Sunday, July 19, 2015

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.

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