At long last I finally remembered to find out what it was in James' murky past which he and his backers wanted to keep so well hidden. I kept putting it aside, or forgetting; or after a long day my strained eyes weren't up to it. But eventually that partially formed thought floating around in the bottom of my mind coalesced into action.
My dark trawling and a couple of files from Dad's chip helped; but the whitewash has been so thoroughly done there are only hints and innuendoes left. Even my usual contacts could come up with little more than scraps. Whatever wurdle they used must have been exceptionally powerful; enough so to backtrack and alter even dark and cached data. This in itself is evidence of how powerful James' new friends are; that sort of frazzling is only available to a select few.
So what is there beyond James' public bio? Not much it would seem at first glance, but as ever there is always another story behind the headlines for those who take the time and effort to look.
By now the basic facts of his life are well-known. James Purvis learned his business skills from his father Michael; a street market trader working in the East End of London. But James had loftier ambitions than just taking after his Dad. By dint of hard work and shrewdness he was able to be at the right place at just the right moment to multiply his money into quite a tidy sum. Then he decided to make a leap of faith by investing in the media while it was going through such a turbulent time. His boldness paid off handsomely and the rest as they say, is history.
It's when you begin to delve a bit deeper you start to get the feeling that all is not as it is told. For example his early partnership with Mehmet Yılmaz when they were both involved in property rental. How did the son of a market trader - no matter how good his ducking and diving skills - and a second generation Turkish immigrant ever get the money together to get started in that sector, even in the small way they did? It wasn't that easy to do back then, even before the Credit Crunch. No, they must have had 'alternative' streams of income in addition to the takings from market stalls, rents, and the profits from a dry cleaning business...
And then there was the falling out between James and Mehmet. Officially it was about the direction they wanted their joint holding company to take; in reality their dispute was about how far they would go in getting their hands dirty. Both agreed they weren't getting rich quickly enough; the question was how to solve that problem.
Mehmet Yilmaz was a wrong 'un for sure. He didn't care what he got involved in; extortion, drugs, people trafficking, pimping, paedophilia... James may like them a bit young but compared to Mehmet's lusts, James' conquests are old age pensioners. Our James was astute enough to realise that while things might be going well for them at the moment, in the end it would all go badly wrong; eventually Mehmet would get caught with his trousers round his ankles and bring them both down.
Their relationship began to get acrimonious and then, just as it looked as if they were about to split-up their little empire, one of those fortunate happenstances which always seem to favour James occurred.
Suddenly Mehmet the drug dealer developed a liking for the product he sold; and not just any old dope, he dropped out of sight for a while and went straight on to Wreck. Now you may not know what Wreck is; it's probably been long supplanted by something even more potent by now. Suffice it to say it's named Wreck because that's what it does to you. There have been other derivatives of Krokodil, but they are as mere aspirins compared to Wreck.
Most users last about nine months from their first hit to when the multiple organ failure kills them; not that they're bothered by then because their minds are already so far away in another place they'll never be coming back. But there are always exceptions; Mehmet took the fast track and blazed his own starry trail across the heavens in a mere three weeks, before being found floating in the Thames near Halstow Marshes. At the inquest the coroner, in declaring an open verdict, said he had never heard of such a high concentration of drugs being found in a person's bloodstream before; and though foul play might well be suspected, nothing could be proven.
Being the main beneficiary of Mehmet's demise by inheriting his share of the company, James immediately fell under suspicion but there was no conclusive evidence against him. Nor was that the only time he'd appeared on the police's radar; both he and Charles Bennett had come to the attention of the Operation Heron task force; but being more circumspect than he average nonce again there was nothing that could be acted upon. Yet it has to be asked; how else would the likes of James Purvis and Charles Bennett - two very different people from backgrounds so divergent - have met? What else would they have had in common?
Maybe given enough time and more resources a bit more diligent digging might have yielded something more substantial. But with nothing but circumstantial evidence to go on, and the Insurgency gathering momentum, all available police resources were concentrated on countering that threat. Even if the enquiry was reactivated now the cases are too cold; too many trains of thought have been dropped for anything likely to come of it.
So the image we get of James is far from the whole story. Instead we have his self-written narrative; he the street savvy barrow boy made good by his own honest efforts. A respectable member of society, patron of the arts, (in reality he's got the aesthetic sensibilities of a house brick; he has someone on his staff to take care of his acquisitions) and now an aspiring populist leader.
You won't hear of course about how he takes out most of his pent-up rage on his punch bag (He was quite a good teenage amateur boxer.) I say most of his anger... or his constant need for a new 'younger' woman, nor of all the other issues spanning the course of his entrepreneurial career which might have been stumbling blocks but suddenly resolved themselves in his favour; or the backhanders, the back room deals, the discreet strong-arm tactics, the dalliance with the wrong side of the law and the careful meeting out of violence if required as a last resort. His instincts may be to only go as far as he has to in order to get what he wants, but he can be as much of a cunt as anyone who fights his way into the exclusive circles of hidden power.
No, the James you'll see now has spent a long time cultivating his business accent and entrepreneurial image; now he considers himself suave enough to have earned himself a place at the high table. He may imagine himself worthy to be thought of by the real powerbrokers in their Zoned home counties mansions as a suitable foil to reflect their ambitions; but do they only regard him as a disposable warning shot across the bows of the Consensus, to be dispensed with once their point has been made and his usefulness at an end? Whatever the truth of the relationship between James and the Zoners, both share a determination to get what they want; no matter by what means and regardless of the consequences to others.
Working for him, and knowing what he's really like, I find the outside chance he may be our next Prime Minister disconcerting until I consider the alternative... There are few perfect choices in politics, especially in our world, and there are no innocents in this dirty business; but I have to wonder how things ever got to the point where James and his NRP became our last great hope?
Last month it was the undefined 'shirkers' who were the subject of public opprobrium, now it is the turn of the spivs; despite it being nearly impossible to obtain certain things without their pricey help. "Spivving's not a living - it's a crime!" runs the latest official campaign. The slogan appears nearly everywhere you look; as well as being the subject of numerous PushCreds; a constant reminder of the near dominance of the state in all areas of life and its one-way communication with its subjects.
There is bold talk about how "Together we'll smash the spivs!" along with reminders of the many and varied ways of grassing them up. In reality the junior players trying to climb the slippery ladder of the black economy will continue to lurk near store entrances; waiting with practiced patience for the doors to open. They probably don't know what they are going to rush in for the chance of buying; just a rumour of something temporarily available, or even the rumour of a rumour is enough. They gamble the long wait is worth the risk of a speculative shakedown by bored or curious ComPigs; that at the end of it there might be something worth buying and selling-on at a premium.
It's almost become a full-time way of eking out a living. Almost; but not quite yet, though it is bound to become so as the supply chain problems and shortages worsen in what used to be one of the most advanced global economies. We're promised once the OneCard system is in operation it will provide the means to eliminate the practice once and for all; but with the opposition it faces, and the inevitable technical problems I don't see it happening anytime soon. And wasn't ComCred supposed to stop spivving and hoarding? Yeah, right!
Though few people will actually realise it, this campaign is in reality an admission of failure. After all, if the 'temporary' problems with our semi-planned economy have been fixed as has so often been claimed there would be no space or rationale for the black marketeers.
Give it a month and the focus will move on to another marginalised group deemed deserving of the state's focused hatred. Meanwhile the dodgy geezers will continue their business as usual out of sight of the dim-witted pols, if a bit more carefully for a while.
I always run out of food just when I need it most or feel even more peckish than usual. No, there's no avoiding it; I'll have to go shopping.
I hated shopping before the advent of the Crises; now I dread it. The local Community Co-ops aren't too bad; though they are quite expensive, and my local one knows me well enough to barter if needs be; but it's the larger stores that do my head in.
Shopping, like so much of our lives, is very different now. The majority of the supermarket chains we knew before the Crises survived in some form, but they had to radically alter the way they did business.
As part of the Consensus' unremitting obsession with reducing peoples' non work related travel, they began to pressure the supermarkets to close down their larger, more distant stores and instead continue further along their path of wiping out any independent competition by opening smaller stores in almost every neighbourhood.
At first the mega grocers were reluctant to do so; but given the stick of nationalisation and the carrot of cheap assignee labour, vacant high street or corner shop units at knock down rents, as well as a virtual monopoly they soon came round to the Connies' way of thinking. Besides, they realised that with so many products banned for health reasons, declared to be unnecessary 'luxuries', or likely to be unavailable for the forseeable future due to the ongoing effects of the Crises, their big shed stores were redundant; there would be so little stock left to fill them. So the deals were done, properties swapped, a cosy relationship re-established, and everyone was reasonably happy; apart from the employees who as so many others before them were quietly dismissed and re-employed into the permanence of inescapable benefit slavery, and we the consumers who - as usual - had been stitched up.
Yes, there are state price controls; though it seems to be easy enough to get approval for a price rise, but going to a local mart makes me feel as if I've been robbed by the time I leave. At least you don't have to endure piped music any more; in one of their more rational moments the Consensus banned it. Now and then even they do something right.
These days you don't just go in and pick what you want off the shelves. No; with so many people with so little do around and available for peppercorn wages the stores now resemble the grocery counters of yesteryear. You queue and ask the assistant for what you want and they either weigh out the amount or hand the product to you. It's eliminated a lot of shoplifting at a stroke.
A shopper from the past would be astonished at how little there is available now. With us all being so much poorer and unable to afford frippent luxuries, the shops sell only the basic food related fare. The frugal approach also extends to the packaging; the sly little tricks the manufacturers used to make their products look bigger now rendered obsolete in these asetic times. Now what you see in the plain, minimalistic wrapper is what you get, and you don't get much of it for your money.
Once you've toured the various departments and been served, you'll need to pay for your goods. Those fantasies of checkoutless shops full of RFID enabled products paid for by a wireless deduction from your account as you walk out of the door remain just pipe dreams; the Dragon saw to that. And fortunately those irritating self-service checkouts which addressed you in the same patronising tone a parent uses to their young child are also things of the past, it being cheaper to have humans ringing-in your purchases and checking your Food Points card; despite it having been checked before when you were served.
This time the shelves appear to be reasonably full with fewer out of stocks or yawning empty spaces, even if there are only the usual limited variety of items available. Though I think I'll pass on the limp looking veg and tiny roots that seem to be all they have in at the moment; especially at those prices. This relative bountifulness must be just another aspect of the cynically planned temporary bubble of munificence in advance of the election. I also wonder if my eyes haven't taken a sudden turn for the worse; the packages seem smaller and further away than I remember. I'm concerned for a while until I realise the portion sizes have shrunk yet again.
Having bought only the essentials I can afford I leave. One of the ever hovering security guards looks as if he intends to pull me aside for a bag search, despite him having seen me go through the checkout, but I give him one of my 'just don't try it...' looks and he thinks better of it.
All day we've had to run an annoying PushCred explaining how well the economy has been recovering. Obviously the thinking is if the Big Lie about the Recovery is pushed often enough, eventually the dolts will believe it to be the truth. And of course there are the statistics to prove it...
They are freely available to anyone who can be bothered to look them up, though few take any notice of them, and fewer still believe them. As with all official Fed statistics they are utterly meaningless. The New Pound has been 'revalued' so many times as to render any comparison with the statistics of twenty years ago - dire even then - null and void. Instead of concerning themselves with figures which are a combination of lies and wishful hoping, most people are too preoccupied getting by from month to month. Only the Connies are convinced not only has the situation stabilised, but based on the new foundations they have laid things are poised to really take off.
Such delusions are powerfully infectious; we had one of these short-lived outbreaks of optimism last year. Somehow the idea emerged the Council planned to ease the regulation of the housing market; controls on rents and house prices would be lifted and costs allowed to find their own market level. Anyone with a basic understanding of fedonomics should've realised the idea was a non-starter, but that didn't stop some starry-eyed would-be capitalists investing in property Ponzi schemes which promised to make them rich overnight - and losing what little they had when reality finally broke through into their dream world. House price speculation was one of the reasons the pre-Fed economy crashed, not just once, but many times over when the inflation it generated ran out of control. More former greenfield sites may now be covered in homogenous swathes of impermanent looking housing, but everything is kept firmly under state control. No one, not even the more woolly Connie elements, would allow themselves to fall for the siren calls of those claiming the economy can be reflated on the back of a property bubble. We've all been stung too often before to allow it to happen again; haven't we?
The cynical exploiters of the would-be entrepreneurs - smart enough to start the speculation or jump off the bandwagon in time - did well enough collecting the small amounts of money pledged in hopeful expectation to emigrate to the EU or beyond. The mugs who fell for the scams still plaintively call for the state to investigate and pursue the guilty parties abroad, as well as expecting to be compensated for their stupidity: Dream on suckers!
You'd think people would've learned their lesson by now, but give it time and there'll be another brief burst of speculative optimism. It might be growers' co-operatives next time, or investing within the Zone, or the latest renewable energy scheme, but the result will be the same depressingly predictable bust. In a stagnant, hopeless economy all people have left are their fantasies of joining the elite either by finding that one niche opportunity, or winning the lottery.
Though I'll be glad when we can delete that PushCred, it has inadvertently given me an idea for a means to attack the Connies' record: If things are going as well as they say, then why is it so many people are still going through the Assignment system; having to top up their meagre part-time earnings with an even more risible partial dole and credding in order to reach their subsistence level? Explain your way out of that one!