I'm in a holding cell in CPD Precinct 5 on Jaques Station. They're letting me sweat for a while; leaving me to wonder what they know and what they're doing; that's standard operating procedure. I'm isolated, dressed in a perpetrator-orange jumpsuit, all my possessions taken – actions intended to prepare me for life in a penal colony. There's no right to a phone call and no right to a lawyer; I'm on my own.
After an interval calculated to get me worried the cell door slides open and there's Martinsson with a cop holding a taser. Martinsson jerks his head.
"Come with me."
The interview room is blindingly bright in comparison with the cell. I know this is to facilitate the one-way mirror set into the wall, but it disorients me further. Video cameras capture everything that happens in the room. There's a desk, a chair for me on one side, and two for the interrogators on the other.
A BdV unit sits on my side of the table and its companion monitor on their side. The Bocca della Verità
is the very latest in lie detection; the subject inserts their hand through a slot in the front, resting it on a sensor pad. A camera mounted on top focuses closely on the subjects face to record and analyse micro-gestures. Pulse, blood pressure, and degree of sweating are captured, interpreted, and combined with the facial data to present on the monitor an assigned probability of the truth of each of the subject's answers.
I was never very good with the old polygraphs. I have a tendency, the origins of which lie buried in forgotten childhood experience, to feel guilty even when I'm not. That means I seem to be lying even when I'm at my most honest. I'm not hopeful that this will go well.
Larsen enters the room and sits next to Martinsson.
"Mr Linton, were you on board the wedding barge, LT-B01, at any time during the last two days?" Larsen asks, looking at me and then across at the lie detector which Martinsson is operating.
"No, I was not," I say as levelly as I can but I can interpret micro-gestures just as well as the BdV and I see that Martinsson has suppressed a broad smile: the slightly raised cheeks and the smallest uplift at the corner of his mouth that tell me the machine thinks I'm lying.
Larsen looks at her notes.
"I see from the manifest that there was an empty 3E cabin during the last cruise of your wedding barge."
It's a plain statement and Larsen waits for my response. My heart rate rises; I can imagine where this is going. I think back to the booking but I have no supporting documentation.
"It was a relatively small party, I seem to recall; family, close friends, and a handful of guests, so, yes, there may have been an empty cabin."
"Did you hide in that cabin and wait for your chance to kill Foote and Larousse?"
Even I can hear my voice wavering. Martinsson looks encouraged by the BdV output; Larsen writes something down – slowly and deliberately. This is going their way and I guess the plan is to wear me down.
"Do you like cookery, Mr Linton?"
The question throws me. What can Larsen mean by it?
"I…well…yes, I like to cook."
"That's a valuable set of Miyaki kitchen knives you own," Larsen continues. "We searched your apartment an hour ago and there seems to be a knife missing from the set – a large chef's knife which happens to be the same size and shape as the knife that appears in the video we showed you. And our pathologist tells us that the wounds inflicted on the victims are consistent with the use of a knife like yours. Do you have anything to say about that?"
Larsen has a habit of tilting her head after she's asked a question, all the while looking straight into my eyes. I suspect she's pretty good at weighing people up and doesn't need the BdV – for her it's only needed as objective forensic evidence in court.
I'm puzzled and I know my answer isn't going to help me.
"I haven't noticed there was a knife missing. You see, I've been away. I only got back today and went to do some pressing business in Apostrophe
"Very well, let's go with your segue," Larsen says, shuffling her papers. "Can you tell us about your movements over the last three days?"
Another unhelpful question which I answer honestly.
"For the last week I've been sitting."
Martinsson's smirk becomes a laugh-out-loud. "Sitting! Well, we all sit down. It's a question of where you were sitting."
"Let me explain," I say calmly. "Since the incident with the Strang clan I've felt the need to get away from time to time and meditate – it's what the zens call sitting; not that I'm zen, you understand."
I would have thought my having saved Colonia from obliteration might have carried some weight; without me – and Tay of course – none of these people would be here; they would be stardust. Occasionally the memories of that time return as stressful flashbacks and I need to calm myself.
"Where did you do this meditation?" Larsen asks.
"It was on Colonia 7 a a," I tell her. "There's a particular spot where I like to park."
Larsen writes this down.
"And can anybody vouch for your whereabouts?"
"No, I was there alone. That's the whole point," I say, wearying of the interrogation. "Listen, why don't you just give me an Honesty Pill instead of all this gadgetry?"
"We looked for your flight logs, Mr Linton, but they've all been wiped," Martinsson says, ignoring my suggestion. "That's convenient for you if you did in fact shadow the wedding barge and sneak on board at one of the terrestrial tourist beacons they visited."
I've got no explanation for the loss of the flight data, but I can't let Martinsson get away with his suggestion.
"No, in fact it's very inconvenient
for me, because my flight logs would show that I did, in fact, travel to Colonia 7 a a and spend the week there."
Whoever's framing me has done a very thorough job.
The door opens and a cop says to Larsen, "Ma'am, can I have a word?"
"Interview paused," Larsen says for the recording and she leaves the room.
When Larsen has gone, Martinsson walks around the table and stands behind me. I can't move because my hand is held securely in the BdV. He bends forward and speaks quietly, close to my ear.
"It's not looking very good for you, Linton. Why don't you confess? The sentence will be lighter if you confess and we'll tell the judge that you co-operated."
It's my turn to laugh.
"We're not at that point yet, sonny," I say, but I'm not convincing anyone, least of all me.
Larsen returns carrying a clear plastic evidence bag. She draws her weapon as she approaches and holds up the bag in front of me.
"Is this your knife?" she asks, bringing it close enough for me to see. I understand her caution; some doped-up perpetrators would make a grab for the knife and try to fight their way out. It has a large blade, still smeared with blood, and the Miyaki logo is clearly visible on the handle.
like my knife," I say, because it does.
"We found it in a skip round the back of your condo," Larsen says, "and we've already taken samples of the blood for comparison with the victims'. The only fingerprints on the handle, Mr Linton, are yours."
I don't know what to say so I say nothing.
"Very well, we'll call a halt there, pending the blood test results," she says and turns to Martinsson. "Take him back to the cell."
They bring me a meal but I can't stomach anything. I'm at a loss to understand what's happening and without my freedom I have no opportunity to investigate. I pace back and forth in the cell as the minutes stretch into hours. Certainly, the cell is bigger than a Sidewinder cockpit but it feels much more confined. Is this why people confess to crimes they didn't commit — anything for a change of scene.
Eventually, they come for me to resume the interrogation. Martinsson ensures my hand is positioned correctly in the Bocca della Verità
and he leans down and confides with a smile: "It was
the victims' blood on your knife."
"We come now to motive," Larsen says, like she's the counsel for the prosecution.
"About time!" I say, wondering if a more aggressive denial would help my case. "What possible reason could I have for killing paying customers?"
Martinsson is enjoying this; he smiles conspiratorially as he hands Larsen some documents. She studies them for a few moments, composing her questions.
"Are you holding Tay Getty against her will in your apartment?"
It takes a moment to grasp what Larsen has said.
"What? No! That's completely preposterous," I say ripping my hand out of the lie detector and standing up. Martinsson also gets to his feet and his hand moves to his service weapon. I sense he would welcome an excuse to use it. Larsen remains professionally calm.
"Sit down, Mr Linton. We have reason to believe that Tay Getty knows the truth about you and the Strang clan – specifically that Amaryllis Dood paid you a large sum of money to work with them and Eldrin Dood in a bid to take over the economy of Colonia. The same source suggests you are effectively holding Tay Getty prisoner, drugging her into a stupor, all to prevent her from saying what she knows."
I'm appalled at this perversion of the truth. It's true that Tay never leaves the apartment and lives in an introverted daze, but there are good reasons she consumes so many cocktails of Lyrae Weed and Tarach Spice – they help her forget.
"Source? What source?" I say angrily. "Bring them here to accuse me to my face."
"That would be difficult," Martinsson says, "because our source is the message history on Jensen Foote's communicator – which we found at the scene."
He slides copies of the transcripts across the table for me to read.
"These show that Foote was in conversation with you about the revelations he was about to break – revelations that would brand you as a criminal and, at the very least, damage your reputation."
I study the documents in disbelief.
"These are fabricated from beginning to end," I say. "We never had these exchanges."
Martinsson ignores me.
"We believe Foote was actively blackmailing you – we're looking into your financials and his at the moment for evidence of payments. The conversation suggests that you were letting him and his wedding party use the Beluga as part payment for his silence."
I'm dumbstruck. It feels like I've slipped into a parallel universe with a subtly different history.
"To summarise, then," Larsen says. "You needed to quash the damaging allegations against you, and that was your motive to murder Foote and Larousse; you had the means, in the form of a high quality chef's knife, missing from your apartment, but later found to be smeared with the victims' blood; and finally the opportunity presented itself when Foote and his fiancée boarded your ship. We have the murder weapon and the video of you leaving the scene of the crime. I firmly believe this is sufficient evidence to convict you of murder, but before we charge you is there anything you want to put on record in your defence?"
I'm lost; the evidence would convince me
if I were on the jury listening to it, yet it's all a total fiction. My problem is I have no way to nail the lies.
"None of this is true," I say. "I've been elaborately and comprehensively shafted – framed for a crime I didn't commit."
"We've heard that so
many times," Martinsson sneers. "If I had a credit for every…"
"Mr Linton," Larsen cuts across Martinsson, "we're returning you to the holding cell while we prepare the charge sheet. From there you'll be taken to the Odin's Crag Detention Facility to await trial."
"…and from there to the Chaydar Correctional penal colony in Far Tauri," Martinsson says with a self-satisfied smile.
"Can I see Tay?" I ask. I want to reassure her that all will be well – even though it's not looking good at the moment.
"That's a 'no' on two counts," Martinsson says, clearly relishing his job. "First, she's a material witness who's afraid of you, so you won't be getting the chance to intimidate her; and second, she's gone."
"Gone? Gone where?" I say, and all my fears for her come to the fore.
"Don't know," he says. "My guess is she took the first chance she could to get away from you. But don't worry, we'll find her before the trial."
I'm feeling more alone than ever as they march me back to the cell.
Later the door opens and Larsen enters the cell. She waits until the guard has gone.
"Mr Linton, something doesn't smell right about this case. I've been watching you and ignoring the lie detector. I'm beginning to have doubts about the case against you. I read the reports about the thwarted Strang attack and I've spoken with Officer Velazquez in Caravanserai. It seems that your version of events is closer to the truth."
A log in the ocean to grasp and hold onto; a tiny rock in The Abyss on which to land and wait for rescue.
"So, you're not going to charge me?"
"Oh, no, that will happen; we have to follow procedure whatever our gut tells us. Just, don't lose hope, Mr Linton."
I do feel more optimistic as Larsen leaves but the ominous clang of the cell door knocks that sentiment right out of me.