Chapter 13 Face Recognition
The room had a distinct smell of something about to decay. Was it damp, was it animal or was it embedded in the furniture? It could have been the man at the centre of this spiders web for that is what if looked like with all the computers , six screens in all, wires, boxes a jumbled mess of electric life.
At the centre of this web a thin, almost gaunt young man , nor more than 24 years old give or take two, paced around a small square of thread bear carpet.
“I don’t know Mr Nolan, I really don’t know., I owe you a great deal. The NHS is easy though , if I
get caught it is ... well prison. I do work for the police and the security services. How will that
“Skip ” said the man in the smart grey suit with a shiny black shoes , the kind that say company
director or top civil servant. His tie was pale blue against a snow white shirt all so crisp. “I helped get you those contracts. Now listen to me, we are trying to find a female who could be very dangerous for me. I do not ask this lightly.”
“And that female ” uttered Skip with total contempt, pointing to a sign on the wall in Calibri font size 40, “No Females in this domain.”
The man looked behind him to his companion who was hiding in the shadows near the exit.
“She is with me, she has seen our quarry, I need her verification”
The man tapped Skip on the shoulder with an old fashion silver headed cane, while holding a
memory stick out for Skip to take, “My dear friend you are the best, I need the best for we have to find her quickly.”
“Is the stick new?”
Certainly , only two files on it, both images..
“FAT format, the old way. Nothing fancy ?”
“Certainly” said the man, smiling , “you like everything in plain view.”
“Missy” the young man said taking the stick , “load everything up, ”
All the machines and screens sprang into life, buzzing like insects.
Watching the young man from the back of the room, the young woman appeared to suddenly focus and become alive like the machines . She moved forward out of the shadows peering at the activity, especially the young man who appeared to have been given some kind of speed drug. He bounded around from keyboard to mouse, to touch screen , moving rapidly with jerking movements. Animated was an inadequate word to describe him yet it was the best she could think of.
The man in the suit moved to her side.
“He is the best” he spoke in a hushed tone.
Skip spoke in broken sentences as he worked, as if agitated with worry yet his audience knew it was excitement.
“Female, 20 to 35 , white, dark hair, although that can change. Your encrypted message said
nothing on height, weight.”
“5,9 or 5,10”
Answered the girl. A mistake for Skippy stopped dead in his tracks.
“A female voice in here is a shock to my system, please to not speak again.”
“you..” she started to say and would have said, ‘misogynistic pig’ , had her companion not grabbed her by the throat, “not a word my dear.” he ground out the words through his teeth. She had never seen him so tense, so agitated.
The young man pointed to one of the screens, “Lucy says we are in, Lucy is coming at them from Russia.”
“All his computers have female names,” explained the suit.
“Downloading the security passes on Edna and we can blame the Russians.” the geek laughed then giggled like a girl.
“You did say The Royal didn’t you?” he asked aloud not taking his eyes off the screens.
“Correct ” answered the man in a firm commanding voice.
here was a pause as the screen called Edna sifted the data.
Edna flashed up 307.
“Can I take out canteen staff, some twenty are employed directly by the hospital.?”
“I think so,” said the man, “We think she had a nurse type uniform under her jacket.”
“So it is a grand total of 287 candidates.”
“Now for the retreat.”
“What is he doing. ” whispered the girl pulling on the man’s jacket sleeve like little girl at the cinema unable to comprehend the plot.
” Closing the Hack so he cannot be traced, except to Russia, They will think Putin is doing it.”
“Is that possible?”
“No ” said the man unless you are him with this equipment. He must have Russian server at his
Their host swung round to face them announcing, “Clio is doing the heavy work now, I am doing a 4 point search on the features . Take a minute or two.”
“4 point search ?” queried the girl.
The young man with his back to her answered, “Mini search, if you are looking for a golf ball why bother with the baseballs, rugby balls, tennis balls, get the idea.?”
Clio showed the Roman numeral for 18. Then on a larger screen above the mess of equipment a face appeared.
“She matches on nose length, eye space and jaw configuration as well as forehead. ”
“No ” said the girl emphatically.
Another appear, and another. ′ NO’ came reluctantly from the girl. She felt she was letting the team down by not getting a positive.
When all 18 had been and gone, the young man sighed, “It is going to be a long night, it means she does not work for The Royal or has only recently joined them. Will have to go to nurse training and the main national register. How urgent is this?”
“Very. we will go and get something to eat?” announced the man Nolan.
“Yep, good idea, I will get Big Bitch on it, searching faces with a 10 plus point search is going to take some umph. How many nurses work for the NHS?”
“Can we get you anything?” ask the girl in a caring manner.
The young man did not answer and was on a mobile phone in the time it takes an arrow to leave a bow.
“Big Bitch he said , “Need some help.”
Dan’s Diner was as bad as the name implied but then sandwiched between an industrial estate on one side and old terraced houses on the other Dan appeared to rely on day traffic to earn a crust. It was 10 in the evening with few people about, mainly teenagers in convoys for safety, it was that kind of area. Outside street lights had just tried to ignite a sense of well being but since a number refused to burst into life the effect was one of more decay surrounded by dark gloom. Shadows grew and prospered everywhere, thriving like some nocturnal species. Mr Nolan wondered why such a cafe was open so late.
There was one other person sitting at a counter come serving hatch which spread itself for perhaps 6 feet protecting the kitchen from God knows what. A man in white peered out from the hatch, “Be with you in a minute ” he moaned as if cursing his luck someone had entered so late or maybe he feared a man in a suit frequenting his establishment.
They sat at a nondescript table for two next to a large plate glass window.
“We look like something out of a Hopper.” The girl commented.
Mr Nolan knew exactly what she meant and smiled. Her education was bearing fruit he thought, culture in someone so young.
They looked a strange sight in such an establishment, he in a suit with a tie she in a bright red fleecy jacket with black trousers , her hair loose and wild but all same she had a hint of class, a hint of refinement, as if she was a work in progress. Perhaps the small neat gold earrings gave that hint of class, perhaps not. Perhaps it was her.
He was pleased with her for she had for the best part of a year devoted herself to study without
complaint or any hint of back sliding. For his part he deep down felt a keen sense of both loyalty and parental devotion to her.
Hence, when he reached out and took her hand he said in the most serious tone he could muster.
“These are dangerous waters we are sailing in. When we find this female you must promise me you will go far away somewhere safe. They want me not you but if you stand in the way....”
He did not bother to complete the sentence.
For some reason he could not understand, this appeared to anger her for she withdrew her hand abruptly from his, saying,
“Like hell , I am here for the kill, and as sure as hell it is not going to be you.” She spoke with a
hushed voice yet with great force. Here was the rough diamond underneath his painted veneer he thought.
A certain anger rose in him also,
“I will put this in language you will understand, this is going to be fucking dangerous, the kill could be both of us.”
At this she was taken aback having never heard him swear before, at least not directly to her.
In an instance she decided she did not like this Mr Nolan so much and asked,
“Where is my Clive, I want Clive back?”
Before he could answer the man arrived to take their order.
The food was an English breakfast, morning , noon and night. Only variation which appeared to be permitted was a burger with egg and cheese.
They both settled for a burger without the egg with tea.
To their surprise the burger was quite good and came with a salad which showed a pedigree of civility. Once they had finished eating Mr Nolan studied his phone, frequently.
“Nothing from Skip.” He muttered. Neither wanted to pursue their earlier conversation so they sat there in silence. A heavy goods truck rumbled past as if lost. They watched its tail lights disappear into the distance like some huge beast being swallowed by an even greater landscape. Soon another came and went into the dark landscape beyond.
“I often thing of going back from where I came to bring the whole bloody edifice down.” He said it as if a deep thought had surfaced against his will.
The girl took a drink of tea from her over sized mug, “What edifice?” she eventually asked.
He gave a snort as if to say ‘it is hopeless,’ then thinking on it he continued,
“The Royal family, they control the males, the only vestiges of power left. We have a so called
democracy like you with a Royal household, all female of course.”
“Are they like ours, ” asked the girl, “no power but bags and bags of privilege and influence?”
“Privilege and influence is not power?” he asked then stroked his mug of tea as if remembering
something long ago. “You could well say that, very similar my Royals and your Royals.” Half joking she finished with ,“a world run by women. Can’t be bad.”
He let it go, the conversation drifting away from him again. She had never seen him so pensive.
Slowly at first and then with some conviction she concluded that this small table with its naked top and cheap crockery was in fact a cross roads. She had raised the question once already but now she formulated it with some sophistication not to mention force.
“Let us sail away, there are boats to take us to any nook or cranny in the land, planes that will take us to any tiny landing strip in the world, or trains that can carry us at thundering speed to any part of Europe and beyond. So why are we sitting in this God forsaken transport cafe on some desolate industrial estate waiting on a computer nerd to find a female who happens to smell funny?”
As if to emphasis her point about their location three large men complete in rough working clothes that spelled ‘truck drivers ’ entered the cafe. They wore the regulatory jeans, heavy short jackets and heavy stubble with equally heavy duty boots. There was an air about them of weariness combined with relief as if perhaps their shift had just finished.
Mr Nolan looked at them as if studying their whole aura , their place in the world.
“Because of them.” pointing to the men.
“What?” she gasped mystified.
“They are hard working men, doing a rough job for pay and free. In my world males, believe it or not, are nothing more than farm animals, or so my mother told me.”
This, she found hard to believe or comprehend, ” How can you make millions if not billions of men farm animals?.. They would rise up, revolt.”
He laughed a short expel of breath .” The total population, by your standards is tiny, the male
component would fit in this cafe.”
She ran her fingers up over her face and through her hair with an expression of exasperation on her face. He leaned forward before she could speak saying in a low confidential voice,
“I want to be a free male, doing some good in this world, not a beast of burden in another. This
female is neither human or of my kind. She is a creation and if they create more I could be in real trouble. I need answers from her or to eliminate the threat. You are fee to go.”
She felt her feline inner core stirred while her emotional centre of gravity shifted perceptibly.
Perhaps because he was not of her kind, but nevertheless very male , she wanted to be part of him, part of his world. His kindness had in a sense overwhelmed her. She knew walking away without him, leaving him to his fate, was not an option.
“Male and female.” she muttered, “they go together somehow even when alien to each other.” All the time she was trying to analyse her relationship with him. “God” she thought, ” am I
emotionally involved here? ‘No ’ she answered herself all the time a nagging doubt floated just out of reach in her mind.
An easy sort of silence settled on their little table while more truckers pushed their way into the watering hole. Soon the place was filling up with men. Being the only female in the place she felt a certain unease then a certain bravado. Tossing her hair from side to side she appeared to let them know she was female and proud of it. Apart from an initial glance all the men ignored her.
Then a text pinged its way into this world. Her companion pushed his phone towards her.
The single word stood out, ‘PROGRESS’ .
“We should go, ” he said casually.
Outside a faint drizzle had started coating everything in a shiny film of blackness. They walk quickly side by side until she takes his arm and pushing herself ever so close to him saying softly,
“I am with you to the bitter end.”
He twirled his cane in the emphatic manner of decision made,
“I know” he said quietly, “I know” .