The unfortunate business of the threat overshadowed some things that went well on the trip. Plankt, far from being intimidated was now determined to defy the extortionist, and did so by spending time among the clouds. He took a number of leisurely rides with us to admire the wonderful rugged country in the region. He loved the ship Silver Moonlight. Franchomme didn’t accompany us on those trips.
At first, I fell into the common trap of thinking that it was about me, remembering the unsettling interrogation, in which I don’t think I satisfactorily answered any of his questions. But, Franchomme did take a ride near the end of my stay. “I do not like the idea of this, but I think I may learn something valuable.” “What?” “I don’t know yet.” “Oh – of course.” He spoke casually with various members of the crew. None of them got grilled though. “How is it that you know Plankt both professionally and personally?” I asked, hoping for a good story. I didn’t get one. “It is very remote out here and there aren’t many detectives. Whatever happens, I know about. My job, as Lieutenant, is to manage our local station. I take care of everything from kittens in trees to drunk drivers and robberies. Also, everyone out here knows everyone else. That makes this crime especially interesting. It must be hard to pull off out here.” Since we were talking about the problem anyway, I tried an open question. “What next?” “Well, it’s generally not a good idea to give in to an extortionist or blackmailer, because they just keep making demands. Plankt has made it clear he has no intention of paying. However, I almost wish he would, because often we can nab them when they try to collect.” I asked him if the reason he didn’t want to come on the earlier trips with Plankt was the threat to the ship. “No of course not. I wouldn’t have let either of you fly if there was an immediate danger. The criminal hasn’t yet provided the exact terms for payment. There is no danger for awhile – any incident would ruin his chances of getting money. No, honestly, the reason I avoided your ship is because it makes me a little queasy.” Oh, so that was it. Lots of people are like that. I offered to bring the ship back as soon as he was ready, and he was.
You may be wondering how the crew reacted to the situation. They were surprisingly stoic. Vysby’s reaction was even more unexpected. She was enthusiastic and excited by the prospect of determining who was threatening us. “It’s real mystery. I’m going to solve it.” she announced.
Johannes, a younger member of the crew was one of the few that expressed discomfort at the situation. Johannes was a great gambler; I was well aware of his ability to keep a poker face, but he wasn’t playing any games at dinner that night. “I can’t believe this. I liked this job. I don’t want to leave.” “Then don’t” someone responded. “And die for it? Not worth it.” “Oh – ignore that rubbish.” came back the response. He gave me an uncomfortable look. “If you decide to leave, I understand. There would obviously be no hard feelings, and I would be happy to rehire you later if you wish.” He just looked even more uncomfortable.