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Dead Centre By Owen Jones Characters: 20204

Updated: 2018-02-09 19:01

Gareg was sitting in his favourite window seat when a Prius drove up and Dave jumped out. Dave had been there often enough to know where to look for Gareg and spotted him right away. Gareg met him inside the door.

"Hello, Dave, how are you, you crazy old bastard? Where's the Morgan?"

"Fine, chiefy. I'm fine, but the Morgan is sick, she's having some work done on her so I rented this thing."

"Come and sit you down. What can I get you to drink?"

"Er, a pint of Black Velvet, please."

Gareg knew better than to ask whether he wanted champagne or cider with his Guinness.

Dave Crazinski, or Crazy Dave to his friends, was unusual and most people thought that his nickname suited him extremely well. Nobody knew a lot about him except that his parents were either Czech, Polish or Russian and had fought with the resistance and then the British Army during the Second World War. He never mentioned it and it was an unwritten rule never to ask, so that was that, but there were other things that people did not know about him too.

He was neither weedy nor lanky, but somehow his body conveyed the impression that he was both. In fact, he was small-built but very wiry and had tremendous stamina. None of his mates doubted his prowess as a soldier, because they had seen him in action, yet he spoke in an effeminate manner. Some thought that it was affected, others that it was a sign of weakness, but most of them had learned too late that it wasn't.

He had been a bone fide member of Gareg's team in the SAS on many occasions, and he was always Gareg's first choice if explosives were needed to complete a mission.

Gareg's personal opinion was that Dave was probably AC/DC, but it didn't bother him in the slightest, and, although he had never discussed Dave's sexuality with Bob. He guessed that he was of the same opinion.

The three of them had fought, slept, eaten, sweated and struggled together so often that it was not a concern. They trusted each other with their lives. He even considered himself an honorary Welshman.

They were close friends and a great team.

"Where's Bob? Is he joining us later?"

"Perhaps in a few days. He's in South Africa on business, but it needn't take long. Can you stay a few days, Dave?"

"Are you feeling lonely, chiefy? Never you mind, I'll stay just as long as you need me. So, are you both keeping well?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. We're fine, but I'm getting old, you know. I've had my day. Perhaps it's time to bow out gracefully, before we get taken out."

"Do you mean that photo of Bob on the TV and in the papers?"

"Yes, what did you think of it?"

"It wasn't that good and none of his friends would rat on him., but I don't know the class of people he hangs around with these days and some police or customs officer may get lucky."

"Yes, that's what we were thinking as well."

"I'm thinking that you may be better off out of Europe."

"So were we."

"Yes… does Bob need to come back here?"

"No, not really. I could sell his car for him. I've sold this place and the farm will go any day now. One of my cars has gone too, so there's only the Bentley left, but that would sell quickly enough at the right price. Anyway, they are just icing on the cake, neither he nor I need the money from the sale of those things. We are both comfortably well off.

"So, you are wondering why I asked you here, aren't you?"

"Well, I was hoping you just wanted to see an old friend. If that doesn't come into it, then you will upset me."

"Of course it's great to see you again, Dave, but there is something you could do for me if you'll stay for a couple of weeks."

"I'm all ears."

That evening as they were talking in front of the TV, Bob's photo came on again.

"There's that bloody photo again!"

"Yes, Gareg, but it used to be on every single news programme a week ago, now it's on once a day, if that? They are giving up and only running it when news is slack. Have you tried disinformation yet?"

"No, I'm all right with computers, I can use them, but I'm no expert. Jim does all my stuff, but I haven't talked to him about this matter."

"I could do it, if you like. Give me a computer, no, better still, I'll use my own and my own Internet access too. It's safer that way.

"First we create a few email accounts in bogus names on Hotmail and Yahoo, then open a few bogus accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, add the email accounts and verify them. Then capture that image of Bob on the escalator and crop it and make a dozen copies. Now, then, we change the background colour of each one and the hair and darken the skin of some and upload a different one to each account. Fill in different personal details for each account, different locations and nationalities and upload that lot via different proxy servers.

"Now, all we have to do is write a few emails along the lines of 'When I was in Spain last week, I saw your photo of a guy on a stairway, he looks like this man from our village. A real nasty piece of work called Otto Schwenger. You can find him on Facebook.' We write half a dozen of those, one for each account we just opened and have my email client send them via proxy servers at different times to different police stations, Sky and the BBC and hope for the best.

"I'll do half a dozen or so a day with new accounts. That might keep them busy. It may take them days to work it out or they may never do it. You just can't tell, but they will have to investigate each one, which will soak up resources and cheese them off. They may even stop showing the picture, but they could already have circulated it to all departure points in the country. It is just impossible to tell."

"Fingers crossed then."

"Are you clear about what we need in this place now, Dave. I'm sure you are, but I need to hear you say it."

"Yes, I know, don't worry."

"It is part of the job, Dave. In the army, I wasn't allowed to admit it, but now I don't have to hide it. Is there anything I can do to help around here?"

we realise that there is new data available.

"In this way, we can all help everyone else to solve their cases, since we believe that all of them are related. Not through the actual crime, or the motive for the crime, but the method, the modus operandi. I believe that your case is also related."

"May I call you Ali? I am Miguel. I understand what you are saying and I think that cooperation may be the way forward, so you can rely on me to do my bit too."

"Thank you, Miguel. Good luck and goodbye for now."

"Goodbye, Ali."

All of Ali's team had been assigned other duties, but he could still call on them for help if he needed them. He sent emails asking them to stop by the case web site to read the latest evidence as soon as they were able to. He made it clear that it was not worth them stopping by his office just to read the new data because it was so meagre.

He sat at his desk and looked at the reports that were coming in from London saying that there had been responses to the televised photo of the square, ginger man on the elevator, but that they had not been able to trace anyone who actually owned the social media pages. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn had already confirmed that the accounts that they had been referred to were fake.

He called in his IT specialist.

"What is your opinion of reports like this? We have seen a spate of them coming in over the last four or five days, in reaction to a wanted poster we televised and printed in the UK media."

She read the reports carefully and in silence and then asked for use of a computer. Ali moved aside and pulled up a chair for her. She called up the accounts one by one, but they had already been deleted by the site owners.

"My first reaction, sir, is that it is a pity that we do not have access to the pages mentioned, because then we could be looking for similarities in style, photo, and data. However, without that important data, I can speculate that someone has been deliberately trying to mislead the investigation. Disinformation, they call it, sir.

"Someone is setting up bogus accounts using different names and possibly using your own photograph, and perhaps morphing it, sorry, altering it slightly, so that it is still recognisable, but looks like a different image, er, photo. It is quite easy to do and the software comes free with most computers.

"Let me see, er, yes, look. You have it here 'Paint', you just import your photo into it, and manipulate, change it."

Ali had to struggle to watch the screen, because he was mesmerised by the speed that her hands worked at and the beauty of her profile.

"See…, " she looked at him out of the corner of her eye and caught him looking at her face. "See, sir? It is quite easy and it is a simple matter to set up fake social media accounts too."

"Yes, lieutenant, I see. Thank you very much. Is there anything else you can add?"

"I would guess that all of these accounts were set up by one person on one computer, but that could have been anywhere in the world. This means to me that either we are dealing with an extremely mischievous character, or we have touched a nerve."

"Thank you, lieutenant, that is an interesting insight. And which does your heart, your instinct, tell you that it is?"

She looked him in the eyes and said, "My heart and my instinct tell me that we have touched a nerve, sir."

"We think alike, lieutenant. Thank you again, I will go with your heart."

She stood up, saluted and left and Ali could not help but watch her as she walked away.

She did not turn around.

Ali believed in practicing what he preached, so he typed up what he had just been told, and posted it to the group marked as 'Speculation'.

While Ali was in Baghdad turning his hair white with worry about his and everybody else's suicide bombing, Gareg, Bob and Dave were back in Barry, playing darts in the Master Mariner. They wouldn't get home that night either, but they were happy with the C?m Ciddy as a home away from home anyway.

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