Sunday, July 19, 2015

Jade Frog part 2

The elevator seemed slower than usual on the way underground to the parking garage. My slow steps echoed across the damp concrete as I found the way to a red and black 1957 Ford Fairlane. Not the real thing of course, but a few car companies had started selling brand new plastic and polymer cars with the body shapes of old. I kicked the auto drive off and started to roll out of the aging garage.

Sarah’s voice came through the communication unit on the dashboard. “Directions uploaded detective, and I do wish you would stop turning off the autonav feature on your car.”

Sarah had a routine in her program to try to keep me out of dangerous situations. Part of me was tempted to turn it off but it had kept me away from a couple unfriendly bullets in the past, so I decided just to deal with the occasional hen pecking. “Relax Sarah it’s a short trip and I have not hit anyone in years.”

“One year seven days detective, and good luck” Sarah’s voice faded as I pulled out into open ground the sun streaming through the windows as I picked up speed sliding onto a crowded freeway toward the Los Angeles public docks.

As I left the Fairlane behind and headed into the docks proper on foot I was stopped by a pair of BULS units, they must be having security problems again. Another time I could go into how much money Timothy Bulworth made selling the model for Bulworth Universal Law-Enforcement System to the city of LA but for now suffice to say I was staring down a pair of steely grey humanoid robots looking me over with lifeless red eyes. “Access to the dock is restricted outside of normal business hours.”

I flashed my private investigator’s ID “Samuel Sloan, I am here to meet with my client James Tepin.” Jimmy was an old friend that had been working city property for years and since I had got him out of serious trouble a few years back he was willing to cut me a favor here and there.

The red eyes flashed as I watched the scanners take in my face and check my admittedly hastily thrown together story. “Cleared for entry, have a good day sir.”

Most of the docks were automated these days, but mechanical intelligence still was weak in the creativity department so a few actual people still worked here and there. I found my way to a short muscular man in his fifties with a metallic right arm shaped to match the defined muscles in his natural left. “Sam, you know one of these days you are going to have to stop dropping my name to open doors for you.”

“Yeah I imagine I will, but not today.” He turned reaching out as I shook his hand. “Or they won’t have a use for an old man like you around here anymore.”

Jimmy shrugged turning away from me. “Eh they toss me out the door these lifter bots will be dumping crates into the ocean in a week, sometimes I think they all share one brain and it is broken. You looking for Orange?”

I nodded “Yeah case that may involve a few less than savory types, which probably means he knows someone they know. The weasel in his office?”

“As always, feel free to let yourself in.”

“Don’t mind if I do” I tipped my hat in his direction. “ Take care Jimmy.” It only took me a few minutes to find the out of the way shack that served as a base of operations for ‘Orange’ Julian Redgrave. The poor bastard never had lived down the docking accident that had given him a new skin color for several months, but I never called him Orange unless I was trying to annoy him.

I let myself in without ceremony. “Jules, how do you feel about doing a little favor for an old friend.”

I was met with a slightly annoyed shifty eyed look from a short man wearing a cheap suit and too long sideburns rather badly. “Sam why do I feel like I am only your friend when you want something.”

I walked up to the small desk he was using to move electronic files around and set my hands on it looking down on him. “The same reason you only help me out when I am offering cash or you think it might be useful to call in a favor later.”

Julian leaned back in his chair. “All right Sloan what is the deal.”

“A Jade frog was stolen from an upscale mansion belonging to an Arthur Dowles, no one by chance tried to sell such a thing did they.”

Julian typed up an account number on his screen. “Money first, information second.”

I tapped the miniature com unit in my false eye. “Sarah could you arrange for a transfer of funds to our friend Mr. Redgrave, and try to make it not look too much like a bribe.”

Sarah’s voice came back in response. “Done detective, I used the private account.”

“Thanks.” I clicked the com off “Ok Julian, spill.”

Julian looked at his account balance with satisfaction. “There were a few inquiries this morning about moving something that matches that description, but moving high end art without a buyer set up, not for me. Plus the guy asking sounded like a complete amateur.”


“You know I don’t learn any names I don’t need to, it’s healthier than way.” Julian turned to go back to his files. “But since we are friends now I’ll give you a freebie, I did a little research of my own on your man when I heard the offer. The man’s old lady has been making a bit of a splash at the Century Club, might be worth looking into.”

The little weasel was starting to get on my nerves at this point. “If you hear anything else, give me a call. I might have a little more cash for you on this case.”

“Always a pleasure to take your money Sloan.” I didn’t bother responding and made for the door.

I got back into the Fairlane, and spun the wheel around heading back towards the office as Sarah’s voice echoed in my car. “Detective there has been a problem at the home of Arthur Dowles, I recommend redirecting to that location immediately.”

I reset the autonav to take me to my client’s home. “What do you have Sarah?”

“Several police units have been called to Authur Dowles home. Details are not available at this time but at least one homicide detective has been called in.”

“Great…on my way.” This was going to be a long night. 

Jade Frog Part 1

Samuel Sloan and the case of the Jade Frog.

Monday September 18th, 2107 9AM

First day back in Los Angeles after a two week hunt for a missing son in the Nevada desert. I walked through the lobby of the venerable and barely occupied Regency Bright office building and through the cold steel side door before the elevator silently hovered upwards carrying me to the third floor. The old lift stopped with a hiss as the guard fence slid away revealing a quiet empty corridor. The place had been barely inhabited for years, not a sound except my own footfalls lead me to 317 as the sign lit up at my arrival. ‘Samuel Sloan Investigations’ in floating red letters an inch in front of the door. I could just see my reflection in the door, a old mug several days in need of a shave, and dark brown hairs sticking out just barely keeping out of my eyes. The right deep blue and the left the dull red of an artificial replacement. The servos in the dark metal of my right fist whirred and sent the unlock code to the door, popping it open and letting me into the ancient office. Stopping at the small waiting area to make a cup of what would have to pass for coffee before heading in. It was a rare thing that Samuel Sloan Investigations ever had enough clients to justify the slightly weathered tan couch on the way in, but to tell the truth I just liked the look of it. It only took a moment to knock the dust that had been waiting for me since I left off my desk with the brim of my hat before sliding my long leather coat over the back and folding quietly into the red metal chair.

About halfway through the cup of what I will concede to be coffee I became disinterested in staring at the two empty chairs I reserved for clients and flicked my thumb across the button labeled ‘SARAH X77’. A short brunette in a pencil skirt and thin wire glasses with a translucent blue glow around the edges of her appeared in the office walking towards my desk. “Good morning detective, looking through your records I see your trip was a success, and the client actually decided to pay this time. I would recommend you arrange to become hired by such upstanding individuals. This would make paying your bills so much easier on me.”

“I’ll keep it in mind” Sarah was my secretary and accountant all in one. Officially titled the X77 model Secretarial and Administrative Realistic Avatar Hologram but who wants to try to call anyone that. If I ever found out who had the brilliant idea of giving her sass, he and I were going to have some words followed by a couple well placed punches. “You got anything for me Sarah?”

“An Arthur Dowles wishes to discuss hiring you. The message does not say specifically for what, however given what information I have found about him he is much higher rent than our usual clientele. He has made an appointment for 2pm. Do try to be nice to him Detective.”

“I am sure I will manage. I don’t recall throwing a client out the door head first in months. Send me the file.” I turned on the monitor while sitting up in my chair.

“Two months eight days Detective. Although he did have it coming. Sending now.”

The screen lit up as Sarah’s research into my hopefully soon to be client flied into my workstation. Arthur Dowles, executive at an international trading company. Business looks to be legit, wife Helen, two daughters, and a lot more money than ever came through these doors. I reached down sliding my desk door open and pulled out a cigar. Or at least what passed for one, the real thing was hard to get these day. So I leaned back and sucked on a combination of dried plant and artificial stimulants as I watched the slow rolls of smoke fill my office as I waited for 2pm to turn up.

2pm rolled around quietly as I heard the slight swish of the office door sliding open and Sarah’s voice in the next room. “Come in Mister Dowles, the detective is waiting for you.” I looked up from my desk to see a middle aged man follow Sarah into my office.

“Have a seat Mister Dowels.” The new arrival looked around the office slowly before sitting down and removing his hat to reveal a slightly balding head. It appeared the hat and trench coat were a poor attempt to cover his wealth, he hadn’t even bothered to take the two gold rings off his left hand. “What is it I can do for you today?”

Mister Dowles eyes scanned the room one last time before resting suspiciously on Sarah. “May we speak alone Mister Sloan?”

“As you wish.” I gave a curt nod “Sarah”

“Yes Detective” Sarah gave a nod and a wink and faded from view.

My new prospective client lightly coughed and looked around the room one last time before beginning to speak. “I need your assurance that this does not leave the room.”

I stopped to consider my response for just a moment. “I cannot do much of an investigation not speaking to anyone, however I can promise that I will not reveal any more information than is absolutely necessary.

“It will have to do.” Mister Dowles began to sweat in his chair, the glistening off his forehead a sight I would not care to see again. “I have done quite well for myself over the years, acquiring among other things a rather substantial art collection at the insistence of my wife Helen. Last night a Jade Frog that was being loaned to my private collection went missing without a trace. The security cameras went dark for about five minutes then my personal bodyguard found it missing while he searched the premises. I can not believe that he would betray me after all these years in my employ. I am willing to offer you five percent of the frogs value for it’s safe return before my guests arrive on Saturday. I need this handled quietly, no reports. The insurance would cover the art but not my humiliation after I promised the frog’s safety”

I put on my best poker face as a message from Sarah appeared on the computer screen telling me how much money that actually was. If I hadn’t practiced it before my eyes might have flown out of my head. “Do you have any actual suspects?”

“My wife Helen and I have been estranged the last several years. I don’t like to think she would go so far as to humiliate me like this, but I have to admit the possibility. Here is a picture of the frog.” Dowles nervously slid it across my desk.

“Very well Mister Dowels I can take your case.” I slid my contract across to him which he signed quickly. “And I will be by first thing tomorrow to inspect the scene of the crime.”

“As you say Mister Sloan.” The bald man recovered his hat and found his own way out of the office.

I re-lit my cigar and leaned back in my chair. “What do you think?”

Sarah’s form materialized sitting on the edge of my desk. “Biometric sensors indicate he is not telling you everything Detective, but it is a lot of money. I am sending a more useful image of the Jade Frog.” A three dimensional rendering of the Frog appeared in my left eye.

“My thoughts as well, I will try a trip to see Orange tonight see if they know anything down my the docks, then on to Dowles place tomorrow morning.”

“As you wish detective..good luck” Sarah faded from view.