Detective Inspector Baratty Rabatty barely had to show his badge as he trotted through the palace. The word of the assassination attempt against the Grand Emperor Borro was already spreading over the media and everyone was waiting as to whether he survived or not. He wasn’t sure whether the population would be rejoicing or mourning. Would they be able to tell the difference?
He didn’t even have to rap on the door, servants opened and quickly shut it as he was let into the Emperor’s main chamber. Apart from the Emperor, only forensic specialist Jumpee Morbrondo was there, tending his wound.
‘This isn’t my expertise, Grand Emperor,’ repeated Jumpee. ‘I do forensic medicine.’
‘It is a matter of trust, Mistress Morbrondo. You are unlikely to tell anyone of my predicament.’
‘It is only a flesh wound. You will have only a small scar in a few days providing you rest your arm.’ Privately, after the last time she had to treat the Grand Emperor, she had added a proper medical kit to her medical bag and had included sewing equipment with finer thread.
‘I would have to do a forensic investigation to be sure but smell says no.’
‘You want to die, Grand Emperor?’
Borro gave a laugh. ‘Certainly not yet, Mistress Morbrondo, but this assassin lacks imagination.’
‘Excuse me, Grand Emperor,’ Rabatty interrupted, head bowed. ‘If the incident isn’t life-threatening, why am I needed?’
‘It is the elections. They are not working as they should.’
‘I am not a politician.’
‘We have a democratic election, maybe an assassination. If I don’t win, I kill the winner and things go on as before. I will talk more after I show myself to my people to show I am alive.’
Getting up, Borro strode to the main windows and went out on to balcony, waving his good arm to the cheering crowds and film crews.
‘This is important, Jumpee?’
‘Assassination attempts at elections are never against the Grand Emperor, Rabatty.’
‘Maybe this assassin aimed at the wrong target?’
‘You haven’t been keeping up with the news?’
‘The department’s been busy.’
‘So’s mine but I do listen in. The assassin got away.’
‘Where did it take place?’
‘Here. The Grand Emperor was out on the balcony and someone took a shot. I got the call to come over immediately.’
‘Only just ahead of the media?’
‘I don’t know.’
Rabatty pulled out his compotator, flicking through the controls to see the latest TV broadcasts. Standing behind the emperor, he got the fix from where the assassin had shot before going back to Jumpee.
‘He…or she shouldn’t have missed. So why only a flesh wound?’
Jumpee shrugged. ‘I only did the stitches. Maybe the assassin was distracted.’
‘Did you keep the shot?’
She handed over the bullet on a pair of tweezers.
‘This is a dum-dum. It should have exploded.’
‘The charge wasn’t set right.’
‘A deliberately failed assassination attempt.’
‘His or someone else’s?’
‘You’re the detective.’
The Grand Emperor came back in and closed the balcony windows.
‘That was refreshing. Do you have any conclusions, my man Rabatty?’
‘The evidence suggests you weren’t meant to be killed.’
‘Oh!’ Borro sounded instantly disappointed. ‘He missed deliberately?’
‘The dum-dum shrapnel effect didn’t go off. It might have been a warning, Grand Emperor. Have you received any form of correspondence threatening you during this election?’
‘I always get those. They fill a room and I ignore them. It follows the Earther template? All threat. No bullet. Hold a democratic election. Promise a lot. Do nothing. Maybe have a few assassination attempts but usually for my opponent, not me.’
‘He hasn’t been shot at yet, Grand Emperor.’
‘It won’t make any difference. If he wins, he’d be shot and things go back to normal. Do you vote, my man Rabatty?’
‘It is out of my…jurisdiction, Grand Emperor.’
‘And you, Mistress Morbrondo?’
‘I only dissect bodies, Grand Emperor.’
‘Neutral people. I like that. No compromises. You will solve the case?’
‘I…we will investigate, Grand Emperor.’
‘I have election things to do, my man Rabatty.’
It was dismissal. Both of them bowed and trotted out with Jumpee picking up her medical bag as they left. Neither of them talked until they were outside of the palace.
‘How did you get here, Jumpee?’
‘The Grand Emperor sent his vehicle as soon as he was shot. A royal summons.’
‘Fine. I’ll drive you back.’
In Rabatty’s car, he flicked his compotator on, but neither spoke until they were far from the palace. The anti-surveillance mode would fill any potential bug with music.
‘This isn’t the short way.’
‘I need to think. We can talk freely.’
‘This doesn’t mean you’re going to wade through a room of letters.’
‘If that was the case, Borro would have had the senders all executed by now just to ensure the assassin was killed.’
‘Good assassins don’t write letters. He was too competent. The bullet was his message or he was…’
‘…one of the Grand Emperor’s own men under orders.’
‘Not too likely. He would be dead by now and I wouldn’t have been called. ‘Who’s his rival?’
‘You were being serious. You aren’t following the election?’
‘I know who will be the winner. The loser wouldn’t interest me. Why are you so interested?’
‘It’s rare to see someone alive before they end up on my slab.’
‘Have they been shot in the past?’
‘Hmmm…there was one who was poisoned…oh and one fell from the great cliffs. The Grand Emperor rarely loses. Who cares what the actual vote totals are.’
‘All definite murders?’
‘Usual Grand Emperor dictates. He’s quite right. Even if they’d won the vote, they would all have ended up the same way.’
‘Were they conscripted for these elections or volunteers?’
‘I’ve never known for sure. They see it as all part of the election process.’
‘It limits the choices. The candidate side or anyone on the planet.’
‘An easy job then?’
Rabatty winced. ‘Maybe. The motivations are limited. Someone wants a change in democracy.’
‘Why not one of the other political processes. There’s over twenty of them.’
‘I read that at school. But this isn’t a democracy. It’s a monarchy. Borro just uses it to bring the numbers down and for a popular photo opportunity. How many riots have we had this time?’
‘Maybe we should convince the Grand Emperor to try a different political system like communism.’
‘That’s still a form of dictatorship. Opposition fades away after a while. Borro would like some opposition. Rebellion is good for the soul is one of his slogans I saw on a wall once.’
‘I thought you didn’t like politics, Rabatty?’
‘I said I didn’t pay any attention to it, not that I didn’t know anything about it.’
‘I wonder how the Earthers cope with it?’
‘Next to religion, its wholesale manslaughter. They’ve certainly made enough films of political leaders in trouble. I didn’t watch any, just looked at the statistics.’
‘Maybe the Grand Emperor should become religious. Where are we going, Rabatty? This isn’t the way to my lab.’
‘You’re going to introduce me to the other candidate.’
‘Dimold Fullhandee? I don’t know him personally.’
‘Fullhandee? As in the financial magnet? Is he fed up with living or just stupid? I doubt if his royal gold status will protect him.’
‘Royal gold status?’
‘Certain people are protected from Borro’s purges. I found out about it after Cheaba Requielosa, the royal downloader and now royal censor as well, was protected from harm. It can be revoked by Borro. It ensures Granola doesn’t lose all of its talented people…at least, not all at one go. Fullhandee runs many of the big businesses.’
‘Are they all aware of it?’
‘Not all. I doubt if Requielosa knows he’s on the list.’
‘Are we on it?’
‘I think I’ve refused a couple times when I was invited to join the royal court. Too much of a target. Just because Borro won’t order me killed, it doesn’t mean anyone else can won’t.’
‘And you like detecting.’
‘Just like you like dissecting. Borro likes you. That probably means you’re protected.’
‘And I thought I lived a charmed life.’
Rabatty pulled up to a halt at the Fullhandee Building and turned off the compotator.
‘You think he’s a suspect, Rabatty?’
‘Or a potential victim, Jumpee.’
They trotted into the building with Rabatty flashing his badge at anyone who got in his way in the foyer. The floor was controlled chaos with various Granolans milling around. At the reception desk, the badge and a quiet conversation got them access to the lift up to the penthouse.
Trotting in, there were several Granolans noisily milling around busy with their compotators. Jumpee pointed at one specific large Granolan examining a wall chart and they trotted up beside him.
‘Mr. Fullhandee? I’m here on a matter of security,’ Rabatty started.
‘You don’t appear to have any.’
The room got quieteas the two Granolans faced each other.
Rabatty showed Fullhandee his full police ID, who inspected it.
‘You are aware that there was an assassination attempt against Grand Emperor Borro earlier today?’
‘Yes, Detective Inspector Rabatty. I watch the news.’
‘My assistant here removed the bullet, didn’t you, Doctor Morbrondo?#
An unexploded dum-dum bullet. Had it exploded, it wouldn’t have made much difference where in the body it would hit. This is a safety concern, Mr. Fullhandee.’
‘If you haven’t got a security detail protecting your tail, Mr. Fullhandee,’ Rabatty went on, ‘I can arrange with my department to send a team in.’
‘Listen, Detective Inspector Rabatty, I own this building and everyone in it. I own this mall and half of the city it’s in. The other half pays rent. Do you think anyone here is going to kill me? Everyone likes working for me or I fire them. There are no dissenters.’
‘The Grand Emperor might if he thought you were behind the attempt.’
‘Me and Borro are like this,’ Fullhandee gripped his hands. ‘We’ve been associates for a long time. I run this city with shares in the other cities. He likes how I run things here.’
‘But why become a politican?’
‘I want some political clout in the Senate, who hate my guts. I want to do the same to their guts.’
‘Even at elections? You do realise even if you were elected, you won’t last a week.’
‘Oh that! I don’t expect to win on this occasion. Borro just wants a strong opponent to encourage new blood next time. He might even recommend me for a presidency which I will humbly accept. The same result.’
‘Then the assassin could also target you.’
‘He missed Borro the first time.’
‘He didn’t miss,’ Jumpee corrected. ‘The ammo failed.’
‘Then he’ll try to shoot Borro again, not me.’
‘We have no proof of agenda,’ Rabatty continued. ‘I would prefer both candidates alive.’
‘Would you like a badge pin or hat to show your support for me?’
‘Not even to stay for my speech. It’s a good one. I paid for the best speeches.’
‘I have work to do. Have a good day, Mr. Fullhandee,’ Rabatty nodded and the two of them left.
In the lift, he shook his head against them talking until they returned to his car and he turned his compotator anti-surveillance back on.
‘You were very formal back there, Rabatty.’
‘The business end, Jumpee. He’s as also given one reason he will survive, so why should he kill Borro.’
‘Meaning he knows he’s on this gold list.’
‘He knows. He probably thinks its forever, too, but he’s not stupid.’
‘Only Borro knows that.’
‘If it’s a sucker-punch, it doesn’t explain the assassination attempt.’ Jumpee paused to think. ‘Do you suppose that it’s just election based?’
‘I thought people couldn’t contact you when the anti-surv was on?’
‘They can’t but I can’t be totally out of communication, that gets too suspicious. The department already thinks I’m having an affair with you.’ The detective picked up his compotator and flicked a switch. ‘Rabatty.’
He listened, muttered, put the compotator down and then turned the car around.’
‘Fullhandee’s been shot.’
‘In that fine protected mall with such highly invisible security or his adored workers?’
‘Aw, Rabatty, you don’t want me to pull the slug out of him?’
‘I hope he has his own medical team, Jumpee. But it is fresh evidence.’
Compared to the controlled chaos that they left previously this was more chaotic but a lot quieter. The Fullhandee Building personal were now using whispered tones and looked on expectedly as Rabatty and Jumpee made their way to the lift and to the penthouse.
‘Security is even more lax. They might as well have their offices outside.’
In the penthouse, Fullhandee was sitting on the floor, his arm dripping blood.
‘I pay these people their wages and all they can do is call you.’
‘They called my office. I wasn’t far away. No doubt they will be following shortly.’
‘No medics in your team, Mr. Fullhandee?’
‘Hell no. Why should I pay for people just to put a plaster on some finger or hoof?’
‘My colleague, Doctor Morbrondo, will get the shot out of your arm.’
‘Like hell she will. Who was your last patient?’
‘Grand Emperor Borro. He was shot, too, and you could have a ruptured blood vessel or worse if it is a dum-dum bullet that finally decides to go off judging by the length of penetration.’
Jumpee sat on her knees and opened her medical bag. ‘Raise your arm if you can, it’ll reduce the blood flow while I get my equipment set up.
Painfully, Fullhandee raised his arm and the blood dripped down his sleeve.
‘Clear the room would be good.’
‘EVERYONE! WORK ON THE NEXT FLOOR! MOVE YOUR HOOVES!’ Fullhandee shouted out, before he collapsed a little spent. ‘Will that do?’
Within a minute, the penthouse was empty.
While Jumpee attended to the billionaire, Rabatty examined the window with a single bullet hole. His compotator calculating the angle before cross-checking to its maps for the building the assassin shot from. Leaving them, he went back to his car and drove to the location point and another lift to the top of the building. Using the magnifying lens from his compotator, he could see Jumpee still patching up Fullhandee and recording the evidence looked around the roof.
A cartridge shell would have been handy or even a threat note saying he or she was playing games and one step ahead of the police. The Earthers did that a lot in the films they had received. This didn’t appear to be a copycat. Picking up the cartridge was the sign of an assassin but why take all that trouble and still not kill their target? The mile distance made for a clean getaway.
Satisfied that he couldn’t do anything more there, Rabatty drove back to the Fullhandee Building. The Granolans in the foyer kept their distance, fearful of the police force, even if he was the only one attending. They were late as usual.
Jumpee looked up briefly at him as he approached. The bullet slug was in a metal bowl and she was putting the finishing touches to some stitches. Fullhandee, unlike Borro, was unconscious.
‘He wouldn’t keep quiet so I sedated him,’ she admitted.
Rabatty turned on his compotator’s anti-surveillance mode. ‘Just in case he has his own listening devices,’ he said quietly.
‘You found where the shot came from?’
‘Yes, but no evidence. A pro-assassin.’
‘With a dum-dum bullet that didn’t go off twice in a row. That’s not careless, Rabatty, it’s a message.’
‘Only if murder wasn’t the intent, Jumpee.’
‘Murder is a way of life. You can’t get far without it.’
‘Choosing two targets that are the furthest from death seems an odd choice,’ he mused. ‘It also shows no preference for one or the other in the election.’
‘Maybe that’s the message, Rabatty.’
‘Showing he could kill them both if he…or she wanted to. Just a warning.’
‘A warning of what? Borro would kill Fullhandee any time he wanted to. Fullhandee might want to get a shot in first but he’s already admitted that he can walk away from this election better than he was before. I doubt if the Grande Emperor is looking for a second-in-command even from a presidency as it has no real power outside the Senate. This election is likely to be the least conflicting one of all.’
Rabatty put his finger to his lips as Fullhandee gave a groan and flicked the compotator off.
‘How do you feel, Mr. Fullhandee?’
‘Rat-arsed! What did you inject me with, doll?’
‘Doctor Morbrondo, please. A mild sedative. I got the bullet out and stitched the wound. Please don’t raise your arm for a couple days or you’ll need to wear a sling to stop the stitches opening. This wasn’t a clean entry like the Grand Emperor had. You were probably waving your arms when the bullet was shot and it made a lengthier cut.’
‘The bullet was a dum-dum,’ Rabatty added. ‘It didn’t go off or things would have been far worse.’
‘It wasn’t meant to kill? What kind of assassin doesn’t do a clean shot?’
‘At the Grand Emperor’s command, that is what we are going to find out.’
‘Anyone would think there was a Pro-Life group working in the city.’
‘I’ll bear that in mind. Please hire some bodyguards, Mr. Fullhandee. Let them take the bullet for you. Come along, Doctor Morbrondo.’
Jumpee picked up her bag and followed the detective out to the car and waited until he turned his compotator’s anti-surveillance mode back on before driving off.
‘That was sudden, Rabatty.’
‘Did you want to hang around, Jumpee? He won’t get shot again today.’
‘If he looks me up, he’ll find out I’m a forensics specialist. He might not like that.’
‘You have a medical degree. You saw his reaction when you told him you operated on Borro. It isn’t as though you’re not qualified.’
‘What’s with the Pro-Life business?’
‘It’s not widely known but there are some terrorist Granolans who object to the Grand Emperor’s attitude to population control like the Earthers do it. The Pro-Lifers are based on another human resource that have similar views. It’s also highly classified.’
‘So how does Fullhandee know about it?’
‘He’s wealthy and friends with Borro.’
‘But why shoot and not kill?’
‘For what? A fair election? This one is more fixed that usual.’
‘You’re talking very freely, Jumpee.’
‘Your device is making it very easy to do so, Rabatty. Do you have any leads?’
‘None whatsoever. This is probably the most public they’ve exposed themselves. Too public. Why shoot at election candidates with a known result? It doesn’t serve either side or themselves.’
‘Maybe they just want to be noticed, Rabatty. Y’know, like you said, go public.’
‘Failed assassination attempts is hardly newsworthy.’
‘But it is unusual because death is usual.’
‘I only solve murders. I ought to tell Borro that I ought to pass this on to one of the other departments.’
‘There isn’t an attempted homicide department. You told him you would investigate.’
‘I didn’t say I would solve it. I’m going to drop you off at your lab, Jumpee. No sense both of us facing his wraith.’
‘I can probably give him enough information that we ought to wait and see what happens next. Besides, he has an election tomorrow.’
Jumpee paused. ‘Don’t do anything foolish, Rabatty.’
‘I like to get bad news done before the end of day, Jumpee. I’ll let you know how I get on.’
Rabatty left Jumpee, who watched as he drove off. There was an odd hope that he was on this gold list but it didn’t reassure her.
‘Damn! I should have told him that I’d check the Grand Emperor’s stitches in a couple days.’
Shrugging, she trotted into her lab.
Rabatty drove to the palace and trotted through the palace. He was a familiar face but they did double-check his police identify card this time. At least security had improved, although he doubted this assassin would want to come any closer than he had.
‘The Grand Emperor is expecting you, Detective Inspector,’ a courier whispered as he opened the door to the throne room.
‘My man, Rabatty,’ Borro looked up from his own compotator. ‘How goes your investigations?’
‘Grand Emperor. Slow. I take it you have heard the news that your opposition, Dimold Fullhandee, was also shot?’
‘Is he alive?’
‘Yes, Grand Emperor. I had the opportunity to study the roof the assassin fired from. All traces removed. A very professional hit. Similar bullets. The intent was to wound both of you, not kill.’
‘Indeed. A personal friend of mine. Do you know the culprits?’
‘Not personally, Grand Emperor. Fullhandee believes it is possible that this might be the terrorist activity of the Pro-Life group. Our files on them are brief and eyes only. I would need more access to see them.’
‘Have you seen the polls for the election tomorrow, my man Rabatty?’
‘No, Grand Emperor. I still have little interest in politics.’
‘More people are willing to vote than ever and all for me. I will have a certified win. I might even order attempted assassinations on a regular basis next time. It certainly gets the population’s attention.’
‘They might not all be as lucky as this time, Grand Emperor. These dum-dum bullets did not explode.’
‘My subjects will shoot them next time. I am even considering giving free guns licences or exemptions to any who shoot assassins during elections. My popularity will soar. I am already making it part of my manifesto.’
‘Then you are not concerned with my failure, Grand Emperor.’
‘No, no. You did well, my man Rabatty. I am sure they will kill someone sometime and leave you a clue. I have arranged for you and Mistress Morbrondo to have a meal at Fernandor’s on my account tonight.’
‘You are very gracious and generous, Grand Emperor.’
Shaking his head, Rabatty returned to his car and drove to Jumpee’s forensic lab, explaining the conversation in some disbelief to her.
‘A meal means he wants you to forget it, Rabatty. He isn’t bothered.’
‘Or he thinks, like my department, that we are having an affair.’
Jumpee shrugged. ‘Granolans are bound to talk, Rabatty. It hides our conversations so don’t complain.’
‘Now he wants to have assassins regularly to take pot-shots at him as part of his manifesto.’
‘He’s probably seeing it as a means to reduce the odd member of the population. That’s politics for you.’
(c) GF Willmetts 2017
This also includes, at their request, the names:-
DI Baratty Rabatty
Forensics Doctor Jumpee Morbrondo
Grand Emperor Borro
all rights reserved
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