This SFR Galaxy Award winning book is ON SALE for $.99 right now!
“We have a dead passenger,” the ship's AI said, speaking louder as the door chimed.
So much for minor ailments. Keying the portal to open, Emily came face-to-face with Red, in uniform, a discreet security badge on his jacket.
“Sorry to meet again so soon under these circumstances,” he said. “Jake sent me—”
“Yes, the ship told me you were coming.” She let the portal close behind her and set off at a rapid pace toward the nearest gravlift. The corridor was deserted at this time of “night.”
Glancing around to make sure there wasn’t anyone close, Red nodded. “Passenger Edvar Groskin, in his cabin.” He allowed her to precede him into the gravlift. “Groskin hadn’t been seen for a day or two, missed an appointment for dinner with some prospective clients who reported not being able to reach him. Had the do-not-disturb signal on, but the chief stewardess was concerned, so she asked Maeve to check.” Red leaned closer. “Passenger privacy is of utmost concern on the CLC Line, but there’s a point where we have to intrude.”
“You must be positive he’s deceased, not to have called the ship’s emergency response team.”
“Yeah, we’re sure.” He flicked a glance at her. “Not a pretty sight.”
“No doubt I’ve seen worse.” Emily clenched one fist where he couldn’t see, nails biting into her palm in hopes the tiny spurt of pain would forestall a flashback to some of the horrific scenes she had endured. Now wasn’t the time for an incident, and echoes of the earlier nightmare lingered. “Suicide?”
“Doubtful.” Red didn’t appear to notice her preoccupation. “Groskin was a hanger-on with the wealthy crowd. He used to be a minor celebrity, some kind of athlete. Always had a dozen schemes and scams going on. Upbeat guy, from what I’ve been told. He was going to the big surfing competition on Sector Hub.”
“I treated a surfer today. Got washed off his board and cratered on the bottom of the beach deck sand,” she said. “Poor guy had a broken arm, scrapes and bruises.”
“Yeah, we’re running our own competition on the starboard side of the beach, trying to tie into the big event.” Red shook his head. “I had beach duty yesterday. Made me nervous watching passengers try to act like extreme athletes. Of course, Maeve doesn’t generate the big waves.”
They’d reached the late passenger’s cabin, where the portal was half open.
Jake was waiting in the foyer. “Sorry to wake you, Doc. Guy’s on the floor in the bedroom. We’re not sure what he had.”
Emily stepped into the room. The bed was in disarray, and the passenger had obviously been quite ill in his last hours. Clothed in synthsilk pajamas, the body was already in the first stage of rigor mortis. Activating the sterile barrier on her hands, she ran her scanner over the man, noting the readings, especially in the heart and lungs. Sitting on her heels, she said, “Heart attack, probably brought on by pneumonia, is my initial diagnosis.” She looked at Jake. “Without an autopsy, we won’t know for sure, and I should warn you I’m not a pathologist.”
“We’re not set up to do autopsies anyway,” Jake said. “The unpleasant job’ll be for the authorities at the next port of call. I need you to sign the provisional death certificate and state there was no crime involved as far as we know at this time. Different regulations kick in if there’s any evidence of foul play.”
Emily raised her eyebrows and checked the body again. “Nothing to indicate any kind of crime.” She leaned closer. “Odd.” Pointing at the corpse’s upper chest, revealed by the gaping shirt, she said, “See those purple splotches?”
“Like spider bites.” Jake shifted position to get a better view. “Something to worry about?”