23 April 2010

"Wait For It"

By Curtis C. Chen

"That sounds like a pessimistic technology," Jake said. He folded his arms, ignoring his partner's sideways glance. Andy smiled politely at the crime scene investigator standing in front of them.

The dark-skinned CSI shook his head. "You detectives always have the wrong attitude about these things. It's not about what we can't retrieve. It's about getting as much as we can from the environment."

"Okay, but footprints?" Andy said. "Come on. Anybody could be wearing those shoes."

"It's not just the imprint," said the CSI. "We also measure stride length, indentation depth, particulate residue, energy signatures—thirty-two different data points in all."

"We're so happy for you," Jake said. "But without physical evidence for comparison, you can't actually match anything. We still gotta nab the guy."

Andy nodded. "Speaking of which, do we still like the son for this? Melvin Kaminsky, Junior?"

"Patricide for profit? Hell yes."

The CSI cleared his throat. "If you're looking for Junior, we can give you a preliminary match. But there's something odd about this impression."

"Could you be more specific?"

The CSI motioned them toward the open doorway and knelt down by a numbered plastic sign. Next to the sign was a single, glowing, green shoeprint. "Our instruments are detecting traces of radiation—"

"Please don't tell me that's why it's glowing," Jake said, taking a step back.

"No, of course not," the CSI said. "This isn't a cartoon. We sprayed this area with fluorescein to make any blood residue easier to see."

"So there's blood on his shoe?" Andy asked.

"Not exactly." The CSI held a translator frame over the shoeprint and adjusted the controls. The image in the display pane changed from a visible-light image to a shimmering network of multicolored curves against a black background. "This is a view of the local EM field. See how these lines of force all bend away from the shoeprint?"

"I'll take your word for it," Jake said.

"So Junior stepped in some kind of industrial waste?" Andy asked.

The CSI stood up. "We don't know what it is. But I'm guessing he stole it from the warehouse, and this company secret is why Mel Kaminsky Senior was killed."

"So we'll ask Junior when we get him in the box," Jake said.

"Maybe I didn't make myself clear," the CSI said. "According to the laws of physics, this effect is impossible. You can't bend radio waves like that without some kind of power source."

"Junior's not going to talk," Andy said.

Jake grumbled. "If it's that big, his business partners will kill him first."

Andy turned to the CSI. "But I'm guessing you have an idea?"

"Yes. The effect decays at a non-linear rate." The CSI pulled a small digital camera out of his pocket. "If you can get a reading within one hour after Junior's been there—less time would be better—we'll have more data to work with. Maybe even identify the material, or at least its chemical components."

"Got it," Jake said, taking the camera. "We're looking for the fresh prints of Mel's heir."


Photo: Famous shoe outlines engraved in marble at Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, Atlanta, Georgia, May, 2008