The Castle Murder (IC | TWI ONLY)

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The Castle Murder (IC | TWI ONLY)

Postby Atnaia » Mon Aug 08, 2016 1:19 pm


The Castle Murder


I wasn't handcuffed, which I thought was a good sign. If they had thought I was dangerous or guilty, they would have handcuffed me. I caught sight of my reflection in the two-way mirror and dismissed that idea. The unnatural twist of my left arm belied my unnatural, unusual frailty. My misshapen left pupil, the scarred twist on that side of my mouth and the crooked slouch of my shoulder all evidenced the weakness of my body. Handcuffs would have been overkill. My body was handicapped enough without them.

I supposed that worked in my favor, though. I could still see her there, lying on the tile floor of her kitchenette, head cracked, blood a stark sheen upon the white marble. If it hadn't been for the ransacked nature of her apartment, I would have assumed she had been killed fighting off a sexual assault. Doctor Castle was a pretty woman, amongst her many other positive qualities, and the state of half-dress she had died in was disgraceful. It made me feel sick to think someone had done that to her. It almost comforted me to remember the missing drive from her computer. It stood as proof that there was another reason she had been killed. Maybe, hopefully, she had been left with some dignity.

The door to the interview room swung open and a man walked in. He was tall, boarding-school handsome, well-dressed. A silver badge glinted on his hip. I recognized him from the crime scene, and while I hadn't spoken to him, I knew who he was. His name was Jordans, and he was a detective chief inspector in the Ambress Stone Wall Security Department. He held a file in one hand and smiled pitifully at me as he entered.

"Good morning, Mr. Malal," he said.

I cleared my throat. It felt very dry. I'd cried a lot over the past couple of hours. Maybe I had dehydrated myself. "G-good morning."

The detective walked over to the table and sat down across from me. He set the file on the table but didn't open it. He looked at me and the pitiful smile dropped from his face. He looked concerned. "Can I get you anything? Water? Food? You've been here awhile, you've had a long morning, you must be hungry."

My eyes fell to the table. My hands twisted together, so hard my knuckles went white. I was stressed. "No," I said. I glanced up. "I didn't kill her..."

Jordans nodded. "I know that," he said. He waved a hand at my arm. "Not to be insensitive, but I don't see you swinging a heavy object with enough force to...well, with enough force."

I swallowed. "No," I replied.

"We're just crossing t's and dotting i's here," he said. "We know someone is out there who killed Emily Castle. We need to ask you a few questions to help find them. Can you help us?"

"S-sure," I said. I was choking up. The image of Dr. Castle flashed into my head again. I don't know why, but I felt guilty. Not about her death, I don't think, but about seeing her like that. There was something strangely intimate about being the person to find a body, like I had seen someone in an incredibly private, singular moment. Like I had broken some soft, quiet peace. Maybe there was something else to it too. Aside from porn, I had never seen a woman in any real state of undress before. Maybe I was guilty to have seen Dr. Castle , her shirt torn open, staring blindly at the ceiling of her apartment. Whatever it was, I was guilty.

Jordans flipped open his file. "Hasan...can I call you Hasan?" I nodded in response. "Hasan, you came to Dr. Castle's apartment at 4:30 this morning to gather the drive and go to work. Do you usually make trips to Dr. Castle's apartment so early in the morning?"

I shook my head. "No. It was a one time thing. She didn't usually take anything out of the lab. I needed to pick up the drive this one time and..."

My voice cracked. Jordans nodded sadly. "So she didn't usually bring her work home?"

"Aside from papers and theories and her brain, no," I answered. "It was too risky."

"But she did this time?"

I nodded.

"Can you answer aloud, please?" Jordans jerked a thumb at the mirror. "We're recording. I need audio for evidence."

"Yes. She took it home this one time."


"We were on the verge of a breakthrough," I answered. "Sorry. She was on the verge of a breakthrough. I don't know. Normally she would have just stayed at the lab..."

I trailed off. Jordans flipped through his notes. "Do you know anybody at all who would have wished Dr. Castle harm?"

"No," I shook my head.

"Do you know if she was seeing anybody?" Castle asked.

"How do you mean?"

"Romantically," Jordans cleared his throat. "Given her state of dress, was there any chance there was someone else in the apartment that you know of?"

I let my gaze drop to the table and was silent for a few long seconds. "No," I finally said. "Not that I know of."

Jordans was quiet. He made a few notes in his file and then stood. "You're free to go, Mr. Malal. Just stay in town. We may have more questions for you. Do you need a lift somewhere? I can get a uniform..."

"No," I interrupted, harsher than I meant to. "No. I-I can make it home. Thank you."

He moved to the door and held it open for me. "We'll come calling when we need you," he said, and I nodded and slipped out.

He closed the door behind me.


I sat down again once the kid had left. I truly didn't think he had killed the doctor. He didn't seem the type. Also, with his fucked up arm, he wouldn't have been able to swing anything heavier than a tennis racket, and not with enough impact to break a head open like an egg. I tapped my pen against my slim file and sniffed. Something was up, and I couldn't quite tell what.

My phone buzzed in my pocket and I snatched it out. "Jordans," I answered.

"It's Penny," came a reply. "We've got some preliminary work done down here in the morgue."

"And?" I asked.

"And I have a guess on murder weapon."

I stood and walked over to the two-way mirror. I mimed swinging an object and gave a thumbs up. A moment later, Tina Khan, appeared at the door. I held up a hand. "What is it?"

"I think it may have been a police baton," Penny replied.

"Like an extendable one or..."

"Like an old-timey truncheon," she replied. "I can't be sure, obviously. Could just be a club or something..."

"No, it's something to go on," I replied. "Thanks."

I hung up and looked at Tina. "We need to go back to the crime scene. Penny thinks it was a police baton..."

"A baton?"

I shrugged. "You up for dumpster diving?"

"Think the perp was dumb enough to toss it?"

"No," I replied, and walked past her.
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Postby Atnaia » Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:07 am

John Jordans

Rooting through the trash was not my favourite part of policework, but it was policework, and when it paid off in some crucial piece of evidence there was usually a gut-bursting pulse of excitement that made picking through people's used condoms and half-eaten meals almost worth it.

You can imagine the consternation then, when after an hour of slicing open garbage bags with a pocket knife, we had turned out no truncheon, baton or any other blunt item one could reasonably describe as "club-like". Not even anything "club-adjacent". Tina, who had taken a smoke break and was leaning against a wall near the dumpster, sighed as she watched me picking through the trash.

"No point continuing, John," she said with her slight twinge of an implacable foreign accent. "We're not finding anything."

"Not going to stop until we've searched everything," I replied.

She cleared off the last of her cigarette in a single drag. I was almost impressed by the lungpower. "Waste of time," she said from behind a fog of smoke. "Call a uniform or something, they can finish up."

I didn't reply. Tina wasn't lazy. Not exactly. She was just impatient. Not like me. I was methodical, robotic. When you needed someone to crack down on a few evasive CIs or something, you called Tina. When you needed someone to root through garbage, you called me.

Tina sighed and ground her cigarette butt under her toe. "Fine," she said. "I'm going inside. I'll do another round on the neighbours and see if we missed any witnesses."

I just grunted in response. Tina wandered off. It made it almost funny when, moments after she disappeared, I stumbled upon a clue.

Shoved to the bottom of the dumpster was a single article of clothing. Had I not been looking, it would have been picked up by the garbage trucks later today and lost forever in some trash dump. But to me, it was immediately noteworthy. A navy blue blazer with a silky red inner lining. Really nice too, probably close to a few hundred dollars, plus tailoring. Not something someone threw away in this good condition. I noticed a small tear in the lining, but it was easily fixable, not worth tossing away something that would cost most people a week's pay.

I tugged it out of the dumpster, and saw right away why it had been tossed. On the right sleeve, there was a large stain, red-turning-brown. Half-congealed blood. I touched it with the tip of a latex-gloved finger. It was still tacky. The chances that this blood was from our victim seemed more than a little high. I tugged an evidence bag from a pocket, essentially a zip-locked garbage sack, and shoved the jacket in and closed it. Then I glanced around.

In my experience investigating murders, innocent people didn't usually toss away bloody jackets. I walked down the alley and emerged on the street. Sunlight streamed from above and reflected off windows. We still had uniformed officers redirecting traffic around the apartment building, but the rest of the street was open and cars whizzed past, going way too fast for downtown Ambress. I approached a uniform and held out the bag.

"Get this down to forensics for a blood test," I said. The officer took the bag, but before he could scoot off I caught his elbow. "Do we have video of the street around here?"

"Security cameras were out in the building," the officer said. "And it's not like we're in Port Gray, not a lot of other security around."

I nodded and let the officer dart away. I shoved my hands in my pockets and turned in place a bit, scanning the nearby buildings. A few other condo buildings, a luxury women's accessory store, a high-class barbership, a bistro just opening up for lunch. All in all, a nice neighbourhood, pricy rent.

It was at the bistro that I noted what I wanted. Through the large plate window that overlooked the street, marked with the restaurant's name ("Il Vino Fontagna Bistro", a shitty job at Italian), I noticed a pulsing, rhythmic green light. Could have been a carbon monoxide detector, for all I knew, but I was banking on something else.

I jogged across the street, nearly getting plastered to the pavement by an Uber driver who honked at me. I waved a hand at him as I hopped up on the far sidewalk. There was a server putting out chairs at the tables on the patio of the Bistro, a short, curvy girl, about college age, with mousy brown hair in a bun and a spattering of freckles across her cheeks. I reached down and unclipped my badge from my belt. I held it up as I approached.

"Morning, ma'am," I said. She looked at me wide-eyed. "Detective Jordans, with the ASWSD. Can I ask you a few questions?"

"Oh," she said. She looked around for a manager. "Is this about the woman across the street? The one who was..."

She trailed off. I coughed. "Murdered? Yes. It is."

She adjusted a chair absently and bit her lip. "I don't really know anything. I just work here."

"No issues," I smiled. "It's not about you. I was just wondering, is that a security camera in there?"

I pointed and she glanced up at the light. "Yeah. The place got robbed a couple of years back. The owner is paranoid."

"Does it hit the street at all?"

She shrugged. "I don't watch it. The monitor is in the manager's office."

"Is the manager in?"

She glanced around. "I don't think so," she leaned in conspiratorially. She seemed to be more comfortable knowing I didn't much care about her and wasn't going to arrest her on suspicion of murder. "Between you and me, he's a bit of a lazy drunk."

"Can you get me into the office?" I asked. "I need to see the footage."

She glanced at her feet. "I guess I can. I have a key."

I winked. "I'd be grateful."

A few minutes later, I was scrolling through footage at a lightning pace. The server leaned in the door of the office, watching. "What are you looking for?" she asked.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Cassie," she answered.

"Sorry, Cassie, I can't say," I leaned in to catch detail. "Privileged information. Need to know only."

She sighed. "I'll be out there if you need anything."

I nodded and she disappeared into the restaurant. A second later, I saw what I wanted.

In the black and white footage, a man slipped into view, barely visible at the angle through the window. The camera watched the door and only caught a sliver of the street outside, but the man stepped into that sliver and I immediately recognized the jacket. He was fumbling with his cell phone, seemingly panicked, and then dropped it on the ground. I winced. The screen had shattered all over the pavement, and the man collapsed to his knees, apparently crying. He gathered up the phone, and as he did, he suddenly noticed the blood on his sleeve. He panicked and looked around, then stripped off the jacket and disappeared off-screen.

"I have you," I whispered. I now had a suspect. Man in his early 40's, Caucasian, dark hair, trim beard, glasses.

And he needed a new phone.
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Postby Atnaia » Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:16 am

Hasan Malal

I called for an Uber ride. For a few minutes, I struggled over where to go. My first instinct was to go home, but frankly, that was a sad and lonely thought. My apartment wasn't exactly homely, nor was it comfortable, little more than a bed and a wardrobe and a bathroom. Had I gone home, I would have wound up sitting alone in bed, staring at the ceiling and obsessing over the image of Dr. Castle's dead, half-naked body. I wasn't ready to torture myself that way, so I set my destination as the only other place I could think of: the lab. Over the past few months, the lab had become far more of a home to me than my apartment, and I had people there who were as close to friends as a person like me ever got.

The Uber driver picked me up outside the police station and, to his remarkable credit, didn't even seem to glance at my screwy face or messed up arm. He peeled out into the street a little too quickly once I had climbed in, and didn't say a word as we wound through old city streets and eventually emerged into the wide open spaces of the University of Southern Atnaia's campus. Tall old trees loomed over red-brick roads, and yellow stone buildings marked with signs filled surrounded us. It was a pretty campus, sprawling green lawns and wrought iron fences and only one in ten buildings marred by the hideousness of modern Atnaian architecture. It goes without saying that I am not a fan of the combination of glass, aluminum and old stone facades that made up Fusion-Deconstructivist buildings that were so in vogue right now. It had taken me a long time to get used to the lab.

The lab was one of the newest buildings on campus, a multi-storied building of glass and steel modernity amongst the otherwise rustic old buildings of the campus. It reflected sunlight like an onyx gem, it's strange exterior angles somewhere between crystalline and non-Euclidean. It was set back from a side round-about by a fair distance, and instead of the trees that covered most of campus, it was fronted by a pair of modern sculptures that vaguely evoked a man and a woman standing side-by-side, their bio-mechanical hands gripped together to form an arch which framed the building if you stood across the street at just the right angle. It made for some interesting photography, and had become a mainstay of University advertising since it had opened up a couple years ago.

I got out of the car and made my way up the path to the doors. Passing through the front doors, I found myself in a red-white-and-black womb of technological wonder. Built at strange interior angles to the crystalline outdoors, every spare inch of the lobby was covered in screens displaying GSRP research initiatives. The light thrown by the screens was nearly enough to fill the entire area with cold illumination, but what light wasn't provided by displays of vertical farming initiatives, algae-based biofuel research or robotics projects came from bright white lights built along the edges of the floor, casting dancing shadows upon the angled ceiling. In front of me, there was a security checkpoint, and beyond that the front desk leading off to various hallways and staircases. Some people milled beyond, sitting at leather couches sipping coffee from the Starbucks stall to one side, or moving to halls that were rendered invisible by angles and lighting so they appeared to suddenly emerge from walls and disappear behind pillars to not emerge. It was disorienting to come here if you weren't used to it, and that was the point. The whole thing was supposed to feel otherworldly, like you were entering into a strange, luminescent future.

I approached the security gate and scanned my Atdent card at a small barcode reader, then pressed my thumb down on a fingerprint scanner on the metal frame of the plexiglass-and-steel edifice. There was a warm hum, and a pre-recorded voice spoke from a speaker above.

"Welcome to the GSRP Labs at UniSA," it said, before jarring into a more robotic, rendered tone, "Hasan Malal."

The gate ahead popped open and I grimaced. The robotic greeting was supposed to set workers here at ease by individually greeting them individually, but the sudden disconnect between the soft, pre-recorded female voice and the robotic one that said the person's name had always made me uncomfortable. I hoped that one day we would be able to program something that could actually read fro a script with a bit of life.

I moved through the gate and it snapped shut behind me. I began to limp towards the hall down which the lab was, but was suddenly stopped by someone calling my name.

"Hasan!" I heard, and turned. A pair of men were approaching. One was a middle-aged Chinese man in a crisp, navy suit and tie. The other was a slightly younger black man in jeans and a labcoat. Both wore looks of concern. I wondered if Dr. Kong and Dr. Monroe had been waiting for me, or if it had just been coincidence that they had been passing through the lobby while I was coming in.

They came over. It was Monroe, the man in the labcoat, who had called to me, and he was the one who kept speaking. He placed a hand on my shoulder in what was likely meant to be a comforting gesture. "What are you doing here, kiddo? You should be at home right now."

"Yeah," I mumbled. These guys were my bosses' bosses, or maybe my bosses' bosses' bosses. I worked with Monroe on a daily basis, but only saw Kong once a quarter, when he came by for updates. He looked very serious, and very tired. "I just...I wanted to work."

"We're not really working today, buddy," Monroe frowned. "We gave everyone the day off. To go get themselves sorted out, you know?"

"It is not like we could have kept going anyways," Kong said. "Not without Dr. Castle."

"We'll manage," Monroe said.

Kong frowned momentarily. "If the Quorum doesn't swoop in here and shut you down, maybe..."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Don't worry about it," Monroe gave me a friendly, comforting smile. "Why don't you head out? You more than anyone need a day off."

I shook my head. "Could I...could I just go in and work on personal projects? I don't really have anywhere else right now."

Kong and Monroe glanced at one another. "Sure thing," Monroe replied. His hand dropped to his side. "Me and Dr. Kong have to go speak with some shareholders...but look, if you need help, you know where to find me. And I've already put in a request for the on-staff psychiatrist to set aside some time for everybody."

"Dr. Front?" I asked. "She's a computer psychiatrist. She works in theories of robotic intellects, he hasn't practiced actual psychiatry before..."

"We only employ the best in their fields," Kong said. "Front will be able to help you deal with your grief."

I wanted to ask them what they knew about my grief, but bit y tongue. Monroe gave me another pat on the back, and turned and disappeared with Kong down a hallway. I turned a different way and went down towards the lab and my small, comfortable office. Scanning my card into the Robotics Wing, I was surprised to find myself as the only one here. Even though Kong and Monroe had said they had sent everyone home, I had assumed a few would ave stuck around to do their work. We were, in general, an obsessive and insular lot. I hadn't realized how much Dr. Castle's death would have affected anyone. Well, anyone other than me.

I slipped between the white plastic lab benches that filled much of the main cleanroom towards my office. I call it an office, but really, it was more of a closet. However, before I even had a chance to put my hand on the doorhandle, I heard a bang from ext door. Dr. Castle's office. I frowned. My heart pounded in my chest. It was completely unreasonable, security here was tight, but I had a sudden flashback to Dr. Castle's ransacked home. Her empty eyes. Her cracked skull. I had the thought of her killer in her office, ransacking that place like he had her home.

I moved over to her door and placed my ear on the glass. There was definitely someone moving around within. With slow, careful movements, I twisted the handle and the door swung in.

"Oh," I said as I saw who was there. "It's you."
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Postby Atnaia » Thu Sep 08, 2016 2:46 am

John Jordans

Going through cell phone purchase records was not the most fun job in the world, but it was something well-suited to my methodical, sand-sifting approach to police work. A law that had been passed several months earlier had required that all cell phone purchases come tied to ID checks and logged in a national database, which hadn't come as much of a surprise to a nation just out of a modern civil war powered by wirelessly connected rebel cells. With SOAR still out there, working in independent groups only vaguely connected by purpose and cell phones, no one had gone on to look at the law again. With the introduction of Atdent, a lot of the larger retailers had implemented a system whereby they only looked at Atdent for cell purchases, which made things even easier. At the click of a button, I could pull up a list of every cell phone purchased in Port Gray that morning, then limit my search results by gender, height, hair colour, eye colour. Hell, if I had had a reason to I could have limited it to blood type, although only one in ten Atdent users had opted in to the blood swab, and most of them were civil servants or military, so that was fairly useless.

All in all, the process took me about twenty minutes of sifting to land myself about a half dozen possible matches for the guy on the tape. Two I could rule out at a glance, their photos too dissimilar from the guy in the video. Another three I could rule out because their income levels put them outside a range that could feasibly afford a $600 sports jacket. That left two guys. The first was Aleksei Armanov, an Aprosian immigrant and businessman who ran a hotel and a couple clubs here in town. I groaned. Armanov had a reputation. He wasn't quite involved in organized crime, but he wasn't quite not involved with them either. If I wanted to smash heads with the Silver Branch Club, I would have asked to be put on vice or organized crime when I signed my five-year, not homicide.

The second guy came from old money. Samuel Frontenac-Holden. Fifty years ago, he probably would have been Lord Frontenac, but time had a habit of stealing titles from people who weren't careful with them. Same with money, but his family had clearly been more careful with their money than their titles, cause the guy still had enough to dump on a couple of outrageously expensive sports cars, considering the wrecks he'd been in over the past few years. Guy was lucky he wasn't dead or in prison. I wondered how much it had cost to bury the DUIs.

That being said, he did raise a few eyebrows. The guy, for all his faults, was smart. A quick internet search brought me is credentials, including a nice fat doctorate in behavioral sciences from UofSoA. That was a link to our vic, and not one to be scoffed at.

I glanced across the bullpen and waved Tina over. She dragged over her chair and sat down next to me. "What do we got?" she asked, sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.

"Two matches for the guy on the video camera," I said. "Both match the description, both bought phones this morning."

"Got a favourite?" she asked.

I sighed. "Not really. Guy one is Aleksei Armanov."

"Baln's balls," Tina groaned. "Of fucking course it is. So we can't rule that asshole out, although he doesn't fit the type for the panic we see in the video."

"Yeah," I agreed. "The other is some heir to billions type, he's got connections out on campus too. Samuel Frontenac-Holden."

"So, which of us goes to question Armanov?"

"Roshambo?" I asked. We held out our hands and threw our signs. Tina swore.

"Best of three?" she asked.

I won again.

"Best of five?" she pushed. I stood.

"You lost," I grinned. "Go question Armanov, I'm going to speak with Daddy Warbucks."
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Postby Atnaia » Mon Sep 19, 2016 11:07 am

John Jordans

A warm breeze blew in off the nearby sea, rustling the leaves of the trees that lined the brick boulevards of the University's campus. The yellow stone buildings that clustered the broad avenues would have given the sun-dappled area of the city a comforting atmosphere, if it weren't for the steel-and-glass additions that sprouted from them like Deconstructivist tumours.

Needless to say, I wasn't a fan of the modern architecture that had taken root like a weed in the campus. The worst building of all was the GSRP headquarters, but I didn't have to go there yet, although it was on a nice little mental checklist I had made. For now, I parked outside one of the yellow stone buildings and went into a hallway of identical doors marked with tiny black-plastic cards with the name of the various professors who used them. Some had push-pin corkboards next to them with office hours tacked on to let students know when they could drop by to complain about grades, brownnose or screw the authority figure. Sometimes all three at once.

About halfway down the hall was the office I had come to visit. A small placard bore the name "Prof. Frontenac-Holden". I knocked on the gray slab and a voice responded from within, warbling with the half-disguised intoxication of its owner.

"Office hours are cancelled today," it said.

I knocked again and could hear a chair slide against the ground and footsteps within.

"If you have any--any questions," stuttered the voice, "ask your T---A---"

It slowed to a warble as I pushed a hand through the crack that had appeared as the door opened, holding my badge. I leaned my weight on the door and it swung open.

"Mr. Frontenac-Holden?" I said. "Detective John Jordans of Stone Wall Security Solutions, on contract to Ambress. I have a few questions for you."

The man standing within blinked at me. He looked exactly like the video footage in the bistro, or as close as I could hazard to guess given the grainy nature of that video. Dark hair, just starting to show flakes of gray at the temples. Trim beard clinging to his jaw like a shadow. Horn-rimmed glasses in front of dark eyes. Handsome and distinguished looking in his tweed jacket, navy cashmere sweater vest and jeans that might have cost as much as my mortgage. He stank of bourbon, and a bottle sat on the desk behind him. His office was pristine, otherwise. A few chairs. A modern art piece on one wall. A flourishing fern standing in a pot in the corner. Rows of alphabetized books on mahogany shelves.

I was more than a tad jealous. I appreciate a clean office, but could never manage to keep my own desk free of files.

He cleared his throat a moment after I spoke and gestured inside. "Is this about Emily?"

It was my turn to blink at him in confusion. Most suspects didn't leap straight to the victim like that. I stepped in. "Uh, yeah. So you are on a first name basis with Dr. Castle then?"

He nodded and shut the door behind me. He took a few shaky steps to his desk and collapsed into his chair. He grabbed the bottle of bourbon, smelled the mouth of the bottle, frowned and set it back down without sipping. "Yes. And I figured someone would come by eventually to speak with me," his voice was quavery with drink but held a crisp, uppercrust, High Atish accent, with just a twinge of the Ambress drawl.

"And why is that?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Because I was at her apartment last night," he said. "I was at her apartment and I saw her dead and I didn't call anyone."

I opened my mouth to speak and then closed it. I thought about my options here. I hadn't been expecting him to be so open. I tugged my notebook from my pocket and scribbled some notes. Then I spoke. "Mr. Frontenac-Holden..."

"Just Holden is fine," he said. "Takes so long to say, Frontenac-Holden. You know, I have a cousin who is a cop..."

"Mr. Holden, then," I interrupted. "Why were you at Dr. Castle's home last night?"

He glanced back at the bottle. "It's complicated," he replied.

"Try to make it uncomplicated," I said.

"You wouldn't understand," he said.

"Try me."

"We were going to have a baby," he said.

I frowned. "A baby. So you were involved romantically, then?"

"No," he said.

"But you were going to have a baby?"

"We were friends," he said, like it was an explanation.

I tapped my pen on the notebook. "Most friends don't just have babies together. Were you sexually involved with Dr. Castle?"

"Yes," he replied. "It's why I was at her apartment last night. To screw."

He emphasized the last word strangely. Uncomfortably.

"Ah," I said. "Walk me through it then. You arrived at Dr. Castle's apartment..."

"At a little after midnight," he said. He gestured to the bottle. "Alcohol in hand."

"Bourbon?" I said. "Not very romantic..."

He glared. "I wasn't there for romance. I needed to get quite drunk to participate."

"Why? Dr. Castle seemed like a lovely woman."

"She was," he agreed.

"And you were friends? Yet you needed to get drunk to sleep with her."

"Yes," he said.

"Go on," I said, scribbling more notes. "You arrived a little after midnight, with the bourbon, to sleep with Dr. Castle."

"I have a key to her place," he said. "We had been shagging for awhile. A few months. Trying, that is. For the baby. When I got up to her place, she was...lying there. In the kitchen."

I nodded. "And the doorman can confirm this?"

"The doorman wasn't there," he said. "Which I thought was strange, because Ronald is always there at night. Without fail."

"The doorman's name wasn't Ronald," I muttered. I glanced back up. "What happened then?"

"I went over. I checked her pulse. I panicked. I ran."

"Why did you panic?"

"Because my friend was dead and I have been arrested before," he said.

"For drunk driving, not for assault or murder," I leaned forward. "Yet you still panicked and ran, assuming you would be arrested? Doesn't sound very innocent, Mr. Holden."

"I was scared," he replied.

"Scared of what?"

He leaned back and nearly fell out of his chair. He caught himself and cleared his throat. "I could hear someone in the apartment. When I checked her pulse. Someone was in her bedroom. I thought it might be the killer. I didn't want to be a witness."

"The killer was still in the apartment?"

"Yes," he said.

"What was the state of the apartment when you got there?"

"There was a body on the floor?"

"Aside from that?

He closed his eyes. "Clean, aside from the blood. Emily kept a tight ship."

He hiccuped. I mused on that. He opened his eyes and blinked at me.

"Am I under arrest?"

I stood and held out my hand. He looked at it, and then shook it. "Not right now," I said. "But I am going to send over some uniformed officers to make sure you don't decide to leave town."

"Can you do that?"

I thought about it. "I honestly don't know where police authority ends nowadays, but I am going to try."

"Where would I go anyways?" he asked. "My family won't have me, and Emily was the only one who cared."

"Then you'll be around," I turned to the door. "I may have more questions for you. You have a new phone, right?"

"How'd you know?"

I tapped my head. "Detective vision. Anyways, we'll call if we need anything."
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Postby Atnaia » Wed Sep 28, 2016 4:50 am

Hasan Malal

"Oh. It's you," I said. Dr. Kara Front spun around in shock, jumping a little as she did so. I felt a little bad. Dr. Front always had a nervous, squirrelly energy to her. Frightening her was like frightening a pet bunny.

"Jesus," she said, clutching at her chest. "You nearly gave me a heart attack."

"Sorry," I mumbled.

Dr. Front was very tall and knife-thin. She had dark skin mottled with even darker freckles. She had hooded eyes, sharp cheekbones and a tall forehead that made her look like the descendant of an Egyptian Pharaoh, but she carried herself with none of the regal grace. Her shoulders slouched in the defensive posture of the eternally battered. I knew the position well. I wore the same one.

She held a brown box in her hands. I glanced at it. An aloe plant poked out from within. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Uh," she bit her lip. "I'm cleaning up a few of Dr. Castle's personal items. The police will be rooting through this office for the next little while and I thought it might be nice to make sure that we didn't see all of her personal belongings tor apart..."

"Couldn't that be evidence?"

She pushed the contents of the box around with her hand. "A potted aloe plant, a photo of her and Steve Jobs, a geode and a model of Da Vinci's ornithopter? I don't think so. She didn't have a lot of personal belongings."

I bit my lip. That was true. Dr. Castle had kept a spartan workspace. Even that handful of objects was more than I had expected. I'd never seen the photo before.

Dr. Front set the box on the edge of the desk. "So, um," she adjusted her skirt nervously. "I'm supposed to be here for...well, to speak to, you know. So if you want to talk..."

I shook my head. "No. I'm sure you mean well, but..."

She frowned. "I am good at what I do, you know. It would be helpful for you to talk things out."

"I'm sure you are good at what you do, but what you do is run Turing Tests on robots," I replied, perhaps a little more coldly than was necessary. "I'm fine."

Dr. Front swallowed and nodded. "Alright. Well. I'm around."

She went to gather the box, but her hip bumped the edge of the desk. The heavy geode within slid over, throwing off the box's equilibrium, and the whole thing cantilevered over and smashed to the ground. Dr. Front yelped. I jumped. Dirt sprayed across the floor from the plant.

"Oh God," Dr. Front said, her hands leaping to her face. "Damn it."

I frowned and knelt uncomfortably to help her gather the spilled contents. I frowned.

"What's this?" I asked.

I lifted a small, fingernail sized rectangle of plastic, coated in dirt. Dr. Front glanced over and shrugged. "It wasn't in the box. Did it snap off the model? Oh no, I broke it didn't I?"

I shook my head. There was a small seam on one edge of the plastic object. I dug in my fingernail and popped it off. The object was a tiny USB drive. Dr. Front gasped, which was a bit of an overreaction. Still, a hidden flashdrive in a potted plant was a strange thing to find in a murder victim's office.

"Oh," I said, holding it up. I turned it over.

"What is it?" she asked.

"A thumb drive," I replied.

"Well, I can see that," she said. "What's on it?"

"I can't scan thumb drives with my brain," I mumbled.

"We should call Stone Wall."

I stood uneasily. "Why? It's just a thumb drive."

"It could be why she was..." Dr. Front trailed off.

"Or it could be a copy of her novel or something."

"She was writing a novel?"

I shrugged. That motion was always lopsided for me, my undamaged shoulder rising higher than my twisted arm would allow. "Won't know until we look."

I don't know what had come over me, but I had the sudden and deep feeling of see what was on this drive before Stone Wall. I'd never been suspicious of police before, but something was eating at my guts about this. I needed to see.
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Postby Atnaia » Thu Oct 06, 2016 3:17 am

Hasan Malal

"Holy crap," I said.

"What is it?" asked Dr. Front. She pushed up next to me and tried to read over my shoulder.

The screen glowed and I scrolled through line after line of text. I tried to decipher what I was looking at. I knew what it was, sort of, I just didn't know what it meant.

What was contained on the drive was essentially a digital keychain, allowing computers to link to a private server. The server itself rotated through security protocols, so only someone with the drive could actually access it. By the time you hacked past a security feature, the server would have processed a new one, so the drive was a requirement for access. What I was seeing on the screen was the text output of the program that that server was running, and I could recognize it immediately. It was the output of one version of our analytics algorithms, processing credit and bank purchases, internet use, phone use and a hundred other factors and linking patterns to draw out conclusions about individuals within the system, and then spitting out the results, naming individuals who fit within a data set and placing them into some sort of database for further tracking within the system. The issue was that I didn't know what the algorithm was actually drawing names for. I could see all the matrices, but I couldn't see the shape. It was like looking at a connect-the-dots puzzle without having numbers telling you which order to put them together in.

But what I could see was that this was one hell of a series of variables, more than I had ever tried to piece together. The potential applications of the algorithm ranged from retail to medical to political. With the right information sets, theoretically such a predictive algorithm could guess everything from what sort of hair gel you were likely to buy, to whether you were pregnant, to who you were likely to vote for, all from purchase histories and simple pattern recognition, and all before you did. Systems like it had been in use for years all over the place. Target had once been sued for using a simpler version of an algorithm like it in its advertising, when it had preemptively begun sending a teenage girl diaper advertisements before she was quite ready to tell papa dearest.

Our algorithms, while still in experimental stages, were like that data-ining, analytics algorithm on steroids, and capable of much, much more. And whatever I was looking at right now was a list of names that the system had pinged as being likely of...something. Something dangerous enough to make it worth hiding.

"What is it?" Dr. Front asked again.

I bit my lip. "I dunno. It's the results of an algorithm query, but I don't know what it was actually asking. It's the answer without the question."

"Forty-two," Dr. Front said, and I blinked at her. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that a robot psychologist was a fan of Adams, but I guess the schoolboy part of me still saw a halfway-pretty girl and thought she must have been more into Real Housewives than Hitchhiker's Guide.

"Exactly," I mumbled.

"So, can we go to Stone Wall now?"

I frowned. I opened and closed my mouth once. I wanted to say yes, but...

But I also wanted something else. I wanted to figure out the answer to the problem. It was a huge issue of mine. I needed to tinker, to figure out the errors in the code. And right now, I had a bunch of variables and nothing linking them, and I needed to know what did. And If I turned the list over to Stone Wall, it would probably disappear and I would never hear from it again.

I needed to know why Dr. Castle had been killed, and I felt like this list was the key. I knew it was the key.

I shut down the program, tugged out the drive from the side of the laptop, stood and strode towards the door. Dr. Front ran to catch up. It didn't take much. My left leg was all screwed up, after all.

"Are you going to Stone Wall?" she asked.

I shook my head. "Not yet," I said. "I have work to do."
- Globalist - Humanist - Rationalist - Utilitarian - Centrist -
"Progress makes perfect." - Hegemon Thomas Wessich

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