The party members are awoken around 7.30am by the sound of female screaming coming from down the corridor. Sluggishly, they rise from their beds to check on what’s going on.
They arrive to find Miss Fontaine at the entrance to her suite with her head on Sinclair’s shoulder. Sinclair looks very tired and seems to have no idea what’s going on.
A waiter from room service is looking concerned.
“What’s going on?” asks Dev.
“It’s Dr. Ramguteran,” Miss Fontaine sobs. “He’s d … d … dead.”
She buries her head deeper in Sinclair’s shoulder, bawling her eyes out.
“Let me through,” Splinter says, “I’m a doctor.”
“I’m sorry, Sir, I can’t let you in there – not until security are on the scene. They will be here soon.”
Right on cue, three members of security arrive and enter the room. They immediately call for police and ambulance.
The party members stand around impotently, waiting to see what happens. Ten minutes later and four cops and a team of medics arrive. They are in the room for ten minutes and then the medics emerge with a bodybag on a gurney. The doctor is definitely dead.
One cop starts taping up the room.
POLICE LINE – DO NOT CROSS
Another cop speaks to the party members. “I would like you all to return to your rooms now. We will be asking you all a few questions.”
Everyone heads back to their rooms to get dressed and await their meeting with the police. Throughout the morning, a couple of police officers individually ask each of the party members a few questions – their activities of the night before, where they went to bed, how they knew Dr. Ramguteran, etc. The party members have nothing to hide and so answer truthfully.
For a couple of hours, nothing happens and the party members sit around their rooms watching cable TV and wondering what is going on. Then the detectives are back asking more questions. This time they are asking questions about Sinclair – or Sir Bartholomew Brinkerton-Chatsworthy as he is known on his Ksorraknue passport. The questioning continues for a while.
Eventually, by early evening, all of the party members are told that they are free to go about their business now, but Sinclair is being held at Facet Central Police Station under suspicion of murdering Doctor Ramguteran.
The party members head down to the hotel bar in order to discuss the situation. They haven’t been there long when Dev’s communicator rings. It is Sinclair:
“Errm … Dev, old chap … I’m using my one free phonecall so don’t hang up. You know a fair bit about the law, I remember. Any chance you could come and … errm … help me sort this mess out?”
Dev rolls his eyes. “Alright then,” he sighs. “We’ll be over as soon as possible.”
The party members finish their drinks and then Nick drives them to the police station, which is located just ten minutes’ away.
Dev makes his way to the Desk Sargeant and tells him that he is Sinclair’s attorney.
The Desk Sargeant asks everyone to sign in and then escorts them into an interview room. After a wait of thirty minutes, Sinclair is led into the room, handcuffed and wearing an orange jump suit. It doesn’t suit him.
Dev and Splinter have terrible flashbacks to their time on The Gash.
“Well this is a rum deal,” Sinclair sighs. “A dashed nuisance if you ask me. I had a reservation with the boys at Le Manoire du Trompe L’Oeil for tonight as well. I don’t think they realize how bloody difficult that was – the place is booked solid for months.”
“We’ll get you the best legal representation that’s available on Jewell,” Dev reassures him.
“Legal?” questions Sinclair. “But that’s going to take bloody months. You know when these penpushers are like. No, obviously these amateur donut-munchers have just made a big mistake. Someone just needs to set them right and I’m sure that this whole matter can be cleared up.”
“Well let’s see what evidence they have first of all,” Dev says.
Sinclair is led back to his cells and Dev manages to track down the arresting officer, Detective Inspector Hercule Morrison, who agrees to a meeting. After the usual pleasantries, Dev gets down to business.
“So what evidence do you have to suggest that my client was somehow involved in the doctor’s death?” Dev asks.
The DI looks at his notes and gives Dev the evidence.
“First of all, the smoking gun is that the victim’s hand was bunched into a fist. Inside his fist, was a shirt button. Upon investigating the alleged murderer’s wardrobe, a shirt was found with a missing button – an exact match for that found in the victim’s hand.”
“Secondly, the communal balcony that was shared by the doctor’s suite and that of the murderer’s showed that someone had been through there. Furniture had been moved to suggest that someone had entered or exited via the balcony, which is how we believe he entered the suite.”
“Thirdly, the adjoining door between the two apartments had been opened and closed in the previous 24 hours. This is how we believe that the murderer made his escape.”
“Finally, the doctor’s datapad shows that a search had been made regarding the murderer and his companions, especially the murderer.”
Sin sits back, allowing Devlin to speak with the DI in order to thoroughly understand the situation Sinclair and the QLoK had been put into. She does not seem out of place in her formal attire, looking like something of a private investigator. Sin had managed to find a sophisticated pair of red sunglasses that had been folded and placed on the table for polite conversation.
When the opportunity arises for her to speak, she politely calls for the DI’s attention.
“Sir, while I must concede that you know far more about the matters of crime and punishment than I, I believe that I can offer some insight into this matter. While I may not be a professional such as yourself, allow me to cogitate on the nature of this crime with you.”
“I have observed Sir Bartholomew for many months as we have traveled from system to system together, and believe myself to be a fair judge of his character; the good and the bad. Sir Bartholomew has his share of vices and distractions, one being that he is a notorious womanizer. Perhaps it is this reason that you have put him under suspicion; for his advances on the young lady Fontaine were rebuked and frowned upon by the late Dr. Ramguteran. I must stress however, that Sir Bartholomew’s womanizing nature does not fit the psychological profile of one that would murder a rival for a mate. To Sir Bartholomew, one woman is as good as the next and no woman is worth killing over. To him, women are to be used and tossed aside when they are no longer entertaining. A woman like Miss Fontaine who rebuked his advances would cease to be entertaining, and thus would cease to be worth his time. I do not pretend to approve of Sir Bartholomew’s behavior, but I know that he is not capable of cold blooded murder. He is a successful man who would never risk his empire for little more than a mound of salt.”
“If you will follow my reasoning, since Sir Bartholomew would have no motive for the murder then it is necessary for us to consider the alternative suspects. Only Miss Fontaine would be close enough to Dr. Ramguten to have some reason to wish him harm. I do not pretend to understand her reasons, as she is little more than a stranger to me, but based on the entry logs you have listed it would be a simple thing for Miss Fontaine to retrieve the incriminating button from Sir Bartholomew’s wardrobe while he was out handling the QLoK’s business itinerary. Miss Fontaine was quite overt with her dislike for Sir Bartholomew, going as far as to physically attack him on one occasion. As the QLoK’s Security Officer, I naturally intervened immediately and once separated ensured that the issue had been settled. Regardless, that incident proved to me that Miss Fontaine is more than capable of responding with violence, and it would not surprise me if Sir Bartholomew was framed, if not by Miss Fontaine than by a proxy.”
“For the moment, let us entertain the button itself that was found clutched in the late Dr. Ramguten’s hand. In order for the button to have been found there, we must assume that Dr. Ramguten was able to grab hold of his attacker at some point in an effort to defend himself. While it may still be premature for us to determine the manner in which he died, or the extent of the wounds that culminated in his expiring, you made no mention of defensive wounds on his arms or body indicating that he did in fact fight back. However, the button was found clutched in his hand. The only way that it could have been found there was if Dr. Ramguten had fought back, which the lack of wounds on either Sir Bartholomew or himself would indicate he did not, or… it had been placed there.”
“If that is the case, then the manner of Dr. Ramguten’s death must be called into question. Poison or the use of a weapon would not eliminate either Sir Bartholomew or Miss Fontaine as the potential killer, but it would decisively call into question the manner by which the incriminating button ended up in Dr. Ramguten’s hand. The use of either would not allow Dr. Ramguten to have gripped his attacker’s clothing. In fact, the only manner by which Dr. Ramguten could have been dispatched in the silent way that Miss Fontaine described (quiet enough to have not woken her sleeping only a room away), would have been the use of highly skilled martial arts methods that he does not in fact possess. The button in Dr. Ramguten’s hand indicates a struggle, but a struggle is impossible because Miss Fontaine did not wake as she claimed and the button could only have been placed in his hand. Miss Fontaine’s testimony is not genuine and must be called into question, and the reason for her deceit must be addressed. The simple excuse that she is a heavy sleeper is not enough, and a simple blood test would confirm whether or not she was under the influence of a sedative during the time of the murder.”
“The furniture that had been moved in Dr. Ramguten’s suite would have fingerprints of course, none of which will return as belonging to Sir Bartholomew since he has not in fact been inside the suite itself. And since Dr. Ramguten and Miss Fontaine both traveled as passengers aboard our ship the QLoK, it is no surprise that he wanted to do a thorough background check on those providing him passage. I am also aware that Dr. Ramguten had become concerned that himself and Miss Fontaine were in danger due to their participation in the Augmentation Pageant, though he had since decided to leave his security in the hands of the Pageant guards. Upon thinking on it, that day that Miss Fontaine showed up on the QLoK she was behaving strangely and had broken a heel and within days physically attacked Sir Bartholomew for his advances.”
“I am under the distinct impression that Miss Fontaine is rather more than she has let on. This is of course only conjecture, I merely speak my mind to give you as much information as is necessary to see justice done for this crime.”
Detective Inspector Morrison is silent for a long while after Sin-Sasha speaks. As she looks into his eyes, she can tell that a lot of what she has said to him obviously makes a lot of sense, and he is taking a while to compose his response to her.
“Well the coroner has found that the cause of death was suffocation,”he eventually replies. “The classic smothering with a pillow method – that would explain why Miss Fontaine was not awoken by any disturbance that resulted in the doctor grabbing a button.”
“It is true that Sir Batholomew showed no signs of any scratches, but he is a lot younger and stronger than the doctor with the obvious element of surprise, so that is perhaps not unusual. There were also none of his fingerprints inside the room, but he could easily have worn gloves to have prevented that.”
“As for his being too rich and important to bother with one woman, I’ve seen jealousy do strange things to a man’s mind. In some cases, the rich and the powerful are more likely suspects than regular working men. It’s their huge egos; they think that they are above the law and can get away with … murder.”
“As for Miss Fontaine, I can’t give too much information away as it is against police procedure, but we have not completely eliminated her from our inquiries at the moment. The only reason that she is not here in the next cell is that we don’t have any evidence against her at the moment.”
“You came from Ruby, didn’t you?”
The party members nod in unison.
“We have already sent a dispatch to our colleagues on Ruby by xboat asking if they have any more information on her. I would imagine that we would have more information on her in a little over two weeks.”
“Now have you any more questions for me? I do have other business to attend to.”
Sin-Sasha takes a sip from her Styrofoam cup of coffee as she listened to the Inspector. It was already cold but she preferred it that way anyway. She sets the cup down on Morrison’s desk and leans forward almost apologetically for taking up more of his time.
“As I am sure you know Sir, suffocation is perhaps one of the most terrifying feelings in life. Panic sets in immediately, the victim wakes and begins to thrash about in a desperate attempt to free themselves. The suggestion that Sir Bartholomew used his superior strength to complete the silent execution of Dr. Ramguteran is possible, but if the Doctor’s hands were in fact free then he would have no doubt clawed at the hands and wrist of his attacker. For the button to have been found in his hand, then he must also have been able to scratch at his attacker’s body and arms; the arms holding the pillow against his face. Now, provided that we know that neither the Doctor nor Sir Bartholomew have these defensive wounds, and as I am sure that your expert coroner has thoroughly checked the victim’s fingernails for DNA then we can assume that he was unable to strike at his attacker at all.”
“The only way for this combination of evidence to be possible would have been for the attacker to have pinned the victim’s arms at his side while simultaneously applying the pillow over his face. In other words, the attacker must have sat on Dr. Ramguten’s chest while covering his face with the pillow. Again the incriminating button must be called into question, if the attacker used this method there is no way for the button to have ended up in his hand. With that in mind, I would postulate that even the lighter form of Miss Fontaine could accomplish this task by sitting on Dr. Ramguten’s chest and smothering him. In that position, the Doctor would not have had a chance… he may have been awake at the time and not known the danger he was in until she pressed the pillow down on her face. Only a theory of course, but I am fairly confident that a demonstration could be arranged.”
“Regarding the lack of Sir Bartholomew’s fingerprints on the premises, the absence of evidence should not be misinterpreted as an affirmation of guilt. Indeed Sir Bartholomew could have worn gloves to keep from leaving a trace, but I would be far more interested in the prints that were in fact found on the moved furniture. Were the surfaces wiped down or marked by their occupants? How many marks were in fact found at the scene? How often does one handle the furniture in their suite after all?”
“I agree with you regarding the danger of those with resources, and while I agree with your theory regarding the generally over-inflated egos of the aristocracy, I can assure you that Sir Bartholomew cannot be counted among their number. Sir Bartholomew takes his orders from our Captain here, who is a good but thoroughly common man. The arrogance of the nobility cannot help but be somewhat stifled when they receive orders from those traditionally viewed as beneath their station. While Sir Bartholomew may in fact possess some small measure of wealth, he does not in fact have enough power for him to develop the ego necessary to be a thrill killer. Travellers like us are in fact some of the least powerful people in the universe, leading the lonely life of drifters we are always finding ourselves in another new and unfamiliar landscape with no friends to turn to when things go wrong.”
“While I can understand that you have no reason to trust Sir Bartholomew or myself, I can give you my personal assurance that if you let him out of those cells he will not disappear. I am sure he would even consent to wearing a tracking bracelet, which I would strongly suggest you place on Miss Fontaine if you do not intend to place her in holdings. At this time Detective Inspector Morrison, if you truly believe that the man you have in holdings is the only one capable of having committed this crime beyond the shadow of any doubt then by all means keep him in that cell. I think you know better.”
“In policing it is important that one create theories to suit facts rather than facts to suit theories. The old Sherlock Holmes vids taught me that.” Sin smiles and retrieves her cold cup of coffee. “I wish you luck on your investigation Detective Inspector Morrison. You know how to contact me.”
“Bravo.” Devlin looks at Sin with a new respect and, not for the first time, thinks he should give himself a raise for hiring her.
Detective Inspector Morrison sighs deeply. He looks very tired after listening to Sin-Sasha’s long speech.
“Very well then,” he says with a sigh. “OK, so you’re right that this is not a cast iron case we have here. I will agree to letting Sir Bartholomew out with an electronic tag. He won’t be allowed out of Facet until this matter is resolved one way or another. He can’t enter the starport, the airport or any of the rapid transit stations. He’ll get a nasty electric shock if he tries it.”
“Miss Fontaine is wearing the same tag. You’re to have nothing to do with her if you come in contact with her. This is a police matter now.”
“Once we have word back from Ruby,” we can hopefully get this whole matter cleared up.
The party members thank the DI for his help and then sit back in the waiting area.
Half an hour later, Sinclair emerges with a couple of cops behind him. He has one trouser leg rolled up, displaying a white ceramic bracelet just above his ankle.
“What do you think, chaps?” he asks. “I’m not sure it’s really my style. I asked them if they had something in matte black or brushed chrome, but this is all they have.”
The escorting cops roll their eyes.
“Take him away from here,” one of them says. “You’re bloody welcome to him. These nobles are always a pain in the neck.”
Sinclair checks his watch. “If we hurry, we should be able to catch that reservation at Le Manoir du Trompe L’Oeil. To the air/raft, my loyal companions – and don’t spare the horses.”
The spell in jail doesn’t seem to have affected Sinclair terribly much. To him it just seems to be yet another anecdote to add to his collection and he proudly displays his tag as if it’s a badge of honor.
He starts to tire as the evening goes on though and he’s ready to leave with the rest of the party after the meal. Checking back in at the hotel, he asks to be put in a different room, well away from the suite of Dr. Ramguteran.