Copyright© 2005 by Kien Reti
I ripped open the door when I heard the screams. Tanya was wailing hysterically. She had an ugly bruise under one eye and deep abrasions on her bare breast. Her bathrobe was in tatters.
"What in the hell happened, baby? Did you fall and hurt yourself?"
"He tried to rape me!"
"Rape? Rape you? Who? There's nobody here but the two of us."
I looked for signs of forced entry, but the bathroom window was shut tightly, locked, and its glass was intact. And anyhow, up here on the 26th floor of our wing of a secure apartment complex, it would be rather difficult for an intruder to break in. Under ordinary circumstances, that is.
"But, he was here! Right here! Just a minute ago. Right before you opened the door and came in. Oh, Jeremy, I'm so glad you're with me."
She collapsed into my arms, sobbing.
It was flat-out impossible. Someone had materialized out of thin air, assaulted my girlfriend, and then vanished. But, how?
I've known Joe Bellamy for quite a number of years. He and I get together to play chess sometimes and he's even had occasion to consult me professionally. He's a hell of a nice guy, even if he is a cop.
"Look, Joe. I can't make sense of it either. But, unless she staged the whole thing, and her injuries were self-inflicted... "
"Funny thing, Jer. We've had a flurry of similar reports in the past couple of months. A perp mysteriously pops up in a place where there's no access, the victim gets raped, then the scumbag somehow vanishes without a trace. In one case, it was inside a locked bank vault, for crying out loud. No way in, no way out. And no damn way to explain it."
"So, what do you think?"
"I think... I think possibly we've got something out of the ordinary here."
People usually listen to me. They ought to. I've gotten something of a reputation as a problem solver over the years. But, hey, I'm an engineer, and you know what they say about guys like me -- that we have clockwork ticking inside our skulls.
Joe and I set up a "honeypot" -- a baited trap to catch a predator. And the bait was a beautiful woman.
Delora had been a professional model at one time. She had been considered one of the most beautiful of the Beautiful People, well, in our little corner of the world anyway. Then she got hooked on hard drugs, turned to crime to pay for her habit, and her life took an abrupt turn downward.
She had mostly cleaned up her act, but still hadn't fully paid her debt to society. Joe gave it to her straight.
"Sure, Lora, it's dangerous as hell, even with half a dozen videocams on you and a squad of detectives ready to jump to your aid. This guy we're after is damn slick -- so slick he scares me. And, he seems to be able to even get in and out of closed rooms. So, if you don't want to take this one on, I wouldn't blame you a bit."
"You don't understand, Captain Bellamy. I've learned to live with danger. In fact, I positively relish it. You're telling me I'm risking rape and physical injury, even death. Is that all? Well, then, bring it on!"
We put her into a locked cell. There were electrified steel bars on the doors and windows. Besides the cameras hidden in the ceiling and walls, there were acoustic sensors.
The word was out. It was a challenge to the Phantom Rapist. We were actually taunting him to get at what carefully orchestrated rumors in certain underground circles called "the world's finest piece of ass." The Rape Challenge. Sounded like a Reality TV show.
"All right, Lora, it's showtime. We're cutting the lights." The cell went dark.
According to the script, she was to remove her clothes now. All her clothes. We watched that voluptuous greenish-white silhouette on video monitors. Military type infrared nightscope pickups give human flesh a distinctly ghost-like cast.
Nothing. After three hours, we were getting bored watching the proceedings, or rather, the lack of them. Lora was asleep and snoring softly on the cot in her cell.
What was that? There was a blur of motion. Lora was struggling with someone or something. Alarm bells were shrilling and the audio pickups amplified her angry screams.
My fist slammed down on a red-lit toggle. Sleep gas! Lora's movements slowed, then stopped. There was a dark figure at her side, still thrashing about, but then all movement ceased and there was stillness.
"Yeah, we had a trick or two up our sleeves, that we did." Joe chuckled. "Thought he could just disengage from her and vanish, like he did all those other times. Well, it seems that the perp's own flesh did him in this time. The same raping dong that raped all the other victims wouldn't let him loose."
A Chinese "finger trap" -- one of those clever little woven wicker tubes that you stick both index fingers into, but that tightens up and clutches the fingers in its grip when you try to pull them back out. Lora had a bio-silicone version implanted into both her vaginal and rectal orifices. It allowed entry, but not exit. The rapist had been trapped in a Chinese penis trap.
"Why, yes. He's been debriefed, all right. What procedures were used? Well, you needn't concern yourself about that. We didn't... torture him, if that's what you mean. Well, not any more than necessary, anyhow."
"Come now, Joe, we've known each other for how long now? You can tell me the rest."
"Well, you do have a security clearance and all. And you did help catch the fellow. But, this is strictly highest priority Ultra Secret."
"Understood. Now, give."
"First of all, we couldn't ID the guy. No, not even with state of the art high-tech methods. The odd thing was that we did get a bingo, a 99.8% DNA match. But, the match happened to be to a guy already in the slammer. Serving a life sentence, in fact. For rape."
"So, the Phantom Rapist has an identical twin in prison? Big deal."
"No. It turns out that the fine fellow in lockup had no siblings. And -- and this is what's terrifying -- their fingerprints are an exact match. And so are their retinal patterns. In fact, the Phantom is an exact physical duplicate of the jailbird. What's known in the literature as a doppelgänger."
"Well... science fiction. We think the subject is an intruder. A visitor, so to speak... from a parallel reality."
Joe let me read the interrogation transcript. The implications were bizarre, all right, but there was little possibility of error. The Phantom had been "softened up" with a week in the "blank tank" -- the sensory deprivation chamber. Then, he'd had a hole drilled in the top of his skull and an electrode inserted directly into his pain center. No, there was no way anyone could withstand that kind of "debriefing."
Mr. Phantom came from a world very much like our own. But, he'd been born with a rather special talent. He could escape into an imaginary fantasy world. Not a world he himself could conjure up, mind you, but someone else's creation. He could translate himself bodily into a fictional realm -- a story -- but it had to be a story written by another person. He was, it seems, totally lacking in imagination.
He had become an avid reader of erotica when he reached adolescence. But only one particular flavor of fuck fiction rang his chimes -- rape stories. Because he could physically enter into the story, participate in it, touch the lives of the characters in it, rape the women in it -- it fully satisfied his peculiar needs. These were only made-up stories after all. Fiction. So what did it matter if he had his way with characters in a story? Porked them, banged them around, maybe even cut them up a little. No one got hurt. Not real persons. These weren't real people, were they?