27 January 2012

"It's in There"

By Curtis C. Chen

Granger sat down next to me on the couch and asked, "How is a pizza like a DVD?"

I swallowed my mouthful of pepperoni-extra-cheese-light-sauce and said, "I don't know. They're both round, and nobody really cares what the box looks like as long as the content is good?"

He smiled at me and took a swig of beer. Granger was one of those men who always looked like he didn't give a damn what you thought. One of those men who could pull off an unironic, pencil-thin mustache.

He smiled at me and said, "You always overthink these things, Lily."

It was the first time he'd ever called me by my first name. We had sex that night. Two weeks later, I pulled his body out of a Dumpster in Brooklyn.


The case file flopped onto my desk like a dead fish. I looked up and was surprised to see Lieutenant Humphrey.

"What's this?" I asked.

"Merry Christmas," Humphrey said, walking away.

I opened the file just as Dee sat down across from me with her morning cup of not-coffee. The top sheet was a dense grid of numbers and abbreviations. Bio data?

"What's that?" Dee asked.

"Fuck if I know," I said, flipping up pages until I got to something comprehensible. "Shit."

I stared at a crime scene photo: dead wiseguy, face down in a half-eaten calzone.


"Death by pizza?" Dee asked. I was driving, so she had nothing to do but talk.

"It's the sauce," I said. "Some biotech idiots figured out how to grow tomatoes with heat-resistant, human-compatible RNA. The idea was that you'd eat the stuff and it would alter your metabolism, help you lose weight."

"Guess that didn't work out."

"Problems with mutations. Gave people heart problems and hormonal imbalances. Huge recalls. Companies went out of business."

"But the technology's still around." Dee grumbled. "So you a speed reader now, or what? You didn't have that file for five minutes."

"I've seen the case before," I said. "It was Granger's before it went cold."


The warehouse was full of uniforms moving evidence-tagged crates. Migdale stood next to a box of fruit, reading the newspaper.

"Ladies," he said as Dee and I walked up.

"If you say so." I looked around. "I was expecting to see some tomatoes."

Migdale picked up both halves of a cut avocado, which looked more yellow than green under the warehouse lights. "Customs sliced this open, for inspection, right before they found the guns. Notice anything odd?"

"It's still green," Dee said. "Those things go brown in seconds."

"Enzymatic browning," Migdale said, "triggered by exposure to oxygen. Unless the fruit contains something to prevent that."

"So they're gene-mods. What's the big deal?"

"They were in the same shipment as illegal munitions and narcotics. Therefore, suspicious. We sent a sample to the lab, and it turns out all the fats in this avocado have been fully saturated."

"The hell does that mean?" Dee asked.

"Data," I said. "They were smuggling data."


Image: "The pizza did get cold before it was solved..." by Tiffany Berry, February, 2007