Glover stepped over a pile of splintered wood and into the apartment of one of the most powerful people in the world. His partner, Hollister, met him at what was left of the door.
“Why in the Hell is there already press outside? How did they know this was an Ultra?” After 10 years as a detective, Daniel Glover was used to having meals interrupted, but wading past film crews before he even saw a body pissed him off.
“OctoZeus discovered the body. You know he always attracts attention, especially after he smashed through the door.”
Glover glared at his partner. “You mean especially when TMZ is slipping cops two grand for tips on Ultras.”
Hollister looked away, then said, “The body’s in here.” Glover followed his partner into the room, which was more like a movie theater than living space. An 80 inch flat screen TV was mounted on the wall, with more than a dozen speakers scattered around.
In the center of the room, the dead hero was naked, slumped over on a cream colored sofa.
“Give me the rundown of what you’ve got so far.”
Hollister opened his notebook, but didn’t read from it. “Victim is Ian Thomas Brill, better known as the Human Beam. A level 5 ultra with the ability to create constructs of crystallized light.”
“Yeah, yeah. I don’t need the stats from his goddamned trading card, fan boy.” Glover looked at the TV and noticed it was dark, but still powered on. “Maybe he finally died of embarrassment from calling himself ‘The Human Beam.’”
“When Brill didn’t show up for a scheduled meeting of the Honor Guard, O.Z. checked the place with his x-ray vision and saw the body. He punched through the door, but Brill’d been dead a while. It’s looking like he’s been dead since some time last night.”
“What happened to OctoZeus? You let him leave?”
“He… uh… said he heard an emergency signal.”
“Well, Hell, that’s okay, then. I need to try that next time the Captain calls me to his office. At a bare minimum, he destroyed evidence when he bashed the door in.”
“He thought he might be able to save him.”
“Yeah, and before that he was peeping into a private citizen’s apartment. You could have held him for that alone. I get that this is your first Ultra case, but you treat them like any other witness.”
Next to the body, Glover saw the TV remote. He pulled rubber gloves out of his jacket pocket and put them on as Hollister continued, “From what we can tell, the marks on his neck are consistent with strangulation, but it doesn’t look like it was done by hand and nothing nearby looks like it’s the weapon.”
To the right of the entertainment center, the lead tech walked out of the bedroom. She looked up from her tablet and nodded to Glover.
“Quiz time, Hollister. What are the known ways an Ultra can get into or out of a locked room?”
“Geez, there are a bunch. Teleportation or dimensional travel, using telekinesis on the lock, coming in under the door by shrinking or turning into a gas, ghosting through the wall.”
“Or floors or ceilings.”
“Doc Shock can travel through wires and… there’s one more.” Hollister looked around the room for ideas. “Time travel. Getting into the room when it wasn’t locked and then moving through time.”
“Any of those likely here?”
Hollister shook his head, “Not very.”
“Why not?” Glover picked up the TV remote and pressed the “Source” button. The screen came to life with the words “HDMI 1.”
“First, probabilities,” Hollister said. “Even without powers, locked room deaths happen all the time. If it’s not suicide, it’s from an illness or injury that’s not treated. Nobody bothers to lock a door after killing someone.”
“But this looks like strangulation.”
Hollister said, “True, but Brill was incredibly powerful and there’s no sign of a struggle. From what I’ve read, there’s a crystalline substance left behind when his solid light formations break apart. If he put up any kind of a fight, we’d see piles of the stuff.”
“Any sign of photonic residue, Jennings?”
The tech said, “Sure, there’s a bit of it all over the place, but that stuff’s like using glitter on a school project. Everyone he fought probably found it in their clothes for a month. His bedroom looks like the aftermath of a rave.”
Glover walked over to the entertainment center. “Any in larger quantities?” he asked. He felt around behind the TV, then used his hand to follow a thick cable to one of the cabinet’s lower shelves.
“Just that.” Jennings pointed to the victim’s upper chest and several small piles of sparkling dust. “Not enough to be from a fight. I already took samples.”
Glover pressed the power button on the Blu-Ray player, then another button to eject the disc. “So, he’s sitting here in his apartment. Naked. And someone strangles him without him fighting back.”
Hollister jumped back into the conversation. “I figure he was caught by surprise somehow. Maybe seduced or put into a trance. I can go through the list of Ultras he’s run into and see if any have that kind of power.”
As Glover pulled the disc out of the player, he said, “You’ve got a more important job, my friend. You’ve got to figure out how to tell his family he killed himself. And then come up with something for the press that’s not going to ruin the rep of one of your idols.”
“You think it’s suicide?”
“No.” He handed the disc to Jennings. “One thing your fan magazines don’t tell you is that these Ultras always have extreme tastes to try and live up to the rush they get from playing hero.”
He peeled the rubber gloves off and stuck them back into his pocket. “Looks like he was using his own powers for a little self-photonic asphyxiation and went too far.”