– VI –
When Nora returned to her office she found much to her chagrin that Alex Clancy was still there. He stood the moment she stepped into the room but before he could say a single word she shot him an icy look which she had perfected over the years and was usually reserved for subordinates who had displeased her.
It had the intended effect on Clancy.
“You are here to assist me with my investigation and clearly there is nothing I can do about that. But before we start let’s set some ground rules. First, I’m in charge. You are merely here in an advisory capacity. You do what I tell you and nothing else. Is that clear?”
He nodded. “As crystal. You’re the principal on the investigation. The boss, the big cheese, the top dog, the bigwig, the head honcho, the Big Kahuna. I’m just a lowly foot solider following your every order,” he said with a large grin plastered on his face.
She considered him suspiciously. “I don’t even know what half those words meant but I believe I got my point across.”
“You sure did.”
She walked back to her chair and sat down behind her desk, keeping her eyes peeled on the counselor as if he might jump across the table and attack her any second.
He took his seat again. “Contrary to what you may believe, Lieutenant, I am not here to spy on your progress or further anyone else’s agenda. I just want to help you find whoever did this in any way I can. That is my one and only concern here.”
Nora hadn’t even realized how tense she had been until she felt her muscles slowly relaxing. It suddenly struck her that he was in fact quite good at what he did. Even though she had been determined not to let her guard down, he had managed to calm her with just a few well-placed words. “Alright then, Counselor, where do you suggest we start?”
“You can call me Alex if you prefer,” he said with a grin.
When her look remained frosty he seemed to realize that she clearly did not prefer that at all.
“Uh, okay. Well the good news about a crime on a starship is that our culprit cannot be far and has no means to escape. That’s making this job a lot easier for us. What we have to establish now is means, motive and opportunity. Starting with opportunity, that pretty much covers nearly the entire crew.”
She shook her head. “We can rule out the regular crew,” she said. “The killer is more than likely amongst the civilians who recently came aboard.”
“At this point we shouldn’t rule out anybody unless we can establish and alibi.”
“You’re suggesting somebody of the crew did this?”
“I’m suggesting that anyone could be the killer. You, me, the captain, at this point we don’t do ourselves any favors by excluding anyone from consideration.”
“Maybe. But by using the process of elimination, whoever remains is likely our culprit.”
“There are somewhere near six-hundred people on this ship.”
He nodded. “So we better get started. Where were you last night?”
She gave him that look again, making it clear that she was not amused by the question. But when he didn’t back down, she actually began to consider it. “I was up late finishing up a report. Check the log if you want.”
He offered her that easy smile again. “That’s one down, 599 to go.”
* * *
“When I said that I was hoping to sign on a starship once more for some excitement and adventure, this is not exactly what I had in mind,” said Doctor Elijah Katanga as he hovered over the dead body of Lieutenant Jin Gedar. “Don’t we have enough death and killing with the Dominion on our hands? Do we have to start killing each other?”
“So you can definitely confirm then that this man was the victim of a homicide?” asked Alex Clancy who along with Nora Laas and the doctor were the only other persons in the morgue.
“Well, it’s been a few years since I’ve performed a post-mortem—“
“Wait,” said Clancy. “You’re saying you actually cut the body open?”
“Of course not, don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “We stopped doing open body autopsies a century ago. Why cut a person open when scanners can tell you all you need to know without ever touching the body.”
“Right,” he said, sounding somewhat relieved.
“Well, regardless how long it’s been,” Katanga said, “I know defensive bruising when I see it.”
Nora stepped closer to the naked corpse. She couldn’t deny that the dark-skinned Krellonian had been a handsome man. His toned physique was still evident, as were his kind face and his long silver and black hair which tended to cover his earless skull. He was ghostly pale now of course and cold as stone. She couldn’t immediately see any form of bruising on his skin until Katanga activated an ultraviolet light which revealed a whole pattern of sub-dermal damage underneath the skin.
Nora had seen many dead bodies in her various lives, as a resistance fighter, as a Marine, as a Starfleet security officer, different to murder, death was nothing knew to her.
She noticed with some satisfaction that Clancy apparently couldn’t quite say the same. He seemed to keep himself as far away as possible to the slab containing the corpse. “Lieutenant, do you see all these bruises?” she said.
She turned around and noticed that he was making every effort not to look at Gedar’s body. “Really? Because you’re standing all the way over there and I don’t really think you can get a good look at things from there.”
“I’m seeing just fine, thank you very much.”
She smirked. “I thought you had experience with this kind of thing?”
Clancy looked her straight in the eye. “Doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with dead bodies.”
“He won’t bite, son,” said Katanga.
Clancy took a deep breath but whatever courage this was supposed to have given him wasn’t quite enough to step closer. If anything he only gagged slightly at the smell of death which apparently even the advanced sterilization field in the morgue couldn’t quite neutralize.
“So let me get this straight,” said the security chief, crossing her arms below her chest. “Star thinks you are some sort of expert in homicide investigations and yet you can’t stand looking at a dead body.”
He frowned at that. “I never said I was an expert. I said I had some experience. As a counselor. You know what you do as a counselor, Lieutenant? You speak to people. And they tend to be alive when you talk to them.”
Nora and Katanga exchanged a bemused look. “I don’t think the man has the stomach for this kind of work,” said the security chief.
“He should consider himself lucky we didn’t cut him open then,” the doctor said. “Would have made an incision right here along his sternum,” he added and then drew an imaginary line across the dead man’s chest. “With all those organs crammed in there so tightly, it’s a real mess, I tell you.”
“If you … eh … excuse me a moment,” Clancy said. “I’ll be right outside.” And then he practically ran out of the morgue.
Nora Laas threw the man a cheeky grin. “You’re a wicked man, Doctor, I like it.”
“What’s the point of being a physician if you cannot scare off the squeamish from time to time?”
“Back to the less amusing dead body in front of us,” he said, his face as stern and serious as ever.
“Of course,” she said, her humor suddenly gone as she focused on the many bruises on Gedar’s body. “This must’ve been one hell of a fight.”
But Katanga shook his head. “Most of the bruises are not recent.”
She looked up at him with a surprised look. “He got those before last night? How?”
The doctor produced a padd. “According to his medical file, he was bruised after an accident in engineering two weeks ago.”
“These don’t look like they’re from an accident.”
Katanga nodded. “I’d have to agree. But that’s what was recorded in the official log.”
“Recorded by whom?”
Katanga appeared uncomfortable revealing that information.
“By whom, Doctor?” she said again, this time more insistent.
“Doctor Wenera,” he said hesitantly.
Nora looked back down at the body. The bruises, now mostly dark patches around his shoulder, chest and arms looked as if they had been quite painful. “Wenera,” she mouthed silently.
“Now, listen here, young lady, I’ve known Jane for a long time and if you are implying that she’s done anything improper—“
But Nora held up a hand. “I’m not implying anything. And she’s certainly not a suspect. She left the ship long before the time of death, correct?”
Katanga nodded. “That is right. TOD is around 2345, give or take 15 minutes. Unfortunately I cannot be more accurate. We don’t exactly have a wealth of information on Krellonian physiology in our databanks.”
“But you said that some of the bruising is recent?”
“Yes,” the doctor confirmed and lifted one of his lifeless arms. “Around the hands and wrists. It doesn’t tell us much except that there must have been a struggle before he fell.”
“Which means we’re definitely dealing with murder,” she said and studied the bruising up close.
Nora stood back up. “Thank you, Doctor. Please let me know if you find anything else which might be relevant to the investigation,” she said. “I better go and find Clancy. I suppose I have to fill him in.”
“You’ll have a full report within a couple of hours.”
She gave him a final nod and headed for the doors.
Nora stopped and turned to face him again shy of reaching the doors.
“I’ve seen and done a lot of things during my long career in Starfleet. Both beautiful and horrible things alike. But I don’t think there is anything worse than the willful murder of another person in cold blood. Do me a favor and find whatever bastard did this.”
“You’ve got my word.”