Chapter 3:


Grime in the Gears: Create, Read, Update, Delete

Of all the desks of all the homicide detectives in all the precincts, Detective Javan's desk was the most tidy. The desk of her partner, Detective Vadstalle, however, was littered with business cards, sticky notes, sports memorabilia with the Spiders' logo on them, a collection of empty coffee cups (both reusable and disposable) as well as the wrapper from this morning's breakfast sandwich.

Javan's desk, which butted against Vadstalle's, was the day to his night, the yin to his yang. In the middle sat her department-issued terminal, the keyboard and mouse perfectly aligned with the monitor when not in use. Next to that was a department-issued desk phone. A perforated metal cup held a rainbow of pens and three sharpened-to-perfection pencils. A plain white mug half-filled with strong Assam tea sat on an ornamental trivet intricately carved with the likeness of Yama holding a danda while riding on a water buffalo. The only thing that seemed out of place on her desk, and decidedly not Javan, was the vinyl figurine of Arai-kun, the cartoon raccoon. However, like the rest of the items on her desk, Arai-kun too had a place within the grand order.

"Javan," said Vadstalle. "Did you call that guy yet? Conor?" He was staring at his computer screen and poking the keys while he talked. 

She nodded. "Yes, I called him about fifteen minutes ago."

"Good," said Vadstalle.  He pecked a few more keys before leaning to look at her from around his screen. "Do you think you could review this report when I'm done?"

"Do we want to incorporate Officer Czeslaw's report?"

Vadstalle stopped typing. He considered this for a moment while he chewed his bottom lip. "Does it add anything?"

"He did observe a hole in the window about the size of a decinamero. And his suspicion regarding the cause of death has been confirmed by the autopsy."

Vadstalle grabbed one of the non-empty mugs from his desk. "Lucky guess," he said. He took a swig, then grimaced before placing the mug down, scooting it closer to the gang of empties. He found the one that had coffee that was still relatively warm and took a sip of that one. "I think we can incorporate his findings, but only when they're original and don't conflict with our own report. Can you collate the data into our report while you're reviewing mine?"

"Yes," she said.

Her desk phone buzzed. "Detective Javan" said the voice from the speaker. "A Conor Rayl is here to see you."

"I will be right there," she said. She stood from the desk. "Good luck finishing your report," she said. "I am going to meet Mr. Conchobhar's business partner."

Vadstalle gave her a half-hearted wave before she walked away. Once she was out of sight, he stood from his seat and leaned over his desk, crossing the line between his and hers. He grabbed the Arai-kun figurine and scooted it a few centimeters to the left.

Javan found Conor in the lobby. He wore a messenger bag over his shoulder and had a nervous look on his face. "Mr. Rayl?" she said. She held out her hand. 

He took it and gave it a shake. "You're Officer Javan?" he said.

"Detective," she corrected. "But, yes. Please, come with me." She had him pass through the precinct's weapon detector before following her back to her desk. She indicated a chair in which he could sit. "Would you like something to drink?" she asked, taking her own seat.

He nodded.

She moved Aria-kun back to his correct location before pressing a button on her desk phone. "This is my partner," she said, indicating Vadstalle, "Detective Vadstalle." Vadstalle looked up from his screen and gave Conor a nod. 

Conor stood from the seat and offered his hand. "Conor Rayl," he said. "Pleased to meet you, Detective Vadstalle."

Vadstalle smiled but didn't stand. "You can call me Rick," he said. He went back to working on his report. After an awkward moment of standing there with his hand out, Conor sat back down again.

"You are probably wondering why we called you here today," Javan said.

He nodded. "Is it about Frank?"

A trolley rolled up to the desk. It had an assortment of beverages. Conor took a disposable coffee cup and pulled the heat tab. Javan took one of the compact teapots from the trolley and topped off her own mug. When she set the pot down, she gave Vadstalle a look, pointing at the empty cups on his desk with her eyes. He got the hint, and tossed them into the trolley's trash bin before grabbing one of the other disposable coffee cups and pulling its heat tab.

Javan took a moment to sip her steaming tea. She set the mug back down upon the trivet. "Yes," she said. "Sadly, we must inform you that your colleague has died. We suspect murder." The trolley wheeled away.

Conor was in mid-sip when she said this. He almost choked. "Frank? Dead?" he said. Then he looked from Javan to Vadstalle. "You don't think I did it, do you?"

Vadstalle chuckled. "Relax, dude," he said. "It's just a few quick questions."

"Shouldn't I have a lawyer or something?"

Javan nodded. "You are welcome to have a lawyer present while answering our questions, if you believe that to be in your best interests."

Conor considered this. Javan sipped her tea while she watched him consider the prospect. He looked like he wanted to entertain the idea of getting a lawyer, but also looked like there was something holding him back from wanting to actually do it. Something big. She noticed that his heartrate was slightly elevated, but not enough to arouse suspicion.

He shook his head. "I think it'll be fine," he said, more to himself than to anybody else. He picked up his coffee cup and began to fiddle with it in his hands.

"That's the spirit," Vadstalle said.

Javan gave Vadstalle a serious look. He went back to typing. "Do you know of anybody who might have wished Mr. Conchobhar harm?" she asked. "Anything? Even if it's a jilted ex-lover or a business deal gone sour?"

Conor shook his head. "Frank's got a fiancé," he said. "They've been together for years, and he's not one to mess around, if you know what I mean." He tapped his fingers on the edge of the coffee cup. "His sister--my wife--would kill him," he said with a laugh. Then he realized what he said. "I mean, that is, not really."

Javan smiled. "I understand that you meant that figuratively," she said. "Don't worry. I know this must be hard."

Conor nodded. He picked at the part on the cup where the heat tab had been. "How did he die?" he asked.

"Somebody drilled a hole through his window and pumped the apartment full of a deadly gas," Javan said.

"Mary Jade," said Vadstalle.

"Did anybody else get hurt?" asked Conor.

Javan shook her head. "Mary Jade is a special type of neurotoxin. It has to be tailored against its target. It's not a very practical choice for killing people, but it is 99% effective, albeit prohibitively expensive for most people to use. Mr. Conchobhar must have either made somebody who was very rich somewhat angry, or somebody who was somewhat rich very angry."

Conor took a moment to understand what she had said. "Do you have any leads?" he asked.

"That's why you're here," said Vadstalle.

"Mr Rayle, we are currently investigating this matter to our fullest abilities, and we will pursue all relevant leads. Unfortunately, at this time, our data are sparse. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated."

Conor nodded.

"Show him the box," said Vadstalle.

Conor's eyebrow went up. "What box?" he asked.

"Your colleague left behind a LifeBack kit. Unfortunately, we are unable to get any data off of it. That might give us a clue as to his final moments. However, it seems to have become corrupted during the upload procedure. He tried to do a backup. That much is apparent, but my guess would be that it failed."

Conor thought of Syd and his ability to disassemble proprietary file formats before breakfast. "I have a guy who might be able to help," he suggested.

Vadstalle chuckled. "We already called LifeBack. They're going to pick it up later today and send us over anything they might find that's relevant to the investigation."

"You said he tried to use it. Is there any chance we could get that backup recovered?" asked Conor.

Javan took a sip of her tea. "Anything is possible," she said. "It depends on what LifeBack can do with the box. We'll give them your contact information when they arrive to retrieve it."

"Can I see the box? Like Rick said?" asked Conor.

"Of course," Javan said. She set her mug back down and stood from her desk. "Please, follow me."

She led him away from the pool of desks toward a room that said EVIDENCE above the door. They entered the room subdivided with a sturdy looking fence. On the far side of the fence was row after row of sealed metal boxes. In the middle of the fence was a panel, and in the middle was a mechanical face. It opened its camera-lens eyes. "Detective Javan," it said with simulated cheer through a speaker in the back of its metal mouth, "What can I do for you?"

"Good morning, Lockie," she said. "I am here to retrieve the LifeBack kit from the Conchobhar case."

The face nodded. Conor saw a light pass over Javan's badge, a sort of quick validation of Javan's credentials with respect to the request. "One moment," Lockie said. His eyes began to pulse and glow through a myriad of colors while he located the correct locker. "Almost there," he said, as a mechanical arm lowered from the ceiling and opened the correct locker. It placed the parcel on a conveyor belt, and the item slid toward the front. The conveyor deposited the parcel into a bin, and a red light above the bin turned green. Javan pulled open the bin and retrieved the parcel. She set it down on a metal table against the wall and pressed her thumb against the top of the parcel. 

Satisfied with her thumbprint, the parcel opened, revealing the LifeBack kit inside. It had an LCD image of a frowny face on the screen.

"Here it is," she said.

Conor looked at it for a moment, not sure if he could pick it up or anything. As he looked up to say something to Javan, he could have thought he saw the square pixel eyes of the face blink. He forgot what he was going to say.

"Mr. Rayl?" she asked.

This snapped him out of his confusion. He shook his head. It was probably just the screen's automatic refresh and his mind playing tricks on him. He looked back at Java. "I'll let you know if anything comes up," he said at last.

"Thank you," she said. She wrapped the parcel back around the LifeBack kit and placed it back in the bin, where Lockie churned some gears to get it back to the right storage locker. She walked him to the front door. "You have my number, so please call if you can think of anything. We'll keep in touch if we have any additional questions." She held out her hand to him. He took it and gave it a shake. "Have a nice morning," she said.

"Thanks," said Conor. "You too." He turned and walked through the precinct lobby and out through the door. Javan watched him look both ways, as if trying to figure out where to go next, and then disappear around the corner.

When he had left, she returned to her desk. Before sitting down, she rotated Arai-kun to his correct orientation before giving Vadstalle another look. "Almost done with that report?" she said.

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