Day Seven: The Devil in Disguise
– I –
0535 hours was the perfect time on Eagle
for an early morning run around the ship’s saucer section. With the slowest shift of the day still on duty for the next few hours and most everyone on Alpha shift still fast asleep, this was usually the time the ship was almost serene and the corridors barely frequented. And Nora Laas appreciated the quiet for her morning routine as she began her warm up stretches near to her quarters on deck nine.
The only problem: It was already 0540 and she was not yet on the move.
After she had let slip of her morning run to the counselor he had quickly shown interest and asked if he could join her. At first she had been hesitant but after he had revealed that he had been looking to start a ritual of his own but had never found anyone willing to partake, she had ultimately agreed to let him join her.
However he was late.
Nora noticed the odd glances she received from the few, mostly male crewmembers who passed her by. It didn’t take her long to realize why. She normally wore an old Marines shirt and sweatpants when she ran her laps in the morning but since investigating Sergeant Yunta as a prime suspect in her murder case she had felt it inappropriate. So instead this morning she had decided to go with a simple combination of a black athletic bra and matching shorts, showing off a lot more skin than she did usually. And both, she suddenly realized, where also a lot tighter than her normal workout clothes, showing off all her feminine curves as well as her athletic figure.
Her choice of outfit had nothing to do with the fact that she was expecting company this morning, or at least that’s what she told herself. She wasn’t trying to show off, she had simply not given her wardrobe much thought when she had asked the replicator to produce something appropriate. But Alex Clancy of course was a counselor. A psychologist very much trained to analyze people’s behavior and their reasoning. Seeing her like this, he could infer a completely mistaken meaning to her attire and so she quickly resolved to return to her quarters and select something far less revealing.
She only managed a few steps before she spotted him approaching her hurriedly.
“Lieutenant?” he said as he came jogging down the corridor, wearing running shoes, shorts and a Starfleet Academy t-shirt. “I’m so sorry, I’m late. I could’ve sworn I told the computer to wake me at 0520.”
To his credit he didn’t even seem to notice her outfit.
Nora wasn’t sure if to feel relieved or annoyed that he didn’t even snuck so much as a peek. After all she was proud of her body. Or at least of the work she had put into it and not many people ever got to see so much of it.
“Are you alright?” he said, when she didn’t speak. “Where you going somewhere?”
She shook her head. “No. Just waiting for you. You ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Good. Let’s get started.”
“How many are we doing?”
“I like to do thirty laps,” she said and offered a little smirk when she noticed his eyes opening wider. “But perhaps fifteen will do this morning.”
“Oh, please, don’t take it easy on my account.”
Soon after they were off, jogging alongside each other on deck nine’s widest corridor which completely circumferenced the elliptically shaped saucer section. As expected there was fairly little traffic to dodge at this early hour.
Nora was not used to having company on her morning jog and reduced her pace, not only to avoid burning Clancy out too early but also to allow them to discuss their progress on the Gedar investigation.
“I have to admit, this case is becoming more and more convoluted. Just when you think you have your suspect, something else comes out of nowhere,” he said.
“We shouldn’t dismiss Fey just yet.”
He turned to look at her, even though she kept her eyes trained forward. “And this is coming from you.”
She aimed him a look. “What does that mean?”
“You’re the one who was determined of her innocence. You’re the one who let her out of the brig.”
Nora shook her head. “Not because I think she’s innocent.”
Not wanting to rehash their conversation about her logic of letting Yunta Fey rejoin her Marines contingent, the counselor moved on. “Alright, so now we’ve got Hopkins and Gedar leaving their meeting together just a few minutes before he died. Something nobody seemed to think was important to tell us.”
The Bajoran didn’t say anything to that.
“What I cannot figure out is why nobody would tell us,” he continued. “I can see why Lieutenant Hopkins would want to keep this under wraps so as not to implicate herself but what about Rosenthal and Colcord. Why didn’t they say anything?”
“Lou probably just forgot.”
“Really?” he said, perplexed. “Forgot? To point out that she may have been the last person to see him alive.”
“She wasn’t. We know that. He returned to engineering and was seen there by Kolrami and others.”
“Still, the fact that she didn’t¬¬—“
“Rosenthal and Colcord are the real story here,” she said, cutting him off. “According to Sanzenbacher that argument got a lot more heated than anyone was willing to admit to. Colcord was furious.”
“So was Hopkins according to Sanzenbacher.”
“She was just defending her man.”
“Well, you know her much better than I do, you tell me if that’s normal behavior for her.”
She had nothing to say to that. “Why was Colcord so agitated?”
“Clearly because she has history with him. He broke her heart back at the Academy, maybe even made her leave and now she has to unexpectedly work with him again,” said Clancy.
But Nora shook her head. “There’s got to be more to it. And why did Rosenthal go to see Gedar in his quarters the day before his death? Are you telling me you’re buying his story about him wanting to brainstorm about his own invention in private after having made it abundantly clear to everyone involved that he didn’t wish to discuss the project with any Starfleet officer?”
“It’s not impossible.”
“And what about Yunta claiming to have seen Rosenthal around engineering shortly before his death?”
“If she’s guiltily, she’s obviously trying to deflect blame.”
She turned her head to look at him. “And I though I was the skeptic here.”
“Okay, let’s assume you’re right and Rosenthal is involved. What’s his motive? As far as we can tell he didn’t have a … a relationship with … uh … with Gedar.”
Nora smirked. Clancy was running out breath and it had not gone unnoticed by her that he had slowed over the last few minutes. “Do you need us to take a break?”
He quickly waved her off. “I’m … I’m fine.”
“Just ten more laps.”
“Ten … more?” he said in surprised, clearly having thought they were much closer to their target already. “No … problem.”
And yet he couldn’t quite match his earlier pace again. Nora showed pity and slowed. “There is something about Rosenthal and Gedar we’re not seeing, she said. Some sort of connection.”
“The only connection we’ve got right now,” he said, taking his time to speak, “is Colcord.”
“And the fact that he was clearly quite impressed with Gedar. Much more so than Colcord.”
That’s when Clancy slowed to a trot and when Nora looked over she realized he was no longer at her side. She turned around to find him having come to complete stop a few meters behind her.
“About that break you mentioned. Maybe I do need it after all.”
She stopped herself. “Maybe fifteen laps were a bit ambitious for a beginner,” she said with a large smile plastered on her face.
“It’s just I haven’t done anything like this in a while. Probably not since the Academy.”
She nodded. “Let’s grab some water and head for the gym.”
“Of course,” she said and clasped him good-naturedly on the back as she walked passed him. “You didn’t think just running around the ship is my entire work out regimen, did you? How do you think I maintain this fabulous body,” she added, shooting him a wink over her shoulder.
Apparently that was enough to convince him to follow her.
To his great relief they took the turbolift to the ship’s gymnasium and then entered the large facility moments later, each already cradling bottles of water which Clancy sucked down eagerly.
The room, filled with exercise equipment was almost empty, only a couple of other morning birds were using the facility.
Nora walked over to the replicator and retrieved two fresh towels, tossing one to Clancy who, still in the process of gulping water, caught it only clumsily. She then walked up to a weight machine designed to exercise her back muscles and triceps, easily pushing weights with her powerful arms.
“Hey, Doctor, stop staring and start working out,” she said when she caught him just standing there, watching her work that machine. She gestured to the device to her side.
“Right,” he said quickly, put down his bottle and walked over to the machine, looking over the settings.
“Start on a low setting and work yourself up.”
He did as he was told and then looked back at her to make sure he was using it right.
Nora’s amusement was evident. “Not a place you come to regularly, I take it.”
“I should but … been so busy lately.”
“I know an excuse when I hear one. I have to say though, for a medical professional, I would have thought you’d take better care of your body.”
“I’m not sure if you can tell but I’m really more of a mind over body kind of guy,” he said and tapped his temple. “That’s the muscle I prefer to work out.”
“I see,” she said. “So I’m nothing more than a simple minded brute to you.”
He quickly shook his head. “Absolutely not. In fact I admire you greatly.”
“Oh?” she said shooting him a surprised look.
“Of course, you are the epitome of strength and resilience. I must say I was mightily impressed the way you took down Yunta in the Nest without even a weapon.”
The Bajoran noticed that the remaining two people in the gym had left. She got back on her feet and began to stretch, doing so almost directly in front of Clancy, making it almost impossible for him not to get a great view. She caught his eye and smiled. “Then maybe we need to get you all strong and resilient as well so that next time I get in a fight, you can help out instead of standing on the sidelines.”
“Honestly, I think I might be a lost cause.”
“No such thing,” she said. “First of all, you’ve got to learn how to use that machine you’re on correctly,” she added and stepped closer, changing the settings.
“Oh, that’s a lot harder now,” he said when he felt the weight resistance go up.
“You need to get your arms all the way into the device,” she said and then practically stood over him and in-between his legs, leaning into him and guiding his arm where it was supposed to be.
Clancy clearly couldn’t deny the affect her proximity had on him.
And Nora felt it too. She looked down to find that he was now just inches away, his eyes no longer focused on her body but staring intently into hers.
She wasn’t sure why she was so affected by him all of a sudden. There had been zero attraction when she had first met Alex Clancy a few days earlier. In fact, if anything she had been mad as hell that Star had assigned him to her investigation and she’d had little qualms about letting her anger out on him initially.
And yet now, having worked with him closely, having come to appreciate his sharp reasoning but also, she had to admit, his sense of humor, his reasonably good looks and his general, almost carefree attitude, she felt something she hadn’t felt since Gene Edison.
Nora had never been one to over think an issue.
She moved her head down further until her lips pressed against his gently. He did not resist, didn’t try to stop it or slow it down somehow. Her hands touched his face and then moved down to his neck and shoulders even while their tongues explored each other’s mouths.
Clancy reached out for her hips and then she felt his touch on her bare sides. Like she had been shocked by a jolt of electricity, she jumped back.
“I’m sorry,” he said, even though it was clear he wasn’t entirely sure what he was apologizing for.
She looked back at him with a blank expression on her face, almost as if she had no idea what had just happened. What she had allowed to happen. Then she shook her head and took another step back. “That was wrong, I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize.”
“Yes, I do. I shouldn’t have done that. And … I don’t know why I did. I’m truly sorry,” she said, her words now flying out of her mouth. And before Clancy could say anything else, Nora had already grabbed her towel and fled the room.