Kiss Me Twice draft – 3

This entry is part 3 of 36 in the series Kiss Me Twice

revised draft 12/16/2012

Delarosa scowled at the door after Huang left. Damn it. The man had the potential to be a good detective if he weren’t so goddamn lazy. Half the department was crippled by their reliance on that infernal machine. If it hadn’t been bluntly obvious from the way they all mumbled under their breath in meetings, the fact that Huang was the only one who asked for a visual would cinch it.

Of course, Delerosa hadn’t asked for a visual either. He scratched behind his ear and glowered at his paper. He hadn’t even known something was happening at first. He’d sitting at his desk, without his VR glasses and had his desktop turned off. Metta had instructions to text alerts to him if anything needed his attention because he didn’t see any need to have the distraction of constant access. First he knew of the break in was watching Oakes jump up and pull his gun.

Delarosa pulled off the cap on his Namiki Falcon and put the silver nib on the page of his moleskin. The fine tip flexed as he drew a circle around Oakes’s name. Next to it, in tight, neat letters, he wrote: Reconstruct timeline.

Someplace in the basement, the old white board had to be around. They could haul it up and start assembling the case there while Metta was offline.

God. This was the first time that he felt like being old was a positive advantage. He’d started in the force before AI were even invented, much less normal. Now most cities of any real size had an AI “on staff.” He was willing to admit it made paperwork a helluva lot easier, but it made people lazy. Relied on a machine to do their remembering for them.

Sigmundson entered, carrying his interview setup. He had the legal pad Delarosa had given him under one arm. “Got a minute?”

Delarosa grunted an affirmative and gestured him to a chair. Folding his lanky frame into the chair, Sigmundson referred to his legal pad. “We’re looking for three people. Huang said they were wearing clothes that disguised gender. Black baggy thick shirts and trousers, like sweatpants but more padded. Hooded, too. The tallest was approximately two meters. Skinny. He guessed 60 kilos. Another was approximately 170 centimeters. Huang described him as dumpy. 90k. Didn’t have a good angle to guess anything about the third.”

Quickly, Delarosa jotted down the heights and weights. “That’s it?”

Sigmundson shook his head. “The rest is the stuff we all heard.”

Glowering, Delarosa just waited until Sigmundson told him about the machine’s attempt to establish a perimeter and the call for Amado. God, if he’d been online then, he might have gotten there fast enough to help Fitzgerald. He drew a square in the corner of the page and crossed it, filling the squares with ink. “Good. Good… that’s something then. The outfits will make the distinctive outside the headquarters so hopefully someone saw them.”

“That’s what I was thinking.” Sigmundson nodded and riffled through the pages of the legal pad. “I’ll write up a description and we can circulate it to the beat cops. Get them canvassing the neighborhood.”

“Ask about vehicles. They must have had one to get the chassis out.” He tapped the back of the pen on his Moleskin. Private vehicles were taxed heavily enough that there weren’t that many on the road in downtown. Ought to be able to review the traffic footage to see what was close to the station at the time. He stopped and swore. “That goddamn machine housed the traffic footage, didn’t it?”

“I— I don’t know.”

Delarosa capped his pen and stood. “Never mind. Just get that circulating and see what we can dig up.”

“Where are you going?”

“Talk to the chief. I want to get into the building before they start letting people back in.” Delarosa pulled his pen case out and tucked the Falcon into the empty slot. “Good job with the interview.” Even if it had taken him an hour.

#

Delarosa found the chief in the park opposite the station trying to keep an eye on the scene and coordinate the police forces. The chief towered over most of the other officers. Save for Sigmundson, she was likely the tallest officer on the force. Basil Banks had her hair pulled back in a tail that hung down past her shoulders. She had gone grey at the temples years ago but had never used die to cover it.

Seeing Delarosa picking his way through the park, Banks turned slightly away from the officer she was talking with to indicate that she was nearly finished. Delarosa stopped and waited until she finished with the officer and turned to face him. Rumor had it that she had been a runway model in her youth, though she refused to confirm or deny it. The angry sulk of a model narrowed her eyes into a focused glare when she was working.

She turned it on him and Delarosa had to fight to keep from stepping back from her. He hadn’t seen her this pissed since Hobson got caught in a corruption sweep. “Report.”

It wasn’t a request by any means. Delarosa pulled out his moleskin and flipped to the notes he’d take from Sigmundson. As quickly as he could, he told her about Huang’s visual of three suspects. Banks’s lips pressed hard together and a muscle pulsed in the edge of her jaw. “That may be the only lead we’ve got.”

“You’re kidding.”

“We got nothing on these bastards because all the surveillance footage ran through Metta and our guys were all clustered in the wrong areas. Still waiting for CSU to finish their sweep, but so far there’s damn little. This was carefully orchestrated.” The white collar of her dress shirt was buttoned tight around the sagging skin on her neck. “We only know what hallway they took because of where they shot Amado and Fitzgerald.”

That made Delarosa tilt his head in surprise. “No one saw them? No fingerprints… blood?” He’d expected someone to come forward by now.

“No.”

“How long before we get the AI back online?”

“Working on it, but with Amado down I don’t actually know.”

“We’ve got a backup though, right?” Hell, when lightning had taken out the Rose Quarter precincts electrical system and fried their databases, they’d been back up on reserve power in less than an hour. And that was twenty years ago. Surely technology was better now.

Banks’s mouth turned down at the corners. “AI require a specific chassis to run. Metta’s data has off-site backups but her personality needs a chassis. We have to get that from Tovar industries and rebooting from a backup requires special permission.” She held up her hand to stop him. “Oh, believe me. I have had words with them.”

He could only imagine how choice those words had been. It was a load of crap as far, as he could tell, designed to control their monopoly on the market. Can’t restore from a backup without special permission… Just forcing sales was all.

She looked past him, surveying the swarm of officers. “What about the rest of your team?”

“Huang, Cole, and Patel were out on calls when it happened. Huang and Patel came in. Haven’t heard from Cole yet, but he may not know anything happened.”

Banks raised her eyebrows, still jet black, at that.

“If he was out of service range when the AI went down, he may just think the radio isn’t working.”

“So long as you’re sure he wasn’t in the building.”

“Positive. Anyone else unaccounted for?”

“Half the force. Seemed like a good idea at the time, when we set up all communication to route through Metta.” She jutted her chin toward the building. “Come on. Time to tour.”

She led him across the park with long, ground-eating strides. Delarosa almost had to trot to keep up. Damn, he hated getting old. The officers they passed seemed torn between asking Banks what was happening and staying the hell out of her way. She swept up to the police caution tape and ducked under it.

He followed, pulling the special issue gloves out of his pocket. Snapping them on as they went up the stairs to the main entrance, he scanned the steps for anything untoward. “This the way they came in?”

She shook her head. “I don’t want the jackals in the media to see us paying special attention to the garage though. We’ll go down to the chassis room and then work backwards.”

The precinct had an eerie echoing quaility — quieter even than a holiday weekend. No one was on this floor. Banks pulled her own gloves on as they walked. She skipped the elevator and took the stairs down to the sub-basement where the chassis for the AI was housed. An officer turned as she came out of the stairwell and visibly relaxed when he recognized Banks. “Chermkovsky is in the far stairwell. Asked to see you when you came.”

Banks clapped him on the shoulder. “How are you holding up?”

“Fine.” He tapped his earpiece. “Weird not having radio contact, but we’re coping.”

“Good man.” She nodded and strode down the hall leaving the officer standing a little taller behind her. Delarosa wasn’t sure if it was because she was a woman or just had been at it long enough, but she was damn good with people.

Outside the chassis room’s door, a man with curly red hair crouched with a tablet connected to the ID reader by a cable. He glanced down the hall at the sound of their footsteps and stood when he recognized Banks. He didn’t stop working with the tablet though, just nodded.

Banks murmured to Delarosa. “Dave Kennedy with IT. Give him a minute.”

“It’s okay. Y’all can talk while I’m waiting for this to finish running.” His voice twanged with something from the southern US. “Ran it once already, just double-checking an alternate setting.”

“What did you find?” Delarosa studied the door while the kid — couldn’t be older than twenty-five — kept working. It was a reinforced firedoor, thick enough to be in a bank. The door hung open.

“Metta keeps a log of entries throughout the station, and can override the reader. So’s she can keep people out if need be, or let them in if their card’s malfunctioning. Anyhow, each reader also keeps a local log, which is what I’m checking.” He grimaced, his nose wrinkling as he stared at the screen. “Last recorded use of this reader was at [time] by Metta.”

“[time]?” Delarosa pulled out his pad and flipped through the notes he’d been making earlier. There— Shots reported fired at [time]. So she opened the door after that. When had Huang reported seeing people in her room? [time]. Delarosa went cold. “She opened the door for them.”

Kennedy shook his head. “Maybe. The use right before that was a card. Amado Weir’s ID at [time] but it was denied because the station was in lockdown. To me, it looks like she overrode the lockdown and opened it because she thought Amado was standing outside.”

Delarosa stared at his notes, at the timeline he had from Huang’s testimony. “They were in the room before Amado was shot.” Could they have used his ID? He lifted his head, looking for the camera that would have covered the door. There were two at either end of the hallway. “Do we know how they got past the cameras?”

“Not yet. Schwimmer is working on that. She’s looking for a ladder right now. Be back soon.”

Banks nodded, looking at the camera’s as if she could just reach up and pull it down for the IT team. “Thank you.”

Grunting, Delarosa stepped past the tech and into the machine room. He hadn’t been down here since the orientation when the machine was installed seven years ago. The room had been painted a pale blue-green, like a Robin’s Egg ink, since the last time he’d been down here. There was a comfortable wingback chair in one corner and a Maxfield Parrish print. Why the hell would a machine room have a copy of Parish’s Daybreak? They were supposed to be sterile clean rooms to keep things from getting over-heated or something. “What the hell?”

“What are you seeing?” Banks asked it like he’d spotted a clue or something, but it was just the decor that caught him off guard.

He shrugged and stepped farther into the room. “Wasn’t decorated last time I was down here.”

“She’s had it this way for the last couple of years…” Banks had a little line of doubt between her eyebrows.

Oh hell no. She wasn’t going to doubt his ability because he hadn’t made housecalls to a computer. Delarosa stepped farther into the room. Now that the paint wasn’t taking his attention, the square indention on the floor where the chassis had been took his focus. The tile floor had been kept scrupulously clean by someone, probably Amado, but there were four dingy round circles where the feet of the chassis sat. It marked a square about as big as a filing cabinet. He turned and looked for the camera that Huang had mentioned.

In the ceiling, a security camera was aimed at where the chassis had been sitting. It could swivel, but the current angle meant that there was a blind spot right inside the door. He stepped back into the hall. “Where was Amado shot?”

Banks said, “In the south stairwell. Chermovsky’s on it.”

Nodding, Delarosa followed her down the hall to the far set of stairs. Banks pushed the heavy metal door open onto the utilitarian concrete walls of the stairwell. It had the grimy look of a space little trafficked. Banks looked around, frowning. “Chermovsky?”

“Up here.” The CSU tech leaned over the edge of the railing up a story. He gave Delarosa a little nod by way of greeting.

Banks took the stairs two at a time. Delarosa hauled ass to keep up with her but was still four steps behind by the time they got to the next landing. She jerked her head at him. “I’ve put Delarosa as lead on this. What have you got?”

“Well, this is where Amado was shot.” Blood spattered the wall. A smear showed where Amado had slid down the wall to a pool of blood on the floor. He’d left a smudged handprint on the wall where it looked like he’d tried to stand. The spatter pattern indicated a shot from a high angle, as if they got him while they were coming down the stairs.

Delarosa frowned at the smear and the pattern. They were only about a third of the way up the wall. “Why are they so low?”

“Won’t know for certain until we can talk to Amado, but my guess is that he ducked when he saw them.” Chermovsky gestured up the stairs. “The crappy part is that the stairs makes it damn unlikely any of them got blood on their cloths.”

Delarosa rubbed his mouth, considering. “Do we know what they were shooting?”

“Looks like it might have been .40 caliber, but they took the shell casing with them.” He rubbed his nose with his arm, keeping his gloves well away from his face. “Gotta say, these guys knew what they were doing.”

To cover his reaction, Delarosa took out his moleskin and uncapped the Kaweco Sport that was his utility pen. He jotted down some notes, but the main thing he was thinking was that he shouldn’t read too much into the fact that they knew their way around the station. It was way too soon to think about anything like that.

But it gnawed at him anyway. How had they gotten in without anyone seeing them?

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