Book: The First - Part: Two - Chapter: 19 - Installment: ii

        Sarah was on one hand impressed. On the other she felt the stunning pressure of mass scrutiny. The computer prowess of the Lazarus was staggering. The processing power behind their network was to the mainframes at the university as those same mainframes were to her laptop.
        These people are really high-tech. Like super-tech. Could they actually be running quantum processors?
        Whoever was doing their hacking was elegant.  The databases the Lazarus had direct clandestine access to was impressive.  The head of IT, Maureen Deng, had walked Sarah through.
        “You can sort through the records of Canada Post, any of the phone companies, the hospitals, VPD, RCMP or any other the other police forces across Canada, the US, Europe and – well, pretty much everywhere.  Ditto Canadian Forces and the other militaries, at least their surface level records. The secret stuff we have to hack on a case by case basis. We are all pretty much as far out on the bleeding edge of cyber security as you can get. Pretty much any database you can name, we’ve already got full instant, up to date backdoor access to. Totally over the top spy-novel fiction type access. Except it’s real.”
        Sarah was surprised at the older woman’s willingness to help – to basically give Sarah carte blanche over her silicon baby. Here Sarah was the young turk, come in to potentially show the woman up using her own system. Then again, there was no saying she would succeed. It could simply be a matter of Maureen Deng giving Sarah enough rope to hang herself with.
        Maureen sat at Sarah’s side to assist her navigating the idiosyncrasies of the Lazarus’ system, but her presence weighed heavy on the thin girl. Also observing – and no doubt ready to redirect and advise her actions were Henri, who felt like the closest thing she had to an ally in the room; a second older man, not as old as Henri, fiftyish (though Sarah was admittedly poor at guessing ages of anyone over thirty) who, though he spoke little, was treated with enough deference that Sarah didn’t need to be told that he was in charge; two other women rounded out the group – one stout, though hardly unhealthily so, who had introduced herself as the Head of Intelligence; the second woman was lean, angular, nearly as porcelaneous as Sarah and gave her the creeps.
        Sarah was accustomed used to working with no one looking over her shoulder – either alone or with someone who was otherwise distracted.
        In short order they had covered the rather obvious fact that any vein of inquiry that Sarah could recall from the opening twenty minutes of any TV police procedural had already been run as a matter of standard procedure.  Sarah was here to exercise her more creative data searching and sorting insights.
        “So the last place facial recognition has him is the bank machine – which we already know from the banking records.”
        “That’s right.”  Pamela Guerin, the Intelligence Head.  “From there the both of them have disappeared completely.  Which is not in and of itself hard for one person.”
        “It would require a certain amount of either luck, knowledge or planning to make it out of the city without getting caught on an accessible camera somewhere.”  Henri advanced the conversation. “So chances are they didn’t go far.”
        “Which means one of two things. Either they holed up in some off-the-grid surveillance blackhole – a wooded park or an abandoned building….”  Sarah's thought at Guerin’s mention sent a shiver of recollection up Sarah’s spine. “But that would be difficult to maintain with a young child.  The kid would simply get impatient.”
        “So, the other option?” Prompted Sarah.
        “A private building.  A home.  An office.  Some place secure, at least moderately comfortable and where a seven year old isn’t going to go stir crazy – or if she were to, it could be reasonably contained.”
        “If he has an ounce of survival smarts he’d ditch the kid.” The strong, angular woman.
        “That doesn’t seem to be in his playbook. I’d say he’s protecting her. Besides, she hasn’t shown up. The problem is, that assuming they have found a locked door to hide behind, it isn’t anywhere that either of them are known to be associated with.  And that, is what we want you to try to ascertain, Sarah.”
        She absorbed the information and thought for a long moment.
        “Okay, so he left the hospital…?”
        “The last confirmed contact with Edmond was around 8:15. It wasn’t until nearly nine AM that it was noted that they weren’t present.”
        “Obviously his home is out of the question.”
        “Absolutely. Though it is assumed he was there. The apartment is right around the corner from the ATM. It appeared to have been left in a hurry. Who knows what he took, beyond the rarely used credit card he used for the cash advance – the rest of his personal ID was left behind with his wallet at the hospital. In any case Edmond and the girl beat the VPD to his apartment and out again.”
        “Hmm. So, the theory is, that he has someone to turn to, who isn’t apparent from looking at the rest of his life - someone who could help them hide?”
        “That’s right.”
        “Who he would have to have contacted once he was a fugitive – ‘cause it wasn’t like he was prepared to go into quarantine.”
        “Fair assumption.”
        “So, assuming he made no calls from his apartment…”
        “No land line.”
        “And his cellphone…”
        “Also at the hospital.”
        “Well, this is obvious. You guys really didn’t need me to figure this out.”
        “For starters, which payphone is an impossible question to answer.  We can’t run voice recognition - we don’t have a sample of his voice, although we could most likely get one simply enough – but even so, calls aren’t recorded as a matter of course.”
        “You have a two hour window between when he disappeared, and when he used the teller.  There aren’t many routes by which the two of them could have crossed from VGH to the West End.  That will limit the number of phones to check.”
        “No wallet, no cell, he probably had no pocket change either.”
        “Better yet. He more than likely called after leaving his apartment.”
        As it turned out, it wasn’t Maureen Deng who felt like she was being shown up on her own turf.  Pamela Guerin, was clearly getting more agitated at each step of Sarah’s analysis of the situation. 
        “How would you propose prioritizing the phone records we check? The options are daunting.”
        “The ATM he used was a third party machine. He wasn’t heading in a specific direction in order to use his regular bank. So that implies a general direction. Say… one hundred and twenty degrees fanning out from his apartment in the direction of the bank machine?”
        “The number of phones grows logarithmically as the distance increases.”
        “He probably called sooner than later, he had to settle on a plan fast.”
        Guerin wasn’t finished critiquing Sarah’s approach.
        “You are clever, but there is one more problem with your thinking.”
        “Please.” Sarah encouraged.
        “We haven’t got a clue who he would phone. We can check all the calls made on all the phones in the search area. We are pretty much certain he wouldn’t call anyone we know he is affiliated with, so how do we know which one of those potential calls is the single one we are looking for? You can massage the data in a thousand ways, but never get an answer. You simply can’t program a computer to tease that sort of connection out.”
        Sarah refused to be snared by the sheen of antagonism.  She was being tested and refused to be thrown off by an emotional response.  Whoever these people were, she felt that she needed them and it behoved her to make them feel reciprocally.
        “You are very right. I’ve found in my experience that there are certain types of information that are best – only, even – gleaned by a certain level of intuitive assessment. Computers are the best tool for filtering and cross referencing massive amounts of data, but aren’t so good for the noise. Fortunately, the human mind is a pattern seeking wonder. That can be a hinderance – how many hours have been wasted pondering human faces on toast?  Two dots and a line under it, are just two dots and a line under it, but our minds see eyes and a mouth. But it also allows us to make connections in the absence of repetition – indeed we can see patterns in the absence of a pattern.”
        “Explain what you are suggesting please, Sarah.” Henri coaxed her back towards her main point.
        “We search the phone records digitally. Prioritize the calls by proximity and time to Edmond’s use of the ATM and in a fan pattern extending away from his apartment. Then we simply look at the data ourselves and see what stands out. We might just see something. If not, then things do get tougher.”
        By the time Sarah was done talking Maureen Deng had already initiated the search.  The data started springing up on screen for all to see.
        “Well…” muttered a pleasantly surprised Pamela Guerin.
        “Indeed, ‘well.’ Spoke up the man who was in charge. “That does seem an awful coincidence.”
        Clearly she had been right, something in the data had leapt off the screen.  Sarah herself had yet to recognize it.  She scanned the call-records, one by one down the list wondering if she’d be able to see what they had.
        And there it was – less than two dozen calls into the search – a name she recognized from the news reports about the hospital outbreak, the reporter Bev Williams.
        “Before we invade the home of an innocent party, can we corroborate the connection?” asked the man in charge.
        “Everyone knows Edmond is in recovery,” started Guerin, taking back the point position on her own job, “our information is that Williams is too.  Can we place them at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting together?  Or is the 'Anonymous' part going to pose a problem?”
        Now Sarah really got to see the computing power of the Lazarus at full throttle.  Maureen Deng started a cross-referenced facial recognition search on both Williams and Edmond going back years.  In less than sixty seconds they had a list of sixteen separate incidents where both subjects had been captured on security cameras within two blocks of one another within ninety minutes of one another.  Another, simpler search confirmed that in thirteen of those occasions, an AA meeting occurred nearby, starting and/or ending within the same ninety minute window.
        Before he left the room to follow the man in charge, Guerin and the angular woman, Henri put his hand on Sarah’s shoulder as if to say ‘you did well.’ 
        His actual words were “Someone will find a bed for you.”  She needed it.

Chapter 20

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Necropolis by Kennedy Goodkey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at necropolisnovels.blogspot.com.