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Tuesday, 19 August 2014 08:07

Crime Scene


I sit and watch as the police photographer records all of the gruesome details of the crime scene. There’s something unreal about it all, I guess that watching one ‘true life’ show after another, detailing the work of homicide detectives, has taken away some of the mystery.

The object of all the attention is a headless corpse. No, scratch that, it’s a corpse in two pieces. The body is sprawled on its front over a small coffee table, a thick goo of half congealed blood hanging like a tiny red stalactite from the ragged terminus of the neck. The head is a few feet away, staring accusingly at me across a scarlet pool that has turned the carpet into a squelching mess.


Two hours later and the photos have been taken and the white-suited photographer has left; leaving the rest of the forensic team to get started on their work. "See here Pennywright," explains the young man in the leather jacket as he points with a pencil. "The killer cut into the brain with something. I'm guessing that the victim was fitted with a BrainSave device."

"But what’s the point of stealing that?” asks Pennywright. “The backup node shares data with more permanent storage every night when the owner’s asleep. The victim, err, Tony Basalgest, will be able to be loaded into a clone replacement and no more than a day of memories will be lost."

"That's true, but who knows what he witnessed on that final day? I know that, technically, the killer can only be charged with grievous bodily harm if the victim is backed up, along with a number of financial crimes related to the cost of growing a replacement body. But the punishments are harsh enough that whatever Mr. Basalgest witnessed must have been pretty serious."

"Well,” shrugs Pennywright, “for now we need to treat the scene just like any other murder. We can talk to the backup in a couple of months when he’s decanted, but, right now, we need to keep on the trail while it's hot."

"Yes, you’re right,” agrees Johnson. “Have you found anything of use in Central Records?"

Pennywright pulls out his tablet and reads off what he has learned. "Tony Michael Basalgest, age forty two, single. Senior researcher with Avalon Industries... I can't find details of his work, apparently that is ‘corporate sensitive information’. Whatever he does... err... did, he was well paid, just take a look at his clothes. According to the front desk, Basalgest didn't have a reservation, he just turned up last night and paid cash. He was alone and the only luggage that he had was a briefcase, which isn't here by the way."

"Hmm, not much to distinguish him from thousands of other management types in hotel rooms all over the city."

The police, as usual, are concentrating too much on the crime scene and not moving quickly enough onto motive. They are losing valuable time. I want to tell them that they should get on to Avalon Industries right away and see if anyone else on their research staff is missing. But no one is asking for my opinion.

The two detectives move in an ever-widening spiral, centred on the bloody torso. They inspect and prod, they bag a variety of items that may be of use, but they don't come even close to uncovering anything that could be construed as a lead. All they have is a headless corpse with its BrainSave node removed. Eventually, they pack up their instruments and their little baggies of evidence and leave the room.


That afternoon, after going door to door in the hotel and talking to any potential witnesses, the investigators are back, poking around to see if they’ve missed anything. Which, of course they have. Johnson’s tablet rings and he takes the call. "Yes? When did this happen? And there’s no chance of recovery? OK... thanks." Johnson turns to Pennywright, "It looks like this is a murder after all. As you know, Tony Basalgest was a senior researcher at Avalon Industries, he was working on emergency backup on the fly. Apparently his work has been stolen and his backup copy on the Avalon servers has been deleted. The Lieutenant has sent Rayton to Basalgest’s house, but I’m betting that his BrainSave backup device there is also either gone or wiped. Someone somewhere didn't want this man's story out in the open.”

Pennywright nods, “And they seem to be pretty good, it looks like all of the loose ends have been tied up. We may never know what really happened to him...”

‘Look you idiots!’ I scream silently to myself. ‘It’s bloody obvious! Why not make yourself a coffee, sit down and THINK! Why not heat up a snack from the minibar? That would up your blood sugar and help you to THINK! Just bloody THINK!’ Treated as no more than fixtures and fittings, what I was hoping for doesn’t materialise, the detectives pack up their things and leave.


Over the next few days, every scrap of evidence that the police could find is collected. Unable to look beyond the obvious, they miss the most important item of course. Finally the cleanup team arrive to rip out the bloody carpets and bring the hotel room back up to occupancy status. On the one hand I can see that this is a good thing, more people will be passing through the room. On the other, I am still trapped...

Now; if I can only get someone to change the options on this microwave's display, I might be able to explain to them how I came to be backed up in its recipe bank.
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Dennis M. Lane

British writer who has lived in South Africa for ten years and is planning to stay.

I write poetry, short stories and flash fiction. My first novel is on the way!

My short story Carine was published in Itch Magazine (itch e.10) May 2012

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