Curiosity is a powerful trait even among non-Terrans, and Odo was no exception. Bennet's case puzzled him, because despite its open-and-shut nature, the lack of definitive evidence bothered him. Accordingly, the following day, Quark walked into the cells.

"Come on." Oblivious to Quark's arrival, Bennet was speaking coaxingly to a glowering member of Odo's staff. "Drop the field and try it. You know you want to. How could you not, after the way I embarrassed you in front of your boss?" He tilted his chin invitingly. "Go ahead. Poke me one. I deserve it."

Quark watched with interest as the guard's hand crept closer to the forcefield controls. Just before his finger reached the deactivation button, Quark coughed and the guard snatched his hand back as if the panel had suddenly become red-hot.

"That was unnecessary," Bennet said to Quark in a tired voice.

The guard, flushing bright red, gave Bennet a furious glance and stalked away, pausing only long enough to tell Quark, "Odo has agreed that you can talk to him privately. But don't touch anything!"

"Don't worry. I'm not stupid enough to fall for one of his tricks," Quark said, laying just enough stress on the word to make the guard beat an even hastier retreat.

"Why'd you have to interfere?" Bennet demanded, but his tone was more one of weariness than outrage. "He was about to lower the field so that he could deck me."

"Because if he had, you'd have laid him out and taken off again, and then where would I be?" Quark replied. "I'm not about to let a lucrative opportunity slip away."

Bennet's ears pricked up. "Oh? You mean you've finally realized that your petty revenge is as costly for you as it is for me?"

"I wouldn't say that," Quark disagreed, seating himself comfortably on a nearby chair. "After all, I'd be rather pleased if the Cardassians got hold of you, while your reaction would be quite different. You know, I hear they've got several new interrogation devices. There's one that they attach here -- " he gestured, and Bennet couldn't suppress his wince.

"All right, you damned Ferengi, you've made your point. What do you want?"

"Let's see... Tell me again about your trading business. How much do you estimate it's worth?"

"What?" Bennet yelped. "That's robbery! And extortion! I thought you were a respectable businessman. You know perfectly well that I was in your bar from the time of the power outage until Odo's goons arrived, yet you're ready to let me be shipped off to amuse some Cardassian torturers just because of an old grudge!"

Quark grinned, revealing his spiky fangs. "Now, Jake, would I do that? After all, I wouldn't want to see my old friend punished for something I know he didn't do. I'll be happy to tell Odo the truth. Just as soon as you do something for me, to prove that our friendship still exists."

Bennet sighed. This was what he'd been waiting for. "How much?"

"How much is it worth to you?"

"To stay out of Cardassian hands? You know the answer, you stunted troll: a lot. But," Jake added, glaring at Quark's smug features, "just in case you get any funny ideas, remember this: I've got friends. Large, angry friends, who wouldn't like it if I ended up in Cardassia even after paying you your blood money."

Quark feigned an expression of pious shock. "Would I double cross you, Jake? How could you even think such a thing? All you have to do is arrange for the payment of, oh, say, a thousand bars of gold pressed latanum -- " he ignored Bennet's bellow of rage " -- into my hands and I'd be happy to tell Odo exactly where you were during the attack on Garek."

"You gouging little monster," Bennet seethed. "How am I supposed to get the money to you from in here? You'll have to tell Odo, and then I'll -- "

"Oh, no!" Quark rose rapidly, shaking a finger at Jake. "Money first. My memory won't recover until the latanum arrives. And you'd better hurry, too, because with every day that passes, my memory will need a little more nudging."

"You -- " Bennet trailed off into oaths, and after listening admiringly for a few minutes, Quark headed for the door.

"Always nice to see you, Jake!" he called over his shoulder.

Bennet stomped around the cell for several moments, then went to the refresher area to splash water on his face. Behind his back, the chair in which Quark had been seated, shivered and reformed into a very pensive Odo.

Before Bennet turned around, Odo had left the room. The trader dropped onto his bunk, preoccupied with plans to procure the money to pay off Quark.

#

"Lieutenant," Odo stopped by Dax's console, and the Trill looked up in surprise. It was unusual for the Constable to come to Ops; he preferred to stay in his own bailiwick of the Promenade.

"Yes, Odo? Can I help you with something?"

"I'm interested in obtaining a list of all of the ships that have docked at the station recently, along with any information about their crews and passengers that you may have. Specifically, I'm trying to identify all of the genetic patterns which we found in Garek's store."

Dax thought a moment. "I can cross-reference the ships' files with the medical databank. Julian is quite good at requiring all ships to provide copies of their medical logs before docking, so you should have access to the data you need. Are you hoping to eliminate everyone but Bennet?" she asked, her eyes dark with worry.

"Something like that," Odo answered evasively. "If you could just send the information to my office..."

"I'll take care of it right away," she promised.

Odo's next stop was at Kira's station. Like Dax, she was mildly surprised at his approach. "Constable, what's up?"

"Hi, Odo," O'Brien added, walking by en route to his console. "Anything wrong?"

"I have a question that perhaps the two of you can answer," Odo began, and they agreeably gave him their attention. "Has there been any activity in Cardassian intelligence circles recently?"
"You mean spying?" O'Brien asked in surprise. He and Kira exchanged a glance.

"Well," Kira offered after a startled pause, "Bajor has heard some rumblings about a possible expansion into Rigellian territory. Rigel is asking us for advice in negotiating with them."

"I'm not that familiar with Star Fleet's counter-intelligence teams," O'Brien admitted, "but the last I heard was that the Cardies were pretty interested in obtaining a copy of the Klingon's cloaking device and also in the report from Geos about a new explosive for use by ground forces."

"Oh?" Odo's eyebrows shot up.

"Does any of that help?" Kira asked blankly.

"Yes. Yes, it does," Odo murmured, more to himself than to his mystified colleagues. "Thank you. Is the commander free?"

Kira nodded, and she and O'Brien exchanged shrugs of bewilderment while Odo marched past them to Sisko's office.

#

"Are you certain?" Sisko tried to keep the disappointment out of his tone, but he didn't quite succeed.

"Yes," Odo said. "I still have a few things to verify, but that's simply for appearances. I'm certain."

Sisko sighed. "Well, I hate to say it, but I admit I'm relieved."
"Oh?" Odo looked at him in surprise.

"He's annoying, but defending against an assault charge in a Cardassian court is something I wouldn't wish on anyone. Besides, I wouldn't want to think that my entire command staff could be won over by a smooth-talking murderer. Yourself excluded, of course."

"Hm. Are you interested in accompanying me while I arrest the actual assailants?"

Sisko nodded. "When are you planning to do it?"

"Tomorrow morning. That will give me time to check with my contacts and arrange for safe handling of the material."

"Excellent."

"I am concerned about one thing: Bennet may attempt another escape while I am out of my office to make the arrest. If he suceeds, he will turn himself into a fugitive based solely on the charge of escaping from Federation custody."

"I see what you mean. That hardly seems fair -- even for someone like Bennet."

"On the other hand, if I release him, I risk tipping off my quarry."

Sisko began to smile. "I have an idea, Odo. I think I can guarantee Bennet's presence in the cell during that period."

Bennet was slumped morosely on his bunk. He wasn't sure which prospect was worse: facing the Cardassian dungeons or handing over 1000 bars of latanum to Quark.

"Hi, Jake!" Jake Sisko stepped into the room. "How are you?"

"Jake!" Bennet sat up in surprise. "Are you supposed to be here? Won't your dad get mad if he finds out you're hanging around the jail?"

"Nah," Jake dismissed the notion. "Besides, it was his idea that I visit you. He said you could use some cheering up."

"Your father said that?" Bennet echoed in astonishment. "Is he feeling all right?"

Jake laughed. "Seriously, what's going on? When are you getting out of here? It's all just a mistake, isn't it?"

"Is that what your dad said?" Bennet asked eagerly.

"Well, no," Jake admitted, "but it must be true. You wouldn't try to kill anybody, would you?"

"No," Bennet's flash of hope faded. "But sometimes that can be tough to prove."

"But Odo and my dad will learn the truth," Jake said with utter assurance. "They wouldn't let anything happen to someone who's innocent."

"I sure hope not," Bennet mustered a smile. "But enough about me: how's Reena?"

#

The two Jakes were engaged in animated conversation about the best holosuite program on which to take a date, when Odo, Sisko, and the two Klingon traders entered the security area almost an hour later. "Jake." Sisko caught his son's eye and nodded towards the door.

"Okay," his son agreed easily. "'Bye, Jake. See you later."

"I hope so," Bennet replied feelingly. "Thanks for stopping by." He waited until the door had slid shut behind the teenager before turning a suspicious eye upon the elder Sisko and Odo. "What's this? Are you trying to find ways to add more charges to the ones you've already got? Is that why you sent your son here? To accuse me of corrupting a child? Odo already admitted that I didn't do anything illegal to these two."

The nearest Klingon hissed angrily at him, but both were oddly subdued.

"Mr. Bennet, do you recall what cargo these gentlement were carrying?"

Bennet's eyes narrowed. Something was afoot. "Yeah. They've got half a hold of byranzium. Why?"

"Well?" Odo looked at the Klingons.

"He is misremembering!" one blustered. "His faulty memory is not sufficient grounds to permit a search of our ship!"

"I am not misremembering!" Bennet retorted indignantly. "Ask Quark; he's the one that told me what your cargo was. Besides, I still have a copy of the bill of sale that you gave me and the receipt from when I sold it back to you, and both of them say byranzium."

"I thought you were being a bit coy when you were levelling your charges against him," Odo told the Klingons, nodding to Bennet. "At the time, I wondered why you didn't specify the exact nature of your cargo."

"What's going on?" Bennet demanded.

Sisko turned to him. "Do you know what byranzium is?"

Bennet shrugged. "Some new alloy from Geos, I gather."

"It's a highly explosive compound," Sisko informed him. "Extremely useful for ground-based warfare, and the Federation has recently moved to restrict its transport under the banned weaponry statutes."

"Oh, no!" Bennet stared in them in disbelief. "You're going to charge me with gun-running? This is absurd! Why don't you just stick me out the nearest airlock? Do you actually think that there's going to be anything left of me to extradite to the Federation courts when the Cardassians get through with me?"

"You might have a little more faith in Federation justice, Mr. Bennet," Sisko said reprovingly. "And that is not at all what we're planning."

"Did it ever occur to you to wonder what the Klingons were doing with the byranzium? Or why their buyer refused to accept only half the cargo?"

Bennet blinked. "You mean they were selling it to someone who wanted enough of it to make a functional weapon?"

Sisko nodded encouragingly, as if to a slow child. "Very good."

"But who on the space station would be interested in-- " Bennet's eyes bugged. "Garek! It was Garek! I never knew their original buyer, but it must have been Garek! The Cardassians would want a prototype of the new weapon so that they could counter any new Federation technology!"

"That's exactly what the original manifest in their computer shows. They were to deliver the byranzium to Garek in exchange for a tidy sum."

"And when he refused to pay for less of the explosive than he needed, they got angry and bashed his head in?" Bennet guessed.

"The plant-eating Cardassian laughed at us!" one Klingon burst out. "We went to ask him for an advance, so that we could repair our ship and bring back more byranzium for him, and he made jokes! Asking if we needed help in meeting our obligations! Suggesting that we weren't capable of doing the job and that he'd be better off finding other traders!"

"We should have killed him," his partner agreed grimly. "No one may say such things to Klingons."

"Garek can be fairly irritating," Sisko acknowledged, "but that doesn't excuse assault."

The first Klingon snorted. "It does in a Klingon court."

"That is a matter for your government to take up with Bajor," Odo said firmly, escorting them to the cell adjacent to Bennet's. "And that still leaves the charge of gun-running."

"What about me?" Bennet said eagerly, stepping close to the forcefield. "Now that you know I didn't attack Garek, you can let me go!"

Sisko studied his nails. "Have you forgotten the little matter of the computer failure?"

"Not to mention criminal trespass, unauthorized use of the computer facility, invasion of privacy, and accessory to gun-running," Odo answered, returning to Sisko's side.

Bennet's jaw dropped. "But I didn't even know that byranzium was a restricted cargo! And I only confessed to the other charges because you were ready to send me to Cardassia for attempted murder!" He stared from one to the other. "You wouldn't slap me with them now, would you?"

"Why not?" Odo asked bluntly.

"It would ensure peace on the Promenade again," Sisko remarked to Odo.

"And no more constant irritation," the Constable agreed.

Bennet sighed in defeat. "Okay, okay. You've got me. What do you want?"

"Are you trying to bribe us?" Sisko asked severely.

"Yes," Bennet admitted. "What'll it take? A promise to hold no more parties? To stay out of restricted areas? Confinement to quarters until my ship arrives to pick me up? Trust me, I can be a model citizen."

Odo and Sisko exchanged a glance. "One hardly knows where to start."

Bennet rolled his eyes. "Look, don't get greedy, okay? What more can I offer? Are you going to kick me when I'm down?"

"Don't tempt me," Sisko advised him. "Perhaps if you were to swear a solemn oath not to disrupt station life -- "

"I'd opt for confinement to quarters," Odo put in.

"But how would we verify it?" Sisko asked. "If we put guards on him, he'll only convince them to escort him on his carousing. Then we're back where we started."

"That's completely unfair," Bennet objected in hurt tones. He did his best to adopt a wounded puppy-dog look.

"What if we just made Quark's off-limits?" Sisko suggested.

"He seems somewhat talented with computers; couldn't Chief O'Brien use some help?"

"That's forced labor!" Bennet yipped indignantly.

They ignored him. "Very good point, Odo. And I think that Dr. Bashir was complaining about the need to inventory the medical locker -- "

He was interrupted by Kira's voice. "Ops to Sisko."

"Go ahead, Major."

"Commander, the ship that's arrived to pick up Bennet has already docked, and the captain is growing impatient. He wants to know where we're keeping Jake. What shall I tell him?"

Sisko sighed. The game was over much too soon. "Tell him to meet us at the Promenade. We're on our way. Sisko out."

Bennet was wearing a reluctant grin. "All right. Very funny. And yes, I admit it; you had me going."

Odo deactivated the forcefield and permitted himself a wintry smile. "It seemed only fair."

Bennet stepped out, heaving a sigh of relief. "I can't even blame you. I've been told that I can be pretty annoying."

"That's an understatement," Sisko retorted, leading the way out of Odo's office.

"Well, I want to thank you both for continuing to investigate the attack, even after there was such a solid case against me. I've been on plenty of worlds where they wouldn't have been half so thorough."

Sisko fell into step alongside Odo and Bennet. "I did tell you that you could trust Federation justice."

Bennet nodded, impatient to get to his ship. "True."

It was clear that Bennet wasn't paying attention, but Sisko wasn't about to lose this opportunity to lecture the trader. "If you hadn't called attention to yourself by breaking into our computer system -- a charge on which you could have been prosecuted -- none of this --"

"Oh, no!" Bennet exclaimed loudly, jerking to a halt. His eyes were fixed on the back of a passerby a few meters ahead. "A Romulan! Tell O'Brien you're going to have to fumigate the station!"

Sisko choked in horror, just as the broad back in front of them halted. A slow turn brought a very unfriendly Romulan visage into view.

"What did you say, human?"

Odo grabbed Bennet by the elbow and began pulling him away while Sisko stepped forward to make amends, his hands raised placatingly. "Excuse us. Our friend is -- ill -- and he cannot--"

"That's right!" Bennet yelled, resisting Odo's efforts to drag him off. "As soon as I see a mangy Romulan, I get sick -- to my stomach!"

The Romulan shoved past Sisko and made straight for Bennet. "It is always fascinating to watch a dead man speak!"

Realizing that the Romulan was almost upon them, Odo released Bennet and turned to face the new threat. "There will be no violence aboard this station!" he declared, only a bit desperately.

"Nyah, nyah!" Bennet taunted. Sisko, hurrying to Odo's side, wondered if the trader had gone mad.

"Naturally," the Romulan's voice dripped contempt, and he directed his words at Benenett. "I should have known that you would never make such remarks if you were not assured of protection."

"Hey, do I look suicidal?" Bennet inquired reasonably. "Besides, you had it coming. What took you so long to get here?"

Odo and Sisko exchanged a look of bewilderment. Their confusion was not lessened when the Romulan retorted, "That is a typically illogical human remark. Since you were flying the Eldorado, you're lucky we got here at all. You knew the Stakiv was in Spacedock for repairs."

" 'We'?" Bennet echoed hopefully. "Tell me you're not just talking about yourself and Narf."

"Narf was on a run when your message came in; he isn't here."

"What?" Bennet yelped. "That piker! If you'd been any earlier, you might have had to bust me out of jail, and I'd like to know how you'd have done it without Narf's help!"

The Romulan ran a contemptuous eye over Sisko and Odo, still standing dazedly between the other two. "Since when have I needed a Klingon to handle a Federation jail? You must be losing your touch if you couldn't extricate yourself. The children could get you out of one of those."

"I beg your pardon!" Odo began, outraged, but Bennet drowned him out.

"The children? They're here? Then Ilea must be -- "

The Romulan gestured further down the Promenade with his chin. "There."

"Yahoo!" Bennet thrust himself between Odo and Sisko and pelted down the corridor.

Sisko found himself eye to eye with a sour-looking Romulan. "I -- er -- I am Commander Benjamin Sisko. I take it you're an associate of Mr. Bennet's?"

"Yes."

"Your name?" Odo demanded, still smarting from the Romulan's slight to his jail.

"Redek."

Sisko cleared his throat. "Well, Mr. Redek -- "

"Captain Redek."

"Excuse me. Captain Redek. We don't get many Romulans on DS9. Do you plan to stay long?"

The withering look he received made his own temper rise. "It is unusual to see a Romulan so far from home."
"Not when the Romulan authorities have put a price on one's head," Redek sneered. "The Empire frowns upon free enterprise, and so as an entrepeneur, I find Free Space much more accommodating. Is this interrogation over?"

"I -- " Sisko was interrupted by the approach of Dr. Bashir who ran up to them, wildly excited.

"Some insane individual brought a Klingon Targ aboard the station!" he cried. "It's stampeded down half the Promenade and just ran into Quark's!"

Redek turned his awful stare upon Bashir who, noticing him for the first time, gulped and paled. "You dare to call me insane, human?"

Somehow Sisko didn't think that Redek would tolerate Bashir's unwitting insult with the same forbearance he had shown to Bennet's teasing. "This is my medical officer. I'm sure he didn't mean -- "

"No, no!" For once, Bashir caught on quickly. "My mistake! No offence meant, I assure you! Please excuse me."

Whether Redek would have accepted the apology or not was debatable, but happily circumstances intervened.

"Uncle Redek!" Two green-skinned children ran up to the tall Romulan and began tugging on his arms. The elder, a girl of perhaps seven, held her younger brother by the hand. The boy was little more than a toddler, and it was his sister who did the talking. "Uncle Redek! Fluffy's all excited! A Ferengi said something rude to Mama, and Fluffy got angry. Now he's chasing the Ferengi all around the room!"

"Do I look like a wetnurse?" Redek growled. "Tell your father. I am not here to care for his whelps."

The little girl paid no attention. "Daddy's saying hello to Mama, and you know how long that can take. Now come on!" She gave one last tug to his hand, then ran back the way they had come, leaving the boy behind.

"A Targ named Fluffy?" Odo asked disbelievingly.

Redek glowered at him. "They go nowhere without it. In truth, it's a more pleasant traveling companion than Narf, much better trained and with a less offensive odor."

"Pick me up," the boy finally spoke, plucking at the Romulan's pantleg.

Redek jerked free. "I'm no primary teacher! Go bother your parents."

"Pick me up now," the boy insisted.

Fearing the Romulan's rising temper, Bashir hastily stepped forward. "Here, young man, I'll pick you up."

The boy shot him a look of deep suspicion and darted behind Redek's legs. Bashir pursued him, nearly colliding with the Romulan as he sought to catch the child. "It's all right! Come here!"

The Romulan scooped up his partner's son and yanked Bashir up by the collar. "What do you think you're doing?"

"I -- er -- I was going to -- Would you like me to take him?"

"No!" the boy yelled, twining his hands about Redek's neck and viewing Bashir with alarm.

"I just thought that -- I mean, Romulans and children -- "

"What do you know about Romulans and children?" Redek demanded.

"Well, er, nothing," Bashir admitted nervously. "But you said -- "

"Thank you, doctor," Sisko adroitly stepped between them. "Shall we see where the children's pet is?"

It wasn't hard to find. Screams and crashes were coming from Quark's bar, and as Sisko, Odo, and Redek, still carrying the child, approached, they could see Bennet standing outside, locked in a passionate embrace with a green skinned Orion woman. They were oblivious to the chaos within the store, despite the fact that every so often a bruised and bleeding body would hurtle out of it.

Sisko swallowed hard. Subduing a Klingon Targ in the middle of a barroom brawl had not been covered in his training.

"I suppose we'd better get in there before the little girl gets hurt," he offered weakly after catching sight of her small form dashing about inside.

Redek snorted. "Yasmeen hurt? Never. She's accustomed to the Targ's bad moods. She knows better than to get in his way when he's on a rampage."
"Oh." Sisko began to wish that Kira would urgently summon him to Ops. "Er, Odo..."

"Come along," Redek said to the child in his arms. "We need to stop the nonsense in there." He marched into the turmoil without so much as a glance at Odo or Sisko.

"I suppose we need to go in, too," Sisko commented unenthusiastically. He glanced over at Bennet and his wife, but there was no help to be had from that corner; they had not yet come up for air.

"Commander, I don't know about your plans," Odo said flatly, "but I have pressing business in my office."

Sisko's eyebrows soared in surprise. "But what about -- " He gestured wordlessly at the hubbub that had once been Quark's

"Do you hear anyone calling for security?" Odo asked flatly, ignoring the bottle that whizzed past his head to smash against the wall behind them.

"No," Sisko admitted.

"Are you summoning security?"

Sisko took another look inside and repressed the resultant shudder. "No."

"Then I suggest you accompany me. I think I can find matters to occupy both of us for quite some time."

"That's why I so value you as a Security Chief, Odo: your unerring discretion." Sisko gestured back towards Odo's office. "After you."

END