“You’re the Lipstick Stalker, aren’t you, Randall?”
Those words delivered so calmly and knowingly just froze me in place, almost made me wet myself. Thank Jesus, Buddha and Elvis all at once that they came from my girlfriend, Emmy, instead of from a cop. She was sitting propped up in bed in my apartment and I’d just come home from working a long shift at the Dangerous Seasons strip club. I’d just gotten my boots off and was now regretting that fact as I wondered whether the cops – or worse, her uncle, my boss at the club, and a couple of the Emir’s finest – were going to bust through the apartment door then and there. Also, dammit, she’d used my real name. Randall Barcello aka Wormwood. I didn’t think she knew it. Her uncle must have told her.
Emmy just smiled at what must have been a look of sheer shock on her face and held up a purple crystal data-spike. Oh shit, it was the surveillance footage and profiling I’d done on her when I thought she’d be an Artwork instead of a girlfriend. Like a total dumbass I hadn’t deleted it and then I’d left it in the back of a drawer on my nightstand – where she’d obviously found it. Slowly, I extended my claws on the hand down by my left boot, the one out of her direct line of sight. “If she decides to try to make a scene or scream this could get nasty really quickly,” I thought to myself. Then, just as carefully out of sight, I sheathed my claws again. Who was I kidding? I may be a cold-blooded sociopath, a sicko stalker of young women to fill a pathological need, even an Edgerunner familiar with killing and death, but there was no way I could willingly harm this brown-haired, waif-like woman. She’d gotten inside my head, inside my OODA loop, somewhere along the line I’d developed actual human feelings for her. When the hell had that happened?
Instead, of slitting her throat, I flopped backwards on the bed and stared at the cracked plaster of the ceiling. “Yeah,” I breathed. there was a long silence as I traced the stain in the shape of an elephant with my eyes, then I said a little louder, “So…what next?”
“Babe, you have to stop,” Emily replied, just matter-of-fact like it’d be the easiest thing on earth. “Eventually, you’ll make a slip and they’ll have a reason to look at you as a suspect – and then your lip print will be a dead giveaway.” She slapped down a hardcopy magazine which had run a report on the Stalker beside me on the bed, then paused and eyed me, letting her complex emotions at my having such an obvious “tell” communicate themselves silently. Then: “Anyway, you have me now, you shouldn’t need these other women.” Ah shit…it was going to be that kind of conversation. Apparently, even creepy, stalker, sociopaths get to have them with their significant other….
….It was morning by the time we’d talked it all through, and there’d been some tears, some shouting, some mumbled apologies. The usual lovers’ tiff, in other words, even if the subject matter of the fight was more than a bit unusual. We had a plan, though. I’d admitted I might not be able to stop – that even though the kinky stuff Emmy was into helped me keep the urge for my Art at bay for a while, it didn’t take it away entirely and eventually I’d crack. That upset her a lot, but when she’d calmed down she asked a question I’d never even thought to ask myself – what if we added in the other parts of my Art to our kink, the following and building up a profile, the being inside someone’s head and life so completely that was the real power trip I craved? I didn’t have a clue if it would work, but Emmy convinced me it was worth the trying – especially since we’d maybe be able to make some money from a sensie about it all on the gray market. A sensie from both points of view, spliced with the surveillance and profile information and climaxing in the kinky stuff I’d done with Emmy but never anyone else, with a little extra role-play thrown in for good measure. I could see how that could work and so, hey presto, I had a collaborator and co-artist for the first time ever.
We kept talking after that, and the rest of the plan developed. I’d need some basic plastic surgery to change my lips, alter their print – and maybe get my fingerprints done at the same time. Then we’d need some convenient patsy about my build and phenotype, someone we could shanghai and have some backstreet ripperdoc have make into me, with my old lips – someone who’d then conveniently fall from a great height with all the Lipstick Stalker’s data on his latest victim on his implant. After that, we’d be free to release our masterwork as an artistic reconstruction…
I could see how it all could work out. We’ll put it into play right after I get back from my latest gig, working with the Lazarus Group again. And wow, it’s great to be head-over-heels in love with a woman like Emmy.