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The Cold Case Geniuses
About the Author: David Krugler has two stories in Mystery Magazine: "Two Sharks Walk into a Bar" (September 2022) and "Every Fire Wants to Kill" (August 2023). Another story, "Kit's Pad," appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. "Two Sharks Walk Into A Bar" is also included in The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2023.

An hour before the launch of their new app, ColdCaseGenius, Matthew and Jeremy were supposed to be checking the code one last time. Instead, an intruder brandishing a handgun and wearing a rubber Richard Nixon mask had zip-tied them to their office chairs. He wore crisp blue jeans and a beige chore jacket, the kind hipsters thought farmers wore.

“We don’t have any money,” Jeremy sputtered.

“No kidding.” The intruder glanced around their office. His expression was inscrutable because of the mask, but Matthew imagined he wasn’t impressed. The space was small and shabby. Paint peeled from the ceiling corners, the desks had chipped tops, and the linoleum floor crackled with every step. A metal shelving unit they found in the alley was piled high with computer components—hard drives, keyboards, monitors—and Jeremy’s collection of obsolete hardware. Cords dangled everywhere, twisted and tangled. Techno-ivy, Matthew had dubbed that mess.

“Take whatever gear you want, man,” Jeremy pleaded.

A muffled chortle came out from Nixon’s enormous grin. Did President Nixon really have that big of a mouth? Matthew absurdly wondered. History had been his least favorite subject in school. Keeping the gun pointed at them, the intruder walked to the shelf and pried open the lid of a thirty-year-old Toshiba Satellite laptop.

“Take your gear? So I can, what—hawk this junk on eBay for ten bucks?”

Matthew was having difficulty understanding him. For some reason, the intruder was trying to imitate Elvis Presley, but he sounded more like Bob Dylan attempting a Southern accent.

“Then what do you want?” Matthew blurted out. He sounded angrier than he wanted to. Clearly this guy was crazy and shouldn’t be provoked. What kind of burglar wore a Nixon mask and drawled like Elvis?

“Finally, a pertinent question.” The intruder went to Jeremy’s desk and sat on the edge. “To start, I want information.”

And you couldn’t email? But Matthew kept that thought to himself.

“How many open murders will your app investigate?”

Matthew tried not to gape. How did Mr. Crazy know about their app? They’d kept everything secret. When fellow developers and entrepreneurs asked about their latest project, they said they were working on book indexing software for self-published authors—nobody wanted to know more about that. They stuck to their story at the party celebrating Tyler Gaster’s IPO for the delivery service Fetch. They stuck to their story while guests aboard the yacht of Shiloh Mordell, the creator of Shortie, an app for short selling stocks. Matthew had even stuck to their story when he ran into Becca Blaine at the coffee shop. Blaine, one of the few female developers they knew, was always friendly and encouraging to them.

“Murders?” Jeremy asked. “What are you talking about?”

The intruder stood, strode back to the shelf, and picked up the Toshiba laptop. He held it out, let go. The plastic casing shattered on impact.


“Oh man, why’d you do that?” Jeremy cried out. “That’s an antique!”

“Takes one to know one, man. Now, if you don’t completely and directly answer every question, I’ll move from breaking your old-school crap to breaking your fingers.”

Was he serious? The garish grin and five o’clock shadow on the Nixon mask made the threat feel real.

“Let’s try this again. How many unsolved murders will your app investigate?”

This story appears in our MAR 2024 Issue
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