty bottles within arms reach of Dave. He took another hefty swig of wine, then remembered he was in the middle of a joke.

“So they find the clitoris is missing…it’s been cut away.” He swilled more wine. “And the nurse says…” He paused, looking around the table. Nobody seemed to care. Jim and Jane were bent close, Jim whispering into Jane’s ear.

In that case, I’ll just have to speak louder.

“Go on guess what the nurse says…. Go on.”

By now he was nearly shouting. But nobody answered him—nobody even looked interested in answering. He was too far gone to stop.

“She says…it can’t have been a man then…he’d never have found it!” He laughed, too long, too loud, spraying a fine mist of wine down his shirt and slopping some out of his glass onto his jeans. “He’d never have found it!”

The other three looked weary and bored…not a single smile from any of them. There was a long, embarrassed pause that Dave pretended not to notice. After another large swig of wine, he ploughed on. He’d come with the intention of saying what was on his mind, and the drink had now loosened his moral center enough to let it through the usual filters.

He turned so that he was looking straight at Jane. And if he held his glass up just right, he was almost able to blot Jim, her husband, out of his view all together.

“Do you remember Jane, that night in Miami, when the moonlight played on the sea and we slept on the beach? We didn’t have a stitch on and…”

He was
almost
pleased to see Jane look embarrassed. Beside her, and directly across the table from Dave, Jim Barr, Jane’s husband went red in the face, but it wasn’t embarrassment. This was impending rage.

“Why do you always have to be such an asshole, Dave?”

Jim looked to Dave’s right, addressing the woman that sat there. Dave had been studiously ignoring her since he sat down to dinner, and couldn’t even remember her name.

“He’s always been like this, Maggie…even when we were students.”

Dave finally turned to look at the woman the others had deemed would be his
date
for the night. She was actually very pretty in a kind of hippy-goth type way, but he wasn’t in any mood to be placated. Besides, she seemed more amused than anything.

I’ll soon put a stop to that.

“And what are you smirking about?” He struggled to focus. “Come to think of it…who the fuck
are
you?”

As Dave knew she would, Jane Barr tried to calm the situation.

That’s my girl.

“I invited her along. We met at my yoga class.”

Dave leered at the new woman.

“Do you do contortions?”

The woman laughed.

“Well, I could tie
you
in knots.”

She had a soft southern accent that Dave might even have found pleasant in other circumstances. He was about to reply but the drink had slowed him down by now, and the woman, Maggie, was already speaking across the table to Jane.

“When you said you’d introduce me to your friends, I thought you meant your sober ones.”

Dave laughed, too long and too loudly.

“Nobody sober here except us chickens. We’ve all been drinkers, back since the first year at university, since Jane and I got together. Happy days.”

Jim Barr butted in.

“There’s your problem right there, Dave. All you do is talk about
the good old days
, and drink too much.”

“They were the best days of my life,” Dave replied.

“We were young, we were students, we drank a lot. Big fucking deal. What else is there to know? Move on. The rest of us have grown up,” Jim said, his face getting red again. “It’s well past time that you did, too.”

Jane tugged at her husband’s elbow, trying to stop him, but the argument had started to get heated, and the booze did Dave’s talking for him.

“Grown up? Is that what you call it?”

Jim was in no mood to back down.

“You’d rather wallow in your own sad, little dream world? Look at the state of you. Get a life, Dave.”

”I had a life…once.” He looked at Jane, then back at Jim. “You took it away from me.”

Jim sighed loudly.

“Not that old tune again, Dave. Give it a fucking rest. It’s been nearly ten years…and it was your own fault. It’s high time you faced it. You lost it. You had it all. Now look at you. Just another drunk with a grudge.”

Dave stood, too fast, knocking over glasses.

“I might be drunk, but you’re an uptight fucker with a pole up his ass. In the morning, I’ll be sober. But that pole will still be there. You stole my life. And I want it back. I want what I deserve.”

Glasses flew, tumbled and broke as he banged his fist on the table.

There was a sudden deathly silence.

All anger gone now, Jim spoke softly.

“Dave…”

“What is it now?” Dave said, still belligerent.

Jim pointed down to the table. Dave looked down to see a long cut on the outside of his hand where he had banged it down on broken glass. The drink had dulled his senses, but his sight was still good enough to spot the long sliver of glass still embedded in the wound.

Jane shouted.

“Don’t…”

Without thinking, Dave pulled the sliver out.

“…take it out,” Jane finished.

The wound gaped open. Blood spurted and mixed with spilled wine, creating a dark shadow that lay on the highly polished wood of the table.

Dave sat down, hard.

“Well, that was fun,” he said. He had gone white, his eyelids fluttering.

Jim got up quickly and came around the table.

“Nice shooting, Tex. How bad is it?”

Dave held the hand away from his body. More thick drops of blood oozed onto the table. Jane also stood to come around the table. Dave waved her away, nearly knocking over another wineglass in the process and sending a spray of blood dots over one of the few white parts of the tablecloth.

“I’m OK. Don’t fuss,” he said.

Jane ignored him and turned to her husband. Just the sight of the look that passed between Jim and Jane made Dave’s heart
lurch
, and suddenly all he wanted was more booze.

Lots more booze.


The bandages are in the bathroom cabinet,” Jane said to Jim. “I’ll get them. Can you clean up here?”

Jim, suddenly sober, nodded and turned back to look at Dave.

“Try not to bleed on the carpet, Dave. If you remember, I’ve still got the mop pole up my ass.”

Dave smiled wanly, and felt a well-recognised hint of shame for his inner turmoil.

Lots more booze.

Jim picked up the largest bits of glass from the table and left for the kitchen.

Dave held his arm up, studying the cut. Blood flowed down his arm, pooling in the rolled up sleeves of his shirt around the elbow. At the same time, Maggie leaned forward, taking a crystal pendant from around her neck.

“Here. Let me.”

She started to run the crystal along the length of the cut. Dave took a while to focus, then pushed her away roughly.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m using the healing energy of the crystal to rebalance your blood flow and…”

“Well you can stop that right now. I don’t believe in any of that new age crap.”

Maggie smiled.

“That doesn’t matter. It’s working anyway. Look. You’ve stopped bleeding.”

Dave looked at his hand. The bleeding had indeed stopped. But he wasn’t about to become a convert—not to this doe-eyed hippie.

“And the fact I’m holding my hand above my heart has nothing to do with it? Hello? Has no one else studied Biology 101 here?” He pushed her further away. “Healing crystals? It’s a bloody rock. It has less healing energy than an aspirin. Do you want to stick some needles in me as well? Or maybe we can do some aromatherapy?”

“A better smell around here might be nice.”

She was still smiling, and that just made Dave push harder.

“I’ll tell you what. I’ll fart, and you can tell me how I’m feeling.”

The smile got wider.

“Bitter. Very bitter.”

“Ho, ho. Very funny. Why don’t you go and play in the garden? I’m sure there are plenty of trees needing a hug out there.”

The smile finally slipped.

Got her!

“Jim was right,” she said. “You need to ask the Cosmos for a life.”

Jane came back in, carrying a small first aid box.

“I’ve been hearing about that recently…ask the Cosmos…what’s that all about?” she asked Maggie. Dave butted in before the woman could reply.

“Superstitious bullshit. That’s what it is.”

Jane held up a bandage.

“Are you going to play nice, or do we have to tie you up?”

I never could refuse her.

“Give me another drink and I’ll be as good as a very good thing at obedience classes.”

Jane started to bandage Dave’s hand, grimacing at the mess.

“Come on, Maggie. Tell us about this
Cosmos
stuff. It’ll take my mind off this,” she said.

“If we’re going to be listening to a load of old nonsense, I need a drink first.” Dave shouted.

Jim returned, on cue, carrying a full bottle of whisky.

“Just one more. A nightcap,” he said, and Dave smiled.

“You had the pole removed.”

Jim smiled back.

“No. I’ll need surgery for that. Thanks for reminding me.”

“Hey. That’s what friends are for.”

Jim poured the drinks while Jane kept working on bandaging Dave up.

“Maggie?” she said. “You were going to tell us about the Cosmos thing?”

Maggie took a glass of whisky from Jim when offered, and took a long sip before replying.

“It’s the latest thing in California.”

Dave grunted, but a look from Jane quieted him fast as Maggie continued.

“It works on the principle that everything in the universe is connected.”

Dave couldn’t help himself.

“It’s called Quantum Theory, darling.”

Jane gave him a slap on the shoulder.

“We’ve listened to your crap all night, Dave. Give your ego a rest.”

Anything for you, darling.

He went quiet and stared glumly into his drink as Maggie started to warm to the task. Her next question almost surprised Dave into sobriety.

“What do you see when you look at me?” she said. It took Dave a few seconds to realize she was talking to him.

“A hippie,” Dave said. “And a delusional one at that.”

“So I’m no more than a label? And that’s it? What about a fellow human in pain?

“Fellow human?” Dave said. “No such thing. We’re all just information that needs a bit of tweaking.”

“Information? What am I…Some kind of fucking computer?”

“Something like that,” Dave said. He too was warming to the conversation now. It was taking a direction he could relate to.

“So you’re a mechanist?” Maggie continued. “All human passion, all memory, all imagination…the complete human experience. All of it just comes from the chemistry in our brains…like the movements of a clock follow from the arrangement of its cogs and wheels?”

Dave nodded.

“Clockwork dolls, the lot of us.”

“But who makes the dolls?”

“Why do you need a maker?”

“Why don’t you need a maker?”

Dave laughed out loud.

“Any god capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world must already be hugely complex in the first place. So arguing for the existence of a maker just moves the discussion back a step; you’re still postulating organized complexity without offering an explanation. There’s plenty of evidence that nature doesn’t
need
an organizing principle. The basic laws of physics and chemistry are enough for life to find a way.”

“A blind watchmaker?”

Dave nodded again.

BOOK: Clockwork Dolls - FF
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