Having talked to all the likely suspects, I had a few more questions for Bru Cie. I found him in the bar where I met Dutch Virkum. He had arrived after I followed Kuni Matahlin out, so he couldn’t have been there long. I didn’t know if he had started drinking somewhere else and wandered into it as his next stop, or if he started on something harder than he should have, but the kid was a mess.

I strolled up to his table and sat down. “Hello, Bru.” Through whatever haze he had going on, it took him only a moment to recognize me.

“Have you figured out who killed Tondel?” he asked directly.

“Do you have money for me?”

He nodded. “I can get it.”

“Before you do, I want you to tell me more about Lei Vera.”

Bru seemed surprised. “What do you want to know?”

“Does she wear perfume?”

“Of course. And the most delightful scent.” His expression turned sour, “Like those flowers that lure you in and eat you!”

That did not describe the odor of cooking oil. “Where is she from?”

“I don’t know, she never said. She sounds exotic, just the kind of woman that Tondel liked so much.” A puzzled look crossed his face. “Why are you asking me about her? Do you think she killed him?”

“Lei Vera was poisoning Tondel Moss.”

“I knew it!” He shook his head. “I knew that witch was no good. Oh, dear…” Bru choked back a heavy sob, “If only Tondel listened, none of this would have happened.”

“Listened to what?”

“To me,” Bru cried. “I tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t listen. He was enthralled with her. It’s all my fault!”

“What’s your fault?” I asked.

“You don’t understand. I was Tondel’s attendant before that witch Lei Vera came along.” He told me the story. “First, she was just a fan. Then she asked me to introduce them.”

“And you did?”

“Of course I did. That was part of my job.” Bru slowly shook his head as he recounted the tale. “She was his type. Tall, beautiful, bold. Then suddenly she’s doing all his cooking.”

“His cooking?”

Bru Cie continued, ignoring my question. “Next, she was preparing his weapons, designing his costumes. Overnight she took over everything for him.”

“So she pushed you out?” It smelled like motive, for the wrong victim.

“He was the bravest man I ever knew, and he didn’t even tell me himself. He had Lei Vera do it. ‘Tondel doesn’t need you anymore.’ And that was it.”

“You were mad.”

“Mad?” Bru asked rhetorically. “The last time I saw him, he signed an autograph for me. He was so blinded by her that he thought I was just a fan! Mad? No, I was furious. I tried to talk to his manager, but he wouldn’t hear it. Tondel was still doing great, rising up through the lists.” Bru dropped his head. “Who needed his old attendant?”

“What happened next?”

“Tondel started losing his key matches. I knew something was wrong. I knew Tondel better than anyone. Today, I saw a pattern. I went to talk to him about it, one last time.”

“You brought a lightsaber to talk?” I made my accusation.

“What? No!” he seemed less shocked than distressed. “That’s just it. I found it under one of Lei Vera’s pillows in Tondel’s quarters.”

“I don’t think you’re being completely honest with me. Are you, Bru?”

“It was an accident.”

“You accidentally carved a hole in Tondel’s head and left him pinned to a wall with a lightsaber?” It wasn’t the first time I’d confronted an emotional murderer, and it wasn’t the first time I’d heard that excuse.

“He… I…” Bru Cie started to sob again. “I fell, onto Lei Vera’s bed. I hurt my hand… there was a lightsaber under her head pillow.”

“In Tondel’s quarters?” By all accounts it was a strange place for the counterfeit to be.

“I tried to tell him that it couldn’t be good. But he had just been with her. He was still naked from her. He started screaming at me. He told me I didn’t know anything. He told me to get out…” Bru clenched his fists, remembering. “The shouting, and pushing… and … and… I don’t know. All I saw was red, and then, Tondel was dead.”

“You said he was naked? He was dressed when I found him.” His clothes were askew from being searched, but they were definitely on him.

“Tondel was my good friend once. I couldn’t just leave him dead, like that. He deserved to die looking like a gladiator.”

I debated telling Bru everything I knew about the New Mandalore and Tondel’s meeting with the Jedi. I decided it was bad enough that he had killed his friend and idol. It was better to let him think that the Sith forced the confrontation than to know his friend had listened. Perhaps Kuni Matahlin was right, that was more important than the death of one man.

I had one more question, though. “Why would Lei Vera have a lightsaber?”

“I don’t know,” was exactly the answer I expected from Bru Cie.

Lei Vera may not have killed Tondel Moss, but she was planning to. She wanted it to happen before Tondel spoke to the Jedi. Her words echoed in my head, “down here in the hell, it is very small. … I was informed before they went to collect him.” She was rushed, after all.

I stood up, resting my hand on my blaster, as I addressed him “Bru, I’m going to go have a chat with Lei. I think she was planning to murder Tondel.”

“But what about…”

“We both know she didn’t, though.” I looked at him sternly. “So, I expect you to do the right thing.”

I didn’t give him the chance to plead or make any false promises before I left.


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