'I don't understand what they're protesting,' said Kate.
'Money, basically,' said Susan. 'They're protesting because the system is rigged to support the rich and not the middle class.'
A waiter arrived with their coffees. Susan lifted her sunglasses and made eye contact with him, a thanks spoken in body-language only. The server winked at her in reply, and Kate saw. A snicker escaped.
'As I was saying,' Susan said, turning away from the waiter, 'That's why they call themselves the "ninety-nine percent." They're upset because they're the majority but the richest one percent has more than the rest of them combined.'
'Is that true though? Or just in America. I thought in Australia things are actually pretty good,' said Kate.
'I think we're better off here than America. I think they're out there protesting to show solidarity,' said Susan 'One world, you know? All connected.'
'Maybe,' said Kate. The two sipped their drinks, watching the small gathering of people chanting at the other end of the pedestrian mall. A light breeze blew between the city's towers; it cooled their coffee and fluttered the cardboard banners the protesters were waving. There were close to a hundred of them, although it wasn't obvious how many were activists and how many were photographers and gawkers. Under the shade of a close by shopfront two police officers stood, facing each other and holding a casual conversation, but each with an eye on the crowd.
'House the homeless!' a lanky campaigner with a long beard yelled at two passers-by. They appeared to be tourists, and ignored him.
'Greedy Bankers is Greedy,' the man yelled as they left.
'Fuck the police,' a blonde haired girl cried in the general direction of, but not specifically at the two constables.
'I don't think they know what they're protesting,' said Kate.
'They're probably all former student politicians who left uni after they got scared by how high their HELP debt was getting,' Susan said.
Kate nodded, watching with interest as a second pair of constables walked towards the group from the opposite side. They singled out the blonde and approached her. Several of her chivalrous male friends surrounded the three and a swearing competition occurred. The two officers ignored the curses and spoke a stern warning to the girl, words Susan and Kate were too far from to overhear.
The roar of jet engines overhead drowned out the antagonised crowd, and as the airspace cleared Susan heard a chime from her handbag. She pulled a phone out to check her message. As it loaded Kate's phone beeped too.
'A picture message,' said Susan. She used an older phone, and squinted at its tiny screen. 'What is that? Sand dunes? Some weird pile of cakes?'
Kate had a smart phone with a five inch AMOLED display that didn't reflect glare from the spring sun. In high definition she made out the details Susan missed.
'It's a penis,' said Kate, 'a penis and balls.'
'Ahhh,' groaned Susan, dropping the phone she'd been intently starting at onto the table, 'who?'
'Peter,' said Kate.
Susan chanced another look at her phone to check the sender. 'Yeah, Peter.'
The two exchanged uneasy glances. Peter had worked with them, until a month ago.
Both pairs of officers had met with the protesters now and the four policemen stood with their arms by their sides at the head of the crowd.
'What we should do,' said Susan, 'is steal all their banners and take them down George Street where that crowd of girls is camping out for the new Twilight movie premiere, and hand them out to them.'
'I would like to see the cops visit them with the water cannon mobile,' Kate agreed.
Cameras were being clicked rapidly, documenting the idle policemen. Several people sitting on nearby steps were hammering the keys on their laptops, sending updates via 3G modems to Facebook and Twitter.
'Peter was a bit weird, wasn't he?' said Kate.
'He was quiet; I never got the creepy vibe from him though.'
'Until now!' Kate glanced back down at her phone, and then hit the back button.
The police and protesters had separated, and four more officers had walked down the mall to help keep the peace. The eight of them stood sentry as the group chanted 'We. Are. The 99 Percent.' A young Indian guy walked past the police and to the edge of the demonstration. He unfurled a paper banner that read 'TEAM EDWARD' and held it above his head. His friend quickly ran close brandishing an iPhone and photographed him posing, the real activists filling the background.
'That's going on the internet,' said Kate as the two men retreated hastily, abandoning the banner at the protesters feet.
'Why do you think Peter sent us a picture of a penis?' Susan asked.
'I don't know, and I don't want to look at it to try and find some hidden message either.'
'Do you think it's his?'
Kate's phone beeped again.
'Ugh,' she said, but looked at it anyway. 'It's a message from Emily,' she told Susan after reading it. 'She says "Eww, that guy from your work that you gave my number to. First he never calls me and now he sent me a dick picture. WTF?!"'
'You gave him Emily's number?' Susan asked.
'They met at my housewarming. Emily asked about him, and then Peter told me he wasn't going to that work drinks because he wouldn't have a partner. I thought I could set them up.'
'Do you think he sent his picture to every girl he knows?'
'I don't know,' said Kate. 'Hey, let's ask Kevin if he got one.'
Kate tapped Kevin's name and held the phone to her ear. The protesters changed their chant, spelling out the word "occupy" and then explaining what it spelt. Kate used her free hand to block her other ear.
'Hello?' Kevin's voice answered her call.
'Hey, it's me. Strange question, did you get any weird messages today?'
'Weird?' said Kevin. 'Uh, no.'
'Oh, ok, don't...' said Kate.
'Unless you count a picture of Peter's rock hard schlong as "weird!"'
His laughter echoed out the speakers. Kate grimaced.
'Is it his penis?' she asked.
'Well, obviously I don't know for sure, but that little willy! It would explain why he always pissed in a cubicle with the door locked.'
'Ahh, too much info,' Kate warned.
'Wait,' said Kevin, 'so he sent it to you too? What a creeper!'
'Yeah, and Susan. Who else did he send it to?'
'Michael forwarded it to me, but I told him I seen it. Mike said all the dudes got it. Even Tim and Charles. I also got another photo of a penis on my phone, but I think no one's seen it yet. Should I forward it to you?'
'Bye, Kevin,' Kate said and hung up.
'Everyone got it,' Kate passed on to Susan, 'all of management, everyone.'
'Everyone?' said Susan. The protesters were chanting louder and the circle of police around them were standing tall and moving in closer. 'I think maybe I should call him. This doesn't really seem like something he'd do.'
Susan unlocked her phone and cleared the penis from the screen. She tapped the keys until she was in the address book. Four cyclists cruised down the mall, zooming between cafe and the protestors. They wore baseball caps instead of helmets. One was shirtless. Susan dialled Peter's number as the cyclists darted around activists and police. Several officers waved their hands and yelled irately, but the cyclists were deft and stayed out of reach.
Susan put the phone down. 'No answer, straight to voicemail.'
'He's probably on the phone explaining his penis to someone else,' Kate said, 'or his phone was hijacked and whoever sent the picture threw it in the harbour after they ruined half his friendships.'
One of the cyclists pushed his luck and was plucked from his seat by an officer, who pinned him to the pavement. The wheel on his upturned bicycle spun in the air. The protesters uttered an upset groan and changed their chant from "people over profits" to a chorus of "fuck the pigs". The remaining cyclists sped away. Officers in black uniforms and helmets were starting to assemble at the end of the mall. Photographers seemed to be spawning endlessly, swarming around the riled up crowd and peppering them with flash bursts. Unaffiliated pedestrians in the mall were dwindling, Susan and Kate watched from the end of the mall warily.
'I know,' said Susan, 'use your fancy phone to check Peter's Facebook. Maybe he posted an apology or some explanation.'
Kate's fingers tapped and wiped over the surface of her phone.
'I can't find him,' she said after a minute. 'I think he unfriended me.'
'Or deleted his profile. Can you check if he's still in my friend's list?'
'Ok,' said Kate, then 'No. He must have deleted his profile.'
'This feels wrong. I'm going to call him again.'
Susan tapped her phone and dialled Peter once more.
The blonde protester was standing a few feet from the main group, placed less than a foot from the face of a policewoman and chanting. The officer stared her down, saying nothing. In a sudden burst of movement a second blonde activist sprang from the back of the pack of the protesters in a stumbling, ungracious sprint.
'Still not answering,' said Susan.
The emerging blonde swung the wooden pole her banner was stapled to at the policewoman's face. She had no time to react and it clipped her cheek, sending her spinning. Blood arced through the air on impact and the first blonde shrieked. There was pandemonium. The riot police sprinted towards the scene while the nearer, uniformed officers tackled the assailant. Two male protesters emerged to scuffle, but they too were restrained, their arms twisted behind their backs as they struggled. The rest of the activists dropped their signs and huddled together in a mass by a wall. Most had their hands up. Police and photographers surrounded the cluster. The "Team Edward" placard was caught against a step close to the violent blonde's foot, and as it flapped in the breeze the blood spatter across it was obvious.
'Jesus,' said Kate, resting her empty coffee cup on the table. 'Idiots.'
'Have you seen or spoken to Peter at all, since he quit?' asked Susan.
'No, have you?'
'No,' said Susan. 'I can't shake this bad feeling.'
'What?' said Kate, 'that he's slipped after a shower while holding his phone and accidentally took a photo of his junk and then sent it to his all his contacts before he cracked his head? That he's been kidnapped by a Mexican cartel and that was some weird ransom note? That he's killed himself and sent everyone he knows a photo of his dick as some ultimate, pointless "fuck you" protest?'
There were sirens now, a harmony of sirens. The sun still shone bright, but Susan started shivering.