Chapter 5: Jill (Part 2)

Her Bureau-issued Dodge Charger waited outside the hotel.  Apparently this Hilton is in the corporate pilot program for a predictive valet service.  The hotel’s systems, in other words, knew that Jill had finished for the evening before she had even said her goodbye.  One benefit of the automated driving mode that was now a national standard in cars was that parking was almost a non-issue.  Cars could - and would - park wherever the network felt was a good spot.  In fact, in many city centers, including Seattle’s, the sea of parking garages that had dotted the cityscape were slowly being torn down and reclaimed for parks, urban squares, or even additions onto the buildings to which the garages had been attached.  Once the car knew where you lived and worked, as well as the general time frame that you were at either place, efficient algorithms could take over the majority of the car’s essential functions.  In some areas, it was even possible to allow your car to earn money for you while it was not in use.  With the urban grid itself being able to manage the logistics of driving the car plus the necessary payment processing, the idea was slowly gaining traction.  That program was still at the stage where it was perfectly optional, and indeed only a select few had opened up their cars for it.  As it turned out, putting a bunch of extra wear and tear on your car while you were not even using it was not quite what the public had in mind to jump onboard.

Jill was one of the many people who did not yet share their ride, though she had to admit the service had its uses.  Not only had she taken advantage of the service herself on occasion, but also several of her neighbors she knew made their cars available through it.  For some it was an effective way to close the gap between their normal income and the mortgages required to live in Clyde Hill, while for others it was more of a social or political statement.  Either way, Jill herself knew that one day, when the platform had matured enough, she might try it as a supplier.  That might happen if and when she were forced into a desk job, though - having a Bureau car as her personal vehicle was a nice perk of her seniority, but it did limit the kinds of things she could do with it.  Namely, having a Bureau car registered to her meant that it was prohibited from being a part of any services that were added on to the network itself.  Core driving and navigation functions were the only allowed.

Taking a seat in the driver’s seat, Jill sighs.  The extra money could help her, for sure, but she made do about as well as anyone these days.  It had been a long day, and part of the perks of living in Clyde Hill was supposed to be that she could get away from all the stresses of her day job.  Nothing happened in Clyde Hill.  Absolutely nothing.  Before today, the biggest news of the past year for her little town by the lake was the deer that had been posing as part of a resident’s holiday display shortly after Christmas.  The school board member forgetting to raccoon-proof her garbage that one time was also noteworthy.  Despite being so close to Seattle itself, Clyde Hill was the kind of town where parents still let their children roam the streets until dark.  It was not just a matter of statistics; absolutely nothing important ever happened there.  And now this.  A murder so brutal the FBI gets called in.  A murder that had instantly put her town on the national news.  Her home’s value had taken a hit enough as it was, but to shatter the notion, no matter how illusory, that Clyde Hill was of a separate world than the mean streets of Seattle 2034?  That was just too much.  She had had to deal with people being generally terrible as it was, and avoiding that as much as possible was her primary goal in life outside of work.  Maybe Yarrow Point was where she could move to next?  Jill would give up some of the prestige of living where she was now, but it was still nice enough.  She would have to check the crime statistics on that one.

The Charger shuts itself off suddenly.  Jill looks up in alarm - turning themselves off was not supposed to be possible outside of certain circumstances.  Oh.  Right, then.  Jill notices that while lost in thought, the car had gotten her home just as expected.  That was another benefit of living in Clyde Hill - with very few exceptions, she was not very far from anywhere she would need to be.  The car is parked in a driveway on a hill next to a gentle sloping lawn.  She had made a point of keeping her house in good order, and that included the lawn.  Sure, it was not immaculately manicured the way some of her neighbors had done, but Jill had neither the time nor the money to spend on doing so.  Her lawn was natural.  Freshly mowed, but natural nonetheless.  There were probably some wildflowers hiding amongst the blades of grass that a “proper” Clyde Hill resident would eliminate with the precision of a laser, but Jill did not mind at all.  If anything, they added color to her yard.  Like most of her neighbors’ homes, hers was a stately two story new colonial,  Clyde Hill had risen to prominence right around the resurgence of the style, and so the same could be said for most of the town by now.    Walking up to the door, Jill sees the lights flicker on.  It had been one of the few technological advances she had accepted in the property when she had bought it a few years before; most of the newer “conveniences” were to her frivolous extras, but after the insistence of her realtor at trying to live with the lights on motion sensors, she had to admit that it was useful.  At least, the savings in her electrical bill were enough to put up with the technology.  Even so, she always found herself reaching for the switch anyway.

Jill’s home, like the yard in front of it, is rather well-kept.  With furniture that looked as if it belonged in the turn of the millennium, some ultra high class women might deride it as dated, but Jill did not particularly care.  It was comfortable, it did not look horrible, and perhaps most importantly, she did not have to plug the chairs into a network outlet.  No matter how often the internet would extol the virtues of a fully-connected home, where even the seat cushions could adjust themselves to one’s liking as they sat down, Jill would resist.  It was, quite frankly, ridiculous.  Besides, the connectivity would add another thousand to the price despite its ubiquity anyway.  Jill takes out a bottle of wine she kept around just for nights like this, when the stresses of the daily grind just would not go away by the time of her arrival at home.  Having her old CD player start up the recording of the great Ludovico Einaudi, she takes her time to enjoy the glass of wine she had made for herself, a California red that she had found on sale the last time she had gone shopping.  It was less a matter of what she wanted, and more a matter of what she could find at any given moment.  That is not to say that the wine was a bad one; in fact, for California wines it was a very good one, or so Jill thought.  But when Jill’s neighbors and friends stocked their cabinets with the best imported wines, her own looked rather pedestrian.  Perhaps having another glass was a bit too much for a Monday night, but Jill would not be dissuaded.

Finishing the glass she had poured, Jill heads to bed.  By now, it was a late evening for her, and she would soon have to add sleep deprivation to her morning condition, never mind the headache that she would likely wake up with at this point.  Fortunately for Special Agent Jill Tamano, sleep came fast.

Unfortunately for Special Agent Jill Tamano, the morning would come faster.

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About Charles Herrera
John Doe's true identity is unknown. Maybe he is a successful blogger or writer. Nobody knows it.