After giving C0lumb0t his orders, You linger for a moment outside the building where Silas Mordent's body was found and watch as your robot partner folds in on himself, sprouts four rickety wheels, and chugs off in the direction of the bookstore. You tell a nearby medic to call if they find anything unusual and the guy just rolls his eyes at you. Thinking for a moment, you realize nothing about this case could be described as “usual.”
Climbing into your cramped company car, you flick on the auto-drive and bring up all the information you can regarding Mordent’s ex-wife. Her SecuraCorp ID photo slides onto the screen of your dash-computer and you notice that, though she's had some work done around the eyes and jaw, she's more than a few years older than Mordent. Skimming the rest of her file, you see that she was the one who entered the marriage with most of the money, her mother having pioneered and marketed a new filter mask that could protect the wearer from the wide array of carcinogens that plagued most of the world's cities.
She was no slouch herself. Her interior design company was more than just a rich woman's vanity project. Over the last ten years the company had opened contracts with a wide array of clients; the only thing they shared in common was almost limitless budget when it came to making themselves look good. Everything about Paula Lin, formally Paula Mordent-Lin, reeked of corporate polish. At that level, marriages tended to look more like business contracts. The big question was, what did Sila bring to table?
As your car glides up the front of Inner Illuminations, you wonder briefly if it could have been love.
Stepping out into the heat haze, you notice a man across the street smiling at you. Your raise an eyebrow and nod a greeting, but when he doesn't break eye contact you start to feel nervous. He's tall and blond, dressed in an expensive black suit and leaning against car that's also expensive and black. You turn, about to cross the street, when the guy gives you a salute and climbs into his car. It's gone in a second and you notice that the license plate has an obscuring fog around it. Whoever that guy was, he was high enough up on the corporate food chain to not have to worry about the Traffic Division.
Committing the guy's face to your memory, you turn toward the building that houses Inner Illuminations. Like most buildings in the heart of the city it is a tower of steel and curved glass. Not too fancy, but not cheap looking either. You've always found them to be boring.
Stepping in through the front door, your eyes are momentarily blinded by the brightness. Blinking, you find yourself standing in the whitest room you've ever seen. The ceiling is so high you're amazed you don't see clouds hanging below it and the floor feels almost rubbery against your feet. There isn't a stick of furniture to break up the glaring monotony of white and you let out a low whistle that seems to evaporate in the vastness around you.
“Good morning,” a voice says to your right. You turn and see Paula Lin step out from a doorway that has appeared in the far wall. She's wearing a bright red dress that stands out alarmingly against the wall, a blood drop on a wedding dress. “I assume you're here about Silas?”
“I am,” You say, suspicious. “What exactly do you know about your ex-husband?”
“That he has been killed,” she says, producing a tablet and sliding her finger over it. A table and two chairs seem to flow up out of the floor, color pouring up into them like paint dumped into a bucket of water. Within a few seconds, an antique wicker table and chair set sits in front of you.
“Nice trick,” You say, lowering yourself into the chair. If you didn't know better you'd swear you were sitting on real wood. “So how did you find out about your husband?”
“A man from SecuraCorp called me,” She dabs at her eyes a bit. From the looks of it she's either been crying or making her eyes leak water for some time. “He told me his tracker went dead sometime in the night and that a detective would come around to question me.”
“Did this man leave a name,” you ask, making a note on your own tablet. “Or a call back address?”
“No. But he told me to have a list of my whereabouts ready for you when you got here. Here.”
She slides her tablet across the table and hits the sync icon. Looking down at your own, you see a large file being uploaded to your device.
“Did you kill your husband, Ms. Lin?” You ask. Over the years, you've found the blunt approach can work wonders.
“No,” she says, her voice sad. “And I don't know why someone would want him dead. He was a teddy bear. Not that he thought so...”
“What do mean?”
“Silas was one of those men who think they're tough. They watch movies and read books about tough guys and think it's a documentary of their own life. He would strut and flex and brag about foreclosures as if he was a soldier marching off to war every morning. If you want to find suspects, you should take a look at his business reports. He kicked a lot of people out of their houses over the years.”
“Did he ever have someone in particular threaten him?”
“No. In fact, I don't think anyone he foreclosed on even knew who was doing it to them. He was just a banker who worked for a bank. A drone bee.”
“But he didn't see himself as a drone,” you say.
“Oh, no,” Paula lets out a humorless laugh. “He was anything but. He knew what everyone should do and how wrong they were for not doing it his way.
“He was a boy with a puffed out chest.”
“Who filed for divorce?” you ask, making a note on your pad.
“I did,” she says. “I had to. He was burning through money too fast, I had to insulate what we had left. That was a year ago and he's been fighting with me over every line in the divorce agreement. I don't know why. I'm letting him keep the house and a monthly alimony that should more than cover any reasonable expenses.”
“Do you know why he lost his job?”
“He wasn't doing his job. That was odd, too. Over the last few months it was as if he'd grown some kind of social conscious. He started railing about the corporations that had taken working people's lives away from them.”
“What brought this on?”
“No idea,” Paula says, shrugging. “He just started hanging out with these dirty looking hippy types. They were all over the house when I went there last.”
“That's how they seemed to me. They were always spouting off about returning to nature and overthrowing this and that. You know, hippy stuff.”
“”Hmmm. Speaking of the house,” You say, picking your tablet up and flipping through your file on Mordent. “He had some kind of dispute with his neighbor. Something about stalking?”
“Oh, yes,” Paula said, rolling her eyes. “Grigori Markov. He and Silas used to be friends and then one day, just before I filed for divorce, they just blew up at each other. I saw them arguing near the garden one day. Silas insisted it was about the property line, but I always suspected it was something more.”
Your tablet begins to vibrate. Looking down, you see C0lumb0t's is trying to call you. You let it go to voicemail.
“Is there anything else you can think of, Ms. Lin? Anything at all?”
“No, I'm just....shocked.”
You get up and reach across the table to shake her hand. As her hand wraps around yours, you notice the nails on her right hand are chipped and torn, the polish flaking off. She sees you notice and pulls her hand back quickly.
“If you think of anything, please call me,” You say, walking toward the door. “Nice place, by the way.”
“Thank you,” she calls after you, her voice already sounding small in the expansive room. “And good luck. Please find out who did this to Silas.”
You step outside into the comparatively dim sunlight and stick an earbud into your ear. You slip into your car and call C0lumb0t back.
“What do you got for me?”
“These people here, they don't really like me,” the robot says, sounding exaspertated. “They don't want to tell me who bought those books.”
“They say people have a right to read what they want without other people lookin' over their shoulders. They told me to get a warrant and even if I did they'd fight it and drag the whole thing out and yadda yadda.”
“So it's like that?”
“That's it,” C0lumb0t says. “But I noticed that they keep their files on our company servers. If we want, I can make a call over to the Home Office and have one of the tech-heads just pull them. They can't do a thing about that, it’s part of our Terms and Conditions that we have access.”
“We could do that,” you say, distracted. You leave C0lumb0t waiting on the line while you run the meeting with Paula Lin over again in your head. Sudden debt, sudden hippies, and sudden arguments with neighbors. It sounded like Silas Mordent had had a busy year. And that someone from the Home Office had called Paula Lin before you'd arrived doesn't sit well with you either. Stuff like that could jeopardize the whole case. Of course, this could all be bullshit and Paula is hiding something. Maybe keeping an eye on her wouldn't be a bad idea.
“You still there, boss?”
“Yeah, this is what I want you to do.”
What Does C0lumb0t Do?
- Pull the records off the servers 33%
- Follow Paula Lin 50%
- Go to Mordent's Estate 0%
- Go To the Anarchists Office 16%
What Do You Do?
- Go to the Home Office 0%
- Go to Mordent's Estate 50%
- Go to the Anarchist Office 16%
So you can vote for the outcome you desire by clicking on the polls in the upper right corner over there. Voting is open until Thursday May, 15th and the next chapter will post Monday May, 19th.