Sunday, February 16, 2020

Martinis and blackmail, part 1

Martinis and Blackmail

February 29th, 2108 9:47 AM

Nearly two months had passed since the incident on Zeta Station. After several painfully dull days of interrogation Police Lieutenant Bruno had been kind enough to release me without even an arrest. Samuel Sloan investigations began to settle into a routine of angry husbands, betrayed wives, and one little weasel attempting to dig up dirt on his dear grandma to challenge a will. Not glamorous in the least, but it is the little things that keeps the bills payed around here. After a month Bruno became disinterested enough that he even stopped having me followed in a desperate hope of getting a link back to either Haruki Kimura or Toshiro Ishamoto. That was one pain out of my side. It becomes much harder to follow someone discreetly when a tin can of a BULS unit is on your tail, not to mention impossible to bend the letter of the law when it becomes convenient.

As the Regency Bright office building’s elevator stopped and I made my way through the silent corridor, tipping my hat down to keep the Los Angeles sunlight streaming though the window out of my eyes. Arriving at office 317 the floating holographic letters ‘Samuel Sloan Investigations’ welcomed me before the door opened on its own. I entered the office pausing only to grab a cup of hot java from my new automated coffee maker. Business had been good to me the last few months and the local AI was a surprisingly good barista. Speaking of her, I turned to the empty air as I found my chair and started in on the coffee. “What do you have for me this morning Sarah?”

A slight flicker of light started in the center of the room, quickly forming into the short, transparent brunette that ran the office finances and more. The holographic representation of the SARAHX77 artificial intelligence strode towards me, peering down through a pair of wire-rimmed glasses “Good morning Detective, Mr. Allen has paid in full for the unhappy news regarding Mrs. Allen and her personal trainer. I forwarded the evidence you collected to him and closed the case file.” Sarah slid up onto the edge of my desk, waving her hand as a new file came up on the screen. “We have a request for your services by a Mister Steven Smith. Early research is coming up with almost nothing so I suspect an alias. As there was an opening in your schedule I say no harm in indulging Mister Smith. He has an 11AM appointment.”

I drained the cup of coffee halfway before responding. “Wouldn’t be the first time someone came in here with a fake name. Let’s see what we can do for Mister Smith.”

“Confirming the appointment Detective, call if you need anything.” Sarah stepped off the desk then faded from view.

I spent the next hour and change draining two more cups of coffee before the door slid open with Sarah appearing directly behind it. “Welcome Mister Smith, the Detective is waiting for you.”

The new arrival nodded at Sarah as he hesitantly entered the office. ‘Smith’ was tall, well built, and far too Hispanic for the name Smith. Mexican if I had to make a guess. The black on brown suit and tie just screamed money, not to mention the high end artificial arm, sculpted and colored to pass for actual flesh unless you knew just what you were looking for.

“Welcome to Samuel Sloan investigations, can I offer you anything to drink.” I motioned to the chair I reserved for potential clients.

“No thank you” Smith took his seat as I moved behind the desk and and pulled up the case file in progress. “Now what can I do for you.” I avoided using any name until I was sure of it.

A message flashed up on my screen from Sarah. ‘Facial recognition confirmed, potential client is Eric Ramirez, currently employed as a cyball player for the Los Angeles Tidal Wave’. That explained the money, and the high end enhancements. Cyball was a sport that cropped up a few decades ago which could only be described to the uninitiated as soccer on a three-dimensional field with players enhanced by cybernetics to the point of being half human.

Remirez leaned forward in his chair conspiratorially “I am guessing you know by now my name is not Steven Smith.”

“Of course Mister Remirez, but I do pride myself on a certain professional discretion.” Remirez had the appearance of a man who wanted to be anywhere else so I waited quietly letting the client make the first move.

“There is no way to say this easily Mister Sloan. I am being blackmailed.”

I nodded softly. “For?”

“An ongoing affair with Helen Wilson.”

Sarah flashed up a quick biography of Mrs. Helen Wilson.

I scanned the high points quickly. “This would be Helen Wilson, wife of Marcus Wilson, the owner of the Los Angeles Tidal wave?”

“The same.”

Now that I had the worst of it, the rest should be easier to get. “And your blackmailers possess evidence of the affair?”

“At least one picture, the message claims there are more.”

“May I see the evidence?”

Ramirez turned his eyes to a small device sending me a short note telling him to prepare payment and a picture of him with a leggy blond that left nothing to the imagination. I have to admit if I was going to ruin my life over a dame. Helen Wilson would make an excellent candidate.

“And what did you want me to do?”

Ramirez stared at me for a moment the sputtered out. “Find the blackmailer?”

“To begin yes, the question is what then. Destroying the evidence may not be possible. Blackmail itself is a felony so that gives us some leverage. The question becomes, are you willing to pay?”

“If that is the end of it yes. I can pay any reasonable amount and I need this to at least stay quiet through the end of the season. The last thing I need is the team owner carrying out a vendetta during playoff season.”

I sent Ramirez an electronic contract detailing my payment and services rendered. With a little extra added because the expenses required to mix in with sports stars were going to run more than my usual cheap cup of java on stakeout. As soon as he signed I slid the monitor aside and leaned forward. “Has Helen Wilson been contacted as well?”

He stopped short with a surprised look in his eyes. “Not that I am aware. All the money is her husband’s though. I do not see what they would get out of her.”

“Then let's get through the rest. I need a full history of your relationship with Helen Wilson. As many times, dates, and places as you can remember. I spent the next hour going through and having Sarah assemble a time line of the entire three month affair. You never knew what details might become important later.

“This is enough to start an investigation.” I lowered my voice to a conspiratorial whisper. The office was secure but acting like I had a secret always made the clients just a little more comfortable. “I’ll contact you when I have more solid information. It would be best if no one knew you have someone investigating on your behalf.”

“I understand, I will expect to hear something by the end of the week.” Ramirez rose and I stood with him, accepting his handshake before he turned and walked out of the room.

I knew a certain blond with enough pull to get a guy into an Los Angeles stadium during playoff season if it came to that. Cherry Azure did not take morning appointments unless absolutely necessary so that would be a project for tonight. I decided to start my day with a trip to the Ocean View Hotel, also known as the scene of the crime. A little low end for a guy like Ramirez. A man with his kind of money and any sense he would stick with the top shelf establishments. If nothing else those people know how to keep a secret.

“Sarah do you have anything for me on the image?”

“Quite scandalous Detective.” Sarah stepped out of the corner raising a digital recreation of Mister Ramirez’s sins. “I believe what will interest you is that given the angle I would suspect the photographer was inside the room.”

“Or at least the camera was. I doubt they posed for this one.” I slid my coat on and straightened my tie before dropping a worn fedora on my head. “The question is did they clean up after themselves?”

“If they were smart they did.”

“And if they weren’t I might get lucky.” I took a few specialized tools from a closet in the back of my office. “Bring the car around.”

“Confirmed Detective. Happy hunting.”

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