Biff’s Sergeant was an understanding man by the name of William Jefferies. He considered Biff a good officer, but this was a particularly rough patch for anyone to have to go through. It was bad enough when a relative was a suspect in a major crime, but in this situation Jones’s wife was the prime suspect in the Tetrarch’s murder.
Jefferies knew that Jones had looked at every holo he could surrounding the murders and his wife’s disappearance. StarCen did not think the access was a bad idea, so Jefferies made no moves to prevent it.
Now Biff sat in his office, explaining his theory about the woman on the holo getting on a skybus headed to the spaceport.
“It’s her, Sarge. I know it is. Look at this part.”
Biff sped up the montage until it came to the scene where the young woman tugged at her earlobe while waiting in line at the kiosk.
“Right there. That is a classic Andi move.”
Jefferies stared at the holo where Jones had stopped it. He took a deep breath, held it, then released it slowly.
He said, “StarCen, identify the subject shown here and tell us her present location.”
“That is Catarina Mulligan of the planet Peligro. She was last seen on the Coral Reef before that ship was captured at Pegasi Station by pirates. Current whereabouts are unknown, but presumably she is en route to Lute.”
Jefferies shrugged. They had been through this before.
“Yes, I’m aware that’s who StarCen says that is,” Jones said. “But, watch this. StarCen, tell me the movements of Catarina Mulligan before she appears on this recording.”
Jones shot Jefferies a triumphant look.
The Sergeant said, “Why not, StarCen?”
“That part,” Jefferies said, turning back to Jones, “I will agree doesn’t make any sense. The only thing I can suggest is that SSI has asked StarCen to classify it. Even from us. You know that SSI trumps the local police in almost every circumstance.”
“It’s not just a few minutes beforehand, Sarge. StarCen won’t reveal anything about this woman. At all. I’m telling you, that is Andi right there. Everything in her mannerisms match.”
“Except for the face.”
“Yes, except for the face.”
“And the fingerprints and iris scans taken at the spaceport and on the bus.”
“Look, I know that’s her, okay? And soon, she’s going to be on Lute.”
“And you want to do what? Go fetch her? Bring her in?”
“I want to at least talk to her and find out the truth.”
Jefferies sighed and leaned back in his chair. For a long moment the two men stared at each other.
Finally he said, “I can’t let you investigate a case in which your wife is the prime suspect.”
Biff spread his hands out. He said, “Look, this isn’t about the murder. I just want to talk to this woman, Ms. Mulligan. Grant me a leave of absence and I’ll take it from there.”
Jefferies stared at Jones for a moment longer. Then he nodded.
He said, “When you get to Petra Roe, you’ll find a field office for SSI. We’ve liasoned with them before. Sometimes a suspect gets the idea they can run off and join the pirates when they’re wanted here. The Marshal Service also has an office on PR. Just remember, StarCen has a very low presence there. And on Lute, she has no presence at all. When you get to the pirate’s den, you may find yourself helpless and without resources. So, it’s a good idea to make some friends on Petra Roe before you go that last leg. They have an embassy or a consulate or something on Lute.”
Both men stood and Biff shook his Sergeant’s hand.
Jefferies said, “I think you’re going on a wild goose chase, Jones. But, I understand you need to do this. Take as long you need. Just remember you’re looking at a month’s travel time, one way.”
Jefferies sighed again, thinking about it.
“I can give you a line of credit from our travel account. I’ll place you on ‘special assignment.’ That gives me some leeway to think up a justification for giving you the funds. Anyway, it’ll pay for your ticket to Petra Roe and back, and some expenses along the way. I’d suggest getting to Lute on your own dime, though.”
“Thanks, Sarge! You’re the best.”
Jefferies waved off the compliments as Jones left his office.
He sat back down and started worrying. What if this really was a black operation by SSI? What if Andi Jones was a deep plant? The lack of information about the other woman Biff found was disturbing. Would he be poking the bear by looking for her?
Well, that was Jones’s problem now. If SSI did not want him interfering with something, then someone from SSI would presumably let him know.
Jefferies took another deep breath and tamped down his worries. He hoped SSI would be polite in the matter, if they were involved. Otherwise, the department could lose a good officer who would “disappear” just like his wife had.