“Just up those stairs I think”, said Zola. They had decided to speak to Ms. Mendoza first, and Laura had insisted on speaking to her in person, and so they were forced to traverse the labyrinth of the ship.
They has passed several groups of passengers, several of them very drunk, and in one case being forcibly restrained by a couple of ships crew.
“All well to do, used to getting their own way” muttered Vic.
“That’s right,” grinned De Racine, “All the cheapskates are locked in their couch tubes.” That was the way on a voyage lasting several weeks: you paid a premium to stay awake – except during the acceleration and deceleration bursts – a method only the better off were likely to afford.
“Here it is”, said Laura.She buzzed the comm, and they entered.
Ma. Mendoza was exquisitely turned out, and manicured. She spoke in one of those ‘everything is business and I’m a professional voices’, in a fashion which grated after a while. She seemed at pains to co-operate.
“Tell us about the Chief”, said Laura flatly. “I understand he was having issues with a couple of the passengers.”
“Hmm that’s right. He was arguing with Dr. Wells during the party. Alcohol may have been involved I suppose.”
“I think Dr. Wells is an archaeologist: been working on Mars. As far as I can figure it Dr. Wells interrupted a conversation between Mr. Hardie and his assistant, Nate Carstensen. It became pretty heated.”
“There was another incident with a Ms. Falk?” suggested De Racine smoothly. “Can you enlighten us Ms. Mendoza.” He drew a smile from MS.Mendoza, oozing his usual charm. Laura shifted but said nothing.
“Yes. Well. Helen Falk is heading some sort of high level political delegation. I don’t know the details but I am aware that they’re in the middle of some complex negotiations. It was during the party again: a pretty tense conversation Ms. Falk and the Chief. The Chief seemed seemed to be pretty chummy with the opposition leader, Gunther Eichmann. It seems that an argument broke out between Falk and Eichmann that got pretty ugly. Things were said and Falk walked away furious.”
“What about Officer Miyamoto, the woman who discovered the body?” asked Laura. “Any background would be useful.”
“You should talk to her,” said Ms. Mendoza.
“I thought she could’nt ad anything useful?” stated Laura. Ms. mendoza frowned slightly and became slightly defensive.
“She was upset to be sure.” she relied crisply. “But then of course….”
“Yes?” pressed Laura. Ms. Mendoza sighed.
“Maria – Maria Mendoza – is an excellent officer,” she paused, “But she is somewhat impressionable, and had allowed herself to become entangled in an affair with Chief Hardie. Not really appropriate, but there it is.”
“You didn’t approve?” asked De Racine mildly.
“No: the Chief was taking advantage of her,” replied Ms. Mendoza. “They were work colleagues and got on well, but Mr. Hardie as her superior was in a position of stewardship, which he was abusing in my view.”
“Don’t your regs cover this?” asked Vic.
“Technically yes,” sighed Ms. Mendoza, “But difficult to prove and enforce when both parties are willing. Not that that prevented the Chief from trying to play the field with a young actress- Zarina Banar -during same party. It takes all sorts.”
“Thank you Ms. Mendoza.”