Mark Duplock

Hindsight

Images flashed across the screen in a hazy mess of information. A man standing at a kitchen counter shifted to a scene at a grocery store, quickly replaced by the gruesome sight of a blood-spattered wall.

“Slow it down, please.” Heaton called to the tech, a short man sitting behind a small computer. The tech hit a combination of keys and the images slowed down.

Heaton turned to the man sitting next to him. “Where do you want to start, Dale?”

“Let’s see breakfast and leaving the house,” the other man said. The tech at the computer nodded and typed another quick command.

The screen in front of them went blank briefly before returning with the scene of the man standing at a kitchen counter, drinking coffee. There was no sound—Hindsight could only collect images, but that was often enough information for a skilled investigator to work with.

“Did she say what they talked about at breakfast?” Dale asked.

“Yeah, nothing out of the ordinary. Dinner plans for tonight and her sister’s new kid,” Heaton shrugged.

Dale nodded. “Spin it on, please,” he instructed the tech. “Take us forward ten minutes.”

They watched the scene play out in silence as the image showed a mirror reflection of a middle-aged woman in a smart suit putting on modestly toned lipstick.

“How did she take the process?” Dale asked, gesturing toward the screen with an upward nod.

Heaton continued to watch the image. “Not great,” his voice was quiet. “The medics say she’s brain dead, but they want to give her a day of life support first.”

“Shame,” Dale said flatly. “She was willing, though?”

“She knew the risk—we didn’t need to enforce the extraction,” Heaton nodded.

“Brave girl,” Dale mumbled.

The screen was showing the steering wheel of a car as it moved through busy city streets.

“We don’t need to see this,” said Dale.“Forward to the return home, please. What time was that, Tom?”

“She left the office at two-thirty,” Heaton said, turning to the tech.

They watched the images flash by as the tech moved the scene forward.

“I don’t know why people still think they can get away with this,” Dale said as the screen flashed. “We catch them damn near every time. They don’t get to hide now.” He gestured towards the display. “It’s just a shame that it’s so risky for the witness.”

“Yeah, a fifty percent chance doesn’t sound so bad until you’re gambling with your life, does it?” Heaton nodded.

The screen flickered briefly. When the image returned, it showed the horrific scene of a blood-covered wall. The view panned down and fixed onto the body of the same man that had been drinking coffee moments earlier but was now sprawled in an expanding pool of dark blood.

“You’ve gone too far,” Dale said to the tech. “Go back to the drive home, please.”

The tech mumbled an apology as the images played in reverse until they were once again driving through busy city streets.

The pair watched in silence as the car headed towards the house. They saw the open front door, but it was too far away to make out any detail.

“She said she saw someone come out of the house?” Dale asked.

“Yes, that is why she was willing to take the Hindsight extraction. She hoped we would be able to identify him.”

They were still some distance away when they saw the figure of a man run from the house and onto the street.

“Damn,” muttered Heaton.

“Yeah,” agreed Dale. “Too far away to see anything.”

They watched the figure run up the street, briefly passing someone walking in the opposite direction.

“Wait,” said Heaton. “Maybe we can see who this is.”

The car had parked now, and the scene quickly shifted from looking at the open front door to looking up the street where the running figure had gone.

“It’s a woman,” said Dale as the second figure came closer. “She saw the killer. She’s a witness.”

“We need her,” Heaton agreed.

A forced memory extraction of an unwilling witness was usually a death sentence, but the alternative was unthinkable. Hindsight had to be successful.

The screen was creeping towards the door, uncertainty and caution clear in the movement.

“Turn around,” muttered Heaton, willing the image to shift to show the face of the woman walking down the street.

The view shifted and spun around, as if reacting to something. The woman on the street was smiling and had raised a hand in greeting. She was saying something that they couldn’t hear. Heaton’s blood turned cold.

“Yes!” Dale exclaimed. “Tom, find out who she is and get her extraction, by force. She saw the murderer.”

“Oh god,” muttered Heaton, his hand over his mouth in horror. “That’s my daughter.”