“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 leant across 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 Hartog’s mouth before he could catch them. He felt like he was addressing the old bitch who was his third teacher. “We both know 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.”
Hartog stood, reaching out for the recorder and turning it off.
“Strictly off the record. Who?”
“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 is 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 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 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.”
“You are the model Citizen aren’t you, Miss Amanda.”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 was sitting further down the street drinking bad coffee when the call finally came 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.
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.
Feedographer! Even mouthing the word felt made him feel dirty.
Hartog was a purist and he made no apologies for it. Too much fell through the cracks of a media culture of 10 second sound bits. It was nothing more than 24 hour news-tainment. The worst type of bull shit. Paparaazi-styled intrusion broadcast on everything from electronic billboards to the microwave ovens.
The hybrid offspring of journalism, the cult of social networking and the cultural assumption everyone had something important to say. It didn’t free society to give everyone CC TV styled technology and the means to upload for mass consumption. A boon for the Big Three Network Bosses who got programming on a miniscule budget, employing editors and scruinteers to control the constant deluge of footage. It was nothing more than the Propaganda of the Irrelevant.
The Politicians and public loved it. No one had to think too hard. And no one certainly questioned anything.
He did admit, BenJin did make it work for him and had made more than one City Elder or Politician cringe. The ten second sound-bite was BenJin’s kingdom. He’d brought down at least two corrupt corporations and a smattering of lesser city officials. BenJin took his job seriously, more so than the average two-bit freelancer.
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.