A Blind Eye Sci-Fi Crime Short Fiction By Margaret Karmazin

A Blind Eye: Sci-Fi Crime Short Fiction By Margaret Karmazin

Margaret Karmazin, author of A Blind Eye, has published literary and Sci-Fri short fiction in Rosebud, Chrysalis Reader, North Atlantic Review, Mobius, Confrontation, Pennsylvania Review, The Speculative Edge, Aphelion and Another Realm.

Her stories in The MacGuffin, Eureka Literary Magazine, Licking River Review and Mobius were nominated for Pushcart awards.

*****

It was a miracle anyone found the body – stuffed inside of a regular storage bag and far back in underground Storage Unit Nine. Rickie Dash, one of the maintenance crew and his current married girlfriend Anita were meeting down there for a bit of self-expression when the young woman became aware that what they were lying on seemed to have feet.

“Call the police!” she yelled.

“But my wife-” protested Rickie.

“Your problem,” said Anita, pressing her wrist-com for help.

*****

Lieutenant Governor Owen J. Booth had been missing from his office for several days. It was not unusual for him to be absent one or two, but this was past that. Normally he kept in touch with the rest of the Martian government from his home in New London, a penthouse in the West section of the enclosed city, or wherever he happened to be. Mysteriously or not, Governor Hudson Spencer and his staff did not make much of an effort to check on him.

As his body was brought into Police Morgue for autopsy, Chief Detective Inspector Wren Noble arrived with her new Sergeant Jaxon Coleman. As usual, she looked all business in her form fitting black jumpsuit and gray blazer; her only adornment an antique Rolex watch she had inherited from her grandfather. She wore it on her right wrist in order to keep her left one free for her com, which she had up and running now, an ethereal screen in front of her face.

Lieutenant Governor Owen J. Booth had been missing from his office for several days. It was not unusual for him to be absent one or two, but this was past that.

“Apparently, he’s not been heard from for three days,” she said to Jaxon. “And his neighbors may have avoided him on principal.”

“Why would they do that?” said Jaxon.

“Political,” Wren said.

Jaxon had only been on Mars since February and it was now April. Mars kept Earth time, with an adjustment since the Martian day was almost forty minutes longer than an Earth day. He was still getting used to the culture and limitations and Wren was not sure if he was happy that he’d taken the assignment. Before this, he’d chalked up twelve years of experience in the Chicago police department.

“How are you adjusting?” she asked him now.

“Not quite there yet,” he said.

“Missing your family.”

He nodded but did not elaborate. He was from a large family in Englewood, Chicago, used to grandmothers and aunts dominating his life, straightening his shirt collars, picking lint from his sleeves and force feeding him whenever possible. And now he lived alone in a dorm room next to the police station and ate his meals in a cafeteria.

“Well,” said his boss,” we have a potential murder to solve. So, one of the first people we need to visit is the Lieutenant Governor’s ex-wife.”

“I thought she went back to earth,” said Jaxon.

“She’s going on the October transport. Until then she’s maintaining her high-end social life at the expense of the Governor. He put her up in their extended apartment, just to be kind, I guess. She left her controversial husband four months ago.”

“Her reasons?”

“We’re going to interview Jerlane Booth this morning and you’ll go with me. After I talk to Booth’s personal assistant, Alex Modine alone this morning. Apparently, she’s been covering for him workwise during his absence. You go interview the two idiots who found the body.”

*****

“When was the last time you heard from your boss?” Wren asked PA Modine. They were in Booth’s office and the woman was now sitting at Booth’s desk with her feet up. “This conversation will be recorded, by the way.”

The PA looked evasive. “Well, I don’t remember exactly. I suppose four days ago. Something about his needing the plumber.”

“All we have to do is look at the exchanges from your com. In fact, I can do so right now.” I opened my screen.

She straightened up. “All right, if I think hard, it was Saturday.”

“Did he contact you or you him?”

“He to me. In answer to mine to him.”

“And?”

“I asked when he was planning to return? I told him I was handling things perfectly well, so no hurry.”

“What did he say?”

“That he might be back by Wednesday.”

“And that was the last you heard from him?”

“Yes,” she said.

“The Lieutenant Governor is appointed, right? Not elected.”

“Correct.”

“And Booth was appointed by the former Governor for a six-year term.”

“Correct,” Alex Modine said.

“Which, overlaps the term of the new Governor. I have always thought this an odd system. Very Martian.”

“Supposedly,” said Modine, “it helps the transition flow more smoothly. The new one is appointed two years into the new Governor’s term and he or she will run over two years into the next Governor’s term or perhaps the same one if the current one is re-elected.”

“So,” Wren said, “Governor Spencer will be appointing a new one. Are you in the running?”

“Absolutely not,” said Modine. “I actually can’t wait to get out of here.”

Wren was genuinely surprised. “I thought…well, what is it you want to do when you’re free of it?”

“I’ve been offered a teaching position at the college. ‘Improvement of Martian Society Structure.’ Fifteen students have signed up. And on the side, a course in journalism and another in differences in Martian political structure and those of Earth. I also enjoy working with student groups, preparing them to take over society here as they mature.”

“Okay,” Wren said slowly. She tapped her wrist com to shut off recording and stood up. She was meeting Jaxon at the Red Sky Café for tea and a comparison of notes.

*****

The café offered an excellent view of the Martian landscape, being that it was in one of the outer pods. Wren often went there to watch the Martian sunrise, which was usually not as spectacular as those on Earth. The sun looked smaller and distant, but occasionally offered orange, blue or red displays, depending on the particle content of the atmosphere. By now it was higher in the sky and she looked around the restaurant instead.

The café offered an excellent view of the Martian landscape, being that it was in one of the outer pods.

It was busy for ten-thirty AM with a varied clientele. In the far corner was a quartet of GMs with their oxygenated bright red complexions, genetically modified “real Martians,” people born, even created on Mars to be able to endure longer periods with lower oxygen in their Supersuits when outside. They, along with regular humans, worked on terraforming areas of the planet.

Wren smiled at seeing them obviously enjoying themselves, in the above ground part of the city, something they had not been permitted until their uprising four years earlier. At the next table to hers, a group of students were engaged in a rousing debate, another thing she enjoyed observing. The Martian university was off to a good start, creating professionals for the new society.

Jaxon arrived, looking spiffy in his dark blue ensemble and she raised a hand for the robotic waiter. “Your job is to charm Booth’s ex, soften her up,” she told him as her tea and his coffee arrived. “No need for Don Juan suavity, just let her catch you checking her over and every so often smile at her. She probably had a zillion motives for offing Booth. He was hard to like.”

“Why?” asked Jaxon innocently.

“I don’t know where you stand politically,” Wren said.

Jaxon hesitated. “Well, uh, I’m for human rights.”

“GM rights? Women’s? Children’s? Martian rights on Earth? What kind of rights are we talking?”

Her tea and his coffee arrived by a chirpy robot that resembled a Japanese school girl.

“Well, all rights,” he finally said.

Wren added sugar and sipped. “Okay, not sure what that means, but let’s just say that Booth was not open to equal rights for all. He made some enemies. Some of the hard-ass military types liked him. A few of the ruthless big business sorts.”

Jaxon nodded.

Suddenly Wren tapped her wrist com, waved her hand over whatever and got the police pathologist on screen. “Done yet?” Wren said.

The pathologist, a cheerful man who’d lived on Mars over twenty-five years, said, “Yep. Your stiff died of oxygen deprivation between Monday 21:00 and 24:00 hours. He was the exact shade of blue I want for a new living room sofa cover. No major signs of struggle though his ankle on one side is slightly roughed up and he has a bloody scrape on his forehead. The ankle abrasion might be from being dragged but not far. He had the mere beginnings of pancreatic cancer – would have shown up soon in a blood test. Safe to say, he died from asphyxiation.”

“No pressure applied to the throat?”

“No.”

“What about over the mouth?”

“No abrasions. Something could have been held close to the mouth, but not pressing on the face. If something was applied to his face, he was probably past struggling.”

“Thank you,” said Wren and she closed her screen. “Well,” she said. “You heard that.”

Jaxon said, “Sounds like he was deprived of O2 before anything was applied. Didn’t mention any signs of his being outside.”

“Well, no, that would have left some pretty clear evidence,” she said, laughing.

“So where is there low oxygen then, boss?”

“Only one place,” she said, pointing at the floor.

“I haven’t been down there yet,” Jaxon said.

The GMs, who now shared equal rights with the REGs or regular humans, for personal comfort still occupied their original quarters below New London’s ground floor. A contingent of them also now lived in quarters below New Mumbai some twenty kilometers away. Supply was one level down from the city floors. The GMs’ level was beneath Supply with their own tunnel exits to the outside. The oxygen in their section was kept at 18.5 percent. If they felt a need for more or if REGs were visiting, oxygen masks were available at regular intervals along the walls. When GMs were visiting the upper city, they stored up oxygen in their bodies causing them to flush brightly and could only remain at the regular human level for about four hours before feeling an urge to return below to less oxygenated quarters.

“After we interview the widow Booth, we’ll go down,” said Wren. “It’s only logical that that was where Booth was put out of his misery.”

*****

Governor Spencer’s spacious penthouse overlooked Government Square and his housekeeper, Draper, answered the door. She was human, though her staff consisted of various robots.

“I can’t imagine,” Jaxon was heard to mumble, “why anyone would come to Mars with the intention of working as a servant.”

Wren whispered back, “She was probably on his staff before he came to Mars. She looks a hundred and forty if a day.”

Draper led them into a well-appointed sitting room before disappearing and they were soon joined by the ex, Mrs. Booth. She was a silken woman, posh, with sharp features and the look of someone who had several personal groomers. “Do your charm job,” Wren whispered to Jaxon.

He blushed but went into clumsy flirt mode. “You’re a beautiful, lady,” he blurted as he took Mrs. Booth’s hand.

Call me Jeryline,” she said, eyes sparkling. “You’re not bad yourself.”

“I’m Detective Inspector Noble,” Wren said, “and this is Sergeant Coleman. We want to ask you some question.”

“Of course,” said Jeryline, settling into a silken gray chair and crossing her legs. She was wearing a white jumpsuit and much gold and diamond jewelry.

“Your divorce was final when?”

“A month ago,” Jeryline said.

“Was it difficult to obtain?” asked Wren. “I mean, did your husband contest?”

“Not at all,” said Jeryline. “Well, at first, but not because he loved me. He just wanted the stable appearance of having a ‘devoted’ wife. His image was everything. After I’d left, he could have maintained the story that his wife was a whore and he had to get rid of her. Simple. I didn’t mind going along as long as I got my half of our worth.”

“And you got it, I assume?” Wren nudged Jaxon with her foot.

“He was a fool,” said Jaxon.

Jeryline smiled and said, “Yeah, I got it.”

Did your husband have any serious enemies?”

His ex-wife laughed. “Of course, he did. Most of the women on Mars. I don’t know about the GMs but I don’t imagine they’re into Earth religious rules.”

“He was religious?” Jaxon asked.

“You know, I never actually knew. Living with a politician, it’s difficult to know what’s real and what’s put on. He had a following, I can say that.”

“What about the GMs? Did they hate him?”

I don’t think he cared much about them,” she said, “except for enjoying a fling with one if he could get it on. I heard he loved it when their skin turned red. Somehow, he’d entice one to come up to our level and then enjoy himself with her. Other than that, I don’t know that he cared about the actual wellbeing of GMs nor how they felt about him.”

Back in the street, Jaxon said, “What did it matter if she thought I was attracted to her?”

“It’s just something you can use,” said Wren, “when getting information out of females or gay men. I wanted to see if you could pull it off. It could get you into trouble though; you don’t want to get involved with a witness or suspect.”

“I understand,” he said.

“I was just breaking you in,” Wren chuckled.

As they walked down the main avenue of central city, Wren looked at the architecture. Most of the buildings were constructed from metal and sprayed on plastic. But a few, one being City Hall, were built from brown native rock. They’d added some metal flourishes and carved a design around the doors and windows. Cacti were growing in a few gardens and a sculpture of rock and steel adorned the center of the main square. Overhead through the thick glass, the Martian sky was butterscotch color.

“Do you miss Earth?” Jaxon suddenly asked.

Wren turned that question over in her mind. She grew up in a small town outside of Toronto and then served twenty years in the Toronto police force, working her way up to Deputy Chief of Police. After a few years of shot nerves from never knowing what crazy move the Chief would make next, she took the offer on Mars. It was a huge step for her and surprising to her friends, but after her divorce and the slightly threatening antics of her mentally disturbed ex, she wanted to be far away. Besides that, she had no family to speak of, not since her sister had died from a medical procedure in Mexico, one she shouldn’t have needed to endure except for a return to extreme global conservatism. Canada had become more and more like the United States and she was glad to leave it. And now here in this Martian city under its glass domes, the same politics were threatening to creep in.

“Yes and no,” said Wren. “I miss the ocean, the woods and lakes and the greenness, but I don’t miss the people, wars and politics. Though they’re bringing their crap here now. People are people. No wars yet, we can’t afford them, but politics yes. People who, for some never-ending reason, believe they have the right to tell others how they should live.”

“Was Booth one of those?” asked Jaxon.

“He was trying to be,” said Wren. “He had his followers and he did have influence.”

“So, one of his rivals could have-”

“I suppose so, yes. Or anyone else for that matter. The thing to do now is to figure out exactly how he was killed. He would have struggled if someone put a pillow over his face. There was no serious sign of struggle and he was not drugged.”

“Well,” said Jaxon, “Like you said, GM level.”

“I think we’ll pay the place a visit,” replied Wren. “It’s only a short lift ride from Storage Unit Nine. Whoever did it could have just dragged him back into the Unit and stuffed him into one of the storage bags available on the south wall.”

“I didn’t see that,” said Jaxon. “On the wall?”

“Yeah, they’re on a roll.”

“It would have to be someone pretty strong,” said Jaxon. “A male probably.”

“Or more than one female,” said Wren. “Unless she’s some kind of champion body builder.”

“I haven’t been here that long,” said Jaxon, “but I haven’t seen anyone like that.”

“Me neither,” said Wren.

*****

They took the lift from Storage Unit Nine down to GM level. “Put on one of these,” said Wren as she pulled two oxygen masks from the lift wall and handed one to Jaxon. “Set it to 20.95 percent air and keep it on. The GMs just take occasional whiffs of 80 percent.”  Once outside the lift, she looked around. “Where the hell are the people?”

“What’s this on the wall here?” Jaxon asked, pointing to a brownish stain about a meter from the lift and a meter and a half up from the floor.

“It looks like blood,” Wren said. She slipped on gloves, took a kit from her pocket and swabbed it. Applying the stain to a small meter, she observed the results. “Type B positive,” she said. A quick message to the pathologist and she told Jaxon, “Booth’s blood type. To be sure, he’ll need to test this further, but B is a relatively rare type.”

They kept walking until they heard voices and found a recreation center. Seven or eight people were in the room, lounging about, some of them eating.

“Excuse us,” Wren said. She and Jaxon pressed their wrist coms and flashed their IDs.  The people in the room went quiet, rather sullenly so, Wren thought. Were the GMs still angry from their former treatment by the REGs? Angry enough to kill one of them now that the uprising was over and settled?

A tough looking woman stood up. “What do you want?” She had short blond hair and a holo star figure and wore, like the others, a form fitting olive green jumpsuit. While all of the group had oxygen masks close by, lying on laps or end tables, none were currently using them. A few were eating.

“Someone,” began Wren, “was apparently killed in your area here and then carried up to Storage Unit Nine where he was stuffed into one of the storage bags from the unit’s wall. We need to know if anyone here knows anything about that.”

“You assume one of us did that?” snapped the blonde.

They kept walking until they heard voices and found a recreation center. Seven or eight people were in the room, lounging about, some of them eating.

“Not at all,” said Wren. “What I want to know is if any of you heard anything or know of anyone, GM or REG who might have been involved.”

“Who was killed?” asked a dark-skinned man.

“Lieutenant Governor Owen J. Booth,” said Jaxon.

The room was quiet. Wren could almost hear their thoughts. Screw it, some REG bigshot and now we’ll suffer for it. Figures.

“Do you know of any reason why anyone down here would want to off Owen Booth?”

“You do realize,” said the blonde,” that there are over three hundred of us now in New London alone? Including children? How on Mars would we know what all of us are thinking or doing?”

“Three hundred,” said Wren. “I thought you couldn’t reproduce yet.”

“The first baby was with a REG but inherited the low oxygen need. More were born in the lab upstairs, then we built our own lab down here. Two have been born naturally. We are evolving.”

“That’s great,” said Wren. Was it? She wasn’t sure. They needed people on Mars who required less oxygen but what if they took over and just “got rid of” the REGs? Something to keep one awake at night. “We have reason to believe that Booth may have been killed right outside the Storage Room Nine lift into your area. Maybe he was kept in here just long enough to asphyxiate him. Maybe there was a slight struggle while they got him back into the lift or maybe he was dead before they dragged him into it.”

“‘They,'” said one of the male GMs, this one tall and very good looking. “Why ‘they’?”

“Booth was one hundred and eighty centimeters tall and weighed eighty-one kilograms. It would be a little difficult for one person to hold him down while he struggled for oxygen and then drag him into the lift and from there into the storage unit. Some huge weight lifter, maybe, or…”

“A ‘they,’ repeated the guy.

“Hence,” continued Wren, “my wondering if any of you or anyone you know down here, more than one person probably, had a grudge against the Lieutenant Governor.”

They looked at each other. Finally, the first man spoke. “Only about half of us get involved with your politics, more women than men. There is a group of women who were quite happy with his views on birth and abortion. What do they call themselves, Leeni?”

The blonde lost some of her irritability and said, “The Singers. They call themselves that because they sing to the developing babies. Something about welcoming them into the world.  Some of them are a little crazy. But I’m sure the last thing they’d want is to kill off Booth. He was trying to pass laws they approved of. I think they even went upstairs to meet with him once. He was counting on them to influence the rest of us, I guess.”

“What do you think of his views?” Wren asked her.

“I couldn’t care less what laws you pass up there about that subject. I myself don’t intend to ever become pregnant and we’re doing pretty well now with growing fertilized fetuses in the lab. That’s a REG issue if there ever was one.”

Wren nodded to Jaxon and they both headed to the doorway. “Thank you all,” Wren said. “We might be back.”

Once in the lift, they removed their masks and hung them back on the lift wall where they would be instantly sterilized.

“That blood on the wall back there speaks loudly,” Wren said. As they walked back into Unit Nine, she ordered her wrist unit, “Show recording Corridor GM One by the Lift Three from 21:00 and 24:00 hours Monday evening.” She opened her screen and waited. “Whoa,” she said. “22:34 hours.”

Jaxon darted around to look. “Three, of them!” he said.

The recording showed three dark clad figures wearing some kind of bags over their heads and wrestling with a man outside the lift door. He was fighting for his life and clawed at his neck, banged into the wall, then dropped to the floor. The three figures, clearly female, possibly wore oxygen masks under their head coverings, but Wren couldn’t be sure. They watched Booth struggle on the floor, then twitch and thrash his head back and forth. One of the figures put her gloved hand over his face, possibly to finish the job. She didn’t have to work too hard at it. When he stopped twitching, they dragged him back into the lift and the doors closed.

“Do you recognize anyone?” asked Wren.

Jaxon looked confused. “Should I?”

“Sorry, for a moment I forgot you’re not from around here.” She chuckled.

“I don’t know anyone outside of people at the station. Well, and the man next door.”

“One of the figures looks familiar,” she said. “The shape of the body, I mean.” Then for some reason not really known to herself, she clammed up.

The figure she was referring to was tall and gangly-bony but with exceptionally wide hips. Not a usual combination of attributes. She remembered now where she’d seen it before. Booth’s PA, Alex Modine, with whom they’d spoken earlier in the day had once helped Booth host a “Town Hall” meeting on certain issues he was trying to push through New London’s legislature. A feminist rights group called the Panthers showed up to cause a minor ruckus over Booth’s Tory views. Wren remembered at the time feeling amazed that in the time of space travel, there were people who still wanted to prevent females from having full control over their lives and bodies. The tall and skinny, wide-hipped woman had stood and yelled at the speakers, joined finally by her sister protesters and they had continued the uproar until Booth and his retinue had left. At the time, Wren had been amazed at the never-ending hassle of Earth politics and how they had infected Mars.

The thing was, once they got the download back to headquarters, Jaxon would suggest running it through the “stripper.” The stripper would take the head of the tall woman and strip away at her head covering, guessing in its computer-ish way close to what she looked like. It could only approximate hair color to light or dark, which left out variations like gray instead of blond or red instead of light brown. She remembered that the woman’s hair had been red.

“Um, Jaxon,” she said, as they made their way to the station, “why don’t you organize a file of what we have so far. I’m going to go see someone and then I’ll check on what you’ve organized.”

He looked disappointed but nodded. She left him a block before the station and turned left to City Hall where once again, she visited Booth’s office and sought out his PA, Alex Modine.

“She’s at the college right now,” her secretary told Wren.

She found Modine in a professor’s office, both women having kicked their shoes off and enjoying a glass of whiskey. Wren flashed her digital badge again and Modine agreed to step out into the hall.

“The student political groups you mentioned earlier – do you meet with any of them now even before starting your job as instructor?”

Modine looked evasive. “On occasion,” she said.

“Where do you meet?”

“Here at the school,” she said.

“How many are in the women’s group?”

“I don’t know; it varies. Anywhere from three to a dozen I guess.”

“Is someone in there a tall redhead?”

“There might be. Yes, I think so. Emily Lively, I guess.”

“What does Emily Lively do? Is she a student?”

“No, well, she takes classes occasionally, but she works for the City Planner.”

“I need her contact info,” said Wren.”

***

The tall redhead was in her tiny office looking mad as a riled-up wasp. “Stupid morons,” she muttered at no one in particular.

“Who?” Wren asked, as she stepped through the open door.

Emily shook her head. “Who are you?”

Wren identified herself and asked, “Where were you Monday at 22:34?”

Emily managed a believable blank expression. “Monday? I don’t know. Probably home as usual handwashing my underwear and watching bad holos.”

“That’s what you do every evening?” asked Wren.

“Pretty much.”

“I was wondering if per chance, you and some friends happened to be inside Corridor GM One at that time, all dressed in dark clothing with bags over your heads and in the process of murdering Lieutenant Governor Booth.”

She was sassy enough to look astounded.

Wren was amused. “I will need to meet with the other women in the group.”

“What group?”

“I think you know what group I mean. The one Alex Modine told me about.”

*****

The group sullenly gathered that evening and Wren arrived without Jaxon. He might have wondered what she was up to on the case, but she’d told him that she needed to catch up on some sleep.

“Do you have the whole case laid out for that file yet?” she’d messaged him.

“I had it done by dinner time,” he said somewhat impatiently. “You need to transmit that recording.”

“Oh, I will if I can get it to work again. It was hiccoughing last time I looked and doing this weird blank-out. Well, take the evening off then, Jaxon, and get some sleep of your own. I’m starting to think this might not be murder after all.”

“What?” he sounded shocked.

“Accidents do happen,” she said.

“Yeah, but they don’t put themselves into a storage bag.”

“You have a point. I’ll need to make another visit to GM territory. Maybe someone down there left out part of the story.”

“But-” Jaxon protested as she ended the exchange.

Alex Modine rather reluctantly introduced Wren to the other women. Wren listened to them try to get things going but she could tell they were tense. She looked them over and wondered what all their professions were. Young women in their late twenties, others in their thirties and about a third forty and up. Scientists of different types, no doubt, some in medical or ship tech or terraforming, perhaps a doctor or nurse and students. Beautiful young faces of varied colors and shapes of eyes, mouths and bodies. Steel in their eyes. They were not, she understood, going to allow reactionaries to bring their female-hating crap from Earth and pollute this new planet. This was war and which side was she going to be on? Yes, the law was the law, but was she going to willingly protect those who spread that old-time poison?

After short time, she stood up. “Well, I’m going to leave you ladies to your work. Good luck.” And she took her leave before anyone, including Alex Modine, could react. They were undoubtedly wondering why she had bothered to call them together.

She was taking the huge risk of losing her job and worse and being sent in disgrace back to Earth. It would have been better if Jaxon had not seen that recording.

*****

It was late evening when she reentered the GM floor and made her way to the lounge where she and Jaxon had seen those people earlier. Mostly different ones were present now, though the same handsome and talkative dark-haired man was there. She asked if she could speak to him alone.

“It’s come to my attention,” she said, “that Booth had a girlfriend down here. Do you know who she was?”

Terrance Chow looked uncomfortable. “I do but she did not kill him. For that matter, he had more than one. The woman before….the recent one – he still tried to rendez-vous with occasionally – didn’t want any more to do with him. For all I know, there were others. He’d come down here drunk and staggering looking for whoever he was involved with, talk her into going upstairs and then have sex with her up there, for what reason I don’t know.”

“So,” said Wren, “he came into your area on his own drunk, wandering around looking for the women.”

“Yes,” said Terrance.

Wren was silent for a moment. “Let’s imagine that he came in here and was so drunk he forgot to put on the oxygen mask. Suppose he died right outside the elevator. So, he’s lying there on the floor dead. What would happen?”

Terrance was silent for a while; she could almost hear his brain grinding away. “I’m not totally certain,” he said finally.

“Would you call us police?”

“And have you REGs accuse us of causing the death somehow? Maybe not.”

She smiled behind her mask. “Okay, so possibly someone would drag the body back into the lift and take it upstairs to Storage Unit Nine?”

“Possibly,” said Terrance.

“And whoever that someone is, wouldn’t want to call attention to the body, right?”

“I would assume,” agreed Terrance.

*****

“Case solved,” said Wren the next morning. She had taken a small injection of Litomaxin before going in, shooting it into the side of her neck. It wasn’t something she often did, but she needed to have ice water for blood to pull this off.

Jaxon stood up from his desk. “Those women, right? Whoever they are? You found out who they are then?”

“Not who I originally thought,” she said.

“Which were?” he prompted.

She shook her head. “It actually wasn’t REGs. Those figures were GMs.”
“GMs murdered Booth?”

“Not at all. It appears that our Lieutenant Governor had a habit of going down there drunk to pick out whatever woman was currently striking his fancy. Then he’d take her upstairs and have sex with her while watching her skin turn red from oxygen uptake. But seems he went down there too inebriated this time and forgot to put a mask on.”

“So, you’re saying he died by his own stupidity?”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“But what about that bit on the recording where the woman was covering his mouth?”

“According to the GMs I questioned, his current paramour and her friends were trying to get the body into the lift and she wanted to feel if hot air was coming out of his mouth. Or nothing.”

“With gloves on? And why were their faces covered? Why were they even doing that? Why not just call us?”

Wren paused. “Regarding the gloves, I have a pair myself through which you can feel pretty much anything. Brought them from Earth for no reason; I never wear them. You’re new here, Jaxon. It was a long time before GMs won equality, if you want to call what they got by that name. We had a huge uprising here; it was touch and go for all of us for a while. They still don’t feel they have true equality. From their point of view, the REGs for the most part don’t really care about them and would enjoy punishing any of them they could for any reason. You could say that their feelings resemble those of American black people in earlier times.”

“And sometimes still do,” Jaxon mumbled. “Well, they can’t be sent to Earth if they transgress. They’d die, right?”

“Let’s just hope they never get mad enough to cut off our air proportions. It’s a big planet out there and there are lots of places to leave the corpses.”

Jaxon was silent a moment. Then he said, “So they dragged Booth into Unit Nine and hid the body. I’d like to see that recording again.”

“Well, unfortunately, I ruined it while trying to override the hiccoughing. To think I would do that after recently taking a course in the new workings…”  She shook her head.

He looked at her a long time and intently. She could watch him thinking that she was his boss and could do anything she liked. He was a long way from Earth rules and regulations. The police department was small and he was still a nobody.

“I guess you want me to finish the file then,” he said.

She nodded. “Yeah, do that and I’ll sign it when you’re done.”

It was good to be Chief Detective Inspector.

*****

If you’ve enjoyed A Blind Eye, you can visit our free digital archive of flash fiction here. Additionally, premium short fiction published by Mystery Tribune on a quarterly basis is available digitally here.

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