............ ........ stories



It's Saturday afternoon, and Yopson Bay leaves her north-facing 2nd floor studio flat and trudges down the hill to the centre of Hastings. Yopson is just 26, but moves like someone much older. She is going in no particular haste towards the sea-front - where the winter air is harsh and fresh, and where the sounds of gulls and waves have the power to bring one out of oneself. As she wanders listlessly through the Town, weaving among the crowds, sullenly passing rows of shops that glitter with novelties and fashions and other gaudy ‘trash’, she stares only at the pavement, scarcely aware of what’s around her, as though bored, fed-up, with not much to live for.

At the same time, coming from the Old Town, Yipdia Dillon strides purposefully along the promenade with the zest of an athlete: head up, arms swinging, chest out… She is on her way into town. More than a year has elapsed since she has seen Yopson. In those days they shared a flat with Yap Fuller who without warning eloped and left without paying her part of the rent. It was this that had led to their separation.

But now, as Yopson reaches the promenade, Yipdia is approaching. Not one to miss a morsel, Yipdia notices something familiar in the slouching apparition that drags itself towards her like a retarded sloth.

‘Hey, Yop!’ she cries, stopping, ‘Can it really be you, you old fiend?’

Yop halts and for once looks up, ‘Oh, Yip, I was streets away.’ She says, drearily, ‘How are you Yip?’

‘Fine, as ever… but what’s it with you? You look terrible.’

Yop sighs, ‘Dead end.’ She groans, ‘That’s where I’m at. Ever since we split and I found that pokey little flat. You name it and it’s gone from abysmal to cataclysmic.’

‘So what’s happened?’ asks Yip, ‘I shouldn’t say it, but you look pulped.’

‘The job mainly.’ moans Yop, ‘That’s the worst thing.’

‘But you were doing so well… Computers, wasn’t it?’

Yop nods.

‘You can’t still be designing software for that wretched retail outfit in St Leonards?’ says Yip, eyeing Yop’s expression with dismay, ‘The miserly slave-driving bastards.’

‘They brought in a couple of whiz kids and consigned me to routines.’ mumbles Yop, ‘I’ve been bored to distraction for yonks.’

‘You should have got out!’ comes Yip’s gusto reply. ‘But what about lovers?’ Yop shakes her head. ‘Come on,’ snaps Yip, ‘We can’t have this. We’ll go for a tipple to put some zap back in you. Then I’ve got exactly the prescription for your malaise.’

Half reluctantly, Yop surrenders and together they traipse along the esplanade towards the Old Town. Soon they sit in a corner at The Anchor, sipping vodka and staring into the flames of a roaring fire.

‘Now,’ begins Yip, ‘There’s this weirdo Guru, Harishishi Mishmash or something; Indian guy. Comes to the UK once a year around this time; does a week in London, two days in Cheltenham and two in Hastings, then goes on to Germany. But he’s here now. I went last year and again yesterday evening. Today’s his last day. So, coincidences aside, lucky you!’

Yopson squirms, ‘You know I’m not into this new-age meditation stuff Yip.’ she sighs plaintively.

‘New age!’ cries Yip, attracting attention from the bar, ‘New age!’ she repeats quietly but with even greater passion, now leaning forward, ‘This, Yop, is about as old as you can get. More than a thousand years maybe. And it works. Now, I’m paying OK? So there’s no question.’

‘I don’t know,’ mumbles Yop, ‘I don’t want you to waste your money on me.’

‘Waste! Come on. Drink-up, I’ll take you. We’ve got an hour. I’ll drop you there then go shopping, and you can call me when you get home.’ She fishes in her bag and hands Yop a card. ‘Number’s on the back.’

‘Smart.’ Says Yop, gazing blearily at the card, ‘But a civilian cop? You?’

‘Just like you, Yop: office-computer robot. Nowt more, promise. Just happens to be in the cop shop.’

‘So you’re a computer slave too.’ says Yop, slipping the card into her pocket. ‘Cheerful, ain’t it?’

Yip shrugs, ‘Usually,’ she says, ‘they don’t gang up against you. But it’s a fairly new experience for me, so I’m still low on the boredom slope.’

They exit the pub and head for town.

At 16.00 Yip leaves Yop with one other client in a hallway waiting-room at The Priory Centre. A huge over-saturated picture of Guru Harishishna hangs on the wall, adorned in rainbows and a mesmerising chaos of psychedelic patterns. The Indian woman who Yip paid gives Yop a form to complete. The form asks many questions: Occupation: Software Designer; Siblings: an older brother who lives in Canada with wife and a kid. Never hear a scrap… (she adds carelessly). Many questions. She returns the form, and waits. Every now and then she hears muffled laughter from the inner sanctum where the person ahead of her was ushered soon after she arrived. Eventually it is her turn and the woman shows her into the room. She is about to consult the esteemed Guru.

A waft of incense and faint sitar music instantly pervade her senses. The exotic décor as she crosses the threshold reassures her - as too, somehow, does the presence of a small spindly man with a wispy grey beard who is draped entirely in white. Smiling shyly as she enters, he steps forward and bows slightly. Ahead, on a big red cushion, sits a very stout man grinning, also in white. His beard is black and long – and looks a mess. Both wear a white turban. The stout man watches her closely while the spindly man enthusiastically beckons her to sit on a huge ornate cushion opposite the stout man.

‘This is most fortunate.’ begins the fat Guru, once she is settled. ‘I see you are a very wealthy young woman.’ He briefly scans what appears to be her questionnaire, ‘And I see you are here to discover what is preventing you making use of this vast reservoir of riches at your disposal.’

‘I have very little.’ Says Yop, shaking her head, ‘I can’t even afford a car.’

‘Nevertheless,’ resumes the Guru, smiling, ‘You are steeped in prosperity. All that has happened is that you have fallen asleep to the world. In a dull interlude it slipped from your notice and you never allowed it to return.’

Yop stares blankly at the Guru. Her lugubrious, downcast visage seems to spark amusement in him; he grins back at her like an insolent child. The spindly man leans forward now, his teeth gleaming in an uncertain smirk, looking from one to the other expectantly, like a wary stoat. And there they remain for several minutes until suddenly, Yopson, at first perplexed, and staring fascinated at the Guru’s preposterously silly grin, begins to smile too and within seconds, struggling to stifle an overpowering urge to chuckle, she gives way to an uncontrollable snigger which immediately becomes laughter.

Embarrassed, she turns away and hides her face in her hands. At this, the small man starts leaping about excitedly, making the most peculiar hooting noises, while repositioning and poking randomly at some of the cushions spread around the room. Finally he leans against the wall as if to steady himself and remains there tittering like an overgrown imp.

Yop has never seen anything so ludicrous. She had expected an utterly serious consultation, reverentially subdued and formal. Yet here she is in the midst of a ridiculous comedy that is becoming more farcical at every turn. She peers out again at the Guru’s mischievous face, chortling blissfully away, his belly jiggling up and down in sympathy, increasing further the absurdity of her situation. Quite overcome now with the hilarity of the scene Yop falls sideways into the cushions, and tears of laughter flow as she hasn’t known in years.

Soon, she recovers and straightens herself. The small man calms, rubs his hands and takes a vigorous leap over to a table from which he lifts a tiny, steaming, immensely elaborate pear-shaped tea pot, and pours tea into three minuscule glasses which stand on an adjacent tray. He brings and eloquently presents the tray to Yopson, who takes a glass, and then to the Guru, who does likewise, and finally he takes the third for himself. And so they drink in sips, still grinning at one another, but saying nothing, the music continuing soothingly in the background.

At length the Guru, says, ‘You see how this wealth of yours is so eager to escape? You have poured it out at us here, and redoubled your reserves into the bargain. Remember: happiness, freedom, peace of mind... the more of these you dish out, the more you will receive. What could be more worthwhile? What riches you have brought. What power you will take with you when you leave here with them multiplied so.’

Yop, now completely relaxed, yet more alert than for months, watches the Guru while cupping the glass in both hands placidly sipping her tea.

‘Nothing can remove this prosperity from you.’ Continues the Guru, slowly, ‘The more you cast it at the world, the more it will accumulate in your heart, and the more you will rest unencumbered by outer appearances which are too easily fabricated in the ever wayward minds of mice and men. Be who you are. Submit to the silent mind. And your future will bear fruit as only a child can conceive.’

Again that infectious stupid grin which Yop returns amplified. Now, though, she is entirely composed and rested. Then she says, ‘Thank you. I feel much better already. You have helped me a lot. But you don’t seem like a Guru to me. I was expecting, well, a sort of holy man.’

‘Expectations, appearances… Poof!’ exclaims the Guru loudly, smiling so broadly his teeth resemble notes on a piano, ‘Take the moment for what it offers, expect little and you will never know disappointments, of which I discern you have experienced many.’

‘How can you tell?’ she asks.

‘Balance.’ Replies the Guru, now in a joyful high-pitched voice, as though his answer was simplistically obvious, ‘Everything must be in balance. It always shows so clearly. Only when we strive to be other than what we truly are do we create imbalance.’

Now they sit calmly, and with deft refined movements the small man collects their glasses. Then the Guru resumes, his voice tranquil and soft, ‘Lay back in the cushion now and relax, especially your neck and shoulders.’

Yop willingly obliges.

‘Now close your eyes.’ He goes on very slowly, pausing between sentences, ‘Imagine a sky of stars… Pick two and look between them for a fainter, more distant star… Look beyond that further into the emptiness, searching for a fainter star… Now look deeper still, for a yet fainter one… Rest your attention now as you direct your sight beyond it. You are looking hard into the infinite black void, trying to see deeper and deeper beyond the furthest, faintest star… Look ever deeper, into the great backdrop of empty black space which is your mind at peace.’

Unable to help herself, Yopson effortlessly follows the Guru’s directions. All is silent now, even the quiet sitar music ceases to play in her mind.

After what seems to Yopson like a minute, but which is actually closer to ten, the Guru speaks again: ‘Now you are tracing back from the void, the stars recede past you and your mind is returning, leaving its confusions to dissolve harmlessly in those furthest reaches of space.’ And after another delay he adds, ‘Now open your eyes.’

Completely refreshed, she looks at him, at the mysterious homely twinkle in his eyes, and sits up again.

‘Always remember your great wealth,’ begins the Guru again shortly, ‘And spend it generously, for the more you spend the more you will accumulate… I see your past through the years. You have been fortunate. Your recent troubles represent but a veneer of dust, much of which has now fallen away. What remains will soon follow. It is quite clear that you have now emerged from your cocoon.’

Again they sit quietly for several minutes. Yop’s expression is serene.

‘Is there anything you would like to ask?’ says the Guru.

Yop thinks, then says, ‘How can I retain what you’ve given me?’

‘Practice the star meditation.’ says the Guru, ‘As you leave you might like to purchase our “Book of Life” which you can consult should you lose your way. It contains a great deal more than can be unveiled in even a hundred consultations. You may study and grow by it according to your needs.’ Then after a pause, the Guru nods to the small man who goes to help Yop up from the cushions, and with another nod he acknowledges the end of the consultation.

As she goes out she notices for the first time a pile of tacky-yellow books on a table beside where the Indian woman sits in the waiting area. The book is £15, but she has only a £10 note. The woman sells her the book anyway.

Once home, she immediately digs out Yip’s card and phones her. ‘That’s some Guru.’ Says Yop, when Yip answers, ‘Did me some real good. Thanks a mill Yip. How much do I owe you, though?’

‘Can’t talk now,’ Yip whispers back, ‘Craig’s here. I’ll be round at your little pad 14.00 tomorrow, OK?’

‘Who’s Craig?’ replies Yop.

‘Tell ya tomorrow. Chow.’ And she hangs up.

Yop makes a cup of tea then sits at the table and turns to the yellow “Book of Life”. She flips past the ‘contents’ and begins reading the first page:



Even at 19 years old, Hari still nurtured hopes of stumbling on some fabulous path that would lead him to a future of happiness and fulfilment. For several years after leaving home he dreamt of nothing else, neglecting both himself and any thought of a conventional career. When his hopes came to nothing, he finally rejected everything and entered a turbulent unsettled period. At first destitute, wandering the streets by day, he soon found himself working as night cleaner in an office block. After being sacked for falling asleep in a broom cupboard, he took a job as a tanner in a shoe factory. By then he was able to afford a bed-sit, but he dreaded every minute in the tannery: the fumes, the wet, the continual standing. At his next job he ran errands for a debt collection agency, mainly delivering final demands. Frequently chased off and threatened by angry debtors, he soon threw that in too. Then he got work in a sprawling market lugging boxes all day, and in the evening cleaning up. When his back nearly gave out he changed again; and several times more he moved jobs, as well as dwellings, each no more agreeable than the last.

Now, as a kitchen porter for a large hotel, Hari lived in a box-room in the hotel attic where most of the junior staff were accommodated. The head chef, who’d had his eye out for a dogsbody, found Hari in the yard one day picking through the dustbins for scraps of food, and had – so Hari at first assumed - taken pity on him. But, as usual, exploitation set in, and Hari began to contemplate another change.

But then an important guest arrived, and rumours quickly circulated that it was Madam Rashdi, a famous spiritual sage from the East. Hari learned of this while washing a whole sack of potatoes in the out-house behind the big kitchen. One of the chef’s assistants had been sent to warn him to keep hidden since he was the only one not required to look clean and smart.

The guest had demanded special food, declared the chef’s assistant haughtily. She insisted on inspecting the kitchens, he said, and had appointed him, yes him, together with one of her entourage, to supervise the preparation of their meals. She was very particular, he told Hari, and the head chef would not tolerate Hari’s presence in the kitchen in his dirty ragged condition.

Hari was not offended. He was used to his situation and resolved to do as was suggested without question. In any event, he preferred his position of no responsibility. Above all, though, he despised petty hierarchies and wanted no part in them; to him they reeked of subservience, ritual and duty, and of absurd rules that evoked unpleasant memories of school.

But completely unexpectedly, the important guest suddenly came waltzing through the kitchen and out into the yard. The head chef and manager scuttled behind her in a fluster, calling her back. But in spite of her graceful manner, she was too quick for them, and she put her head into the outhouse where Hari sat cleaning potatoes and wondering what the commotion was outside.

‘What’s this?’ she exclaimed in a refined Eastern accent, ‘Come outside into the light.’

As she backed away, the manager and chef moved quickly to one side, imploring her once more to return to the hotel proper. With his hands dripping with muddy water, Hari reluctantly followed her out and stood before them looking unkempt and neglected. And there they stood: the enchanting woman guest, the manager, the chef’s assistant, and the chef - who, with agitation and an expression of shame mingled with distaste, scrutinised the dank, grubby yard.

Beside the woman the others appeared dull and even somehow extraneous. Unlike them she radiated warmth and charm. She wore a long puffy pink dress with rippling furbelows covered in silver glitter, while her blond hair flowed onto her shoulders, and was adorned with several huge bows of pink silk. Hari detected the scent of jasmine. He had never before seen such a beautiful face on a woman who he judged was well into her fifties.

After studying Hari for a moment, she turned to the manager, who had never seen Hari before in his life, and said, ‘This is the first person I have met since arriving in this town whose bearing exudes both humility and dignity. If he has no objection I would like him to be my first subject.’

‘But I have many staff, madam, who are far more suitable.’ pleaded the manager, ‘This lad is untrained, off the street, as it were. His integrity is unknown.’

‘That is precisely the ideal subject.’ said Madam Rashdi, calmly waving the manager aside, and staring contentedly at Hari, ‘Besides, it is quite clear from his face, so open yet so knowing… and indeed his very posture, so accepting yet so authentic… that his suitability is unquestionable.’

‘But Madam…’ implored the manager, glancing with revulsion at Hari. ‘I really cannot accept responsibility for any complications that may arise.’

‘That’s settled then,’ she replied, ‘Hold me responsible.’ Then, addressing Hari, said pleasantly, ‘And what’s your name?’

‘Hari.’ He said.

‘Will you consent to be my first subject here?’

‘What will I have to do?’ asked Hari.

The manager and the chef fidgeted impatiently, shaking their heads and wringing their hands.

‘To begin with, meditate.’ said Madam Rashdi, ‘For you it will be very simple. Then we shall see.’

Hari stared back, perplexed. But as he watched her, Hari became mesmerised and his mind filled with reminiscences of his former dreams. To the others standing there, it was Madam Rashdi’s smile that won his consent. And as she turned and he followed her into the kitchen, the chef clicked his fingers at his assistant and signalled for him to attend to the potatoes. The assistant responded with an expression of horror, then lowered his head and trundled towards the outhouse.

Keeping close to Madam Rashdi, Hari entered the great foyer with it’s chandeliers and plush carpet dotted with enormous pot plants. Normally Hari would have gazed around in wonder and curiously at all this but his eyes were fogged by Madam Rashdi’s curious spell. She swept past the dining room and into a private lounge where, as soon as Hari was in, a young woman in Eastern dress closed the door and followed them into the room.

Madam Rashdi took a cloth from a little box on a sideboard and gave it to Hari instructing him to dry his hands, then she retrieved the cloth and bid him to sit on a sofa, which seemed to absorb him almost entirely in its thick soft folds.

‘Now,’ she said, perching daintily on a chair opposite Hari, ‘I want you to make sure you are sitting comfortably and are fully relaxed.’ Hari nodded, ‘Now close your eyes and follow my words carefully.’ Hari closed his eyes and nodded again, ‘I am going to describe a setting, then I will leave you to let it evolve, and afterwards I shall ask you to explain to me what you have experienced. Do you understand?’ Once more Hari nodded.

‘It is springtime. You are in a field amidst rolling hills. The grass is a full, rich dark green and all the flowers of the meadow are coming into bloom. The air is wonderfully fresh and clear. You are sitting looking out at all this from beside a huge solitary tree, just into leaf. It may be an oak, a beech, whatever you choose, but it is an outstanding example of its kind.’

She paused for the scene to become established in Hari’s mind, then continued, ‘You are being slowly enveloped by a beautiful sphere of light, like a bubble. What colour is it?’

‘Green.’ Said Harry, in a trance-like voice.

‘The bubble lifts you gently into the air, and you are floating weightless over the meadow.’ She pauses for about 15-seconds, then goes on, ‘Now you are being lowered into a handsome garden. The bubble you are in touches the ground and gradually evaporates. The air is filled with perfume from the flowers. You are feeling marvellously happy and well. Not a single thing troubles you. Blossoms and greenery are everywhere. You begin walking along a path between borders abundant with all your favourite plants…’

‘Soon you come to an amphitheatre, which flows with attractive creepers and roses; whole multitudes of exotic flora cascade around. There is someone else nearby who you cannot yet see but whose presence delights you, as indeed it should. It is no less than your very own spirit guide…’

Here Madam Rashdi stops talking. It is clear to her that Hari is completely absorbed in his new situation, and that it is beginning to develop of itself like a story. She sits quietly and waits. Shortly, she is aware that a strange silent dialogue is taking place between Hari and his guide.

Madam Rashdi’s methods have been refined over centuries and her skills over decades. Her ability to remove her subjects from all thoughts not associated with the scenario she presents is exemplary. Yet she knows that with a little patience and practice Hari will soon no longer need her intervention. He will be at liberty to enter similar scenarios alone at will. She is quite aware that all he needs is a calm setting, half-an-hour – or perhaps an-hour at most - during which he will not be disturbed, and the knowledge that she has just provided. She knows that no matter what a person’s background, no matter the turmoil or tranquillity of their circumstances, the experience is open to everyone.

And that inner silent voice, or spirit guide, which is so intimately acquainted with every detail and nuance of the huge iceberg of mind - of which the conscious is merely the exposed peak – can freely commune and, over time, reveal all that is necessary to move towards balance and ultimately to perfect inner harmony and contentment.


At this point Yop looks up from the book and realises her tea has gone cold. She sighs and puts the book down. She is tired and although she would like to continue reading, she turns to other things and merely ruminates on the implications of what she has read. Then she forgets the book altogether.

In the morning, feeling refreshed and strangely invigorated, she takes a walk. She goes all the way to the Old Town and back, only briefly reflecting on the probable cause of her unfamiliar sense of rejuvenation. Once home again she prepares and consumes a small lunch, then at just after 14.00 the bell rings. It is Yip, as promised, and she comes in full of her usual sprightly energy and warmth.

‘Ah, so you bought the book, I see.’ She says, picking it up and flipping through. ‘Any good?’

‘Not sure yet.’ Says Yop, ‘I read the story at the front yesterday but was too tired to look further.’

Yip leafs through the story, then stops and slowly turns a few pages with an expression of surprise, ‘I don’t know about the story,’ she murmurs, ‘but this looks worth investigating.’

‘What’s that?’ says Yop, peering over.

‘Well,’ Yip begins, ‘Did the guru reckon to know your state of mind?’

‘Yes.’ Says Yop, ‘He said I was rich…’

‘Meaning, spiritually rich, of course.’ Interjects Yip.

‘I was puzzled to begin with.’ Says Yop, ‘But I soon cottoned. He was really funny. I quite liked the guy, and his little helper. They’re both dotty eccentrics, but you were right: it was very worthwhile.’

Still leafing through the book, Yip asks, ‘When he seemed to tell what your thoughts were and what was behind them, as if he was reading your life story, did you wonder how he could be so perceptive?’

‘I didn’t think.’ confesses Yop, ‘I supposed that’s what gurus do. But I guess he has some curious way of knowing, of looking beneath the surface of a person – unless what he said applies to all his clients, or at any rate most of them.’

‘I believe everything’s there for anyone to see if they know how to.’ Says Yip, holding the book towards Yop, ‘Look at this. It’s all here. We could learn to do it ourselves.’

Yop peers over again at the book. There are a succession of simple drawings of faces with captions, and as Yip turns the pages, there are also sketches of postures and many other little tell-tale details.

‘Amazing!’ exclaims Yop, ‘Do you think we could?’

‘Some of these remind me of the identikit pictures we have at work.’ Says Yip, ‘Most of the give-aways are extremely subtle. Look at this one, the eyes, see what it says?’

Yop peers over, ‘It’s true, I can see, I know it.’ She replies, ‘But without it shown like that, who’d have thought?’

Yip gives Yop an astute glance, ‘I’ve just had a brilliant idea!’ she says, ‘If I scan these into a computer with their captions, and somehow get the computer to compare them with pictures of real people, then maybe we could make it cough-up what those people are thinking - or at least their state of mind, their mental condition.’

Yop nods slowly. The idea has got her thinking. She begins turning the pages, pausing now and then. ‘You know, Yip, I think you’re onto something.’

‘What’s more,’ adds Yip, ‘we could use the identikit software, and with my electronic camera get pictures of people we want to examine.’

‘Better still,’ responds Yop, ‘I can secretly take pictures with my mobile phone, send them to the computer, then receive back a report.’

‘Do you think that’s possible?’ says Yip.

Yop shrugs, ‘There’s only one way to find out… But you were going to tell me about Craig. Boyfriend I guess?’

‘Kind of,’ says Yip, glancing away, ‘He started following me soon after I began work at the cop shop. After a couple of days I waited round a corner then ambushed and confronted him. He was startled and angry at first, but soon became quite chatty and I kinda got to like him. Only been together a few weeks. I thought he was alright, but I feel he’s getting a bit intrusive, almost possessive. That’s why I couldn’t really talk when you phoned. He’s very jealous, wants to know everything. He especially keeps asking me about my job and whether I can I get information, which makes me suspicious of his motives.’

‘I guess you don’t want to ditch him.’

‘I’m not sure yet.’ Continues Yip, ‘There’s something odd about him. But I suppose everyone has a quirk or two. Anyhow, he’s not intellectual, that’s for sure, and he’s very particular about things. He’s nervy and impulsive too. But he’s a good lover; except afterwards. Then he goes stone cold.’

‘Like a lot of men.’ Says Yop, ‘Probably just selfish.’

‘I suppose it wont last.’ Sighs Yip, ‘Give it a month and he’ll be off after someone else, I reckon. But so what? Go with the flow is my philosophy. Take an opportunity when it’s there and see it out.’

‘You’ll know well enough when you meet the right guy.’ Asserts Yop, ‘And maybe this idea of yours could help us both with that.’

‘Absolutely!’ cries Yip, ‘That’s the best use it could be put to. We can get it to assess the guys we fancy, maybe analyse their concealed responses to us. Then we can act. Everyone’s so shy and cagey these days. People always try to conceal their most telling traits. What happened to spontaneity? It’s impossible these days to get even a rough idea of what someone really thinks.’

For a couple of hours on Monday evening after work, Yip returns to Yop’s flat and together they work on Yop’s computer. Yip has ‘borrowed’ the identikit CD, and they are busy scanning in the pictures from the book and referencing them with their respective captions. It is a laborious task, and takes several evenings. Next, using identikit’s search facility, they try it out on several sample pictures of celebrities taken from the internet. The girls stare in amazement then laughter at some of the captions generated. Many faces are so full of information, often producing contradictory results, that it becomes necessary to examine each facet separately before combining the result: eyes, then mouth, and so on. Obviously, the system needs a little tweak here and there; which is easier said than done. But eventually, by Thursday they are very happy with what they’ve achieved.

Their final task of including subtle body positions, especially hand orientations and movements, they complete Friday evening. In the meantime, Yip has obtained a shot of Craig, which they decide to try out. But when the identikit registers an alarm with a name – Brian Calder - and displays a series of police photos, they stare in bewilderment.

‘I didn’t realise all this photo data was on the disk.’ Says Yip, ‘I thought this was just the programme. I’d probably get sacked if they knew I had this.’

‘But what’s Craig doing on it?’ says Yop, ‘Is he a criminal? It’s him alright, even if the hair and name’s different. And see that little blotch on your picture too?’

Yip shrugs, ‘I can’t believe it.’ She mumbles nervously, shaking her head. ‘I wondered why he refused to let me take his picture. He got quite annoyed. In the end I took it using the zoom through a crack in the door… Lets see what we can find out.’

So they begin searching, but after ten minutes they’ve found nothing. ‘I expect the details are on another disk.’ Yip concludes, ‘This just contains pictures.’

On Saturday they meet in town, Yip with her electronic camera, and Yop with her mobile. They take shots of people in the street, in the precinct and in a café where they go for coffee. Mostly they take the guys they find attractive or who they notice looking at them for more than a brief moment. Eventually they adjourn to Yop’s flat and load onto the computer what they’ve gleaned. Several people register on the identikit ‘parade’ and Yip comments that there are more criminals about than you’d think – or ex-criminals.

Yop says, ‘All the while we’ve been out, Yip, you’ve looked tense and uneasy. That’s not like you.’

Yip sighs, ‘You’re right.’ She admits, ‘I’m worried about Craig. He called me this morning and wanted to meet. When I said I had other arrangements he got nasty and said I was acting strange. I think he somehow detected I knew something, maybe that I’ve discovered why he got angry at me wanting his picture. I’m going to pop over to the office and check out this Brian Calder.’

Taking the identikit CD Yip goes out, and leaves Yop to decipher the expressions and postures of the people they’ve taken shots of during the morning. Being quite experienced at manipulating software, Yop begins compiling and combining attributes. It is these that the programme should reveal on an individual, so that an overall impression can be displayed, with more detailed analyses on request. Also, she reasons, if she can enable a search of a desired impression, then a list of only those individuals of interest will appear. This, she knows, will circumvent ‘unsuitables’, which will be the majority. Since to discriminate too much in taking shots would pre-empt and compromise the programme, then for the most reliable outcome, as many shots as possible are necessary, including of the same individual with a variety of expressions and in a variety of postures.

It is an hour later when Yip returns panting from exertion, her face red with horror, ‘Yop!’ she gasps, collapsing on the sofa, ‘So-called Craig is a convicted murderer on the run.’

‘What?’ cries Yop.

‘I’ve alerted them, of course.’ continues Yip, getting her breath, ‘They’re out after him now.’

‘This is terrible!’ exclaims Yop, ‘Simply terrible!’

‘I had to tell them about the disk,’ Yip continues with agitation, ‘And they weren’t too pleased, I can tell you. But they wanted me to stay there. Then when I told them about you they decided he might have followed me here. I knew he hadn’t, but this time at least I kept my eye out.’

At that moment the bell rings and they stare at one another. ‘It’s him!’ cries Yip going rigid.

‘How can you know?’ says Yop, ‘Relax. Look through the window.’

They go up close to the window and Yip smiles, ‘It’s only the cops,’ she says, ‘Plain-clothes. I recognise them both.’

A moment later they’re at the door. ‘Any luck?’ says Yop showing them into the little lounge.

‘You needn’t worry any more,’ says the detective, ‘He was apprehended near the pier a few minutes ago.’

‘Well,’ sighs Yip, plonking down on the sofa, ‘That’s a relief. What an idiot I’ve been.’

‘Don’t blame yourself, Sweetheart.’ Says the detective’s assistant, ‘Without you he’d still be out there posing a threat. But we’re actually here about something else.’

‘Oh?’ says Yop.

The detective frowns and, together with his assistant, glares at the computer, ‘We’ve come for this.’ He announces, addressing Yip, ‘I’ll give you a receipt, then you can take us to your place. Whether you’ll be charged depends of what we find there too. I’m sorry Love, but I suspect you can start looking for another job.’

Yip shakes her head despondently, ‘But I was doing OK…’

Yop goes to comfort her. Then, after unplugging the computer and carrying it out, together with a collection of CDs, the detectives wait for Yip in their car. Yop and Yip walk out together. Now it is Yip who wanders gloomily along.

Before she gets into the car Yop stops her, ‘I’ll be round your place in a couple of hours Yip.’ She says reassuringly, ‘Now it’s my turn to help you. Don’t you worry about a thing…’

Yip looks with a pained expression at Yop, ‘What can anyone do now?’ she groans.

At this Yop recalls Yip’s words of a week earlier. And reflecting on the story of Hari, briefly picturing herself as Madam Rashdi, she grins broadly, and says, ‘We’ll go for a tipple to put some zap back in you. Then I’ve got exactly the prescription for your malaise.’

As the car drives away, Yip can’t resist a little smile; she turns and waves to Yop through the rear window. And as the car disappears Yop silently praises herself for taking copies of all the disks during the week, and hiding them from Yip. Soon, she tells herself cheerfully, we’ll be people-reading for real.