Chapter Thirteen

My internal alarm awakened me before dawn, before the yellow sun rose over the turquoise waters of Tosuna. Padme was still sleeping, and I eased stealthily from her bed, venturing to the common area where I could call up her therapy schedule.

Her first appointment was at 0730 in the Invigoration Spa, located in the north building, basement level. I figured if I could arrive before Padme, I could speak with Dane privately, to discover his true identity, as well as his intentions. I wasn't convinced Padme's fall was an accident, and I planned on questioning him about that as well.

I knew ways to coax a confession out of anyone, and if those ways led to more aggressive negotiations with the man, then so be it.

By the time I had arrived at the basement level in that particular building, which ended up being at the opposite end of the campus, it was after 0700. I didn't have much time.

When I walked through the double sliding doors, my senses were bombarded with a number of things; a significant increase in the humidity level, the sound of bubbling water, and the heavy scent of salt and chlorine. However, there was another scent in the air - a smell which, once you've experienced it, is not easily forgotten: The smell of charred flesh. Or boiled, to be more precise.

Dane Zanata was dead. I found his body mostly submerged in a spa tub located near the back of the room next to a bank of fogged windows. His lower extremities and torso showed extensive tissue damage, with sparks still emitting from the control panel on the tub. I checked for any vital signs just to be sure he was dead, and then carefully cut the source of power from the tub by pulling the plug out of the wall outlet.

Before contacting security, I decided, it would be wise to perform my own investigation.

The switches, which monitored the heat and cold settings for the tub were protruding from the control panel located at the top of the tub rim, which was flush with the spa flooring. Its cover popped open easily, and inside, I discovered several electrical wires had been tampered with, as well as the one controlling the heat pump completely burned through.

Whoever did this, rigged the system to short circuit whenever the mechanism switched from cold to hot, igniting the heating element, sending pulses of electrical shocks through the water. There was no escape for the victim. Paralyzed from the initial wave of electricity, the body basically boiled, shutting down all vital organs in the process.

A painful and horrific way to die. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, even Dane Zanta, or whoever he ended up being.

I was about to see if I could detect a fingerprint on the panel when a squeal pierced the quiet bubbling noises from the other vacant tubs in the room. I turned to find a resort patron, a rather robust Twi'Lek female, standing in the doorway, staring at the body.

"Contact security," I told her, and I didn't have to repeat myself. She was gone immediately and soon I was surrounded by a variety of resort personnel, including the General Manager, Ril'Shi.

"Master Kenobi," she addressed me, bringing up her datapad to make a note of something. "Trouble seems to be following you."

I bit back a rather caustic reply. "That man is Dane Zanata," I pointed out. "You remember, the one I was looking for last night? Perhaps if you would've cooperated then, he would be alive today."

"Are you admitting you had something to do with this?" a muscular security guard asked.

"Of course I didn't. All I'm saying is that this is the man I was looking for, and now he's dead. I'd like to know why."

"So would we," Ril'Shi told me.

I was forced to wait while security performed their own inept investigation, quickly coming to the conclusion that the tub was to blame.

"Faulty wiring," Ril'Shi explained. "I knew we should've had these things replaced last season.

Was she joking? "Surely, you don't believe this was an accident! The controls have obviously been tampered with!"

"Looks like it simply shorted out and burned," security argued.

"Master Kenobi, perhaps you should leave the investigation to us. You are, after all, on a holiday."

The loss of my lightsaber was beginning to weigh heavily on my mind as I stared up into that condescending amber glare of hers.

"At least tell me who he is. I know his name is not Dane Zanata."

I had added a bit of the Force to my request, unsure if my attempt was successful or not. I sincerely doubted it, since Ril'Shi's contempt had not altered in the slightest.

"Very well," she agreed. "Lu-T'ka, print him."

The larger security guard brought out a datapad from his utility belt and activated the diagnostic print program, running Zanata's fingertips over the screen. In just a few seconds, he had the results, which he held high for his boss to see, far above my eyesight.

"Interesting," Ril'Shi said, jotting more notes in her own pad.

"What is it?" I asked, wondering if I was going to be completely left in the dark, and what I could do about that.

"None of your concern, Master Kenobi. I suggest you return to your room, and continue your holiday."

Oh, I don't think so.

"Listen carefully," I warned, bringing my voice to a lower more serious pitch, "I believe this was no accident, and neither was the broken balustrade my friend fell through. A friend, who, by the way, was scheduled to be in this very tub this morning. Which tells me, that someone is trying to kill her. And seeing that she is a Senator of the Galactic Republic, my suggestion to you is that you cooperate with me, or else you will have the Supreme Chancellor, as well as an entire team of Jedi breathing down your neck, and you don't want that, do you?"

"His name is Trell Logdin. He was a custodian at our East facility several seasons ago," Ril'Shi began with an exasperated sigh. "He was fired after attempting to run a scam on wealthy and single female guests."

"Did no one at the resort recognize him?" I asked, wondering how Dane, er Trell, managed to come and go as he pleased.

"His appearance has been radically altered," the manager explained. "Being an employee of Tasuna holds a prerequisite of Falleen genetics."

"Trell is Falleen?" I was surprised. Radically altered indeed. I never would've guessed.

"He used those genetics, however, to lure innocent victims into his trap, I'm afraid. You are familiar with the Falleen, are you not?"

"Yes," I admitted readily. I was very aware of their sense of superiority, but in this case, Ril'Shi was talking about their ability to excrete pheremones, which render the opposite sex extremely susceptible to persuasion of the romantic kind. It was why most pleasure workers across the Galaxy were Falleen.

The recall of that information brought great relief to my mind. There was a good chance Padme had not developed feelings for Dane after all; none that were her fault, anyway.

"We discovered his scam, however," Ril'Shi continued, "and he was promptly dismissed from service."

"I see. Thank you for your cooperation," I told her before spinning on my heel and heading toward the exit.

I had to break the news to Padme about Dane's death before she heard it from anyone else, and then I had to focus on figuring out who was trying to kill her.