I was guided down two flights of stairs to an interview room in the high security bowels of the station. As I went down I idly wondered how many uncooperative criminals had fallen down these stairs. Although on reflection I realised that all the injuries would have been sustained at the bottom of the steps…

They took me into a windowless room with a rectangular table in the middle flanked by two chairs on each of the longer sides. All the furniture was bolted to the floor. Embedded in the table was a recording device. Blue pinstripe pushed me into one of the seats without preamble.

Opposite me sat a female officer who looked to be about 30. She was also in a trouser suit, light brown eyes, dyed blonde hair, I could see the slight brown at the roots, fresh complexion, no make-up, ears pierced but no earrings worn. She wouldn’t look out of place waiting for one of the London commuter trains. It was clear from the serious look on her face that this interview wasn’t very likely to feature coffee.

It wasn’t difficult for me to maintain the bemusement that my cover required. It was all well rehearsed on the part of the police. They’d got me in here with barely a word between them to coordinate their actions. That suggested to me that they did this sort of thing often. Not a good sign from my perspective.

Charcoal grey broke the silence. Now that I had a clear chance to look at him I realised that he was one of the older ones, with a few silver threads at his temples amidst nondescript short brown hair. His brown eyes had a few small lines at the edges that were only just discernible in the harsh neon glare of the interview room. He looked at the female detective and said, “Give him rope” before turning to walk out the door.

“Yes boss.” she replied as he left, closing the door to the interview room behind him. Blue pinstripe had discreetly left while I was sizing up the other two officers.

I was a bit worried by the instruction to be given rope, were they about to suggest that I might want to hang myself? Whether metaphorically or literally I wasn’t keen on that option. The detective quickly set me straight before I had more than a few seconds to ponder. She reached forward to the controls in the middle of the table and pressed two buttons on it, the first lit up a green LED and the second turned it red.

“Okay. I am going to interview you under RoPE 47 provisions. You are free to use personal recording equipment to maintain a record of this interview. Anything that you say while we are recording will be retained and may be used in evidence against you should any charges subsequently be brought. You are not under arrest and you are currently voluntarily helping us with our enquiries. Do you understand?” She read it off somewhat mechanically, it clearly being a form of words she’d memorised and regularly repeated.

“I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure what rope 47 is?” I replied using my most baffled tone of voice.

“RoPE is the Regulations on Police Evidence. We will be using the current version of the regulations issued in 2047 and commonly referred to as RoPE ‘47” she explained. “Is there anything else you would like me to explain before we continue?”

“Um, no I don’t think so, its just I’m not used to this sort of thing.” I gestured around the room and at the recording console. “Oh, and I don’t have any recording devices, is that a problem?”

“You can use your terminal to record the interview.” she informed me.

“Can I? I didn’t think you were allowed to record things in police stations?”

“You have a right to record RoPE ‘47 interviews and you can be allowed to record other things with permission of an officer of Inspector or above.” She informed me.

I looked at her blankly for a moment, trying to think what to do next.

“Are you content for us to continue?” she asked.

“Em. I suppose so.” I paused again for effect, and just as she was about to start talking I continued “Oh, wait a minute, I suppose I ought to start my terminal.” I could see the frustration on her face, but could also tell that she was controlling it.

I fumbled through my pockets to find all the component parts of my terminal. I pulled the glasses out of an inside pocket, and pausing half way to putting them on I asked “Am I allowed to record with these?”

“Yes” she snapped back. I ignored her frustration and finished putting the glasses on before continuing to get the main terminal controller out of my pocket to turn it on and then the crucifix brooch that worked as the combination audio input and visual output (alongside the glasses).

“I’m sorry, it’s a bit old and slow, you don’t mind waiting while it boots up do you?” I asked, smiling at her. She did her best to look unconcerned and bored while nodding her assent. I could tell that the interview wasn’t going the way that she’d intended already. I took my time giving her a good look over while I waited for the terminal to finish booting. After about 20 seconds of silence I relented

“It must be terribly interesting working as a detective?” I asked her.

“Not as much as you might think” she answered warily, before asking me, “has that terminal started yet?”

“Almost there I think. I don’t use it much, so it usually takes a while to start up. Oh, here we go. Just a sec, need to start it recording.” I made a couple of finger gestures in mid-air, using the air keyboard to change the settings. “OK, ready when you are, what do you want to know officer?”

“This is Detective Constable Fletcher, East of England Police Service. Can you please tell me your name for the record?” she asked

“Of course, do you want my full Sunday name, or is Huw Powell good enough?” I replied in my best cut glass sort of accent.

“Your full name please, and date of birth”

“I am Huw Charles Henry Spencer Powell, born on 6th June 2027.”

“What is your occupation, Huw?”

“I am a postgraduate Divinity Student at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, reading for a Doctor of Divinity degree. My intention is to become a vicar in due course.”

“Do you live in the College?”

“No, I have lodgings a short walk away. Only the undergraduates and the Fellows live in for the most part.”

“Can you please give me your address?”

“Of course, flat C, 23 Milton’s Walk. Next to Christ’s Pieces.”

“How long have you lived there?”

“I’ve been there since I enrolled as a student, so almost two years now. Before that I was at Saint Andrews in Scotland.”

“Did you live in Scotland for long?”

“I did most of my secondary school and undergraduate school there. So about 10 years in total.” That put me outside the window that they could easily check with their own records. I continued, “Look, this is a perfectly pleasant conversation, and I am more than willing to help the fine upstanding members of the constabulary with your enquiries. Especially when it comes to removing the less desirable elements of society from the streets. However, I’m not quite sure what the point of this interview is, and how it is helping.”

Constable Fletcher looked slightly nonplussed, I doubt her interview subjects did this very often. She took a breath and then replied

“Sir, we’re looking for a dangerous criminal who was reported in the area where we picked you up. You fit several of the characteristics of his description and we need to get some information from you so that we can eliminate you from the enquiry. I’m sorry if that wasn’t properly explained to you on the way here.”

“It wasn’t. Your colleagues said almost nothing to me about why they’d picked me up. I’m clearly not the chap you are looking for, so the sooner we can wrap this up the better.”

“Sir, that’s not how it works. I need you to give me a few more details and then I need to check those before I can eliminate you from our enquiries.”

“Well I would be grateful if you could get on with it. I’m supposed to be in the college library studying for my thesis and preparing a sermon I need to deliver.”

I told her what I knew she could verify about Huw Powell, all of the background had been carefully planned and planted on the appropriate systems years ago. Huw was a deep cover identity and as well as having been established years ago there was also a whole lot of real world interaction over the last three years that firmly established me as Huw.

For my alibi this morning I had less to go on, no real people would have seen Huw. However, there was an audit trail of near continuous editing of his latest essay that was backed up over the internet, along with some social network interactions commenting on the books he was drawing inspiration from for the sermon. Most of this was scripted and planted on Huw’s terminal in advance, but some of the follow-up forum postings were done live by me in the midst of my other work. It certainly looked like Huw was sat in his flat for most of the day, reading a couple of books on translation issues with the King James Version of the Bible, writing a sermon and posting commentary to a specialist forum about it all. 

Continued in Imperfect: Scene 4 – Recce

Can’t wait? Get a copy of Imperfect from smashwords (all ebook formats, pay what you want)

Enhanced by Zemanta