Death’s Bright Day – Snippet 24


DaSaenz Estate, Jardin

Where the hell am I? Daniel thought. He was seeing the interior of Starscape Caverns, but the glowworms were racing about like startled cockroaches. What Hell am I in?

Daniel opened his eyes. His head hurt, his left arm was an icy lump attached to his shoulder, and his vision was as blurry as if he were under water. He lay on a blue couch, his toes sticking over the open end and his head lifted on the low arm at the other.

His feet were bare and he was naked beneath an amazingly soft sheet.

“He’s coming around,” said Adele, seated near his head on a chair whose upholstery matched that of the couch.

Daniel turned toward her. There was a white flash inside his skull. It was a moment before he could see anything again.

“Not very far around,” he croaked, closing his eyes and opening them again carefully after a moment. “The last time I felt this way, I’d been drinking Power Room alcohol that we’d cut with spoiled grape juice.”

Hogg and Miranda were across the room, placing someone in a side-loading Medicomp. Daniel couldn’t see who it was. As blurry as his vision was, he couldn’t have sworn to Miranda and Hogg.

“An hour ago you were telling anybody who would listen that you were all right,” Adele said. “None of us did listen, of course.”

“That’s good,” said Daniel, “because I was lying.”

He relaxed again with his eyes closed. His voice was getting stronger with use, and the dizziness seemed to be going away. “What’s the damage, then?”

“Your left ulna, that’s in the forearm, was cracked,” Adele said. “Your skull wasn’t broken thanks to your having gotten your arm up so promptly, but you have contra-cu injuries to your brain. The Medicomp reversed the swelling before it did permanent damage, but the drugs will be affecting you for at least the next twelve hours. And you’ve got a splint on your left arm, of course.”

Hogg and Miranda walked to where Daniel lay. Tovera and a woman Daniel didn’t know moved in front of the Medicomp. They must have been standing farther into the room than Daniel could see without sitting up or craning his neck over the arm of the couch. The way he felt now, Daniel wasn’t that interested in much of anything.

“That’s daSaenz?” Daniel said quietly, hooking his thumb in the direction of the Medicomp.

“That’s Timothy daSaenz,” Adele said. She nodded to the unfamiliar woman who was now joining them. “And this is our hostess, Mistress Carlotta daSaenz.”

Carlotta daSaenz must have had lush good looks when she was in her twenties, but she was nearly fifty now and was fighting a losing battle with her weight. Daniel winced, thinking of his own waistline. She clasped her hands together before her and said, “Captain Leary, on behalf of my family and myself. What my son attempted to do was…”

She shook her head slowly as though she was looking for a word in the pattern of the carpet.

“Insane,” she said. “Unbelievable. Unforgiveable.”

Carlotta raised her eyes and went on, “I am the head of the family so this was my responsibility, but I knew nothing of what Timothy intended. I swear to you as a mother!”

“What did your son intend?” Daniel asked. He felt and sounded calm, though raspy. The drugs probably had something to do with that, though in fact he was usually clinical about events in the past. He was alive and Miranda was uninjured; that was good enough.

“I met Timothy Dorst when I was a young woman,” Carlotta said. “I was giving a party for my friends and I thought that an RCN supply ship might have something exotic that would give me a coup.”

She had raised her head, but she was looking in the direction of a painting on the wall above Daniel’s couch. From his angle it seemed to be of flowers, but he doubted his hostess had any real interest in it.

“I spoke with a young midshipman who agreed to provide forty servings of pepperfish,” Carlotta said. “If I would invite him to the party also. And I did.”

“Pepperfish is very tasty,” Daniel said. That was true, at least fresh-caught off the coast of Bantry. A replenishment ship probably carried it frozen in bulk, so forty missing servings weren’t going to set off any alarms.

He had spoken to urge Carlotta along. She’d stopped to stare at her hands as she wrung them together.

“He was so handsome…” Carlotta whispered. “And so different from anyone I knew. Even my friends who’d been off Jardin had only seen people like themselves and places like here. Timothy was…”

Tears dribbled down her cheeks. Hogg startled Daniel by whipping a doily one-handed from under the flower arrangement on the table nearby and putting it into Carlotta’s hands. The vase rattled but didn’t fall over.

Carlotta blew her nose and nodded gratefully toward Hogg. She didn’t resume speaking.

“Midshipman Dorst was the father of your son?” Daniel asked gently.

“No, no,” said Carlotta. “Timothy was Jacques’ son, my husband after I married. But Timothy, Midshipman Dorst, was the only man I ever loved or could love. I kept thinking he would come back some day. I dreamed that he would. But of course he had his career. And had his wife.”

She turned to Miranda and dipped her head in formal acknowledgement. “And that was proper,” Carlotta said, “because he was a man. I would not have loved Timothy if he were not a man.”

Miranda nodded back, still-faced. She said, “Did you hate my father?”

“I love him, dear,” Carlotta said. She seemed to have forgotten that the two of them weren’t alone in the room. “I loved him then and I love him now. My Timothy did not come back, but he sent his daughter who has his eyes and his smile. You make my heart well again, dear Miranda.”

“Why did your son try to kill Captain Leary?” Adele said. She didn’t normally interject when a subject was speaking freely, but perhaps she wanted to guide the discussion.

“That was why,” Carlotta said with a sad smile. “I took my family name back after the divorce. I told Timothy that I would always love him as my son, but that I had never loved his father. The daughter of the man I still love was coming to visit me, and if I felt after meeting her as I did now, I would make her co-heir with him.”

“So your son stood to lose a lot of money,” Daniel said. He was still woozy and he wasn’t sure that he’d fully taken in all he was being told, but the motive seemed clear.

“The daSaenz wealth is beyond computation!” Carlotta said. “Timothy doesn’t have expensive tastes any more than I do. All he really cares about are the caves…but he cared more about the caves than I understood.”

She closed her eyes for a moment, then resumed, “He kept saying, screaming really, ‘You can’t give the caves up to an outsider, even part ownership!’ And I said that I was head of the family, and that I would follow my heart.”

“But didn’t you…” Daniel said, but he was losing the thought in the fog of his mind. “You sent him to greet us, I mean?”

“I did not,” Carlotta said forcefully. “I knew Mistress Miranda was coming, but I didn’t know when. ‘In about another week’ I was told by our agents at the port, that was how long it would take a yacht from Cinnabar to arrive even if you lifted at the time you planned to.”

“We radioed down when the Princess Cecile reached Jardin orbit,” Adele said. Though polite, her voice was that of a displeased Lady Mundy.

“Timothy had directed that all messages regarding Captain Leary’s arrival be given to him alone,” Carlotta said stiffly. “He had given those orders to both the port agent and to my steward. He said it was a family matter and that I had told him to deal with it.”