Chapter 2:

Two

Only in Chaos Are We Conceivable


Maya Kandinsky always double checked her instruments before going live. One of her colleagues had suffered the unfortunate tragedy of not having properly set up her green screen. Within minutes, her rabid fanbase had secured her exact address from approximating the location of a flashing billboard just barely visible from the corner of her exposed stream. Maya had no intention of making it that easy for her more obsessed viewers to pin her down.Bookmark here

Lights dimmed. She could see her virtual avatar, an idol figurine dressed in excessively frilly accessories, moving in tandem with the motion sensors attached to her ears, cheeks, eyebrows, and mouth. She flipped a switch on the dashboard below her monitor and next to a tiny potted plant she affectionately named Charlie. Her stream preview downloaded her chosen virtual environment: a massive auditorium where she would take center stage, surrounded by the faceless avatars of her audience. Bookmark here

A giant television screen lowered into place behind her to capture close ups as she sang and danced to the chants of the crowd. She flipped the switch back, and her background reverted to a digital recreation of her room. Her avatar, now a pink haired beauty dressed in an oversized gray sweater, sat at the animated desk. Yes, everything was ready to go.Bookmark here

She tapped the red flashing icon on her digital pad signaling her to go live. At that moment, thousands of viewers piled into her stream.Bookmark here

“Hello everyone!” she squealed. “Welcome, welcome everyone to my anniversary stream! It’s been a year since we all went on this journey together. Tonight is not about me, but all of you who made my debut possible.”Bookmark here

The slim monitor on her right tracked both her viewer numbers and what was being said in her online chatroom. Streams of hearts and cheers flooded her screen. Maya brimmed with pride.Bookmark here

Meanwhile, one of her gift alerts rang. It was a little early for donations, but Maya expected some to be eager to express their excitement. She heard her prerecorded voice reading an automated message. Onscreen, a lofty balloon dropped from the top of the display and popped above her avatar, exploding into an assortment of colorful glitter and confetti. Bookmark here

“Thank you for your donation!” she sang in her routine jubilant manner.Bookmark here

When Maya first glanced at the amount of the donation, she thought it must have been a glitch. Sure, it was her anniversary stream, but two thousand marks? There was no time to reel in shock; her viewers were always watching and listening to her avatar’s every move. Bookmark here

“Wow! What a tremendous amount. I’m truly humbled by your generosity and your support. But! I’d like to remind everyone to always take care of themselves first before donating. I'll understand if you didn’t type in the amount you originally had intended. If you message me, and please do if this is an error, we can arrange a refund. But my goodness, thank you, thank you!”Bookmark here

The donations didn't end there. Spurred by the initial display of generosity, a bigger batch of balloons toppled and popped over her virtual head. Most of them came from named members of her community that Maya recognized. Each donation was accompanied with cute notes celebrating the event and expressing joyous sentiments.Bookmark here

Then, the anonymous donation attached with a bizarre message arrived.Bookmark here

“‘Congratulations on your first year of streaming, what an accomplishment,’” Maya read aloud. “‘I would just like to turn your attention to something I made for you if you’d be so kind. You can find the link below. Love!’ Why, thank you! Absolutely, I can take a look.”Bookmark here

Maya tapped the link and dragged the loading image onto her desktop not captured by her broadcast. This time, the image made her gasp sharply into her microphone. Her eyes snapped to her chatroom. Thousands began voicing their concern and curiosity in the form of a sea of question marks.Bookmark here

In front of her rested a photograph of an old man in his pajamas lying on the floor. His eyes laid slightly ajar, arms spread far apart, and his wrinkled hands held a few scraps of paper. Bookmark here

“Ah! What a surprise. This was very unexpected,” Maya laughed, much louder than intended. “Wow, this was really sweet of you. It’s a shame that you didn’t name yourself so I could thank you in person!” As the chat clamored over the contents of the present, she reassured them. “Oh! It was something very personal. I think it would be best if this was kept between us, but it was a very sweet gift.”Bookmark here

Another anonymous donation dropped, the message blunt and visible to all attending the show.Bookmark here

“Liar,” it read. “Show my gift to the world.”Bookmark here

More messages crept in, one after the other.Bookmark here

“This is something I wanted to share with all of you.”Bookmark here

“Stop hiding the truth!”Bookmark here

“You guys are getting a little bit too excited,” Maya tried brushing the donations aside. “There’s a lot of things I want to get to tonight. We can talk about the gifts at the end of stream!”Bookmark here

However, her chat had spiraled out of her control. They all fell in line behind the anonymous donations. They chanted in the comments demanding to see the alleged gift. Maya watched as her viewer count dipped ever so slightly.Bookmark here

“I’m serious you guys,” Maya adopted a sterner tone to tame the crowd. “You wouldn’t want me to just turn off the stream because you’ve all been misbehaving now, would you?”Bookmark here

At that moment, her phone rang. Few people had access to her line, and the name on the ID was all too familiar to her. It was Jack Reus, her manager. Maya muted her microphone for what was about to come.Bookmark here

“What are you doing,” shouted the voice of a burly man over the line. “You’ve dropped a hundred viewers in the last forty seconds. Show them what you’ve been hiding right now!”Bookmark here

“Jack, you think I don't track my own count?” Maya snapped back and then whispered in hushed tones. “I can't show this thing. It’s a dead body.”Bookmark here

“Are you kidding me? That’s even better!” Jack laughed. “What are you waiting for? Put it online right now. You can scrap your concert and put this at the center stage. People go wild for a good crime they think they can solve and they’ll spread the word. They’ll donate you conspiracy theories by the hundreds. This is a gold mine.”Bookmark here

“Is it even legal?” Maya asked without a care for the law. Just please don't make me show this body, she thought.Bookmark here

“You let me handle that.”Bookmark here

“This is gross," Maya pleaded. "It’s not what my stream is supposed to be about!”Bookmark here

“Hey,” Jack spoke with venom in his voice. “I decide what the show is about, alright? Find a way to fit this in. If you don’t like it, I’ll find another Maya who’s willing to follow orders.”Bookmark here

The line went dead.Bookmark here

To say Maya felt uncomfortable with Jack's demand would be a colossal understatement. She verged on agonizing distress. She desired nothing more than to bolt out of her seat, grab the nearest kitchen appliance, and smash her computer to bits. However, her net personality's trained response to suppress those volatile emotions proved too strong. Each attempted wince or shudder, every shiver was sent barreling into the depths of Maya's mind. Anxiety and anguish had no place in Maya Kandinsky's world.
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“Sorry for the wait guys,” Maya unmuted her microphone in the next second, jubilant and radiant as dancing petals in spring. “The truth is, I actually needed to stall in order to contact my manager first to make sure he was okay with me sharing this with you. You guys know how Mr. R is, always so caught up in the rules and trying to make sure I don’t get trouble for all those things I’ve shared with you in the past. But this one is especially a shocker. Please be prepared with what I am about to show you, especially if children are around. Okay. Is everyone ready? Would you guys take a look at this?”Bookmark here

Maya bit her lip, then dragged the image of the dead old man onto the screen. Bookmark here

The chat dissolved into anarchy.Bookmark here

The viewer count displayed on her right began to climb. Bookmark here

⁂⁂⁂
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When Detective Sakamoto reached 654 Bakersfield Avenue, there were a handful of police cars outside the entrance still flashing their strobe lights in front of a modest audience of concerned citizens. A small contingent of officers blocked the entrance while a pair of paramedics lingered on standby near an ambulance. Jay parked his car a half block from the building, let Dojo climb out of the passenger’s seat, and walked up to the short officer standing on the sidewalk.Bookmark here

“Are you the officer Henry told me about?” Jay called out as he approached. “Detective Jay Sakamoto. I was told you were expecting me.”Bookmark here

“Lana Searle. You probably don’t remember me,” Lana laughed nervously as she shook his hand. “I was an intern at your office summers ago before I joined the force.”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, I don’t remember. What’s the situation Lana?” the detective motioned for Lana to take the lead.Bookmark here

“Right,” Lana cleared her throat. “Someone called in this evening, probably around six thirty. We haven’t confirmed who made the call, but the operator said they sounded shocked. By the time we arrived, some of the residents had already started crowding the room, but all of the witnesses have testified saying they haven’t seen anyone else at the crime scene."Bookmark here

“Any cameras in the building?” Jay asked.Bookmark here

“Yes,” Lana nodded. She waved above her head for the officers blocking the crowd to open up a path towards the entrance. Dojo, on the other hand, ducked between the legs of a few senior citizens and darted ahead. “Nothing conclusive. It’s mostly cameras in the elevator and the fire escape. Some of our officers are procuring the tapes now to look over them more closely, but the concierge in the building claims there haven’t been any unannounced visitors in the building in a very long time.”Bookmark here

“Send me a copy of the tapes when you have a chance. I’ll take a look if this visit upstairs doesn’t churn up anything useful.”Bookmark here

The doorman at the front desk motioned the officer and the detective towards the elevator at the back of the lobby. Dojo waited for the two of them there, slowly licking his dirty front paws as if bragging that he had won a race.Bookmark here

“No cats are allowed in the building, at least not without a leash,” the doorman wondered aloud. Bookmark here

Detective Sakamoto ignored him and called for the elevator.Bookmark here

“So what’s the big deal, why is everyone interested in this guy?” Jay asked. “That crowd outside looks pretty upset you’re not letting them in.”Bookmark here

“Oh that out there? We’ve been told by SVU not to let anyone into the building until they arrive, so it’s just a bunch of late night bingo players coming home late from the bar,” Lana explained. She waited for Dojo to step onto the elevator, then hit the button for the seventeenth floor. The elevator doors creaked shut. “But the old man, Doctor Tasha Eichenbaum. He’s some hot shot scientist, did a lot of important studies back in the day. I’m not all too familiar with it. That’s why I’m a cop and he’s the one with the big research grants.”Bookmark here

“Special Victims is on its way?” the detective raised an eyebrow, then sighed. “They’re the real professionals, officer. A borderline out of work detective like me isn’t going to find anything that they won’t.”Bookmark here

“Someone requested your office. Don’t ask me who, because I don’t know,” Lana replied. “And SVU doesn’t have a good reputation with us. They’re smug. They saber rattle to get their way, and they throw us under the bus to take the credit and promotions when a case gets solved. Better you than them, is my opinion.”Bookmark here

The elevator chimed with a muffled ring as they reached their stop. The doors cranked open. 17E was found at the far end of the hall, past a shared tenant trash room and the fire escape. Dojo meowed loudly as they approached a door guarded by two officers. Lana saluted and dismissed the two of them before unlocking the door. She waved for the detective to come inside. Bookmark here

“Alright Dojo,” Jay whistled. “It’s time to get started.”Bookmark here

The Norwegian Forest cat sprinted into the room on command. Jay followed close behind. Dojo’s first action was to circle the body of Dr. Eichenbaum, still lying prone in the center of the room. Lana watched as Dojo inspected and sniffed at the body, careful to never touch it. He then folded his legs folded beneath himself, his eyes peering intently at one of the doctor’s hands.Bookmark here

“Who does he think he is,” Lana asked. “Has the cat watched too many vids about police dogs?”Bookmark here

“Well,” Detective Sakamoto strolled towards the body. “I adopted Dojo from a hospital clinic a couple years ago. He was there when my father died, stayed by his side the entire time he had been admitted into the hospital. Would not leave his side. More accurately, he would never leave my father’s right hand. My sister and I. We called him his right hand man.”Bookmark here

Jay laughed to himself and then continued. “And wouldn’t you know it, the day he died, I found this cat resting over my father’s right hand. Now there was something back then, maybe the glint in his eyes. He knew something.”Bookmark here

“What,” Lana scoffed, rolling her eyes at the obvious outcrop of paper jutting out from the professor’s hand. “Like there was a final will from your father? A key to some hidden safe?”Bookmark here

“No,” Sakamoto shook his head. “There was nothing like that. Nothing at all. Or at least that’s what we thought at first.” Bookmark here

Lana raised an eyebrow, unconvinced.Bookmark here

“The curiosity got the better of me, so against my family’s completely reasonable wishes, I asked for an autopsy,” Sakamoto fumbled with the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. “It came back a few days later. Embedded in my father’s right hand was an electronic capsule, wrapped in a composite metal foam to avoid x-ray detection, that had timed out to zero. The capsule was empty, of course, but inside there were traces of arsenic, and the capsule itself was large enough to secrete the dosage required over the course of five years to poison my father with the slow torturous cancer that was clinically declared his cause of death.”Bookmark here

“He was murdered.”Bookmark here

“Well, I have my theories,” Sakamoto shrugged. “My father had a lot of enemies, most of whom are just as dead as he is now. But we as humans are restricted by five senses, what we can feel or touch or smell. What detectives often rely on, however, is intuition. This is a paradox because intuition by definition is completely divorced from any of the five natural senses. Humans are, by our own very cognitive framework, bad at detective work. Police dogs don’t offer intuition either, by the way, they offer their heightened sense of smell; they’re an extension of our senses, so with all due respect Officer Searle, a dog couldn’t hold a candle to my cat.”Bookmark here

“Dojo’s attachment to the world of the dead is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Jay Sakamoto unwrapped his pack of cigarettes, popped a stick into his mouth and chewed on one end thoughtfully. He could hear sets of loud footsteps at the end of the hallway back by the elevator and chose to stick the butt back into the pack. “There’s only one real detective in this room, officer, and it isn’t me.”Bookmark here

The cat’s emerald eyes looked out the window at the full moon. Dojo yawned loudly before folding his front paws beneath his head.Bookmark here

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