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Murder Beyond The Milky Way

By EricRuark All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Mystery

Chapter Thirty-Two


Harry walked down the alley away from Quincey’s residence. A couple of times he turned around to look at the general area wondering why someone like Quincey chose to live there. The apartment seemed nice enough what little he saw of it. But why take one in such an isolated location? Well, to each his own, Harry thought.

Harry took the next cable-car around the inner circle to the planet’s Communications office. He went into the same door that he and Quincey had entered the day before. He saw the same woman sitting at the lobby desk. He was again directed to Mr. Keith who was waiting for him at the end of the hall. Quincey had called ahead. Keith gave him his office and left.

Harry sat himself down and began what he thought was going to be the tedious process of looking through all the communications sent to and from the planet. He was surprised to discover that there were relatively few communications. There were the usual newbie missives as new personnel told their families that they had arrived safely, but then, after a month or two, those stopped. It was as if everyone recognized that the reality of Magnum-4 would never be believed back on a person’s home world... that and the code of secrecy that Quincey had told him about. Harry smiled. What could be more human? Once the miner had discovered the untold wealth he had stumbled into, that last thing he wanted was any kind of competition for it.

He checked Lydia’s messages. All of them were encrypted as per Directorate protocol. But they were all to the same man, Harrison on Emerson-5. Harry used his Directorate Key to decode them. Lydia had made no effort to hide what she was saying. She had a vested interest in the new space dock being built over Emerson-5’s north pole. She was asking for updates. One of the messages from Harrison to her contained his file. It had been sent the same night that Steve had sent his message but had been routed through a different mobile beacon. That left Harry to conclude that both Lydia and Steve had had means of communication independent of the incoming or outgoing freighters.

Harry accessed the personnel travel files. He quickly discovered that people also rarely left the planet once they had arrived. More often than not, the outbound freighter carried only one passenger, the messages to be sent on when it was within a beacon’s range, the red-ore, and its crew. The crew manifests were religiously verified. No one was allowed to jump ship. During the course of the previous twelve months only 15 people had left the planet and all of them had returned, a majority on the next freighter. Harry looked at the posted travel credentials. All but three were on personal business related to marriages or deaths in the family. Allyson Lehman claimed ‘business’ as the reasons for her trips; Jane Somerset also listed visiting suppliers as the reason for her trip; and John Fitz-Porter was on a mine-related, fact-finding mission for new equipment.

Looking at the personnel manifests, Parker Huntington’s name caught Harry’s eye. After a moment’s reflection, he realized that he had not seen Huntington’s name in any of the communications dispatches. When did Turgenev hire him and how? Harry wondered. Since there were no messages to or from Huntington, someone must have met with him face to face. Harry looked at the names on the travel list. One of them was lying. One of them had gone off planet to do Turgenev’s business and returned.

Harry went back over the list. All the men listed their mine numbers and the supervisors who approved their journey. Only Allyson and Jane did not work for a mine. Jane’s trip had been approved by her father; Allyson’s by her mother. Jane had listed several destinations including Earth Prime. Allyson listed Emerson-5 and two other planets to negotiate with new suppliers.

Harry started running through the files again. He figured that Huntington had probably been in someone else’s employ when he had first been contacted. Therefore he would have had to complete his assignment before heading out to Magnum-4. To Harry, that meant ‘time’. Huntington did not impress Harry as the kind of man who would just jump at a job. He would have checked it out first. He would have weighed the pros and cons before committing himself to a definite plan. Harry began looking at the names of the men who had traveled off world from six months to a year previously, especially someone who traveled more than once. No one fit the bill. Fitz-Porter had been out for close to eight months, but his running into Jane might have had something to do with that. Harry intended to ask him when he saw him next as well as brace Huntington on who hired him.

Regardless, Harry searched for all messages sent to and from Fitz-Porter during his lengthy stay away from Magnum-4. There were none from Turgenev. Most of the messages dealt with the latest models of life support enabled strip mining equipment. Everything seemed normal. Then, there was a request for personal time, which was granted. (How could they say no? Harry wondered. He was already off-world.) He checked the date against messages sent to and from Jane Somerset. It dovetailed with the one she sent her father about her running into an old friend and going to make a little vacation out of the trip. Steve had countered with the usual fatherly who, what, when, where and why kinds of questions.(Who would Jane have known off-world? Harry wondered. It was obvious a lie and her father didn’t fall for it.)

Harry checked these dates and times against Steve’s messages to the mystery ship. They began soon after Jane’s little fabrication confirming what Quincey had told him. Deep down inside, Harry found himself a little bit jealous and allowed himself a brief fantasy that included a black-haired young woman with incredibly piercing blue eyes.

After he allowed that fantasy to play in his mind, Harry ran a program looking for anyone who sent messages off world on any regular basis. A short list of names popped up. Harry thought that Steve Somerset’s name would have been first on the list because of his recent activity. But Somerset was second and Harry was surprised to see that Diana Melville’s name was first. Every second Tuesday and fourth Thursday of every month since her arrival on Magnum-4 she sent a message and received one from Aldebaran-2. When Harry saw that name, he let out a low whistle.Aldebaran-2 was the Directorate’s high security prison colony. Prisoners considered too violent or dangerous for incarceration on local penal moons were sent there.

Harry accessed Diana’s messages and read them. They were from her brother. (The heading: Hey Sis, was a dead giveaway.) They were homey little missives: brother and sister describing their lives, troubles and accomplishments. Once or twice both mentioned that they were looking forward to seeing each other again, but Harry doubted that would happen. He had never heard of anyone being pardoned from the Aldebaran penal colony and he knew that visitors were strictly forbidden. But it was something he was going to have to find out about when he was having sex with Diana.

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