A Jump To Conclusions No. 19

“Good. Lieutenant Li just rang; they ran ballistic tests on our recovered revolver, and it was not the weapon that killed Abbot McKenzie. She thinks it may have been the same model, though. Either way, it seemed to me that we must have heard two shots, and Sam’s retelling—you agree that I didn’t lead him on?—bears me out. I’m afraid, Sam,” she said, “that it isn’t a suicide at all, unless it’s much more unusual than even you had suspected.”


The sun cast slanting bars of light through the windows and across the floor. It lit a few dozen scenes not altogether unlike ours. Amber had already thrown my pet theory onto the rocks, and soon after she dashed it to pieces with a call to the district’s Department of Dome Maintenance. She proposed that McKenzie, with a gun in hand, would have fallen backward off the balcony, firing into the air as he fell. Just as she expected, a dome repair crew had filled a chip in the dome not more than a few hundred yards from the scene of the crime. I gave my theory a moment of silence, then reflected that a murder that looked like a suicide that looked like a murder could hardly help but rank highly on the list of most interesting crimes I had seen.

The investigation, on the other hand, had taken a decided turn for the uninteresting. The prevailing opinion was that Dalton Heath was the killer, but the absence of hard evidence left us little to go on. Amber, Baker, and Carpenter had sent uniforms to go over Heath’s apartment again. Amber had high hopes that the favor she’d asked would pay dividends, although she remained customarily silent on precisely how it would do so. Nothing required our immediate attention, so the inspectors took the opportunity to put some time in on their other cases. I rescheduled the appointments I had missed, fetched coffee, and made shadow puppets. I was thinking about a nap when Amber took a call and said to me, “Sam, we’ve a witness coming in who says she has information on the McKenzie case. Could you have a word with her? I would, but…” She waved apologetically at her desk, which had been resurfaced with hard copies of a half-dozen case files. “You understand.”

“Are you sure?” I said, holding my hands in a sunbeam and wiggling my fingers. The shadows danced across her desk. “That last one was rather good.” She snorted and went back to her work, and I went down to the seventieth floor.

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