Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Labor Advocate

"This labor advocate, Proyten Quostir, has been murdered, and the Empire is being blamed for it," stated Ridvana, governor of Eodton. Ridvana was an insectoid  and a worker member of a hive culture.

"Did the Empire have anything to do with it?" I asked. "Because if it did, I am the wrong person for this job. I am an investigator. It is possible I might blunder on something by accident which could not easily be hushed  up."

"Mr. Talltree, who knows all the machinations of Central, but to the best of my knowledge, no. I think I managed to convince Central not to interfere, not to risk galvanizing the movement. The majority of the land and businesses on Eodton are owned by a small number of influential families. The rest of its people are expected to work long hours for small pay in questionable conditions. Quostir's movement, called Waraster Toufed, meaning Rights of the People, was striving to give workers more rights. I am not unsympathetic with their situation, but you know how Central is about preserving the status quo."

"Who are the suspects, other than the Empire?"

"There is an organization of landholders who are strongly opposed to Waraster Toufed and there is a white supremacist group called P.U.R.E, People United for Racial Elevation."

"What does the white supremacist group have to do with it?"

"Waraster Toufed is drawing off a lot of its young people who are looking for a better life. This encourages them to mix with half-breeds and aliens, which is against their principles."

The complex of Waraster Toufed looked like a military camp. There were a series of fences, and soldiers with blasters posted everywhere. I was led into a room with the four remaining officers of the organization standing around, looking uncomfortable.

I called over Richard Jones, who was in charge of administration. He was more clearly white-skinned and blonde-haired then any Terran I had ever met before. "Are you in charg,e now that Quostir is dead?" I asked.

"Temporarily, though I do not know that I have his gift for motivating people. But you can rest assured the movement will go on, and this setback will not stop us. I do not know why Quostir was shot out there in the forest or what he was doing there. But we will go on."

"Were you a member of P.U.R.E.?"

"I was raised in it. A dead end, if you ask me."

The next person I called over was Yestoyra Masurton, Quostir's administrative assistant.She was a Eodtonian; they are broadly humanoid, with a deep blue complexion and a high widow's peak.

"I understand you were the last person that saw Quostir alive." I stated.

"Yes," she replied. "He went off on his regular walk around the compound. He liked to go out into the forest and gaze at the stars. I saw him as he left the office."

"Did he seem worried or concerned?"

"No, nothing like that."

The next one I called in was a young Eodtonian, Zedoitrian Cadtierion. He was in charge of scheduling Quostir's rallies and appearances. "Quostir was a great man," he blurted out. "He would have transformed this planet, if only you fascist imperials had not interfered. Now you gestapo are trying to find someone else to blame the whole thing on."

"You were the one to find the body?" I asked.

"No, it was one of the soldiers.  He reported it to me. We were searching the whole complex, and one man finally stumbled upon him."

"Did you see anything to indicate who killed him?"

"No, and if I did I would have strangled him with my own hands."

Rebekah Bernhart was a much more normal looking Terran, browner skin and browner hair. She was in charge of finances and accounting.

"What is the monetary condition of your organization?"

"We are doing well, thank you,  not through any assistance of yours. If you are implying I or someone else has been pilfering the funds, I assure you it is not so. And while I am not in the habit of opening my books to the oppressors, I will if I have to. Quostir was a great man, involved in a great cause, and you will not stop it."

"You will have to forgive me, but your tone of voice does not sound totally enthusiastic."

"I meant what I said. It is just that Quostir had a problem. He could not keep his hands off the females, and he had trouble taking no for an answer."

"And he used force?"

"I have not heard of him using physical force, but he had ways of persuasion. 'Do you want to get ahead in this organization?' 'Do you really support the cause?' 'Do you want to go back to being slave labor the rest of your life?'"

"What about your case?"

"I am new here, and I have principles, so I refused him. But I have no idea how it would have turned out in the end."

I asked Masurton, "Is it true Quostir engaged in bad behavior toward women?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"What about yourself."

"You have to learn to take this sort of thing in stride"

Outside the compound of P.U.R.E., I was met by their leader, Robert Smith, his son Henry and son-in-law Allen Brown. They could all give Richard Jones some competition when it came to whiteness. "What do you know about the murder of  Proyten Quostir?" I asked.

Robert Smith grimaced at me. "What is your name?" he demanded.

"Senior Investigator John Talltree."

"Your name sounds American. Your dark skin marks you as a halfbreed."

"I have never been able to satisfactorily trace my name back, but it could be American, and I am alright with that. I do know I have ancestors who were  African, Asian, and American, as well as European, which explains my complexion. But I am not here to discuss philosophy, but investigate a murder. Now please answer my question."

"I do not answer to half-breeds."

"I am an official representative of the Terran empire, and you will answer to me or I will summon someone who you will have to answer to."

"We do not concern ourselves in the affairs of aliens and half-breeds," replied Henry Smith. "We know of this Quostir, who has tried to seduce our people away with false words and empty promises. But we know nothing of his death."

"And if we had done something, it would not have been in stealth, and it would not have been just him," remarked Allen Brown.

It took longer to get together the representatives of the landowners. They were Warthen Yustros, Petustren Kamwera, and, surprisingly, a Terran named Thomas Milton. "Sure we hated Quostir and his crew," stated Yustros. "They were upsetting our workers and questioning our rights. Everything was perfectly peaceful and the workers were happy till he came along. But we did not kill him, and you cannot prove we did."

"If you people in the bureaucracy had kept order like you were supposed to, you would have stomped them out and we would not have had this problem," remarked Preston. "Batch of bleeding hearts."

"Workers need to know their place," added Kamwera. "Then everybody is happy."

As I left their place, I got a call from Ridvana on my wrist phone."I have news," she said. " The Toufedians claim that they can prove Zedoitrian Cadtierion was a landholders agent and killed Quostir."

"On my way," I replied.

Ridvana and her troops were waiting for me outside the Toufedian compound. "We found an unauthorized packet on Cadtierion's computer," stated Jones. "We could not open it. But based on that we searched his room and found these." On the table were number of documents and a blaster.

I turned to Ridvana and asked, "Has it been tested?"

"Yes," she replied, "it is the one."

"Then Cadtierion is probably not the murderer," I stated baldly. "Ridvana's people did a very through search of the compound and tested every blaster they could find. If the blaster was in Cadteirion's room they would have found it. It is extremely unlikely that he would have put the blaster into his room after the search. But someone trying to frame him would have."

"However, I have some questions," I continued, "Masurton, did Quostir's regular evening walks take him near the edges of the compound?"

"No," she replied.

"Jones, do you think Cadtierion is really a traitor?" I asked.

"I do not see how these documents could have been forged," he replied. "Though I admit I was surprised to find them in the obvious hiding place they were in."

"Well?" I said turning to Cadteirion.

"Okay, I admit it, since I am caught anyway," replied  Cadteirion. "I am a spy for the landholders. But I did not kill him. Watch and pass on information, that was all I was required to do. And I have no idea how those things got into my room, and I certainly would not have printed those documents out."

"Where is Masurton?" asked Bernhart.

I had asked Ridvana's troop to watch the doors, but they had seen nothing. We finally found her in her room, dead beside an open pill bottle. I had pushed her too hard.

"So you knew it was Masurton?" asked Ridvana.

"I figured it had to someone inside the compound," I replied. "Even if you could manage to sneak by all those soldiers, it would be stupid to try when there would have been opportunities elsewhere . But Masurton was just too blase. Also, she seemed to be the only one who knew about Quostir's evening walks, which seemed unlikely. Jones was wondering what Quostir was doing out there and Cadtierion did not know where to search. I was hoping that bringing up the walks in front of everyone would produce a reaction from someone, but I got more than I bargained for. The truth is that there were no walks. Masurton managed to get him to meet her there for some kind of a secret conference. She needed to get him somewhere where she could blast him without anyone else seeing or hearing."

"But why?"

"Did some research. I do not know how she really felt about herself, but Quostir also pressured her sister. The sister could not live with it and committed suicide."

"How long ago was that?"

"Six years."

"Six years, a long time to wait for revenge."

"If she had done it right then, she would have been the obvious suspect. But as it is, I had to do some real digging to find the facts. Also, she was waiting for Cadierion, who was the perfect patsy. But she was reluctant to use him, which proved her undoing. I think it was my asking her about Quostir's pursuit of females that caused her to frame him. Jones told me she was the one who found the packet in the computer."

I walked by the burial niche that held the remains of Proyten Quostir. And mourned a reformer with feet of clay. Maybe he did some good anyway. But if only.   



No comments:

Post a Comment