It was then that I realised that this wasn’t old medical data at all. It was current data. It was now. Real-time live.
And Lord Bixby had just moved from a steady fifteen, to a nothing to worry about sixteen, breaths a minute.
Which was quite a feat.
Considering the last time I had seen him his lungs had been partially compressed by an industrial compactor. So that they were leaking out of his broken jawed mouth.
Ch 45 – Nothing Abnormal Detected.
I watched the screen some more. To make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. The numbers moved slightly as I watched.
There were two obvious possibilities. Someone had taken Bixby’s fit_byte smart watch and was wearing it now. This was their data coming through from his device.
Although there were a dozen safeguards in the monitoring to ensure that couldn’t happen.
The other was even more unlikely.
Bixby was still alive.
He’d looked pretty dead the last time I had seen him. Crushed to a pulp in an industrial compactor. Black blood covering bits of white bone from his burst ribcage.
Jaw torn away. Only one arm was really identifiable.
The one with his Fit_Byte on the wrist.
I thought about that for a moment. The reason I had known, or thought I’d known, that the body in the compactor was Lord Bixby, was the Fit_Byte. It was what had led me down into the basement. His Smart watch was sending a signal to mine. Alerting me to the presence of Bixby nearby.
It hadn’t been a different Fit_Byte. Not just a coincidence. It must have been his.
Because I’d taken the contacts from Lady Bixby’s own watch. Synced them up. It was her Freindz-location app that had taken me to him. Dacia had patched it into mine.
Now I thought about it, really thought, I realised I hadn’t seen much of that corpse.
Just a body crushed by tremendous force. The only solid part of it remaining had been the arm with the watch. That’s why I’d naturally thought it was Lord Bixby in the crusher.
Not just that, I reminded myself. And the niggling thought I’d had in Bixby’s dressing room just a short while came back to me.
When I’d just looked at Bixby’s shoes to try and force some connection from my subconscious.
Here it was.
There had also been a shoe in the basement of my office building. I’d picked it up.
John Stimpson’s of Bond Street. Size 5.
No question that it had been Bixby’s. Who else had such tiny men’s feet?
I’d seen the shoe. Seen the watch. Seen the name ‘BIXBY. M’ on my own pulsing Fit_Byte. That was how I knew it was Bixby, dead in the compactor.
But I didn’t know that.
All I knew for sure was it was his shoe. And was definitely his watch. But it might not have been him.
With the medical data on the screen, I knew it couldn’t have been him.
It must have been someone else. As Lord Bixby, at this very moment, was breathing just a tad erratically. The start of a minor infection. A cold coming on. Nothing more.
Nothing Abnormal Detected
It was the only thing that made sense. Bixby wasn’t killed in the crusher. He was still alive. And not doing too badly health wise, either.
He must have another smart watch. Maybe it was the one he had before his upgrade.
Or just a spare. He was a rich guy. He could afford as many as he wanted. Look at those shoes in the dressing room. Twenty pairs at least were on display.
I had never met Lord Bixby. Had only known he had had a smart watch because his wife had told me he had one like mine.
The one on the corpse had been one of his. I didn’t know how many he had.
Someone had taken his watch and a pair of his shoes, and used them to make it appear Lord Bixby of Remain had been killed in an horrific way.
And that someone had tipped off the police to suggest I had some involvement. So their arrest squad had gone to my offices.
Though that wasn’t quite right. Because it was an assault squad that had come looking for me. Not a murder detail. Think on that later. More important things to get straight just this minute.
I wondered who had been killed then? And realised that it didn’t matter. At least, not to me.
Some other schmuck had been bumped off. Too bad. But not my problem. I wasn’t an Inspector any more. Even though that whole compactor crime would have provided months of Health and Safety investigation reporting for The Department. As well as a murder to solve. But it was none of my business.
What was my bushiness was getting this news out that Lord Bixby was still alive.
He wasn’t dead. Therefore, I hadn’t killed him. I should get out of here right away.
Send the details to Dacia as soon as I was clear of the house. Let her do the double checks. She was way better at that than I was.
Once she confirmed he was alive and what I had been looking at here was genuinely Lord Bixby’s body monitoring, she could tip off the networks. Let the BBc know.
Though Sky would be better. They still did investigations themselves. Unlike the BBC who preferred to let others do all the work and simply steal the story and run with “The BBC has learned..”
Who the body was in the trash and why it was there? Why it was made to look like Bixby, and why they had suspected me, were not really my concern.
Not now I could prove my innocence and leave this whole sorry mess to someone else. Dacia would just have to get the info out as soon as she could verify it.
Bixby might be a hostage somewhere. It was possible he’d been kidnapped, as Sir Alan Stuart has hinted he believed. If he was still wearing his Smart-watch, which he must be as the medi-data was uploading right before my eyes from it, then the phone networks would track it. The police would make them if they had too. Though seeing how high a profile a person Bixby was, they would do it voluntarily.
I was going to be in the clear in just a few hours. And all this intrigue was going to be some other flatfoot’s problem.
Even as I sat on Bixby’s toilet seat and thanked the gods of detectives for their favour, I knew I was never going to just let this be.
I wanted some answers.
I wanted some answers right now.
And people in this house were going to give them to me.
Lady Vanessa, for one.
I stood up and checked the phone for a signal. There was plenty. I attached all the photographs and video I had taken to a message and sent it to Dacey. The message received beep was very reassuring for me. She could start on that right now. I’d send her another message in a while. Tell her what to do with what she discovered.
For now, I wanted to find Lady Bixby. See just what she really knew about the mysterious disappearance, and death, and reappearance, of Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby.
Her bedroom was back through Bixby’s dressing room, and I left his bathroom, shutting off the light with a gesture but leaving the Med-Doc on so Dacia could access it if she could find the upload stream.
The deep carpet was as soft as my mood was hard. My arm with the bad bruising still hurt a lot. It might even be worse than when it had happened and I’d taken a ricochet in the wrist. But even though it caused me to wince in pain, I found I could make a decent fist.
Which was good as I was going to need it to punch in some faces. Literally.
I was in her bedroom before I remembered I’d only just come through here and she hadn’t been here. Not asleep in her bed. The room was empty.
She might not be here in the house at all. If I hadn’t thrown my own Fit_Byte into the Thames to avoid them locating me, I could have seen if she was in the building.
No matter. Do it the old fashioned way.
Look behind each door until I found someone.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file