Saturday, 12 December 2015

Project Helix 008

Chapter 5 continued and finished.As Amy left the room she was instantly joined by the man who had so graciously handed out the invitation to join della Croce. While she felt a slight compulsion to handout something into the man’s face she knew that that would get her nowhere, she also had a lot of thinking to do.

“Is there a bus station near this place?” she asked.

“You are to be brought back to the police station.” he said.

“How nice, but I think I’ll manage that on my own.” she said.

“Mr. della Croce’s order where very specific.” he answered. It was obvious from the way he spoke that a discussion about this would lead nowhere but to trouble.

“He doesn’t like people who talk back, does he?” she said.

“Mr. della Croce knows what he wants and he knows how to get it.”

“He seems to be very straight forward.” Amy said to bait some more out of the man.
“He is direct and effective.” the man answered.

“Mr. della Croce told me you were his right hand man.” Amy said watching the man very closely from the corner of her eye. While he did not reply anything to that there was a slight shift in his demeanour, going from slightly to bored to slightly proud. Amy was not that surprised, the man she had met was so used of talking down to people that he was bound to be surrounded by people who were happy to be his personal lapdog and as such they thrived on praise by their ‘owner’.

“He never told me your name, though.” she said turning back to him looking him in the eye. As Amy had expected the man in front of her tried to hold her gaze but had looked away for a fraction of a second. “I am now freelancing for your boss, so we might as well use our names.” she paused waiting for him to react when she noticed that he was about to answer she stretched out her hand interrupting him with an: “I’m Amy.” a careful interjection to establish the hierarchy between them. The poor devil in front of him was built like a reinforced brick factory but mentally he had been kept well broken and was a good doggy for his master.

“Robert.” He said shaking her hand. There was a lot of force but very little conviction in the handshake.

“Nice to meet you. Rob.” no protest from his part. Good. “By the way if you ever knock me out again I will return the favour with interest.” she said with a smile. Robert glared at her, he was not about to speak up to her nor was he backing down. That’s not what he had been trained to do.
“But now that we are colleagues,” Amy added with her best winning smile, “we should get along swimmingly, right Rob?”.

Robert did not know how to react to that so he just grunted and nodded to her walking a bit faster to lead the way and leave any awkward conversations behind.
Amy was by now quite pleased with herself. The people around her were dangerous. Very dangerous. But they were so in the artless way of people who had learnt all their tricks by trial and error never having understood why they worked in the first place. 

“Where’s the car. “ Amy asked.

“Just follow me. Miss Anderson.”

‘Good boy!’ Amy thought. “No need to be so formal. Call me Amy, Ron.”

Robert just nodded leading Amy through the corridors and spacious rooms of a house of someone who knew that rich people were supposed to live in large mansions and who once having arrived in one didn’t really know what to do with it. The walked through a pool room that was all leather, minibar and constant twilight, only to pass into a living room (?) that was filled with glass and stainless steel. Very aesthetic. Very cold to look at and as comfortable as an airport.

“Nice house.” Amy said non committal looking at a row of paintings all of which were worth more than she earned in a year, that were now decorating the wall of a long corridor with all the style of a trophy collection.

“Yeah.” Said Robert shrugging. His first human expression since Amy had met him. Her attention instantly shifted towards him.

“You don’t like it?” she asked.

“It is a great house.” Robert said. “’S got a indoor pool, great view and all…”

“But…” Amy helped him along.

“But I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right.”

“It doesn’t feel like a proper home, doesen’t it?”

Robert shook his head. “Old house was much better. Still felt like someone lived there. Now it is like walking through a ghost town all packed into one building.”

“Very well put.” Said Amy surprised at the poetic talent of the guy she had mostly thought of as a well trained dog. ‘Don’t underestimate anyone Anderson. That leads to an early grave.” She told her self.

“Old house?” she asked.

“Yeah. Where Mr. Della Croce lived before he moved upwards. Had enough room for everyone, but was still cosy. Know what I mean?”

Amy nodded. “Yes.”

“But there is one bit that I like better about this house.” Robert said stopping in front of a metal door that looked out of place in the well designed wall of yet another stylish living room but glinted defiantly, daring anyone to belittle it because of its industrial roots.

Robert opened the heavy metal door and told Amy with the hint of a smile that ignited his eyes “The garage. The garage can’t ever be large enough.”

Amy entered what to her looked like a small hangar filled with the wildest dreams of any petrol head around the world.

“Since we are now colleagues, you get to chose how you get home.” Robert said his smile growing.

Amy stepped forward eyes wide making a mental note to upgrade Robert from ‘useful monkey’ to ‘very dangerous’.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Project Helix 007

Chapter 5 continued

“You are awfully well informed.” said Amy pushing her psychological ramparts into place. The situation hardly made any sense. Considering her company meant that she was in danger.

“Information is important. Power with out knowledge is worthless.” the subtly patronising tone in his voice was grating on Amy. For one because she hated being talked down to but also because she had seen far to many people mistake this kind of tone with a form of paternal care.
She concentrated on breathing and keeping her temper in check

“And you want me to provide you with information.” she stated.

“As far as you have any information I can use.” and again asking her to do something for him while at the same time belittling her.

“Stop wasting my time.” Amy said. Della Rocca had to stifle a laugh. This was a response he had not been expecting and one that did not fit with his world view. “If you want information I can help you. It is my job to find things out. But for that I need to know what kind of information you need. After that it is just a matter of compensation.”

“Look at you all business all of a sudden.”, he said with a fatherly laugh. The type belonging to a father who saw his family as his property. “OK. I’ll play along. I need you to keep an eye on Mr. Franklin and keep me informed about what he’s up to these days.” he said smiling. “If the services provided by you are satisfactory you’ll get your money. What’s your hourly rate?”

Everything inside Amy tensed up, she remained calm outwardly though. “My daily rate is 2500 pounds.”

Della Croce laughed out loud. “That’s great!” he was shaken by another fit of laughter. “You can count your self lucky if you get that in a week.” he said.

Amy got up and went to the door. “The look for someone else.”

“Wait. Wait.” della Croce said. “Let’s talk about this.”

“You want information from me. You pay my fee or look for someone else.” she said turning back to him, hand in her hips. “It’s that easy.”

“OK. Give me something juicy. So that I can see you’re worth it.” he said.

“You pay me in advance. In cash. Once I have something for you I’ll tell you. That’s the way it works. Besides, Mr. Franklin is my client so the information that I can give you about him is limited.”

Della Rocca was growing irritated with Amy, he was still slightly confused as Amy was not behaving in the way he was used to be treated by other people, however now he was starting to test his patience. “So what exactly can I expect to get from you?” he said now with a hard edge in his voice.

“If it is connected to you I’ll tell you. So for example when he fucks your wife, “ ‘when’ not ‘if’, “I would tell you and depending on how careful they are you’d get a few pictures on top of that.” she said. Seeing his reaction to that relaxed her immensely. “He isn’t. That you’ll get for free.”, Amy said, taking note that the piece of trash in front her had someone crazy or greedy enough to be married to him.

“I won’t pay 2500 punds a day for shit like that.” della Croce said.

“Power without information is worthless.” Amy said a smile pushing its way through her business face. “So here’s what we’ll do. If I find out that Mr. Franklin is doing something untowards that is connected with you I’ll let you know for a price. That’s how you usually do your thing right? There’s something you need and you pay someone to give it to you. Easy, uncomplicated, no strings attached.”, by now Amy’s was now sparkling with gleeful malice.

“Right.” said della Rocca who, as the subtext of the conversation had now taken a course that flew far over his head, felt that he was in control of the situation again. “We can do that. But how do you know what he does is part of my business?” he asked.

Through long hard training Amy was able to stop her eyes from rolling. “You will give me information about your ‘business’ as far as you think it might be concerned so that I will keep an eye out.” Della Rocca was getting ready for his next outburst. “You will of course only give me the essentials of the things you think might be worthwhile to keep an eye on.” she said.  Here’s my card. She flicked a business card with flick of her wrist which she had spent day perfecting in her office when there had been no work to be had to his desk.

“Getting kidnapped once… happens to the best of us, but do that again and I’ll take it personally.”

“Don’t worry about that. Now that we have a business relation things will go smoothly from here on out.”

Amy turned around, even her training could not stop her rolling her eyes at that one.

“You’ll hear from me.” she said as she walked out.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Project Helix 006

Chapter 5

The darkness slowly receded, leaving Amy stranded in in a strange place. She was disoriented, had no idea where she was not what she was doing there, however she had enough presence of mind to remain still while keeping her eyes closed, her breath steady. It had taken her a while but by now when she woke up in this state of confusion, she know something was wrong. It always paid to stay still for a while and gather her wits first only acting when she had at least a basic sense of what situation she was in.

She was… surprisingly comfortable. She lay on what she suspected to be a sofa. Comfortable but a bit to hard for a bed, she also was sure that she could feel the segments of cushions. Her head was resting on a thick pillow that was a bit to high to be perfectly pleasant, the fabric was also of the kind she’d associate more with a living room than a bed room. The light was soft. The room it self was silent. When she was about to open one of her eyes to see where exactly she was, she heard the turning of a page. Someone was with her, reading a book or a magazine.

She hesitated for a moment.

Risking opening an eye or two did not seem like the greatest of risks. So she slowly opened one eye. The one closest to the alleged couch she was lying on. That one had the best cover. She was right, it showed her mostly a dark blue fabric expanding before her and indirect yellow halogen light. That wasn’t helping much. So she slowly opened her other eye.
Not a living room. A library. Again. For a moment she thought that she had been brought back to the house of Hellen Ashford Stone. But this room was larger. The Ashford stone library had been classier, dominated by dark wood and leather, this one was cosier and more normal. Almost no leather bound books. Mostly paperbacks in pragmatic shelves of lighter wood. The furniture was also not all leather. The couch she was lying on had cloth upholstery. There were two other chairs, neither matching the other. One was something that seemed to have been liberated from someones grandmother, while the other one was a modernist monument to ergonomics. In side the latter sat a large man reading a book. He was facing Amy but was throughly absorbed in his book.

For Amy the next part was critical. As far as she could tell she was feeling fine. Well apart from some residue drowsiness and the ghost of a headache haunting her. Her next move required a certain degree of elegance to be effective. First impressions were important after all.
She breathed in deeply, being careful to do it as quiet as possible and then as she exhaled moved her self into an upright sitting position with one fluid motion. The man in front of her had noticed the motion in front of him, but by the time he looked up Amy was already reclining in the sofa casting looking him in the eye as if she had been sitting there like that for the past few minutes waiting for a response.

“Next time you want to talk to me, you can just make an appointment.” Amy said before the man could say something himself. “You can find me in the phone book. I even call back.”

“I did send for you Mrs. Anderson.” the man in front of her said. His surprise well hidden behind a face used not to tell the world more than the words that left its mouth intended. “If I can believe Frank’s account and I do trust Frank completely, then it was you who decided to turn this into a bit of a mess.” He smiled an apologetic smile that extended from his mouth to the corner of his eyes, but never quite reached the calculating centres of them.
“You could have just followed him.”

“I don’t react kindly to threats.” Amy said her face frosting over with a cold smile that was more a baring of teeth than anything else. “When someone creeps up from behind me and threatens me I do not react kindly. You also have the advantage to know who I am while I have not the slightest idea who you might be.” she added.

“My name,” the man said hesitating only for the blink of an eye, “is Dante della Croce. You may have heard of me.”

“No.” Amy lied. OF course she had heard from della Croce, patriarch of one of the most powerful crime syndicates in the City. She knew that this man had done a lot to keep his name out of the general public and she was not about to tell him that she was among those who knew who she was. As spoke she looked closely at him looking for any kind of reaction. There was hardly anything.

“I am an entrepreneur here in the City.” he said as if that would clear up all open questions. Again Amy could not notice any tell tell signs in neither in his face nor his body language that told her more than he was saying. This man had spent years of keeping his inner thoughts to himself.

Amy took this sad excuse of a revelation to take a look around the library. Some novels, lots of biographies and books about management and success in general as well as a shelve dedicated to what appeared to be classic literature. That last shelve looked the most tidy containing about 90% of the leather bound books in the room. A shelve that was there because it was expected to be present.

“And it looks that you are doing very well for yourself.” Amy said, glancing over to della Croce.

“I am doing fine.” he said, his face maintaining its polite rigidity, “I put in the work and at the end of the day I harvest the fruit of my labour.” he shrugged.

“What kind of fruit do you think you are cultivating in having Frank, your assistant, taking me here by force?” she asked.

He looked at her keeping up his almost sincere smile. “As I told you, you were invited here, it was you who forced his hand.”

Amy noted that he had not denied that this Frank character was his assistant. “The city is not safe for a young woman.” Amy said. “It tends to make me a bit twitchy.”

“You should focus your worries on situations that warrant them.” he said in an indulgent tone. Amy had to massage the corners of her mouth with what she hopped would appear like a thoughtful gesture, to hide the shadow of a smile. Delle Croce was treating her like a naive girl. This made her work more easy.

“Like for example?” she asked opening her eyes a bit to appear as if she was actually looking for his advice.

His smile reached the centre of his eyes, his posture shifting slightly into a more relaxed pose.

“The usual things. Don’t go into the more disreputable parts of the City without the company of a man. Do not take shortcuts through dark side streets. Keep your eyes open. Don’t provoke strangers. The usual things.”

The guy was even worse than Am had thought. “Still I was abducted by your right hand man in bright daylight.” The perfect mask in front of her strained a tiny bit. There was a hint of rolling eyes. “And in front of a police station no less.” she added. “If you can do that, I can’t see how a girl can stay safe in the City at all.” Damn. For a moment Amy thought she had stepped over the line and della Croce would hear the sarcasm in her voice.

“I told you,” he said with great patience only reserved to the very young and the very mentally challenged, “that you were not abducted. You were invited. You refused rather rudely. And Frank had to carry you here. You are here only for a quick chat.” there was an undertone in his voice that told Amy that this conversation was already taking longer than the man had any patience for. “There are also only very few people who have the means to make such a convincing invitation in a public space.” he added with a hint of pride in his voice.

Amy relaxed, della Croce was now comfortably underestimating her, being now mostly by being mildly annoyed by her. He had also not corrected her when she had called Frank his right hand man. Not reacting to her calling him his assistant may have been just a coincidence, but by now Amy was confident that Frank was at the very least more than just a lowly grunt.
This may be intended as a little chat but what ever della Croce wanted to know was important for him.

“Well now that I am here,” Amy said, “we may as well talk.”

“Splendid.” della Croce said. “What exactly were you doing at the police station?”

“I was following an earlier invitation, almost as charming as yours.” Amy said. “The police think that Christopher Franklin killed his ex. When they came to his apartment, I was there to talk with him about a case when the police arrived. I was there wanting to talk with him about a case when the cops arrived. I have no idea way but they decided to take me right along with him. It took me a while but in the end they finally let me go. Quite frankly I have no idea what’s going on.” Amy was rather pleased with herself for rearranging the truth into a rather decent misdirection.

“So Mr. Franklin killed his ex?” della Croce asked.

“He says he didn’t do it.” Amy said leaning back.

“And you? What were you doing there with Mr. Franklin?”

“Ask the cops.” she said.

For a moment anger flared up in the cold eyes of the della Croce but it vanished as quickly as it had appeared. “I am asking you Mrs. Anderson.”

“I was talking to him about a case.” she repeated.

“What case?”

“I can’t tell you. Client confidentiality. I am sure you understand.”

Della Croce remained silent for a moment. His eyes remaining on Amy trying to squeeze an answer from her through sheer force of will. He almost succeeded.
“I don’t need any details.” he said finally. “What is between you and your clients is of course a matter of discretion.” again this undertone of benevolent indulgence. Amy wanted to punch him. “I just want you to tell me in general what your job is. Are you his bodyguard?” he asked still with the tone of an adult talking to a child.

“No.” Amy said. ‘Of course, you aren’t’ replied his eyes.

“What then?” he asked.

“I was hired as a detective. That’s my job.” she did not say anything else waiting for a reaction. Only when she saw the faintest cracks spreading over his mask she continued. “He is afraid that someone was trying to kill him. But right now he seems to have much bigger problems.”

The mask was back in place. Perfectly still. “And?”

“Nothing and.” Amy said. “I just accepted this job this morning. So far there is nothing I could happily withhold from you because of my work ethics as there isn’t anything I know yet that I could tell you.”, ‘Apart from the fact that you are obviously involved in this somehow…’ Amy added to herself. “Why do you want to know?” she asked.

“Because when the fiancĂ© of Hellen Ashford Stone gets dragged into a police station for questioning people in my position are curious as to why.” he said.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Project Helix 005

Chapter 4 continued

The police station was located in an ancient building. It was dwarfed by the skyscrapers surrounding it but kept their looming presence at bay with its deep rooted gravitas. It had been built in a time were architecture was intended to impress generations instead of a current design rend feeding the pride of a contemporary architect. Its massive stone walls stained by centuries of rain had if anything only gained in majesty by the passage of time. While the towers surrounding the station had been built to look large and imposing making the people who entered them look insignificant in comparison, the police building had beed designed to instil awe in those who beheld it. 
It was a temple built to pay respect to law enforcement. Columns as thick and large as century old oaks holding up a massive stone ceiling that could only be hold aloft by a supreme effort. Every aspect of the construction was there to demonstrate great force used with utmost care. This appearance of power was broken by the tall arched windows which allowed for the people outside to clearly view the inside of the building and for the interior that would have otherwise been dark and foreboding to be flooded with bright daylight. This wasn’t an empty display of power, it was a declaration of intent. 

While Hartley had relaxed and was leading the way without ever looking back, his partner McLean was still not convinced by neither Franklin nor Amy and was trailing a few steps back watching them carefully for any suspicious behaviour. She reminded amy of a feline that was smelling a rat. 
Amy had passed this police station hundreds of times living in the City and had often paused to admire the architecture, but she had never been inside of the station before. Even when she was still training to be police herself she had been sent to a station in the impoverished north of the city. A late twentieth century shit hole of a neighbourhood that had been built around the idea that there was nothing more heartwarming that the look of houses that had all been built out of the same standardised slabs of concrete which could be given individual character by how they were put together. There had even been plans to allow the inhabitants to wait the concrete in colours that pleased them and would allow for even more fanciful variation. In the end though city planning had decided that the choice of colour of ones house was a power to great to be granted to the great unwashed masses of the cities slowly declining middle class and left it all grey. In the end the entire quarter ended up looking like the sketchbook of an autistic cubist painter. 
 It had been planned prison for the poor. Move there and you were free to leave of course. But you were also free of money, free of job offers, free of a decent credit rating. The police station there was more like a fort. An ugly grey, cubist fort reinforced to withstand a siege by the unwashed masses. However the unwashed masses there were far to broken to revolt, being pushed forward by the dream of prosperity to go on with their lives one more day, because their break would surely come. 
Being stationed there as rookie police served to immerse the new generation into world of addicts and petty criminals. Most people who went there were stripped of their faith in humanity in months. Amy had not been one of them. She saw the shit hole but kept wondering whose fault it was that it was there in the first place. It was there where she decided that she would not become part of the executive branch of a state that let things devolve into what she was seeing there. She was not going to be willingly turned into cannon fodder for a state that was working so very hard to abase its citizens turning them into cattle kept under conditions that would have been illegal when applied to livestock. 

However the place she was now in was completely different. Everything insight was bright and clean. The large rooms with their high ceilings and massive walls radiated authority. Measuring those working there and seeking help while making those being taken there as suspects feel insignificant. It had its intended effect on Franklin whose usually square shoulders had slumped significantly. His usually magnificent expression had become demure. Amy was by now hard pressed to find the handsome man that had entered her office that morning in the nervous wreck in front of her. 
Her own feelings were more complicated. In part she was impressed by the police station, feeling reassured that places like these existed. On the other hand it was feeding the ambers of her resentment, slowly reviving the flames of an anger she had thought she had left behind a long time ago. In away this station was a sham. It was one of the central stations that housed the police force for the wealthier neighbourhoods of the northwestern part of the city. The people who mattered, if they ever came into contact with the police would come here and be presented by something much closer to what everyone expected from the police. Nearly non of them would ever witness the soul crushing pit she had spent her rookie time at. Thus inconvenient questions from these kind of people were artfully prevented, while no negate a shit about the complaints of the criminally poor. 

Hartley and McLean lead them into an interrogation room that was four walls a metal table bolted into the floor and several chairs. 

“Tea? Coffee?”, Hartley asked. McLean just frowned at the offer. 

“Tea.” Amy said. Franklin just shook his head falling into a chair.

Hartley left the room. He paused at the door. He cleared his throat to catch the attention of his partner. His expression told her to stop being a dick and come with him. She grunted and followed him out of the room. 

After the door had closed Amy turned back to Franklin. 
“You didn’t do anything Christopher.” she said.  “So relax. Be wary of Hartley. He is going to be the one who is going to tempt you into cooperating with him, who will promise you to make everything easy. The sentiment might be true, but he’s also looking to ‘beat’ you. For him you are probably a game of psychological chess. He’ll try to make you ‘come clean’. This will tempt you in telling him shit that will compromise you. So keep your mouth shut. Don’t get drawn into a conversation. It might be pleasant but you will walk into traps without realising it.”

“But I didn’t do anything.” Franklin said looking up for the first time. He looked at Amy. “I didn’t do”, he repeated, “anything. I wouldn’t. Linda was crazy and I was glad when it appeared that she was finally not a part of my life anymore. But I… I actually had hoped that she would find some peace and move on with her life… and now…”, he hung his head again.

“I know that Christopher and I believe you. But those two detectives out there are not looking for a way to prove your innocence but for a way to find someone who is guilty.”

“I’m not guilty!” Franklin shouted, slamming his fist on the metal table in front of him. Amy was startled by that sudden outburst. It looked liked there was some residue of steel to be found in Franklin’s soft soul after all. 

“The all you have to do is try to relax. Once the two detectives return I’ll stay with you here for a while, enjoy my horrible tea and make sure that they treat you well. Once I’m sure that I can leave you with them alone for a few minutes I’ll excuse myself to go and call Mrs. Ashford Stone.  You’ll see, you’ll be out of here before it is even dark outside.”

“What about the other one?” Franklin asked.

“The other one?” Amy wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about. “Oh you mean the bad cop?”

He nodded.

“Much easier to deal with. She will be an arse and try to intimidate you. Talking about bending the rules, preferably around your neck. Just keep silent. Don’t get cheeky with her type, they usually tend to hold grudges, her you can tell basic shit, she’s probably to angry to be clever. Still try not to talk to much. And please do me a favour. Stop looking like such a victim. It makes me want to punch you, so it won’t help with her either.”

The last part didn’t really help. Franklin shrank even more, tempting Amy to slap some sense into him. She turned around to regain her composure when the door to the room opened up again. McLean held the door open for Hartley who entered the room holding four paper cups in his hands. 

“I thought I’d bring you a tea, too, just in case.” he said to Franklin as he put the cups down on the table pushing one towards Franklin.

They had just finished going through the opening formalities, about to open the very promising looking file lying conspicuously on the side of the table when the door to the interrogation room suddenly opened. A young woman in a business dress so smart it made everything else around it look out of place entered the room with a fierce expression on her face.

“Detective McLean and Hartley?” she asked. 

“Who the fuck are you?” was McLeans answer who got up immediately getting ready to throw the new arrival right back out again.

“Who let you in?” asked Hartley who remained seated but whose expression instantly hardened, his hand inching instinctively towards his weapon. 

“I am Amanda Welles, I am Mr. Franklin’s lawyer. I want to inform you that I have already filed a complaint against both of you”, she said with a cold voice, “for harassing my client, not allowing him his right of attorney and trying to force him into a false confession before he can be properly counselled.”

“You are his lawyer?” McLean said looking at her then looking over to Amy, venom in her eyes. 

“Yes.”  Welles answered.

“Then who the fuck, are you?” McLean asked Amy.

“I am his private investigator.” she answered with a thin smile, ignoring her own advice not to get fresh with the bad cop in the room.

“You are his what? You are this close to get arrested too.” she spat.

“Really? What for?”, Amy asked.

“You put Mr. Franklin under arrest.” Welles asked one eyebrow arched. 

“No. Not under arrest.” Hartley said his eye now also cold resting on Welles. “He is here to clarify a few points for us…”

“Pretending to be his lawyer is going to get you into big trouble miss.” McLean said to Amy.

“I never said I was Mr. Franklins lawyer. I said he was my client which is the truth. I have no responsibility for your actions.” she answered still sporting her thin smile. 

“Get out!” McLean said.

Amy shrugged and left passing Welles whose reptilian eyes followed her out of the room. 

She was glad having gotten out of there earlier than expected. This day so far had only given her one question after the other and it was about time to get some answers. Not having to baby sit Franklin had given her precious time. It also helped enormously that she had not to pose as his defending counsel. She might be able to weasel her way around for a while based on her semester of law and her police training, but that would only get her so far. It also carried the risk of causing Franklin additional trouble. 

She left the police station wondering how Ashford Stone had known to send one of her attack dogs to save the day. Was it the gas repairman? Or was Franklin himself tagged like the good little pet he was. 

She was favouring the repairman theory when she felt a hard object being pressed against her back.

“Mrs. Anderson.” a male voice behind her said in the tones of someone commenting on the weather. “I am pointing a military grade auto injector at your back. I am going to ask you to be so kind as to come with me, there is someone who would like to have a word with you. It would be best if you just came along. If you do not cooperate I will have to sedate you. That will be unpleasant for you as well as for me, for I will have to carry your unconscious body away to get you the medical help you poor woman obviously require. Either way you will come with me. Please be so kind and chose the easy way.”

Amy chose the hard way. At this distance the weapon or auto injector or what ever was very close to her, but she was only one quick side step away from sweeping away the hand holding it and giving the guy behind her a proper thrashing. 

She spun around. She felt a sharp pain in her back. The man in front of her, a mountain in form of a human in a casual suit looked surprised as Amy’s arm hit his hand with unexpected force sending the object in his hand scattering over the side walk onto the street under the wheels of a car. His expression then went from disappointment to that slight annoyance. 

‘It was a release trigger…’ Amy thought as a cold wave of numbness took over her body. 

She fell. Caught by darkness. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Project Helix 004

Chapter 4

“Don’t say anything.” I Amy said to Franklin who opened his mouth to answer. “No.” Amy said putting up her index finger for emphasis. “As long as the kind police officers are here you are to keep quiet. Once they are out of earshot we have a little talk. We’ll take it from there. OK?”

Again Franklin was about to say something. Amy cut him short with a pointed look. He nodded instead. 

“Good.” said Amy. “Now,” she turned to the police officers whose mood forecast had just taken a turn for overcast weather with spontaneous gales of unwelcome third party interference, “please lead the way.” Amy smiled her best lawyer smile all teeth and sociopath eyes. 

The officers led the way back down to the street radiating a field of law enforcement as they moved through the corridors Amy could feel how the building itself caught its breath doing its best to look innocent while the spy holes in the doors looked the other way when they past in front of them only to look after them when it appeared that they could get away with it. The officers led the way with Amy and Franklin trailing after them. 

Franklin who usually looked like an olympian God, had shoulders that did their best to slump as best as they could defying their divine birth right. While Franklin’s face was now marked by grief and pain. 

They took the strains on their way back down which for Amy meant that the detectives were of the perceptive and competent type, making the situation more complicated that it already was. 

“I need to talk to my client in private.” Amy said as they arrived in the street. 

“Go ahead,” said McLean not showing even the slightest pretence of moving.

“In private, means alone.” Amy said sliding into the arms of sarcasm her old friend. “Why don’t you go on ahead and sit in your car for a while?”

McLean snorted. “And leave you and the suspect alone so that you can run away?”

“Running away…”, Amy exhaled. “On an open street. On foot. While you are sitting in a police car? And your friends at the precinct can ask the guys monitoring the CCTVs to track us while we make our mad dash to… where? The country?”

McLean took a step towards Amy her hands clenching into hosts. Hartley put a hand on his partners arm stopping her. “Let them. They are going to huddle together anyway. They might as well start here.” McLean turned towards her partner still stony faced. “And if they should try to escape,” he added, “you can shoot them with tranq darts for resisting arrest. Both of them.” he said looking Amy in the eyes when he said the last part. McLean unholstered her weapon deactivating the safety without taking looking away from her prey, saying all she had to say with that gesture before going to the police car. 
“Please, don’t do anything stupid.” Hartley said, in the voice of a man who had a lifetime of people choosing to be stupid behind him but had not given up hope just yet. He to turned away joining McLean in the police car. 

“Turn around,” Amy said when the car door closed behind Hartley.

“Why?” asked Franklin.

“Because I don’t want to risk discovering that the cops have some hidden lip reading talents.” Amy replied talking to a grey concrete wall that was attempting to maintain its innocence by hiding behind graffiti, only to appear more scandalous because of it.

“Can they do that?” Franklin asked.

“I have no idea. And I don’t want to find out.” Amy said, stealing a glance at Franklin, his gorgeous looks going a long way to restore her patience. 

“You are also a lawyer?” Franklin said turning towards her admiration in his eyes. 

“Face the wall.” Amy snapped. “And no, I am not a lawyer.”

“But you told the police that I am your client…”

“Because you are my client. They just seem to assume that I am your lawyer.” Amy said.

“You also sounded a lot like a lawyer.” Franklin said doing his best to keep looking at the scandalous wall. 

“It is one of my many talents.” Amy said. “And you are lucky that I am because I can keep you out of trouble until your real lawyer appears.”

“I don’t have a lawyer.” Franklin said.

“Of course you have, you just haven’t met him yet. I promise you that Lady Ashton Stone will not leave you without legal protection.” 

“Are you sure.” Franklin asked.

“Of curse I’m sure. That woman is madly in love with you.”

Franklin tried turning into several shades of red until he settled on the one that let him look the most smashing in his embarrassment.

“Now that we have that out of the way,” Amy said hoping to finally arrive at her actual point, “Who the fuck is Linda Curtis?”

Something broke in Franklin as Amy asked the question. The pain in him had found a way out and it would not be denied by his looks. The weight of the world dropped on him crushing the light out of his eyes, for a brief moment stopping his entire body. A flash of the numbness of death. When Christopher Franklin started talking again it was clear he wished that moment had taken him with it.

“Lind is… Lind was my ex.” he said tears now flowing down his face. His body shaking as he kept himself as much under control as he could. “We…” he paused for a long time. “… it was complicated.”

“Do you still love her?” Amy asked. She wasn’t sure if she was twisting a knife in a wound with her words, but she needed to know what the situation was and in the worst case scenario she hoped that Franklin’s grief was so great that her words would not add significantly to his pain.

“Love her…” Franklin considered her words. “No. I still care a lot about her, I wished we could have been friends and I had hoped that one day we would be….” he paused again. Tears streaming down the creases of his face broken by sadness. “She was. I don’t know. To aggressive? She kept pushing me. Never let me follow my dreams. Kept putting me down for having a vision and trying to get there. She always told me off. Tried to pressure me to be ‘realist’. You know? Put all the things I rally, deeply care about aside and just lead a productive life.” He turned his face towards Amy who hadn’t the heart to tell him to face the wall again. “Productive for what? I would have produced… what exactly? For who? I would have existed. But I would never have lived!” He turned back to the wall eyes cast down. “So… I left her. She didn’t take it well, she wasn’t the kind of person who takes no for an answer. Strange really. How someone who compromises so much to live a life as expected can be so uncompromising in nature. She became increasingly aggressive. Or at least it felt that way so I cut her out of my life. It was only meant to be temporary. But now she… she’s dead.” at this point Franklin started to cry openly sobs shaking his body as he sank to his knees rocking softly as he put his arms across his chest, trying to give him an embrace that the world right now just didn’t want to provide.

Amy stepped towards Franklin, crouched next to him and put an arm over his shoulders. She tried to think of something to say something comforting. But there wasn’t anything. 

She cast glance over to the police car. Hartley was leaning back in his seat haven taking an interest in the ceiling while McLean was still watching them her fierce determination slowly melting away. 

“Look.” said Amy. “I know this is hard but please don’t talk to the police. For now you will only talk to me and your lawyer when he arrives. OK?”

Franklin nodded.

“I have ask you a few more questions, but than can wait until we are at the precinct. Remember I am here to help you. Don’t trust the police, right now they are looking for a murderer, that makes them twitchy. Especially when they think they have found a promising suspect. The may be threatening or nice or business like or all of the above, but you will stay silent. They will be trying to get something out of you by any means possible.”

“But I didn’t kill anyone!” Franklin protested.

“I know.” Amy lied although she was inclined to believe Franklin. “But depending how the clearance rate of homicide is this month and how much pressure the department is under, they’d rather take the innocent in their hand than go chasing for the guilty in the wild…”

“They wouldn’t do that.” Franklin said. “They are the police…” 

“They shouldn’t. But they will, if it means keeping their department from punitive measures for not being effective enough in their police work.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Which makes you a good man in my book.” Amy said. “Now come. Let’s get this over with.” she extended a hand to Franklin and helped him up.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Project Helix 003

Chapter 3

Amy had decided that her first step was to go to Christopher Franklin’s apartment and have a look at the boiler with anger management issues. Someone would be there to assess and repair the damage but it had be arranged that he would not start before Amy had arrived at the scene and had had a look around. 

Franklin had offered her to drive her there but Amy had declined. She said that she still had to follow up some other casework and would join him in about an hour. 

That had been a lie. 

Apart from her collection of Scotch she had been high and dry for the last two weeks or so. The cold clammy weather was not one the inspired either idea of wild forbidden liaisons nor did it foster the the whispers of jealousy. People were to busy snuggling up at home very much hoping not having to leave the house at all. 
What Amy was doing instead was taking public transport. Going with Franklin would have been faster and vastly more comfortable however travelling her traditional way gave her time to think. When she was a pupil, perfect grades or not, the bus had been an ally. One of the few moments of the day where she was free to socialise with her few friends and to take care of the homework she did not deem worthy enough to spend any quality time on. 
Later as she was a student it expanded its role as mobile office giving allowing her more time to cram. There was never enough time for that back in those days. And after she was done with the university and opened her eyes to the world again she noticed that it was there where she could see the City and the life pulsing through it the clearest.
 Here in the buses that the metropolitan administration grudgingly granted the city grumbling about a marked lack in profits or down in the ancient metro that dates back to a time where excavating tunnels under the city to allow trains to run free was consider in term of human achievement, Amy was immersed in the blood of the City. In  car she was encapsulated in a bubble of her own reality. Hopping from one glistening point of interest rising from the urban murk to the next never coming into contact with anything else.
It was important for Amy not to lose contact with the wider world. It was easy to keep track of things happening somewhere else, but in ones own home especially if it was a continuously expanding metropolis like the City it was easy to forget that she was surrounded by many interconnected worlds existing in parallel. 
She needed this to stay connected, to stay grounded. She’s been the unwitting prisoner of her social world bubble for far to long. She would not get pulled into a new one. Not without a fight.
So there she was standing uncomfortably in an overcrowded bus. She was surrounded by people who wither still kept the dream going that everything around them was happening for a good just reason and that they just needed to keep working hard until they at last would be able to harvest the fruit of their labour. Others had their dreams already crushed, burnt out husks with no fight left in them. Some of them knew what had happened to them. Life, society their culture had crushed them, burning their remains to keep itself running, others did not even know that, they were just wondering what had happened to them, what happened to the days where they still were looking forward to something. What they all had in common was that they kept going. Not knowing anything else. 
Amy looked at them feeling rage and pity fighting over the drivers seat of her heart. These people thought that they were free and thus that everything that happened to them in their lives was somehow their own fault. Amy had been one of them once. But she knew that they were all just indentured servants. Their freedom only lasting as long as they kept working, being productive doing as they were told. Once they stopped the bills, the mortgages, the needs of their families came and either crushed them or put them back in line.
This was the reason she left her bubble as often as possible. She needed to see these people. She had to be constantly reminded of what the world around her really was like lest she forget like the others. She mustn’t be complacent. She had to keep her mind sharp. And this, this helped her. 

After she managed to secure her self a place to sit down she turned away from the people and looked out of the window looking at the city, glistening with rain and its lights. As her gaze turned outwards her thoughts turned inwards, towards her new case. The one thing that caught her attention the most was how ridiculous the alleged murder attempts were. 
Tampered with break lines… could have been an accident or simply a technical failure, seeing that Mr. Franklin was still alive they had either not been altered to kill but to scare or by someone rather incompetent. The latter fit well the ridiculous cleaning liquid at the gym plot. The boiler was more similar to the motorbike attempt in that it at least attempted to look like an accident. 
What would be important to know was the chronology of events. The boiler was obviously the last one. Now if the bottle of acid was the first one it might als have been the only one an event that had shaken Franklin enough to make him see ‘murder’ when his brakes needed inspection. However the timing of events was more then suspicious. Also what about the motive? Why kill Franklin in the first place? Or if this was only an attempt to scare Hellen Ashton Stone why the repeated attempts without any demands attached to them. 
Amy’s face lit up with a broad smile. This didn’t make the slightest bit of sense. Wonderfull finally a real case worthy of a proper detective. As the grey City passed before her in all its depressing majesty, Amy started considering buying a trench coat. For the first time in a very long time she was in a good mood. 

About half an hour later Amy arrived at Christopher Franklin’s apartment. Her dreams of classic Bogart style detective glory had faded far enough away that she could focus on her work again. 
She was surprised to find that Christopher Franklin lived in a part of the city that was dominated by big grey blocks of concrete trying half heartedly to look like human homes and failing to do so with the same lack of enthusiasm. This part of town was from a time when the municipal government had come up with some grand plans for affordable housing that were based on deeply rational thought. Carefully planning out how to best accommodate as many of the poor in as little space as possible in the most affordable manner. That this plan had been devised and pushed for by one of the largest contracting business in the region was of course of secondary concern. In just a few years the human silos had been erected, the cities poor unceremoniously dumped in them and then forgotten. 
Until of course these blocks slowly turned into place were crime rates were steadily increasing, vandalism slowly eroding what little amenities had been there in the first place. After that the administration had left with the political rhetoric version of ‘this is why you poor people can’t have good things’ leaving it to rot. 

Navigating this labyrinth had been hard when it was new. Most houses sharing the same number differentiated either by a letter or worse by a euphemistic nickname for the building. By now most of the external identifiers were gone, making it exceedingly heard to find the right building. Even after Amy had found what she though was the proper house she was confronted by a metal plate adorned with dozens of buttons that were marked only by numbers. The metal and glass display that once had house the paper correlating numbers to names had been broken open by someone who had had a very fundamental need for a sheet of scrap paper. 
Amy took out her cell phone and called Franklin who answered almost immediately. After a bit of back and forth Amy learned that she was in fact standing in front of the wrong house and that she had to walk around to the back and to another building that had somehow ended being enclosed by other buildings on all sides. Why waste all that open space on lawn or other frivolities anyway. 

Amy had wanted to take the lift but when the doors opened and she saw and smelt the inside of the thing she decided that she had still to much to much self-respect than to use that mobile torture chamber. The stairwell was dark, smelly and horrid, much better than the lift.

She did not know what she had expected from Franklin’s apartment but it certainly wasn’t what she was seeing now. Behind a door that was mostly just layers of peeling paint was a small comfy flat that seemed to belong to a different house in a different building. There is was again dignity growing in the most unexpected places. 

“The boiler repair man is already here.” Franklin said. “He is actually waiting for you Mrs. Anderson.” he opened a door showing Amy into bathroom that looked like it had been shelled. On one wall the boiler the charred remains of the exploded boiler were still frozen in mid explosion, bits of piping and metal sheets radiating outwards from where one of the gas pipes pointing towards shattered tiles. There where metal fragments stuck into the walls, floor and ceiling. The sliding door of the shower was heavily damaged, however Amy did not fail to notice that the worst damage had struck the wall opposite of the boiler while it had mostly done cosmetic damage to what lay to the sides of it. Might be coincidence, Amy thought, but worth keeping in mind nonetheless. 

The repair man was waring a deep blue overall, that looked suspiciously as if it had been put together by a proper designer, making it look more like an uniform. The repairman automatically looked more competent just wearing it. 
“You Anderson?” he asked looking up only shortly from the ruins of the boiler. Taking a double take when he noticed that Amy was a beautiful young woman. Amy let the admiration wash over her with the practised patience of the tragically pretty. 
“Yes.”, she answered when she noticed that the man in front of her was again master of most of his mental faculties. “And you are?”
“I’m Carlyle. I was sent here by Mrs. Ashton Stone to have a look at…” he pointed at the boiler, “this. She wanted my professional opinion.”
“So?” Amy asked. “Found anything interesting?” she shifted her stance into something slightly more authoritative.
“Well,” Carlyle said, “the first thing that is obvious, is that this thing here is as old as the house itself. From a perspective of energy efficiency this thing is a piece of crap. It uses gas to create an open flame, the flame heats water in the pipes and you have hot water. Only that most of the heat is wasted and goes out of the chimney.”
“OK. So its old and wasteful.” Amy said. “Is that also the reason why it exploded?” 
“No.” Carlyle said. “That’s the main reason why this should not have happened. This thing here,” he said knocking on a bent metal pipe with a wrench. “has the technical complexity of banging a couple of stones together. If enough soot builds up in the burner it will start to produce carbon monoxide and risk suffocating everyone in the bathroom. But that’s about it. Everything about this thing is massive and simple. I had a close look at all the pipes while waiting for you to arrive and they all look solid. There isn’t more than a bit of surface level corrosion. The part that actually exploded got destroyed by the detonation. However there is nothing here that would lead me to believe that this was an accident.” Carlyle said giving Amy a significant look. 
Amy arched an eyebrow. “Do you have any proof that this was caused by tampering?”
“No proof so far. But a professional opinion. If you want to have a look yourself go ahead, once you are done I’ll have a more through look at it and will take some samples back to the company where we can run some more tests. Those should produce some more evidence.”

Amy had a quick look at the boiler. However for her it mostly looked like contemporary art. “All yours.” , she said to Carlyle. She left the bathroom and was about to ask Franklin who had been standing in the corridor looking anxiously in what exactly had happened on the day the boiler exploded when the doorbell rang. 

Franklin opened the door revealing a man and a woman both sharply dressed. “Are you Christopher Franklin?” the man asked.

“Yes.” he answered, “and you are…?”

“I am officer Hartley,” the man said, “and this is officer McLean.” 

“What is this about? Did something happen?” asked Franklin who now was throughly confused. 

“Do you know Mrs. Linda Curtis?” the woman, McLean asked.

“Yes. why did somewhat happen to her?” Franklin asked.

“I am very sorry to inform you,” Hartley said with a frown somewhere between sympathy and suspicion, “that Mrs. Curtis was murdered.”

“What?” Franklin asked his voice braking slightly. 

“I have to ask you to come with us to the precinct Mr. Franklin. We would like to ask you a couple of questions.” Hartley said watching Franklin very closely. 

“You can’t possible think…” Franklin could not bring himself to finish the sentence.

“Right now we aren’t thinking anything.” said McLean with the professional coolness that is considered that minimal baseline for politeness. “Right now we are following every possible lead as we intend to find Mrs. Curtis’ murderer as quickly as possible.” there was an edge in her tone that implicated that Franklin was obviously guilty if he did not come with them. 

“OK.” said the deflated franklin with a weak voice. “Just let me get my things. I’ll be right with you.”

As Franklin passed Amy she put a hand on his arm and said, “Don’t worry Mr. Franklin I’m coming with you.” Franklin smiled weakly as he got his coat from the wardrobe. 

“And you are?” asked officer Hartley.

“Mr. Franklin is my client.” Amy said hoping to evade the question. 
Hartley regarded her with the look most police officers only reserved for the cockroaches and lawyers.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Projekt Helix 002

Chapter 2

The Ashford Stone residence was less palatial than Amy had expected. It was a large house in a neighbourhood of the city from a time when ‘middle class’ had meant more than being comfortable enough to live in a small house that one could call ones own in thirty years, as long as no ones job got out-sourced into a developing nation. 
It was a house with ambition. Enough space to house a family set in the middle of grounds large enough to let the kids play and roam while leaving enough space to one day maybe house a pool when the kids had grown up.

Franklin had insisted of taking Amy there personally. He did not want to take any risks. On the way there Amy had started considering if he was pretty enough to forgive him his disappointing lack of depth. When ever she was starting to get exasperated, she looked at him and got distracted by something.
He was now leading the way, now that he was back on familiar territory he had regained some very attractive confidence. He opened the door for her inviting her in. 

If the house did not advertise the wealth of its owner on the out side it certainly would not start to do so on the inside. It was far to refine for that sort of vulgarity. It was a warm comfortable place full of wooden furniture and earth colours creating a deeply comfortable atmosphere. The place radiate a elf assured wealth that did not need to prove itself to anyone only worried to cater to its owners needs. 
Franklin led Amy into a small library that his all of its walls behind hardwood shelves filled with leather bound books. There were big leather chairs arranged in a semi circle around a fire place. The room smelled of winter evenings spent reading. 

“Please take a seat.” Said Franklin. “I will go and find Hellen.” As he was about to leave the room he hesitated and turned around. “Can I fix you something to drink?” he asked. 

“I wouldn’t say no to a single malt.” Amy said not letting a situation like this slip from her.

“Of course.” He returned into the room. Opened a small cabinet filled with crystal decanters and tumblers, pouring her a drink. He gave her glass with a polite smile that could have gotten away with murder. 
Amy wondered who would want to kill that man. There did not seem to be much going on behind the facade, because quit frankly there was no need to and in his simple way he was quite charming. But seeing how he was about to marry one of the wealthiest women of the country who also had a reputation for doing the most outrageous things on a whim, she could already see a malevolent form of worry and of course the old classic greed as the main motivators to get rid of old woman Ashford Stone’s newest conquest. 
There were a few things not quite adding up, like the idea that swapping out a bottle with a sports drink for one that looked the same but was filled with cleaning fluid would ever be mistaken for an accident… But either Mr. Franklin was fond of mixing his own cleaning supplies in his own discarded bottles or he was just adorably naive. 
It did mean that the would be murderer was probably driven by a base passion and was thinking he or she were way more clever than they actually were. Amy took a sip from her single malt. It was shockingly good. Even if this case turned out to be nothing but false alarm and adorable paranoia it was already worth it just for the drink. And he connections. Just getting to know Mrs. Ashford Stone would open quite  few doors for Amy. Should she be doomed to be working more cuckold jobs she could at least quadruple her daily rates.

While Amy was slowly drifting away from her case to her daydreams the lady of he hose arrived. 
Hellen Ashford Stone had once been a renowned beauty when she had been young and since then she had fought tooth and nail to keep as much of it as possible. Old age and her had been waging a constant war and so far Mrs. Ashford Stone was keeping an upper hand. She was lithe. But not in the way most other people her age were, mostly because their bodies were slowly being carried away by the constant flow of time. This was a body that had been kept in check by iron discipline. She was wearing a long evening dress, in the middle of the afternoon, that hugged a figure that many twenty year olds would have killed for and while her face marked by age and had a its share of wrinkles each crease and fold was there to amplify the expression of her face. A face dominated by two sapphire eyes that were completely clear and piercing. 
She did not so much enter the room as take the stage. 
Franklin followed her a step behind her.

Hellen Ashford stone shook Amy’s hand magnanimously. “My dear Mrs. Anderson, how kind of you to come to the aid of my dearest Chris.” She turned to Franklin and caressed his cheek with the tips of her fingers. “Isn’t that right my darling?”
“Yes dear.” He said his eyes full of adoration.
“Please  could you make us some coffee dear? I have had such an exhausting morning it would appear that the city would stop moving if not for advising everyone on what to do.” 
Franklin’s brow furrowed slightly. “Yes of course my dear. I am sorry I was not here to help you.” 
“Don’t be silly my love. Someone is trying to hurt you and we can’t have that, now can we?”
He just smiled. As he left Hellen Ashton Stone drifted into the armchair opposite to Amy’s like autumn’s most vain leaf. Once the door to the library had closed her demeanour frosted over. The slightly overworked diva turned into the empress of a global business conglomerate. 

“So, Mrs. Anderson, what has my darling told you so far?” she asked.

Amy was impressed by the ease with which Ashton Stone had shifted roles. “Only that he suspects that someone is trying to kill him.” Amy said. “I asked him who might see him as a threat or an enemy or a threat. But he could think of no one.”

Hellen Ashton Stone’s expression was softened by a brief smile. “Of course he doesn’t. He is such an innocent soul.” She shook her head. “But you and I both know very well that no one gets to a position such as mine without making enemies. I try to avoid it.” She shrugged. “In the end it is unavoidable though. And while I very much doubt that Chris has made any enemies, I don’t think that he is quite capable of doing so. There are enough people who would try to hurt me. My children have grown up in this world and are old enough to take care of themselves. And I have not given my heart to anyone outside of my family for a very long time. Now the Chris is has entered my life there are people who are bound to be tempted to go after what they think of a weakness. This is, of course, utterly unacceptable. So please be so kind and do not only see this as a request from my dearest Chris but also from myself. I am not only very interested in who is out there for my love but also in those who I may falsely consider my allies or god forbid my friends.”

Amy took another, deeper sip from her single malt. This case was quickly growing into the kind of case she had always dreamt of. “I understand.” She said. Before Ashton Stone could start speaking again she added, “I also understand that this is something just between us that I need not worry anyone else with. For all intents and purposes I am working for Christopher Franklin and no one else.”

Another thin smile deigned to grace Hellen Ashton Stone’s face, predatory but meant as a sign of respect. She just nodded. 
The door was opened by Franklin concentrating on a serving try laden with porcelain cups. The moment he entered the room Ashton Stone melted back into her previous exhausted persona. “Thank you Chris, you are saving my life.” Franklin just smiled warmly at her. 
“I was not sure if you wanted a coffee too,” he said turning to Amy. “So I just made a big pot of coffee for all of us. May I serve you a cup?”

“No thanks.” Said Amy saluting him with her tumbler. 

“We were about to talk about Mrs. Anderson’s salary, my dear. Please let me cover this expense for you.” Said Hellen Ashton Stone.

“But Hellen,” he protested, “this is my life. I can’t possibly accept that from you.”

“And what could be more precious to me than your life my love?” she asked. “Also do you have any idea what a good detective costs?”

Franklin hesitated for a moment. “No?”

“I pay my consultants a daily fee of 1500 pounds a day.” She said her eyes hardening for a split second casting a meaningful glance towards Amy, who had to use work very hard to keep her business face in place after being confronted by such numbers. She took another sip of her single malt. 

Franklin blanched, he opened his mouth, but Ashton Stone shushed him by placing her finger onto of his lips. 
“See my love? And Mrs. Anderson is not some run of the mill consultant but a professional criminal investigator.” Franklin closed his mouth again and looked at Amy again with increased awe. It seemed that he, like Amy was not used to the price ranges that Ashton Stone frequented on a daily basis. “And did I not teach you not to think in categories of money but in those of quality?” she said now sounding like a slightly disappointed mother..

“Yes.” Franklin said. 

“So as per our agreement I shall pay you a retainer of 2500 pounds a day, Mrs Anderson. Plus expenses of course. I will tell one of my people to get you a credit card for that which you can use for it. Is that agreeable?”

Amy drank the last bit of her single malt while taking a deep mental breath. “Yes.” She said not realising that she had just walked into a gilded trap.a