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A more thorough examination of Nami’s body at Headquarters proved these findings accurate. Tests proved that the Twi'lek had been strangled, her lekku were bruised and the tips showed signs of friction. Vantel told Jali this as soon as he had given his statement as well as a few well-chosen words of advice.

“I’m letting you off lightly, Dawler, and against my better judgement,” Vantel said. “But this is your final warning, quit with your investigation about Antilles or I’ll be forced to take measures.”

Jali had given no response to this, affirmative or otherwise, and was just as resolved to expose Vantel for being behind Tollan’s death. Vantel’s obstructionist attitude only further added to his suspicions, even if he still wasn’t completely satisfied with them. He walked along the street, still wearing his undershirt that he had worn from his escape from his apartment that morning. If Balor hadn't told him about the bomb, Jali was sure that he would have died in the explosion.

Suddenly, Jali stopped. Why had Balor told him about the explosion? Balor was not what you would call the altruistic sort, not unless you put currency into the equation.

And he still didn’t tell me who told him about the bomb, Jali reminded himself.

So focused on his thoughts, Jali didn’t hear the footsteps behind him, didn’t feel the barrel of the blaster pistol approach his back until it was pressed into his flesh.

“Dawler,” said a deep voice behind him. “Let’s say you and I go for a walk, shall we?”

Jali started to turn and raise his arm. “I don’t think—” His arm was quickly caught by his assailant and twisted round to a painful angle.

“Let’s not make this more difficult than it has to be, Dawler.”

Held as he was, Jali finally got a look at his attacker’s face. The features were humanoid, nose, mouth and ears in the proper places. Except for the eyes, they simply were not there.

“Nuada Vekstar.”

The Miraluka acknowledged this with a nod. “You have been causing some concern with certain people I know,” Nuada said in the same deep, calm voice that he had first addressed Jali in. “I think we need to have a talk: now.”

Jali swallowed hard, he had been in situations like this before and he knew how to play. But unlike with the Security Force, there was no back-up to call. But, was it as if he had a choice.

“Fine,” Jali assented as amiably as he could. “You only had to ask, you know.”

“First, give me your blaster,” Nuada said, the barrel of his own weapon still pressed into Jali’s back.

Without complaint, Jali handed it over. Nuada pocketed it.

“I see we can work together nicely,” Nuada said, guiding Jali to a speeder parked nearby. The windows were almost completely covered with black glaze.

Jali got into the back just ahead of Nuada and the door slammed behind them. The speeder started to move.

Yous don’ts looks fors Nuadas, Balor had said, Nuadas finds yous. Jali had not fully considered the Devaronian’s word, until now.

How much trouble had Nuada gone to look for him? It was a fair assumption that Nuada, or someone connected to him, had planted the bomb in his apartment. So how much of a jump was it from knowing where he lived to knowing where he was? Not much, since Nuada had been responsible for Nami’s death as he had found out that Jali had been there. All it would have taken was a few calls to various connections. But how did this connect with Tollan’s death? And with Vantel? But did it even fit at all? Vantel organising Tollan’s death was one thing. Vantel with guys like Nuada was something else. But who else fit the bill? Who else knew enough about the nature of Tollan’s death and the information he had found on Jali’s arrest? Who else had the means and the motive to carry it through?

Suddenly, he knew.

“I wanted to find you, Dawler, because I think we have a few mutual friends,” Nuada said, interrupting Jali’s train of thought.

“We do?” Jali asked innocently.

“Yes.” Nuada turned his eyeless face towards him. In a strange way, the Miraluka resembled the ancient Sith Lords that Jali remembered seeing in history holos when he was at school. He was broad-shouldered, had black hair pulled back tight from his receding hairline and wore an expensive-looking black short cloak. He wasn't taking any chances, as well as the bulge under his left arm that was his blaster pistol, Nuada also had a bodyguard in the front of the speeder next to the driver. The guard wore dark glasses and had his arm over the seat so he faced the back, so Jali couldn’t really tell if he was being watched or not.

Jali took a breath, playing innocent for as long as he could. “You mean Vantel?”

Nuada’s face screwed up in anger. “No!” His left hand collided painfully with the back of Jali’s head. “You stupid or something, Dawler? What makes you think that I would mess with the likes of him? Security scum, lockbox filth.”

“I've learned to let nothing surprise me,” Dawler said dryly.

Nuada laughed. “A good attitude, even if you’re way off,” he retorted. “I’m talking about Senix Breen.”

“Oh,” Jali replied, almost absently. “Him.”

“Yes, him,” Nuada said. “His arrest caused a lot of problems for many people.”

“I can imagine.” Jali tried to make his voice sound as even as possible, but this was evidently the wrong thing to say to Nuada.

“No, you can’t,” Nuada snapped. “Your kind are all the same, have no respect for the ones that make you keep your jobs.”

“In case you hadn't heard, Nuada,” Jali told him. “I’m not that kind anymore.”

“Bah!” the Miraluka spat. “It takes a lot more than seven years away for it to wash out of you.” He licked his lips. “There’s another of your friends that I know,” he turned his face towards Jali’s. “We’re going to see them, right now.”

“Who?” Jali asked, still playing Nuada’s game.

“You’ll find out,” Nuada reassured, turning away from Jali and offering nothing more.




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