Comeback 15

I spent the next two days at the computer, on the telephone and in pubs, offices and cafés, teasing out all the information I could about Frost’s three names. It felt like old times and brought back to me why I enjoyed the work so much—the movement, the variety in the characters and situations and the way in which one piece of information led to another, or didn’t. I felt alive.
Charlie Long of the Allied Trades Union didn’t shape up as a likely candidate. He’d had run-ins with various people in the construction game, including Frost, but for some years he’d been keeping his nose clean. He was on track for an Upper House parliamentary seat and a likely ministry and was being scrupulously careful of his associates and his image.
Ben Costello, the merchant banker, had refused Frost a loan he’d badly needed a few years back and had financed one of Frost’s competitors. Frost had struck back by buying a company Costello was in negotiation with on a financing deal that would have netted him a massive commission. Costello had a reputation as a vicious and vindictive operator who’d been mentioned in several ICAC inquiries although no action had ever been taken against him.
The shares in Costello’s holding company had suddenly gone down, I was told by Tony Hunt, a blogger who specialised in inside information on the big players. That information cost Ray Frost some of his money.
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Silly question,’ Tony said.
‘Doesn’t there have to be a reason?’
‘Not really. The whole thing is a pack of cards house built on sand, to mix metaphors. A fantasy. That’s what makes it so enjoyable to watch.’
‘Could it be that ICAC is closing in on him?’
You’re no fun, Hardy. I like to think of it all as beyond reason and rationality.’
‘That’s not what you say when it comes down to paying you for information.’
‘Sad, but true. You want me to find out what’s scaring the market about Ben? It’ll cost you.’
‘Do it. Please.’
It sounded promising but it fizzled.
‘Sorry,’ Tony said when he rang back two days later.
‘About what?’
‘That I couldn’t bleed you for more money. The cat’s out of the bag.’
‘I don’t like paying for metaphors.’
‘Like I said, you’re no fun. Ben’s got leukemia and is on the way out. It was supposed to be a secret while he shifted the money around but it leaked out. Would you mind telling me why you’re interested, Hardy? Information is a two-way street, you know.’
I declined.

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