If at First

If at First by Peter F. Hamilton

Book: If at First by Peter F. Hamilton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peter F. Hamilton
MY NAME IS David Lanson, and I was with the Metropolitan Police for twenty-seven years. When we got handed the Jenson case I was a chief detective, heading up my own team. Not bad going; from outside you’d think I was a standard careerist ticking off the days until retirement. You’d be wrong, I’d grown to hate the job with a passion. Back when I signed on the CID were real thief-takers, but by the time the Jenson case came up I was spending all my time filling in Risk Assessment forms. I’m not kidding, the paperwork was beyond parody. All good stuff for lawyers, but we were getting hammered in the press for truly dismal crime statistics, and hammered by the politicians for not meeting their stupid targets. No wonder public confidence in us had reached rock bottom; the only useful thing we did for the average citizen by then was to hand out official crime numbers for insurance claims.
    I suppose that makes me sound bitter; but then that seems to be the fate of old men who’re stuck in a job that’s forever modernizing. The point of all this being, despite drowning in all that bureaucratic stupidity I reckoned I was quite a decent policeman. That is: I know when people are lying. In those twenty-seven years I’d heard it all, and I do mean all: desperate types who’ve made a mistake and then start sprouting bollocks to cover themselves, the genuine nutters who live in their own little world and believe every word they’re saying, drunks and potheads trying to act sober, losers with pitiful excuses, real sick ones who are so cold and polite it makes my skin crawl. Listening to all that day in day out you soon learn to tell what’s real and what isn’t.
    So anyway— We get the call from Marcus Orthew’s solicitor that his security people are holding an intruder at his Richmond research center, and they’d appreciate a full investigation of the “situation.” That was in 2007, and Orthew was a media and computer mogul then, at least that was the public perception; it wasn’t until later I found out just how wide his commercial and technological interests were. His primary hardware company, Orthanics, had just started producing solid state blocks that were generations ahead of anything the opposition were doing, they didn’t have hard drives or individual components, the entire computer was wrapped up inside a single hyperprocessor. It wiped the floor with PCs and Applemacs. He was always ahead of the game, Orthew; it was his original PCWs that blew Sinclair computers away at the start of the 1980s; everyone in my generation went and bought an Orthanics PCW as their first computer.
    But this break-in: I thought it was slightly odd the solicitor calling me rather than the company security office. Like I said, the longer you’re in the game you develop a feeling for these things. I took Paul Mathews and Carmen Galloway with me, they were lieutenants on my team, good people, and slightly less bothered about all the paperwork flooding our office than me. Smart move, I guess; they’d probably make it farther than I was ever destined to go. Orthanics security were holding on to Toby Jenson, they’d found him breaking into one of the Richmond Center labs, which the CCTV footage confirmed. And I was right, there was more to it. We read Toby Jenson his rights, and uniform division hauled him off; that was when the solicitor told me he was a stalker, a twenty-four-karat obsessive. Marcus Orthew had known about him for years, Jenson had been following him ’round the globe, hacking into Orthew’s systems, talking to people in his organization, on his domestic staff, ex-girlfriends, basically anyone who crossed his path; but they hadn’t been able to do anything about him. Jenson was smart, there was never any activity they could take him to court for, he never got physically close, all he did was talk to people, and the hacking could never be proved in law. The Richmond break-in changed all that. As it was Orthew

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