Not All Of What Follows Is True

A recurring journal of mixed veracity.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hispaniola chapter 2
(part 1)

Lucy da Silva was woken by the shrill beep-beep of her alarm clock, the generic moulded plastic number she’d never yet bothered to replace. It had been provided along with her room at the Radisson and she would only ever remembered how much she disliked it and its awful alarm tone at night right before she fell asleep, and then in the mornings when it woke her.

The Radisson accommodation was courtesy of her employers at the Bureau des Étrangers of the city of Saint-Marc, a residence judged befitting her status as Sergeant. It wasn’t cheap, but it was about as low-grade as rooms got in the city. She and the rest of the officers were put up in the hotel because the city could never afford any of the private housing in the city proper and was unwilling to have its employees living in the suburbs. Lucy sat up and cast a bleary eye over her room – a studio apartment, really. It was a mess. Clothes were strewn about the floor and used crockery and food containers were scattered about the place. Cleaning services, as part of the city’s cut-price accommodation deal with the Radisson, were not included. Lucy would liked to have blamed the disarray on her extensive shift work, but that excuse was fooling nobody, least of all herself.

She crawled out of bed and took a brief shower before finding a minimally crumpled white blouse and dark skirt in her wardrobe. Once dressed she brushed her hair and regarded herself critically in the bathroom mirror. She looked, she decided, a mess. Nothing particularly out of place but for the worn-out look of someone getting too little sleep. She’d had three hours last night. That was enough for some people, she’d read, but not her. She wasn’t sure how long she could keep this up.

She’d been the other side of thirty back when she started the job. Yet looking in the mirror she couldn’t see what had changed. What had she even looked like when she was younger? Still the same dark skin and features now that made people mistake her for a Haitian. Not an unreasonable assumption. Her friends and colleagues, they’d aged too, of course, but she couldn’t remember what they’d looked like when they were younger either.

Lucy was in the office by seven in the morning. The headquarters of the Bureau des Étrangers was an open-plan office of about twenty cubicles. At this time in the morning, only half a dozen or so of the desks were occupied. A large plate-glass window provided a panoramic view of the sea. The sky today was pale, more white than blue. A brightly coloured delta-wing could be seen skimming the waves, a pleasure craft taken out for an early cruise. The police building was more or less right on the seafront. To either side along the shore and behind it stretching inland, the shining buildings of Saint-Marc reared majestically in the sun. Monuments to commerce and internationalism, tinted windows and steel frames glinted and sparkled. The logos of the world adorned the skyline. Companies and institutions old and new, giants of manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and finance. The emerald torus of the UN representative office protruded into the sea on a purpose-built pontoon. At the heart of the grand International Plaza, the old WTO meeting house that had begun the whole thing stood brooding, its hulking blocky form a contrast to the elegant forms that clustered around it, a brutalist architecture that meant business.

Lucy was intercepted on her way to the coffee machine, by Inspector Guerin, a tall, skinny Haitian officer who’d been at the Bureau for three years now. He often exuded a rather gloomy demeanour that many people found off-putting, but Lucy had found he had a streak of wry humour once she got to know him. This morning, he looked harried. “Lucy,” he said, “are you busy?”

He continued without waiting for her to reply. “There’s a security detail we need someone for – coming in to the airport in half an hour. Someone from the Emirates, big money. Upstairs say he gets full police protection, not just private security. Apparently he’s big in kelp.”
“Yes, kelp. The major supplier to Burger King, apparently.”
“Who has this kelp magnate upset enough to warrant all this fuss?” asked Lucy.
“I don’t know,” said Guerin, “I’m probably not cleared for that kind of information. Can you do it?”
“No worries,” said Lucy, “I’ll head over there in a few minutes.”
Guerin nodded his thanks. Lucy got herself a coffee from the machine and headed out to the motor pool, checking her notices on the way down in the lift. There a few new faces on the watchlist. A couple of guys connected with slave trafficking, a wanted embezzler down from California, the usual kind of thing. Her personal inbox was nothing but departmental event notices and circulars. She closed the program and the information vanished from her mind’s eye. Sending emails and bulletins like this was a pretty frivolous use of police technology, but it was no real load on resources so it had become policy.

Police and thieves, in general, were the only people with permanent connections like this. The rest of the world seemed to think it was too invasive, and Lucy couldn’t blame them. She would have preferred not to have them at all, but the implants were a prerequisite for employment in the Saint-Marc constabulary. Rumours would constantly circulate, privately shared horror stories of fellow officers here and abroad whose systems had failed, something gone on the fritz and left them with wire-generated hallucinations or hearing voices, false memories or screwed-up vision.

It was an edge, though, a built-in communication system that couldn’t be detected and was difficult to block. It was invaluable – or it would be for an honest-to-God crime fighting unit. For the Bureau des Étrangers, though, it did kind of seem like overkill.


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