“She’s gonna eat me!”

I turned to look, and the owner of that panic plowed in to me. I couldn’t help but grab hold. A tumble of flailing arms and legs, we fell into a maintenance closet. Normally I like to size up a person before getting into tight quarters. There was nothing normal about this one.

As damsels go, Bru Cie was more—male—than I was accustomed to. He was about as masculine as the typical damsel, but not as well dressed. He was human with a mop of blond hair, but dressed in a get-up that looked like it was made entirely out of belts. I knew immediately that he was a Geonosian slave.

The closeness of the closet helped me control his panic. I pressed his shoulders against the wall, trying to prevent him from thrashing about. “Hold on there. Calm down,” I barked. “Who are you? What’s going on?”

“I,” he started, and stopped. His heavy breathing broke up his words. “Uh… dead gladiator!”

“You’re awfully loud for a dead gladiator.”

“I’m not dead,” he explained as if I needed him to. “But, when she finds out. I will be too!”

“When who finds out?”

“Lei Vera!” he blurted. “She’s going to claw my eyes out to make jelly! And you know what she’s going to do with that jelly?”

“Use it as a spread to eat your liver?”

“Yes!” The ridiculousness of the thought started to sink in. “Maybe, not actually. But she’s going to do horrible things to me when she find out about Tondel.”

“What sort of horrible things would she actually do?” I don’t know why I asked, but something had piqued my curiosity.

Horrible things.” He seemed to be looking for a way to explain before he continued, “She’s traveled in the Sith Empire. She knows ways to be horrible that make being digested by the Sarlacc seem mildly unpleasant.”

“Alright, so, Lei Vera is…?”

“She’s a witch. She’s one of the attendants for,” he stammered, “for the gladiators. She is a very—popular—attendant.” It seemed to be a euphemism. “Tondel was one of her favorite gladiators.”


“He’s dead,” Bru Cie choked back tears before gasping, “He was murdered!”

I was learning things about people—things that might let me bend some of those odds on the fights. Tondel was Tondel Moss, a gladiator with fluctuating odds. I knew the name from the holo-sheet in my pocket, he was updated twice while I was landing. Fluctuating odds usually meant big money being bet on both sides of a fight. Odds makers meet bankers, and they start making adjustments. I wasn’t going anywhere near those fights. Tondel being dead changed everything.

“And what’s your name?”

“My name?” he paused and seemed to take a mental step back. “I’m Bru Cie. I was Tondel’s… we were friends, I think.” He looked down, in deep thought. When he looked at me again, it was obvious he had an idea. “You gotta help me.”

“Why should I help you?” I asked, trying to sound like I could dismiss this whole murder business. I knew there was nothing that would keep me from investigating, but Bru Cie didn’t need to know that.

“You’re a bounty hunter, right?”

“Not exactly.” I thought about trying to explain being an investigator for hire, but tucked in a broom closet with a crying, half-naked slave gave me sudden urge for brevity. “But close enough.”

“I knew it,” he suddenly seemed delighted. “You look like a bounty hunter. You can find Tondel’s murderer, and,” he paused for thought before suggesting, “and bring him to me?”

“That sounds like…” I started to protest.

Then, he said those magic words that every detective longs to hear, “I can pay you.”

“Who would want Tondel dead?” I asked without pause.

“I—,” he paused. “I don’t know. We’ve been drifting apart, I don’t know as much about his life as I used to. He was having secret meetings with some shadowy people.”

It wasn’t much to go on, shadowy people and secret meetings was the Geonosian version of High-Tea. “Lei Vera is his attendant, and you are his—friend?” I suspected there was more to Bru and Tondel, but I doubted it would be relevant to the gladiator’s demise. “Where’s Tondel’s manager in all this?”

“He’s on Tatooine. He was trying to move Tondel to another circuit. He thought Geonosis might be rigged.”

According to the betting, so did the odds makers. “Alright, I’m in. First things first, where’s the body?”

“In his chambers, but please, don’t make me go back there. I can’t bear to see it again.”

“Go find yourself a stiff drink, Bru,” I suggested. “But stick around. I’ll need to find you later.”


Continue to Tondel Moss