Aiko moved to the left while his partner tried to circle around me. I cut to the right using the wall to stop him from getting around me as I raised my fists to defend myself. After that airlock opening security should already be on the way so I didn’t need to win this fight so much as not get killed. I took a quick jab at laughing boy’s chin but he backed up fast enough that it just glanced him. As he retreated Aiko was on me. I rolled out of the corner as his punch glanced off of my ribs. I managed to get a hold on his arm and use his momentum to swing him around and half toss him at his friend. That should keep them from surrounding me for at least a few more seconds. They immediately gave up the maneuvering and just came at me. I started backing up as I traded punches with the two of them. A solid right hook with my metal fist sent one reeling and I thought for a moment he might go down. Aiko was there to take his place while his friend recovered. He caught me with a quick side kick to the gut, knocking the wind out of me as I staggered back. Number two joined him and they stared at me with an annoyed glare. I must have been more trouble than they were planning for.
The long term of this was what worried me. I was fairly certain I could take either of them one on one. Two was going to be difficult at best. I sputtered out a slow breath and caught their gaze. “Ready to give up yet?”
Aiko gestured to his friend then moved forward with his fists raised for round two. I caught a side door opening out of the corner of my eye as a familiar face walked through.
“Enough!” A solidly built Japanese man in a tailored white shirt and black tie came through the access door. If I hadn’t known his face I still would have known Haruki Kimura instantly by the matched mechanical arms. “You two over here.”
The pair of goons went to Kimura like school boys who were about to be scolded. “Both of you, unable to bring down one American private investigator. I am embarrassed. Now stay here while I attend to business.” Kimura took two quick steps in my direction “Mister Sloan, a pleasure to see you again.”
I inclined my head slightly. “Mister Kimura. To what do I owe the honor?” Truth be told I still owed Kimura several bullets for the death of Toshiro Ishamoto. When he was surrounded by two of this heavies and I had just taken several punches was not what I would call a good time to settle up.
“A simple question only you can answer. Where is Toshiro Ishamoto?”
I took a moment to process the question. “Falling into the Pacific last I saw him. Do you know something different?”
“Know? No. Hear a whisper here and a couple lost men under mysterious circumstances there. Yes.” Kimura folded his hands in front of him. “But I am confidant he has not contacted you, if he does live. Now if you will excuse me I must explain to these two the difference between ‘Accident’ and ‘Attack anyone that shows up.’ Until next time.” Kimura gestured as the two followed him, locking the access door behind him.
Late as always station security wandered into the room with an amazing lack of urgency. I slumped against the bulkhead taking a moment to rest and check that Aiko hadn’t done anything worse than bruise my ribs. I was starting to miss the local criminals. They were in a lot worse shape.
A big guy with a face like an angry ox and a powder blue station uniform that fit like it was made for someone about fifty pounds lighter loomed over me. “You the one who called in the accident.”
“If that’s what you want to call it.”
The Ox gave a puzzled look then returned to the script in his head. “You’ll have to talk to the inspector.”
“Right behind you, help me off the ground and let’s go.” I lifted up an arm which after a moment of thought I am sure was painful he took and helped me up. “Lead on, Macduff.” I staggered momentarily on the way out and ditched my ear mic just in case.
Ox led me to the administrative wing of the station where I was escorted to an out of the way office by a pair of crisp, clean uniforms. I tried to make conversation out of boredom, but these two were all proper haircuts, no chit-chat, and as far as I could tell spent their free time practicing marching in ranks. With that kind of company I took a seat and practiced my twiddling just in case it ever became an important skill.
After a suspiciously long wait the blond haired, blue eyed head uniform of the brigade came through the door with his face buried in a data pad. He made it to his chair before his eyes rose above the floor. “You are Mister Samuel Sloan. Witness in the death of one James Burke and…” His voice took on a tone of disdain. “Private investigator in Los Angeles. I am station security sub-chief Rand. Are you ready to make a statement in the accidental death of Richard Burke?”
“I am. I have been here quite long enough to compose my thoughts on the matter.” Accident was it? I decided to play this one quietly until I had an idea what this guy was about. “What did you want to know?”
Sub-Chief Rand took his seat behind the desk as he started to read from his notes. “From what we have so far you came across James Burke trapped in an airlock and called maintenance to rescue. Unfortunately they were unable to arrive in time and Mister Burke died when the door accidentally opened and he was cast into space.”
My first instinct was that this guy was bought by Kimura. There was a small chance he was just a complete moron so I decided to lead him along and see how hard he fought. “Very well, I heard a noise coming from the floor and when I looked in there was Burke. He looked confused, like he had no idea where he was or how he had got there. If I had to guess I would say he just became conscious before I arrived.”
“Yes, I am sure the experience was terrifying for Mister Burke. However this does not change my ruling of accidental death.”
Crooked it was then. That explains my Kimura let me go so easily. It was much easier to rely on this patsy to cover up the paperwork than actually deal with me directly. My long wait was probably giving Kimura time to cover his tracks. “Was there anything else?”
“Yes your PI license does not cover investigations off of Earth. I will need to detain you while I verify any legal ramifications.”
“Who said I was investigating anything? I am a tourist. Here to witness the wonders of space. At least that is what the brochures say.” I tipped my hat back, waiting.
“So you are claiming you are not here on a case?”
“I am claiming nothing, but I do not share my client list.” Time to find out how deep Kimura has bought off this organization. “If there is some point of confusion I would be happy to stay until your chief returns and explain things to him.”
“Unneeded, I think I have all we require here.”
I saw a bead of sweat form on Rand’s forehead. He wanted me gone and fast. I decided to help him along, if only to keep myself from being arrested. “You know if your report is done… I think I have seen all I need to of Zeta Station. Perhaps the next transport down would be a good idea.”
Rand was trying to play it cool but I could still feel him relax as he exhaled. “That would be acceptable Mister Sloan. You may go, although I must warn you any independent attempt to investigate the Burke incident will result in your arrest.”
I stood up and readjusted my hat with a smile. “As I said, I am just a tourist. I’ll show myself out.” I stepped out before Rand could think up another reason to arrest me, then slipped down the hallway to recover my ear mic.
After a quick pass around the dome to make sure the security cameras were the only thing watching me, I booked my return trip then sent Sarah the latest updates in the case along with instructions to send a heavily edited account of events along to Cherry and Lieutenant Bruno. Sarah’s response noted that Aiko was a known associate of Haruki Kimura. That would have been useful to know earlier. Then after an hour of waiting I switched my flight plans at the last minute just in case anyone had prepared a second ‘accident’. I will admit to a certain paranoia being a consequence of my chosen profession, however it has kept me alive thus far.
The trip back to Earth was far less interesting than the way up. I still wanted a drink as the air around the nose of the Hawkling turned red with the air resistance as we shook our way through re-entry. After the worst of it was over I turned my mind back to the case. Kimura must have realized I was close to naming him in the case. Which explains why he revealed himself so easily. His man in the security office certainly did a number on keeping Burke’s murder quiet. I wanted to find where Burke was staying and give it a solid search myself, but I was sure Kimura had removed anything of consequence. The Hawkling touched down with a squeak of it wheels on the runway as my communications reconnected with the Los Angeles network.
As soon as contact was reestablished a familiar voice came back in my ear. “Welcome back detective. I am sending the car to you now.”
“Good, suspend all communications on the case until I get back to the office. I want to go through it, but not here.”
“Orders confirmed Detective. There may be a couple cases lined up for you in the new year. Also Lieutenant Bruno wants to interview you over the information we sent him.”
“Of course he does. I’ll be in the office soon then we can discuss it.”
After an hour of fighting my way through a mass of people trying to get out of the spaceport, I climbed into the Fairlane turning the noise dampeners up and the tinting on the windows as dark as possible while I set the destination for home. The trip to the office in real gravity with a proper cigar that I had stashed in the dash for just such an occasion was a highlight of my day.
Sarah appeared as soon as I crossed the threshold of the office. I motioned for her to follow as she peered over my shoulder at the collection of our evidence thus far. “Something of note Detective? It appears to be enough to exonerate our client. At the very least it casts enough suspicion on his guilt to prevent any kind of conviction.”
“Yes, Pack up the relevant information and send it to Fellows. Inform him I will contact him tomorrow to explain the details.”
“Done. Some reason for the delay?”
I spun through the computer files to the picture of the woman Burke was meeting in an alley before the bikers interrupted my nice quiet stakeout. “Her, I would be willing to bet she was Burke’s link to Kimura’s organization. If I can find her before any of the other players…”
“You could lead the police to Kimura, or go after him yourself?”
“First I need to find her.”
“Happy hunting Detective.”
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