Chapter 15:


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

Czeslaw sat at the counter of March's. He couldn't get that meeting out of his mind. What was Vadstalle doing at the burned out wreckage of that chemical plant so late at night. Yeah, it was a crime scene, but not his crime scene. He reviewed his recording of their meeting over and over via his PARD's playback.

"Do you want to file a report?" the PARD asked.

Czeslaw watched the recording as Vadstalle got on his bike and roared away. As he watched the replay, he clenched the five-namero coin in his pocket.

"No," he said at last. "I'm sure Detective Vadstalle had a very good reason for being there so late at night. What do you think he was investigating?"

"Detective Vadstalle is currently investigating the Conchobhar murder," the PARD said. "He was at Marney Chemical during the accident, and his partner Detective Javan was severely injured."

Czeslaw squinted. "Do you think it's related?"

The PARD showed a spinner in Czeslaw's field of vision while it processed his question. After an uncomfortable silence, it said, "Perhaps."

Czeslaw sipped his coffee and nibbled on an apple-raspberry filled doughnut. "I mean, don't you think it's a little suspect that a chemical plant with no recent history of major accidents has a major accident the very day some police are there as part of an investigation?"

The PARD processed this question as well. "Yes, but there is always the possibility of coincidence."

Czeslaw grunted at this. "I think we should treat it as more than coincidental unless we have a good reason not to."

"You're not assigned to the investigation," said the PARD.

Czeslaw sipped his coffee again. "How about we take a few creative liberties with that report. Instead of saying I saw Vadstalle there last night, I can say that I saw suspicious activity late at night. That might be enough to get my foot in the door."

The PARD considered this. "Possibly."

"What do you say? We're just omitting some small, inconsequential things."

The PARD projected a suggested report into his field of vision. "Will this do?"

Czeslaw skimmed it, his eyes rolling over the words. "Looks good to me," he said.

He finished his coffee and doughnut and left a few bills for March. He considered leaving the five-namero coin as a tip, but felt a certain sense of loathing toward the coin, and couldn't bear to give it to March. Instead, he tipped his hat to her before heading out, keeping the coin buried in his pocket.

There was a spring in his step as he walked out onto the street. He made his way toward the precinct, hoping that someone there would notice his report and take up his recommendation. If all went well, he could make it to detective. No more beat cop.

He sat down at his desk and sifted through some emails and other administrivia. He kept looking over to see if anybody had seen his report, checking it for views. Nothing.

After several minutes of trying to look busy, he walked his way to the kitchenette and poured himself a cup of coffee. It wasn't as good as March's, and probably wasn't as good as the stuff the trolley had on it, but for some reason, that automated coffee machine on wheels never made its way toward the cheap seats.

While finishing his coffee before his dreaded patrol of Odin-only-knows, he saw Vadstalle saunter past. He had one of the new PARDs in his ear, and it looked newer than new. Czeslaw followed him with his eyes, watching Vadstalle walk up to his desk. The detective paused at the desk next to his and picked up a small raccoon figurine off the desktop. He said something with a wave of his hand before putting the figurine in his shirt pocket.

Czeslaw shrugged. "Must be hard playing with toys all day," he muttered, crushing his coffee cup before tossing it into the trash. He left the precinct and looked at the dispatches. Most of the outstanding ones were already blue, but there was a low-risk one that still needed attention. Some people were reporting strange activity the previous night. He read the dispatch notes and chuckled.

"Giants stealing appliances," he said. "What is wrong with the world?"

"Would you like to claim the dispatch?" said his PARD.

"Sure," he said. The dispatch turned blue, and an arrow hovered in his vision.

"It isn't that far of a walk, but I can call a cart for you if you'd prefer."

Czeslaw looked up at the sky. A bird, or maybe it was a bird-like drone, fluttered by before landing on a power line and singing. He smiled. "Actually, today seems like a nice day for a walk."

He made his way down the sidewalk. While it wasn't the nicest part of town, it also wasn't the worst. This place, known for its abundance of middle-class busybodies, had no shortage of superfluous police calls, most of which were just ways to add gossip to the weekly police blotter. Most cops hated these sort of calls, instead preferring stopping gearheads from gearing out, or speeders from speeding, or any other more important crime than the neighbor not separating out their recycling before tossing it into the chute.

Czeslaw saw it as an opportunity to get a break from the synth dens and mod shops, and often played a game with himself to see how long he could maintain a serious expression while hearing all about how Mr. So-And-Such came home late last night and Mrs. So-And-Such had some choice words with him that may very well have been a death threat if taken under a particular context, considering all the other choice words she'd had with him in the past, don't you think?

He found that he could go quite a long time, at least until he needed to say something in response. Then it was a simple matter of turning his laugh into a cough, clearing his throat, apologizing, and then, with his sternest face, saying, "I'll give it my fullest attention, ma'am."

The arrow in his vision directed him to the lobby of one of the apartment buildings. He stepped inside, showing the robot doorman his badge. His PARD showed him the correct floor, so he followed the directions up the elevator and down the hallway. He stood outside the door and gave it a gentle but audible knock.

A few moments later, a woman opened the door a crack. She wore a bathrobe over her flannel pajamas and had a hairnet holding her hair and several curlers in place. The curlers flashed with a discordant rhythm, and the effect was rather distracting. "Hello," said Czeslaw, "I'm Officer Joe Czeslaw responding to a call you made earlier about something you saw out your window?"

The woman nodded. She leaned forward and said in a whisper. "It was a giant, and it was carrying a refrigerator. I swear, I've never seen anything quite so strange before."

Czeslaw kept a straight face and nodded.

"There I was, enjoying a vid, when I heard something outside. I looked out my window, and sure enough, there was this giant thing stomping down the street. It was carrying something in its arms, and it had a sort of tail-like thing dragging after it, and then, even though it was dark, I recognized what it was carrying. It had one of those industrial fridges you might find in the back of a restaurant."

Czeslaw nodded again.

"See, I used to work in a restaurant, before I was married. Now I don't work. My husband does. And, I'll tell you, you never forget what one of those fridges looks like. They're so big, and they have these nice glass doors. They're the kind of fridges you'd want in your own kitchen, if your kitchen were big enough to handle it."

Czeslaw nodded once more.

"But why a giant would want a fridge, aside from thinking it was really nice, is beyond me."

"Maybe it was a frost giant," Czeslaw's PARD said into his ear.

Czeslaw bit his lip and nodded.

"Anyway," said the woman. "I think I've told you enough. I hope you got all of that."

Czeslaw coughed, then cleared his throat. "Excuse me," he said. "Why, yes, ma'am. That will be enough. I'll give this matter my utmost attention."

She nodded. "Feel free to call if you need me to testify or anything."

"We will, ma'am."

She closed the door. Czeslaw turned his back on the door and let out a little chuckle. "That always gets me," he said under his breath.

"I'm glad that you're enjoying this," said his PARD.

"Excuse me," said a little voice nearby. Czeslaw stopped laughing and looked to see what it was. It was a little boy, clutching a rabbit toy in his arms. He was peeking out of the next door over.

Czeslaw smiled. "Why, sure I am," he said. He stepped up to the kid and leaned on his knees. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

The boy nodded. "I saw the giant last night too," he said.

"Barry," said the toy rabbit he was holding. "Your mother told you to stay in the apartment."

"It's okay, Rabbit," he said. Or did he say "Robert?" "This is a police man."

The toy rabbit blinked and sighed.

The boy looked up at Czeslaw. "I have a drawing of it," he said. "Come in and I'll get it."

"Barry," said the toy. But Barry ignored him. He left the door wide open and went off into one of the rooms. Czeslaw stepped inside the apartment, and his PARD didn't fire any warnings, so probably the invitation from the kid was enough to merit authorized entry.

He saw a board on the back wall with several photographs and newspaper clippings. He stepped up to it and looked at it. Someone had pinned different colors of yarn to the board, linking this picture with that. Some of the headlines he remembered. "Millionaire dies in yachting accident," and "Startup founder flings self from roof." All the strings seemed lead back to a single picture of a young man with the name "Jeremy" written under it.

"Here it is," said the boy. He was standing behind Czeslaw holding a sheet of paper. Czeslaw looked at it. Though it was in crayon and on construction paper, it was a pretty good rendition of something big, the giant, carrying something else big, the fridge. He took the drawing and studied it. The giant didn't really look like a giant. It looked more like a car that had sprouted arms and legs. The fridge almost looked like a dragon. Czeslaw assumed this was some artistic liberty on the boy's part. He looked at the boy. "This is a nice drawing," he said.

"Thanks," said the boy. "You can keep it for the investig..." He struggled with the word.

"Investigation," said Czeslaw. He reached into his pocket and pulled out one of his cards. "If the rabbit is right, you're supposed to keep this door locked when your mom isn't home. Do me a favor and give her this card when she gets back. We don't want to keep any secrets from her, do you understand?"

"See?" said the rabbit.

"I understand," said the boy.

"Good," said Czeslaw. "Now, I have to give this investigation my fullest attention." He smiled before making his way to the door.

"Thank you, Officer," said the boy.

"The name's Czeslaw," he said. "But if you find that too hard to say, you can call me Officer Joe."

"You can call me Barry, and this is Rabbit," he said. Or did he say "Robert" again?

"Nice to meet you Barry, and, err, Rabert..." He tipped his hat before stepping out through the door. "And remember, keep this door locked until your mom gets back. There's a lot of dangerous people out there."

This made Barry look a little scared.

"But don't worry," Czeslaw added quickly. "That's what the police are here for!" Barry nodded at this. Czeslaw closed the door, making sure it was locked.

As he walked down the hallway, he said to his PARD, "Make a note to call his mom later on to let her know I was there."

"I will get the number from the doorman," said the PARD.

Czeslaw walked out through the front door. In the street, he looked at the drawing again, and wondered why it looked so familiar. He folded it nicely and put it into his pocket. He'd add it to the file for the case, but didn't have much faith in it being solved. As he walked, though, he remembered the board with the yarn.

"Hey, PARD," he said, "remind me to also look up some info on those headlines we saw in the apartment. I have an idea."

"What are you up to?" asked the PARD.

"Looking into more coincidences," he said.

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon