Chapter 6: The Precinct
Collins had linked about 5 odd cases, by date and location. His mind raced through all the cases over the years. Most had very simple answers. Few crimes are well-planned, so usually the simplest explanation was correct. These incidents were routine. But after the Chinatown incident, and now his visit to the Institute, his skin would not stop crawling.
He submitted a request to mine cell phone records. He was given access to one technician, half-time for a month, as a bit of a department indulgence. He schlepped his files to the basement and was not at all surprised to find Alexander, a bearded 28-year old computer technician, surrounded by soda cans, technical magazines, and half-disassembled computer hard drives. “Perfect!” He thought to himself.
Alexander swiveled around and scooted his chair forward, “Nice to meet a real detective! How can I help?”
Collins indicated he could not shake hands with all the folders in his arms. The intern tried to tidy up a corner of his desk, while apologizing.
“Look, son. I don’t have much but some places, names, and dates. The names are all people who died in the last 3 years, so I’m not expecting much on them. I was hoping you could find any systems-related events: Weather, power, phone service, etc. For now, I have no warrant, so we can only search the aggregated data, ok?”
Alexander looked disappointed, “You can’t do much statistics with only 5 data points, you know. There will be no pattern for weather, time of day.”
“I also would like any video records you can pull. I am trying to get face pics of any of the suspects.”
“Didn’t anyone do this already?”
“No. most of these are misdemeanor assault, battery, endangerments, etc. I am following a lead that this might be a gang of some kind. It might only be a series of frat pranks, as far as I know. Hence, no warrants, no NSA access, just whatever you can find. Start with trying to find anything on these two kids who ransacked Chinatown.”
“Also, this one.” He showed him a dark, blurry cell phone photo. Someone apparently picked a fight with a whole bar; about 5 guys beat the crap out of him and threw him out the back. Eye witnesses said he was like a man possessed: smiling and laughing the whole time.”
“I don’t think so. More like liquid courage. Anyway, two of the men needed stitches, and one is still in intensive care. Bystanders went out to help but found nothing. There was no blood at the on the back steps. Can you look for hospital records, to see if he showed up anywhere?”
“I read about the suicide. Other than the guys’ sense of style, what is interesting?”
“I think he knew some of the others.” Collins left it at that. He was hoping to keep Alex motivated enough to do a thorough job. “Look, I know it is not much right now. Consider this a practice round. I am going upstairs to check on a dozen more incidents. I bring them in a day or two, then we can both look at the Art of the Possible.”
This piqued Alexander’s interest, “Cool. I get you examples of what we can search by then. If you wait a second…” He had already started typing in GPS coordinates of the 5 scenes, overlaid subway and street traffic… nothing interesting. Hold on. This takes a bit longer. I’m going to try to get phone and internet.”
Collins pulled up a chair. Alexander pulled up internet traffic across all Manhattan, marked the four spots, and played a few days of video. “Hey! Check this out! You see these small black outs? This is when Internet Service probably dropped. And we have two of them in short succession on either side of each of these 5 cases. Seems like there is about 2 hours between them. Though look how common it is. Not a lot to go on…”
“Collins gave him Dr. Fenster’s business card. Can you zoom in on everything within a mile of this address?”
Alex did, and they re-watched a few more times. “I count about 10 pairs of outages; five of them near your scenes.”
Collins clearly saw the second of one pair centered at the elevator shaft near Madison avenue. “Do you have anything other than Red Bull down here?”