I stepped into the security station, taking a deep breath of the air, clean by comparison. Sarah was sitting at her desk, but as soon as she saw me she bolted up and came to talk to me. “So what’d you find out?” She asked me, “Did Johnny remember who bought it?” I gave a short sigh before responding. “Johnny doesn’t know who sold it. He didn’t know there was a deal going down about a heat weapon.” I can see the shock in Sarah’s face. “Are you sure he wasn’t just trying to-” “Fool me?” I interrupt. “Yeah. I’m sure. He was pretty convincing.”
Sarah turns away for a moment and sighs, before looking up again and saying, “I asked around, but didn’t get any word on heat weapons. Most of them don’t know anything, and those who might know something are too scared to talk.” Fear isn’t a new concept on Deck 36. Fear is power, and anyone who hopes to have power uses fear as a weapon. Johnny, for example, has a lot of men out there, and crossing him isn’t a good idea. Even us, the cops, the so called “good guys” use fear defensively. It’s all that keeps the scum from storming our station. What was different this time is that we didn’t know who it was that’s holding the power, that has people scared. Something new, and on Deck 36, new is frightening.
“The Chief wanted to see you when you got back.” Sarah told me. I nodded, and walked toward the chief’s office. I opened the door, and saw him sitting there at his desk, a proper desk, unlike our half broken tables. His office probably isn’t huge by mid or upper deck standards, but it’s enormous by Deck 36 standards, probably a quarter of the entire station is taken up by his office. “Ryan. Sit down.” The chief said.
As I sat down, the chief said, “So what do we know about this doctor.” I began relating what we’d learned so far to him, telling him how Dr. Evan Taylor came from the upper decks hoping to help the sick down here, how the mark looked like a heat weapon, how I spoke to Johnny, and he claimed no one had bought a heat weapon to his knowledge.
After I spoke the chief look up toward the ceiling, contemplatively. He stood up and walked around the office for a moment. Finally he spoke, “How sure are you, really, that it was a heat weapon? Hmm?” I remained seated, but responded, “Well it looked like a heat weapon’s mark.” “Right, but how do you know? Have you seen these marks before? I’ve never seen a heat mark before, other than a plasma cutter, of course.” I paused for a moment. I knew what the chief was implying. “It was too large to be the mark of a plasma cutter, and it left a hole, it didn’t just cook them through like a laser weapon.” I explained once again. The chief came back to the front of the desk. The expression on his face was a condescending one.
“North, I understand you’re anxious to break a big case like this, maybe get transferred up a few decks,” the chief was wrong, that wasn’t my motivation for solving this case. I wanted to find the killer before he struck again. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to get transferred to a nice mid deck, “but you’re making a bigger deal out of this case than you should be. Your case is really simple. A junkie broke in to steal drugs. Maybe had a plasma cutter, maybe just a laser pistol, I don’t know. Evan caught him, and the junkie killed him.” “But sir, there weren’t any drugs taken from the cabinet there!” I realized my voice was rising. I’d had this conversation with the chief before, and I knew how it ended. But I didn’t want this case closed before the killer was caught.
“Maybe the junkie was afraid he would get caught over the murder. Maybe Dr. Taylor had a ‘private stash’ of the really good stuff, and he took it from that. Who knows. Either way, a heat weapon? A new weapons dealer? You’re treating this like some sort of conspiracy, when it’s really very simple stuff.”
I sighed, probably a bit more loudly than I had intended, since the chief shot me a dirty look. “This isn’t going to go anywhere North. Searching for one junkie on all of Deck 36 is like searching for a needle in a haystack made out of needles. You’re needed elsewhere. Case closed.”
I wanted to protest. There was something going on here, I knew it. But it wouldn’t go anywhere but getting me suspended, so I nodded reluctantly and slowly walked out of the office.
The rest of the day was pretty mundane, once I told Sarah our case had been closed. I filed the closing paperwork on the case, which took a while, spoke to some of the other security officers about their cases, seeing if I could help with anything, but still, as I made my way home hours later, with the artificial lights dimmed to give us a false sense of evening I still had the Evan Taylor case on my mind. I thought about Ashley Taylor, and how she’d never see her husband’s killer brought to justice. I wondered if I should speak to her about it, or if she’d resent me for failing to catch the guy. It wasn’t my fault, of course, but she wouldn’t understand that, she couldn’t understand that, and I didn’t blame her.
Was I making this case out to be bigger than it was? I was so sure that wound was that of a heat rifle when I first saw it, but now? Maybe I had made a mistake. Maybe the chief was right, maybe I just wanted to break a big case and get transferred out of this slum. Still, something just didn’t sit right with me about his “junkie” explanation.
I walked into my quarters, nearly tripping over my bed as I was not paying attention when I entered. I think that I should probably eat something, but I was too tired. It had been a long day. I fall into my bed, not even bothering to undress, and let sleep overtake me.
I don’t know how much time had passed when I awoke to the sound of thumping on my door. The lights outside had fully dimmed into “nighttime” mode, so I suppose it had been a few hours at least. I scrambled to get up and get to the door. AS the door swings open, at first I don’t think that I know the person standing at the door. It was a young woman, who seemed to have been in a fight of some sort. Her lip was bleeding, and she had a bruise across her forehead. It took me a moment to realize I did, in fact, know this woman. It was the blond girl I’d seen Johnny in the club with earlier that day, the one he sent to investigate the new weapons dealer.
She looks at me and I realize her eyes are full of fear. Unsure of what, exactly to say, I fumble around with my words and say something in between “What is it?” and “Can I help you?” Perhaps, “What can I help it?” I don’t remember exactly. I’m not sure if she even noticed, since she ducked into my room quickly and closed the door behind her. The already cramped quarters felt even smaller with an extra body in the room.
“I found something.” She said. Her voice trembled as she did so. I struggled to remember her name, and gave a shot at what I thought it might be. “Samantha—” “Cindy.” She interrupted. “Right. Sorry. Cindy. What do you mean you found something?” She looked around the room nervously. “Listen, your case, your heat weapon… You need to stop looking into it. You have no idea who you’re dealing with.” I shot her a puzzled look, and said, “Wait, you know who killed Dr. Taylor? Who?”
She shook her head. “No. They’ll… No. Listen, this is bigger than you know. I’m in danger even being here. I need to get back to Johnny. I only told you because I’ve heard Johnny talk about you before. You’re not like most cops on the station, you aren’t corrupt, you’re a good man. Deck 36 needs that, much as we might hate to admit it sometimes. Johnny likes you and he’s told us to do what we can to protect you before… So I’m telling you now. Drop it.”
“Who is it?” I asked, more frustrated this time. She shook her head once more, and this time opened the door. She looked at me one last time and said, “Drop the case. Be careful.” And darted out the door. I step out and chase after her for a moment, but the elevator taking her back to the ground floor closes without me and I know I won’t catch her. I head back to my room, and try to go back to sleep, with little success. What did she mean, this was bigger than I knew? Why was she in danger? I knew it. There was something bigger going on here after all. And I was going to find out what.