Detective Robert Wexler pushed the button and announced himself over the intercom. A female voice answered, and unlocked the door. "Third door on the left." Wexler proceeded down the hallway, found the third door on the left, and found Dr. Laura Hutcherson, Medical Examiner for the Southeastern Pennsylvania-Northern Delaware police district, dressed in green surgical scrubs, drying her hands. He looked at the body on the table.
"Hi, Bob," she said, smiling. "How are things?"
"No complaints, Laura. Yourself?"
"Good as gold and better."
"What have you got for me?" asked Detective Wexler.
"Sorry, not a lot," said the Dr., frowning. "Cause of death: Cardiac Arrest. The boy had a heart attack. No signs of violence. No nothing. Just a plain, boring, simple heart attack."
Robert Wexler looked at the body, sheet covering it to the neck, on the examination table. The deceased was sixteen. He was slim, fair-skinned, and had light brown hair. He was good looking. Wexler had trouble believing that this young kid had died from a simple heart attack at his age.
The detective turned to the water cooler and poured himself a cup of the cool water. He gulped it down, took a second, and gulped that as well. Then he turned back to Dr. Hutcherson and smiled.
"Laura," he began, "I've heard of young men falling over and dying during training for sports. That happens on occasion. But I never heard of anyone having a heart attack because of this."
"What was the lad doing, Bob?"
"DreamGaming. Every try it?"
"Sure," said the M.E. "Twice, in fact. Not quite my cup of tea. I'm not experienced in it, but I don't see how it would cause a cardiac arrest."
"Me neither," said Detective Wexler. "But I've never dreamgamed. Well, let me get my report back to the DA. I'm sure they will close this. Write it off as death by natural causes."
The two professionals said good-bye, and Wexler found his way out and to his car. He headed back to his office.
Robert Wexler had entered the police as a uniformed officer right out of the military. He went to school in his spare time and got a degree in Criminal Justice from Villanova University. About three months after he got his degree, he took the examination for detective and passed with straight A's. He now had his shield; assigned to the Vice Squad in Philadelphia.
He married, settled down in Center City, and planned to start a family. He was a good detective. However, he made two mistakes. In both cases, he stepped on the toes of one, a judge, and two, a politician.
The first mistake was an investigation into a high-class call girl and prostitution ring. The ring catered to the very wealthy of the area. Wexler's intuition told him there was just a bit more than gorgeous and expensive girls working. He never got to test the theory. A judge was providing protection and getting the services of the girls at a reduced rate. Wexler put a dent in the operation. Publicly, he received a citation. Privately, he received a reprimand.
The second was a gambling ring. The operation was outside of the local areas designated for casinos, and was high-stakes. Wexler was working with National Drug Enforcement on this case. There was no hard evidence, but it appeared a drug lord was running the gambling. Wexler was getting close on the case when he pulled off the investigation. He had stepped on the toes of a politician.
Detective Robert Wexler was given a new assignment and that assignment was to the suburban unit in Southeastern Pa and Northern DE. It was slow, boring, and a demotion. His wife left him. She was upset with his political naÃ¯veté and his determination to always "do the right thing." She wanted him promoted and behind a desk, making good money, when their children were growing. That would not happen with his ambition and attitude. They divorced one year after their separation.
The demotion, coupled with the loss of his wife, hurt Wexler greatly. He still did his job, and did it well, but the old ambition and drive were gone. He rented a cheap apartment. He put on weight and gained a bit of a belly. He wore his clothes, which were now bargain-basement and thrift shop, until they were threadbare. At age forty-two, he looked fifty-two and was fairly worn out.
Wexler entered his office in Aston, PA, grabbed a coffee, and went to his desk. He logged into his terminal and keyed his report. He checked his spelling, reread it, and shipped it off to his lieutenant. Then he sat back and thought.
Robert Wexler had four days off coming, and no new cases on the file. He knew very little about dreamgaming. The technology had been developed at a lab on the west coast. It was originally designed as a training simulation for pilots running ore freighters in and out of the asteroid belt. In the past twenty-five years, it had attracted a sizable amount of advocates. Wexler decided he would look a little closer at dreamgaming during the next four days.
Detective Wexler powered down his terminal and washed out his coffee mug. Then he headed home for some dinner. He had made his decision. This evening he would research dreamgaming a bit on his home terminal. Then, tomorrow he would take the train into Center City, to the DreamGame Salon. It was as good as a place to start as any other.