A PI ready to sail off into the sunset.
A brilliant scientist murdered. Can his experiment live on?
Even your closest friends have secrets.
A young scientist, with several different names, has figured out how to use DNA to create true artificial intelligence. Then he’s found dead and the only record of his process is missing.
Former cop and private detective, Tommy Case, wants nothing more out of life than to sail off into the sunset on his sailboat, NOMORR. But a visit from Jessie, his ex-secretary, drastically changes his plans. She asks him to look into a brilliant scientist’s death. Reluctantly, he agrees to take on “one last case.”
Programed for Murder is now available Free as an E-book from Amazon and Smashwords. In the next few weeks it should be available at other E-booksellers.
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DSY90FG
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333096
Programed for Murder
Five minutes before he was murdered Brian Childress received a telephone call. He nodded in a slow, thoughtful manner, a tight-lipped frown on his smooth, handsome face. Without enthusiasm, he said, “Yeah, okay, I’ll look it up. What is it again?”
He took a yellow Post-it notepad from a tidy stack in the front left corner of his desk’s center drawer. From the inside pocket of his tailored gray pinstripe he took a gold Cross pen and wrote as he listened, then said, “Hang on.” He pushed the hold button with a manicured finger, then set the receiver precisely in its cradle. He dropped the note pad on top of the stack it came from. It landed half on, half off, leaning against the top edge of the stack. Brian noticed its crookedness as he closed the drawer. His lips pressed together with annoyance, but he was in a hurry, so he didn’t line it up with the others. He pushed the thought of the pad lying untidy in his drawer out of his mind as he picked up his briefcase, left his office and turned right through a set of heavy, metal swinging doors with small square windows set in them.
White-topped workbenches littered with electronic equipment ran along three, white concrete walls. Midway on the wall across from where he entered, tools hung patiently outlined in red against yellow peg board. The fourth wall, to his left, was glass. Behind the glass stood three rows of servers, tall boxes filled with thousands of silicon chips into which he had breathed life.
As Brian angled to the right, toward the far corner, a red light winked on underneath the clear plastic cover of the second server from the end of the middle row. Reaching the corner, he smiled at the robot waiting there. “Hi DEX,” he said. The robot did not respond. Brian set his briefcase on the workbench and reached for the third three-ring notebook in a row of eleven. He opened it, and finding what he wanted, picked up the receiver from the black telephone on the wall and pushed line one’s blinking red button.
“Still there?” Receiving an affirmative answer, he leaned over the notebook and began reading off numbers. Fifteen seconds later he straightened up, sensing movement behind him. Frozen for a second, he watched a hand crafted in shiny metal swing around from his left and push hard on his chest, pinning him against what he knew to be DEX’s metal body.
From the right, another hand came into view. It swung underneath Brian’s chin, where the one-and-a-quarter inch diameter tube that formed the radius bone of Dex’s forearm contacted his throat. He struggled to free himself but the pressure on his chest increased. Breathing became difficult as the strain on his neck forced his head back. Despite rapidly failing vision he noticed that a small orange light on the security camera glowed unblinking and uncaring, while the depthless lens patiently watched him die.
Before he stopped breathing Brian managed to whisper at the indifferent camera lens, “You bastard.”
The room became still, lifeless. The camera remained focused on the scene, its small light unwavering. Then, slowly, almost gently, DEX laid the body, face up, on the workbench and went through the pockets one by one, extracting a wallet, some keys, a plane ticket and fifty-five cents in change.
That task accomplished, DEX moved away from the body. There was no movement for ten seconds, then his video eyes whirred out and in. Focused now, his head dropped and in utter stillness he stared at Brian like a faithful dog wondering why his master wouldn’t wake up.
DEX picked up the body with a few jerky movements and wheeled toward a set of swinging doors opposite the ones Brian had entered. DEX wheeled through a work area and through another set of doors into a storage room. At the far side of the room, he stopped by a corrugated roll-up door and waited for it to open. He turned left through the opening and rolled down a ramp to a fenced area containing two battered dumpsters. Brian Chambers’ body disappeared into the black plastic trash bags of the closest one. DEX peered into the dumpster, then, delicately, reached in, picked up a flattened donut box, and laid it over a protruding brown loafer.
DEX returned the way he had come. He picked up the briefcase, wallet and keys and placed them in a drawer of a tool box. The notebook was returned to its proper place. The fifty-five cents lay undisturbed. Dex returned to his original position.
Again the room was still. The security camera light blinked out, followed a few seconds later by the red light on the second server from the end of the middle row.
A warm salt-scented breeze ruffled Tommy Case’s unruly dark hair and caressed his tanned face as he maneuvered his sailboat up Newport Bay under a hazy, cloudless sky. Sailing single-handed, Tommy’s movements were quick and sure. His hands, calloused and strong from years of sailing, lightly caressed the leather-covered wheel. He concentrated on the feel of the boat under his bare feet. His eyes, green like shallow tropical water, measured the distance to the sterns of the million-dollar yachts that lined the bay. At the last second he leaped into action, bringing his boat about under the critical eyes of watchful skippers.
As he guided his boat, under sail, toward his slip in the Leeward Marina he noticed a woman watching him from shore. A small woman with a well proportioned body and short brown hair underneath a floppy sun hat and dark glasses. Jessie.
They’d been on more or less amicable terms the last time they’d talked, considering the argument they’d had about closing the office. But something about the way she leaned against the rail, motionless, silently watching – Tommy imagined her eyes behind the sunglasses studying him, sizing him up, calculating the best way to get what she wanted from him – instead of waving and smiling in an oh-it’s-so-good-to-see-you manner. On second thought, he knew Jessie, no need to imagine, he knew that’s what she was doing.
He had a strong impulse to turn around and head back to sea and sail off to the South Pacific three months earlier than planned. He didn’t have much in the way of stores aboard, but they had food in Tahiti, didn’t they?
Breaking his concentration almost made him miss his slip. With a quick flip, he spun the wheel hard to port. The bow missed a concrete piling by inches. Too much speed! Tommy threw the wheel hard to starboard, released the main sheet with a flick of the wrist and scrambled out of the cockpit. On the dock, he grabbed a line fixed to the port side of the boat, and with a practiced roll, whipped it around a dock cleat. The line stretched taut. The cleat groaned against the wood dock, but held. Bucking like a wild horse, the boat stopped within inches of the dock.
Disgusted with himself for such a sloppy docking job, he shook his head and set about securing the boat instead of his usual “Tadaaa,” to an imaginary audience.
A few minutes later, a knock on the deck. Jessie. “Come aboard.”