A Jump To Conclusions No. 6

I returned as Amber relayed the word from the information desk:

“…and the brokerage say their client is Heath, McKenzie, and Company, Limited. I’ve sent Harper to bring in Heath; I was of a mind to bring in McKenzie as well, but Lian says he’s our victim. He served as Director of Finance, while Heath is Director-in-Chief. Their company sells engine components to Brenner Propulsion.”

Carpenter whistled. I understood his point. The interstellar travel monopoly almost certainly paid its suppliers very generously. “Surely it can’t have been money troubles?” I said, setting three mugs for the table and keeping the last for myself.

Amber let hers sit. “I doubt if it was,” she said. “Information say that the public books are tidy. All the same, we’ll lean on Heath on that topic when we talk. Andrew, Watson, in the meantime, dig up a list of potentials for me.”

“Any word from the scene?” said Carpenter.

Amber shook her head. “Uniforms are knocking on doors in Sam’s building, but if they haven’t found the killer yet I don’t know that we’ll be able to keep the building sealed until they do.”

“He may have escaped,” Baker suggested.

“And dodged all the cameras, did he?” said Carpenter.

“I think,” I said, “that I lean toward Inspector Baker’s view.” All three detectives looked to me, an experience I have often had and never quite gotten used to. Nonplussed, I nevertheless forged ahead. “Consider: he brought his own weapon, of a sort not registered and tracked. He had already resolved to break the law when he left for the apartment, and he was not concerned about being caught along the way. This is a man—” Carpenter cleared his throat, and I corrected myself “—probably a man who planned his crime. It’s no great stretch to believe he may have planned his escape, too.”

“That’s something,” Carpenter said. “Come along, Watson, let’s have a go at some solid detective work based in the facts of Mr. McKenzie’s life, while the doctor and the leftenant,” he continued, through a smile, “play at head games.”

It was in good fun, I knew. Carpenter had seen my track record, and, gratifyingly, Amber tells me that, in the years since his promotion snatched him away from us, he has made a point of employing criminal psychologists on tough cases.

Carpenter and Baker set up at their desks, while Amber brought her things to the table. “Shall we dig into the life and times of our late Abbot McKenzie, then?”

“I can’t speak to the general case,” I replied, “but it does seem that many of the murder victims I have encountered personally have lived interesting lives.”

Her response was to shove a stack of soft copy in my direction, the inks flowing and taking shape on the pages as her terminal finished the download.

“McKenzie, Abbot Alexander,” I read aloud, summarizing as I skimmed the first page, “aged fifty-three. Educated in the Naval Arm Preparatory School and later the Officer Academy, served in cruisers as a gunnery officer of no great distinction until the invention of the Brenner drive. Left the service, enrolled in the University of Nexus, and emerged in 1224 with a doctorate in theoretical physics.”

“Seven years,” Amber said. “Smart chap.”

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