The spotted glass of the unbreakable but not unrustable mirror showed him a grey version of himself, pocked with brown. Charlie smoothed his hair and made a note to tell Eli in his next message that, at least in the Lustrevik Local Lease hotel, he was no longer too pretty to be a policeman.
He hoped Eli had enjoyed the orange he'd given her as a part-bribe, part-apology for leaving her to cover their caseload alone while he was on the other side of the Cluster.
Of course she enjoyed it, he thought as he took the single step that took him out of the 'fresher. It's an orange.
He had to step up onto the bed to make enough room to close the 'fresher door, and he had to bend double as he did so to avoid cracking his head on the roof of the room. The mirror in the 'fresher was the only one, and it wasn't big enough to show him more than half his face at a time, but from what he could see when he looked down at himself the mattress had done a better job of pressing his shirt and suit over night than it had of giving him a decent night's sleep. His shoes were as polished as paper towelette and water could make them, and his nails were clean.
Good as it gets, given the circumstances.
He could have afforded a better room, even a better hotel. Selling the second of the two oranges from his carefully nurtured tree, or tree-let, really, had netted him enough for a return Interbus ticket to Heimatar and a fair bit left over, but a more expensive room would have meant fewer nights here.
It would be another year before he had two more oranges to trade and to sell: Charlie intended to make the most of things while he was here.
Perhaps it wouldn't be too much longer. The Caldari podder who said she wasn't a pilot, Amieta Invelen, had said she'd talk to the pilot he was interested in. Her sister, although Charlie knew every relative Ciarente Roth had and none of them were Caldari.
No promises, Amieta'd said. But I'll see what I can do. Get it over with, see what I can do to get you off the station as quickly as possible.
And promised him a rimpon, as well. If things work out okay.
As respectable as he could make himself, Lieutenant Charles Etay tucked what was left of his meager bankroll in an inside pocket, locked the flimsy door behind him, and headed down the corridor towards the docks.
A possible end to his investigation, and fruit as well.
There was every chance it was going to be an excellent day.