Thursday, 12 April 2007

Chapter 75

Dave Morris and Jane Tobias made their way up the path to the block of masionettes that lay on the edge of a small council estate on the outskirts of Thirsk. They’d told the taxi driver that brought them to wait, as they didn’t expect to be long. He’d smiled, pulled out a newspaper and started doing the crossword, happy to be paid to do so.

They found flat 14 on the first floor, and Dave rapped on the half-glazed door panel, loudly, officiously. It was a while before it opened, to reveal a tall, lanky youth wearing a t-shirt, jogging pants and trainers. Although it was mid-afternoon, he looked like he might have just gotten out of bed.

“Stephen Garbutt?” Dave said. Without giving the youth a chance to reply, he had his foot in the door, and flashed an ID card at him that might – just – have passed as a police one. Jane had warned him not to mention the word ‘police’, or they’d be in big trouble.

The boy stepped back: “Yes, that’s me. What am I supposed to have done?” His response was sullen, but not angry.

“Can we come in please? We have some questions we need to ask you about Dr Dacre Lawrence.” Dave was almost in the corridor to the flat as he spoke.

“Yeah – OK,” the youth said, walking awkwardly towards a room at the end of the corridor, which was his lounge. Jane noticed the pile of unopened mail pushed up against the wall as she closed the door behind her. She caught a glimpse of a computer screen blinking away on a desk in what looked like a bedroom, as she passed on down to the lounge.

“My name is Dave Morris,” Dave said, as he pushed away a pile of magazines to one side of a sofa, and took a seat, and this is Jane Tobias.”

Stephen took Morris’ cue, and moved another heap of magazines that lay on a chair onto the floor, so that Jane could sit down, too.

He sat himself on the floor, against a wall. “So what is this about?” he asked.

“Stephen, we understand you used to work at the Chapel Road Health Centre – is that right?”

The response was still sullen – maybe that’s just how he spoke all the time, Jane thought: “Yeah. Two years. On a scheme. £25 a week and me bus fares. Lovely.”

“Did you know Doctor Lawrence very well?”

Stephen eyed Dave suspiciously. “Sort of. He was the chief doctor. I helped him with his computer a few times. Why”

“But you saw him two weeks ago, didn’t you? What was that about?”

Stephen Garbutt didn’t think he’d done anything that was actually illegal, when he’d taken on Lawrence’s ‘commission’. No sense, then, in hiding it from the police. But you never knew …

“Just business. That’s all.”

Jane Tobias made a decision. They wouldn’t get anywhere so long as Garbutt thought they were from the police, although the duplicity had been helpful to get them into the flat.

“We’re not from the police, Stephen. And we’re not from the Social Security, either. So you can relax. We’re from an organization that investigates doctors. We’re not here to have a go at you. We just need to know what Dr Lawrence was up to.”

Dave was glad Jane had intervened, and he saw Stephen visibly relax.

“He asked me to change a few things on some websites for him, that’s all. I don’t really know why. It was all something about family history. Census records. He paid me well enough.”

“So what did you actually do, Stephen?” Dave Morris asked, intrigued.

“I had to get some random census images and cut and paste them over some particular ones that Dr Lawrence wanted me to get rid of. Make them look authentic, like. And then I had to upload them back to the server,” Stephen replied. “Not difficult, and I didn’t make a bad job of them.”

“How long did all this take?”

“Like I said – not difficult. Maybe half a day. The hardest was that Mormon site. They don’t use images, so I had to hack the mainframe and input into the database.” Stephen sensed his visitors weren’t family historians: neither was he, but his recent work for Lawrence had taught him a lot about the way the genealogical sites kept their records.

It was Jane’s turn. “Did Dr Lawrence say why he wanted you to do this?”

Stephen shook his head. “No. But I figured it was worth a lot to him, because he paid me £2000.”

Jane imagined that bought an awful lot of computer magazines, and she wondered at the wasted talent that must be hiding in similar flats, in similar towns all over the country.


In the taxi back to Northallerton station, Dave and Jane compared notes. The hard drive of Dacre Lawrence’s PC had revealed that he not only accessed medical records he shouldn’t have, but had also spent quite a few hours, whilst supposedly at work, looking at a whole range of family history sites. The information from Stephen Garbutt explained exactly why that was. Now all they needed to know was why he’d go to all that trouble to have records (as Dave put it) ‘doctored’. Jane only smiled lamely at that one, he noticed.

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