"Ready the AutoSphere at once."
"It better be fully charged, oh and get me a strong drink before I go."
"Sir! Listen to me!"
He clenched his teeth. No one had ordered him around in years, and he wasn't about to let this man get away with it. He snapped his head, with blood-shot eyes full of venom and hate. "Who do you think you are, ordering me around like some dog," he spat.
The man seemed to have immediate second-thoughts. His shoulders slouched and his gaze was intent on the ground beneath him. Submissive... this was a pleasing sight. "My apologies, sir. You must understand that you might not like what you find," the man still had the nerve to say.
"A young woman has died in my kitchen, and I have the right to know what or who killed her. If no one is going to come forward, I'll have to seek out the truth myself," he snapped, grabbing the freshly delivered drink from his waiter. He had lost his thirst, instead choosing to chuck the filled glass at the man.
To his surprise, the man didn't flinch as the glass splintered into shards right against his smug face.
"You're just like your father, Mr. Hopkins" the man said. Crimson ribbons of blood began to seep from his cheek.
"W-who do you think you are?!" he asked, forced to refrain himself from releasing the gasp that had initially built up.
It seemed that the man had been waiting for his clear attention. His posture straightened, filled with much more confidence now that there seemed to be more of a clear mindset between them. "My name is Gus. Your father hired me many years ago, and I've been here ever since. You haven't really gotten to know any of your employees though, now have you?" he said.
Others were beginning to gather around them, giving nervous glances between the pair and offering subtle whispers to one another.
This gave Mr. Hopkins immediate discomfort. "Do not try to guilt trip me. I am the employer here, I am using the AutoSphere, and you are stepping out of line!" he said in a last-ditch effort to escape the conversation.
In one swift turn, Gus was behind him. He proceeded through the door into his small library where the device had been set up.
"I tried to warn you," was the last thing he heard from the man before he slammed the door shut.
At that point, Mr. Hopkins was alone. He cherished the moment of silence. He would deal with the insubordination later. A deep sigh escaped his lips before his attention turned to the AutoSphere.
It was placed on the end table next to his favorite chair. The device's metal plating shone. He took a moment to observe its cleanliness. After all, he had paid quite the pretty penny for the fancy security camera. He enforced proper and perfect care between his staff for the object daily. It seemed that now it would repay him with its use. From the device wires traveled across the floor to a memory bank with information scanned from Clarissa's corpse.
Once satisfied, he sat down.
Mr. Hopkins secured it to his head, taking delicate care to secure the straps before clearing his throat. "AutoSphere, view Clarissa Koles yesterday evening," he said loud and clear.
Within the blink of an eye, he was in his kitchen. Except, Mr. Hopkins knew that this was no longer him.
He was looking through the eyes of Clarissa, recorded from the past before her death.
She was busy watching soup simmer in the pot.
The aroma was so recognizable that he could smell it in his mind. Hunger was all that occupied his mind until a small bell-like voice chimed in. "Mommy!" it called out.
Clarissa's attention changed to look at the little girl that ran in. The girl firmly planted a hug around the woman's legs.
"Eve, what are you doing here?" she asked, gently placing her hands on the girl's shoulders.
The girl took a step back, and her eyes made friends with the ground. "Uncle Ben brought me," she said.
As if on command, a man cleared his throat. He stood in the doorway. "It's nice to see you, sis," the apparent Uncle Ben said.
Mr. Hopkins wasn't fond of his staff having guests, but at the very least these visitors seemed out of Clarissa's control.
In response to Ben, he could hear Clarissa grinding her teeth together. It seemed as if she was already well aware of the no guest policy. "What do you want?" she asked, her tone sounding as if she lacked interest in her brother.
A small tsk unraveled as he shook his head. "That's no way to treat a brother. Especially one who brought your daughter all the way over here since you don't seem to have time to come home," he said, giving an accusing glare.
She scoffed. "My apologies, do you want to pay for the fare to get back and forth?" she asked.
Before Ben could respond, another voice interrupted them. "Ms. Koles," the familiar voice of the waiter said. He entered, taking a split moment to look between Eve and Ben before his attention returned to Clarissa. "Mr. Hopkins is ready for his soup. It seems you are busy though. Would you like me to tell him you're leaving his soup unattended because of unwelcomed guests?" The waiter grinned, as if happy with his discovery.
Her panic seemed well retained as she moved back to the oven. "Tell him it'll be right out," she said, tossing a few herbs in. "Don't you dare mention these two, or I'll share how you spit in his food whenever he messes up your name."
This seemed to straighten the waiter right up, as well as leave a queasy feeling in Mr. Hopkins' stomach. This revelation was much worse than a couple guests. He would have to take firm disciplinary action and hold him accountable for such things later.
Aside from that, it seemed as if this conversation was useless to his search for answers.
Mr. Hopkins skipped ahead a bit.
The soup was gone, and she was adding the finishing touches to the main course.
"Sis, you're so skinny. When did you last eat?" Ben asked. He was seated off to the side with Eve, much to Mr. Hopkins' dismay. How long were they there?
"Don't worry about me. Has Eve been eating well?" she asked.
The man skipped further ahead.
Clarissa looked down at a worn mattress. It was old, and at the back of a dark alley a few streets away from his place. He recognized the area, but began to wonder how the woman hadn't died sooner if this was her way of life.
Her stomach grumbled. She sighed, laying herself down for the night.
it was clear that he was getting no information here either. Mr. Hopkins skipped further ahead.
She was staggering across the kitchen floor.
The woman studied her hand as if it had become unrecognized. Each bone in her frail hand was clearly visible.
Clarissa collapsed to the ground.
He had missed the cause of her death!
Rushed, he rewinded but when he pressed play he found that she was cooking alone in his kitchen. Out of nowhere, she collapsed once again.
Rewind further back. Play. Nothing new.
Mr. Hopkins repeated this process over and over until something new caught his eyes.
There was someone standing in the doorway.
At first he thought it was Ben. As he paused on the image a moment before she fell, he could see the unmistakable face of Gus staring back at him.
This filled Mr. Hopkins with rage. He ripped the AutoSphere off and sent it clattering to the ground before he leapt out of his chair. He was prepared to go hunt down this 'Gus' man only to stop in surprise once he realized the man was in the room with him.
"You have the face of a man jumping to conclusions. Do you even realize what you saw?" Gus asked. It was eerie how calm he was.
"I saw witness to you being in her presence at her time of death," Mr. Hopkins sneered.
A smile traced its way across his face. "You really are clueless," he said. "What you witnessed is a woman who was overworked and underpaid. She gave everything up for little Eve and died of starvation in a kitchen full of food. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
He wanted to deny every word that spewed out of this man's mouth. The more Gus spoke though, the more things made sense. "No! You must have killed her! Slipped her poison or something! I will review the evidence further" he lashed back regardless.
Gus had his smug look of satisfaction on his face as he pulled something out of his pocket. "If anyone is the murderer, it's you," he said.
"That's preposterous. I've never laid a finger of harm on her," Mr. Hopkins argued.
"You didn't need to. Just your greedy riches alone have harmed many. You spent money on that AutoSphere; a glorified security camera that turned us into your slaves. She couldn't risk taking any scraps of food with that damned thing. That money could have kept us off minimum wage for years, or could have been donated to charity. I've lost track at the amount of other cruel or detestable consequences of your choices over the years. Your greed is a poison to us all," he said, taking slow steps towards Mr. Hopkins.
The man was too baffled to speak. He felt hopeless. Even as he realized a shimmer from the light that managed to seep through the windows. In his aggressor's hand was a blade.
"Do you know how easily it is to slip with a sharp blade of this stature?" Gus asked, raising the weapon above his head.
Mr. Hopkins could have pushed Gus away, fled, anything, but terror got the best of him. He could see the man's bones sticking out from beneath his clothes. The man did nothing, the reality of the situation was sinking in. Frozen in shock he watched as the man sighed and put the knife away.
Gus gave a slim, sad smile. "We do nothing," he continued. "We hope Clarissa stands as a lesson, but I know that she will not even be on your mind tomorrow. No one actually does anything about men like you, aside from let you get away with atrocities because you can always pay your way out of trouble." Gus turning his back to Mr. Hopkins. "Our lack of action is the saddest thing of all," he ended.
The man opened the door, and was gone.
Without a second thought, Mr. Hopkins rushed out after Gus. The man was gone though, replaced by another waiter. "Sir?...Is everything alright?" the waiter asked.
"...Make sure everyone knows their pay is increased, and gets a large free meal tonight," he slowly said. Before the waiter could process the orders given to him Mr. Hopkins continued. "Oh, and Frank? No spitting in anyone's meal tonight."
The waiter blushed, lingering for a split moment as if debating what to say before turning to walk away at a quick speed.
Mr. Hopkins took a moment to consider what he had just done. Maybe Gus had struck a cord with him, he felt his life at risk, or perhaps it was Clarissa's death. Whatever it was, his actions would be different now and things would change.