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Three Card Monte

Posted on Sun Nov 15th, 2020 @ 11:32pm by Lieutenant Commander Talina Sarafian & Civilian Alexander Stamen & Petty Officer First Class Sparrow Kells & Chief Petty Officer Spencer Malone

Mission: Mission 1 - "Pound of Flesh"
Location: Central Holding | Station 314
Timeline: MD 4

What a day. So far the Unmentionables had pursued every lead at their disposal and came up empty.

The Rad Ratels had fled the station, but not before killing Lieutenant Klein.

The Union News correspondent had given them the slip.

Adjunct Stamen, administrative and personal assistant to sector and station commander Admiral Holder, was not talking.

But there were also a few bright spots.

Whoever the murderous Gelatin was who had been grinding up corpses in the casino resort ladies' room suffered karmic retribution when he got ejected into space. He or she had been sucked up into the engines of a fleeing Rad Ratel space pod before it could make the jump to quantum space. Neither the Gelatin nor the operator of the space pod would be available for questioning or for anything else. Talina could only hope that had been the space podder who'd thrown the explosive at her. It saved her a lot of time and investigation when the Universe righted the wrongs of injustice.

What remained, then, was for them to interrogate Naismith, the Pit Boss of the Pila-Pala; Stamen the station adjunct; and Orphus, the Artanis Hotel employee to whom the Rad Ratel docking bay was leased.

Adjusting her eyepatch, Talina looked to her team.

"We've suffered some setbacks, but my gut says we're in the final stretch. One or all of these three men know what's going on around here. Maybe they aren't guilty. Maybe they just know who is. Whatever the case, nobody leaves here until one of them squeals. Who wants first crack with which suspect?"

Chief Petty Officer Spencer Malone crossed his arms over his chest, looking at Talina. "I think I've intimidated Stamen enough, but that might be to my advantage, if the man is already intimidated. I might be able to get better answers out of him, unless you have other ideas for me." He glanced over at Kells, wondering if they were going to be assigned together again. He'd liked working with Kells so far. She was on her game and had a level head, which he appreciated because his own head was not always so level.

She sat, caught up in her own mind still, processing recent events. Klein's sacrificial death, Sarafian's survival. Failure. Sparrow looked back to Malone just after he turned his attention briefly to her. She nodded to that unvoiced question. Yes. She'd work with him again.

"Maybe," she stated simply. "We double team them. One at a time? Stamen. Naismith."

Talina arched her brow. "I like your thinking, Kells. Let's do it. Both of you go lean on Naismith together and see if he pops."

Sparrow nodded, her smile a little malevolent as she looked from Sarafian to Malone. "Yes, ma'am," she answered, then indicated the door. "After you, Chief."

When the two investigators entered the questioning room, Naismith jerked up against the cuffs that kept him restrained to the table. "This is bullshit!" he shouted. "I got rights! I got privileges! Go call the admiral!" While it was true that Admiral Holder was in charge of the station, his adjutant was currently in custody as well.

"Unfortunately," said Sparrow, with the tone that implied apologies were far from her intent. "Admiral Holder's busy right now, dealing with another individual. I'm sure he'll get around to you eventually though, don't worry." She took a seat opposite him and studied Naismith's face for a long moment of silence. "Perhaps, while we wait, you can tell us exactly why you let someone be made into people puree?"

Spencer was keeping his face neutral, but he didn't sit at the table. Instead he leaned against a wall, his back to it, and crossed his muscled arms over his broad chest, his eyes on Naismith. He didn't want to give the impression that he was going to get comfortable or relax in any way, even though he wasn't really worried. The man was chained to the table after all. He also wanted to give Kells time to play good cop. Hopefully, Naismith would respond to the good cop, cause otherwise Spencer was definitely feeling bad cop today.

"I did not let anyone do anything," Naismith insisted. "The Pila-Pala firmly denounces these heinous acts that were adjacent to the interior of our casino resort." It was a fair amount of tongue-twisting, but the husky pit boss seemed just ass enough to stand by it. "Why, we don't even employ Gelatins. They're non-Union, for Pete's sake!"

She knew the score, and appreciated Spencer's current place in their current dynamic, so Sparrow played it nice and easy, kind and gentle, patient and tolerant. "This act," Sparrow noted. "Took place, not adjacent to, but within your casino restrooms. Your people barred us from entering said restroom. This implies that someone," she looked at Naismith and raised an eyebrow. "Yourself included by your very proximity and position, were well aware that someone was in there, committing some form of nefarious act." She offered a humourless smile. "Said mystery Gelatin did not simply find his way through the pipes..." there was a short delay as Kells gave Naismith a chance to interrupt her, then continued. "Certainly not while in possession of a meat grinder."

Naismith started sweating. His eyes flitted about the room as if searching for hidden cameras or surprise saviors. There was nothing that would help him. "I don't know nothin'," he repeated. "It was all Stamen! He said to lock down the pisser and the admiral's office would do the rest. Whatever was going on in there, I got no idea! I swear!"

Spencer shifted positions, flexing his upper arms. Today he'd managed to pick a shirt out his wardrobe that was just a little on the tight side. When he flexed the shirt made some little fabric stretching beyond its capacity noise. Spencer was a little surprised, but he hoped the noise wasn't too soft that Naismith couldn't hear it and potentially be intimidated. He then pushed himself off the wall and took a seat across from Naismith, grabbing the chair and turning it around aggressively to sit on it backwards and stare daggers at Naismith across the table. He kept his mouth shut though. Sometimes silence was more disturbing.

"What the fuck you lookin' at, fats?" Naismith barked ironically. Between the two of them, he was definitely the husky one. "Didn't you hear what I said? You wanna' know what happened in that pisser, go squeeze Stamen."

Across the table, Sparrow reached, a swift, sure gesture that ended with both her hands twisted into Naismith's shirt. She tightened that grip, unconcerned as to whether she caught skin or not, and she stared into their prisoner's eyes, her nose barely not touching his own. "Less of the fucks and fats," she said, voice far calmer than her actions. "I don't believe you. You know something. Now, you can tell us this precious, tiny slice of information trapped in that tiny brain of yours, or not, but either way I'll be sure to tell Stamen you sang as soon as I touched you."

Naismith gave a grunt at the manhandling and made to do a little of his own, but he found his hands to be tied in more ways than one. Grim resignation slowly settled over him.

"I only got three words," Naismith said at length. "La Cosa Altra. Shit. I'm probably dead just for saying it, but that's what they call themselves. I don't know what it means, or who they are, or what they do. All I know is they do private business in our shitter and I get paid to look the other way. Now, like I said, if you want more, go talk to Stamen because that's fuck all I know."

"La Cosa Altra?" Sparrow spoke the words and realised she'd asked an unintentional question at the same time. "Well done you," she told Naismith with no overt sarcasm to her tone. Then, as she sat back down, her gaze sought Malone's. "The Other Thing..." she voiced the literal translation of their company's reveal. "Interesting."

Spencer was not showing his surprise in his face, but the minute their eyes met he knew she would know he was shocked and that he had never heard that name before. He smiled, almost sweetly at Naismith and rose from his seat. "Well, that was a lot easier than I expected. You..." He pointed at Naismith. "Don't go anywhere. Someone will be in to check on you in a bit..." Of course, "a bit" might mean that they left him in here for the rest of the time they could hold him. Or perhaps they would find a way to arrest him.

"Next time you see me," Naismith said, "I might be dead."




The tag-team method had been successful. Talina allowed the other two to finish up with Naismith while she went to put the preliminary squeeze on Stamen.

"I believe you know why we brought you in," Talina said, sitting down across from Stamen.

"Why don't you refresh me?" The weaselly adjunct's lips were twisted in a sneer.

"You fled the scene of a crime," Talina said, "one in which you are said to be implicated."

Stamen shook his head. "Nonsense. I merely represent the admiral's office --"

"You impeded the investigation," Talina continued by way of interruption. "That's obstruction of justice, which is an even bigger deal than fleeing the scene and resisting arrest."

"I never resisted arrest," Stamen retorted.

"And now with lying we can add another charge of obstruction." Talina was taking notes with her data pad and stylus. "Are you going to level with me or are we going to see just how long this list of charges can get?"

Stamen chuckled wryly at first and twisted his head to one side, then the other. "You don't scare me, beezy. In case you didn't know, I work for a fucking admiral, and around here he calls the shots."

The name-dropping didn't help, but it was a step in the right direction. Talina matched his smirk with one of her own. "I am Internal Affairs. You must know what that means. I operate outside your admiral's command structure. He and I answer to different offices."

Now. The time to add pressure was now.

"You've already been implicated with La Cosa Altra. If I need to involve Admiral Holder in this investigation, then I will. Is that what you're suggesting I do? Silence means yes."

"You have no idea the beehive you're fisting right now," Stamen said. "It's not the sweet little honeypot you think it is." Leaning forward, he whispered, "They will eat you alive and use your bleached bones to pleasure their untouchable assholes." He grinned at the morbidity of his foul idiom as he delivered it. The grin turned into a maniacal laugh.

Although he wasn't exactly forthcoming, Talina still gleaned an important if nearly obvious admission from the adjunct. Stamen was in on whatever this was, and it was likely bigger than the missing persons case.

"Get comfortable," Talina said as she stood up to leave. "You're going to stay awhile."

Stamen grinned at her back.




Back in the observation room that allowed simultaneous viewing of the three interview rooms, Talina stared at all three false mirrors with her arms crossed.

"Naismith is a patsy. Stamen is guilty as hell. Orphus hasn't made a peep this whole time." She looked at her two investigators. "Think you can crack him like you did Naismith?"

"Undecided," admitted Sparrow, honestly as she stared through the glass at Stamen. "But that's definitely the plan, yes. Let us at him," she stated rather than asked.

"Not him," Talina said. "Stamen won't talk. We need more evidence. See what you can get out of the silent Moclan." She nodded toward the door that led to the room where Orphus the leaseholder for the Rad Ratel docking bay was being held.

Sparrow looked from Stamen to Talina and back again. Defeat? She hated that, but she also trusted the other woman's judgment. Whatever the new Chief was, she had skills, and there was no sense in wasting effort if the same outcome could be achieved via an easier route. "Yes ma'am," Sparrow agreed, and she looked to Spencer. "C'mon," she said with a faint smile. "We got this. Your turn to play nice though."

Spencer chuckled. "You do know it's hard for me to play nice," he said with a hint of humor and a wink at her. He headed for the door and opened it with authority, but once on the other side of it, he smiled at the Moclan. "Greetings. Orphus, right? It was Orphus..." He looked at his data tablet, like he was searching for the information. He wasn't, but it looked like he was. He also sat down at the table, across from Orphus. "I'm Chief Petty Officer Malone and this is my partner Petty Officer First Class Kells."

"My name is Orphus," the Moclan said tersely. He stared straight at Spencer. "You are not my advocate." Then he looked sideways at Sparrow. "He is not my advocate." Looking back to Spencer, he said, "I asked in no uncertain terms to speak with my advocate."

Sparrow took up a position leaning against the side wall so that her gaze could easily transition between the Moclan and her seated colleague. "Your advocate is en route, but he's delayed," she told Orphus. "We just need to establish some simple facts, facts he's already aware of. You work for the Artanis Hotel, correct? What exactly is your role there?" Start easy, she figured, work up to the interesting stuff.

"I am the concierge at the Artanis Hotel," Orphus said. "My family is renowned for our hospitality skills on Moclus."

"Excellent position for someone with such skills," noted Sparrow. "I'm sure you always do your very best for the guests, right?" she asked, her tone light and casual.

"Have you always worked for the Artanis Hotel?" Spencer asked. He wondered briefly if there were any other connections that they weren't seeing yet. He was also keeping his tone pleasant, even though he was used to pounding people in the face when he didn't get the answers he wanted, he also understood the value of making nice from time to time.

Orphus bounced his eyes between them like a metronome. "I used to work for Galashkah. It is a Moclan social institution on the station. Humans might know it as a gentleman's club." The words seemed awkward to pronounce.

She hadn't heard much about that one, just the name, but Sparrow nodded. "So, excellent customer skills and great social connections." She praised him gently. "I doubt you ever get any complaints from people, right? You go out of your way to help them. Handle those little extras - a well-placed room, reserve them a parking space, cater for personal tastes in the mini-bar and room service."

"Moclan hospitality does no such thing," Orphus said. "Concierges from Moclus are duty-bound to duel complainants in a trial by combat that begins in a physical altercation and ends in a battle of wits. I believe an adequate human idiom is 'adding insult to injury.'" He paused to think for a moment. "If I am here due to a disgruntled consumer, I must refer you to the hotel's legal department."

Well, considered Sparrow, he was talking. Not exactly helping a whole lot, but talking nonetheless. "Trial by combat?" she said, rather than asked, intrigued. "Makes sense. And no, I wasn't speaking about an unhappy customer. I want to understand the exact duties you're expected to perform as part of your role."

Spencer leaned back in his chair a little to look at Kells over his shoulder. "That's gotta be some customer service package to get a people sized meat grinder for the bathroom... I mean the cost..." he said in a fake whisper and mock surprise. He turned his gaze back to Orphus and crossed his arms over his chest with a grin, as if he was looking forward to what the Moclan was going to say next.

"I don't know anything about a meat grinder," Orphus said. "You should speak to the kitchen staff if you wish to prepare foodstuffs." His eyes flitted back and forth between the two investigators as if he could not decide who was in charge. "I was told that my cargo bay is a crime scene. I want it noted for the record that I object to any raw meat being placed in there. Bloodstains would depreciate the value of my inventory."

Talina bristled behind the two-way mirror. Those bloodstains were her former deputy unit chief.

Sparrow had one question, and she waited for Orphus to finish speaking first, kept her gaze on the Moclan then asked it directly and without any obvious emotion. "Your cargo bay?" she queried.

"Yes," Orphus confirmed. "Cargo bay C-13D is leased to myself on behalf of the Artanis Hotel, though it is often sublet to other interested parties as part of our remote storage for guests who wish to hold their possessions off site. I understand that goes outside of standard station protocol, but the admiral's office signed off on it some time ago."

"Your cargo bay is a crime scene, because someone was murdered in there," Spencer added, speaking as if he was talking to a small child. "Mur-der-ded... and you're concerned about some stains?" He leaned back in his chair, even though he was sitting on it backwards and there was nothing to lean back on, and shook his head. "So... did you see anyone in YOUR cargo bay?" He was having a hard time sticking to good cop.

"I have not inspected the cargo bay in several days," Orphus said carefully. "It has been occupied since then. And I spent the day at Galashkah meeting with someone. This is the first I am hearing of any murder."

"Occupied by whom, Orifice?" Spencer asked.

"Orphus," the Moclan corrected.

"Whatever happened in that bay, you're responsible for," Sparrow stated as she walked around the table and took up a position alongside their interviewee. She thumped a clenched fist onto the tabletop hard enough to make the items on its surface jump as she asked. "Who was using your cargo bay?"

Spencer crossed his arms over his chest and grinned. It was not a friendly sort of grin. "Answer the lady, and think carefully about how you answer, Orifice..." Spencer said in a low tone, messing up the Moclan's name on purpose.

"It's Orphus," he corrected once again.

"That's what he said," Talina said through the commspeaker. "Orifice."

"Orphus," the Moclan repeated his name as he looked around the room in a vain search of the hidden speaker.

"Orifice?" Talina noted the Moclan's frustration. Would it be enough to make him crack?

"ORPHUS!"

"ORIFICE!"

"ORPHUS!!!"

"Why are we yelling?" Talina flicked on the light behind the two-way mirror to let Orphus see her.

The Moclan visibly grimaced. "Because you are saying Orifice instead of Orphus."

"Why did you say your name twice?"

"The Rad Ratels clearly killed the wrong Union officers!" Orphus spat venomously. He lunged over the table with a growl. "You want an orifice? I will give you an orifice... by tearing you a new one!" He began slamming his big block head against the glass in attempts to crack it open. "La Cosa Altra will profit nothing from your organs once I defecate them from my orifice!"

This was just the reaction Spencer was waiting for. He was always waiting for violence it seemed. He whipped out of his chair and attempted to grab the Moclan from behind, aiming for his arms and to attempt some sort of restraint. "Hey! You better cut that out!" he yelled.

Orphus flung Spencer across the room with a toss of one arm. Moclans were not to be trifled with. "And you!" he growled. "You were the one who initiated the orifice talk in the first place." He then charged at Spencer, shoulder tucked low and braced for impact.

Having stepped to the side as the two men tussled, Sparrow picked up Orphus' vacated chair and aimed its legs at the charging Moclan's knees in the hopes of tripping him before he reached Malone.

Spencer went flying backwards, as he was flung, like any good action flick and smacked into the wall with a grunt and a rush of air. He scrambled to his feet, despite being completely out of breath and braced himself for impact. He was second guessing his decision to tangle with the Moclan physically.

Sparrow moved to help Spencer, cursing inventively, ready to add her reasonably insignificant weight to the battle.

"Time to end this," Talina said. Walking through the door to the room, she leveled her pistol at the Moclan's back and fired.

Orphus was big, so the stunning shot barely phased him. He turned around and roared at Talina in rage.

"Stand down," Talina said. "Or we will put you down."

On the words 'we will' a second and third stun shot fired from Sparrow's PM-32 hit Orphus in the back as sonic punctuation for Talina's words.

Spencer leaned against the wall in relief and worked on getting his breath back. "Sorry, Boss..." he managed, trying to take deep breaths, even though it was painful at the moment. It was starting to slowly improve.

"He's dead," Talina said, poking the toe of her shoe against the dead Moclan. "He started to give us something at the end. Let's go over the transcript and see what we can piece together."

 

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