Investigation Number: 167

Entry 3.

I’ve only visited above Strata 150 once before, a poisoning on 152. It was an attack on a Corporate Executive, a clever infiltration of the air conditioning unit, a death, which at first glance seemed natural, although unusual given the data on the victim’s health monitoring systems. The pattern of excellent health making a natural demise improbable, and the memory of a neighbour meeting an air circulation engineer, formed the pattern of that fiendish murder plot.

    I step from the lift recalling this case and the headlines I’d made. I’m about to select my memory of it in the store, to blink through while I wait, when Jet Wong appears before me. Evidently the lift opens directly into her cube.

    ‘Jet Wong.’ She holds a hand out to me, smiling. Her handshake firm, reinforced cartilage in those finger joints. Her teeth are a dazzling white, slightly pointed. Something about her reminds me of the crocodile monster in Prehistoric Death Ride V.

    ‘Thank you for seeing me, for giving up your valuable time,’ I say.

    ‘Not at all. I’m glad that you’ve taken on this case. Estelle is very precious to me and from your reputation you’re the best person for this job.’

     I bashfully acknowledge this and as we walk along the bright, light corridor, level with only sky, I start my questioning.

    ‘Can you clarify your relationship to Estelle Fischer? You were her guardian?’

    ‘Yes until she was twenty-five and since then, having reached maturity, she’s been independent. We still meet up at least once a week. I’m as attached to her as if she were my own daughter.’

    Jet Wong is walking swiftly and talking easily. No strain in her voice, no red rims around the eyes or bitten fingernails.

    ‘You probably know I became her guardian when she was ten years old. Her parents died in a flu epidemic down at street level. I was visiting down there and helping as best I could. I met what family she had left and it seemed the only thing I could do was bring her back to safety in the corporate Strata and give her a chance in life.’

    ‘That was very charitable of you,’ I say.

She waves this away with a flick of her wrist. We've reached the far corner of the tower and the space opens out into a lounge area. Jet sits on a white pleather chair, one of several, like clouds, arranged around a white rug, in front of the floor to ceiling glass. Outside dark clouds are forming. I take a seat opposite her. A small, low table is between us with a wooden puzzle placed on it next to a single blood red rose.

    ‘When was the last time you saw Estelle?’ I

ask.

    She pauses and then says, ‘to be honest I should perhaps have done something. I knew, I could see, she was upset and vulnerable. But I didn’t think she would do anything silly like this.’

   ‘Like what? Do you think she might have harmed herself?’

    ‘It’s just that I met her last Monday for dinner as usual and she hit me with a barrage of questions. Describing images she could half remember from dreams, the door to a house at street level, a chipped plate, a blanket, street names. Trying to fill in the gaps of what she knew about her childhood. She was questioning all I’ve told her about her early life. The irresponsible people she works with had let her become embroiled with people down at street level and they'd confused her. She left in tears. I messaged her the next day to meet up. No reply. When I saw she’d not logged into work, made no entries in her memory store, I filed her as missing.’

    ‘I was going to visit, the charity’s office. Anyone in particular I should speak to?’ I said.

    ‘You could speak to Peta, though I doubt that will help. And where else will you look?’ She asks.

    ‘Of course I’ll check through Estelle’s memories and see what can be gleaned about her state of mind. Perhaps that will be a good place to start. To see if, as you say, she was struggling to come to terms with her past.’

    Jet’s eyes flick to the network, ‘sorry,’ she murmurs as her attention shifts from me and focuses on information she’s receiving. I take my chance, an unexpected opportunity to look around her cube, although this is on a scale I’ve not come across before, cube really is not the right word, quarters perhaps. Spacious, the sky beyond the glass creates a sense of infinity.

    A painting is hanging on one wall. A woman fixed in oil, heavy in an ancient gilt frame, defying gravity against the blue, the clouds around her an imitation of those outside. The room she’s captured in a stark contrast to the space she now occupies, heavy dark furniture, Victorian, maybe? She leans on a desk with a ram’s head supporting the top, one elbow resting on a book, a quill in her hand, ready to record her thoughts. Through a window behind her a cloudy sky, trees and water. Some feat of engineering to fix this to the glass, how’s that work?

   ‘Careful for fingerprints.’ Jet Wong is standing beside me. ‘The glass is tough but in this light smudgy marks on the surface spoil the effect.’

   ‘I’ve seen very few paintings in recent years. This is a real oil painting? How old is it?’

   ‘Yes it’s oil. Mrs Sargent was painted in 1778 and here we are looking at her more than three hundred years later.  I wonder if either of our images will survive deletion over the next three centuries.’

    ‘Mrs Sargent I’m sure would never have anticipated ending up here,’ I say.

    ‘I found her in a looted house, in quite a state, the pigment fading after years of neglect. The public purse unable to stretch to maintaining artwork had left it like so many local authority treasures to degrade. The corporations and myself had to act. To save what was of value.’

    ‘And did you acquire her at the same time as Estelle?’ I ask.

    ‘Rescue is a more accurate term for the painting and most certainly for Estelle, Pattern Surveillance Officer. Estelle was my daughter.’ Jet Wong stands blocking my way further into her space. She reaches out to shake my hand, signaling the end of our meeting. She’s told me what she wants me to know and has already switched her attention to the network. Not looking at me she says, ‘We’re counting on you. You must find her.’

 

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Read memories from other writers marked with an * add your own writing about life in Liverpool in 2115 by selecting images without.

Liverpool Corporate Strata

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Off the Grid / at ground level

The many faces of Estelle Fischer

 

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Technology / Dysfunctional Technology

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Memory and  Memory loss

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Shortages and unrest

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Trees and green spaces

Epidemics

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 User: Jules Stewart

 D.O.B 05:09:2060

 Occupation: Pattern Surveillance Officer

 Resides: Liverpool Corporate Strata 19

 Verification rating: 89%

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