Sample chapter of Injustice, a James Baxter thriller

Sample chapter of Injustice, a James Baxter thriller


Warning: Occasional strong language


Chapter One


Booker Ruan panted as he ran, but his own breaths were quiet compared to the ragged gasps of the man he chased.

They’d been running through the dark streets of the remote industrial area for almost ten minutes. At first his quarry had stopped at the odd door, frantically shaking knobs or handles, each stop allowing Booker to close the distance. Eventually the other man gave up on that plan, running flat out for the last three or four hundred yards. His gasps had become almost as loud as the slaps of his feet on the road, his pace steadily dwindling. He glanced back over his shoulder, his eyes wide and his mouth wider still. A primal scream escaped his lips. He gained a little ground with a renewed burst of speed, but slowed again quickly.

Booker laughed out loud, a cold humorless cackle. “Running out of puff Anders? Leave some for me you bastard. Your last breath is mine.”

Anders glanced back over his shoulder again, then turned and put on another burst of speed. His head flicked from side to side as he ran. The empty road stretched away into the distance in front of him, the high walls of factories and warehouses caging him in on either side.

A wire fence appeared fifty yards ahead on the far side of the road and Anders veered across towards it, stumbling up the curb onto the footpath. The gap between them closed to less than twenty yards before he regained his footing. He ran closer to the wire, then stuck out his arm and grabbed the post at the end of the fence, swinging him around and into the yard behind.

Booker looked through the fence. Buildings surrounded the dimly lit loading bay on all three sides. “You’re mine now!” He grabbed the post, spinning himself into the yard.

Anders dashed across the yard and started pounding up the fire escape stairs attached to the far wall. Booker looked up. After six flights the metal stairway opened out onto the factory roof. He sprinted harder. As he leaped onto the first step Anders reached the top of the second flight, his strides slower with every stair.

Booker launched himself up the stairs two at a time, quickly closing the gap between them. He reached the bottom of the last flight as his prey neared the top. He bounded up and lashed out with his hand, snagging Anders’ ankle, sending him tumbling off the last step onto the concrete roof. Booker leaped up the last two steps and onto the roof behind him.

Anders crawled frantically away on his hands and knees, his breath wheezing in and out. Stepping up quickly behind him, Booker kicked him between the legs, hard. Anders screamed and rolled over onto his side, his face contorted and his hands clamped over his crotch.

Booker stopped beside him and leaned down, hands on his knees, puffing to catch his breath. “I’m impressed. For a fat useless turd, you can really run, given the right motivation.”

Anders opened his eyes and looked up at him. His hands whipped out and grabbed onto Booker’s ankle, gripping him tight. “Please, Booker, I beg you—”

“Get off me!” Booker lashed out with his other foot, smashing it into Anders’ face with a sickening crunch. Anders howled and rolled away onto his side, clutching his face. Booker swung another kick. The heavy blow landed on Anders’ lower back, and he cried out, arching his back. Booker circled around. Anders lay on his side, his knees curled up to his chest, his hands over his face. His hands and wrists glistened red. Blood pooled on the concrete beneath his head.

“I gave you more than one chance, and you still screwed me, so don’t you fuckin’ dare beg me.” He leaned down and grabbed Anders by the collar, reefing him upwards. “Get up!”

Anders reluctantly struggled to his feet, one hand protectively covering his nose. Blood oozed down his chin and onto his shirt. “Please, Booker, I’m sorry, I really am sorry.”

“Too right you are,” Booker said, spinning Anders around to face the edge of the roof. “You’re a sorry piece of shit.” He shoved Anders in the back, sending him stumbling towards the edge, then reached around and pulled a black cylinder out of his belt. He pressed a button on one end and a glowing blue beam emerged from the other, stopping when it reached six inches long.

Anders turned around to face him and his eyes flew wide. Stepping forward, Booker grabbed him by the neck, and pushed him right to the edge of the roof. He held the humming blade up in front of Anders bulging eyes, the plasma casting an eerie blue glow on his face.

“Oh god, no, Booker, don’t do it!”

“You did this to yourself,” Booker said, lowering the knife. He thrust forward, driving the blade into Anders’ lower abdomen.

Anders’ clothes and flesh sizzled as the plasma knife seared through them. He howled and looked down. Gray smoke wafted up around his face.

Booker yanked the knife upwards. Anders screamed as the blade burned up through his abdomen. The smoke thickened as the blade scorched slowly through his sternum. He wailed, spraying blood from his broken nose onto Booker’s face.

Booker bellowed in rage. “You filthy piece of shit!”

He shoved Anders away, the glowing blade slipping out of his chest as he tipped off the edge of the roof. Booker stepped to the edge and looked down. Anders wailed pitifully as he plunged down to the loading bay below, hitting the concrete with a heavy thud, instantly silencing his cry. Booker spat down at Anders’ body, then switched off the plasma knife. He turned and walked towards the stairs, wiping his face with his sleeve.

He stepped off the roof and trotted down the fire escape. Boots thumping on the steps, he glanced down at Anders as he turned onto the next flight, then lifted his jacket and slid the knife back into his belt. He jogged the rest of the way down to the ground and walked over to the bloodied body.

Reaching into his jacket he pulled out a small bottle. After quickly unscrewing the cap he stepped forward and sprinkled dark powder liberally over the body, holding the bottle upside down to empty it completely. He dropped the bottle on Anders’ chest and pulled out his plasma knife. Turning it on, he knelt down next to the body and touched it with the glowing blade. The powder came alight with a hiss. White flame quickly engulfed the body, the intensity of the sound expanding with the fire. The air distorted, the searing heat forcing Booker to step back.

He watched for a moment longer, then turned and walked away. As he looked up towards the road the large screen went black. A text panel appeared.

Recording ID: 001254-BR-02-28-2096

Recording Date: 06-15-2096

PastWitness Window Date: 02-28-2096

Investigator: SJI Samuel Merrick

Senior Justice Investigator Sam Merrick turned away from the display to face the room, his face grim. Twenty men and women sat around a large table, facing him. More than half wore uniforms, both military and emergency services. Most of the others wore suits.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the Justice Committee, this recording was taken at the National Justice Technology Establishment by Technician Jackson Briggs, in the presence of myself and Detective Peter Ransall of the Newtown Police Department.” Sam gestured towards the dark screen. “It is my assessment—”

“Excuse me Detective,” the chairman said. “We have a new committee member joining us today.” He gestured further down the table. A man in a suit nodded to Sam. “Before you deliver your assessment, could you please briefly explain how PastWitness works for him? He’s been through the induction program, but it is extremely technical. Your real world experience is much more valuable I think.”

Sam nodded. “Of course.” He looked at the new committee member. “PastWitness enables us to look back in time. The physics of it is way beyond me, but, let’s say this is the time we make the recording.” Sam held up his right hand. “And this is the time we want to see.” He held up his left hand, so that his two hands were a couple of feet apart. “PastWitness allows us to collapse the time and space between these two events.” Sam brought his hands together, palm to palm. “This allows us to watch what happened at the time the crime was committed.

“I say watch for a reason. We can only watch. Well, we can hear too, but PastWitness is not a time travel device. We can’t travel back, or even send anything back. We can only watch, like looking through a window, which is why we call the process windowing.”

Sam motioned to the screen. “As you just saw, we see the past from the defendant’s point of view, because the system is bound to them. During the recording they are connected to the system by a set of leads on the head, kinda like when you have an EEG. The system uses the defendant to lock onto them in space and also onto their timeline.

“Again, the physics is beyond me, but as a result we usually don’t see the defendant’s face, unless they happen to look in a mirror or something. Of course we can identify them without doubt because they are connected to the system. We also use voice analysis as well as witness accounts and forensic evidence as additional and frankly unnecessary corroboration. As you just saw from the video, the defendant was very clearly Booker Ruan.”

Sam looked at the screen for a moment. “I think that’s everything. I hope that makes it a little easier to understand?”

The new committee member smiled. “Very much so. Thank you Detective.”

Sam nodded, then looked around the people seated at the table. “Based on the recording, it is my assessment that on the twenty-eighth of February, 2096, Booker Ruan murdered Anders Laval. The murder was carried out in a brutal fashion and without any sign of remorse. The dialog between Ruan and Laval indicates the murder was premeditated. Ruan appears to have been the only person present at the time of the murder and in spite of the ferocity of the fire the trace evidence at the scene also incriminates Ruan as the one who burnt the body.” Sam nodded to the committee. “Thank you.” He clasped his hands together behind his back.

“Detective Merrick?” A woman in fire department uniform raised her hand. “I don’t doubt your findings, but how on earth did you find any evidence after that accelerant fire?”

Sam smiled. “Ruan made a mistake. You saw him drop the bottle on Laval’s body?”

The firewoman nodded.

“It must have dropped off and rolled away. The forensic team found his fingerprint on the side facing away from the fire.”

The chairman stood. “Thank you SJI Merrick. The committee accepts this recording and your findings into the evidence package for the government versus Booker Ruan.” He rattled off the case number, then glanced at the people around the table. “I believe I speak for the entire committee when I congratulate you on another invaluable recording, Detective Merrick. Your expertise and attention to detail make the committee’s job of deliberating on cases such as these much easier than it would have otherwise been. Once again, your evidence makes the verdict very clear.”

Sam bowed his head, suppressing a smile. “Thank you, Admiral.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse us, we need to finalize our decision.”

“Of course.” Sam nodded to the people around the table and strode out of the room.


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