CUTTER by Rod Humble: Chapter Four - Cornish Pastie


Chapter four
Cornish Pastie

He looked at me like no man had looked at me before. His eyes bored straight into me but his eyes could not be stared into. The eyes were always part of his massive frame and could not be ever separated from the menace of that bulk. I instinctively wanted to be away from this man. At that moment I knew that there were different types of men, hunters and the hunted. He looked at me intently but slowly as if he were afraid that he would scare me away. He was pure muscle but it was easy to imagine him as being made of metal. He wore a flak jacket with a T-shirt underneath that read "Bang. You’re Dead." Even while he was staring at me he was slowly cleaning his dis-assembled pistol, his huge hands moved up and down the pistol with a flowing grace. His gaze then moved away from me out across the ocean and he seemed lost in thought.

His name I had learnt was "Tony, no mate, just Tony." and he was a professional "Yomper, that’s what I do, Yomp and get paid bugger all." I had also learnt from Tony during our trip together that most of what Jeremy said was "Bollocks" and that Jeremy himself was a "Twat". Tony never gave his opinion of me. Either he was too polite or he somehow didn’t think Americans counted in the grand scheme of things. Either way I was just happy that he wasn’t killing me.

The "Les Enfant" was a cheap family cruiser that had seen better times and better passengers, Tony, Jeremy, Alien, The captain and myself. The five of us had been together since we had left the south of France 2 days ago. The French captain who was introduced by Jeremy as a "Splendid chap" but was referred to as a "Froggy cunt" by Tony ,was called Michele which was apparently "A fucking girls name" according to Tony.

It had been a tiring few days of traveling. The CR’s had got me a false passport and arranged all of the details.

Jeremy, the Alien and myself had made a wacky threesome as we flew over the Atlantic for my first time outside the states. Something about flying in a jet makes me think about unusual stuff. Death, the future, you know the religious & philosophy bullshit. Maybe its the fact that you cannot do anything interesting on a plane, makes sense to me that all those bored ass monks with no women around start thinking about the infinite I mean , shit, what else you gonna do? Well I guess I could of indulged in monks favorite pastime but the idea of whacking off in the stinky bathroom didn’t appeal so I stuck with their second, Philosophy. Alien decided he would break the monotony by trying to hack into the electronics system on the plane. An hour away from our landing in Marseilles, France the intercom system broke into life.

"Greetings people of Earth, we come in peace." Came a strange distorted voice from the plane speaker.

I thought Jeremy was gonna have a shit fit. His face turned bright red and he leaned over to Alien and turned OFF his laptop. He then gave Alien a very meaningful stare as the stewardesses ran up and down the cabin looking very scared and trying to pretend they hadn’t heard the voice when asked by other passengers. Me and Alien were pissing ourselves laughing, particularly when we saw the captain come out of his little cabin and make a quick trip to the bathroom a few moments later. Jeremy actually confiscated the laptop from Alien when he saw him working on another program. Its just as well considering that Aliens new program was called "wingroll.exe".

Upon arriving in Marseilles we met up with Tony and immediately got on our little boat with our French captain bound for England. After a day on the boat I was by now feeling a little ill. Alien was feeling a big ill and Jeremy seemed to take a delight in torturing him , talking about greasy English breakfasts with lengthy descriptions. In between torturing Alien, Jeremy insisted in going over the plan repeatedly.

We were to arrive on the coast of a place called Cornwall where -according to Jeremy "They are a nation of smugglers old bean, always have been and always will be. They wont pay us a blind bit of notice." This didn’t really comfort me but when Tony piped up "No fucking English navy no more mate, Its all been pissed away. Sold the fucking lot to the aussies and argies." I felt better. Whatever Tonies deficiencies in tact I at least felt he was honest. After arriving in Cornwall we were to make our way to a safe house in a city called Birmingham. I assumed it was named after the American city in Alabama but when I voiced this thought Jeremy and Tony went into an angry tirade about how this was the original Birmingham etc. They both seemed very sensitive about their countries importance in the world which I didn’t really understand. Then again I guess if you belong to a crappy little declining country then you are gonna get a bit touchy when people tell you so, Michelle agreed with me and I decided it was wise not to tell him I thought France belonged in an even worse category. A pissy declining country that didn’t speak English.

Once in Birmingham we were to break into some public transport station that controlled Birmingham’s traffic lights. Once in here we were to place a series of bugs in the control room and I was to put into the system a program that would allow us remote access using a small micro transmitter that Jeremy would install. Alien was then to cover my tracks by updating every hard drive record to indicate that my program was part of the operating system. None of these things could be done remotely as the system was entirely stand alone. The question that arose was WHY? Jeremy said that he didn’t know and that he was not briefed. Tony succinctly summed up the feeling of the group when he said "Why the fuck fly us halfway around the world to mess with some fucking traffic lights?"

"We will find out when we get back. It would be foolish to tell us why before we went." Jeremy answered the unspoken subject was now high in my mind. What happens if we get caught? I had broken the law many times before but that was different, to do something remotely from your computer is a very different feeling from physically being there. Fear clung to me for the rest of the trip.

After we went over the plan for the umpteenth time I wandered over to Michelle. He was looking out to sea from the helm chatting with Tony. Apparently Tony had forgotten his rabid xenophobia and they were talking the international man code, women, drugs , the usual. So yeah, I done all the fucking shit they were talking about. The fast king of coke the ultimate lay of H, the dull of beer, the berserk of liquor, the still of weed, the prince of tobacco, the truth of acid, the tight of women I done it all, and you know, none of it got through man. None of it. That’s the saddest shit of all. I had everything but I got nothing. You are always gonna be alone, that’s the way it is. But this pair of losers were still telling each other that it meant something, that there was somekind of drug or experience out there that would actually make them feel good or more importantly would convince other people that they were feeling good. Tony rounded off the conversation with an obligatory obscene story. This one concerned his friend who while under the influence of some speed/coke mix decided to fuck his ex-wife’s poodle as a kind of revenge for leaving him. After a few strokes inside the poodle the poor bitch died from internal bleeding and shock, unfortunately upon dying the muscles of the poodle contracted and the dude was unable to pull out his dick. The pressure caused him extreme pain and he realized he had two options, to call an ambulance or to get a kitchen knife and cut the dead poodle open to withdraw his shaft. This dilemma was resolved when he passed out with pain on the couch with a dead poodle on his dick. Apparently Tony found him the day after and did the removal honors, by now the dog had loosened up. My reaction was instant and unfortunately I spoke it out loud.


Tony caught me in his hunters stare. I felt shit scared I gotta tell ya. Then his face snapped into an unpleasant grin and he said.

"Yeah your right, It was no friend. That was me." Michelle roared with laughter and kept muttering something about "le malade anglais." Tony was OK I decided. Fucked up in the head, but OK.

We made landfall in Cornwall at 10PM in the evening, Jeremy was very specific about the time and I didn’t bother inquiring why. Michelle lowered a dingy and we motored ashore. Alien was near screaming in fear by the time we made it to the stony beach. We all jumped out of the dingy and Michelle went back to the boat. He would pick us up in a weeks time, meantime he had some business in Calais. We watched his small craft get bounced up and down over the waves back to "les Enfant".

"What now?" I asked Jeremy.

"Pub." He said and started marching off towards the distant lights of a village. Tony followed him, heavy bags over his shoulder.

"Poor bloody infantry" He murmured as his trudged across the beach.

Alien and me picked up our stuff and followed them.

The "Kings Sailor" was a nice old pub. Jeremy quickly got us a room there and we went downstairs into the dining room to get some food and a drink. Jeremy made sure I had a "Cornish pastie" it was like a ham and cheese croissant but stuffed with vegetable and bits of meat which was actually rather good. After the meal Jeremy ordered us beers and a joint each. Alien could hardly believe his luck.

"Weed is legal?" He asked incredulously. "Sure, all drugs are legal here." Jeremy took a long drag of the excellent weed.

"So what like there are ‘kind bud’ vending machines?"

Alien said smiling.

Jeremy pointed over to the corner. Sure enough there was a vending machine that sold cannabis smokes and acid tabs.

"People here get to vote for whatever they want. The people who make laws can always get drugs, they just are afraid of what the masses would do if they got them. When the masses make the laws the masses get drugs, simple as that." Jeremy blurted looked regretfully as his almost dead joint. "You gotta be fucking kidding me, doesn’t somebody break into the machines?"

"Why bother? Tab of acid costs as much as a pack of tobacco here." Jeremy seemed amused by Aliens amazement.

"What about crime?" I asked.

"Oh there is plenty of crime," Jeremy looked grim "Nothing to do with drugs though." He nodded towards the TV as the news came on.

We all got up and moved into the main room of the pub where a half dozen locals were intently gathered around the screen listening to the news.

The newsreader was an old man, very distinguished looking who spoke in a slow deliberate voice. I thought I recognized him from somewhere but could not place where.

"This is the news from the BBC in London. The economy still remains at a steady 2.5% growth rate according to statistics from 4 independent universities. The stock exchange finished down although trading in high tech stocks remained high. Here are the days trading results in full."

The pub muttered in general approval and a few pub goers got out little electronic organizers and started jotting down notes. The news sure was different over here.

"When we get back after the break we will discuss the trade resolution up for vote at the end of the month with arguments from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Shadow chancellor. Also we shall include a private bill proposed by one of speaker Hudson’s constituents concerning welfare."

I was bored already, this was news to these people? Why were regular guys in a pub concerned with high finance and trade? Shouldn’t they we watching sports? My question was answered by the advertisements in the break.

An attractive young lady appeared on the screen with a large bus in the background.

"500 brand new Mercedes Benz buses will be a gift to the people of England from the Daimler Benz company if trade resolution 6259 is passed this month. That’s a new bus for the following areas." A map came up showing which towns and areas would be receiving the buses. "Remember resolution 6259 is good for trade and good for England."

The advert ended and another began. A huge stack of money was shown in the floor. The camera panned around it very slowly. "Remember voters. The Jasper company is going to give 10 million pounds away to a random voter who voted AGAINST trade resolution 6259. The lucky drawing will be held on the first of next month. All you need to enter is to vote AGAINST 6259. Bad for the country and bad for trade."

The adverts continued but I leant over to Jeremy, "This is blatant bribery, it has nothing to do with the issues or making laws."

"Bribes are what happen to other people Cutter, besides laws are not made they are bought. Here everyone has to get paid not just the politicians." Jeremy looked rather proud of his analyses.

"I don’t get you man I mean if you are so into this shit why are you here with us?" My question seemed reasonable.

"Shut the fuck up." Jeremy stared at me with hate in his eyes and I dropped the subject rather afraid of the level of emotion that I had seen within. Whatever shit Jeremy was into I did not want any part of it, which in retrospect was a shame considering I very obviously already was.

We retired to our rooms with the promise to meet in the dining room at 10’o clock the following morning. After traveling for so long on a boat and the stress of the previous few days I crashed into sleep at a very high speed. I was awoken by a loud knocking on the door. The halflight of dawn was creeping in through cracks in the drapes. "Maid service." Came the woman’s voice from the other side of the door.

"No hmmmph thanks." I mumbled in half sleep.

The knocking came again.

"I have to clean the room sir." Came the irritating high pitched voice again.

"Come back later." I shouted.

Blissfully the voice didn’t return and I drifted back to sleep.

No more than 5 minutes later the voice came back again.

"Maid service sir."

"FUCK OFF!" I shouted and threw a shoe at the door.

2 minutes.

The phone rang.

"What?" I demanded.

"Hello sir this is reception we need to clean the room sir." Came a mans voice over the phone. "Later." I hung up the phone.

10 seconds.

Phone rings.

"Sir I am afraid its policy. We need to clean the room. Is it OK if we come in now?" The mans voice was firm and insistent.

I gave up. "Fine." I got out of bed and got dressed. I strode into the corridor and saw a 50 year old woman with a maids trolley looking at me with a little look of triumph. I wandered downstairs to see Jeremy, and Tony already there.

"Forgot about this Cutter. I have been in America too long. Got used to good service." Jeremy looked red eyed through lack of sleep.

"Poofs, I used to get up at 4.00AM every day in the army." Proffered Tony stoutly defending his country. But you could see he was as pissed off as everyone else at being woken up so early.

"Where’s Alien." I asked.

Nobody knew. So we finished our disgusting breakfast and decided to go for a stroll along the "promenade" as Jeremy put it.

The promenade it turned out was a miracle of design. It was a walk by the side of the sea. It is impossible to demean the grandeur of the mighty ocean - or so I thought. The designer of this walk had managed to make every step the walker took expose him the winds and ocean spray full in the face while the promenade winded through rusting iron lamp posts which obscured any possible beautiful sights. The path only allowed the walker close to the ocean at those carefully selected points where large ugly pipes gorged untreated sewage into the sea.

"Christ this place is ugly." I pointed out while wiping my nose which had started to run.

"You haven’t seen Birmingham yet." Jeremy noted while burying his head deeper into his jacket by shrinking his neck.

Only Tony seemed to enjoy it by calling it "bracing" and stating that it "cleared him out". Our walk of damp torture ended 2 hours later when we made it back to the "Kings Sailor." There we met a beaming Alien looking fully rested who was enjoying his breakfast.

"Yo. What up?" Alien inquired cheerfully.

"How come you didn’t get woken by the maid?" I asked. "Oh I did. I let her come in and make the bed. Then I just got back in it and went back to sleep." Alien had the advantage over us that being a kid he was used to working with utterly ridiculous rules and still coming out ahead.

"Bastard." I dropped my cigarette in his cornflakes. By noon we had made our way down to the train station and were on a train that (after several changes) would take us to Birmingham New street station.

It seems strange I know but I had never ridden on a train before and I found it a fantastic experience. Its like an airplane with a view. Even better the steady ‘churchung, churchung" is like a lullaby that gradually eases you into rest.

Jeremy was right about Birmingham , its sucked. It is in an area called "the black country" not because it has a large amount of black people (although it does) but because during the industrial revolution the smoke and pollution from the factories turned the countryside black with soot. The people here spoke with a completely different accent than the people in Cornwall even though the train ride was only 2 hours or so. Jeremy and Tony spoke with different accents again. I asked Jeremy why. "Well an Englishman can usually tell where someone else is from to a 50 mile radius by accent alone. Certainly he could get the nearest major city you were from. The closer you get to your home town the more precise the accuracy." "What so like you can tell whether or not someone is from a town nearby just by the way they talk?" I assumed this was bullshit.

"Yeah, for instance there are two towns near here called Dudley and Walsall that are very close to each other but each has its own very distinct accent. I think you get more accents the longer certain families have lived in an area. So with a very old country where people don’t move much you get loads of accents, also the class system in England perpetuated accents as a symbol of status. You used to be able to tell how wealthy someone was by their accent because the inbred nobility all had a tribal accent. Daft really huh?" Jeremy acted as if he had never even thought about this before. I was still amazed.

From the train station we went to another small pub/inn and got a some rooms. Jeremy forbade us from staying hotels because they kept computer records. In a pub its all cash and no questions asked.

That night we went over the plan one final time. Tony and Jeremy went off to scout out the location of the raid, so Alien and I sat in my room bullshiting about computers. First we talked the language of the wizards. Programmers are wizards, a good coder can do magic because he has secret knowledge that others don’t. Programs are like spells of old, get just one tiny thing wrong and he spell can backfire. When programmers meet they often use the secret language of high technology to get the measure of their new acquaintance. This can be amusing to watch as each person skips from subject to subject never revealing his ignorance or expertise on each matter. The game can be won easily by catching the other person in an error - for example.

"I remember my old greycard 1000 with 300 meg of RAM, used to be hooked up to a Z5 connection." "Are you sure? The greycard 1000 was only expandable to 256 meg."

Programmers dream of such moments when their knowledge is demonstrated so clearly. These clear sided victories are rare however, particularly when each coder is competent. Alien was a very good coder, so the conversation soon drew stalemate and we resorted to the other traditional programmer topic of conversation - remembering hardware. I have a soft spot for old computers, they have been around me since I was a child and memories of computers are often fonder than memories of my family. In the winters of my childhood I remember warming my feet on the powerpack of my computer. The time I used a computer that needed a tape drive to load the data in, this was bad enough for speed but then the PLAY button broke and I had to hold down the PLAY button with my finger for 20 minutes while the thing loaded! The feel of my first joystick for playing games - the way my palm rubbed on its base where I held it forming a grayish layer of my dead skin. The touch of each keyboard I can remember as well as the feel of the plastic case. Computers stick in my mind because I spent so much time staring at them or touching them, but they mean much more to me. Computers are sacred objects, they entertain me and give me my livelihood, they give me a purpose. When I am away from computers for a length of time I feel like a part of me has been wrenched away.

After Jeremy and Tony’s return they reported that all was well and that it was time to go to work. I ran a final check on my laptop to make sure I had backups of all the tools I needed then threw it into my supermarket plastic bag, "would a kid with a plastic bag strike you as having a hundred thousand dollar computer on him?" I heard Jeremy’s voice in my head as he had instructed me to throw away my knapsack in favor of plastic the night before. Everyone else readied their equipment around me. My eyes fell on Tony who shoved his auto pistol into his jacket pocket.

We parked the car a few blocks away then strolled through the damp night air. The building was a relatively well maintained building that looked like it was built in the mid eighties (in other words it was ugly). It didn’t even have a security guard and entry was simple. We hopped over a back fence then Jeremy opened a door near some trash cans. He opened it using lockpicks a skill I had never seen before and I wondered at his dexterity. Once inside we quickly made our way following our map towards the control room. Jeremy always in the lead with Tony behind, our ears always straining to hear any human sounds. The map we had of the building was fairly accurate but some new doors had been added showing that the CR’S had presumably pulled the map from some architectural archives which were a little out of date. The control room was thankfully in exactly the place we thought it would be. The door was unlocked although it was marked PRIVATE which amused me. Jeremy gently swung open the door to reveal a bank of computers and terminals. Jeremy looked around the room and when he was convinced there were no cameras or alarms he nodded and strode inside followed by Alien.

First I scanned the terminals for the one I would put the remote software onto. I couldn’t believe my luck right there on the left of the table was a Mashumi 500. Reliable computers, the Mashumi 500 was about a year old. As it was not brand new it would almost certainly not be the main console and would not still be "tweaked" to make it work. Finally it wasn’t so old that there was a chance it could get replaced any time soon. It was a nice forgotten console sat in the corner rarely used, but I had to make sure. I swung underneath the table and looked at the back of the console, the main input jack was being used as a connector to another computer and there was no secondary, it would have to come out. But the information I needed was right there. The cable was screwed in. The only time a good tech will screw in a cable is for transport or when its time to hand it over to a moron who knows nothing about computers. The cable had been screwed in a long time. Perfect. I unscrewed the cable and plugged my laptop into the terminal. Jeremy then moved in behind the box as I worked and started to remove the cover, he would then insert the remote control card into the box.

I searched for a directory to place the remote software into and quickly found it. The DATABASE BACKUP directory is an old favorite hiding place of mine. Who would ever accidentally scan through a database backup directory? I scanned through the file names to discern a pattern. There were a hundred files all with dates and arcane file extensions so I picked one of those and renamed one letter in the extension. Then I proceeded to upload my remote software over that file not wishing to create any new files at all where I could help it. As soon as the upload was done I quickly linked the executable and ran the remote software. "Running" I whispered and Alien slid from behind the box over to his laptop he had setup in the opposite corner. He busily went to work establishing a link to test the remote control worked. this gave me a few minutes while he tested to do nothing so I stared at the terminal screen with the file directory listing on it. Each database backup had a date attached to it so you could tell when the database was backed up. Looking at the dates I could see that this thing was backed up once a week, 2nd of February, 8th February, 15th February. My eyes drifted down the list but then at the end I noticed something unusual. The database had been backed up three times today. I double checked, this had never happened on any other date except today. Once this morning at 8:40AM, once at 3:29PM and once at 10:32PM. An hour ago. We had been tumbled.

"We have been busted." I said without taking my eyes off the screen.

"What?" Jeremy hissed.

"Come and look for your fucking self." I turned to see him already on the way.

I showed him the files. "Coincidence? Somebody backing up by accident?" I was trying to convince myself. "No , we are fucked." I could see his anger even in the glow of our tiny flashlights. "O.K. take out the hardrives from your computers and purge em. Leave no trace of ANY CR’s stuff. They are probably gonna bust us on the way out, I know they way they work." "They?" I asked.

"ISP, Information Security Police." He looked at me intently, "Foxstabs boys."

Tony had heard our discussion and was now slowly walking around the room staring intently at every detail. He stopped by a half empty coffee mug and picked it up. After inspecting the bottom of the mug he very deliberately poured the cold coffee out onto the floor. Under the coffee was a small electronic object that I didn’t need to be told what it was. "Oh fuck. They are listening to us." Alien croaked just as we heard a crash from down the corridor and the sounds of men running.

"SHIT!" Tony screamed as he drew his gun from his pocket and ran to the door. He snapped around the corner , fired 3 quick shots down the corridor then ducked back inside. The shots where loud and the sound rang around the room. Outside down the corridor I could hear more men’s boots moving around. "Oh FUCK, Oh fuck." Alien was whimpering in the corner.

Jeremy just stared at Tony.

Tony turned around to the three of us and sneered "fucking cowards." He bellowed out a war cry as he swung around the corner of the door, gun in hand ready to charge down the corridor. Then his head exploded. One bullet was fired, just one and it blew his head off. His body collapsed outside the door and a steam arose from the mess that was his head. Two men clad entirely in black the rushed into the room and pointed submachine guns at us.

"No, please." I was surprised to hear my own voice. 4 more quickly followed in and the three of us were grabbed roughly and handcuffed, face down on the floor.

We heard many men moving around behind barking orders and checking our equipment. Above the noise a clear voice could be heard. "Three survived? Good. Lets turn them around and see what we have shall we?." Strong hands turned me around and I could see standing before me an old man in a green long coat. His face was scruffy unshaven and his yellowed teeth showed through as he took a drag of a filterless cigarette. His gray eyes were staring at Jeremy.

"Hello Red Duck." The old man addressed Jeremy and my eyes widened with shock. I had been busted with one of the original English revolutionaries. That was why Jeremy was so proud of this country. "Foxstab." Jeremy said his voice uneven.

Foxstab looked at his cigarette then at Jeremy.

"Its our habits that kill us in the end isn’t it?"