Friday Flash: The Rain

The two of them swayed down the alleyway, doing the drunken two-step, Hartog fighting to keep the older man on his feet as they came around the corner of the alleyway and out into the scrutiny of the main street. Hartog got his good ole drunk voice out and they were transformed into two derby supporters who’d returned from leaving their mark on the wall of the apartment building.

“What about them girls, eh?” Hartog said to the door man who raised one eye brow, as the two of them staggered through the door.

“Can’t say I know Detective,” the doorman said, the disdainful smile playing over his ultra bright teeth. “It may be the National Sport now, but myself sir, I’m a hockey man through and through. Good thing my father’s passed on. He’d be appalled to see what’s happened to the state of hockey in this country.”

“State of hockey, yeah,” Hartog slurred and dragged Joe off to the elevator before the doorman could draw out their exchange any further. Hartog had seen the way the doorman did it with other tenants when he was investigating something he considered awry.

“Yah – go girls!” Hartog howled just to piss the doorman off, who shook his head and picked invisible flecks of lint from his immaculate coat. The power punch punctuated the frigid wheeze and the doors opened and the two of them toppled into the safety of the elevator.

With the door closed, Hartog carefully propped Joe up in the corner. The old man’s head bobbed of its own free will as though the tendons had turned to rubber bands. The elevator groaned to a halt at the fifth floor, his head shot up and bloodshot eyes on Dirk.

“I wish I ha’ a son like you, Dirk.”

“No you don’t. Don’t mistaken random acts for kindness for some kind of inherent goodness.”

“Random acts don’ happen twice, m’boy. No… no, no they don’”

Hartog dragged him out of the elevator and tried not to think what three random acts of kindness would actually mean. Joe was his secret and no one need know – no one other than Joe’s daughter. Hartog was mentally pencilling her in for a visit tomorrow, as he keyed in his security code.

***

Benjamin looked up, squinting into the sun. His gaze settled on the top of the building across the road and the spinning turbine of the water mining units topping it like an architectural disaster. Round and round the blades went, faux momentum, because the trajectory never changed. Stuck.

As a kid he thought the city looked like it was trying to escape. He expected that one day the buildings would gather enough lift from the massive propellers and fly away. The buildings would flee to Somewhere Else. A place where the rain would wash away the City’s sins. Where wounds would be salved. A chance to recover and move on. The building would take him and Portia away with them and they would start again. A new beginning.

Portia had loved the rain. She was always reminding him how cathartic it was to cry. Mother Nature cried and she never got it wrong Portia said. Even now, knowing the flood of good hormones which would follow, Benjamin could’t bring himself to cry. To cry was to admit Portia was gone and he was all alone. That the small light, which had raged in his life, had gone out. But the battle was just beginning.

Portia never got over the fact it would never rain again. When the water crisis threatened to end civilisation as they knew it, some bright spark invented a system to mine the moisture from the air and turn it water. Atmospheric aqua mining upset the balance of condensation and evaporation in nature. Precipitation became a thing of the past – a meteorological relic. Portia was just ten the last time it rained – old enough to remember and forever miss it.

The last time rain fell she pulled on pink gumboots and jumped in puddles. Portia had said she wished she’d stayed out playing longer. If only she had known it was the last time. Benjamin knew all about last time regrets.

But Portia had never seen it that way. There was never time nor the inclination for regrets in her life. She’d believe the City had the ability to redeem itself but the city sucked the life from Portia and then spat her out in a filthy alleyway among broken crates and bags of garbage.

She had been too good for a place like this.

A job like her’s.

Maybe if only he could cry something would move inside him. His heart might actually break and if it broke maybe it had a chance to heal. Or the lump in his throat all these years, might finally choke the life from him.

What life it was.

Benjamin turned his attention back to the street level, and the ebb and flow of pedestrians stepping around him. A taxi eased into the lay-in and Hartog stood half in and half out of the taxi haggling over the fixed fare until he finally allowed the flustered drive to scan the back of his hand for payment.

Hartog stepped away from the taxi and glanced at the digital tickertape NewsFeed above the door of the bar and then to Benjamin.

“Slow news day?”

Redemption in an Alleyway (Part 5)

Blood Derby Redux (Part 4)

Blood Derby (Part 3),

Miss Amanda (Part 2)

In the Whorehouse (Part 1).

FridayFlash: Miss Amanda

This follows on from last week’s Dirk Hartog in the Whorehouse.

Miss Amanda’s eyes lowered and her gaze held the warp and weave of her suit pants as she contemplated her answer.

“As you can appreciate, Detective – my business is of a delicate nature and we normally protect the identity of our clients. But in this case..” she broke off and poured herself a glass of water. Long French-manicured fingers curled around the crystal glass. She drank slowly then replaced the glass. “Portia had a number of high profile friends through our agency.”

“Miss Amanda,” the words fell out his mouth before he could catch them. He felt like he was addressing the old bitch who had taught him third form algebra. “We both now these are not friends, you run a business, you have clients. But you know what, you can have your weasel words. Just give me a name.”

“Let me remind you Detective you were invited here for this discussion.”

“And I can walk out right now and come back with a search and seize warrant as well as a tribe of Feedos.”

“You seem to be having lapses in social graces from all angles, Detective.” Miss Amanda’s pointer finger, rubbed at a spot on her breast bone, but Hartog kept his eyes screwed into hers. “Surely you realise I have friends who sit in places much higher than you.”

“Touché.”

Hartog stood, reaching out for the recorder and turning it off.

“Strictly off the record. Who?”

“Howard McLean.”

“The Minister of Defence!” Hartog rocked forward, his face crumpled into disbelief. “You are telling me the Minister of Defence, the former leader of the Puritan party pays for sex… and implicated in the murder of his favourite call girl.” Hartog laughed. “I’m sorry Miss Amanda, but I just don’t believe that any more than I believe he was in love with a prostitute.”

“Detective, you seem to be caught in the notion we only traffic flesh here. Let me remind you for the second time, my girls are not employed to just have sex.” She sighed and drank the rest of her water. “Mr McLean has a penchant for smart, witty women. He likes conversation. Portia was good at conversing. You only have to look at his wife to know he’d be seeking stimulation outside of his marriage.”

“Are you sure we’re not talking about sex?”

Miss Amanda ignored him. “I am telling you Detective that someone got to Portia as a warning to the Minister. And I imagine that would be of interest to you and your colleagues at the Department of Civil Welfare.”

Hartog turned the recorder back on and placed it on the table between them.

“Was there anything special about Portia?”

Miss Amanda reached out and switched the recorder off.

“You insult me with such a question Detective. Come back when you’re prepared to actually listen to what I have to say.”

Hartog stood again, slipping the recorder into his deep coat pocket.

“Thank you for your time. I will keep you updated as to the progress of the case. And I do appreciate our little chat.” He emphasised the final words, mimicking her faux politeness. Smiling a crooked smile he left before she could get out of her chair.

As he rode down in the elevator he slipped an ear pod in and waited for the phone call. He sat further down the street drinking bad coffee when the call finally went through.

“They do have Hartog on the case. Your source was correct.”

“Did he mention anything about the InfoCap?”

“He said nothing about anything found on the body and I didn’t want to venture with leading questions.”

“Did you really think someone like Hartog would whip the InfoCap out onto the table and ask if you knew what it was?”

“I did as you asked. I invited him in and feed him the information. Now what?”

“We wait and see. Did he mention Portia’s brother?”

“He’s got no idea. He never mentioned her surname. He thinks it is just another whore being cut up – quote unquote.”

“The department would not put Hartog onto a whore slashing. Sit tight. You have done well Amanda.”

“My pleasure, sir. Would you like me to book you someone for this week? I think you’ll enjoy Portia’s replacement.”

Hartog smiled, pulling the earpod out and took the tiny capsule out of his pocket again. So it had a name.

An InfoCap.

He charged his coffee streaked mug in mock toast to Miss Amanda and waited while his notebook brought up all the information the City’s database had on Portia, tapping a link and wirelessly hacking, via the NavSan, into the last known address for her neurologist brother Benjamin. It also bought up all other associated files.

When the photo came up Hartog had to look twice. Portia’s brother wasn’t any old brain boffin, but BenJin, the city’s most notorious Feedographer.

Hartog was a purist and nothing about Feedography appealed to him –24 hour news-tainment, bull shit, paparaazi styled intrusion which was cast out on everything from electronic billboards to the microwave oven.

Feedography was the scum-of-the-earth, hybrid offspring of journalism, the cult of social networking and a cultural belief everyone had something important to report and someone else was interested in that unimportant something. It didn’t free society to give everyone access to technology to film and upload for mass consumption. It was the Propaganda of the Irrelevant realised on global level for a miniscule programming budget. The Politicians and public loved it. No one had to think too hard. Hartog hated it. It was worse than anything Big Brother could have thought up. CC TV in everyone’s hands.

He did admit, BenJin did make it work for him and had made more than one City Elder or Politician cringe. He’d bought down at least two corrupt corporations. BenJin took his job seriously, more so than the average two-bit freelancer. The ten second sound-bite was BenJin’s kingdom. And now, BenJin’s only surviving relative was dead.

The game had just become a whole lot more interesting.

Crystal Tumber from Warwick Crystal Designs UK.