Disclaimer: Well, it is on my Christmas list. I'll let you know how that works out.
Fieldnotes 3: Sniffing Around with Ed and Ein
Lisbeth fought her suitcase through the small door leading to the Bebop's living room with an unladylike grunt. It toppled through the small circular door with noisy slamming of plastic on metal. Glancing down at Faye, Jet, and Spike, who were all giving her annoyed glares from the couch, she saw that none were making the slightest move to help her. She huffed in frustration and, with a well-placed kick, sent the suitcase tumbling down the rest of the stairs.
"We've all been sucking on lemons, I see," chided Lisbeth as she unhappily took in their puckered expressions. The past week that Lisbeth had spent at home, in Alba City, had not gone particularly well. Her advisor, Dr. Sarah Kim, had called her back to the university to deal with a steadily growing pile of minor emergencies. Lisbeth had spent the week running around, editing articles, updating and re-filing addendums and reports with UMAC's Institutional Review Board in order to continue with her research, and basically putting out the fires of her life that had popped up due to her continued absence. Dr. Kim had done as much upkeep for her student as she could while Lisbeth was in the field, but the backlog of paperwork had become too much. As much as she hated to leave, interrupting her data collection, Lisbeth had to take the time away.
In that week, Lisbeth had rediscovered how exhausting and boring the non-physical, non-mental bureaucracy paperwork was. She had come to almost miss the excitement of bounty hunting. She had been looking forward to getting back to the Bebop. But seeing the undelighted faces of her participants at her return merely exacerbated the memory of the annoyances of the past week, making her feel just as testy as the others looked.
Jet and Faye had ignored Lisbeth's snide comment and Spike flipped her the bird. The television was on and Lisbeth heard the familiar theme song to "Big Shots."
Hopping down the stairs, avoiding her suitcase, Lisbeth stood beside the couch to take in the only TV show that everyone on the ship agreed on watching. She rolled her eyes at the hosts and their phony accents. Lisbeth had lived amongst real Texans for more years than she cared to remember. Well, real, resettled Texans on Venus. Fake accents like these hosts' almost made her ears bleed.
Lisbeth considered the show without really watching it. She was currently spitballing ideas to make the show an entire chapter in her dissertation. The vaguely misogynistic quality of Punch and Judy's obviously scripted banter, the hackneyed stereotyping of Texans, the representations of the bounty heads, and the pleas to the solar system's population to be ever vigilant for these people could all be fodder for analysis. Lisbeth made a mental note to bring this up with Dr. Kim in her next progress report.
Lisbeth snapped back to attention when she noticed the shift in posture and demeanor from the bounty hunters. At the flash of a picture of an elusive bounty head on the screen, each had shifted uncomfortably in their seats and made quiet noises of frustration.
"…Or the Doctor of Death! Dr. Mindi White has been stayin' one step ahead of y'all and there is no information, whatsoever, forthcoming," shouted Punch through the screen.
"That means the 10 million woolong reward is still up for grabs, right?" pitched in Judy brightly, bouncing on her toes to make her chest jiggle. Lisbeth rolled her eyes again.
"Shoot, yes!" replied Punch. "But only if whoever catches her can bring the evidence definitively proving the medical malpractice she's wanted for…"
The TV screen showed the image of a petite older woman of about 50 years old with a strangely composed expression on her face. She looked both knowing and confused at the same time. Her hair was permed and frizzy and obviously dyed mustard yellow from what had probably been a graying brown. Her eyes were wide and manic behind huge, bottle-rim glasses and her mouth was twisted into a strange and strained smirk. Lisbeth immediately didn't like Dr. White. She reminded her of a professor she'd taken in a graduate class who had been a horrible teacher and mean and crabby on top of that. Lisbeth frowned at the TV.
When the show moved on to the blatant filler it always used when it needed to stretch time because of a lack of incoming information and pertinent talking points, Jet flicked off the picture.
Spike immediately groaned at the ceiling. "Those damn cops just want us to do their work for them! We could have had White a dozen times in the past few days, but no. We have to collect the evidence, too. That's not our jobs!" Spike ranted, venting his anger. After the loud outburst, Spike then sank back into the couch and linked his hands behind his head and relaxed, satisfied that he'd said his piece.
"I know. I know," responded Jet with tension edging his voice as well, negating his attempt to soothe the others. "But that's why the bounty is so high. They have the eye-witness testimony, but it's practically useless without hard evidence and prosecutors won't go forward without it."
Faye uncrossed her legs and stood in a huff. "But there isn't any evidence!" She affected a matter-of-fact expression. "Face it, women are crafty. And she's a doctor. She knows what evidence police and other doctors look for. She knows all of the tests and the tricks. This has just been a waste of time and we should quit while we're behind. There is no way to take down a woman like this when she's got it in her mind not to get caught."
Spike and Jet both looked like they wanted to argue with Faye, but neither spoke, tacitly agreeing with her. Lisbeth quickly guessed that the Bebop crew had been mostly chasing their tails while she had been gone, explaining their sour attitudes. As much as she regretted not being around to gather such interesting data, she was also glad she didn't have to share this particular frustration. Lisbeth was just opening her mouth to ask for more details on what she had missed when a young voice piped up from behind the couch.
"But Ed has a way, Faye-Faye!" claimed the girl, who was given an encouraging woof by Ein.
Faye scoffed at the mismatched duo as they took center stage next to the coffee table. Spike looked like he was about to fall asleep. Jet appeared more receptive to the girl. Lisbeth stooped and scooped up Ein, covering his pointed nose with tiny kisses while she listened closely to the others. Ein merely sighed in resignation, submitting like a martyr to the effusive affection.
"Ok, Ed," Jet said gently. "How do you plan on getting evidence that even the police can't find?"
Edward rocked from foot to foot, goggled, holding a complex piece of machinery that was hooked up by wires to her Tomato. Balancing her powerful laptop computer in one hand and the bizarre combination of metal, plastic, and glass on the other, she explained excitedly, "Mars police do Stone Age evidence hunting and gathering. Their equipment couldn't sniffle out a stinky a moose in a china shop! They need to get with the prooogram!" Lisbeth squinted at her, still confused, the mixed metaphors making her head hurt.
Jet filled in. "Well, technology that didn't pertain to space exploration, quantum physics, gate technology, or terra forming all just stalled at the beginning of the century as all scientists concentrated on the move from Earth after the gate explosion. Police investigatory technology just became less important by comparison. But it is starting to catch up again," he apologized for his former colleagues.
Ed balked at Jet. "Too slow!" She placed the machinery on the table, mugging for her interested audience. "If Ed visits the crime scene, Ed can get the bits and pieces that Dr. Quack-Quack left behind."
Faye protested, "But she didn't leave anything behind. She knows what we're looking for and it's not going to be there."
Ed made a whiny, disappointed noise, sad at Faye's lack of confidence in her.
Spike leaned in to make a peace offering of sorts. "So, Ed, what exactly with this thing do? How will it get us our evidence?"
Ed brightened again. "Hide-and-seek with evidence is not about finding it. It's always, always, always there." With this, Ed made a grand gesture with a sweeping arm toward her new machine. "Quackers can run, but she can't hide! Ed's on the case!"
Jet and Spike both knitted their brows, Ed's meaning lost in translation from whatever language she was speaking. Faye's reaction bordered on rageful frustration and abject boredom. Both were apt to have her explode at the girl in a few seconds.
Lisbeth jumped in. "I think I might get it. I took a forensics class a few years ago and the professor said that it was never an issue of biology or physics or whatever in analyzing evidence. The question comes down to whether or not scientists have tools precise enough to detect and analyze it properly. Like, for example, way back when, blood analysis involved only ABO typing. Then it moved to DNA analysis. Now, we're just staring genome analysis. So, I think what young Ms. Genius is saying here is that she's come up with some equipment sensitive enough to find what the police couldn't. Am I right?"
Ed jumped up and down, squealing and clapping her hands ecstatically. She pointed at her nose and whooped, "Ed is finally understood!" She threw herself at Lisbeth, hugging her around the waist dramatically.
Lisbeth gave a self-satisfied smirk that earned her more dirty looks from the others.
Faye narrowed her eyes at Jet. "So, now what do we do?"
Jet looked thoughtful. "We let Ed collect the evidence. Once we know that she has it, we take in Dr. White. There are a lot of cowboys out there on this. Once we make a move on her, they'll know we have the evidence. It'll have to be clean. Spotless. She gets away from use, we lose the bounty."
Faye yawned. "It's not like we're going to broadcast that we have the evidence. Even if another bounty hunter caught her, we just wouldn't share."
Spike sighed and rubbed his face wearily. "I've been by the crime scenes. The local police forces are staked out as sentries. They'll confiscate any evidence Ed does manage to collect."
"Well, technically, it is their property," added Lisbeth, resulting in more frustrated sighs sent in her direction. She finally broke under their exasperated focus. "What?!" she exploded. "You all have been acting like I'm this huge imposition all of the sudden. Is my being here a problem?"
Faye and Spike refused to meet her questioning gaze, shifting their positions uncomfortably. Jet inhaled deeply and explained, "It's not you, Beth. We've been struggling with this all week. We wanted to bring this one in before you got back. White's sly enough to lose us most of the time we track her and we really can't have you around, slowing us down, being too conspicuous. Like I said before, this has to be flawless or else we'll lose her and the bounty. It'll take everything we have, even without you around."
"So you want me to leave?" asked Lisbeth, glaring at the suitcase she figured she'd have to start hauling back up the stairs.
"No," amended Jet quickly. "But you can't come with."
Lisbeth frowned for what seemed like the thousandth time that day. She didn't like not being included, especially after her absence. It did not look good at all within the research. Participant observation methodology still had a hard enough time garnering acceptance in the academic community without huge, gaping holes present in the middle of data collection. Lisbeth absent-mindedly poked her tongue into her cheek while she thought about how to redeem her current situation. Then, her eyes alit on Ed's makeshift evidence collection device.
"I'll just go with Ms. Edward, here," she suggested.
Spike snorted at this suggestion, then choked, then began laughing outright. Faye's eyes started flashing with delight as a mean grin spread across her mouth. Both figured that Beth wouldn't last an hour with the hyperactive teen. Ed, for her part, beamed at Lisbeth, happy to be in the spotlight again. Ed knew that she had the attention span of a humming bird on crystal meth, but she was currently embracing the idea of showing off.
Jet also liked the suggestion. "That's a good idea. That way, you can keep an eye on Ed, call us and give us the signal that you have the evidence, and we can coordinate the pick-up."
Spike had managed to somewhat quell his snickers as he walked over to Lisbeth and patted her shoulder consolingly. "Best of luck to you," he managed before laughing breathlessly once again.
In mock annoyance, Lisbeth leveled him with a glance. The whole atmosphere of the room had lightened considerably. She swatted his hand away. "You just worry about your end of this little operation, ok? The young one and I will be just fine." She turned to Ed with a confident smile. "Am I right?"
"You got it! Me and Ein are on the job, satisfaction guaranteed!"
Later that evening, Jet dropped off Lisbeth and Ed near Dr. White's most recent crime scene before joining up with Spike and Faye as they tailed their bounty.
Lisbeth was weighed down with Ed's newest contraption, which the young hacker had taken to calling "Flower" for reasons unknown. Lisbeth also carried her comm, its extra battery, and its electrical charger, learning from her past mistakes. It would be her job to call Jet with the signal when Ed confirmed that she had the evidence the police and prosecution needed.
Ed danced down the street toward the nursing home with Ein following, slightly more soberly, behind her. With "Tomato" on her head and a backpack full of other odds and ends the teenager deemed worthy to bring, she hummed the odd assortment of nursery rhymes mixed with popular songs of the moment.
Dusk was falling on the Martian metropolis. The nursing home they were nearing was located on the outskirts of the third largest city on Mars, Corona. While not familiar with the city, Lisbeth gazed dreamily at the skyline silhouetted by the sun. Colors that would clash obscenely on paper fit beautifully when painted across the sky in reality. Burnt orange splashed with pink dotted with dark mauve clouds illuminated the sky. The buildings, dark as two-day-old bruises both marred and enhanced the spectacular display. The complete inadequacy of man-made grandeur against the celestial perfection of the heavens served as a perfect foil. The sunset would not nearly have seemed so wondrous without the reminder of the grounded and everyday architecture of the urban center.
However, man-made elements also added a special dynamism. The rising, falling, and twinkling starships that entered and exited the atmosphere gave the living picture movement, looking like slow shooting stars. Lisbeth indulged in a raptured smile at the sight. Even though she had lived on several different satellites, she had only recently come to live in cities. Her family had bounced to and from Venus, settling for a time on Mars, Ganymede, and even Io before finally settling back on Venus. But every house, every school, every childhood memory had been of suburban, almost rural life. After graduating from her small, suburban college, she felt the pull of Mars, of city life. After moving to Alba City and experiencing the convenience, diversity, and utter honesty of city life, she wore to herself that she'd never go back, never return to the false happiness, swallowed anger, forced smiles, and hidden tears and pain of suburbia. Images of the pure and unhidden flaws of Corona against the beautiful and unfathomably wonderful sky made her re-avow her pledge.
Then, Lisbeth shook her head, tearing her eyes away from the sunset. She needed to keep her eye on Ed, make sure that she didn't wander off with the valuable evidence or lose focus on the task at hand.
Ed had caught Lisbeth's enthrallment to the colorful night. She grinned at the pretty woman, placed a finger along-side her nose and winked. Lisbeth wasn't sure what this gesture meant, but it held the spirit of quintessential Ed that tickled Lisbeth's heart and made her grin at Ed in return.
The odd trio made their way past the parked police cruiser. Two bored men took casual note of the newest evidence hunters. Neither thought that they would get through the yellow crime tape, carefully guarded by a bureaucratic-type guard whose sole occupation was to protect the integrity of the crime scene.
After politely knocking on the door to the nursing home and being just as politely turned away, "No dogs allowed. You see, some of the residents are allergic."
Lisbeth bit her bottom lip and asked, "Can we come in if he stays outside?" Ed frowned and let out a whine, but didn't argue any further.
"You can come in," said the man who Lisbeth guessed was the home director. "But don't count on getting into the room." He then pointed the way down the hall toward the room the murder had occurred.
Lisbeth had managed to learn that Dr. White had begun to lose her touch on reality. She had become paranoid and believed that some of her patients were plotting against her. So she staged "accidents" whereupon she mixed the wrong combinations of medicines and injected them into the sick and dying people who needed her. She was suspected of killing as many as ten people, but they only had the eyewitness testimony of a nurse and the roommate of one of the victims for proof.
As promised, the room was sealed off with crime tape and guarded by a young, bookish looking man sitting at a small desk set up outside the room. He saw the two strangers threading their way past the shuffling and smiling elderly and said loudly and in a bored manner as they approached, "Credentials, please."
Lisbeth blinked in confusion. She had not known that she would need bona fides to get into the scene. But she guessed that it was a good idea that just anyone couldn't go in and possibly muck up the scene for others. Lisbeth began to stammer an explanation for their lack of paperwork, hoping that she wouldn't have to resort to begging to be let in.
"Nyah," said Ed, thrusting laminated badges with their names on them at the man who appeared surprised that the two girls actually had them. He scoured over them, looking for signs they had been fabricated. He found none. Lisbeth was again impressed by Ed's abilities. She smiled at the man in a friendly manner, pretending that she did this sort of thing every day. The guard had them sign their names in the evidence log and leave their credentials with him, oddly not caring that one of the evidence technicians was a child.
Lisbeth and Ed stepped into the room, surveying it somberly. Lisbeth gave Ed her "Flower" and stepped back to give the youngster room to work, her attention fading in and out, her glance constantly moving toward the window to catch sight of the darkening sky. "You going to have enough light for this?" she asked.
"Mm hmm," said Ed, distracted and uncommunicative, engrossed in setting up her devices. From what Lisbeth could see, Ed had hooked up a small vacuuming attachment to what looked like a mini-electron microscope. It was bulky and ugly and made a terrible mechanical sound when plugged in. Lisbeth wrinkled her nose at the noise.
Ed moved the nozzle of the vacuum over the sheets and pillow on the bed that had once been slept in by Dr. White's most recent victim. Ed looked over at Lisbeth as she did this. Lisbeth asked, "You sure you know what you're looking for?"
"Yah. Dr. Quackers used a super-special, super-secret combo of icky things. If that man died here, teeny tiny parts of them will have stuck around, too."
"How do you know about these super-secret icky things?"
"Umm," began Ed thoughtfully.
"You know what?" interrupted Lisbeth. "Never mind. I don't want to know."
"K, Beth-Beth." Ed's odd silver contraption suddenly made a sound like someone blowing a raspberry and Ed whooped cheerfully. "Yay!" she giggled with glee.
"We have it?" asked Lisbeth.
"Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep," sang Ed.
Lisbeth pulled out her comm and dialed Jet's number. "What?" was his brusque answer.
"The albino owl flew the coop on a cold and rainy night," whispered Lisbeth, giving the coded signal that they had the evidence. Both shut off their comms with satisfaction.
A paper printout of whatever evidence that Ed had collected was spewing from "Tomato." Lisbeth grinned happily at Ed. "You did great! Good job."
"Aww. Thanks Beth-person," cooed Ed, touched in her own way for the acknowledgement that the others gave her so rarely. Ed began to gather her equipment and paper in preparation to leave. They would most likely have to give their evidence over to the guard outside to preserve the chain of evidence. But they wouldn't do that until Jet called.
Lisbeth's comm trilled a few minutes later. It was Jet. He was growling in anger and frustration. "We lost White! She was onto us. Faye has her in her sights, but it may take us a while to get close again. You two are going to have to get out of there with the evidence. If another bounty hunter catches her, we'll lose the reward unless we have that evidence. You got that, Beth?"
Lisbeth nodded. "Yeah. We'll see what we can do."
Lisbeth turned to Ed. "Did you hear that?" Ed nodded seriously. "You think we can do this?" Lisbeth asked. Ed nodded again. "Good. Ok, my young friend, things are about to get very interesting."
"Woo hoo!" shouted Ed jumping up in excitement.
A/N: Yeah, sorry. Another cliff hanger. But honestly, do you really want a longer chapter? This originally started out to be kind of like an episode of CSI, kind of like Fieldnotes 1 was a tribute to The X-Files. (That's right. Go back and look. Every other strange detail I gave has to do with something from the X-Files). Anyhoodle, I realized that I don't really know anything about CSI. But I liked the concept enough that I stuck with this. Apologies for the dialogue, especially Ed's. That girl is almost impossible to write for without stealing her lines from the series. I always seem to want to make her sound like Ned Flanders. Also, apologies for typos and other errors. It's late and I'm going out of town tomorrow and I wanted to update before I left so I only went through a couple of edits.
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