The seymour tapes, p.5
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       The Seymour Tapes, p.5

           Tim Lott
 
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  – What?

  – I told her it was my car and that I’d been called out on an emergency. I said you were sick. She’s not quite convinced. Do you mind terribly?

  Dr Seymour reaches out his hand, and Sherry Thomas stares at him blankly.

  – Could you give me your hand, please? So it looks like I’m taking your pulse?

  – Oh, I get it.

  She stretches it towards him and closes her eyes, as if she feels faint. Dr Seymour puts two fingers on her wrist and checks his watch. He has his back to the shop window.

  – Has she gone yet?

  – Hold on… just a second… she’s still staring. How’s my pulse?

  – More or less operational. How about now?

  – Hold it. Yes. She’s gone.

  Dr Seymour lets go of her wrist and sits down hastily. She is flushed, and is having a little trouble reverting to her previously businesslike mode.

  – Thanks for that. I’m impressed.

  – That warden was tough as old boots. Or maybe I’m losing my charm.

  – I wouldn’t say that. I thought you were very smooth. And kind.

  – At least we can relax now.

  – Certainly. So what exactly is it I can do for you, Dr Seymour?

  – I’m not sure.

  – Are you new to this kind of thing?

  – Absolutely. To be honest, I’m not very comfortable about it.

  – I can understand that. But, look, you’re under no obligation. Why don’t I just show you around a bit? Once you’ve understood the options you can come to a decision. No pressure.

  – OK.

  – How did you hear about CSS, by the way?

  – From the man who owns my local corner shop. He got his CCTV system through your company. Mr Ali. He gave me your card.

  Sherry Thomas wrinkles her nose.

  – Bread-and-butter work. We do that kind of thing mainly on the Internet. I don’t know Mr Ali. Only the real enthusiasts make the pilgrimage here. Can I offer you something? Tea? Coffee?

  – I’m not an enthusiast. On the contrary. I just thought that…

  She holds up her hand and gives a nod of reassurance.

  – Please. I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m not implying that you’re some kind of crank.

  – I feel like one, to be honest.

  She smiles.

  – Surveillance isn’t a fringe activity any more. It’s a multi-million-pound business. It’s entirely mainstream. Everybody’s doing it. They just tend to keep quiet about it. That’s the nature of the beast. Secrecy. But people are spying on their neighbours, their employees, even their families. It’s a growth business. The money spent is phenomenal. And you British are even ahead of the Americans on this. Most surveilled country in the world.

  – Is that so?

  – Absolutely. The thing is, it’s normal. Some people come in here thinking there’s something shady or strange about it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because what we sell isn’t equipment. It isn’t wires, transmitters and cameras.

  – It isn’t?

  – No. What we sell is peace of mind. There’s nothing wrong with wanting peace of mind, is there?

  – I suppose so. I suppose that’s what I’m looking for. What we’re looking for.

  – We?

  – My wife and I.

  Ms Thomas picks up a pen and poises it over a notepad in front of her.

  – I see. And what is your wife’s name?

  – Samantha. Why? Is that important?

  – Not particularly. Not in itself. It’s just that I like to take what you might call a holistic approach. It helps me to help you. Kids?

  – Why do you want to know about my kids?

  Sherry Thomas puts down her pen and regards Dr Seymour directly.

  – I know this sounds strange, but you get a sense about the characters you meet in this business. It’s a people business, after all, surveillance, when it comes down to it. The machines are just that. Machines. They’re at the service of human emotions. Which are complex. Getting a wider picture helps me establish how I can be most useful.

  – I don’t know. It seems creepy to me.

  – I understand that. Look, take things in your own time. Shall I just show you around first? Then we can come back to the matter of your situation. No pressure.

  Sherry Thomas rises from her chair, and motions to Dr Seymour to join her. He gets up, and she leads him over to a set of glass cases on the left-hand side of the shop.

  – Now, over here is our audio equipment, essentially for bugging. Hidden microphones, transmitters and receivers. They’re voice activated…

  – Wouldn’t they go off every time a car drove past?

  – Voice, not noise, activated. You can hide them just about anywhere. In a plug, a toy, a pen, a telephone, you name it. The quality is remarkably high nowadays. You don’t have to be around, it will record automatically to tape or even hard disk. And it’s not expensive. But, then, I’m not sure what you’re looking for.

  – Neither am I. But I don’t think it’s this stuff. It’s to do with the nanny, you see…

  – Ah. You want a nanny-cam? Of course. They account for a lot of our domestic business. People are worried nowadays about who they let into their home. Nanny-cams are the ideal solution. If you come with me, I’ll show you the sort of thing we have.

  Now Sherry Thomas leads Dr Seymour to a glass case on the other side of the room.

  – This is our audio-visual equipment. Obviously it’s more expensive, but not prohibitively so. It’s not complicated. A camera and mike, and a receiver. You can hide the camera in pretty much anything. As you can see, we’ve got them in calculators, children’s lunch-boxes, baseball caps – you name it. You can organize it so that you can either watch live on a monitor or have PIR so that you –

  – PIR?

  – Movement activated. Infrared.

  – We have cats. Surely the moment they –

  – You can adjust it to respond to certain degrees of movement. You’ll get the hang of it.

  – Right. And where do you put the receiver?

  – Anywhere you like. You can hook it up to your computer – use it as a web-cam. This would mean you could log on to the pictures from your place of work – or anywhere else, for that matter. Alternatively you can link it to a conventional tape- or DVD-recorder. You could put this anywhere in the house, and when you got home it would have recorded automatically any activity.

  – Extraordinary. And this costs how much?

  – Typically, anything between a thousand and three and a half thousand pounds, depending on how much equipment you need and the level of sophistication.

  – Phew.

  – Unconditional two-year guarantee. Also we can make stuff customized to order.

  – All the same, quite pricey. Have you got anything a little more economical?

  – We’ve got plenty. Have you got a mobile phone?

  – Yes.

  – Could I borrow it for a moment, please?

  Dr Seymour hands it over, and Sherry Thomas removes a device from a glass case. Then she takes off the back of the mobile phone and inserts the device. She goes to her land line, asks Dr Seymour for his phone number and dials it. The mobile phone rings. Dr Seymour goes to answer it, but she holds up her hand to stop him. The phone stops.

  You’d have the ringer turned off, of course, so as not to alert the target.

  Then she holds out the receiver of the land line to Dr Seymour. He puts it to his ear. She stands by the mobile phone and whistles ‘The Star Spangled Banner’. Dr Seymour looks startled.

  – You see, you can leave your mobile phone anywhere, and when you want to check what’s going on, just give it a call and it will listen in to whatever is going on around it. What we call a GSM engine. There’s an extra device that will send you a text the moment any movement is detected. That’s six hundred bucks.

  – Amazing.

  Now Sherr
y Thomas picks up the phone and appears to remove the bug.

  – What else have we got? Cameras in flower vases, CD boxes. That clock, it’s seven hundred and ninety-five pounds. Lie detectors? Very effective nowadays. You’d be amazed. Completely covert. You don’t have to strap people into sensors. The machine can recognize a stressed voice even over the phone. Needs a bit of practice, but it’s ninety per cent accurate.

  – How about the Potomac Emergency Escape Mask?

  – Why? You gotta gas leak?

  Dr Seymour laughs. It is clear that the sales pitch is working. Sherry Thomas does it well – informal, concise, friendly. By the time Dr Seymour sits down again, he is substantially more relaxed than he was when he arrived.

  – So what do you think, Dr Seymour? Anything float your boat?

  – Look, Ms Thomas…

  – Do you mind if I smoke?

  – What?

  – Two or three Americans still do.

  – Well, it’s your shop.

  – Bad for you, of course. But, then, you’d know that, wouldn’t you, being a doctor?

  She slides open a drawer in her desk and brings out a packet of Marlboro Red. The fact that Dr Seymour had himself given up smoking only a few months before and that Marlboro Red was his own chosen brand can only be a matter of coincidence.

  Now she winces, then touches her forehead. Dr Seymour registers this – his body language suggests that he is on the point of making a remark – but the moment passes and she recomposes herself. Then slowly, almost sensuously, she removes a cigarette from the packet, places it in her mouth and lights it. She draws deeply and exhales a cloud of blue smoke in Dr Seymour’s direction. He waves it away with a fan-like action of his right hand.

  – Never smoked yourself, Dr Seymour?

  – Gave up a while ago.

  Dr Seymour stops flapping his hand, and instead seems to take a deep breath of smoke.

  – Got a spare?

  Sherry Thomas immediately and unaccountably stubs out the cigarette although she has only just begun it.

  – Sorry. Last one.

  He glances at the almost unsmoked butt in the ashtray as she resumes.

  – Now, listen. Can you tell me a little bit more about your situation? It’s completely confidential, of course. Would you indulge me? Please.

  – I have three children. Guy is thirteen. Victoria is fourteen. Polly is six months old. But I don’t see –

  Without looking up from the note she has started to take, Sherry Thomas interrupts.

  – Keeping you up much, is she?

  – God, yes.

  – That must be difficult. You’re under quite a lot of stress, then.

  – What?

  – Two teenage kids. A newborn. Plus a GP’s life can’t be a bed of roses. You look tired.

  – I am tired. But I simply don’t see what this has to do with anything.

  – Like I say. It’s a holistic approach. As in medicine. There are alternative therapies, right? I’ve visited one or two healers myself.

  – Most of them aren’t much use.

  – I guess. But surely there is a case to be made that to treat only the symptom does not necessarily get to the root of the malady.

  – The only difference being that I’m not ill, you’re not a doctor, and I don’t want you to ‘cure’ me.

  Sherry Thomas laughs.

  – Yes. That’s the only difference.

  Dr Seymour smiles, apparently feeling that he has scored a point. Then she looks up at him, with a serious, intense expression.

  – But what do you want, Dr Seymour?

  He turns and looks at the door almost longingly.

  – It’s very simple.

  – Yes. You want to get your life back under control.

  Now Dr Seymour seems to regard her with surprise.

  – It’s not out of control.

  She nods, smiles, and takes another cigarette out of the packet of Marlboro Red.

  – I thought you said you didn’t have any more.

  – I’m only thinking of you. You don’t really want a cigarette.

  She lights the Marlboro, and exhales the smoke into the air.

  – Let me put it to you again. What do you want?

  At this point, Dr Seymour explains briefly, and as simply as possible, about the situation with Miranda Kelly and his need to allay his wife’s fears about theft. Sherry Thomas listens gravely; this time she finishes the cigarette right down to the stub.

  – And is that your only surveillance concern?

  – What?

  – Is that the only thing that is currently concerning you in terms of covert information?

  – I don’t know what you mean.

  – No. Well. All in good time, I suppose. I think I can help you, Dr Seymour.

  – Is it legal to snoop on people like this?

  – It’s absolutely legal. And forgive me – it’s not snooping. It is legitimate surveillance. After all, what if you found out that your nanny was – God forbid – not merely stealing but doing something untoward with your child? Wouldn’t you consider the investment justified? That the ‘snooping’, as you call it, had headed off a potentially disastrous and tragic development?

  Sherry Thomas now stares out of the front of the shop for several seconds, as if growing bored with her audience. There is a desk diary in front of her, which she shuts suddenly. It makes a loud report. Dr Seymour starts at the abruptness of the sound.

  – So. Which of Cyclops’s products do you think you could make use of?

  – Depends on what they cost.

  – That depends on whether you want to rent or buy. And on the level of sophistication you require.

  – How much for the camera in the smoke-alarm?

  – Sound or PIR activated?

  – PIR?

  – You weren’t paying attention. Movement activated. An infrared beam detects anything moving in the room, then switches on automatically. Is that what you want?

  – I don’t know. I suppose.

  – To buy, six hundred for the transmitter and four for the receiver. PIR is nine hundred and eighty. All prices plus VAT, so something on the high side of a thousand altogether.

  – It’s quite a lot of money.

  – Not for something that could transform your life.

  – It’s not going to transform my life. If I go ahead, it will be a temporary measure to help me sort out a specific problem.

  – Whatever you say. Rental for a week – let me see – that would be one hundred and fifty pounds for the lot. Plus a deposit, of course.

  – I don’t know. It still seems a bit strange.

  Sherry Thomas doesn’t reply. Instead, she looks at her watch, as if impatient.

  – I’m not sure that I can afford it, to tell you the truth.

  – Is that the issue?

  – It’s much more than I had anticipated. My wife simply wouldn’t stand for it.

  – Tell you what I’ll do. You can take it on approval.

  Sherry Thomas gets up from her chair and starts packing the smoke-alarm camera, along with two small black boxes, a transmitter and receiver, into a carrying case.

  – What do you mean?

  – You did me a favour with the traffic warden. Maybe I can do you one. Just see how you get along with it. If it doesn’t produce the results you hope for, you owe me nothing. Or if your wife gives you the no-no, just return it in the box. No pressure. But if it works out the way I think it will, you pay me in full. What do you say?

  – I’m not sure.

  – All I need is your credit-card imprint as a guarantee. Then you can take it away. No strings attached.

  – That seems… remarkably generous.

  – You have to understand. My job – well, it’s a bit like yours. You don’t do your job just to bring home a pay cheque, do you? You want to help people.

  – Of course, but –

  – Well, then. You understand when someone has a sen
se of vocation about something. A sense of mission, if you will. And something else…

  Sherry Thomas seals the box, and puts it into a large plastic carrier-bag with the CSS logo – a simple drawing of a large eye superimposed on an image of the globe. Dr Seymour hands over his credit card, and she takes an imprint. Then, returning the card, she looks at Dr Seymour and flashes him a wide, generous smile.

  – You need this. It’s right for you, I can tell. Like I say, you get a feeling for people.

  She holds out the carrier-bag to him. Then, suddenly, she drops it and grabs at her forehead. Her face contorts.

  – Aah. Jesus. God Almighty.

  – Are you all right?

  – No. Yes, of course. I’m used to it.

  – Headache?

  – I need to sit down. It’s all right. You can go. It’ll pass.

  She sits down unsteadily. Dr Seymour steps forward and inspects her carefully, as if some diagnosis might be possible from looking as her.

  – Can I get you a glass of water?

  Instead of responding, Sherry Thomas, still with one hand on her head, picks up the bag she has dropped and hands it to Dr Seymour.

  – Instructions are all in there. It’s easy as pie. If you don’t want it, just bring it back to me this time next week. Before one thirty. Closed on Saturday afternoons. Please don’t be late. I’ll be here. We can settle up then. Now, go, please. This will pass. I’m fine.

  – Can’t I just –

  – Go. Please. And thanks for the ticket thing. ’Bye.

  Dr Seymour remains still for several more seconds, then reaches out and slowly, as if it was of enormous weight, takes the carrier-bag. He looks behind him one last time as he opens the door and makes as if to speak, but Sherry Thomas waves him away. After he has left, she sits there for several minutes, holding her head in her hands, rocking back and forward. Then the tape ends.

  Interview with Samantha Seymour

  What can you tell me about the situation at the surgery that was concerning Alex?

  In fact, there were a number of ‘situations’ at the surgery.

  Specifically the situation with Pamela Geale, the receptionist, and with the patient, Mrs Thibo Madoowbe.

  I don’t think either of those ‘situations’ really amounted to anything.

  Do you find this difficult to talk about?

 
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