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Murder Beyond The Milky Way

By EricRuark All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Mystery

Chapter Forty-Three


Harry told Quincey about his meeting with Allyson and heading to Mine-6 to do her a favor. He told Quincey about running into Mark. He told him what happened at the Mine-6 main office and running into Huntington. Then, he told him about the lunch with Mark and watching the live Finneying feed. After Harry finished telling Quincey everything, Jane took him upstairs and gave him several of her father’s jump suits. Harry expected them to be tailored to Steve Somerset’s physique but was surprised to find them nothing more than the standard issue variety of outerwear. Harry smiled at the insight it gave him into Jane’s father’s character. The ultimate end of a Magnum-4 jumpsuit is destruction. Why put your personal stamp on something that is going to be destroyed?Harry was beginning to like Steve. He had never met the man, but from the little things he had learned, he had the feeling that when this adventure was over, his one regret was that he never would be able to.

Harry put on one of the jumpsuits, pulling all the tabs and re-buttoning the snaps until it fit moderately well, then, he went in search of Mark Chapman’s last day of life. The first place he went to was Mark’s townhouse. As he expected, the front door was unlocked. He walked in. To his untrained eye, everything looked exactly as Mark would have left it had he been at work. Only Mark wasn’t at work. He was nurturing a bed of tropical flowers along the north rim.

Harry went through Mark’s closets, his desk, all his drawers, and what remained of Mark’s unpacked travel kit. He found Mark’s ID card, the one that he used to get them into the Mine-6 dining hall, and slipped it into his own pocket. He found the Mine-6 protocol manual and some clean earplugs. He took them, too. Harry half expected to find a diary of some kind, but he didn’t. When he was sure that he had seen everything there was to see, he left and hopped a cable-car to take him to the Mine-6 terminal. On the trip, he began reading the Mine-6 protocol manual.

By the time he arrived at the Mine-6 dome, he had finished the manual. It was very enlightening. It explained everyone’s duties and whom everyone reported to. It also explained the division of labor on freighter days which helped to explain the extra movement and noise in the mining dome. The freighter’s supplies had been offloaded and everyone formerly assigned to supplies was now engaged in uploading the palettes of the red-ore bricks and seeing to the shuttles’ needs.

Harry’s first stop was Human Resources. Using the Vigilance Committee as a whip, he obtained a copy of Mark’s duties and first day assignments. The first thing on Mark’s list was a trip to Central to pick up his credentials. Harry took the trip back to the main dome, this time concentrating on the things that Mark may have seen. But there was nothing that he, himself, hadn’t already seen on his several trips to and from the dome.

He was alone on the ride back to the city. In the city, itself, there were less men moving about since most of them were now at the mine heads. At Central he identified himself as Vigilance Committee without giving his name and asked if anyone remembered Mark. The clerk at the food card desk, a middle-aged woman with a droopy left eye, did since only a handful of new people had come through to get registered. According to her, Mark came in, filled out the proper forms and talked the whole time he was doing it.

“That poor boy must have been so nervous,” the clerk said. “He reminded me of my third husband. Couldn’t stop running at the mouth whenever he got a little stressed. How’s the poor boy doing?”

“He’s dead,” Harry said.

“He’s not the one they found at his home, is he?”

“That’s him.”

“What a shame.”

Harry could hear the ‘tisk-tisk-tisk’ in her voice. “Word gets around fast,” Harry said.

“You can’t believe how fast,” the clerk said. “If you sneeze on the north walkway, before you have a chance to wipe your nose, someone on the south walkway is worried that they’ll catch whatever you have.”

Harry remembered Diana saying something similar. “Say, who did he put down as his contact in case anything happened to him?” Harry asked. He knew the answer, but he had his reason for asking.

“Since he was new, here, I told him to put down his Mine Rep,” the clerk said. “The new ones usually do until they make some friends. Why? Hasn’t anyone claimed that poor boys body, yet?”

“It’s all right,” Harry said. “He’s been well taken care of.”

“That’s good to hear,” the clerk said. “I just hope you people on the Vigilance Committee catch whoever did it. I mean, two murders in as many days... well I just might put a lock on my door tonight. Who knows who’s next?”

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” Harry said. “Can you tell me if the Mine Rep is still Mr. Chapman’s contact?”

The clerk checked. “Oh, my... no he’s not. Mr. Chapman changed it. Someone by the name of Harry Salem is.”

“When did he change it?” Harry asked.

“He changed the contact at 4:37 in the afternoon.”

Harry thanked the woman and left. So whatever spooked Mark happened sometime between when I left him at lunch and 4:37. Harry checked Mark’s schedule. He had been slated to work in the Mine-6 red-ore warehouse from after lunch until 4:30 p.m. On to the warehouse.

Harry retraced his route from Central to the Mine-6 terminal. He realized that he must have boarded the cable car first on his own trip out to do the favor for Allyson and met Mark when Mark was heading back after getting his food card. No wonder he was so anxious to take me to lunch. He was just showing off. Harry sat back and closed his eyes. In his mind, he reconstructed the whole trip, recalling everything Mark had said and the way he said it. He had been mundane, innocuous and boring, but Harry couldn’t shake the feeling that something Mark had said had been very important.

Out at the dome, he asked directions to the red-ore warehouse and was directed to a large, three-story building that covered several acres. The building was separated into two parts. The front part was used for equipment storage. When Harry arrived, that section of the building was practically empty. There were a couple of tractor-sized forklifts over against the north wall. Several men swarmed over them shouting and swearing at each other about parts and where to stick them both on the forklifts and off.

At the back of the front building, there was an access lane big enough for the forklifts to pass through side by side that led to the red-ore storage room proper. Harry walked down the corridor and into the storage area and was amazed by what he saw: acres of red-ore palettes stacked three-stories high. This was wealth on an unimaginable level, and there were five other warehouses just like it.

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