"Damn, damn, damn"
I shook my head and stared at the lifeless body in the darkened alleyway. I knew that I'd have to bring the Jedi in on this one. "Damn", I muttered again, "and damn the Jedi too."
Don't get me wrong. I'm sure the Jedi would help in their own way. But most times that I've had to deal with them, they were arrogant and inscrutable, so cocksure of themselves as they sliced and diced their way through life, leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces and fill out the paperwork. Damn Jedi. But it could not be helped. The Jedi were needed for this case.
"Lieutenant T'lek?" Sergeant Panqu looked my way and gestured towards the corpse. "What do you want to do next?"
"Sergeant, notify the Jedi Temple that we will need their help. Then get forensics and the crime scene guys over here for analysis and any clues the murderer might have left behind."
"Yes, Ma'am. Are you going to wait here for them?" he queried, nodding towards the body and the dark alleyway.
"Yeah? By the way, it looks like rain. Get a cover, would you?" He nodded, went to the police swoop and came back with a clear plastic drape. He got the corpse covered just in time as the soft, contaminated rain began to fall from the Coruscant sky.
It got quiet when Panqu left and I was alone with the body. Even though it was late at night, I wasn't in any danger. Here, by the western side of the Jedi Temple district sector 42, there were few murders, in fact few violent crimes of any sort, mainly petty thefts, pickpocketing, that sort of thing. Helpful that, I guess, mainly due to Jedi influences but it made this crime all the more puzzling.
The crime scene itself was an odd choice. It was in a middle class neighborhood, about 20-30 stories below the top levels with few places to hide and even fewer places to hide a corpse. He was concealed in one of the few alleyways right near the main shopping concourse. It was very puzzling. Someone should have seen something but I guess the forensics people would come up with some answers. I just hoped the rain would stop before all the clues washed away.
It wasn't long before the forensics team showed up, put up some lights so that they could see what they were doing, and began combing the area. Luckily, the rain had stopped and gave everything a nice gleam to the gruesome scene. They discovered very little, just the normal items found in a relatively clean alleyway, dirt, some green leaves, candy wrappers, torn paper, but did manage to find a number of plastic bags with blood in them. I watched as they marked the bags, tagged the corpse, and took blood samples for DNA identification.
Just about that time, the Jedi appeared. Dressed in the typical outfit of beige tunic and brown robe, he was human, quite tall with a scruffy beard, rather short dark brown hair, and a broken nose, long healed - not handsome, but striking in a masculine sort of way with strong planes in his face. He was young, too, at least 10 years younger than I, maybe 25, 26 years old and probably just out of Padawan school. As he approached me, that irritating inscrutable look came over his face but there were laugh lines around his eyes which belied his pose. I was determined to be polite to him, otherwise I would never hear the end of it from my boss, but Jedi were such pains in the butt that it was hard to keep my temper.
"Lieutenant?" His voice was soft and low with a warm accent. "I am Qui-Gon Jinn. I have been asked by the Jedi Council to help you in this matter." He bowed a bit and then looked at me with vivid blue eyes. Okay....
"Knight Jinn, I am Lieutenant Ari T'lek, investigator to this case. I welcome your help. Have you ever been on a murder investigation before?"
He looked at me with surprise. "I was not told what the case entailed, only that I was to help you in any way that I could."
"Ah?" I thought wryly and with some misgivings, oh good, a newbie, wonderful... I gestured towards the plastic mound to my left. "Well, this corpse was discovered about 2 hours ago. There was a call to our precinct at 2200 hours that specified a body would be found in this alleyway and could we please take care of it. When we arrived, this is what we found."
I pulled off the covering and waited for his reaction. He was absolutely stunned for a second and then that inscrutable Jedi look shuttered over his face. His hands betrayed his anxiety, though, until he tucked them into his dark robe and I could no longer tell what he was thinking.
He should be shocked. The body was that of a young male, human or humanoid, maybe Jinn's age or a little younger, dark skinned, short brown hair, dressed in nondescript light brown tunic and pants. No shoes or socks. He appeared to have been killed with a lightsaber in a particularly grisly way. The partial cauterization marks showed that he was actually in pieces and had been reassembled to look like he was just sleeping. The cuts went across his throat, his arms near the shoulder joints, his legs near the hips, his wrists and his ankles. There was a large hole where his heart had been pierced. Surprisingly, there was very little blood. Even a lightsaber lets some blood flow out before the cauterization is complete. And, ever more surprisingly, the look on the corpse's face was peaceful as though he was really just asleep.
"I'm sure that you recognize the marks there." I asked snidely. "Any comments or suggestions?"
He looked at me with expressive, mournful eyes, and shook his head. I was suddenly sorry that I had been nasty to him. I went on. "Ah, well, as you can see, it looks like a lightsaber was used as the murder weapon. We haven't found it yet. Do the Jedi keep track of their weaponry? Were any stolen recently?"
"I will ask at the Jedi archives but each Jedi makes his own lightsaber..." He looked at me and then back to the corpse. He frowned and looked as though something was gnawing at him. He nodded towards the body. "He looks familiar somehow..."
I pounced on that at once. "Where have you seen him before? At the Temple, on one of your missions?" I was eager for details but was to be disappointed.
"I don't know yet. It will come to me. I'm sorry." And he did look sorry so I let it slide. For now... He'd probably have to go into one of those Jedi trances we hear so much about in the holovids. Yeah, right...okay...
I moved to the body, squatted down, put on plastic gloves, and turned over one of the severed legs. Jinn followed my lead and crouched next to me. I pointed to the cut marks near the ankle and groin areas.
"See, there's not much blood here, practically none in fact. And what blood is present seems to be smeared around the pants area, both front and back. We found several plastic bags with blood in them. Also, a glowing lightsaber would be pretty obvious in the dark alley. If you noticed, there are no burn marks on the walls and ground. It's very likely that he wasn't murdered here but elsewhere and then carted in pieces to this location."
He nodded in understanding and then asked, puzzled. "But why cut him up that way? It doesn't make sense."
I shrugged. "At this point, only the killer knows for sure."
I got up, pulled off the gloves and threw them in the trash container. Jinn also rose. I asked him the obvious question, "We have to wait for the DNA results to determine who he is. Do you have any insights at this point?"
He looked at the body again, frowning. "It is obvious that he was not killed in a battle. The cuts are all in the wrong places, except maybe the heart. It looks more like a ritualistic death, cutting off the head, the hands and feet. But no Jedi in his right mind would do such a thing."
My thoughts exactly...I had to ask "You think it might be a rogue Jedi?"
His eyes were haunted again. "I hope not...."
I was about to say something else when my comlink chimed. It was Sergeant Panqu with the DNA results. He had downloaded it onto my datapad. I thanked him and clicked off.
Motioning the Jedi to an area away from the busy forensics team and yet in the light, I showed Jinn the results. The corpse was indeed human and had just turned 25 years old. Named Jace Restn, he lived a few blocks from the crime scene. Restn had worked as a microbiologist for a contract lab about a kilometer from here. They wouldn't be open now - it was past midnight - but I still could go to the victim's home to gather more clues. I informed the forensics team to meet us there when they were done. The Jedi and I started for Restn's apartment.
We walked in silence most of the way. Jinn's stride was quite long so I had a hard time keeping up at first, but then he slowed down to match my pace. I was usually a good reader of body language but his was giving nothing away. From past experience, I would expect no different - the Jedi were all alike. But I must have looked quite sour...
He startled me as he abruptly stopped and asked, "Have I offended you in some way? I apologize if I have."
I kept walking and shook my head. "No, no. I've just got a lot on my mind" I was lying outright but my job performance reviews were already peppered with Jedi comments and it wouldn't do me any good to have more. Last time, my boss threatened me with removal to another precinct half way around Coruscant if I didn't behave and treat the Jedi with some respect. I couldn't afford to move so...here I was....dealing with yet another one.
I turned to him, still walking, mouth stiffening and said tartly, "Well, are you coming or not?" He gave me a little bow and caught up to me. We said nothing else for a good while. I was stewing quite a bit and then realized that he hadn't actually done anything wrong. I should cut him some slack. Mentally sighing, I took out the datapad and started to tell him about the victim.
"Jace Restn had quite a history with the police when he was younger. Lots of pickpocketing and other minor crimes at 13 to 15 years old. Says here that he was in and out of foster homes in the same timeperiod. Ah...at 15 he finally found a stable home environment and pretty much dropped out of our sight. No more crimes. At 18, he went to the Academy to study biology. Graduated with honors and found his current job right after school. Has kept himself out of trouble ever since. Typical teenage problems, looks like. He was always lived in this area, though. Didn't move around much. Paid his taxes on time, lived in his current apartment ever since his foster parents died in an accident two years ago. Hummmm, not much to go on. I think we will probably find out more by interviewing his coworkers."
"Probably?" Jinn asked.
"Yeah, we should be able to get some idea of his movements, maybe insight as to why someone would cut up his body like that. Also, he may have a girlfriend or other people close to him that might give us some ideas. Coworkers usually know something about his frame of mind or trouble he may have been in. I would like you to be there for the interviews. I'm pretty good at reading people but with your Jedi powers, it would make it a bit easier."
He frowned at that. "We cannot read people's thoughts, you know. Only their emotional state and some people have very good natural shielding. It may be more difficult than you think." He smiled slightly, "You shouldn't believe everything you see on the holovids."
I growled. "I've dealt with Jedi before. I have some idea of your peculiar talents."
His voice was soft and soothing "I'm sorry if I have upset you."
I was ready to explode but he hadn't done anything wrong, been polite and concerned. Damn the Jedi and especially this one. He was being too nice and I couldn't stand it. I stopped short, took a deep breath and blew out some of my anger. It wouldn't do me much good, in any case. I looked down at my feet and then into his puzzled eyes.
"Knight Jinn, I must apologize for my behavior. It has nothing to do with you. Some of my past dealings with the Jedi have been frustrating and I am taking it out on you. I'm sorry."
He nodded, "Can I help?"
I shook my head "No, no, it's my problem. I will need to deal with it on my own.."
That soothing voice again, "Sometimes it is best to tell a stranger your problem, I might be able to give you some insight if..."
I interrupted him sharply. "Not from a Jedi." His eyes widened and I continued, "Let's just get back to the issue at hand..."
He started to say something else and then thought better of it. He nodded and we started off again towards Restn's apartment.
When we reached the apartment complex, I showed my identification to the guard droid. It let us in the front door, unlocked Restn's door from its central terminal and then motioned us to go on up. The victim's apartment was on the eleventh floor, number 38. When we arrived, I put on gloves and opened the door. The Jedi was just about to follow me in when I backed out and caught his robe. Shaking my head, I palmed my comlink and called on the head of the forensics team.
"Lieutenant Corret Nzek here. What's up, Ari?"
"Corret, better get a forensics team over here on the double. We found the murder site."
"We're already on our way. You know the drill, of course. We should be there in a couple of minutes." He clicked off and I turned to the Jedi. He was still looking through the half-opened door into Restn's apartment, frowning and thoughtful.
The place was an absolute mess. Furniture was strewn everywhere, with slashes and lightsaber cuts on the furniture, walls and floor. Restn must have loved plants because they had filled the place. But now pots and other containers were pushed over, leaves and flowers shredded and strewn everywhere as though a cyclone had hit. Oddly, the middle of the floor was free of debris but the patches of blood were obvious as were the lightsaber marks. It was clear that Restn had been cut up at this location.
"There is such despair here." The Jedi spoke softly with sorrow in his eyes.
"Not anger?" I was puzzled at his comment. Usually, a murder site feels like it is filled with anger, hate and rage. He shook his head. "Despair and grief." I was about to say something else when Corret and his forensics team showed up.
I could see Corret Nzek take one look at the place and shrug. We both knew he'd be here the rest of the night. The team donned their gloves and set to work. I handed a pair to Jinn and we entered as well, being careful to disturb as little of the site as possible.
The room was even more disquieting close up. The room had a large window that looked south as well as several lighting setups for growing seedlings, small flowers or unusual species. More than half the room contained some foliage and now, everything was cut to pieces, pots smashed, lights destroyed, soil dumped onto the carpet. It was almost as if the murderer had used the lightsaber to destroy everything that Restn cherished. The furniture, too was cut up, but whoever had done this had aimed most of the destruction towards Restn's greenery.
In the center of the living area, the lightsaber burn marks were clear. It was easy to see where the body of Restn had lain as he was being cut up. However, the patches of dried blood weren't large and that was surprising. Usually, there should be lots of blood, even with the lightsaber, but there was not. That led me to an interesting conclusion - either the murderer cleaned up the area somewhat before loading the body parts into the bags or Restn had been dead at least several hours before the body was cut up. Hummmm....Well, we would know soon enough. By morning, the lab should be able to give me the time of death and how Jace Restn died. There was definitely more going on here than I had expected at first glance.
Jinn looked around for a while and then came over to me. Quietly, he said "I have looked at the lightsaber marks in this room. They appear to be made by two different people."
"What???" I was surprised, to say the least. "How can you tell?"
He smiled faintly, "I have used a lightsaber for many years. I have sparred countless times with other Jedi as part of my training. See here," as he pointed to the floor where the body had lain, "The lines are jerky, jagged. Someone with lightsaber training would never use it in such a way. These marks were made by someone with no training, perhaps even afraid to use it, certainly someone who has never held a lightsaber before." He then pointed to the walls and furniture, "Here and here, the lines are sharp, clear and straight but overly long. This indicates a person with some training but not on the Knight or Master level, maybe an Apprentice or younger."
"What does that mean?" I asked with some hesitation since I certainly didn't want to deal with two rogue Jedi.
His next words put me at ease. "One person, at least, is not a Jedi, maybe a friend of the other. The other one could have been trained outside the Order, although I don't see how, or he was trained and left before becoming a Knight. It does happen, although it is rare. I will check this possibility when I return to the Temple."
I nodded. Well, I thought sarcastically, I guess Jedi are good for something. Hummmm...
I gestured for him to follow me into the bedroom. It was relatively untouched compared to the sitting room, clothes neatly piled in the drawers and hung in the closet in an orderly fashion. Jace Restn had favored browns, tans and deep greens, there were few colorful things in his wardrobe but some men were like that. It was certainly neater than my closet, I noted wryly. However, there were pieces of paper torn and scattered throughout the room. It looked like parts of books, real books. I was surprised because no one read real books anymore, not when it was more convenient to use datapads. I looked for title covers or larger paper scraps for clues as to what Restn had been reading on the day of his death. They were mostly from botany textbooks as far as I could tell. I placed the torn pages back where I had found them. The forensics team would be repiecing them for clues anyway.
Going into the bathroom, I noticed that the floor was damp and the towels were on the floor rather than the rack. Maybe, he had been in a hurry to...to what...answer the door to meet his death? I could glean nothing from this and I was getting tired. I turned to the Jedi.
"Knight Jinn, it is getting late and the forensics team needs to finish up here. I suggest that we meet at Restn's workplace at ten tomorrow morning. By that time, we should have a lot more information."
"That's fine, Lieutenant. I will have the information you need by then as well." With that, he bowed, turned and walked out of the apartment.
I breathed a long sigh of relief. Jedi always made me nervous and he was worse than most. With the other Jedi I had come in contact with, they had been so full of themselves that it was easy to dislike them. Qui-Gon Jinn was another story. He made me uncomfortable just by being so considerate and kind. I didn't know how to respond to him and I didn't like that feeling. Well, this case would be over eventually and then he would be out of my hair and annoying someone else. Good riddance...
I went out to see how Corret was doing. He seemed to have everything going along just fine and promised me a report by tomorrow morning. I nodded my thanks and left. Tomorrow was another day.
I met Jinn outside the Procyon Contract Laboratory at 10 the next morning. He looked well rested but I was tired. After a long night, I'd had a busy morning already, looking through the forensics reports. I wasted no time in bringing the Jedi up to date.
"Good morning, Knight Jinn. I have the lab reports on Jace Restn." He gestured for me to continue. "Restn died two days ago of poison. It looks as though he was in the shower when he died. There was fecal material in the shower stall and other indications that he had been in the shower for quite some time before being removed to the sitting room."
He nodded and I explained further. "After death, the body sometimes will relax all of the muscles so that feces and urine will leak out. Sometimes this happens quickly, sometimes several hours later or not at all. In addition, the warm water from the shower would keep the body supple for a long time." I looked at him and realized he knew this already. Frowning, I said tartly, "You knew, didn't you? Why didn't you say something?"
"I didn't know about the poison. But it was clear to me last night that he had been in the shower when he died." He looked unsettled "I have had several years of field experience in dealing with death."
I thought darkly I'll just bet you have and gestured him to continue.
"I knew that it is important to keep a line of evidence for any trials that may come up when we catch the murderer. So I let your people work without interference."
My voice hardening "Okay, what else do you know?"
"He was definitely dead for several hours before the lightsaber cuts took place. There was not much blood on the floor and that indicates death up to 24 hours beforehand."
The Jedi asked "What kind of poison was it?"
I smiled to myself, glad to be one up on him. "It was a biological toxin, quite rare and almost undetectable. It is relatively slow, takes several hours to take effect, and causes very little pain. Most of the time, the victim just goes to sleep and then dies. There is no antidote, either."
"What else have you found out?"
"First, the foliage found in the alleyway was from his apartment. The bags at that site only had his palm prints on them, no one else's. Likely the murderer wore gloves." He looked interested so I continued, "The plants at Restn's apartment were rare plants for the most part. And this was funny, one of the plants could be distilled into making the poison used. Of course, you can also buy it on the black market so it may just be a coincidence. The papers found in his bedroom were mostly botany textbooks, some on rare flowers and herbs, poisonous plants, flowering trees, a couple on growing plants under different lighting systems. There were also several history texts on the rise of the Republic, Jedi folklore, Coruscant history, Bothan military tactics and a couple of romance novels. He certainly was an eclectic reader and, odd too, since who read real books anymore."
"Anyone else's palmprints or DNA traces?"
Score one for the Jedi. "Yes, there were several other DNA traces in his apartment. But that may mean nothing since he could have had friends over any time." He nodded slightly.
I then asked "What did you find out at the Temple?"
He smiled "Many things. I looked over the records for the past 20 years and found that there are three lightsabers still missing." I was startled at that. I had thought there should be more. When I said as much, he smiled again "We keep a close tab on our weaponry. A lightsaber is very dangerous to those untrained. One blue blade was lost 19 years ago on the Hoth expedition, one green blade four years ago in the Sullust riots and ..." his voice trailed off, "Are you alright?"
The Sullust riots...Gods above...how could he say it without...without...
The pain and grief of those horrific days should have been long behind me. I thought that I had coped and gotten on with my life, kept busy with my career, learned to ignore the sorrow and emptiness. But, with the Jedi's words, all my carefully built barricades came crashing down as the rage and loss screamed at me. How dare he, how dare a... Jedi...speak of the Sullust riots as though they were...were a passing inconvenience.
No, I was not alright, I was absolutely furious.
He must have sensed this because he started towards me, hand outreaching. I backed away from Jinn, my voice shaky but cutting sharp as I said "I'm fine." He kept coming and I swallowed hard, eyes narrowed, hands up in protest as I shouted at him with venom. "Don't touch me, Jedi. Leave me alone."
With that, he stopped short. He must have understood how close I was to losing what little control I had left because he stood there, calm and silent and waited for the storm to pass. I turned away from him and took several deep, gulping breaths. No doubt he was reading my emotions, but, damn him, I wasn't going to give in or tell him anything. Damn, damn, damn. I kept thinking, Control yourself, Ari, control. He doesn't know. He's too young. He wasn't there. Damn. Damn all the Jedi.
Finally, finally, I was able to regain some modicum of control, and turned back to him without much hatred in my eyes.
In a shaky, determined voice, I asked, "And the third lightsaber?" trying desperately to turn the discussion back to the case at hand. He was much wiser than I thought. He looked at me with that inscrutable stare for a second, ignored my outburst, and continued with his report.
"A violet-colored lightsaber was stolen about a year ago on Coruscant."
I nodded once sharply, "What else did you learn at the Temple?"
"There have been 14 people who have left the Order in the last 20 years. Five are still missing, all of them were either apprentices at the time or had not reached that stage. Their current ages range from 16 to 33, two were Coruscant humans one male, one female, one female Bothan, one male Mon Calimari and one male Corellian human. Do you want further clarification? It may take me some time."
My voice was harsh and cutting. "Not now. It may be important but I think we will get more information from his friends and coworkers at this point." I motioned for him to follow me into the building.
The contract lab was on the fourth floor. It was a relatively small operation, maybe 10 or 12 people working on various projects. I identified myself and introduced Jinn to the supervisor, Dnat Fle'yaa, a Bothan of notable white fur that constantly swirled with anxiety. We sat in his office and asked about Restn.
"Jace was a good worker, always on time, and never took a sick day. He was the quiet type, didn't make many friends, but a good worker. He's supposed to be on vacation now. I guess he won't be coming back since he's....ah...dead." The Bothan kept mumbling to himself, looking at neither of us. I could tell that he was quite upset but wary of the Jedi. But then a lot of people have that reaction.
I asked to see Restn's desk and work area and to meet his fellow workers. Fle'yaa was most accommodating. I think he was glad to get us out of his office.
As he showed us through the busy lab, the Bothan muttered "Jace was going on vacation so he made sure everything was completed before he went. Most people just leave their space a mess but not Jace...." He trailed off.
We went first to Restn's desk. Fle'yaa was right. It was obsessively neat, everything in order and not a speck of dust anywhere. There was nothing personal on his desk either, nothing to indicate a presence or some personality inhabiting the area. His files were just as obsessive, only work, no personal files at all. My desk, on the other hand, was littered with vidpics of my husband and places I had been as well as awards, files piled everywhere. Here there was nothing.
His work area was just as clean as the desk, not a flask or beaker in sight. Other than the forensics lab that I occasionally visited, my experience with science laboratories had been limited to holovids, lots of bubbling colorful liquids, electric sparks rising up and men in white coats making evil concoctions. This was nothing like that. There wasn't much to see.
I indicated that Fle'yaa should get his people together so that we could tell them about Restn and then interview them.
Fle'yaa raised his voice and called out " Would everyone come here, please?" A few people came immediately, others trailed in after completing some task and finally everyone was gathered around. Several looked at Jinn and me with puzzlement and then paid attention to Fle'yaa.
"I'm sorry to say but Jace Restn is dead."
The crowd made various noises of distress or grief. A blueTwi'lek female began to cry and a woman moved to comfort her. One man in the back looked unhappy but not quite surprised, almost as if he had known. I decided to talk to him first.
I stepped forward. "I am Lieutenant Ari T'lek, investigator to this case. Jace Restn was murdered sometime within the last 36 hours. I will be interviewing you all. Please give me your cooperation so that we might find the killer quickly. Any information, however trivial, may help in this matter." Several people were whispering or looking quite ill at this point.
I indicated Jinn. "This is Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn." He stepped forward and bowed slightly. "He will be helping in this matter. Please give him as much cooperation as you would me." The whispers were growing louder. "Please do not discuss this among yourselves until after our interviews." The whispers stopped abruptly. "I will call you each in turn. You may continue your work until I am ready for you."
I pointed to the unsurprised human. "I will begin with that gentleman in the back."
As soon as we were settled in the small conference room, Zan Togros strode in. He was a rather devil-may-care type, obviously a Corellian and quite eager to talk about Restn.
"I've known Jace since he started here a couple of years ago. And no, I'm not surprised that Jace is dead. There was something going on with him for a few months now. He was very nervous, grumpy, even, and very unlike his usual serene self. Normally, you couldn't rattle Jace. He'd just smile and shake his head and go on about his business. He was a good guy. But he was up to something, something that made him very unhappy."
"Do you know what that was?" I asked.
"No, but maybe Anget knows."
"Anget?" said Jinn.
"His girlfriend, Anget Maru. She also works here as a chemist. She and Jace were supposed to go on vacation together but at the last minute Jace canceled out on her. Apparently, she was quite upset but she wouldn't say anything about it, certainly not to me. I guess she still took the time off because she hasn't been here for a few days."
The Jedi and I looked at each other. Certainly, we would have to talk to Anget.
I pressed "What else can you tell us about Jace? Anything out of the ordinary? Even ordinary things might help with this."
Togros was very helpful, "Jace was a good guy, like I said. He did his work well, better than well, he was always getting awards and stuff for doing things right the first time. And believe me, that's pretty hard to do around here. But he took everything in stride. He kept to himself a lot, quiet guy. We were all kind of surprised when he began seeing Anget but it seemed to be good for him. He became more outgoing and started laughing more. Like I said, you couldn't really rattle Jace. And you say he was murdered. Who'd have thought that? I guess he didn't beat the odds this time."
"Yeah, Jace was quite good at cards. He beat me at sabaac more times than I can count. In fact, I stopped playing with him because I figured he was cheating somehow although I never could figure out how he did it. I was always broke after playing with Jace."
Jinn looked at Togros. "Did Jace have any enemies?"
Togros thought carefully and then shook his head, "No, he wasn't the kind to make enemies, at least not the kind that would kill you. He was pretty well-liked by everyone here."
"Anything else?" I inquired.
Togros looked unhappy and glanced at Jinn, standing there, arms crossed, daunting in his stoic Jedi pose. "Yeah, there's one thing that I found a bit odd. He really hated...Jedi." I thought Join the club. "One time we were joking around about seeing all these Jedi about, we are pretty close to the Temple and all. Jace was furious. He told us to stop talking about those stupid Jedi. That they were blind, deaf and dumb about real things, always following that Force stuff or using it as an excuse to do whatever they wanted to do without any regard to how others thought or felt. Seemed like he had a deep grudge and it really ate him up. I don't know why, he never said and he wouldn't talk about it after that."
Jinn hadn't moved in all that time, just remained impassive but I could tell he was unsettled. I thought Good, serves him right to find out how ordinary people feel about him.
"Do you know where we can find Anget?" I asked.
"Sure, she lives in the same building as Jace. Third floor, number 27."
"Zan Togros, what were you doing the night before last?" I queried.
He chuckled "Seeing what my alibi is, are you? Fair enough. I was playing sabaac with several friends at my place. Do you need their names?"
"No, that won't be necessary right now." There was little more we could glean from Togros so we told him thank you and sent him on his way.
"Well, Jinn, was he lying?" I hadn't been sure, Togros could just be very adept at lying or he could have been telling the truth. The Jedi spoke up.
"His story was truth, half-truth and untruth. There was anger as well."
Annoyed at his evasive answer, I said tartly "Could you translate that into Basic please?"
He looked startled for a second, then sighed and began again. "He was lying when he said that Jace Restn had no enemies, he seemed to feel that he was Restn's enemy. Togros was also angry at Anget Maru although it is not clear why. He was telling the truth or half-truths about most of the rest of it, I believe. You do realize that I cannot always tell. Togros's shields were quite high."
Yeah? I thought and then told Jinn, "Sure, you said that before. Are most people's shields high or are you just bad at getting through?" I was sorry I said that the moment it came out of my mouth. I was going to get into trouble...again...being this nasty to the Jedi. Damn...
Jinn's face took on that inscrutable Jedi expression and he said flatly. "I am quite good at it."
He was revealing nothing of what he felt, typical Jedi attitude, but then his next words took me by surprise. "Ari, if we are going to work together to solve this, we need to put any animosity behind us. It is clear that you find my presence hurtful. Please tell me how I have offended you."
I could feel my face freezing into a rigid mask. "First of all, it's Lieutenant to you. Second, you have not offended me. Third, my feelings are my own and none of your business. However, since you are having trouble adjusting to life among the ordinary people, I will try and keep my comments to a minimum." I couldn't believe I said that. What had gotten into me? That was really spiteful, even I knew that and Jinn hadn't done anything to deserve it. He was actually a nice guy...for a Jedi.
Jinn's face hardened. He made no comment but simply stood tall and alone, hands hidden in his dark robe.
I went to the door and asked to see the weeping Twi'lek next.
Zara Fen was still dabbing her eyes as she entered the conference room. As she sat down, she kept peering at the Jedi, a small secret smile on her face. It was disconcerting, watching this female try to catch Jinn's attention all the while sniffling with upset.
"Miss Fen, did you know Jace Resyn well?"
Her lekku moved in distress as she nodded. "I met him when he first joined the lab. He seemed like a nice guy, quiet and thoughtful. We went out a few times but nothing ever came of it." She quickly added, "There were no hard feelings about it, we just didn't click." Her eyes began to tear up again. "I...I hope he didn't suffer." She looked properly horrified so I reassured her that it was a peaceful death.
She glanced at Jinn again with a smile dimpling her cheeks, her eyelids fluttering. She looked quite flirtatious as her blue eyes tried to catch his. I found it repulsive but continued.
"Can you tell us anything about Restn's state of mind? What was going on in his life the last few months?"
"Well....he started dating Anget. That caused a big stink between him and Zan... Zan Togros. Zan wasn't happy that Jace had stolen his girlfriend and he made several threats to Jace. In front of witnesses, no less. That was a couple of months ago and then everything seemed to blow over. However, I wasn't sure that Zan was completely over it."
I nodded for her to proceed. She gave a coy sideways glance and a provocative head tilt towards Jinn and then looked at me. "Jace was also in debt. He had lost a lot of money to Zan in those rigged sabaac games of his and was trying to pay it back by doing a lot of overtime. I came in one night and he was here all alone with the distillation equipment going. When I asked him what was up, he made some excuse but I could see he was upset that I knew. I didn't say anything to the boss though. No need for Fle'yaa to know, he's such a twit anyway."
I asked "What do you use distillation equipment for?"
She went into teaching mode. "Oh, if you have a mixture of chemicals or biological material that needs to be separated so that you can identify them, you can use distillation, especially if you need a lot of it. You mix the materials and then heat them. The sample you want usually boils and drips out the end. I rarely use it since it's almost overkill with all of our nanotechnology." She smiled seductively at Jinn again, her lekku moving slowly around her neck.. It looked quite sensual and totally disgusting to me. I thought She's trying to seduce the Jedi while under investigation. What gall. It was almost funny but I was not in the mood.
However, Jinn seemed to be in the mood, for he smiled, leaned in towards her and asked softly "Can you use distillation on plant material?"
The Twi'lek's face lit up, "Why, yes. If you need chemicals from the plant, you can do it that way. How clever of you, Qui-Gon." Her right hand was going up and down her left arm very slowly as she batted her eyelids. I thought I was going to throw up, it was so blatant. And the worst part was that Jinn seemed to respond to it. His eyes were watching her constantly, a subtle smile on his face.
I asked "What else do you use distillation for?"
Zara looked at me and then gazed at the Jedi enraptured, "You can make compounds in large quantities. Of course, we wouldn't do it here but some places make illegal drugs, or rare compounds or even pheromone perfumes to sell on the black market. I would never do such a thing but it is known."
Jinn asked smiling, "That is quite interesting information, Zara. You are very perceptive." She giggled and her eyes grew wide.
I was getting very annoyed at Jinn. "Miss Fen, did Jace have any other enemies?"
She looked at me briefly, then smiled more seductively at Jinn and shook her head, "Not that I know of. Jace was a pretty quiet guy, kind of deep, nice guy. It's really a pity that he's..dead. Does Anget know yet?"
Jinn looked sadly at her. "No, she will need friends in this time of need."
"How true, Qui-Gon, how true."
"I had heard that Jace didn't like Jedi. Is that true, Zara?" he murmured to her.
"Yes, Qui-Gon, although how anyone could dislike Jedi is beyond me. They are the guardians of peace and justice after all. You... they should be rewarded for their good work." She smiled prettily and then gazed at him, predatory, hungry, lustful.
"Miss Fen, where were you the night before last?"
She looked at me and then back at Jinn, a dimple in her cheek, her eyes bright with desire. "I was at a ...friend's house. He was teaching me some new techniques in....foreplay."
I'd had quite enough of that. "Thank you for your insight, Miss Fen. If we need any other information, we will be in contact with you."
As she rose languidly, back arching, her hand played on Jinn's arm. "Anytime, Qui-Gon. I'll be here."
After a final backward seductive glance at Jinn, Zara Fen left the room. I looked at the Jedi in amazement.
"Could you tell me what you were doing?"
He smiled slightly "Trying to get some information out of our Twi'lek friend."
"With the next female, could you keep the seductions down to a roar?" I rolled my eyes in disgust.
He chuckled at that. "People have many responses to Jedi, anger, awe, lust and anxiety among them. I have found that the emotions can give insight into the person. This can be useful if needed."
"Miss Fen was fairly truthful in her answers, at least as she sees truth. However, the truth may be different from person to person, as you know."
"Yeah... Are we ready to see the next person?" When he nodded, I told the woman who had comforted Fen to come in.
Marrett Betm was a small human woman of middle years. She introduced herself and then sat down.
"I am so sorry to hear about Jace. I hope you catch whoever did this and make them pay."
I assured her that we would and asked if Jace had any enemies.
"No, he had a few disagreements with Zan Togros over Anjet Maru, Zan's old girlfriend. But there wasn't any animosity between them after a few months had past. I can't believe that Zan would have killed Jace over a woman. Zan had lots of girlfriends over the several years that I've known him."
"How would you describe Jace?" Jinn asked.
She nodded politely to the Jedi and said "Jace was a really nice guy, quiet, kept to himself mostly. When he first started here, he used to play sabaac with Zan but there was some unpleasantness about Zan winning all that money from Jace and then Jace winning it back. They didn't talk for months after that. They finally made up and everything was fine until he started dating Anjet. But Jace didn't hold a grudge, he just seemed to let things slide through any problems with a serene face."
I nodded. "Did Jace Restn dislike Jedi?"
Marrett's face turned red as she glanced at the Jedi with embarrassment. "Forgive me, but Jace didn't like the Jedi much. He made several disparaging remarks about them. I can't remember what he said but it was quite unpleasant and unusual for him. Jace was such a nice guy, I couldn't believe that he said those things."
"Did he ever stay late and do extra work?" the Jedi inquired.
"Knight Jinn, I don't know. I never saw him do that but that doesn't mean that he didn't. I come in early so that I can leave early and be with my family. Sorry, I can't help you there."
The rest of the workers were not much more help. We got various versions of the fights between Jace and Zan, whether Jace owed money or not but all were consistent with Jace hating Jedi. I could see that Jinn was unhappy with this, in his quiet way but I did nothing to relieve his distress. I ignored it.
When the last of them had left, it was about 1600 hours and I was exhausted and hungry.
"Jinn, why don't I meet you at Anjet Maru's place in two hours? I have to check on some things back at the office plus I need to contact Corret Nzek about searching Resyn's desk further and maybe finding that distillation equipment." He nodded, turned without a word, and left. Well, I guess he was more upset than I thought. Good.
It was getting dark when we finally met up in the small park across from Anjet Maru's
apartment building. Jinn still seemed upset, well, as upset as a Jedi can get but I said nothing about it. It was none of my business. But just before we crossed the concourse, Zan Torgos left Maru's building, looked right and left and then sauntered left down the street. Jinn and I looked at each other.
"I wonder what he's doing here."
Jinn speculated "He could be here to see Anjet, to let her know we were coming perhaps."
We quickly made our way to Maru's apartment and buzzed the door. I stood in the front with the Jedi off to one side as Anjet opened the door.
It was obvious that she had been crying and looked unhappy to see a police officer standing in her doorway. But when she saw the Jedi, for a second, a look of absolute terror flitted across her face. Quickly, she stifled her panic and asked us to come in.
I introduced myself and Jinn. She looked overwhelmed and dazed, her eyes red, haunted and wary. She motioned us to chairs while she sat on a couch across from us.
I began "Miss Maru, I'm sorry to tell you this but Jace Restn is dead." She didn't look surprised but let out a soft sob. She nodded and told us that Zan had just left after telling her the news.
"Where were you the night before last?"
She looked lost and confused. "I..I was here. Jace had canceled our vacation, I was mad at him so I stayed home. Is...is that when he...he..." The tears started and she quickly got something to wipe her face. She buried her face in her hands and several sobs were heard.
My sympathies were aroused but I stamped down those feelings. Investigating a murder was no time to be feeling sorry for the witnesses or the potential murderer. Jinn looked Jedi stoic but, out of the corner of my eye, I could see that he felt her despair. He looked like he was in pain and his eyes were bleak.
Jinn quickly moved to Anjet's side, sat on the couch next to her and rubbed her back in compassion. She started at this, I think she was afraid of him at first and tried to move away. But then she realized he was only trying to help and collapsed against him.
He murmured "Hush now, hush. We will wait until you are ready to talk. Just take your time. That's it. That's better. When you're ready..."
I had to admire how he handled the situation. He was able to calm her down and, at the same time, look as if he would help her out. Clever Jinn. He was going to play good cop. I guess that makes me bad cop, oh well...
I spoke sharply, "Miss Maru, what about your relationship with Jace Restn?"
Jinn looked at me, startled and frowning but said nothing.
Anjet glanced at me anxiously and whispered, "I was in love with Jace. I thought we were going to get married but..I guess that's not going to happen now." She let out a few more sobs and then tried to collect herself. "He wanted to think about things a little more. This vacation was going to be like a preengagement trip, seeing if we were right for each other. I had no doubts but he was unsure."
When she stopped, she closed her eyes and her face melted into more tears and whimpers. Jinn rubbed her back gently and then put his arm around her shoulder as she started crying into his tunic. He murmured words of comfort.
I shook my head and began again, my tone barbed and piercing. "What was going on with Jace in the past few months?"
She shrunk into Jinn's arms as though for protection and looked at me troubled. After some hesitation and a deep sigh, she whispered tentatively, "Jace was unsure about his future. There were things in his past that he refused to talk about but they bothered him tremendously. He was quite unhappy at the lab, hated the job, hated working with living things, he said. With every award he got there, the more unhappy and bitter he became. He talked about how he had been destined for better things, greater things, but that events had turned on him. That made him so angry. But...but he would never say what destiny he was talking about or how events had changed his life. He just got very moody and closed up. He had become more and more unhappy in the past few months and especially after his birthday. He got so angry and defensive and then very quiet. But I don't know why...."
"Did he have any enemies?" I queried with some spite in my voice.
She shrank back ever further into Jinn's comforting arms, blinking in distress. "No, not that I know of. He and Zan had a few words about me but that blew over. Zan has been very helpful to me in the past few days, when Jace called off the trip. I needed a friend and he was there. Jace didn't seem to care." She began to cry again.
I wanted information so my next question was purposely venomous.
"Are you having an affair with Zan? Did Jace find out?"
Jinn looked at me with shock and then his face shuttered down as if he could not bear to look at me. Anjet crumpled into him like she wanted to sink into the ground and be lost forever.
"Well, Anjet, are you?"
She burst into sobs again. Jinn gave me a look that could kill, I thought, Maybe with the Jedi a look could kill. But I was willing to risk it. I needed to know. She was our best lead, I could feel it.
Anjet wailed "No, no. I loved Jace. He was the only one I wanted. No one else."
"Alright then. What would he be using distillation equipment for?"
She started at that, then looked frightened and confused. "What are you talking about?"
"Come on now, Anjet. You must have known that Jace was distilling something late at night in the lab. What was it?"
She started crying again. "No, no, I don't know." The laments became louder. I figured that we were done here for now. I had more questions but, in her state, I wouldn't be able to get much out of her. I let Jinn quiet her down again. He had continued to rub her back and make comforting noises the whole time I was asking questions. He looked at me with distaste and apprehension.
"Miss Maru, we will need to talk to you again when you are feeling better. Could you come down to the precinct tomorrow morning at 10?" She nodded slowly, her eyes swollen and bleak.
"Thank you for your time," I said quickly and moved to get up. Jinn took her hand and squeezed it.
His voice was low and sympathetic, his eyes caring and filled with sorrow. "If you need to talk about anything, anything at all, I am available at any time, day or night. I can be reached at the Jedi Temple." She nodded slightly and whispered, "Thank you, Qui-Gon."
As we left, Anjet looked alone and small, sitting on her couch, lost in thought. I don't believe that she even knew we were gone.
The Jedi was quiet as we rode the elevator down to the main level. He said nothing but directed me to the bench in the park across the street. He sat down heavily, wrapped his arms about him as if he were cold, and gazed at me with troubled, questioning eyes.
"What were you doing in there? Couldn't you feel her pain? How could you be so callous?" His voice reflected the grief and despair he must have felt coming from Anjet.
"Jinn, I was doing my duty. Finding out if she knew anything. She is our best lead. You were being the good guy, I was being the bad one." I shrugged, uncomfortable with his questions. "I didn't like doing that but it was necessary. So, does she know anything?"
He looked away, sitting there a long time before answering. He replied in a flat voice. "She knows something vital, maybe even who the murderer is."
I looked at him in amazement. "What does she know?"
"She was lying about where she was that night. I think she was with him. And she was lying about the distillation equipment. It was hard to see through all that anguish." It sounded as if it hurt him to speak. "She truly loved him."
"Could she be protecting someone, Togros maybe?"
"I don't know." His voice was faraway, as thought contemplating something unhappy. After a lengthy pause, he looked at me, frowning and asked. "You spoke of duty earlier. Does your duty include tormenting a grieving woman who had just lost her lover?"
"Of course it does. She knows something. What, are you going soft, Jedi?" I snorted in contempt.
"She was in love with him. It hurt her terribly to know that she would never see him again. Couldn't you feel her pain? Couldn't you see her agony in losing the man she loved?"
I was getting angry now, my throat thickening with disgust. "What? What do you know of love...Jedi. The guardians of peace and justice, you sicken me. You know nothing of the... agony of losing the ones... the ones you love."
His eyes were flat and hard. "I have lost those I loved to war and duty. How can you say that?"
I was enraged, absolutely furious, my voice hissing with hatred. Damn Jedi. Murderers all. "Duty, duty...I've seen your duty. I was there... at Sullust. I saw what the Jedi did, killing, their damned lightsabers swinging...helpless people cut down. Lost husbands, lost children ....Gods, how I hate you."
He was taken aback. "What are you talking about?"
"You Jedi murdered my husband right in front of my eyes. He was ...just standing ...there...unarmed..." I screamed at him. "The damned Jedi deflected a blaster shot and hit my husband with the ricochet." The venom spewed from me. "He died in my arms, in agony. You Jedi killed him. I lost the child I was carrying the next day. Blood and death, that's all you know. Love... don't make me laugh."
"Ari, I'm sorry. I didn't know. But the Jedi would never do that on purpose. It goes against everything we believe. We follow the Light, the Force guides us..."
I interrupted his deceits. "You Jedi are all alike. Guardians of peace and justice, what filthy lies..." I laughed cruelly, "Jedi murderers... killing anything that moves, killing innocents, destroying people's lives, their futures..." I laughed again, almost sobbing with anguish.
Jinn looked at me with such sad eyes, whispering. "Ari, I didn't kill your husband. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time and nothing could have saved him. You have to let go of your hatred. Or it will kill you in the end."
How dare he, how dare a Jedi say such things to me. What did he know of love and the sheer agony when your heart is dead. I lunged at him, striking at him but he easily avoided my fists and caught me with his arms. I was held tight against him as I raged in vain with venom and hatred and loss. Raging so long, and then I began to cry.
Me, crying. That's a laugh. I haven't done that in four years. I've been dead for four years and now the pain was sluicing through me again. Qui-Gon held me, rocking me gently as he murmured words of comfort. I must have cried forever or so it seemed. At last, I gave a long sigh and realized I was resting my head on Qui-Gon's shoulder. A Jedi's shoulder and it didn't hurt. How could that be... I thought curiously, I hate Jedi. But the hatred was gone, only a dull ache remained.
"I'm sorry, Ari. Truly sorry."
I nodded, too drained to say anything. He held me a while longer and then asked. "Will you be alright?"
I lifted my head and looked at him. "I think so. I'm not sure."
He chuckled softly. "Then sit here until you are." And guided my head back onto his shoulder.
We sat there a long time, not speaking. Finally, I stretched and said "Back to work, Jinn. We've got a murder to solve and suspects to interrogate. I'll go back to the office and look over the report on the distillation equipment. You need to go to the Temple and find out about those five missing....Jinn, Jinn, are you listening?"
Qui-Gon was staring, unfocused, past my head. "What's wrong?" He said nothing but a prickling at the back of my neck made me turn, followed his stare.
Wrapped in a dark cloak, Anjet Maru walked quickly out of the building and turned left. Her movements were furtive as though trying to avoid prying eyes...such as ours. I got to my feet, pulling Qui-Gon with me.
"Come on." I said softly and he nodded. We followed Maru for some time. She never stopped to look at the various window displays or checked to make sure if she were being pursued. She didn't seem aware of her surroundings at all but walked purposefully towards some distant goal. We were discreetly back in the shadows. Night had fallen and this made it easier to trail her.
At last, Anjet Maru stopped and stood in the alleyway where Jace Restn's body had been discovered. She leaned against the wall, staring into the darkness and began to cry again. I started to approach her but Qui-Gon held me back. He whispered "Wait"
Wait for what, I wanted to know but I didn't get to ask the question. Out of the shadows, the Twi'lek, Zara Fen, strode to Anjet Maru's side.
We could hear her voice indistinctly, the words muffled and low. "Did you ....the formula...I ...it." Anjet shook her head no. "...want it or I'll go...police." Anjet shook her head again, more emphatic. Fen's voice got louder and we could hear her clearly now. "I swear I'll go to the police and tell them that you killed him unless you give me the formula. Who are you protecting? He is dead, Anjet. Did you enjoy doing that? "
Anjet shook her head violently. "I didn't, I didn't."
Fen cackled as she moved towards Anjet, "I'll just bet you did. He wouldn't marry you and you killed him. Gave him the poisonous concoction I was waiting for, my ticket to the good life. And you killed him, just like that." Anjet was shaking her head again, sobbing.
Fen stepped closer to Anjet. "You killed him, I'm sure you did. Haa! How I would have liked to have seen that! He was always trouble, so noble, so gentle, made me want to vomit. And when he found out how to get that toxin out of that plant, he finally was going to do something that I would have enjoyed. Destroy the Jedi with it. Put it in their water supply. I would have enjoyed it so much."
Jinn started at that and looked at me briefly. He turned his head back towards the alleyway and listened silently to the conversation.
Anjet was crying even harder "But he didn't. He just couldn't do it, no matter how much he wanted to hurt the Jedi. He just couldn't."
Fen chortled again. "What a load of Bantha droppings. He just got scared, too chicken to do it. Too bad you killed him before I could finish blackmailing it out of him. But I'm not too afraid to take the formula and sell it to the highest bidder. Now, where is it?"
Fen took a step towards Anjet and raised her fist. "Give it to me, Anjet, or I swear I'll kill you. I can do it too." She smiled and maliciously proclaimed, "I'll cut you up just like I cut up Jace."
I started forward again, Jinn shaking his head "Not yet".
Anjet looked at Fen, speechless for a second, then she screeched in anguish and lunged at Fen. She was able to grasp Fen's lekku, pulling her sharply down as Anjet's fist connected with her face. Fen lashed out, kicking Anjet in the shin and then stomping on her instep. Anjet hopped away in pain, letting go of the lekku, then turned with her hand swinging, trying to grasp her enemy's throat. Connecting for a second and scratching Fen's face, Anjet was thrown back by Zara's swinging arm and fell to the ground. Fen then kicked her in the arm and Anjet screamed out in pain.
With that, the alleyway was filled with the dual sound of Anjet's cry and the hum of a lightsaber turning on. The yellow glow put sharp shadows on the walls and we could see both women clearly. Zara Fen held the saber high, swinging it inexpertly. Anjet scrambled to her feet and then stopped short, swaying, her eyes wide with shock. Her voice was hoarse with fury.
"Where did you get that? It belongs to Jace. How..."
Fen snorted, grimacing slightly, and waved the lightsaber in Anjet's direction. "You little fool. I watched you leave Jace's place that night. After you killed Jace and left... what a mess, that place was. And there was Jace, dead meat on the floor, lightsaber in hand, so noble, so dead."
Cradling her bruised arm with the other, Anjet stood sobbing as the golden light moved back and forth.
Fen laughed cruelly. "I was so furious that Jace was beyond my reach. I knew that I had lost. But there was the lightsaber just waiting to be used. I plunged it into his heart first. Did you know that? Ah, the sizzle. What a delightful sound. Then I started to play, a cut here, a cut there. I would have done more but it was getting late."
She laughed again, enjoying Anjet's agony, as the lightsaber swung toward her. "I thought that it would be funny to dump the body in this alleyway. Did you know that Jace lived here for a whole year, made this his base for stealing, running cons, faking ident cards, living off the fat of the land til he turned to a good guy, the fool? Ha, I'll just bet he told you everything." She chuckled malevolently and then frowned, "Now, for the last time, give me the formula."
As Anjet whispered "No," Zara Fen lunged for her, lightsaber held high. The yellow blade swung downward towards Anjet's head as Qui-Gon moved to stop it. With a snap-hiss, Qui-Gon's lightsaber turned on and leapt to meet the yellow light with incredible speed. The sizzle and crackle of the contact made me jump. Fen was so startled that she dropped the saber and, as it clattered to the ground, the yellow glow flashed out. Within microseconds, Jinn had the lightsaber in his hand. His own blade was quickly extinguished and replaced on his belt.
As the darkness fell in the alleyway, Zara Fen ran to the Jedi, clung to his arm and smiled, "I was afraid she was going to kill me. Oh, thank you, Qui-Gon. You've saved me. "
Fen has such unbelievable gall, I thought as he held her arm, gently but firmly.
The Jedi chuckled, amused. "Zara, it's a good thing that Jace didn't poison the water, then."
Fen's face turned ugly. "Too bad, he didn't, Jedi."
I spoke up. "Zara Fen, you are under arrest for blackmail, assault, and attempted murder."
She tried to resist, spitting and clawing, but Qui-Gon was quite adept at holding onto criminals. I had her handcuffed within seconds. I guess it just wasn't her day. And, as I hauled Fen away to the precinct for interrogation, I told Jinn to take care of Anjet. But there was no need. She was again weeping into his shoulder as he followed me, moving her gently in my wake.
His clothes must be getting pretty soggy by now, I thought irreverently, shaking my head. It was going to be a long night.
After Fen was locked up, spitting, cursing the Jedi for their stupidity and lack of moral fiber, and generally causing a nuisance, I found Qui-Gon and Anjet in my office. He was talking quietly to her, his arm around her shoulder as the Jedi looked at the lightsaber in his hand.
Anjet was peaceful and relatively calm. Unfortunately, I was going to have to break that calm. She was our major suspect for murder. She had motive and means and no alibi.
I got right to it. "Anjet Maru, did you kill Jace Restn?"
She looked at me with clear eyes and, in an almost steady voice, said, "No, I didn't kill Jace. I loved him very much. I would have done anything for him."
"Do you know who did kill him?"
"Yes." Her eyes were filling with tears again but she struggled to control herself.
Qui-Gon spoke up. "Jace committed suicide, didn't he?"
"Yes" Anjet looked at Qui-Gon with amazement. "How did you know?"
"A number of things. Because the people we interviewed said that Jace was very angry but then got quiet. Because his desk looked as though he would never return. Because his apartment was filled with grief, not hatred. And because of the lightsaber. He made it himself, didn't he?" She nodded slowly. Qui-Gon explained to me, "There were only three lightsabers missing in the last 20 years. None of them had a yellow blade. If you remember, Ari, each Jedi makes his own. I'm sure that, if DNA were run on this saber, they would match Jace's signature, his real signature. Jace, in another life, was a Jedi."
"But he hated the Jedi." I was confused.
"Yes, he wanted revenge. But when he had the opportunity to kill a great many Jedi, he could not do it. And it drove him into a spiral of despair." Qui-Gon looked somber. "Revenge is not the Jedi way."
Anjet spoke quietly " He would follow the Jedi exploits on the holovids and then come home and cultivate plants. He could make anything grow but he hated it more and more. He ranted about being a farmer, a nothing. I couldn't understand why. What was wrong with being someone who could make things grow?"
Qui-Gon shook his head, mournfully, "Among some of the younger Jedi, there was no worse curse than to be called a farmer. It meant that you failed at being picked as a Knight's apprentice. But it is not a failure, just a different path in the Jedi way. Jace's path"
Anjet nodded, whispering. "After he discovered how to make the biological toxin easily and cheaply, he was quite excited, kept saying that he was destined for greater things. Revenge was on his mind for days. But on his twenty-fifth birthday, he got quiet. A few days later, when he went to work, he cleaned up his lab and desk and came home. Told Fle'yaa that he was going on vacation and that I was going with him. I was surprised but pleased about it. I thought we were going to be married, you know, elope, and amaze everyone later. But he told me that he just wanted to be alone." A sob caught in her throat.
Qui-Gon explained to me "The twenty-fifth birthday is the usual time for a Padawan to become a Knight once the trials are complete. It varies from person to person and species to species but most take the trials around then. He must have realized, no matter what his accomplishments, he would never be a Jedi Knight."
Anjet whispered. "He almost couldn't speak of it, it hurt him so much. He wanted to be a Knight so badly." She paused, drew in a deep breath and continued. "He made me promise that I would do something for him. Promise him with the love that I had for him. He didn't tell me what it was, just that it was very important and I should promise to do it no matter what." A tear ran down her cheek.
"The day he died, I found a note on my door asking me to come to his place at about 1600 hours. I was very happy, I thought he had changed his mind and that we would be together. But when I got there, the apartment was a wreck. I was afraid that something had happened to him. I found the note on his bed and I could hear the shower running." She sobbed quietly. "He was in there, I couldn't wake him up. I tried so hard." She was crying harder now. "The lightsaber was by his bed along with his clothes. He had put them out neatly, just like he was going somewhere special." At this, she broke down completely. And yet as she was weeping, she was searching in her clothing for something. Anjet finally found what she was looking for, a single sheet of paper. She handed it to me and I began to read aloud:
Anjet, my dear one,
I can't be a farmer.
The Council said that I was not meant to be a Knight, that my destiny lay along a different path. I only saw that I was not worthy, that my anger and despair would be the death of me. I cannot accept, even now, as my body is failing, that I was a nothing, a farmer. Do as you have promised, my one last favor. The Jedi must learn my fate. Tell them that Xeni Dou'lk has come home.
When the letter was read, Anjet began to weep, hiccuping with grief, "I dried him off, got his clothes on him and laid him down in the sitting room. I put his lightsaber between his hands and sat there a long time. I was so angry with him. How could he leave me like that, if he loved me? Finally, when I couldn't stand it any more, I went back to my apartment. I stared at the walls for hours and hours. When, at last, I was ready to do what he had asked, I went back to his place and he was gone. I was so happy, I thought that I had been mistaken, that he was still alive somewhere. That he was still alive....Zan told me later that Jace had been found dead."
I asked, "Why didn't you tell us this when we arrived?"
"I didn't know what to do. I thought that you had come to arrest me for murder. I didn't...I didn't..." She looked at Qui-Gon and sobbed. "Why did he leave me? "
Qui-Gon wrapped his arms around her in comfort as she wailed out her anguish.
I didn't understand. How could someone do that, kill themselves when they had a life and someone to love? And yet, under it all, I realized that I had also tried to destroy myself in these last four years, locking out any hope for the future with my bitterness and hatred. I shook my head in relieved disbelief.
I glanced at Qui-Gon, his arm still around Anjet, murmuring words of understanding and sympathy. Yet, as I looked at him, he looked back with compassion. He knew, somehow, he knew. Was that the Force in action or the simple kindness of a gentle man? I don't know but I was glad.
But everything must come to an end.
"Anjet, I'm sorry but I have to arrest you for assault."
Qui-Gon said "She has already been punished enough."
I nodded in acceptance. "But she still attacked Zara Fen."
Qui-Gon smiled "In self-defense."
"You aren't making this any easier, Jinn."
"No, I am not."
"I have to do my duty, Qui-Gon. Even you know that." He bowed his head in acquiescence.
Anjet sighed, wiping her eyes and rose to her feet. "I am ready..."
I signaled Sergeant Panqu. As he entered, Qui-Gon told Anjet that he would send one of the Jedi law groups to help. She smiled at him and went quietly with Panqu.
Qui-Gon and I were alone.
"Thank you for all your help, Qui-Gon. For everything" He smiled and bowed slightly. "I will be seeing you at the trial?" He nodded his head in agreement and smiled even more broadly.
"Are you trying to make this difficult, Jinn?"
"Of course, Ari."
I hesitated at that. Was he joking with me? Does a Jedi joke? I took a deep breath and pressed on "I would like to count you as a friend if I may."
"The Force moves in mysterious ways." He was getting me mad now with his broad smile and laughing eyes. He was joking with me!
"Be serious, Jinn."
With that, he laughed out loud. "I would be glad to count you as a friend, oh woman who hates the Jedi."
I rolled my eyes and asked "Do you always joke with a woman who hates Jedi?"
He replied with a droll look. "No, only with you." Smiling, he rose and took my hand. "Friends, Ari?"
And I smiled back at him. "Always, Qui-Gon."
"And now I must go. I have to arrange for the Jedi law council for Anjet. If you ever need me, just contact the Temple. They will know where to find me. And you never know when a Jedi might show up unexpectedly." He smiled again, released my hand and turned to go.
I said "Jinn, haven't you forgotten something?" He looked confused. "The lightsaber. I need it for evidence."
He took out Jace's saber, twisted the back and two crystals fell out. He placed them in one of his belt pouches. One more twist and the weapon was reassembled. He tossed the saber to me, I clumsily caught it, almost dropping the thing and finally put it down on the desk. He shook his head, still chuckling as he turned the corner and out of my sight.
I put my hands on my hips, smilingly shook my head and said "Damn Jedi."
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