Whittle Down

Cause of Death: Asphyxiation

Carefully sifting through the various reports left on his desk, he looked for clues that would explain most of the questions nagging in his mind. For a while, he decided to leave out the strange side of the case, concentrating on the concrete evidence, relying on his eye for the obvious that sometimes stared them at their faces.

As to possible suspects, there were none to speak of. The dead man was a recluse, paid his rent for the whole year and bought groceries by bulk. Neighbors did not notice any visitors though at some point electronic repairmen came for home service.

The technical side was not his province of expertise: he had to rely on the reports.

According to the investigation, the man was an Internet fanatic. If he was not an outside-type of guy, he was the opposite on the Net. The web history in his computer, recovered including all those deleted, painted a quite an image of a gung ho netizen: he was all over the place, so to speak.

His reading was interrupted by a soft rap on the door. Since his partner took an indefinite leave of absence, as stated in a piece of paper, mixed with the reports, he had to stand up and open it by himself. It was okay since he needed his legs straightened after nearly two hours of sitting still.

“Sir, I am Linda, from the Records section. I was ordered to report to you.”

Det. Moreno was tall but Linda was inches taller than him. He looked up to her and invited her in.

“I needed another pair of eyes. My partner usually fulfills the job but he needed a break. So, I hope you will do his instead.”

“Sir, I am inexperienced in detective work. I am only capable of paperwork.” Surely, she was not enthusiastic working with him, with all the gossip around his latest case roaming the halls. “I could be a dead weight.”

“Speaking of dead weights,” Det. Moreno said, back to his cushioned seat, facing her who preferred to stand, at least for a while, “I want you to look at these,” he handed her the two-page report about the dead man’s web history.

“What should I look for?” she asked, sitting down to peruse the list. “These are web sites.”

“Tell me anything that comes off your mind,” he said, eyeing her closely. “I read it twice but like you said all I see are web sites.”

Linda fell silent, her concentration zeroing on popular names and associating them with function. She borrowed a felt shading pen and began to mark the list.

Det, Moreno whistled a tune to pass the time. He closed his tired eyes and enjoyed the short rest.

“Sir,” her agitated voice rang in his ears. “Sir!”

He had dozed off, grateful for the nothingness that engulfed him. Strangely, it was refreshing.

“Explain it to me as if I am a simple person. No tech mumbo jumbo.”

“I’d say forty percent of the sites are about books: dealers, writer groups, critics, reviewers. There are also blog spots owing to the hosts’ names connected to them.”

“What about the others?”

“There are hundreds of email addresses. I am not sure if he owned them or they’re contacts.”

“Check them one by one. Furnish me with a detailed report.”

“But, sir. There are at least two thousand names on the list.”

“I’ll ask your supervisor for an extended leave. Do it at home. No leaks. Understood?”

Linda had to say goodbye to her planned out-of-town weekend trip. The man in front of him could make or break her provisional position at the station.

“Can you give me access to his hard drive, sir?”

“Give me the report,” he replied, “and I’ll see if you could help me solve this case.”

(to be continued)



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