“It’s just a junkie. A criminal.” The chief’s voice was condescending, a fact I didn’t appreciate at that moment. “It’s murder, and it’s connected to Evan Taylor’s!” I shouted. I shouldn’t be speaking to the chief this way, but I was beginning to get fed up with the chief’s ignorance of what was right in front of him. “It’s a random act of violence! Finding who killed this girl… There’s no trail.” The chief sighed. “You need to stop with this conspiracy stuff. There’s no connection—” “It’s the exact same wound!” I interrupted the chief. “It’s just a wound! There’s no connection, no arms dealer, nothing like that. They’re just two very unfortunate, isolated incidents.”
“I want to talk to the family.” I said. “Dr. Taylor’s. The wife made it sound like the family was pretty unhappy with Dr. Taylor’s choice to come to the lower decks, maybe that grudge was what led to his death.” The chief looked around slowly. He rose from his desk and walked to the door, closing it. Very quietly he said, “That’s not going to happen.” I still wasn’t pleased, but I spoke quietly too, though not sure why. “Why not? You can get me an elevator pass, if it’s for an official investigation.” The chief walked back to his desk, and rested his hand on it. While still looking away from me, he said, “I did a little research of my own on this Evan Taylor guy. Do you know who his father is?” “No.” I responded, shortly. I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t done that research myself. The chief turned back to me, and said, lower still, in the lowest whisper. “Gregory Taylor. The chief of security for the entire ship. You won’t be bothering him with your accusations. The cases— Both of them— are closed. You’re dismissed, North.”
I left the Chief’s office in a huff. Everyone in the security office was staring at me. “What are you looking at?” I snapped at them. I was fed up. There was a connection between Cindy and Evan Taylor’s deaths. I knew it. And yet the chief was completely shut off from the possibility. I should be used to it I suppose. Down on Deck 36 most cases are never closed for this exact reason. Everyone is so afraid that rocking the boat will get them killed, that they just keep their heads down and hope to get transferred higher up. Rocking the boat too much can mean negative reviews from higher ups, which means you stay down in this stinking slum longer. But this was on a whole new level. I had a link between the cases, a solid link, and the chief wouldn’t even hear of it. Still it made sense. If I accused Gregory Taylor of this, it would be suicide for my career. A toxin for everyone involved, guaranteeing that they’d be stuck down here for the rest of their lives. Still if it were right…
As I stormed out into the streets, extra smoky today due to some sort of malfunction down in the engine section, Sarah called to me from inside. I kept walking. Sarah was just as frustrated as I was, I’m sure, we had vented our frustrations to each other, at that moment though, I didn’t feel like talking. I ducked down a back alley, hoping to avoid Sarah if she followed me out of the security station.
I kept trying to think of a connection, something more solid, so I could convince the chief to give me more resources, but I had nothing. If the wounds being almost exact matches wasn’t enough, and my story about Cindy showing up at midnight (Which was met with a response of “I don’t want to hear about any more midnight visitors of that kind from you again North.”) then I didn’t know what would. If I could only get the chief to reopen the case, maybe get me some extra manpower on the case to talk with people, ask about a new weapons dealer… What I really needed was to talk to Dr. Taylor’s family. The chief of security for the entire ship. That was major. Deck 210, very top floor. One of the most important men on the deck. But that just made him fit the profile all the more. As I thought about it, it made more sense. Gregory Taylor could easily afford a heat weapon. He probably had twenty different kinds in his quarters alone. Maybe he begrudged his son’s choice to come to the lower decks. Hated it even. Enough to kill. Then Cindy found a link, some evidence, something, and he had to deal with her. That would certainly explain what Cindy had meant by this being “bigger than you know.” The chief of security for the entire ship committing murder?
That’s when it crossed my mind. Johnny. How could I have forgotten? I should have gone straight from the crime scene to talk with him, but I rushed to tell the chief what I had found, falsely hoping he’d reopen the case. I pushed the thoughts of Gregory Taylor and the upper decks from my mind, and began to hurry down the dark streets, toward Hole in the Wall.
When I arrived, I knew something was wrong. The place was usually pulsating with loud music all hours, but as I approached the hole, it was dead silent. I ducked in, and didn’t like what I found. The place was virtually empty, except for Johnny and the brunette from earlier, sitting at a table by the opposite wall. The strobe lights had been replaced by harsh flood lights lighting the area between walls up. I could see around a hundred feet in either direction, beyond that, only darkness. I suppose the expanse between walls could lead me around the entire deck, but no one ever strayed too far from the dance floor in hole in the wall, unless they wanted a dark spot for… Privacy. There were probably all sorts of diseased vermin who had made nest in the darkness, and besides, there was no point in wandering in the darkness, since the expanse was just an empty void.
I could tell the two were upset. As I approached them, Johnny looked up at me and, obviously grief stricken, said “What do you want?” angrily. Obviously, word had gotten to him. The brunette whose name I didn’t know said something I couldn’t hear, obviously meant to be comforting, to Johnny, but he shook his head. “What do you want Ryan? Now’s not a good time. I just got word about—” “Cindy?” I asked, bluntly. Johnny’s brow furrowed with confusion. “How do you know about…?”
I explained the story to Johnny, beginning with her midnight visit, and then ending by saying that the chief still wouldn’t reopen the case. There was a long silence after I finished. I could tell the brunette was very upset by what I’d said. I imagine she must have known Cindy well. Finally, Johnny rose from the table. Walked closer to me, and said, looking me in the eye, “What do you need?”
I was a bit taken aback. “What do I…?” “What do you need?” He repeated. “For the case.” I thought for a moment. “Well it’s hard, I’d need the manpower to… figure out what Cindy knew… I mean, I’d need people out on the street asking about the new arms dealer… And…” I trailed off. “And?” He asked. I sighed, before continuing. “If it were any other case, I’d want to question the family. Figure out if any of them have a grudge against Taylor, or know who might. Unfortunately he’s from the upper decks, and without a pass…” I left out the part about Gregory Taylor, no need to mention that to Johnny.
The most serious I’d ever seen him look, Johnny turned to the brunette. He said, “Rachel.” And that was it. She’d clearly been listening to me, because she knew what Johnny meant. She reached down into her chest, and pulling out of her shirt was a small plastic card. She handed it to Johnny, and he turned back to me. “Something this valuable, had to keep it close to me. People expect that I’d keep something valuable on me, but the girls…” His voice faltered, I suspect he remembered that he was one girl shorter now. “…The girls are invisible during deals to most people. No one expects them to have anything valuable.” It’s times like these that remind me that Johnny, for how reckless and carefree he asks, is the best in the business because he’s smarter than the rest.
“I’ll send every man I have to start asking about this guy. Cindy was the best at finding people, that’s why she was one of my best people, but I’ve got a lot of manpower. I’ll tell everyone to drop what they’re doing. Put a bounty on information about this guy. As for talking to this Taylor guy’s family…” Johnny handed me the small plastic card, and my eyes widened. I’d never actually seen one of these with my own eyes before, and instantly I knew why Johnny wanted to keep this so close. The small plastic card had a picture of Hope on it, on a starry background. Underneath it were the words “ELEVATOR PASS - OFFICIAL BUSINESS - ALL DECK ACCESS”
“Rachel swiped this on some guy, an official visiting 36 years ago for some evaluation, making sure the engines were being kept running. It’s only good for one trip, so I’ve been saving it. Only good for one person, so I was hoping some day I might get more and be able to get the girls and I out of here… But this will work for getting you wherever you need to go.” I kept staring at the piece of plastic. “Ryan.” Johnny said, keeping the serious tone that matched his face. I tore my eyes from the plastic, and met Johnny’s eyes. “I want the man who killed Cindy. Find him.”
I probably should have told Johnny that I’d have to arrest him, and I couldn’t bring him to Johnny, but this was different. Last time it was business, but this time the killer had hurt someone Johnny cared about. And as I thought about all Johnny did for her, I realized that Johnny really did care about his girls, maybe even love them. For all his faults, Johnny was still a good guy. All I did was nod and say, “We’ll get him.”
I left Hole in the Wall. I took the piece of plastic, put it in my pocket, but never let go of it. I headed toward the elevators. I was getting to do something I’d wanted to for my entire life. I was leaving Deck 36.