(copyright 2017. all rights reserved)
Eladio hated to add to Tina’s workload, or to distract her from the search for Elana, but finding out about that patent filing might illuminate matters. He made his way to Ops, and found Cindy Teal sitting with Tina. Tina had her arm around Cindy’s shoulders. They both looked up as he entered. Cindy’s eyes were swollen and her face blotchy. Clearly she’d been crying.
“I am sorry. I did not mean to intrude,” said Eladio.
“No, it’s good you’re here. Cindy has something to tell you,” said Tina. She nudged Cindy gently. “Go on. He needs to know.”
Eladio stood quietly, waiting for Cindy.
“I feel so bad about it. I’m so sorry, Director. I didn’t mean to…. I didn’t think it would…. Ohhh!” wept Cindy.
“Did not mean to do what, exactly?” Eladio asked, concern and caution touching his voice.
“I … I … it’s my fault. Granger wouldn’t be … if I had….”
“Cindy, are you saying you had something to do with Mr. Granger’s death?” Eladio asked, shocked.
Tina looked at Eladio and emphatically shook her head no. “Go on, hon. You can tell him.”
Eladio quirked his eyebrows, questioning Tina, but Cindy took a deep breath and began speaking again.
“I should have told you before, but … well … I just didn’t have the nerve. Tina told me you asked who told Earthside about Granger. You’re going to find out anyway, so, I might as well tell you. I let L.S. use my passcode to contact Earthside. He didn’t have access and he and I are … well, you know … and he was very persuasive.”
“I don’t understand, Cynthia,” said Eladio. “What does that have to do with Mr. Granger’s death?”
“It isn’t the first time. I kept telling myself that it was all in the interest of making sure Earthside knew things right away, and that all the sponsors got equal treatment. But, I know it wasn’t. In my heart I always did. But L.S. is so…. Anyway, he’s been in touch about a bunch of things. He’s the leak. And he told them about Bob. See, Elana had cracked the problem, they got a really good strain, and Bob was going to file the patent. I think Elana wanted to have the credit, but the bylaws say it belongs to the lab, the country that funded it. She was really mad. If I had spoken up earlier, maybe Bob would still be….”
“Let me understand this. Mr. Granger was filing a patent on Elana’s work? And Earthside knew about this?”
“So, you’re saying you think Elana killed him?”
Cindy sniffed and nodded again.
Well, one mystery solved. I’ll have to have a word with Mr. Han. “Cynthia, Elana wasn’t in the lab when Mr. Granger was killed.”
“But, I saw her going there after L.S. and I left….”
“Yes. She entered, they argued, and she left. Mr. Granger worked for quite some time after that.”
“So, she didn’t….”
“No, I think not.”
“Thank goodness. I was so afraid…. But, then who…?”
“We are working to determine that. Was anyone else aware of the patent filing?”
“You mean besides L.S. and me? I don’t know.”
“You learned how?”
“Elana and I talked some. She was really mad about Granger, and we’re kind of friends. Or were. When she hears about this….”
“Do you know if she spoke to anyone?”
“No. I mean, no, I don’t know. She’s kind of lonely up here. That’s how we started talking. I guess she doesn’t have a lot of other friends.”
“I see. Well, Cynthia, thank you for bringing this to my attention. You may take comfort in the fact that your friend did not commit a murder.”
Cindy stood on shaky legs, nodded to Eladio, and Justine patted her on the back as she left Ops.
“You sound sure about Lanie,” said Justine.
“You are not? She left the lab well before Mr. Granger’s death.”
“True, but we haven’t identified the maintenance worker. I did some size comparisons, using the workstations and crew as markers. The worker is about Lanie’s size.”
“But that worker was much heavier, wasn’t he?”
“Maybe. But the jumper, if it’s a little oversized, could disguise that.”
“I don’t know. How much strength has Ms. Sokolov? Could she have moved Mr. Granger’s body? Between his size, and having to do it in a suit in order to place it outside… Sam and I struggled to do it.”
“She’s a lot stronger than she looks. She spends a lot of time in the gym, and the Russians have a much stricter program about that than the rest of us. She’s also spent more time in a suit than you. Lots of EVA.”
“One more thing adds to my doubts about her. I finally found something about her whereabouts. Sort of.”
Eladio waited patiently for Tina. He knew she was hedging for some reason, but wasn’t sure what it might be.
“Two things, or maybe three, actually. First, I found evidence her logs were scrubbed. That’s why the system couldn’t find her. Second, the last place I could spot her is going into Anatoly’s quarters. That was the afternoon after you found Granger’s body. Third, I tracked the maintenance worker through the cams. There are lots of gaps, and the system had a hard time because whoever it is stayed mostly face down. Not much for facial recognition to work with. Anyway, he, or she, pushed a cart with something big on it to the Hab-B airlock. But I found Elana’s ID in the logs. That was about twenty-three-thirty the night Granger died,” said Justine.
Eladio stared at her. Madre.