The Mississippi Company
by Mark Kertzman
The little image on the smartphone was choppy, but Jon didn’t care that much. As long as it showed him his friend’s long face, he was happy.
“Doug!” he yelled into the smartphone, compensating for the noise of the traffic and the wind.
“Yeah, Jon. What’s up?”
“I need you to do a net search for me. Pull up anything you can on the Orbital Heavy Metals Extraction Company. Anything in the press, any filings of EDGAR, SEDAR, or ECSEFS.”
“Got it.” Doug was looking down, probably writing. “Anything else?”
Jon thought a moment. “I want a look at anything they have registered with U.N. Space; any ships, any tugs, anything.”
“I’ll get that, too. How is it going?”
“Great,” Jon answered, the sarcasm heavy in his voice. “I’ve interviewed several people. There’s a trace; money going one way, units going another.”
“How did you get that?”
“I spoke to our original complainant. She sent me to her neighbour, who sent me to a door-to-door salesman, who sent me to his accountant, who sent me to his broker.”
Doug gave a long whistle, audible even over the wind noise.
“It gets worse,” Jon continued. “Each of them is selling more units to others.”
Doug’s eyes widened, visible even in the tiny screen. “Hello, Charles Ponzi.”
Jon made a sound of exhalation with his lips, a rapid shushing noise. “Don’t know that yet. That’s why I need the net search. Let’s not jump the gun.”
Doug nodded, then changed the subject. “Where are you?”
“In a cab.”
“But it looks like you are outside.” Doug was peering into the screen, making his eyes look huge.
“It’s a tuk-tuk,” Jon answered absently.
Doug nodded again, as though that explained everything. “Where are you going?”
“To the corporate registry.”
“You mean you actually have to travel there?”
“Yeah. Nothing’s net-linked yet, or even computerized. I’m going to have to search through the files by hand.”
“Good luck,” Doug chuckled.
“Thanks. E-mail me as soon as you’re finished.”
The little screen cleared suddenly. Jon shut down the viewphone, and tucked the smartphone into his pants pocket. It was the only place to store it; he had wisely ditched his suit jacket back at the hotel. His shirt and pants were still damp with sweat in this heat, and a passing breeze provided only a temporary reprieve.
He settled back into the open-air seat behind the driver, watching the massed humanity whiz past. The little kerosene-smelling, three-wheeled vehicle swerved through traffic, bound for Government House. Jon wasn’t looking forward to his afternoon in its prodigious filing system.
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Kertzman