Murder In Shusoran
In Dayne's ordinary Guard work, there was no need for a grand
presentation to a gathered audience. He made his reports to his
superior officers, arrested suspects if necessary, and occasionally
testified at trial. What he didn't do was demonstrate his solution to
a group of observers, with the need to convince him that he was right.
Then again, this case was nothing resembling ordinary.
Godley's inn room was packed with more people than it had any right
to be, just twenty-six hours after the corpse had been found.
Fortunately, the Windward's private rooms were spacious, owing to the
relatively low level of mercantile traffic Shusoran had experienced
prior to opening up trade with the Orakians. Present were Prince Lyle,
King Rhys, Commander Brenton, and Wren, there to hear Dayne and Mieu's
conclusions. Nyla was there to confirm the medical evidence. Merak,
Cara, and Ballard were also there, in the hope that truth might bank
some of their inflammatory rhetoric as well as due to their role as
prime suspects. The latter two wore manacles, on account of an
outbreak of opposing viewpoints that had turned into a brawl in the
inn-yard. Two guards had remained, in the hope of warding off any
further misbehavior. Finally, the innkeeper was there, flitting around
the edges of the group, driven by simple human curiosity.
In short, it was practically a stage play.
"All right, I believe everyone relevant is here," Lyle announced.
"Mieu, Sergeant, why don't you give us your report? Before you do,
though, I would like to commend you on dealing with this matter so
quickly." Glancing at the three chief troublemakers, he added, "The
last thing we needed was to have this hanging over us for any length of
"Thank you," Mieu said, pleased. She turned to Dayne. "It was
mostly your idea. Would you like to start?"
"Why not?" The sergeant hooked his thumbs in his belt and swept his
gaze from face to face.
"We all know why we're here. The night before last, probably around
eleven or twelve, Abel Godley was killed in this room. The cause of
death was a knife thrust, received while he was standing at that
window." He pointed to the murder site. "Nyle--that's Dr. Le Malisk,
here--verified that it was a stabbing, that the weapon hadn't been
thrown. Unfortunately, the killer didn't leave any footprints on the
hard ground outside the window."
His boots clicked on the floor as he paced.
"Godley turned out to be a reactionary Orakian, one of those who
wanted to go back to the good old days when Layans were Layans,
Orakians were Orakians, and they met only on the battlefield. That
pretty much pointed the finger in one of two directions. Either it was
a Layan fanatic who killed him for his views, or an Orakian fanatic
with whom he had some kind of a falling-out." He looked over to the
bruised and bloodied Cara and Ballard. "You can see where I'm coming
from about these groups and their use of violence."
"Layan cur, how dare--"
"Cyborg-loving oppressor, I'll--"
"Oh, spare me," Dayne snapped, cutting them both off. "If this case
has taught me anything it's that Prince Lyle was right to play
matchmaker for King Rhys and Queen Maia. You two are so clueless that
if you told me the sky was blue I'd have to go outside and check."
"Well said," Rhys murmured to Lyle.
"We like him," his friend replied.
"Now, the weapon suggested an Orakian, but that wasn't conclusive,"
Dayne continued, "because Layans use knives too, though not as standard
combat equipment. What was more annoying is that both sides
were apparently at all-night planning meetings, deciding what insults
to shout at the castle walls or whatever, and so the all had alibis."
"Although," Mieu noted, "we didn't necessarily trust those alibis,
both because the killing might have been a group plot and because
people do lie to protect friends or a cause to which they feel
"The next discovery was the doctor's. We'd found a vial in Godley's
bags, which Nyla tested. She found out that it contained a rare
medicine used to treat a potentially fatal nerve disease. Is that
basically right, Nyla?"
The doctor nodded.
"Yes, in essence. I also went back and checked the body after we'd
talked yesterday. He did show signs of the disease, so you can be sure
that the medicine was actually his."
"Thanks. That's good to verify. In other words, Godley had been as
good as dead anyway, with a medical time bomb ticking away inside him."
He paused to let that sink in.
"The obvious question is, why kill someone who is going to die a
slow and painful death anyway? That brings us to the night of the
murder, when Godley told Ballard, there, that he had a big plan in
store for us yesterday, something devastating to the Layans."
"I see; that means that he could have been killed last night to keep
him from carrying out his plan," Rhys deduced.
"That was exactly my thought, your Majesty. It explained completely
why someone would murder a dying man. If he had a grand plan that
would have been carried out yesterday, then killing him might have been
the only way to stop him.
"And who knew about this plan? Well, not only was Ballard the man he
told it to, but by a shocking coincidence Merak there just happened to
be in this in for a brandy while Abel was doing the telling. Now,
while we can't prove what, if anything, he may actually have heard, it
makes for interesting thinking--and it gives both the Orakians and the
Layans both motive and opportunity."
"Unfortunately," Mieu said, "all that does so far is to provide a
large number of suspects. It doesn't include hard evidence ruling any
out or pointing to any as being guilty."
"I suppose," noted the prince, "that you have more to add?"
"Of course, your Highness," Dayne answered. He surveyed the faces
of his audience; they were intrigued but impatient. The three fanatics
for their part had hard, angry eyes, the defiant expressions of people
who were ready to defend themselves against an expected attack.
"That's when I had an idea," Dayne said. He drew the two staffs
from his belt, holding them up. "A lot of people use a two-weapon
fighting style. We guards often use two staffs or two slicers. Mieu,
here, uses two claws. I've seen Orakians who fight with two
needlers...or two knives."
He glanced back and forth again, seeing if anyone had gotten his
"I could explain what I mean, but I think a demonstration would be
in order. Mieu?"
The android nodded. She held up a sheathed knife.
"Sergeant Rathman found this knife in this room. It obviously
belonged to Godley, and it is almost exactly like the weapon which
killed him." She drew the blade and went over to the window. "Can
After receiving a few murmurs of agreement, Mieu braced the hilt of
the knife against the windowsill and the point against her abdomen.
She then released the handle, grabbed the edge of the sill, and thrust
herself forward, plunging the knife into her own body.
There were more than a few gasps--from the Commander, the other
Layans, even the fanatics. Dayne's stomach churned, even though he'd
discussed this with Mieu the night before when she'd suggested the
demonstration. He knew that she felt no pain because she had not been
programmed for that sensation, it being useless to impair a combat
cyborg's functions with pain beyond the actual physical damage. She'd
also told him that her self-repair systems could easily cope with what
would be, to her, a minor injury. It still disturbed him, though, to
see a friend suffer an apparently serious wound.
A friend, he thought. I wonder when that happened.
Mieu knelt next to the window, and Dayne's heart lurched as he
thought for an instant that she'd collapsed from the injury, but she
quickly set that worry aside.
"It's the same!" she caroled happily. "It made the same kind of
chip in the paint as this one here."
Dayne went over to see. The android was absolutely right; next to
the chip he'd noticed earlier was a second, nearly identical one. He
grinned wolfishly as he saw the evidence.
"Wait a minute, Sergeant," Lyle said. "Are you telling us that
Godley committed suicide?"
"That's right," Mieu answered for him, getting back to her feet and
pulling out the knife.
"I'd ruled it out at first," Dayne said, "because we found one knife
that was obviously his. The fact is, though, he had two of them."
"Preposterous!" Ballard exclaimed. "This is just one of your tricks
to let a Layan get away with murdering an Orakian!"
Oh, like we couldn't see that coming.
"Godley was dying anyway," Dayne explained, "an unpleasant and
painful death from a disease he could stave off for a while but not
cure. So, he decided to end his own pain in a way that simultaneously
would strike a blow against Layan-Orakian peace. He didn't just forget
to leave a suicide note; he actually set everything up to make it look
as if he'd been murdered. The window was open to throw a knife
through--he probably didn't guess Nyla could tell it was a stab wound."
"Why go through all that rigamarole with the knife and the
windowsill?" the Commander asked. "Why not just stab himself?"
"He didn't want to accidentally leave his hand on the knife," Mieu
suggested. "Godley was intelligent enough to know that after the
stabbing, he might not be able to think clearly and let go."
"Godley's plan," Dayne continued, "was to stir up hatred and
discontent among the Layans and Orakians. A Layan would be the obvious
suspect, yet there would be no proof of guilt. As you, King Rhys and
Queen Maia, were saying before, the people of Agoe might suspect that
Prince Lyle was shielding a Layan murderer. The Layans would be
incensed at the unjust accusation. Perhaps, he even felt little enough
of you to believe that you actually would frame an Orakian, your
Highness, which would fan the flames tenfold. Ultimately, the fact of
his death would become a central point to raise tensions and destroy
the peace you've been working so hard for."
Lyle shook his head.
"What drives a man to do something like this?"
"The same thing that kept the war going for one thousand years,"
Mieu said. "Fear."
Dayne couldn't help but look at the three extremists. That was what
it was all about, wasn't it? Each one of them was convinced in the
depths of his or her soul that the other side was made up of hideous
fiends who were intent on destroying their homes, their families, their
entire way of life. That blind, irrational fear of the different was
reflected by equally irrational hatred, a hate not based on facts but
on their own twisted belief.
He wondered if, a thousand years ago, Orakio and Laya had seen this
in their people and been afraid of it. Or, if they'd been just as
caught up in the hate as any of them.
* * * * *
"So what do you think?" Lyle asked his friend later, once the
fanatics had been taken on their way and everyone else had gone from
the inn room.
"I believe him," Rhys answered.
"I do, too," Lyle agreed. "Rathman is a good criminal investigator
and Mieu, well, we both know how reliable she is. That's not what I
"What I'm wondering is, will anyone else believe it? I remember some
of the things a certain hotheaded Orakian prince had to say about
Layans during our quest--and some of the things I thought about
Rhys ran his hand through his bright blue hair.
"I did have a temper in the old days, didn't I?"
"The old days? That was barely a year ago."
Rhys grinned back at his friend.
"It was before I wed Maia. That makes it the distant past."
Lyle chuckled. He himself had recently become engaged to a Cillean
noblewoman, a political marriage, but not one without affection. He
wondered if it would mean as much to him someday as Rhys and Maia's
marriage had to them.
"As for your question," Rhys went on, "I think that yes, for the
most part, the truth will be believed. The king of Agoe is a
reasonable man. He knows that you are honorable. He also knows, I may
add, that Shusoran was all but tearing down his walls in the last war,
so he won't be inclined to start a new one. As for the common people,
I doubt they like crazies like Godley any more than your folk like the
Layan fanatics. Ballard probably won't ever believe it, and he and his
type will probably mutter about the 'murder conspiracy' for years to
come whenever they don't have anything better to complain about, but
then, you never expected to win them over anyway."
He clapped his Layan friend on the shoulder.
"Don't worry, Lyle. That's one of the things about truth. It may
take a long time, but it can't be hidden forever."