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Macko123456

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Saturday 21st April 2012

Day Six

8.20am

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Good morning Brandon!

Leith pulled himself out of bed reluctantly, shrugging the blanket off his bare shoulders. He wore a white vest and blue boxer shorts and his black hair, which was already messy enough, had been left even more chaotic by a night’s sleep. He’d been looking forward to a lie-in after such a long day but his phone had rung three times so far and he was sick of waking up to it only to go back to sleep again. Wiping his stubbly chin and groaning, he staggered over to the table by the door and picked up the phone.

“Hello?” he said, his voice gravelly.

Theo,” Leonard Harmon replied, on the other end. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Leith frowned.

“Sir?”

Don’t call me sir, rookie. You don’t work for me anymore.”

“I’m sorry. Is something wrong?”

I rang you three times.”

“Not to sound rude, but I was trying to have a lie-in. I can do that now, you know.”

Very funny. Do you know a man named Thomas Myers?” Leith’s half-awake brain took a few seconds to register what Harmon had said. He wondered if Stanton had accidentally revealed to Harmon that she was working with him, but she had been very helpful and he decided to take the risk of lying. He shook his head.

“No, I don’t. Why?”

He’s disappeared.” Leith felt his blood run cold as he suddenly figured out the reason for Myers’ strange behaviour the night before. The answers to all his questions suddenly slotted into place: where Anselmo had got the information he gave to Sampson, why Myers had been reluctant to talk to them, why they’d been asked to leave after revealing what Stroud had done with what they’d been told. He took a deep breath, hoping against hope that Harmon didn’t know about his continuing investigation. Before he could speak, however, Harmon’s voice was blaring in his ear again. “I was contacted by a Senator yesterday. Georgina Stanton. She wanted Myers’ address. Do you know if she visited him? Was it connected to the kidnapping?” Leith considered his options. Earlier, he’d denied even knowing who Myers was, and Harmon hadn’t accused him of lying. He assumed Harmon was unaware of what he was up to and chose to lie again.

“Leonard, I didn’t even know she visited him at all. Who did you say? Stanton?”

Never mind,” Harmon snapped, to Leith’s relief. “I suppose you can’t be of any help.”

“Why did you call me about this?”

I won’t lie to you, Theo. Some part of me wondered if you might have something to do with it.” Leith smiled.

“I’m off the case, remember?”

Believe me, rookie, I remember. Thanks anyway.” The line went dead. Leith put the phone down and sat on the end of the bed, then dropped his head into his hands. His mind was swirling and he didn’t know what to think. He felt responsible for Myers’ disappearance. If he and Stanton hadn’t gone to the apartment, Myers would be safe. Some part of him wondered if there was a way to rescue him, but none sprang to mind; he had no idea where he was being held. All at once, an idea came to him. Harmon had handed the case over to the Senate, leaving Leith as the policeman – or ex-policeman – who knew most about it. The cops investigating the kidnapping might well miss evidence that he would pick up on. If he could get his hands on the files, he could rescue Myers himself. He briefly imagined calling Tabitha Goodwin and asking her for it, but she’d hardly been trustworthy and she might tell Harmon. Leith looked up, his face set. He’d have to break in.

9.00pm

Behind the building, hidden in the shade of a narrow alleyway, was a fire escape. Leith had used it a few dozen times before, during fire drills and for sneaking out in the middle of boring lunchtime meetings. At the top was a window with a loose catch, far from the watching eyes of the CCTV cameras that covered the rest of the block. Leith had picked his time carefully; the day shift workers had left and the night shift workers had not yet come back in from patrol, so the Station would be mostly empty.

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Downtown as the sun sets.

Harmon, he knew, would have gone home. He reached the top of the fire escape, treading carefully so his leather-soled shoes wouldn’t make too much noise. It was strange to be back in his uniform but he needed a way of slipping by undetected. Although it wouldn’t stop his old co-workers from recognising him, it would stop him from standing out while inside. He didn’t know where the files would be kept but all fresh cases were flagged up on the Station’s IT system, which was accessible from any of the computers. His own password would have been changed, so he’d have to use Goodwin’s terminal, for which he knew the logon credentials. Her private office was one level below the top floor. To his surprise, he went unchallenged as he padded down the stairs and turned right into the main corridor. Hers was the third door on the right. He turned the handle and pushed, half-expecting it to be locked, but it swung aside smoothly at his touch. Satisfied that he was alone, he closed it behind him and crossed to the desk. The screen of her computer lit up when he moved the mouse and he entered her username. When it came to the password field, he smiled as he typed in the word Rochester. It only took him a few minutes to navigate to the Station’s internal noticeboard. Just as he was about to select the link to the most recently added cases, there was a noise behind him. He turned, guiltily, preparing an excuse, but stopped when he saw Goodwin standing in the doorway.

“Theo?” she asked, in confusion. “What are you doing here?”

“Nothing,” he said, quickly.

“You’re off the force.”

“Well . . . yes, but . . .”

“Were you using my computer?”

“Tabs,” he soothed, reaching down to close the window, “I’m not sure . . .”

“Don’t touch that,” she snapped. He ignored her as he grabbed the mouse. Before he could move it, there was a click. He looked up to see the barrel of a pistol pointing straight at him.

“Tabs, what the hell are you doing?”

“Step away from the computer,” she ordered. He raised his hands and moved to the back of the room. “For all I know,” she explained, “You could be wiping information. Interfering with police business is a crime, Theo. You could go to jail for a long time.”

“I’m not wiping information. I’m taking it.”

“What do you mean?” He sighed.

“How about you put the gun down so we can talk civilly?”

“Explain yourself and I might consider it,” she offered.

“I’m looking for information on Thomas Myers’ disappearance.”

“Why?”

“Listen, put the gun . . .”

Why?

“Because it’s my fault,” Leith admitted. “It’s my fault he was kidnapped. I want to make up for it.” Goodwin hesitated for a long moment, then holstered the pistol. Leith lowered his hands once more. “Thank you,” he said.

“You’d better not be lying,” she warned.

“I’m not, I swear. Have a look.” She strode over to him and examined the computer screen. The cursor hovered over the recently added cases link. “You see?”

“Fine. You’re lucky it was me who found you, Theo. Someone else might have turned you in to Harmon.” He nodded.

“I sure was. So you’ll let me go?” She flashed him a wry smile.

“Maybe. I want to know more about Myers. What did you have to do with it?”

“Tabs, I know how Anselmo got the information he gave to Cassarah Sampson.” He had been expecting her to sound intrigued, but she simply rolled her eyes.

“You’re still on this?”

“But I thought you were interested too.”

“I was, but then I began to think Harmon was right. He told me he had a meeting with Senator Stanton – you know, the chair of Scoso-cup-sai – and she said she was making progress. Apparently she’d discovered some kind of virus. That’s the word in the office anyway.”

“He was right,” Leith agreed. “I helped her find it.” Goodwin frowned.

“You?”

“I’ve been working with Stanton. She and I met up at the Stroud expo.” He grinned. “We’ve got a way in, Tabs. This guy Myers, he can testify. We just need to rescue him and . . .”

“We?” she interrupted, shaking her head. “There is no we, Theo.”

“Oh, right. Of course there isn’t. I forget about you walking out on me.”

“I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Why, because you just want to deny it ever happened?”

“No,” she said, firmly. “I’m not ashamed of it. It was just a mistake, that’s all. People make them all the time.” There was a pause. “So, you said you were responsible for the kidnapping and you want to find Myers.”

“Yes. I came here in case there was a link one of the other investigators had missed.”

“And I suppose you want me to get the files for you?”

“Now you come to mention it . . .” He trailed off when he saw the look on her face.

“You are unbelievable, Theo!” she groaned, slapping him on the arm out of anger. “First you remodel yourself as some kind of vigilante, then you break into a police station, and now you have the audacity to ask me to break the rules for you? Screw you.”

“Please, Tabs,” he begged, with a furtive glance at the door. He was well aware that every second they spent talking increased their risk of being discovered. “I need to make things right. Myers is the innocent party and I may be the only one who can save him. Please.” She stared at the floor for a few long seconds, then gave an almost-imperceptible nod.

“Alright.”

“Pardon?”

“I said alright,” she repeated, raising her voice slightly. “I’ll get you the files. But once you have them, you’ll leave and I’ll never hear from you again. I don’t want this getting in the way of my job. If Harmon found out I was helping you, I’d be in serious trouble – not to mention thrown into jail. That’s my best offer.”

“Nice one, Tabs,” he said, as she clicked on the link. He read the description over her shoulder. “Okay, so it looks like they’re being kept in the safe on the first floor. You’ll need to go down there and retrieve them.” She ignored him, pressing a few keys on the computer. “Tabs?”

“I’ve got them,” she told him.

“What do you mean?”

“There’s an electronic copy of every case file accessible to the senior officers. I guessed their login details a long time ago. Once you’ve done that, it’s just a matter of getting through the password check and you have all you need.”

“And how do you get past the check?” he asked, as she attached the files to an email.

“It’s not hard once you know the basic facts of their personal lives, and most of them have government dossiers that are available to the public.” She straightened up. “There.”

“Uh . . . Tabs, you know you’ve written a draft, right? You need to send it.”

“That would be a bad idea,” she said. “The Station monitors all sent mail. If you login to my web account from your computer, you can pull them off the draft and then delete it.” He smiled.

“I like you thinking.”

“Now, you should get going before we’re caught. I imagine you got in through the loose window by the fire escape on the top floor.”

“You know me too well.”

“I’ll stay here.” She sat down behind the desk and pointed to the door. “Go!” He crossed to it and swung it open. Just as he was about to step out, with no intention of turning back, she called out to him once more. “And Theo!” Leith glanced over his shoulder.

“Yes?”

“You’re doing the right thing,” she said, her voice soft. “A noble thing. Your morals impress me.” He chuckled.

“I just turned out the charm.” Without waiting for a reply, he clicked the door shut and strode away. Goodwin stared at the door for a moment, clearly deep in thought, then went back to her work. The beginnings of an idea were forming in her mind.

11.30pm

“I quit,” Goodwin said, flatly. She was standing in the doorway to Theo’s flat, a bag slung over her shoulder and her raincoat sopping wet. Stormclouds had come in from Maryland during the evening and brought with them a rainstorm heavier than Brandon had seen in several Aprils. Theo looked her up and down.

“You quit?”

“Yes.”

“Quit what?”

“My job. I handed my resignation in to Harmon and gathered up my stuff.”

“Are you serious?” She gave him a scornful look.

“No Theo, I just walked all the way here from Central Precinct Police Station in the pouring rain because my squad car broke down.” He laughed and laid a hand on the door.

“Well, I’m happy for you. It was a bold move. Have a nice evening.”

“Theo!” she snapped, holding it open. “You’re just going to leave me out here?”

“That was the plan,” he admitted. “You don’t want anything to do with the case, do you? You said you never wanted to hear from me again. Those are the exact words you used.”

“I don’t want anything to do with the case,” she insisted. “I just . . . I don’t want to go back to an empty flat tonight. I need somewhere to stay.” His expression softened.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll go look for a hotel brochure.”

“Theo!” she repeated, angrily.

“What’s wrong, Tabs? Why should I let you in, huh? Are you going to let me down like you did last time? Do you just enjoy playing with me?”

“I’m not going to let you down,” she assured him.

“So you’re going to sleep with me and stay? That’s bold.”

“Who says I’m going to sleep with you?” Her shoulders sank. “Look, I’m sorry to have bothered you. I’ll find somewhere else, or I’ll go home. I don’t know. Goodnight, Theo.” She walked off down the corridor.

“Tabs,” he said. She turned to him. “Will you kip on the sofa?”

“Yes. I just want someone to have breakfast with.”

“I’ll hold you to that. Come in.” She slipped past him and went into the living room. He closed the door and joined her a moment later, to find her sitting on the sofa with her backpack on her lap. She was looking over the discarded papers that covered the coffee table. He had moved a desk lamp in from the bedroom and set it up so it illuminated them brightly. The rest of the room was lit by the glare from the television, which was on mute. He’d set it to a rolling news channel.

“Are these the files I sent you?” she asked.

“As many as I could print before I ran out of ink,” he said, sitting down beside her. “I’ve been looking through them since I got in, but I haven’t found anything of note yet. I’m worried I’m not going to be able to before time runs out. Myers might be dead by now. Anyway, I was just finishing up for the night.” There was a pause. “Tabs, why did you quit?”

“What do you mean?” she said, still surveying the papers.

“You said you handed Harmon your resignation.”

“That’s right.”

“So . . . why?” She turned to him. Her long black hair was wet with rain and the light gleamed off her dark skin, like it had the night they’d worked together in the Station. She smiled.

“There’s no way I’m going to be able to work this case along with the ones he gives me. My job was just getting in the way. I want to get to the bottom of this. The whole mess with Anselmo, Enjoni and Myers . . . someone has to sort it out. You can’t do it alone. I won’t let you.” He reached out and brushed her wet hair off her face, then leaned in to kiss her. It was as good as he remembered, if not better. After a few seconds, he pulled away.

“Sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“Theo . . .”

“No, you’re right. I was . . .” Before he could finish the sentence, she had put a hand on the back of his neck and pulled him in for another long kiss.

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The end of another day . . .

Macko123456

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Friday 20th April 2012

Day Five

10.30am

Leith was already standing outside the hardware store on Constitution Avenue when Stanton’s blacked-out car pulled up at the curb. He took a pair of sunglasses out of his pocket and slipped them on to protect his eyes from the bright sunlight glaring off the roofs of the parked cars lining the road. She climbed out of the car and extended her hand to him.

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Looking up on Constitution Avenue.

“Good morning, Mr Leith.”

“I think you should start calling me Theo.” She nodded as he shook her hand.

“And what do you call me?”

“Senator.”

“As you wish. Shall we go in?” He nodded and they crossed the pavement to the store’s entrance. It was a small shop with a white frontage and glass counted inside. At the back, a line of attendants stood behind a desk. The bell over the door tinkled as they stepped through.

“Thanks for finding time for this,” Leith said.

“It’s important,” Stanton observed. “And besides, we’re having procedural hearings today. I can leave the Co-Chair to take care of business.” Leith moved towards the desk but she caught him on the arm as he did so. “I put out a press statement denying what I said yesterday, although I’m not sure why you wanted me to.”

“We don’t want Enjoni to realise we’re investigating,” Leith explained. “If your face is plastered all over the morning news accusing them of corporate sabotage at their chief rival’s expo, they’re going to figure out something’s up.”

“But surely they couldn’t react to it, else they’d acknowledge they had reason to be disturbed in the first place.” Leith chuckled.

“What makes you think their reaction would be obvious? Or legal?” She smiled.

“You’re an impressive man, Theo.”

“I’ve dealt with cases like this before, from time to time. If you deny everything, the story doesn’t stay in the news for more than a day. If you don’t deny everything, you leave yourself open to questioning.” He indicated the desk. “Now, let’s get to the bottom of this.”

“I’ll let you do the talking,” she said. They strode up to it. One of the attendants saw them coming and smiled as they approached.

“Hello,” he greeted them. “My name’s Carl. How may I help you?” Leith took out his USB pen and handed it over.

“We believe this pen has a virus on it.”

“Okay. Let me have a look at it.” He plugged the pen into his computer, which sat on the desk, and opened up the files. “Yes, you’re right. There are a number of programs on here which could cause a lot of damage. It’d be safe to use on a PC, though. They appear to be written for phones.” Leith raised an eyebrow.

“No kidding. Can you tell us who wrote them?”

“Unfortunately not, sir. Real life’s not like the movies; people don’t exactly sign their work.” He raised his voice and called to one of his co-workers. “Hey Kate, do we have any of the new Stroud phones in stock? You know, the demonstration models.”

“One moment,” she replied. A few seconds later, she reached over and handed him a handset.

“Thank you,” he said, removing the pen and sliding it into the USB port on the phone. Leith and Stanton watched as he unlocked the handset and began navigating through the menus. As he did so, it locked up. The screen turned blue a moment later. Carl tutted. “Stroud’s coding is closed source,” he said. “This is a very sophisticated virus. It could only have been written by an experienced programmer.”

“Is there some way of knowing who it was?” Leith repeated. Carl shook his head.

“As I said, it’s not possible . . . and even if I could tell you, it’s not company policy. Normally, we just wipe all the software.” He nodded at the pen. “I’m going to have to keep this.”

“I can’t let you do that.”

“Sir . . .”

“He’s a cop,” Stanton lied, interrupting them. Carl glanced at her, then back to Leith.

“I’m a cop,” he echoed.

“In that case, sir, I can let you have it back. But I’m going to need to see your badge.” Leith frowned. He’d turned it in to Harmon once he had finished clearing his desk out. Before he could open his mouth, however, Stanton spoke for him.

“You don’t need to see his badge.”

“Yes I do,” Carl said.

“No, you don’t. I’m Senator Georgina Stanton.” Both Stanton and Leith knew that, while obviously impressive, her title gave her no power over Carl – or anyone else, for that matter. Carl, however, was evidently unaware of this, for he handed the pen back to Leith.

“Just what are you two doing here, if I may ask?” he inquired.

“That’s none of your business,” Stanton snapped.

“I’m not comfortable with this. I’m afraid you need to leave.”

“We will,” she assured him, “If you answer our question one last time. Is there any way – any at all – that you could tell who wrote the virus?” Carl stared at her boldly for a long moment, then looked down at the desk.

“I can’t tell for sure,” he admitted, “But if I had to guess, I’d say it came from inside the Enjoni Corporation. It’s written in the same style as most of their systems.”

“Is there some way of proving that?”

“You’d have to ask them.”

“We can’t do that,” Leith said, flatly. “Do you know someone who could tell us more?”

“I seem to recall asking you to leave,” Carl reminded him.

“And I seem to recall Senator Stanton promising we would leave. Just tell us. Please.”

“Well . . .” He was clearly unsettled. “I did know someone who worked for them once, but he was fired. Then again, I suppose that might make him more likely to talk to you. His name’s Thomas Myers.” Leith nodded.

“Thank you, Carl. We’ll get out of your hair now.” He pocketed the pen and walked back out onto the street. Stanton joined him a moment later. Her car was still waiting for her, but rather than heading for it, she patted Leith on the shoulder.

“Good job, Theo.”

“I thought you said you’d let me do the talking,” he said.

“It all turned out alright, didn’t it?”

“Barely. Next time, don’t tell people I’m a cop.”

“Why not?”

“Because if that name-dropping trick of yours doesn’t work, I don’t have a badge to show them, and impersonating a policeman is a serious crime.” He sighed. “Anyway, we got what we need. The next step is finding a way to get to Myers.”

“I don’t suppose you have any contacts?”

“As a matter of fact, I do, but I can’t be the one to contact them.” She folded her arms.

“You want me to do it.”

“Harmon could find him, but he’s probably very angry with me. But you . . .”

“He turned the case over to me,” Stanton reasoned. “So I already have an excuse: I’m doing my own investigation. He doesn’t need to know you’re involved.” She reached out and shook Leith’s hand. “Thanks for your help, Theo. I’ll give DCI Harmon a call and ask to meet him this afternoon.”

3.00pm

“This place must be a regular haunt of yours.” Stanton looked up from her newspaper at the sound of a familiar voice, only to see DCI Leonard Harmon standing on the other side of the table to her. She was sitting outside Carmine’s café on 7th Street, in much the same place as she had been two days earlier, when they had last met.

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7th Street

She smiled.

“I come here in-between caucus meetings.”

“What was it you wanted to speak to me about?”

“Well,” she said, gesturing to the aides sitting on either side of her, “It might be worth sitting this time.” They stood up and walked inside to stand at the bar. Harmon sat down on Stanton’s right.

“So, tell me what you drew me away from my work for.” She crossed her legs and stirred her cappuccino absent-mindedly.

“I’ve been making headway in the Enjoni case.”

“You brought me all this way for an update?” Stanton pursed her lips.

“No, I brought you all this way to call in a favour. We’ve been gathering evidence to build the case against Enjoni and we now believe there’s significant reason to suspect them of corporate sabotage. As far as we can tell, Enjoni commissioned the writing of a virus to disable the new Stroud phone at their expo, but we can’t prove it’s them without expert assistance.” Harmon frowned.

“And where do I come into this?”

“I need you to bring someone in for questioning. A man named Thomas Myers.” There was a pause, and then Harmon scoffed derisively.

“You think I can just . . . pull someone off the street?”

“We’re close here, Mr Harmon. Very close.”

“That doesn’t justify breaking the law. I would have thought better of you – a Senator, no less. How could you ask this of me?” Stanton shrugged.

“If it were your case, what would you do?”

“I’d bring him in,” Harmon admitted, reluctantly. “But it’s not my case. I turned it over to you, remember?” Stanton sipped her cappuccino.

“Please, just grant me this one favour. I’m making a plea here. If Myers can positively identify that the virus was written by Enjoni, we’ve got an expert witness. We can prove that Enjoni are trying to weaken Stroud ready for their takeover attempt and blow this whole thing wide open. And when public pressure comes down on the issue, people will start asking how Enjoni knew Stroud were going to launch the phone in the first place. The paper trail,” she said, realising she was making a mistake even as she spoke, “Will lead right back to Anselmo.” Harmon’s eyes narrowed.

“How do you know this has something to do with Anselmo?”

“You told me,” she lied.

“No, I didn’t. I said we suspected Cassarah Sampson of using illegal means to uncover information for use against Stroud. I didn’t give you any names.” Stanton struggled with her reply for a moment, then realised he’d unintentionally given her an opening to twist the conversation back the way she wanted it once more.

“Come to mention it, no – you didn’t give us any information at all. Why not?”

“What do you mean?” Harmon asked, surprised by the question.

“You only gave me that simple fact, without evidence. What did you want me to do with it? Throw it out at a hearing just to look good? You must have known Enjoni’s representatives would tear me apart the moment I made a claim like that.” Harmon stood up hurriedly.

“This meeting is over.” Stanton toyed with the idea of softening her line of attack, then realised he might get her to Myers as a compromise, a way of shutting her up.

“Not until you give me a straight answer. Why would you do a thing like that?”

“I just didn’t, okay? There was no motive. I just . . . look, I’ll give you Myers.” Stanton’s eyes brightened and she stood up as well.

“You will?”

“Yes, but please understand that I can’t bring him in. It’s not legal.”

“Then what do you mean, you’ll . . .”

“I’ll give you his address.” There was a pause. Stanton knew it was likely all she was getting.

“Done,” she said, extending a hand. Harmon shook it. “Send it to me as soon as you get back to the Station and all is forgiven.”

7.00pm

“So he didn’t admit why he didn’t give you any evidence?” Leith asked, as the elevator holding him and Stanton starting climbing towards the floor Myers’ apartment was on.

“He wouldn’t say a thing,” Stanton told him. “In the end, I got the feeling it was one or the other, and it wasn’t worth running the risk of walking away empty-handed.” Leith nodded.

“You did the right thing, Senator.”

“Will you stop calling me that?”

“What else could I call you?”

“Georgina.”

“How about Georgie?”

“No. Only my husband calls me Georgie.”

“Fine. Georgina it is.” The elevator arrived at the fifth floor of the apartment building, which was situated on M Street between the intersections with 16th Street and 17th Street Northwest, and the doors opened.

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Myers' Apartment

They stepped out into the hall. Stanton beckoned to the third door on the right.

“There,” she said, checking her phone one last time to be sure. “Number 603.”

“Here’s hoping Harmon’s intel was solid,” Leith muttered.

“What makes you think it won’t be?”

“I don’t know, just . . . it feels like something’s going on, you know? He’s been acting strangely recently. I can’t help but get the feeling that he’s up to something.”

“Like that?”

“That’s the problem. I have no idea.”

“Well let’s just face our problems one at a time, shall we?” she replied, rapping sharply on the door. There was a pause. She knocked again. It swung open to reveal a brown-haired man of what Leith guessed was about thirty. He was broad-shouldered and generally well-built in every dimension, with a keen, smiling face and dark eyes.

“Good evening,” he greeted them. “Can I . . .” He stopped when he saw Stanton. “Sorry to be rude, Miss, but you bear a startling resemblance to someone I’ve seen on the television.”

“Probably because I am someone you’ve seen on the television,” she observed, reaching out to shake his hand. “Senator Georgina Stanton – from Massachusetts.”

“I know that,” he said. “I voted for you in 2006.” She smiled.

“Ah, so you’re from Massachusetts as well? Whereabouts?”

“Boston.”

“And I’m Theo Leith,” Leith cut in, unwilling to let their conversation spiral out of hand. “We have a few questions to ask you about Stroud Firmware.” Myers’ face immediately fell and he closed the door slightly, as if willing them to go away.

“I’m not talking to anyone. I’ve had enough bother from you people already.”

“Us people?” Leith said. “I’m an ex-cop, Mr Myers.”

“You . . . you are?”

“And I’m a Senator,” Stanton pointed out. “You know I’m here to help you.” Myers considered their request for a few moments.

“Alright,” he conceded, eventually. “You can come in.” They stepped through the doorway, which opened straight into the living room of Myers’ small apartment. To their right was a sofa, facing the TV on the wall, and there was a row of windows ahead of them. Two doorways on the left led to the kitchen and the bedroom. The wooden floor creaked beneath their feet.

“Why were you worried about our intentions?” Stanton asked, curiously, as the door swung shut behind them. Myers thought back to the day Anselmo had had him kidnapped and considered telling them, then he remembered the threat he’d been issued. If you talk to anyone about this, Anselmo had said, we’ll kill you. And we will know if you talk to anyone. We’ll be watching.

“No reason,” he said to Stanton, shaking his head. “I’ve had some strange callers lately. What was it you wanted to talk about?”

“This,” Leith told him, taking out the USB pen. “There’s a virus on it. We believe it’s of Enjoni manufacture, but we’re not sure. A man we talked to this morning said you’d know. His name was Carl. Ring any bells?” Myers nodded.

“I remember Carl. He used to work with me.”

“That fits. Can you help us with it?”

“I don’t see why not. Hand it over.” Leith passed it to him and he walked over to his computer, which sat on a desk by the windows. It was already open; he’d been browsing the Internet before their arrival. Both Leith and Stanton followed him, flanking him while he inserted the pen into the relevant port and started browsing through the files. He picked one to open and a program translated it. Lines of code appeared on the screen. “It’s Enjoni alright,” he confirmed, glancing at Leith and then Stanton in turn. “There’s no way it couldn’t be. Their style is pretty definitive.”

“Excellent,” Stanton said, happily. “That’s the proof we need.”

“Proof for what?”

“Enjoni wrote this virus to take down the new Stroud phone during their expo.” Myers paled as everything slotted into place. He’d told Anselmo, who must have been hired by someone from Enjoni, about the new phone. If it got back to the mob that he was helping the very people who seemed to be investigating the case, he was a dead man. He hurriedly pulled the pen out and stood up.

“You need to leave.”

“Is something wrong?” Leith asked, as he took the pen back.

“No, no . . . just leave, please. I’ve given you all I can.” He ushered them across the room and opened the door for them. They stepped out into the hall.

“Wait a moment,” Leith said, holding the door open before Myers could close it. “I don’t presume you’d be willing to testify before a Senate hearing?”

“Not on your life.”

“Well, is there some way we can prove Enjoni wrote it?”

“You’ll never prove it.”

“So we need you to testify,” Stanton insisted. “You’re an expert witness. You can tell the hearing that it’s of Enjoni manufacture.”

“Except I can’t. I’m sorry. I wish I could help you more, but there’s nothing I can do. Good evening, both of you.” And, without another word, he slammed the door. Leith looked at Stanton, who shrugged, and they turned towards the elevator.

“That’s it, then,” Leith concluded, dourly. “No leads. We’re dead in the water. Without anyone to testify that Enjoni wrote the virus . . .” He trailed off.

“Cassarah Sampson is testifying in front of the Subcommittee in five days’ time,” Stanton said, as the shutters parted and they took their places inside. She selected the lobby from the list of destinations and the elevator began to descend. “With Stroud’s failure at the expo, she can claim they’re taking on water and are ripe for a buyout.”

“There must be some way,” Leith mused. “We just need to think.”

“You’ll have to do that on your own, I’m afraid. I’m going back to Massachusetts over the weekend. I won’t be back until Tuesday.”

“Tuesday?” Leith repeated, incredulously. “But that’s four days away!”

“I know.”

“And Sampson’s testifying on Wednesday!”

“I know,” Stanton repeated. “That’s what I’m coming back for.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”

“I thought Myers was going to agree to testify. It was going to be open and shut; my going away wouldn’t even matter.” Leith wrung his hands anxiously.

“Do you have to go?”

“Theo, I’m up for re-election in seven months. That’s not going to happen unless I campaign.” Leith sighed heavily.

“Fine, fine.” The shutters slid apart. They crossed the lobby and emerged onto the street, where Stanton’s car was waiting for her. She opened the door and turned to him.

“You have my number?”

“Yes, and you have mine.”

“Don’t give up, Theo. There’s still time. Call me if there are any developments.”

“I will.” Stanton went to duck into the car, then looked back one last time.

“And Theo . . .” She extended a hand. “It was nice to meet you. These past two days have been lovely.” Leith smiled as he shook it.

“They have. Speak to you soon, Georgina.”

That's it for Episode 5. I hope you all enjoyed this update and check back next Saturday for Episode 6! Don't forget to rate and comment!

Macko123456

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Thursday 19th April 2012

Day Four

7.00am

Leith woke alone. He was sprawled over the double bed in his room, his clothes scattered over the floor and the blankets in disarray. His head was buzzing, not from alcohol but from a night of passion unlike any he had experienced in years. Slowly, and cautiously, he reached over to where Goodwin had been when they went to sleep in the small hours of the morning. She wasn’t there. It was only after a shower and a quick shave that he found the note on the kitchen counter. He picked it up, his mind racing, and whispered it aloud under his breath.

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. . . and another morning in Brandon.

Theo . . . I made a mistake. I don’t mean to offend you or belittle you with that – it was a good night, and you weren’t at all disappointing. But you need to understand that I don’t want us. Underneath this note, you will find two tickets to the Stroud Expo.” Leith looked down. Sure enough, the monogrammed tickets were lying on the counter. “I brought them along in my bag last night, thinking you’d want to go with me, but what you said made me realise that you wanted out. So, with that in mind, I want out too. Use them if you want to. I thought we’d work together to get to the bottom of this. I was wrong. Sorry again . . . Tabs.” Leith cleared his throat and looked around, trying to get his bearings. The tickets gleamed at him angrily. With a snarl, he ripped the note up into tiny pieces and threw them onto his shoulder. Next came the tickets. He grabbed the first one and tore it in two. Despite his frustration, he stopped before ripping the second one. Come and find out what all the fuss is about, it said. Leith stared at it for a long moment and then slipped it into the pocket of his jeans. Goodwin’s gesture had been lovely, and he wasn’t prepared to let it go to waste.

8.00am

Georgina Stanton emerged into the kitchen to find Mark already standing over the cooker and making fried eggs for her breakfast. He glanced up furtively at the sight of her in her dressing-gown, prompting a frown.

“Are you alright, darling?” she asked, as she kissed him on the cheek and took her place at the table, just as she did every other morning. He nodded.

“Oh yes.”

“Was your morning run alright?”

“It was fine. The weather’s good out there today. Should stay good too,” he added, grabbing the toast when it popped up. “According to the forecast. What’s Scoso-cup-sai up to today?”

“We’ve got an important session lined up,” she told him, ignoring his use of the abbreviation. “Do you remember I mentioned that meeting with the policeman to you last night?” Mark had come home late the night before and had gone straight to bed. She hadn’t had the chance to talk to him.

“I remember.”

“Leonard Harmon, he was called. He said that the BPD think Enjoni’s been going to illegal means to obtain insider information on Stroud.” Mark tutted disapprovingly as he assembled the components of her breakfast on a plate.

“What kind of illegal means?”

“He wouldn’t say, but we’re going to pressure Enjoni on it in the hearing today.”

“With what?” Stanton shrugged.

“With what he told me, of course.”

“And where do you think that’ll get you?” He put her plate down in front of her and fetched some cutlery. Once she had started eating, he pulled the chair across from her out and at down. “Harman’s been playing you for a fool, Georgie.”

“Mark . . .”

“I’m sorry to have to put it so bluntly, but that’s how it looks to me. I spent years in Africa, watching warlords give their people just enough information to content them but not enough to show them the whole picture. You should have pressed this Harmon fellow harder.”

“It’s not my place, Mark.”

“Of course it’s your place! You’re a Senator, darling, and a damn good one at that.”

“Thank you,” she said, blushing.

“But my point still stands,” he continued. “Harmon stated a fact but didn’t give you any information to back it up. When you talk to Enjoni’s representatives today and they deny it, what are you going to have to prove your point?” Stanton did not reply for a few seconds.

“Nothing,” she admitted, glumly.

“So it’s as I said. Harmon’s playing you for a fool.”

“Maybe you’re right,” she said, “But why? Why would he do that?”

“I don’t know. You should investigate.” She snorted, finished her breakfast and took it back over to the counter. Mark waited patiently while she scraped the remains of the meal into the bin so the plate could go into the dishwasher. The silence was broken by a knock at the door. “I’ll get it,” Mark said. He stood up and disappeared around the corner into the hall. The voice of Bill Cohen, the Secret Serviceman assigned to perform a presence check on her every morning, floated through to her.

“Good morning, Mr Stanton. Is your wife here?”

“She’s just in the kitchen,” Mark said. Stanton ignored them; she had noticed a small book that was lying on the worktop. She walked over to it and flicked through it absent-mindedly.

“I’m sorry,” Cohen went on, “But I need something from her to confirm her presence.”

“I’m here, Bill,” she called.

“Thank you, Miss,” Cohen shouted back. “I’ll be going, then.”

“See you tomorrow,” Mark said, and shut the door once he was gone. Silence fell. Mark sighed and returned to the kitchen. “Georgie, I’m going to get some stuff sorted and then . . .” He stopped when he saw her looking at the book. “Georgie . . .”

“This is my private diary,” Stanton muttered, without looking up.

“I’m sorry, darling.” She picked the book up and turned to him, brandishing it like it as some kind of weapon.

“Why were you reading this? Don’t you trust me?”

“No, I do.”

“Then why? Tell me right now, Mark.” He puffed out his cheeks in embarrassment.

“I was fishing for a story about the Enjoni takeover and I figured you might know something you weren’t telling me. If it makes it any better, I couldn’t find anything worth publishing, so your secrets are safe with me. It’s just that it’s going to take Scoso-cup-sai months to come to a conclusion and there won’t be anything to write about until then.”

“Now I see why you were so keen for me to investigate,” she realised.

“Darling, please don’t be angry. This is my job.”

“Yes, and I’m your wife. You’re supposed to be loyal to me, not to your next paycheck!”

“Of course, of course.” The corners of his mouth twisted upwards into a wry smile. “But there is something odd about it, isn’t there?”

“Maybe,” she admitted, hesitantly.

“You know it as well as I do. Why is Enjoni going after Stroud so aggressively? It must be because they have some idea of how to weaken them. From what Harmon told you, they have insider knowledge. We need to find out what that is to get to the bottom of this.”

“I totally agree with what you’re saying,” she said, putting the book down and laying her hands on his broad shoulders. “And you’re forgiven for going through the diary. But our jobs work differently. You do the snooping around, I do the questioning. So you do yours and I’ll do mine.” He laughed and shook his head.

“It’s not that simple, Georgie.”

“Why not?”

“I need you to do my job for me. One moment.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek and strode out of the room. She watched him go in confusion.

“Mark, what are you doing?”

“Just a second!” he shouted, from the bedroom.

“How long will you be? I need to be at the Curia at nine thirty!”

“You remember I said I was going to get some stuff sorted?” He reappeared with a shining piece of paper in his hand. “Here it is.”

“What is it?” she asked, taking it from him. “Come and see what all the fuss is about.”

“Tonight, darling, I’m at a fundraiser, so I need you to do what I do.”

“Why tonight?”

“Because that’s when the Stroud Expo is held,” he explained, pointing to the ticket. “And that’s where you’re going.”

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The Brandon Conference Centre

11.00pm

The Brandon Convention Centre was a giant building situated to the east of the Central Precinct Police Station and Stanton’s apartment and to the northwest of the Curia, taking up three blocks in a line running north to south. L Street and M Street, the ones between the blocks, passed straight through the ground floor of the building. The first and second floors, which formed bridges over the streets below, had been given over to a giant hall hundreds of metres long and dozens wide. It was in this hall that Stroud Firmware were holding their annual Expo. The vast expanse of lacquered wooden floor was cluttered with stalls and promotional stands and company representatives wove their way through the crowd. Banners hung down from the walls between the windows, lit by powerful concealed spotlights. Electronic music boomed from the speakers that hung from the roof. Senator Stanton looked around as she climbed the steps into the hall. A gaggle of journalists was waiting at the top to snap pictures of famous faces among the new arrivals.

“Senator Stanton!” several of them shouted, shoving microphones in her direction. “What brings you to the Stroud Expo?”

“As Chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, I have a duty to the people of this country to ensure that all corporate affairs are conducted in the proper manner. I’m here to observe the Enjoni delegation for tonight’s meeting.”

“Will you be asking them if they plan a takeover of Stroud?” someone asked.

“No, I won’t. Enjoni’s affairs are their own.”

“But you will be investigating?”

“For future Committee hearings, yes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to have a look around. That’ll be all for tonight.” They ignored her and continued to throw questions at her as she walked away. She breathed a heavy sigh of relief as someone else newsworthy appeared to take their attention. The Enjoni stand was ahead and to the right, facing onto the central aisle. Stroud had probably let them set it up as a peace gesture, she thought as she approached it. If only they knew what lengths Enjoni were going to in order to bring them down. At the front of the stand, several Enjoni phones were arranged on a counter. Three sales attendants stood behind them. At the back was a tent, which she imagined was where they kept their spare stock. She waited until all the attendants were occupied with customers and walked up to the tent flap. Part of her wanted to push it aside and snoop around, but for all she knew there was someone in there already. Just as she was about to reach for it, a man came out. He was hurried and furtive and he nearly bumped into her.

“Sorry,” he apologised, gruffly.

“It’s my fault,” she told him, and saw the Enjoni logo on the USB pen in his hands. “Do you work for Enjoni?”

“No,” he said, hastily pocketing it.

“Then why do you . . .”

“Wait a moment,” he interrupted. “I know you from the TV. Georgina Stanton, right? The junior Massachusetts Democrat?” She nodded and shook his hand.

“Pleased to meet you. And you are . . ?”

“Theo Leith. You chair Scoso-cup-sai, don’t you?”

“I do,” she said, unwilling to correct someone she’d just met.

“That explains why you’re here,” he muttered, as he slipped past her. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“You too,” she answered. Leith ignored her as he strode away. He had no interest in chatting with a politician. As he began mingling with the crowd once more, he realised that people were beginning to gather around the stage at the end of the hall. A giant banner bearing the logo of Stroud Firmware hung above it and a microphone on a stand had been placed in the centre. As he drew near to the front of the stage, finding himself jostled increasingly by the audience around him, the lights dimmed and a man strode out. An image of the phone he was holding in his hand was projected onto the wall behind him. The crowd applauded and fell silent.

“Just another teaser for the main show tonight,” he said, his voice magnified by the microphone and sent booming through the room by the giant racks of speakers hanging from the ceiling. “Which, as I’m sure you all remember, begins at half past on the dot. On behalf of Stroud Firmware, I’d like to thank you all again for coming and show you our new USB system.” He gestured to the phone. The cameras at the edges of the stage focused on it and the feed was beamed to the screen behind him so the audience could see it in detail. “As you can see, we’re proud to be the first company with embedded USB capabilities for our products. Everyone knows how easy it is to transfer files these days, but sometimes you want something . . . bigger. You want to be able to carry tons of data around with you in your pocket. We’re all used to having USB pens on our person. Well, why not have some way of moving files from those pens to your phone? There was a day when you’d have to do it through a computer and a connecting leads, but that day’s gone.” His announcement prompted a ripple of applause. Leith joined in as a token gesture, though in truth he couldn’t have cared less. At the back of the crowd, forcing her way through the ranks to get to him and question him about breaking into the Enjoni tent, Senator Stanton also applauded, worried that a journalist might snap a photo of her being unappreciative. As soon as the noise had died down, she pressed on. The presenter began talking again. “Now, I’m not going to drop the names of any of our competitors for fear of giving them free advertising, but let’s just say that this’ll help us undercut a certain other company.” The audience laughed. “In fact, we estimate a fifteen percent market share by the end of the year.” He pressed his finger to the phone’s touchscreen. “If you’ll look . . . sorry, one moment.” The option he’d wanted hadn’t been selected correctly. He repeated the action. Leith watched intently, wondering what would happen next. Now no more than a few metres behind him, Stanton paid no attention to the phone’s failures. She reached out to grab Leith’s shoulder. As she did so, the phone’s screen turned blue and displayed an error message. The crowd immediately groaned with disappointment. Several people turned to walk away. One of them caught Stanton by the arm and she found himself swept along with them, away from Leith.

“You suck!” someone shouted.

“Enjoni make better phones than this!” echoed another viewer.

“If you’ll just wait one moment . . .” the presenter was saying. He’d removed the phone’s battery and replaced it, but he was rapidly losing his audience. Leith, losing interest in the whole affair, joined a good half of the crowd in heading for the exit. Stanton looked for him as she was carried away but she soon lost him among the dozens of bobbing heads. After a few moments, she gave up and forged a path towards the Enjoni stand. Leith was just passing it when he heard her raised voice over the commotion.

“It’s corporate sabotage! You can’t get away with a thing like this! Trying to weaken a company when you have no right to . . .” He rolled his eyes and pushed through the press to reach her. She was in mid-flow when his hand landed on her arm.

“Alright Miss, I think it’s time you were leaving,” he told her.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she announced, turning to face him. “I . . . Mr Leith?” Satisfied that she had been shut up, Leith turned to the attendants at the stand.

“Sorry for the commotion, gentlemen. I’ll take care of this.” He guided Stanton away, muttering in her ear as he did so. “You’re going to want to put out a press statement first thing in the morning denying all of what you just said.”

“But I have proof,” she insisted, as they came to the head of the stairs.

“Yes, I imagine you do. I imagine you know all about Enjoni using illegal means to weaken Stroud. You were probably told by Detective Chief Inspector Leonard Harmon of the BPD.” She frowned and stopped halfway down the stairs. Leith, who was one step below, looked up at her.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m Theo Leith.”

“So you said. But how do you . . ?” He pointed to himself.

“I’m the cop who got that information.”

“Then why didn’t you just say so?”

“Because I’m off the force.”

“What do you mean?” He pointed to the doors at the bottom of the stairs.

“Can we talk outside?” She nodded and followed him through the lobby and out onto L Street. Cars flashed path in both directions and there was a line of cabs waiting to take the expo’s attendees home. Several reporters saw them and snapped photos, but Stanton ignored them.

“Alright, we’re outside now. Explain yourself.”

“Cassarah Sampson, CEO of the Enjoni Corporation, approached a mafia boss named Fiorino Anselmo to find ways for her to weaken Stroud ready for a takeover. Anselmo found that they were planning on moving into Enjoni’s market and told her. She must have found a way to sabotage the presentation so their new phone wouldn’t sell.”

“How do you know this?”

“I was assigned to bring down Anselmo. I overheard a meeting between him and Sampson and took the recording to Harmon. He fired me and passed it on to you.”

“Why did he fire you?” she said.

“Because I insisted the case should stay in police hands, whereas he wanted to turn it over to Scoso-cup-sai.” Stanton remembered what Harmon had told her at her meeting the day before.

“He told me he’d taken his detectives off the case,” she muttered.

“Exactly.”

“But if you were removed,” she went on, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m investigating of my own accord. I want to finish what I started. Anselmo’s going down one way or another.”

“And do you have any leads?” Leith did not answer. Instead, he reached into his pocket and took out the USB pen he’d stolen from the Enjoni stand.

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Night falls over the city skyline once more.

That's it for Episode 4. I hope you enjoyed this update and check back next Saturday for Episode 5! Don't forget to rate and comment!

Macko123456

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Wednesday 18th April 2012

Day Three

10.00am

Northbeck Hills was one of Brandon’s most exclusive districts, situated to the southwest of Downtown, across the border in Virginia. It was an expanse of luxury villas, swimming pools and tennis courts. The street running through the middle was lined with modern, expensive cars, but there was barely any traffic.

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Northbeck Hills

It was at ten in the morning that Theo Leith and Tabitha Goodwin picked up Fiorino Anselmo’s trail, tailing his black Mercedes in Theo’s silver Honda to keep their cover. They wore plain clothes but both carried their guns as a precaution. Anselmo did not head for Hollow, Virginia – where the Aquaria Casino was situated – as expected, but instead took a more northerly route. It was only when his Mercedes failed to turn right past the State Department as they passed the Lincoln Memorial that Leith and Goodwin realised all was not as they had expected it to be. Instead of Virginia, Anselmo was headed east, towards Fort Hook Naval Base. The base was the headquarters of the District's own National Guard protection force and was built at the end of a peninsula that jutted out southward with the Potomac to the west and the Anacostia to the east. To their surprise, the Mercedes pulled into the parking lot outside an abandoned warehouse in the peninsula’s old industrial zone.

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The industrial zone

Leith parked his Honda around the corner and they climbed out.

“I’m not sure I like the look of this area,” Goodwin said.

“Don’t worry,” Leith assured her. “We’ve got our weapons and we can always radio for backup if need be.” They strolled along the sidewalk to the parking lot’s entrance. The Mercedes had disappeared into the warehouse itself.

“Theo, look,” Goodwin instructed, pointing to a pair of doors built into the building’s side. “It must have gone in there.” Leith snorted.

“Well, we’re not getting in after it.”

“There must be another way.”

“What about down the side alley?” Leith shrugged.

“I suppose it’s worth a try.” They padded down the alleyway, which was full of bins and rubbish and discarded paper bags. Papers that looked like they might once have been important had been crunched underfoot. About halfway along its length, a window had been cut into the wall of the warehouse. Leith grabbed a nearby recycling bin and tugged it over, wincing at the loud grating sound it made as he moved it. No-one seemed to hear it. With a leg up from Goodwin, he climbed on top of it and peered over the lip of the window. He took his phone out to record the voices from within, though he couldn’t see the speakers.

“Miss Sampson, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” a man with an Italian accent said. Leith glanced down at Goodwin.

“Anselmo’s talking to someone named Miss Sampson.”

“I can only think of one Sampson of note,” Goodwin mused. “And that’s Cassarah, the CEO of the Enjoni Corporation.”

“Why would Anselmo be meeting her?”

“I don’t know. Keep listening.” Leith strained to hear what was being said.

“It has indeed been very quick,” Sampson was saying. “I’ve been impressed with your efficiency. What exactly have you uncovered for me?”

“Stroud have guessed you’re going to try and take them over. They’re looking to find ways of chipping away at your market so you never get the chance. Their annual expo, which is being held tomorrow, will feature the premiere of a new phone with an embedded USB system. I don’t believe any of your models offer such a capability.”

“Never mind that,” Sampson snapped. “That’s a very valuable piece of information, and rest assured you will be paid handsomely for it. How did you get it?”

“I think it’s better off if you don’t know.”

“Probably. Well, thank you for doing this for me. I look forward to working with you soon.” Leith ended the voice recording and dropped down from on top of the bin.

“Well?” Goodwin prompted. He brought up the file and they listened to it. “I’ve heard of Stroud and Enjoni,” she said, when it finished. “From my days in IT. They’re both technology companies and they’ve been in the news a lot recently. If I remember correctly, Enjoni – the smaller of the two – is looking to lever Stroud into a position where they can buy them out.”

“So it would make sense for Sampson to hire Anselmo to look for weaknesses in Stroud,” Leith realised. “Good work, DI Goodwin.”

“Maybe not,” Goodwin lamented. “We don’t have anything to pin on him.”

“What do you mean?”

“Yes, we have a recording of the meeting, but Anselmo’s a smart man. He was probably aware that they might have been bugged and he chose not to tell Sampson how he acquired the information. For all we know, he might have just got it off the Internet.” Leith frowned.

“I highly doubt it.”

“But we can’t prove it.” There was a pause. He sighed.

“You’re right, of course. Still, let’s get back to the car. We’ll take it to Harmon and see what he says.”

12.30pm

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Downtown at midday

So it was that Leith found himself in DCI Leonard Harmon’s office, which was a small room adjoining the main office floor of the Central Precinct Police Station. The walls were lined with bookcases and there was a desk in the centre, facing the entrance. Harmon was sitting back in the swivel chair behind it with his feet up on it. Leith and Goodwin stood across from him, their backs to the door, which was shut.

I don’t believe any of your models offer such a capability,” crackled the hi-fi system on the desk. Leith had plugged his phone into it.

Never mind that,” Sampson’s voice replied. “That’s a very valuable piece of information, and rest assured you will be paid handsomely for it. How did you get it?

I think it’s better off if you don’t know.

Probably. Well, thank you for doing this for me. I look forward to working with you soon.” The recording ended and Harmon folded his arms.

“Well,” he said, flatly. “I’m impressed. You’ve done a damn good job, Theo – getting us closer to Anselmo than we’ve ever been before. But I can’t help thinking it won’t be enough.”

“We know, sir,” Leith agreed, glancing at Goodwin. “We’ve had this conversation.”

“So you realise that we can’t arrest him.”

“Yes. Do you want me to continue investigating?” Harmon frowned, unplugged Leith’s phone from his hi-fi and handed it back. Leith took it from him but did not speak. He was waiting for his boss to go first.

“It bothers me,” Harmon said, after a while. “All this in-fighting between Stroud and Enjoni. It’s corporate manoeuvring on the worst level. I don’t like it.” He looked up at Leith. “I want someone to get to the bottom of it, and I trust that you’re the man for the job.”

“Thank you, sir,” Leith breathed. “Tabitha and I will . . .”

“She won’t be working on it.”

“Sir?” Goodwin asked, sharply.

“Don’t get angry, Tabitha,” Harmon soothed. “Theo won’t be either.”

“What do you mean?” Leith said, feeling his heart sink.

“Much as I hate to say it, there’s someone else who’s better placed to investigate it than I am. Have either of you heard of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance?” They both stared at him blankly. “Scoso-cup-sai?”

“Oh, I’ve heard of that,” Leith acknowledged.

“Everyone has,” Goodwin observed.

“They’ve been probing the matter for a few days now. Their Chairwoman, Senator Georgina Stanton, has vowed to sort it out. Several experts have testified before them.” He sighed. “I’m turning the investigation over to them, not least because the feud between Stroud and Enjoni has been garnering a lot of attention and the government wants to come down hard on it. Sorry you two, but you’ll have to be reassigned.” Leith turned to Goodwin, who shook her head.

“Now wait one moment, sir,” he said, strengthened by her show of support. “This is a criminal matter. We may not know how Anselmo got that information, but I’m willing to bet he didn’t exactly read it in the paper. If he went to illegal means, that’s corporate fraud. Sampson could go to jail for a long time.”

“Yes, and the United States Senate will investigate and . . .”

“Respectfully, sir, the United States Senate would investigate a body with a knife in its back and call it arson.” Harmon rose to his feet and faced Leith off over the desk.

“You watch your language, Theo.”

“Please, sir,” Leith pleaded. “I have a chance here. We can blow this thing wide open. Anselmo’s ours for the taking and he’s easily within reach.”

“I told you to drop it.”

“And I told you I have a chance of bringing this guy down.”

“That’s enough, DI Leith!” Harmon shouted, suddenly angry. Silence fell. “You and DI Goodwin can consider yourselves off the case. You’re very lucky you’re not off the force.” Leith folded his arms and snorted.

“You’ve been looking for a chance to fire me for weeks now, sir.” Harmon’s nostrils flared. It had clearly been the wrong thing to say. Leith considered retracting it or apologising, but Harmon spoke up before he had the chance.

“Alright then . . . yes, I have. And you’ve just given it to me. You’re fired, Theo.”

“Pardon?”

“You heard me.” Leith stared at him for a long moment, then turned on his heel and pulled the door open. Neither Goodwin nor Harmon said anything until it had swung shut once more.

“Sir . . .” Goodwin ventured, nervously.

“Do you want to get fired too?” Harmon asked.

“No sir.”

“Then get out. Get back to your case.”

2.00pm

Harmon met Stanton at a café named Carmine’s on 7th Street, halfway between the Old Place to the west and the Curia to the east.

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7th Street

Several metal tables had been laid out on the sidewalk outside the building’s glass front and a few dozen customers were sitting at them. Stanton was accompanied by a couple of aides and was working on a sheaf of paperwork when Harmon arrived. She glanced up from her cappuccino.

“Ah, you must be the DCI who spoke to me on the phone.”

“Leonard Harmon,” he introduced himself, shaking her hand. “Thank you for finding time in your schedule at such short notice.”

“I remember your name,” she said. “And I don’t have too much time. You’ll have to make this quick. I’ve got a caucus meeting at half past.”

“Then I won’t sit,” Harmon told her. “You are Georgina Stanton, yes? The junior Democrat from Massachusetts?” Stanton nodded.

“That’s me.”

“And you chair Scoso-cup-sai?”

“The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, yes.” Harmon frowned.

“You say the whole name?”

“Yes, and I chair the whole Committee.”

“Never mind,” he muttered. “I have some valuable information. The BPD has found evidence showing that Cassarah Sampson, CEO of the Enjoni Corporation, has used potentially illegal means to uncover information that she could use against Stroud Firmware.” Stanton put her pen down and looked up at him in surprise.

“I had no idea she’d be so vicious.”

“Neither did I. I’ve taken my detectives off the case and I’m turning it over to you for investigation. I trust Scoso-cup-sai will get to the bottom of it.”

“We will, Mr Harmon. Thank you very much for leaving this with me.”

“Senator,” one of the aides said, as she and her companion stood up. “You’ve got a caucus.”

“Yes, I have,” Stanton agreed, and also stood. She shook Harmon’s hand once more. “It was nice to meet you. I’m sure I’ll see you soon.”

7.00pm

“Harmon told Stanton over coffee today,” Goodwin said, stepping past Leith and into the hallway of his flat. She looked around. “Where’s your kitchen?” He swung the door shut and turned to point along the hall over her shoulder.

“To the right.” Leith’s flat took up the southeast corner of the third floor of his apartment building, which was situated on the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and Washington Street. It was made up of three rooms branching off a central corridor. Facing inwards from the front door, the kitchen was on the right, the bedroom was straight ahead and the living room was to the left; the bedroom included an ensuite. Both the bedroom and the living room had windows looking into onto the streets below.

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Leith's apartment seen from the intersection

Goodwin disappeared around the corner into the kitchen. “Thanks for saying hi, by the way,” Leith called after her. “That was really polite of you.”

“He told her over coffee,” Goodwin’s disembodied voice said, from the kitchen. Leith rolled his eyes and followed her through. It was a large room, with a sideboard across from the entrance and an island of shining worktop in the centre. Above the sideboard was a row of cupboards with pans hanging from them on hooks. Goodwin had put her bag down on the island and was examining her surroundings, standing on the other side of it. “I’m impressed,” she said. “I wouldn’t have thought you had such a nice place.”

“You’re on fire with the manners today,” Leith sighed, leaning in the doorway and putting his hands in his pockets. She frowned.

“He told her over coffee.”

“Wow,” he muttered. “I always wanted a goldfish, but I had no idea the short-term memory would be so annoying.”

“Pardon?”

“You’ve repeated yourself three times.”

“But you’re not listening!” She sniffed the air and looked down at the steaming wok on the hob. “Were you cooking?”

“No, I just like to keep that there. It makes a really nice sightline from the door.”

“He told her . . .”

“Over coffee, I know. And do you think this concerns me?”

“Well . . .”

“Flip the stir fry.” She reached over, picked up the wok and started rolling it from side to side, moving the contents around.

“Well,” she said again, “You were following the case. I thought you might want to know where it was going. I saw Harmon going out of the office and I saw him coming back in, so I got suspicious and checked Congressional records. Senator Stanton had coffee with him.” Leith shrugged.

“Big deal. We knew he was going to do it.”

“Yes, but . . . don’t you care anymore?”

“I was fired, Tabs. I’m really not sure why you’re here.”

“I thought you’d be interested.”

“Yeah.” He took his hands out of his pockets and held them up in the air, his palms facing her. “I’m not.” She shook her head slowly.

“Come on, Theo. This is important.”

“To you, maybe. I don’t have a job anymore. Right now, I’m more concerned with trying to sort my life out.” She looked down at the wok.

“You know this stir fry’s done, don’t you?”

“Ok. Take it off the heat and we can serve it.” He strode over to her, circumventing the island, and grabbed a couple of bowls from one of the cupboards. She watched as he accepted the wok from her and distributed the contents. “Cutlery’s in the top drawer to your left,” he told her. “Follow me.” She grabbed two knives and forks and he led her across the hall to the living room. The television, which was between the two windows looking south, was on. She could see the Brandon Monument over the rooftops. They sat down on the sofa, keeping some distance between them, and started eating. Leith found the remote to turn the volume up.

When pressed, Old Place Press Secretary Mike Gordon elaborated on President Ackerman’s plans for the upcoming G20 meeting in Brussels,” the CNN anchorwoman was saying. “He talked of the President’s desire to work with the Eurozone’s leaders, particularly Angela Merkel and Silvio Berlusconi, to solve the debt crisis engulfing the region and minimise its effects on the American economy. He . . .” The screen went dark.

“Sorry,” Leith said, dropping the remote. “It’s boring.”

“No matter,” Goodwin assured him. They sat in silence for a few minutes while they ate. “I find the news quite dense too, you know. I never did like politics.”

“You seemed interested enough in Stroud and Enjoni.”

“That’s because it’s a field I know something about. Politics is something else entirely.”

“That’s why I don’t like the Senate getting involved,” Leith agreed. “They’re a bunch of stupid old blokes trying to run the country.”

“Not all of them,” Goodwin pointed out. “Harmon may have been right earlier when he said we could trust them to investigate properly. Scoso-cup-sai is led by Georgina Stanton. She’s not so much a stupid old bloke as she is a clever young woman.”

“Perhaps.” There was a pause. Leith finished his mouthful of stir fry and then spoke up.

“Did you ever get that problem fixed?”

“What problem?”

“The IT one. The one that kept you in the office late last night.”

“Oh, that problem. Yes, I solved it. I had to change my password, though.”

“To what?” She chuckled.

“I’m not telling you that, Theo.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want you having access to my files!”

“It’s not going to do you any harm now, is it?” She shook her head.

“Theo, I said no.”

“What about if I give you mine, too?”

“Theo . . .”

“Ok, ok.” Silence fell. After a few moments, Leith cleared his throat. “It’s Rochester.” She gasped and shook her head in disbelief.

“How did you know?”

“I didn’t,” he protested. “That was my . . . wait. We both have the same password?”

“It’s from Jane Eyre,” she explained. “I used to love it when I was younger.”

“Me too! Do you remember the scene when he throws the party, and she gets all depressed because she doesn’t see how she fits into his life? And she’s looking over the banisters and watching his friends dancing and joking, then he comes up to speak to her. She wants to tell him that she’s giving up on him, but he has to go back downstairs. Before she can, he takes her hands and says . . .”

“Goodnight, my . . . goodnight,” Goodwin finished. She smiled. “It looks like we have more in common than we thought we did.”

“Do you want to kiss me as much as I want to kiss you right now?” Leith asked.

“You bet.” They put their bowls down. Leith shuffled towards her but she grabbed him before he could react, and next thing he knew he was lying on the sofa beneath her and her lips were against his. They kissed for a full thirty seconds and then broke apart, both of them panting heavily and running their tongues around the insides of their mouths.

“Tastes of stir fry?” Leith said.

“Yeah.”

“Clean your teeth?”

“Yeah.”

“Bedroom?”

“Bedroom.”

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Just another day . . .

Macko123456

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Tuesday 17th April 2012

Day Two

8.00am

Senator Georgina Stanton woke slowly, roused from her sleep by the gentle pitter-patter of rain against the bedroom window. She rubbed her eyes and looked out over the grey skies above Downtown Brandon. Her apartment, on the thirtieth floor of the Onyx Building on the intersection of Michigan and Wilson Street, was just a couple of roads from the Central Precinct Police Station and had brilliant views southward to the skyline.

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The Onyx Building

Rivers of water snaked their way down the glass as she climbed out of the bed and shrugged her dressing-gown over her shoulders. The clink of crockery came from the kitchen across the hall. She padded through the two open archways to find her husband Mark already awake and making breakfast. Mark Stanton was a handsome forty-year-old man who had spent most of his youth working as a photojournalist in Africa. He had a well-cut face and bright eyes. His brown hair was sopping wet.

“How was your run?” she asked, kissing him on the cheek and sitting at the table. He flipped her fried egg over and chuckled.

“Damp.”

“I guessed as much.”

“I only just had time to change before I had to start cooking.”

“Mark, you know you don’t have to cook.”

“Sure I do.” He slid the eggs onto a plate, added some baked beans and toast and put it down in front of her. “Let me just fetch the cutlery. You need to be ready for your big day.”

“What big day?”

“Isn’t Scoso-cup-sai doing something important today?” he said, as he handed her a knife and fork. She started cutting the egg into pieces.

“You’re calling it Scoso-cup-sai now?”

“That’s what everyone calls it.”

“It’s the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance. I don’t understand what makes that hard to say.”

“Never mind,” he muttered. “What’s on the agenda?”

“Administrative items, mostly.”

“Not the Enjoni bid?”

“It might come up.” She took the newspaper from where it sat in the middle of the table and skimmed the headlines absent-mindedly.

“What about your meeting yesterday? The one with the Chief of Staff.”

“Joe Panneta, he’s called. It didn’t go so well.”

“I take it he said no.”

“Well, he was nice and everything, but he bristled when he found out what I wanted. He said there were plenty of reasons why the President can’t publicly oppose the takeover. Apparently it’s too close to the election to be spending political capital.” Mark shrugged and sat opposite her.

“Someone’s got to win and it’s not going to be the guy who makes stupid mistakes. But that’s not plenty of reasons, is it? What else did he say?”

“That the President has no experience in the corporate sector and that Enjoni’s probably too small to take Stroud down anyway.”

“And you don’t agree?”

“Actually, I do agree. It’s just frustrating.”

“Hold on,” Mark said, “If Enjoni hasn’t got the money, why are they making waves?”

“What do you mean?”

“In my line of work, we’re taught to always look for a motive – because once you’ve established the motive for something, you can easily analyse every move the person you’re observing makes.” She laughed.

“You make it sound so simple.”

“Sometimes it is simple, Georgie. If Enjoni could simply buy Stroud, they would have done it already and then waited for Scoso . . . sorry, for the Subcommittee to debate it. My question is why they’re muscling in on Stroud when they’re no threat.” Stanton thought about what he’d said for a moment, eating another forkful of beans as she did so.

“You think they have a plan, don’t you?”

“It’s a multinational corporation. Of course they have a plan.”

“But what?” He leaned over the table and laid a warm hand on her shoulder.

“That’s for you to find out.” There was a knock on the door as she was about to reply. “That’ll be Bill. I’ll get it.” He stood up and strode out into the hall to let their guest in. Stanton made a start on her toast while he was away, listening in to the conversation coming from behind her. “Bill,” Mark said. “Always a pleasure.”

“Good morning, Mr Stanton. Is your wife in?”

“Yes, she’s in the kitchen. Follow me.” Stanton twisted round in her seat as they stepped into the kitchen. Bill was a short man with thin cheeks and a narrow jaw. He wore a smart business suit.

“Sorry about the dressing gown,” she apologised, when he saw her. “I’ve only just woken up.” He held up his hands with his palms facing outwards.

“Don’t worry about it, Miss. The things I’ve seen in this job . . . well, let’s just say you’d have to do a lot more than that to disturb me.” Bill Cohen was a member of the United States Secret Service. Senators did not receive protection unless they were related to someone of importance and thus considered a potential target, but the Service insisted on performing what they called a presence check – every morning, an agent would visit each Senator to check they were where they said they’d be. If they were inexplicably absent, a tracking device sewn into the fabric of their jacket would be used to establish their location. “You should really be wearing your jacket, though,” Cohen said.

“It’s not half past eight yet,” she replied.

“Better safe than sorry, eh?”

“Would you like some coffee?” Mark offered.

“No thanks, I’ve got a dozen other assignments to do today. I’ll see myself out.”

“Alright then. See you tomorrow morning.” They both waited until the front door clicked shut. Stanton finished the last of her toast and wiped her mouth clean.

“Do you really think I should investigate Enjoni?”

“I don’t see any harm in it, Georgie.”

“These are ruthless people. Some businesses go to unimaginable lengths to get their way.”

4.30pm

The fabric hood was whipped off Thomas Myers’ head and he closed his eyes tight to block out the blinding light from the torch shining directly into his face. After a while, he had adjusted to it and was able to look around. He was sitting in a small, dimly-lit room. On his left were a row of windows overlooking what seemed to be the gambling floor of a casino, though only a few patrons were trying their luck at such an early hour.

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Hollow at 4pm. The Aquaria Casino can be seen centre right.

Standing in front of him, flanked by a pair of burly bodyguards, was a short old man wearing a business suit.

“Mr Myers,” he said, speaking with an Italian accent. “So nice to meet you.”

“Where am I?” Myers demanded. “Who are you?” He tried to stand up, but one of the bodyguards took a step forwards and laid a heavy hand on his shoulder. Myers was a relatively well-built man, in his early thirties with short brown hair. He went to the gym twice a week and considered himself to be capable in a fight. He didn’t even try to resist.

“When the armies of Countess Matilda laid siege to Lucca,” Fiorino Anselmo explained, “One man dared to stand up to them. He stood on the walls of the city, raised his hands to the sky and prayed. That man was Saint Anselm. His prayers and the force of his words routed the armies. Even today, he is depicted as standing firm before thousands of soldiers.” He leaned close to Myers’ face. “That’s who I am, Thomas. I’m Saint Anselm.”

“Oh God,” Myers muttered. “I . . . I know you! The gangster!”

“It would do well for you to keep your mouth shut, Thomas,” Anselmo recommended. “And to speak when you’re told to.”

“Of course. I’m so sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologise. Cooperate with me and you can bet your life you’ll come out of here in one piece. If not, you’ll get to say hello to the fish at the bottom of Lake Dark. Do you understand me?” Myers did not reply. He was too scared to open his mouth. “Thomas, this is one of those times when you’re allowed to speak.”

“Yes,” he blurted. “I understand you.”

“Excellent. I want to ask you some questions. You used to work for Stroud Firmware.”

“How did you . . ?”

“In this day and age, the Internet allows us to find out more about random strangers than our ancestors would have imagined possible. You weren’t a hard nut to crack for my detectives, Thomas, and I doubt you will be for me either. So, at the risk of repeating myself . . . you worked for Stroud Firmware.” Myers nodded reluctantly.

“For ten years, yes.”

“And when they fired you, you put an advert up offering to sell some secrets.”

“Yes.”

“Why was that?”

“I wanted to get back at them,” Myers muttered. “They treated me badly.”

“I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but it’s none of my concern right now. I want to know some things about Stroud. Certain other parties are asking whether Stroud might have any weaknesses that aren’t immediately apparent. Can you think of any insider knowledge you might be able to give me?” Myers smiled weakly.

“How much are you offering?”

“Tell me what you know and you’ll make it through this unharmed. That’s my offer.”

“Well, I suppose it’ll have to do.” He cleared his throat. “As you probably know, Stroud’s holding their annual expo in two days’ time. They’re going to premiere a new embedded USB system for cellphones. It’s strictly Enjoni’s market, but that’s exactly their plan – they’re cutting into it to defend against Enjoni’s takeover attempt.” Anselmo chuckled.

“Thank you, Thomas. You’ve been very helpful.”

“So you’ll let me go?”

“Yes.” He crossed to a side table, which was hidden by shadows, and took a needle from where it was lying on its surface. “We’ll knock you out and deliver you back to your apartment. But this all comes with a warning. If you talk to anyone about this, we’ll kill you. And we will know if you talk to anyone. We’ll be watching.”

11.00pm

DI Theo Leith worked at his desk in the Central Precinct Police Station by the light of the lamp beside his computer, his forehead wresting on the thumb and index finger of his right hand as he flicked through dossiers and detectives’ notebooks. The remains of a Chinese takeaway were scattered over the table in front of him. Even now and then, he would turn another page, retrieve his pen and scribble down a side of notes on what he’d found. He’d been working for hours; everyone else in the office had long since gone home – or so he thought.

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Downtown Brandon at night.

The sound of soft footsteps reached his ears and he glanced up to see Tabitha Goodwin, his fellow DI, approaching.

“Tabs,” he said, in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same question,” she told him. “I’m here to fix my computer. It’s been having some problems. Password access, login credentials . . . the usual stuff.”

“You know you can just call someone from maintenance to do that for you, right?”

“Sure,” she said, pulling up a swivel chair form a nearby desk and manoeuvring it into position beside his. “Or I could just do it myself.”

“I wouldn’t know how.”

“Ah, but you’re not me, are you?”

“Have you worked in IT?”

“For years, before I became a cop. Call it an unlikely jump. I wanted to break into forensic computing. It, uh . . . well, it didn’t work out.” Leith frowned.

“You know, I never knew that about you.”

“Why would you?” He shrugged.

“It feels like something important. We’ve been friends for three years and I still didn’t know how you ended up in this job.”

“Well, now you do. Exciting, eh?” She sighed. “So what are you doing?”

“Burning the midnight oil.”

“That much I can see.” She sat down in the chair and looked over the dossiers that lay on the desk. “Fiorino Anselmo. There’s a tough case to crack if ever there was one.”

“You’re telling me,” Leith muttered, then smiled. “But where are my manners? Have some Chinese, if you’re hungry.” Goodwin fetched his discarded chopsticks, grabbed one of the cartons and began picking away at the remains of his egg fried rice. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as she ate. Her dark skin gleamed in the lamplight and she had pulled her long, black ponytail over his shoulder so it draped down her front. After a moment, she glanced up at him. He quickly looked away. She laughed.

“Is everything alright, Theo?”

“It’s fine,” he assured her, and looked around. “But it’s a bit spooky, isn’t it? Just you and me, alone in an empty building. It almost makes you want to hide in the cupboard together.”

“Oh, I’m sure I can’t begin to imagine what you’d want to do in that cupboard.”

“What can I say?” Leith joked. “I’m good at calming girls down when they get scared.”

“That’s only because you have to do it every time you ask one out,” she replied, and nudged him gently. He grinned.

“You have an answer for everything, don’t you, Tabs?”

“Only the things that are worthy of answers.”

“You joke now, but you can feel that cupboard beckoning to you just as strongly as I can.”

“Don’t kid yourself, Theo. There’s no way I’m . . .” Leith cupped a hand over his ear as he interrupted her.

“Sorry, I can’t hear you. Can you hear that sound?”

“What sound?”

“It’s like a knocking sound.” She rolled her eyes.

“I swear to god, Theo, if you make a joke about destiny at my door . . .”

“No, it’s not that. It’s . . . well, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s the sound of your back against the headboard of my bed.” Silence fell. He lowered his cupped hand. She stared at him flatly before speaking.

“That is the worst chat-up line ever.”

“Then you’d better call the Guinness Book of World Records and get it certified. They give cash prizes, you know.”

“And you say I’m the one with an answer for everything,” she murmured, turning back to the papers spread over the desk before them. “Now come on, Theo. You’ve been avoiding answering my question. What is all this stuff? You can’t seriously be going after Anselmo.”

“I am going after him, thank you very much,” Leith snapped, crossing his legs. “The harder they are, the bigger they . . . no, that’s not right.” Goodwin chuckled.

“What you have there is a Freudian slip,” she said.

“I do not!” he exclaimed, feigning indignation.

“Yes you do,” she shot back, trying to aggravate him. She reached over and scratched the side of his face teasingly. He pulled away, his nose twitching. “What’s this? Ticklish? Poor Theo Leith, just like a . . .”

“Tabs,” he snapped, and grabbed her outstretched arm by the wrist to pull her hand away. He had just wanted her to stop annoying him, but in his haste he had left them in an awkward position. With her hand out of the way, her face was just a few inches from his and she was staring right into his eyes. There was a moment of tense silence. Suddenly, almost impulsively, he released his grip. She sat back. “I’m going after Anselmo,” he explained, not willing to give her a window in which to tease him further, “Because Harmon told me to.” She tutted.

“Harmon’s baiting you.”

“Be that as it may, I’m going to try.”

“Why? You know you’ll fail.” He shot her a cold look.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“I’m serious, Theo. Anselmo’s big – too big. The DCPD’s been working to take him down for ten years, longer than we’ve worked here combined. What makes you think you can do it?” Leith winced; her pessimism was contagious.

“But I have to do it.”

“Who says? Can’t you see what Harmon’s doing?” She laid a hand on his right arm and spoke softly. “He’s backing you into a corner. He wants to fire you, and if you fail this case, he’ll have a reason to. But if you throw yourself into this, you’re going to get yourself hurt . . . or worse.”

“That’s exactly the problem,” Leith pointed out. “Either I fail and get fired or I try my best and bring down one of DC’s most notorious criminals. I have to try, Tabs, no matter how hard it is.” She looked at him for a second, then her urgent expression faded. She loosened her grip on his arm.

“Very noble. Maybe you’re right. You don’t have to do it alone, though.”

“With odds like mine, who’d help me?” Goodwin laughed again.

“Look at this: optimist to pessimist in one sentence.”

“Really, though. Who’d help me?”

“Well . . .” She took a breath. “I would.”

“You?” he snorted.

“What’s wrong with that? I’ve been in this job for almost as long as you have, Theo. I’m qualified and I’m experienced. I have more than enough cases under my belt to . . .”

“No, it’s not that,” he interrupted. “The way Harmon’s arranged it means I get all the glory if I pull it off. So what’s in it for you? What’s your motive?” She smiled.

“As hard as you might find this to believe, I like you. I’d miss you if you weren’t around.” He reached over with his left hand and laid it over hers, on his arm.

“You’re not going soft on me, are you, Tabs?”

“Maybe I am,” she said.

“Maybe you are,” he repeated, and leaned in towards her. She closed her eyes. “And to be honest,” he whispered, his lips close to hers, “I don’t find it hard to believe at all.” Just as he was expecting to kiss her, she pulled back, a playful grin on her face.

“You just have to blow it, don’t you? I’m in the middle of falling for you and you give me a naff one-liner!” She slipped her hand out from under his and punched him gently in the shoulder. “You nearly had me there, Theo. Maybe your manly charm works after all.”

“It works,” he assured her, smoothing his jacket to regain some dignity after being played like such a fool. “In fact, it works miracles.” She shook her head dismissively and indicated the papers.

“Let’s get to work.” They both pulled their chairs in and started reading.

“Tabs,” Theo said, after a minute or so, “You were going to kiss me, weren’t you?”

“I’d say you were the initiator,” Goodwin observed, without looking up.

“Tabs . . .” She waved her hand to shush him.

“Focus, Theo.”

“Won’t you give me an answer?” She glanced at him.

“I’ll give you an answer when you stop giving me one-liners.”

“But you need to give me a chance first.”

“Well, wait it out and you might just get one,” she said. “In the meantime, we have a mob boss to bring down. So cool off, Theo Leith, and get your head down. Anselmo isn’t going to arrest himself.”

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The end of just another day in Brandon.

That's it for Episode 2. I hope you enjoyed this update and check back next Saturday for Episode 3! Don't forget to rate and comment!

Macko123456

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Monday 16th April 2012

Day One

11.30am

The wooden gavel slammed down onto the plate with a resounding crack and everyone gathered in the Grand Debate Chamber of the United States Curia immediately fell silent. It was a large, semicircular room with a balcony around the sides. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, illuminating the rows of desks and the raised platform at the front. On it was a long table and behind it were eleven chairs, each one with a Senator sitting on it.

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The United States Curia

“Order!” the Chairwoman shouted. She was fairly young, somewhere in her thirties, and had blonde hair down to her shoulders. Her face was flushed and she wore a smart grey business suit. “We are here for a preliminary session of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance.” At the back of the Chamber, a rack of television screens showed the live feed from the dozens of cameras trained on her face as the images were beamed out across the country. “For those of you watching at home who haven’t been given a copy of our brief, the purpose of these sessions is to establish whether or not the Enjoni Corporation should be allowed to buy Stroud Electronics, were the situation to arise. My name is Georgina Stanton and I’m the junior Democratic Senator from Massachusetts. I’ll be chairing our meetings. Called as a witness today is Lisa Rye. Ms Rye served with Dell for five years as a consultant on corporate takeovers and she is here to give us some insight into the background behind the bid.” She turned to one of her fellows. “Senator Irvin, you may begin questioning. Please introduce yourself properly first.” The Senator, an older man of about fifty-five, cleared his throat and leaned in to the microphone before him.

“Good morning, everyone. I’m Michael Irvin, the senior Senator from Nevada. Ms Rye, I’d like to you tell me about the Enjoni Corporation. Keep it brief, if you will.” Lisa Rye, a woman in her late twenties who sat at a desk before the podium, nodded to him.

“Enjoni is a company specialising in electronics. They build components for computers, mobile phones and tablets. Business analysts predict a growth in turnover of three percent for this quarter, which is above average but not outstanding considering their field is booming at current.”

“Thank you. And Stroud?”

“Stroud Firmware is a larger corporation looking to cut into the electronics market. If they were to do so, Enjoni would be by far their biggest competitor.” There was a pause.

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The logo of the Enjoni Corporation

“So it’s safe to say these two organisations pose no threat to each other at current?”

“At current, no, they don’t.”

“But they could.”

“Yes.”

“And Stroud? Are they secure in their own dealings?”

“They’re much more stable, that’s for certain, but they have lower growth forecasts.” Irvin opened his mouth to speak, then stopped himself and waited while the scribes caught up with them.

“In your opinion, Ms Rye, would Enjoni buying Stroud lead to them controlling too large a share of the market? In other words, would it be wise, in the interests of plurality, for the Subcommittee to block a theoretical takeover bid?” Rye shook her head.

“Stroud’s share of the firmware market is only slightly larger than Enjoni’s share of the electronics market. They’re entirely separate.” Irvin frowned.

“Pardon me if I’m understanding this wrong, but surely a company with a commanding stake in both areas would be able to grow itself far more quickly than if it only controlled one?”

“I imagine that’s why they’re thinking of launching the bid, Mr Senator.” Several people in the room laughed, Stanton among them. Rye looked pleased with herself.

“You understand what I’m saying, though. Enjoni would become by far the most powerful business in the country, would it not?”

“In the relevant fields, yes.”

“Allowing it to buy out all other businesses.”

“If it had the money.”

“Which would be bad for plurality, as I said.” Rye pursed her lips.

“Senator Irvin, you’re trying to pressure me into giving a personal opinion upon a subject in which I am meant to be impartial. I can tell you that Enjoni would indeed be the most powerful company in those fields. I can also tell you that it would quite possibly be capable of cutting its rivals. What I can’t tell you is whether I believe that’s a bad thing.”

“Let’s sum this up in short,” Stanton concluded, before Irvin could say anything. “Ms Rye, please understand that in asking this question, I am simply looking for a factual answer, not an opinion. Would such a takeover restrict competition?” Rye hesitated before answering.

“Yes, it would.”

1.30pm

Three long corridors ran along the back of the United States Senate Chamber in the Curia, one above the other on the first, second and third floors. Each one had thirty or so suites branching off it, so that between them they accommodated all one hundred Senators working in the building. On the third floor, in the reception room of Suite 95, a member of the catering staff was busy laying the coffee table with cakes and pots of tea. On each side of it was a sofa, and sitting on the right-hand sofa as seen from the entrance was Senator Georgina Stanton. She had her legs crossed and a file lay in her lap, the emblem of the Congressional Research Office emblazoned on it.

“Thanks Jim,” she said to the caterer, indicating the refreshments. “Those look lovely.”

“Don’t eat them all at once,” Jim replied. “I hope you have someone to share them with, else this is going on your bill and not the taxpayer’s.” As if on cue, there was a knock on the door.

“That’ll be my guest,” Stanton observed. Jim straightened up and wheeled his trolley over to it. He swung it open to reveal the Chief of Staff for the Old Place, the official residence and workplace of the President.

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The Old Place

Joseph Panneta was tall and slim, dressed in a grey three-piece suit and shiny black shoes. His wiry physique made him look more like an athlete than a politician but anyone who was anyone knew he was one of the most formidable forces in Brandon.

“Good morning sir,” Jim said. “I take it you’re here to see the Senator?”

“I have an appointment,” Panneta told him. “Do you need to see the paperwork?”

“That won’t be necessary.” The Chief of Staff stepped aside and he pushed the trolley out into the hallway. “Have a nice meeting.” Panneta swung the door shut behind him and crossed to Stanton.

“Georgina,” he greeted her, leaning down to shake her hand as he did so. “Good to see you.”

“Likewise, Joe. How’re you doing?”

“As well as can be expected.”

“Will you take a seat?”

“Of course.” He sat across the table from her and took a fig roll from one of the silver platters. “I’m afraid I don’t have long, so you’ll have to get to the point. You know how it is.”

“Yes,” Stanton said. She took the file from her lap and held it out to him. He accepted it and flicked it open, then skimmed the front page absent-mindedly. “That’s a report compiled by the CRO concerning the possible corporate takeover of Stroud Firmware by the Enjoni Corporation.”

“It makes for interesting reading,” he muttered.

“So it does. I’ve just come from a session of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance.”

“You mean Scoso-cup-sai,” he said, without looking up.

“What?” He glanced up from the file.

“The acronym. SCSOCPPSAI. The Old Place staff call it Scoso-cup-sai.”

“Because that’s easier to say than the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance?” Panneta shrugged.

“It’s shorter, that’s for sure.”

“That’s ridiculous.” He went back to his reading, but kept talking as he did so.

“In Venezuela there’s a series of eighteen radio telescopes aligned to catch the light from the Universe’s earliest days. So far, they’ve discovered over a dozen galaxies and are on track to discover hundreds more. It’s called the VLA.”

“Which stands for . . ?” Panneta shut the file.

“The Very Large Array. And you think yours is a stupid name.”

“In the session I came from,” Stanton went on, wearily, “We heard testimony from Lisa Rye, an expert on corporate takeovers. She said that a buyout of Stroud by Enjoni would restrict competition and allow Enjoni to shut down their competitors.” Panneta shrugged.

“Companies rise and fall, Georgina. You know that.”

“Joe, we are staring into a pit here. The electronics industry is worth billions a year. If we let one corporation control it, we stifle it. We lose our chance for growth.”

“You want the Subcommittee to block the bid when it comes? That’ll take a vote in the House and the Republicans will never let the government be seen to interfere in the economy, and furthermore, an attempt to do so would be an audacious move on behalf of the Old Place.”

“I don’t want a vote, Joe. I don’t want it to come to that.”

“Excellent. I’m glad to hear it.”

“I want the President to make a statement opposing the takeover.” He raised an eyebrow.

“Okay. Where do you want the press conference to be held? On our planet or yours?”

“Seriously . . .”

“No, Georgina.”

“Why not?”

“You want reasons? I’ll give you three of them.” He counted them off on his fingers. “It’s too early in the year – too far from the election – for the President to be spending political capital, Stroud is probably too large for Enjoni to buy at the moment and thirdly, the President doesn’t have any corporate experience!”

“He worked in the financial sector.”

“He was an investment manager at Murray Street Brothers for four years before he was elected Senator! This isn’t his speciality. In fact, it’s not even near . . .” He trailed off, making random sounds as he tried to find the words, and gave up after a couple of seconds. “Look, I’m glad you feel passionately about this, but that’s as far as it’ll go. You’re not getting support from the President.” He climbed to his feet, crossed to the door and swung it open. Stanton stood as well.

“Couldn’t you persuade him?” Panneta chuckled.

“I could if I wanted to,” he said, and slammed the door behind him.

2.00pm

Downtown Brandon was a grid of streets to the west of the Federal Centre, built on a peninsula protruding into the murky waters of Lake Dark. The vertical streets were named for Presidents, while the horizontals were named for states – with the exception of the broad thoroughfare running through the heart of the district, which was called Constitution Avenue.

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Downtown Brandon

At the centre of it all, taking up the lowest three floors of the Fiore Building on the intersection of Constitution Avenue and Polk Street, was the Central Precinct Police Station. Beyond the glass doors at the entrance and on the other side of the lobby was a large, open area two floors tall with a balcony running around it. It was covered in desks and workstations, each one home to a detective.

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The Central Precinct Police Station

“I’m just saying that I don’t see any career progression,” Theo Leith said, turning round in his swivel chair to face the woman leaning on the table beside him. She was slightly shorter than he was, with a slim physique and dark skin. Her black hair was tied back in a long ponytail and she spoke with an Indian accent as she replied to him.

“You never know, Theo. Something might come up.” Her name was Tabitha Goodwin and, like Theo, she was a Detective Inspector with the Brandon Police Department. He snorted.

“What are the odds of that?” They were both young, only about thirty. Theo himself was a relatively tall and handsome man. He had a full face and unruly hair that he could never control. When he spoke, his tone was easy and confident. “I’d sooner stake my money on the Crows winning the game tonight.” She chuckled.

“When you put it that way . . .”

“By the way, did you get those files I asked for?” She pulled out the drawer by her waist and took out a ledger for him. “I knew you’d do it,” he said, taking it from her.

“It was a favour, Theo, and a big one at that.”

“Yeah, but I knew you’d do it.”

“How?”

“When I asked you, I used my masculine charm.” She pursed her lips.

“Your masculine charm?”

“Girls are into that, Tabs. I can be very distracting at times.”

“Let’s get back on subject.” He leaned back in his chair and began turning the ledger’s pages.

“Why, you don’t want to talk about the charm? It’s okay, you know. You can tell me about your feelings.” Goodwin shook her head slowly.

“You are incredible.”

“I get that a lot.”

“Do you now?” He shrugged.

“Sure. Over dinner, in bed . . . the usual stuff.”

“How often do you take girls to dinner?” He looked up at her seriously.

“Whenever I turn up the charm.” She rolled her eyes.

“You were talking about career progression.”

“Sure. I’ve been in this job for five years and I haven’t seen one payrise or even the faintest hint of a promotion. In that time, I’ve solved three homicides, two arsons and a grand theft auto. Most people would be Deputy Commissioner by now!” Goodwin laughed.

“That’s a bit much.”

“But you know what I’m saying.”

“She certainly does,” someone interrupted. They both looked over to see Detective Chief Inspector Leonard Harmon – their boss – standing in the aisle between the desks. He was thick-set and muscled, clearly a result of hours spent in the gym. Like them, he wore his casual slacks. Leith immediately straightened up and put the ledger down on the table.

“Sir,” he said. “We were just discussing . . .”

“I heard, rookie.” He pointed over his shoulder at the door behind him. A plague hung from a nail in the wood with his name engraved on it. “My office. ASAP.” Without another word, he turned and walked off. Leith watched him go, shaking his head slowly.

“Oh, damn. I’d better go, Tabs.”

“Try hitting him with some of that charm,” Goodwin suggested, sarcastically. He threw her a cold look and set off after him, just managing to catch the door before it clicked shut. Harmon was sitting behind his desk with his legs propped up on it.

“Listen, sir,” Leith reasoned, “I didn’t mean . . .”

“Cut the chatter, you hear?”

“Sorry.”

“Let me do the talking. It’s about time you showed some respect.” Leith let the door close and sat opposite him. “I’ve heard you complaining about this before, rookie.” The DI’s cheek twitched at the use of the word. “That’s right. That’s what you are. You don’t see yourself getting a promotion anytime soon, eh? You got that right. In this organisation, you don’t complain. You just keep your head down and serve the government you swore to protect. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

“Yes sir,” Leith said, his head bowed.

“Okay. You can go.” He stood up and crossed to the exit, then glanced back.

“Sir?”

“What?”

“Three homicides, two arsons and a grand theft auto . . . don’t call me a rookie. You’re embarrassing no-one but yourself.” As he was about to wrench the door open, Harmon called out:

“Theo!” Leith walked back into the middle of the room and leaned on the chair.

“Yes?”

“As misplaced as your frustrations may be, I’m impressed with your desire to succeed. Whining will hold you back but ambition is its own reward. I’ll assign you to the Anselmo case. Crack it and I’ll get a promotion.” Leith laughed sourly.

“I’m not doing this for you.”

“Sure you’re not. You’re the one who replaces me.” There was a pause.

“I see.”

“Anselmo’s a mobster of the worst variety. We’re talking gambling rackets, murder, unconnected disappearances . . . you name it, he’s been associated with it at some time or other. As far as we know, he operates from a casino on Frances Boulevard, out in Hollow – just past Old Town. That’s where you should start.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You can thank me when it’s done, rookie. Now get out of my office.”

11.30pm

The Aquaria Casino’s towers rose high into the air above Hollow, Brandon’s main gambling centre. One of the city’s many curious perks was that it was actually situated in the District of Dalwood, sandwiched between the states of Maryland and Virginia. It suburbs extended into both of them – everything to the south of the two lakes around which the city was built actually belonged to Maryland, although Downtown and the Federal Centre were to the north. The Aquaria Casino was a strange building; rectangular, but looking as if someone had put a hand on each side and pulled them apart lengthways so the left half jutted out beyond the right at one end and vice versa. Its higher floors were filled with apartments and the middle floors with office space. The lower third was the casino proper, where countless no-hopers and down-and-outs spent their evenings gambling away the last of their money.

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The Aquaria Casino

Fiorino Anselmo, the mobster known to his friends as Saint Anselm, had an office overlooking the main gaming hall. He had ordered the shutters closed over the windows so the light from outside fell across him in diagonal streaks as he lit another cigar. He was a diminutive old man, his face covered in lines and drooping skin, but his impeccable suit marked him out as someone with class. Sitting at the other end of the table to him was a businesswoman in what looked like jogging clothes; a t-shirt and tracksuit trousers.

“Thank you for taking the time to see me,” she said.

“It’s not often one of your type ventures into my casino,” Anselmo replied, his accent distinctly Italian. She folded her arms.

“My type?”

“You know. Big spender.”

“I imagine you get plenty of those in here.” Anselmo issued a rasping laugh and then coughed into a white handkerchief.

“Believe me, if that were true, I wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Oh, I know. Cassarah Sampson.”

“That’s right.”

“CEO of the Enjoni Corporation. What do you need me to do?”

“I can pay well . . .”

“Did I ask about the money? I trust you for that. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t need my help. So tell me what it is. Does someone have to disappear? Are you looking for a temporary relocation or something a little more permanent?” She smiled.

“Nothing so complicated, I’m afraid. If you know I own Enjoni, you’ll know that I’m looking to buy Stroud Firmware. I want you to find ways of weakening their market share so I can claim they’re losing control of their own finances and need rescuing.” Anselmo nodded slowly.

“Corporate fraud. It’s been a while.”

“Can you do it?”

“I’m confident we can arrange something.”

“Good. And it’s a tight deadline, too. I’m giving evidence to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance in nine days’ time. I want to be able to assure them that I plan to save Stroud.”

“That’s more than enough time, Miss Sampson. Leave it with us. We’ll take care of it.”

That's it for Episode 1. I hope you enjoyed this update and check back next Saturday for Episode 2! Don't forget to rate and comment!

Macko123456

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Update 2 - 9th March 2013

Well, it's time for another update. There have been a lot of developments in Brandon, most notably with the introduction of the Old Town and Hollow regions, not to mention the addition of Lakeside, the completion of the highway system and the construction of the Pentagon north of the Federal Center. In this update, I'll show these one by one and end with a little teaser!

OLD TOWN

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HOLLOW

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LAKESIDE

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THE PENTAGON

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Well, that's it for today's update. I'm sorry it's been so long since the last post and I assure you there won't be as long to wait until the next one. Thanks for reading. Last things last, here's a little teaser for . . .

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BRANDON: DARK STREETS is a ten-part story following a US Senator and a policeman as they team up to unravel a conspiracy. The ambitious Enjoni Corporation, seeking to increase its market share, plans a corporate takeover of Stroud Firmware - but Stroud is a far larger company. While the government and the police run around in circles, Cassarah Sampson, Enjoni's ruthless CEO, uses her mafia connections with famous mobster and gambling magnate Fiorino Anselmo to orchestrate a cold-hearted program of corporate sabotage. With potentially disastrous consequences for the US economy at a crucial stage in the country's recovery, Senator Georgina Stanton and DCI Theo Leith must put the pieces together before Sampson's plan can come to fruition.

Macko123456

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Update 1 - 6th February 2013

Welcome to Brandon! In this first photo update, I'm going to be focusing on some of the areas shown in the launch video. Now, a little introduction. Brandon is my re-imagined capital of the USA, complete with its own military training academy, federal centre and multiple downtowns. It's a bustling, metropolitan city with a huge population and various different districts. I'll start from the top, with . . .

DOWNTOWN

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NEW TOWN

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FEDERAL CENTRE

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EAST POINT MILITARY ACADEMY

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FRENCH COVE

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Thanks for reading! Please vote and thumbs-up if you enjoy the pictures and STAY TUNED!

Don't forget, Dark Streets will be launched later this month!

Macko123456

Brandon Relaunch!

Hey all, I lost the previous Brandon when I changed my computer but it's time for a RELAUNCH! This is the new city of Brandon. I'm working on a narrative project named Dark Streets to be published sometime this month, but for the meantime I'll stick to a video introduction to the city. Enjoy!

More updates to come!