A Murder in the Silicon Hills: Chapter 2


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Chapter 2

Saturday, October 20

I was rarely happy to get a work call at three in the morning. The phone didn’t seem to care, though. It kept ringing. I sleepily silenced it. It started ringing again. I threw it across the room. I was on call, but I was not happy about it. The phone had stopped ringing for a moment, but sure enough, it started right up again, illuminating the far corner of the darkened room with a pale blue light as it taunted me with an irritating ringtone.

Muttering under my breath, I threw the covers back and rolled out of bed. There had been a rough jiujitsu session earlier that day and my back was killing me. I finally picked up the phone.

“Yeah?” I gruffly spat into the receiver.

“Detective Lewis?” asked a familiar voice on the other end of the line.

“Speaking, and not happy about it,” I replied.

“We need you in the hill country. Been a murder at a party. That rock star startup CEO is dead, and nobody seems to know anything.”

I hung up the phone without another word. It buzzed with the address of the mansion where the body was. I groaned and walked over to the closet to get dressed.

#

On the scene of the crime, there was too much evidence. Trays with powder, fingerprints, and a murder weapon which had conveniently been wiped down, probably by the killer, before I arrived.

“Detective Lewis,” a tall officer began, approaching me as I finished my sweep.

I cut him off with a wave of my hand.

“Don’t, Higgins. There’s nothing here. We need a list of attendees—so the first thing I want you to do is find out whose party this was.”

I began to pace. I tried to keep my face from turning red, but the fact was, I hadn’t found much in my quick sweep. Just a file and some odds and ends I didn’t really grasp the significance of yet. The scene looked to have been doctored, and unfortunately, there were no witnesses. The party had covered the entire house in a convenient mess of DNA and random odds and ends. I was extremely frustrated, and Higgins could see my temper written on my face. We’d been friends for years, though. He respected me enough to give me a pass when the breaks were this bad.

“The second thing I want you to do is make it clear to our gracious host that we won’t be prosecuting anyone for possession. It’s too much of a mess in a situation like this.”

I paused for effect, and to make sure Higgins was following me. He nodded, and I continued.

“Instead, I want you to pressure them to give you names, tell them they’re obstructing justice if they don’t. Then, find the people who those names belong to. Get names from them. Build a big fucking list and make one thousand percent sure you know every name of every human that was at this fucking house tonight.”

It was good to be the ranking officer. Looking back, it’s easy to see I got away with acting like an asshole quite a bit, especially in difficult or stressful situations. I couldn’t help myself. My emotional connection to my work was what made me so good at it.

“Get dog names too, if there were dogs here. Be fucking thorough. Leave no stone unturned. I don’t want to be here tonight, but if I have to be here, I want to be working a case we can solve. Not this fucking mess.”

I gestured to the room for effect.

“Yes sir. I wanted to let you know we can’t find anything like a surveillance camera. Probably because of the powder. Somebody didn’t want anyone seeing anything that happened here tonight.”

Higgins shrugged. I nodded sympathetically.

“Okay, Higgins. One more thing. Let the IT team know they have some Twitter searches to run.”

Higgins nodded back to me and walked back outside.

I was red-faced under the bright lights. The cops at the scene had followed my orders to the letter for the past hour, but nothing even remotely conclusive had been uncovered. The partygoers and hosts had all fled the scene, presumably due to the gunfire and fear of possession charges. It was a miracle they hadn’t tried to dispose of the body. Probably meant no one had seen the shooting.

A high-profile victim like this, though…

The body was uncovered, awkwardly draped where it had fallen across the white leather sofa.

There was a single red dot above the young man’s right eye, but the back of his head was all over the place. Probably a hollowpoint round. The 9MM had been found where the shooter left it, about twenty feet from the body and near the door.

The shot had probably been fired from very close proximity to the victim. The powder burns on his face were not severe, but there were powder burns. The shooter had probably turned around, calmly, wiped the gun down, and dropped it near the door on the way out to keep anyone from tracing it. It was a Russian gun, a Makarov with the serial number filed off. If it had been purchased overseas, there would be no way to trace it.

I sat down next to the body, taking a very long pull from my flask. The radio spat for a moment, then Higgins’s voice came through.

“Detective Lewis, the FBI is here to see you.”

“Shit,” I nearly spit out the whiskey.

The FBI had arrived in under two hours! APD’s skeleton crew of five men had only been on the scene for about an hour and a half, and the coroner and CSI were just starting to show. It was just now five o’clock in the morning, and the anonymous call had come in at about three. How did the FBI even know this crime had taken place? Was this going to be an international incident?

“Send ‘em in, Higgins,” I spat into the radio, angrier and more confused than I’d been all night.

It almost had to be a setup, but the Russians had been very bold back in 2016. What the hell was going on? I almost regretted the swig of whiskey I’d just taken. I looked at the flask in my hand.

What the hell, I thought, taking another deep pull.

It was going to be a long night. I stood up and made my way into the kitchen to find out whether there was any booze left over from the party.

#

When the FBI agents got upstairs, they had to look around for a few minutes before they located me in the kitchen. I was filling my flask back up with Jameson over the sink.

“Evening, boys,” I said as they walked into the room. “Care for a drink?”

I held out the bottle, pointed to a cupboard that had some glasses in it. They shook their heads. I screwed the top back onto my flask, then put it back in my pocket.

“What brings the FBI to a house party in the middle of the night?” I asked, sincerely.

“I’m Agent Brown and this is Agent Walters. We’re here because we think this case may be international. If it is, we don’t want local PD mucking it up,” said Agent Brown, matter-of-factly.

I glanced at Agent Walters. He was a tall, grizzled old white guy. Agent Brown was black, bald, and clearly in charge. Walters looked at the bottle of Jameson, so I poured some into a glass.

“You look like you could use this,” I said, nodding to the glass.

“I don’t drink,” Walters replied.

I gestured toward Agent Brown, but he just shook his head ‘no’ and turned away.

I rolled my eyes before picking up the glass and leading the agents into the room where the stiff was. I took a drink of whiskey as I pulled back the sheet.

“Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Jacob Kissinger, Founder & CEO of BrainTrust.”

The agents stood, silently observing the body.

“We’ve been looking into him since we got here. Higgins,” I said, gesturing to a man with a red goatee who stood about 6’3” tall and looked to be made of muscle, “has identified the stiff by searching on Google for the name of the owner of this house, who apparently had done a business deal with Mr. Kissinger.”

There was blood spattered all over the wall, but a significant amount had nonetheless pooled on the man’s chest, staining his white dress shirt. It oozed out from behind the couch. I glanced at the wall, noting the smatters of skull and brain that had been blasted there. It didn’t make me happy, but it didn’t turn my stomach. Not anymore.

“His coat was hung up with dozens of others in a coatroom downstairs. We still don’t know which one was his. Still, his wallet sat on the couch near him, along with his driver’s license and a few business cards to identify him. There was no cellphone, though, which was a bit odd. This case is not a robbery,” I announced.

The agents poked around a bit, rifling through the odds and ends we had left in the room.

“Where’s the murder weapon?” asked Agent Brown, standing near the desk.

I pointed toward the door.

“It was left where the tent is now. I had it bagged and taken back to the station. Russian 9MM, state issue.”

“That’s why we’re here, then,” said Brown.

I nodded, then walked out of the room to let the agents have a peek around.

They wouldn’t find anything—there was too much evidence in that room, and I hadn’t missed anything in my sweep. Some cases are just harder than others.

While they poked around, I went downstairs with Higgins. He was the best sergeant in the APD and I needed to organize a meeting with him and the cops who would be helping us find the missing party guests.

As I walked, I remember twin emotions of desire and defeat welling up inside me. We needed a theory of who had killed Kissinger like a filter to strain out the bad evidence, and we needed to decide who was going to be handling this case.

I would have loved for that to fall to the FBI. I liked cases I could win, and this was quickly turning into a pit full of quicksand and snakes. From minute one, I can honestly say I wanted out of the Kissinger murder.

 

That’s it for Chapter 3, folks! Feel free, as always, to sign up over at my website to get email notifications when the next chapter comes out over at Cent, where this story was originally posted. You can go there to catch up if you’re dying to read the rest of the story!

 

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Thomas Dylan Daniel
Thomas Dylan Daniel

Hi! I’m a philosopher, writer, and scientist from Texas. I’ve currently got two books out: https://www.cambridgescholars.com/formal-dialectics And Further From Home: A collection of philosophical short fiction https://www.amazon.com/dp/1976951


A Murder in the Silicon Hills
A Murder in the Silicon Hills

Annie Armstrong had never been happier. Her early-stage startup neural net company had received massive funding from a major Silicon Valley venture capital firm to democratize neural nets and make constructing and training them simpler than ever before. Her partner, co-founder and CEO Jacob Kissinger has been found dead after a very expensive party and now Detective John Lewis of the Austin Police Department has been tasked with finding a very slippery killer.

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