Murder Beyond The Milky Way

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Chapter Twenty


“Did you have any luck?” Harry asked.

“I went to Central and Lehman’s son’s alibi checked out. He was there working out a schedule with the rep from Mine-2 for a three day/three shift assignment for their miners to help them unload their portion of the freighter. How did you make out with the daughter?”

“Daughter?” Lydia asked.

“Lehman has a very beautiful daughter,” Quincey said. There was a moment of silence. Quincey looked from Harry to Lydia. “He didn’t tell you?”

“Apparently not,” Lydia said turning to look at Harry.

“I was going to get around to it,” Harry said.

“I’m sure you were,” Lydia said with a smile. “So what did she tell you?”

“Not much,” Harry said. “Nothing that we didn’t know before. She returned on the STAR. We came in on the same shuttle. She went directly to the warehouse to work with the miners. We were at the office when her brother brought her back. When I went back to see her, she was having trouble with her computers programs so I synced them to make it easier for her. We talked.”

“So where does that leave us?” Lydia asked.

“With a lot of unanswered questions,” Quincey said.

“Well, why do people kill?” Harry asked. Lydia and Quincey stared at him. “No... I’m serious. Why do people kill?”

Quincey thought for a moment. “Well, there’s hate, greed, revenge, to keep a secret, jealousy... there are all kinds of reasons.”

“Business,” Lydia said.

“Mrs. Lehman admitted to meeting with Steve but she wouldn’t tell us why. Her son, who physically fits the profile, has an airtight alibi. There was no physical evidence here at the estate to point to anyone. But there is one question that we haven’t asked,” Quincey said.

“And what’s that?” Lydia asked.

“Why did Steve use your PCD?” Quincey asked.

“You said to hide what he was doing,” Lydia said.

“Yes, but why?” Quincey asked. “What suddenly made him want to hide whatever he was doing?”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked.

“I mean, Steve is living his life normally, for Steve, minding his own business. Then suddenly, he breaks his pattern and uses someone else’s PCD to arrange for at least one meeting and who knows what else. So, what set him off? What was he trying to hide?”

“He began using my PCD about a week after the last freighter left for Emerson-5,” Lydia said.

“So by then, everything would have been disbursed from the freighter and all the newcomers would have reached their assignments. We need to see what he had delivered and who arrived,” Quincey said.

“Won’t they have those records in Central?” Harry asked. Lydia and Quincey looked at him again. “I mean from the way Ali described things...”

“Ali?” Lydia asked.

“...Allyson Lehman,” Harry said. “From the way she described shipping around here, all orders are processed through a central hub and then sent out to your rep on Emerson-5. So there should be a record of everything Mr. Somerset ordered in one central location along with the record of the new arrivals.”

“Then that’s our next stop,” Quincey said.

“Our next stop?” Harry said.

“I only know basic computer stuff,” Quincey said. “You seem to know a lot more.”

“Oh, he knows a lot more,” Lydia said.

“Good. He’ll know how to search for what we need.”

“We don’t even know what we are looking for,” Harry said.

“Just the job for someone who is being used far below his intellectual level, wouldn’t you say, Mr. Salem,” Lydia said.

Harry saw the smile play at the corners of her mouth. “I hate being used as a pawn,” he said.

“Sometimes pawns can be more important than kings,” Lydia said.

“Let’s go,” Quincey said and started walking out of the room.

Harry followed and as the two of them reached the front door, it opened and Jane and Fitz-Porter walked in.

“Hello,” Jane said the moment she saw them. “How are things going?”

“Fine,” Harry said. “How are you doing?”

“We just took father over to the recycling center...”

“Recycling center?” Harry interrupted.

“Nothing goes to waste here,” Fitz-Porter explained. “There is no provision for burying the dead since they would have to be dug up when we mined the cemeteries. So we recycle the bodies. After all, the human body is only water and minerals and such.”

“Where are the recycled materials sent?” Harry asked.

“They are used to help compost our greenways,” Jane answered. “It will be a comfort to look out the window and see all that lush greenery and know that father’s still contributing to our well-being.”

“How’s your investigation going?” Fitz-Porter asked.

“Slowly,” Harry said. “Right now, we’re trying to find which pieces of Mr. Somerset’s life fit this puzzle.”

“Did he send you any messages after the last freighter arrived?” Quincey asked Jane.

“Nothing but the usual father/daughter have fun and don’t get into any trouble kinds of things,” she answered. “But you know how difficult it is to get a message back to Directorate space.”

“No, I don’t,” Harry said. “How difficult is it?”

“Without some kind of relay, it’s virtually impossible,” Fitz-Porter said.

“You mean you don’t have a relay beacon?” Harry asked.

“We don’t,” Fitz-Porter said. “We need to have a ship either in route to us or heading away or taking a short cut across the lower arc of empty space.”

“There is a designated fly zone in the lower arc,” Quincey said. “It’s not used often, but sometimes we can get a message through between the freight/red-ore shipments.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” Jane asked.

“When are you going to be going through your father’s stuff?” Quincey asked.

“Today,” Jane said.

“I still have some free time and I’ve offered to help her,” Fitz-Porter said.

“Jane,” Quincey said, “if you notice anything out of the ordinary, put it aside for me to take a look at.”

“I will.”

“No matter how small or insignificant.”

Jane nodded and then led Fitz-Porter through the house. They disappeared around the corner in the direction Harry and Quincey had left Lydia.

“Next stop, information Central,” Harry quipped. “I hope my computer skills are up for what you need.”

“Then, after Central, we have another stop to make,” Quincey said.

“Where?”

“One of the messages Steve sent on Lydia’s PCD was to his former lover,” Quincey said.

“Does Lydia know?” Harry asked.

“She said that she and Steve had no secrets.”

“Still, I can’t imagine using one lover’s PCD to message another.”

“It’s not something I’d do considering Lydia’s power.”

“Do you think she did it?”

“I haven’t ruled her out.”

Harry snickered.

“What’s so funny?” Quincey asked.

“The Directorate ordered me to bring her home. They said nothing about Dead or Alive.”

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