Sunday, June 6, 2010

Frozen Assets: A Mini-Mystery

[This story is based on characters from Dark Side of the Moon by Terri Main scheduled for release in February 2011.]

"So, what do you think?" Mike Cheravic ran a hand over the few hairs he had remaining on the top of his head. Carolyn Masters stared at the empty pedestal and the remains of the display case shattered on the floor.

"You're sure, the mask was in the case?"

"We're sure. And before you ask, there are no micro-holoprojectors that could create an image of  King Whosit's Death mask"

"King Teochitonion, the lost king of the Olmecs. It is the only example of an Olmec death mask in existence. I cannot believe this. I argued with the curator of The DeYoung Museum for two years to approve transport of the artifact to the moon. It took us six months to set up the security. Now, this! What happened with the security eyes?"

Mike shook his head. "Someone hacked in. They fed in images of an empty room. I know, it's an old trick, but it works and even the best cyber-security can be beat. We got the call at 21:34. The pressure pad triggered the alarm. That is one system that can't be hacked. It's a simple switch. No weight on the pad and the alarm goes off."

Carolyn picked up the metal band that formed the base of the display case and contained the electronic locking mechanism. She waved to one of Mike's criminology students bagging some evidence near the door. "Moonbeam, could you please get the imaging scanner?"

Moonbeam, a tall, willowy lunar native whose insubstantial appearance almost justified her name, handed Carolyn the scanner.

"Mike, look at this band," She passed the band beneath the magnifying scanner.

"I don't see anything."

"Exactly, no chips, scratches, nothing." She switched the scan to a penetration of one centimeter.

"The lock is unlocked. Even if the perp was an expert with a magnetic pick and left no scratches, look at all this glass on the floor. None on the pedestal."

"So, the perp removed the case and then dropped it."

    "Mike, when was the last time you dropped a glass and broke it? I'm a klutz. I drop glasses all the time. But in 1/6 G, they just float to the ground. Imagine the force needed to smash five millimeter safety glass?"

"And why would you do it, if you unlocked the case?"

Carolyn turned off the scanner. "The only reason I can think of is to-"

"Make it look like a robbery, but in reality, it is an inside job."

"This is scary. We are completing each other's sentences."

"That is scary. So, if it is an inside job, let's see who has keys."

Mike tapped the screen of his handheld. "Only four people had keys to the gallery: the gallery director, but he has an iron clad alibi. He was attending a new citizen's orientation when the alarm went off. The other keys belong to his assistant, the head of maintenance and the security guard on duty tonight. They each have the same alibi 'home alone.'"

Carolyn examined at the pedestal. "What's this dark stain on the pedestal?"

She touched the felt. "It's wet."

She was quiet for a moment. "Okay,  you can make an arrest."

Jason McIntire, director of the Armstrong University art gallery, perched on the chair across the metal table from Carolyn and Mike. "I don't understand why you want to speak to me."

"Well, you've been a very bad boy," said Mike. "Doesn't the university pay you enough?"

"You must be joking. I have a hundred people who can vouch for my whereabouts at the time of the robbery."

"That was your mistake. But I'll let Carolyn fill in the details."

"Jason, your plan was elegant, but ignorance and arrogance wrecked a good plan. Here's how you did the crime. Using your access codes, you disabled the alarm system and sent a false image to the security eyes, then you walked in, opened the case  and took out the mask. You smashed the glass case assuming everyone would think it was a simple smash and grab. But all the pieces of the case including the lock were on the floor. A smash and grab would leave some glass on the pedestal. There was none. That means it was lifted off and smashed on the floor."

"Maybe the burglar used a magnetic pick and then dropped the case by accident."

"Can't happen. You're new to the moon. In 1/6 G  things don't get up enough momentum to just drop and smash. It had to be an inside job."

"You might have gotten away with this if you hadn't decided to set up the 'perfect' alibi. You placed a block of ice on the pedestal. It's a simple switch. Any weight keeps the alarm disabled. Once the weight goes to zero it goes off. The ice melted slowly enough for you to be safely giving your speech.."

 "It might have been one of the others. My assistant - He spends every weekend in the casinos at Tranquilty."

"It couldn't be him."

"Why not? He has a key and  he needs money."

"Yes, but he doesn't have an alibi. Why would he set up an elaborate alibi like this and not use it. No, you created the perfect alibi, and that alibi will convict you."


Lin said...

That is GOOOOOD! I loved it, loved it, loved it. I can't wait till February. Fantastic short, Terri!

Terri main said...

Thanks, Lin. Flash fiction is fun.

Lea said...

What a great way to showcase your writer's voice and a glimpse into your book and characters. Nice!!

Viviane Brentanos said...

Great stuff.

Terri main said...

Thanks Lea. I'm working on others. I love mini mysteries. They really stretch you.

Paul and Karen said...

This is great, Terri! Thanks for sharing. I really like Carolyn's character. Good voice.