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MI5 Persecution: Dirk Gently on the Toronto Case (577)

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Date: 18 Jan 2007 22:33:17 GMT
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Dirk was on the West Coast when he got the call. An old friend at the Toronto police department thought he would like to fly up and take a look at a homicide which had occurred the previous evening. He decided to skip the last day at the World Holistics conference and take the next plane out of San Francisco.

The flight was bad; Dirk had been hit on the back of the head by the Newspaper trolley, the drinks trolley, the dinner trolley and now the gift trolley. When the hostesses weren’t trying to tear his arm off they pestered him to stop leaning into the aisle
- ignoring the fact that the guy next to him was taking up one and
 a half seats. Air Canada used to be the flight which was so good you just didn’t wanna get off - on this occasion Dirk would be glad to see the back of the plane and the over sized alternative comedian wedged into the window seat.

After breathing in a couple of lungfulls of crisp Canadian air Dirk took a taxi into town. There was a small group of demonstrators outside the MacDonalds and the taxi driver insisted on stopping on the opposite side of the street. ‘Don’t Eat Meat’ the placards read and the demonstrators chanted. A couple of policemen where stopping the crowd entering the restaurant itself - one held up his arm and challenged Dirk. A wave of the fax he had been sent and the policeman pushed open the door.

There were few customers in the restaurant. Not surprising really with a demonstration going on outside, half the dining area roped off with tape and a dead body seated at one of the tables. ‘Mr Gently sir’ the officer in charge called out as he peeled one end of the tape off a column ‘We were told not to touch anything til’ you got here’.

The body of the man slumped awkwardly in a chair. Then even a dead body would start getting uncomfortable in a MacDonalds chair after twenty minutes - and this one had been there for at least eighteen hours. Two back legs and the tail of a cat hung out of the man’s gaping mouth. Dirk turned to the officer, ‘I suppose you are going to tell me this is the darndest thing you ever saw?’

‘Ain’t this the darnd...’. The officer seemed annoyed that Dirk had second guessed him. ‘We’re removing the body in a few minutes, so if you can get through as quick as possible’

‘Many people eat cats in fast food restaurants?’ Dirk asked and without waiting for an answer leant over the table to pick up an untouched burger. ‘And what’s this?’ he asked waving it in front of the officers face.

‘It’s a Vedgie Burger’ The waitress, who was cleaning one of the adjacent tables, shouted across. She walked over to Dirk. ‘We started doing them because of that lot out there’ she nodded towards the protesters who were pressing there faces against the windows ‘They’re called Linda McCartney Vedgie burgers - ever heard of them?’

Dirk suddenly felt faint, perhaps a combination of hunger and jet lag. ‘This is deja vu all over again’ he thought to himself. He glanced at policemen - at the badge on his shoulder ‘OPD’ but this wasn’t Ontario this was Toronto. OPD - Officially Pronounced Dead. It dawned on Dirk what was happening, he knew what he would see if he looked out of the window. Sure enough, there it was, the Volkswagen Beetle parked across the road - number plate 28IF - 28 IF Paul McCartney had lived. And amongst the lyrics of the song blaring out into the restaurant he could pick out the words ‘I buried Paul’. Now it was though Dirk was viewing the whole scene though a TV screen. This was conspiracy. Not -a- conspiracy, or -the- conspiracy, but just plain conspiracy.

‘You look faint - are you OK mister? The waitress asked.

Dirk shook his head ‘Probably a bit hungry’ Then to economise on dialogue took out a pack of cigarettes and held it out towards the girl. She was about to take one but Dirk snatched the pack away, held it up to his mouth and drew out two cigarettes. He lit both then passed one of them to the girl. It was the closest he had come to a sexual encounter in three months.

‘Want a Burger?’ the waitress asked.

Dirk looked down at the Vedgie Burger on the table. ‘No thanks - just a plate of fries’

The waitress walked away and Dirk looked around the room. Apart from a family seated in the far corner there was only one other person in the restaurant - and he wasn’t eating. The guy was about mid twenties and had straggling, shoulder length hair. On the table in front of him were lots of pieces of paper cut into squares. Every so often he would pick up a camcorder and pan it around the room and then, when he was finished, speak into a microphone which was attached to a tape recorder. Dirk walked over to where the man was sitting.

The small pieces of paper had paragraphs of text written on them and were stuck to the top of table with blobs of mustard. Lines had been drawn, some solid some dotted, on the table top with a marker pen. The lines ran from one piece of paper to another.

‘What are the lines for?’ Dirk asked, realising straight away that ‘What the hell are you doing?’ would be more appropriate.

‘You see’ The man replied nervously ‘The dotted lines are weak links and the solid lines are strong links. The dotted lines are things which are happening in the rest of the world and the solid lines are things which are happening to me. Now you see I draw over a dotted line, replacing it with a solid line, when I can link something back to me. Like this’ The pen squeaked over the Formica and before Dirk could interrupt the man added. ‘You see I lost my short term memory and, as a consequence have a very short attention span. I write down, record and film everything then put it all together later’

‘So’ Dirk interrupted. ‘You filmed what happened here?’

‘Yes, yes, it’s here on this tape’ The man pushed the cassette across the table. On the label the words ‘Grassy Knoll’ had been crossed through and replaced with ‘MacDonalds’.

Suddenly the man sprung from his seat. Dirk turned and saw that the body was being removed on a stretcher. As it passed the man picked a small object off the edge of the stretcher itself. ‘This is important’ he said, laying a blood stained bullet on one of the small pieces of paper on the table.

Suddenly the room was filled with a deafening throbbing sound as a Black Helicopter landed in the street outside. Two men in United Nations uniforms got out and collected the stretcher. Back at the table the long haired man was replacing all the dotted lines with solid ones. Dirk panicked and began to walk backwards at some speed. Barging through the swing doors he stumbled into the kitchen, tripped and felt himself sink slowly into a large vat.

‘The guys fallen into the batter’ Dick heard someone shout before he sunk below the surface. He came to sitting in a chair with the batter solidifying all over his body. He surveyed the room through two eye-holes someone had cut. Suddenly the chair on which he was sitting was picked up carried through the restaurant and out of the building. As the chair was being lifted and put into the back of a van, Dirk caught a glimpse of the waitress following him. ‘Your fries mister, your plate o...’.

The doors of the van shut and Dirk tried desperately to steady himself as it sped across town. Eventually the doors flew open and Dirk was flung into the road at which point the solidified batter shattered and set him free. Standing up he found himself outside the international departures terminal of Toronto airport.

In the departure lounge Dirk had time to reflect on the day’s events. He had got caught up in the conspiracy theories and the haphazard welding together of pieces of irrelevant information. It was time to catch the person who was operating the bizarre cognitive engine which appeared in front of him like a fairground mirror, distorting any flaw it could find in his own, fragile, map of the real world.

Dirk leant into the aisle of the plane as it took off for London. The oversized person next to him swung his arms violently as he complained about every thing from the supper in a plastic tray to the state of British politics. With a shaven head and a badly fitting suit the man looked as though he could have worked behind the reception desk of the Kremlin. However when he spoke he did so in a Liverpudlian accent. ‘Me I blame the Con-serv-a-tive government, me. The Tour-rees. That-cher. Me. They need a good kicking’ He jerked his feet forward and struck the seat in front with his Doc Martins. ‘With these. Me Doc Martins. Doctor Martin’s, Doctor Martin’s, Doctor Martin’s Booots!’ The phrase was now being sung over and over again as the man writhed in his seat and clicked his fingers.

Dirk looked down at the boots and thought of the reaction most people used to deal with the paranoids at the end of the wire. A nice quick kick. ‘Oi nutter - get some therapy’. This is the easy way out and perhaps the safest. After all there you are sat, alone, in front of the screen. No body language between you some paranoid. No way of telling if he really is some gibbering psycho. Look at it too long and you be drawn in. Fall into the tangled database of weird links with him. Who knows he may be watching you, reassembling and linking your experiences with his. How sure are you of you own cognitive threads. After all cognition is only a bug fix for a neurological system which was designed in a hurry - it’s abused by everyone from politicians to advertisers. If people really can convince each other that a bottle of washing up liquid is as exciting as an orgasm using just television God knows what they can do with a computer. Better to avoid the risk. A swift kick. After all if you’re Homophobic you put the boot in because you are scared of any ambiguity in your own sexuality
- why not be Nutterphobic as well.

Although Dirk would have liked to devoted time to tracking the culprit down he decided to let it rest. The Internet changed over the next twenty odd years. A lot of the people who used it went out and got lives. And those who already had lives burnt them away. The number of users had dwindled after someone had invented a C++ program, with truth as a variable, to deal handle politics and government. Dirk had already retired from finding old ladies cats with the help of obscure science when he got another call from Toronto.

It was 4th March 2025 when he booked onto the Air Canada flight from Heathrow. The silver haired woman in the seat next to him painted bright red lipstick around her mouth. ‘Of course it was no surprise to be offered the job after Claire Raynor retired’ she sneered’ After all I used to be a psychiatric nurse... Now if Blokes had periods they would understand...’

By chance the taxi ride to Toronto mental hospital took him past the MacDonalds - where the whole thing had started. Of course it was barely recognisable having become a Church Of Scientology Vedgie Bar. Police in riot gear kept the two sets of demonstrators apart. Dirk didn’t really know what to expect when he got to the hospital. The girl at the reception desk directed him to a row of chairs in a wide well lit corridor. There was a strong smell of disinfectant, the furniture and the carpets were immaculately clean and behind the rows of teak veneer doors the ‘nutters’ were all safely locked away. For some reason Dirk started thinking about CompuServe forums.

A tall blond woman in a white coat approached. ‘Mr Gentle, I assume’

‘Yes’ Dirk replied shaking her by the hand. ‘You’re the nurse who...’

‘Doctor’ She interrupted, ‘Doctor Killfile’ She led Dirk across the corridor towards one of the doors then stopped with her hand resting on the handle. ‘Now you know about this person don’t you?’ and after Dirk nodded she continued ‘Don’t tell him anything about yourself - don’t let him get into you head. If he does he’ll screw it up’

The door opened to reveal a frail man sitting in from of a TV screen. He had a keyboard on his lap and next to the television was a computer screen. Dirk glanced at the walls of the room and remembered that his settee at home need upholstering. The nurse left the room and the man looked up ‘So you come to my daughters wedding and ask me to kill a man’ he said in a dry cackling voice. ‘Look’ he continued, pointing at the screen, ‘I know that man. They’re talking about me now - listen’. The man stared at Dirk. ‘What’s your name? Are you one of my friends from the Internet? - Are the lambs still screaming Dirk?’

Dirk, at first recoiled in horror, then felt a sense of anti climax. So this is what they hyped up to superstar status on the back of their own fears of madness. Dirk was reminded of the film ‘A day on The Beach’ where a submarine had set off to search a post nuclear World to track down a signal coming from a remote military base - only to find it was being sent by a Coke bottle half balanced on a Morse tapper. Outside the room the nurse waited for him. Because his nicotine craving had returned - and to avoid an awkward piece of dialogue - Dirk turned to her and asked . ‘Patch?’

Dirk took two nicotine patches from his wallet the first of which he stuck onto the inside of his arm. Stepping closer to Doctor Killfile he opened her white coat and slid his hand into the opening at the front of her dress. He pressed the patch onto her leg as close to the top of her inner thigh as he dare. She took a deep breath and then slowly breathed out. ‘What Bogart could have done with these things’ Dirk thought to himself.

‘Is he crazy?’ Dirk asked tilting his head back to towards the door.

‘Who knows’ Doctor Killfile replied ‘We let him type away. He sees something on the TV in the morning and it keeps him busy all day. What he types doesn’t go anywhere it just stays on a mainframe in the basement. It can be read by anyone else in the building but that’s it. We got them all in here conspiracy theorists, racists, nationalists. They’ve created a world within a world really...’ Her voice trailed away and she stared down the corridor for a while then added ‘So long are two things are different neither will come to be in the other and so become at once both one and two.’

Dirk gave her a puzzled look ‘You mean their brains are fried?’

‘Fried?’ Killfile smiled at Dirk ‘No that was Plato’. Then the smile fell from her face. ‘You must remember, mister, plate o...’


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