Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

A breeze blows down the alley, sweeping past the small crowd, ruffling the blonde hair that lies across the tarmac like a discarded wig. Detective Blake wished it was just that, and not flowing locks attached to a beautiful corpse.

“Did anyone see her enter this alley?”

Blake turned his head to see his partner, Neville, striding towards him. He smiled as he replied: “Yes. They said she was on her phone.”

“Is the phone dead?”


“Then ask again. Was she on her phone or looking at it?”

Blake walked down the alley to where the witnesses were being held. A few minutes later, he came back.

“Majority agree it was more likely she was looking at it than using it.”

“How long was she out of sight for?”

“A couple of minutes. Witnesses heard a scream, came over, looked, then called 999.”

“Any idea who she is or what she does?”

“We were thinking an intern at one of the hedge funds, given the difficulty we’re having getting her ID clarified.”

Neville nodded, crouching to examine the body and the immediate vicinity more closely.

“I gather we don’t have a corporate swipe card or similar?”

Blake sank slowly into a crouch, his knee exos whining.

Neville looked at the knee nearest to him: “Departmental politics over maintenance budgets again?”

“Yes. At least it’s only my knees.”

“Trying times. I’ll have a word. Can’t have the muscle of this partnership being anything less than intimidating.”

Blake chuckled: “Thanks. Now, how about some solving? You’ve been here over ten minutes.”

Neville grinned: “Tell me what you see, detective.”

Blake nodded: “Single white female, early twenties, top-of-the-line headware, fashionable but not haut couture clothing, last year’s FlexFone – flatlined – forty quid in legal scrip still in her purse. Killed by a trio of stab wounds under her left breast.”

Neville looked up at the walls of the alley: “Check the rooftops either side. One of them will show traces of gravtac boots – if we’re ridiculously lucky, they’ll be genuine issue and leave a tag. Meanwhile, get tech to track the activity on her phone. Sometime in the last week she received an update for Nochemor, or a Trojan that pretended to update her corporate ID while patching her install of that game. Either way, it didn’t come from official servers. Track the spoof update to its point of origin and we’ll have the loon who knifed her, or someone who knows the loon’s identity. But I reckon the loon is a colleague.”

Blake folded his arms: “Consider yourself applauded. Now explain.”

“She was playing Nochemor Strays. It’s an augmented reality expansion that allows you to follow clues to find virtual beasts or treasure caches in the real world, using the camera in your phone, or in your headware if you’re rich enough – she wasn’t. The murderer hacked her game and it led her to him. I’d guess the exploit came via her corporate ID, as faking a Nochemor game server is hellaciously difficult. After killing her, he used gravtac boots to rise out of sight before witnesses arrived, then headed back to work. You’ll find the phone was erased after she died – an afterthought, which is why I reckon the murderer returned to work. Oh, we also need to notify Nochemor’s creators, just to make sure.”

Blake nodded: “And cybercrimes. That patch is worth a fortune to perverts with a need.”

Neville grimaced: “Sadly true.”

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