ORIGINAL FICTION: “The Man Who Would Not Be King” (Part 3)

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PLEASE NOTE: This is part 3 of the story. Part 1 is online here, and part 2 is here

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Aaron met Evans back at the security shack.

“Did you meet The Voice?” He asked.

“I did.”

“What was he like?”

“Class act all around. So what have you got for me out here?”

Evans took Aaron around to the side of the guard shack, and pointed out some spatters on it that someone had hastily tried to wipe up, but done a bad job of.
“Blood?” Aaron asked.

“I’m afraid so, Boss. Given how dark it is here, and the weird lighting, it’d be easy to mistake it for mud or a grease spatter.”

“I hate it when my subconscious is right.” Aaron said, ”Probably it was somebody trying to clean it up that made me even notice it in the first place. Just a plain ‘ol mess wouldn‘t have tripped my switch.”

“There’s a slightly-less-dusty patch heading off in this direction, and if we follow it along…” - they did so - “…we find an actual pool of blood behind these tires. Whoever our murderer is, they’re not too strong, couldn’t haul the body away all by themselves in one go.”

“And look at this,” Aaron said. He pointed to the unmistakable outline of a bootprint leading through the pool of blood, towards the shack. He began to feel overwhelmed.

Aaron left Evans to find more clues, and immediately reported in to Base Security. There was the typical pissing match going on between the Secret Service, the Boeing Goons, and the Pinkertons folks brought in to handle civilian affairs, so, as usual, no one was happy to see him. Curiously, he found Captain Reynolds there, chatting with Tom, the head of Boeing security. Tom looked a bit incongruous in his tuxedo around all the uniformed security types, but he was always a bit offputting.

It was widely thought that Boeing had recruited Reynolds more for his good looks and his charm than for his flying ability. He was well over the maximum height limit for pilots, and in fact when von Braun had recruited him, he’d been flying helicopters rather than anything more exotic. Even if the rumor was true - and of course it was - no one complained much. Burt was undeniably dashing and charming and instantly likeable, and a very good face for the emerging space industry to use as their poster boy. ‘Now here, looks matter,’ Aaron thought, ‘Can you imagine what a public relations nightmare it would be if they’d used wiry little test pilots or bland pencil-necked scientists as spokesmen for the space program? No one would ever be interested in it. Hell, they might as well just have left the whole thing to the government if they were gonna’ go that route…’

“Oh, Hiya, Aaron,” Burt said.

“Captain,” Aaron said amiably.

Presley explained the situation to security, but the Boeing Security Cheif refused to lock down the base, citing the lack of a body. “There’s thousands of people here, Presley, we can’t go shutting down the base every time someone gets an unreported nosebleed.”

“But Tommy…”

“But me no buts, boy, find me a body or go away.”

Aaron sighed and left. Burt walked with him.

“Damn Yankees,” the Captain said.

“Tell me about it,” Aaron agreed, “oh, I met The King!”

“How’d that go?”

“Before I even had a chance to ask him your question, he asked me if he could meet you, personally,” Aaron lied.

“Really? Hot damn!” Burt laughed in that distinctive, high-pitched cackle he had. It was incongruous, coming out of such a heroic, burly frame.

“Yeah, he said he wants to talk about aeronautics with you!”

“Hot damn!” Burt said, before going off to do astronaut things.

Backstage, Aaron found Ron and appraised him of the situation. As they were walking along, Aaron became distracted, then stopped abruptly, and backed up. Ron followed him, but by the time he got to where the security chief was standing, the chief had bolted forward twenty feet down the hall, then froze again, and backtracked more slowly.

“you see that?” he asked.

“See what?”

“There’s an irregular pattern on the floor,” Aaron said, pointing it out, a little chevron on the ground.

“It’s just an imperfection in the terrazzo, maybe?”

“No, it’s about every four feet or so, only on the left-hand side.”

“A smudge or something?” Ron asked.

“Probably,” Aaron said bending down, and scraping his nail over it. He stood back up, holding his finger out to Evans: “Blood. And dirt. Mostly dirt, but definitely blood.”

“If it was a snake, it’d’ve bit me,” Evans said. Without saying it, they both concluded it must belong to the track that went through the puddle outside, and they followed it to the commissary. It was the normal riot of activity, with musicians and groupies and stage hands and tuxedoed orchestra types milling about. The orchestra was a total F.O.B.A.R.: An unexpected bout of spoiled chicken had laid low half the Miami Orchestra, so additional musicians had been flown in from a half dozen cities on the spur of the moment. It was a security nightmare clearing and verifying all those people, not to mention the logistics of getting them all housed and fed. And right in the middle of all this, the bloody footprint led to….

…the annoying British guy from earlier! He was sitting at a table with Roy Orbison, yammering on, “I dare you!”

“Why would I take the dare?” Roy asked politely.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. I dare you to go up on stage and play the worst song you ever wrote, I dare you! If you’ve got any bollocks, you’ll do it.”

“Ok, I will. But you have to play *your* worst song, too.”

“We’re the opening act! If we play our worst song, what guarantee is there that you’ll still play yours?”

“Who hasn’t got any balls now, my friend?” Roy asked, smiling behind his sunglasses.

“Hey, you!” Aaron shouted. Ron ran towards the Brit, who screamed a profanity, and bolted from the table. Aaron ran towards him from the other side, but the man did a little almost-dance-step managing to avoid both of them, and scooted out the door before either of them could do anything.

“Well, there goes our prime suspect,” Evans said.

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TO BE CONTINUED
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