I removed the forensics probe from the cruiser and set it gently on
the walk leading to the Caruso manor. A little green light atop its shining
silver head pulsed with the infinite patient of machinery. I pressed the start
button and pointed the device toward the scene of the crime. That pretty
much completed the human portion of the investigation.
Officer Andy Thomson, of the Texas State Troopers, played solitaire in his vehicle.
A few minutes earlier he had pressed the button in his cruiser to release the security
drones. The drones busily wove a yellow web of motion sensing security tape around
the building. The tape would warn of anyone trying to tamper with the crime scene. As far as the union was concerned, we had both completed
our duties for the day. I leaned against the hood of my cruiser to idle
my brain on thoughts of the glorious past.
If the crime investigation went as planned, my moving the robot in and out of
the trunk would be the sum total of my detective work. Of course, I would be available if some extremely
unpleasant circumstance required the brute force of a human officer of the law.
However such incidences were rare and better handled by the enforcement drones. In all
likelihood, the entire crime investigation would be wrapped up by the machinery.
My day would be spent choosing the best selection of doughnuts from the local diner,
or, if I was lucky, I might be able to scrounge up a decent snack from the crime victim's
refrigerator without notice.
Two years ago, I would have played a more active role in the drama. I
would have carried the probe into the crime scene, and watched as it interrogated
Five years ago, I would have read questions from a teleprompt, and pushed the
probe around the room to vacuum up clues.
Twenty years ago, the whole relation between man and machine was reversed.
In ancient times, human investigators collected evidence and manually
entered it in the database. The active role of the cop in the chase
seemed a paradise lost.
Yes, us cops still watch old time dramas. We imagine ourselves as hardened
detectives pounding our beats, and solving crimes with brawn and brain.
I don't mean to complain. It makes sense to remove people from criminal
investigations. Studies show that suspects respond unpredictibly to the
piercing stares, and carefully timed gestures of police officers. Far
too many innocent people ended their days behind bars simply because they were
intimidated by the men in blue. Too often the true criminal mind passed
our gut tests with little notice.
The human detective of yesteryear made for great drama, but was an uncontrolled
variable in the criminal investigation. Human detectives introduced errors--errors
that led to false conclusions.
Crime probes do a more thorough job than humans could ever dream. Machines
can perform on the fly fingerprinting, or whip up a DNA profile in nanoseconds.
A well tuned machine can perform a complete non-invasive forensics probe
at the crime site in less than fifteen minutes. They can make a wide variety
of chemical and physical measurements with a minimum of interference from
The Detectometer has instant access to all of the electronic resources built up through
the millennia. It can instantly cross reference police, telephone, finance,
school and internet accounts. Data mining features can root out any sinister
pattern or find even the most hidden discrepancy in financial accounts.
Computers are amazingly unbiased and excel in interrogations. Not only
can they multitask--interviewing up to 99 witnesses simultaneously--detectometers
come equipped with software to protect a defendent's rights. Computers are so
impartial in their probing that, in 2063,
the Supreme Court ruled that crime probes could interrogate all witnesses
and suspects without the presence of counsel.
The rule of law is not about the intrigues of the courtroom. The rule
of law is about establishing an following fair and objective standards.
Our ability to make accurate and unbiased measurements substantially improved
the administration and consistent application of justice. For too long, we confused rule by law with rule by lawyers...the
latter being a waking nightmare. The detectometer removed the random elements from
the investigation gave us truer impartial rulings.
The role of detective may not be as dramatic as in the films of the past,
but the first and foremost goal of any police department should be to
solve crimes and protect the public. A cop's individual sense of fulfillment
is unimportant. By 2072, the FBI had achieved a phenomenal 98.3% success
rate in solving murders. They had a 76.9% success rate in catching thieves.
This high success rate came from the efforts of the machinery, and we
should give the machinery its fair due.
My name, by the way, is Shell Orson. I am a detective in the automated
analysis division of the FBI. I began my career reading computer manuals,
and studying physics. Apparently, I am ending my career by leaning against
my cruiser and eating doughnuts.
I still follow the work of the probes. But I no longer hold the illusion
that I contribute more than the formality of my presence.
The lights on the security drones changed from a bright to a medium red.
The Detectometer had completed its primary analysis of the scene. With
little else do to, I thought I would indulge in a little side diversion,
and place my skills against the mystery. I flashed my security badge at the
perimeter drone and
crossed the yellow line.
The Caruso affair was one of the most intriguing cases of my career.
It appeared to be a true serial murder. There were already two corpses,
both victims of the same MO.
Oh, I forgot to mention. Serial killings were a scurge of the past. The
forensics probes all but eliminated such crimes. No, criminals are not
more afraid of computers. With 95% of murders solved in the first 24 hours,
serial killers have little chance for a second act.
The Caruso deaths were a dismal exception. Both murders were executed
with stunning precision. The perp left no marks or prints. It was most
likely a professional hit. Apparently, the murderer had used a specially
designed air gun that shot ice pellets. The pellets melted in the victim's
cranial cavity, eliminating all traces of the murder weapon.
The murder occurred at 19:29 on the previous day. The security system showed
no intruders. The perpetrator must have developed some sort of mechanized trap
that laid in wait for the victim--a new fangled murder weapon that would slay the
victim, and leave the scene without a trace.
The solution to the crime would come by analyzing the finances of the Carusos,
and by tracking the parts needed for such a device. There was little I
could do to pursue the most promising angles; so I consoled myself to
examining the scene itself. Unfortunately, I could imagine no clues that
my limited human vision could spy that the microprobes missed.
The victim's name was Bernard. He was a twenty-year old student of veterinary
pharmacy. He laid face down in the kitchen--a stock of celery in the left
hand, and a tofu shake in the right.
Both the time of the murder and the scene of the crime were similar to
the death of his uncle Antoine three month's earlier. Two relatives killed
in the same kitchen with the same weapon—There had to be a connection.
The Detectometer had gathered over 14 terabytes of data on the two victims,
but its recursive analysis led only to dead ends. Antoine Caruso was an
international art dealer. Bernard was a student animal doctor. Other than
the house, there were no glaring connections between the victims. There
had to be something in the house.
The Detectometer did a superb job analyzing the security logs. While
the security logs provide the greatest amount of information on the comings
and goings of suspects. I find that the refrigerator often has the most
interesting information on the lives of the people. The Caruso's
had one of the new NutraButler units that both kept and prepared
nutritionally balanced meals. The machine had a treasure trove of data.
It kept a full inventory, calorie log, and a detailed calendar of food
A cross analysis of the refrigerator contents showed little difference in the
Caruso's diets. Antoine drank fat free milk. Bernard preferred the heavier 2%
variety. The refrigerator gave Bernard negative marks for using too much butter.
Antoine apparently had a sweet tooth. The refrigerator had issued several demerits
for excessive jelly consumption.
Despite a few transgressions. The Carusos appeared to be dedicated health nuts. I
remember Antoine was eating a bowl of bran cereal with wheat germ and prune
juice at the time of his demise. Bernard was holding a celery stick and a tofu drink. I
thought humorously about fridge in my flat warning of eminent heart failure
every time I fixed my breakfast.
I waved my universal security badge to deactivate the security grid.
I propped open the refrigerator door. The light came on and I heard the
compressors kick in as I examined the machine's contents. A recorded voice
admonished me to close the door and use the interface for accessing the
contents of the unit. "Please use the designed NutraButler
interface to access and retrieve your nourishment...blah, blah, blah"
Everything seemed in order. I opened the door to the freezer. The Carusos
may have had a boring diet, but they had good taste in deserts. In the
top shelf was box of Ms. Applebum's Chocolate Decadence Cheesecake. Hmmm,
no one would notice the disappearance of one tiny slice. I snagged a sample
just before the spring loaded arm of the freezer slammed the door in my
As I chowed down on the confectionary delight, I reviewed the timeline of the
crime. Bernard came home from work at 18:07. The trash can in the den recorded
that he threw away a Twinkie wrapper at precisely 18:12. The faucet
recorded a hand washing and drinking event a few minutes later.
Bernard then went into the den for a short workout. Now, this was interesting.
He spent a forty five minutes on the ExerWorld machine, and burned exactly
I licked a portion of the chocolate decadence stuck to my fingers. Bernard
had obviously worked specifically to cross the 500 calorie mark. My stomach
growled at both the thought of 500 calorie workout and the rich textured
the chocolate laced cream. I really should trim down. Perhaps I should
get one of those NutraButler units. My main sin is doughnuts, the
last time I had an piece of chocolate decadence cake was about three months....
Of course! That's it! The garbage can would have told the refrigerator about the
Twinkie. Bernard did not pedal his buns off to get a piece of celery
and tofu. He was after the cheesecake!
The Detectometer spun around uselessly in the living room, performing
a thread by thread analysis of the carpet. It would get nowhere, for I,
an insignificant human with a muddled biological brain, held the solution
of the crime on my finger tip.
The cheesecake was the common denominator in both crimes. I now had method,
means and motive. The ice pellets didn't come from an air gun. The spring loaded
arm of the NutraButler had enough force to launch a chipped piece
of ice into the victim's brain.
"The butler did it!" I proclaimed aloud. The cold calculating
machine had crunched the numbers on Bernard's diet and found it lacking.
I could see the two Carusos exploring clever ways to cut the corner of
their diet. The refrigerator would have been the unwitting victim of many
of their schemes. I could see the NutraButler jealously guarding
its richest delight. The conflict would go unnoticed by all on lookers,
including the mechanized eyes of the Detectometer. It would take the active
imagination of a experienced cop to see that innocent eating habits were
the cause for murder.
I sucked the last trace of the tasty evidence from my fingers, and prepared to file my report.