Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chapter nine: “"I should have known better than to set you loose”

Previous Chapter

I awoke in the near darkness of the Venus night, the only light coming from the intermittent flashes of distant lightning down below. It was afternoon by the clock, though; it's not unusual for Venus dwellers to sleep late during the first hours of darkness, since we tend to skip sleep during the light days and make up for it in the dark.

I got up and had a four liter shower, then dressed and headed toward the City without bothering to eat. As we checked out the bloon that I was going to use for the trip, Joey commented that I looked better than I had before. A trick of the light, I told him, but in truth I did feel better.

I checked into City Center and, before I went into Police Headquarters, I used a public comm to place a call to Marjori. A child answered the phone, one of Marjori's daughter's children by the sound of it; then Marjori came on line.

"Hello, darling," she said, in a slightly breathless voice. "Are you missing me?"

"Yes," I told her. "You sound out of breath."

"I've been downstairs playing with the youngest boy," she said. "I think I need to get more exercise; I'm out of shape."

"You couldn't prove that by me," I told her.

"Flattery will get you a great deal," she said with a laugh. I do enjoy hearing her laugh.

"So when are you coming back?" I asked.

"Tomorrow or the day after," she said.

"Let me know exactly when," I said. "I may have a favor to ask."

"Oh?" she said. "What sort of favor?" She laughed again, and a slight shiver went up my spine.

"Not that sort," I said. "Well, maybe that sort, too. But the thing I'm thinking of...hmm, actually I'm not really clear on it just yet, though I should be soon. There's a case I'm involved with that could maybe use a woman's touch."

"Going to turn me out on the street are you?" she said teasingly.

"Oh, sure, definitely," I said. Then after a pause, "I do miss you."

"Good," she said. "I like that a lot." Then we said a few more things along those lines and hung up. One of the things about Marjori is that she knows what questions not to ask.


Calvin was in his office when I arrived at PDH. "Hi, Ed," he said to me as I came in. "I'm just running those numbers you asked for. Have a seat." I bounced one of his chairs around beside his desk so I could watch the data screen while he worked.

"You're looking better," he told me as he tapped at the keyboard in front of him.

"So I'm told," I replied. "Sleep that knits the raveled sleeve...."

"Finally broke down and took a sleeping pill?" he asked absently.

I hesitated. I rarely take pills because I often get paradoxical reactions, to put it mildly. Also, I have a certain fear of being helpless while I sleep.

"Sort of," I said, noncommittally.

"Here we go," he said as some numbers came onto his screen. "Not many of them, actually. Taylorville gets a fair number of outside calls, but they are usually from standard places, people they do business with, other farming clusters, that sort of thing. I've weeded those out, like you said. So we get...."

"Only four numbers," I said. "What are they?"

"Two from the City, one from the Rim, and one from Darkunder. The City calls are public comm units. The one from the Rim is a private residence. The one in Darkunder is a business listing."

"What's the business?" I asked.

"'Night club,'" he told me. He tapped a few more keys. "Basically it's a brothel." He looked at me. "That's the one, isn't it?" he said. "You're not surprised."

"No," I told him. "Betty Laird, Molly's mother never told anyone what she did for the years surrounding Molly's birth. She had no significant skills and she came home when her looks were beginning to fade. That narrows the field."

I told him about the things that Lewis and I had learned in Taylorville. When I was done, he gave a low, soft whistle.

"Oh, great," he said. "I should have known better than to set you loose on finding next-of-kin for dead girls."

"Meaning that you'd rather I hadn't found any?" I said.

He sighed. "No, I guess I don't mean that. But it complicates things, doesn't it?"

I shrugged. "This is still all hypothetical, you know," I told him. "We don't know for a fact that Molly had a child."

"Yeah, but it makes sense," he said, and I agreed.

"So now what?" he asked me.

"I'm going to hold off on going to this 'night club' for a couple of days," I said. "I want Marjori to accompany me when I go."


"Oh come on," I told him. "Molly probably spent time there as a child, which is why she went back when she was in trouble. We're guessing that they still have her child. Do you think they're going to be thrilled at the idea of turning her over to someone like me?"

He had to laugh at that one. "Point taken," he said.

"How about the gun?" I asked him. "Have you tried to trace it?"

"Oh, yeah," he said. "Let me show you." With that he called up another file, and pointed to a set of names.

"Perfect tie-in," he said to me. "That particular antique was last registered on Luna, to Emerson Grayling, Robert Grayling's grandfather. Passed from father to son to grandson to...."

"Daughter," I finished for him. "Actually, I suspect that it was more complicated than that. But it does make the connection pretty strong. And the DNA typing?"

"That's as near as matters to one hundred percent," he said. "That one is courtroom solid."

"Not on Luna," I said. "On Luna, it's irrelevant."

"Yes," he said. "So I've heard. When are you going to pay a visit to Jesse Grayling to break it to him that he has a blood relative that he didn't know about?"

"I think I'll hold off on that for a while," I said. "I'd like at least to wait until we know for sure that there is such a person—the child, I mean."

"So you're not going to go charging in and rattling the cages to see what slips out through the bars?" he asked. He made it sound like he was joking, but I caught the undertone.

"You know me better than that," I said.

"Do I?" he asked. The joking tone was less apparent now.

"Whatever." I gave it a gesture of dismissal. "There are times to stir things up, and times to let things settle. I already told you, I'd rather that none of the Grayling's know that they're under suspicion."

He nodded, then took a deep breath. "Okay," he said. "Uh, now I have to bring something up."

I felt my eyebrows move. "A piper that wants to be paid?" I asked him.

"Um, maybe," he said. "It sure didn't take them long."

"Who wants to see me?" I asked.

He sighed again. "You don't have to do this if you don't feel like it," he said. "Oh, hell, of all the people to say that to. Anyway, there's a guy by the name of Landau, Grant Landau. He's part of Skyhook Security, not one of the crime units, but public health and safety. In fact, he's head of the epidemiology section. He's sent me a request for a meeting with you."

"When?" I asked.

"Anytime that is convenient, but the sooner the better, he says."

I must have been in a good mood that day. I said, "Well, I'm not doing anything tomorrow."

"Good," he said, with obvious relief. It can get troublesome when the upper levels lean on you.

Then his comm buzzed. He picked up the receiver and said, "Calvin Lee, here." Then the tone of his voice changed substantially. "Oh, hi Cheryl, how are you? No, I was just in a meeting with a someone, Ed Honlin. Yeah, that's the guy. What? Oh." He looked over at me. "Are you busy for dinner?" he asked me. I shook my head. "Yeah," he told the comm. "I'll ask him along. Say about six." Then he hung up.

He looked over at me. "That's Cheryl, my ex-fiance. We still meet for dinner every now and then, and she's going to be downtown tonight. Want to come along?"

"Cheryl is the one who didn't want to marry you because you were a cop, right?" I asked.

He grimaced. "That turned out to be a mixup, I think," he said. "I eventually found out that being a cop was maybe the only thing she really liked about me. No, that's not quite fair. Anyway, we're still 'friends,' I guess. And I'd appreciate your company at dinner."

I was dubious about the entire thing. Three's a crowd even for ex-couples. But I was also a little curious. "Okay," I told him. "But I may decide that I have business elsewhere, even before the main course."

He smiled. "She knows enough about you not to be surprised," he said.

"What have you been telling her?" I asked.

"Nothing not known to dozens of people," he joked, referring to the way my files had been accessed by what seemed to be everyone we'd encountered during the Sheila Mason case. Luna computer records aren't known for their privacy.

"Well, I'm always happy to meet one of my adoring fans," I told him.

Next Chapter

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