“You sure walk slowly.” Officer Perry jaded. “The defense accused Dales of planting evidence.”
“They did?” Rishards asked.
“It was desperation. Overall, there were eleven screamers pulled off that ship. Eleven counts of destruction of human life and depraved indifference.” Matt sat at the table. “It was their only shot.”
“They grilled him hard, the judicial council did. What could they do, all the evidence was against the low life drug smuggler.” Perry continued. “He’ll never see freedom again.”
“We can only hope.” Matt rubbed his eyes. “Let’s get back to this. I haven’t had a chance to go over the files, but I had some questions.”
“All I’ve been doing is reading files,” Rishards said.
“I figure best to take them one at a time. Let’s start with the first case. The chief thought that with your training and since you weren’t around from the beginning, you might have some new insights. You aren’t burdened by earlier theories.”
“Sounds reasonable. So, the first murder. What was the murder weapon?” Matt asked.
“Screwdrivers from Kossman’s toolkit,” Perry answered. “I read a bit while waiting to testify.”
“So that leaves us with Kossman as our main suspect. The murder weapons came from his kit, he was stationed in the area and therefore familiar with the patterns and the wiring. Not to mention he was large enough to have hung the victim from the rafters.” Matt said.
“No,” Richards said. “He was in custody when the other murders occurred.”
“Besides he’s too large for the environment suit, and he was in custody for the second and third murders.” Officer Parry said.
“It is still possible that he was an accomplice.” Matt mused.
“How can we know?”
“So why are we still holding him?” Perry asked.
“Are you kidding? He was the only suspect in a public murder. If we let him go, we’d have to admit there’s a murderer on the loose. So until we find the killer, he stays in custody.” Rishards said.
“He’s entitled to a trial or release. How can we just hold him?” Perry asked.
“He has 48 hours to request a trial,” Rishards said. “Every day after he awakens, we inform him of that right. Unfortunately the next morning he doesn’t remember to request it.”
“Doesn’t he have an advocate? I mean who’s looking out for his rights?” Matt asked.
“Dales, he’s a burnout. He doesn’t know what’s happening. No harm, no foul.” Perry said.
“He’s human. He still has rights.” Matt said.
“And he can press them anytime he wants,” Rishards said. “The fact that he doesn’t remember to is, well convenient, for now. It buys us time.”
“Doesn’t make it right.” Matt sat quietly for a moment. “Okay, then. What do we have?” He mused. “A corridor. At least two people. One, the victim, the other the murder under six one. Mr. Kossman one who is over six one and was found unconscious at the scene may or may not be the murderer but won’t get a trial in any case.”
“We still haven’t ruled him out,” Rishards said.
“No, of course. It wouldn’t be convenient. Any DNA evidence?” Matt wanted to have had something to hang on the man, if for no other reason than to assuage his conscience.
“Not yet.” She said. “It was a very busy hall; perhaps hundreds go through each day, maybe thousands or tens of thousands of samples. At the time, we thought we had our killer. I would have been a waste of resources and wouldn’t have helped the investigation. It was a public hallway. Everyone in the colony could make a justified claim for having been there.”
“Is it possible Kossman could be faking it?” Perry asked.
“Faking?” Matt considered the idea. It hadn’t even occurred to him to ask. Was it possible to fake that kind of memory loss? Perhaps, but he didn’t think it was possible to fake the damage done by the surgery “I think you’d have to have the surgical staff in on it, and the ship’s crew. Pretty elaborate planning just to kill a secretary, don’t you think?”
“Let’s just stick to what we have,” Rishards added.
“Perry, can you put the files up on the screen?” Matt asked. The young officer ran his fingers deftly across the keyboard. The display on the wall lit up with images and documents. Center screen the grizzly image of the hanging body took prominence.
“You’re right.” Perry conceded. “It does look like he was crucified.”
“So what? We start tracking down anyone who still has faith in God.” Rishards asked.
“Don’t tell me…” Perry started.
“Yes,” She admitted. “I’m a Baptist. That doesn’t make me a suspect.”
“Are you devout?” Matt looked at her.
“That is none of your business.” She turned to the monitor.
“I’m not critical; it’s just that I haven’t known many people of religion,” he admitted.
“Despite popular opinion, we’re not delusional children too naive to let go of our fantasies.” Matt wasn’t sure how to deal with this outburst.
“I never said you were,” he said.
“Oh, come on. Chill out, detective. Don’t be so touchy.” Perry said.
“I’ve been harassed my whole life about my beliefs. I don’t find it funny. And I don’t like seeing my religion attacked.”
“Look, all I’m trying to say is that I think under the present conditions your knowledge of the practices will be useful,” Matt said.
“You’re kidding, right?” Perry said.
“No, I’m not.” He focused his attention on his upset partner. “If these killings are religiously motivated, then who better to help us understand and capture them than an expert in the field?”
“You want me to help you smear my religion.” Rishards stood defiantly.
“I want you to help us get this killer, Baptist, Buddhist, or whatever. If these are religiously motivated, then your personal knowledge could stop us from making errors in analysis.” Matt said. “If someone is using your religion as a reason to murder, I would think you’d want to stop that.”
“I won’t sit still for hounding innocent people because of their faith,” Rishards said.
“Good, that’s what we need,” Matt said.
“Yeah, all we need,” Perry said under his breath.
“She is your superior Perry, and you are dangerously close to insubordination. If you have a problem with her, then I suggest you take it up with the chief.” Although he disliked conflicts, Matt allowed his voice to raise enough to express his seriousness to the young officer. “Personally, I think that our chances just increased significantly.
“Okay.” Rishards turned to Perry. “I know religion is out of fashion, but if you disrespect, me again, you’ll be on park patrol till you retire.”
“Yes, detective.” Perry turned his attention back to the screen.
“I want to review this data, and then I would like to see the murder site,” Matt said.
“In person?” Rishards sounded incredulous.
“But Dales, we have everything we need here. All the recordings scan files. What good would actually going to the scene do for us?”
“I won’t know till I see for myself,” Matt said.
“Why?” Perry asked. “Seems like a waste of time.”
“What is the floor like there? Was it slippery when covered in blood? Do shoes squeak when someone walks down it.? Where was the terminal the message left? How far is it from the murder site? How long would it take the ventilators to spread the smell of death? How many people might have been the position to see something they don’t even realize is important?”
“Okay, I get it.” Perry conceded.
“You wanted to learn how we did it on earth. This is where the lessons start. I have to stand there, feel where it happened, and try to put myself into the mind of our killer.”
“I’ll go, “Rishards said. “Perry, I want you to stay here with your keyboards. We’ll stay in contact. We might need access to the synapsis while on site.”
“Good,” Matt said.
“One thing Detective Dales?” Officer Perry was hesitant.
“About the warrant?” Perry looked hopeful.
“The chief said he’d take care of it. For now, he wants our full attention on this case.” Matt sat and started to study the data running down the monitor.
“Shit. Zimmerman told me to back off it too.” Perry said.
“Well, it is her case now,” Matt said. “We have enough to do without worrying about her job.”
“I get the feeling she’s not going to follow up on this.” Perry continued.
“Then we’ll look into it when we solve this one. Look, I’m with the chief on this. A serial killer trumps drug dealers.” Matt said.
“When this is over, I need you to help me. I have a hunch there’s something more to this.”
“I’d just drop it if I were you. Trust the chief to look into it. We don’t need the distraction.” Rishards said.
“She’s right. Besides, take it from me, hunches just lead to trouble.” Matt added.
Officer Perry sullenly returned to his display. The detectives scrutinized the documents one last time. Matt wanted to have all the information fresh in his mind before he went to investigate the site of the first murder.