24th October


I was in my office at the back of the house and had just finished doing my emails when the doorbell rang. It was half past three in the afternoon, the usual time for children returning home from school to ring the bell and run away, so I ignored it. Then it rang again.

A man with a moustache and a clipboard was at the door.

‘We have reason to believe you have disclosed information to a third party which may compromise the security of the country and the safety of your fellow citizens,’ he said.

‘Eh?’ I replied.

‘You may have done this unwittingly in which case a warning will be issued but no further action taken against you. If you have deliberately disclosed the information we reserve the right to prosecute.’

‘Wait,’ I said. ‘Go back a couple of sentences. Who, in the first place, are “we”?’

‘We are PROBE,’ he said. ‘We are one of the world’s leading security support and maintenance providers and we have been appointed by the government to support and maintain the security of the country.’

‘PROBE?’ I said. ‘Is that an acronym?’

‘I am not at liberty to disclose that information unless you are an accredited and approved stakeholder,’ he said.

‘I am a citizen,’ I said. ‘Does that count?’

He consulted a sheet of paper on his clipboard. ‘May I see your passport?’ he asked.

‘What is this?’ I said. ‘I am at home minding my own business and you turn up and ask me for identification. Why would I show you, a total stranger, my passport?’

He showed me a PROBE identity badge on which were his photograph and a name that might also have been his.

‘Now show me your passport,’ he said.

‘No,’ I said. ‘In fact I refuse to prolong this ludicrous, not to say sinister, exchange. Goodbye.’

‘Suspect refused to co-operate,’ he said, making a mark on his paper.

I’d had enough. I shut the door firmly in his face.

When I returned to my office I discovered that the window had been forced open; also that my computer hard drive had been wiped.

I suppose I was asking for it.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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