Pars was a crooked cop but, then, who wasn’t these days? Pars had also been a son of a bitch right up until last night when someone had killed him. No one liked him enough to do more than write up the paperwork, but he was my partner. I had to do something about it. I could sleep easy at night and let him lie cold, but not his murder.
The F3 unit at the office probably liked Pars less than I did. I went to identify his body and collect his effects from the coroner before making my appearance at the station. By that time, F3-PN had removed his name from the door and cleared his desk.
“A little callous, isn’t it?” I asked him. “He’s not even cold on the slab.”
F3 gave a dismissive noise and dropped the files from Pars’ open cases in front of me.
“He didn’t leave much of a legacy,” F3 said. He was right. Pars’ personal effects had consisted of his badge, his gun, keys to a cruiser that belonged to the force and business cards for a number of establishments that were less than reputable and would provide services by the hour if you knew how to ask. The files of his unopened cases were more substantial but no more impressive. His notes were lazily encrypted reminders to himself of who could be shaken down and how much they might stand for, as well as possible suspects he could fit for up the crime.
Like I said, Pars was a dirty cop, but with the Empire controlling this arm of the galaxy it was hard to make a living as an honest one. I put his files to the side and tapped the screen until I was looking at his unofficial files. These he’d at least made a reasonable attempt at encrypting, but Pars was as much of a lazy cop as he was a crooked one and within an hour I had them decoded.
There wasn’t much that seemed of use. Most of the businesses, legal and illegal, he’d been shaking down I already knew about and he wasn’t taking anything from them worth killing over. One thing caught my eye that seemed out of place, though. Pars had several files relating to ships scheduled to be flying in from Coruscant over the next few days, as well as a second list of ships that weren’t scheduled but, presumably, he was still curious about. Neither Pars nor I worked customs, that was all handled by the Empire, and they never took kindly to local law enforcement interfering.
If Pars had been taking an interest in interplanetary ships that certainly stepped outside of our jurisdiction, and Pars would never take a step further than he had to unless there was something in it for him. I called F3 in and had him run the list ships to see if anything looked odd.
“You think Pars was mixed up with rebels?” F3 asked as he looked.
“I don’t see Pars getting mixed up with any Rebel activity,” I said. “It wouldn’t pay enough for him to take the risk. Smuggling, maybe. That would pay enough to make him consider it.”
“If it is,” F3 said, “then you should just close the file. The Empire wouldn’t think any more of two dead cops who were mixed up with smugglers than they would one.”
I nodded. “You’re right.”
“You’re going to dig around anyway, aren’t you?”
“That I am.”
“If they erase my drive for helping I’ll never forgive you.”
I patted him on the head, shifting the weight of the blaster on my hip as I stood. “Don’t worry your little metal head about it, you’d get over it faster than you think.”
“Are you going to see her? She would be your first logical point of inquiry.”
For a robot, F3 sure knew how to hit where it hurts.
“I’m going,” I said, “to do my job.”
The spaceport had been built at a time when few ships flew in and out. Various attempts at expanding it had become mired in corruption and bribery scandals, and several private spaceports had opened up. The Empire outsourced the regulation of these ports and, inevitably, the flexibility of those regulations increased with the amount you were willing to pay. The port I went to wasn’t the worst of them, but I wouldn’t like to walk in there without a blaster.
I’m not uniform, but I still had ‘cop’ written all over me when I walked in. People kept their distance but no one seemed to be considering taking a shot at me. At least, not when I was looking. The ship I was looking for was docked right at the back, a mess of tools and parts laid in intricate patterns around it. As ships go it was pretty small and looked like it would disintegrate if you tried to fly it past the stratosphere, but I knew for a fact that was mostly decoy. Most federation ships would assume it could barely make it between planets, let along hyperspace, but The Banshee was one of the fastest ships I’d ridden in.
A pair of legs stuck out from half removed fuselage next to the starboard engine and I gave the foot of one a kick with my boot. I only just dodged the wrench thrown up at my head, and by the time I looked back a blaster was pointed up at me.
“Hello, Riley.” I said to the pair of eyes staring at me along its barrel.
“Quint.” Riley put the blaster on the floor next to her and, ignoring my extended hand, stood up. I waited for her to say something else, and she really made me wait. In the end my nerve broke before hers and I spoke.
“Pars is dead. He was shot last night.”
“Only one other officer I can think of would deserve it more.”
“That’s not very nice.”
“Neither were you.”
I had to let her have that one. There was nothing defensible I could think of to argue it.
“Were you hoping I’d be your plus one at the funeral?” Riley asked me.
“I’m looking for whoever killed him. Pars was looking into ships arriving from Coruscant over the next few days, ships that have scheduled clearance from the Empire and ships that don’t.”
“You think he was taking a cut of some smuggling operation?”
“It had crossed my mind.”
“So you immediately thought of me, and how I told you never to contact me again?” Riley glared at me. The whole situation was going better than I’d expected, at least. She hadn’t shot at me on sight, for starters.
“This is work,” I said, hoping to hide behind the badge. “I have a list of ships Pars was monitoring. Can you take a look at it and help out an official investigation?”
“Why should I?” Riley walked past me to collect the wrench she’d thrown. She didn’t continue talking until she’d walked all the way back. “For all you know, I’m one of the smugglers that shot him.”
“Your ship isn’t on the list.”
“Of course it’s not. I don’t make a living at this by getting noticed.”
She looked at me for a long time with what I thought was pity. I held her gaze and tried not to think on my regret over screwing things up between us. She still held the wrench and I wondered if she was going to throw it again. Thinking about how I’d behaved, if she did I might not duck this time.
“Give me the list,” Riley said, finally. I called it up and handed it to her, waiting while she scrolled through the names.
“The ones I recognize are commercial freighters, nothing unusually crooked about them. A bunch of names and ship numbers I don’t recognize, your killer could be involved with any one of them.”
I held out my hand to take back the list.
“Wait,” Riley said. “This one, maybe. It’s not on any of the scheduled routes, but the name’s familiar. Falcon.”
I stood beside her to look at the list, forgetting the awkwardness between us.
“What about it?” I asked.
“There’s a ship I’ve heard about called the Falcon. Small, fast, available to move cargo discreetly across the galaxy. Some guy in a bar was licking his wounds over how he’d nearly won it in a card game. Might not be the same ship, but it’s all I can think of.”
I became suddenly aware of how close we were standing, of how I needed to take back the list and how Riley was still holding the wrench. I slid it from her fingers and stepped away before I did anything stupid.
“Thanks, I appreciate your help.”
“It’s more than you deserve,” she told me. She was right.
I turned to walk away, to follow up my tenuous lead while she went back to fixing her ship.
“That’s it?” Riley called after me. “After almost a year, that’s all you’ve got?”
I wanted to turn and say something, but I had nothing. I’d had no right coming to her with this; there were other sources I could have turned to.
“You’re a stone cold bitch, Quint,” she said calmly as I crossed the docking bay. There was nothing I could argue against that, either.
End of Part 1.
All rights reserved to the author. This is solely a not-for-profit fan activity, and in no way intends to infringe on copyrights held by Disney.