These hotels had begun to pop up in all the large cities - and Akron, Ohio for some reason - and were becoming very popular among the richest of the rich.
They were colloquially known as the White Hotels, although they were, on paper, called something different. But they lived up to their name. Everything about them was as white as possible. Floors, linen, walls, doors, exterior, everything was white. The hotels advertised that everything was clean all the time. And, to their credit, 99% of the time, everything was kept immaculate. Obviously, the cleaning staff were very well paid.
“So, tell me,” Anderson started, sighing heavily, already sick of what the explanation was. “How the hell did this happen?”
“The cleaners, sir.”
Paul Anderson had just arrived at the LA White Hotel. It was an 18 story pure white obelisk just outside downtown. He was something of a cop, although he wasn't prone to explaining his job, he mostly just said he worked with the LAPD.
He stood at the door of room 1504 where the police had been called to deal with what the manager of the hotel called a ‘death, but probably not a murder, I mean it’s the White, right?’
The problem was that the room was clean. Very clean, too clean. The sheets had been changed, the walls had been washed, the floors had been mopped and in the middle of all this, tucked into bed looking calm and for all the world if she was asleep, lay the body.
According to the hotel records, there had been no one in this room for almost a week. The other residents of the hotel had reported nothing odd and the cleaners from the night before weren't able to be contacted via any means.
“Alright, who is she?” Anderson asked to the room.
“We’re not sure.”
“Ok, next question, how long has she been here?”
“Forensics believe she died somewhere between 12 and 24 hours ago.”
“Someones down in the basement going through that now.”
“It’s where they keep the stuff the patrons aren't supposed to see.”
“Ah, fine. I'm heading down there. Send someone down to me the moment anything changes.”
Behind the lobby of the White Hotel is the staff room, a place for meal breaks and rest and relaxation for the two dozen or so workers the hotel has working on any given day, not including the cleaners. At the rear of this lavish and overly comfortable room there are the staff bathrooms where a single door opens to a hallway with three further doors: male, female and one that is unlabelled and always locked.
Up until this point, the aesthetic of the hotel doesn't change and even beyond the male and female doors the theme applies. But beyond the third door the lights are dimmer and the walls are bare brick.
Immediately beyond this third door, a flight of a dozen or so stairs leads down to another door, a simple sky blue one with a handle and no lock. On it, at eye level, is a sign which reads “HOTEL INFRASTRUCTURE. NO UNAUTHORISED ACCESS.” The door was open and Anderson could hear voices beyond.
“What the hell does that mean?” one of them yelled.
“There's nothing there!” a second answered angrily.
“This is ridiculous, I'm getting Anderson,” the first said, and a chair was heard scraping back on the concrete floor.
“No need to go anywhere, I'm already here,” Anderson said, walking around from behind a server rack.
“Paul, good. Look at this, will you?”
“Look at what?” Anderson had been momentarily distracted by the multiple server racks that the three of them were in the middle of. He had been working with the cops on all sorts of cases for a long time and he had never seen a hotel need so much IT equipment. He made a mental note to bring it up with the manager later.
“CCTV footage. There's something weird about it.”
The man, who Anderson only knew as Rick, pulled up the video from the day before. “We started back here, the night before last, to see if we could see when the girl arrived at the hotel.”
“Look here,” Rick pointed at the front door of the hotel. As Anderson watched, a group of five or six people gathered around the door and looked to be roughhousing with each other. Before too long, a burly security guard exited the hotel lobby and the fighters disbanded and took off, except for one who the guard brought inside. It was hard to tell from the CCTV but Anderson could already tell it wasn't the girl upstairs.
“What about it?” Anderson asked. “It’s not her.”
“No,” the other guy said. “But we asked the guard about the incident – he was on again last night and we’ve got him back at the station for questioning – and he said he doesn't remember the event. We showed him the footage, but he claims he’s forgotten it.”
“Fine, another mystery. It’s unrelated to the girl. What were you two arguing about before I got here though?”
“Floor fifteen. There's a camera that points down the hall and has a perfect angle of room four. We scrolled through the footage backwards and the girl doesn't appear in it at all.”
“Not that we saw.”
“How far back did you go?”
“Show me 24 hours ago.”
Rick sped through the footage and brought up the camera at normal speed at 7am the day before. Anderson watched in silence, raising a finger if either of the others made a move to say something. He grabbed the mouse and scrolled back over a few seconds of footage just before 8 and made a noise of frustration before giving back control to the other two.
“What?” the one who was not Rick asked.
“The footage has been cut. Look,” Anderson showed them the spot just before 8 and pointed at a clock at the far end of the hallway which jolted from 7.54 to 7.58 between frames. “Someone came down here and altered the CCTV. You'll find the same cut when she and whoever else is involved entered the hotel. Find those cuts. Go all the way back until the front door closed the night before last. Maybe around the time of that other girl? I don’t know. Call me when you're done.”
Anderson left and pulled his phone out of his pocket and instantly it began to ring. “Anderson,” he said.
“Paul, hey, its Stevie upstairs.”
“What is it?”
“We have a hit on the girl’s ID.”
“Lay it on me.”
“She’s a service droid, a bot.”
“And who is she registered with?”
“Would you believe you, Sir?”