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Authors: Erik Hamre

Tags: #Techno Thriller

TUNA LIFE (8 page)

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This was a new world, a new economy, and he needed to play by its rules.


Andrew sighed. It was annoying that it was so hard to find out more about Frank. Nothing showed up on Google searches, and he wasn’t registered on LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media platforms. Frank was simply from a different generation. His life wasn’t registered on the net. If Andrew wanted to find out who he really was, he would have to do it the old way, whatever that was; call up old employers and friends, check public records? Andrew had no idea how to do those sorts of things. It was simply not feasible. Frank’s real background would have to stay unknown for now.




A broken road sign narrowly missed Scott’s car as it whirled past him on the highway. The coast had been hit with several days of torrential rain and strong winds, and Scott Davis had preferred to stay at home on his couch if it was up to him. But Mark Moss had called him an hour earlier; enquiring whether Scott had reviewed the material Mark had left in his inbox several weeks ago. Scott hadn’t even bothered to attempt a lie. He simply hadn’t prioritised it. He had been busy planning the match schedules for the upcoming rugby season, busy fixing the engine on the boat he never used, busy with a million unimportant things. Chores he really didn’t want to do, but still did to pass time.

Mark Moss had claimed the police had found one of the women. She had washed ashore at the Spit, the point that marked the mouth from Southport into the Pacific Ocean. Mark’s claim that they had found one of the women proved to be a slight exaggeration. What they had found was a hand, a foot and something else, something unidentifiable. But Mark’s plea had evoked something in Scott Davis, something that had been dormant for a long time. It had piqued his interest.

Scott had wondered how Mark knew it was one of the missing blondes who had been found, given that the police only had found a hand and a foot, and had yet to confirm any identity. Mark Moss had said that he had interviewed the person making the find. The guy had mentioned that the arm had been covered with a tattoo of a snake. A young woman, Marissa Soo, had been reported missing two weeks ago. The missing person report clearly stated that she had a snake tattoo on her right arm.

“Everyone has a tattoo these days,” Scott had said condescendingly. But Mark Moss hadn’t backed down. He had seemed convinced. The arm had been partially covered by black plastic, possibly from a garbage bag. Mark Moss knew he was right. This wasn’t any ordinary missing persons’ case. Marissa Soo had been murdered. And her killer had carved the corpse up in small pieces, before dumping it in the seaway. Calm down, Scott Davis had said. The last thing this city needs is a reporter running around spreading rumours about a possible serial killer on the loose. True, it would probably benefit Scott. Maybe then the idiots running the paper would realise what a monumental mistake they had made replacing Scott with a twenty-five-year-old kid, without any real journalistic experience, without any bloody life experience. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. The young kid was only trying to do his best.

The weather was too wild to take the boat out anyway; not that it mattered, he never seemed to take it out anymore. And he had already decided the team line-up for next week’s bout against the archrivals Mermaid Bears Rugby Team. He had nothing pressing to do. He might as well take a drive down to the Spit to check out what all the fuss was about. It would be a good excuse to get out of the house to grab a coffee.


A short hour later he stepped out of his car and put his mobile to his ear.

“Where are you?”

“I’m at the beach. They are still securing evidence down here.”

Scott Davis slid back into the driver’s seat. “I’m at the parking lot for the next fifteen minutes. I’m in a grey Land Rover.”

“I’ll be there in five,” Mark Moss replied.

Scott swore. The coffee cup from Zaraffa’s had leaked, and the centre console now had a thick layer of brown fluid where the coffee cup had once stood. He swore again. You almost needed a bloody university degree to order a coffee these days. There were so many variants and foreign words that he had given up buying coffee for other people than himself. They made coffee from beans that had passed through the digestive system of Sumatran civets, but they still weren’t able to produce a cup that wouldn’t leak. How difficult could it be?

The car door was opened and a wind-blown Mark Moss got into the passenger seat. He put away his soaked umbrella, resting his eyes on the lonely cup of coffee in the centre console.

“So, tell me your theory,” Scott said.

“Have you read the folder I gave you?” Mark Moss asked.

Scott Davis shook his head.

Mark Moss looked disappointed, but he still began explaining his theory. “Even though it hasn’t been officially confirmed, I’m certain that the body parts found today belong to Marissa Soo. She was a twenty-year-old student. Worked part time at a café and Crazy Kangaroo Strip Club.”

Scott Davis smiled contently. It almost sounded like the exact description he had given eight weeks earlier.

“She disappeared two weeks ago, on the way home from work. She was originally from New Zealand, and it doesn’t seem like she had any large circle of friends here on the coast. The whole family only moved here four years ago,” Mark Moss continued.

“And you base all this on a tattoo, which I assume is pretty hard to identify after a few weeks in the ocean.”

“That’s the strange thing. The witness claimed that the tattoo was easily recognisable. Thus that arm can’t possibly have been in the ocean for two weeks.”

“It could belong to someone else though. A surfer disappeared from Kingscliff two days ago. The currents have been moving north. It could be his arm that washed up here today.”

“Then tell me why the arm was wrapped in a black plastic bag. It was an arm, not a body that was found today.”

“There are plenty of bull sharks around, even the occasional great white. A human corpse would be a tempting meal for a lot of those predators. And take a look at our beaches, Mark. They are filled with crap. A storm like we’ve had for the last few days washes all kinda shit up onto the beaches. They found a dead cow down at Miami Beach yesterday. A dead fucking cow! If you want to have a career as a crime journalist you’ll have to learn that not everything is murder. I know it can be difficult to admit. But most deaths are just deaths. Accidents, old age, illness, nothing exciting. You need to learn to accept this, and not look for a crime in everything you see. If you want to become a good crime reporter then you need to let the scene of the crime tell you what happened, not the opposite.” Scott Davis took a big drink of his coffee. “Have you got an umbrella I could borrow?” he asked.

Mark Moss looked down at his own umbrella. It was evident that Scott Davis wanted it, and that Mark Moss would have to do without.

“Let’s go down and review the scene together,” Scott said, before stepping out of the car with Mark’s umbrella in his hand.

Mark Moss pulled his jacket collar up to his chin, and braced for the rain.




Andrew and Ken lay resting on two couches in Frank’s basement. It was seven o’clock in the evening. They had barely slept the last twenty-four hours and were exhausted. The demand for the Tuna Life app was still going strong, and it now represented a continuous challenge for their servers. The app was downloaded from iTunes, so the downloads in themselves didn’t represent any problem. The problem arose when people started using the app. The servers in Frank’s basement had to process all the enquiries it got. The software had to redesign and adjust the images of the clothing before sending it back to the users’ phones. This process required immense datapower, and Andrew tended to agree with Frank when he had claimed that to succeed in the mobile internet industry, it wasn’t enough to be a great software company – you also had to be a great hardware company. Speed was so important for users that you needed adequate hardware capacity to make the user experience seamless. In some odd way Frank had managed to connect a bunch of servers, in an intricate system, for only a fraction of what it would have cost to buy the finished systems from suppliers. It didn’t look professional with all the open wiring and motherboards stacked on top of each other. But it worked.

“How’s it going?” Frank hollered from the top of the stairs to the basement.

“Where the fuck have you been?” Andrew yelled back.

“Had to go to Nimbin. Ran out of weed,” Frank replied as he walked down the stairs.

“So you left your fucking front door open? We have more than seventy thousand dollars of equipment stored down here. You might as well have left a sign on the door: Please come in, take whatever you feel like.”

“Is something missing?” Frank asked.

“No, but…”

“So why the long face? I’m bringing back good stuff,” Frank said and pulled out a big bag of marijuana from his backpack.

Ken straightened up in the couch, smiling.

Andrew just walked straight past Frank without even looking him in the eyes. “We have a company to run here. This isn’t a game.”

“Yes, sir,” Frank replied. Standing erect as Andrew left the basement.




They don’t take it seriously,” Andrew whined to Richard. “They don’t understand that this is going to be massive. I’m afraid they may hurt the company more than they will help it.”

“So you want them out?” Richard asked.

“No, no out. But I don’t see how they fit into management if the company continues to grow at this speed.”

“They are co-founders, Andrew, and they own the same number of shares as you. It won’t be easy to get rid of them. And you would also have to consider who to replace them with. Have you thought about that? Ken is a brilliant designer, and I shouldn’t even have to tell what I think about Frank. The man is a genius.”

“I know. But we have the source code in place. With a couple of good engineers on the team I’m sure we could improve the product, even without Frank. Nobody is irreplaceable.” Andrew didn’t necessarily want to get rid of Frank, but there was something about him that just didn’t feel right. He was unpredictable, he had a massive authority problem, and he had disappeared in the middle of the launch of the Tuna Life app. Just when they needed him the most. On one of the most important days in the short history of Tuna Life, Frank had decided to travel to Nimbin to buy marijuana. It was a bad sign, and Andrew had to make sure that he had alternatives available if something like this should ever happen again.

“I don’t really know,” Richard said. “But I’ll bring the issue up when I next see Roman. He will know what to do.”

Andrew skimmed through the piece of paper in front of him. The first investment of one hundred thousand dollars was almost depleted. Roman had suggested injecting another two hundred thousand, valuing the eight-week-old company at seven hundred and fifty thousand. The money would come with a promise that any further funding would be from external investors at a significantly higher valuation. Andrew liked Roman, and he trusted him. He had a great vision for the company and was a person Andrew could learn lots from. He signed the contract, and promised to get Frank’s and Ken’s signatures before the day was over. He slid the papers into his black leather bag, glanced quickly at his TAG Heuer watch, took a sip of the Japanese beer, wiped the corner of his mouth and threw the napkin on top of the plate with half-eaten salmon sashimi. Richard observed the performance that played out before his eyes with interest. It never ceased to amaze him how quickly money and success changed people. The insecure thirty-year-old accountant, who had bought Richard lunch two months ago, had suddenly received a solid injection of confidence.

“What’s your plans for the rest of the day?” Richard asked.

“I’ve got an interview with the Gold Coast Times. They want to do a profile on me. Something about the new economy,” he said, before rising to leave the table.

Richard Smith placed his credit card on the corner of the table. Some things never changed. Now that Andrew suddenly had some money between his hands, he didn’t offer to pay the bill.




The air-conditioning system made some angry hissing sounds before going dead silent. It almost sounded like it had drawn its last breath, before it suddenly started up again with a loud mechanical clank.

Scott Davis wondered how it was possible that one part of the office was colder than Hobart, while the other part was warmer than Townsville. Was it that difficult to make an air-conditioning system that produced the same temperature for the whole floor? The air-conditioning system in question had become a source of hostility in the paper. The journalists in the cold part of the office complained about sore throats and grabbed every opportunity to turn up the heat. The journalists in the Townsville part of the office complained about the opposite and turned the temperature down. Every day profanities and expressions of displeasure were exchanged between the various cubicles in the open office environment. Scott couldn’t care less. He closed the door to the meeting room. The temperature in there was nice. He leant back and planted his crossed legs on top of the meeting room table, and then he closed his eyes. He had just finished reviewing the folder Mark Moss had left in his inbox eight weeks earlier. Reluctantly, he had had to admit that there was something off with these missing persons’ cases. The young kid could quite possibly be onto something. The police had still not, at least not officially, identified the body parts they had found at the Spit the day before. The official line was that a proper identification could take a couple of weeks. The arm had after all been submerged in water for quite some time. Most likely it belonged to the missing surfer. They had attempted to search for more body parts, but had so far come up empty-handed. The wild weather and the number of natural predators in the ocean indicated that what they had already found would be it. Such was nature. The ocean was the sharks’ domain. It was the reason Scott preferred to stay in his fishing boat if he ever went on the water. Even though he had almost grown up at the beach, born and raised as he had been in one of the original beach shacks in sleepy Byron Bay, he had never been bitten by the surfing bug. He was simply too big. It required too much effort to paddle past the waves when you were almost two metres tall. He preferred to sit on the railing of his twenty-four-foot long tinny. He rarely caught any fish, but he enjoyed the silence out there on the ocean, just him and the silent sound of waves crashing against the boat, just him and a couple of stubbies. At least that was how it had used to be. It was now several years since he had been out fishing. The boat was stuck in the garage, collecting dust. He just couldn’t bring himself to go out again. There were too many emotions threatening to come to the surface, emotions he preferred remained locked away. Emotions that belonged in the deep.

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