This is the rest of the story. Click here for the beginning
Vincent was out of his office and in his car within five minutes. The drive would take barely twenty minutes, but Vincent knew the same questions would be going through his mind the whole time. And the main one was how on earth had Stan ended up being charged with murder?
Yes, Stan was… well, to use the word huge would be to miss the opportunity to say gigantic. Stan was well over seven feet tall, massively built, and with a face that even a mother would find very difficult to love. Though that had never been a problem in Stan’s case.
In short, Stan was someone a potential mugger would not only walk away from, but because of him would probably decide it was time to turn over a whole new leaf.
And yet, despite appearances, Stan was incredibly gentle. He would never knowingly hurt someone, and because of his size he was always incredibly careful and considerate of others. Vincent could only think of a few cases where Stan had accidentally hurt anyone, and none had been serious. Other than a couple of carjackers, but even then it had been an accident.
But Stan a murderer? Never in a million years! And yet that was exactly what Stan had been charged with. How? Why? And what could Vincent do about it? All questions that kept running through his mind as he drove.
* * *
Vincent looked up as Stan was led into the room. Not the room the police had first offered, that had been an interrogation room and Vincent had no faith in their promise that all the recording devices would be disabled. Not with such an important case.
No, that room would never do. This room was specifically designed for lawyers to talk to their clients. There were no recording devices, or should be none, and the walls and window were soundproofed.
Stan was led in by four police officers, two of them with guns in their hands. Stan ducked slightly to avoid bashing his head on the doorway, and then meekly made his way towards the chair. Vincent frowned at the officers.
“You can take those cuffs off my client!” he said sharply.
Stan’s hands were pulled awkwardly behind him, there was no way he would be able to sit in the chair.
“Sir, the cuffs are there for your protection,” said one of the policemen. “This man is a dangerous killer.”
“This man is my client,” said Vincent icily. “And while you may think you have reason to believe he was involved in a crime, he has been convicted of nothing.”
“Of course, but the cuffs are still there for your protection.”
“Officer, I know for a fact that my client could snap his way out of those cuffs in a moment if he chose to. He is keeping them on because he’s a polite and gentle soul. So the choice is yours. Remove them now, or remove the pieces of them when you return to collect him.”
All of the officers turned pale at Vincent’s words, one of them started to lift his gun towards Stan.
“If you dare to point that weapon at my client when he’s offering no threat to you I’ll have your badge!” snapped Vincent.
The man’s hand trembled around the gun slightly, but he did lower it.
“No one is that strong!” said the officer who had first spoken.
“Seeing is believing,” said Vincent. “Stan, I want you to very slowly move your hands apart, keeping them pointed towards the floor, then bring them round in front of you.”
“I won’t get into trouble?” asked Stan.
“No. I’ve requested these officers unshackle my client, and they have refused to obey. They are now operating outside of the law. Just move your hands in a way that is clearly not threatening, and if any of them chooses to react I will have more than their badges!”
Stan stared at Vincent for a moment, then nodded. Vincent was pleased by his friend’s trust, but hoped it would not prove to be misplaced before the end of the night.
Stan very slowly moved his arms apart behind his back. The sound of shattering metal rang out, and he slowly moved his hands round to the front. One cuff had come off completely, the other was still on his wrist with the shattered remains of the first cuff hanging from it.
“You can take that one off as well,” said Vincent.
Stan nodded slowly, took hold of the other cuff, then twisted it off of his wrist without any hint of effort.
As he let the pieces of metal fall to the floor there was an audible gulp from one of the officers. All four of them had moved away from Stan.
“Please sit down, Stan,” said Vincent. “And officers, you are breaching lawyer-client confidentiality by still being here. If you are out of this room within a minute and do not re-enter until I leave, then I may choose to overlook your failure this once.”
The officer who had spoken opened his mouth, stood for a few moments, then snapped it shut again. He gestured and all four officers left the room at somewhere between a walk and a run. Once the door had closed Vincent shook his head.
“Idiots. All right Stan, they gave me the case details but I haven’t looked at them yet. I wanted to hear from you first. What happened?”
Stan looked down for a while. He looked up, met Vincent’s eyes for a few moments, then dropped his eyes to his hands again.
“These hands,” Stan finally said. “These hands… they killed someone. They killed quite a few people.”
Vincent frowned. This wasn’t what he’d expected to hear. Stan wouldn’t be lying about something like this. But how could the gentle soul that Vincent knew so well, and considered a close friend, possibly have killed anyone?
Then the choice of words sank in.
“Stan, you don’t mean you killed those people, do you?”
“No! Of course not! I’d never do anything like that!”
“That’s what I thought. You’re just talking about your hands, aren’t you? About when their previous owner had them?”
“No. And yes. It’s not really these hands. It’s this hand. The right one. The previous owner must have killed people, but I never knew anything about him.
“I was out shopping today. The police were taking fingerprints. They said it was just a routine test to show the systems worked correctly. I wanted to be helpful, so I let them take my fingerprints.”
Vincent fought against the urge to shake his head. He could guess what was coming.
“Go on,” he said.
“They took my fingerprints using their machine, then a few moments later something came up on the screen. The next thing I knew they had guns out and were screaming at me to get on the floor.
“I… well, I just froze for a while. I couldn’t understand what was happening. One of them hit me with their nightstick. It shattered. That kind of pulled me out of the daze, so then I did what they said and they brought me here and then… and then I called you.”
“That was the right thing to do. Getting fingerprinted… well, there was no way you could have known. I take it your left hand hasn’t got any history we should know about?”
“No. It’s just this hand. I’ve never felt comfortable with this hand. I could never explain why, I thought it was just me being superstitious. But now… now I know.”
“All right, let me take a look through the case notes and see exactly what we’re dealing with.”
* * *
Vincent had to fight not to groan as he finished his reading. Stan’s hand really did have a history. Whoever it had belonged to before Stan, the original owner, had committed at least twenty grisly murders. There was a suspicion it could be many more. The police had clear fingerprint evidence from those twenty, and DNA as well.
“We should be okay for the DNA,” Vincent said. “We just make them take a blood sample from your left arm. At least that definitely won’t match.”
“Will that clear everything up?” asked Stan hopefully.
“No. That would just make them think they were dealing with two people who were involved in the killings. That fingerprint evidence is still mighty strong.”
“I’ve always hated this hand. Now I know what it’s done I have to get it off me. If I had a knife I’d cut it off right now. Hell, I’ll rip it off if it’s attached to me much longer.”
“That won’t help,” said Vincent. “They’d still have the hand, even if you mangled it somehow they’ve got the matching fingerprints. I understand you want to get rid of that hand, but it’s not going to solve anything.”
“I know, but it will make me feel a lot better. They…”
“Wait! Maybe there is something we can do. Did they take your prints again when you came to the station?”
“So the only prints they took were out there in the public, in a non-controlled way. All right, I think there might be something we can do. But it’s vitally important you don’t let them take your prints again, no matter what they say.
“The worst they can do then is stick you with a small obstruction charge, that’ll get you fined at most, and I don’t think I’ll be gone long enough for even that to be a problem.”
“What have you got in mind?”
“Just trust me, Stan.”
“You know I trust you, Victor! I’d trust you with my life!”
Vincent had to bite down hard to avoid pointing out that was exactly what Stan was doing. At best Stan would be looking at life imprisonment with those charges, and even that was the unlikely best case scenario.
“Just sit tight, do as I tell you, and don’t give them any excuse to get nervous. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
* * *
Officer Jenkins looked up then let out an audible sigh. It was the lawyer again, the one representing the serial killer who looked more like a giant from legend than a man.
There was something shady going on, Jenkins was certain of it. The suit the lawyer wore must be worth thousands at least. In Jenkins’ experience no lawyer had that much money unless they were involved in something shady. And now this lawyer was representing the killer.
Jenkins didn’t like it, but there was no way he was going to make any mistakes that led to the killer walking free.
“We’ll have your client brought down to you,” he said to the lawyer. “Carefully, of course. You can use the same room as before.”
“Good”, said the lawyer. “I’ll wait for him there.”
The lawyer lifted a huge case off the floor. It looked like a briefcase, but one that had been grown massively in all directions. It nearly came up to the lawyer’s hip. The way he was holding it showed at least it wasn’t heavy.
“I’m sorry sir,” said Jenkins. “You can’t take that in with you.”
“Of course I can. I’m entitled to bring whatever documents I need, and to keep them within a secure case.”
“A secure briefcase, yes. But that… you could have anything in there. You could have a gun.”
“A gun? I would certainly never handle a gun!”
Jenkins gulped. Something had changed in the lawyer’s stance as he said that. Jenkins couldn’t put his finger on what it was, but suddenly he was very certain not only that the lawyer would never handle a gun, but he wouldn’t ever need to either. Maybe he was one of those martial arts devotees. But it didn’t change the situation.
“Sir, that’s far too large for us to let you take it in without having searched it.”
“Really, officer, I can’t allow that. Our… ah… here is my assistant with the paperwork to cover my case.”
Jenkins opened his mouth to say that there was no paperwork that could possibly cover this situation, then the lawyer’s assistant stepped through the doorway and into sight.
All Jenkins could do was stare at her, struck almost dumb by… not by her beauty exactly, though she was beautiful. But he was struck by something else. An aura around her.
She turned to talk to him, her eyes met his, and she smiled. From that moment onward all that mattered was to do anything he could to please her.
Within a couple of minutes the lawyer and his assistant were safely ensconced with their client, and Jenkins sat happily at his desk secure in the knowledge he had done everything he could to make the assistant’s life easier. Including waving through the case, but that was fine. There couldn’t possibly be anything of concern in it. Not where she was involved.
* * *
Vincent smiled at Stan and put the case down on the floor. He didn’t dare put it on the desk, it was so heavy it might break it.
In fact it was so heavy that few people could have lifted it without great strain, but one advantage of Vincent’s condition was immense strength. It was certainly a positive, whereas his inability to tolerate daylight was a definite disadvantage.
“Thanks to Jadra we got all this in here.” He turned to Jadra. “Sorry my dear, I know how much you hate having to use your powers but I couldn’t see any other way to get this past the police.”
“I don’t mind,” she replied. “Sometimes I have to make exceptions, and if I have to make an exception I’d always do it for Stan.”
Stan looked between them, frowning in confusion.
“What have you got planned, Vincent?” He asked. “What on earth is in that immense case?”
“Everything you wanted,” said Vincent. “And with it a way to get you out of here.”
He started to open the case. He undid several latches, a combination lock, and then used a key. The case hinged open, revealing a variety of medical tools and a glass bottle containing a large human hand.
“Et voilà,” he said. “A replacement hand. And this one comes with no history. It’s an experiment of Jake’s, based on modified DNA he said. Nothing to get excited or worried about… not from this particular experiment, at least. Ignore the tattoo, that’s just Jake’s way of keeping track of it.
“Now, because there was no previous owner it has fingerprints that have never been in any database. And more importantly for you my friend, it means you can get rid of that horrendous right hand from your arm.”
Stan just blinked a few times, smiled for a moment, then frowned again.
“But Vincent, it’s not that easy! I know I’m patched together, but you can’t just unbolt one part and bolt another one on. Everything is joined and sealed, it would take an operation to change anything now.”
“Yes, well, I know that. That’s why it took a little longer than I was hoping to get back to you. What we have here is a state-of-the-art device that will… ah, dammit. I can’t lie to you. We’ve got a guillotine. One which will take your hand off at the wrist. But I had it enchanted. Very little blood will flow from the wound for several minutes.
“During that time we’ll fit the other hand in place. Jake was able to provide a special concoction. It will encourage very fast bonding and healing.”
“I don’t have to drink it do I? I know what Jake’s potions tend to be like.”
“No! In fact Jake strongly suggested that you not drink it, unless you wanted your intestines to start becoming fused together in new and interesting ways. We just rub it into your wrist and the new hand.”
“Alright, let’s do it! I want this hand gone!”
“That part I’m confident we can do. The rest… I have to warn you, Jake wasn’t completely certain this will work. But he did say at worst you’d have a bloody severed hand with different fingerprints to those on file.”
“I still say I could sort all this out,” said Jadra. “I can talk them into deleting the fingerprints. And letting Stan go.”
“No!” said Stan. “You’ve already done more than I could have asked you to. I know how much you hate using your powers, and how hard it’s been for you to learn to keep them damped down. If you start using them that much you might end up right back where you started.”
“Besides,” said Vincent. “It’s not that simple. By now Stan’s fingerprints will have been distributed to many, many systems across the world. They would have been trying to match him against any other crimes, and there’s no way we could delete all of those copies. No, we need to break the connection between Stan and those fingerprints.”
Stan stood up and shuffled over to the case.
“Let’s get on with this. I was ready to tear this hand off at the wrist. Chopping it off will be much cleaner.”
“If we do this,” said Jadra. “Do we need to make sure we burn the hand or something? I mean if it’s that evil could it come crawling after us trying to kill us?”
Vincent chuckled. “Oh my dear, have you been reading that horror book The Hand?”
“The what? No! I’ve been watching the Evil Dead!”
Vincent stared back.
“The Evil Dead?”
Jadra patted him on the shoulder.
“I love you Vincent, for everything you’ve done to help me, but sometimes you are a bit of an old grandad.”
“Well, I am nearly two centuries old! Anyway, let’s get on with this…”
* * *
Officer Jenkins sat with his head bowed over the paperwork on his desk. He had a vague feeling he had done something he really shouldn’t have, though he couldn’t remember what. But he had an even stronger feeling that admitting to it would be a very bad idea.
Besides, compared to the problems the Captain was having with that fancy lawyer, his problems were minor. Though he did wonder where the lawyer’s assistant had slipped off to. Jenkins had been hoping to ask her out. Or… could he ask her to marry him?
No. That wouldn’t be right. He shook his head, still fighting against the cotton-wool packed in there. All the while he listened in to his captain and the lawyer, while being very careful to avoid looking as if he was.
“So are you really telling me,” asked the lawyer. “That you have been holding my client here for all this time, yet you haven’t taken his fingerprints in a controlled environment? That the only evidence you have against him is a set of prints taken out amongst the public in an insecure location? One where dozens, maybe hundreds, of people had used the machine before him?”
“I… yes, but it’s… he wouldn’t let us… I mean…”
“Considering how you treated him it’s hardly surprising he was cautious, is it? After all your manhandling him, some of the time with your guns out.”
“Manhandling? We didn’t… look at the size of him! How could we…”
“Oh so because my client is on the larger size it’s okay for you to intimidate and bully him? It’s okay for you to mistreat him?”
“Hold on, we haven’t mistreated him!”
“Raising guns towards him when he has done nothing threatening? That sounds like intimidation and mistreatment!”
“He… that is…”
“That’s beside the point. I insist you take his fingerprints again. Immediately! If you’re going to hold him on such flimsy evidence then the least you could do is make sure it holds up.”
“Fine. We can certainly do that.”
Jenkins could hear the confidence returning to the Captain’s voice. The Captain knew, as Jenkins did, that the device they had been testing was state-of-the-art. There was no way it would have returned such a positive match by mistake. All the lawyer was doing was playing into their hands.
The suspect was retrieved from the cells, handcuffed once more even though everyone in the station was now aware of just how little good that would do. He followed the officers meekly, surprisingly so for such a huge man and one who was implicated in so many killings. Then Jenkins had seen plenty of other people who’d seemed mild-mannered but hid something far darker.
The suspect was taken to the fingerprint machine and uncuffed. His hands were placed on it, the fingerprints were taken. The captain smiled the whole way through.
The smile lasted less than another ten seconds, and soon he was outright frowning.
“That’s not… that can’t be right,” he said.
“Is there a problem?” asked the lawyer.
“Well, the fingerprint on the left-hand matches, but the right-hand… there must be something wrong with the machine.”
“Something wrong with the machine? I thought you said your machines were foolproof.”
“It’s… I’m sure it’s a mistake. I’m going to scan him again.”
Another scan followed, and the results had the captain even more confused.
“I… I want to do an ink and paper test!”
The lawyer stared at the captain for several seconds. “I would be perfectly within my rights to insist on my client being released right now, and advising him to consider suing for wrongful arrest. But we don’t want any questions left hanging over this. Do your paper-based test.”
The Captain did. Jenkins could see the older officer crumple as he looked at the results. Finally, the Captain turned to the prisoner.
“I… I don’t know how this could possibly have happened. The machine we first tested you with should be foolproof. But your prints from your right had don’t look anything like the ones they supposedly matched.
“It’s… I’m so, so sorry. You are, of course, free to go. We just need to process the paperwork, and you will be completely free. We will review our procedures as well. We can’t possibly let this happen again.”
And that was it. Within a few minutes the prisoner and his lawyer… no. The free man,and his lawyer, were gone. Jenkins bent even closer over his paperwork as the Captain ordered a young officer to send him those who’d taken the original fingerprints.
The youngster made the mistake of pointing out that the officers involved were now off duty. In return he received a seven-minute long parade dressing down telling him exactly what the captain thought of that, and how those officers had better be in front of him within twenty minutes or the young officer would be charged with the same offences they were, on the basis he was trying to shield them.
What those charges would be Jenkins had no idea, all he knew was that he was glad not to be directly involved. Yet he had a sneaking suspicion there was something he should remember, something which could land him in a whole lot of trouble, but whenever he thought about it all he could see was a huge, beaming, smile.
It wasn’t the suspect’s smile, which had truly been huge and beaming as befit an innocent man going free. Then he frowned as something different struck him. Had the suspect always had a large indigo tattoo of a snake eating its own tail on the back of his right hand?
Jenkins shook his head. Of course he had! He must have! Nothing else was possible. And besides… right then, pointing out anything strange to the Captain was a damn stupid idea.
So Jenkins bent back over his work and tried hard to forget about snake tattoos and the smile which seemed to haunt him. The latter would take him far longer to forget than the former.