Disclaimer: I own some of the plot points but the characters and situations belong others.
The Case of the Three-eyed Man
"Maybe, I'll just sit Andy down and tell him everything," Mom told me and Cameron with a less than certain look on her face. She clearly liked him and appeared torn between our goal of preventing Skynet's formation and her desire for companionship. Out of her depth with a conflict of goals and emotions, Sarah was evidently making this up as she went along.
Less than ten minutes had passed following the close of the SoCal Invitational Computer Chess Championship. Andy Goode and his Russian business partner had barely packed up their gear and stalked off the stage bickering about whose fault it was that "The Turk" had choked and fallen for a Queen sacrifice. Mom slipped quickly out of the competition room. She told me later that she brushed against a tattooed man wearing what looked like a surplus German Army field coat. She made her way back to the competitors' lounge where she and Andy had talked earlier.
Mom found Andy on the floor with a small caliber gunshot wound to the head. He stared out through empty eyes. She quickly checked for his carotid pulse on his neck, finding none she dashed out of the room and down the corridor. That tattooed guy looked out of place and he was moving too fast anyway. She followed him in an impulsive flash of anger and vengeance.
Cameron looked at me, "There's commotion backstage," she stated flatly.
"I don't hear anything," I protested.
The Machine-girl gently illuminated the blue lights behind her eyes, "I have super hearing; remember?" She smiled.
I was already hustling down the row of chairs where Mom and I had sat to watch the end of the chess championship. I spoke quietly, "Come on, Cameron. Let's go see if Sarah needs help."
Cameron and I ducked out the back door of the competition room following in Mom's footsteps. I glanced quickly up and down the walls of the corridor and found a sign pointing to the competitors' lounge. That was probably where Mom went to talk to Andy. We dodged around people to get to it. A sickening smell of blood and feces emerged from the room. I stopped. Cameron pushed past me. "You probably don't want to see what's in there," she said with a faint trace of compassion in her tone.
Cameron wore one of my long sleeved denim shirts with the sleeves cuffed up. I stood there and watched her unroll the cuff to cover the palm of her right hand. Using her elbow and her covered palm she pushed open the door and stepped part way in. Her heel held the door open. "Andy Goode appears to be dead, and I'm detecting an above normal static electric charge in the room."
"And that means?" I asked.
She answered, "It means that at least one temporal field has appeared in this room recently."
I didn't bother asking how she knew. At that point it didn't matter. What mattered was that room was a crime scene and we had to get away from it post haste. Cameron and I checked each other's eyes. She spoke first, but we were both thinking it, "Police or Hotel Security will be here soon, John."
We'll tell them we're looking for the bathrooms. Let's get
back to the Competition Room and figure this out."
We hustled back into the room that we just left minutes before. Cameron and I sat down on the stage next to each other. We sat close enough that our legs were touching, but I didn't feel any of the electricity I had felt on the city bus with her during the Case of the Falling Girl. I guess fight or flight response was grounding that feel out. "Okay, what do we have?"
I looked at me with an expression of careful consideration but spoke with a flat tone, "We have what looks like Andy's body along with evidence of time travel."
I turned my left and over in questioning gesture, "How do you know it wasn't Skynet?"
She explained, "There was no bowl shaped dent in the floor, so what ever was left in the room fell to the floor."
I picked up on what she was saying, "And I guess there wasn't any sign that something really heavy like a 400 pound Terminator had fallen to the floor and shaken everything in the room."
"You're right." She looked surprised. Then her expression opened up and she asked with an inquisitive tone, "How did you know that?"
"Deductive reasoning." We were quiet for a moment. Each of us with our own thoughts. Then I continued, "So you're saying that the Resistance was in there."
Cameron and I looked at each other's eyes again. "Are you thinking what I think you're thinking," she asked with a completely flat tone.
I chuckled, "Probably. We've got to establish a time line for Andy's death and…
Cameron finished for me, "…and figure out when that room was empty."
Hotel employees clearing off the stage asked us to move from the stage. "I will go get the security video from Hotel Security."
"How are you going to do that?" I asked with a hard look in my eyes.
"I can be persuasive," she reached for her satchel where she kept the weapons.
"Whoa, there, Annie Oakley," catching her arm I spoke in stage whisper. "Police and Security, remember? Crime Scene out in the corridor."
"I know. Don't worry," she said confidently.
I pulled my laptop out of my own bag and said, "I can be persuasive, too. Let me handle this."
We went out into the lobby and found some chairs and couches around a coffee table. I set up the lap top on the coffee table. With my password cracker programs, I crunched through the fire walls. Inside the hotel network, I hunted around for the security camera files. Eventually, I found the archive we needed and began to display the video on my screen. I started going through it from half an hour before the end of the competition so that we could eliminate the possibility of anyone left in the room before Andy returned there with his Russian partner afterward.
On a small note pad, I recorded who went into and came out of the room and at what times. I could work backward from that to determine when Andy had been alone and when the room had been empty.
As I was running the video forward and back to check my time sequence, Cameron tapped me lightly on the shoulder, "Um, John? We've got company." I looked up to see two men in coats and ties walking over toward where we were sitting. One was a black man with a mustache and a detective's badge who could have been anywhere between thirty and fifty. The other was a younger, intelligent looking Hispanic whose blazer had the hotel security crest on the pocket.
The detective spoke first, "Good evening, son. 'Evening, miss." He sat down on the couch across the coffee table from us. He took his cell phone out of his pocket and flipped it open. "I'm Sergeant Scott with Sheriff's Homicide Squad. I've got the LAPD computer crimes task force on speed dial here," the Sergeant looked me square in the eyes with an expression that wasn't menacing, just matter of fact. "As fast as you cracked the security here, I suspect you've got a record somewhere, if we just look hard enough. Now, Mr. Hernandez here wants to offer you a job improving his network security. But, if you don't cooperate…" He held up the phone in one hand and patted his hand cuffs on his hip with the other.
Hernandez spoke up, "What are you doing looking at the surveillance video from the corridor outside the room where the Detective's homicide took place?"
I started back peddling verbally, "I can explain. I was just--"
Cameron reached into her bag and I had visions of gunshots and another arrest. If I don't get lethal injection, Mom will ground me for life and make me wish I was dead. "It's okay," she said, "really. We're with the Forensics Club at our high school."
I looked over at her my face a mask, except for my eyes. I was freaking out inside and my eyes showed it.
Cameron winked at me. She pulled her hand out of her bag holding two ID cards in it. She handed them over to the Detective. "How often does the Forensics Club get to anything more than watch CSI and discuss the show?" She smiled and batted her eyelashes innocently, "We'll be glad to share everything we've got."
The Detective smiled. Everyone relaxed. I held out a fist to her and she bumped hers with mine. 'Olivaw and Bailey,' she mouthed the words to me. Heck maybe we actually had our first paying gig here for a week or two to improve their security.
A/N - Don't miss the 'future' tie-in with this chapter up in 2009 in "The End is the Beginning as the End."