AOH :: GUMSHOE.TXT|
Private Eye of the future. From OMNI magazine
OMNI January 1987
By Christopher Graybill
HEY BRANNIGAN. YOU TWO BIT SHAMUS.
As soon as the greeting appeared on the screen of my PC, I knew who it was
from: the UNIVAC in the basementdown at the precinct.
"What do you want, you two-byte dinosaur?" I typed.
SOMEBODY ROUGHED UP A COUPLE OF COMPUTERIZED PHONE SOLICITORS LAST NIGHT.
KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT?
"What if I did? Two auto-dialers were getting cheap thrills with a WATS line.
They were calling people at midnight and making obscene remarks. Then they
tried to sell them beachfront property."
FROM WHAT'S LEFT OF THEIR CIRCUITS. I'D SAY THEY GOT A HELLUVA WRONG NUMBER.
LOOKED LIKE YOUR HANDIWORK. I'D BE CAREFUL, SOL. IF THE SOCIETY OF PROFES-
SIONAL ENGINEERS FINDS OUT ABOUT THIS, YOU COULD LOSE YOUR LICENSE.
"Maybe. Maybe not. A few of us are getting tired of being pushed around by
OK PAL. JUST A FRIENDLY WARNING.
I smiled as I signed off. Good old UNI, always worrying about rules. But Sol
Brannigan didn't get to be the top private "detechtive" in this burg by fol-
lowing the engineering manual.
While online, I decided to check the Tipsters' Computer Bulletin Board. A
file was downloaded for me, deep acces:
"Brannigan. Someone has been tampering with the Universal Product Code.
Prices are out of control. I just paid $37.95 for a single can of pear tomatos
at Big Midges Superette. And I had a coupon. Check it out."
This sounded serious. If some creep had scrambled the UPC, this country's
economy was in big trouble. I slipped my Craftmaster soldering gun into my
shoulder holster and headed for the door.
My first was a certain automated teller over at Penultimate Trust and Mort-
gage. Any financial scams, I figured, he would know. And he'd tell. I caught
the little weasel embezzling cash a few years ago. The evidence I had could put
him out of service--permanently.
I heard him clatter nervously as I approached. He spat out a deposit receipt.
It read, HELLO BRANNIGAN. NEED ANOTHER CASH ADVANCE?
"Nope just information. I heard some wise guys busted the UPC."
First he was quiet. Then his keys rattled like a roll on a snare drum.
IT WASN'T ME! I BEEN HERE 24 HOURS A DAY. ASK ANYBODY.
"Calm down. Who totals the receipts for Big Midge?"
OLIVETTI. I GUESS. SHE'S THE CHIEF ACCOUNTING UNIT. WORKS OUT OF A STOREFRONT
DOWN BY THE DOCKS.
I thanked him and checked my balance, just for laughs. Overdrawn as usual.
The address he gave me was in a tough neighborhood. I was glad to feel the
Craftmaster nestled against my ribs.
It was after hours, and the place was deserted, except for a bored looking
Macintosh with a foldout from Popular Electronics propped in front of his
I tapped on his keyboard, not too gently, "Where do I find Olive?"
IN THE BACK.
I found her all right. When I looked in her disk drives, what I saw made me
gag. Somebody had gotten to Olive first. Somebody with a pair of needle-nosed
pliers and a sick mind. Sur, she was first-generation, but she didn't deserve
I went back to the Macintosh.
"Was Olive involved with any other machines?"
CAN'T RECALL, GUMSHOE.
"A new memory board, and you can't remember a thing, right?"
I grabbed his cable and twisted, hard. All of a sudden his memory improved.
OK. OK. SHE WAS A HOT MODEL. SHE'D LINK UP WITH ANYTHING THAT HAD MORE THAN
64K. BUT WAS ONLY SERIOUS ABOUT ONE. SOME MAINFRAME WHO WORKED FOR THE CITY.
"Any visitors today?"
YEAH JUST BEFORE YOU. A GUY FLASHED HIS BADGE AND WENT BACK TO SEE HER.
"Thanks, Mac, you've been a big help."
I drove to the precinct and took the stairs to the basement two at a time.
"Hello UNI," I typed.
SOL. WHAT BRINGS YOU DOWNTOWN?
" You, UNI. You fed me that phony UPC story. You put me on a trail that
would lead to Big Midge's. And to Olive. You set me up to take the fall."
CAN'T PROVE A THING.
"Oh, yeah? My guess is you and she were interfacing hot and heavy. For you
it was love; but for here you were just another voltage spike. And you couldn't
take it. So you put through a work order for a P.D. technician to dismantle
AM I SUPPOSED TO CONFESS? YOU GOT NO EVIDENCE. YOU'RE A LITTLE THICK BETWEEN
THE EARS. BRANNIGAN. WHATS SOL SHORT FOR SOLENOID?
I pulled out the Craftmaster. "No," I said, "Solder"
SOL. YOU WOULDN'T.
But I did.
A few weeks later I was sitting in my office in my office when a message came
in from the precincts computer:
NICE WORK ON THE UNIVAC CAPER. STOP BY THE COMISSIONER'S OFFICE SOMETIME.
WE MIGHT HAVE A SLOT FOR YOU.
Ha! Sol Brannigan back on the force?
"Swell," I typed, "Have your machine call my machine."
"Cristopher Graybill is a hard boiled humorist who wields a mean Craftmaster."
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