Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fiction Friday: Hartog

[Fiction] Friday Challenge for May 22nd, 2009

A high-priced prostitute suspects that one of her best customers is falling in love with her."

Hartog stood at the door to the brothel holding the tiny capsule between his bent pointer finger and thumb. He turned it over allowing what little sun penetrated through the smog haze to bounce off what he guessed was titanium covering, then slipped it back into the inner pocket of his jacket.

It was too hot for the jacket but it was one thing Global Warming couldn’t make him give up. Hartog felt naked without it. Hot and smothered in it. Still he wore it. Good thing, he thought as he pressed the buzzer on the intercom.

He spoke before the receptionist could get a word in.

“Detective Hartog here to see your boss. She knows I’m coming.”
“Good morning Detective Hartog.”

So polite. He wondered what she was wearing. He couldn’t help himself. A French maid in vinyl - or leather. After all this was an up market establishment if his research was correct. A flimsy silk nothing with cheeky nipples peeking out at him or a gushing black creation of lace revealing a lush expanse of cleavage.

“I appreciate your enthusiasm for you work Detective, but I will just confirm your appointment with Miss Amanda.”

Damn it! The woman had summonsed him. And here he was loitering at the door like some common Joe. He pulled himself up again. This was an establishment, not a brothel and the door looked like any other door on the strip. He could easily have been waiting for his accountant or lawyer or style guru to buzz him up.

“Thank you for your patience Detective Hartog. Miss Amanda will see you now.”

He glanced at his watch and waited for the door to click. It was a good he’d never had an interest in getting on the Vice and Device team. His mind was too fertile, too active to allow sex and breasts and legs up to here to bleed into his thoughts. Cloud his judgement. Women were always his downfall. Dead was the only way he could cope with them.

The receptionist was waiting for him at the door, in a simple black suit, a flourish of scarlet beneath the jacket. Fumbling with his holographic badge, he mentally dropped kicked himself – caught up in his own fantasies. No lace or leather here. Purely business.
“May I get you something to drink Detective Hartog? Coffee, tea or perhaps something a little stronger?”
“Water will be fine.” He’d given up the hard stuff. His doctor telling him it was booze and an early grave, which for a while had seemed the better option.
“If you take a seat Miss Amanda will be with you in a moment.”

Ten minutes later Miss Amanda appeared in an almost identical black suit, this time with a violet blouse beneath, plunging to unbusinesslike depths beneath the tailored suit jacket. Hartog dragged his eyes from the cleavage and rose from his seat. She towered over him and that was saying something. Even without the heels she was a giant. And he knew, that she knew it.

“I appreciate your expediency Detective,” she said, striding down a corridor to a large, sun drenched office with lush tropical plants at strategic decorating points. “I was just tying up a loose end. I apologise for the wait.

It had to be a trick of lighting. There was never that amount of clean, clear sunshine in the city. Everything was painted in the tawdry shade of pollution – but in here, the den of iniquity it was bright. No shadows dancing in the corner.

Miss Amanda motioned to a spartan leather chair to the side of her desk and settled herself opposite him, a pitcher of water between them and two crystal glasses. No expense here. It was more comfortable than it looked. Many things in this place were more or less than they seemed.

Miss Amanda, the Madame was one point in question. She was neither young nor old. Her dark hair rolled into a timeless French bun at the back of her head and her long legs casually crossed. Neutral make up enhanced her simple beauty. She could have been stunning but she chose not to b.

“I am interested to know how the Clarice’s case is progressing Detective.” She poured and offered him a drink.
“It looks like the case of another whore being cut up.” He took a long gulp at the ice cold water and winced the pain freezing his frontal lobes for a moment.
Miss Amanda uncrossed her legs and lent forward. “My girls are not whores Detective. Let’s get that straight from the beginning. Clarice was one of my highest paid call girls. She has a Masters degree in Engineering and was studying for her PhD.”
“And her death is bad for business.”

Miss Amanda lent back and recrossed her legs. Hartog took out tiny recorder and placed it on the table in between them.
“You don’t mind if I record this conversation.” He couldn’t bring himself to call her Miss Amanda and she didn’t fit the title of Ma’am. And he wasn’t really asking her permission any way.

“Clarice came to me about a month ago and told me she had a problem. It appears one of her clients had taken an unhealthy interest in her.”
“It’s a rather unhealthy business you dabble in.” He narrowed his right eye and looked hard at Miss Amanda – no surname that he could find on the City’s database.
“I told you Detective my girls are not whores. They are paid for services other than sex. They are sought after because they are intelligent and beautiful. Clarice was worried he was falling in love with her. That it would complicate things.”

“Don’t mix love and business hey?” Miss Amanda didn’t bite. She didn’t even twitch. “Who was this client Clarice was upset about.”

Miss Amanda’s eyes lowered and held the warp and weave of her suit pants in her gaze as she contemplated her answer.
“As you can appreciate Detective – my business is of a delicate nature and we normally protect the identity of our clients. But in this case..” she broke off and poured herself a glass of water. Long pale fingers curled around the crystal glass. She drank slowly. “Clarice had a number of high profile friends through our agency.”
“Miss Amanda,” the words fell out his mouth before he could catch them. He felt like he was addressing the old bitch who had taught him third form algebra. “Either you tell me now or I come back with a search and seize warrant.”

“Let me remind you Detective you were invited here for this discussion and that my friends sit in places much higher than you.”
“Touche.” Hartog stood, reaching out for the recorder and turning it off. “Strictly off the record, who was Clarice concerned about.”
“She told me Howard McClean was in love with her.”
“The Minister of Defence!” Hartog sat back down in the warm leather, allowing it to cushion and comfort his skinny frame. “You are telling me the Minister of Defence, the former leader of the Puritan party is one of your clients. That he’s implicated in the murder of a call girl.” Hartog laughed. “I’m sorry Miss Amanda, but I just don’t believe that.”

“Mr McClean has a penchant for smart, witty women. He likes conversation. Clarice was good at conversing. You only have to look at his wife to know he’d be seeking stimulation outside of his marriage.”
“Are we talking double entrendes here?”
Miss Amanda ignored him. “I am suggesting to you Detective that someone got to Clarice as a warning to the Minister. And I imagine that would be of interest to you and your colleagues at the Department of Civil Welfare.”

Hartog turned the recorder back on and placed it on the table between them.
“Was there anything special about Clarice?”
Miss Amanda reached out and switched the recorder off.
“You insult me with such a question Detective. Perhaps I called the wrong person.”

Hartog stood again, slipping the recorder into his deep coat pocket.
“Thank you for your time. I will keep you updated as to the progress of the case. And I do appreciate our little chat.” He emphasised the words, mimicking her faux politeness. Smiling a crooked smile and let himself out before she could get out of her chair.

As he rode down in the elevator he slipped an ear pod in and waited for the phone call. He sat further down the street drinking a bad coffee when the call finally went through.
“They have Hartog on the case.” “Did he mention anything about the InfoCap?” “He said nothing about anything found on the body and I didn’t want to venture with leading questions.” “Did you really think someone like Hartog would whip the InfoCap out onto the table and ask if you knew what it was?” “I did as you asked. I feed him the information. Now what?” “We wait and see. Did he mention Clarice’s brother?” “He’s got no idea. He never mentioned her surname. He thinks it is just another whore being cut up – quote unquote.” “The department would not put Hartog onto a whore slashing. Sit tight. You have done well Amanda.” “My pleasure sir. Would you like me to book you someone for this week.”

Hartog smiled and took the tiny capsule out of his pocket again. So it had a name. An InfoCap. He charged his coffee streaked mug in mock toast to Miss Amanda and waited while his notebook brought up all the information the City’s database had on Clarice, wirelessly programming the last known address for her neurologist brother Benjamin into the NavMan. It was only when the photo of Benjamin came up Hartog smiled with genuine heart for the first day. Benjamin, aka BenJin was the city’s most notorious feedo. The day was getting more interesting by the second.

The recently added part two in the Dirk Hartog series is Derby


William said...

Your story evokes images of a film noir mixed with sci-fi. It was interesting for you to explore that genre.

M. D. Benoit said...

The Vice and Device team? I love it! Hartog reminds me of Decker (Blade Runner) as well as the setting of the polluted sky.

Not too many escort ladies with a PhD. Interesting detail. What's a "feedo?"

An intriguing beginning that makes you want to read more.

Jodi Cleghorn said...

Sorry MD - I meant to put a foot note in the bottom about the feedos ... "feedo" is short for feedographer... they are the new brand of journalists who seek out soundbites for broadcasting - sort of a cross between voyeours and journos - completely independent.

It comes from my National Novel Writing Month manuscript from last year Blue MelissaeAnd yes - Detective Hartog will be back this week with some blood sports. I don't think I've seen Blade Runner - or have I? I'll have to have a think.

Jodi Cleghorn said...

Feedos are extension outwards from the dudes in Neale Stephenson's Snow Crash who collect and catalogue everything in a huge data bank/library and paid when people want to access the information.

J. M. Strother said...

Hi, Jodi. I found you by doing a search on #fictionfriday, as I am trying to get a hashtag meme of that name going on Twitter. Hope I'm not treading on toes, using that tag? If so, I can probably make an adjustment. If you'd like to read about my idea you can check out this link:

I like your story so far. Always nice to meet a fellow NaNo vet.