Friday, December 27, 2013

A Mining Town Called Reykjaa - Murder on Market Day

Fiction Friday! Escape pod here.

A Mining Town Called Reykjaa - Murder on Market Day

Dawish entered the bar and was immediately struck by the noise. Half of the town were there and the mood was excitable. An Outer Ring Excavation barge had landed at the starport. It was here to collect the raw Promethium ore from the mines. Usually these barges arrived once a month however due to scheduling conflicts it had been nearly two months since the last one visited. However, the barges didn't just arrive to take the mines output away. They also brought the crew to town.

Like many of the settlements the barges visited, Reykjaa was remote. In fact it was very remote, located in a dead-end solar system deep in Minmatar null-sec. No trade routes passed through the system, no merchants visited, no tourists came here. Therefore getting goods imported was ridiculously expensive. The crew of the ORE barges had come to realise this and that they could make a profit on goods they took for granted in high-sec. Each member of the barge crew would specialise in one type of goods that residents of back-water settlements would want. When in Empire space each crewman would fill their small quarters with as much merchandise as they could. Then, whilst the barge was docked at these remote settlements and being loaded with raw ore, the crew would set up 'shop' in the local bar. For a few hours the settlement's residents could barter and buy goods that they wouldn't normally have access to.

As Darwish wandered across to the bar he saw one of the ORE crew ascending the stairs with two of scantily-clad women that worked the bar. He glanced at the bar where Wilhelm, the owner of the establishment, was looking through assorted boxes piled high. Occasionally he would pull out a bottle to inspect before putting it back. It was usually the most senior member of the barge crew who took the alcohol side of the business. It was by far the most lucrative. Whilst most frontier settlements brewed their own beer and whiskey from locally grown produce, there was always great demand for proper Amarrian wines and Gallente vodkas. The added benefit from being in charge of the booze was that most bar owners also had girls that they would offer to knock down the asking price.

"Anything good Wilhelm?" Darwish asked as he reached the bar.

"Ah! Law Man! Excellent news, we have some of your favourite whiskey in here! It has been a most productive visit!" the bar owner beamed.

"Yes, I see the seller will be very satisfied very shortly. Was that Tamzin and Keely you packed him off with?"

Wilhelm was still rifling through the boxes not really looking at Darwish. He gave a chuckle.

"Certainly was. I got 900 credits knocked off this little lot for an hour with those two. I do love these ORE grunts. All that journeying through deepspace on a ship full of men ensures they all think with their little head when we start negotiations! Hell for these wines here I'd have paid full price AND offered the girls. I guess I'm just too much of a businessman!"

Darwish smiled and nodded in acknowledgement. He turned from the bar and walked over to the stalls set up along the far end of the bar whilst discreetly hiding his Law Man badge and covering his side-arm. The first one he reached was stacked with Gallente holoreels as well as an assortment of second-hand projectors. The man behind the stall smiled widely.

"Greetings! Anything you are particularly interested in? We've got the latest action movies from the Gallente Prime studios. I've even got a copy of 'Nyx 537' which isn't even officially out yet! Or are you after something a little more specialist? You know, something from the more adult produces of Dodixie? 'Militia Babes Go Wild' is my best seller!".

Darwish replied he was just browsing and continued on. The next stall was laid out with cloth and fabrics. A good selection of everything from fine Amarrian silk to sturdy Caldari synthetics. The one after that was selling clothes. Like the previous one, it had a mix of all four races. Gallente sportswear, Matari leather jackets, Amarrian robes and Caldari coveralls. He completed the circuit and left the bar, reattaching his badge of office as he left. He was still on duty and he had seen enough. What he was browsing for was any illegal items. Boosters, weapons, contraband. All appeared to be sufficiently legal, or close enough, so he left his fellow towns folk to haggle into the night.


Darwish had been asleep for an hour when the beeping of his communicator woke him. He groggily sat up and looked at the screen. It was Wilhelm so he answered.

"This had better be you inviting me around for a party with Tamzin and Keely to reward me for my loyal service to the town." he grumbled.

"Sorry Law Man. No party tonight, but you'd better over here. We've got an 'issue' round the back!".

Darwish got dressed and left the Law office. The bar was only a few minutes walk and he went straight down the alley at the side and round the back. At a rear door he found Wilhelm and a body on the floor, slumped between two bins.

"One of the ORE crew?" Darwish asked as he approached and got a proper look at the man on the floor.

"Yup!" replied Wilhelm "Looks like someone did him good!"

Darwish went up to the body. The man's throat had been cut and his entire front was drenched in blood.

"You know what this guy was selling?" Darwish asked as he searched the corpse.

"Yeah. He was the one with the consumer electronics. Not a real popular stall here to be honest."

Darwish carefully searched the body found a wallet and a small datapad in the man's pocket. Not a robbery then. He turned the datapad on and looked through the recently opened files. He had a stock inventory and sales list for the goods he had been selling. Wilhelm had been right, he'd had a slow evening and he had not sold a lot. In total he'd sold one music player and a small holograph ornament. Darwish called the doctor and his own deputy next who arrived promptly. As they secured the crime scene he went inside with Wilhelm to check out the victims stall.

The goods were layed out on the table still. A wide selection of cameras, holo-recorders, datapads and other technology. Not really anything that would be massively popular in Reykjaa. Dawish checked under the table, wondering if he'd find some ellicit booze or other goods that might have upset one of the other ORE crew. In order to avoid conflict or price-wars, each crew member had a specific type of merchandise they dealt in. The more senior you were in the crew and the longer you had served the more lucrative the goods you dealt in. Darwish didn't find anything to suggest he was dealing outside his 'allowed area' and thus would provide a motive for one of his crew mates to kill him.

A thought then occurred to him. He reached for his own datapad and brought up the evenings messages. There was one from Kador at the spaceport. He always sent a message to the Law Man when any ship arrived. As well as the ORE barge, a shuttle had landed a few hours after. Two men had arrived stating they were on 'business'. Not a common event, but not totally unheard of. Darwish had assumed at the time they were mining equipment suppliers or a factory looking to set up a supply deal for raw Prom. He called Kador asking him to ensure that the shuttle developed some 'difficulties' and to ensure that should the two men return he should be notified immediately. Kador was a veteran of the starport and could easily sabotage any thing that flew and make it look like a maintenance issue. Darwish knew the two new arrivals wouldn't be leaving early now Kador was on the case. He needed to speak to those two at some point. He went back to the table of full of electrical goods, and started to go through the dead man's datapad.


The police car bumped along the unmade road to the starport on the edge of town. Darwish was accompanied by Hjalmar his deputy. Kador had called to say the two new comers had arrived back at the starport and requested immediate flight clearance. Apparently when they tried to leave, the shuttles engines blew a coupling.

"So boss. You think these are the guys?" Hjalmar asked.

"Well Wilhelm said he saw two new faces in the bar tonight. Smartly dressed guys in suits. Description fits what Kador gave. Two men on business arrive late evening and then look to depart in the early hours of the next morning? I really would like to ask what sort of business they are in that needs a night-time meeting. Also why come this deep into null-sec for a couple of hours? I don't know if these two had anything to do with the murder but it smells fishy to me. We need to get some answers from them."

A few minutes later they pulled up outside the starports administration building. Darwish could hear raised voices inside. He jumped from the vehicle and nodded to Hjalmar . Darwish approached the building as Hjalmar darted around the back as he slowly opened the door.

"What do you mean the shops shut? What kind of port is this?"

"The kind where most of our facilities close at night. Look young man, Hjalmar will be here in a few hours. When he opens the mechanics shop he'll be able to sell you a new coupling and he'll even install it for you."

"We aint prepared to wait old man. So you'd better open that shop up now, otherwise......"

"Otherwise what?" Darwish asked.

The two men span round and Darwish got his first good look at them. They were clearly Gallente. The suits were tailored and the shoes expensive. Their expression changed at the sight of the Law Man from annoyance to concern.

"Sorry, we don't want any trouble Law Man. Look, a coupling blew and we just want to buy a replacement and leave this planet in peace. We don't want any bother."

The two men looked very nervous.

"Had trouble with your hydraulics too?" Darwish asked.

"No, they are fine." replied one of the men.

"Oh, it just looks like your friend there has hydraulic fluid sprayed on that rather nice white shirt."

The man who had been speaking slowly turned his head to look at his partner. Red specks were visible against the bright white material.

"Oh that!" the man laughed as he turned to his partner and put his back to Darwish "Thats just...."

Suddenly the man spun back around, a gun now in his hand. Darwish dived behind a sofa as blaster fire lit up the office. Kador dropped behind the counter as the man with the gun advanced on Darwish.

"You couldn't leave it alone could you cop. You'd have made it though the night and continued your pitiful existence on this backwater planet. But no, you had to be super cop!"

Darwish leant over the side of the sofa with his own blaster in his hand and fired off two shots narrowly missing the attacker who had to dive for cover.

"Not super, just cop, asshole!" he yelled.

With the return fire the two suspects ran, bursting out of a side door just as Hjalmar burst in with a shotgun through the back door.

"Always late to the party." Darwish grumbled!

"Stylishly late I thank you!" came the retort.

The two Law Men gave chase as the suspects raced over the huge expanse of concrete away from the buildings and towards the only working ship at the port, the ORE barge.

"Shit!" gasped Darwish as they sprinted.

"What? If they hide in there we have them. No way out! Rather they ran there than into the woods." replied Hjalmar.

"No, look in the cockpit!"

Hjalmar looked and saw someone standing there looking down at them.


"The crew are back on board! That one there is watching two law men chase two men an hour after one of their own was killed. What do you think he is thinking!"

Hjalmar realised the significance and increased his speed. Unfortunatly Darwish was right and the two suspects had too great a head start. By the time Darwish and Hjalmar got to the barge's ramp the two suspects were laid out. A group of burley barge crew were stood around holding metal bars and oversized wrenches.

"Caught them for you Law Man." one said nonchantly.

Darwish looked down at the suspects. Their heads were practically caved in and blood flowed in small rivers down the ramp. Grey brain matter spilled from the cracked skulls.

"Damn it guys. We needed them alive." he sighed exasperated.

"They resisted and we feared for our lives." another crew member dead-panned.

Darwish looked at the group of twelve muscled men and decided whilst he could point out the obvious there was no point arguing. In their eyes justice had been served.


The mayor poured a large whiskey and handed it to Darwish who was sat in one of the chairs in the town hall office.

"Bit of a mess then?" the mayor commented as he stared out of the window at the setting sun. It had been a long day.

"You could say that."

"Are you charging any of the ORE crew?"

"No point. We cleared the barge for take-off an hour ago. The suspects were armed with blasters, those crew with simple tools from the ship. Any court would have struggled to convict them especially after what had happened earlier. I suppose we could argue that those crew where hulks of men and could have easily taken the two suspects alive, but would we get anywhere? Doctor also confirmed the blood on the second suspects shirt matched the 'vics'. The crew took out the murders so we can chalk this up to frontier justice and let them go free."

"Not to mention we rely heavily on that barge's visits." muttered the mayor.

Darwish just nodded.

"You said you had discovered why that crew member was killed?"

"Yes, case closed. When I checked the 'vic's' stall I had his datapad. The 'vic' kept a very detailed log of what he had in stock and what he sold and for how much. He loved his spreadsheets. There was a holo-recorder I couldn't account for. I assumed whoever killed the crew member took the recorder. Thats when I checked the flight logs of the shuttle and also those of the barge, that shuttle had been chasing the barge for the last 3 stops. They had been just too late the previous two times and this is where they finally caught up with them. His datapad also detailed the 'vic's' purchases, he bought that holoprojector from a loan/sell shop in frog space. I did a bit of digging and made a call to the nearest police station. Thankfully the cop I spoke with was helpful. He told me that the shop was no more than a fence for stolen goods. However, it had recently closed. The day after our 'vic' bought the recorder the place was hit hard and torched. The cops heard from an informant that apparently some idiot crooks had robbed the home of a local Serpentis boss. The Serps had caught up with the robbers and 'persuaded' them to tell them what they'd done with the goods they had stole. Apparently the thieves were found next day, minus their skin, and various other important body parts. They had sold the stolen loot to the loan/sell shop which had then been torched. The two suspects that arrived here chasing the barge were obviously Serps come to collect the last piece of missing gear. The recorder our 'vic' had bought just before they hit the store."

The mayor downed his drink.

"Seems a bit of a waste of three lives just for a stolen holo-recorder!" he stated.

"Its more than that Mr Mayor. We found the recorder hidden on their shuttle. It hadn't been wiped. It contains a high-definition recording of a book-keeper admitting he had been syphoning off from Serpentis funds that he was supposed to be laundering."

"Sounds like something you shouldn't confess to, especially on holoreel." the Mayor stated.

"It isn't. But as the first hour of the recording shows the book-keepers secretary being worked over whilst the bookkeepers wife and kids were forced to watch, I think any man would have told the truth to spare his family the same fate. The recording cuts off after the confession so we don't know the fate of the book-keeper or his family. But given the job they pulled on his secretary, I don't want to know."

The mayor looked at Darwish gobsmacked.

"Your not kidding?"

Darwish down his drink and stood.

"Nope. Republic Security Services will be here in an hour to collect the recorder. They have chartered a capsuleer in an interceptor, that is how serious they are taking this. I'll also make it well-known that it is off-world as soon as they do. I'll give that cop a call, I assume they have leaks in their department. That way the Serps won't come looking for it and our Government has a nice gift for the Gallente. Should be worth something in return."

"So alls well that ends well?" asked the mayor.

"Its not ended yet. I need to erase what I saw on that tape from my head, and I intend to use copious amounts of expensive drink and cheap women... or may be the other way around. I'll see when I get to the bar."

With that Darwish stood and left the mayor's office and headed to the bar, intending to forget.

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