The Time of Hagalaz, Presumed Guilty Part Two

Chapter Eighteen

"And, yes," Bashir quite uncomfortably elaborated on to Odo, sitting with him in the confines of a convenient and vacant security cell, being as the reconstruction of the Chief Constable's office was, to date, less than half completed -- who in their right mind would expect it to be completed so quickly? As who in their right mind would deem it in its present state to be an appropriate arena to carry on such a pertinent and private line of questioning?

"Certainly not I," Bashir pushed back his hair, nodding around the cell with about as much discomfort as he would expect to have if he were the one under arrest rather than the Chief. "But, yes, I suppose if you insist on hearing everything, subjective or otherwise, he was in, or appeared to be in a foul mood. Stating something along the lines of that himself. And so, no, it isn't entirely subjective, I suppose…"

"Hm," Odo grunted, making all sorts of unnecessary notions on his data padd when he very well could have quite easily instead recorded the whole damn conversation, playing it back to his heart's content; on through the damn night if he felt so inclined. "You keep saying he…"

"Well, of course, I keep saying he," Bashir agreed rather brusquely. "And by he who I naturally mean is the Chief -- who else in God's name would I mean?"

"Just checking," Odo grunted. "Clarification, that sort of thing."

"Clarification for a moron, perhaps," Bashir tossed back his head that time with an accompanying nervous flutter of his hand. "You're asking me about the Chief; I'm answering you about the Chief -- who, yes, just also happens to be my best friend."

"Second only to Garak," Odo grunted. "Want a drink of water?"

"No, Garak isn't my best friend," Bashir groaned. "Garak is a friend, yes, of course he is. Someone to enjoy lunch with -- why, in God's name would I want a drink of water?"

"Sometimes they want one," Odo shrugged. "Nothing more esoteric than that."

"Who are they?" Bashir requested. "You're bloody ambiguous yourself, if you care to know the truth."

Odo looked at him. Bashir nodded. "Excuse the vulgar speech."

"You're excused," Odo assured. "And, yes, I do care to know the truth. The whole truth."

"And nothing but the truth," Bashir sighed. "Yes, all right. I suppose in fairness to Miles, I certainly didn't help with his mood -- if he was in a mood. To the contrary, I did my best to aggravate him. I may have told you that -- or I may have told the Captain. I'm sure if I haven't, I'm telling you now, as Dax will likely tell the two of you as well. The reason being, my reason, I was fairly aggravated myself. Have been aggravated with the Chief's clear obsessing with Janice -- I say obsessing now, where I have refrained from saying obsessing before, because I truly believe he was obsessing…

"Yes, I truly do believe that," he stared quietly into space. "As I truly feel, have felt, quite uncomfortable with the whole of the Chief's manner for the last three days and certainly this afternoon in Quark's. He was loud; quite loud. Quite close to truly vulgar; certainly defiant, and, yes, as I said, I contributed to it. I antagonized him. Quite willfully and maliciously -- the point however, that I may have actually inspired him to promptly go out and rape and beat some woman, no I wouldn't want to think that."

"That would be pushing it," Odo grunted.

"Yes, it certainly would be," Bashir agreed. "In the meantime I would also far prefer to find myself innocent in encouraging or inspiring him in his pursuit of Janice in any way. Surely the entire nonsense about a message from Janice inviting him to her quarters was utter nonsense, as it was quite obviously planned in advance; long before I came on the scene to aggravate him."

"Planned either by the Chief or some fellow in engineering," Odo read back over his notes.

"Precisely," Bashir nodded. "As I believe I have said I was extraordinarily disturbed by the Chief's decision to actually leave -- he claimed for Janice's quarters. Disturbed to the point that I quite frankly did not know what to do…In all honesty," he sighed, "I was hoping Dax would take the responsibility away from me in deciding to do anything, or something about the Chief's rather sudden departure -- she didn't. Or she did nothing, I should clarify. But then she was angry. As annoyed with me as she was with Miles. As it's entirely possible Jadzia didn't take Miles as seriously as I took him; and I did take him seriously -- yes, I certainly did," he stared dully out past the framework of the cell into the silent and vacant corridor. "When can I see Miles?"

"When he's coherent enough to do more than slobber over himself and others -- why?" Odo asked.

"Well, why is because I am a doctor, not merely a friend. As I have permission from Captain Sisko to conduct any analysis or examination I deem appropriate and necessary; as by right I should have such permission without having to ask for it twice."

"If I follow your drift," Odo nodded.

"Yes, well, I doubt if my drift is really all that difficult to follow," Bashir smiled sourly. "I'm upset. Struggling with my own feelings of guilt of having contributed to the outcome; and that would be by not acting when I should have acted; I should have stopped Miles. Damn wittering on about Jadzia feeling comfortable, uncomfortable, or annoyed. I was clearly uncomfortable and I should have done something other than laugh…"

"I wouldn't say laugh, exactly, Constable," Garak mulled over Odo's questions. His eyes as round and wondering as an owl's one moment, narrowed and darting as a hawk the next. "As may I say I find it so extraordinarily interesting that you are asking me my opinion of Julian and Chief O'Brien's encounter in Quark's, rather than asking…for example," he smiled, "Julian and Chief O'Brien."

"Do you have anything to add?" Odo drawled.

"Not really, no," Garak shook his head after a continued moment or two of pensive thought. "Perhaps a lingering mild interest in why -- why the questions, of course," he smiled. "Has something happened? I suspected dinner was canceled for the convenience of everyone, rather than the inconvenience of someone -- such as the Chief? Did Chief O'Brien really disobey Captain Sisko's most strict and emphatic orders of no communication between opposing sides without appropriate supervision and/or chaperon? How astoundingly foolish of him. I have always found Chief O'Brien to be a most dutiful and obedient officer of the Federation; almost servile in his attitude."

"Are you through?" Odo asked.

"With what?" Garak beamed. "I've told you, Constable, three times, it must be, I agree with Julian's claim of a joke. I thought it was a joke; Doctor Lange's invitation to Chief O'Brien to join her in her quarters. What else, in the name of your gods or mine, could it be? Have been? Dare I pursue in asking what you mean? Surely you mean something? Are attempting to convey something?"

"What I'm attempting to extract is information," Odo assured. "Make that from you."

"By means of attempted seduction, no less, Constable," Garak cooed. "How delightfully Cardassian of you; Gul Dukat would be proud."

"By any means," Odo promised. "Out with it. What aren't you saying?"

"A great many things possibly, Constable," Garak acknowledged.

"Or nothing," Odo nodded. "It's all right. If a night or two in security won't refresh your memory, perhaps the UFP inquiry will."

"The UFP," Garak repeated. "Why would the UFP begin to have an interest in me, or anything I may or may not have to say?"

"That's up to them. Let's try it again. Do you, or don't you have anything of consequence to add or subtract from Bashir's account of dinner at Quark's?"

"Dessert, Constable," Garak corrected pensively. "The Chief was already seated when I arrived -- I recall that. As I recall thinking of how the conference must have ended somewhat earlier than the session Monday."

"1700," Odo verified. "Quark's didn't reopen until 18."

"Julian and I were there at 1710," Garak smiled at the attempt to entrap him. "Commander Dax and the Chief had arrived a reasonable time before that. All total I would have to say I was with the Chief perhaps forty-five or fifty minutes."

"During and throughout which the Chief was drinking -- Bashir claims no more than twenty-five minutes."

"Bajoran ale, yes. And Julian is a hardly someone I would recommend you set your chronometer by, Constable. "

"How many?"

"Four or five; Quark can certainly tell you exactly."

"Never mind Quark, when was the note from Doctor Lange presented?"

"Reputed note," Garak continued to smile. "And not five minutes before the Chief actually left -- Really, Constable, not to berate a point, but I would think insofar as any questions you have regarding Doctor Lange's invitation you could easily resolve by asking her."

"Easier said than done," Odo assured.

Garak had no idea what he meant. "Easier said than done," he dampened his already moist lips with a sip from his glass of water. "Whatever could you possibly mean?"

"Back to this concept of a joke," Odo encouraged.

"It was a joke," Garak insisted again he believed the same as Julian. "As again, surely, the one person to ask beyond Doctor Lange is the Bajoran security officer who presented Chief O'Brien with the message, just from whom he received the message."

"Also easier said than done," Odo assured.

"Due to the sheer number," Garak understood. "As is process of elimination your best avenue of approach -- following asking the question of your security force, of course."

"It's been asked," Odo nodded. "If he's of my security force, I'm sure I'll get an answer."

"Simply one you may not necessarily like," Garak smiled. "I can only say in closing, in my opinion, Julian exaggerates in some respects, while he doesn't exaggerate in some others."

"That's certainly ambiguous enough," Odo grunted.

"If not utterly vague," Garak gloated. "My specialty, Constable, as you are well aware…As I'm certain, to where Doctor Lange may have been surprised by the Chief's unexpected visit, I suspect who is actually angry is…Major Kira?" his eyes twinkled with delight. "Of course she is. Commander Dax alluded to as much in her disclosure Major Kira and Doctor Lange were expecting to be together in conference. Is that what happened? Did Chief O'Brien blunder his way into Doctor Lange's quarters only to find himself face to face with Major Kira's wrath?"

"One," Quark's finger pressed its way onto Odo's padd, "I didn't do it.

"Two," he nodded, "I didn't do it. Three, I did not do it. And last, but not least, four, whatever it is, I did not do it. Can I go now? Something you may not understand, and since tonight's party has been apparently canceled for reasons which remain unknown, which is fine with me, I've got a couple of hundred hungry mouths to feed, and a couple hundred more thirsty throats to quench -- what? You think a little death and destruction is going to keep the crowd away? Guess again. I'm swamped. As in buried. Look, what if I confess to every unsolved crime for the last six months? Will that make it easier on you? And also me? I'm talking. I hear myself talking. And, you know, but the funny thing about talking, it helps to occasionally get some feedback."

"How many beers did Chief O'Brien have?" Odo complied.

Quark digested that. He digested it and then he regurgitated it. "Five. How many does someone think he had?"

"Who delivered the message from Doctor Lange?"

"A guy with a Bajoran snout dressed in a Bajoran security suit. Why? Who does someone think delivered the message?"

"Yes, well, who's someone?"

"Hey," Quark shrugged. "You keep me in suspense, I'll keep you. What's fair is fair -- who do you think someone is?"

"Major Kira," Odo said.

Quark sneered. "You have another maniac walking around here in a suit of armor I don't know about?"

Odo looked at him. Quark nodded. "I'm talking about resident maniac -- our resident maniac now that you know who is he doesn't know where. What'd she do? Rip O'Brien's lungs out and hand them to him? Tear his head off before or after she crammed the padd down his throat -- I'm sure it didn't matter either way. She got her point across. Trust me, she got her point across. She always does -- painfully, I might add. If it wasn't for the fact that he's a he and she's a she it would be difficult to tell the two of them apart -- it is difficult. Strike that. It's difficult. Seven feet tall and grey all over has got nothing, repeat, nothing, on what's five feet nothing with shaved red hair."

"Yes, well…" Odo said.

"Okay so he's not seven feet tall; he'd like to be. Who wouldn't? He's got the same problem a lot of us have."

"What problem's that?"

"Who knows. Not me; ask Bashir. I'm talking about Dukat. Gul Dukat. Yours, mine and our Dukat. Who do you think I'm talking about? What do you think I'm talking about? What am I talking about?" Quark admitted. "Is probably a better question."

"Yes, well, what I'm talking about…" Odo nodded.

"I've got what you're talking about," Quark assured. "So what if the Chief had a few beers? So what if he wrote himself a note? So what if he went to Lange's place to have more than his plans rearranged by Major Kira? This has never happened to anyone before? This is going to make the station stop spinning on its axis? The worm hole open and not close? If so, give me a call. I'll be in my bar until someone shoots the place to pieces again -- I have to get a better life," he shook his head. "I have got to get a better life. I keep saying this, and one of these days I'm going to listen."

"Well, what do you know?" Odo asked Dax.

She smiled. Her first honest one in a few hours. Even talking to Kira she was hesitant and insecure in her stand, uncertain insofar as what she was actually thinking.

Odo nodded. "For all the claiming to be shocked…"

"I think it's more that it's the Chief," Dax agreed.

"Nature of the assault," Odo supposed to an extent.

"I know Benjamin is truly shocked," Dax assured, reassured to an extent.

"As he knows it doesn't look good," Odo handed her Worf's independent comparison analysis that arrived at basically the same conclusion as his.

"No, it doesn't," Dax accepted the padd.

"Bashir's convoluted chemical screening aside."

"Actually there is something to that," Dax held out hope. Highest of all, Julian would come up with an answer. An explanation beyond the high levels of alcohol.

"Memories are dim," Odo vaguely recalled the taste of the stuff; if one could recall taste.

"Depends," Dax said. "And even then, while you may have been solid for a few months, you weren't ever Human."

"No more than Bajoran Ale is Klingon Blood Wine," Odo nodded. "Or in this case, no more than Bajoran Ale and Irish whiskey are Klingon Blood Wine…Think Bashir's leaving himself open for one of his lectures about regardless of the species, the effect of stimulants or depressants has much to do with the amount consumed -- "

"Within a specified time frame. Which in this case is relatively short," Dax was well aware. "Actually, with respect to Humans it also has much to do with the time of day."

"Not excluding the fact they have only one liver -- That figures," Odo snorted. "Beginning to see where it probably wouldn't hurt if I got a degree or two in something, if I plan on spending too much more time around here."

"We like you just the way you are," Dax promised.

"Until I get it into my head to rape and murder some innocent bystander." Odo could be as cold as anyone or any species could be; and he wanted to be. "Then we'll see."

"She was innocent, wasn't she?" Dax read through Worf's report that refrained from drawing any conclusion beyond the cold, hard, engineering and investigative facts.

"Was, is, and we're not talking about Cardassians or Klingons," Odo assured.

"No," Dax agreed.

"Nor Bajorans," Odo indicated the padd. "Federation Special Forces had been there fifteen minutes. By Bashir's report Lange was dead already for at least ten."

"Random guard change," Dax nodded. "Yes."

"Yes," Odo said. "Figured if our infiltrators could do it, why couldn't I? With a chance perhaps of throwing a quirk into their works -- whatever that might be. Special Forces prior to the change were yes, Bajoran. And they've been talked to; are being talked to," his finger tapped on the padd. "All emphatic the Chief never entered the corridor at any time."

"Transporter trace particles, yes," Dax was reading. "Why would the Chief transport?"

"Other than he knew he'd never get onto that corridor? Passed those guards? Bajoran or otherwise."

"It's involved," Dax set the padd down.

"Premeditated is the word. Perhaps not the actual assault."

"They were vying with each other," Dax strayed back to 1735 and Quark's. "Sparring. They have been. You know that."

"I know to the extent I believe you knew," Odo forewent requiring clarification of who was sparring.

"It was…" Dax lingered over choosing her words. "A little more intense than previous conversations."

"Who was more intense?" He had no choice there about asking.

"The Chief?" Julian was Julian now that Dax thought back. Mildly troubled perhaps by the Chief and yet still compounding the situation.

"And when O'Brien left?"

"I really could only explain it if Kira had instructed Lange to include the Chief in their discussion."

Odo nodded. "Other than as a joke. In that case the Chief would have been leaving for engineering, rather than Lange's as claimed."

"Well, a joke perhaps that the Chief really would have thought Julian -- or anyone," Dax paused, "would have believed him. No, I didn't believe him. It's possible Julian may have. Not about Lange’s interest in the Chief, but about the Chief’s interest in Lange, yes."

"Come again?" O'Brien sat up on the edge of the bench with a bleary-eyed look over the three of them; Sisko, Odo and Bashir standing in this splayed half-circle in front of him. "Quark's? What do I know about Quark's? I'm still trying to figure out…" his head hung a little heavy off his neck as it moved away from them around the security cell, down to the bench and short-sleeved orange jumpsuit he wore. "Where am I?"

"Security, Chief," Bashir crouched down, a tricorder in hand.

"Security?" O'Brien repeated.

"Yes, Chief," Sisko answered from above his head. "Doctor?"

"Perhaps just a little disoriented still," Bashir nodded.

"Disoriented?" O'Brien snorted a familiar chuckle with a reach for him. "I'm three sheets to the wind. Where did you get your license -- " he stopped when his hand touched Bashir's wrist. Feeling the fragile bones, seeing the crumbled figure on the floor as the room swam out of focus around him.

"What?" Bashir asked, reading the sudden accelerated heart rate. “Miles what is it?”

"Oh, Jesus Christ!" the Chief was up and stopped by the force field guarding the door, not someone's footsteps. He remembered a hand also, maybe? Reaching out? The figure coming toward him was red; it was Kira. And then it was all blue again; this sky blue color surrounding him. “Where am I?” his head tipped.

"Security," Odo nodded calmly with a noted aside to Bashir. "Too bad that thing can't read minds."

"Quite," Bashir's eyes and expression were troubled. The Captain's, rigid and set watching the Chief clearly irate, clearly upset, spewing some choice obscenities as he denounced Quark's. Knowing anything about Quark's, needing to know anything about Quark's in lieu of Lange.

"What about Lange?" Odo was bland and deadpan as always.

"I just told you!" O'Brien shouted, feeling his jaw crack as his mouth opened a little too wide for comfort. He stopped again; annoyed. "What the hell did she do? Fracture my jaw?"

"A minor dislocation, actually -- " Bashir took a step forward.

"Hello!" O'Brien exploded with a bellow. "The woman's lying dead on the floor -- oh, Jesus!" his step forward and abrupt step backwards ended with his hand covering his face as it suddenly all came together; everything. The security cell. The jumpsuit. The three expressionless faces waiting for him. "You think I did this? Wait a minute, let me get this straight…you think that I did this…I walked in for Christ's sake! I just walked in!"

"Transported, actually," Odo said. "But that's all right. Continue."

"Transported?" O'Brien's face contorted.

"Yes, Chief," Sisko was the closest one to him. "What happened after you transported?"

"I didn't transport!" O'Brien's hand moved wildly up and down in the direction of Bashir. "I gave the guy the padd!"

"Me?" Bashir said. "No, Chief. The padd you gave me was in Quark's."

"Not Quark's," O'Brien groaned. "Forget about Quark's. I'm talking about…you know who I'm talking about! Security! Ask him! Them! I-gave-the-guy-the- padd," he stressed deliberately and slowly. "He let me in! What? Is he telling you he didn't let me in? Wrong!"

"Well, certainly right that security is saying that," Bashir looked at Odo.

"And they're lying!" O'Brien half-veered, half-lurched his way back to the bench. "Excuse me, I have to sit down…I have got to sit down…" he sat there trying to massage some sense back into all of this; back into his brain. Some life and sensation back into his face feeling dry and tight.

"Yes, well, they're not lying," Odo grunted. "No more than Bashir is lying when he places Lange's death at 2135."

"Which Janice isn't dead," Bashir added quickly for the Chief's benefit; certainly no one else's, particularly Lange.

"No, but she was," Odo assured. "With ample evidence of it, and the repercussions from it -- therefore," he took a step or two forward, "before we continue, under Federation law, I'm obligated to inform you, you have a right to remain silent. Understanding anything you do say, can, and will be held against you in a court of law…"

"Come again?" O'Brien said.

"Attempted murder in the first degree, yes, Chief," Sisko replied quietly, "is a charge pending -- "

"Criminal charge pending," Odo assured. "Together with physical violative assault in the first; rape, I believe is your colloquial term for it. Captain Sisko will take care of informing you of any and all other charges, pending or otherwise. In the meantime, where was I..? Oh, yes. You have a right to seek counsel from an appointed UFP attorney together with any counsel you may choose to seek from your Commanding Officer, Captain Sisko. If you waive either of these rights -- "

"Of course I waive them!" O'Brien insisted. "What is this?"

"Serious, Chief," Sisko cautioned. "Quite serious."

"But I didn't do anything! Okay, so I went there. I'm telling you I went there -- " his wave ended at Sisko. "I'm admitting I went there," he finished a little quieter, not that it mattered; not that it helped. "Oh, crap."

"Insubordination, Chief," Sisko's nod came down. "Willful disobedience of orders…"

"Yeah, yeah. To name a few," O'Brien's glazed stare shuffled between his hands in his lap and the bare wall to his right. "Okay, so I'll be cleaning out the solid waste disposals, and Rom will be the new Chief Engineer."

Sisko's jaw tightened. "A great deal more serious than that, Chief."

O'Brien didn't see how it could be. "But we'll iron it out, right? We'll figure it out."

"Oh, quite," Bashir eagerly put in. "Certainly we shall. I've issued a transmission to Bajor for a second opinion of all forensic data; Doctor Tracy Sorge…"

"Forensic data?" O'Brien looked to Sisko. "Should I pretend not to know what that means?"

"That would be rather worthless, yes, Chief," Sisko's nod moved stiffly again. "Doctor Bashir's DNA analyses are a positive match for both you and Doctor Lange."

"Perfect, no less," O'Brien scoffed. "Well, you know that's wrong. It is wrong."

Odo grunted. "If it's wrong, it's wrong in more than one area -- Lange's quarters," he qualified for the incensed glare. "Not only her person and clothes, as well as your own."

"Can you explain it, Chief?" Sisko had one pressing question on his mind.

"Oh, yeah." About as well as he could explain anything else. "No, I can't explain it. I went to her quarters. She was on the floor…I don't know. I remember standing there…" he watched himself getting up, actually, moving in slow motion across the floor towards the twisted body he could see. He closed his eyes. "Oh, yeah, she was dead. Definitely she was dead. She had…I don't know. Some sort of scarf wrapped around her neck. Couldn't figure out why." And before he could, Kira was there and he was seeing blue skies and bright stars swirling overhead.

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