The Robin Hood of Couches – Chapter 2

Here’s a sneak peak at the first chapter of my new book: The Robin Hood of Couches. It will be exclusive to Kickstarter in January. You can preview it here. Keep in mind, this chapter hasn’t been to the editor yet:

The academy never prepared Reese for the smell of a body. It was a putrid foul odor that was worse than the time he had found week old leftovers from a steak house underneath the seat of his car. Since he hadn’t known what inside the foil surprise baked by the sun, he had unwrapped it and puked. The body of the man festered in drainage pool. The victim’s beard was matted and infested with bugs. According to the display hovering in the air in front of him, the DNA match was for Derrick Yusuf, a delivery handler for MotoCom. According to his supervisors, the man took a week off without giving a reason why before he died.

The local detective walked right into the display. Normally, it was rude to walk into other people’s displays but Reese had set it to private so no one could see what he was seeing. The screen hovering in front of him was only in his field of vision. The cop poked at Reese and said, “Do you need to puke?”

“No, I’m fine.” Reese’s stomach had come a long way since the tin foil surprise, but that didn’t stop the smell from the loss of his appetite the rest of the day, which was unfortunate. His girlfriend treated him to this new Russian place with the best perogies in the city, and he didn’t eat a bite, claiming illness rather than relive the memory of the smell with her.

“I’m surprised. All you corporate types puke your first time out.” The detective said.

“Most of my colleagues are here to expose fraud and get big paycheck when they find the C.F.O. skimming of the top and don’t usually muck around with dead bodies.” Reese said.

“I don’t think you’ll get a big paycheck from this guy.”

“I’m here to find the truth.”

“What? You didn’t get into Corporate Investigations for the finder’s fees and the big payday?” The detective rolled his eyes. “If you wanted to make difference in the world, you should come collect the city paycheck with us.”

“Then I wouldn’t have the access to the best equipment. And I couldn’t afford those subscriptions on a cop’s salary.”

“It’s the gadgets he says. Yeah, yeah, you’ll be driving your Maserati at the track on weekends. We appreciate the funding CI gives us but try to remember this is a crime scene. That’s a real person, and don’t touch anything.” The cop walked out of the screen view, and the Derrick’s information came back up on the screen. His crawler was now downloading social media info. Mr. Yusuf apparently had liked to cure his own meats and make his own cheeses. It was an esoteric hobby when everyone’s entire house was giant 3D printer these days.

Unlike the officer’s misgivings, the truth of the situation was that Reese enjoyed the tech available to even the lowest level investigator, but it wasn’t the real reason he decided to attend the CI Academy. A school that only admitted .03% of the applicants every year. He suffered through the sleepless nights of study, grueling physical training, and endless skills training because he really wanted to make a difference in the world.

When the CI’s weren’t driving their Maserati’s at the tracks on weekends, they were making the world a better place. It was a high-profile CI who brought down the most notorious drug lord that made crime bosses of the past like Guzmán and Capone look like the awkward kid brother. CI’s brought down an entire terrorist network that almost snuck a dirty bomb into the Olympics.

A lot of people criticized the CI’s and said they were only out to protect their bosses’ payday, but no one ever talked about that by protecting corporate interest, the people’s interest were protected too. The cop wouldn’t understand any of it. He’d think Reese was CI chasing another payday, when the reality was that he cared just as much about solving the murder as the police did. However, that wasn’t the main reason why Reese was assigned the case. The victim had a couple of anomalous shipping reports.

Despite the cop’s fear, Reese wouldn’t need to touch anything to find out everything he needed to know. There were microprinted nanites swarming the scene, scanning everything, and uploading it to the CI cloud. They were spawned from a set of implants. The chip in his arm and ocular enhancers were top of the line. In fact, the injections wouldn’t even be available to the public for another five years and CI would have something beyond the general public by then.

While the profile of the murder victim was being built, Reese switched off and decided to take a look around the crime scene. It didn’t take a forensic scientist to figure out cause of death. The man’s head was caved in with blunt object. From the messiness of the wound, it wasn’t one strike, but many. Reese would confirm with the nanites later but that did tell him that his killer was upset at the time or was getting a twisted pleasure out of it. Reese ruled out pleasure because it didn’t have a serial vibe to it. Everything seemed hasty from the first blow, to the unceremonious dumping of the body.

From the looks of it, the body would have gone unnoticed for a while if a couple of kids hadn’t decided to race their sticks down the storm drain. According to the social media reports, the man didn’t have anyone close enough to report him missing. A regular gaming group grumbled at him on his social media when he didn’t show, but there were no police reports filed. The poor guy didn’t have anyone close enough, and from his phone and email records, he sparingly called home. CI were quick to file the documents for the release personal records, and it was even easier when there was a body. Reese was sure the local police didn’t even have email access yet.

There also didn’t seem to be much motivation in his social circle for his death. No one seemed to be more than lukewarm to him. That left the shipping reports that notified CI to investigate the potential profit loss. According to the report Mr. Yusuf was a Lead Mover for MotoCom’s automated shipping service. Since all vehicles were driverless, but robots were not quite ready to tackle the task of moving a package from the back of a truck into the unknown circumstances of someone’s home. The driverless trucks would park outside a house, and the movers would bring the package to the door.

The victim’s job was to sit in a truck all day and deliver packages when it stopped. Robots were no doubt already being conceived that could replace Derrick and his coworkers, but until the robotics companies could guarantee that a robot wouldn’t trample a kid playing in the lawn when it went to deliver a package, humans were still needed for deliveries, especially furniture. Derrick seemed to deliver a lot of it which was odd because people didn’t by much furniture, and companies didn’t really sell it all that much either.

The real money was in 3d printer schematics. All buildings after the 2030’s had 3d printing technology built into the very walls of the house. Companies sold people the right to use their designs for a subscription fee. The act of shopping for the latest designer trends became an antiquated thing of the past. People really didn’t own anything anymore. A Louis Vuitton couch was the digital right to reproduce it. As soon as the owner canceled their subscription, they no longer had the right to produce the furniture, so the 3d printers would strip it down atom by atom and use the material for something else. It was the ultimate in recycling.  Since most people 3d printed everything in their lives, Derrick’s job was a niche industry, dealing with folks who liked paying high prices to get stuff handcrafted.

The other odd part of the whole situation was that people very rarely had furniture shipped. People who did keep the shipping industry alive, did it because they would insist that 3d printed wine didn’t taste the same, or wanted a printed book signed by the author with little AuthetiDNA certificates that proved the author’s hand really did touch that page. It was mainly small objects that a collector or an enthusiast would pay absurdly high prices to prove that it’s molecules weren’t stacked up by a 3d printer.

A collector wanting furniture that didn’t come from a 3d printer had to have deep pockets. Reese bought a wine from vineyard once as a gift for his girlfriend, and it was easily the most expensive thing he ever bought in gift form. And in all honesty, when she wasn’t looking, he had the same wine 3d printed, and she could not tell the difference. He was of the opinion that the whole shipping industry was a gimmick to squeeze money out of rich people.

Regardless of his opinion, the furniture deliveries didn’t add up. Derrick delivered to many different addresses and never the same one twice. Each delivery was to a different name. Even the rich enthusiast didn’t have that many alternate identities. The only possibilities was that the mystery person was paying a new person every couple of days to receive the furniture and then coming to pick it up later, presumably, to hide its final destination, or the person was laundering money in which case having a Mover on the payroll might help.

If someone was trying to convert illegal money into legitimate transactions via a fake furniture company, they would have their work cut out for them. The truck had an internal scale that would track the weight coming on and off the truck, Mr. Yusuf would have had to hack that system and trick to believe that furniture was being delivered in addition to paying off all the other humans that might be on the truck to corroborate the story. A truck full of wine would be easier to fake than one full of furniture. At least there wouldn’t be any other humans on a given shift. Reese pulled the shipping history of the one of the shipments. The furniture was loaded on the truck at one of the mega warehouses that were originally constructed by Amazon. He’d have to do some digging to see where the furniture came from because the mega warehouses were world’s largest middleman and it wouldn’t be easy finding out where the furniture was coming from.

Reese was sure the murder and large influx of furniture had to be connected. Even though he wasn’t supposed to investigate the murder, he knew he’d be the one to figure it out. If he could leave the world a better place than he had inherited than he could count his new job as a win. The first step would involve checking out the last shipment Derrick ever delivered, an apartment full of furniture to a Tyrell Bryant. It couldn’t hurt to see if his hypothesis that Derrick was riding in an empty truck all day held up. His job would be easier if it was simple money laundering.

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