Lieutenant, j.g., Pavel Chekovwho had until two weeks ago been taking graduate level classes in Starship Securityand his current girlfriend, Peggy Montgomerya civilian computer specialist who was working at Starfleet Headquartersdecided they were going to take a ski vacation during his winter break. They had originally met on a ski trip in Colorado several months earlier during his spring break.
They had discussed several alternatives, which included the typical ski destinations in Nevada, Colorado and Utah, as well as more exotic destinations in the Alps. After rejecting several alternatives, they mutually decided to consider a vacation on a planet other than Earth, given that it would be Pavels last chance for a vacation before going back on starship duty.
They went to the Brody Interplanetary Travel Agency to plan their trip. The agency had received rave reviews from many of Chekovs acquaintances at Starfleet. His sources had especially praised the work of one agent in particular, Sarah Lynch. As he and Montgomery entered the spacious front office of the travel agency, they requested her by name and were directed to the work station of a slender young agent with long, dark curly hair and dark complexion.
Chekov informed the travel agent, "Were thinking of taking a ski trip off-planet."
"I know just the place: Centaurus. We have travel packages that are reasonably priced even for college students and Starfleet personnel." Lynch then grabbed some related travel literature. "There are many ski resorts there. This year, their northern hemisphere winter is slightly ahead of Earths. So they are in the heart of their winter while fall is just ending here."
"Of course, their seasons are not always in sync with those on Earth since it takes that world 452 days to revolve around Alpha Centauri A," Chekov said, revealing that particular astronomical fact.
Peggys tone of voice was slightly teasing. "Pavel here is quite the space traveler; he knows all kinds of facts about planets."
Lynch smiled pleasantly. "The resorts on Centaurus cater to all levels of skiing ability. There are resorts that cater to ultra-serious skiers, and there are also resorts for customers who wish to pursue other activities besides skiing."
Chekov confided, "Were both competent skiers, but wed like to do other activities also." He winked at Lynch.
"So what are your other interests?" inquired the travel agent innocently.
After elbowing Chekov, Montgomery leaned closer to Lynchs computer console for a closer look at available activities. "I enjoy going out to dinner. I also enjoy classical music and the opera."
Lynch turned to Chekov. "And what are your interests?"
"I enjoy music and drama from my native land, Russia."
"And fiercely Russian he is," revealed Peggy. "When we were planning which San Francisco Philharmonic orchestra concerts to attend for this year, he wanted to attend all the ones that played Russian music, like Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and the like."
Chekov gave Sarah and Peggy an earnest look. "You must admit that Russia has had a profound influence on Earth culture. Im sure you know many people who attend the Nutcracker Suite ballet around Christmas time. It was composed by a Russian, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky."
Lynch smirked. "Ill try to locate a resort for you where you can both ski and attend classical music functions. Ill even try to look for concerts with Russian music, but I cant make any promises."
The agent then turned to her computer console when she asked it to locate ski resorts on Alpha Centauri VII, fitting the search criteria specified by Pavel and Peggy. After a brief pause, the female voice of the computer recited the names of the resorts that qualified.
Lynch then turned to her two customers, an enthusiastic expression obvious on her face, "Ive got to agree with the computers recommendation of Zieglers Alpine Lodge on Centaurus. Ive stayed there myself and had a great time."
"Im not familiar with it," Chekov admitted sheepishly.
"Its located in the Centaurian Rockies, in the valley between Mount Jacoby and Mount Danner. Theres a ski lift on the premises, with access to trails for all levels of skiers. Its very close to other ski resorts, too. Snowboarding is available also, in case you need a break from skiing. There are many fine restaurants in the vicinity. And, for you classical music lovers, the Cochrane City Opera Company is giving a performance of Wagners Ring Cycle that very week. And at the end of the week, the Bugel Springs Symphony Orchestra is giving a performance of the 1812 Overture."
"Seeing the Ring Cycle sounds great!" raved Montgomery.
Meanwhile, Chekov smiled, remembering old times. "Every summer since I started high school, I would get a group of my friends together to see the Moscow Symphony Orchestra do their annual performance of the 1812 Overture at Gorky Park, complete with cannons. We would bring our blankets, folding chairs, and a picnic supper. When I started at the Academy, some of my fellow cadets would come join me."
Peggy added, "Thats the only disadvantage of being on a starshipnot being able to go to live concerts."
Lynch commented, "This particular concert wont be outside since its in the middle of winter. It will be at the Bugel Springs Concert Hall, which is not far from Zieglers Alpine Resort. I had a blast there. Youll love it."
Chekov whispered conspiratorially to Montgomery, "It is good sign when the travel agent has stayed at the resort shes recommending."
"Yes, it is," she concurred.
With the help of Lynch, Chekov and Montgomery investigated a few other lodging and entertainment options on Centaurus, but in the end decided to stay at Zieglers Lodge.
"So, Ill go ahead and reserve your lodgings and get you both tickets for the S.S. Chiron, a starliner that makes the Earth-Centaurus run."
"Thank you so much."
After the Chiron took them from Earth to Centaurus, Chekov and Montgomery caught a regional shuttle that took them to the lodge and checked in with the hotel desk attendant. After a brief wait, which mostly entailed waiting for computer printouts, she handed them their room key, their reserved tickets to the Ring Cycle opera and the 1812 Overture concert, along with ticket vouchers that could be used at any ski lift in the region.
After they went upstairs to their assigned room to drop off their luggage and ski equipment and start their unpacking process, they returned downstairs to meet with the concierge. He described the regional ski attractions in more detail and, while doing so, loaded a data chit onto his work station and showed them a detailed map of the area where they could review all options. They made some initial choices.
Once that meeting was over, Chekov and Montgomery proceeded through the lobby. Pavel saw a group of girls, some who had already apparently checked in, while others were still waiting. One of the girls, who was moderately short and had dark brown hair, looked vaguely familiar, although Pavel could not recall where he might have known her. The girl herself was staring at him in return.
She finally approached him. "Hey, didnt you graduate from Starfleet Academy about five or so years ago?"
"It was seven," he admitted.
"Then, you must have graduated with my older sister. You were one of the many people she introduced to me that day."
Chekov recalled meeting the family members of many of his Starfleet Academy classmates at graduation and its related festivities but could not recall the specific details of most of their families. "So who was your older sister?"
"Marcella Marsilii," she answered. "Im Maria Elena but everyone calls me Marlena."
"Pleased to meet you. Im Pavel Chekov."
The memories of former Cadet Marsilii came back to him. Marcella was the cadet who had graduated third in Chekovs graduating class. She was from Southern California and was especially talented in the sciences. After graduation, she was posted as a junior science officer on the U.S.S. Essex.
"Are you still in Starfleet?" Marsilii inquired.
"Yes, I am. I had been posted on the U.S.S. Enterprise for five years, but its currently being refitted. Ive been planetside for nearly two years. I am taking classes at Starfleet Training Command, but its our winter break, and we wanted to get some skiing in."
"Its my winter break also. Im currently a senior at U.S.C. Im a Business major, although Ive taken a lot of Engineering classes also. Im here with several of my friends. We decided to do something different for break, besides the usual go home to the family for the holidays thing."
"So hows Marcella doing?"
"Shes doing fine. Shes now a lieutenant and she just became First Officer of the science vessel, U.S.S. Marie Curie."
Before separating, Marsilii cracked, "I hope you guys dont feel like youre stuck with a bunch of teeny boppers on your vacation."
Chekov reassured her. "Peggy and I still think of ourselves as young. Besides, seniors in college are not really teeny boppers. At least youre twenty or so. On the other hand, if you were seniors in high school..."
Montgomery elbowed him in the ribs. "Down, boy."
The next morning Pavel and Peggy took the Himmelstrassenbahn Sky Tour, a guided aerial tour of the area via an air tram. They chose that option so they could have an overview of the region, including its history and available attractions. With the numerous resorts and mountains in the area having Germanic names, the tram was given a German name that literally translated to "Heaven Streetcar." They encountered Marlena Marsilii and her friends at the shuttle area.
Marsilii confided to Chekov and Montgomery, "I hear the guide for this tour is a high school friend of my sisters. Her name is Hilary Fritz."
As the guests from Zieglers Alpine lodge filed onto one of the aerial cabs, Marsilii immediately directed the tour guides attention towards Chekov. "This young man went to Starfleet Academy with my sister."
"Oh really!" gushed the petite young woman with dirty blonde hair. "Marcella has been one my closest friends since before high school. Its been harder for us to get together since shes usually assigned to a ship."
He introduced himself. "Im Pavel Chekov."
"Please to meet you," she said, picking up a microphone. She began her speech about the area. "Welcome aboard, gentlebeings. My name is Hilary Fritz, and its my privilege to tell you about the areas near this resort. The most notable features are Mount Jacoby and Mount Danner. You may recall that back in the 2070's, Zefram Cochrane made a historic faster-than-light voyage to this star system. Upon his arrival here at Alpha Centauri Seven, he found to his astonishment that the people of this planet were, in fact, descended from Humans. This led to the realization that an alien race, known as The Preservers, had seeded Humanity among the nearby stars. DNA testing has shown that the original inhabitants of this world, which they called Centaurus, were transplanted approximately five thousand years ago."
There were a few murmurs as people discussed other xeno-anthropological facts about the world they were touring. "Unfortunately, the Centaurians had not explored much of their world, confining themselves to the southern, more temperate hemisphere. By mutual agreement between the governments of Earth and Centaurus, in a treaty negotiated by Mister Cochrane, Earth began colonizing the northern hemisphere of this planet and Alpha Three, which orbits the other major star in this binary system."
She favored the audience with a hologram of the signing of the Terra-Centauri Treaty. "Soon after that, during the late 2080's, an expedition led by Joseph Danner and Richard Jacoby mapped out the mountains in the northern hemisphere here. The two largest mountains were named for them. The other peaks in this region, Mount Grimm, Mount Starke, Mount Bostic, and Mount May were presumably named after colleagues of theirs."
A person in the seat behind them snorted and whispered to his seatmate. "It was a little joke. The two of them were very big football fans and named most of the mountains after famous players for the Washington Redskins. It was just a coincidence that one of them had the same last name as a player on the team."
The tour continued. Chekov and Montgomery learned more interesting facts about the mountains in the area. Mount Grimm was known for having a "Grimms Fairy Tale" theme park. Many of the most challenging ski trails, including the Drakulich and the Schrecklich were located in the Mount Danner area. They also learned that Centaurian mountain coffee was also manufactured in the deep, warmer valleys of this region, along with the most famous chocolate on the planet, Kozlowskis.
Once the tour was over and they returned to the lodge, they had lunch. "I think I know more about this area than anyones ever wanted to know." Peggy seemed weary from the Centaurian history lesson from earlier that day.
"Time to do something physical, like ease our way into skiing," Chekov suggested.
"Well, you certainly know a lot of people, Pav," commented Montgomery. "Or at least your old friend, Marcella, did."
Chekov ignored his girlfriends catty remark. "Shes doing very well for herself. Shell go far in Sciences at Starfleet."
After finishing their lunch, Chekov and Montgomery walked to the nearest ski lift and decided to traverse a couple of trails of mild difficulty. They knew they were capable of more challenging trails but figured that they were better off doing easier trails on their first day.
After three hours of skiing, they returned to the lodge. While removing his parka, Chekov turned to Montgomery. "This resort is almost as good as the Karusel Mountain Sky and Tourist Resort at Krasnaya Polyana."
"And thats in Russia, I take it. I know you, Pavel. Of course you would like a Russian resort the best."
"Youre right, of course. It is in Russia. Can I help it if the Russian people always excel at everything they do?"
This time, she favored him with a snowball she apparently had hidden in her pocket, and darted into the bathroom.
That evening, they went to Cochrane City to see the first opera of the Ring Cycle series, Das Rheingold. Chekov and Montgomery were favorably impressed with the performance. They were especially enthralled with the fact that an excellent opera company with renowned singers had developed less than two centuries after the first explorers had reached Centauri. Opera had not independently developed on Centaurus, but the Centaurians had fallen in love with the art.
"I still dont know German well enough to forego subtitles even though I studied it for six years," lamented Peggy as they walked back to their lodgings.
Pavel retorted, "Thats more than I know. I only studied German for a year. I concentrated more on English in school since I wanted to go to Starfleet Academy."
"I grew up in Chicago so I took speaking English for granted. So its a little freaky for me to think that English could be a second language for anyone."
"It was a matter of economics. Even though the Russians were the first Humans in space and were very instrumental in developing the Federation, the simple fact of the matter is that capitalism prevailed over other economic forms, such as socialism or communism," pointed out Chekov. "Russian children are taught English as a second language as soon as they enter grade school. Unfortunately, it is easier for me to think and speak in Russian than it ever is for me to use English."
When they returned to their room, Montgomery turned on the holovid broadcast of the Intergalactic News Service. "I guess we need to keep up with the news when were on vacation."
The commentator droned on about the usual political news in the Federation, such as elections on various planets. The newscast show they had chosen also broadcast the news on events taking place in the Alpha Centauri system. One of the last news bulletins mentioned was the fact that a young woman from Earth, Cynthia Woodhead, had recently gone on vacation on Centaurus but had not yet returned home. All searches for her on the planet had been fruitless. The story mentioned further that her parents were extremely worried about her.
"Thats terrible news." Peggy clicked off the news.
"The crime rate on Centaurus is much lower than Earths. Im sure shell be okay," reassured Pavel as he got ready for bed.
She favored him with a quick kiss. "I hope they find her, and that shes okay."
"Me, too, Peggy."
The next day, Chekov and Montgomery spent their time skiing on the slopes nearest to Zieglers Lodge. They opted for most of the trails of moderate difficulty. Throughout the day, they encountered Marlena Marsilii and her friends. Pavel found himself giving skiing advice to them several times.
In the late afternoon, they ordered elaborate hot chocolate beverages and sat by the fireplace in one of the lounges at Zieglers Lodge.
"A great apr s ski activity," remarked a weary Peggy. The hot chocolates aroma was heavenly to her.
"Since were going to the opera this evening, having alcohol would probably make me too drowsy to enjoy it," commented Pavel, between sips of his beverage as he eyed the various bottles of liquor on the shelf behind a bar.
"Oh, so you want to spike your cocoa?" Peggy smiled.
"I have found that a little vodka makes hot chocolate even more relaxing."
"Well, lets not be too relaxed to enjoy our night out."
"Agreed," said Chekov.
In the evening, they attended Die Walkyrie, the second opera of the Ring Cycle series. After the installment, they enjoyed a late night supper at a French restaurant and returned to their room. As they did on the previous day, they turned on the holographic news broadcast of the Interstellar News. Once again, the reporter stated that there were no updates on the missing young woman, Cynthia Woodhead. She had still not returned from her vacation on Centaurus. The newscast featured interviews with her worried parents.
Wordlessly, Montgomery and Chekov exchanged concerned looks over the fate of the young woman.
The next day, Pavel and Peggy took a shuttle over to the nearest ski lift on Mount Jacoby. That shuttle was similar to the Himmelstrassenbahn tram; however, it did not hold as many people. As was growing ever more common, they were joined by Marlena Marsilii and her friends.
One of Marsiliis friends, Anna Donovan, turned to Chekov, obviously worried. "My mother is getting really nervous about the Cynthia Woodhead case. Shes afraid Im going to be abducted, also. Shes been sending me all kinds of sub-space messages since the story broke."
Montgomery commented, "About all I can get out of the story is that she never returned home from Centaurus. Theres been no proof one way or another about her whereabouts. No one knows if shes dead or alive."
Two of Marsiliis other friends confided to Pavel and Peggy that Anna Donovans mother was the over-protective type. One of them commented, "Im surprised she actually let Anna come on this trip to start with. In the past, she had to check out everything extra-carefully. I invited her to come home with me last spring break, and her mom must have called my parents many times with questions about the sleeping arrangements and what were we going to do before she finally gave her consent."
Marlena admitted, "Im sure my moms not overly concerned with me on this trip. Theres probably less danger here than what my sister would encounter in Starfleet. I doubt if Annas mother could handle having a child in Starfleet. Shed go crazy with worry."
"There are some parents who simply are not up to the challenge of having their child in Starfleet," Chekov murmured softly, a pained look on his face.
Montgomery clutched his hand reassuringly. Chekov did not often speak of the estrangement that had developed between himself and his father over his decision to enter Starfleet. She leaned her head on his shoulder, and he was grateful for her show of affection.
Chekov, Montgomery, and the others enjoyed the trails on Mount Jacoby. They all agreed it was great to have a choice of two mountains for ski trails. The only damper on the day would be when someone would express concern for Ms. Woodhead and wondered if thered be a break in the case.
That evening, Pavel and Peggy attended Siegfried, the third installment of the Ring Cycle. When they left the performance, Montgomery commented, "I dont know what Brunnhilde sees in Siegfried. Hes stupid. He kills at the slightest provocation. Hes easily manipulated," she observed.
"The Old German/Norse people seem to be similar to the Klingons, in that they seem to admire the warrior type rather than the scientist," conceded Chekov.
"That is true, given that the Valkyries would collect heroes who died in battle and carrying them to Valhalla."
"Believe it or not, Klingons have very similar beliefs."
Once again when they returned to their lodging, they turned on the INS broadcast. The news reporters reported that there was no further information on the Cynthia Woodhead case. The stories now seemed to center on the fact that people were beginning to be afraid to come to Centaurus for vacation, with a possible killer on the loose.
Chekov turned to Montgomery, "Maybe I ought to volunteer my services. I just learned some new forensic investigation techniques at the Academy."
"Pavel, Im sure if you were assigned to the case, youd do a great job. But I dont think we know enough about the case to make any headway in the next few days. Besides, youre on vacation," she smiled demurely, "with me, remember?"
The next morning, they went to the dining area of the lodge to have breakfast. They noticed the dining room was much more crowded than it had been all week. They also noticed many more people milling around in the lobbies and the conference areas.
"Whats going on?" Peggy wondered.
While waiting for his food, Chekov turned his head and scanned the room. He soon spotted the tour guide who had accompanied them on the Himmelstrassenbahn tour two days earlier. He jumped up from his seat and approached her.
"Hilary, do you have any idea whats going on?"
"Don Ziegler, the owner here, has offered the folks investigating the Cynthia Woodhead case the use of his facilities. Although Ms. Woodhead was not a guest at this resort before disappearing, he figures its in everyones best interest to help out. The longer this case goes on, the worse it will be for tourism on Centaurus. Its already affecting the tourism industry. They cancelled the Himmelstrassenbahn tour for today, so Im here helping with the search."
"I see. Very noble. Thank you."
Pavel returned to his seat. "I just got the news from Miss Fritz that the people assigned to investigate the Cynthia Woodhead case are here."
"No wonder this place is so crowded today."
Chekov and Montgomery took a shuttle to the other side of Mount Danner, the site of the two famous ski trails, the Drakulich and Schrecklich. Marsilii and her friends were on the same shuttle. Pavel updated the group with the news on the investigation. He turned to Anna Donovan, whose mom was sending her increasingly more paranoid messages. "Your mom should be pleased to know that youre with a Starfleet security chief in training and should be quite safe unless were attacked by Romulans...we havent gotten to that chapter, yet."
"Now onto the Drakulich and Schrecklich trails," directed Chekov.
"Now those are good names for scary trails," Peggy remarked.
"Thats true. Drakulich invokes images of Dracula."
"While Schrecklich is the actual German word for frightening."
"I guess these trails are meant for people who are in the mood to be scaredlike roller coasters."
"Well Pavel, which scary trail do you wish to take, Schrecklich or Drakulich?"
"Lets go for Drakulich." She mounted her skis. "Come on, Pavel," beckoned Peggy as she started skiing downhill on the trail.
Montgomery skied down the slopes as carefully as possibly; however, she ran headlong into a mound of snow about a third of the way downhill. The mound caused her to lose her balance as she tumbled into the snowy ground.
Chekov stopped his descent and approached her, a concerned expression on his face, "Are you okay, Peggy?"
"Maybe a little bit bruised and more than a little embarrassed, but Ill be okay." Montgomery smiled as she got up. She pointed to the mound of snow that had tripped her. "Pavel, I cant believe this is part of the trail. This pile of snow feels harder than normal. When I crashed into it, it didnt feel normal."
Chekov then stepped into the snow pile. "Youre right, it doesnt feel normal. I think somethings buried underneath it. Maybe a tree fell here."
Together, Peggy and Pavel quickly shoveled snow from the top of the pile, taking care to brush it away from the trail. Montgomery suddenly screamed when they uncovered a body underneath the snow. "Oh my God!" exclaimed Montgomery.
The bright purple parka and long tresses of hair hanging out from the hood indicated there was a woman buried under the snow. A quick check of her carotid pulse led Chekov to conclude, "Shes dead." He looked around at their surroundings. "Now why would someone bury a dead body on a ski trail? This is looking more like an accident to me. She probably fell and was buried by the recent snowfall."
"Will we now become suspects since our fingerprints are on the body? Thats always been a staple in murder mysteries. The person who finds the dead body becomes a suspect because his or her fingerprints are on the body."
Chekov shook his head. "Forensic investigative techniques have improved a lot since fingerprints were first used. DNA evidence, thermal readings, gas analysis all provide far more valuable insights into the causes of death, and into the identity of the murderer, if need be." He looked at her. "Besides, you have gloves on."
"What should we do? We cant really haul the corpse with us!"
"Ill contact the Ski Patrol and let them know whats going on." Chekov activated his wrist communicator. He set the frequency to one reserved for emergencies. "Mount Danner Ski Patrol, do you read me?"
A male voice answered, "Please identify yourself."
"This is Lieutenant Chekov of Starfleet. A friend and I were skiing on the Drakulich Trail and discovered a dead body. We literally ran into a mound of snow which turned out to be covering the corpse."
"Were receiving your coordinates, Lieutenant. Stand by. Well get someone over to you right away," the voice on the other end promised.
Soon a pair of ski patrol officers came to the area via aircar. The jet engines stirred up the snow as the car landed. Two officers walked over to them. Chekov introduced himself and Montgomery to the officers, and pointed to the body. One of them huddled over the body. The other one looked up at Chekov and Montgomery. "Well need to take complete scans of the area before we move the body elsewhere for a post mortem." He favored the Enterprise officer with a grim expression. "Aside from uncovering the body, have you or your companion disturbed this area or the body in any way?"
"No, sir," Chekov said emphatically.
"Good." The officer drew out his older, flip-style communicator. "Woodhead Investigative Task Force. Do you read me? This is Danner Ski Patrol Unit Four."
A forensic team soon arrived, and after thoroughly scanning and recording the area where the body was found, the corpse was loaded into the Ski Patrol aircar. Chekov and Montgomery accompanied them to Zieglers Lodge. As the body was antigraved into the conference room where the forensic team had established an impromptu morgue, the couple was taken to a small room off to the side. A moderately tall young man with rich auburn hair rose from his chair. The way he carried himself gave them the impression that he was in charge of the investigation. He extended his hand, and Chekov took it. "Lieutenant Pavel Chekov, Starfleet."
"Thomas Herron, Task Force Leader. Thank you for contacting us. Sadly, the DNA sample we took from the body allows us to positively identify the corpse as Cynthia Woodhead. Were going over the sensor scan data to determine the cause of death."
"Is there anything I can do to help?" asked Chekov. "I am in training to become a Starfleet security chief."
"Frankly, no, Lieutenant. This is the sort of thing best left to us professionals."
"Are we suspects in the case?" asked Montgomery, concern evident in her facial expression.
"Should you be?" The detective eyed her suspiciously.
"N-no!" she cried. "Its just that we touched the body."
He smiled reassuringly. "You did us a great service in finding the body, Miss. Were grateful for your assistance, and we can now turn our efforts from finding the young lady to finding what killed her."
"Do you suspect foul play?" asked Chekov.
"I cant answer that. I just wanted to thank you. Others might not have investigated a mound of snow in the middle of a ski trail. Im glad you did." He gestured toward the door. "Will you be on Centaurus for much longer?"
"We have another day on our vacation. If you need to contact us further..."
Herron opened the door. "Well be in touch. Please refrain from speaking about your discovery with the press or anyone else at this time. After our investigation is complete, youll be free to speak with them."
"Now, go enjoy yourselves and try to put this sad situation behind you!" Herron ushered them out of the door and closed it behind them.
After Chekov and Montgomery concluded their meeting with the investigator, they saw a large crowd gathered in the lobby of the lodge, including representatives from most of the news media corporations in the Federation. When the reporters spied Pavel, they descended upon him, like zoo animals at feeding time.
One male reporter shoved a microphone in Chekovs face. "So you must be Pavel Chekov, the vacationing Starfleet officer who found Cynthia Woodheads body."
"I have nothing to say at this time," he said sheepishly. "If you have any questions, youll need to speak with the Task Force Leader for further information."
Disgruntled as they were, they soon left Chekov behind. "I guess Im learning what its like to be a celebrity," moaned Pavel as the last of the reporters cast him a stern look.
"This is certainly not what we expected on our vacation," added Montgomery.
Pavel then suggested, "Lets go out to the slopes and escape from the press."
"Sounds like a winner," Peggy replied.
"Lets do the slopes nearest to here. I dont have the energy to deal with public transportation."
"Me, neither. Especially if anyone from the news media shows up."
Before Montgomery and Chekov got very far, they were stopped by a moderately tall young man with dark brown wavy hair and pale skin.
"You," he glared at Chekov balefully. "So youre the man whos been involved with my girlfriend since she dumped me."
"I beg your pardon," the Russian glowered at him in return.
"Well, youre the one who found her body. If you werent planning to rendezvous with her then how could you find her body?"
"I have never met that poor woman in my life!"
Montgomery started to argue, "Hes been with me the whole time."
The man then reached into a compartment near his belt with his right hand and grabbed an old-style phaser that had been concealed there.
Chekov noticed his adversarys action and lunged towards him. A fight ensued. Because of the self defense techniques he had learned at the Academy, his opponent was unable to get a firm grasp of his weapon. Within a few minutes, the young Russian was able to disarm his opponent. After that, he contacted the police.
A pair of police officers from the Bugel Springs Police Force arrived quickly. Chekov directed their attention towards his assailant. "I believe he may be the killer."
The policeman nearest him answered, "Sir, we have no proof one way or another."
"But he admitted it when he went after me," pointed out Chekov.
"Well question him and if we find anything, well share our findings with the Investigative team thats set up shop at Zieglers."
Meanwhile, the policemans partner confronted the attacker. "Youre under arrest for assault with intent to murder. Your name, please."
"Daniel Stettner," he stammered.
That police officer asked Stettner some additional questions. After that, they transported the entire group to the local police station. Stettner was sent to a holding cell to be questioned in greater detail. Meanwhile, they asked Chekov and Montgomery more questions about Stettners attempted assault. After that, they were asked to wait.
Chekov soon heard the beep of his communicator and heard a male voice. "Herron here. We have some news. We have finished our autopsy of Ms. Woodhead and have determined that she was poisoned with a slow acting poison. We have identified the DNA of the likely killer and will need to communicate the information to the local police. The evidence points to a killer as someone acquainted with her, a disgruntled ex-boyfriend."
"Funny you should mention the local police. I am currently at the police station here in downtown Bugel Springs. A man stopped me and accused me of having a relationship with his girlfriend. He tried to shoot me, but I stopped him in time. I think this man may be the poor girls killer, but the police have not determined that yet."
"Unbelievable! Ill contact them now! Herron out."
Almost immediately after Chekov terminated his conversation with Investigator Herron, he heard the buzz of the main communications device at the police station. "Transmit your DNA data so we can compare our results."
Once the police had received their DNA information from Herrons team, they compared it to their own records. Once that was done, a police officer turned to Chekov, "You were right! They have identified Stettner as the killer of Cynthia Woodhead!"
Chekov continued, "Considering that the man accused me of being the person that she cheated on him with, it seemed obvious to me that he had gone over the precipice."
He was answered with a nod. "Sadly, most murder victims know their killers, and the vast majority of murders are committed by people who, until the day they kill, seem perfectly normal."
"A sobering thought," Montgomery said softly.
"Fortunately, advances in criminal pathology have resulted in eliminating most crime. Did you know that this was the first murder on Centaurus in six months? Not even Earth can make such a claim."
"Perhaps one day, there will be no more murder," Chekov commented as he watched Stettner being escorted to a cell, his hands shackled behind his back with cuffs.
"We can only hope," said Peggy, clasping his hand tightly.
That evening, they attended the fourth and last installment of the Ring Cycle series, the one titled Twilight of the Gods. This was the one that concluded with Brunnhilde riding her horse through Siegfrieds funeral pyre but not before throwing the ring into the Rhine, as Valhalla could be seen burning in the distance.
"It is fitting. We see the climax of the opera the same day that they find Cynthia Woodheads killer," remarked Peggy.
"Yes, it is," Pavel nodded his head.
That night, they didnt make love. Neither felt in the mood, given the events of the day. Instead, they sat and held hands, watching the fire burn all night long.
Chekov checked his messages after his long day at Starfleet Academy. His coursework was progressing nicely, and hed picked up enough Continuing Education credits to satisfy Starfleets requirements for the next year or two. But today was one of those days that ended up changing his life forever.
The first message was from Captain Matt Decker, new commanding officer of the Enterprise. "There is a new threat to the galaxy. The Enterprise has been tasked to investigate it. It is being rushed to completion. You need to report there tomorrow at 0800."
Pavel frowned, "No rest for the weary. I barely have time to pack."
He continued to play back his messages. His next one was from Marcella Marsilii, his old Academy classmate, "Hilary and Marlena told me the news about the murder case on Centaurus you helped solve. Congratulations! Youre certainly ready to become Security Chief."
Security Chief, he thought. Yes, I am. But its time to let Peggy know whats going on.
"Peggy Montgomery," she answered her BellComm. "Oh, hi, Pavel, how have you been?"
It had been nearly a week since their departure from Centaurus, and they hadnt spoken with each other at all. Whether it had been the tragic death of Cynthia Woodhead, or the discovery of the body, or the attack from her killer, Chekov would never know. But something had changed between them, and as lovers sometimes do, they had drifted apart in the days that followed.
"Listen, Peggy, the Enterprise is getting ready to leave Earth earlier that expected."
"Really? Whys that?"
"Im not at liberty to discuss it, Im sure. But I have to report to duty tomorrow." He took a deep breath. "Peggy, it might be several years before I return home."
After a brief second during which relief seemed to flash across her face, she answered, "Im sorry to see you go. Well just have to keep in touch the best we can."
"Yes, we will," promised Chekov, knowing full well that they wouldnt.
"Goodbye, Pavel. Warp speed."
As the connection ended, his BellComm flashed with another incoming call. It was Sarah Lynch, the travel agent. She sounded apologetic. "Im sorry for all the trouble you encountered on Centaurus."
"Word of that certainly got around," quipped Chekov, "almost as fast as a Vulcan le-matya after its prey."
"Well, if you book with us for your next vacation, Ill give you a twenty percent discount to recompense you for your inconvenience."
He thought of what, or rather who hed really lost during his vacation. "I wont be able to take a real vacation for a long time. Im shipping out tomorrow."
"Well, when youre finally able to take a vacation, Im betting that your chances of encountering similar problems will be a million to one. Just book with us and get twenty percent off. Theres no way you can lose!"
He smiled politely. "Ill certainly keep it in mind. Thank you, Ms. Lynch." He closed the connection, and began packing, all the time wondering what could possibly happen next...and looking forward to it with typical Russian pragmatism. "Well, it cant be as bad as getting caught up in a murder case..." He looked up. "Or it could be worse."
He continued packing in silence.
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