Detective Inspector Baratty Rabatty got bored looking at the body and studied the room instead, although he doubted if there were any more clues there than looking at the corpse. Murder on Granola was normal. Suicide wasn’t, which was why he was called in. Why bother? It wouldn’t be that difficult to put yourself in the way of anyone with ambition and they would kill you to take your position. There had been an attempt on his own life that morning by one of sergeants seeking a rapid promotion. His body was already being cremated as a justifiable homicide. Rabatty preferred to solve murders than commit them but one death would warn others not to take a similar path and he was no pushover. Let them earn their rank like he had. Then again, he had also declined a rise in rank after Grand Emperor Borro had offered it because it would be more a desk job than detection. No one could know the particulars of that case and now it just looked like he was stalling in his job and ambitious underlings always saw it as blocking their own rise in the department.
In comparison, forensic specialist Jumpee Morbrondo wasn’t bored as she studied the body and took various samples. Unlike Rabatty, no one was after her job. Who wanted to study the dead when life could be so short? Granolans were mostly happy to hear of death not find out why. The number of medical television programmes from Earth hadn’t encouraged more people into her profession as they spent too much time away from the actual murders. The current trend passing through his community was to become a minor celebrity and any accolade associated with it, getting the ultimate accolade, an invitation onto a chat show. This dead body, Brodica Macardi, was one such minor celebrity but he couldn’t recall her claim to fame.
‘Macardi. Wasn’t she in the news recently?’
Jumpee shrugged. ‘Probably. Use your computator, Rabatty. I think it was some chat show as part of the media circus.’
Rabatty thought she knew as little as he did and entered the information and then watched the screen. Minor celebrities were invariably here today and gone yesterday. A censor message flashed up before continuing with the scene.
Brodica Macardi was talking to one of the aimless chat show hosts.
‘As I told you, if I told you I would have to kill you.’ She drew a machine gun and shot him and then the audience and camera crew before walking out in a huff. He wound the clip back and saw the censor notice again. It wasn’t going to reveal the disclosure despite his access level. He ran it again for Jumpee.
‘Any of the relatives would kill her openly if they were that bothered,’ was her only comment. She mouthed, ‘One of the Emperor’s mistresses,’ under her breath.
Rabatty nodded looking up, noticing that none of other police nearby hadn’t reacted to her words. They would have to talk in private for more detail. It would have to be someone high up to enforce such a censorship and Grand Emperor Borro had previous for keeping things quiet. He wouldn’t have carried out the murder himself and if they looked, they’d probably find the assassins’ bodies as each one would have been killed off to cut off the connection to the top. A blatant trail even for him. He widened the computator’s scan perimeters but there was so many deaths in the past few hours it would be hard to reduce numbers until he knew what he was looking for.
‘If you have enough information here, can you have her body bagged and sent to your lab?’
Jumpee zipped up her bag and nodded to the officers to carry out the instruction.
‘I’ll drive you back.’
The two Granolans pushed passed the crowd outside, muttering no comment to the press before driving off in Rabatty’s vehicle.
Jumpee played with the detective’s computator before saying, ‘We aren’t bugged here…at least while we’re moving. Is the Emperor planning our deaths by discovering it was him?’
Rabatty shook his head. ‘It would be a convoluted plan, even for him. A suicide that isn’t. Everything points back to him and if he did arrange Macardi’s death why make it look like a suicide when murder is quicker? It could have been anyone’s relatives from the audience she killed. Why kill an audience?’
‘Or any of the crew or the host over some news that would surely have been in the press the next day and quickly forgotten. Going to Borro with the evidence and we are wrong would also cost our heads without evidence that would still need to be covered up. It has made Brodica Macardi’s celebrity status bigger for all of five minutes.’
‘Why the secret? If Macardi was one of Borro’s mistresses it was hardly news, he’s had many of them.’
‘Maybe he talked in his sleep.’
Jumpee shrugged. ‘You’re the detective.’
‘And you do the forensics. Find out if she really shot herself else or someone else did it and we’ll have something to work with. If he wants anyone dead, the Emperor is far more discrete and would have done it publicly to show his authority.’
‘We also have a secondary problem. Copycats. Chat shows being killed off by the blabbermouth guests on recorded shows could quickly become popular and harder to find a straw in a pile of pins. At least none are put out live.’
Has it happened yet? Even after the deaths?’
Jumpee played with the compotator controls. ‘Not live. Twice so far. None of them are live broadcasts. The talk is too long and boring, so the director likes to make a tight edit. This might escalate. No. They were all first guests. Not enough footage to run as an entire chat show.’
‘Tag them in case they end up dead as well. Just in case there is a pattern.’
‘Too late. They were cremated. I only have this body. Are there any more murder scenes to see before I can go back to the laboratory?’
‘Five. Just supervisory of tying up loose ends. Having you along saves me time these days. After my attack this morning, the sergeants are all doing their jobs properly again but its best to show my face and show who they are answerable to.’
‘You know, Rabatty, one of them is going to be promoted over your head one day.’
‘If they live that long. Your own rise in rank didn’t mean you had to leave your lab work behind. I like detecting.’
‘It seems the Emperor put a word in for me so I could do field work with a rank increase. I suspect he still harbours a desire for me to join his harem.’
Rabatty slowed the car down to chortle. ‘No doubt you told him you were dedicated to your work?’
‘I also told him I was better working for him than a stall-mate. I have no desire to end up on the end of his phallic skewer, even for a brief fling. The queue to do that should always keep him happy.’
‘You must have been very persuasive, Jumpee.’
‘As you discovered the Emperor appreciates logic that works in his favour.’
As it turned out, it was early afternoon before they arrived back at the laboratory after a hasty lunch. One of the orderlies was waiting anxiously by the main door and frantically came up to whisper in Jumpee’s ear before hearing his own fate.
She shooed him away before addressing the detective, ‘The body’s gone, Rabatty.’
‘Before or after it arrived?’
‘After. They put her in the freezer and when they got it out for me, it was gone.’
‘You don’t seem surprised, Jumpee.’
‘Third one. I thought the other two were taken for cremation without bothering for paperwork.’
‘And you didn’t think to tell me about the lack of paperwork?’
‘The other two were suicides. That’s how they came in. What family wants to be associated with a suicide?’
‘But the third…’
‘You called me in. We should have brought the body back ourselves.’
‘No sense recriminating, let’s check the freezer.’
Both Granolans entered the laboratory and as Jumpee flicked through what documentation there was, Rabatty inspected the freezers, checking to see that there was no false back.
‘It’s a pity it wasn’t the same freezer. It means there had to be someone in here turning a blind eye or three.’
‘Be careful who you pick, Rabatty, orderlies are hard to get.’
Rabatty shrugged, everyone was corruptible. ‘It won’t reveal where the bodies went. If it’s happened three times, a fourth is bound to happen. It’s a shame you didn’t have any samples to test.’
‘This time I have. I brought them with me. Have a rest in my office, Rabatty, piss in the wastebucket if you must, I’ll run the tests.’
‘Not this time, my bladder’s empty. I need to hit the streets.’
‘Not too hard, Rabatty, but you might want to see what’s on TV these days?’
‘Is there a trend I’m missing?’
Jumpee shrugged. ‘Who knows? We’re both kept too busy to see much these days.’
‘Occupational hazard with our kind of work.’
‘Yeah! But it’s a potential clue, Rabatty.’
The Granolan detective trotted back to his car and hooked his computator to get a wider signal before driving off. Going back to the precinct would waste time but he needed to be away from here in case anyone got suspicious he was looking for body theft. He was sure Jumpee suspected the same thing and being around her would be a hindrance to her own observation.
How to find someone with no clues as to who? Even if Jumpee herself found the inside man moving the body out, it would be unlikely he would know who he was supplying and would be a worthless loose thread. Why reveal the identity because his fate would be sealed?
Rabatty entered the scenario into the computator to see if it matched any of the crime shows currently available to the population. Big reveal followed by localised mass murder and then suicide. Like Jumpee said, there had only been three with that MO. Body theft also came up for these three. There had to be a specific crime taking place where these suicides were only part of the jigsaw. Jumpee had already entered the latest at the lab. What was happening to them? He cross-referenced to celebrity and the common statement from all three chat show massacres, ‘if I told you I would have to kill you.’ The humans never did a massacre and they hadn’t taken this statement at its word. His own people hadn’t seen it that way but then what had they revealed. Even the first two had been censored, so what had they in common and who had the authority to do this for each one. Well, there was one but he didn’t want to incite another visit to the palace just yet. There was a greater possibility that there was two crimes taking place with the latter taking advantage of the former. Find out the purpose of the latter and he would shut the door with the former.
What was happening to the dead bodies? All dead bodies were cremated. The kilns were never turned off with the daily body count and each was tagged so ensure accurate numbers were kept or there wouldn’t be a need for detectives looking for crimes that couldn’t be quickly resolved. None of the three females were cremated, so what happened to them? The computator revealed accuracy so they weren’t dumped that way. That meant evidence was still available.
Rabatty’s stomach rumbled, so he left his car and trotted across the park to a diner stand and chose a fulfilling meal of raw meat and took it to table rather than back to his car. Maybe away from everything would find a different perspective.
His computator pointed out there was a chat show was being recorded later in the afternoon with Kirsta Mayak who was prepared to reveal all. Although he would be laughed out of the station had he revealed what he thought was going to happen than prevent it. After all, what was a few more bodies more or less, especially when the killer herself would commit suicide afterwards. An open and shut case. Justice would be served and a little less police work. Having no wish to watch for himself, he keyed a link to Jumpee to tag the body when it came in.
A tout was moving from table to table. Should he show his badge or find out what he was selling first? His own sense of detection took over. Find out first and then decide the level of crime before doing that. They could be making an honest living.
Rabatty turned. There was more than one tout. His attention to the other one had missed this one trotting up from behind him.
‘Were you a fan of Brodica Macardi?’
‘I have souvenirs to sell.’
The tout looked around before putting a sample sealed in plastic on the table. A real piece of her life. A collector’s item, a piece of her genuine flesh. Fully authenticated.’
‘There must be a limited supply before you run out.’
‘Sure, but the price can be reasonable.’
‘A hundred curios. Cash not banker.’
‘Is it DNA certified?’
‘Here. I said it was. You’d make a fortune when you sell it on.’ The tout handed over a fob which had a DNA match and the face of Brodica Macardi.
Rabatty took out his wallet and handed over four notes. ‘I’m friends with people in her fan club. Can you and your friend over there come back in an hour with as many samples as you have because I’m sure they will buy them all.’
‘No shit, man.’
‘Real cash. Don’t be late.’
Well, that explained what was happening to the bodies. Chopped up for profit. That was a crime that was convictable by execution. Noting that his computator had recorded the conversation and making sure no link to the message he’s just sent Jumpee was associated to it, but he sent both her and a copy to the station ordering a team to be here in an hour to pick them up. He also made a note to collect his money back after the arrest. For himself, he had to work out how to see the TV broadcast recording and see who was getting these females killed. He could hardly watch from the director’s chamber because all the earlier females had also trotted in there on the way out and shot the production team there as well. They hadn’t retrieved the tape but maybe in the heat of the moment they thought it was going out live…or maybe they were told it was live. It was obvious that only the edited version was left so someone had to have gone in and edited the cut.
Rabatty fed more information in, cross-checking everyone to find some connection between them all. There had to be more going on than a female hiding a guilty secret, so what had they all been privy to? Maybe it wasn’t what but who. Even so, he still needed evidence to complete his suspicions, let alone to come up with what to do next. Worse, he had to merge and resolve both crimes. Even worse, would he knowing why also mean his own or even Jumpee’s deaths?
With that thought in mind, Rabatty drove off to watch the studio. He certainly didn’t want to be here when the other team arrived or why else would he needed to have called them?
Against the traffic, he barely made it in time or so he thought as he heard the rapid rapport of a gun discharge. A pause of a few minutes and another volley. The second one had to be the film crew. Why bullets instead of a bomb? He looked around, where was the clean-up crew? If he could hear the shooting so could anyone else. The people in the streets hurried on. No one wanted to get involved. Granolans might be homicidal but they didn’t solicit their own deaths by standing in the way of some mad person.
Why have a clean-up crew when the woman was doing it herself? He consulted his computator to see if Kirsta Mayak had a hotel room nearby. Rabatty doubted that she would go home. The hotel flashed up and he drove to get there before she did. The hostelry had been chosen with care. No surveillance monitors. This was more a case of deliberate than incidental homicide. Rabatty drove to the side of the building and waited. If the other ‘suicides’ followed the same pattern then Kirsta Mayak would be dead a few minutes after she arrived in her room. Would there be someone there to ensure she did it or was her devotion sufficient to realise she had no other place to go? Worse, how long before he should go in and say he was just passing. Maybe it would be better to let someone else be called.
Rabatty turned up the volume on the computator to listen out for the shot and recorded the number of people leaving the hotel. He doubted if anyone would have a sign over their heads and most of the people passing through where employees. Hearing a siren, Rabatty decided he had enough and drove off in a different direction. Let someone else make the discovery.
He stopped short of going to the lab but signalled Jumpee that he was nearby and watched and recorded Kirsta Mayak’s body arriving in one ambulance and taken out in another one leave shortly after, which he followed, finding himself not far from the park where he had his lunch. Rabatty set his computator to record as he watched the ambulance arrive, leave the body and be off again. No doubt either back to the lab or collect another body on legitimate business. There was no need to go in to record the evidence there as Jumpee would have have that covered.
The detective didn’t need to drive too closely behind. Jumpee has managed to tag the body before it had been taken and on the dashboard, his computator was in full record mode, noting the destination when the ambulance finally arrived at a building. In this respect, they had made their only mistake, probably because they thought no one would ever track them down. He even spotted the two happy touts, laden with heavy bags, leave to make their final appointment. He didn’t really worry about that. Selling body parts alone was enough to condemn them but he still needed their ringleader. However, he still needed visual proof so there was no doubt when he presented the evidence.
From the police shows he had watched, the least likely way was to get into the building’s rafters and watch what happening below. All well and good for bipeds but a but noisy for Granolan quadpeds. Rabatty favoured the Rockford method and con his way in.
I WANT TO BE
Much later, Rabatty met Jumpee back at her lab.
‘I know what the four girls had in common,’ she told him.
‘I know who’s behind it.’
There was a pause before either of them spoke and then both together, ‘Will this get us in trouble?’
‘With who? I’ve arranged an audience with the Grand Emperor that I think we both ought to attend.’
‘You like putting both our heads on the block, Rabatty?’
‘I’d rather have an audience, especially as he’s being set up again.’
‘At least we don’t have to wait too long to see him.’
‘We’re still his favourite people.’
‘Will it last?’
‘It’s better to go willing than dragged.’
I WANT TO BE GRAND EMPEROR
‘Thank you sparing us some time in your schedule, Grand Emperor Borro.’
‘I haven’t been involved in any murders this week,’ Borro said smiling. ‘I have been following an old human adage, “make love not war”. Power makes me extra horny. Would you care for a demonstration, Mistress Morbrondo?’
Jumpee resisted the urge to shudder, especially with his couriers still in the room, ‘Our news is more disturbing and urgent.’ She placed the photographs of the four female Granolans on the table.
‘We only became aware of the problem with these last two, Brodica Macardi and Kirsta Mayak. I presume you’re aware of them all?’
‘They were mistresses of mine for a time. See the bite mark on their ears. I never remember names but I know my own bite.’
‘All of them were probably announcing this on chat shows, Grand Emperor.’
‘I am not offended. Indeed, tales of my sexual prowess will keep my stall full for many months. Years even.’ He sighed, thinking of the event.
‘Indeed, Grand Emperor, except that after the announcement, they decided to kill the host, audience and crew.’
‘Is this a worry? As a news item, my prowess will be told to an even wider audience.’
‘The information was censored. Unreadable. We made the connection without the film.’
‘And you think…’
‘I think it would be advisable that we talked in private, Grand Emperor.’
Borro flicked his hands at the couriers who were instantly gone. ‘I will have them executed at ensure discretion.’
‘As you wish, Grand Emperor.’
‘You are always cautious when you have bad news, Rabatty my man.’
‘Walls have ears, Grand Emperor.’
‘They do? I thought they were just brick.’
Jumpee suppressed a smile, seeing the detective neatly outwitted. Borro was rarely totally slow on the uptake. ‘Rabatty means people are planning your demise, Grand Emperor.’
‘After they committed their murders, all four went to hotel rooms and killed themselves,’ Rabatty continued. ‘It wasn’t until this afternoon that I also found out that they also edited their own tapes and someone else killed them.’
‘No more sex with them then?’
‘I’m afraid not, Grand Emperor. When their bodies were sent to the laboratory, these were also stolen. I discovered quite by accident that they were being chopped up and sold to their fans as souvenirs to increase their profit. Again, the evidence was to incriminate you as being vindictive for whatever the reason they committed the executions on your behalf. They might well have also believed that you were attacking chat shows for not inviting you on in recent weeks.’
‘Sex takes priority. I was not available.’
‘Which only someone in the royal court would be aware of.’
‘You were right to have me remove the couriers, Rabatty. I shall have them all executed at once.’
‘They can’t die twice. We traced where the bodies were taken and would you like to see the evidence?’
Rabatty turned on his computator, now hooked into a bigger screen as he approached the door of a building and knocked heavily on it. The door opened to a large Granolan.
‘I am Gas Inspector Jimo Rockside,’ he flashed an identify card. ‘We have a gas leak in the area and need to inspect the building.’
The big Granolan shrugged but let Rabatty in. The computator lens focused just above his clipboard as he went around the building. The big Granolan wasn’t alone, an equally large Granolan was also there, ignoring them as he was chopping some meat up. The lens went into deep focus. It was a body of another Granolan. Kirsta Mayak this time.
‘They are cannibals?’
‘No, Grand Emperor,’ Jumpee interrupted. ‘They are selling the remains of your mistresses at maximum profit to anyone who wants to own it.’
‘This is disturbing. They are paying no taxes.’
‘They are also two of your nephews. It appears that not only do they want to discredit you but also dethrone you. They want to rule in your place, Grand Emperor.’
‘Ah! The price of fame.’
‘You want them to continue, Grand Emperor? You surely do not want the reward for your mistresses to be killed in a goal they are unlikely to achieve?’
Borro looked at them gravely, ‘I might well have a shortage of mistresses.’
‘It is also treason. The evidence would convict them…’
‘And also put ideas in every second cousin to rise up through the ranks.’
‘Do you have any suggestions for their removal for my pleasure?’
‘Jumpee…Miss Morbrondo had one suggestion.’
Jumpee smiled, ‘One last chat show. I’m sure one of your mistresses would like some target practice but stopping short of killing everyone there. It would also enhance your reputation on the news later.’
‘Excellent and I want a copy of the film. I might even do this on a regular basis. I have far too many good for nothing nephews. I might well do a purge of them all.’
The detective and pathologist bowed. ‘They won’t know what hit them.’
‘I hope they do. Bullets make such nice holes. Words alone are meaningless without something to back it up. What better than a well oiled gun?’
© GF Willmetts 2014
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