The policemen took Darren down hard, the sound of his shirt buttons clattering on the mall floor before his cheek bone smashed into it, two officers pinning each arm, and a third with a knee on his back.
Darren tensed up, pulling against them, then realized who they were. “Officers,” he cried. “I won’t resist. I mean no harm to you. I’m unarmed. Please stop, you’re hurting my back.” The pressure on his back compressed his lungs, his breathing labored and shallow. He craned his neck to get a look at them, but two hands came down on his head and pressed his face against the linoleum tile.
“What did I do?”
No answer as they pulled his arms back and snapped handcuffs on him.
He couldn’t fathom why they arrested him. This was the safest mall in Seattle with all the modern safeguards—bio-feedback emission sweepers, spectral analyzers, brain scanners, metal detectors, random swabbers, and more, all feeding into the Artificial Intelligence systems that incorporated face recognition and every kind of data correlation within the government’s integrated Fiber.
They hauled him to the police station and dropped him into an interrogation room, where he sat alone for about an hour.
The door opened, and a man in a charcoal suit with a light blue tie walked in and sat down, setting a legal-sized tablet next to him, a yellow image of a thumbprint showing where to activate it.
“Hello, Mr. Hanson. My name is Gerald Cooper. I apologize for the wait, but your case requires special expertise without any contamination from conventional methods. Due to the sensitive nature of this situation, the AI will serve as your legal representation.”
“What am I being accused of?” asked Darren.
Gerald sniffed and activated the tablet, tilting it out of Darren’s view, then swiped his finger twice. “What were you doing at the mall today, Mr. Hanson?”
“Nothing special. Just looking for a gift for the office secretary.”
“You weren’t looking for some companionship?”
“What do you mean?” Darren pulled his head back and grimaced. “Like a call girl? No.”
“Some other kind of company?”
“I have no idea what you’re getting at. Can you take the cuffs off, please?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea just yet,” said Gerald. “Tell me, Mr. Hanson. Do you hunt?”
“I don’t own any weapons, if that’s what you’re asking. I’ve hunted once or twice in my life.”
“Did you kill anything?”
“What difference does it make? Everything I did was legal.”
“Did you kill anything?”
Darren shook his head. “Yeah. I killed a deer.”
“How did you feel when you killed that innocent animal.”
“Okay, I guess. It’s sport, right? You achieve your goal, that makes you feel pretty good. Look, this can’t be about a hunting trip ten years ago. What’s this about?”
Gerald tapped away at his tablet. After a while he looked up.
“Mr. Hanson. Have you ever forced yourself upon someone?”
“Of course not. Am I being accused?” Darren’s voice tightened.
“Would you like to?”
“Are you serious? Are you asking me to violate you?”
“Answer the question.”
“No.” Darren glowered.
“Do you enjoy pain?”
“How about watching someone in pain? You like that, don’t you?”
Darren wanted to say ‘Only Simon Cowell,’ but he didn’t think this was a good time to joke. “No.”
“How big is the collection of things you’ve stolen from women?”
“What?” Darren leaned forward and glared into Gerald’s eyes. “I’ve had enough of this. Either charge me with something, or let me go.”
Gerald wilted. “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“You walked by three brain scanners at the mall,” said Gerald. “Every one of them red flagged your brainwave signature.”
“So, what? I didn’t do anything.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Gerald. “The AI has determined you’re a serial killer.”
The statement stunned Darren, rendering him unable to speak. The only thing he could think of was, ‘Oh, hell. I’m glad I didn’t crack that joke about mimes being ideal companions.’