Murder Beyond The Milky Way

By EricRuark All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Mystery

Chapter Twenty-Two


Harry and Quincey left Keith’s office and headed back to their cable-car. The sun had set and, in what passed for night on Magnum-4, the stars above the dome gave off more than enough light to bathe the street in a soft glow. Harry stopped to stare. Quincey stepped up beside him and nodded towards the dome above them. “It has the effect of magnifying the starlight,” he said.

Harry waited until they were safely inside their cable-car before asking, “I wonder if that last message had anything to do with me?”

“Why would it?” Quincey asked.

“The timing,” Harry said. “Somerset receives a ubiquitous message from an unknown ship. Not long after, I get the fake order to pick up the log from the depository on Emerson-5. Why didn’t he ask is daughter to pick it up?”

“Jane?”

“Sure, why not. She was there at the same time as I was. Longer probably. I only made the connection by one day. If I had missed it, I would have been stuck on Emerson-5 until the next freighter was laded.”

“Maybe Steve didn’t want her to see it,” Quincey said. “Maybe he didn’t want her to know the kind of life he led before coming to Magnum-4.”

“Everyone I’ve run into seems to have known what kind of life he led,” Harry said. “Think she was in some kind of denial?”

“More likely he knew the danger of getting it and didn’t want to expose her to it.”

“Yeah, I guess. Where to now?” Harry asked.

“The whore house,” Quincey said. Harry raised an eyebrow. “What’s the matter?Never been to one?”

“Never had the need,” Harry said. Quincey cracked a big smile. “That’s not what I meant,” Harry quickly added.

“I know... you’re tired,” Quincey said with a huge smirk.

“What I meant was... well... things are different on Earth Prime...”

“And you’re a member of the Directorate.”

“Exactly.” Harry shut up, turned his back on Quincey and stared out the window.

Harry watched the buildings flow by. They came around the west side of the first circle and passed the alley leading to Lehman’s then circled farther round to the north. Harry remembered one of the people on the public cable car describing the Rest and Recreation District of Nova-3. According to the miner, it was located on the north side of the terraforming plant. The man had said that it was something to see, that a fellow could have a really good time there as long as he watched his p’s and q’s... “ to remember that you were going there for a good time and not to make trouble.”

“Who are we going to see?” Harry asked.

“Steve’s former lover,” Quincey said.

“The girl that Somerset used Lydia’s PCD to contact?”

“The same.”

“I didn’t realize that she was a... what do you call them here?”

“Call them whatever you want, but be careful what you call them to their faces,” Quincey said.

“So who is this woman?” Harry asked.

“Her name is Diana Melville.”

“I take it she’s something special,” Harry said.

“That all depends on your definition of ‘special’,” Quincey said. “I’ve never considered her to be especially beautiful, but Steve always said that she could make a man feel like he was king of the world.”

Harry noticed that they were approaching another section of alley-less building, much like the Central offices on the exact opposite side of the terraforming plant. Harry also noticed that there were few women on the walkways and those that were there were all heading to one particular door. Their cable-car pulled off the main line and came to rest next to three other private cable-cars.

Quincey pointed them out to Harry. “It would behoove you to memorize those cars,” he said. “The first one in line belongs to Leon Turgenev. He runs this operation like his own private kingdom, which, I guess, it is. The mine owners brought him in to make sure that the workers were properly oiled. You know the old expression: all work and no play. Well, he makes sure that everyone gets to play, from the man at the top of the food chain to the fellow at the bottom. He’s not a man you turn your back on.”

“So, why didn’t the miners go through him for their private orders?” Harry asked.

“They did, at first. But apparently, he was using the information in a way that made them uncomfortable. So, they started going through Lehman. Lehman began his operation ordering things for people and letting the powers-that-be think all that strange stuff was for him. Eventually, the owners put it together and allowed him to operate openly.”

“I’m going to guess that Turgenev didn’t appreciate what Lehman was doing,” Harry said.

“Lehman ended up dead. I’ve always had my suspicions that Turgenev had something to do with it, but since he is on the Vigilance Committee there was nothing anyone could do about it.”

“He’s that powerful?”

Quincey smiled. “And then some.That second car belongs to Albert Harlas. He owns Mine-6 on the south side. The night that Steve was killed, Lydia met with the mine owners to develop a shipping strategy. Harlas was the only hold out. He didn’t attend the meeting.”

“And who does the third car belong to?” Harry asked.

“John Rohl, the planet’s flight controller,” Quincey said. “Nothing leaves the surface of Magnum-4 without his permission, from recreational helicopters to shuttles filled with ore for the freighters. He’s also on the Vigilance Committee.”

Harry committed the vehicles to memory. Then, they walked towards the Nova-3’s Rest and Recreational facility. As at Central, there were several doors spaced several yards apart in the front of the building. Only, unlike Nova-3 Central, this building had no windows. As Harry had previously noticed, the women were all entering the farthest door down the line and the men divided themselves between the other doors.

Harry paused and watched the men move about. Quincey paused and watched him watching.

“Don’t tell me,” Harry began, “R & R is divided into sections, each section catering to the corresponding mining division of labor.”

“You’ve got good eyes,” Quincey said.

“Okay. I don’t get it,” Harry said. “You’ve worked in the mines all day and you’re beat to shit. When you get out, you head off to your favorite whore house. Why in the Hell wouldn’t you go for the hottest, most expensive woman available? It’s not like you can’t afford it.”

Quincey cracked a huge smile that pulled at the sides of his face. “You really are a babe in the woods, aren’t you,” he said. “It’s not YOU who makes the choice.”

“It’s not?”

“No.” Quincey put a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “The woman always makes the choice. Look at it this way. What would happen if you tried to make it with one of the women who service you superiors on Earth Prime?”

Harry thought for a moment. “I see what you mean. She would shoot me down until I reached a specific level in the Directorate.”

“Same thing happens here, with a few minor exceptions,” Quincey said.

“What exceptions?”

“That all depends on your luck,” Quincey said. He turned and walked towards the second door in the line.

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