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Monthly Archives: August 2013

I saw the shadow pass across the frosted window in my door three times before it finally stopped outside. I heard a knock.

‘Come in!’ I shouted, and got up, closing the lid of my lap top and sliding it in to a drawer of my desk.

I met my visitor at the door and looked her up and down. Tall, long red curls. A looker too. I didn’t recognise her, wondered how she’d found me. She’d been crying, her green eyes were blood shot. I offered her a seat, and a drink.

‘You got any scotch?’ She asked. She looked at me, looked round my office and added, ‘or, based on the look of this place maybe I should ask for bourbon? What is this, a film set?’

I smiled, pouring us each a Black Jack. ‘I often got asked that question or a variation of it when people came to visit me for the first time.’

‘You’ve got this place done out like a cliché of a 1930’s New York private detective. Come to think of it, you’re dressed like one too. You for real?’

I handed her a bourbon, took a drink of mine.

‘I like it. I find it helps me to concentrate, Miss?’

I left it hanging. So did she.

‘Does this impress clients, or scare them off?’

‘Clients?’

‘Yeah, whatever, I’ve got a job for you and I need someone below the radar. You took some finding, I had to ask around, so I suspect you’re not well known? And no doubt you’re either very cheap or very expensive?’

‘Sorry, I didn’t catch your name and I have no idea what it is that you want? Can we rewind a little?’

‘You can call me Scarlett. It’s close enough. I need a detective.’

‘I’m not…’

‘I don’t care how busy you are, or how expensive you are, I haven’t got time to find anyone else.’

‘Haven’t got time?’

‘I have to get this pen drive,’ she pulled a USB stick out of her bag and placed it in my hand, ‘to the right people within the next 24 hours. They’ll pay me well for it.’

‘So what’s on it?’

‘Some files that I stole from work.’

‘I’m not getting involved in anything illegal!’

‘Call it whistle blowing then. I need you to find the right people, deliver this and bring back the money. Simple.’

‘Scarlett, you need a courier not a detective, and certainly not…’

She banged her glass down on my antique desk.

‘I don’t have a name and address you idiot, just a place and time to meet with someone. I don’t know if I can trust them so I want to send someone who can help, maybe follow them if need’s be. I need a private detective. That’s you.’

‘You don’t seem to understand, or you don’t want to hear…’

‘I understand, you’re a bit odd with all this ‘30’s noir stuff, but you’re it. I haven’t got time to go looking for anyone else.’

‘Please listen to me. This 30’s noir stuff is a movie set. Well, set dressing anyway. I’m not a detective, I’m a writer. I write detective novels set in 30’s New York. This stuff helps me write. If you need help, call the police. Or a real private detective. I’m not who you’re looking for.’

She burst into tears again.

(C) Chris Johnson 2013

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The banging and clattering annoyed his neighbours. The size of it too. ‘How on earth will he get that out?’ they asked. But the collection of noisy, smelly animals really caused the biggest complaints.

The rain started just as the doctors took Noah away.

(C) Chris Johnson 2013

“You have to listen, you have to hear this.”

The man bounced about on his makeshift podium, shouting to be heard over the hubbub of other speakers at speaker’s corner and the traffic noise from Marble Arch.

“Please, it’s important. Please stop and listen.”

He had a small crowd, probably more interested in his behaviour than anything he might have to say.

“Get on with it!”

“Yeah, what is it you’ve got to say?”

A smartly dressed man wearing medals shushed the others into silence.

“Sir, if you start to speak people who are interested will listen. You can always repeat yourself if people arrive mid way through your rendition.” He gave a slight bow of his head, then looked intently at the speaker.

Pausing, the speaker visibly shook himself, drew himself up to his full height, then started speaking in a quiet yet firm voice.

“The Government are after me, they want to silence me, stop me from telling people what I know. I have been followed for days now, and it can only be a matter of time before I’m assassinated.”

A few more people started to gather round. The man with the medals glanced around.

“I found out the truth. I am a web designer and programmer. I was approached by a civil servant, and asked to write a programme to search the web for patterns. Certain words, phrases and images. They wanted it set up so that they could change the search criteria themselves, for social research. I thought it was odd that I was asked to work from home rather than in Whitehall, but it didn’t really make any difference to me. They agreed my asking price for the contract and my contact spoke to me twice daily. I wrote the programme downloaded it on to the IP address they’d given me.

“Two days later I realised I’d left a back door open in the programme. I decided that all I could do was to hack my own programme and close down the back door. That way they’d never know I made a mistake and I would know I’d finished the job properly. I logged on to their network through the same IP address and opened my programme. That’s when it happened.”

“What happened? Get to the point!”

“My computer crashed, it couldn’t handle the data flow. When I finally got it re-started and tried again all I got was error messages, then it crashed again. I tried to recover it but nothing worked. They must have found my back door and booby trapped it.”

“Or your computer just crashed?”

“No, this was deliberate. I was scared. I sat around for an hour or two. Then I went and got an old PC out. By the time I’d hooked it up my home wi-fi network had gone down. I went to look at the router and I saw the man who had contacted me to write the programme stood by a black Range Rover parked outside my flat. I was sure he’d come to kill me for what I know, or what I’d done.”

The old soldier stroked his chin.

“I’ve been on the run for three days, hiding from them. But I decided if I tell enough people I’d be safer than if I keep the story to myself. They can’t kill us all!”

He stopped, staring at the crowd as if challenging them to argue with him. One woman cleared her throat.

“So what is it that you’ve found, other than that they’ve fixed your programming mistake?”

“Don’t you see, they can see everything that’s on the internet.  They can search for anything, draw together all of the data on any issue, subject or person and use it”

“So can I, it’s called Google you fool!”

He leaned forward, hopping from foot to foot as he replied in a louder voice.

“No, no, it’s not like that, it’s quicker and more detailed and…”

But he’d lost his crowd, they slipped away first in ones and twos then in groups;

“Stop, you have to listen, you have to hear this.”

Eventually only the old soldier remained, still listening intently, head bowed while apparently fiddling with his medals.  Anyone close enough may have just heard him speak quietly.

“Stand down the snipers, no one’s listening.”

On nearby rooftops, men in black began to disassemble their rifles.

(C) Chris Johnson 2013