Leave A Good Looking Corpse By Kismet
Chapter 3: Death
Zene snoozed fitfully, a gradual drift from sleep to wakefulness accompanied by a growing awareness of the dull ache of her body. Stretching painfully and rubbing sleep from bleary eyes, she had the frugal hope that everything was normal.
‘Maybe it was just a weird nightmare,’ Zene thought hopefully, ‘maybe I tripped and fell down the stairs, that’s why I feel so shit, maybe...’ Reaching to scratch at an itch which plagued her, Zene’s optimism was rapidly dispelled as her hand came across the incongruous lumps on her chest. Her confidence was crushed when she visually confirmed the existence of the firm mounds of her breasts.
Going over the events which had so dramatically transformed her life, Zene could not believe how badly she had misjudged Kelly. She had known that Kelly was erratic and unstable but would never have expected him to act in such a psychotic manner. The callous way he had talked about murdering people still shocked her. She would never have imagined that he could trap her in a female body and rape her. She prayed that she wasn’t pregnant as a result of the assault. Zene struggled to accept the permanence of her situation but soon gave up, instead scrutinising her surroundings.
There was a strange man and woman standing at the foot of her bed. On closer inspection they looked vaguely familiar to Zene but she was uncertain where she had met them before. Dismissing the interlopers, she focused on the white and austere room. If the furnishings were not enough proof, then the tag around her wrist dismissed any doubts that she was in a hospital.
"Darling you had us worried sick. Why did you ever get involved with that terrible man?" The lady asked.
"Be quiet Meryl. She’s had a rough time," the man sternly scolded his companion.
"Who are you?" Zene asked, looking closely at the man and woman.
They glanced at one another, worry etched on their faces. "You don’t recognise us?" The man asked with a sigh, sitting on the bed, the weight of the world suddenly descending on his shoulders.
"No, but you look like..." Zene paused, as she deduced that these people were Kelly’s parents. ‘What am I going to do? Tell them that their daughter is a monster, and that I’m someone that they think is dead? I can see it now - welcome to your padded cell Madame, would you like green crayons or red. Let me help you into your complimentary jacket. Why yes, they do have the longest sleeves, don’t they? They tie conveniently behind your back...’
"We’re your parents," the man said, smiling hopefully. "Steve and Meryl."
"Who am I?" Zene asked rhetorically in a small, lost voice.
She was now a freak, separated from everyone she knew by the new body which she wore, forced by circumstance into the identity of someone she hated. What was worse, she could not be herself anymore. Zene was dead, his brains blown out in a basement and, as a result, her life would never be the same again. Her past was suddenly inaccessible to her.
"You’re Kelly Stubbing, our daughter. We’ll be here for you, no matter what," Steve said with such smothering and paternal love that Zene felt repelled and overwrought.
Mind racing, Zene examined her options, such as they were. ‘Should I tell everyone the truth or should I hide in this new role? Who can I be if the male me is dead? Even if I could demonstrate that I’m Zene, can I prove that I’m not a murderer? How can I face the world as myself, in this body? I’d be a pariah, too unique to fit in anywhere, constantly attracting attention...’ Zene struggled to solve her dilemma.
Unable to answer these questions Zene made a sudden decision. She resolved to act as though she were Kelly until she could clear her name or discovered a way to become male again. Not being completely ignorant, Zene knew how merciful the media attention would be if she went public. Having absolutely no intention of crucifying herself on the world stage, she resolved to keep what she was to herself.
Zene was certain that she could not convince this couple that she was their daughter. She had to get rid of them. "Look I know you love me, but I really need some time alone," she said. "Could you please leave."
Steve nodded, taking his confused wife by the shoulder. "Look we’ll be back soon. We’ll help you sort out who you are. You are very important to us. We love you. We can still be family..." Kelly’s father tried to reassure Zene. His voice had a tired edge.
‘Yeah right,’ Zene thought, remembering how intensely Kelly had despised her parents, ‘Kelly was estranged from you years ago. Your loving daughter died and you didn’t even notice. Don’t try and make me into her.’ Zene tried to suppress her thoughts and not let them show on her face. She hoped she succeeded. "Thanks," Zene said as the two strangers left.
"She doesn’t even sound or act like Kelly..." Meryl said to Steve as he guided her from the room.
Contemplating her predicament, Zene sat back tentatively in the bed, mindful of her bruising. She chewed a nail absently until she realised with disgust how long it was. She had almost finished biting them to a respectable size when a physician checked in on her.
"Hello I’m doctor Peter Unwin. I just spoke to your parents. I understand you are having difficulties remembering things," he stated, holding a clipboard and pen officiously and assuming a professional air.
Having a sudden intuition, Zene decided to capitalise on the apparent misunderstanding. "Yes. I can’t remember anything about my life as Kelly Stubbing prior to now. Everything seems so alien to me. I don’t even know who Kelly Stubbing was," Zene reasoned that the best lies were founded in the truth, truth which she bent at interesting angles.
The Doctor asked a range of probing questions, which Zene answered as enigmatically as she could. The physician finally concluded that his patient had a rare mental disorder. This did not surprise him since her extensive medical tests had indicated some abnormal brain behavior.
The professional exhaled, marshaling his thoughts, "after examining the results of your CAT scan I noticed some unusual brain activity. Your cerebral hemispheres appear to have swelled slightly, though they are undamaged. It is also evident that you have suffered some slight physical trauma in other areas of your brain, your cerebrum and cerebellum showing signs of inflammation.
"To put it simply Mrs. Stubbing you have amnesia. I suppose I should tell you more about your condition, in simpler terms," the doctor explained.
"Right," she said, digesting this information, mulling over the possibilities, weighing the advantages of acting like an amnesiac. Zene’s general knowledge of amnesia was fairly good. She would not have to tell the world her story or become a freak she realised, giving her the time and space she needed to figure out a way to escape this body and resume a normal life.
She focused all of her attention upon the physician. Having a professional explain the disorder was advantageous as it might prevent her from making any slip ups.
"The causes of amnesia can generally be traced to shock. In your case this trauma could be either physical or emotional, I’m not sure at this stage. You seem to have retrograde amnesia, where all the events preceding the causative event are forgotten.," the expert stated.
"How long will it last?" Zene asked, trying to keep excitement from her voice.
"You should not worry too much. Amnesia rarely lasts long, but since the possible cause of this amnesia are legion, and considering the ordeal you have been through, we need to begin rehabilitation immediately."
"What if the amnesia lasts a long time?" Zene prompted.
"Well you just go on living your life. In these situations it is not uncommon to begin completely new life patterns. You are starting afresh after all. You will still be you, but a divergent version of yourself, unfettered by past memories and perceptions. But let me stress that this is extremely rare. Most cases of amnesia are only temporary."
‘That sounds like something that I can work with,’ Zene thought to herself.
The doctor continued. "These periods; when you begin new life patterns and gain new memories, are called fugue states. If you recover your lost memories, you may lose most or all the events from the fugue state." The doctor tried to sound supportive, working on his bedside manner.
‘Not much chance of that, not if I don’t really have amnesia,’ Zene thought smugly.
"You need to start by seeing a psychiatrist regularly. In the interim I’d like to try some hypnosis and other tests. We might be able to bump your old memories back in no time at all."
"No," Zene said emphatically.
"No tests. No nothing."
"That is extremely risky madam," the doctor protested, seeing the chance to increase his knowledge and experience with amnesia dwindle.
"It may be, but I don’t want any tests. No shrinks either."
"Surely you must reconsider," he argued.
Zene shook her head adamantly in reply.
"Oh." The doctor looked at his watch and decided that he had more important work to do. "If you will excuse me," he said leaving brusquely, his professional pride injured.
Sergeant Baxter and Officer Collins came to see Zene in the afternoon, taking seats by her bed. Sergeant Baxter eyed her bruising with disdain, angry that someone would beat a woman so badly.
‘I come across too much scum in his job,’ Baxter thought to himself. "Hello Mrs. Stubbing. We need to ask some questions. Do you think you’re up to it?" Baxter asked.
"Sorry, I can’t seem to remember anything, but I’ll try," Zene replied.
"We've spoken to the doctor about that already, but it can't hurt to ask can it? Could you tell us how long you have been having a relationship with Mr. Zene McGraw?"
"No. I don’t know. I can’t remember ever going out with him," she answered.
"Are you aware that you were married?" Collins asked suspiciously.
"No. To my knowledge I’ve never been married," Zene answered, disliking the rookie officer immediately. Collins mustache looked ridiculous and his voice was irritating.
"Who is Norman?" Baxter asked.
"Norman. He’s the cockatoo," Zene answered. "Is he all right?"
"The cockatoo is at the vet," Collins replied. "It’s wing was completely shattered and the bird will probably never fly again. Norman is recovering quite nicely though. He seems to be in shock, not very lively at all," the young officer paused and sat forward, an idea occurring to him, "I thought you had amnesia Miss, but you seem to remember this cockatoo."
Zene felt uncomfortable at Collins’ close proximity, suddenly very afraid of him. She tried to move away from the man as panic and anxiety suddenly welled up in her, her fingers twitching reflexively.
Baxter pulled Collins back into his seat, seeing the look of distress and fear on Zene’s bruised face, correctly interpreted the source of her fear as the closeness his partner. "I think we’d better be going now. Thank you for answering our questions, we’ll be in touch." They both stood and departed, Collins seeming somewhat reluctant.
Zene looked down at her hands in distress. Her body had instinctively reacted to her fear in a most startling manner, almost as though she were Kelly...
* * *
"So what do you think?" Collins asked as they left earshot.
"It looks like an open and shut case. Poor girl. I tell you what, someone that does what McGraw did doesn’t deserve to live. I’m glad they put a bullet in his brain. Saved the taxpayers the expense of having to keep him for the next sixty to two hundred years."
"But why would she refuse treatment for her amnesia, unless she has something to hide? Don’t you think that’s a bit odd?" Collins asked skeptically.
"Not really, Sherlock. The poor girl probably doesn’t want to remember what she went through. Hell I know I wouldn’t. It’s perfectly reasonable when you think about it. And I don’t think Kelly had anything to do with Zene going wacko. Remember how she convinced him to hand over that hostage? It’s a pity that a nice young girl like her got involved with that nutter, but some women are attracted to dangerous men." Baxter replied.
"Yeah..." Collins said. There was something wrong with this whole situation, but the rookie could not put his finger on it.
* * *
Baxter managed to piece together the night as best he could. An argument and the subsequent break-up were established by a number of people in the restaurant. A kitchen hand related morosely under light questioning that he had seen Kelly raped in the car park. This particularly bothered Baxter as he reasoned that if this act had been reported then four murders may have been averted.
Baxter and Collins’ interviewed Zene a number of times about the night but she stuck to her amnesia story, although she desperately wanted to refute the accusations made about her raping Kelly, the charges cutting her to the bone, especially considering it was Kelly who had raped her. Since the doctors supported the validity of her amnesia, the officers were forced to give up the investigation.
Zene was discharged from the hospital after two days, refusing all tests, politely rejecting the offer from her ‘parents’ to stay with them. She decided it would be in her best interests to sort out her life by herself.
On leaving the hospital Zene was surrounded by a wave of reporters and cameramen. Baxter escorted her through the crowd of people, Captain Rogers also by her side the whole time. It was at this time that Zene learned the media had inventively dubbed the event as the ‘Quick Draw McGraw Rampage’.
The questions which the media asked were blunt and cruel, intended to spark an angry or emotional response, to give the execs something to manipulate into the growing ‘reel life drama’, truth and facts be damned.
Zene tried to keep her face impassive as insinuating questions about rape and assault were casually bandied about. Implications that she had somehow contributed to the murderous rampage were hurled callously at her as everyone jostled and pushed to get at least some comment from her.
The proximity of such a large number of people yelling questions at her and forcing themselves into her personal space caused her composure to wear thin. The press was made worse by her short stature, which seemed to increase the size of these people, making them tower menacingly above her. Zene felt soft and weak in her new body but managed to control her trepidation, climbing gratefully into a police car.
"Take you home Mrs. Stubbing?" Baxter asked in a concerned voice as he drove away from the media circus. Collins was not present which left Zene feeling a bit more relieved.
"No. I’d like to collect my cockatoo if I could please," Zene answered, her self-assurance regained.
Collecting the unusually subdued Norman from a vet, Zene ran into a fellow veterinary student of Kelly’s, Stephen Wainwright. She awkwardly talked with this stranger who was apparently quite familiar with Kelly. Stephen seemed a bit too interested in Zene’s ordeal, asking scrutinizing questions. The terseness of her answers seemed to worry Stephen
After they departed they drove to David and Kelly’s city flat. The Stubbing’s other residence, the converted factory, was a crime scene and therefore inaccessible. Zene was glad she didn’t have return there as it held too many raw and painful memories.
Surprisingly the reporters had not camped out at Kelly and David’s flat in great numbers, which allowed Baxter and Zene to enter the building with little difficulty. Sergeant Baxter, carrying Norman’s cage, escorted her to the door then departed.
Zene entered the flat, letting Norman out of his cage. She looked around the flat and realised that it was her property. She resolved that since it was hers, it would have to meet her approval. Certain things had to change.
Going to the bedroom, Zene started her ‘spring cleaning’ straight away. She had escaped Kelly and was determined to put him as far from her life as possible, that included taking any influence of Kelly from her new residence.
Anticipation for the drastic changes she had planned for the flat turned into nervous hand movements. Zene clamped down on her twitching fingers, refusing to admit that she had inherited some of Kelly’s mannerisms, the idea too intimidating.
Rummaging through the drawers of clothing in the bedroom, Zene examined the garments with irritation. Most of David’s apparel, though appropriate to Zene’s masculine thinking, was too big.
Kelly’s clothing fit perfectly, which was distressing as it was too feminine. Zene wanted baggy clothing which would hide the curves of her body and she disdained most of Kelly’s clothing as too revealing. Kelly’s garments would accent Zene’s female figure and while Zene was uncomfortable with her body, she was even less comfortable with parading it in front of other people. At first Zene could only decide on a breast flattening sports bra and some boxer shorts of David’s which were almost too big. Even the sports bra did little to hide her generous cleavage.
She held up a pair of panties, then threw them in the bin. She had hated briefs as a man and was damned if she was going to wear them now, especially such ridiculously frilly attire as those. As Zene looked at how little progress she had made, she redoubled her efforts to rid herself of Kelly’s influence.
The heavy mass of her hair suddenly irritated her incredibly as Zene had always kept her hair short. Abruptly Zene saw the long hair as a part off Kelly and something which enhanced her femininity. ‘This hair has to go,’ she thought, the mane of locks becoming the embodiment of her problems.
Finding some scissors Zene cut ruthlessly at the hair, doing a brutal and uneven job. Cutting of clumps of hair felt good though, a cathartic action. When she looked in the mirror she saw a different person, still Kelly’s face but not the Kelly that Zene had known. The reflected face looked rounder and fuller, though inescapably feminine. Zene was slowly putting her mark on this body, but she was failing to make it more masculine.
She laughed to herself as an odd thought occurred to her. As a man Zene had asked Kelly a number of times to cut her hair short but Kelly had always refused. Zene found women with short hair attractive and it came as little surprise to her that she now found the body more attractive with short hair. Without the long mane of hair, her shapely and refined neck was displayed to full advantage. Her wish had been granted, but the cost was ludicrously high. Zene shrugged at the irony of her situation noting that she needed to fix up her hair properly as it was a grisly mess. She then returned to the job she had started.
Picking up Kelly’s purse, Zene pulled out all of the credit cards and junk, focusing on items with signatures. She was going to have to destroy all of these and change her signature, forgery not being one of her skills. Zene remembered how well Kelly had lived and how little he earned. A rich spouse and easily exploited parents were handy and finances were not going to be a problem, not in the near future.
The next thing Zene did was remove all of the jewelry, make-up and female beauty paraphernalia she could find and dump it in a cardboard box. What she could not sell was going to be thrown out. She started going through the drawers again with a vengeance. All of the dresses went into a box, the expensive and the cheap. ‘Do I need bras?’ she wondered when she reached them.
They served a function of sorts and while not vain in any female sense of the word, Zene knew that if she were trapped that she did not want to grow old and saggy if she could help it.
On an odd impulse Zene tried on some brassieres and, as an afterthought, fished the matching briefs from the bin to model. As she slipped them on and examined her reflection, she had mixed feelings about the negligee. She liked the way the body in the mirror filled them, the arousing way the breasts nestled in the nearly transparent silk, the nipples dark circles barely seen in the fabric, definitely quite erotic to behold. The way the floral panties suggested that there was more to be seen excited her also. However she felt confused when she looked down at her body in the negligee. She could not console the masculine image of herself which she still clung tenaciously too, with the very real form of her female body.
Zene was titillated and repulsed at the same time. ‘Great I’m turning into a closet transvestite,’ she thought, ‘I’m prancing in front of the mirror like some... woman. No some...’. she groped for the right word and failed.
She decided to keep the negligee, but was unresolved as to whether or not she would wear them. She had second thoughts about some of the expensive frocks and determined to keep them in moth balls.
‘God I’m tired,’ she thought to herself. In all the activity she had ignored the badly bruised nature of her body. ‘I need to relax. I think I’ll have a shower.’
Instead Zene opted for a long, hot, relaxing bath. She filled the bath and settled in. As she lay back, relaxing, the tension flowing from her, she grew bored and looked down at her diminutive body. She lazily decided to explore herself in leisure for the first time since the whole drama began.
Her arms were lithe and supple, as were her legs. Zene held up an arm and marveled at its delicate shape. She had never really appreciated the texture and tone of her skin as a man. The muscles were so much smaller, her skin smoother and, despite the yellow bruising, a pure alabaster colour. Her hair was also much finer, almost unnoticeable on her body. She rubbed her legs together and marveled at how different they felt. She felt like a child again. Her breasts, bobbing weightless in the water, dispelled this image. She traced the curve of her hip. It felt so different. A thrill ran up her spine.
She touched her nipple and was still a little surprised that with the proper attention it produced quite a pleasant sensation. She placed a finger between her legs, circling her clitoris, inserting a finger into her vagina. This created quite a different response to when she had slept with Kelly, but also quite pleasurable. She began a slow, mellow masturbation, emptying her mind of all thoughts, almost weightless in the water. She tried to imagine having sex but her forced encounter with Kelly flashed through her mind. Anxiety developed in her stomach, almost ruining the experience.
Starting again, this time just concentrating on the sensations, Zene lost herself to the leisurely play of her tender fingers. Without conscious effort her mind started to create sexual images. It was peculiar. She still imagined herself as a male, but screwing this body with her in it. Strange, but also erotic. A warm fuzzy feeling spread from around her vagina and leached in waves up into her body. She sighed.
‘This isn’t all bad,’ she thought as she moaned, sinking beneath the warm water.
* * *
It took a lot of mental preparation for Zene to go to her bodies funeral. She had been lucky to find out about the service and had originally been unsure if she should go, knowing it would not be an easy ordeal, the need to go outweighing any fears she had though.
Zene decided on a dark suit for the event. Even with her somewhat severe haircut, lack of makeup and modest choice of clothes, she was still attractive, though not the sex kitten that Kelly was. As she appraised her appearance in the mirror, she was overly critical. ‘It’s not everyday that you go to your own funeral,’ she thought, and a sense of the macabre nature of the day dawned upon her.
Even though Zene had mentally steeled herself, she was wholly unprepared for the funeral.
There was a huge press gallery outside the church, much larger than the one at the hospital, and Zene had to navigate her way through it. It seemed that the story of Zene 'Quick draw' McGraw had gained international notoriety. A world renowned scientists had been murdered, leaving behind a grieving widow. Another famous scientist had been shot in the struggle. A decorated police officer had been cruelly slain, another injured, perhaps crippled. A loved and promising daughter had been brutally shot. A struggling artist had been murdered because he had assaulted the wrong person. Throw in a saucy affair, a police siege, a young child hostage and a number of shoot outs and you have enough material to recycle for years, maybe even create a cult figure.
Kelly Stubbing appeared prominently in the story. Philanderer. Instigator. Hostage. Amnesiac. Zene was thrust into public notoriety and the public wanted more. The film and miniseries were already in the making...
Already steeled to the media’s methods, Zene managed to escape without any comment, due in part to police assistance. As she was escorted into the church by Captain Rogers, Zene could feel eyes boring into her from all directions.
Zene received a mixed reaction at the service. Some people were sympathetic, some gave her cold brush-off’s, but generally she was greeted with open hostility. This was difficult for Zene as the closest people to her were the angriest or most distant. Her family and friends all blamed her, hated her and wanted nothing to do with her. She wanted to mollify her loved ones but a huge rift separated them, the snide comments and harsh stares thrown constantly at her making the event almost unbearable. She almost left, but forced herself to stay.
The service was mercifully quick but it was still intensely disturbing for her to see her parents and brother so visibly distraught. Zene impotently struggled to not weep but could not help shedding tears as she watched her grandparents comforting their devastated offspring. She felt like rushing to her family to hug and console them, but told herself that now was not the time nor the place. Stoically she bided her time, knowing that eventually everything would work out, one way or another.
Zene looked over the assemblage with tear stained eyes. A considerable portion of people that she had expected at the wake were absent, having disowned Zene, accepting he had committed homicide. Most of those in attendance were disbelieved that Zene was a multiple murderer or had attended to support Zene’s mourning family.
There were also a few ghouls at the funeral, the dregs of humanity who lived vicariously through the pain and loss of others, attracted by the media feeding frenzy and the fame of the event.
Organ music played as the closed casket was carried from the church by the pallbearers. When the coffin passed Zene, her brother Brendan turned and spat at her. "How dare you, you fucking whore!" he whispered in a seething tone.
Zene slumped in stunned disbelief as condemning eyes focused on her from all directions. The congregation slowly filed from the church in a hushed silence which hung heavily over Zene. She felt like she was the source of the pall which had come over everyone, like an outcast at her own funeral.
Deciding that she could not handle the crematorium service, Zene opted to head home and drown her sorrows. As she was leaving she saw her best friend Rick, the only person from her work that had turned up. Rick looked at her and shook his head, a disgusted sneer on his face, amazed that she had the gall to turn up to the funeral. Rashly, Zene approached her erstwhile friend, in spite of his scornful expression. Zene doubted she could deal with her family right now, not in the state they were in, but maybe she could deal with Rick.
"Rick, I need to speak to you," Zene said to Rick, reasoning that he had seen Kelly for what she was and would see her for what she was as well. She also anticipated that she could make her closest confidant hear her out.
"Oh, so you remember me? I thought you had total amnesia," Rick accused, his caustic tone implying that he had never believed Zene had amnesia. "I don’t know how you turned Zene into a psycho but stay away from me. You’re not getting your claws into me like you did him."
"Look I really need to talk to you. It’s important." She moved as close to him as she felt comfortable and said quietly. "Zene isn’t dead and he didn’t kill anyone."
Rick looked at Zene as though she were contaminated by a noxious plague, taking a step away. This woman had wrapped his best friend around her finger, driven him into a killing rampage that had resulted in his death and now she was saying that none of it had happened. Rick reevaluated his opinion of Kelly. Previously he had thought her a vicious manipulator, now he knew she was completely deranged.
Zene continued on. "Listen this is hard to believe but-"
"No you listen. I know you’re not insane. You’re worse. You’re evil. Pure, cunning, contemplating evil. Stay away from me." He pushed her away then turned on his heal and walked off.
Zene had been overcome by a wave of panic when Rick had shoved her and now stood daftly, gawking at Rick’s retreating figure, a deep melancholy inching from the dark recesses of her mind. She realised that people were staring at her in the wake of the spectacle and, feeling foolish, decided to make her exit.
* * *
Norman took a dump in his toilet dish. It had taken him a while but the mentally modified Cockatoo had managed to get the hang of using a small bowl as an amenity. The only thing that cockatoos did all day was eat and shit, and his control was not that great. Most birds just took a crap anywhere but Norman was trying to be civilised. Controlling his bowel motions was the first task he set himself due the fastidiously neat nature of his personality.
Norman was currently upset that he would not be able to fly and once again fought the craving to spread his wings and squawk loudly in rage. He had been quite taken with the idea of soaring high in the sky with a birds eye view of the world which was reinforced by the natural desire of his form.
This was not the cause of the funk that he had been in recently. He was aware that he was gradually losing important memories. He had lost a lot in the transfer but the damage to his memory had been continuing at an alarming rate. At some stage he wouldn't even remember his family and this really worried him. But god moved in mysterious ways and Zene had promised to look into repairing his mind with the Nanotechnology when she got her hands on it. He just prayed that there was enough of him to save when she got hold of it.
To pass the time and distract his mind, he sat preening his white feathers, experimenting with the new muscles at the top of his head which controlled his crop. It was the most expressive part of his new anatomy and could convey his mood quite effectively.
Zene barged into the flat, slamming the door loudly, visibly distressed.
"What’s wrong?" Norman asked, his crop rising in concern. He could imagine how bad the funeral was but knew that Zene had to externalise her emotions and vent her frustration.
Zene told Norman about the funeral and the reception she had received, the bird listening and grunting supportively.
"Everyone hates me," she said. She was stuck in an inward eating cycle of self pity. Cut off from her past, she loathed the person that everyone thought she was and saw no way of climbing out of the rut she was trapped in.
"That’s because they don’t know you. You’re just starting over. It’s not going to be easy. Keep at it and don’t lose faith," Norman said encouragingly.
"Would you talk like a human being, not a parrot," Zene snapped angrily.
"That isn’t fair," he said defensively.
Zene sighed. Norman was the only ‘person’ that she could relate too at the moment. He might get carried away in his religion sometimes but he was a lot more human than some of the people she had seen today. "I’m sorry. There is no excuse for snapping at people like that but... I don’t know, it’s just so hard and I feel so powerless. To cap it all off, I’m too hormonal lately. I think I’m getting my-"
"Wait. There are some mysteries which god intended for women only. That’s one of them. I might be a bird but I’m still male."
"Yeah, well this mystery isn’t very exciting, let me tell you." Though not eager to experience a period, Zene was willing to endure it rather than suffer a pregnancy. The idea of having a child was mind blowing and the abstract fear of being with child had been plaguing Zene since her forced intercourse with Kelly. She knew on a rational level that Kelly took precautions, but this had done nothing to mollify her anxiety. Still coping with a completely new body, the last thing Zene wanted was a tenant.
Norman appraised Zene, waiting for her to continue.
"Have you decided on whether you’ll contact your family?" she asked, changing the subject.
"Yes. I’m going to do it. I can’t live my life like this, hiding out from the world. Besides, if I leave it off any longer, I might not be able to remember them at all," he perched for a moment, quite glum. "You know together we could sort out this whole mess. I’m proof that this mind transfer thing can happen, and so are you. We could even clear your name," the cockatoo said enthusiastically
"We’ll see." Zene said evasively.
"You can’t keep lying to people. It will ruin your life. At least come with me and meet my family," he pleaded.
Zene knew that she would have too, it was the least she could do for him since she owed him her life. Besides, if she refused he would never shut up.
"First, can you help me convince someone that I’m Zene?" She asked.
"Certainly," Norman replied.
Zene smiled, suddenly hopeful. All she had to do was carry a huge bird cage past the press which had besieged the flat, lose them, then convince someone that hated her that she was the victim of an insane body switching plot. Easy.
* * *
Something was wrong. Kelly knew something was wrong. The plan hadn’t worked. Zene was still in his body. ‘I should have been in it,’ he thought. That meant that he was stuck like he was now. He could not gain access to the Nanotechnology in this body, not with so many cops and reporters around. Zene must have tricked him or he had been killed in Zene’s male body before the transfer was completed.
Kelly looked down in frustration at his hijacked body. ‘This cops body is woeful. It’s in good shape but it is too uncomfortable. It has no grace and to top it off, its short sighted and has dentures,’ he thought.
Collins' body looked back at him from the mirror in the rest room. ‘Worse, it’s addicted to cigarettes and I hate smoking.’ He looked at the handlebar mustache on his upper lip. It gave his face years, but he still thought it looked like a joke. It covered a large and ugly scar just above his mouth, so Kelly had opted to keep it. ‘I feel like one of the Village People, I must look ridiculous. What possessed me to pick this body.’
Kelly had copied herself into Collins human body, shortly after Norman had been switched into the cockatoo, the raw officer having been moved into the body of a male ferret. Kelly had considered duplicating himself onto Norman’s body but Norman was too old, in bad shape and was useless for contingency requirements. Collins had been a newly graduated cop, which would open some doors, and Kelly believed that he could impersonate a green officer for a short period. Collins had also seemed fit, healthy and a likely candidate for seduction.
Kelly walked into the dining room of Collins' small flat. A squeal of anger greeted his entrance. A cage on the floor housed four ferrets, one of which was very pissed off at Kelly. This aggravated ferret was what was left of Collins’ mind. Kelly had provided Collins with three female companions, but Redmund did not seem to appreciate the gesture.
On the table was four vials containing the last of the nanobots. During the confusion that followed the death of Zene’s body he had taken them from the cabinet. More importantly the hard disk from the computer had been salvaged and was in his possession. This hard disk had been created by David using nanotechnology and encompassed the scientists early efforts at organic circuitry, making it extremely powerful. Unfortunately the hard disk was partially blank as a result of the computer blowing up, but Kelly still had enough raw materials to get his body back.
Stealing Redmund Collins body was only a contingency which Kelly had not thought through. He now had to hatch a new plot.
* * *
Rick answered the doorbell and found a cockatoo perched in a cage on the landing. The young man looked up and down the street but saw no one. Scratching his head in confusion he carried the cage into his house, putting it down on the dining table. Rick looked speculatively at the bird.
"Do you believe in god?" The cockatoo squawked.
Rick smiled sitting down. "Now who left you on my doorstep," he asked rhetorically.
"It was Zene," Norman answered, "Zene needs to speak to you."
Rick jumped back, startled. ‘You are now entering the twilight zone,’ he thought. "There has to be a logical reason for someone to teach a cockatoo to say that... Kelly. I bet it was Kelly."
"No. Listen very carefully. My name is Norman. I’m not a normal cockatoo. I used to be a man, a human being."
Rick started looking at the cage for speakers, a camera or a microphone. "Where are the hidden speakers?" Rick asked, trying to figure out the gag.
"I was trapped in this body by Kelly Stubbing. My body is the one that jumped off the top of the Rialto. You know the flying missionary you told Zene about? That was me.
"Kelly switched bodies with Zene and used his body to go on a murdering rampage but Kelly was the one that was killed, not Zene. Kelly was shot by snipers in Zene’s body. Zene is now stuck in Kelly’s female body. She thought that I’d be able to convince you that she was not Kelly."
Rick had watched the cockatoo throughout its whole insane spiel. No cockatoo could remember that much, could it? "What’s the square root of minus nine?" Rick asked.
"It doesn’t exist." Norman answered.
‘The cockatoo is definitely speaking,’ Rick noted. "Walk around a bit," he ordered. Norman did as instructed. "Stand on one leg." Again the bird followed the request. It wasn’t an animatronic animal. It was real.
"Are you done. Yes I’m a cockatoo, and yes I’m as smart as a person. I used to be one," Norman stated in an offended but dignified squawk, his crop furling on his head. "Do you believe me?"
"Maybe..." Rick answered.
"Zene is outside waiting to be let in," Norman warbled. "You might want to talk to her."
Rick walked to the front door, expecting Candid Camera or something equally ridiculous to greet him. Instead he opened the door to see Kelly Stubbing.
"Can I come in please?" Zene asked quietly.
"I guess so," Rick answered, unsure when exactly his afternoon had departed so dramatically from reality.
Zene walked into the house. She sat down on the couch, where she always sat to watch the sports games on Rick’s cable TV. She looked around the room and noticed some new changes. "I see you’ve got the stereo I left for you in my will. Hey who said you could take my Gumby?" She picked up the rubber Gumby figure that had sat on her office table for two years.
"Well Zene didn’t seem to need it." Rick said hesitantly.
"I guess I don’t. Listen I know this is all mad but what Norman told you is true. Kelly was crazy. She had this plan that-"
"The news reports implied that Zene molested Kelly. Did he?"
"God, I didn’t do anything!" Anger burnt in her eyes, she could feel the need to cry but no tears came. "Kelly raped me in this body. He took everything I was and threw it away. He destroyed my life. All but killed me. Left me in this body, just so he could get a hold of David’s Nanobots."
"They’re worth millions. They can cure disease, replace body parts... and switch peoples bodies and minds."
"So you’re really Zene?" Rick was trying to come to grips with this. He was still wary that this was a trick of Kelly’s.
"What’s left of his mind." She looked down at her body.
"Tell me something that only he would know." Rick said.
"Ask me something that only I should know." She countered.
"O.K. Who creamed the Dragon in the create a character contest?"
"Nobody. The Dragon let Jimbo da Mighty Lobster win but nobody whips the Dragons butt."
Rick believed that this was Zene. Nobody was pathetic enough to know that kind of useless and trivial information except Zene and himself.
"Marv rules!" Squawked Norman. Zene and Rick looked at the bird, then shrugged their shoulders.
"So... why tell me?" Rick’s best mate was now a girl. This was very difficult to get his mind around.
"I need a link to my former life. I guess I’m not ready to give my whole past up and I chose you because, well, I couldn’t cope with my family in this state. I don’t think they could either." She looked at him, her emotions a turmoil. "Everyone I care for hates me and I didn’t do a thing. I can’t go public with this. I’d be a freak, up there with Elvis, Martians and..."
Rick’s heart went out to this vulnerable girl and he moved to comfort her. As he approached her she recoiled, holding up her hands to make him keep his distance. He stopped and moved back. "Sorry I didn’t..."
"That’s all right. I’m just not sure about myself around men, after what Kelly did..." She thought back to the way she had cringed in absolute terror at Officer Collins. "It scares me that there are people like that. This female body is so weak, but to take advantage of it like Kelly did..." She looked despondently down at her new hands, lifeless in her lap.
Norman watched, realising that the body was only part of the problem. The obstacle was in Zene’s mind. Zene had been raped. Whether she was male or female didn’t make it harder or easier to deal with. She needed to confront and overcome her fears.
* * *
David’s funeral was not as hard as her own. It had been a small dignified service and very few people had attended, as David had no relatives. It was very difficult for Zene to relate to all these people, to feel grief for someone she did not know. She did feel guilt, that she may have indirectly contributed to David’s death. She could dismiss this self reproach, since she had been as much a victim of Kelly’s ‘plan’ as David.
Kelly’s parents were probably the hardest to deal with. They truly cared about their daughter, but Zene did not want anything to with them. She brushed them off as politely as she could after the funeral, explaining that she had business to attend to with Sergeant Baxter.
Baxter had attended on the off chance of gaining any understanding of the case he was working on. It still baffled him that an apparently normal person would flip out like this without any warning. Zene approached him, smiling at his familiar and unjudging face.
"We’re all finished at the crime scene. I thought I’d come down here personally and tell you that you can go back to the warehouse." Baxter was being polite, but Zene could sense something else. "If you want someone to come with you...?" Baxter left the question hanging. He was willing to go above and beyond the call of duty for this attractive women.
"Thank you Sergeant. I really appreciate the offer, but I need to do this by myself." She considered his offer. "Maybe I’ll need your help some other time." She grinned in appreciation for his concern.
Zene drove David’s BMW away from the crematorium, intending on visiting the converted factory. It was not until she reviewed in her mind what she had said that she realised that her comment left things a bit more than neutral between herself and Baxter. She put such thoughts behind her as she entered the warehouse where her life had been so dramatically changed.
The building was quiet as she walked down the stairs to the basement. The test animals had all been put out to the RSPCA. Zene was quite surprised that the basement did not stir any fears. She decided that she did not want to go upstairs though.
There was a chalk outline where her body had fallen. She looked at it briefly and had no response, which she took as a bad sign. She should feel something for her dead body. After considering her emotions she decided that she was simply glad to be alive, that she had beaten Kelly. Anything was better than being dead, even being trapped in the body she wore.
Moving to the computer, she noticed that though burnt, the stack was still in one piece. The hard drive had been removed.
"That’s not good..." Zene muttered as she checked where the nanobot vials were kept. None of the vials were their either. "Who would have known to take the hard disk and the nanobots?" The young lady felt the familiar gnaw of worry as she pulled out her mobile phone and dialed sergeant Baxter.
"Sergeant Baxter’s desk, officer Collins speaking, how can I help you?" A voice answered.
"This is Kelly Stubbing here. Is sergeant Baxter back yet?"
"No I’m sorry he’s out all day today. Can I help?"
Zene paused. The voice sounded familiar, ringing warning bells in her mind. She had heard that voice before.
"No. I was just going to thank him for all his assistance," Zene answered. "Could you pass that message on please?"
"Sure. I can do that." It was Kelly talking, with a different tone but the same inflections. Now that Zene could divorce Kelly’s voice from Collins body it was so obvious.
"Thanks a lot," Zene said pleasantly, hiding her true emotions as she turned off her phone, her thoughts racing in a panic.
‘My god. Kelly has taken over a police officers body. How did he do that?’ Zene sprinted up the stairs. ‘Are there more of him than just that one copy? More important what do I do? I need to disappear, without alerting Kelly. Can I trust any police officer?’
She climbed into her newly acquired car. ‘Kelly can’t realistically impersonate an experienced officer without drawing suspicion to himself so I can contact someone higher in the chain of command.’ She started the engine. ‘I’ll contact the captain and tell him that I’m lying low from the media and that he can contact me via my mobile, if needed. I can’t let Kelly get his hands on me- he probably has the nanobots. I’ll have to hide somewhere... Jesus I’m going to have to trust Rick.’ Zene decided as she drove to Kelly and David’s old apartment.
* * *
Kelly hung up the phone, deep in thought, stroking his mustache. ‘Had Zene guessed? Probably not. She isn’t that smart,’ Kelly contemplated as he returned to his desk, picking up a dossier that he had been reading. He had purloined the file from a senior detectives desk. It listed, in some detail, the activities of a major Mafia player, Nick Ratorallis. It made some quite fascinating reading.
The phone call troubled Kelly a little and he decided to make his move that night.
* * *
Kelly parked his car, the steam from his exhaust wafting into the night. He pulled out a briefcase with the computer files he had salvaged from the factory and stalked through the gloomy and oppressive fog. The press still blockaded the front of the Zene’s building but Kelly had to risk approaching her. He used his police uniform to get past the media and night watchman, hoping that the fog would camouflage and obscure his appearance, and made his way to her flat. Listening at the door, he heard nothing, so he silently opened the door to her apartment using the spare key he had kept. Kelly stole silently in, moving towards the bedroom. Cautiously he opened the sliding door, so as not to wake her.
Creeping up to her bed, Kelly drew his gun and pulled back the covers. Zene wasn’t there. Kelly rapidly searched the rest of the flat. The apartment was empty, showing signs of a hurried packing and departure. Kelly silently cursed himself for underestimating Zene and acting too slowly.
Kelly needed to find Zene before, or soon after, the reading of David’s will, before she came into possession of the nanobot manufacturing systems and programs which his deceased spouse had alluded too. If Zene used the Nanobots or announced their existence, Kelly’s chances at controlling the technology shrunk to nothing. Kelly raged impotently as his carefully charted future slipped through his fingers.
The only place Kelly was certain that Zene would go was the will reading. ‘If I can be there at the right time and abduct her... The press will see it all. I’d be lucky if I pull it off like that,’ he thought.
Kelly realised that he needed to change tact. The body he had now was useless and definitely a liability. He knew he was close to a suspension for shirking his duties, and that he would not be able to get close to Zene as officer Collins. Kelly needed a new body which opened new doors, increased his resources and manpower. Kelly smiled, an idea coming to his twisted mind.
* * *
Sitting on his couch in a top and pants from gym, Rick was just starting to loosen up after a difficult day. He had gone straight to a workout after finishing a busy shift at work and completing his usual weights regime and circuit training always left him feeling worn out. In this exhausted state he was unwinding by watching TV and eating a microwave dinner with a beer.
When the doorbell rang Rick frowned in annoyance and went to see who was there. He was rather surprised to see Zene again. Rick stood indecisively, not sure what to say, still unaccustomed and nervous with his friends change.
Zene had a suitcase in one hand. Outside a thick fog had rolled in, making the street lights appear like disembodied and surreal orbs floating in the air. Rick shivered. It looked like a strange night out there.
“Can I come in?” Zene entered before Rick answered. She put the bag down. “I need a huge favour. I'm still in danger. I need a place to lye low, away from the media and from...” Zene wondered if she had imagined Kelly’s voice. “Kelly.”
Rick stood silently for a moment, as he digested this information. “Well, umm, if you really think Kelly is still alive, I guess it’s O.K. But this is my house,” he stated redundantly. ‘It’s hard enough dealing with a friend who’s been magically made female, but living with her? I can’t turn my back on a mate though, what sort of person would that make me?’ he reasoned.
“Thanks. You won’t even know I'm here.” Zene smiled. She felt that there was safety in numbers. ‘Kelly has to find where I am, then he’d have to deal with both Rick and I.'
“Why do you think Kelly is alive? Isn’t his brain a little ventilated?” Rick asked.
Zene filled him in about Collins’ voice, the missing hard disk and the nanobots. She also explained how she had handed Norman over to his family and the almost religious ferver that had gripped the house. It had been like the second coming.
As Zene sipped a coffee Rick had made, she knew that she had subconsciously recognised Kelly at the hospital. She had been terrified of Collins, not even knowing that Kelly was so close. Once again her fear of Kelly had worked against her.
“How could Kelly have managed a switch?.” Rick asked. “Both the pig and your male body died.”
“I don’t know. I’m running on gut instinct about Collins at the moment, but I know I’m right. He might have done the change anytime. A backup for his almighty plan.” Zene shrugged her shoulders. ‘It made sense,’ she thought, then frowned as she realised that Rick was looking at her chest. Her breasts had just moved with her shoulders and it bothered her that something so simple seemed to captivate all of Rick’s faculties.
Rick looked up at her face, made eye contact and blushed, a sleepy smile on his face. Zene could not blame him, she had often done the same thing to women during conversation, but if she had known how obvious the gazing was, she would have made greater efforts to control her eyes. She shook her head slightly in wry amusement.
“Um, I guess you’ll have the spare room then,” Rick said, trying to change the topic, knowing that he had been sprung.
“No, I thought I’d share your double bed,” she replied sarcastically.