‘City CSF headquarters.
The building was phenomenally understated. If the logo had not given it away it could have been taken as any other commercial or business premises — assuming the commerce or business was low key and struggling. It crossed Durban’s mind as the door swooshed shut behind him that if there was some sinister CSF plot behind Jaz’s disappearance he had just made it easy for them to complete the set. But no one moved to arrest him and he reached the enquiry point without any problem.
Then he just had to wait.
He had arrived mid-morning and it was nearly mid-afternoon before he was invited through to be interviewed. He supposed they might have needed a little time to get over the initial panic of having one of the major criminal syndicate bosses walk in, with everyone desperately trying to push it up over their own pay grade.
Then when they managed to find someone who was either too senior to be able to pass it on or simply had enough courage and common sense to handle it themselves, they would have had to prepare what they would consider a suitable room for the interview and find someone they felt capable of conducting it. Durban was feeling almost sorry for them, almost willing to forgive the long wait. But not quite.
The person they had selected for the task of his interview was a woman who introduced herself as Var Tyran. Durban offered her a warm smile.
“I appreciate all the effort you’ve gone to for me today,” he said.
She looked a little puzzled.
“I — am not sure I follow you, Vor…?”
“Chola. Durban Chola. But you will have known that from the moment your security picked me up outside.” He let his smile become sunnier. “It will be so much easier to have this conversation if we all call a chair a ‘chair’ and not a ‘resistant material utilitarian design seating object’, don’t you think?”
For a moment she looked like she might have swallowed some resistant material then she actually laughed.
“Alright,” she said and nodded a few times. “I think you could be right. So what brings you here today?”
“I want to report someone as missing or displaced.”
The woman’s smile faded a little.
“You do? Have they been missing long?”
“This is the third day.”
“Well three days is —”
“Not long enough unless there is evidence of foul play?”
“There is evidence of foul play. He walked into your offices three days ago and hasn’t been seen since.” It was a guess, based on Jaz’s message, but Durban delivered it with full conviction, allowing the implication that he had evidence for his claim.
The woman said nothing for a moment and Durban could see she was occupied with a variety of screens and unphased by his accusation.
“And the name of this individual?”
“Jazatar Baldrik. He’s one of my employees.”
She stopped with the screens and looked at him then opened her mouth to say something but before she could Durban said quickly:
“It’s a chair — remember.”
She closed her mouth again and nodded.
“Alright. It’s a chair. We have no idea where Jazatar Baldrik is right now.”
“He was here though? Three days ago?”
She looked uncomfortable and went back to her screens.
“I can tell you what it says on the general log for this facility — Jazatar Baldrik walked in here of his own free will.”
She swiped a screen and shared it with him showing the entry which gave a time of arrival and the reason being a traffic violation.
“What was the charge?”
“Taking a private vehicle into a public-only zone. It’s what we call a ‘show and tell offence’, means he has to report in to be officially logged, charged and to pay the fine due.”
“So what has that to do with the CSF? It’s a local policing matter.”
The teeth were pressed into her lower lip as she smiled again.
“The local police have people based in this building too — we just help out sometimes.”
Durban shook his head. He knew the CSF were never going to admit any deeper interest in Jaz than they had to. After all, he was working for them. They were not about to blow him out to the key person he was supposed to be spying on and influencing for them.
“So what time did he leave?”
There was an awkward silence. Not good. She should have had that covered. It was his most obvious next question.
“There’s a slight issue with that. You see he was found to be in possession of an illegal, military grade, weapon. We had to take him in to make further enquiries and he was moved to another facility as it was decided keeping him here in the ‘City wouldn’t be very prudent all things considered.”
The words gave Durban a frisson of real concern. It made no sense. He was very sure Jaz wouldn’t have walked into a CSF office carrying anything illegal.
“So he’s under arrest? Please let me know where, so I can arrange a legal advisor to assist him.”
Var Tyran shook her head and managed to squeeze out a conciliatory smile which showed off the biting edge of her top row of teeth.
“I regret I’m not able to tell you where he was moved. However I can assure you, as I did when you came in, we have no idea where he is now. He was released the following day. No charges.”
“Released — where?” “I’m sorry, I’m not authorised to tell you where he was moved.” Durban felt his patience begin to wear. With a deliberate effort, he let a smile form and grow. “Var Tyran, I do appreciate you are having to work under certain restrictions of confidentiality. But I’m reporting this man, for whom you — corporately — had a duty of care and concern, as being missing or displaced. And wherever you may have released him back into the galaxy, he hasn’t managed to return home yet. Was the office you sent him to outside of the Middle worlds?” Var Tyran looked through him her own smile becoming more like a plastic mask. “If you will fill in this form then we can process the MD report for you. Then we will, of course, be in touch if we have any further news.” She shared the screen with the form and excused herself whilst he filled it in. After he had submitted it he was offered a very polite escort from the premises and again assured that he would be informed if there was any news.
‘City CSF headquarters.