– VII –
Clancy noticed the young man entering the security office immediately. And even though he wore a mustard colored undershirt, he obviously didn’t belong. Over the last few days the counselor had gotten to know almost all of the members of Eagle
’s security team but he couldn’t recall having seen the red-haired crewman’s face before.
And then there was the fact that he looked nervous being there. He had taken only a couple of steps into the room and it almost looked as if he was reconsidering having come here at all.
Clancy looked around, it was late in the day and he noticed that the few security people on duty were not paying the newcomer any attention. He quickly jumped out of his seat but by the time he was approaching him, he seemed to have decided to leave again and was just about to turn away.
“Can I help you?”
He turned back around, seeing the counselor aiming an easy smile at him.
“Uh … I was just leaving.
“You know, I could be wrong about this, but something tells me you came here to speak to somebody.”
“Yeah, I guess I kinda did.”
“And I’m kinda here to listen.”
The crewman nodded but didn’t say anything further.
“Could this be about the ongoing investigation into Lieutenant Gedar’s death?” Clancy said, still smiling.
He looked at him with widening eyes “How’d you know?”
“Listen, I don’t want to get anybody in trouble.”
He nodded understandingly. “Of course not. But if you know something that could help us, you really shouldn’t keep it to yourself.”
“Yeah,” he said and then looked around the security office, apparently looking for somebody.
Clancy thought he knew why. “Lieutenant Nora isn’t here right now but you can talk to me.”
His smile was uneasy. “Actually, I think I would prefer that. I’ve heard stories about her. She can get a little tough.”
“Tell me about it,” he said and led him into the interview room. “Just talk to me for now and I’ll fill her in later.”
This seemed to be putting him at ease and he followed him into the room and then identified himself as Crewman Asher Sanzenbacher, an engineering specialist.
Clancy remembered his name. “You were on duty of the night of the murder. You discovered the body.”
He nodded slowly.
“If I’m not mistake we already took your statement.”
He didn’t say anything to that.
Clancy could tell that he was concerned. “Why don’t you take a seat?”
Sanzenbacher did as suggested.
“Tell me what it is you remembered about that night that you may have forgotten to mention before.”
He made eye contact again but apparently Clancy’s calm tone encouraged him. “I’m not sure how important it is or if it means anything at all but there was a meeting about an hour before I found the lieutenant’s body in engineering.”
Clancy nodded. “Yes. Between Hopkins, Gedar, Rosenthal and Colcord.”
“That’s right. I was walking past the meeting room at about 2315 hours and I stopped for a moment because I was hearing pretty loud voices coming from inside. After a moment I realized it was an argument.”
“Could you make out what it was about?”
“Not everything but it was clear that Miss Colcord didn’t want Gedar on the team working on the sensor array and she wasn’t shy in letting Lieutenant Hopkins know.”
“How bad was it?”
“Oh it was bad. Colcord was shouting at that point and the weirdest thing was that the chief was shouting right back. I don’t know how well you know Lieutenant Hopkins but she practically never shouts at anyone. She hardly even raises her voice to people. I swear I’ve never heard her so agitated.”
“And all this was about Gedar being part of the project?”
“I think so. Or maybe Lieutenant Hopkins did not appreciate the way in which Colcord was talking to one of her people. She tends to be quite protective of us.”
Clancy thought about this for a moment. “Then what happened?”
“I heard footsteps heading for the doors so I quickly walked on. I didn’t want to be caught eavesdropping. But I turned around one more time before I reached the corner and I saw them come out.”
“Them? You mean Gedar?”
He shook his head. “No, both Gedar and Hopkins came out together and then—“ he said and stopped, apparently developing second thoughts.
“And then what, Crewman?”
It was obvious that he didn’t want to say the next part and avoided making eye contact with the counselor.
“It’s okay, you can tell me.”
He looked up and right into his eyes. “Hopkins and Gedar walked away together and back towards main engineering.”
That came as complete news to Clancy. According to the statements made, Gedar had left the meeting early but nobody had mentioned that Hopkins had accompanied him. So far they had operated under the assumption that Hopkins had stayed in the meeting room along with Colcord and Rosenthal. “Is there anything else you remember?”
He shook his head. “No. I left and went to impulse drive control where I stayed with another engineer until I returned to main engineering and found—“
The door to the room opened to allow Nora Laas to stick her head in. “What’s going on?”
Sanzenbacher immediately jumped onto his feet.
“Ah, Lieutenant,” said Clancy casually.
But Nora was peering suspiciously at the other man. “Crewman Sanzenbacher?”
Clancy left his seat. “Anyway, thank you for coming in, Crewman. We’ll call you if we need to speak to you again.”
Sanzenbacher looked at Clancy, seemingly relived and then back at Nora who continued to stare daggers at the man. “Ma’am,” he said and then managed to quickly slip out and passed her towards the exit.
“What was that about?” she said.
“The Crewman had something to tell us.”
“Really? And why exactly didn’t he tell me?”
He shrugged innocently. “Some people prefer talking to a counselor than to a security officer, didn’t you know that?”
She seemed visibly annoyed by that.
“Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in. But I’m afraid you’re not going to like it.”