6 A Painstakingly Slow Chapter

(Not the best name for a chapter, is it?)


The Thirty-Third Precinct was the largest, geographically and in populace, in the city of Ngorongoro. Desi and Dash spent hours going over the surveillance videos. Desi sat at his desk paging through the images on his computer. Dash reclined in his chair, eyes closed, hands motionless behind his head.

“See here, Dash!” Desi excitedly pointed to the screen. “There’s our thief!”

“Huh, what, sorry, just counting electric sheep,” Dash shook, almost losing his balance.

“Were you sleeping?”

“Kind of…I had stopped all forms of processing without shutting down and rebooting. It allows me the ability to approach the conundrum with a fresh perspective.”

“I didn’t know we could do that.” Desi was stunned. He thought being an android didn’t leave much room for inner reflection, self-improvement, or sleep.

“It’s not a program we’re given or can download. It’s a skill one must practice and attain. But that’s getting away from our investigation. You were saying you saw our thief?”

Desi pointed again at his computer screen. “Here, in this video footage of the supply closet.”

Dash walked around to look, and Desi replayed the portion of the video. A cloaked figure, completely covered from head to toe, could be seen moving through the room. (Luck was with Ralph that night, as her face never turned toward the camera.)

“Unfortunately, we are unable to see her face,” Dash said.

“Her face?” Desi repeated. “How can you tell it’s a woman?” He looked closer at the video. “The perpetrator is completely covered from head to toe. Hood, gloves, definitely wanted to avoid detection.”

“Her gait, her hips, her proportions, her lower center of gravity, it’s all there to the trained eye,” Dash explained as he began to pace methodically behind Desi. He tucked his left hand into his waistcoat pocket, while he used his right hand illustratively as he talked, a trait he picked up many years ago.

“How can you be sure it’s not a guy with female characteristics?”

“Because a man with the athletic ability to rappel down the side of the Shooman Tower and move stealthily through a ceiling wouldn’t be built like a woman.” Dash pointed to the video on the monitor. “Watch here as she picks up this box to move it closer to the wall. She has her back and legs against the wall and can pick it up easily. Only a person with a low center of gravity, i.e., a woman, could do that. A man would fall forward.”

“Macideneb!” Desi accentuated his exotic, south-of-the-border accent to drive the point home.

With every new generation of android, new augmentations were invented to make them look and seem more lifelike. Dash, unfortunately, was a pre-voice-augmentation model. The eloquent and stately quality to his speech, often mistaken for a pompous and arrogant attitude, was based on the voice of the technician who programmed him.

“At least she is from Ladascus, and not off-planet,” Dash observed.

Desi thought for a moment but then decided, What the anneheg, and again challenged Dash’s deduction. “How do you figure she’s Ladascan?”

“Look at the database of the different types of humanoids on the planet, both residents and visitors. For instance, Souftes are top-heavy in the head and don’t fit the silhouette of the form. Of those, only seventeen fit the height and build of the perp. Of those seventeen, only nine fit the proportions of the arms and the legs. Of those nine, only four possess the mental capabilities needed to perform the tasks involved in the heist, and one of those is completely aquatic. So now, we are down to three. If we focus only on these three, two are incapable of traveling to Ladascus on their own and would have to be brought in through quarantine. Neither of those two species has been on Ladascus since the Disturbance began, which leaves only Ladascan. And she’s a girl.”

Desi was sad he asked.

“Unfortunately, the DNA analysis couldn’t provide us with anything specific on the jewel thief,” Desi redirected the conversation. “The DNA recovered was mostly Ladascan, and there’s lots of it.”

“Not surprising, an office full of people, and an interloper who covered almost her entire body. No traces of DNA around the window, roof, or crawl spaces?”

“Again, nothing conclusive, she was very careful.”

“And the safe is the same,” Dash more concluded than asked.

“Correct, an office with hundreds of people passing through it daily. If anything, once we get the thief’s DNA, we could then filter it out from everyone else’s and place her at the scene. We just can’t single out a specific DNA sample to give us a suspect.”

“And so, the painstakingly slow process begins. Eliminating all that is untrue so that we can find what is true.” Dash lectured to his rookie companion. “The one thing that would make this case is motive.”

“Considering the different safe deposit boxes she broke into, she is trying to divert us from her one true objective.”

“She had a purpose. Or she wouldn’t have been there at all.”

“From the way the safe was broken into, the thief seems to have a vast working knowledge of this safe, if not safes in general,” Desi continued. “I did find it peculiar though…on the surveillance video, you can actually see the shot of the office changing to a different office. That new office has a certain familiarity to it.” Desi’s lightning-quick brain tried to locate distinguishing characteristics between the video and offices in his database.

Dash laughed. “Our opponent is extremely clever. With over a thousand offices and rooms, security wouldn’t be able to recognize any one room from the other. Plus, they couldn’t monitor all of them simultaneously, so the odds were with her that she could interface a recording of a different office, and it wouldn’t be noticed until it was all over. And by then it would be too late. What time codes are on the video when the interface was made?”

“7:56 p.m.”

“So, she got in fairly early, just after sunset. Daring of our antagonist. When did she take it down?”

“8:47 p.m.”

“Fifty-one minutes. She definitely had a target. No time wasted. Only one box was of interest, this much is true.”

“The others…decoys, so, which one was her intended mark?”

“This is where we need to re-examine every interview. Dig through all the evidence. View all the surveillance camera videos from the surrounding areas, businesses, and parking garages, as well as traffic and

security cameras. We should also look for anything unusual — reflections in windows, unexplained shadows — within a mile radius, from 8:47 on.”

Desi actually breathed a heavy sigh. “That will take hours!”

“I didn’t call it a painstakingly slow process for nothing,” Dash reminded him. “Let’s focus on the safe. Owners, contents, who has access, and why and what they want to steal. And just for fun, let’s see if we can identify the actual office they substituted on the surveillance video. I must agree with you, Desi, it does appear familiar.”

“I’ve been in contact with all but one of the owners. Henry Streator, who owns the box with the highest monetary value. But I’ve spoken to his staff of one.”

“Pity, I would like to speak to Henry Streator as soon as possible. What did the video of the roof access provide?”

“Nothing, no one came or went from that stairwell that day or all week,”

“Curious,” Dash rubbed his chin with his right hand, thinking out loud. “So how did she get on the roof, the starting point for the robbery?”

“Good question,” Desi added.

“Of course, it’s a good question!” Dash yelled. “What we need is a plausible answer.”

“Antigravity boots?”

“All the complexes in this area have antigravity sensors,” Dash explained. “They would’ve set off an alarm somewhere.”

“That’s why the culprit was able to cut open the window. All window alarms sense antigravity.” Desi leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head and stared into space as he contemplated all the facts. “There isn’t a crook these days who doesn’t use antigravity boots, far too convenient.”

“Somehow she got onto the roof without them. This we can presume to be true,” Dash stated. “Then she used a rope to rappel down.”

“Sometimes the simplest techniques are the hardest to detect,” Desi added.

“Yes. There is nothing more deceptive than the obvious,” Dash replied. “How did she leave the scene?”

“Apparently, out the window also.” Desi studied the video more closely. “Unfortunately, the window is out of the field of view.”

“Did she climb up, down, or what? It’s a long way to go either way on a rope. Let’s look at the video again.” Dash peered over Desi’s shoulder. “Zoom in on the backpack.” He pointed at the screen.

“Do you suppose it might be a parachute?” Desi asked.

“That would be a plausible solution to our question. It would need to be something without a power supply. Power leaves traces that can be detected. The backpack will need further investigation.”

“If she used it to leave the scene of the crime, maybe it was her means of arrival. Did she have an accomplice? We need information on aircraft traffic in the area that evening. Did she launch from a static site, and if so, then where?”

“The only point high enough to launch from is a structure to the west,” Dash surmised. “Even if the wind was in her favor, a parachute travels more distance vertically than horizontally. We are definitely missing something. Let us collect surveillance videos from all the security cameras in the area.”

“She is definitely old school.” Desi returned to his computer and started compiling data from other sources.

“What were the weather conditions that night, especially the wind?”

After a few searches in the computer, Desi had an answer. “Mild winds out of the southeast.”

“She must have gotten onto the scene in a way that didn’t require relying on favorable weather conditions,” Dash said.

Desi looked into his computer on his desk. “Wow! There is an amazing amount of surveillance video to go through. If something doesn’t stand out, we may miss it.”

“Precisely why we must pay attention; even the smallest detail may tell the most of all,” Dash said.

The two detectives pored over thousands of hours of surveillance footage, from parking ramps to malls to street-level transportation cameras; an arduous task even for an android. There was nothing that could point them toward anyone in particular. (Even the recording of Ralph paying at a parking ramp booth, with cash, at a reasonable hour for a reasonable length of time to spend in the galleria, didn’t raise any red flags.)

“Another thing we should do is examine the storage closet video more closely. Maybe, just maybe, we can catch a glimmer of her face in a reflection on something like a shiny object in the room or the windows of the other Shooman Tower,” Desi said.

“Splendid, my amicable colleague, splendid,” Dash praised. He used his right hand to stroke his chin more and more frequently. He started to feel a little shaky. Dash left the office and went into a bathroom stall. Taking a 9-volt battery out of his pocket, he carefully hooked it up to two electrodes in a compartment under his arm. He took a deep breath of relief and then returned to his desk, his left hand tucked neatly into his coat pocket.

Most androids couldn’t handle the high from a 9-volt battery, colloquially called its “Zapp.” There was only one place to get them in the entire cosmos — Earth. Supposedly, police androids had the best 9-volts. Carbon-based batteries were preferred for their clean Zapp. Alkaline batteries usually left a bad aftertaste (referring to the residual harmonic electrical frequency that seemed to linger in one’s circuits), and the Zapp from rechargeables just didn’t satisfy the craving. Sure, they were cheaper, but didn’t have more than three Zapps on a charge. Since Dash was an earlier model, he was prone to electrical incongruity, and it was discovered that 9-volt batteries would settle this issue.

Dash and Desi left the office for the day. Even androids had lives.


Joe Just an Ordinary Earthling Copyright © 2003,2017,2018 by edward a szynalski. All Rights Reserved.

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