It was late evening when I got to Police Headquarters, but Calvin was still there, just like he'd promised. He and another detective were sitting on opposite sides of a desk, going over printouts and eating bread pizza takeout from a street vendor.
"If I'd known you guys were hungry, I'd have offered to get you something," I said as I made my entrance.
Both of them looked up. With his mouth half-full, Calvin said, "That's okay, this is good stuff. The guy who makes it says he bakes his own bread, grows his own tomatoes, that sort of thing."
"Yeah, right," I told him and stuck out my hand to the guy on the other side of the desk. "I'm Ed Honlin," I said. "I don't think we've met."
He made that shifting of weight that people do when they abbreviate rising, and put out his hand to shake mine. His hand was faintly oily, and I'm sure that I picked up a trace of garlic and basil for my effort to be friendly, but that was okay.
"I'm Tol Sedik," he informed me. "Want any?" He gestured at the remaining food.
"No," I said. "I just ate." He shrugged and went back to his papers, or pretended to. But he'd shown a flash of recognition when I had stated my name, and I was now in at least part of his attention range.
"Long day?" I asked Calvin.
"Long enough," he replied. "We're up to our armpits in some excise tax scams, at least that's what I think. There are a couple of wholesalers who keep getting robbed just before tax inventory."
"And you think that it's bogus." It wasn't a question.
"Got it in one," he said. He paused for just a second, then said. "You got a package waiting. A couple of them actually. One's a data file that I've downloaded to my personal comm unit. Look under 'Skyfall.' The other is a bona fide they-actually-sent-it-down-the-pipe package from Anchorage. It seems to have a voice lock on it." He reached into his top desk pouch and pulled out his comm unit and a small package, just as advertised. He handed them to me.
"Can I take them into the other office?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said, not really disappointed at not seeing the mystery missives. "Please do. You'd just interfere with our concentration here. What little of it we have left, I mean."
"Thanks," I said.
I very briefly debated giving Billy Greenleaf a call to let him know that the police were probably onto his partners in the tax scam racket, but what the hell? I didn't owe him any favors that month. Besides, there was no use in giving anyone ideas that I could be a pipeline. Playing both ends against the middle can leave you as the one in the middle.
So I padded into the next office and zipped the door behind me. I could hear Calvin and Tol get back to their important mastication of both food and clues.
I unlocked the "Skyfall" file with my access code, and was unsurprised to find list of names, each with a personal file subfolder. I scanned it briefly, but none of the names leaped out at me. Opening one of the files at random gave me more information than I ever wanted on one Michael Rosloff, biochemical technician, formerly of Hoffla Labs, Luna, now a fermentation engineer for Bavia Brewing Co., Sky City, Venus.
Big deal. Maybe there was something to find in the crew of immigrants, but it would take some study. Fortunately, there were only about thirty names on the list, all people who had worked at Luna or orbital biochem research facilities who had immigrated to Venus within the past ten years. Also fortunately, I had nowhere in particular that I needed to be that night.
The package was something else again. What had Landau sent to me?
"Okay, so what the hell are you?" I asked the box.
I'd given it enough phonemes, I suppose, and it opened for me, a series of seams coming apart that reminded me of Cheryl's method of disrobing a couple of nights previously. It isn't a secure lock mechanism; you can fool it with a recording, after all. It's usually used for things like birthday presents and such like.
Inside, there was a card, and a note. The card had my ugly face holoed into it, and official-looking type surrounding it, with three different kinds of coding strips on the back. The card said, Skyhook Public Investigator, and in parenthesis (Health and Security).
There was a note. It was from Landau:
"I understand your reluctance to perform any official duties for me. However, it occurs to me that there might be circumstances when you need the cover of at least minimal authority. Hence, this card. Use it or not, as you see fit. There is also a debit account for it; that also is yours if you so choose.
"Thanks again for your work to date. If you see them, give my regards to Mr. Reed and Ms. Carlyle.
The note had a scratch stripe on it. I brushed my fingertip across it and the note proved itself to be flash paper. Theatrical. I hoped that Landau was as amused by it as I wasn't.
There was a tap at the door skin and I said, "Yeah, what is it?"
It was Calvin. He handed me something wrapped in chamois cloth. It was heavy.
"I almost forgot," he said. "This was released from evidence yesterday. You're the man, so you get to keep it."
I unwrapped it enough to verify that it was the gun. A shell casing dropped from the bundle, but I caught it with my other hand before it fell to the floor.
"Two spent shells," he said. "Two live ones still remaining. I expect that the shells are worth something, too."
I nodded and held up the spent casing. "These were used to kill a man," I said. "I wonder what a collector would pay for them?"
He grinned. "I hadn't thought of that," he said. "But you're right; that probably ups the ante considerable."
I shrugged. "Or maybe not. Who knows from rich people?"
He gave me a look, but didn't say whatever he was thinking. "Well," he said. "Let me know how it turns out."
"You'll find out anyway," I told him, though I'm not sure what I meant by it.
I went over the list of names in the Skyfall file, one after another, hoping to find someone who looked to have been sufficiently inside to be able to shed some light on what the hell sort of thing had killed Lucy Dahl. When a disease that looks that much like another -- previous and artificial -- disease shows up, the first thing you wonder is if somebody got cute.
There were thirty-two names on the list, and most of them were nobodies. I'd asked for janitors, and I got four of those. Also six kitchen employees, and a plumber. The rest were mostly lab technicians. People who rise high in the scientific community are not prone to emigrate to a world where brewing accounts for a large fraction of the microbiology.
Of the thirty-two names, five were dead. I couldn't tell if they'd been included by mistake, or because Landau had thought that maybe their deaths had been related to this business. It didn't matter really. I looked through the dead files and there was nothing much to them. Two had died en route to Venus. That's not all that unusual; a sunsail voyage is long and stressful. Two others had been old; the last one had died in an accident, falling down a long access ramp in gravity that was four times what he was used to. It's a wonder more Lunar transplants don't go that way.
I had five names that looked like they might really know something and I went through their files, one by one. I was resolved to just make a cold call on one or two of them, to maybe ask a few background questions and see how they reacted.
Something kept nagging at me, though, and I couldn't put my finger on it. After a while, I just leaned back and let my mind drift. Slowly, the nagging began to settle on the dead files, on one in particular, in fact. The name of the guy was Quittel, Jorgen Quittel, which is not a common name. So why did it seem familiar?
I'd only been over one other list of names in the previous few weeks, and that was the list of General Delivery drops for Carnival. People without personal comm units still need to get messages sometimes, so there are semi-private services that take their mail. Some of them will accept object deliveries also, but that usually costs more, since it's harder to store bulk than comm files.
Carnival had two such services, little hole-in-the-wall shops where you paid a fee and collected anything that had come in for you since the last time you'd read your mail. Both would provide hard copy, and both had the usual encoded safeguards on the mail, which meant that only Skyhook or the police could eavesdrop. The really paranoid used secondary codes, some of them not worth the effort to break.
About half of the inhabitants of Carnival used the General Delivery shops, about six hundred, all told. I'd gone over the list a few times, as part of my general strategy of familiarizing myself with the landscape, and I'd looked up several personal files of citizens I'd encountered there. You can never tell when a little background edge will come in handy.
I called up the main General Delivery list once more, and scanned down to the Qs, all five of them: Quach, Quan, Quintana, Quinn -- and Quittel, first name Daniel.
Okay, that was quite a coincidence. So I jumped down a couple levels of detail in Jorgen Quittel's personal file, and there it was, one brother, born on the same date: Daniel Quittel.
They were fraternal twins. Fraternal twins are pretty rare on Luna; the parents have to have a double birth permit. Identical twins aren't even allowed to come to term except as part of some experimental project, and then they are rarely born to the same woman; one of the fetuses will be transferred to a different mother to carry to term. That wasn't the case here, so my first wild thought--that the wrong brother had been reported dead--couldn't be correct.
I put in another search to the main database in Skyhook for the file on Daniel Quittel. It only took a couple of seconds, and I briefly wondered just how high a level my new access code was. Brushing the thought aside, I began to read about Daniel Quittel.
Like his brother, he'd gone into medicine, but unlike Jorgen, Daniel had opted for clinical psychology. Graduate of Copernicus, middle of his class, so he was less of a star performer than his brother. He wound up in Luna City Psychiatric, the largest such institution on Luna. He had been an ordinary counselor and dispenser of psychotropic drugs. Three years previously, he'd left his job and shipped to Venus, on the very same sunship that had carried his brother, the same voyage upon which Jorgen had died.
All of which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. If Jorgen had somehow been affected by our mystery virus, and if Daniel had given him an anti-psychotic . . .
Jorgen's death certificate had been issued by the ship's physician, and it gave the cause of death as congestive heart failure. Whether or not that could have been mistaken for anaphylaxis, I couldn't say; there might have been some covering up in any case. Whatever else, it suddenly seemed like a good idea to give a try at finding Daniel Quittel, c/o General Delivery, Carnival Cluster.