Not certain of it, as the response was a bit oblique, but I think THE LAST CAPTAIN was turned down today. I am not too down about it, content that I have an answer at last.
So, knowing I don’t have to adhere to anyone’s version of it, I re-opened it to start taking a look at it for the first time in a year.
There’s some issues, certainly. There’s also some good stuff:
“It’s not whether you can tell when a suspect is lying to you-they always do that, and they, unlike you, are always highly motivated. No, it’s about figuring which lies have useful grains of truth in them. In that way, the job of the police interrogator is like a miller’s, grinding truth from the chaff.” -Simon Baptiste, NGPD Inspector, killed in the line.
The place was a pit. It was meant to be a pit. A pit seven stories high and full of damaged people and their broken dreams. The smell of their blunted promise permeated the place, sliding under the bleach and cleansers used to scrub it down on endless rounds.
I hate it. The thought didn’t make the drab colors and muted misery of the detention center any easier for Venkman to bear.
He wouldn’t have come, but there was a chance Mort would talk to him.
There was history here.
I doubt Mort even knew who he was shooting when he pulled the trigger. Not that Mort isn’t a violent shithead, but Bap and me were always able to talk to him after handling that shit caper with his sister and Loius.
That slim chance and the fact it was his partner in hospital that dragged him to the visitor’s center on the seventh story of the Black Hole.
The visitor’s Warden nodded at the big officer, recognizing him from the many prisoners Venkman had brought in over the years. It wasn’t terribly often that someone was held for shooting an officer, and the Warden was immediately on guard. “Officer Venkman, the prisoner is on special detention until the IMPs pick him up this afternoon.”
“I know, Pierot. Can you give him the word, let him know I want to talk? I might even have something to offer him for his time.”
Pierot frowned and cast a significant glance at the recorders above them. “I don’t know I can do that, what with the IMPs coming for him.”
Venkman smiled and nodded. “I’m not asking for anything special. I just want to know what he knows, if he’s willing to tell me, before the IMPs sew him up.”
“I’ll pass the request along,” Pierot said, pointing his chin at the waiting area seats.
“Thank you.” Venkman entered the waiting area.
Nerves kept him from sitting. Not exactly here with the Department’s blessing, I might get a couple grumbles from the Inspector’s Bureau, let alone what the IMP Inspector might say.
Baptiste will want to know how a low-rent moron like Mort got his hands on military police hardware. If Mort talks to me, then I can worry about appeasing anyone who takes issue with us chatting.
“Officer Venkman, the prisoner accepts your request. Please proceed to interview room B.” Pierot announced over the intercom.
Venkman did as he was bid, entering the secured area where police interrogations of prisoners were recorded, rather than the counsel visiting chambers that didn’t have such devices.
The bare alloy surfaces of the small chamber reminded him of other interrogations, memories he’d rather not have dancing while he spoke to Mort.
He took a seat. Waited, tried to organize his thoughts.
A Warden Venkman didn’t recognize ushered the prisoner in and sat him down on the other side of the table.
Mort didn’t look happy at all. He raised his hands, the gesture shortened by his restraints. “Venk, man, I didn’t know.”
“Sit,” Venkman nodded at the Warden, “and we’ll talk a bit.”
The warden departed.
Venkman read the thin-faced addict his rights. They were few, given that he was now headed for Imperial custody. That formality out of the way, he sat back and waited for Mort to start talking.
It didn’t take long. “Seriously, Venk, I was out my head. High as fuck, you know. You gotta tell Bap I didn’t know it was him.”
“Sure, Mort, I’ll tell him, but you have to tell me a thing or two first.”
“You can’t get my sentence reduced, can you?”
Venkman shook his head. “You know that ain’t likely now it’s in the hands of the IMPs.”
Tears welled, but Mort managed to swallow them. “Fuck, Venk.”
Spreading his hands on the table, Venkman said, “Did it to yourself, Mort. You can still help us out, though. If you do, I might be able to convince Bap to petition the Imperial Justice for a light sentence.”
He thought about it, he really did. Eventually though: “Man, that’s not enough.”
Venkman shrugged. “You took it out of our hands when you picked up that ZAR. Still, it has to be better to have one of your victims take your part than testify about all the dirt we know.”
“Your girlfriend was pretty beat up, Mort. She was happy to talk to the Inspectors.”
Mort shook his head, “I ca-”
Seeing he was about to say no, Venkman interrupted. “I’m not saying you aren’t a stand-up guy, I mean, you just came clean to me on the record that you feel bad about Bap. That takes a man.”
Mort nodded, bowing his head.
Time for a change of subject.
“I thought you were strictly using to maintain, Mort, not getting high anymore. What happened?”
That got a rise out of Mort. He looked up, his lips curling in anger. “I was, man, but I picked up this new shit on a lark. Got me going harder than I thought possible after all these years. I was out of it, high as fuck. Out to goddamn lunch with a hard on.”
“What new shit?” Mort might not have any control over his addiction, but he was a connoisseur of street drugs, their preparation, and their origins.
“Mindfire. Some custom shit that hasn’t even fully hit the streets yet. I got a sample from a guy I know. It was supposed to be this almighty high. Cheap, long lasting.” His face crumpled. “I suppose it was too good for me.”
“Who put it in your hands?”
“Huh?” Mort sniveled.
“Who sold you the Mindfire?”
“Venk, you know it goes against the code to roll like this.”
Code? That’s fucking rich.
“I do, just as I know it ain’t right that he sold you a hot load right when you were doing so well. I mean, shooting at Baptiste when you’re doped out your mind is one thing, we expect that, but you went and beat your old lady while you were high. That was something you told me and Bap you would never do when we took down the man doing the same to your sister.”
Mort wiped his nose, tried to keep from telling Venkman, then said in a rush, “Crooked Luc.”
“No, Luc…I think it’s Yount. Works the clubs in Starfall.”
Mort tossed his head back, “C’mon Venk, you’re a big boy, you can figure it out.”
“Fair enough. Now, about the coilgun.”
Mort shook his head, speaking over Venkman as he tried to interrupt the negative response, “Sorry, man, on that, I ain’t saying shit.”
Venkman took in the firm set of Mort’s mouth. Damn.
“Cause-” he pointed at the ceiling and the monitoring devices there, “That’s the one bit of useful I have to strike a deal when the IMPs come calling. Maybe.”
“You don’t think so?”
“I can see your point of view, I just don’t think you’ll get what you need by playing coy with me.”
Mort wilted a bit. “You don’t think so.”
“Then I might as well lawyer up and shut the fuck up.” Mort picked at his thumbnail with the other, a nervous habit he dropped when high.
Venkman shrugged. “I don’t know. Like I said, Bap and me could be in your corner. Could be the difference between a firing squad and just a damn long walk up the well.”
“A walk I already know. And fuckin’ hate.”
“Beats the death sentence for use of Imperial military gear in a crime, hands down.”
Mort’s eyes hardened. “You know what? I think we’re done.”
“That’s too bad, Mort. Really. I hoped we could help each other out.”
“All I got is my rep, and if I do end up on a rock out the well, I’ll need it as intact as I can get it.”
“I don’t think so, Mort. You got your sister and her kids. What are they going to do without you looking out for ‘em?”
Mort snorted. “You didn’t hear?”
“She married some freighter captain, got the ‘Conditioning and everything. Not just her; the kids too.”
Venkman pasted a smile on, upset at himself. Damn, I should have looked that up before I came in here pulling the wrong damn levers.
A sad smile spread across the addict’s face. “No shit. She left last week.”
And now I know why you were out trying new dope. You sad, sorry fuck.
“You sure you won’t talk to me?”
Mort shook his head.
Venkman pressed the call stud for the warden.
“Just do like you said you would with Bap. And if you can, tell Lorraine it was the drugs, not me.”
Damn, should have pressed the girlfriend angle harder.
“I will, Mort.”
Venkman was leaving the detention center, dataspike with Mort’s interview in hand when the IMP troop transport roared in from the south, flared to a halt in midair and dropped smoothly to the rooftop landing pad. For the second time that day, Venkman suppressed old, ugly memories that wanted to take him for a ride down the rabbit hole.
Venkman refused them.
They’re just getting around to picking Mort up. Nothing to do with you. He looked at the sun. Still time to get to the hospital and see Bap.
He finished the walk to his truck and climbed in. The drive to the hospital was quick and relatively painless, and allowed him to focus on something other than memory.
The hospital was a large and rambling structure, but one he’d been in more than once. He had no trouble finding the unit where his partner was recovering.
The nurse actually flinched when she saw his face.
Fuck you too.
He showed his star. “I’m visiting Officer Baptiste.”
“Right, he’s in-”
Venkman had already turned and started walking. Baptiste’s was the only room with an officer guarding it.
“Fuck yes, I am! Bored out my mind!” Baptiste called.
Venkman shared a grin with Vic and walked on in.
Baptiste waved from the bed. “Where you been?”
“Talking to your would-be killer.”
Bap’s brows shot up. “And?”
“It’s good news and bad.”
“Fuck, you going to make me ask after every detail or just tell me what’s what?”
“He told me who sold him the drugs, but refused to tell me where he bought the gun.”
“Thinking to use that information with the IMPs?”
Venkman nodded. “Yes.”
Baptiste shook his head. “Poor fucker never was all that bright.”
“You hear about his sister?”
“Got married recently, didn’t she?”
“How is it you remember all this shit?”
Baptiste grinned. “Because I’m a local, as opposed to you and your misspent world-hopping extravagant lifestyle.” He snapped his fingers. “Oh, shit! Annis left, too. That’s why he was hitting the sauce so hard. I was wondering what made him stray from his ‘I’m just keeping out of withdrawal’ bullshit.”
Venkman nodded. He may make light of it, but Bap’s ability to remember names and faces is nothing short of a gift! Not only remember them, but place people in the larger context of their family relationships, places and things, crimes and their criminals.
It was a gift Venkman was often surprised by, but never envious of. All gifts can be burdens, under the right circumstances: Jean never forgets.
Baptiste had gone on without him: “Or, could be I’m just a born gossip, unhappy unless I’m sticking my nose in other people’s shit.
Who was it sold him the dope?”
“Dealer called Crooked Luc. Mort says he sells through the nightclubs in our district. He wasn’t sure about the real last name. Thought it might be Yount.”
Baptiste nodded, pulled at his lower lip. “Yount… Yount…I think he worked for one of the Lagauche crews, way down the ladder.”
That name I recognize. But… “Mort also said it was some new dope, Mindfire.”
Baptiste released his lip, leaned back into the pillows with a slight wince. “That should rule out the Lagauche crews. The Lagauche has never been a fan of dope sales, and supposedly has his people on a short leash on anything new. There’s too much heat from us when someone croaks because the chemistry was off.”
“My thought too.”
“Well, Prometheus is LaGauche’s boy in Starfall… or it could be Gilles Lascombe… and maybe one or two others.”
“Not specific enough to go asking for a warrant on.”
“My money’s on Prometheus. The last intelligence assessment from the IMPs had him in charge of Starfall.”
“Could be.” Baptiste said.
One of the mechanisms of the bed beeped softly as the cortex determined it was time for another treatment. Baptiste’s expression pinched and he hissed “Damn, this shit itches.”
“The wonders of modern technology.”
“Yeah. Good news, though: they tell me I’m out next week.”
“Then it’s the wonders of the psych folks.”
“Yay,” Bap replied, deadpan. His hand crept to the button that released a dose of painkillers.
“Should I wait on you to go visit Mr Yount?”
“I’d appreciate it, unless you have to report it.”
“Oh, I’ll kick it up in a memo, just won’t tie it to your incident. If they figure it out, bully for them. If not, we’ll take a crack at him.”
Baptiste sighed as the painkiller took the edge off the itch. “Fair enough. Now get out of here, you’re messing with my high and you have to be on shift in an hour.”
Venkman smiled, took the man’s hand. “See you in a couple days.”
It began to rain as Venkman rolled up to the crime scene. The coroner’s van was departing the garage, presumably carrying the crispy critter from the explosion. Officer Proulx’s squad car pulled back and out of the way to allow the bigger vehicle to depart.
Proulx waved from his patrol vehicle, motioning Venkman into the spot he’d vacated to allow the coroner to leave. Venkman parked to block the garage ramp and waved to Proulx, but the senior officer was already driving off through the rain.
This was Venkman’s first call of the holiday weekend. Not the way I would prefer to start my night, but there it is. Seniority is king, and I don’t have enough time on the job to be a prince, let alone day watch.
Venkman keyed his mic and let dispatch know he’d taken up his post. Checking the log for the scene, he verified the bomb squad had already cleared the zone as safe. Homicide Inspectors had already arrived, checked things out, and departed as well. The lab techs were the only ones still present, taking their time documenting everything.
The officer sat up in his seat as one of the lab techs scurried over to the mobile lab vehicle and his supervisor. Civilians, the techs tended to be excitable.
The scurrying fellow showed the supervisor something on his data pad, gesturing excitedly. The supervisor shook her head. The underling was insistent, however.
After a moment the supervisor grimaced and picked up her own data pad, keying in a sequence. She blanched at the result. She then moved slightly closer to the garage entrance and Venkman, most likely for better reception, before making a call.
Venkman couldn’t tell exactly what was said, as her mouth was partially obscured by the mic, but he got quite a bit, old training proving useful.
“Yes, we —- a goddamn problem,” she said, pacing back and forth about twenty meters from Venkman’s patrol car.
“Yes, you — — —- to see who we think the victim —-,” she continued.
“Right. We’ll stay locked —- —- they ,” she finished, keying off the unit and looking at Venkman’s patrol car before turning to bark something at her subordinate.
A few more minutes passed in heated hand-waving discourse.
“3D4C?” Dispatch asked for him even as he heard the comp beep with an incoming message.
Venkman twitched, keyed the mic, “Go ahead.”
“10-4,” Venkman replied, entering his pass code into the dash mounted terminal.
Reading, Venkman shook his head. The crispy critter was apparently one Remer ben Diele, Imperial Supply Clerk First Class. Crimes against Imperial Officers, even one as low on the totem pole as Supply Clerk First Class Remer ben Diele, were taken very seriously by the Imperials, warranting full Military Police Investigators.
And if I remember my training correctly, the ranking Imperial Military Police Investigator normally be called in. If he or she wasn’t available, it devolves to Navy, then Marines, then regular Army. If no Investigators are available, it devolves to the senior ranking officer of each service in the same order.
I’m fairly sure there are no Investigators on planet, not since the first round of force reductions that made Nouvelle Genève such a good place for me to settle. Nouvelle Genève was always an IMP staging point, a fact that kept their Navy from establishing a permanent base in-system. Got to love the imperial legal codes governing the labyrinthine relations between Imperial governmental organs.
Remembering the blonde and attractive IMP captain on the feed the other day, Venkman idly wondered who was in command of the base after all the draw-downs of the last few years. He didn’t dare do any queries from his department vehicle. Not a good idea to go raising questions I’d rather not answer just for the sake of idle curiosity.
The end line of the message from dispatch ordered him to remain in place and maintain the perimeter until further notice.
He typed in an acknowledgement of the order and sat back.
The boys and girls in Homicide will be running around in circles congratulating each other once they learn the IMPs will be taking up the case. He grinned. They’ll have to hustle if they want to get here before the IMPs and make it look like they were here doing their jobs the whole time.
He sighed. Regardless of how it turned out for the crispy critter, it looked to be a long wait for one Officer Nigel Venkman.
About twenty minutes later, Venkman managed not to flinch when the scout troop carrier rounded the corner onto Eighth Street, despite the sudden flashback, the smell of burning oil and flesh he knew weren’t there, suddenly he was back there and then…
IMP carriers rolling up on his position in the blown ambush, gauss weapons making the air turn to lightning and thunder. The resistance unit he’d stirred to action melting away, either literally as Imperial fire vaporized bodies or they broke and ran. Scrambling for the ram, picking up the crew-served weapon and firing from the shoulder, missing. The turret tracking, firing. White noise and pain…
Venkman mastered memory as the carrier came to a stop in front of the ramp and the hatch popped open. When he saw the Captain of Imperial Military Police step out of the armored personnel carrier Venkman’s left eye wanted to drop closed for a better sight picture, and the act of will it took to keep it from doing so set his eyelid to twitching. Details picked up on an unconscious level kicked his fight or flight response into gear, hyper-efficient adrenal glands rolling fire through his veins, his muscles.
The steering yoke groaned and popped as his hands clenched on the plastic and steel surface. He breathed deep, pushing through the sudden, overwhelming desire to tear up or tear out.
Venkman resorted to the mantra, rendering his center clear and pushing the calm out along his limbs until he gained enough control to analyze the power of his reaction.
It wasn’t just that he recognized the uniform. Worse, he recognized the limp and the face. Letting out a slow breath, he took himself to task.
It’s not like she’ll know who you are. You’ve taken great pains to see to that.
He managed to remove one hand from the yoke to wave at her before popping the door and stepping into the rain.
Captain L. Schrader smiled at him.
She extended a hand to him in greeting, “Evening, Officer…” She read his nameplate, “Venkman.”
Not that she had to, Venkman thought with a wary glance at the PID riding across from her sidearm on her belt, the central cortex has all the information she could ask for.
The rain went from persistent to insistent in a flash, the sudden deluge actually bouncing from the pavement.
“Wet enough for you out here?” she asked with a grin.
Venkman smiled, despite himself, “You could say that.”
“Wish I could say I was a stranger to leaving warm places for shitty ones myself,” Schrader cocked an eyebrow and gave the large and thick-built officer a crooked smile he quite liked, “but shall we get out of the rain?”
Venkman led her up the ramp, pausing in the shelter of the awning, he turned to face her.
She glanced up and met his eyes.
Did I just catch her checking out my ass?
She cleared her throat and went on without acknowledging anything untoward. “So. I am the investigating officer. Can you tell me what happened?”
The rain ran from his helmet and her uniform cap. “Ah, wouldn’t you prefer to talk to homicide?”
Schrader gestured at the nearly empty street, “Are they here?”
“No, ma’am. They haven’t yet come back.”
She’s looking at you like she’s thirsty.
No, she damn well is not.
“Well then, I guess it’s just us, isn’t it?”
Venkman flushed. He fucking hated blushing, it made the mass of thin white scars on his face more pronounced, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Lead on, then,” Schrader said.
He led the way into the garage. “Our bomb specialists say the structure is safe for entry, with no secondary devices, but then we don’t have your technical abilities to be absolutely sure.”
“They know their business well enough. I trained some of them back when. You know Granger?”
Venkman nodded and changed the subject as they stopped on the perimeter of the blast area, “Well, we don’t know much: Apparently the victim returned to his car after doing some sHopping in the district center here. We have some footage of him walking through the shopping center and then entering the garage with some packages. He then started the car and the device exploded, killing him. No secondary explosions. This was at about 1632 hours. Plates on the car are, or were, Zulu 8-8-8-8.”
“Army or Marines?”
“What?” Venkman asked.
Schrader shrugged and smiled softly, “You used the military designation, not the local PD. Zebra on the air here, isn’t it?”
Venkman nodded, suddenly cold. “Yes ma’am. I was in the Army for a few years during the war. Garrison duty, mostly.”
Schrader nodded. Garrison duty was boring work, and not known for combat. He knew what she would ask next: the scars indicated he’d seen more action than most garrison soldiers, so she asked, “Where at?”
“Beatte’s Star,” Venkman replied as the crime scene techs approached in what could only be described as a gaggle.
He could see her respect for him kick up a few notches. “No shit?” Schrader said. The Last Push, Imperial High command had called the series of assaults that had secured the system. They’d called it wrong, of course. The Perfected had counterattacked there and in three other worlds of the sector, igniting insurrection on a score more. Bloody battles fought in some heavily built up urban centers.
“No shit, Captain.” He replied as the technician began to wave his findings in the Captain’s face.
Happy to fade into the background Venkman watched Schrader speaking to the techs. It took a bit to calm the civilians down, but eventually Schrader had the information accumulated at the scene transmitted to her PID and began to review it.
From her expression, Schrader didn’t like their preliminary findings one bit. She clicked off the visual feed and pursed her lips.
I wonder what those lips taste of.
Venkman shifted uncomfortably.
Shit. Leave her be. Not the kind of trouble you need.
He looked at the scene with his own practiced eye.
Obvious the clerk had been made to resemble thick reddish confetti by someone who knew their ass from a hand grenade. The assassination had been planned and executed with efficiency. No recordings of the garage interior, no witnesses. Damn few recordings from the street outside. Not enough money to get that kind of infrastructure going in this place, especially now Imperial forces were pulled. Some recordings off the street, but nothing to indicate he’d been followed.
He came free of his reverie to realize she was looking at him expectantly.
“You know who the victim was?”
Venkman nodded, “Not the man, just his position.” He gestured at the mess before them, “And not what made someone want to do this to him.”
“Remer ben Diele, he was the supply for all Imperial Services in the system.”
“Where was his protective detail?” he asked without thinking.
She glanced at him again. He could see her esteem building again.
Shut it, Venkman. You do not want this woman’s interest, no matter how good she smells.
“The Civil Service were some of the first to have their protection details pulled after the war.”
Not smart, but the Imperium has made more severe mistakes in their five hundred year existence, and outlived all other pretenders, so I suppose I haven’t much room to talk.
A clatter from the ramp drew his eye and a frown. Inspector Delongue. Some pricks only get longer with the years.
She followed his gaze as a man in a damp but sharply turned out suit crossed the police line and entered the crime scene. She cocked another brow but turned an expressionless face to the newcomer. He was of middling height, meaning shorter than both Venkman and the Captain, had a weak chin and what looked like prematurely graying hair.
He drew closer, pulled his star out and presented it to her, “Inspector Delongue, Homicide.”
“Inspector. I am Captain Schrader, Imperial Military Police.”
Delongue held out a data spike, “Our preliminary findings on your case.”
If Schrader noticed both the suppressed glee and the emphasis on the your in the Inspector’s statement, she was either very good at hiding it or decided to ignore it. “Thank you, Inspector.”