Serial Saturday #2.3: The Apartment

Sarah adjusted her lemba as she walked back down the avenue toward her apartment. It had been a perfect night. A hiragasy troupe from Terra had been touring all the cities of the diaspora on Venus, and New Toliara had been their final stop. The merchants had stayed open late. Someone- she suspected Andry- had shipped in kegs of Three Horses Beer.

Everyone had come to the zocalo. Moments like this were rare in the diaspora, but when they happened, you learned to savor little slices of home. The women in their brightly colored lembas, matched by the men in their vivid suits. The brassy horns and drums of the hiragasy dancing. People laughing, talking, children running everywhere.

Sarah stopped and sat on a bench under her favorite baobab tree. She slipped off her shoes- new ones that had given her a nice set of blisters. The street cleaners would have already been through, so on an impulse, she decided to go barefoot the rest of the way. She liked the feel of the vibrations of the city engines through the soles of her feet.

Sarah picked up her shoes and, standing, reached up and gave the baobab tree a friendly pat. "I needed tonight," she said to the tree. "This was a great night."

The last week had been brutal. Paperwork in the wake of the accident with the power converter. She had followed Andry's advice and notified the gendarmes, but they had found no evidence of sabotage. To top it all off, the dome repair in Tsaratanana still wasn't done.

Sarah clicked her tongue and muttered in irritation as she walked. "If they don't have it done on Monday, there's going to be hell to pay."

Reaching her apartment building, she placed her hand on the entry pad, the door opened and she walked up the stairs, humming a happy song to herself. She wasn't due in to work and that meant tomorrow she could lounger around her apartment.

She placed her palm on the entry pad, the door hissed open, and Sarah stepped inside. "Annika?"

No answer.

"Annika?" She tossed her shoes into the corner and opened the pantry. "Just those old kaka pizon? I need to throw those things away." She shut the pantry and moved over to the fridge. It, too, was pretty empty, except for some koban-dravina and a bottle of ranovola, but... "Annika? We really need to get some food up in here."

She straightened, and, tilting her head, realized how silent the apartment felt. "Annika?"

Maybe she had gone out. She'd been talking a lot on the comms, Sarah knew--so maybe she and Germain were back together again. Sarah stepped over to the door of the guest bedroom and palmed the door open.

"Annika!"

Sarah rushed forward and then stopped and screamed in horror as she saw the bullet hole in the center of Annika's forehead. She began to wretch as she saw what was spackled across the headboard, the dark red moisture soaking into her pillows and bedsheets.

Stomach still heaving, Sarah wiped her mouth and leaned on the wall. She should... she should call for help. The med team, the gendarmes, someone: would they believe me? Suddenly the events of the past weeks didn't seem like random accidents anymore. They felt sinister.

Andry, maybe. Andry would know what to do. But can you trust him? Andry was the one who told her to talk to the gendarmes. Andry was the one who mentioned sabotage.

The blood. The thought kicked the back of her brain. The blood was still wet. The rush of terror was so intense it made her stagger and almost fall: The murderer might still be in here. She couldn't make a mad dash out of the apartment though. They might be listening. They might be waiting. They might be-

The chime of the front door sounded and Sarah forced herself to calm her shaking body. She took a deep breath and pulled herself together. She stepped out of the guest bedroom and closed the door, pressing the locking feature so that only she would be able to access the room. With more poise than she thought possible, she walked to her front door and opened it.

The shock, the fear, the horror all vanished in an instant as Sarah's jaw dropped at the sight of a man that she had believed to be dead for the past four years. "Dadatoa?"

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