This tale is in the near future. The United Kingdom has left and not left the European Union. The country is united by division. Everything is just like it is today, only more so. The things that worry and bother and irritate normal people today, will do so tomorrow. Only, because of the situation, just a whole lot more.
It’s hard to explain. Perhaps I should just tell you what happened. I was in my Private Investigator office, nursing a hangover. Not doing much but resting my eyes and trying to get the tock tock tock sound inside it to stop.
“Aexa!” I called to my virtual, personal assistant, who’s tiny box sat on the corner of my workspace. “Get those damn horse off the dance floor.”
But then I was completely startled when a cultured, human, female voice, that didn’t belong to the Amazon Alexa replied,
“Alexa doesn’t seem to be here.”
Chapter 3 – First impressions.
I spun my chair around slowly. Taking time to compose my facial expression to neutral. A figure swiveled into my view.
She was medium height. Slim build. Wearing a light blue dress that looked very, very expensive. Well cut and tightly fitting.
An attractive, high cheek boned, pale, quite flat flat, framed by blonde hair that flowed down around her shoulders. Cool blue eyes with arching eyebrows and long lashes sat above a petite nose and an uncertain set of lipstick reddened lips. Though I doubt this woman was uncertain about much at all.
Her hands, elegantly manicured, long, sculptured and decorated nails, with an engagement ring diamond in a platinum set who’s price would have made Abramovich wince, held a small, powder blue coloured purse, that matched her 4 inch high heeled shoes. That explained the tippity-tapping in my head. She had walked in from the outer office across the wood flooring.
She looked like a beautiful person.
A very rich Elite.
And if she was, she was in the wrong place.
“Your assistant? Alexa, is it? she asked me. Just slightly uncertainly. As a woodland creature encountering a fly-tipping. “She doesn’t appear to be here. I did knock. But no one answered,” she explained. “The door wasn’t locked.”
“I forgot,” I told her. “Alexa doesn’t get in until ten.”
She glanced at the wall clock, and said “Its eleven.”
“The other ten,” I replied.
Clearly she hadn’t heard of Amazon’s personal assistant, slash, slave, slash spy, in all good households, named Alexa. Which meant she was either too poor or too rich to know about contemporary electronic devices and marketing fads. Looking at herhigh priced tiny chic bag, I’d be betting on the latter.
“I’m assuming you are Mr Malone?”
“That’s good work. You could be a detective.”
“Your name’s in the book. That’s how I got your address. And it’s on the door. And,” she added with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, “ …on your desk.”
She nodded towards the small name plate that sat in front of me.
Joe Malone Private Investigator.
“Joe Malone.” She said.
“Like the perfume,” I added.
She smiled slightly again. And it almost reached her baby blues. She was on more familiar terms with designer fragrances than gimmicky electronics. She was Elite all right.
“This room doesn’t have any scent I would wish to purchase at the moment, Mr Malone.” And now her lips did smile and her beautiful eyes flashed. “Shall we open a window?”
“I was just about too,” I lied. “I’ve just completed my daily 3000 steps. Its called a workout ‘cause you do it at work.”
I pulled up the blinds and opened the windows behind me. The ones with the good views of the glass and steel edifices of commerce, politics government and security that lined the other riverbank.
I could see her wondering what an ill shaven, half awake bum like me was doing in an office in such a prime, if uncared for, London location. Which was a very good question. When a client saw the address in the book, they knew it was prime real estate location. And so the occupants must be doing OK. OK enough to be somewhere the wealthy could come for assistance. It was a good address to snag the lower tier Elite.
In fact the landlords were desperate to get us all out. These warehouse, storage and small office properties had seen their value soar 3000% since the great depression of 2009.
Young, professional, liberal-media couples would sell their souls, even to Trump, if it meant getting a tiny loft-a-like, in a walk up like this. These places as multiple, tiny, tiny apartment conversions could make an investor a killing.
The old landlord had been an ordinary guy. An assembler from Sunderland. Inherited the place and a lot more like it, from some long distant, great-uncle entrepreneur. He didn’t want to be a property mogul. Just to not to have to screw panels on cars any more. He wanted a hassle free life. So he simply signed tenants on fixed rate, long lease, no maintenance deals and he retired to Montenegro without fuss. Was great for everyone.
But since his death in a jet ski accident at an Adriatic orgy his sons had been trying to get the leases revoked and the lowlife, low rent, occupant blockers of their four floors of luxury, plus basement, dream suites, removed. But luckily, those same lowlife professionals knew how to tie the laws in knots. How to twist a ruling until it was like a broken slinkie on a staircase. The soliciting solicitors and ambulance chasing no win, no fee, lawyers in my block, with the wealth from the payday lenders, ensured I had fourteen years left to run.
And anyways, I was doing those ‘new yuppies’ a favour. The drains were poor. The roof leaked and the waft from the river in the summer was a real stench.
“Won’t you sit down?” I offered.
She looked slightly uncertain again. As if she might be in the wrong place. Which I suspected she was. I don’t get a lot of top Elite here.
Bottom Elite, with their Extra-Marital activities. Multiple sexual affairs. Competitive business advantages. Angry drug dealers chasing their kids for unpaid debts. Suspicions and accusations. Blackmail victims and people wanting dirt for their court date accusers. Plenty of the bottom Elite came here. Enough to make me a JAG – Just About Good. But the Beautiful People had their own lawyers and accountants and finders and minders. Good ones. Expensive ones. Euro-wide ones.
They didn’t need to come slumming. Unless they wanted something. She wanted something all right, and I was curious as to what it was.
She looked at the client’s chair. And decided there was no risk to her haute-couture. Which there wasn’t.
I had made sure when I started up to make the place look like what people expected it to look like. I could do the whole job from just a memory stick and an Ipad mini in a coffee shop. But I had got the leather Chesterfield in the front office. The wooden swivel chairs. The oak double desk with a blotter pad, accountants lamp, fountain pen and nameplate. Raincoat on the hat stand. Electric fan. Telephone land line connected to the wall. It helps to put the client at ease.
The more relaxed the more amenable. And slightly more truthful. Or at least, less guarded when discussing their business. I’d have got a fax machine, teleprinter and a phone on a stand with a separate earpiece, bolted to the wall, if my real assistant, Dacia, hadn’t said it was getting all too USSR. She should know.
I did buy a round dial, Bakelite, black telephone on Ebay. Just for looks. You pressed the numbers. It wasn’t necessary to actually spin the dial round, which was a real pain. I could have got any old BT plug in of the sort pensioners still liked.
Any phone you couldn’t fit in your back pocket was ancient. But I liked the look of it. Ebay had had plenty of other authentic looking items. Some of which were now in this office.
She decided against taking the seat, for the moment. And instead asked “Mind if I Vape, Mr Malone?”
“Go ahead,” I sad. Passing her a battery.
“And call me Joe.”
* * *
To be continued