by Dave Cross
Chapter 7. The Trial
In which Pip gets a surprise
* Pip: did you see those paeds in the paper again? * Pip: their trial is starting soon * Beta: it's getting boring now * Pip: just thought u might be interested * MegaMe: why do u go on about them so much? * Beta: are u their boyfriend or something?
Over the next few weeks the story appeared in the papers occasionally. The police decided that the two men they had captured were working alone and they called an end to the investigation. Three months later the trial took place and that rated a few more column inches each day for the duration of the trial. I eagerly soaked up as much information as I could about the men and their dubious business activities.
It transpired that one of the men was quite posh. He'd been the one who had dealt with all the technical aspects of the operation. He set up the computers, installed the software, printed the photos and copied the videos. The other one was working class and he dealt with the business end. He distributed the materials to various dodgy warehouses around the country and on the continent. It turned out that it was this second man who had also handled the actual relationships with the children.
On the day that this information came out in court the newspaper published the paper finally got hold of pictures of the accused which they gleefully published about the story. Finally I saw what Magwitch looked like. He was in his late thirties and didn't look at all how I expected a paedophile to look. Ever since I'd found out that he wasn't a fourteen year old boy I'd imagined a thin and seedy little man looking something like Fagin or some other stereotypical Dickensian criminal. In fact he looked more like Mr. Micawber. It was a round, friendly (and rather sunburnt) face that smiled out from the Majorca holiday snap which the paper had acquired. It was a face that I would never forget.
The trial took a couple of weeks and both men got three years in prison. The police announced that they had no way of tracing the dozens of children who had been involved and that they were closing the case. When I heard that I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My secret was safe. I was safe. I was glad that I had decided not to confide in Joe or my sister.
So over the next few months life slowly went back to normal. I was watched less when I was on the computer and I spent my time building up my web site and teaching my self how to write computer programs. One day I decided it would be a good idea to share this knowledge with Joe. As always, he was watching Countdown as I got home from school.
"I bet I could write a computer program that could help people cheat on Countdown," I said, "It's all just about shuffling letters."
"It's not all letters", he answered without taking his eyes from the screen, "There's the numbers round too."
"But still," I said, "if you could do well in the letters rounds then you could probably score enough that the numbers rounds wouldn't matter too much. Let me show you how I'd write the program."
He wouldn't move from the sofa until the program had finished. And he was happy that he didn't because in the final round they got the letters "basturd", which was very close to being one rude word and, as a bonus, contained another one. But finally the show finished and Joe moved to the end of the sofa closest to the computer and looked at me expectantly.
"Go on then," he said, "Show me how it's done."
"You won't see anything from there," I said, "Get a chair and come over here."
"No, I'm fine, you carry on."
I realised that I'd never seen Joe working on the computer. Of course, while I was in the house it was almost impossible for anyone to get any time on the computer, but in all the time we had owned it, I had never seen Joe even touch it. I was about to ask him why that was when my sister came through the front door with Pumblechook following close behind. He had a stack of computer disks in his hand and they were both evidently very excited.
"You're going to love this", my sister said to me. She turned to Pumblechook and nudged him, "Show him what we've got"
Pumblechook handed me the stack of disks. There were about a dozen of them and they were all numbered in order. The labels were all handwritten and on each of was written the word "Satis".
"What's Satis?" I asked, having never heard of it.
"It's a computer game," said Pumblechook, "Or something like that. It's new. Experimental. You play across the internet. Or something. It's probably dreadful but I'm sure you'll love it."
After a number of false starts and many picturesque diversions I finally got something like the full story out of him. It turned out that a colleague of his ("someone at the bank") knew someone who had been experimenting with some new virtual reality technology and had come up with a way to use it over the internet. Satis was a test version and this colleague had mentioned that his friend was looking for computer games fans to try it out. Pumblechook had remembered that I loved computer games and his colleague had given him a copy.
It was probably the first time that Pumblechook had shown any sign of remembering anything about me. I was so surprised that I forgot to mention that I hated computer games.
It was obvious that they all wanted to watch me play the game and that they had no intention of moving until they had seen something. One of the main reasons for my dislike of computer games was that I was usually so bad at them, so I had no intention of playing it in front of them. I told them that it would take me an hour or so to install the software, or perhaps longer as I wasn't sure that there was enough space on my hard disk so I'd have to delete some stuff. They decided that was far too boring to watch and went off to the pub.
As soon as they had left I put the first disk into the disk drive. There was a README file, but I ignored that and went straight for the setup program. I double-clicked the icon in the installation began.
As the program installed itself it displayed a number of information screens. They were obviously unfinished, but contained useful information about using the software. It transpired that Satis was a new kind of online chatroom where instead of the boring plain text that I was used to, you saw graphic representations of the people you were talking to.
Now I was getting excited. After what seemed like an eternity, I had finally installed the software from all of the disks. I saw the new Satis icon on my desktop and started the program.
Last Updated: Mon 03 Nov 2003, 23:06
All material © 2003, Dave Cross. All Rights Reserved.