Lydia stayed out of the way while the Vigilance Committee did their work. The power to the house had been disabled from the outside. They had to call in teams to fix it and to remove Steve’s body. She watched as the med-techs transported his remains from the bottom of the patio stairs, across the living room and down the hall to the front door. She tried not to think of how intimate she had been with the now lifeless form that lay sealed in the red, sack-like body bag, but despite all her efforts, her mind kept returning to that morning’s love making and the feel of his hands on either side of her hips, the taste of his kisses and the feel of him inside her. Lydia Thompson found herself feeling more like a woman and less like a member of the Directorate. She had to fight down the deep sense of loss that was welling within her.
Lost in her own thoughts, Lydia had become oblivious to the movements around her. She only came to herself when she realized that the lights and scrubbers were back on and that the house was quiet… disturbingly so. She stood up and walked over to the door to the back patio. She looked out. There was a dark form standing by the top of the stairs leaning on the railing overlooking where Steve’s body had been. It reminded her of some kind a carrion bird and she shuddered. Slowly the form turned towards the light. It was Quincey. Lydia stepped through the door.
“He was killed down there on ground level,” Quincey said.
“How can you tell?” Lydia asked.
“Mostly from the marks on the grass,” Quincey said. “I can see where the killer planted his back foot and drove off it as he plunged the shard into Steve’s body.”
“Why didn’t Steve defend himself?” Lydia asked.
“Because getting killed was the last thing Steve expected,” Quincey said. “My guess is that he knew his killer and wasn’t afraid of him. He was so unafraid that he was willing to descend the stairs almost as if to walk him back to the catwalk by the LifeShield.”
“How many people do you know that Steve would have allowed to get that close to him?” Lydia asked.
“Not many,” Quincey said.
“You keep saying, ‘him’ as if you know the killer is a man. Why couldn’t it be a woman?”
“A tall, strong one, maybe. But not likely,” Quincey said. “A shard is sharp, but it still takes quite a lot of effort to drive it into a man’s body.” He pointed to a spot to the right of patio stairs on the grass. “That cut in the grass down there where the killer’s foot bit into the lawn is long indicating big feet for a woman or just a little larger than average for a man. And there’s also the angle that Steve was stabbed. It was a straight thrust.Someone shorter than Steve would have had to make a slightly upward thrust. I’d say we are looking for someone who’s about my height and build.”
“What do we do now?” Lydia asked.
“We go inside and you sit down and tell me everything that happened from the time I dropped you off until the time I returned with the Vigilance Committee.”
They went back inside. Lydia led the way to the kitchen and made them both some coffee. She wanted to be some place with pleasant memories of Steve. He liked the kitchen with its center island and archaic cooking utensils. Lydia made coffee the old fashioned way and told Quincey everything from the time she noticed the incongruity of the unlit house against the background of stars until the moment she heard Quincey and the other men enter the building.
“Before you left this evening, how did Steve seem to you?” Quincey asked.
“Fine,” Lydia answered.
“He wasn’t upset or worried about anything?”
“On the contrary,” Lydia said. “He was as happy as I had ever seen him. His daughter was coming home and we were planning to jerk the chain of the man the Directorate was sending to talk me into returning to Earth Prime.”
“You said you thought he was meeting someone tonight.”
“Steve had a certain way of putzing around when he was getting ready to do some business. It’s nothing I can describe with any accuracy. He just moved differently, carried himself differently… you’d have to live with him to notice it.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Quincey stood up and paced around the kitchen.
“What are you thinking?” Lydia asked.
“If he were going to meet with anyone, wouldn’t he have made a note of it somewhere?”
“He might have on his PCD.”
“The PCD wasn’t on his body,” Quincey said.
“When he wasn’t carrying it, he usually kept it in that tall cigar cabinet.”
Quincey left the kitchen and went directly to the cigar cabinet. Lydia followed. He opened it and found Steve’s personal communications device in plain sight on the lower shelf. Quincey picked it up and turned it on. “It’s password protected.”
“Try MYRMIDON,” Lydia said.
“That’s a strange word,” Quincey said.
“It was the name of his commerce raider,” Lydia said.
“How much did Steve tell you of his past?” Quincey asked as he entered the password into the PCD.
“We didn’t have any secrets,” Lydia said.
“As a member of the Directorate, you may have known more about Steve than Steve knew about himself.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lydia asked.
“I’ve often wondered what you were doing out here,” Quincey said.
“Maybe it’s better that you focus on Steve and his killer,” Lydia said.
“I am,” Quincey said. “Killing someone is not above something that the Directorate would order if it suited their needs.”
“You think I ordered Steve killed?”
“It’s something I have to consider.”
“If that’s the case, what’s to stop me from killing you, too?”
“At the moment it would be counter productive. If you did kill him, you need me to find the most logical patsy. If you didn’t, you need me to find retribution.”
“What would it take to convince you that I didn’t have Steve killed?”
“The truth. The password worked.” Quincey scrolled through Steve’s notes and calls. “He has no meeting scheduled, but the last call he received was from Karen Lehman.”
“The woman who runs the export/import company?”
“Were you missing anything from your previous shipment?”
“Not that I know of,” Lydia said. “But even if we were, Steve probably would not have told me about it. He would simply have handled it.”
“I’ll talk to Mrs. Lehman tomorrow morning. What time is Jane getting in?”
“She’s in orbit right now.”
“Maybe we should see to her first. Then, I’ll head over to Lehman’s operation and find out why she wanted to talk to Steve.”