The pod on the dark wooden nightstand blinked repeatedly, hauling him reluctantly up through the soft grey nothing that enveloped him every night. 06:19. One New Message. Too early in the morning for Home Sec. Too early in the morning for him - last night's pills were still at work, everything a little soft and fuzzy. A good time of day for working.
He sat up and read the message. Got another one for you, if you don't mind. Same again - securicam footage. Double your regular rate if you can turn it around by tomorrow. J. The footage was attached. He checked and lowered the brightness and contrast levels before bringing it up on the big screen at the end of the room. And had to pause it straightaway as a panoramic view of Amsterdam's largest shopping gallery exploded onto the screen, swirls of milling shoppers assaulting him in full colour against an unforgiving backdrop of neon and shop frontages. Please, Judith! A little warning? He groped for his shades on the nightstand.
There was no more information included with the footage, so he stepped back and took in the still-paused gallery. Spilled popcorn in a far corner, a couple in jeans and leather jackets apparently engaged in an argument, her face captured, unflatteringly, in mid-shriek. A party of elderly tourists he judged to be Canadian - yes, the maple-leaf logo on a bag - and-- There. That must be him. Chinese, in a black baseball cap and a bomber jacket so new that it still had a plastic tag sticking out at the wrist. Jeans eight point five centimetres too long. Cheap, small backpack. Trying too hard to blend in.
He weighed up the remaining data, letting the footage roll and carefully avoiding looking directly at the neon snackbar signs. There seemed to be a current fashion among the Dutch for cubic zirconia lip-studs; he counted seventy-three. Nobody else fitted Judith's profile; an easy morning's work. He was just about to turn off the screen when he caught a fragment of swirling tattoo on a male arm.