[Newer York, 527AS] The Case of the Kid in the Park, Part 3

A stabbed teen; cloned IDs; a handful of clues; all in a place that rarely sees murder!

At long last, part three. Part four is in progress. Special thanks to Quin Overland for the original prompt, and Kat Gavin for insightful beta!

Part one is here.

Part two is here.

A slightly out of date timeline of Newer York stories is here.

Newer York, Staten Ring Police Precinct House, Level A Section 1
9 Adar 527 After Starfall

Almost exactly one hour later, Sergeant Juanita Perez strode back into the conference room. She had not gone far---there was a food hall she favored not far from precinct house. She’d considered running home and eating in her own kitchen, even though most of her clan would have been off doing other things, but it would have been too tempting to linger, there.

So, she had done the responsible thing, grabbed a couple of egg rolls from one of the stalls at the food hall, and had found an unoccupied table where she could hide behind her hand terminal and read something that was as far removed from police work as she could get. Today, it was a fluffy romance novel set in pre-Collapse Kansas City, of all places. She doubted most of the novel’s readers even knew where Kansas City had been---she’d found that Newer Yorkers had, at best, an indifferent idea of the geography of Earth as it stood today, let alone 900 years prior. Despite this, and despite what Juanita was almost certain was a wide range of anachronisms that made the work more fantasy than period piece, the novel was insanely popular.

At any rate, it kept her mind uselessly occupied and off her work for a while, as she munched her egg rolls and allowed her brain to rest.

Bentley was not back yet, when she returned, and the board was little changed from where they’d left it, except for icons next to the pictures of their prime suspects, which let Perez know that warrants had been obtained.

Her partner arrived a moment later, nodding at Perez and looking at the board. “OK, then,” he said, seeing the icons. “Ready to go?”

“Yeah, let’s do this.”

They each donned their glasses, and found maps in their displays, with icons for each perp. “Who first?” Bentley asked.

Perez sighed. “I don’t suppose we could get another couple of officers so we could run them both down at the same time? I mean, that would be the smart thing, right?”

“Actually, we probably can right now---there’s nothing more important going on---but we should probably bounce that off the Commish.”

As if summoned, the Commissioner walked in at that moment. “What are we bouncing off the Commish, now?” she said, amused.

“We’re about to go get our prime suspects,” Perez said. “We could use some more hands so we can bag them both at the same time, since they’re not currently together. In fact, they seem to have been making a point of staying far away from each other. If the tracers are right, Gorman’s ID is currently pinging in a café---he’s been there for a little while. It’s almost exactly the other side of Staten Ring from us. Liu Guo’s gone further afield. He’s over in the Brooklyn ring, according to tracking. From location and records, looks like he’s visiting his grandma.”

The Commissioner pursed her lips, thinking. “Do you have odds on which one is the actual shiv-wielder?”

“Our current theory for motive involves some anti-Earther rhetoric we found in Gorman’s social profile. We haven’t been able to trace anything specific to Liu. Could mean he’s just along for the ride; could mean he’s the smarter of the two and keeping a lower profile. Could be this has nothing to do with it and it’s just coincidence both the murder victim and the maintenance worker whose ID they cloned are Earthers. But for the moment, my money’s on Gorman.”

The Commissioner nodded, looked at the board, peering. Perez watched her watching the board. Was the boss going to second-guess the call? It did happen sometimes, and there was always a good reason for it---an educational reason at that.

“Liu Guo, you say?”

Perez blinked at that. “Yes, sir.”

“Visiting his grandma?”

Bentley responded this time. “Yeeeeees...at least, that’s what the records seem to say. Brooklyn Ring, Level A, Section 4.”

“Liu Chunhua,” she said, deadpan. Waiting for a penny to drop.

Bentley just blinked. “Yes, sir, how did you...”

Perez got it. “Admiral Liu Chunhua, retired.”

The Commissioner rewarded Perez with a tight smile. “The very same.”

Admirals came and admirals went. Some admirals were folklore-famous, like the first and last during the Outbound Journey. Most tales of “The Admiral and the Rebbe” referred to one of those two admirals, and it was often only clear from the story’s own context which one, since they were never referred to by name, and sort of blurred together.

Admiral Liu Chunhua was probably never going to be remembered in quite that way, but her formidable personality had put an indelible stamp on the Community. An engineer first and a leader second, she had first led a significant overhaul of infrastructure throughout Newer York proper, then spread her reforms out to the village stations, and finally been instrumental in the construction of the smaller but already-thriving New Albany station, diametrically opposite Newer York in the Inner Belt.

Bentley finally got it. Perez was gratified that he went a little pale.

“That’s going to be...awkward...isn’t it?” Bentley said when he got his breath.

“More than a bit, yes. So, not that I don’t trust you two---I very much do---but I think I’m just going to step right over there myself and have a word with this young man and his grandmother, assuming he is actually there at the moment. Perez, you still think Gorman’s the knife guy?”

“Yes, sir.”

“OK. You and Bentley take Officer Bat Moshe and Officer Silverberg and invite Gorman in for a chat. I’ll have a couple of the Brooklyn team head over there to make sure Liu stays put---or we nab him if he leaves---while I go have a visit with the Admiral.” She slid on data glasses of her own, and A. Yosef, apparently still being quietly helpful, synced up the three of their displays.

They went, the four of them, Perez, Bentley, Bat Moshe, and Silverberg, down to the small garage, and then grabbed one big buzzcart---the one nicknamed the “paddy wagon”, as it had an enclosed area to the rear for a perp to ride in---and one e-bike for Silverberg. Bat Moshe’s powered wheelchair could keep up with either of the other conveyances, having the same basic battery and motor with less mass to move. Bat Moshe had even equipped it with safety straps for when she revved it up, and the department had given her a siren and lights to use when she was using it for official purposes.

The paddy-wagon’s interior was a little dusty. It wasn’t used much. Most collars in a typical Newer York Police Department day were on-the-spot, caught-red-handed sort of things. Often they just involved a citation and not even an arrest.

But when an arrest was involved, particularly for something on the order of murder, Newer York’s ethical core, informed as it was by Jewish values, came into play. To damage a person’s reputation was ethically tantamount to murder.

This was then reinforced further, in the context of the Community, by the degree to which reputation played a role in Newer York’s economy. A great deal of goods and services exchanged hands on a barter basis, and that depended heavily on reputation. Say Gorman grew up to be a skilled artisan---a wood-worker, a trade that was reviving now that forest- and orchard-village stations were thriving. In addition to selling his work for e-credits, he might well arrange with another artisan, say a silversmith, to exchange a commission of his work for a commission of the silversmith’s work. Or he might arrange for cleaning services for his clanquarters by literally furnishing the cleaner’s clanquarters in wooden furniture rather than the plastic that was standard issue.

All of that would depend upon his reputation not merely as a skilled woodworker, but as a person who could be trusted.

The upshot being, if you arrested a person for murder, even if you were pretty certain they were the killer, you did not then parade them around on public transit. If at all possible, you didn’t take them in public at all, but the perp didn’t always give you a choice about that. Arrest records in Newer York were not public records until the entire process was complete, and then, only if a person was found guilty.

The need for transparency as a safeguard against “disappearing” people was served by notifying a person’s clan in short order after an arrest was made. There were also several registered “watchdog” groups, independent of City government, that received notifications and were tasked with basically keeping the system honest.

So, they coasted the short distance to the nearby spoke. The usual passenger lifts that took people between levels, or inward to the Spindle, were plenty big, but there were separate vehicle lifts specifically for official business like this, and that’s what they took. Then they buzzed around the ring, two-and-two in opposite directions. The building they were heading for was almost diametrically opposite where they’d come down to B. Coming at it from two directions was therefore easy, and also desirable to help keep the perp contained if he rabbited.

Just as they were coasting to a stop near their target building, the icon in the glasses flashed. He was moving. In fact, as they got out of the cart, he was coming out the front door of the café.

She had been concerned they might be up against someone cleverer than originally thought, but here he came, wearing the same hoodie, but with his hood back, so his face was visible, and matched the file footage she’d already seen.

And then, if she had any other doubts, he saw them, and sure enough, rabbited, despite that he was being converged upon by four officers---Perez and Bentley from one side, Bat Moshe and Silverberg from the other. He dashed straight ahead, down a walkway between two residential buildings. The latter two officers, each mounted on something more nimble than the paddy wagon, and ducked down a side-street to cut him off.

It wasn’t much of a chase, really, at that point.

Perez jogged down the walkway, stunner in hand, Bentley at her side, and quickly caught up with an indecisive Gorman, standing between them and the other two cops, who had neatly pulled chair and bike around to block his path, and also had their stunners out. For a moment, he actually looked as as if he thought he might still be able to get away---maybe by vaulting over Bat Moshe?

And then, just for fun, his hand terminal rang. He made a movement as if to snatch it and maybe throw it away. Perez headed that off. “Why don’t you just keep all your limbs where we can see them and let that go to voice mail, yeah?”

That was apparently his cue to bluster. “What the shit is this about? A guy can’t walk around town without some Earther cop giving him shit?” Juanita blinked. She supposed she was pretty obviously Earther, if it came down to it, but she just wasn’t used to having it thrown in her face.

But it was still her collar to make, and nobody else was stepping into the gap left by her astonishment, so she got a chance to catch her breath before she stepped forward, took his arms, and cuffed him, saying, “One Earther, three locals, and one arrest warrant. I arrest you, Harris Gorman, for the murder of Mikhail Gennadov.”

The trip back to the Staten precinct house was uneventful. Gorman was sullen and silent in the back of the paddy wagon, as was his right. Perez sat in back with him as Bentley drove. There was an occasional glare, but by and large, he seemed deflated. However he thought things would play out, Juanita was pretty sure this wasn’t it.

They took Gorman to the detention wing of the precinct house, and let the folks there show him to his accommodations, while they took his phone and other belongings, including another, presumably fake, ID bracelet, back to the lab to start examining.

The question of personal device privacy under arrest had been settled early in the Outbound Journey, and landed on the side of security over privacy. There were still debates about it, even now, hundreds of years later. The prevailing argument, as often happened in cases like these, was that the closed environment of space habitats gave the edge to the needs of law enforcement.

Where the law came down on the perp’s side was in determining what information gleaned from a device was admissible, and for what purposes. In this case, any data they found that was relevant to the death of Mikhail Gennadov was fair game. Everything else, even if it seemed shady, was inadmissible for any purpose. Even if they’d found a message blatantly declaring that he had committed some other crime, they would first have to find unrelated evidence of that crime before they could get a warrant to use the information. Thus, the principle that a person could not be forced to incriminate themselves was protected.

The phone, unsurprisingly, showed the most recent call was from Liu Guo. Whether that meant he’d given the Commissioner the slip, or managed to get a call off before the Commissioner could address her reason for visiting with the Liu’s grandmother was a question that would have to wait.

Liu had at least been smart enough not to leave voicemail.

Text messages, however, were abundant. Several conversations with others, ranting about the evils of Earthers, all of them fairly recent. Some sexts with a girl (to guess by the name), which was at least refreshingly normal compared to the vitriol elsewhere. More routine stuff about school, social plans, etc.

Sadly, nothing obvious about, “Let’s go to the park and murder someone.”

The alternate ID turned out not to be the cloned ID of Dietrich Meier, the maintenance worker who had been impersonated to gain access to the sub-level, but someone else entirely---in fact, someone who didn’t appear to exist. “Taking it to the next level?” Bentley asked when this result came back. Perez just shrugged. The evidence was being less forthcoming than she’d hoped, and left her feeling similarly uncommunicative as her mind chewed on it.

A few minutes later, A. Yosef announced, “Lieutenant Perez, the lab has results for us. They are not what we might have hoped. On the one hand, we have confirmation that the broken bracket was the murder weapon. Both the medical examiner and the lab confirm. Blood on the shiv is 100% match for Mikhail Gennadov. So, that’s the good news.

“Bad news is that none of the other biotraces on the shiv match Companion Gorman, whom we can match now that he’s in custody. There were skin flakes, smeared prints, and dried sweat, all of which are eliminated as not being Gennadov’s, but also don’t match Gorman. Of course, we’re still waiting for Companion Liu to arrive to see if there’s a match there.”

Bentley was the first to express what they were both thinking. “Could there have been a third person involved?”

The question had been partly rhetorical, but Yosef, apparently had an answer. “Given that monitoring within the sub-level was apparently disabled during the time in question, that seems quite possible.”

Perez and Bentley both looked at each other, and both face-palmed in tandem. Juanita said, “I’m an idiot! You even said as much as there’s all kinds of monitoring down there and it’s why they can be more relaxed about making sure everyone’s ID tech is up to date, and I didn’t even think to check!”

Yosef responded, “Those systems are usually considered the province of the Crew, as opposed to the public surveillance, which is civilian. Until we had the warrants, we wouldn’t have had access anyway. I took the liberty of attempting to access them once the warrants were issued, only to receive a flustered apology from the Crew tech that the system appeared to have been on the fritz. She was kind enough to provide me necessary access to verify for myself that the outage had been logged and nothing changed retroactively. It’s not out of the question an expert could have done so anyway, but assuming we’re not dealing with an even wider conspiracy, that level of expertise seems unlikely.

“By contrast, disabling the cameras and sensors in that section would merely require knowledge of the right circuit breakers and network access points. While that knowledge is not widely held, neither is it a secret. It could be done remotely by someone with the right accesses, obtaining which would merely require social engineering. Of course, it could also be hacked, but that’s much harder.”

Under other circumstances, Juanita might be tempted to accuse Yosef of some silicon chauvinism---many arties admitted to finding humans puzzling at best, absurd at worst. But this was an area Juanita had studied, and Yosef was right. Most security problems were people problems.

And these two already had cloned IDs, including one from a maintenance worker.

Juanita blinked. “Yosef, this...Dietrich Meier...”

“The maintenance worker who is the proper owner of the cloned ID used to gain access to the sub-level. Yes?”

“I don’t suppose the access logs for the relevant junction controllers that knocked out the security sensors show his ID being used, do they?”

There was a pause. “I should have thought of that, myself. I will inquire of the Crew liaison I’ve been working with.”

“While you’re at it, let’s get some more information about him.”

Bentley looked at her. “Meier? Why?”

“We’ve been assuming Meier’s just a victim of stolen identity.”

Bentley nodded. “Yeeesss? And?” and then “Wait.”

“Exactly. We focused on Gorman’s anti-Earther stiffy, but what if that’s got nothing to do with this?”

Her partner looked skeptical. “Are you saying he’s faking it? Because it seemed to be coming to him pretty naturally when we collared him.”

“Maybe there’s a reason for his anti-Earth leanings. A reason with a specific name?”

“You mean maybe Meier has something on him? Meier’s using him rather than him using Meier’s ID?”

“Maybe? I dunno. But we don’t have a lot for motive right now; and the need to disable security features down in the sub-levels...that would need more than just a vulnerable ID bracelet, right? That would require specific pass-codes, if not biometrics, I assume.”

Yosef answered at this point. “The junctions in question would require specific pass-codes, yes, and two-factor verification. My Crew liaison---A. Josephine---tells me that the log does not show Meier as having accessed the log either to disable or to log the disablement. However, it does show one of Meier’s co-workers, Asta Borsdottir, in both logs, which is odd, but might have gone unnoticed under most circumstances. Josephine also tells me that Borsdottir recently filed a complaint against Meier, but was unable to disclose the content of that complaint without a more specific warrant.”

“Complaint about how he did his job, or how he treated her?”

“That is part of what cannot be disclosed. I have already taken the liberty of filing for the warrant that will gain us access.”

Juanita spent exactly two seconds being irritated that the artie was ahead of her on that. I mean, that’s kind of what they were around for, anyway.

And mitigating that, there was that admission a few minutes ago that he hadn’t been ahead of them on the access logs thing.

Not for the first time, she wondered if arties were really...well...people, or just programmed to be extremely like people, including having blind spots like that. Did some coder add a perception check to the code to make sure that arties sometimes missed things? Or was it a natural consequence of being more than just a program.

Lost in this momentary reverie on the subject of machine intelligence, Juanita was startled when the Commissioner arrived, saying, “This may be much more interesting than we thought!”