The next morning, my coffee was interrupted by Sergeant Eniver. He cruised into my office like a Dominix on afterburner: not quickly, but with a certain sense of implacability.
That wasn't where his similarity to a Dominix ended. Eniver was on the short side, but built big, with a face I'm not sure even a mother could love. Maybe he had more hair when he was younger, but these days the scattered survivors clung to the edges of his head; cut to short, gray bristles. Theoretically there was a neck to be found between his wide jaw and wide shoulders, but evidence was scant.
The Sergeant was also that rarest of creatures: a semi-competent, mostly honest cop. Easy to spot, because after 25 years on the force, he was still only a sergeant, and that's as high as he would ever go.
His eyes glittered, suspicious, "Wanna tell me where you were between 1000 and 1100 yesterday, Tarva?"
"In a hangar, one of the podder ones. There're visitor logs and witnesses, if you can get the podder to cough them up. Kaitane Ihonoka."
He chewed on that for a minute, "Client? And can you explain why you were in the compartment of one Henri Gellique?"
I faced away from him, pouring him a coffee, so he couldn't see my face as I answered, "Confidential, and I'm afraid I don't know anyone by that name." Never got the chance to know him, after all. I could tell Eniver didn't believe me, but you never admit anything. He was fishing. If he actually had evidence I was in that apartment, I'd have been in cuffs already.
"So it's just coincidence that we can place you near the scene on the day of the murder, and you're working for his employer?"
I tried on a surprised expression as I set a paper cup of coffee in front of him, "Murder? What happened?"
"He was killed, heart removed. You're tangled up in this, and the sooner you help me, the better I can help you." I wished he could help, as I sipped my coffee and he went on, "You remember anything, you give me a buzz. And don't be trying to leave the station, Tarva. I might want to chat more."
He drained his coffee and stumped out. I hoped he wouldn't be a problem. Worst came to worst, I could get his superiors to divert him somewhere else, Kaita could afford it. I would feel real bad about it though. Eniver was an alright guy, in his way.
I finished my coffee and caught up on message traffic: Bills, bills, a reminder about my rent, and mail from Auvy: No reports of large groups of cultists running around the station, according to her sources. About what I expected, but confirmation didn't hurt. Pieces of this case just didn't quite match up. Blooders, at least our blooders, weren't usually sloppy. Hell, no evidence they had been sloppy, except that half-assed attack on me. I felt like I was walking near a badly calibrated grav generator: off balance and annoyed. Well, something would come loose. It always did if you grabbed it by the collar and shook it long enough.
First stop was Kaita's hangar. It was that or find some blooders to hassle, and I wasn't ready to be an altar-jockey in a real short, real high stakes race just yet.
A couple hours later I had found out the following: Henri Gellique was a nice, average guy. Kept to himself, decent to have a couple rounds with after the shift, supported a sick mother back in the Fed. Couldn't seem to find anyone close to him though. Too average, like a ghost, hollow even before someone cored him like an apple. Did he belong to someone, maybe? One of Kaita's rivals or one of the criminal organizations? I made a note to have Auvy look into the financial records for me, see if there really was a mother in the Fed, or anything else and headed out of the hangar.
I nearly ran into my podder employer as I was leaving. She had traded a form fitting flight suit for a only slightly less form fitting mechanics jumpsuit, which was unzipped just to there. The artful smudge of grease on her cheek completed the picture, but I noticed the hangar staff nearby were still wary of her. So, a show for my benefit. Podders who got their hands dirty - out of the pod - remained a myth in my experience. I was touched that she cared what I thought of her. I think I might have ruined it with my first question, "Kaita. I was hoping to run into you. So, who's in the box?"
Her welcoming smile went cold as winter on Caldari Prime, "That isn't important. Just find it. I trust you are making progress Mr. Tarva? I'm afraid that corporate business will be taking me away from the station indefinitely soon, I can't delay over this."
I managed to keep the surprise off my face, "You're leaving? The hangar staff know that?"
She looked confused as to why I would even ask, anger disappearing as quickly as it had arrived, "My crew, of course, and the local hires... I would assume so. They would have been notified their last pay was coming. Does it matter?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Thanks for the chat. I'll let you know once some leads I've got firm up." There was something about Kaita that made me nervous, and not in a good-looking piece of work way. Well, not entirely. I made a dash for the exit before she could take back the initiative.
I finished up sending Auvy the new info I'd gotten, to see if she could make anything of it, right as I got back to my office.
I stepped through my door, something hit me in the back of the head, and I went out like someone flipped a switch.
When I woke up, my head felt like someone was having a neo-tribal concert in it, I was hanging upside-down, and a face dark with Rak'esme was floating in front of me. Smiling.