Coffee Break Read – A Technophile-Phobe

What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted…

“The Chola syndicate was one of the most successful criminal organisations we have seen in the ‘City for decades. Chola increased the total wealth of his sector of the ‘City by an estimated fifteen percent, although, with the exact figures being hard to confirm, that is a very conservative estimate and it was probably a fair bit more than that. Needless to say, he was also making a lot of money for himself. A hell of a lot — and much more so than any of his competitors. Mostly through reinvesting what he got from protection and rake-offs from legit businesses. Then, two years ago and little more than a year after appearing in the ‘City, both Chola and Baldrik vanished. Disappeared off our screens completely and they haven’t surfaced since. Their turf was taken over by Eritch Dragure.”
Grim frowned. It was just getting really interesting, then it hit into a very obvious and clear end game. When two top criminals vanished in the ‘City, you didn’t call in an investigator, you dredged the river or just poured a drink and made a toast. He leaned back and wondered all over again why he was here and what this briefing was supposed to achieve.
The next presentation continued to focus on the same two men. This one went into what was known about them on a personal level. It seemed a little pointless now, but Grim sat through it politely.
Outside of what might be termed his ‘work’, the nearest Baldrik came to any kind of hobby was physical self-improvement and even that was clearly work-related. To Grim, he seemed to have had a very bleak, empty life.
Then came the information on Durban Chola. He liked supporting the arts and according to the techie’s research he was deemed mostly same-gender preference in his sexuality, but had not been linked with any specific men during his time in the ‘City. However, there was some evidence of a female relationship with one Charity Sweetling.”
Even before the name had been spoken, Grim had found himself leaning forward again. He knew her face. He had encountered her in connection with another case. The sudden disappearance of the professional killer Zathery Ryle — she had been the last person to see Ryle alive. At the time she had even been on his own list of suspects as a possible agent in his disappearance, but no hard evidence had survived to either back that up or disprove it. From what he had known of her then though, it was more than a bit of a surprise to see her held close on the arm of one of the big ‘City Names. She was not any kind of glamorous celeb, just a regular freighter pilot. Looking at the images he could only wonder, out of idle curiosity, how that had happened. But that was all it was — idle curiosity. The fact remained that all the information being given here pointed to the idea that Chola and Baldrik were both going to be dead.
When it was all finished, Jecks thanked the data nerds and dismissed them. They needed no encouragement to go, smiling now that they were being freed from the onerous duty of sharing the fruits of their labours in person rather than through screens. People like that made Grim feel he should self-identify as a technophobe — or maybe more a technophile-phobe. Once the doors had closed again, it left just four of them.
“Right,” Jecks said. “Thoughts?”
Grim said nothing. He was wondering who the other woman was, the one with the over-polished politician look. He had a strong suspicion that she was the one who had told Jecks not to introduce her and that she was not a fan of getting down and dirty with the CSF. Which left Grim convinced she was someone well known in public life, but he was not up enough on politics to be sure. In the four chambers of government which ran the Coalition, there were over two thousand politicians and that was before you started in on the devolved Sector or individual planetary governments.
Cista Tyran spoke up. “I spent two years working on these people, sir. With all due respect, some of what we just saw there was complete bollocks. If you recall, I was the one who ran Jaz Baldrik as an informant for the best part of four cycles, before that was — was stopped.” Her tone was bland, but cut through with an obvious undertone of resentment.
Grim regarded her with a new level of interest. If she had dealt successfully with a man like Baldrik, maybe there was more to her than he had supposed.

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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