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

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Project Helix 001

Chapter 1 Amy

Pride is an arse. Corrupting you with its sweet whispers only to kick you in the teeth whenever it feels slighted.
Dignity however, dignity is civilised. Guiding along a path of enlightenment. 
When things go wrong pride throws its toys out of the pram, dignity however holds your head up straight protecting you in its dignified embrace.

This was a lesson that Amy Anderson, private detective, had learned the hard way. She had been proud when she was a child and it only got worse once she moved into adolescence. She had been pretty, athletic and was had good grades. Always working hard, always being a ‘good girl’ and always being proud of it.
Everyone kept telling her clever and talented and pretty she was. That last point should had made her suspicious. Looking back it sounded like the way talked about an especially surprising pet. ‘Who’s a good girl? You are!’ Mixed with surprise that she could also do other things than look nice.

Stuffed full of pride she stepped out into the world and the world didn’t give a fuck.
Turns out grades are just numbers on a piece of paper, and working really hard doing what is expected nets you nothing once you reach the next stage in life. 
First of all she had no real idea what to do with her life once she got out of school. She had always been told what to do up to that point and suddenly she was expected to know what she was going to do next. She felt lost and her As in everything turned into a curse as it meant that she could do what ever she wanted. 
No one had ever asked her what she wanted and by that point she had no idea what that may have been.

Having believed in the system so far and seeing how it might lead to a well paid job she decided to study law. She did it with her usual amount of discipline and nearly burnt herself out. The work load was so large that it could not be done by a mere human. The professor talked about one thing during the lectures but asked completely different things during exams. And most infuriating were the people who got better grades with far less work than she put in. Those idiots did not even understand what they were talking about but had been learning the proper things to regurgitated during exam time. 
She hated them.
And she started to hate herself.

Her life had been based on lies. Very obvious lies once you had reached a certain point in life, but lies that people studiously ignored or papered over with great pearls of wisdom like: 
“That’s just how the world works.”
“Everyone is doing it.”
“It may be a shit system but it is the only one we have.”
Arguments that would had gotten her into trouble if she had used them when she was three years old were now used by the supposed elite of society.

Instead of going properly insane she decided to go crazy. She some generous scholarships keeping her afloat and she decided to do some partying and adventuring why she still had the time. She had been cursed with a deep seated professionalism which prevented her from descending into proper debauchery and so she kept her grades up even if her attention was elsewhere. 

She partied hard, reclaimed much of her lost adolescence and lost her illusions in regards to law. What she saw there was a system that tried to confine the complex ideal of justice into limited definitions which then were savaged by a hordes of interest groups hell bent of making the law bow to her wishes.

She faded out of university and tried to become a police officer.

That didn’t work. Being the underpaid, under equipped idiot who had the pleasure to enforce the law was even less gratifying than being one of the the people supposed to interpret the law. 

By that point she had taken her pride the shed and killed it for good.

She decided that in the end she’d rather be responsible for her own life and try to follow some kind of ideal that was not compromised by outside forces. That way she’d at least have dignity.
She had still a love for the law that she was loath to give up so she became a private detective. She spoken enough legalese to help both herself and her clients and she had been long enough in the police academy to get along with the fuzz. 

Again her dreams had been crushed by the hard rock of reality. She had been thinking of being a private investigator. Being called to solve crimes.
Instead she spent most of her time shadowing husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends for signs of infidelity. Or having a an eye on family members not trusted by someone else from this most holy of societal institutions.

She was free however. Working for no one but herself and enjoying the ability to tell preoperative clients to go and get stuffed if she didn’t like them. Sometime to the protest of her long suffering bank account. But a week of ramen noodles was a small price to pay for the ability to be able to look at her mirror image straight in the eye.

The day so far had been slow. In the morning she had been filing papers and sent out her last invoice. A lone warrior sent against an army of bills, leaving her only with her dignity for company. Amy stared at the frosted glass window of her office. When ever she felt the tug of depression she just looked at that sign proclaiming her “Amy Anderson Private Investigator.” She smiled. Seeing it always make her feel better. Her tiny monument to her hard earned freedom. 

She was about to drift away into a day dream where she’d be a celebrity investigator sought after by the police and the rich and the powerful all looking for her legendary detective skills when a brand shoulder shadow darkened her window. Followed shortly after by a knock so hesitant that it was hard to connect it to the dark shape blocking the light from Amy’s door. 

“It’s open.”, said Amy sitting up straight, quickly rearguing some papers on her table into something she hoped resembled nonchalant work. She was looking up her face transitioning to her business face, she had practiced in front of the mirror since long before she even became a detective. Her business face stumbled when it met the face of her would be client. It was only through years of training that it could recover quickly enough to prevent a car crash expression and shift into a crooked smile-frown that appeared to be trying to hard only to the most observant. 

Lucky for Amy the man in front of her was obviously more used to being observed than doing any of that himself. His face was of the kind that inspired gods to fall in love with mortals or into fits of unending jealous rage. Deep amber eyes that pulled the every gaze into them drowning them in heir depths, framed by a face that combined sharp features into a soft overall shape. Escape the eyes and fall pray to a smile formed by full lips insinuating deeds most scandalous.

This man, Amy decided, was trouble as she struggled to keep her blood pressure within medically acceptable margins. 

“Mrs. Anderson?” he asked, his mellow voice resonating in the room. 

“Yes.”, she said. Clawing her way back into control.

“I” he hesitated for the briefest of moments, “need your help.” He looked deep into her eyes. 

“I think that can be arranged. Please take a seat.”, She   gestured towards one of the two slightly worn chairs in front of her desk. 

The man sat down with one fluid motion. He sat so upright that it was uncomfortable looking at at him. He looked at her with an ease that had been carefully cultivated. While her visitor obviously know how to move and talk to maximum effect, he was straining against his limits. 

“So.” Amy said after her prospective client had decided to continue the conversation with a gorgeous silence. “What can I help you with Mr…?”

“Franklin.” He said, standing up again with a fluid motion offering her his hand. She shook his hand. A soft hand she noted. That toned body had probably never done an hour of honest work in its entire existence. “My name is Christopher Franklin.” He flowed down into his chair again. “And I… I think someone is trying to murder me.”

“Murder you?” Amy asked hoping that the hint of excitement in her voice would be thought of as professional curiosity.

“Yes. In the past month strange accidents have started happening around me. First someone had tampered the brakes on my motor bike. Then someone accidentally placed a bottle of an isotonic drink filled with bleach near my own bottle in the gym. Then the boiler in my bathroom exploded!” Franklin’s well maintained facade started to crumble now. “I only survived that one because my phone rang… Once might be a coincidence. Maybe twice. But now I have no doubt that someone is trying to kill me.” He looked at her pleadingly.

“Do you have any idea who might want to kill you, Mr. Franklin?” Amy asked noting that the there was something peculiarly tempting about seeing this monument of a man looking pleadingly at her asking her to protect him. 

He looked at her with big eyes. “No. I… That’s why I am here. You are the detective, right.”

“That I am.”, She said a smile warming her face. “And as a professional I can tell you that you must have made someone very angry, or envious or perhaps jealous,” she let that one hang in the room for a little extra bit, to no effect, “to make them try to murder you. And if what you are telling me is true I think we can exclude a psychopath who would you kill you just for the kicks. The methods sound to much like someone wanting you to have a tragic accident.”

“Right?” Franklin said suddenly sitting up again. He was thrilled that someone was finally taking him seriously. It was adorable. “It is too much of a coincidence. But I can’t imagine for the world why anyone would want to kill me. I never did anything to anybody.”

“Well let’s just start with the basics. What do you do for a living Mr. Franklin?” Amy asked. 

“I am an actor.”, He said with pride in his voice. “But right now I mostly work as a waiter or if I’m lucky as a singer. You know to make ends meet until I get my first few roles. Paving the way to some proper acting jobs. Right?”

Ah, Amy thought, the Hollywood dream that was keeping the bars and restaurants of the city in business by paying less than minimum wage to the flood of actors that were THIS close to their breakthrough role. 

“So had any luck lately?” Amy asked formulating some early hypothesis. 

“Not in job wise…” Franklin said square shoulders slumping very so slightly. 

“However…” Amy said noticing that there was a source of luck handsome Mr Franklin had not yet mentioned, which might yet provide her with a new juicy idea of what might drive someone to murder.

“Well…” he said a bit sheepishly, “I got to know a woman and we… we are getting married.”

“Congratulations.” Said Amy smiling out of politeness but mostly because she had caught the scent of motive again. “And who is the lucky girl?” she asked.

He looked at her blushing slightly. “Hellen Ashford Stone. You might have heard of her.”

Might have? Hellen Ashford Stone was one of the richest and by far the most eccentric women in the entire city. Since she had lost her last, fourth husband twenty years ago she had sworn to live her life to her fullest and to never marry again. And lo and behold the old dame had found herself a young lover who she intended to marry?
The handsome Mr. Franklin had murder victim written all over him. If Amy could manage to keep him alive long enough to solve the case she would never have to work a single unfaithful bastard case ever again.

Hell she might even buy her dignity a cosy little house to live in.