Fiction Friday. Escape pod here to the details of the Stay Frosty Frigate-Free-For-All next month.
A Mining Town Called Reykjaa - Justice
Darwish turned the key and opened the door to find Gudvard standing there, his face etched with worry.
"Law Man! Its Natsumi, she's missing!"
Darwish opened the door wide and motioned for the man to sit at the desk. Gudvard was married to Natsumi. She worked at the Promethium mines as a supervisor whilst Gudvard ran his own small maintenance and contracting business.
"OK Gudvard, calm down. Whats happened?" Darwish asked.
"Natsumi was working the nightshift. She was supposed to be home at four but she never got home. I called the mine and they said she never clocked out but nobody has seen her in hours."
"You sure she's not gone for a drink after work and forgot to clock out?" Darwish sighed. Missing persons were not uncommon in Reykjaa. The remote settlement was a haven for people hiding from someone, or something in Empire space. Occasionally those who appeared to have settled just decided to return to civilisation. However Darwish knew this was unlikely in this case. Natsumi was Caldari, and the rumour was she'd been involved in a hover-car crash which killed the child of a high-ranking mega-corp executive. There was no way she could ever return to the State. Also the transport shuttle wasn't scheduled for another week nor were there any recent ore transports she might have bartered passage on.
"No, she always came straight home!" Gudvard replied with desperation in his voice.
"OK, OK. I'll look into it. But you need to go home in case she returns."
Gudvard looked like he was about to argue but Darwish gave him a look that showed that his previous statement wasn't a suggestion. As Gudvard left the Law Man's office Darwish checked his gun. He hoped Natsumi had gone for that drink, the other possibility was a lot, lot worse.
Darwish unclipped the fastener on his holster as he approached the small house at the end of the street. The houses along here were small and closely spaced. As per much of Reykjaa they were constructed in local wood and stone. The settlement was so remote that modern materials were very expensive to import. Tritanium alloys may have been the material of choice for building in Empire space, but out deep in null-sec here people used what they could find locally.
He approached the door. If something had happened to Natsumi then Yngvar was the prime suspect. It had been a bad few months for the town. Four months ago there had been a cave-in at the Promethum mines. A number of miners had been trapped for several hours. Two had not made it, including Yngvar's 19 year-old son. A board of inquiry had been set up by the town council. Several failings had been identified in the mines operation and recommendations had been made. Natsumi had been at the centre of these issues. However, there was not sufficient evidence to bring charges. Natsumi had broken down whilst giving evidence and had shown great remorse. However Yngvar lost control seeing her like that and had started to blame her for his sons death. He had to be removed from the room as he shouted and swore at her. Things got even worse the month after when Yngvar's wife, unable to cope with the loss of her son, had killed herself. Since the funeral of his wife, Yngvar had hardly been seen.
The central issue was the supply of 'spoke bombs' the mine held. These devices were sold by the Sisters of Eve and were basically an emergency tunnelling device. The bomb would blast through rubble or walls and discharge a secure lattice that would stabilise the hole it blew. A few of these bombs could quickly make a tunnel through any material. Unfortunately stocks were low and there were only enough spoke bombs to get three quarters of the way through the massive cave in. The rest of the way they had to manually tunnel. That delay had killed Yngvar's son according to the doctors testimony.
Darwish knocked firmly on the door and waited. After twenty seconds he knocked louder. There was still no answer. He tried the door handle but it was locked. Darwish made his way around to the back door and peered into the gloom. He could see no signs of life. He tried the handle and the door clicked open. He drew his gun and advanced into the gloom. After sweeping the house and finding nobody home Darwish started a more detailed search of the downstairs. On the kitchen table he found an open box of medical hyposprays. Two were missing from the foam cut-outs. Another three were still in the box. Darwish picked the box up and heard a feint click. If it wasn't for his past, Darwish would have died there. However he knew the sound click all too well and was already dropping to the floor when the coin-sized micro-grenade detonated. Many people in New Eden often mocked Matari construction. The Minmatar didn't build for aesthetics, they build for practicality. And in this case the thick wooden table directed the grenade's blast up and to the sides. Darwish picked himself up off the floor and surveyed the devastated kitchen. The big table had a black crater in the centre but was still standing.
"Good workmanship!" Darwish said rapping his fist on the table. He grabbed his communicator and called Hjalmar, his deputy.
"Hjalmar, its Darwish. Yngvar has gone off the deep-end. I suspect he has already snatched Natsumi and I'd bet he's going for Gudvard next. Looks like he stole some anaesthetic sprays from the doc. Get over to Gudvard's place and if he's still there stay with him."
As he left Darwish looked at the table once more. Snatching someone due to a misguide sense of revenge was one thing. Setting booby traps for random people, most likely the law, was a whole new level.
The doctor came back from her store with an angry look on her face.
"Yes, a box of five anaesthetic hyposprays is missing. Zander is going to be OK, just a concussion."
Darwish already knew this was where the hypos had come from but he needed to confirm that they had indeed come from the town's surgery. He had been to the doctors house to tell her he suspected a theft and they had both gone to the surgery. As it was before the Doctor's shift the nightnurse should have been manning reception but he wasn't. They found him unconscious in the back room, he'd been beaten. The anaesthetic hyposprays were indeed the target.
"He's probably used the hypos to kidnap Natsumi and her husband. I'm assuming he wanted them alive. Therefore they'll be OK until they wake up. How long does that stuff knock them out for?"
"3 hours usually. The husband will probably come around first."
Darwish looked at his datapad. It had been an hour since he had seen Gudvard. Therefore he probably had less than two hours before they both came round and Yngvar would extract his version of justice.
At that moment the surgery door burst open and a man walked in supporting a bleeding woman. The Doctor rushed to help, easing the injured woman into a chair and shining a light into her eyes.
"It was a package for the mayor. We were opening today's post. We'd left that one as it was marked private and confidential. It started hissing and we looked at it. Abigael went over and it just went up. Thankfully she was still a few metres away when it blew. If she'd been next to it....." his voice trailed off.
Darwish thought about it. The booby trap under the hypo's at the house. Clearly intended to kill law enforcement. The parcel bomb, intended to kill the head of the inquiry panel for the mine collapses, the mayor. He hoped that would be the last of the 'surprises'. Darwish thanked the doctor and left the surgery. His deputy was leaning against the police car. As a frontier settlement the vehicle the police used was not a custom multi-modal transport like they used in Empire space. This was an old hover-car that had been painted. It couldn't fly and certainly couldn't take fire. But its what they had.
"You got everything?" Darwish asked as he approached.
"Sure thing boss. We going hunting?"
"Sort of. We're going up to the 'Lovers Spot' but don't get any ideas!"
Darwish picked his way through the narrow track. The vegetation was encroaching into the path and he had to push several branches out of the way. The top of the ridge was a popular spot for picnics and young lovers looking for privacy with a romantic view. But even as popular as it was, Reykjaa was a small town and there was not the numbers to keep the path clear. After a few more minutes climbing the path Darwish emerged at the top of the ridge, on the edge of the gorge which in turn overlooked the town. He continued to follow the path along the edge of the gorge higher to the location known as 'The Leap'. It was a rock formation that jutted out into the gorge by a few metres. It had got its name after several residents had jumped to their deaths from that rock. It was 150 metres, straight down onto jagged rocks. Nobody had ever jumped and survived, and that included Yngvar's wife only a few months before. Darwish had a hunch he'd find them here.
As he turned the last bend in the path and found the three of them on the rock. Natsumi and Gudvard were both kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs. Yngvar was stood behind Natsumi with a large knife at her throat.
"At last. I was thinking you weren't coming Law Man! I was sure you'd work out where we were, just surprised you didn't get here sooner" Yngvar shouted.
"Traffic in town, its terrible today." Darwish replied slowly walking towards them.
"OK. Stop there, that's far enough. And toss the piece too, slowly."
Darwish gripped the handle of his gun with two fingers and tossed it into the undergrowth.
"So what now?" He asked.
"Well Law Man. We've been waiting for you so you can be witness."
"Witness to what?"
"Justice!" screamed Yngvar. He gripped Natsumi by the hair and pulled her head back. The steel knife glinted in the midday sun.
"Justice?" Darwish asked questioningly. "Doesn't look like anyone is serving justice currently. Looks the opposite to me. Just some nutjob going off the deep end. The surprise you left me at you house didn't work and the parcel for the mayor injured a clerk. If you think this is justice then you are beyond help."
Yngvar pressed the knife against Natsumi's throat harder and she sobbed. A single drop of blood ran down her neck where the knife broke the skin.
"Where is justice for my son? My wife? Why is she alive and they are dead?"
"Yngvar, your son was killed in a tragic accident. Your wife took her own life. These two are not responsible."
"She is! She wasn't doing her job right! If she was my son would be alive and my wife would be too. So today I will dispense justice. She can watch her beloved husband die in front of her eyes. Watch the life drain from his body. Then she can take the same exit from this life as my wife. The long drop."
"OK." said Darwish and sat down on an adjacent log.
Yngvar gaped at him in amazement. "You... you are not going to try and stop me?"
"So you agree they are guilty then!"
"No. They are innocent and you are a fucking nutter. But no way I'm going to rush up on that precarious rock, especially whilst you have that knife. So I'll just sit here."
Darwish could see the terror in Natsumi's eyes but he remained impassive as if he really didn't care.
"Look, I have an appointment at two. Can we get on with it?" Darwish sounded bored.
Yngvar looked in amazement at the Law Man and withdrew the knife from Natsumi's neck.
"So you are going to just sit there whilst I gut this man as his wife watches and then throw her to her death?" Yngvar said menacingly as he advanced with the knife slowly towards Gudvard."
"Not exactly. Now you've moved that knife away from her throat I'm going to watch Hjalmar put a bullet in your brain and then watch you fall over the edge."
Yngvar suddenly froze for a second and then spun around realising his mistake. A fine red mist was jettisoned from the back of his head and his body went rigid for a couple of seconds before topling over the side as if in slow-motion. Hjalmar appeared from behind a bush a little further up the path holding an old 'Pyrus' sniper rifle.
"You took your time!" Darwish said as they both started to untie Natsumi and Gudvard.
"Cheeky bastard! I had to climb the rise not walk up the easy path."
"Yes but I had to distract Yngvar. You just had to take the shot."
Once untied Natsumi and Gudvard embraced sobbing. Darwish and Hjalmar left them to their moment and both peered over the edge. Darwish sighed looking down at the body at them bottom of the gorge. He produced a small coin from his pocket and placed it on top of his fist.
"Awwwww shit." exclaimed Hjalmar. "Rifter!"
Darwish flicked his thumb up and the coin span through the air. He caught it on the back of his hand and covered it with his free hand. He slowly removed his hand.
"Balls!" Hjalmar exclaimed again and started to work his way down the gorge to recover the body.