Murder Beyond The Milky Way

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Chapter Fifteen

The gripman brought the cable-car to a stop at Steve’s cable step and allowed the cable to run free. His passengers disembarked, and he unloaded Jane’s and Harry’s luggage. Fitz-Porter had previously arranged for his gear to be sent to his residence. Once done, the gripman stepped back into the cable-car and awaited further orders.

Harry stood by his luggage. He looked down. Then, he looked at the gripman. Then, he turned to Lydia. “Surely, he doesn’t expect me to carry my own bags all the way into the house?” he asked.

“Well, that’s the only way they’re going to get there unless you expect them to fly,” Lydia said.

“Where is the support staff?” Harry asked.

“Father didn’t have any,” Jane said stepping forward and picking up two of her bags. Fitz-Porter grabbed her other three and began to walk towards lush greenway that shielded the mansion from the street. “Look, we do things differently, out here,” Jane said. “We literally pull our own weight. It may take you some time to get used to that. But I suggest that you get used to it quickly.” She turned to Lydia. “You were father’s guest. That will not change. You obviously want father’s murderer caught and punished. So do I. Since our interests overlap, please feel free to use this house as your headquarters.”

“Thank you,” Lydia said. Lydia started to reach out to touch Jane, but the other pulled back slightly. Lydia stopped her motion and turned to Harry. “Get your things inside,” she ordered. “There’s a guest suite on the ground floor behind the kitchen area. Just head straight through towards the side away from the LifeShield. You’ll find everything you need there. Once you’ve deposited you bags, return here. You and Quincey have some calls to make this afternoon.”

“What? You want me to help you find the killer?” Harry didn’t know which to be more upset about: that he had to carry his owns bags or that Lydia actually wanted him to do something about the death of a man whom he did not know.

“Quincey will do the looking,” Lydia said. “You are to go along in case he needs something.”

“An errand boy??? You expect me to be his errand boy? I didn’t fly across the known universe to fetch and carry for someone looking into the death of someone who may have well deserved it, if the rumors can be believed.”

Suddenly, Harry found himself up in the air and falling towards his piled luggage. At the same time, he felt a painfully strong, impelling strike on his buttocks that literally rattled his teeth. Harry hit the luggage and belly-flopped on the stone walkway next to the cable-car step. He lay there stunned. It took him a moment to realize what had happened. He had never been kicked in the ass before. There was shock. There was humiliation. And above all, there was infuriating rage. Harry rolled over and looked directly at Quincey.

“I’d advise you to think twice about getting up, right now,” Quincey said in a low voice that was almost a growl.

Quincey loomed over Harry, and Harry realized that he was totally outclassed. Here was someone who could beat the crap out of him and not even raise a sweat.

“Any suggestions?” Harry asked figuring that now was not the time to force the issue.

“I suggest you do as Lydia ordered. Put your bags away and come with me.”

Harry stood up and brushed himself off. “Do you mind if I change out of this ridiculous pressure suit first, or must that wait until I’ve finished running your errands?”

“Go ahead and change,” Quincey said. “You don’t have the shoulders to carry that look off, anyway.” Quincey smirked and Harry saw Lydia bite back a smile.

Harry clenched his fist and then did as he was told. He carried his own bags into the house and put them in the guest suite that Lydia had directed him to. He took a moment to assess the situation and didn’t like where he stood. All of his anchors were gone. His position with the Directorate meant nothing. Without them, he couldn’t brow beat anyone to do his bidding. On Magnum-4 he was a nothing... well, not exactly a nothing. He counted only so long as Lydia said he counted, and she obviously counted for a lot. So, there was only one thing for him to do. He changed into something more appropriate to the dome’s intensely tropical climate and then met Quincey out by the cable-car step.

“Where are we going?” he asked. Discretion being the better part of valor, Harry decided to play along rather than get another kick in the butt, or worse.

Quincey climbed into the cable-car and Harry followed. He gave the gripman an address the meant nothing to Harry. Harry found a seat towards the back of the vehicle. As the cable-car moved off, Quincey sat down next to him. “Steve used Lydia’s PCD to hide messages and meetings,” he said.

“Wasn’t that kind of foolish?” Harry asked. “I mean he would have had to expect someone like Lydia to have found them eventually.”

“Probably sooner than later,” Quincey said. “I’m assuming that he didn’t care. That all he cared about was the timing.”


“It was all right for Lydia to find the messages, only not right now. Whatever he was trying to hide was only short term. By the time Lydia found them, whatever he was hiding from her would have been over and done with and all right for her to know.”

“So what kind of ‘timing’ are you looking at?”

“I’m thinking two or three days, max. Once you showed up with whatever it was he asked you to pick up, Lydia would have discovered that Steve had used her PCD and he obviously thought that she wouldn’t have cared.”

“Do you have any other clues?”

Quincey shook his head. “No.”

“So what’s our next step?”

“Process of elimination. We check out all the places and people Steve contacted using Lydia’s PCD starting with the last call he made. Tell me... who told you that Steve was a commerce raider.”

Harry recounted verbatim the conversation he had had with Huntington.

“You have an exceptional memory, Mr. Salem,” Quincey said.

“You would be surprised at what I can recall,” Harry said as he leaned back and closed his eyes.

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