HIDDEN in one of the less salubrious back-streets of London's legal district, Steve Jobby, Computer-Guru, pursues his not-entirely-lawful calling. In the shade of the Royal courts of Justice, at many times a shady business, Mr Jobby has dealt in all forms of computer-trickery for the legal profession, from the mundane to the arcane.
We find him in his dingy office, sitting before a bank of computer screens, talking into a Skype headset. "Of course, Mr Venal, you know me - maximum discretion at all times." He says. "Why don't we meet in The Sober Judge at six? Excellent. See you there."
He ends the call with a wry smile, recalling the previous business he has done for Edgar Venal, such as hacking into the computer systems of rival firms. Mr Venal was particularly pleased when he found that one firm had been systematically breaking Solicitors' Accounts Rules, and had taken great delight in reporting them anonymously to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
He wonders what Mr Venal might want now.
* * *
The day is closing in and the street lamps are on, but are not yet fully effective, for it is not quite dark. Edgar Venal alights from his cab.
The Sober Judge is not the sort of establishment that Edgar would normally frequent, but it is Steve Jobby's local, and Edgar has met him here previously precisely because he is unlikely to be recognised. It is the kind of pub for which the term 'spit-and-sawdust' was invented. Edgar takes a deep breath of (relatively) fresh air, before he steps inside.
Jobby spots Edgar immediately, and gestures him to his table in a secluded corner of the bar. As Edgar approaches, he sees that Jobby is eating a rather dubious-looking plate of food. It looks like broken sea-shells on a bed of limp leaves. Jobby sees Edgar taking an interest.
"Lobster and lettuce, Mr Venal." He says. "Most excellent. Would you like a plate?"
Jobby looks disappointed for a moment, then swiftly moves on to business. "So what can I do for you, Mr Venal?" He asks, swallowing a mouthful of lobster.
Edgar glances from side to side, making sure they cannot be overheard. "I need to know the identity of someone on Twitter." He whispers.
"Shouldn't be a problem." Replies Jobby, picking a piece of lobster shell from his teeth. "What's their name?"
Edgar looks around again. "BigWad123". He says, spying a small slug on Jobby's lettuce.
"OK, Mr Venal," says Jobby, "I'll have that for you in no time."
"Remember," says Edgar, "absolute discretion on this one."
"Mum's the word." Replies Jobby, tapping his nose with his finger.
"Good." Says Edgar, as he watches Jobby put a forkful of lettuce in his mouth, complete with slug. Edgar feels a little nauseous. He takes his leave and heads for his club, and a strong gin and tonic.