Murder Beyond The Milky Way

By EricRuark All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Mystery

Chapter Forty-Two


Harry escorted Allyson home. For some reason, he had assumed that she lived near the Export/Import office, but she didn’t. She lived in a townhouse-like structure on the same circle as Mark, but about a third of the distance around the arc to the north.

It was late. By the time Harry got back to the Somerset estate everyone was already in their quarters. Harry took some food out of the storage bin and crossed the kitchen to the guestroom. He ate in the bathroom sitting on the edge of the wall with his feet hanging over the side of the building. It reminded him of sitting on the knoll with Allyson. Beneath his feet, the jungle stretched to the edge of the LifeShield and behind him, the living plants hid the bathroom’s function from his view.

In the magnified starlight, he began playing a game of connect the dots with the stars, only instead of standing for fixed points in space, the stars stood for people and things that had been happening to him. One star was for Quincey; another star was for Lydia. A third star was for Jane; a fourth for Diana. He even assigned a star to represent himself and another for Mark Chapman. As the night progressed, Harry’s mind held the fractal image of his numerous conversations. There was order in the chaos. They all made sense, except for one: the one where Mark made Harry his contact man if anything happened to him. Harry stared at the imaginary line between the two stars. It makes no sense, he thought. He knew my time here was limited. He knew I was leaving. Harry stood up and walked back to the bedroom. He knew Mark was a doofus, but he was also an engineer. He must have had a reason. Harry undressed and went to sleep.

When he awoke the next morning, the sun was high in the sky. He shook the sleep from his mind and formulated his plans for the day. First and foremost, he need to find a planetary jumpsuit that fit him. Harry dressed and went in search of one. He didn’t get far. Lydia, Fitz-Porter and Jane were sitting at the table in the sun room. There was food on the main table. Lydia waved him over. Even before he stepped outside, he noticed the tension between Jane and Fitz-Porter. Lydia was sitting back in her chair. She exuded power and control. What’s happened? he wondered.

“I’m glad you didn’t sleep the day away,” Lydia said with a touch of rebuke in her voice.

“I didn’t intend to,” Harry answered in a tone that let her know he was not backing down.

“Have you learned anything useful?” Fitz-Porter asked turning away from Jane and facing Harry.

Harry thought about telling him about Diana’s brother and how Jane had used him, but decided against it. Fitz-Porter was upset about something and Harry wondered if Jane had already told him.

“Depends on what you call useful,” Harry said sitting down. He was ravenously hungry.

“Any closer to catching Jane’s father’s killer?” Fitz-Porter asked.

“No,” Harry answered. “Got sidetracked. Had to bury Mark Chapman last night.”

“What did he do... get run over by his own mouth?” Fitz-Porter asked.

Harry stared at Fitz-Porter.

“What? Don’t tell me you suddenly liked the man?” Fitz-Porter asked totally misinterpreting Harry’s gaze.

Harry chose to ignore the man. He turned to Jane. “Do you know where I can get a jumpsuit?” he asked.

“What’s wrong with your clothes?” Lydia asked.

“Nothing, but I would just like to blend in a little better,” Harry said. “Dressed like this, I stick out. The men know I’m a stranger. I think I could learn more if I looked more like them, that’s all.”

“Father had some,” Jane said. “You’re smaller, but they are adjustable. You shouldn’t have any problem. I’ll get you some after our meeting.”

“We’re having a meeting?” Harry asked.

“As soon as Quincey gets here,” Jane said.

“When do you expect him?”

“Soon.”

“Then, I’ll help myself to some food,” Harry said.

Harry was on his third plate of eggs when Quincey arrived.

“I got your message,” Quincey said to Jane. “What’s the matter?”

“I read my father’s will last night,” Jane said.

“You did?” Lydia sat forward.

“Where was it?” Fitz-Porter asked.

Quincey didn’t say anything. He just stared at Jane who ignored Fitz-Porter’s question.

“He told me to take over for him,” Jane said. “He instructed me to ask you to stay on as my adviser. He said it was totally up to you. The arrangement would be the same. But I don’t want you to feel obligated. He also left me with a contingency plan should you refuse.”

“I never left,” Quincey said kindly.

Jane smiled.

“I’ve learned that you and your father were engaged in an extra legal affair to help one of your old friends,” Quincey said with deliberate slowness. Jane started to react, but Quincey held up his hand. “I just need to know if you intend to continue to help.”

“Yes, I do,” Jane said.

“Good. At least we are on the same page,” Quincey said.

“May I ask how you found out?” Jane asked.

“I didn’t,” Quincey said. “Harry did.”

“And I suppose you know, too?”She turned to Lydia.

“Yes, I do.”

“Then, may I trust your discretion?”

“Of course, you may, dear,” Lydia said. “If I can be of any help while you secure your power base, just let me know.”

“What is going on here?” Fitz-Porter asked. “What are you talking about?”

“They are establishing that it will be business as usual only with Jane, here, controlling her father’s share,” Harry said.

“Don’t be silly,” Fitz-Porter turned to Jane. “You can’t run your father’s operation. You don’t even know what it is.”

“But, I do,” Jane said. “Father left me detailed instructions on how to proceed. The first thing I had to do was secure Quincey’s loyalty. Then... well... that should remain private, for the moment.”

“Private? From me? But I’m going to be your husband.”

“Yes, you are. But not as soon as we thought,” Jane said. “I think we’ll have to delay the wedding until I get the majority of father’s business plans under control and everyone accepts the new leadership.”

Fitz-Porter turned pale. That surprised Harry. Harry would have expected him to turn red and throw a fit.

“Do you still want me to find your father’s killer?” Quincey asked.

“Absolutely,” Jane said. “That takes precedent to all other business. I’ll even delay some of the things father wanted me to do to insure that your time is totally free. Have you learned anything new?”

“I went back to Central and pulled Mrs. Lehman’s file,” Quincey said. “It makes interesting reading.”

“How interesting?” Harry asked. His first thought was for Allyson.

“Let’s just say that she’s not the usual run-of-the-mill, down-and-out-looking-for-a-new-start kind of person that this planet normally attracts.”

Harry digested that news for a moment before asking, “What’s my status as far as the Vigilance Committee goes?”

“You have none,” Quincey said.

“But I’ve been helping you,” Harry said, “and a lot of people think that I’m part of it.”

“Well, what they think is their problem,” Quincey said.

“Good. So I can lie, and as long as no one checks up on me, I should be able to get away with it.”

“That about covers it,” Quincey said. “Why?”

“This whole thing about Chapman making me his contact bothers me,” Harry said.

“Why should it?” Lydia asked.

“Mark knew that my time here was limited. There is no way I should have been on his contact list if anything happened to him.”

“Maybe he was just being himself,” Fitz-Porter said.

“That’s what I thought until I remembered that he was an engineer,” Harry said.

“What does that have to do with it?” Fitz-Porter asked.

“It means that as mind-bendingly boring as Mark may have been, he wasn’t stupid. If he put my name down as his contact, then he did it for a reason,” Harry said.

“What reason?” Quincey asked.

“I don’t know,” Harry answered. “I’m guessing that he saw something while at work that suddenly made him fear for his life. His making me his burial contact was a clue of some kind.”

“So what do you intend to do?” Quincey asked.

“I’m going to borrow a jumpsuit and try to reconstruct Mark’s last day,” Harry said. “Maybe if I see what he did, I’ll figure out why he was killed.”

“Before you do, maybe you had better tell me what happened the day you ran into Mark and everything that happened at Mine-6,” Quincey said.

“I think you will find that very enlightening,” Lydia said.

“What do you know that I should?” Quincey asked.

“According to his file, Mr. Salem, here, has Superior Autobiographical Recall,” Lydia said. “In short, he’s one in 10-billion. He can remember every conversation he has ever had with anyone during his entire life.”

“It’s worse than that,” Harry said. “I can remember every conversation within my hearing whether people were speaking to me or not.”

Quincey pulled his chair around so that it was facing Harry. “This should be very interesting.”

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