Warning: This work has been rated 18+.
James Bartholomew Harding had not lived the easiest life as the child of a human missionary and a Federation officer from Cyco. The man had gone from being beat up as a child into the Special Federation Forces where he was continued to be beaten up, but no longer for the same discriminatory reasons. And the work on Zinnia had led to a similar amount of workplace violence when Harding was commonly assigned assault cases. It was his mother’s traits that led to the third eye resting in the edge of his forehead, and the hats worn for the Roth & Marrow uniform made existence easier.
On this Christmas morning, of the Federation year four thousand one hundred forty, Harding found himself window shopping outside of the crime scene. He was already aware of the new fedora that his partner had bought him for the holiday but some of these items were very tempting.
“Harding, you might want to step in here. The room is clear for consultants now.”
The call came from Cabrini, better known around their office as ‘Robe’, but in this setting Harding preferred the use of last names. Everyone tended to call him Jimmy, which was an alright name – if you weren’t from where Harding was from. And then names like that were just a reminder of how human his name was and how human he wasn’t.
“So, Bart, you were investigating this guy?” Cabrini held his pencil out to point to a mildly humanoid form on the floor, not particularly distinguishable as anything as it sat in a puddle on the ground.
“Yeah, the important thing to note is that it was an investigation in the past tense. I couldn’t nail him for anything and the clients wouldn’t accept the evidence that we offered up to them.”
“Seeing as he is dead, and your card was found on the body, any reason that you know of for him being dead?” Cabrini stopped, pulling Harding to the side and continued in a hushed voice. “What kind of case was this guy involved with in relation to your clients?”
Harding looked down at the melted corpse on the floor, slowly replaying his mental notes from the case. This guy might have been a thief, but this wasn’t the sort of punishment that Harding had in mind for the man. It would take a grudge bigger than a string of jewel thefts, where the stones were recovered or compensated for in every instance, to do this sort of damage to another living being. And really Jim didn’t even know where someone would start to make this kind of thing happen.
“He was a cat burglar. Some private homes, a little bit of smash and grab at jewelry stores, and the occasional snatching at a party. Nothing that gets you liquefied from the inside out.”
“Are you sure there’s nothing about that case that could have led to his death? And why was he still carrying your business card around, Bart? That’s not looking good.”
There wasn’t a good answer for why a murder victim would have his card upon their person. Certainly not when the victim was a semi well known jewel thief found in a department store with a notable jewelry collection. Even if Harding had a reason to kill Sinon Fitz, it would have been a 38 to the head and quick swim in the river.
“Well maybe he knew that his life was in danger and he was considering contacting me for protection. The man knew about my past and that Harry often assigns me to protect people we’re concerned about.”
Cabrini looked him up and down, eyes narrowing and the common fingers pushed through pure white hair. Cab was barely thirty but if a human had happened to look at the detective they might have thought him to be nearer to sixty. It was one of the things about the fashion of this sector - bolder and bolder - until the wearers were looking older and older.
"That's sounding a little bit suspicious, ya know?" The detective tilted his head up while making a gesture to Harding.
"I know it doesn't look good, Cab, but I'm telling you I had no reason to kill this guy."
"Well what about your clients?"
"They didn't have a single fucking reason either. All of the jewels were recovered or paid for by an insurance company. Well, for the most part."
A sudden switch clicked in Harding's brain as he thought about the case Jud asked him to pull the information on. Whatever Harry was working on with her consultants was probably tied into all of this shit. Smugglers tend to dislike people who steal from their shipments, even if the incident happens inadvertently.
"What do you mean for the most part?"
"The Federation got involved with our case because some of the recovered items were shown to be trafficked pieces. Obviously, no one stepped forward to claim them but-"
Cabrini picked up in exactly the right thought, continuing, "But now someone is looking for the items?"
"It would make sense. If they had been torturing Fitz for information, it could be that their methods led to this unique form of death."
Both men looked down to the coroner and aids gathering the body up into some form of transport. And a look around the room revealed that many of the officers there had wished they had gone easier on breakfast choices. Jim had only had coffee so far that morning, part of a diet in place by his partner, but it was obvious that Cab had consumed his regular bear claw.
"You gonna be okay there, Cab? Need a bag?"
"I'll be fine in a second. Let's just step outside to finish this little discussion."
It wasn't like Jim was going to object to such a suggestion. Granted he did probably have a stronger stomach than most of the 54th precinct. But that sort of strong stomach came from a particular series of war experiences. If Harding could change out his lack of sensitivities for a lack of experiences in everything beyond Delta, he wouldn't. Even if there was some trade off to be found there, experiences made the man.
"Bart, I know Harry is involved in something to do with the Fiacres and the Andersons -"
At this detail, it was now Harding's term to interrupt the other man. And with the details that Jim was about to divulge to the detective, he was glad that they were far from the ear shot of any others. Cab could be trusted to keep his name out of the report as an informant. The rest of them - well the 54th had its reputation for a reason.
"The Lucreskis. The Andersons are actually the Lucreskis."
"The war criminals? Weren't they executed for genocide?"
"Yes, Cab, they were 'executed' and now they're running a smuggling ring in Delta."
Harding made a careful air quotes motion while saying 'executed', making absolutely clear that the firing squad attempt hadn't taken.
"How are they alive?"
"We haven't gotten that far. And personally I'm a little bit more concerned with their activities now. You know instead of caring about what they slipped some guard thirty years ago."
"Then what do you suppose we do?"
As Cab asked the question, he took a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, offering one to Harding that was gladly taken in. For a moment's more of silence Harding thought of an answer and decided upon saying, "We should work together."