Mycroft Mysteries, Case #4, Part 4

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The rest of the morning slid away in the strange observation of Ms Mycroft. She exercised, but it was with a strange sullenness, a resentment of the tissues that made up her form. She swam, but seemed to spend as much time idly bobbing about in her pool with an annoyed expression on her face as, well, doing anything.

There wasn’t the data right now. There was edges of data, things she could reason through. She’d met Thelion, maybe? She knew of this kind of death. She knew details about the stock market, about their business interests. Was she really reconstructing everything in her head as she tried to reason around a small handful of possibilities? It seemed preposterous to Tally. Tally was a programmer – they liked to find the one point the code didn’t work, then eliminate every possible solution that wouldn’t work, until there was only one left. It seemed as Ms Mycroft swam, and casually ruminated about champagne and wine and Tally’s ability to swim.

It was as if, to solve a little unknown patch in the world, she was simulating the entire universe.

“It’s not that hard,” she said, idly stroking forwards in the water, past where Tally sat, wrap around their legs. “Really, much of what we know works by consistent principles and probabilities. You just have to observe the world around you, in as fine detail, and divine from that. It’s really quite Bayesian.”

“Um,”

“No, I know you don’t.”

“… Is this like, some sort of… of urban magic?” Tally lowered their voice.

She stopped short in the water, laughing. “If it was, I’d do more with it than just massage stock markets safely. I…” she stopped, resting her hand at the edge of the pool, lifting herself up, water sheeting off her, as she looked up at Tally. “I might fancy myself witch-empress of the world, and crush all these systems and stains beneath my heel.”

Tally realised they were holding their breath, and finally swallowed.

“…Of course not.” She sunk back into the water, laughing again. “God, ruling the world. Who wants to do that much work. No… I have ruled the events at the Thelion estate down to one of four possibilities of ascending likelihood. As we are given data, we will be able to eliminate several of them.”

“Wh-what kind of data?”

“Well, for a start, I believe some police report will eliminate one variable.”

“What, one?”

“Indeed.”

“… Uh, what variable is that?”

She turned again, bobbing in the water, arms idly windmilling under the water. “You know, if you try to flip to the end of the book, you won’t ever find the conclusion interesting.”

“… I… I mean, aren’t we trying to help solve a problem here?”

“We’re trying to solve a mystery.”

“I don’t… I mean… this isn’t really inconveniencing anyone.”

“Possibly.” She said, turning. “It might be finding someone who has committed a foul deed; it might be finding a murderer; it might be uncovering a sad legacy for whom nobody can speak.” She tilted her head back and dipped under the water, popping up again, a few strokes away. “Or maybe it’s just satisfying my curiosity. We won’t know until we do.”

Tally couldn’t help but imagine it was like code compiling.

*

“This is like watching paint dry.” Eris groaned from the front seat.

Jude looked down at his phone, turning the page again. “You’re getting paid to do nothing.”

“I know, I’m not getting paid enough to do nothing.”

Eris rocked back and forth on her heels. “So we can’t go inside. Without permission. And we can’t, what… Oo, is that your phone, Jude?”

*

Trying to explain network security – and its legality – was hard at the best of times. It was harder still dealing with Ms Mycroft, who was also casually insisting on sitting right next to Tally as they worked.

“Well, they’re kind of, uh, uploading the photos from their photographer to an unsecured ftp? Via a public wireless?”

“What’s that mean? We can look at them?”

“Okay, like, I can’t actually look at the photos without breaking the law. Right now I’m looking at the metadata.”

“And breaking the law would bother you.”

“… yes?”

“You do realise Jude punches people, that’s not very legal.”

“He does?”

“I don’t keep him around for his cooking.” She paused. “Well, okay, I keep him around for his cooking and other reasons. Punching is one of them.”

“I mean, uh. If I was there, if I had a device on that local wireless network, I could probably just walk into their open information and check out the photographs from the scene.”

“Basically, imagine if police photographs were being developed down at Walgreens.”

“Well, that’s obviously ridiculous.”

“And yet, it’s what a bunch of these guys do in smaller towns.”

“… And this is legal?”

“…Sssssort of.”

“I see.”

“Well, I mean… okay, if they left photographs on a table in a public space, it’s their fault, not ours. But it gets trickier when you deal with computers, because suddenly they put the word cyber in front of things and and, uh, yeah.” Tally sat back, nervously.

“Well, we’re not likely to use the photographs for anything.”

“Likely to-”

“This is about the elimination of a variable.”

“So we…”

Ms Mycroft reached across Tally and thumbed her phone, sitting on the desk face-up. It rang just once. “Jude? There’s a fast food… place slightly north of you. There are police there. Do go and hang around them.”

“Just hang around them?”

“Just hang around them. You can have some food, if you’d like.”

“There?”

“Goodness, you’re such a snob.” She said, thumbing the phone to stop the call.

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