Chapter 4: Liaison (Part 2)

Special Agent Jill Tamano flashes a badge as she parks the car off to the side of the scene. The pair duck under the caution tape as it seems like the entirety of Clyde Hill watches the proceedings. Even Channel 5 News was on the scene. The police have been busy placing those little markers near anything and everything that might be important. Mikhail can find a number in the thirties, and that is just outside the house. As they walk up the driveway, carefully following a path that the officers indicated was clear, Mikhail can see where a window might have been. The glass, he now noticed, was spread all over the front lawn. So explained the dozens of markers, in any case. Who knew which ones might have forensic importance? Furthermore, he could see bits of wood splintered off from the window frame itself. Whoever had done so must have been in a hurry, and simply decided to throw the entire thing out without regard for the homeowner’s property. The house was, otherwise, rather stately. A perfect exemplar of the upper middle class life in the 2030s, and a perfect - if slightly outdated in design - member of the neighborhood. Getting onto the stone front walk, Mikhail can see the nicks and scratches in the creme paint where the flying glass and window frame had bounced along the side of the house. Below the window was a thoroughly trampled bush; Mikhail surmised that after jumping from the window, the suspect had had to land somewhere. They pass the bush, and Mikhail sees something out of the corner of his eye. “Hey! I think there’s something here!” He shouts, raising his hand and coming to a dead halt. An officer jogs over and paws through the bush as Mikhail indicated. Gingerly, he removes his hand from the shrubbery, his latex glove scuffed up from encountering something rather spiky. In the officer’s fingers is a patch of denim. “Good eye, kid.” Jill nods approvingly. She had spent enough time around crime scenes to know that this had been a fresh finding. Was it luck, or was this consultant particularly good at spotting the details? They enter the house. Immediately to the left on an off-white wall is a brand new alarm system. Mikhail recognized it immediately as the model that he had in his own apartment. At least, from the appearance of the control panel. This one appeared to be a higher-end model, though, with integrated carbon monoxide and smoke monitoring. He knew that it was available, but that subscription was a little too much for him even on the generous salary that Coyote had provided him. They continue inside. If the security system had not clued him in, and Jill had not told him, he now knew without a doubt that the residents of this house were fairly well off. The furnishings were fairly modern, with that same neo-colonial aesthetic he saw plastered all over his television multiple times a day. An officer is at this point in every room they enter, dusting for prints and seeing if there might be any clues whatsoever from the suspect. As Mikhail and Jill mount the staircase, he can see an officer typing a code into the living room’s security panel. It had a built-in touchscreen and the numeric pad let out a satisfying beep with every key press. Mikhail watches as the virtual keypad is replaced by what must be security camera footage from the house’s system. It only made sense for the officer to go to check this - almost every system on the market today had that capability either built in or available for a nominal fee. The insurance companies loved it, even if privacy activists were routinely at odds with the technology. By now, Jill is at the top of the stairs. “You coming, kid?” Mikhail ascends carefully, doing his best to avoid leaving a print anywhere. At the second floor landing, it is pretty obvious where the two would be going. Splinters were positively everywhere and the few pictures still on the wall were askew. Mikhail can see into the room from his vantage point, and nearly falls to the floor at the sight of all the blood. He braces himself by placing a hand on Jill’s shoulder. She glares at him. “Sorry. I just didn’t want to mess anything up.” He says with a sheepish smile. “Be careful kid. First time seeing blood like this?” He nods. “It doesn’t get any easier, let me tell you. I mean, sure, you do get used to seeing it after a while, but this? This is tough.” Jill and Mikhail step gingerly into the bedroom, being as careful as they can to avoid stepping in the blood. It was both harder and easier than one might expect. Sure, it was everywhere in the room - there were even specks scattered on the ceiling - but by now it had started to dry into the carpet that covered the bedroom floor. The victim’s body still laid where it had fallen, with multiple deep cuts in his back. The Matrix 4 system was askew, as if thrown off in a fit of gamer rage and left where it had landed by someone too lazy to pick up their room. The computer itself was on a rather utilitarian desk. There was, in truth, not too much one could say about it. It had a deep brown finish, but was otherwise free of any sort of styling unless one counted the splattered blood. Mikhail recognizes the computer as a fairly midrange set of equipment. It was, in comparison to the rest of what he had seen of the house, rather pedestrian. Mikhail knew better than to judge a computer by its case or the peripherals on the desk, but given how most high end gaming computers tended to be rather obnoxious in appearance, it was clear that this one was not one of them. Plugged into a front port was a USB stick. Mikhail notices the Megasys logo on it and points it out to the veteran agent. “That must be what they meant. Put these on before you pick it up.” She tosses him a pair of latex gloves that had been kept with a Ziploc bag in her purse. Mikhail dons the gloves and bends down, thankful for all the squats he had done to allow him to be more fit than the average technology person. As he pulls it out of its plug, the computer beeps at him rather musically. Once he stands back up, the computer has woken from its slumber. On the screen is a file with the same name as the one he had found back at Megasys. Mikhail leans over and brings up a command prompt. He is halfway through typing the words that would tell him definitively whether this file was, in fact, what he had found at Megasys when he feels something grab at his arm. “What are you doing?” Jill asks, jerking Mikhail back from the keyboard. “Just trying to get the hash of this file on the computer. It looks like it could be from Megasys.” “Hash?” Jill is puzzled. Having spent some time working on joint assignments with the Drug Enforcement Agency in her long career, she was used to that term meaning something very different than what this kid apparently had in mind. “Mathematical, without a shadow of a doubt proof that this file is one hundred percent identical to one that I found earlier on a compromised system at Megasys.” Mikhail explains. Jill is still not entirely sure what he was talking about, but it was enough to let him go and get back to work after admonishing Mikhail that all of this would go on the record. He was not quite sure what that could possibly entail, but his curiosity was getting the better of him. The process of calculating the hash was not a long one, and Mikhail had his answer. The line of text and numbers that the computer returned was, after a careful examination and cross referencing with his notes, an exact match. After documenting this fact, Mikhail nods to Jill and they leave the room.

Charles Herrera avatar
About Charles Herrera
John Doe's true identity is unknown. Maybe he is a successful blogger or writer. Nobody knows it.