P.S.O Jules Stewart
It’s taken Fat Peter all day to track down Roberto but by asking the right questions of all the wrong sort of people he eventually got to speak to him. Apparently at first he thought Fat Peter was out for revenge. When Roberto heard that he’d been connected to Estelle’s disappearance and that evidence linked him to the scene he said he had important information to contribute, but he’d only speak to me in person. So here I am at 2am looking for a bar called Mondo on strata 2.
Very little advertising down here, residents at this level are just struggling to survive, no money for extras. The bars here tend to cater for all the low life of the entire corporate strata, or those who enjoy a threatening atmosphere, rather than the locals, who can’t afford to go out. Rife with dodgy deals of all kinds it’s not surprising that Roberto wanted to meet on strata 2.
Every society has to have some place to let off steam and for nefarious activities to take place with no one watching. And this is it. The area grew up during the alcohol ban and when that was abandoned it just moved on to other illegal pleasures. I just feel sorry for the poor folk who have to live round here.
There’s very little signage, most businesses wanting to remain undetected. Up ahead, a group of four people, who are obviously searching for a good time, crowd around an entrance and then disappear inside. As I approach I see a small sign of a globe, Mondo, could be any kind of business. The door is a metal grill like the door to a prison cell. I rattle the metal and let the retina scan access my data. I’m certainly old enough for this establishment, possibly too old, too clean and too official, although I know many colleagues who come to strata two for stress release. The door lock clicks and I push it open. The air inside is stale, a mix of cheap perfumes, alcohol and sweat. My feet stick to the floor with each step I take along a corridor that seems to grow darker and darker. I push open double doors in front me. The room beyond is full of swirling dry ice, lights revolving from up above slice through the mist momentarily illuminating an arm, a leg, a glimpse of a face, moving in a rhythm that matches the pounding bass that I feel in my bones more than hear. On strata two most people’s network settings are pretty basic so there’s rarely a facility to alter soundtracks, unfortunately. It’s hard to tell how big the space is with no walls visible. Shadowy figures are twisting and turning all around me. I walk slowly through them hands out in front to protect myself from the gyrating bodies. None of them seem to be present and in control, all away on some tech trip, their faces staring vacantly at some distant point.
Roberto said booth 23 on the back wall so I’m hoping if I keep going straight I’ll come to a solid surface but this place is cavernous and it takes me a whole cycle of some pulsating beat to get there. Eventually my hands land on a solid structure, some kind of partition wall, damp to the touch. A row of lights shine narrow beams downwards, illuminating numbers on a line of doors. I walk along, keeping a hand flat on the wall so I don’t get lost in the mist again. Up ahead a man steers a young woman through a door, she’s away on the network somewhere, walking like her legs are made of jelly.
I glance down just in time to see a slick of vomit on the floor and see a few folk up ahead doubled over, some struggling to breath.
I stop at the door of 23. It’s ajar. I push it wide open and the smell hits me, quickly I clamp a hand over my mouth. The room is dark and as a beam swings behind me it flashes across the space like a searchlight and picks out the vacant stare of two eyeballs in the corpse of, I presume, Roberto.
I close the door sharpish and call for back up. We need to evacuate this place. Not easy when no one here wants to be seen, no one wants to know whose here and certainly no one wants to know what anyone was up to.