Tischer paced the confines of his apartment and sighed.

"Take a vacation," they told him.

He tried to object, but they believed he needed time off and therefore he would be taking time off. They wanted him to relax, but they didn't understand... how could they?

Smithers, B shift's chief decker, might have an inkling. He tried calling him again, and got his voice mail. He sat drumming on the desk as Smithers read off the list of phone options. He gave the phone a startled look when the last bit of the message was dedicated to him.

"And if this is Tischer, hang up man, you're on vacation."

Tischer sighed and hung up the phone. So much for understanding...

He knew the others could handle just about anything that the city could dish out. No, what bothered him was the fact that his coworkers were getting to play with the cool puzzles while he was staring at paint under the guise of 'recharging his batteries.'

Didn't they understand? Nothing was more invigorating than a good mystery. He sighed-- it was the third day of his two week vacation. There was no way he was going to survive.

He wandered over to his own computer and turned it on. It wasn't nearly as advanced as the system he'd built up at the station. Of course, if he ever got fired... most of the equipment on the work box would come home with him since they were things he'd either bought, developed or modified.

Still it didn't do him any good right now. There wasn't that much he could do here... not without serious repercussions. The threat of 2 weeks without his computer was bad enough. A two year term, or worse, losing his job and the challenges that went with it would kill him and he knew it. It was the only thing that kept him from looking for 'extra curricular' activities. He was beginning to rethink that when his pager went off.

With a smile he sat upright and read the number. It was dispatch. Two phone calls later he was downtown viewing the crime scene.

A man lay dead in front of his computer, an apparent suicide. Tischer sighed as he had to flash his ID to the officer at the door. He'd been on vacation for three days and they were already carding him.

When he entered one of the detectives was reaching for the man's computer.

"Don't touch that!"

The man froze and scowled at him for a minute. "Tischer, I thought you were on vacation."

Tischer looked at the man as he tried to remember his name. "Valentine... I'm gone three days and you forget everything I teach you?"

"I was just going to ..."

"Do nothing until your computer specialist tells you otherwise," Tischer finished.

"Yeah.. " Valentine agreed sheepishly.

Tischer nodded. "Good. I'd hate to think we were going to have to repeat 'Tischer 101.'"

"Me too," Valentine muttered under his breath as he wandered away.

The comment made Tischer smile, then he settled down to his work. He quickly photographed the system's layout, and then each individual piece. When he was finished, he photographed the document, still displayed on the monitor. It was the man's suicide note.

That finished, he dumped the contents of the machine's volatile memory to his evidence machine, logged it, and placed it back in it's shielded case before proceeding.

He took one more look at the suicide note, scrolled to the end and then unplugged the machine.

Satisfied that his work here was done, Tischer stood and walked over to Valentine.

"When your guys are done checking for prints.. have them send the computer to me. Also if he has a pocket secretary... I'll want to see that too...."

Valentine nodded. "Sorry 'bout your vacation man, but the others were booked."

"Don't worry about it," Tischer answered with a smile. Valentine had no idea of the hell he'd rescued Tischer from. "I'll be in my office."

Tischer studied the photos and holo pics of the crime scene as he waited for the computer to arrive. Something was wrong, but he couldn't put his finger on it. It was just... wrong.

After five more minutes of mulling over the pictures he finally realized what was bothering him-- the complete lack of personal items on the desk, on the computer... the only program that was running was the word processor the man had used... it just didn't add up, unless the man was that much of a tried and true company man.

He looked at his own desk for a moment. The half eaten carton of Chinese food sitting on top of a pile of old reports, the toys that had gravitated there over the years... it all spoke of someone who all but lived in front of the computer.

According to the preliminary reports, Philip Hargrove was a long time employee of GenSystems, Inc. According to his suicide note, it was his dedication to the job and the company that had caused his wife to leave him, yet the office was... sterile.

Unless Hargrove was a good corporate drone... there would have been something... and if he was such a good little worker bee... destroying a company asset would be... unthinkable.

And then there was the memory dump he'd performed. Sterile was the only word for that. From the looks of things, the machine had been turned on with the sole purpose of writing the note... it just didn't fit, even with Tischer's warped sense of reality... it didn't fit.

He picked up the model plane from his file box and spun its propeller as he mulled over what he'd seen. There was nothing else to do but wait.

It took the investigative team almost three hours to clear the computer and get it down to Tischer's lab. Between dusting it for prints and vacuuming it for trace evidence they'd done everything they could before handing it over to him, but now... it was his turn.

As he cracked his knuckles and prepared to begin the real work, Valentine stuck his head in Tischer's office.

"Tischer. I hate to rush you... but we need to report to the chief in one hour."

That made Tischer sit up straight. "One hour? What gives?"

"GenSystems had a very insurance policy on Hargrove. Then need the money..."

Tischer sighed. "Well, I can tell you nothing really fits right now... hopefully I can tell you more in a little while..."

Valentine nodded. "I knew I could count on you."

Tischer grinned and shook his head as Valentine wandered down the hall, secure in the knowledge that he'd manipulated him into doing exactly what he wanted to do.

As Tischer began the optical scans on the hardware he went back to the photos and started looking again. He knew that something was wrong... all he needed was a direction to take it.

By the time Valentine returned, he had a reason to be suspicious.

"So, what do you have for me?" Valentine asked.

"I don't think it was a suicide."

Valentine was slightly surprised by Tischer's response. "What makes you say that?"

Tischer snorted. "Let me ask you a question..."

"Okay," Valentine answered, enunciating each syllable.

"Okay... you're despondent. Your wife has left you... your project is failing... everybody's counting on you and you can't take the pressure anymore..."

Valentine nodded, waiting for the question.

"You decide to leave a suicide note so there are no... unanswered questions....."

Again Valentine nodded.

"How many times do you revise the note before you print it?"

Copyright 2001 - M.T. Decker

Valentine's Day
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