What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted…
When the final invitee eventually arrived it was not a face familiar to Grim, but he had a feeling it probably should have been. She was a woman in late middle age with the precision presentation of someone used to living her life perpetually exposed to media scrutiny and in the ferocious glare of public life. Grim could see her as the kind of person who always went about pre-armed with a deadly sound-bite, ready to deliver it to camera at a moment’s notice. In other words: a politician.
Jecks greeted her with something a shade or two more familiar than pure formality. They might not be friends, Grim decided, but they were obviously used to working together. Once she had taken her seat beside Jecks the lighting shifted slightly and it was finally show time.
Sitting back in his seat, Grim started wondering why he had been included. For him to be given an invite to this kind of high-powered party, there had to be some tie in somewhere to his past cases, his present skill-set or his known interests. So, as much as taking in the information, he was sifting through it for clues as to why he was here.
He knew the two people they were being told about. Chola and Baldrik. Well, he knew of them. Anyone who had lived or operated in or around the milieu of Thuringen’s Starcity — the criminal capital so infamous it was just ‘the ‘City’ — in recent years would have heard of them. These were both men you’d have found in a ‘City listing for the criminal aristocracy, if such a thing had ever existed.
One was a crime syndicate leader, or what they called a Name in the ‘City. A powermonger, controlling the wealth and lives of those who lived and worked in the geographical area he claimed for his own. The other was his Head of Security, the man he employed to do violence on his behalf — usually not so much the general of his armies as the terroriser of his troops.
Theirs were the two faces placed on either side of the images of the horrific murder. Genuine ‘City celebrities. Except that Grim was not into romanticising such things or giving criminals any slight hint of status. To him, the ‘City was a sewer and these two were rats. One was a sly, manipulative, criminal ringleader and the other, a particularly vicious and dangerous thug.
After the initial shock of the mutilated body, they were shown a large number of historical images and the data nerd droned on. It was depressingly vague as usual. All the important stuff like names, places, dates and details were flashed up beside the images so fast no one could absorb it all. Fortunately, it would all no doubt be tagged onto some document cluttering up the inbox of his work link-profile, together with reams of statistics on everything from the two men’s social networks to their eating patterns, so he would have to spend the next few days trying to unscramble all that into something he could actually make sense of and use.
The data chasers seemed convinced that any kind of analysis — indeed anything other than the most basic of facts — would be simply beyond the wit of regular CSF operatives like himself. The information was so dumbed down that it became an effort to focus on the droning voice to see if there was anything he didn’t already know being offered in the narration.
“Durban Chola. Arrived in the ‘City four years ago. No previous record. Not so surprising as he came from an ultra low-tech non-Coalition, Periphery world, which is presently under a cultural protection order. The day he arrived, he moved in on the Shame Cullen group, the largest and most successful of the criminal organisations then operating in the ‘City. Chola shut that down almost immediately, then soon after outmanoeuvred and replaced Sarnai Altan, one of the two Cullen successors, taking over her holdings.”
How? No one bothered explaining. They were more concerned with the what than the why. But random strangers didn’t just arrive in the ‘City and overthrow the existing order. That was bizarre. And the place he came from? Grim could think of somewhere he knew that would fit that description. And for a lot of very personal reasons, he hoped he was wrong.
From Iconoclast: Mistrust and Treason a Fortune’s Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook – which is only 0.99 to buy for a limited period.
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