I wouldn’t call it murder. I’d call it science. Possibly even love. With a touch, but only a touch mind you, of revenge. Yes, I know, it’s complicated. At least, it’s complicated for you. I do sympathise, murder requires a dead body. I can produce him right now, alive, and you know I can. Bearing that in mind, and speaking entirely off the record and without prejudice, I’m more than happy to discuss my research with you.
How did it start? You could say it was all my parents’ fault and if you need to apportion blame, blame them. Oh, I know, such a cliché. This time it happens to be true.
Don’t get carried away, there’s no need for psychologists, bearing my soul to a priest, or even inner healing. I was, and am, extremely grateful for my parents. To start with, they were rich. They’re now dead, leaving me as their only heir. I also inherited both their intellect and my mother’s good looks. It’s always useful to inherit good genes…and a lot of money. You don’t need me to tell you how much money; the IRS will have all that information.
There was something else I inherited. Obstinacy, a certain lack of empathy, and a distinct distaste for being made a fool of. Not to mention a flair for revenge. Have I’ve mentioned revenge before? How clumsy of me.
Most importantly, my parents were also scientists. Something which would come in very useful.
You would have liked them. Everyone did. They especially liked my mother. She wasn’t a flirt, she just had ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is. I never had it, despite inheriting her looks. Mother and Father met at University, fell in love and for them, no one else existed. There were occasions they completely forgot they had a daughter. A common result, I believe, of intense love relationships. I grew up believing that kind of relationship was the very definition of love. I still do. Obviously.
How did I meet RJ?
At University. We were both taking Biology and Chemical Engineering. It was love at first sight, well, for me at least. At the time, I believed he felt the same way. Not having much experience with men beyond the covers of Gothic romantic novels, I was blind, wilfully after a while, to the signs. Perhaps if I’d had more experience I would have let him go and washed my hands of him.
Yes, I probably should have. Suffice it to say, I didn’t. Pity, but there is. Perhaps if I’d met you earlier I would have. What a waste of life. Sorry? RJ? No, mine, and possibly yours. Now we’ll never know.
RJ was everything any girl with both brain and uterus could desire. Blond, blue-eyed, very Brad Pitt-ish, but better-looking and intelligent as well. An intelligent scientist with those looks and a gym-perfect build are hard to come by. Of course I was smitten. I was in love. But, like all men, present company excepted as I have no data to the contrary, I discovered there were times when his brain was in his pants. I can’t comment on Brad Pitt’s morals, but RJ’s were those of a bonobo monkey.
RJ and I married two years after graduation. He got a job almost immediately whereas I got tenure, which was excellent as I needed more time at the University if I was to stand any chance of coming close to my parents’ qualifications. And I worked very, very hard to get there.
The result? The greatest day of my life turned into an unmitigated disaster.
What? My wedding day? No, why on earth—oh. No, not my wedding day, it was the day I got my Doctorate. Why? Good question, mundane but still critical to this discussion. Two reasons really. My parents didn’t make the ceremony. Please don’t get me wrong, I understood completely; they were on the verge of a breakthrough in their research. It wasn’t just any research. They were closer to replicating deoxyribonucleic acid. A breakthrough that would have international and historical ramifications. That would inform my own research as well. Yes, I understood.
Still, it would have been nice.
The other reason? RJ had disappeared halfway through the evening. I found him in the cloakroom with Professor Jane Lewis. They weren’t doing research. Another thing you should know about me – I don’t share well. Beyond their undone, rumpled clothing, not to mention their naked nether regions, and the shocked, guilty expressions on their faces, through the window of the cloakroom I saw the University’s rookery.
You don’t get out much do you? It’s all dead bodies and interrogations in your world. Well, a rookery is a breeding colony of rooks; eggs, hatchlings, chicks, adults together in their mass of nests, swirling in the early evening sky, all black, all looking exactly the same. Each one identical.
I’d always been the girl everyone laughed at. But I was the one married to a man whose looks would have made the afore-mentioned Pitt weep with jealousy. No one was going to laugh at me again. And certainly not because of him. It suddenly occurred to me I was going to need a vast amount of money.
I buried my parents three months later. Excavations at the family pile began six weeks after that. RJ had asked for a divorce. I gave him an ultimatum, if he stayed with me for one year, and behaved according to my rules – which meant no extra marital relationships and very public displays of affection towards me - I’d not only give him a divorce, but I’d give him a gift of twenty million dollars. His face lit up, avarice and lust danced in his eyes. It was another nail in the coffin, so to speak, of our relationship. It was a long year. For him more than me. I was extremely busy.
My research team at the University and I achieved not just strand replication but complete deoxyribonucleic acid cloning. Deoxyribonucleic acid? Sorry, I forget you’re not a scientist. DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid is DNA. Ah, I see the penny’s dropped. Yes DNA, cloning, Dolly the sheep. Very exciting times for the scientific community. Which is why I dropped out completely. No more papers, no more letters after my name, no more research. Well, that’s not exactly true as you’ve realised.
The laboratory built under the family home was a success. I’d never worked in such a well kitted-out facility. And it was all mine.
I advanced my parents deoxyribonucleic acid replication research far beyond anything of which they could have dreamed.
Why is the lab so big? There’s one thing about DNA you probably don’t know. Anything created from it doesn’t live very long, a few years at the most. Which was just fine by me as I had enough material to begin a new replication every two years. There would be a new replicant ready almost to the day of the collapse and unfortunate demise of the previous one. The timing was perfect. Each one was a fresh start. Especially as each replicant emerged with no memory of anything, oddly, beyond their thirteenth birthday. A clean, fresh slate which imprinted itself on the first thing it saw.
Oh, don’t get your knickers in a knot. I don’t open the replication pod until the replicant in question is biologically and legally out of the pupae stage.
So, as I understand it, here’s your dilemma; you have a body - three bodies, my apologies - in the morgue with the same fingerprints and DNA as my husband. You also have a living man in the hospital claiming to be my husband and with exactly the same finger prints, the same DNA. It’s a miracle of modern science, what can I say?
Ha, yes – looks like a duck, quacks like a duck. This man in the hospital looks like RJ, talks like RJ – ask anyone who knows him. The only thing others will say is that’s interesting how deeply in love he is with me. Why shouldn’t he be? My parents were just as devoted to each other. So our relationship had a hiccup, but we worked on it and now we’re solid.
Am I afraid he’ll stray? Find another Professor Jane Lewis perhaps?
As I mentioned, the replicants don’t last that long. They ‘dissolve’ before they stray. Why do you think I have so much storage space in the lab? I may have deoxyribonucleic acid replication down to an art, but I’m still a scientist. I would be remiss if I only ever had one replication procedure happening at any one time.
I was tempted to call my lab, The Rookery, in appreciation of the University one which had given me the idea in the first place. But, as the only thing growing in the cell replication pods is my husband, RJ, Rob, or as his original birth certificate labelled him, Robert John McMasters, I called it The Robbery.