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A Ship Called Pandora
About the Author: Melodie Campbell has won the Derringer, the Arthur Ellis, and eight more awards for crime fiction. She has shared a literary shortlist with Margaret Atwood, and was seen lurking on the Amazon Top 50 Bestseller list between Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts. Melodie has over 200 publications, including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and 14 novels. She’s the former Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.

She looked like a Vegas-Minor showgirl. Her hair was too blonde, her lips were too plump, and her figure owed a lot to a fancy surgeon. The only thing that seemed genuine was the scowl on her face.

I knew from the start, she was gonna be trouble.

“Mind if I vape?” she said, holding the small pipe between two fingers.

I shrugged. “Be my guest here. Only not when we get on my ship.”

She raised an artificially high eyebrow. “And you are?”

“Tosh Malloy. This is Drake.” I gestured to the tall black bodyguard to my side.

She threw a quick glance at him, and then turned back to me. “Tosh. Unusual name for a woman.”

“It means ‘Pirate’ in Cryon,” I said.

The blue eyes went wide. “You’re a pirate?”

“Not anymore,” I said. It was partly true.

We faced each other across the floor of a Witness Protection safe-hold. We were deep in Federation territory, on a secure planet, but that’s as much as I can reveal. She was stretched across a narrow brown divan with her feet up. I stood by the door, arms to my side.

I never crossed my arms when on a job. Quicker to get to your weapons if your hand is free.

I caught her looking at my arsenal belt. The blaster was regulation and state of the art. I’d just picked it up at the Federation Lock and Carry. Drake favored an older, heavier model. He was a stickler for tried and true.

“Why the whip?” she said.

“Some places don’t let you carry a blaster.” We stared at each other until she looked away.

She went back to concentrating on the pipe.

The door swung open and Marcus walked in. “Hey Tosh,” he said, by way of greeting. “Drake. You’ve met Crystal Starlight, I see.”

Beside me, Drake snorted. Talk about a made-up showgirl name. I smiled with no teeth.

“Tosh, if you’ll come with me, we’ll finish the paperwork.” Marcus gestured toward the door. I followed him out, knowing Drake would always cover my back.

Marcus Roth was an unusually decent guy for a Fed agent. He’d done a lot of fieldwork until two years ago when he got made by the enemy, and was lucky to return to base in one piece. After that, it was strictly deskwork, which he hated.

He was my contact on Witness Protection cases, of which we’d done many. It was a good partnership. He did all the management from the law and security end, until the witness had testified. I took care of whizzing the witness away to a new life once the case had been tried.

I was particularly good at the disappearing thing. Not a single failure yet, which is why I was still in business. This was nice, because it paid well. Well enough for me to employ Drake.

Marcus slid behind the steel desk and lowered his attractive bod into the chair. I knew it was attractive because I’d recently seen all of it, without the uniform.

“Usual paperwork.” His hazel eyes flashed at me, as he pushed a tablet across the table. “I’ll warn you. Watch her. She’s a nasty bit of goods. One of the Paletta gang.”

I raised an eyebrow. “The ones that robbed the treasury on three outposts?”

“Yeah. Took out a security guard on the last one. They all got away except for Crystal. She decided to squeal to save her own skin. Mad they didn’t try to bust her out.”

“Hell hath no fury …” I reached for the tablet, took the proffered pen and signed. “Did she always look like that?”

Marcus leaned back in the chair and folded his arms. His solid body overflowed the leather back. “Not a bit. It’s part of the package. She got to choose each surgery for the final look. Don’t even ask what it cost the taxpayers.”

“You should advertise,” I said. “‘Become a felon and get your new face free’.” I have a weird sense of humour.

Marcus harrumphed. “Don’t spread it around. We’d be inundated.”

We both stood up. “Got time for a drink?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Sorry. Not this time. What are you doing for August long weekend?”

He grinned. “Anything you want me to.”

My turn to smile. “Keep it free. I’ll be in touch.”

He walked to the door, made to open it, and then turned around instead. “You know you are the hottest thing on six planets.”

This story appears in our JUN 2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

It was the first space mystery that I have ever read, and I loved it! It is intriguing, and all characters have distinctive personalities. I could not guess what was going to happen till the end of the story. Finally, I loved how you used the Greek mythology!
By Tatiana Claudy

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