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The Europa Goodbye: Chapter 4

Darius threw his jacket and boots back on as he rushed out into the hallway of his apartment block. Miss Hanover, the sweet but half-senile superintendent, shot him a narrow-eyed glance as he rushed past her. “Where are you runnin’ off to, Detective Maroney? Why the rush?”

Darius turned and walked backwards to shoot a self-effacing smile at her. “Oh, that’s just how I do things, ma’am. Always on the move, always someplace to be. You know how it is.”

The old lady grinned faintly. “Can’t say that I do. But I’ll take your word for it, I suppose.”

She'd always been kind to Darius, but he knew she harbored deep-seated resentment toward the Security Forces. For her, it was all a reminder of the history of Jovian colonial violence. She was a seventh- generation Europan, and that meant living with that history every day. That, and the fact that two of her sons had been killed in the Wars. Darius never told her that he served in the Spacer Corps. She never asked. But that seventeen-year-old in his dreams looked an awful lot like her youngest grandson. 

It took him an hour to arrive on scene. Darius spent the tram ride poring over the files sent to his tablet. Red Nova enforcers had cornered a pair of Callistan Dawn operatives in an alley behind a Sixth Ward bar called the “Midnight Sun.” The five Novas and one surviving Callistan Dawn man had been cuffed by uniformed J-Sec patrolmen, and the Lieutenant wanted Darius to make an appraisal.

The local ward’s detective on scene was a Sergeant named Kasparis, according to the badge he flashed when Darius showed his own. He was smacking on a wad of chewing gum as he talked loudly to the patrol sergeant next to him, telling the younger uniformed man and his partner to keep the crowds back. “Fourth Ward, huh?” he said to Darius. “Heard you were on your way. Can’t say I know why.”

He nodded toward the syndicate men his officers had collared. “Seems routine to me. These guys hate each other’s guts, especially—” He cleared his throat and lowered his voice, eyes darting around at the crowd as if expecting to be overheard by a reporter. “Especially given the Pulaski situation. This is just normal escalation, if you ask me. Escalation and retaliation. It’s dirty but it’s as old as the Callistan craters.”

Darius was half-listening to Sergeant Kasparis as he watched the patrolmen trying to hold back the onlookers, many of whom were craning their necks to see the body under the tarp where it lay in the middle of the alley. Darius knew that patrolmen like them would be the first line of defense in the event of a turf war. He hoped they would be fast learners. The people now straining to get a view would be the same ones throwing bricks and molotov cocktails if the turf war turned into full-on civil unrest.

Darius gestured toward the syndicate enforcers lined up against the opposite wall of the alley, their hands bound behind their backs with flex-cuffs. They all stared at the officers guarding them with expressions of barely restrained malice. “They look like Draconists to me.”

Sergeant Kasparis smirked at him. “Look, Detective. We’ve cracked enough heads down here to know that most of these guys are just thugs looking for a fast score. They may sign on with a crew to get protection for their rackets, but even the ones with the real power, the guys who led the DRAC back during the War? They’re not gonna risk doing hard time, or worse, over a little scuffle with J-Sec.”

The Sergeant cocked his head toward the suspects. “If we move on them we’ll probably just nab a few mid-level guys and slap a few lackeys on the wrist, and that’ll be it.”

Darius shook his head grimly. “Let me ask you this: if you were one of those big shots who stands to lose a lot of ground after twenty or thirty years of work building it all up, would you just stand by with your pecker in your hand while we parade your goons off to prison, and seize your shipments at the import docks?” Darius turned to face Kasparis. “Imagine a former DRAC cell commander who fought to liberate the Jovian sector and saw your friends die while the ICA bombed it back to the pre-colonial era. Would you just roll over and let J-Sec uproot your operations and jail half your mid-level commanders without a fight?”

Darius could see Kasparis’ cockiness faltering even as he made his case. “Okay, so maybe the syndicates won’t just lay down and take it. But so what? By the time they know we’re hitting them, we’ll have nabbed half their lieutenants and sent them off to the Elysian Fields. Right?”

Darius ignored the patrolman and walked toward the body of the dead man and knelt beside it. He lifted the tarp to look at the victim’s face. Sure enough, he’d been beaten to a pulp, with both eyes swollen shut before his body had a chance to die. Letting a breath out through his nose, Darius turned back the tarp all the way to search the man’s pockets. Kasparis raised his eyebrow again. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Darius said nothing. It had taken him only a few moments to find what he was looking for. The dead man’s civilian ID card showed a picture of his face, minus the ferocious beating he’d received, plus a treasure trove of other information. The victim’s name was Grigori Juvenal, and based upon the preliminary research Darius did in his own tablet, he had been a lieutenant in the Jovian Mafia.

This meant that he was much more than a low-level street hoodlum on the prowl who’d been the worst off in a five-on-two fistfight, and it also meant that he was not with Callistan Dawn, unlike the semi-official report Darius had gotten upon arrival at the scene. That was just another detail that stuck in Darius’ mind and shot daggers at him, and he was done with letting that nagging go unanswered.

Frowning, he walked toward the six other men handcuffed against the wall of the alley. None of them seemed willing to meet his gaze as he spoke. “Which one of them was the dead guy’s friend?”

He need not have asked, based on the beating the surviving victim had also taken. His left eye was heavily bruised and swollen, he had crusted blood under his nose, and his lip was badly cut. Kasparis walked over to him and bodily hauled him to his feet. “This is the guy. Why do you ask?”

Darius didn’t answer him. Instead, he patted down the second suspect and retrieved his own civilian ID. The man’s name was Gavin McEwan, and another search of the databases revealed that he was a lieutenant in the Callistan Dawn. Darius’ eyes widened as he turned to Kasparis. “I need to bring him in for questioning. There’s something bigger going on here than a grudge match between low-level syndicate enforcers…”

Darius was already pulling the injured Callistan Dawn lieutenant toward the waiting police van that had pulled up a few minutes earlier to cart the other prisoners off to the holding cells at the local ward’s precinct. He stuffed the man into the back of the van and slammed the doors. Then he turned to face Kasparis, who had stopped following him a few paces back, still sputtering objections. “You’ll have to call another van for the rest of them. I’m taking this one back to your precinct for an interview, ASAP.”

With that he slammed the rear door shut on the autovan and went around to climb in the front, uninterested in whether Kasparis tried to stop him or not. 

The local precinct was only a ten-minute drive via the subsurface emergency access tunnels. By the time the van pulled into the hub on the back side of the precinct building, Darius was already deep in thought about what lines of questioning to pursue with this newest and, so far, only real lead in his case.

The interrogation cell the local officers directed him to was small as such things went. The LED floodlight over the door, aimed directly at the bolted-down seat where the suspect was meant to sit, was certainly a nice touch, as was the CCTV camera next to it. Darius forced McEwan into the chair and linked his flex cuffs to the table by way of a thick carbon fiber cord. His suspect wasn’t going anywhere unless Darius allowed it. With any luck he wouldn’t need any strongarm tactics. That had never been his style, anyway.

Darius then pulled out the chair opposite the Callistan Dawn lieutenant, sat down, and folded his hands on the table. After taking stock of his suspect, Darius cleared his throat to bring the man’s attention to his face. “Gavin McEwan. Would you mind telling me your affiliation with the deceased?”

McEwan grinned, showing bloody teeth. “We were both delivery boys for the Solar Postal Service.”

Darius narrowed his eyes. “You were taken into custody at the scene of a murder which is still pending official investigation. Far as I see it, given that you are in fact a known associate of a rival gang to the deceased, you’re an accessory to that murder. I could throw your ass up the proverbial river today, McEwan. How’d you like to spend the next ten years chilling out in a cube at Installation Omega?”

The young syndicate lieutenant didn’t look concerned, let alone impressed. He just sniffed and looked away again. “Fuck you, pal. I was talking to my union rep.”

“That might work as an alibi on Callisto, ” said Darius. “But we’re not on Callisto, thank Christ. Plus, we still have you in connection to the death of another mid-level syndicate henchman, a death that the local Detective J-Sec precinct would just love to send you to isolation for a few years over.”

“I got my ass kicked, too,” said McEwan. “Why would I be connected to that other guy’s death?”

Darius shrugged. “Hard telling,” he said. “But you do raise a point that I was hoping to get to.” Now he was getting down to the business he’d dragged this guy in for in the first place. Time to work his magic. “Why were you and the deceased associating here in the Sixth Ward today, of all days?”

McEwan leaned back in his chair as far as he could with his wrists still linked to the table. “He suggested we meet at the Midnight Sun. Thought we’d be able to avoid prying eyes. Guess he was wrong.”

Neither said anything for a while after that. Darius eyed McEwan, looking for any signs of emotion or reaction that might give away the sort of information he needed. He decided he’d try a slightly different tack. “So Juvenal set up the meeting at the bar, did he? Why would mid-level guys from two rival syndicates have to set up a meeting in the first place?” He cocked his head, as if the question were just another casual bit of conversation that occupied an otherwise drab week. But he watched McEwan more closely than ever.

“You’ve got it all wrong,” said McEwan, smirking. “We didn’t set up the meeting at all.”

Darius leaned in. “Who did?”

“I was given a message from someone higher in the food chain. Juvenal must’ve gotten similar.” He shrugged. “That’s usually how this sort of thing works, y’know. Division of labor, if you get my drift.”

“So the syndicates are in regular communication, then?” said Darius. “Elaborate.”

McEwan snorted. “This is the part where I reiterate, ‘Fuck you.’”

“If the syndicates are all in cahoots, why all the constant posturing?” said Darius, raising an eyebrow. “I assume those cuts and bruises on your face aren’t just for show?”

McEwan eyed Darius coolly. His expression was neither cold nor mocking, merely defiant. The glare of the immortally invincible twenty-something. “Gotta spill blood sometimes to keep everyone in line.”

“So lemme get this straight,” said Darius. “If you’re all in some sort of unspoken agreement to not cause a stir with the other syndicates, why risk stirring up shit with this whole Pulaski business?”

He knew right away that he had struck a nerve. The way McEwan twitched, however faint the motion, was so obvious it might as well have been plastered on a billboard. “Looks like we’re getting somewhere,” said Darius. “You should talk now, or things get worse from here on out.”

McEwan worked the muscles in his jaw for a moment. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Now it was Darius’ turn to smirk. “I find that hard to believe. A big-time mover and shaker gets stabbed to death on an orbital station, apparently while trying to flee the sector after a big push against your outfit, and all signs indicate it was some sort of professional job directed by a rival faction.” He narrowed his eyes dangerously. “Which again begs the question, what were you doing meeting with Juvenal this afternoon?”

McEwan narrowed his eyes. “I already told you. I was given a message, told to relay that message to Juvenal when I met him.” He shifted his weight again. “I’d just arrived when the Novas showed up and started beating the shit out of the two of us. Juvenal, he– Well, you know how that turned out.”

Then he leaned back in his chair and frowned, as if the notion of his counterpart from the Tharsis Mafia winding up on a slab had suddenly turned him introspective. “What was the message?” asked Darius.

McEwan glared at him, but a small grin tugged at the edge of his lips nonetheless. “How the fuck should I know? I was given a network address for Juvenal to access after we parted ways, but as you can probably imagine we never got around to that part of the process.”

Darius crossed his arms. “I need that code,” he said. “Given that your meeting with Juvenal contributed directly to his demise, we can very easily connect you to the crime. If you hand over the code, I may be able to help you get around the penalties for that circumstance. If anything you provide helps facilitate the investigation coming to a satisfying end, I’m sure the J-Sec brass would be happy to throw you a bone.”

McEwan cocked an eyebrow and leaned forward on his elbows. “You think those guys who worked us over were just a bunch of Red Nova thugs?” He  shook his head. “Not even close. This thing is bigger than the syndicates, I can tell you that much. Since it could roll over a lot of people I know, I’ll give you the code. What you do with it from there is none of my business.” He recited a long, alphanumeric code Darius knew would link to a Network drop box. That was the best lead he had, now. The only lead.

Darius was just about to ask McEwan what he had meant when he said that the enforcers arrested for assaulting him and Juvenal were not everyday Red Nova enforcers when the buzzer sounded behind them and the cell door swung open. Darius whirled around and saw Sergeant Kasparis and two uniformed officers framed in the doorway. “Afraid I’m going to have to cut your interrogation short,” said Kasparis. “This shitstain to be taken to HQ for further questioning before he gets processed through to the iso-cubes.”

The two uniforms moved past Sergeant Kasparis to retrieve McEwan, but Darius stepped in front of them. “Excuse me, Sergeant, but we were just starting to get to the good stuff here. If we could just have a few more minutes before you take away my suspect, I think I might even be able to—”

Kasparis shook his head firmly. “He’s not your suspect to manage.” He snapped his fingers, and the two uniformed officers went around each side of Darius to unlatch McEwan from the interrogation table. Darius tried to catch his suspect’s gaze, but McEwan just smiled serenely as he was effectively dragged away. He said nothing, but the look on his face spoke volumes. Darius wondered then, and later, if it said that he was going to be thrown in a hole, or that he was about to be cut loose.

As the local agents departed with their new prisoner in tow, Darius stood silent and still, watching them go. He felt particularly helpless about this turn of events. He really hated that feeling.

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