- VIII -
Professor Erez Rosenthal and Charlie Colcord had been escorted to the interview rooms by armed security guards but not before the woman had vocally voiced her opinion about this treatment to the officers who had come to engineering to pick them up.
She was still furious when Nora and Clancy entered the interview room.
While Rosenthal remained in his chair, his colleague had been angrily pacing the room, whipping around to face the doors the moment they opened.
“Do you have any idea of the disruptions your causing to the ongoing construction of the sensor array?” she said. “Do you have any notion of the possible damage you will be responsible for if we fail to finish the array within the next few days? Millions of people may depend on the intelligence that this device will be able to gather about Dominion movements. The Federation’s entire war strategy may be at stake here and you single-handedly undermine all of this by having us dragged here by your goons. It is entirely unacceptable and I will make sure Starfleet Command learns of your actions here which are based solely on your desire to harass the Professor and me.”
To their credit, neither of the investigators paid the raging woman much mind and instead sat down in their chairs, placed their padds on the desk and considered their content for a moment.
“What do you have to say for yourselves?” she said angrily.
Clancy looked up with a disarming smile. “We understand from Lieutenant Hopkins, that the array is undergoing a process of automatic alignment for the next few hours,” he said. “Apparently your immediate involvement will not be required for that process.”
Colcord was stunned for a moment. She quickly recovered. “So now you’re an engineer? You have no idea what you’re talking about. And neither does Lieutenant Hopkins for that matter. There is still plenty for us to do to ensure the array will work as intended.”
“Charlie,” Rosenthal said softly.
“No, this is not acceptable, Professor,” she shot back, still on her feet, still agitated. “This woman has been trying to find a way to blame me for Jin’s death for days now. And now that she’s desperate, she’s resorting to strong hand tactics with no regard for the work we are trying to accomplish here.”
But Rosenthal was not so easily rattled. “Please, Charlie, take a seat and let’s hear what they have to say. They are partially right about the automatic alignment process.”
She shook head but did sit down. “We could still fine-tune the fuel cells and run testing simulations on the long-range sensor packages. Much remains to be done.”
“If you answer our questions quickly, we’ll try to have you out of here in a jiffy,” Clancy said with a smile.
It did nothing to calm Colcord.
“You lied to us,” said Nora Laas brusquely, making it immediately apparent that she had fallen back into the bad cop mode, one role that seemed to suit the fiery Bajoran quite well.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Colcord said.
“Well, let’s not go so far and call it a lie,” said Clancy, “so much as a significant omission.”
The blonde woman still looked perplexed and on the verge of rising to her feet in protest once more.
Nora focused in on Rosenthal. “You left the meeting with Hopkins early on the day of Gedar’s murder.”
There was a moment of silence following this damning accusation.
Colcord ensured it didn’t drag on too long. “We were both exhausted, especially after the argument we had with her and Gedar.”
“About Gedar’s involvement in the meeting?” said Nora.
Colcord decided to ignore that point. “The Professor needed a short refreshment break and left the room for perhaps a couple of minutes.”
“In fact, it was more like ten minutes, according to Lieutenant Hopkins.”
The woman uttered a disparaging moan to communicate her feelings regarding the chief engineer. “She got confused.”
Nora shook her head. “We don’t think so. Also, we have a witness placing you just outside main engineering, Professor. And you didn’t return to the meeting room for ten minutes, which means that you were at the crime scene during the time of Gedar’s death.”
Colcord jumped back onto her feet. “What you are implying is preposterous.”
“We also have evidence to place you in Gedar’s quarters the day before he died,” said Clancy and his laser-like eyes focused on Rosenthal who, to his credit, didn’t flinch at the close scrutiny. “We already established a history between Gedar and Colcord. One which would lend itself to a motive to want him dead, but there is no obvious connection between you and Gedar. And yet you seemed to have sought him out twice over two days, even after making it clear you had no interest in getting assistance from any of the Starfleet engineers.”
Nora leaned in closer. “What was it Professor? Where you angry that Gedar had hurt Colcord back at the Academy? Where you looking to settle your partner’s score yourself?”
Colcord hesitated for a moment, almost as if suddenly unsure of herself. She looked at the professor who didn’t immediately offer any defense. Her moment of indecision lasted a mere second before she focused on the two investigators again. “You are grasping at straws here. You have nothing to charge any of us other than suspicions and circumstantial evidence. Either charge us right now or let us go.”
Clancy focused back on Colcord, thinking for a moment. “You are pretty young to be a full-fledged partner to one of Starfleet’s preeminent scientist and engineer, wouldn’t you say?”
“What?” she said, almost as if unable to believe his audacity.
“It just occurred to me that the Professor here has decades of experience in his field whereas you are fairly new to the scene. In fact there is hardly a single record about any of your work we could find. So naturally I was wondering exactly what you were bringing to this partnership of yours.”
The look on Clancy’s face seemed to be implication enough.
Rosenthal offered a smile. “You have done your research, Counselor but apparently it wasn’t quite thorough enough. I am a happily married man,” he said. “And I’ve been with my husband for over forty years. My relationship with Charlie is strictly professional.”
Clancy nodded to accede the point.
“Why then,” said Nora, “have you decided to enter into this professional partnership?”
“That is none of your—“
But Rosenthal raised his hand to stop her and she slowly took her seat again. “Charlie brought some very important element to this project. I can safely say that without her involvement, we wouldn’t be in this nebula today.”
Clancy referred back to his padd. “It’s not the sensor technology, that much seems obvious. I’m admittedly no expert but from what I understand most of it is based on your previous work, Professor.”
“The shields,” said Nora, making the connection herself.
The counselor nodded and then looked at Colcord. “You are responsible for the shield design.”
“I contributed to it, yes,” she said.
“And it’s a design that Lieutenant Gedar seemed to be quite familiar with. More so than anyone else on this ship. Is it possible he was more familiar with the design than you were?”
“Really?” said Clancy. “Because you knew Gedar extremely well at the Academy. Attended many of the same classes and probably worked on very similar projects. Then you have a sudden falling out—“
“The bastard cheated one me,” she said but with a lot less fire than before.
Clancy nodded. “Right. And you decide to leave the Academy.”
Nora was following her colleague’s train of thought. “It wasn’t your design.”
The other woman turned red. “It was as much mine as it was his.”
“Maybe that’s right,” said Clancy. “But it was you who brought it to Professor Rosenthal, not him. And you did so without his knowledge.”
“That’s why you didn’t want to come here,” said Nora, realizing the true reason for the first time. “It had nothing to do with your past relationship with him. You didn’t want him to find out that you had stolen his designs.”
She forcefully hit the table. “I didn’t steal anything. We worked on the transphasic shield together. After what he did to me, he had no more claim to it.”
Nora grinned. “I’m not sure the courts would agree. Besides, he’s no longer around to verify that, is he?”
“I didn’t kill Gedar.”
Clancy nodded and looked at Rosenthal. “You found out, didn’t you?”
Even Colcord now turned to look at the man sitting next to her.
He removed his glasses very slowly and began to polish them with a cloth he kept in the vest of his three-piece suit. “I had suspected something for a while now. Don’t misunderstand. Charlie is very efficient and smart as a tack but just not quite smart enough to come up with the transphasic design,” he said and then looked at the blank expression on her face. “Sorry, dear, but I suspected for a while now that you didn’t come up with this by yourself.”
“And your suspicions were confirmed when you met Gedar,” said Clancy.
The professor nodded. “He had the kind of inside knowledge on the design that I would not have expected from a Starfleet engineer with no direct involvement with the project. I knew right away after meeting him the first time that he had seen the design before. That he’d had a hand in creating it.”
“That’s why you went to see him in his quarters the day before he died,” said Nora. “You didn’t want to share the credit with him, did you? What did you do? Threaten him?”
He quickly shook his head. “Nothing as crude as that. Mister Gedar had a quite peculiar set of priorities one doesn’t usually find among Starfleet officers.”
“What does that mean?” said the Bajoran.
“He was interested in money. Lots of it. We came to an agreement. I would sell the design to the Ferengi or the Orions and he would receive the majority of the profit.”
But Nora was not convinced. “What would he need with money?”
“I’m not sure. But he did mention to me that he was not intending on staying in Starfleet much longer. I don’t think he was happy here or maybe he had gotten himself in some other trouble, he wouldn’t elaborate on that.”
“Presumably you made this arrangement the day before he died,” said Clancy. “But then you sought him out again on the day he was killed. Why?”
“Part of our arrangement had been that he kept well clear of getting involved in the sensor array construction. I was naturally concerned when he showed up to the meeting with Hopkins and the insights he offered at the time,” said the professor before placing his spectacles back on his nose. “I was concerned that he had changed his mind.”
“Did he?” Nora said.
He shook his head. “No. At least he claimed not to when I found him by himself in engineering. He said that he had only joined the meeting at Lieutenant Hopkins’ insistence; that she apparently wanted him to take a bigger role in the project over his objections. I think she thought very highly of him as an engineer, which I suppose is understandable. He told me that he’d had a word with her about it after he had left the meeting and that it became rather heated. But he assured me he would stay away in the future as he still needed the money I could get him. He was still determined to get out of Starfleet as soon as he could. And he was very much alive when I left him.”
Nora and Clancy exchanged looks and it was obvious that the security chief was not yet entirely convinced of this story.
The counselor turned back to face the scientist. “Professor, would you agree to undergo an autonomous response analysis?”
He nodded without hesitation. “Certainly.”