Even before Michael Morse spotted the body, the idea of creating a simulation of the scene occurred to him. At sunset, the panoramic view of Laguna Beach was awe-inspiring. He wondered if he could render it convincingly in his model, the virtual reality model which he had been developing in the back of his garage for months, until the recent acquisition of his software by a military ops company.
Could beauty be taken apart without loss of emotional impact? Could its data be synthesized, somehow, into a lifelike experience? In short, could he apply his analytical skills to fool his own senses?
For now, these were purely academic questions. They occupied his mind, which helped him forget his loneliness. Michael brought his car to a stop at the corner of Cliff Drive and let it maneuver by itself into a tight parking spot. In all probability, this evening would be uneventful, or so he thought. It was the end of April. He had nothing to do and no one to do it with.
Sitting there awhile, lost in his thoughts, how was he to know that in the coming days he was going to revisit this place, starting at this particular intersection, to examine every possible angle, every conceivable point of view?
The shadow of the lamppost grew longer. It prowled over to the pavement on the other side, where it lost its sharpness. The evening breeze turned overhead with a shriek, only to fall into a whoosh. Michael imagined it whispering, of all things, of murder at dusk. What a crazy idea! Where did that come from?
At 8:03pm came the sound of footfalls. A teenage girl was walking down the street so fast that the uneven click of her heels was already passing him by, leaving a faint whiff of perfume. No, that must have been some other fragrance, perhaps the saltiness of the sea, drifting over the sweetness of creek milkweeds and Belladonna lilies.
Where had he seen her before?
By the time he got out of the car, the girl had already crossed to the other side. With each step, the white dress whipped across her legs and fluttered, fold upon fold, in the cold wind.
His soles beat an echo in the empty street. He didn’t mind the occasional squeak, because he had just bought them.
Electric lights buzzed in the buildings behind him, and foxtail ferns hissed, swaying along the trail. Her shadow flitted over the shrubs, falling farther and farther out of reach.
Before reaching the bend, she glanced over her shoulder and for a heartbeat, met his eyes. In some ways she reminded him of his ex-girlfriend, Ash, whom he hadn’t seen since the incident. What was it that drew him to this girl? Why was he looking, time and again, to save a damsel in distress?
There was a certain quality about that look, which he couldn’t put into words. Anguish? No, it was more acute than that. The closest he could name it was fear.
She gathered her skirt about her and hurried down the trail, swaying unsteadily on her feet. It was then that he saw the stain at the back of her dress. Was it blood?
The path was tortuous, and so were his thoughts. Should he call out to her, ask if she needed help? And if he did, would she find it annoying, suspicious even?
Why was he trying to catch up to a girl who wanted to be left alone? Would other passersby question his motives? If they did, he wouldn’t know how to answer, except to say that he was obeying some inexplicable instinct.
A twig snapped behind him, and some leaves started swishing at his far left. By a sudden torment of imagination he felt, for the first time, as if he was the one being watched. Was he being followed? By whom?
(Volume I of High-Tech Crime Solvers)
Haunted by discovering the body of a beautiful dancer, Michael creates a virtual reality simulation of her murder. Can he bring the mystery to life? Can he solve it in time, before the killer turns on the woman he loves, Ash?
This is a totally satisfying venture into the use of virtual reality within crime scene investigation. It is new, refreshing, and unique in mystery
~Glenda, VINE VOICE
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