Up Against The Wall


I work break-ins, burglaries, smash and grabs, armed robbery and assault.

Yeah, another overworked urban detective on an understaffed metropolitan police force. It’s a low paying, under appreciated grind with few payoffs. Only about 34 percent of my cases get solved.

See, the station I work for is known for its amazing homicide resolution rate. Homicide makes the rest of us look weak.

It’s pathetic, really. But it hasn’t always been like this. The Homicide Division started standing out about a year ago. Old cases were being solved. Clues were turning up on confiscated evidence that hadn’t been detected previously. Missing bodies were quickly found. Case after case was suddenly being prosecuted and won.

A few of us snoops have been exchanging private emails after hours, kicking around our theories on why Homicide has become the precinct’s shining star.

Three new detectives were brought into Homicide during the six months prior to the start of the miracle run. No personnel changes since. Was it one – or all – of the new detectives? The weird thing in addition to all this is the lack of credit attributed to anyone but the Commissioner. The one thing we agree on is that Homicide has a secret weapon. It’s so secret they don’t want other cops to know about it. They even deny rumors about that, laughing it off.

Meanwhile things just got messier for my department. There is no explaining some of the bullshit we’re chasing. It’s like the killers out there are afraid to murder people any more so now they’re robbing them blind instead.

This morning the alarm goes off on the biggest heist we’ve ever dealt with. Somehow someone has managed to steal the Pink Star from the museum. The Pink Star’s 59.60 flawless carats price it around 31 million.

Before the feds close in we light it up over to the museum to get a gander at the crime scene and interview personnel.

The sealed door had not been opened. The guard heard nothing. Security video outside the door shows no activity. Security inside the display room was off because the room was sealed. Video from outside the building shows nothing. The air ducts leading into the room where the Pink Star was displayed are two feet wide but only three inches thick. The room is on the top floor in the center of a windowless building.

I use my chemistry app to scan the base of the display and the floor around it. I discover traces of a rare clay on the floor. The only reason I can identify this chemical analysis on the scene is because it’s the same one found on the shoe of a murder suspect by Homicide just last week. The clay is so rare in this area that its use was traced to a specific pottery craftsman who killed a banker. It got publicity. Hell, the Commissioner bragged about it on three networks.

It’s unlikely the pottery craftsman stole the Pink Star. He’s been behind bars for three days.

As the morning goes on I continue my chemical scans finding a crude but detectable trail of those clay molecules leading across the room, up the wall and straight into one of the air vents.

I order the dismantling and removal of the vent immediately for lab analysis, then head for the roof. More traces of clay are found near the air intake vent. Another faint trail of clay molecules leads to the edge of the roof. A few more of those same molecules can be detected leading down – or up – the outside wall of the seven story structure.

I request a look at security video of the outside of the museum. There is absolutely no sign of anything from the time the door of the display was secured until the time the Pink Star was discovered missing. Until…

I have the video enlarged 500 percent with a spectral analysis of the area of the outside wall where clay molecules were found. The revelation is a trail of rare clay molecules leading down the building to the parking lot and across to the wooded park surrounding the museum.

I return to headquarters where the video is being analyzed under various hues, temperatures and saturation levels. Our computer finally contrasts a coherent figure moving both up and down the building!

Within another hour we’re looking at a fully enhanced image of a flat, undulating man going up the building, across the roof and into the air duct. Another half hour and we have a blurry face. Blurry, but…recognizable.

Never knowing how much time I have, I decide to rattle the big cage.

“Not often a regular beat detective ‘demands’ an emergency meeting with the Commissioner,” says the Commissioner when I finally get into his office late afternoon. The sun’s in my eyes coming in from behind him and he knows it. “But they tell me you can crack the Pink Star case if we talk? Cryptic, very cryptic. What’s up?”

“Detective Layner,” I state. “Homicide Department last year and a half. What’s the story?”

“The story? I didn’t know he had a story. Fill me in.”

“Really?” I reply. Don’t see any reason to beat around bushes under my circumstances. “So the Commissioner isn’t aware of the full range of abilities and activities of his own detective force? Particularly those of Detective Layner?”

“You can spin that,” says the Commissioner, revealing some discomfort by moving dis- associatively toward his bookcase as if looking something up – just for a moment. “Either I’m incompetent for not knowing, or I’m in on some conspiracy. What do you think?”

“I’m opting for conspiracy.”

“What does this have to do with the Pink Star, goddammit?” growls the Commissioner.

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

With a heavy sigh the Commissioner caves once he praises my intelligence and initiative, and swears me in as a newly minted member of the inner circle who will hold the secret he’s about to reveal. I tell him sure, why not? I act like I want to be in the “in” crowd. Why waste time?

He shutters the windows of his office and closes the door. Pulling up a file he shows me the PD’s secret weapon. It’s a 2-dimensional homicide detective, code named Flatman, aka Detective Layner. How is that even…?

“Impossible, right?” asks the Commissioner watching my skeptical expressions. “Yeah, I know, we all can’t believe it at first. The tech is crazy expensive. The agent comes straight from the feds. Word is there’s about a dozen or so spread across the U.S. Modified humans able to make murderers pay. And give victim families some degree of justice.”

So the Commissioner gives me the lowdown on what he knows. While he’s 3-dimensional most of the time, Flatman can transform within five seconds into a 2-dimensional state, and reverse the process at will in the same time frame. He can extend parts of his body while other parts stay flat, such as sprouting his eyeballs for a look around, or protruding his arm for a punch. Or he can flatten his arm, for example, to reach under a door while remaining 3-dimensional otherwise.

And Flatman knows when someone is moving about him in the 3-dimensional plane from their reverberations through the matter they move upon. He depends on vibrations to sense his surroundings. With eyes, ears and nose too flat to perceive electromagnetic waves or air pressure changes, slithering about by imperceptible undulations, Flatman detects chemical traces on all surfaces so precisely that he can analyze their elements and environmental associations.

Naturally he wants to be unknown. If the bad guys knew his tricks he’d lose the advantage of their ignorance. If they knew that a 2-dimensional Flatman existed, they’d shoot the wall the next time they saw a suspicious “painting.” They’d search the walls and ceilings for him instead of the streets. They’d learn how to conceal their giveaways from Flatman’s special abilities.

He can differentiate DNA or tell you what you ate yesterday –if he’s desperate enough for the information to flatten around your poop. He can follow anything’s trail if it moves continuously over a relatively smooth surface with steps no farther apart that the extended length of the iron-flat investigator.

So why did Flatman leave traces of a rare clay from last week’s homicide case behind? Because he can trace the chemical history of a shoe only by encompassing its lower half’s surface, and he can do that regardless how many times it’s been washed. But he inevitably collects molecules  from those very chemicals. Traces will be with him for weeks. The rare ones gave him away.

Of course he isn’t precisely 2-dimensional or he wouldn’t be able to move in a 3-dimensional world. But he’s only as thick as a thousand random molecules at his thinnest, and that ain’t fat.

“Well, he’s an amazing homicide detective,” I assure the Commissioner. “But he’s an even better diamond thief.” I show him the enhanced video.

Obviously, this is news to the Commissioner.