Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Another Exerpt from The Last Captain

Baptiste was up and around by midafternoon, having slept the ‘sleep of the just’, as his father had called it. Further, he found his subconscious had worked something out while he slept. It clicked into place behind his eyes while he was watching a news feed screeching about the case he and Venkman had been working on.

The case would close if the dealer was dead and once all the weapons were recovered. Somehow, he didn’t believe that the dead man with the gangsters was an end to it.

Muttering under his breath, Baptiste logged into his police account and did some research. He queried all unsolved homicides on file. The results took a moment to arrive at his terminal. Feeling less hopeful, he tagged a few files that matched his criteria, requesting permission of the different inspectors to have a look at their full files.

As an officer, he had limited authorization to see the entirety of case files he was not directly involved in. He slugged the IMP codes Schrader had provided to the messages, hoping it would spur the Inspectors to give him the time of day.

That done, he sat back and pulled at his lower lip in thought.
Reflecting on the irony that even in this age of high technology it was possible for a death to be a result of undetermined causes, he shrugged and tapped in a request for a list of unresolved death cases. As an afterthought, he asked for missing persons too.

He was still slogging through the rather long list of persons who had gone missing when he received an approval to look at the details of an open homicide case. He smiled when he read the Inspector’s name. Hervee Baptiste was his great-uncle’s son and one of Baptiste’s favorite relatives. His and his father’s stories were one of he main reasons he’d joined the department.

He grinned to himself as he read the attached note: This one’s a stinking, ugly dog, Jean. Twenty Sols and first line in the water a Grandpere’s, si tu peu le faire beau.

Grabbing a drink from the tiny fridge, he brought the file up and started reading.

Morgana Chiang Tsiang, a recent émigré, killed at the age of forty six. Beaten to death inside her own business.

Miss Tsiang had only been on planet for six months prior to her death. No marriage, no children. Paid her taxes, was a member of the local gym, the neighborhood business association and liked by her neighbors and fellow gym rats. No romantic interests came forward or mentioned by the neighbors or gym rats.

She had bought both her home and the business about a month after immigrating from Xing Yun, a world Baptiste dimly recalled as closer to the core worlds than to Nouvelle Genève.

Her accounts, both financial and utility, had been up to date at the time of her death. The IBS account showed a healthy balance, with nothing excessive for someone with the means to plan a life on a new world. Of course, there was no record of any shadow bank accounts she might have kept. But then, there didn’t appear to be any of the usual tells that such accounts existed. No money moved to nowhere, no cash withdrawals without a full accounting.

Tsiang reported a theft a month after moving into the store. The suspects were never caught. Applied for and received permits to carry a civilian gravgun and outfit the store with a security gate as a result of the theft. The gun was still at the scene and found near the victim, power pack and a full magazine indicating it hadn’t been fired. Account cards were taken, but never accessed.

The ME’s report created more questions than it answered. For one, she’d had some gene therapies herself. Most were high-end physical improvements that most folks outside the military or paramilitary didn’t go in for: Increased adrenal output, heightened reflex responses, and increased muscle efficiency, even some eye-work.

Such modification explained, at least partially, why she’d given nearly as good as she’d gotten. And she had: flesh, presumed to be human, though the DNA had degraded too thoroughly to be tested, was found under her nails, in her teeth. Her knuckles were bloodied with more than her own
body fluids.

Finishing the report and attached ME’s examination, two things stood out for the officer:

First, the kind of gene modification that the suspect had to have been through in order to leave no genetic trace evidence wasn’t something your average street thug had the means to obtain. The money necessary for such illegal mods reeked of organized crime or corporate espionage. That need for means led to more questions about who Tsiang was and why was she killed. Coupled with her single life, recent émigré status and the obvious damage she’d both taken from and managed to do to her attacker, indicated some serious opposition, but who?

Baptiste leaned toward a crime syndicate. Most corporations weren’t big on leaving bodies as proof that someone had to be eliminated. Crime syndicates often did like to leave sign.

Second: A robbery was clearly not the motive, despite the stolen account cards. Much easier to beat the woman to the point of submission and then make her empty the accounts.

Baptiste called up the Inspector’s notes. Aware they would be read by higher, Hervee took pains to say that his notes were mere speculation. After the brief ass-covering, he went on to say that he believed the motive for the murder was revenge for something Tsiang did in her past.

He cited her body modifications and recent immigration. He went on to say that he believed off-worlders had also carried out the killing.

Inspector Baptiste believed the killers were from some corporation or major criminal cartel, but had no proof other than the tidy way Tsiang had lived and the manner of her death. He cited mostly the same things that had stood out for Jean on reading the report, but added that, while local criminal organizations might have the resources to get someone modified as Tsiang’s killer must have been, the fact that no other murders had been carried out by someone with such modifications indicated that criminals of the street variety weren’t involved. The smaller local operations would tend to tend to use such a killer as frequently as possible until caught. Restraint was beyond their reach, for the most part.

The Inspector also noted that the precautions Tsiang had taken, including getting a permit to have the weapon and security system emplaced in her business. Further, while she had a security gate installed, there were no cameras covering the front or interior of the store. If she had legitimate theft concerns, most merchants went first to cameras, then to more expensive options like security gates.

Inspector Baptiste believed that these details indicated an awareness of the fact that she was marked, and had more than the average street-level operator’s instinct for personal security.

The terminal went into power-saving mode as Jean considered the report and his cousin’s notes. The fact that Tsiang obtained the proper permits for the gun and security system was unusual for organized crime. He hadn’t been in on many investigations of corporate espionage crimes to know if that might be a tell for such things.

He sighed and tossed his drink into the recycler.

At least it would bear looking into, perhaps enough to warrant continued work with the IMPs. His bank account liked the pay, and he enjoyed the plainclothes work. Venkman didn’t seem to, but then Nigel could be a hard read on many things.

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