The Canary Maker

Part 2

by Daibhid Ceannaideach

General Disclaimer

Part two, finally!
As we sped off in Lestrade's cruiser, Holmes remained tight-lipped as to why he wanted to visit the Wilsons. "The case has certain unique qualities," was all he would say. I briefly wondered if he was claiming interest merely because Lestrade had dismissed it as unimportant, but decided he wouldn't be that petty. From the expression on the inspector's face, however, I judged she wasn't so certain.
We arrived in Deptford, on the outskirts of New London's Tech- Sector, and Lestrade landed the cruiser outside the Wilsons' house. A thin, middle-aged man in a technician's lab coat bustled out to great us. This, I assumed, was Theo Wilson.
"Inspector, how good to see you again." he said. "And, my word, this must be Sherlock Holmes!" He moved as if to shake Holmes' hand, before realising he was holding a microspanner and quickly transferring it to the other hand. As they shook hands he turned to me. "And Dr Watson. A Model 7 Law Enforcement Compudroid with the personality of a Victorian medical doctor. Amazing."
"Yes," I said, "Lestrade told us you were a roboticist."
"I dabble." he admitted. "Robot canaries are simple enough compared to..."
"Robot *canaries*?" repeated Holmes in surprise.
"Why, yes. Didn't the inspector tell you? Well, I daresay she thought it irrelevant.
"You see, a lot of people suffer from insomnia. A few of them, for some reason or another, don't like taking sleep-meds. They can play something relaxing through the room's sound system, perhaps, but either it goes on all night, which wastes energy and isn't conductive to a good night's rest, or they have to deactivate it before they go to sleep. My canaries can detect alpha waves and respond to them. They find the exact pitch and rhythm their owner finds most soothing, and can sense when their owner is sleeping and enter standby mode themselves."
"Fascinating," said Holmes, apparently sincerely. It seemed a lot of trouble to go to as far as I could see, but then sleep was something I only knew of second hand. "And, I'm sure, more rewarding than your former work for the holocine industry."
Wilson hesitated. "How did you know that?" he asked guardedly.
"There's a slight discolouration on the lapel of your lab coat. It's shape suggests the logo of Technological Magic; one of Holowood's biggest special effects firms. The lab coat once belonged to the company, therefore its current owner once worked for them."
"Ah, of course. Well, yes, I did spend a while working with them, but I left some time ago. Differences of opinion."
As we entered the house, Holmes appeared to be about to ask another question, but was interrupted by the young woman waiting for us.
"Uncle Theo, who are these people?" she demanded.
"This is Inspector Lestrade. You remember, I told you I was talking to her. And her companions are the famous Sherlock Holmes and Watson."
"Hi... Jen, is it?" said Lestrade. "Your uncle tells us you're feeling a bit uncomfortable..."
"Of course I am! I know he thinks it's silly, but my mum and brother both died here! I'm selling up, and buying a ticket on the lunar shuttle and a flat in Galileo City!" She turned to Holmes. "I suppose you think it's all in my mind as well, Mr Holmes?"
Holmes almost took a step back at the force of her frustration- driven anger. "Forgive me, it seems I do not yet have all the facts. That all *what* is in your mind, Miss Wilson?"
It was Theo Wilson who answered, "Since her mother's death, Jen thinks she hears strange noises in the night."
"I don't 'think'," Jen insisted. "I know I hear them!"
Holmes held up a hand. "It might be best if you show us around the house." he suggested.
"An excellent idea," said Wilson. "We'll start with the room where... that is, with Phillip's room."
Phillip Wilson's room appeared to be perfectly ordinary. Holmes examined it carefully. "Would I be right in assuming your brother suffered from sleeplessness?" he asked.
"Well, yeah," replied Jen. "We both inherited it from our mother, as well as the heart problem. How did you...?"
"The comp-console log shows it was often used extremely late at night." Holmes explained. "And also..." He guestured to a T-shaped plastic form beside the bed. "A perch for one of your uncle's mechanical songsters, I assume."
"Oh, of course," the girl shook her head, "For a moment I thought you'd done something clever."
"Well," said Holmes abruptly, "This room appears to be devoid of secrets... except for those curious scratches on the bedside table."
I looked. It was quite true. There was a pattern of scratches in the veneer of the table. "Probably a malfunction by the cleaning bot," suggested Wilson. "I'd reprogram it myself if it didn't invalidate the warranty."
Holmes was still looking at the table. "That's a curious lamp," he commented. Indeed, the bedside light was rather bulky and ungainly, with odd nodules surrounding the illumination bulb. Holmes switched it on, creating a soft blue light.
"It's Uncle Theo's own design," said Jen. "It's designed to prevent eyestrain, which is a contributing factor in insomnia."
"I see," said Holmes, "Well, I think there's nothing more here."
We examined the late mother's room, and found it much the same. The same basic design, the same comp-console, the same lamp, the same perch... and the same scratches on the bedside table, which Holmes once again studied carefully, before murmuring, "Curious."
"Well," he said as he straightened. "That seems to be everything. I can find nothing that supports your fears, Miss Wilson."
"I don't care, Mr Holmes. I've made up my mind, I can't stay here. I'm sorry, Uncle Theo, but I just can't." And with that the girl stormed off.
"Well, that went well." Lestrade commented dryly.

On to Part 3!
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