Radiation Danger

29 Dec

“Halki is too hot, too sunny,” grumbled Lt. Zadis. “I don’t like it here at all.”

“This planet now has an even more serious problem: the danger of radiation death,” corrected his superior. Neither Zadis nor Captain Monix were natives of the torrid little world they stood on. Most of its small population consisted of recent immigrants from elsewhere in the Hellenic Archipelago.

Halki happened to be too near the sun called Helios. It lay in the path of severe solar winds and was a target of ultraviolet and gamma radiation. Both police detectives knew its desert-like misery and pain. Life proceeded incredibly slowly here. That had to be, because Halki was a torture chamber directly in the sun, even on its so-called cooler side of permanent night. There was no spot of relief on this planet that failed to rotate. The darkness of the night brought no great benefit to the surface facing outer space. Sleep was painful on both sides of this planet. Tourists and vacationers never landed on Halki. Were it not for the rich mineral mines that produced exports, there would be no settlements at all here.

From the beginning of human habitation, radiation was highly hazardous. Now it had become tremendously serious. Dozens of deaths had occurred under suspicious circumstances that pointed to new perils ahead. The victims were most often wealthy merchants and mine officials, but never actual mine workers. Almost always those who fell were from the economic and social elite of Halki. Why this strange pattern? asked the investigating detectives. What did these cases have in common? Neither police officer was certain what it was they were hunting for. Some general factor in the deaths, perhaps? It seemed an extremely remote possibility, but had to be looked into, the two men agreed.

Zadis rang the door buzzer of the villa of the late Mr. Timon.

“Yes?” asked a maid servant who came to the carborundum door.

“Captain Monix of Planet Police and his assistant. We have an appointment with Mrs. Timon.”

The maid led them into a large living room where a tall woman with jet black hair and ivory complexion greeted them. She did not seem to be in mourning for the dead mine-owner, her husband. A happy widow, perhaps? each of the detectives thought to himself.

The reason for her lack of sorrow was immediately evident.

A young man taller and younger than the widow rose from a gigantic silundurum desk. Captain Monix introduced himself and Zadis, adding that both of them felt deep sympathy over her loss.

“Thank you,” she gently replied. As the male figure approached from behind the desk, she introduced him. “Gentlemen, this is my late husband’s counsel and advisor, Attorney Kihos. For a fraction of a second, the latter and Mrs. Timon glanced familiarly at each other.

“How can I help you, Captain?” she demurely asked. Kihos added “How can I assist you as well?” His voice sounded dry and squeaky.

The widow went on. “Not only is he the chief law officer of Timon Mining, but he was my husband’s closest personal friend as well.”

“That is fine,” Monix assured the two. “Did Mr. Timon have any personal or business enemies of any sort?”

“Of course he did,” groaned the lawyer. “Who doesn’t in this barren hotland?”

“Halki mining is extremely competitive,” remarked Monix as if to himself.

“It’s a war,” sighed Kihos. “Mr. Timon received death threats all the time, to the very end of his life.”

“Who was the primary threatener?” curtly demanded Zadis. “You must tell us that. It could be of enormous importance.”

The attorney turned, walked back to the silundrum desk, and opened the top drawer. He rushed back with an envelope he handed to Captain Monix. “Read this,” said Kihos.

The detective discovered it was a brief extortion note.

“Pay within a week or be ready to die,” said the threatening message.

There was no date and no signature. “Interesting,” muttered Monix. “May I keep this for the time being?”

It was the widow who answered him. “Yes, officer. Take it with you.”

“Who will operate and be in charge of Timon Mining, may I ask?”

“Attorney Kihos, of course,” replied the widow.

“Tell me this: did Mr. Timon have any insurance on his life?”

“Yes,” she affirmed. “With Argo Insurance. But because it was a radiation death, they refuse to pay me anything, although I am the sole beneficiary.”

“No one covers radiation on Halki,” added the lawyer. “It’s too common a hazard. The risk to insure against it is unacceptable, they claim.”

“I know,” Monix assured them with sympathy.

Zadis, lifting his head, caught sight of something. “You have a remote detector, I see.”

“Yes,” answered the young widow. “It is for fire and theft protection. Argo Insurance had it installed for our protection at their expense.”

“They put it in and maintain the warning system,” added the attorney.

Captain Monix motioned to his assistant. “Thank you for your generous help. We must go now, but you will be informed of what progress we can make. For now, all that I have are a few vague notions in my head.”

The two detectives departed, Monix with the threatening note in his coat pocket.

The night hours came, but the bright light and heat from the sky continued. Thermal torture never ceased on the unusual planet called Halki.

Zadis drove the police galvanocar into the central business district as Monix continued to reread the extortion note.

“I hate to break the law, but we are going to have to act without a legal warrant,” whispered the senior officer.

“Halki has always been a lawless place anyway,” murmured Zadis in a hushed voice.
The latter parked their vehicle a good distance away from their destination. The two detectives walked slowly down the deserted street. The extreme heat kept almost all human beings indoors with cooled air.

“Here we are.” Monix pointed to the side door of an isolated one-story building.

Zadis found an alarm box on the side wall. In a few moments he was able to deactivate it with pocket tools he always carried on him. The two men entered the interior offices.

After several hours of searching inside, they came out with what they were after.

The next morning, Captain Monix and his assistant returned to the Timon residence. They found that the lawyer was already there with the tall, unsorrowing widow.

“This case is solved,” gleefully announced Monix.

The widow and Kihos seemed struck by a sun stroke from Helios in the sky.

“Not only this case, but twelve others as well,” added Zadis.


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