Murder Beyond The Milky Way

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Chapter Thirty-Five


Harry followed Lydia down the hall. She walked several paces ahead of him. He chose not to catch up with her. Despite their rather intimate living arrangement (being in the same house), he knew his place. He might brace her in regards to the Somerset murder; she would tolerate that. But his walking besides her as an equal? He wasn’t sure he could push the envelope that far. However, she stopped in the living room and pointed over to Somerset’s cigar case.

“Help yourself to one,” she said.“Steve and I used to walk in the garden below the patio. I would enjoy the aroma.”

Harry did as he was told. He picked a cigar with a dark leaf and prepared it the way Harrison Hill had shown him.

“I see you’ve done this before,” Lydia said.

“Harrison Hill favors something called the Iana leaf,” Harry said.

Lydia smiled.“Cigars made from the Iana leaf are on the third shelf. Steve was fond of that blend, too.”

They walked out on to the patio and down into the garden passing the spot where Lydia had found Steve’s body. She didn’t even turn her head to look.

“I’m glad Steve isn’t alive to see this,” Lydia said.

“What? Turgenev?”

“No... Fitz-Porter, of course,” Lydia said. She turned to look at the house to see if they were being watched. When she was satisfied that they weren’t, she continued her after dinner walk. “Steve didn’t like him. Early last year, when Jane and he were beginning to show signs of becoming a couple, Steve wanted to break them up. I advised him that the more he pushed, the more she would pull and that if he tried too hard, his efforts would have the opposite affect and he would drive his daughter right into Fitz-Porter’s arms.”

“What happened?” Harry asked.

“Steve thought it fortuitous that Fitz-Porter was sent on an extensive equipment replacement mission. He had hoped that with time and distance whatever they felt for each other would cool. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that he arranged it. There were the usual messages between the two of them. Steve read them. They seemed harmless enough. Jane would tell Fitz-Porter what was happening here and he would respond with what he was seeing and doing off world. He had been absent for quite some time and Steve judged it safe to send Jane out to do some business on her own. Once she was out from under Steve’s protection, she must have told Fitz-Porter and they arranged to meet.”

“So Steve read her messages,” Harry said. He blew a long stream of smoke into the air.

“He was her father,” Lydia said countering Harry’s negative implication.

“No. I meant that he had access either to her PCD or someone over at the communications center forwarded a copy of the messages to him. It would be interesting to know which.”

“And why would that interest you?” Lydia asked.

“If he got them from the communications center, it would be interesting to know what other messages he read,” Harry said.

“No doubt, he read whatever he wanted to,” Lydia said.

“Then he must have known about whatever Turgenev is planning,” Harry said knocking the ash off his cigar.

“Maybe, maybe not. Trugenev doesn’t strike me as the kind of man who would risk that kind of thing. What IS Turgenev planning?” Lydia asked.

“I have no idea,” Harry said. “But he hired someone like Quincey. Quincey tells me that virtually everyone here uses Trugenev’s R&R facilities. Maybe he learned some secrets about those in power that would give him some kind of edge.”

“Edge for what?” Lydia asked.

“I’m still gathering the information as I try to analyze it,” Harry said. Harry took another long puff on his cigar. “How easy is it to approach this house unseen,” Harry asked.

“Very easy if the security protocols are not engaged, which they obviously aren’t.” Quincey’s voice sounded like it was coming from the jungle itself. Lydia and Harry turned. Harry choked on some smoke. It had grown dark. Deep purple shadows surrounded them. Quincey stepped from the dark into some rays of magnified star light. “I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said.

“A very dramatic entrance,” Lydia said. “You almost made Mr. Salem, here, choke on his cigar.”

“Heaven forbid,” Quincey said teasingly.

“What brings you over here at this hour?” Lydia asked.

“I came to thank Fitz-Porter for stopping by today and visiting with Cynthia. She really enjoys visits from some of the old gang. She turned on the vid-screen for him and they watched the flyers from Mine-6 on their practice runs.”

“That’s how she knew that Arnie missed the Iron Eagle,” Harry said.

“Harry, you are full of surprises,” Quincey said. “Yes. He added to the commentators description of what was happening. She said it felt like old times.”

“I’m glad she’s coping so well with her blindness,” Lydia said. “How are you coping with it?”

“It is what it is,” Quincey said. “No more, no less.”

“Fitz-Porter was one of your wife’s old teammates?” Harry asked.

“Let’s just say that he was very supportive of her efforts. I also came by to tell Lydia that Dr. Mendoza sent the Vigilance Committee his findings.”

“What did he find?” Lydia asked.

“Nothing.”

“Isn’t that impossible?” Harry asked.

“You would think so,” Quincey said.

“I mean how does someone not leave trace DNA?” Harry asked.

“They would have to be wearing some kind of hazmat suit,” Quincey said. “Lord knows they are a dime a dozen at the mine heads. You can’t go outside a dome to work if you’re not wearing one.”

“What about the weapon?” Harry asked.

“It was a shard from the silicon formation. There are literally thousands of them floating around the city in some form or another. They were a popular personal weapon years ago. Now, people use them mostly for decorations,” Quincey said.

“So what’s your next step?” Lydia asked.

“That’s kind of up to Harry here,” Quincey said.

“Apparently I have a fact finding mission to go on tonight while Quincey braces Turgenev’s new enforcer,” Harry said.

“Will it be dangerous?” Lydia asked.

“For him, maybe, but not for me,” Quincey said jokingly.

Lydia looked at him quizzically.

“He has a session with Diana,” he explained.

Lydia rolled her eyes. “Fact finding.” she said.

“Well it is,” Harry said defensively. “She was on Steve’s call roster. We have to find out what she wanted to see him about.”

“Do you think he’s up for it?” Lydia said.

“He will be,” Quincey said holding up two stimulant bars.

“Cute,” Harry said.

“You had better get some rest,” Quincey said. “From everything I’ve heard, Diana can be quite the wild one. Here.” He handed Harry the stimulant bars. “Eat both before you enter her building. It will give you an edge.”

“I don’t need an edge,” Harry said defensively.

“Don’t be stupid,” Lydia said. “Everyone needs an edge if they are going to succeed in business.”

Harry took the stimulant bars and walked back to the house.

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