RELATIVE STATES

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The holographic man flickered into existence mere feet from his desk.
Detective Robert Foss stood quickly almost toppling his chair. A dream? Was he dreaming?
The grey suited figure gazed around the squad room, clearly unsure. Then, intense eyes behind thick, black framed glasses, locked on Robert’s own.
“Robbie!” the man said.
Easing into his chair – couldn’t quite trust his legs - Robert wondered if instead of dreaming, he might be going mad.
It was after midnight, a skeleton crew of officers around. Yet not one cop here as witness.
Robbie?
Only Mitch had called him -
Wow!
Trading puzzled expression and furrowed brow for a genuine smile, he leaned back in his seat, tugging his tie loose, and said, “You actually did it.” This Mitch, not his Mitch.
The man bowed. "I did! A projection from this Earth to yours.”
“Can I see your real face please?”
“Ol’ Everett, he’d be damn proud I came as him, yes?”
Hugh Everett, as Robert had often heard from his Mitch, was a quantum theory pioneer. Everett had proposed ideas surrounding multiple Earths.
The Hugh body shimmered away, replaced by the Mitch he remembered. God, he missed that face. His Mitch had been one of the top Quantum physicists working at CERN before dying from a massive coronary last October.
“My Rob was murdered,” Mitch blurted out.
“Oh.”
“I know you’re working the same case over here.”
Robert’s eyes fell to gory photos spread out on his desk. Bile rose in his throat.
“You got too close to finding the killer, I fear.”
“I never stop thinking about this case.” Rubbing his face with both hands, Robert felt days of stubble along his jawline. When had he last been home? Outside, darkness hugged floor to ceiling windows of the squad room.
"I want his killer, Robert. I want answers!"
Standing, Rob eyed the case documents before him. Hours and days wasted. Nothing found. No witnesses. This killer was careful and clever. He picked up his coffee mug, took a gulp, shuddered. Awful!
"You think we might help each other?" Robert asked.
"Your Earth's similar to mine," Mitch said.
Eyes closed, seven girls screamed in Robert's mind. Had the other Robert been as haunted?
As lead on the case, he’d walked the scenes, leaned over seven murdered teenagers thus far. Studied each new victim’s face every new month, discarded like trash on church steps, spikes driven through palms.
Rob shook from his reverie. "What have you got?"
"Sending now.”
Mitch seemed to use his index finger to jab something Rob couldn’t see. Rob's phone instantly vibrated in his pocket. Amazing.
Phone in hand, he tapped an unlabelled file on screen.
Quickly, he began skimming the newspaper articles within. So many. Even the other Robert’s murder was included. Death by hammer according to forensics. Probably the same one used on the spikes. He’d been left bloodied in an alley near the precinct.
Damn!
A quick thumb sweep revealed the handwritten words: Sheep's Clothing, boldly circled.
“Our writing’s the same.”
"In Rob's notepad," Mitch said for clarity. "His last entry, I’m told."
"My Earth, it's the closest version to your own?" He didn’t look up from his phone.
“Yes.”
Continuing his reading, he said, "Vic’s names, ages, even the churches, they’re exactly the same there as here. Wait, wait... Oh... Damn!"
Quickly, he flipped through his paperwork, scattering pages.
"The dates!" Robert could hardly contain himself. He found his personal notes, one of many he’d done. "Each victim here was discovered murdered the day after your girls were!"
“Does that mean something?”
"What if we’re not seeking two versions of the same killer? What if we have one killer?”
Mitch shook his head. "We can only send projections.”
"True, but it's staring me in YOUR face!”
Mitch’s eyebrows knit together.
"Sheep's clothing. A disguise.” Rob ran fingers through his grey hair. “You came tonight as Hugh Everett. You travel to other Earths right? You’d want a pleasing appearance for contact. No offense."
"You got the looks."
Ignoring this, Rob said, "Someone’s gained access to your projection, your face. After killing there, this killer comes over and relives killing the same girl again -"
"As a projection?"
"A mind can be manipulated." Rob paced the room now, hands clenched. "Imagine someone with a mental illness and say a Christ-like figure appears and tells them to kill for God.”
"You’re a clever man,” Mitch said.
Robert couldn't contain his smirk. Mitch smiled, too, clearly picking up the thought thread. Wearing Hugh's virtual projection, Mitch appeared coiffed and presentable to all who saw him, while “reality” Mitch wore long hair past his shoulders, bore a weathered, thin face and sported a scruffy beard. A perfectly adequate Jesus.
“A Quantum Killer,” Mitch said, shaking his head. “Unreal.”
"I'll start looking for your killer's puppet here. We’ll deal with motivation later."
“I'll find out who accessed or hacked our program here."
Their eyes locked.
"Thank you,” Mitch said.
Robert said, “Sheep’s clothing.” He paused, considered, then, “Your Rob must have been in your program at some point. Maybe tripped an alarm, alerted the killer to a cop snooping. He married too?"
“Yes.”
Rob sighed.
“What is it?” Mitch asked.
“He may have been planning on murdering her."
"What are you saying, Robbie?”
“There are only two possibilities: yes or no.” He offered a weak smile. “Like dead or alive, that whole Schrodinger thing. Just a theory. I’ve considered the same thing, Mitch, killing my wife. I suspect my wife is having an affair. On your Earth, Rob probably discovered she was. My Mitch died before exploring parallel Earths. But there, getting Jesus to appear to someone unstable, have them kill her, well that’s a perfect alibi. Maybe your Rob and I, maybe we shared these awful thoughts, huh?”
“Spooky action at a distance,” Mitchel whispered, eyes far beyond the room. “Quantum entanglement.”
When Mitch later blinked away, Robert sat alone and thought only of possibilities.

THE END

About the Author: 
Douglas Turnbull is a Kingston, Ontario Canada creative writer. He’s been recognized for various short stories - one published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, another placing 2nd in the 'Scene of The Crime' short story contest. Doug often freelances for those needing the "write" words at the right time.