19 March 2010

"A Technicality"

By Curtis C. Chen

The door to the forensics lab slid open as soon as Jake stepped out of the elevator, halfway down the corridor.

"I'll never get used to that," he said. "How does the door know where I'm going?"

Andy replied, "Motion sensors, facial recognition—"

"Rhetorical question," Jake said. "It's creepy."



Andy led the way into the cramped space, where a young woman sat typing at a desktop workstation. Her eyeglasses reflected a baffling maelstrom of data from the three displays in front of her.

"Miss Elizabeth Hangram," Andy said, gesturing toward the woman, "my partner, Detective Jacob Lanosky."

"I'll be right with you," Hangram said.

Jake noticed that she was reconfiguring the controls as she went, manipulating clusters of buttons around with a quick swipe, tap, or pinch on the touch-sensitive desktop. She never took her eyes off the displays.

"Hangram's found some physical evidence," Andy said.

That got Jake's attention. "Seriously?"

"Abso-smurf-ly." Hangram bounced a palm on her desk, and the dizzying reflections in her glasses changed to a still image: a gray scarf, magnified to show a tiny red dot near one end of the fabric.

Jake leaned forward to see around the edge of her display alcove. "I think I love you, Hangram. Is that what I think it is?"

"Human blood," Andy said before she could answer.

"How'd you get the lab results back so quickly?" Jake asked.

Hangram frowned at Andy. "You didn't tell him?"

The smile which had been threatening to invade Jake's face retreated down his throat. "Tell me what?"

Andy held up both hands. That was always a bad sign. "Look, I knew if I told you, you'd never want to—"

Jake glared at Hangram. "Where did you find that scarf?"

Hangram looked up at Andy. She wasn't stupid. Andy said, "We subpoenaed the records from the coat check—"

Jake stood up. "For crying out loud, Dix!"

"Will you just listen?" Andy said, stepping between Jake and the door. "The security company was running a special setup for the ambassador's reception. Three points of verification, unbreakable encryption. Hangram's already talked to their tech guys. They're willing to testify."

"The reason I don't work computer crimes," Jake said, "is because I don't enjoy sitting through endless trials where expensive witnesses talk in technical jargon that no jury in the country will ever understand."

"This is different," Hangram said. "We can prove—"

Jake spun to face her. "Do the words 'fruit of the poison tree' mean anything to you?" He jabbed a finger at her screen. "You reconstituted an object based on a replicator scan. That's not evidence. No judge will ever allow it."

"But it's mathematically demonstrable—"

"Lady, I don't care if you can clone a fucking dinosaur! This isn't a magic show, and I don't feel like waiting ten years to be a test case for the Supremes.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some actual police work to do."

Jake wished he could slam the door on his way out. The gentle pneumatic hiss seemed to taunt him.


Photo: Deep Space Nine Promenade food replicator, Star Trek: The Experience, Las Vegas, August, 2008.