Investigation

“This place is a mess!”

Did Lavello have to be so loud? Grath winced as he played his torch over the upturned crates. Impossible to tell what they contained from here. The beam caught shards of glass, light dancing on the floor. He raised it to the window, high in the wall. The catch was hanging loose.

“So what are we looking for?” Lavello asked from the doorway. He hadn’t even closed the door.

“Whatever’s not here.”

“Like that makes any sense.” Light flickered behind Grath, playing on the wall to the left.

“Anything from surveillance?”

“You think this place was being watched?” The crate by Grath’s feet was upright, the lid torn free to expose countless small plain boxes.

“Dunno. Just assumed.”

“Eyes make people take notice. Better to hide things where nobody’s looking. Right?”

“Suppose.” Lavello’s torch played over the walls, then across the ceiling. Grath thought of the offices above them. He heard a groan from Lavello as the beam fell to the ground.

“You have a good time last night?”

“Huh?” Lavello’s torch shook.

“Someone said they saw you at the Crab. Said you were pretty out of it.”

“Good to have a blow-out every now and then.”

“Letting off steam.”

“Yeah.”

“Or celebrating.”

Lavello paused. “What would I be celebrating?”

“Getting this job?” Grath swung his beam round.

Lavello raised an arm to shield his eyes. “Only probation. I’ll celebrate when it’s a cert.”

Grath looked up. “Who owns the offices upstairs?”

Lavello hesitated. “Want me to go and ask?”

“This time of night?”

“We’re working. Why not others?”

Grath ignored the question and returned his attention to the crates. That one had marks on the lid, possibly from a crowbar. But the lock had not been touched.

“So what did the boss have in here?” Lovello asked.

“All kinds.”

“Flash tech, wasn’t it? Dome stuff.”

“Where d’you hear that?” Grath kept his voice level, but he listened hard. This could be important.

“Heard some guys talking.”

“The boss’ guys?”

“Dunno. Maybe.”

Grath stored that, and continued investigating. The next crate had its contents tipped out, some of the packages scuffed, probably from boots. But nothing looked broken.

“So what do you think happened here?” Lovello had moved further into the room now. Grath turned to face him.

“You tell me. Impress the boss.”

Lavello glanced around, pulling a face. Thinking. “Door was ripped off, so I reckon some kind of pulley system. Then they came in and trashed the place searching for this tech. Then they left.”

“Just like that?”

Lavello shrugged again. “You got any better ideas?”

But Grath didn’t answer. Instead, he walked to the door, playing his beam over the frame. Solid, but the door itself was buckled. There was a dent on the inside.

“You think they got what they came for?” He didn’t turn, but listened as Lavello paused before answering.

“Sure. Otherwise, why leave?”

“Disturbed?”

Lavello shook his head. “Nobody around. Especially at night.”

“Apart from us.”

“Yeah.” Lavello put a package down and picked up another, identical to the first. “So, where d’you want me to start?”

“Doing what.”

“Searching. For this tech. Where’s it likely to be?”

Grath raised an eyebrow. “Where would you think?”

Lavello played his torch around, eventually settling on a pile of upturned crates in the corner. “Over there?”

“Why?”

He shrugged. “It’s in the corner. Far away from the door. Best place to hide something, right?”

“Sure. Knock yourself out.”

Grath watched as Lavello started prodding, moving from one package to the next. He looked bored. Or nervous.

“Boss wanted me to ask‌—‌you had any dodgy calls recently?”

“Me?”

“Who else?”

“Right, right. Dodgy calls. Nope. No calls.”

Grath let it drop. But he had what he wanted now.

“So what do you think happened here, Grath? You’ve got experience, right?”

“Yep.” He flashed his beam into Lavello’s eyes again. “I know what happened.” He saw Lavello swallow. “You know the boss can track messages, right? Some of his tech guys, it’s amazing what they do.”

Lavello let out a muffled laugh. It didn’t sound convincing.

“So what do I think happened?” Grath knew it was time to talk, now that he had Lavello’s attention. He played his beam over the broken glass. “Entry through the skylight, but it’s unlocked.” Then to the door. “Door forced out, but it can be unlocked from the inside. Conclusion‌—‌inside job, make to look like something else.”

He watched Lavello look around, mouth open.

“And they didn’t get what they were looking for. You think the boss would keep Dome tech here?” Then he smiled. “But it’s useful to let people think that. It lets him track information leaks.”

He paused, giving Lavello time to consider. And to look at the blade Grath now held.

“You wanted a job with the boss?”

Lavello nodded. Grath saw the dark patch spreading around his crotch, and he breathed in the acrid aroma of fear.

“But you sold him out.” Grath held his blade up, waving it in the torch’s beam. “So what do you think happens now?”

Lavello shut his eyes, lips quivering. Grath didn’t let his smile show.

“The boss plays people. And he respects those who do the same. You think he’s angry at your betrayal?” Grath didn’t give Lavello time to answer. “He’s disappointed, but he’s not angry. He admires your balls.”

“S-so what n-n-now?”

“Now?” He let the beam drop to the floor. “Now you run.”

“I live?”

“Why not? The boss isn’t a monster.”

The torch rose again.

“Like I said, he admires your balls. And if he ever sees you again, I’ll give them to him in a gift-wrapped box.”

Grath knew that wouldn’t happen. Lavello would disappear. But word would get round. And someone else would try to move in on the boss. Then Grath would have to play someone else.

He had the best job in the world.


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