T E R M S – O F – R E L E A S E
“What a frakking mess...”
Detectives Moretti and Carlo sidestepped over a river of blood running from the steel bench top at the far end of the room all the way across the polished cement to the door. Two bodies were strewn over the floor with their limbs reaching out and their eyes fixed on imaginary points. Their white lab coats had become a brownish red whilst the remnants of their experiment joined them in fragments on the floor.
“Brutal, isn’t it?” said Carlo, wiping his forehead. “We found them just over six hours ago. Forensics was given strict instructions not to move them until you arrived.”
Vince felt ill.
“This man on the left is the head of Colony Y – a state of the art integrated set of laboratories based up on Leadmore, North Avenue. Oh, thousand or so metrics away in Mesarthium. They’re part owned by the Canceron oil giant Plume and, up until this point, have operated without incidence for fifty years.”
Dr. Nixon Bluard’s face was hard to make out beneath the broken purple skin around his eyes and jaw. His nose was broken drowning what was left of his head in blood before he had eventually succumbed to a severe blow to the back of the head. It looked like sport rather than a hit. “Not an accident,” muttered Vince, examining the second man from a distance.
Detective Carlo, apparently not the least bit squeamish, dodged a pool of blood and squatted down beside the second victim. “This man was Bluard’s long term lab partner and former apprentice. He was Cancarion but spent a great deal of time here.”
“And you have no idea why or who killed these two?”
“I would not say that, Detective Moretti,” Carlo straightened up and led Vince out of the room and into one of the narrow corridors that connected the labs. “We know that they were killed. We know that it was not an act of industrial espionage.”
“How do you-” interrupted Vince, but he was silenced by a look.
“More importantly, we know that it has something to do with a certain letter set into circulation by the late First Lady several weeks ago.”
* * *
Vince watched a vicious cylinder of red dust trail across the horizon. Even at great distance, it dwarfed the city as its spiralling form continued to travel parallel to the mountainous ridge, occasionally stealing sand from its jagged slopes.
The office he was currently standing in was large and panoramic in its views with a massive one hundred and eighty degree outlook over the tapered spires and lapping dunes of Aerelon.
“This is all we have so far,” said Carlo, pushing through the glass doors of his office backwards whilst trying to balance several large files. He emptied them onto his desk, shuffling the largest to the side. A few seconds later he had pried a sheet of paper from another of them and handed it to Vince.
Vince’s eyes skimmed over Carlo’s untidy handwriting. “She was asking people to sign it?” he said finally, a confused look pressing itself into his hardened Caprican skin.
“From what I’ve been able to get out of some of Colony Y’s scientists, Ms. Procris was very interested in the fine print of the company’s trade agreement. She spent three hours on Aerelon a couple of days before her death pursuing Kobol knows not...”
“She was meeting Edward Naxos for a Quorum meeting,” said Vince decidedly, referring to his own notes.
“Yes, I have several eye witnesses that place her at that meeting – and several more that say she was absent for the better part of it.”
“Absent?” Vince flicked over his note book but there was no mention of it.
“One of our security guards opened the door for her as she left Parliament building alone and headed off in the vague direction of Colony Y’s premises. Granted, we have no evidence other than speculation to suggest that she was headed there, but I find it unlikely that a busy woman like her was just out for a stroll.”
“But what,” started Vince, setting the piece of paper on Carlo’s desk, “could possibly be on the piece of paper to make it worth signing? Do you think it’s a whistle blower’s statement? A couple of juicy pieces of wrought trade lines between Aerelon and Canceron? Matt mentioned that she was into that kind of thing.”
“Her head of security.”
Carlo shrugged, “Honestly, I haven’t the faintest what’s contained in that letter – but I’ll tell you this; it’s already got two people killed, maybe three.”
Vince’s eyes flared, “You believe this letter was responsible for her death?”
The other detective strode over to one of the window panels and placed both of his hands in his jean pockets. “That’s why I called for you.”
* * *
“You’re seriously just going to wait in the car?” Vince opened the door of the COL-5, sleek black sedan enough to slip his leg out.
Carlo continued to flick through the various radio channels. “Not a lot of crime in a city like Aerelon. The man you’re going to meet is one of the few repeat offenders to grace these streets and he’ll run on sight as soon as my ugly mug sneaks ‘round that corner.”
Vince rolled his eyes and stepped out of the car. He roamed around to the driver’s side, glancing at the street in a casual manner. “If my ass,” he said, leaning down next to Carlo’s wound down window, “ends up bleeding all over this foreign street, can I rely on you to catch the bad guy, solve these murders, haul me off to medical attention – that sort of thing?”
“Depends on the weather,” he replied, fishing in the side pocket for a packet of mints. He ripped the foil away from them, exposing a set of tightly packed, white spheres. “If it gets over forty degrees out there, I’m not even rolling down the window.”
Vince could see why. He used to think Caprican summers were hot, but a mild Aerelonian noon – that was toasty. He wasn’t sure if it was the unforgiving sky above, unwilling to deliver even a lone cloud or the unrelenting wind nosing through the streets that made the shortest of walks unpleasant. Vince couldn’t even bare to mention the sand and the many creative places it had found to chafe his body.
‘...Time – it’s a lika ocean of rock and we’re the ants, clawin’ over it. Oh, it’s clever lika woman but as final as the emptiness that you’re all seekin’ here today. I can’ give the woman, only the chiselled waves and a promise that you’ll find ‘em mossy and quick.’
Vince stopped short of the corner and pressed himself against the wall of a bricked terrace. This must be StreetMyth, he thought to himself as he edged along the wall. Vince hadn’t expected to have to deal with whatever slime ridden company the Encyclopaedia of Aerelonian crime might be keeping.
It was a good thing for Vince that the group of youths he found huddled around StreetMyth were so stoned that they didn’t even realise they should be running from a stranger bearing a detective’s badge. With a couple of large, threatening movements, he was able to shoo them away. StreetMyth remained stationary, clearly unconcerned with Vince’s presence.
“I am Detective Vince Moretti from the CDP – Caprican Division. Could you clarify your identity, sir?”
“I’m good for your soul,” replied StreetMyth, snapping an aluminium biscuit tin containing a suspicious blue powder shut.
“That’s too bad,” replied Vince, “because I don’t have one.”
He grabbed StreetMyth by the back of his threadbare shirt and slammed him up against the filthy wall. “That’s not sugar you’re handing out to those kids,” scowled Vince, snatching the container away from the struggling man.
StreetMyth blinked his pink eyes several times, then tilted his ghostly face into the shadows. “Not sweet enough for the gods’ chalice,” he replied, rubbing his face over the brick. “But dust falls like snow over the innocent.”
“I can lock you away in one of Picon’s deepest cells and leave you to rot among its ancient walls for all the lives you destroy with that shit.”
StreetMyth laughed, his piercing trill carrying high into the offices above. “To all the terrors of the world outside – I hold a light.”
“I need information. You need the freedom I’ve just taken away from you. Maybe we can strike a deal.”
“You want a path to take you straight, you pay the gardener.”
* * *
Aerelon Police Department
“This – this not what we talk about.”
The interrogation rooms were larger and cleaner than those back on Caprica. They smelt of freshly moulded plastic and disinfectant. Their tables were devoid of the common rocking syndrome found amongst others of their kind. The perpetual fragrance of tobacco was replaced by cinnamon and charcoal. It was unloved.
The supposed, ‘StreetMyth’ had balanced one of the chairs unwisely on its back legs and extended his own onto the flawless surface of the interrogation table. Vince circled StreetMyth, running his hand over the rim of the precarious chair.
“Are we talking now?” said Vince, stopping directly behind the confused street rat. “I thought I was charging you with possession and distribution. How long do you think an antique like yourself would get for that sort of thing?”
StreetMyth folded his hands and laid them gently on his lap. “No man can tell when the sun will flare next.”
Vince applied pressure to the back of the chair and then quickly stepped to the side as it overbalanced and crashed to the floor, taking StreetMyth with it. “I can.”
“Ow – oh man! I’m – my head is bleeding.”
Carlo, who was attempting to lurk in one of the corners, turned his head away from the sight. Technically, if he didn’t see it – it never had to happen.
“Let us start again,” began Vince calmly as StreetMyth rolled painfully off his chair and crawled back to his feet. He righted the chair with one hand and then purposely slumped back into it with all four legs notably planted on the ground. “I am of the understanding that as a dealer in – don’t interrupt me, as a dealer in this shit, you know everyone and everything that goes on in this glorious city. So it would seem that somewhere within that ailing repository of knowledge is the information I am looking for.
“If you were to give me this information myth-free I might decide to let you out on parole for the night and, I don’t know, forget to collect you for your hearing tomorrow.”
StreetMyth seemed to consider this option with great interest.
“All righ’,” he mumbled finally, his voice lacking the usual inflections of bullshit. “I might of seen some new ones drag through here a couple of weeks back. They might have even stopped on my corner and me, in genuine friendliness, just could of blown a bit of dust their way. But they weren’t interested in my shit – said they were looking for someone – a lady.
“I said, I ain’t seen a lady in a suit since them brain hospital place. These guys were, you know, built for it and I not want my little fish ass chewed on by no sharks so I point in the direction of the great big science maze and I not seen any of them since then.”
Vince ran a hand subconsciously through his hair.”Did you ever see this woman?” He held out a small photograph of Colette Procris. StreetMyth shook his head vigorously – then nodded.
“I – on TV.”
Vince rolled his eyes. “Is there anything else you can tell us about the gentlemen you saw? You’ve got to give me something interesting or I’ll be morally obligated to handcuff your ass to that water cooler over there...”
“Everything they wore was brand new,” said StreetMyth, brushing his fingers past his nose. “Like they smell of – what that shit that you smell like now?”
“Who, me?” Detective Carlo took a few steps forward, sniffing his suit jacket arm.
Vince roamed over to him and caught a whiff. “Perchloroethylene ,” he muttered, urging StreetMyth to continue.
“Whatever man. And they all had long hair jelled back in rat tails. That’s all I know. Can I go now?”
“Perhaps – but there’s one last thing you’re going to do for us or that special snow of yours is going to freeze your assets if you catch my storm...”
The Great Fountain was never allowed to flow over night. Desert air had a chill to it that loved to freeze over the smaller creatures of the night, trapping them where they stood on granules of sand. Sometimes the rising sun saved them – sometimes not.
StreetMyth licked the rough surface of the wall, hungrily sucking off its moisture to calm his cracked lips. A flash of gold caught his dilated pupil as the morning sun caught the building’s name plaque. StreetMyth blinked and ducked down. He ran his hand along the wall as he moved forward, tracing its edge around a corner until he stopped outside the side entrance of Colony Y. He quickly found a hidden spot and sank into the garden that ran the length of the building.
He waited there until the sun sat overhead, destroying the shadows he used for shelter. “Waste of time...” he muttered to himself, cracking open his tin and taking a sniff. His eyes trembled for a moment and his ears filled with a roar.
StreetMyth didn’t hear someone crunch over the sand and stop in front of him.
“Can I help you?” they said, slipping their hands into their lab coat. A security tag swung around his neck, flapping in the breeze.
StreetMyth felt a shadow come over him. He looked up. “Go way,” he muttered, batting the air in front of him as if in pursuit of a fly.
The scientist raised his eyebrows. “I’m afraid I can’t do that,” he said. “You’re in our garden and I can’t, in good conscience, leave you there.”
“Go – go way. Busy waiting.” Above a cloud passed over and dimmed the world. StreetMyth snapped his head up, suddenly seeing the man in white. “You!” he pointed a bony finger. “You I wait for.”
The scientist took a step backwards, a little frightened by the homeless man. He didn’t like the way the man smelt of decaying refuse and the urgency with which he clutched a small tin.
“For me?” repeated the scientist dumbly. “What on Aerelon for?”
“They want to know about the letter.”
The scientist’s eyes glanced nervously to the bustling street in front of the building. “What letter?” he replied, neither moving closer nor backing away.
“How do I know?” shrugged StreetMyth. “They know though. They say you know many things.”
“I know nothing. Leave me alone.” He backed out of the garden and took out his mobile phone.
“They can help you, they want to as well, I can tell. But you have to go to them.”
The man’s finger hovered over the keypad. “Who is this they? You are crazy. I’m calling security.”
StreetMyth laughed. “No you’re not. You call this man instead. He tell me to say that Cris sent him.” StreetMyth pulled out a white card with a phone number scrawled across it. “You don’t want it? I leave it here then.” With that, StreetMyth levered himself off the ground, and scurried away through the fragmented gardens of Colony Y.