Serria and Keur are searching for who is making the candy that is killing kids.
That evening Neu and Keur gathered in Serria's room with tea and a tray full of Cliny's cream and khavse filled pies.
"Skerry called me this morning and told me about meeting a man in the shed while they were collecting berries and leaves for Aunt Lieu's tea," Keur said. He went on to describe the man.
"And he gave them candy wrapped in green which I told her to turn over to Detective Danforth."
"Sounds like Rohn Gossen," Serria commented. "Bet that's where he's getting it. Making it himself."
"But what about the red ones, the ones killing kids?" Neu inquired.
"Could the Kaskellian be making those?" Serria asked.
"Wouldn't surprise me." Keur bit into a pie, chewed, swallowed, and washed it down with tea.
"Now what did you learn?"
Serria brought out her tablet. "Better for you to hear Mom's translation. She said the writing is in Cresel, an archaic form of Crescenjian." She hit the play button, and it started.
Keur's eyes widened, and he clutched the table until his hands turned white.
He swallowed once it finished. "Did we descend from those in CEMAR?"
"We don't know," Serria said. "I guess we'll just have to hope Neu finds more scrolls."
"I sure will hunt for them," Neu said.
The evening ended then. Neu and Keur left. Serria cleaned up everything and went to bed.
The next morning Serria answered her phone,
"Detective Dansforth here," he said. "That candy Skerry brought has the same additive substance in it we found in others."
"Now we know where Rohn gets it," Serria said. "Keur told me Rohn introduced himself as Del. Bet she doesn't know what he's up to. What do we do now?"
"I don't know," the detective said. "I'll have to think about it."
"Keep in touch," she said.
"And you too."
As Keur ate his breakfast, he couldn't get the question out of his mind. Why was Rohn using Tonwyc's computer? While that one still hung around, he wondered if Rohn was still together with Del Charbessa, and if so, does she know he was making addictive candy. With both having been scientists with her mother's companies, they would have the knowledge to create such a product. But maybe, she knew nothing of his illicit activities, and he was using Tonwyc's computer to keep it a secret from her.
In their last case, he and Serria leaned Jan Lindsohn and Mikel Gundersohn, two assemblymen who were investigating money coming from Kaskellia to Tonwyc several months ago. Was the Syndicate, that shadowy group of people, behind this? If so how and why or were they even involved?
Using the backdoor he had previously created to snoop into accounts in Alosian National Bank, he slipped in and located Tonwyc's account. Ten thousand universal credits had been recently deposited in there. Following the trail led him to a small bank on Kaskellia. Now why was someone on that war torn planet sending money to an Alosian assemblyman? Lots of questions but no answers,
Keur left his room, strode to Serria's room, and knocked on her door. She opened it immediately.
"We need to talk," he said as she stepped back to let him in and closed it.
They settled at the table, and Keur told her what he had learned.
"I think we need to talk to Del Charbessa," Serria said.
"So do I," Keur agreed. "But how do we get in touch with her?"
Serria stood, pulled her chair over to her comcenter, and sat. She typed in numbers and the link connected.
"Charbessa Industries," a familiar voice said. "Ellazan Charbessa here."
"This is Serria Stripeclaw," the PI said.
"Why are you calling?" the matriarch asked.
"I'd like to get in touch with your daughter," Serria explained. "I need her help in finding the makers and distributors of the deadly candy."
"She works at Stiverson Pharmaceuticals," Ellazan told her before reeling off a com number so fast Serria barely had time to jot it down.
"Thank you," Serria said and then realized Ellazan had cut the link. "Well, she was about as friendly as a hungry fanghorn."
"And about as dangerous," Keur commented. "You're lucky she even gave you that."
"You're right. Better contact Del and arrange to meet her and explain the situation."
Serria sent Del a message. "Hope we hear back soon."
They had barely started a conversation when the bell on the comcenter chimed, indicating a message. She opened it.
"She's willing to meet at her place this evening at six," Serria said. "She gave me her address. Del will furnish all the food except desert."
"I think we can manage that," Keur said. "We can pick up some khavae cake on the way to the shuttle station and catch the four thirty shuttle to Kondreal."
"Be ready at four," Serria said as she and Keur rose, and he left.
She took out her laptop and got caught up on her notes.
After selecting a khavae cake, Serria and Keur caught the shuttle down to Kondreal and hired an aircab to take them to the address Del had given Serria. She paid the driver, and the duo climbed out.
"What a dump," Keur commented about the small, stone house. "The brown and yellow paint resembles something coming from a baby's bottom."
Serria laughed as they stepped over the cracked walkway, dodging the weeds growing out of it and taking over the yard. Hope the inside looks better than the outside, Serria thought. With all her education and experience, you would expect Del would be able to afford a better place.
At the top of the steps, Keur knocked on the peeling brown paint on the door.
Del opened immediately, stepped out of their way, and motioned them in, shutting it behind them. Yellow-skinned, Del had to be in her late thirties with short auburn hair. Keur handed her the cake.
"Thank you," Del said.
Scratched wooden floors greeted them. Nothing hung on the white walls, and only a green couch with springs hanging out sat in the living room. As with most people, Serria towered over her.
"Dinner is ready," Del announce and led them to a wooden brown table set with blue and white ceramic plates, silverware, and water in the glasses.
Serria and Keur sat, both glancing around the dark yellow kitchen walls.
"I got kelovia," Del said. "It's a spicy Jetahni dish served over noodles." She set it on the table.
"I remember Vik Juleskova making it once, saying her dad made it," Serria commented. "She never did tell me what kind of meat was in it. Said it was better not to know."
"That's why there's so much spice in it to hide the real flavor." Del sat.
They dished up the food and began eating, not quite ready to discuss the real reason for coming.
Once the meal was over, the table cleaned off, and cake served with tea, Del asked. "Your message was brief and said little only asked for my help in your latest case."
"You've heard about the candies killing children, haven't you?" Serria asked.
"Oh, yes," Del said. "It's been all over the news. I can't believe Tandra is involved."
"She isn't." Serria told her about the lawsuits, their being hired to find the truth, and their investigations. She ate more cake and washed it down with tea. "We managed to trace goings-on to Tonwyc's computer. When we, that is Keur, Detective Dansforth, and I, went to the assemblyman's office with a warrant, the assistant said Tonwyc was out of town and wouldn't let us touch it without his permission. Anyway, Keur hid a recorder in the office, and we left." She finished off her tea and drank water. "In the detective's office, we listened in and found Tonwyc was there and said to warn Rohn to get his materials off his computer. Better come in tonight at nine."
"What has Rohn got to do with this?" Del asked. "We broke up when Mom kicked us out. I haven't heard from him in months."
Without going into too much detail, Serria and Keur explained what happened and what they learned from the download. Then told her about what Aunt Lieu and Skerry discovered.
"So you want me to speak to Rohn and see what he's up to?" Del asked and widened her eyes.
"Yes," Keur said.
"I will help, but I'll have to think about what to do," the scientist said.
"Why don't you come up with an idea or two and meet us at Detective Dansforth's office at ten in the morning?" Serria suggested. She and Keur stood.
"Yes, I will," Del rose also. "I should apologize for this place. It was the only one available when I need somewhere to live. There are nice apartments coming up for rent next month. I've applied for one there."
They walked to the door, said their goodbyes, and the private investigators left after calling for an aircab. Back at the station, they split up and went to their rooms. Considering the time, Serria went to bed.
As soon as Del walked into Detective Dansforth's office, she pointed at Bethany and cried, "What is she doing here?"
"Assemblywoman Gossen has been very instrumental in our investigation," the detective said and then introduced himself.
"I am Del Charbessa," Del said. "I've come up with an idea."
She told them about it, and they all agreed it was a good idea. Before she left the police station, Detective Dansforth gave her a small phone to be used for Rohn to get in touch with her. With a small bag of red candies in her purse, she strode down six blocks before turning right into the parking lot of a red stone building and up to apartment number six. Del knocked on the bronze door.
A few minutes later, Rohn opened it. His hair was mussed, and he only wore green pants.
"Del," he said as his eyes widened. "What brings you here?"
"May I come in?" she asked. "I need help with a chemistry problem. You know I wasn't strong in that subject."
"Sure," he said, opening the door wider and moving away.
She walked in, and he closed the door.
While the place had pictures on the wall and pale green furniture, it was dotted with take-out boxes of food and half full cups of tea.
"I've been disturbed about the children who have been dying of eating these red candies." She sat on the couch and pulled out a bag of them. "Could you analyze them and get back to me on what is in them? Here's my phone number."
He wrote it down and took the bag. "It might be a few days."
"That's all right," she said. "Thank you." She rose and left.
On her way to the police station, she noted a bench in a covert area near his apartment where the others could sit and observe him.
Back in his office, Del noticed Bethany had left.
"He took the candy, and I found a place for you to watch him," she said, giving them directions. "I'll go now." She spun around and departed.
"Rather curt wasn't she?" Detective Dansforth said.
"She wasn't too thrilled with doing this task," Serria said. "Guess we'd better get to that bench."
They left the station, easily found the location, and sat.
Not an hour had passed before Rohn emerged from his apartment with a black cloth bag in hand. He hurried along the streets, now filled with pedestrians, dodging them. Six blocks later he turned left onto Embassy Row where all the representatives of the other planets had their consulates. Rohn walked right up to the Kaskellian Embassy and entered without having to show any identification.
"He's been there before," Serria said.
"Yes," the detective said. "And from what we know, he's well known there too."
"Now what do we do?" Keur asked.
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian--canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji--brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn--white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia--red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella--black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
Serria Stripeclaw--Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason-- Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova--Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready--Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan--Kaskellian, Keur's aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk--Kaskellian, Vik's mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn--Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria's boyfriend
Neu Knotts--Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth--Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force