In today’s world, 5% of all money is created by governments in the form of cash in circulation. The other 95% of money is created by commercial banks by extending credit to borrowers. Thus, money does not represent value, it represents debt. The more debt, the more money. Unless the overall money supply keeps growing there will never be enough money to pay off all loans plus interest. Yet, repaying debt destroys money. Debt, therefore, powers modern societies and puts enormous pressure on governments to push for economic growth at the expense of everything else. Which is why many governments are reluctant to take necessary action on the existential threat of climate change because such policies might slow down monetary growth. It’s the ultimate pyramid scheme and it is unsustainable. The debt-pocalypse, the credit crash, is coming. Unless.
Alice reread the entry on the financial journalist’s blog. Unless. It was almost too perfect. Unless. That tantalizing conjunction of possibility. But, there was no more possibility for this journalist. He was dead. Slumped to the side of his laptop. One rigored hand still on the keyboard.
Detective Alice Rounder let her crime tech, Jasynn, finish the imaging of the crime scene: the home office of a lesser-known financial journalist. He was also collecting the dozens of flechettes that had been fired through the open first-floor window. Very few murders were committed with a flechette pistol. And very few financial journalists were killed at their desks.
These simple facts made Alice worry. Because this was the second such execution-style killing of a financial journalist this week. She’d been called to a similar crime scene across town three days ago. Not only were the flechette darts similar, but the journalist who’d been slain was also writing a story on an impending global financial collapse based on runaway debt.
Alice felt sure if she understood that unless, a motive for these two slayings would become clearer. She studied the journalist’s desk. His last actions. One hand on the keyboard. The other clamped onto a worn notebook.
“Clear to search the desk area?” she asked Jasynn.
He gave a thumb’s up and she carefully prised the journalist’s hand from the notebook. The leather cover was scuffed and scarred. Old. Alice opened it. Her eyes widened the faintest bit.
The notebook contained nothing but row after row of neatly handwritten lines of numbers and letters:
Almost every page filled with them. Alice knew the lines had to have some meaning, otherwise, why put them down in such crisp columns and rows. She called Jasynn over and handed him the notebook. “Looks like some kind of cipher. This type of encoding make any sense to you?”
He flipped through the pages and handed it back to her. “It’s hashed.”
“That’s what data looks like when it’s run through a cryptographic hash function. Hashes are the foundation of blockchain applications. Makes transactions provable and verifiable. Like cryptocurrencies.”
Alice nodded. “So, what’s the purpose of this? Are these passwords or something like that?”
Jasynn smiled, “No. This is kinda crazy. Writing down hashes. These lines are what computers read. Not humans. Blockchain is all about creating a digital public ledger of transactions to prevent financial theft and corruption. I can’t tell you what this guy was thinking by writing them down by hand.”
“Can we feed these lines back into a computer to see what they mean?”
“Not that I’ve ever heard. It’s one-way. Unless this guy,” Jasynn motioned to the murdered journalist, “knows something most cryptos don’t.”
A ledger filled with clues. Hidden. Hashed. It could be solved. She owed it to the journalists trying to warn people of a dire financial crisis. She had to find a way to repay that debt. Nothing was blocking her, but uncertainty.
Alice was ready to run down that rabbit hole.