What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted…
The images of Chola showed a well-presented man, average height, lots of curly blond hair. In fact, in Grim’s opinion, he looked a lot more like someone you might see on a screen trying to sell you hair care products, than someone you might find invading your premises and demanding a cut of your business profits. He had that sort of open, attractive face that you wanted to trust, with warm amber eyes that seemed poised on the edge of laughter at a shared joke. But then that wasn’t too much of a surprise. In his long experience of the breed, Grim had found many of the worst kind of criminals could pass themselves off as pretty nice people for much of the time. Right up until they had enough power it was no longer necessary for them to be nice.
“He was popular with his own, with a rep for being hard but fair,” the techie droned on. “Seen as consistent and reasonable — but with zero tolerance towards any who might oppose him. Hence the body we saw earlier. He sustained generally good relations with the other Names in the ‘City, avoiding any major wars and holding off the other Shame Cullen successor, Eritch Dragure, by a mix of cunning, diplomacy and threat. He was also the main force behind the establishment of a new suburb in the ‘City, creating it out of what had been a no-go slum area called Ignatius. At one point he was actually holding elected political office there and — by all accounts — represented the interests of the people who elected him very effectively.”
Grim raised a metaphorical eyebrow at the news. He had heard about the turnaround of Ignatius, but he had not linked that with this man. He doubted many had. It was too strange to think that a criminal boss would have any real humanitarian instincts so there had to have been some major profit in it for him somewhere. But at least, for once, it had benefited the community too.
“Jazatar Baldrik,” the techie went on. “Lots of background here.”
Grim made mental notes summarising the information he was being given: ‘City born. Excellent service record from the armed forces. Went mercenary for many years — all reputable work. High rep for professionalism.
“Then ten years ago something strange happened and he got involved in a terrorist attack on a data collection and processing installation in the Varn Sector. Totally out of character. The attack was intercepted and he was arrested, tried and sentenced to the Special Legion. He served the full five year term and was approved for release.”
This was more the kind of man you might think of as a criminal if you passed him in the street. Wary eyes set in sharp features, accentuated by the close cut black hair, which was worn longer at the back and pulled into a brief ponytail. There was an ugly scalp port visible behind his ear, the clearest mark of having served in the Special Legion. It was ‘special’ because you only got in if you were a condemned convict and you only got out if you survived five years with an exemplary behaviour record. Notoriously, the majority of the conscripts didn’t even get to survive their first year and the five year release rate was less than one percent. Which meant this man was exceptional.
Now that was the kind of history that made someone interesting in Grim’s eyes and he could suddenly see something here for him. He leant slightly forward as the data nerd droned on.
Portrait of Durban Chola by Ian Bristow.