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Next of Kin, Chapter Fourteen: 56%


  02:23:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1581 words  
Categories: Next of Kin

Next of Kin, Chapter Fourteen: 56%

Fourteen, 56%

I made it into the lobby before a man with slicked back hair found me. ?Conrad, right?? he asked. I nodded, and he put out his hand. ?I'm Detective Martens. I'm, I guess you could call me a liaison with the DCA. But I work with IA. My colleague, Detective Chase, was kind enough let me know you were going to be dropping by.?
Chase saw the both of us talking from his desk, flipped us the finger, and smiled.
?He's a retarded child,? Martens said. ?I'd like to take you into one of the old interrogation rooms. There aren't a lot of quiet, discreet places to talk. But that's one of them.?
He took a few steps, then glanced behind to make sure I was following him. ?You think you want a coffee, some water??
?I think I'm all right,? I said.
?Okay.? The door opened up in front of him, and I followed him inside.
He took the side with his back to a mirror. There was only one other chair, on the opposite side. I sat down.
?How's your investigation going?? he asked.
?Two viable suspects, so far,? I said.
?I thought you IDed a man at the scene,? he said.
?Jim was there. He doesn't deny it. All I've got is Jim at the scene, but not necessarily when it mattered. And him being there doesn't mean somebody else didn't come, too. But it's looking like I might have to look into John's underworld contacts. His friend, slash partner, says they were caught in the middle of a turf war.?
?What's your read?? he asked.
?I kind of have trouble with motive for the girlfriend. She seemed to be carrying a flame, and be hopeful it would still work out. I know John well enough not to be so optimistic, but I believed her, for what that's worth.?
?The other? Martens asked.
?His partner? He's a criminal by his own admission, so just about everything with him is suspect. He was with him the night he died. He claims he left him alive after an argument.?
?Did you think about bringing him in??
?I was interrogating him in a dead zone.?
?Ah. What do you think about that??
?Well, smugglers spend a lot of their time in dead zones.?
?You don't think he maybe went to ground in the dead zone??
?I don't think that proves much of anything. If my partner turned up dead, I'd go to ground, too; doesn't mean he killed him.?
?Fair enough.?
?Why all the interest in my brother? He was a low-level drug smuggler, maybe a bit of dealing on the side.?
?Your brother was part of an open Internal Affairs investigation.?
?Investigation into what, exactly??
?We've suspected for some time that someone from within the police department is behind drug smuggling within the city. We've even tracked some of the drugs from the evidence lock-up back out onto the streets.?
?And what does that have to do with John??
?He was working,? he stopped himself, ?I can't really comment who he was working for.? Even saying that much made him uncomfortable. ?Police override.? All of the DCA components in my interface disappeared; he gave it a moment to make sure all of the cameras disconnected, as well, then leaned forward, and said in a conspiratorial voice. ?Here's the thing. There are parts of your brother's investigation that we can't discuss with a member of the public- not even an advocate like yourself. The information is sensitive; it could hamper the investigation, possibly put the rest of our undercovers in danger.? The rest? That raised my hackles further. He wasn't so much as hinting at the idea, as slapping me in the mouth with it. He wanted me to think John was an undercover cop without saying it- which all but guaranteed that he wasn't.
I got a private message from Chase, with a link to some video. It showed me and Martens entering the interrogation room. It panned, and a pair of detectives entered into the room labeled 'Observation' beside it. I glanced behind Martens, at the mirrored wall, which I realized was one-way, how old-fashioned. Why the hell were there cops there, watching me?
My DCA apps came back online. The chat was full of complaining. They hated the commercial pauses. I noticed my approval rating drop several points, for the inconvenience. But the moment I was back, I noticed a new message in the chat. ?ShartGurgler: Too busy jerking off over your dead brother to investigate? Just put these in your spank bank and get back to work.? Then she posted a series of pictures. Dozens of them. She had photoshopped John's face into photos of hardcore gay torture porn- hardcore enough that it looked one step removed from a snuff film.
?Petunia2039-mod: smote ShartGurgler with a swing of the mighty ban hammer.?
ShartGurgler's messages, and mercifully the photos, disappeared.
Immediately an uproar began in the chat over censorship, largely blaming me. Petunia tried to defend me, since I had no say in who she banned and why, but it didn't seem to matter. The controversy was stoked in particular by TurdGargler. I messaged Petunia, and asked what the protocol was with banning. ?Once a citizen is banned from the room, their IP is logged and they are supposed to stay away. But the accounts are anonymous to allow for a free exchange of ideas, without fear of reprisal. Since TurdGargler has a different IP, if he says he's not ShartGurgler, I have to believe it.? I lost several more points.
I got another message from Chase. ?John's interface?? was all it said. I hadn't thought of that. If he was shot in the chest, and there wasn't any further damage to his skull, he should have had his stored information intact. But the ME didn't mention it, and I hadn't thought to ask.
?Do you know what happened to my brother's interface??
Martens narrowed his eyes. ?We requested it for analysis.?
?Did the ME get a chance to examine it first??
?Because of the... sensitivity of the information, we wanted to evaluate it ourselves, first. ME pulled the equipment first thing, and handed it to our officer.?
?She didn't mention it.?
He seemed annoyed by the implication. ?It's standard procedure,? he soothed.
?Now that you've evaluated it, am I going to have access to it for my investigation??
?Give me a second.? He typed out a message into a virtual input. ?Okay,? he said. ?Looks like we've got about another twenty minutes or so before our techs will be finished.?
?All the information intact?? I asked, because I knew the answer.
?We've had some corruption problems. Your brother was running a lot of illegal mods- anyone working in the underground has to. But they aren't all tested as well as they should.?
?What about memory tower back-ups?? I asked.
?We're not sure he had back-ups. The place they were supposed to be was blank- wrecked by his mods. But that seemed intentional- like a man dying of tumors burning his porn so his wife and kids don't have to deal with it later. Computer forensics is looking into it, but he might have had a back-up on one of the dead servers.?
He got a message. Probably the two watching, telling him to shut up, because this seemed like a legitimate slip.
?If there is a back-up on the dead servers, could you even get to it??
He sighed. ?They don't like cops, and mostly don't cooperate with us. Sometimes, if we've got something they want, we can trade- if the information's important enough. And, sometimes, it's worth our while to raid a dead zone- but only in the most extreme circumstances.?
?And these circumstances??
He smiled. ?Unless we find out your brother was Hitler bin Laden, I don't think we need to see what was on his mind that badly.?
?Not even to solve his murder.?
?I get that his death matters to you, and the rest of his friends and family. But a raid? People will die- cops and pirates. To solve one murder? Maybe if it were a political assassination. But solving the murder of one dealer? I'm not paying for that with innocent blood.?
I checked the clock. Less than fives minutes until John's data was clear. ?I think that answers all my questions,? I said. ?How about getting that coffee now??
?Sure,? Martens said. He kicked out of his chair, and opened the door out for me. He led the way to the break room. I noted that Chase wasn't at his desk any longer.
Martens showed me where the recyclable cups were, and mumbled something about a busy day. I set myself up with my cup where I could watch the door to the Observation room while I sipped it. I got a message telling me that John's interface back-up was available. I loaded it, so I could look at it whenever I needed it- and because I didn't trust that it would stay available.
After a few minutes sipping my coffee and waiting, the two detectives inside Observation filtered out. I caught eyes with one of them, and nodded.
My interface showed their names and credentials. Internal Affairs Detectives Burnes and Moone. Moone pretended not to notice me, and walked back towards the elevator. Burnes continued to look in my direction, and a little smile grew over his lips.

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