Three years ago, I had to arrest the only woman I’d ever loved. Twice. I met Elizabeth Raleigh on a two-week vacation to a little planet called Hyperion II in the Lassen System. She was a guest at the hotel I was staying at. Elizabeth and I had hit it off immediately. In the span of a week and a half, I had somehow fallen for that spunky brunette. Everything seemed like a dream, at least until the dream turned into a nightmare.
One night nearing the end of my vacation, the hotel door was kicked in and our bed was surrounded by a team of well-armed police officers. They were there to serve a warrant for her arrest on charges of theft and murder. There was no possible way she could be guilty of something like that, not the woman I had come to know. I went to protest but before I could, Elizabeth leapt from the bed, clad in only a bed sheet, and ran to the balcony in a cloud of police pistol plasma fire. She took my heart with her.
I found myself in a race to find her before the other officers did. It was a race I won. I had heard the evidence levied against her, but I wanted to hear it from her. She admitted to nothing. Being a detective myself, I was bound by interstellar law. Even though it ripped me apart inside, I had to take her in. She pleaded with me over and over, but I had a job to do. Hours after I had turned her over, I found out she had managed to escape again.
When they were unable to find her, they turned back to me. I didn’t want to go after her again. I wanted to forget. But after weeks of arm twisting and pressure from my boss, I relented and tracked her down yet again. This time, my little tart planted a hidden electromagnetic pulse charge on my ship and as a parting gift for turning her over to the authorities, she remotely detonated it and obliterated all the electrical systems on my ship with it. In my heart, I knew I deserved it. Over the last three years I’ve tried to forget her. Just when I thought I had succeeded, fate had other plans.
I was heading back to GPA Outpost 117, after wrapping up a case in a nearby solar system, when the communication console chirped in front of me. The identity stamp said it was from the Galactic Police Authority. I swiped my hand across the screen to accept the incoming transmission only to see Captain Keith Hammond, my boss. There was no hello. “Did you get her BOLO?”
“BOLO? For who?” Without warning, my ship shook, and a shower of hot sparks rained down on me. The alarms went crazy. “What the-” I scrambled to figure out what had happened, but the scanners kept going offline. The communications console chirped again, and it wasn’t Hammond.
“What’s happening? Is everything okay?” I heard Hammond ask.
The identity stamp was blank. “Hold that thought.” I placed Hammond on standby and answered the mysterious incoming message.
It was her. It was Elizabeth Raleigh. “Hello lover.” All the memories, both good and bad, came flooding back. “I see you got a new cruiser?”
I crossed my arms. “Elizabeth.”
“Aww. You missed me.”
Maybe on some irrational level I did. “I see you escaped.”
Elizabeth gave a curtsey. “What can I say? I needed to stretch my legs.”
The communication console beeped reminding me that Hammond was still on standby. “So now that you’ve stretched your legs, does that mean you’re ready to go back?”
Her smile faded. “Not in the least, which brings me to why I’m here.”
My brow raised. “I was wondering about that.”
“I figured if they’d send anyone after me, it would be you.”
That’s when it hit me. It was her BOLO he was talking about. “That might explain why Captain Hammond is on the other channel.”
Raleigh didn’t look amused. “As delightful as that is, I decided to find you before you found me.”
“Giving up already?”
She touched a console hidden from view and I was again covered in a spray of sparks. Power fluctuations rippled through the ship’s systems. More alarms went off. It took a moment to override the computer and silence them. By the console readouts, most of my systems were offline and my engines were in shambles. When I looked back to the communications console, Raleigh was beaming but I wasn’t.
She gave another curtsey, and I kicked the console in frustration. “Sorry Daniel, but I can’t have you getting in my way. Now be a good boy and don’t come after me this time.”
My navigation sensors were unresponsive when I touched them, along with just about everything else. I wasn’t going anywhere, and I had no idea where she was. “What are you up to this time, Elizabeth?”
She gasped playfully. “Whatever do you mean?”
“You know I’m going to find out.”
“Not this time sweetheart.” With that she blew me a kiss and cut the link. It automatically switched back over to Hammond.
Hammond had his arms crossed. “What happened?”
“Another communication came in.” He rolled his eyes at me. “It was from our favorite fugitive.”
“What?” He lunged forward in surprise. “She contacted you?”
I lowered my head somewhat embarrassed. “She did more than that.” He waited for me to elaborate further but I didn’t want to. “I’m going to need a tow.”
I severed the communication link and sat back in my chair surveying the flickering systems. This was not how today was supposed to go.
Captain Hammond, in his crisp blue uniform, greeted me in the hangar the moment I had returned. I hadn’t even managed to get out of the cockpit yet. “You’re killing me. Do you know that? That’s the second cruiser you’ve destroyed.”
I lifted my duffle bag from the backseat and slung it over my shoulder. “Technically, sir, that was Elizabeth both times.”
“And? When the commander hears about it, he’s going to have both our asses for breakfast.”
I didn’t like it any more than he did. Hammond held out an information pad toward me. I knew what he wanted but I wasn’t going to, not this time. “No.”
“No.” He started to say something else, but I interrupted him before he could get it out and pushed the information pad back toward him. “I said no.”
Captain Hammond shoved the information pad back in my direction. “You’re going after her.” This time he returned the favor and stopped me before I could let out a witty reply. “You’re not going to win this battle. This is my department, and you work for me. I’m telling you; you’re going after her.”
My stomach knotted up. I could barely keep her out of my thoughts since my last encounter with her. Concentrating on nothing but her wasn’t going to be good for me. “Why me?”
Hammond cocked his head backwards in disbelief. “You know why.”
“Sir, please. Don’t make me do this.”
“I’m sorry Daniel.” Part of me wanted to tell him to go jump out of an open airlock and the other part actually wanted to see Elizabeth again. I needed my head examined for even thinking it. To keep myself from saying something I’d regret, I silently focused on the bulkhead behind him. Hammond smiled at my exaggerated huff as I took the information pad from him. “Our intel leads us to believe her target is a museum on Taolos. We don’t know what she’s after but I’m hoping you can round her up before she makes any more trouble. For what it’s worth, thank you for doing this.”
His thanks made my lips curl. “Right.”
Hammond’s demeanor lightened. “I can’t wait to see how long it’ll take you to track her down on foot.”
I sent a glare in his direction. “Funny. So how exactly am I supposed to track her down when my ship looks like this?” I motioned toward my damaged cruiser.
He chuckled and shook his head at me. “Don’t worry. I’ve got a-”, he paused, “replacement for you. Right over there.”
Hammond pointed to rust bucket of a ship, one that looked like it had been abandoned to a junkyard well before I was born. “You can’t be serious. Where’s my real replacement?”
“You’re looking at it. That’s your new bird.”
My stomach flopped. “Does it even fly?”
“Of course. And if you decide to destroy this one too, no one will scream.” That one stung. But he had a good point. “You bring Raleigh in and I’ll talk to the commander about getting your old one fixed up. Until then, that one’s yours.”
I pursed my lips and looked down at the information pad in my hand. “When do I leave?”
“Now.” He said it with a smile.
I huffed and looked back at the rust bucket. There were paint chips and metal fragments on the hangar floor beneath it. “This thing better not give me tetanus.”
Hammond chuckled. He started to walk away but then turned back toward me. “Daniel, don’t let her get under your skin again.” I’m sure he knew those were wasted words. We both knew it was already too late for that.
The rust bucket was faster than I expected. After a quick check-in with the Port Authority on Talos, I went to find a hotel where I could get a shower and figure out the surroundings. Elizabeth was here somewhere; the only question was where. Using a tip from a local, I checked into the Discovery Hotel. Not a bad place for the money. I dropped my bags off in my room and noticed one of the complimentary brochures had a map. It indicated the Taolos Museum of Interstellar History, Elizabeth’s target, was located only 6 or 7 blocks away from hotel. I got my hands on a rent-a-hover and headed right over to the museum. I needed to warn the management of the potential theft, that is, if she hadn’t already pulled off the heist. If she hadn’t, she’d be doing it soon. I just wished I knew what she was going after.
I flashed my badge to the lady at the museum ticketing counter and asked her to get her manager. After a couple of minutes Mr. Welsh, the museum curator, came down to the front desk and introduced himself. He was dressed in a dark green suit and his brown hair was slicked back.
“Nice to meet you Mr. Welsh. My name is Detective Daniel Kramer. I’m here on behalf of the Galactic Police Authority.”
The man shifted his stance. “Is there something wrong?”
I looked back at the waiting line of patrons behind me. “Perhaps we can go somewhere and talk in private.”
“Please. If you would follow me?”
I entered through the turnstile and followed him to his office. The office was a museum itself. The room was lined in books and held artifacts from all over the galaxy. We took a seat and got down to business. I pulled up a picture of Elizabeth Raleigh on my information pad and slid it over to him. “Mr. Welsh, have you seen this woman?”
He picked it up and laid it back down. “No.” A weird expression had flashed across his face when he first saw the photo.
“Are you sure?”
I had a strong feeling he was lying. “Okay. I have reason to believe she’s after something in your museum.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that. We pride ourselves on having the rarest of the rare of ancient off-world artifacts. Do you honestly think that our security systems would be so inadequate that a mere thief could waltz in and out with one of our prized artifacts? Detective, I think you’ll find my artifacts are well protected.”
That wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. He wasn’t even curious as to what she was after or who she was. Any normal person would be quizzing me until I was out of breath. “All right. If you do happen to see her, please contact me.” I gave him my communications link ID number.
We shook hands and I left him to his work. Since I was already inside, I went ahead and walked through the museum. I figured there was no sense in wasting the opportunity. The museum itself had several off-world artifacts, most of which didn’t seem like the type that Elizabeth would attempt to steal. At least that’s what I thought until I ran across an unassuming display that held a white gold necklace with red star diamonds. The name of the necklace was almost too perfect, the Stars of Raleigh. The gold plaque beneath it said the red star diamonds were the rarest diamonds in the known galaxy and these were the only ones known to exist. This had to be what Elizabeth Raleigh was after, but it seemed too obvious to be true.
It wasn’t too long before I noticed the curator making rounds as if spying on what I was doing. If I didn’t know better, I’d say my presence made him more uncomfortable than the idea of a possible theft. Why was that? I moved on to other displays and out of his range of vision. He was quick to follow. There was something strange about it all. I found a seat and took to watching the patrons of the museum. It was meant to make the curator uncomfortable but to my surprise something else came out of it. Elizabeth Raleigh came waltzing into the room in full disguise. She wore a cropped blonde wig, glasses and a non-assuming grey jacket and skirt. But there was no mistaking those long legs for anyone else. I remembered them all too well.
The curator turned his attention from me when he saw her. The fact that he could recognize her like I could confirmed my suspicion that he’d seen her before. Elizabeth didn’t appear to be making a go for the necklace, at least not yet. If she saw me, I knew she’d try to make a break for it, so I decided to keep my distance. Unlike me, the curator did the opposite and went right up to her. I couldn’t make out the exchange but the two of them were arguing with one another, low key enough not to make a scene. I reached for my cuffs but as I did, she stormed off toward the exit. The curator followed right behind her.
With cuffs in hand, I pushed my way through the museum crowds heading after the two of them. Elizabeth was gone by the time I reached the entrance. The curator stood at the front desk with his arms crossed looking toward the exit. He didn’t appear all that happy. What I was about to do next wasn’t going to improve his mood much. “Mr. Welsh?”
“What?” He said with an angry tone. Mr. Welsh turned around toward me with his arms still crossed.
“Should I arrest you right here and now?”
His arms unfurled. “Arrest? Why?”
“Obstructing an active investigation for one.”
The lady at the sales desk looked back at our exchange with her mouth agape.
“There must be some mistake. I haven’t done anything.”
I let one end of the stasis cuffs drop and dangle in front of him. His eyes widened. “Mr. Welsh, you lied to me. I showed you the picture of Elizabeth Raleigh and you told me you’d never seen her before. We both know you have. In fact, you just spoke to her. Did you not?”
I didn’t give him the opportunity to respond. “Mr. Welsh, you have the right-“
At last I had his interest. “I’m listening.”
“Let’s take this back to my office. There’s no need to do this in front of the patrons.”
The museum visitors were looking onward at us quite curious as to what was going down. I nodded to him and followed him back to his office. He closed the door behind us, and we sat down. “Now Mr. Welsh, let me make one thing clear. I want the truth. If you don’t give me the full truth, I’ll see to it that you spend some quality time behind bars.”
Mr. Welsh shifted in his seat. “Okay.”
“She was here. I saw her. What did you two argue about?” He hesitated to answer me. “Mr. Welsh?
“She wanted me to give her the necklace. I told her no and to get out of my museum.”
“Did she say why she wanted the necklace?”
“So why did you tell me you hadn’t seen her before when apparently you had?”
“I don’t know.”
Like I really believed that. “I want the truth.”
“I owe her money. Okay?”
I wasn’t about to believe she broke out of jail to collect on a debt. Elizabeth Raleigh liked money but that wasn’t the Elizabeth Raleigh I remembered. One thing I learned about Elizabeth, if you wanted her to do something, tell her not to do it. She never took the word no very well. After their little spat on the museum floor, I was willing to bet she’d be back. And if I knew her like I thought I did, she’d be back tonight after the museum closed.
“Mr. Welsh, I’m not so certain I believe you. I think you’re hiding something from me.” He stayed quiet. “But I don’t care. What I care about is catching her. So, let me explain how this is going to work. You’re going to allow me to spend the night in the museum after closing. And when she comes for the necklace, I’m going to get her.”
“You think I’m going to let you stay in my museum overnight?”
“It’s that or we take a trip to the local GPA precinct.” I jingled the stasis cuffs. “Your choice.”
A few hours later I returned to the museum with my surveillance equipment in tow. Mr. Welsh had agreed to let me spend the night. I hated that I paid for a hotel room but catching her sooner than later was all for the best. I met up with Mr. Welsh right before closing and got briefed on the security systems. He made sure my identity card was granted permissions to access any place I needed to go, including exiting the museum without the alarms going off. I setup shop in the same room I had seen Elizabeth earlier that day.
Some people enjoyed a stake-out. Not me. Waiting for something that might not happen didn’t thrill me. Hours passed by but Elizabeth didn’t disappoint me. The light clicks of her heels against the tiled floor grabbed my attention. Moments later she came into view and went straight for the case where the necklace was sealed. She had disposed of the disguise; she now wore a black catsuit with matching boots and her brown hair was bound in a ponytail. I stood up and walked up behind her, as quiet as I could. She pulled a field disruptor from her bag and placed it in her mouth while she searched for something else in her bag. Elizabeth produced a scanner from her bag, removed the disruptor from her mouth and began to use it on the edges of the case. By the looks of things, she was going to attempt to deactivate the case alarms and the force field around the necklace. That wasn’t something I was going to let her do. “You don’t think it’s going to be that easy, do you?”
Elizabeth jumped but regained her composure. “Daniel.” She tossed her equipment to the side and took off running.
“Oh no you don’t!” I chased after her fully intent on not letting her escape. Typically, I would have pulled my sidearm but she and I both knew I couldn’t use it on her. Elizabeth whipped around a corner that sent me sliding. That woman was quick, but I wasn’t going to let her get away. We ran past several exhibits, but it didn’t take long to catch up to her. When I was in close enough range, I leapt and grabbed her feet. The both of us hit the ground with a smack. I should have seen the bottom of her boot coming but I didn’t. She kicked me right in the jaw, thankfully not with the spiked heel. The kick was hard enough for me to let go and for her to get to her feet before I did. “Bye, baby.”
I slapped the floor as I got to my feet and went after her. “I’ve got you this time.” She was headed for a dead end. Finding herself closed in on all sides she slid to a stop. As she turned around to find another way, I tackled her to the floor.
“Damn it!” She exclaimed while struggling against me. On top of her, I forced her hands to the floor. “Why are you so persistent?”
“I could ask you the same thing.” To my surprise she rolled us over to where she was on top.
“I told you not to follow me.” There was a hint of tease in her tone.
“And you thought I’d listen?”
She smiled and leaned in close enough for me to smell her perfume. “Of course not.” Elizabeth leaned down and kissed me with her soft lips. That hit me harder than her boot had. “Come with me.” Elizabeth sounded serious. “We don’t have to be on different sides.” It took a moment for her offer to register. I rolled her over again so that I was on top.
“You know I can’t do that.” She caught my eyes drifting from hers down to her lips and smiled.
“Are you sure?”
I looked into her deep chocolate brown eyes and kissed her back. I released one of her hands and reached behind my back for my stasis cuffs. Her free hand didn’t resist me. Instead she ran her fingers through my short sandy blonde hair as we continued to kiss. It was enough for me to pause my hunt for my cuffs but only for a moment. I broke the kiss and cuffed her. “You can come with me though.” She exhaled and laid her head back on the tiled floor. I rolled off and got to my feet, pulling her up with me. “Elizabeth Raleigh, you have the right-“
“To another kiss?”
A smiled formed on my face. “To remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of interstellar law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”
“You know I do.” Her heels clicked on the tile floor as I made a call over to the local precinct to have her picked up. “So now what?”
“They’ll come and get you. You’ll then be returned to the Epsilon Gamma II detention facility.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “That’s not what I meant.” There was silence between us for several moments. “That was nice you know.”
“What was?” I asked as I walked her toward the entrance.
“Our kiss.” The kiss was nice but that wasn’t something I wanted to confess to her. She let out a huff at my silence. “Why are you so afraid to admit it?” I remained silent. In the distance I could hear the sirens coming closer. She lowered her head. “Is it because I’m an escaped criminal?”
“That might have something to do with it.”
Elizabeth looked up at me. “Then why did you kiss me?” I crossed my arms after hearing her question. The vehicles appeared outside with their lights flashing. She looked me dead in the eyes. “I know I tease and I’m a pain in the ass, but I do care about you Daniel Kramer. Her stasis cuffed hands reached out to mine. Before I realized it, I had reached out my hand to hers and she had placed something in it. Elizabeth squeezed my hand as the officers entered the museum with their weapons drawn. She let go of my hand and with watery eyes said, “Bye lover.”
The officers took her into custody and escorted her out the door toward their vehicles. I looked at what she had placed in my hand; It was an unmarked memory stick. After bagging the equipment she dropped, I left the museum with mixed feelings.
I collapsed onto my bed and stared up at the ceiling. Normally, capturing fugitives made me feel good. Capturing Elizabeth Raleigh didn’t. I raised the memory stick above me and stared up at it. It made me wonder what was on it and why she’d given it to me. Curiosity didn’t let me wonder very long. I went over to the computer console located on the hotel room’s desk and inserted the memory stick. It was locked and was asking for a passcode. How did I know it wouldn’t be easy? I tried a few random ideas, but they didn’t work. It had to be something I could guess else she wouldn’t have given it to me.
“Bye lover.” I said out loud thinking about the last thing she said. I couldn’t help but think back to the time we’d spent together on Hyperion II. She used to call me lover all the time. It drove me batty, but I think that’s partly why she called me that. On the screen I typed out L-O-V-E-R and a video popped up. It was Elizabeth Raleigh. There was a sadness to her look and tone.
“Hello lover. If you’re watching this then something bad has happened. I hope I’m still alive but if I’m not I just wanted to let you know something. Daniel Kramer, you are a pain in my ass, but I love you. I never stopped loving you.” A tear ran down her cheek. “I hope you still feel the same way about me.”
My eyes started welling up too. “Especially the pain in my ass part,” I replied.
“I know in your eyes, I betrayed you. I needed to let you know that I didn’t. I really am innocent. The evidence against me was staged and I can prove it. That’s why I ran on Hyperion. That’s why I’ve done everything I’ve done. I had to prove my innocence.”
“How does stealing a necklace prove that?” I quizzed knowing the recording wouldn’t answer me.
“Even now I’m sure you don’t believe me. It hurts but I can understand why. Who would trust the word of a fugitive? The files contained on this memory stick will prove I’m innocent. There’s financial records and audio recordings that’ll prove the witnesses were paid off to provide false testimony and even where the evidence came from. There’s lists of names, connections and who was behind it all.” My thoughts went blank. Could she really be innocent of murder and theft?
“Daniel, the real reason I went to Hyperion was to get my great-great-great grandfather’s necklace back. It’s called the Stars of Raleigh. It’s been in my family for generations until it was stolen. Welsh framed me for murder and thievery to get me out of the picture. I’m the last of my family. With me behind bars, no one would believe me, and they’d get to keep my family’s necklace. I didn’t mean to meet you. I didn’t mean to fall in love with you. But I don’t regret it. For what it’s worth I’m sorry.”
She wiped the tears from her face. “Which brings me back to why I made this. Help me. Please. Use this to prove I’m innocent. Arrest the bastards behind it and get my family’s necklace back. You’re the only one I trust.” The video closed and displayed a file directory. I sat back in my chair and crossed my arms with her words weighing heavily on me.
After a couple of hours of reviewing the files, I lowered my head to the desk. She was right. She was innocent. Mr. Welsh orchestrated everything. The murder. The theft. It was all him. And for what? To add another rare trinket to his museum? “I’m sorry Elizabeth.” It felt like I betrayed her instead. I already didn’t feel good about capturing her but with this I felt even worse. How could I ever make it up to her? The first thing was to get her out of her cell. I contacted Hammond, explained what had happened and what I had in my possession. He too was skeptical at first but once he reviewed the evidence he understood. Hammond promised to get her case and the new evidence over to a judge as quickly as possible. In the eyes of the law she was an escaped convict but that didn’t mean she needed to stay locked inside a cell.
At the precinct, the teenage looking officer behind the front desk introduced himself and asked how he could help me. “Hi, I’m Detective Montgomery.” I slid him my badge and handed him my identity card. “I had a fugitive brought in earlier this evening. I’m here to escort her back to the Epsilon Gamma II Detention Facility.” It was a believable lie.
The officer swiped my card to verify my identity and nodded with approval. “Yes, sir. What’s the prisoner’s name?”
“Raleigh. Elizabeth Raleigh.”
The officer looked her up in the system and nodded again. He then signaled for another officer to come over. “If you’ll follow him, he’ll take you in the back where you can get her.”
After a quick exchange between the officers, I was taken back to the holding tank. We passed several cells until we came to stop in front of hers. She didn’t look like a happy camper but who could blame her. When she saw me, there was a look of shock on her face. After I pulled out my stasis cuffs, her face dropped. The officer opened the cell door and barked for her to get to her feet. She stood up looking dejected and held her hands out, ready for me to cuff them. It was obvious she knew the drill all too well. “Elizabeth Raleigh, I’m here to escort you back to the Epsilon Gamma II detention facility.” She kept her head down and didn’t say a word. With the approval of the officer, I entered the cell, and I came up behind her. I pulled her hands back, leaned forward and whispered in her ear. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.” She jerked her head to the side as I cuffed her. “After you, officer.” I grabbed her arm and led her out of the cell. The officer made sure to close the cell behind us before escorting us back to the precinct’s lobby. The officer that had escorted us disappeared for a moment and came back with Raleigh’s belongings. He had me press my thumb against a release pad to document that I had taken custody of Elizabeth. With that, we were free to go.
“Have fun.” The officer at the front desk remarked as we passed by him.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “Yeah. Loads.”
I had expected her to say something to me once we were outside, but she didn’t. I walked her over to the adjacent parking lot and swiped my card to activate my rent-a-hover. Once activated, I walked her to the passenger side, opened the door and I tossed her bag into the back seat. Elizabeth sat down in the hover without saying anything and I closed the door behind her. I got in the hover and brought up the display. With the tap of the console, the windows darkened where no one could see inside. I reached over and removed the cuffs. There was a look of confusion on her face as she rubbed her wrists where the cuffs had been. “Open communication link. Captain Keith Hammond. GPA Outpost 117.”
“What’s going on?” She questioned.
The moment I smiled back, she reached over and kissed me. “You looked at the memory stick. Didn’t you?”
“Yeah. Yeah I did.” I squeezed her hand. “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”
Her beautiful brown eyes began to water. “I knew you’d figure it out.” Raleigh smiled to herself. “I just knew.”
“Please forgive me.” I wiped the tears from her face.
She nodded to me. “You know I do.” She kissed me again.
Hammond cleared his throat. “Am I interrupting something?”
“No. No, sir.” I responded with a grin.
“I see you gave someone early parole. You should have waited.”
“Do you blame me?” I looked at Elizabeth and smiled.
Hammond smiled too. “No. I don’t. I’m sending you a warrant for the curator’s arrest. The judge said there’s enough there to throw the book at him.” Elizabeth’s eyes lit up at hearing the news.
“And the necklace?”
“You can confiscate it. It’ll be returned it to its rightful owner.”
“What about Elizabeth?” Hammond and Elizabeth exchanged looks over the communication link.
“Still working on it.” I nodded to him and he closed the link.
Elizabeth looked at me and squeezed my hand. “Thank you, Daniel.”
“We’re not in the clear yet. Ready to get this guy?”
“I’ve been ready.”
I nodded and opened the communication link with Mr. Welsh, voice only.
“This is Detective Montgomery.”
“Ah. Yes. Everything okay?”
“Actually, no. There was a little accident at the museum.”
“An accident! What kind of accident?”
Elizabeth giggled to herself. “Well sir, it’s a little hard to explain over a communication link. This is something you’ll need to see for yourself.”
“Oh god. Okay. I’ll be there shortly.” I could hear him cussing in the background as he ended the link.
“That was evil.” Elizabeth said with a smile.
“Aren’t you proud of me?”
She laughed as I made another call to the precinct. “Hi, this is Detective Montgomery again. I’ve got another one to pick up at the museum. I’m sending the warrant right now.”
The man on the other end acknowledged the warrant and advised he’d dispatch someone right away. I closed the link, leaned over to Elizabeth, and kissed her.
“You know, when we get there, you need to stay in the hover.”
“What? No! I’ve worked too hard to just sit here and watch. I want to be there when he goes down.”
I leaned back. “You can’t. You can watch from the hover but that’s it.”
“Why can’t I?”
“For starters, you’re supposed to be in my custody. Like it or not you’re still a prisoner in the eyes of the law. I can’t have you standing there looking otherwise.”
There was protest in her eyes, but she relented. “I’ll stay in the hover.”
“Thank you.” I squeezed her hand. “Now, let’s go get him.”
I was waiting at the front door when Mr. Welsh drove up. From the looks of things, he was sweating bullets wondering what had happened. He rushed over to where I stood. “What happened? What’s broken?” He swiped the door, eager to get inside.
“Actually, the museum is fine.”
He stopped to turn back around. “I don’t understand. I thought you said-“
I held out my information pad. “Mr. Welsh this is warrant for the seizure of stolen property.”
“I’m sorry. What? What are you talking about?”
“The Stars of Raleigh, Mr. Welsh. We have evidence to support that it was previously stolen. I’m afraid we must confiscate it until these reports can be verified.”
“This is preposterous!”
“I’m sorry Mr. Welsh, but I don’t have a choice. If you would please open the case and hand it over, I would appreciate it.”
The man looked at me with a glare that could boil water. “I will not hand it over. It’s staying right where it is!”
“Mr. Welsh don’t make this any harder than it has to be. If I need to bring a squad of men back to the museum to get the necklace, I will. If the charges are false, the necklace will be returned to the museum. No harm. No foul.”
Begrudgingly, he stomped his way back to the case and used his card to open it. “Is this truly necessary?”
I nodded. “Feel free to read the warrant.” I opened an evidence bag, and he dropped the necklace inside. He wasn’t all that happy. “Thank you, Mr. Welsh. Your cooperation is much appreciated.” He grumbled under his breath. “Now that that’s taken care of, there’s one more thing.”
He looked at me wondering what else was to come. “This warrant is also for your arrest.” Mr. Welsh’s eyes widened. He took a few steps back and ran toward the door. I followed chase but two cops were waiting for him at the front. He slid to a stop just in time for the two officers to grab him. I caught up to them and thanked them for their efforts. One of the officers handed me his stasis cuffs and I placed them on Mr. Welsh’s wrists. “Alan Welsh, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of interstellar law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”
He didn’t answer. “Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you? Yes or no.”
“Yes.” He answered in a seething manner.
“Thanks boys, he’s all yours.” I watched as they hauled him away and then headed back to my hover. Inside, Elizabeth turned to me.
“I really wish I could have been the one to have taken him down.”
“I know.” I held out the evidence bag with the necklace in it and tossed it over to her. She looked at it for a moment and placed it on her lap. “Thank you.” She reached over and hugged me.
The communication link chirped. It was Hammond again. “I’m going to need you to bring her back here.”
“Don’t argue with me. Just bring her back. Commander’s orders. I promise we’ll sort it out when she gets here.”
The link closed and I turned to Elizabeth. She placed her fingertips across my lips before I could speak. “This is the way it has to be, Daniel. Let’s just get it over with.”
I moved her hand from my mouth and held it. “I’ll do everything I can to get you set free.”
The return trip back to the Outpost 117 was filled with an unbearable silence. She refused to say anything until we landed in the hangar. I popped the canopy and turned to her. “You ready to do this?”
“Not really. But we don’t have much of a choice.” As much as I hated it, I placed her in stasis cuffs and helped her out of my ship. We walked toward the group of waiting guards standing at the hangar entrance. As we got closer, two men entered the hangar and one of them was Hammond.
“I see you made it without any issues?”
“Yeah.” I didn’t feel like pleasantries when I was about to turn her over. The guards walked over to her and deactivated her cuffs. We were expecting her to be placed in another set, but she wasn’t. Elizabeth looked over to me and then to the uniformed man with a scowl who stood beside Hammond.
“Ms. Raleigh, I don’t appreciate people attempting to escape my facility.” I could only surmise he was the warden at the Epsilon Gamma II detention facility, and it sounded like some serious trouble was about to come her way. “If it were up to me, I’d have your sentence extended for that little stunt.” Hammond coughed and nudged the warden. “But that’s something you don’t have to worry about.” He handed her an information pad. “As of today, you are hereby released by order of the interstellar courts.” She took the information pad and confirmed what it said.
Elizabeth spun around and tackled me with a hug. Hammond stepped forward. “Congratulations.” She was crying when she let go.
“Daniel sent us the information you collected, and the courts reviewed it. The verdict of not guilty was unanimous. On behalf of the courts and the Galactic Police Authority, I’m sorry you’ve had to endure this injustice. And due to the circumstances, I’ve also asked that the multiple counts of malicious destruction of property be dropped. I’d just ask that you don’t damage any more ships. Can you handle that, Ms. Raleigh?”
Elizabeth laughed. Her face was still wet with tears. “That I can promise.”
Hammond went ridged as she went over and hugged him too. The way his eyes enlarged I could tell he hadn’t been expecting that. When she pulled away from him, I withdrew the evidence bag from my pocket and held it out toward Hammond. He waved it away. “No. That’s hers.”
She smiled at Hammond and then walked over to me. Her arm slid around mine and clamped down. “And so is he.”