After The Storm
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After The Storm

How Can I Help You, Mr. Tanaka?

A new partner for the best time-traveling detective in the precinct.

By Ross Sneddon on Unsplash.

Inside The Precinct Of The Best Time-Traveling Detectives

“Here, boss. The new guy,” says Elizabeth, presenting Busque to the director of the finest precinct in the time-traveling agency.

The director is having a difficult discussion on the phone. He doesn’t answer Elizabeth just yet, “I don’t care if he is the best chess player, a best-selling writer, or the richest motherfucker in the world. We want better detectives! Not more of the same shitty people that artificial intelligence is putting in here!”

Elizabeth whispers to Busque, “he is not speaking about you.”

Busque laughs. “I know… I used to be a bank robber.”

Elizabeth laughs, not believing him. She couldn’t imagine that someone so calm and polite could be a professional criminal.

The director finishes the call and dismisses Elizabeth. “Thanks, Elizabeth, now you can go back to your team.”

Elizabeth, “ok, boss. Good luck, Busque.”

The director, “well, Busque… Things work differently in this precinct. We pick up from where our AIs and scientists can’t make any more progress. For example, based on historical evidence, they say there was a woman called Fujiko in Hiroshima before the bomb, but they don’t know how many men were in love with her and why that’s important to events outside that place. Solving things like that are very important to all of our simulations, and to all of our predictions, and that’s what we do here.”

Busque looks at those pictures on the wall of many academic people and feels intimidated, “interesting, but are you sure I can help here, sir?”

The director points to one of the pictures on the wall, “Mr. Tanaka. He is the best detective we have here. He used to be a key maker. He is more than 60 years old and declares himself a cinephile. He loves this job. He passes hours registering a few facts about some random person in our historical simulation archive; then, he writes some good predictions. He is doing a far better job than mathematicians, psychologists, and all other sorts of academics here.”

Busque, “interesting.”

The director, “well, and you are here because Mr. Tanaka is considering you as his new partner. Simulation area 9634. Go check him out.”

Learning From The Best

Busque enters the office of Mr. Tanaka.

Busque, “Mr. Tanaka?”

Mr. Tanaka, “yes?”

Busque, “I was told you needed a new partner.”

Mr. Tanaka, “Oh! Busque, right? I was waiting for you. Take a look here.”

Busque comes close, and Tanaka shows some old photographs.

Mr. Tanaka, “It’s very easy to work with me. This is how it works: I build a case for you. You observe a few people from the past, and try to discover what is missing. In this case here, we must discover what made this mother distracted while driving her car, causing a car accident that killed her and her daughter. Do you think you can do it?”

Busque, “To be honest, why me?”

Mr. Tanaka, “My first partner, was a pervert and an asshole. All he could think was sex. I chose him because all I wanted to do was prove him wrong. But sometimes I couldn’t, and that really pissed me off. That’s why I dumped him. And you seem like a smart guy. Street smart and polite. Your profile says you were an excellent jewelry robber. Plus, I used to be a key maker or lock maker, and you were a lock breaker. So, I thought maybe we could be good partners.”

Busque likes the sound of that.

Mr. Tanaka, “now, let’s see how it goes. You have two weeks to bring me more details about what you think may help us complete the simulation of that woman’s history.”

Busque, “Do you have any clues?”

Mr. Tanaka, “according to what our simulation says, based on the car movement across the town, the breaks were functioning just fine, she wasn’t using her cellphone, and she always drove safely. Nevertheless, something happened, and I would like to, at least, know if it was something inside the car or outside.”

Busque, “Ok. I know the drill. I will check everything I can.”

Two Weeks Later

Busque enters Tanaka’s office.

Mr. Tanaka, “So?”

Busque shows some files with photographs and text messages, “the mother once was with a guy when they were teenagers. For lack of imagination or lack of love, they decided to no longer be together. He was not rich as her husband (the father of her daughter) was, but he was exciting. I know this because once a friend sent her photos of them together when they were teenagers, and both seemed very happy. They were laughing, smiling, loose. It seems they were a fantastic couple. And she only spoke very nicely about him with her friend. That’s what I could read in her text messages of two years prior to the accident.”

Busque shows a recording of the accident with his cellphone to Mr. Tanaka and focuses on a mysterious person, “now, on the day of the accident, I think that guy she was with when they were young was walking on the other side of the street. She noticed him, got distracted, and I think that provoked the accident.”

Mr. Tanaka, “you know you may be forcing a coincidence here, right? What does our simulation of the city say?”

Busque, “well, it says it’s not him on the other side of the street…”

Mr. Tanaka, “so you want to change things in the simulation just because of a romance?”

Busque, “I asked myself the same question, but… Watching her routine made me feel anxious. It was like she was in a cage with no adventure. She had a smiling family and friends, but I think she wanted more. More than weekend alcohol, a tedious husband, and gossip. So I think seconds before the accident she blinked her eyes, the traffic lights became red, and when she opened them she was covered by the red lights. She saw that man on the other side of the street and she didn’t stop because it felt good seeing him and then the accident happened.”

Mr. Tanaka, “who is the guy?”

Busque, “Henry Paulman. He is still alive. 96 years old.”

Mr. Tanaka, “did you talk to him?”

Busque, “yes, I did.”

Henry Paulman

“He was in a hospital. I almost didn’t have the courage to enter the room, but I did. I brought him flowers. I said I was a scientist, told him a joke, and then told him I was studying his life. He asked me what I thought about it, and I told him it was like reading a book with good thoughts and heartfelt decisions.”

Mr. Tanaka, “I bet you tell that to everyone.”

“Not always… Then I asked if he ever witnessed a car accident.”

“Why are you asking me that?“ He replied.

“I explained that our simulations use phone locations to track where people were in the past, and I was having doubts about his location on one particular day. It was the day of a car accident that occurred more than 60 years ago. He told me he was never curious about car accidents, and I think this explains why that guy on the other side of the street didn’t turn back when he heard the crash. And he also said sometimes he didn’t walk with his phone, which would explain why our simulation says it was not him on the other side of the street.”

Mr. Tanaka, “you didn’t ask him about her?”

“Well… I did.”

Busque, “when you were a teenager, you had this girlfriend. Did you love her?”

Paulman, “desperately. More than I would like to. But please… Don’t tell my wife that.”

He laughed then coughed. I thanked him. I said he had a happy life, and I left.



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A.P. Bird

M.A. in Philosophy. Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and a King Kong graphic novel got me into science fiction when I was a kid.