wIRe thE MoNEy tO THIS account
k33P Ur moUth z1pPed – TEll No 1
The note was a cliché, pure and simple, the latest in an attempt to blackmail my client, and followed the well-worn convention of text cut from a newspaper. The use of l33t-speak, replacing letters with numbers, was an evolution: the blackmailer considered themselves rather sophisticated and was attempting to prevent an analysis of the note from the perspective of the source of the text. Mind you, if the black mailer was as smart as they thought they were, the newspapers used to produce this sequence of letters had been destroyed by now.
In practice, it didn’t matter. One detail told me more than the blackmailer realised. Perfect squares had been excised with a craft-knife rather than scissors. It told me exactly who we were dealing with.
This blackmailer considered themselves to be the equal of Charles Augustus Milverton. Following my wife’s suicide, I vowed to become Sherlock Holmes, to track them down. They were a spider, sitting in a global web of agents and proxies. I would need to become the same. My wealth bankrolled digital knights, hunting down trolls and cyber-dragons, exposing them to the light. We tracked down the individuals who made the world worse for their own benefit. Most were easily dealt with by the authorities.
But there are those who will never face justice. Those who are clever and cunning in their lairs. Those for whom the evidence has been made to disappear. How will these barbarians at the gate be brought to justice? I do not condone mob rule, even for those who prey on the weak and vulnerable. I took responsibility.
There is always a weak link. They had given the account details, a Cayman Islands one, naturally, but the money didn’t stay there for long. An electronic handshake and it was off on a magical mystery tour.
It took 13 years, but every victim gave me another piece of information. My white-hat hackers finally tracked the blackguard to a sleepy English village, where he was playing at being the lord of the manor. I tracked him from the cosy pub, where he had been spilling largesse into the eager hands and mouths of the locals. I hunted him across his own estate, confronting him on a bridge.
There were 11 rounds in the clip of my custom-made pistol. The rounds are rather special because – well, perhaps I won’t give that little bit of intelligence away. Not just yet anyway. As I say, 11 rounds, but only one was needed. In the dark of the night, he staggered backwards and fell over the railing.
Beneath a crescent moon the body floated on the river and went over a weir.
© David Jesson, 2020
I submitted this story to the Australian Writer’s Centre monthly writing competition, #FuriousFiction. The competition provides a prompt (typically much more intricate than the ones we offer here!), 55 hours to turn around a 500 word story, and AUD$500 as a prize. This time round the prompt was to include an interpretation of five emojis (see below), to finish the story with an anagram of the first word, and to include the phrase “There were 11 ____ in the____”, to be completed as the writer sees fit.
The emojis to be included were: