14. The Radical Notion

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What choice did Geoff have? There was no way Naomi was going to give up on finding Bernie

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What choice did Geoff have? There was no way Naomi was going to give up on finding Bernie. And even though it didn't feel right, Geoff couldn't put into words why it was so wrong of Jamieson to have stolen his sad cat story in the magic green bottle.

Geoff was never so worried about privacy when he was alive. He'd understood - intellectually at least - some of the issues around data protection and online security, but he could never bring himself to really care in a personal way.

Why did it matter to him if some government bureaucrat had unfettered access to his selfies and grocery lists? On the other hand, he knew it was a privilege to be so carefree about his digital persona. It was a privilege not to be a political dissident or member of a persecuted minority group. Still, he could never quite get himself worked up about the idea of lost privacy.

But this business with the bottle had been something else. Geoff felt it like someone breaking into his house but failing to steal anything of value.

It wasn't the loss of the item

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It wasn't the loss of the item. It was the fact that someone else had been snooping around in your sanctuary, in your private space. It was the lingering, niggling thought that someone else had rifled through your underwear drawer. It was a kind of betrayal.

Since deciding to find Bernie, Geoff and Naomi had discovered their first sense of purpose in the underworld. Now they had one, a little hurt feelings and emotional damage wasn't going to get in their way. And so, sulking and bitter, they followed Jamieson through the steam-filled, cobbled laneways of the back streets of New Chinatown.

They passed shops that only sold cicada buns (much like pork buns only crunchier), souvenir stalls with rice paddy hats and little Buddha figurines. Flitting by the edges of their vision were skeletons of long dogs that looked like emaciated greyhounds and dashed through the shadows like rats.

The city smelled like fish and charcoal and mud. Their footsteps echoed through the dark passages. Eventually, the alley they were walking on opened out into a wide street and then an esplanade and then a dock with the black ocean unfolding into the horizon.

The sun leant down to kiss the water, and Jamieson's tall body complete with his new cat friend at his side seemed even taller with his shadow stretching back to Geoff's feet, where he stood, exhausted, ten feet behind the mad story collector and his angry feline.

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