Joe Malone has been using his smart watch with a recent patch update to indicate top contacts in vicinity.
I made an attempt at a five pointed star on the watch face, and immediately a name displayed in yellow digital letters.
A name I hadn’t been expecting to see. Not THIS someone THIS close by.
This was the last person I had thought might suddenly and unexpectedly be coming into my office, unannounced, in the dead of the night,.
The name was on the screen. I was still on the office phone to the now less sleepy, but more annoyed Dacia, my PA. Tech support. Secretary and all round assistant.
Ch 25 – Health and Safety violation.
“It says BIXBY,” I said into the phone, still not quite believing it.
“Bixby?” queried Dacia. “Bixby the client? Your lady friend? She come see you now?”
I ignored her comments and asked her, “When the name comes up on the Fit-Byte, how far away is the other person?”
She yawned down the phone. It really was late. Almost 3am. And I’d woken her up.
“Depend on other people Fit_byte. Maybe, no more..see.. one thousand metre,” she explained.
So this BIXBY was close.
Vanessa was almost in the building.
She must have finished her dining with Mandelson and Stuart and decided to come here. She knew where the office was, and I’d told her I was coming back here to do some work. Perhaps she had something she wanted to tell me.
Or better yet, something ..secret…that she really, really wanted me to see.
I heard a little female yelp from Dacia down the phone. Then a very hard sounding slap. Followed by a lot of her spiky Baltic States bad language mixed with some bad
English. Then footsteps as Dacia got off of her bed and moved away from her companion. Who also had evidently been rebuffed from wanting her to show him something secret.
“So, Joe? Lady is come see you now? In Night Time?” Why you think she do so?”
And she giggled. She could be a real minx sometimes.
“You have diner? She make kissy face to you, Joe? Say..”I lurlv you, Joe” She said in her own, exaggerated, yet not unattractive husky voice.
“Goodnight Dacia. See you tomorrow.” I cut the call, but not before I heard her giggling again. What the Hell was so funny?
I wondered why Vanessa hadn’t called to say she was coming. I might not have still been here. And this office was the opposite direction that she would take back to her home.
I should go down and open the door. If she was here she was probably a little nervous. I doubt she’d ever been south of the river this early before.
The Analyser was still analysing the Bixby letter. I’d show the machine to Vanessa.
Make a decent conversation piece, with a bit of mansplaining to her. Before I asked her what was she was really doing here. And what did she really want?
I picked up my e-Key and reached for the Fit_Byte 3000. As I touched it I noticed that the digital display moved a little on the horizontal. I hadn’t realised that before.
The display scrolled. It could scroll across the screen left to right to reveal more information.
I thumbed across the BIXBY letters and was surprised enough to let out a little gasp, as instead of the expected,
The display read
BIXBY .. M
This wasn’t her.
This was him.
Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby.
The missing House of Lords, tireless campaigner for remain,
Who I had been tasked to find.
Instead of which, he had found me.
* * *
I looked at the screen again. Just to make sure.
BIXBY .. M.
Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby was nearby.
So I suppose I should go hurry up and greet him and crack the case wide open. Ask him where he had been all this time. Get him an Uber and claim my expenses and fees.
I opened the doorway to my office and went to the stairwell. It was late, late, late.
Early morning now in London. No-one else was still in this office block.
I looked at my Fit_Byte lifestyle companion again. Dacia had told me that when someone was nearby, it let you know.
I noticed a tiny circle pulse on the corner of the display. Bixby might be outside in a car or something. I went to the coat stand and put on my jacket.
I realised that as I had moved back into the office, the circle pulse had disappeared.
When I went back out onto the landing, it reappeared.
A location sensor.
This watch had a location sensor. Wow! Those techs at SamsApple thought of everything.
I went to the stairwell and the pulse was a bigger circle. And a slightly different shade of green.
Lord Bixby was downstairs.
Probably at the door.
I descended the stairwell, keeping an eye on the watch display. These things were really great. I’d wished I’d paid more attention to it before.
At the ground floor by the entrance the watch was still flashing. Only larger semicircles. A pulse of blue colour now. With just BIXBY..M over the flash on the display. I opened the main door to the office building.
No one was there. Just the empty street with some other old, London brick, south of the river, unfashionable offices . Some other small warehouses that were to be found in this part of the city. Dark except from street lighting.
It was eerily quiet. There was always noise in the city.
Traffic. Sirens. Shouts. Domestic arguments. Drunken yelling and laughing. The cry of a fox feasting. The crash of bins and the clack of footsteps.
This was London. Someone was always awake and on their way too or back from somewhere. Chatting. Dashing. Drunk and singing. Or stoned and humming. Or angry and smashing. Or ramming and stabbing.
Tonight, there wasn’t even a honk of a horn from the river boats.
Tonight, the only person about seemed to be me.
I went back inside the office block and thought for a second. There was no reason for Lord Bixby to come here.
He couldn’t know I was here, late at night. The only reason I could think for him to come here was he knew I had his letter. And he’d only know that if Lady Bixby, or one of her companions had told him.
And if they had told him, why hadn’t they told me, that they had found him?
And why was he just turning up, now? In the night?
It was perplexing.
The only other reason I could think of was he wanted to tell me something that he didn’t want the others to know. Was he planning a John Stonehouse? Or going to go late night river canoeing, and then hide in his wardrobe for a few years like that John Darwin bloke had?
This was adding up like a Nigerian calculator. I thought about going back up and getting the functional, but highly illegal, converted replica Colt 1911 from its hiding place in my office.
But what would I need that for? I wasn’t going to shoot Bixby.
Okay. He was a big shot Remainer, but that would be excessive. I might just follow Jo Brand’s advice and throw…
There was a sound. A clang. Metal on metal. It echoed up the stairway.
Sound travels further at night. But I’m sure this one had come from inside the building. From below.
Bixby was in the services area? What for? It was all bins and boilers down there.
“Hello? Anyone there?” I called. And regretted it immediately. Never alert people,
Joe. You idiot. Just go see what’s happening for yourself.
No reply from my silly shout. And I felt a bit foolish. I didn’t know where the light switches were down here. So I took out my phone for a torch and went down, lighting the way with a pool of blue light.
The concrete was cold through my soles. Crunchy with dust. Whatever went on down here in maintenance, went on rarely. As I went down I could hear an electrical hum. Actually louder than a hum. There was machinery on down here. Sounded like an engine running.
Using my Health & Safety ears, I recognised the level as ‘whisper quiet setting.’ It grew louder as I went down.
I thought about what there could possibly be in this old office basement that would require power. Someone had left a floor cleaner polishing mop on?
Possibly a generator. The hum was much louder now as I reached ground floor level.
Not just a hum but a grind as well. If this was a polisher it was jammed into the corner. If it was a generator, it was about to spark out.
I fumbled along the wall, feeling for a light switch. My torch/phone revealed nothing but some orange and yellow safety cones in a corner. And piles of cardboard and some twine on a large roll.
I pulled my hand back suddenly. It had touched something cold and metallic. I wasn’t expecting that. I moved back and scrabbled my hand along the other side of the stairwell, searching out the light switch.
These things really should be illuminated.
I noted that the access and fire exit signs were also insufficient down here. I could vaguely see a fire exit on an iron staircase at the far end. Leading up to what could be the secondary fire exit. If it wasn’t covered up by boxes.
I could close this fire trap of a building down on any number of H&S grounds. And I would have. If my own office wasn’t here and it wasn’t so very reasonable on the lease payments.
I flipped on the lights and a couple of inadequate fluorescents blinked spasmodically a few times before settling down to a far, far below regulation glow. Yet another Health and Safety violation.
Then, as my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw an even bigger Health and Safety Code violation.
A waste compactor chuntering away, unattended.
Crushing, squeezing, packing and attempting to auto-tie a bundle of assorted waste cardboard and paper.
A bundle with a human arm sticking out of it.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file