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Shot in the Dark by Travis Anderson

I suppose I should start out by stating my name. I am called Odo, and I am the Chief of Security here on Deep Space 9, or whatever it will be called this week. The Cardassians who built this station referred to it as Terok Nor. It is only after the Cardassians left and the station's former Bajoran laborers seized control that its name changed. The Bajoran Provisional Government asked Starfleet and the Federation to administer the station while the Bajorans struggle to revitalize their planet.

Why am I making this loathsome recording? The answer is simple: Major Kira asked me to. Kira is the station's Executive Officer as well as the Bajoran government's liaison with the Federation. She also happens to be my one friend in the world. For her, I'm willing to record this. Personally, I think it's a waste of my time.

It seems Starfleet is bothered by my habit of sticking strictly to the facts in all of my reports. They want me to conform to their policy of keeping personal logs. Hhmph! They just want more information with which to hang me if they so desire. Despite the professed altruism of our newest overseers, bureaucracy remains the same the galaxy over.

I'm done stating the obvious and will now start relating the events of my latest investigation. It began, as so many of my cases do, two days ago at Quark's... I sat in my usual seat at Quark's Bar and studied the crowd. A lot can be learned about a person and their behavior by simply taking the time to observe their behavior. Since the station's troublemakers tend to congregate at Quark's, so do I.

I could tell the Andorian in the corner had had too much to drink and was getting annoyed with the drunken Bolian at the table next to his. The truth was, I was getting annoyed with him as well. That didn't give the one the excuse to try and pound him into the floor plates, which was what the Andorian was preparing to do. I intercepted the enraged Andorian when he moved to strike. Passing a warning on to the Bolian as well, I marched the Andorian to a holding cell so he could sleep off his inebriation.

I returned to Quark's and resumed my vigil. Why was I on a vigil? The answer was quite simple; the station was playing host to a conference between Maquis leaders and Cardassian colonists from the Demilitarized Zone. An explosive situation to be sure and one that would be made worse by the fact I suspected that both sides had snuck in unauthorized personnel.

I couldn't prove it but it was no coincidence that a Cardassian survey ship was currently docked at the same time the conference was occurring. Several tramp freighters had also arrived from the former Federation side of the Zone, so the Maquis were culpable as well. Whether or not these two sides killed each other across the DMZ was not my concern. Death matches on my Promenade, that was a different matter.

My job is to insure the safety of every visitor as well as that of station personnel. I take my job very seriously. It is the one thing in this universe that makes me happy. That and Major Kira's camaraderie... and the occasional Mickey Spillane novel. I don't ask for much, just law abiding conduct from those visiting my station.

I was staked out in the bar because all three of the Cardassian "delegates" were there sharing a bottle of Konarr. On the second level of Quark's, the three Maquis were assembled. Their blissful ignorance of each other's presence was a little too ignorant for my taste. They were probably plotting each other's demise at that very moment.

The issue was, this conference had an honest chance of succeeding. The Maquis leader, Garrigan, seemed sincerely committed to finding a way of living beside the Cardassians. Umbra, the chief Cardassian also seemed determined to reach an agreement even if he wasn't as committed about it as Garrigan. They'd met for the first time today and from all reports had done little else then level charges at each other. They were to meet again in the morning and start fresh.

Although Garrigan wasn't a particularly powerful leader amongst the Maquis as a whole, he was charismatic and had the ear of Calvin Hudson, the Maquis Commander himself. Garrigan was one of a dwindling number of rebels that felt a political solution could still be reached. These meetings were his last chance to realize that dream.

Umbra represented a faction of the Cardassian colonists in the DMZ who were tired of the violence. With typically Cardassian arrogance, he'd come to the conference expecting to receive the Maquis' surrender. To be read a list of Cardassian atrocities came as a great shock and an insult. Both sides, however, had agreed to set aside their mutual animosity and pledged to negotiate in earnest the following day.

The hour was dwindling and it was nearing my regeneration period. I assigned my Chief Deputy, Sergeant Tannin Harb, to monitor the two diplomatic parties and I retired to the Security Office. It may sound strange to you but I was going there to "sleep". When one rests in a gelatinous state, one's bedding arrangements are kept simple. I kept a spare bucket behind the desk to be used when I wished to remain close to the office. It wasn't much but it was all I required.

"Computer, pause recording." Odo commanded, tapping his chirping comm badge, "Odo here."

"We've got a problem at Quark's." Tenzil, another of my deputies, reported.

"I'm on my way." Odo said as he rose from behind the Security Office desk.

"Computer, resume recording."

I'm back now. I just needed to deal with an allegation of cheating at Quark's. As usual, it was true. Quark refunded the money and was fined for the infraction. He claimed he'd take it up with Sisko in the morning. Ha! Like that'll do him any good.

Where was I? Oh, yes. When I retook my usual humanoid form the next morning, I was met by an exhausted looking Tannin.

"We've got trouble." he said

"What kind of trouble?" I asked.

"Murder." Tannin replied wearily.

"Was it Umbra or one of the Cardassians?" I inquired.

Tannin shook his head, "No. It was Garrigan. And now the Maquis are demanding blood."

If there's one thing my deputies understand, it's mob justice. Most of them were with the Bajoran Resistance before joining the Bajoran Militia when it was founded. I've given them a healthy respect for the law, at least most of the time. Many of them still root for the underdog against the Cardassian war machine despite legalities.

On the way to the scene, Tannin briefed me on how he'd baby-sat the opposing parties until they retired for the evening. Tannin had discreetly followed the Maquis to their rooms while Corporal Kesil had trailed the Cardassians. Kesil was a veteran of dozens of Resistance campaigns and I'd rank her skills against those of Major Kira any day. The same officers had stood guard over the rooms of the diplomats and escorted them back to the conference room.

"That's where it got strange." Tannin declared. "I brought all three delegates to the room. Kesil and the Cardassians hadn't arrived yet. No one had laid out any refreshments and all three delegates wanted coffee. The conference room's replicator was offline so Hardy and Borath, the other Maquis delegates, left to get some. Seeing that Garrigan would be alone and secure, I accompanied them. When we returned, Garrigan was dead."

"Any signs of a struggle?" I asked.

Tannin shook his head, "None."

I was pleased to see Dr. Bashir had already arrived on the scene and was beginning his forensic scans. On a personal level, the Doctor is juvenile, attention seeking and grandiose. On a professional level, he really is as good as he thinks he is, which is quite the compliment.

"Doctor." I said by way of greeting.

"Constable." Bashir replied with a slight frown. It was the same frown he assumed when he was focused on a particularly difficult puzzle. That frown bode ill for my investigation.

"Trouble?" I asked.

"Hmmmn?" the Doctor looked up with the faintest hint of surprise. I suspect he'd forgotten I was there, "No, no trouble Constable."

"Then why the frown?"

"Well, to put it bluntly, I can't determine a cause of death."

"You mean he died of natural causes?"

"No." Bashir shook his head, "I mean he just stopped living. I can't find any physical cause of death. It's as though his heart just stopped beating."

"How is that possible?"

"I'm not certain." Bashir admitted with frustration, "I'll need to perform an autopsy."

"After forensics has finished with the room, he's all yours." At that moment, the forensics team had arrived. While I trusted my Militia deputies implicitly, I had to admit, my Starfleet forensics techs were slightly sharper and more efficient. I'd made the best of two worlds by intermixing my teams, allowing one to nudge along the other. I'd noted remarkable improvement in my deputies' abilities since then.

Lieutenant Nerrit Wen led the alpha shift forensics team. A Bajoran member of Starfleet, Nerrit's only dubious claim to fame was being a distant cousin to the sitting kai of the Bajoran faith. Nerrit's career was competent if lackluster. She did her job and did it well; she'd just never drawn any attention to herself.

Nerrit immediately gathered the salient points of the situation from Tannin and set her team to work. Bashir and his orderlies stood by while the forensics teams conducted their scans and examinations of and around the body. Bashir and his team were briefly allowed in to collect Garrigan's body and depart. Nerrit's team resumed their work, scanning every millimeter of the room.

"I've got something!" one of the Militia techs called out.

Nerrit and I rushed over to the tech's side, "What is it?"

"Looks like a hair, and not the principle's." the tech, Kirsk, explained, "Initial tricorder readings indicate it could be of Cardassian origin. We'll need to run a DNA analysis to be absolutely certain."

"Bag it for Dr. Bashir and send it along with whatever else we find." Nerrit instructed.

"That may prove futile." I interjected, "Both the Maquis and the Cardassians used this room yesterday for their talks. The room will be rife with DNA traces of each."

"Everybody," Nerrit called out, unnecessarily as everyone was already listening, "try and time stamp each and every piece of physical evidence you find."

She patted Kirsk's shoulder, "Good work."

Nerrit resumed her own scans. Moments later, she paused; "Constable?"

"Yes?"

"What would you consider valuable evidence?"

"Skin scrapings under the fingernails, fresh blood, a hand written confession... what have you found?"

She stood up wearing a triumphant smile, "A trace of blood. Less than an hour old."

For the first time all morning, I smiled as well.

"Surely you don't believe these conveniently placed clues are there by chance?" Umbra, head of the Cardassian delegation called from the room's entrance. A Harried, and embarrassed looking, Kesil was trying to pull him back to the hallway without harming him.

I excused myself from the crime scene and joined Kesil and her charges in the corridor. Starfleet Security had reinforced my deputies and were keeping the surviving members of the Maquis delegation in check.

"Typical Cardassian treachery." Borath, the Maquis delegation's Klingon deputy spat, "We came to you in good faith and look what it's cost us. I'll see you all dead before this day is through."

"Not on my station you won't." I sternly reminded the vengeful Klingon, "I'll see to it that the guilty parties are found and punished."

With that, I turned my attention to the Cardassians. Umbra looked slightly ruffled by the Klingon's death threats but not overly concerned. There weren't many Klingons in the Zone, but they were all passionate about resisting Cardassian rule. Frankly, I'd been more than a little amazed to see one, even an elderly one, in Garrigan's delegation.

"You see what we have to deal with?" Umbra asked in resignation, "It's no wonder we can't come to terms with these people."

"If I recall from my days here during the Occupation, a successful Cardassian negotiation is one where all demands are met and no concessions are given."

Umbra smiled, "You know us too well. To tell the truth, I expected nothing to come of these talks, but this Garrigan, he had a passion. He honestly believed that Cardassians and their Federation neighbors could coexist peacefully. Of course it required granting the Federation settlers equal rights, a lost cause to be sure, but he was thoroughly convinced of it."

"He was a dreamer." I observed.

"An idealist to be sure." Umbra nodded, "Still, it was an infectious dream."

Once again, I was surprised by a member of these delegations, "Are you saying you agreed with him."

Umbra chuckled, "No, oh no, I'm saying it was a pleasant dream. One that might possibly have ended the bloodshed in the Zone."

"So what was your position in these talks?"

"That we could indeed coexist, but the Maquis would have to accept they were now subjects of the Cardassian Union. No one but a true Cardassian would ever avail themselves of the full sovereign rights of a Cardassian. The Maquis' position was negotiable but full equality was a fool's dream. The High Command would never concede to it but a limited surrender would still get them what they wanted: guaranteed ownership of land, freedom of travel and the bullying tactics employed by some of my more zealous counterparts would stop."

"You're a moderate then."

Umbra shook his head, "No. I'm merely practical. The Maquis are too entrenched to be ousted by anything less than a full military campaign." Umbra gave me a sly look, "As you know, that course of action is strictly forbidden by our treaty with the Federation, no matter how loudly Gul Evek may protest."

"I see." I nodded slowly and folded my arms across my chest, "You do realize that I have to hold you for questioning, at least until we can determine your guilt or innocence?"

Umbra nodded wearily, "I do. We'll go peacefully."

"I expected nothing else." Especially since I now had doubts as to their guilt.

"Yes, Doctor?" I asked as I stepped into the Infirmary.

"I have my report ready, if you'd care to hear it."

"Certainly, be my guest."

"The blood sample that the forensics team found is definitely Cardassian. I could make a DNA match once I have samples from all the Cardassians aboard or docked at the station."

"Of course." I nodded encouragingly to prompt him to continue.

"The cause of death was both surprising and difficult to trace. Using a cellular scanner, I was able to detect a small dart attached to the exterior of the heart." Bashir handed over a Petrie dish with the minuscule dart within it, "As you can see, the dart is tiny, barely two millimeters in length. It is large enough to damage the heart but not enough to kill it. The exact cause of death remains unknown. His heart stopped beating but I can offer no medical explanation for it."

"I think its time Commander Dax and Chief O'Brien took a look at this." I decided, "Thank you, Doctor. I'll let you know what I find out."

I stopped by the Security Office first where I scanned the dart and sent its particulars on to Starfleet Security and Intelligence. I then proceeded to Ops where I found both Dax and O'Brien. Both were ready to help and proceeded with their examinations right away. I then returned to the Office where I gathered all my on-duty officers and briefed them as to my intentions.

"We will be accompanying Dr. Bashir and his orderlies as they board the Cardassian ship in dock. They will be obtaining DNA samples for comparison with our evidence. I have contacted the captain of the Cardassian ship in dock. The ship is now restricted to the station and all hands are confined to their ship. A security detail will escort Dr. Bashir's orderlies to the ship where they will extract DNA samples from all aboard. Similar tests will be conducted upon our three detainees. After the tests are concluded, I will question our three ‘guests'. I don't want any incidents arising over this case. We will continue shadowing the Maquis delegates and increase surveillance of our suspected Maquis sympathizers. Any questions? Good, Commander Eddington will be handing out your assignments. Report immediately if anything suspicious occurs or trouble breaks out."

"Computer, pause recording." Odo sighed as he tapped his comm badge, "Odo here."

"I hate to bother you again," Tenzil replied somewhat bashfully, "but Quark has a complaint and insist that you deal with it personally."

"Understood." Odo growled, "I'm on my way."

Odo stalked across the Promenade into Quark's, "What is it?"

"It's those two, over there," Quark very impolitely pointed, "they need to be escorted out of my bar."

"What seems to the problem?" Odo asked, observing the two men sitting quietly at their table, "They seem harmless enough."

"They just sit there." Quark wailed, "Its very unnatural. They came in two hours ago, right before that unfortunate malfunction of the dabo table and took a seat."

"And?" Odo impatiently prompted.

"They whisper between themselves, except when I'm within hearing range, and they watch your office."

"How do you know they're watching my office?" Odo crossed his arms and canted his head slightly to the side.

"I stood behind them." Quark exclaimed, "They have a perfect view out the 1st Level entrance of your office. It's all very suspicious, considering what recently happened."

Odo leaned on the bar and gave Quark a good, hard stare, "And what exactly would you know about what's recently happened?"

Quark nervously polished a glass and shook his head, "Oh, nothing. Just the usual, the sort of thing a bartender usually hears from his customers."

Odo snorted derisively, "I'll have a word with them, but that's all unless they somehow manage to actually break the law."

"Thank you." Quark pressed his hands together and gave a half bow, "And ask them to order something other than Altair water."

"Gentlemen." Odo said as he came alongside the target table.

Two men were seated there. Both wore very conservative business suits. One man had sandy blond hair and rugged features. His companion was younger and possessed dark hair and a round face.

"Can I help you?" The older, fair haired man inquired with wide eyed innocence.

"I'm Security Chief Odo." Odo informed them, "The proprietor asked me to speak with you. He feels your behavior has been... suspicious."

The blond chuckled, "I know we've been staring at the menu for a long time, but that's hardly suspicious is it?"

"It can be when you've been staring for over two hours."

"Yes, well," the blond softly laughed, "it's our first time out here. Our first time out of the core Federation worlds actually. We've been sightseeing a bit."

"May I ask who you are and why you're here then?"

"Certainly." The blond replied jovially, "My name's Luther Sloane and my associate here is Matt Conroy. Our firm has a share in the contract to bring industrial replicators to Bajor. There were some problems between our timetable and that of the Bajoran Shipping Alliance. We've got it all squared away now and everybody's back on track."

"I see." Odo replied neutrally, "I guess there's no cause for alarm then."

Sloane smiled amiably, "'Fraid not."

"I'll leave you two in peace then." Odo started to turn away then stopped, "The proprietor has suggested you order something besides Altair water. I recommend the same, if only to avoid my coming back here again."

"Will do." Sloane laughed as Odo strode away.

"Do you think he saw anything?" Conroy whispered to Sloane as they watched Odo retreat to his office.

"No." Sloane replied tersely, "Now, relax. Order a meal and continue monitoring the good Constable's activities."

I've just come from another wild goose chase at Quark's. I wonder where humans coined that particular phrase. So many human expressions are a vestige of a forgotten past it's a wonder they still understand each other..

The DNA tests presented me with quite the puzzle. The blood turned out to be a match for Umbra's aid, Ferik. Ferik had received an injury the night before at Quark's when a waiter tripped and stabbed him with a shishkabob. Ferik had refused to visit the Infirmary, convinced that the Bajoran staff there would only seek to do him harm.

My quandary was this: how could Ferik be in two places at once? At the time of the murder, Kesil observed him coming out of his guest quarters. Internal sensors didn't register a transporter being used within or outside of the station. No trace of a clone had been detected, so how was this possible?

Kesil could be mistaken or lying about his presence. He could have slipped past her and murdered Garrigan but I doubt it. Kesil is among my most dependable and trusted deputies. I trust her word and forensic evidence corroborates her report.

At this time, Commander Dax and Chief O'Brien returned the alleged murder weapon t me and gave their report. The dart was a miniature stasis field generator. Its field was only large enough to envelop the victim's heart. The charge lasted long enough to kill the victim but was inoperative by the time Dr. Bashir ran his initial scans.

I thanked the pair for their work and contacted Starfleet Security to see if they could identify the weapon or its origins. Neither Starfleet Security nor Intelligence had a clue as to the weapon's origin or method of implantation. They conjectured that a projectile launcher was the most likely means of delivery.

I was at a momentary loss when it occurred to me, there was still one Cardassian whose DNA we hadn't sampled. I doubted Garak's DNA would come anywhere close but I wanted to speak with him. I'd gathered the perspectives Starfleet Intelligence had to offer. Perhaps it was time to elicit the perspective of another intelligence service.

"Commander," I spoke to Eddington, "bring Mr. Garak in here for a little chat."

Eddington bobbed his balding head in an enthusiastic nod and he wore smile a rather feral smile, "It'll be my pleasure." He briskly departed, eager to carry out my request.

Eddington is still something of a mystery to me. He appears to be the model Starfleet Security officer and I suspect he takes any matter regarding the Cardassians very seriously. One might say he takes such things a little too seriously. He's never given me cause to mistrust or doubt his performance in the line of duty but I sometimes wonder what he thinks personally. The man is almost as private as I am and rarely speaks of anything outside of his duties and consequently has remained something of an enigma.

Eddington was as good as his word and not five minutes later, Garak was standing before my desk. For those that are not aware, Garak is the sole remaining Cardassian occupant of this station. He is a tailor and despite his protestations that he is simply a tailor it has recently been revealed that Garak was once also a spy for the Cardassian Obsidian Order. The Obsidian Order is among the most effective intelligence gathering organizations in the Alpha Quadrant and Garak had once been something of a star among his peers. I was curious to see what he'd have to say, if anything, about our mysterious murder weapon.

Garak made a slight half bow at the waist but his eyes were alert and focused on me, "Constable."

"Have a seat, Garak." I said, gesturing at one of the chairs situated before my desk, "We have matters to discuss."

"If this is about the recent DNA scans, I'm certain my exclusion was a mere oversight." Garak said in his best ingratiating voice, "I can assure you that I had nothing to do with the unfortunate demise of the Maquis delegate."

I believed him. Garak had no ax to grind with the Maquis. He'd even commented to Dr. Bashir during one of the their frequent lunches that he thought the Cardassians were bungling about in the Demilitarized Zone. Garak favored the military solution with the resultant conquering of the Federation settlers and their subjection to the Cardassian Empire. Garak believed in control and what he observed was a spiraling chaos that he blamed on the High Command. He took no personal stake in the conflict, merely regarding it as a waste of time and resources.

"I'm not having you tested." I said, then seeing the shock upon his face added, "I doubt you would have left such an obvious trail behind."

"True." Garak conceded, "Unless of course I wanted to frame another."

Eddington chortled from his position behind Garak's seat. Garak cast him an annoyed glance and returned, smiling, to me; "How can I help you then?"

I held up the dart, "have you ever seen one of these?"

Garak's eyes lit up, "Indeed I have, but not for many years. May I hold it?"

Garak took the dart and gave it an admiring examination, "These are things of beauty, aren't they?"

"No." I replied, "It killed a man."

"Yes, but so elegantly." Garak reposed, "Not so noticeable as a particle weapon or as messy as a blade. This is precision."

"We've established you're enamored with it." I growled, "Tell me what it is before I begin to think you did do it after all."

"This is catalogued by the Obsidian Order as a Thallon Dart. The name referencing the weapon's origin within the Thallonian Empire." Garak announced proudly, "The companion piece is a projectile launcher that closely resembles Dr. Bashir's preferred Walther PPK in his secret agent holonovel. It is compact, fitting within the palm of your hand and hods a magazine containing a dozen of these darts."

"How many people know of this weapon's existence?"

"The information was guarded even within the Order." Garak explained, "We received ours in exchange for favors done on the Thallonian's behalf."

"They let you keep the assassination tools from the very killings they requested."

"Yes, something like that." Garak replied brightly, then he leaned forward and said in a confidential tone, "The Thallonians do not frequently share their toys. Your killer has dealt with them before."

"Thank you, I'll take that under consideration." I leaned back in my chair, "That will be all. You're free to go now."

Garak practically hopped to his feet, "I'm glad I could be of service. You really should call on me more often."

"That'll be the day." I grunted to Eddington as Garak departed.

"I don't see why the captain tolerates his presence here." Eddington opined.

"Hmm, well there's no where else for him to go... and stay alive." I commented then turned my focus to my computer terminal.

"Where are you going to look now?" Eddington wondered aloud.

"I'm going to check with the security logs." I explained, "Maybe they can offer up a clue."

Hours of examining the internal sensors and the door monitor logs revealed that Ferik had entered his room after departing from Quark's and had stayed there until mere moments before the estimated time of Garrigan's death. According to the logs, he couldn't have done it. However, logs can be altered and this was a Cardassian built station after all. Ferik could have had first-hand knowledge of the station's systems for all I knew.

Just to be thorough, I ran through the personnel locator logs as well. The main computer kept a constant tab on every officer wearing a comm badge. I localized my search to the vicinity of the conference room and the delegates' guest quarters and found an anomaly. There had been a crewmember out of place and in the vicinity during the murder.

Concentrating now, I pulled the ID of the mysterious crewman. It turned out to be Nerrit Wen. Wen was nearly an hour early for her shift and her comm badge showed her entering the conference room prior to Tannin's arrival with the Maquis delegates. Her comm badge trace then went into an adjoining storage locker and stayed there until she emerged to respond the security bulletin regarding the murder.

I now had a suspect but no means or motive. Her comm badge was most likely left behind while she reentered the conference room during Tannin's absence and killed Garrigan. First I had to obtain proof she'd truly been in that locker at that time and then I had to establish motive. That would get me the authority I needed to search her quarters and to question her.

Nerrit's shift had let off so I dispatched the on duty forensics team to inspect the storage locker. Next I pulled up Nerrit's personnel file and began reading. It was a revealing study. Nerrit Wen had been born in one of the Bajoran Refugee Camps located on a Federation colony world that ended up on the wrong side of the border following the Federation/Cardassian treaty establishing the DMZ.

Nerrit's relatives still lived on that colony, having chosen to remain rather than be relocated to another camp. That would give her a powerful incentive to despise the Cardassians. But why target the Maquis? I would assume she'd favor their resistance to the Cardassians rather than scorn it.

Pouring further into her records yielded another interesting tidbit. A peculiar incident during a case at her previous posting that she'd been the lead forensics tech on. The forensic evidence belied the circumstantial evidence and the word of two witnesses. The suspect was convicted on the weight of the scientific testimony and sentenced to Jaros II. This established a pattern that unsettled me.

I still had other leads to follow but it was time for me to regenerate. Everything would have to wait until I resolidified. I opted to utilize my assigned quarters. I would do some shapeshifting meditations before regenerating. I could certainly stand to have my thoughts cleared and focused.

I "awoke" to find myself eager to pursue Nerrit Wen. She'd betrayed a position of trust amongst my staff and that disturbed me. Worse yet, she'd abused her position in such a way as to possibly prevent me from gathering enough solid evidence to convict her. At least when the Cardassians were in charge here, all I had to do was inform Gul Dukat I'd found my suspect and then the wheels of justice would fly. Of course, under the Cardassian system, the mere allegation of suspicion was enough to convict.

The Federation's legal system was far murkier. The burden of proof was now upon me. Before I'd merely had to satisfy my own doubts. Now I had to do it for a judge and a jury of the suspect's peers. I enjoyed the challenge and had rarely failed to provide such an airtight case as to convict.

However, unless I found the other half of the murder weapon, I wasn't certain I could be assured of this case's outcome. It was all far too circumstantial for my tastes. The recent example of the other potentially tampered case bothered me as well. Juries were far too fickle for my liking.

I gathered my notes and proceeded to Captain Sisko's office. Only he could grant me permission to hold Nerrit for questioning and search her quarters. Sisko is many things but indecisive isn't one of them. I'd have my decision before I left his office.

"Computer, pause recording." Odo irritably slapped his comm badge, "What?"

"They're still here." Quark hissed over the channel.

"Are they buying things?" Odo rolled his eyes.

"Yes, but..."

"Then shut up and clear this channel. This circuit is for official use only." Odo scolded.

"But..."

"Quark," Odo growled low in his throat, "I'm warning you."

"Fine." Quark conceded sulkily, "Out."

Odo sighed, then laced his fingers and returned his attention to the computer.

"Computer, resume recording."

Quark again. If I had a slip of latinum for every time he annoyed me I'd be the richest sentient in the galaxy. Never mind him. I was on my way to Sisko's office.

When I arrived, Captain Sisko greeted me with a smile, "Constable, what can I do for you?"

The way he stressed every syllable told me he was in a good mood, "I need to discuss a serious matter with you."

"All right." Sisko sat down behind his desk and steepled his fingers, "What kind of serious matter is this?"

"I want to detain a Starfleet officer for questioning and conduct a search of her quarters."

Sisko leaned forward, "That is serious."

"It's murder."

"This relates to the death of the Maquis delegate?"

"Integrally. I believe I may have uncovered the killer."

Sisko rubbed his forehead and sighed, "Show me what you have."

I ran the Captain through every shred of evidence and every suspicion and theory I had. When I finished, Sisko leaned back in his chair and took his baseball in hand. He slowly rolled the ball between his hands as he pondered my news. With a low rumble, he replaced the baseball to its customary place on his desk.

"Bring her in." he ordered, "I want this case solved. These talks must proceed."

I rose to my feet, "Yes sir. Shall I include Commander Eddington in the detainment?"

"She's under Eddington's command. He deserves to know." Sisko advised.

I nodded, "As you wish." With that, I left and found Eddington.

Eddington and I waited outside of the forensics lab. I had already dispatched the previous shift's team to reconduct the examination of the conference room. I'd received the report of the results of the search of the storage locker while I'd briefed Eddington. The locker had been filled with physical evidence of Nerrit's occupancy, time stamped to the period surrounding the murder.

With us, we had one Militia deputy and a Starfleet Security officer. It was a joint operation to fulfill an onerous task. Arresting one of your own is demoralizing at best and could divide a command at worst. With luck, we'd find the murder weapon in her quarters and make this an open and shut case, but I doubted it.

Nerrit was surprised by our appearance but not overly alarmed. She came quietly and meekly entered her holding cell. I departed to oversee the search of her quarters. As expected they turned up nothing.

The recycling log on her room's replicator, however, was more interesting. All of yesterday's activities had been erased. Chief O'Brien tried but failed to reclaim any of the lost data. He shook his head and wore a grim smile.

"She's good." The Chief said, "I'll give her that. She scrambled that data but good."

"Thank you for trying Chief."

He shrugged, "I wish it coulda been fer some good."

"The mere fact she went to such lengths to hide something is incriminating." I assured him.

"Good luck, Constable." The Chief said as he departed, "If she's this slick about everything, she's gonna be a hard one to pin anythin' on."

Sadly, he was correct. I had enough evidence to question her but not enough to arrest her or hold her indefinitely. I decided I needed to some checking around before I questioned Nerrit. Anything I found could only help my case.

I entered the holding area and took up a stance outside of Nerrit's cell, "It's time we had a little chat."

"Aren't you going to drop the forcefield?" She asked with innocent eyes.

"Not yet." I replied, "I'd like some answers first."

"Shouldn't my lawyer be present?"

"You're not under arrest. This is just a preliminary questioning."

"I see." She frowned, "And what am I being questioned about?"

"Garrigan's murder." I said, "You were there, or at least the computer says you were. You first entered the conference room, then you went into the adjoining storage locker and waited in there throughout the period the murder took place. What were you doing there during a murder?"

"I'd gone into the deserted conference room to order a cup of coffee." Nerrit replied smoothly, "When it became obvious the replicator was broken, I went into the locker to see if there was a tool kit available."

"Why didn't you call Ops and request a repair tech?" I inquired, "Or better yet, what made you think you were qualified to repair the replicator in the first place?"

"I didn't want to bother Ops. The conference was due to start in a few minutes and a repair team would have taken and hour or more to arrive." Nerrit explained, "I took some basic engineering courses at the Academy. I felt qualified to make a simple repair."

"How do you know it would be simple?" I pressed, "It could have been any number of things that went wrong."

"I took a guess." She shrugged, "Was I wrong?"

"About what?"

"The replicator."

"No. It was a simple matter of adjusting one of the phase converters."

"So, I was right." She said with a smugness I found repellent.

"What about the night before at Quark's?"

"What about it?"

"You were among the first to arrive at the Cardassian delegation's table when the injury occurred. You assisted the wounded man to his feet."

"So?"

"You were raised in the Bajoran Camps. Your family lives inside the DMZ. Why the altruism regarding Cardassians?"

"Starfleet officers are taught to see past their personal prejudices."

"Convenient." He scoffed, "What about the Ferengi waiter that fell?"

"What about him?" she shook her head in confusion.

"He fell next to your table and he swears he was tripped."

"A poor excuse for clumsiness." That smugness returned.

"Who ordered it?"

"Ordered what?" she said, all mock innocence.

"The murder." I folded my arms across my chest.

She actually laughed, "Constable, anyone could have ordered it. No one wants a settled peace in the DMZ. They want the conflict to continue. A true chance to undermine the Cardassian military machine has been discovered by a group of colonial farmers and workers. Who wants to see their sacrifices thrown away?"

"So the killing was ordered." I prodded, "What did they pay you with?"

"No one paid me to do anything." Nerrit insisted, "I was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm certain you've examined the locker and reexamined the conference room by now."

"I have." I conceded, "They confirm your presence in the locker but not the conference room."

She approached the forcefield with outstretched hands, "What've I been telling you?

"You could have planted Ferik's blood." I tried one last time to rattle her, "You could have obtained a sample of his blood while you assisted him and planted it at the crime scene. Planted it like you did on Demial and condemned poor Ensign Janacek to the stockade on Jaros II."

She smiled at me with pity, "Now you're stretching."

She waited a moment then primly put her hands behind her back, "Are you going to arrest me now, or am I free to go?"

I stared at her with pure disgust. It galled me to do so, but I had no other choice. I didn't have enough tangible evidence to hold her. I reached out to the forcefield controls and lowered the shield.

"You're free to go." I grudgingly informed her.

With a slight smile and a bob to her step, she exited the Holding Area and returned to her quarters. I watched her go all the way on the security monitors. She never once looked back or appeared suspicious. She appeared victorious. She'd beaten me and knew it.

I went to Sisko's office a few hours later to speak to him about Lt. Nerrit's continuing presence on the station. Upon hearing the purpose of my visit he smiled wryly and asked me to take a seat. Tugging at his uniform jacket, he came around the desk. His expression was mixed and his eyes were dark.

"Lt. Nerrit is no longer our problem." Sisko announced, "Starfleet Command has reassigned her, effective immediately. She leaves on the transport tomorrow."

"How?" I stammered, "Why?"

"Starfleet Intelligence has some operation they feel she's perfectly suited for."

"When were these orders issued?"

"Today." Sisko replied, "Apparently Intelligence had heard about her troubles here. They included orders to suspend your investigation."

"Signed by whom?" I was becoming irate.

"Vice Admiral Nechayev herself." Sisko apologetically answered me, "I'm sorry."

"But she's guilty." I declared.

"Maybe, maybe not. We couldn't prove it and she remains innocent until proven otherwise."

"We'll see about that." I said and rose to my feet, "I have contacts within Starfleet now. They'll see to it that both she and her mysterious backer are caught."

"See that it remains unofficial." Sisko warned, "Advise them to get solid evidence next time before proceeding."

"You can be assured we will." I said and departed.

Thinking about it, I can't help but wonder about Nerrit's mysterious backer. Who put her up to it and supplied the weaponry? Who had access to Thallonian technology? The timing of her orders also raises my suspicions.

The timing and coincidences of too many things feel manipulated. Nerrit's own statements sounded like a policy at the end. The Federation and Starfleet have long maintained that there is no secret police service within the Federation. Every other galactic power has them, why not the Federation?

Whether or not there is a shadowy agency secretly manipulating Federation interests is not for me to say. Whether or not some group has taken it upon itself to prolong the Maquis resistance despite official Starfleet and Federation agendas is also not for me to say. I have no proof, only suspicions. And if there is any lesson to be learned in these events it is that evidence, not deduction, is the determining factor in any case.

I credit my deputies and their Starfleet counterparts for keeping order while the tensions rose around the station. The Maquis have left, still demanding blood and vowing vengeance. The Cardassians have also departed telling tales of their "abuse" at Federation, Bajoran and Maquis hands. If someone truly did intend to prolong this conflict, then they scored a victory beyond measure

I intend to return to my duties and put this incident behind me. I will learn from it, as I always do, and keep it in mind should a similar situation arise. There is little else I can say that will of be any value to anyone so I will sign off here. I'm not certain of the protocol of these things so I will merely say, "Farewell".

"Computer, end recording."

Sloane removed the diminutive earpiece from his ear and nudged Conroy, "All right, let's go."

"But he suspects..." Conroy started to protest.

"He suspects what?" Sloane asked as he rose from the table, "He suspects there might be some covert agency guarding over the Federation? You heard him. He has no leads and no proof. We're safe."

Conroy also rose, "But he's marked Nerrit. He or his connections might find a link back to Section... argh."

Sloane held Conroy's arm tightly, "You will not repeat that name without express permission. Do you understand?"

Conroy nodded.

"Good." Sloane released his arm, "Now keep smiling. You're making some of the other patrons suspicious. Let's catch our transport out of here."

"This trip was a waste." Conroy muttered as they walked to the Transit Authority office.

"It wasn't bad." Sloane remarked with a smile, "We tried hasperat and made an interesting contact."

"Who?" Conroy wondered, "We never spoke to anybody."

"We talked to Odo and more importantly, we listened to Odo." Sloane replied, "He mentioned a certain Dr. Bashir. Julian Bashir, an excellent doctor by the way, was referenced as being the friend of a Cardassian tailor. A certain Cardassian tailor that is also an ex-Obsidian Order agent. I believe this talented young man merits closer observation. I'm going to inform central to conduct a thorough background check on him and to maintain constant surveillance from this point on."

"You're joking?" Conroy asked in disbelief.

"You never know," Sloane chuckled, "the boy has secret agent fantasies. Maybe some day he'll join us and live out his fantasy life."

With one last look around, Sloane and Conroy entered the docking port that led to their chartered ship.

"I hope I never have to return here." Conroy sighed as he slid into his seat, "That Ferengi was a damn nuisance."

"I don't know." Sloane mused, "I think I might like to come back someday."

 

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