Was it just another surveillance job - Episode 51
I'm back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.
The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I'm not very good at prioritizing.
But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn't take long to get back into the groove.
Chasing leads, maybe
Once out of the elevator, I could see another security desk halfway up the corridor. There were no doors before the desk, only after, so my destination was past the desk.
I pulled out my card in readiness, and as I approached, a woman came out of a door behind the desk and joined the security guard.
She spoke to the guard, then looked at me. “My name is Joanne, I have been assigned to help you, and in accordance with security measures in place on this floor, I will be accompanying you. One of the conditions of access is to not be anywhere on your own.”
“Except in the restroom, I hope.”
A momentary frown, “Common sense applies, Mr Jackson.”
OK, try not to be flippant.
She handed me a form, I read it, ticked several boxes and signed it. I gave the guard my card and he scanned it. Logging my movements, not unexpected. Having a shadow was.
But, there was nothing I was going to look at, that I didn’t want anyone not to know about.
“Good,”: she said when I handed the form back. She in turn passed it to the guard, then said, “Follow me.”
A gate opened to let me through, then jolted shut behind me. Either the mechanism was broken, or the thud was just to remind people going through it, it was not a toy.
We went three doors up the corridor where she stopped, opened the door, and ushered me in.
It was a reasonable-sized room with a desk, commuter with three screens, and two chairs, one I guess for me, and one for her.
I thought I’d ask a couple of questions first. “Do you always look after incoming researchers?”
“And when there is none?”
“I work in with the research team, creating or updating briefing papers for agents in the field.”
“Do agents normally come in to look stuff up?”
“No. Generally, they request it through secure channels.”
“Usually, one of our consulates or embassies scattered all over the world.”
Good to remember.
“You’re just going to sit there?”
I shrugged. So be it.
I logged in and typed in Severin’s original name David Westcott.
The search engine brought back over a million hits, the first dozen relating to a violinist who seemed to be having relationship and drug problems.
To narrow that search down, I added ‘Military service” in the hope that he may have been in the military before joining the intelligence services.
He was. I did the same for Bernie Salvin and found the two of them had served roughly at the same time, in the same places, and were among the last people out in 2014.
When I added “Intelligence” to the search, the computer sent me on a side mission, bring up documents relating to both men’s service in various branches of the intelligence services, for 5 years, after which it seemed they had just up and left, their service sheet marked ‘retired’, which could have meant anything, but I think it was a euphemism for ‘dead’.
I thought about asking my shadow, but that would lead to too many other questions that I didn’t want to answer. As it was, I could see she was very interested in the two names I’d just searched on.
It explained how both men were so knowledgeable about the operations and facilities. A quick search on the training facility we had used showed it had been closed, and abandoned, 6 years before. I’d always thought it had that abandoned feel about it, and we were using it for the atmosphere value.
Then came searches on Severin and Maury and Arche Laboratories, and that too brought up the Security profiles of both men, but their prior history had been manufactured, though no doubt based on their real experience, being in the military in Afghanistan, and in a branch of the intelligence services, though not mentioning the specifics.
There was information on several security breaches and the computer systems being hacked reportedly by a foreign country, but nothing had been taken, a story perhaps to allay the fears of people who might think dangerous material might have fallen into the wrong hands.
At the very least, it was reported the facility would be shut down, due to its age and everyone being reassigned to a new more secure facility. The fact Severin and Maury didn’t transfer told me they had either been caught or they had jumped before the fingers of accusation were pointed at them. Either way, both had disappeared off the face of the earth.
Until I and others have become their unwitting recruits.
Everything O’Connell said was true, and it was all there, so Dobbin was as well versed on the pair as I now was. And, now I had some background before I met Severin later in the day.
When Joanne finally plucked up the courage to ask me about my searches, I told her I had been reading up on a lot of old laboratories that used to contract government research and had narrowed the place where the information came from to several candidates and struck it lucky the first search. Arche Laboratories.
Previously I had got a list of the security staff from half a dozen labs that had closed unexpectedly, looking for possible matches to Severin and Maury, because I thought they would have a military and intelligence background, but the two I’d used, didn’t seem to fit the profile. Their photographs, those that were posted for Arche Laboratories looked nothing like the Severin and Maury today, but I’d expected that.
She didn’t need to know that and looked satisfied with my answers.
Now it was time to look at some CCTV feeds.
© Charles Heath 2023