A case for a robot detective.
|Now that humanity has disappeared, dust has settled on my desk.|
I used to be a robot sleuth with my own business, Isaac Asimov Detective Agency. Money was hardly a motivation, so I didn’t charge much. On top of that, my cases were solved fast, so I had my pick of clients; though, I was a softie for dames abused by bullies they had fallen for.
In all the thirty years I was in the business of solving crime the most unusual client was a lady ghost.
It all started one blue sky morning as I was tossing some acorns to the neighborhood squirrel. A voice spoke, but unlike anything I had heard before. I learned telepathy was sort of like a mix between speaking to yourself and someone whispering in your ear.
“Excuse me, Sir Robot.”
I looked right and left, behind me, and up into the trees.
“I’m sorry. You can’t see me. I’m invisible. I’m a ghost.”
“Where are you. It feels like your speaking inside of me.”
“Well, then, I guess I am. I don’t understand it myself. I’m new at this. I was murdered by my husband only a week ago, but they can’t prove it.”
A creepy tingling swept from my chest to the metal tips of my toes and fingers. “This is all very interesting, but can’t you just drive him out of his mind by haunting him?”
“I can’t get through to just anybody, and the only audible sounds I can make is like the wind blowing. He ignores it.”
The sound of air whistling through the crack of a window convinced me that I didn’t want to take the case. “Hmmm. I don’t work for free. I have hardware to replace, electricity bills, and rent to pay.”
“You will be paid handsomely. I was saving to flee, and it’s hidden in the garage.”
“My programming won’t permit me to take that money. Since you’re dead that money doesn’t belong to you. It would be robbery.” There was a weak drawn out gust. Her repertoire of sounds was increasing.
“Help me, Sir Robot. You’re my only hope.”
That tripped my circuits. To equate me to Obi Wan Kenobi was too much. I couldn’t turn her down.
“Okay, forget the dough. Let’s go to my office before someone calls the city office to report a robot with some screws loose.”
“Thank you, sir. My name is Charwei Crane. Please call me, Charwei.”
“I regret not meeting you sooner, Charwei. I go by Isaac.”
My office was spartan. A chair behind a desk for myself. A sofa for my client. Why a sofa? Sometimes a client needed to hide, and my office was a safe place to crash out. There was no empty bottle of booze on the floor, nor ashtray filled with butts on the desk, nor gun in the drawer. So, for business appearances, I wore a brown leather jacket, a gray sweater, tweed pants, and a fedora.
Since we were indoors, she revealed her ghostly self. She would have been a sight for sore eyes before her death. I wondered why she was murdered.
I pointed to the sofa before questioning whether a ghost preferred standing, but she sat down. I could see she needed some practice, for she sank into the cushions.
“Charwei, can you tell me what happened?”
“Do you want the long version or the bare bones?”
“Bare bones would do for now.”
“Well, my husband, Clint, and I had been out drinking. We took a cab home, and had another drink before going upstairs to our bedroom. At the top of the stairs, he shoved me down. According to the autopsy, I broke my neck in the fall. The fall was all attributed to my inebriated state.”
“Was there an investigation?”
“Yes. I tried my hardest to raise suspicion in the detective, but everything was just blowing in the wind.”
“Okay. I get the drift. Do you have any idea on how to pin the murder on Clint?” There was that weak long drawn out gust again.
“No, I thought if you questioned him, we might get a confession. He’d been violent before.”
“I have connections at the precinct, so I can get a meeting. However, I don’t have a plan. It might take some time. You can stay here if you like.”
“Thank you, Isaac. But, I’ll try to haunt him tonight.”
“Can you spook him by moving things?”
“No, I’m really a pathetic ghost.”
“Okay, float by tomorrow. I might have some questions.”
I thought about how frustrated Charwei must be to see her killer free to live as he liked. It made me more resolved to come up with a plan to put Clint behind bars.
I called my contact. “Hello, Lieutenant Hart? This is Isaac.”
“What’s up, Isaac?”
“Do you know who looked into the death of Charwei Crane?”
“Yeah. I did. Why?”
“I’ve taken up the case. Someone thinks it was murder.”
“Oh, yeah? That’ll be hard to prove. There was a lot of alcohol in the corpse, she had a broken neck, the time of death matched the time of the call to 911, and there was evidence at the scene she had fallen down the stairs.”
“Her husband has a reputation as a wife beater.”
“He is a wife beater, but that alone don’t make him a killer.”
“My client believes she was pushed down the stairs.”
“If so, it was the perfect crime.”
“I hope not. Could you send me all the info?”
“Sure. But, don’t burn out your circuits on a hopeless case, Isaac.”
A meticulous perusal gave me one thing to consider. What if her neck hadn’t been broken in the fall? The stairs were heavily carpeted, and would have cushioned the impact. This would explain why no other bones other than those in her neck were found to be broken.
It was past midnight when this thought was interrupted. “I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you, Isaac. I’m right outside your door. We can converse like this or you can allow me to come in.”
“Come in, Charwei.”
The sight of steam floating upward from the bottom of the door stamped itself on my logic chip.
Charwei pulled herself together. “Good evening, Isaac. Have you made any progress?”
“I have a question. Are you sure your neck was broken in the fall? Can we rule out that the fall didn’t kill you?”
“No to both questions. But, what difference would that make? He killed me either way.”
I shrugged. “How about yourself? Any progress on the haunting?”
“No, but I found out he’d been seeing another woman. He got a call from her while I was there. She can’t wait to see him again.”
“That confirms my suspicions. We need to come up with a way for you to communicate with him and force a confession. How about a message appearing on his computer screen while he’s using it?”
“Good idea! Let me try typing something on your computer.”
“Come right over here.” I felt a chill as she glided next to me. She placed a ghostly finger over the letter g. It went on the g then through the keyboard. Nothing appeared on the screen though it did fog up. That was when I saw the solution to her communication problems.
“Rats! Can’t I do anything?”
“Take it easy, Charwei. I haven’t failed a client, yet.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt you. But, I’d sure like to be a part of whatever you do to bring him in.”
“You will.” I made that promise pretty sure I could deliver. “Let’s get started.” Then, I coached her until I was confident she could do her part.
Two days later, I got a call from Lieutenant Hart. “Hello, Isaac? This is Hart.”
“Hello, Lieutenant. How’s life?”
“Could be better, but I’m not complaining. Clint Crane confessed to killing his wife, Charwei. Does that surprise you?”
“He was ranting that she was haunting him. How did you do it?”
“I didn’t do it. It was Charwei.”
“Ha, ha. So, you’re not going to tell me your trade secrets. Well, thanks again for bringing another criminal to justice.”
From the steam riding up from the bottom of the door and the computer screen fogging, I surmised that ghosts can absorb and release heat. Charwei used this to form condensation on such things as mirrors and table tops to write messages.
I never saw her again. I guess she went wherever good people go when they die.
I wonder where I’ll go.