Martin on Mars – Interrogation – Day 2

Martin Coswell : April 9, 2151

Detective Log: Mars 2

Domed cities are incredibly clean. It looks unnatural, but I guess when it’s all you’ve got to live in, you take damn good care of it so that it keeps you alive. Not so on Earth, even though the same principle applies. When I got up this morning, I took the elevator up to the lobby. Living quarters and office space are all located below ground here. Any place that humans spend regular amounts of time that don’t have to be on the surface are dug in under ground, away from harmful radiation. Radiation, numbing cold, and a very thin and poisonous atmosphere are the main dangers on Mars. 

I learned about the challenges on Mars in my extensive briefings before leaving Earth . The soil is toxic and requires a lot of processing to remove the perchlorates before anything can be grown in it. Mars has plenty of water, but it’s all frozen and widely dispersed. There are large quantities of it at the poles, which have to shipped via robot caravans to the domes. Water recycling is used everywhere on Mars, which means that this morning’s coffee was at some point someone’s yesterday pee. Fortunately the recyclers have been perfected in the last thirty years of use, but I’ve got a vivid imagination. I wasn’t able to stop my brain from thinking about Raspberry Truffle Columbian Urine as I finished the last of the cup.

Martians have all grown very tired of the cookie-cutter tin cans that they started out in. I can see that everywhere they try to avoid it. Having the transparent metal dome of the city hanging overhead is a bit strange after coming from Earth, but it’s tall enough that you don’t get any sense of claustrophobia. The dome isn’t completely clear because of the palladium-silica alloy, but it does have good electrical properties and acts as a giant solar cell. About twenty percent of the city’s power comes from it, the rest is generated by nuclear power. That’s pretty outdated, but fusion plants are expensive and require feedstock that just isn’t able to be spared on Mars.

Broderick met me at the Olympus correctional facility. The aboveground entrances to all the buildings under the dome have unique designs in a kind of effort to give the city some character. Whoever made the one for the correctional facility overdid themselves. It looks gothic and foreboding, only missing a dark wet sky and lightning to complete the picture. A wet sky was never going to happen here, but Mars did occasionally have static charged lightning in the dust storms.

We entered the building after a short greeting and passed through the body detectors. The alarm went off and I showed the guard my antique forty-five caliber automatic. He let me tuck it back into the shoulder holster under my jacket, and I saw a little glint of awe in his eyes. You don’t often see an old weapon like that anymore. Most cops pack lightweight needle guns and the like. Me, I want something that sounds as badass as it is. It’s the kind of weapon that can scare the piss out of you even if it doesn’t hit you. I have to hand load the rounds myself because you just can’t buy factory loads for it anymore, and owning the thing is the ultimate cop conversation piece at parties.

Broderick wasn’t very talkative this morning.  He gave me the scoop on this William Daughtry guy they had in custody. Louise Daughtry had been stabbed in the back fourteen times, and good ole Bill swears he just woke up in bed with her like that in morning. Broderick was under pressure to make the conviction based on that circumstantial, but very damning, evidence. Broderick didn’t believe he was guilty either, because the man was a dyed in the wool Martian.

“No Martian has ever killed another Martian,” he said.

To that I replied, “Bullshit. We’ve got thirty-six dead people here that say otherwise.”

Broderick shrugged.  “No Martian has ever been proven to have killed another Martian in a court of law. I think the killer is from offworld.”

Broderick doesn’t have any evidence to back that up, besides his longstanding belief in the good will of all Martians. And I’ve long since stopped believing in innocence. Innocence is just a word people use to keep themselves from feeling bad. We’re all guilty. Especially me.

The man in the cell sat with his hands cuffed and bolted to the top of a metal table. He’s about five eight, unshaven, super depressed. He didn’t even look up at us when we walked in. I took one look at him and saw something very familiar. Grief.

“William,  I’m Constable Broderick of the Mars Law Authority, and this is Martin Coswell of the Office of Interstellar Security. We’d like to ask you a few questions, if you’re up to it.”

Bill looked up at us, barely raising his head to peer half through his eyebrows.  “She was fucking him… I didn’t know.”

“She? You mean your wife, Mr. Daughtry?”

“Yeah.” He grunted this and looked back down into his lap.

“And who was he?” Broderick dug in gently, keeping his voice calm and reasonable, like a surgeon poking a deadly tumor with the tip of a scalpel.

“Robert, from the goddam gym. The personal fucking trainer I’ve been paying for.”

“When did you find out?” I asked him.

“The night before she died. I found out that…” The voice cracked on Bill’s next word. “night.”

“And were you angry?”  I leaned closer and Bill raised his head. I got a good look at him, right in the eye.

“No, I got angry later. When I found out, I was just sick to my stomach. Shock, I guess.”  He shook his head. “I…I didn’t kill her. It wasn’t me. I… got angry later, you know, when I had time to think about it. I wouldn’t have killed her. Divorce, yeah, I was going to leave. No doubt about it. But murder? Hell no.”

I caught something in Bill’s voice. It might have been the tinge of grief that hung on the words. It might have been the hollow eyes of someone that had lost everything in a brief moment. No matter the words that were coming out of his mouth, I know one thing about the man. He loved his Louise, more than anything in his world, or any other. Yet there he was, suspect number one in a murder investigation, the first of its kind here on Mars, or so the Constable would have me believe. But, that doesn’t ring exactly true in my experience. Murder is part of the human condition, and as old as the race itself—one of our despicable traits, that has never been eradicated. I know it’s Mars politics speaking. That it’s the party line. Mars, the new utopia, where men are civilized, and the modern life on Mars has transformed man. It has worked wonders for their immigration numbers, and they need them badly.  Badly enough to cover up murder?

“Tell me about the boyfriend.” I said.

The constable remained silent, but he watched Bill intently for clues.

“All I know is his first name is Robert. I found a note in her purse. I think he works at the gym that she goes to… went to…” His voice broke in a high pitch on that last word again, and he shut up.

“Have you met him?” I pressed.

“Never. I didn’t even know she was having an affair until the night before she died.”

“What did the note say?” Broderick asked, suddenly tacking in a different direction.

Bill’s face contorted, and his lips remained clamped shut. I waited until I was certain that he had no intention of divulging the information.

“You say that you aren’t guilty. I may even believe you, so it wouldn’t be good for you to be seen as obstructing the investigation.” I sat back in my chair and tried to pierce the man’s outer shell.

“It said she couldn’t wait to feel him….” His voice was a barely controlled avalanche of emotions. I could see anger rolling around inside of there, mixed with grief and shock, a dozen other destructive things, any of which could push a man to kill another man. But what man wouldn’t feel that if they’d been through what Bill had. It was not a basis for conviction. In fact, if anything, my gut had suddenly felt pulled in the opposite direction for some reason. The man had a serious motive for murder, yet Robert still lived. That doesn’t add up, but maybe Bill just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

“Is there anything else you can tell us? Anything strange, or out of the ordinary that you noticed?”  Broderick asked.

Bill shook his head, which hung from his shoulders like a dying plant, wilted and without life. “I just don’t understand why she did this to me, and I don’t know why anyone would want to kill her. None of it makes any sense. But if you ask me, I’d be talkin’ with that bastard Robert. He probably knows something. He obviously knew a lot more than I did about what was going on.”

“That’s a good point, Mr. Daughtry, and we’ll definitely be doing that.”  I assured him. “I’ll be personally updating you on anything that develops. I’m sorry for your loss.”

We left the building and I thought hard about what we’d learned from Bill: the words, the body language, the soulful pain in the man’s eyes. It all paints a story that I have to work to decipher. Where the story will lead, I’m not sure, but I know somehow it will bring me eventually to the answers. It always does.