Message From the Victim
Characters: Margaret Morgan, Daanike
Morgan retraced her steps back into the city, heading for the Guardian House. When she was deep inside the marketplace, her link chirped. “This is Gahara,” the voice on the other end said. “I am at the Growers’ House now, waiting on Heialani and Daanike. They say they should be finished in a very few minutes.”
“Ie, good. Can you tell me how to get there? I am in the marketplace.”
“Yes, it is not far.” There was a brief pause, then Gahara relayed a set of directions.
Morgan turned to orient herself. “Thank you, I can get there. See you momentarily.”
Working her way through the small streets of the marketplace, it didn’t take Morgan to find the House of the Colony of Growers. The compound was similar to that of the Guardians’ House, save that there were six buildings here, placed in a roughly hexagonal shape to form a central courtyard.
Looking around, Morgan spotted Gahara’s scooter parked in front of one building, and the black-furred Huka standing next to it. The Ranger stepped over to her.
“Your companion is waiting for us inside,” the Huka said. “I believe she and Heialani should have some information for us.”
“Good, thank you.” She followed the Huka in.
At one end of the largely open floor was a cluster of closed rooms. Gahara knocked on one, and was invited to enter. The small room appeared to be an operating room, converted temporarily to a more somber use. The body of the dead Huka lay, draped in a sheet, on the table in the center, while Heialani and Daanike sat, half slumped, on stools near it.
The Minbari got to her feet and bowed to Morgan. “Shok’na-li,” she said. “Forgive us. We are tired, but we have finished most of the work.”
“No need to apologize. What have you found out?”
“Kiluloa was murdered, without question,” the Minbari said. “She was struck in the head and upper back at least ten times, with a heavy instrument of mainly metallic composition. Probably spiked or flanged in some fashion.”
“It was a vicious, brutal thing,” the Huka healer added. “She was struck once in the face — we are presuming this was the initial blow — once in the shoulder and neck, with the remainder of the wounds to the back of the head and her thoracic shell. At least four of the blows, including the first, would have been sufficient to kill her.”
Morgan uttered a few imprecations unintelligible to anyone there. “Deliberate, then. You do not just find something like that lying around.”
“Not at all,” Daanike says. “And Healer Heialani tells me she has not heard of the sort of weapon we believe did this among her people.”
“It is so,” the Huka said. “However, we were able to retrieve some very small fragments of metal from the wounds. An analysis may tell us where they came from.”
“Which may or may not be useful. But go ahead.” Then she added, “Gahara and I have discovered that a Drazi was in her shop earlier. We are tracing him now.”
Daanike nodded and said, “It is the sort of weapon … typical … for a Drazi. Although I am also reminded of a human we encountered on Abbai who used an antique human weapon — a mace, I believe it was called.” She was quiet a moment, then added, “If we assume that Kiluloa was facing her attacker when the first blow was struck, it is probable that the attacker was left handed.”
“I will pass that along. Anything else?”
“Not yet. We are running tests on blood samples and so on, to see if there is anything more to be learned,” Daanike said.
Morgan nodded. “Diolch,” she said fervently. This was the last thing either had expected to do with this time.
The Huka healer uttered an exclamation in her own language. Switching to Interlac again, she said, “I am a fool — or weariness and grief have blunted my mind. There was one other thing we found.”
“You’re right,” Daanike added, turning to rummage around on one of the shelves behind her, before turning back around to present the two investigators with a clear sealed envelope, with a single green leaf on a long stem inside.
Morgan lifted it to the light, frowning. “Do you know what it is from?” But she already knew the answer.
“Not a native plant,” Daanike said. “From Markab, apparently. They call it ‘prophet’s flower.’ We found it stuffed into her mouth — no signs of teeth marks or anything, as you can see, so we think it must have been done after she was dead.” The Minbari healer’s face bore a strange expression — puzzlement and revulsion.
Morgan glanced at Gahara. “This is what was missing from the shop. I spoke to Lazaret — a Markab who serves with us — and it is supposed to have some psychoactive properties.”
“I can investigate that further,” Heialani said. “But what I do not understand is, why would this leaf be put in her mouth, when she was already dead?”
Morgan had to think about that longer, and when she answered, she hoped she was remembering correctly the crime novels and vids that were endlessly passed around on some of her tours of duty. “Perhaps it is intended as a message to someone.”
Heialani continued to look puzzled, but Gahara’s eyes narrowed, and for a moment, her ears folded close to her head. “I think I understand you,” she said to Morgan. “A threat. ‘If you interfere, you will suffer the same fate.’ This becomes darker by the minute.”
“I do not wish this on you. But I am not intimidated by this.” She bared her teeth.
“Nor I,” Gahara agreed. “We of the Guardians have our task to do — and this does not sway me from it.” She considered a moment. “I had spoken to several of the other shop owners in the marketplace. They all denied having any prophet’s flower. I think now, I should perhaps speak with them again.”
“That would be good, yes. And there may be others as well, whom we have not spoken to yet.”
“Do you think we should work together on this?”
“I think that would be a good idea, yes. There is safety in numbers, as they say.”
“And if there are some who are too frightened to talk,” Daanike said, “the knowledge that the Anla’shok are helping the Guardians may well be reassuring. It seems we have a rather strong reputation here among the Huka.” She offered Morgan a weary smile. “May I have permission to take our samples and Heialani up to the Phoenix, Shok-na’li? Our facilities are a bit more advanced than what is available here, and we can do the work more quickly.”
“Let the Captain know, but I have no problems with it. She can speak to me if she has questions.”
Daanike nodded. “Is our shuttle still here, or will I need to contact the Phoenix for transport?”
“It is here, but Mr Kriechbaum may not be. He is joining in the hunt as well.”
“I’ll call up to the ship for another shuttle,” Daanike said. “If one is not available, then I will call upon Mr. Kriechbaum. Thank you, Shok-na’li. Please take good care in your work. It is clear whoever did this killing will not hesitate to kill again.”
“I will, trust me. Keep me posted.”
Daanike nodded, and both healers bowed to Morgan and Gahara.
Morgan returned it, then turned to Gahara.
“Shall we be on our way?” the tall Huka asked. “I have a short list of those I should talk to, and another of those I now wish to talk to again.”
“By all means, yes.”
Copyright (c) 2004 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride.