This marks the end of the extant portion of the story. From here on out, I have to start writing new material. Dang it!
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Harris, a young man of average height with wild hair and the habit of muttering to himself, examines crate number one. With a glass that resembles a jeweler’s loupe, he studies the locks and seals then he illumines the entire box, but no fingerprints or stains glow under the light. He pays no attention to the Fraenorsh on the tag, just to the way the tag is attached to the crate.
It’s just as well. What I’ve managed to translate so far has nothing to do with an inventory list. I signal Zane and tilt the slate in his direction.
“Huh,” he says, and glances at the crate. “Curiouser and curioser.”
“Ha!” Harris straightens. “This tag does not belong to this box.”
Effects Warden Durward frowns. “But it was stored as one of Advocate Edo’s crates.”
Harris lets the loupe fall, and it dangles from the lanyard around his neck. “Even so, this tag was switched. This box may or may not belong to the grouping.” He gestures with both hands, palms held about two inches apart like, making chopping motions downward as he speaks. “The switched tag may be nothing more than a replacement for a damaged tag. The box may have been accidentally stored with this group, and the Edo box may be stored in its place, wherever its group is in the vault. Or both tag and box were switched, and the crate you need could be anywhere.”
Zane crosses his arms. “Somebody switched crates then tags, and made off with the original box?”
“It’s a possibility.”
“Why go through all that trouble?”
Harris shrugged. “To keep you occupied?” He peels off his gloves. “Any clue what was in the original crate? Anything anyone might be interested in stealing?”
Zane just looks at him.
Harris lifts his hands. “Yeah. That’s not my business.” He closes his kit and locks it. “By the way, there’s no one I know who speaks Fraenorsh on Wyoming Colony. It’s gotta be a clue, though.”
I decline to speak up about my tenuous grasp of the new language.
Harris turns toward me and sticks out a hand. “Miles Harris. Or, as Zane likes to call me, geek law.”
“Forensic Officer Harris, it’s good to meet you.” I set the slate and stylus in a seat under the table then stand to shake his hand. “I’m Advocate Temm. You can drop the advocate, though.”
“Just Temm, it is.” He grins. “Welcome aboard. Call me Harris.”
Zane inserts a shoulder between us. “If you’re done bonding, maybe we can get back to our original business?”
“Sure. Sure,” but Harris still looks at me a second or two longer than necessary.
I turn, take a step toward Durward as if to discuss something. Reflected on a screen, Harris stares at my back.
Zane takes him by the shoulder and walks with him to the door, speaking in a low tone. Harris leaves the vault.
c. 2008, Keanan Brand