The God Machine Chronicles: Session 3: Caught In The Gears

Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)

The job centre at Walthamstow. A building that swallows hope, pity and sympathy alike.  Trisha and Sanjiv have been following the trail of the missing Dave Chigwell to its unwelcoming doors. The upstairs is much like below.  People sat, watching the moments drip away as they squirm on uncomfortable sofas.  Each person filling out an identical green card, ready to be processed.  Staff in identikit uniform don’t even look up from their desks as they take the next form, entering the data in listless rote.  Trisha talks with the shaven headed security guard that let them upstairs, while Sanjiv looks from one blank face to another, wondering if any know anything that may have happened to Dave.

Neither can forget what they saw back in Dave’s apartment.  The scrawling of a madman.  The apartment where they left Gwil investigating,

Sanjiv’s thoughts are broken by Trisha’s return “I’m going to try and find the person who rang Dave up and was dealing with his case. Can you see if you can find anyone who knows him please”.

Sanjiv nods and smiles reassuringly as he approaches the people sat around the room
“Hello, I’m Sanjiv” he says, hand extended. “I’m involved in the tribunal of a Dave Chigwell. We’ve been trying to find him to assist him. I wondered if anyone here has seen him lately?”

The answers are few. Trapped in the system most have more than enough worries of their own, without shouldering another’s. Lots of blank looks answer him; those who seem to know something still clam up, answering nothing and claiming to know less. Thus passes nearly half an hour, Trisha behind him moving from one desk to another, finally directed to an empty desk where she waits fruitlessly.  The desks around her are empty and bare, not a promising sight.

Refusing to give up Sanjiv smiles once more at a pensive man.  The man, possibly Pakistani, or maybe Bangladeshi by Sanjiv’s guess, is being loomed over by a security guard.
“I don’t care what it is, put it away. Got it?”

The man slips away into a bag the notebook he had been tapping on. Looking again, Sanjiv sees the man has a five o clock shadow poking out from under his dark blue hoodie.  Matching his eyes Sanjiv realises he has spotted him before, the man had looked up when he had mentioned Dave Chigwell’s name, but before Sanjiv could follow up he had lost the man in the crowd.

Sanjiv’s look of apprehension seems to have spooked the guy, and Sanjiv tries to keep his body language as non threatening as he can as he approaches, ready to go through the usual routine. The guy jerks back, damn near dropping his notebook bag before snatching it to his chest running like the hounds of hell are on his trail. Wrong footed, Sanjiv just stares for a moment, and by the time his thoughts catch up with him the man is already out of the door, bowling people out of the way as he does so

Trisha looks over, blinking with surprise. Sanjiv can but shrug, no point in trying to chase now and making a scene.

Meanwhile Ryan Winters has been mulling over the data she has found on Dave Chigwell. Still at the British Transport Police Station at Camden she lays printouts and notes in front of her,   Dave has been flagged as a person of interest by social security. Skint, sanctioned and destitute, things are not looking well for Dave.

With a sigh she rolls up the incriminating printouts and resolves herself to facing twenty minutes of traffic to get to the Job Centre. Something doesn’t feel right about this and she wants to find out what. She thinks about changing back into civvies for a moment, but decides against it. The uniform may be a useful in if people are less willing to talk.

Parking up, the traffic marginally worse than expected, Ryan approaches the Job centre, passing the forlorn crowd outside.

“Hello, officer Ryan Winters” Ryan says, flashing a badge.

The receptionists head snaps up, suddenly alert “Yes can I help?”

“I’d like to speak to the duty manager please”

The woman is about to answer when the shaven headed G4S security man steps in, back almost ram rod straight. A desperate attempt to seem professional “ If there’s anything I can help with, any information need. I’m always willing to help. Security to Police you know. Brothers in arms right?”

“Just the duty manager thanks”  Ryan says, nothing betrayed by her tone.

The staff set to work and very shortly they are joined by short, slightly overweight woman in glasses and a power dress that attempts to command presence. Pushing her blond hair back from her eyes she introduces herself.

“Alison Higgins. How can I help?”

“WPC Ryan Winters. Can we speak in private?”

“Of course, my office is just upstairs”

Heading up Ryan keeps her eyes open for anything out of the normal.  Her eyes fall upon Sanjiv and Trisha talking upon the large sofas in the middle of the room.  There’s a slight cold sensation on the moment of recognition. The hole in memory that all shared re-exposed. Sanjiv waves his hand slightly in greeting, getting a discrete nod in return.

The slight discomfort brought by the thoughts of “The Incident” are easily hidden though.  The downtrodden crowd share a mix of suspicious looks, unease and paranoid shuffling in the presence of police officer. Ryan just walks past to Alison’s office, doing nothing to alleviate their worries. They may come in useful in the future.

Alison’s office is Spartan, a lone desk marooned in as sea of grey carpet, a single potted plant in the corner. Her fingers fidget with the desks document drawer as she sits. Most likely worrying about which incident in the Job Centre has resulted in a complaint being raised, Ryan guesses. Wondering which one she is following up on. She lets the silence hang a moment, lets the woman think of everything that could go wrong, then Ryan smiles reassuringly.

“I’m here about a missing persons report. A Dave Chigwell” Ryan pulls out a report and indicated to the picture of Mr Chigwell.  “I wondered if you had any information that could help us with our enquiries. When he last checked in. Who he spoke to. Anything like that.”

“Is he under suspicion of anything?” Alison says, a non committal expression on her face”

“He’s just been reported as missing “

“Well I really couldn’t say. We have a lot of people through each day and…”

“Alison”

Alison pauses at the interruption and Ryan fixes her with a stare. The moment of silence holds, Alison unwilling to speak again letting Ryan take control.

“Alison.  I am just here for a missing person. I am not, however, leaving until I find out what I want. I could be here a long time, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people I could be talking to. It could be a very long day and who knows what I may find”  Ryan pauses

“But all I want is Dave Chigwell. You help me on that, and I am gone”

Alison just slumps

“Ok, ok, he came to the job centre this morning. Signed up to a new Samaritan initiative over at Romford. It means that we can reinstate his benefits. He should be back before the end of the day. I gave him the bus route details, there should be one soon”

Ryan just keeps silent, letting her fill the air. Taking notes, in part for the information, in part to keep Alison nervous. She is still hiding something Ryan is sure of it. Ryan knows a little about the Samaritan initiative already. It’s been in the papers a few times. A public and private sector partnership.  A lot of reported kickbacks and implications of further corruption.

Ryan leans back. She just needs a bit more pressure for Alison to crack. Her hand goes to her police radio “Hello. Dispatch? Ryan Winters. Can you let me know if there are any outstanding cases or issues regarding Walthamstow Job Centre?”

Squirming in her seat, eyes pleading Alison offers “Well..”

Ryan pauses “One moment station”

“There’s been a couple of people “Alison says “Two people from a scheme that we never heard back from.  The scheme was run by an American company called EduTech, it runs under license from a government minister. If you sanction people for the scheme there’s a small bonus for the person who did it. A few people have already got jobs from the scheme so we didn’t want any bad press. Please Ryan, don’t pass this to the press. Please.”

“Ok.” Ryan nods “I don’t see any need for that. I will need a list of everyone who has gone missing and everyone who had been referred there”

Looking through the information on the scheme presented to her Ryan sees it is to do with taking online questionnaires to help determine job requirements.

“What I don’t get” Ryan says “Is why they make them travel to the centre. It’s an internet questionnaire, they could do that from home”

Alison shrugs “I don’t really know”

“Ok. It’s not a problem. Your name isn’t going to be on the record regarding this” Just another cog caught in the machine Ryan thinks “We all try to make a difference, you’re just caught up in it all”

“Please. Dave has some crazy ideas, but he is a nice guy. Please, make sure he is alright. Don’t make anything worse for him. The cop in earlier was really pushy and horrible”

“The other cop?” Ryan asks

Alison fishes out a card “Steve Prentice” she says handing it over.

The card is an obvious fake to a trained eye. Printed on a police header but that’s about it.

“Did you ask for his warrant card?” Ryan asks

“Err, no, should I have done?” Alison replies flustered “Wasn’t he a cop? Oh god am I in trouble?”

“It’s ok, it’s ok. Could I see the CCTV footage of his time here though?”

“Of course” Alison pauses “Could I see your warrant card first though please?”

Ryan pulls out her card and hands It over. Alison looks intently at it, though gives no sign of knowing what she should be looking at before handing it back. Pressing n the intercom she says “Nassem, could you get us the CCTV tapes of this morning for Officer Winters please, she will pick them up on the way out”

“Thank you” Ryan says holding out a card with her number “If there are any issues contact me on this number. Remember, everything is ok, you haven’t done anything wrong. Just contact me”

Heading out Ryan spies Sanjiv and Trisha once more. Sanijiv has not been idle, when his surprise wore off he realised the Asian man was probably their best lead so far. He obviously knew something about Dave Chigwell and since everyone is stonewalling Trisha that is their only way forwards. Idle conversation with the security guard about recent games and the problems of London helped sooth the gap between them and gave Sanjiv a chance to mention the fleeing Asian man from earlier.
“Oh aye, him” The security guard says “Regular around here.  He was meant to be on the same bus as Dave earlier but the idiot was late.”

Sanjiv is about to follow up when Trisha approaches, waving to Ryan “Do you think it would be worth having a word with Ryan? She may be able to help us out”

Sanjiv nods and heads towards Ryan, who is speaking into her police radio again.

“Hello. Dispatch, We have a possible impersonation of a police officer under the name of Steve Prentice. I’m about to get CCTV footage of the event. Let me know if we’ve had anything under that name before”

“Hey Ryan” Sanjiv starts “When you’ve got a minute, could we have a chat?”

Ryan nods, radio still clamped to her ear. Seeing this Trisha suggests heading outside, away from prying ears. Following Trisha outside Sanjiv says “I’ll catch you outside when you’re ready.”

The CCTV turns out to be on a USB memory stick rather than tapes, slipping it into her pockets and thanking the staff Ryan heads outside to where Trisha and Sanjiv are waiting,

“So, what brings you here then?” Ryan asks

Sanjiv takes the lead, explaining the missing Dave, Gwil’s phone call, Dave’s room and the running man. Trisha chips in occasionally, still trying to process everything that has happened. As he is finishing up Sanjiv sees a man across the road. Partially hidden by the bush that lines the road. The Asian man from before. Sanjiv’s words just trail away as they match eyes.

“Oh shit” The man is up and running before Sanjiv has chance to say a word. Ryan bolts after him on instinct, remembering what Saniv said before.  There is a moment’s hesitation before Sanjiv joins the flight, shouting at Trisha “This time we follow!”. The fleeing man pushes out across traffic, stumbling and dropping his laptop in the midst of the four lanes heading back and forth, Turning to try and catch it his ankle catches, twisting and collapsing him to the ground. He manages to stumble several more steps to the pavement on the other side, collapsing, arm hanging off the side of a bin he tried to catch on the way down. Terrified he glances back as Ryan closes in for the arrest. Sanjiv and Trisha running in behind.

Pushing the man to the ground Ryan pats around for her cuffs, but in the moments loosening grip the man kicks out taking Ryan’s shin and collapsing her. Sanjiv looks up from where he had been grabbing at the fallen laptop to see the man running past. Reaching out Sanjiv grabs his arm, trying to swing him round. “hey. Wait a minute”

The man swings round, going with the grab, loosing a wild haymaker towards Sanjiv. Stumbling back Sanjiv manages to duck under but the man slips loose once more, shoving Sanjiv to the ground. The impact with the concrete slams the air from Sanjiv’s lungs, winding him but not doing any major harm.

Ryan swings loose her ASP baton, radioing in an assault in an officer. She sprints now after the man, catching one arm and swinging the baton for his skull. The man collapses away from the blow, hand up pleading. “Please. Please don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me”

“Lie down with your hands behind your head” Ryan barks, shoving him to the floor “Listen, I can charge you with assault on a police officer, so do you feel like telling me what the hell that was all about?” As the guy quivers on the floor Ryan lifts the radio again “Forget that request for backup. I apprehended the suspect”

Panting Sanjiv catches up “What the heck was it about the name Dave Chigwell that had you so spooked?”

“I knew it. I knew you’d find me eventually. It was my e-mails wasn’t it? My Facebook? GCHQ?” the man babbles

Ryan keeps her voice calm “Sir just calm down a second and listen to me”

Looking Sanjiv interrupts to ask “Mr Grey?”

The guy looks confused from Sanjiv to Ryan “You know Mr Grey? But, but, you’re with her. A cop!  You can’t be one of the smilers, you aren’t in league with them, yet you’re with her?  You know about Network Zero then? You must, then you aren’t part of the problem, you’re part of the solution. You have to understand. They, the gods. They are all coming back. It’ part of the plan. Dave showed me it all. Showed me the Network Zero forums. He found it, the numbers, the sequence. The numbers in the code. He found them.  They’re finding people who aren’t going to obey. Finding them and getting them.  Dave went to find out what was going on.  What’s your handle? I’m truthseeker65, Imran Warris. You must be the guys from the Goodge street restaurant right? His friends? So, Where you from then bro, Bangladesh?”

Sanjiv shakes his head “No. India”

Imran shakes his head, faze scowling “Fucking Hindus. No, this shit goes straight to Allah. These are devils we are dealing with.  Listen man, we need to be united in this. Need to stand together.”

Ryan interrupts “We need to start with some simple questions. When did you last see Dave?”

“Last night.”

“Was he agitated?”

Imran shrugs “Yeah, of course he was. It was all about what they were doing to him”.

“Is there anything specific you know that could lead us to what happened to him?”

Imran glances around, ignoring the question “Shit we need to get out of here. They are watching. Dave went on the bus to Romford with cameras and recording stuff, he wanted to blow this wide open. People are trying to bring down angels to heaven. They’re trying to bring down Allah’s servants to do bad things. It’s all in the numbers man.”

Ryan frowns: “Well, right now my priority is to find Dave and help him.”

“He got on the bus at 9am. I’m not sure where. He left recording gear at his flat”.

“Then that’s where we’re going next” Ryan mutters, dragging Imran to his feet “Right, you’re coming with us”. Pulling Imran alongside her she moves back towards where the police car is parked. Imran staggers slightly, slumping and dragging his weight forwards. Turning, Ryan stills to see what is happening and Imran’s stumbling takes him onto the road first.

There is a screech of tyres and a wet impact.  Ryan blinks, a car in front of her. Imran nowhere to be seen. Then a bus, screeched to a halt from the opposite direction.  The car wasn’t there moments ago. Came from nowhere. Bloody marks on the buses grill. Dent marks on the car’s bonnet.  Imran, hit by the car and thrown into the buses path. Imran, visible now, underneath the bus.  Wet bloodied breaths coming from his lungs. Alive. For now.

Sanjiv just stares. Shock numbing his nerves. The entire world focusing to a pinprick. He sees his hands waving at people. On autopilot. Health and safety. Keeping people back. Keeping people from the scene of the crime. Doing his duty.  Every action seeming to come from a very long way away. He hears his voice telling people what to do.

Ryan places a hand on Sanjiv’s “Keep back from the scene. It’s ok. I’ve got this one. I’ve radioed it in. We will have ambulances here soon. There may be injured people in the car that hit Imran. Possibly unconscious” Calm and collected, Ryan seals off the scene, taking note of the marks and the positions.

Seeing the bus driver shakingly step from the bus, Ryan approaches “Are you ok sir?”

“I didn’t see him. I just didn’t see him. He came from nowhere. I just didn’t see him”  behind the driver faces just stare from the still bus. Most of the people haven’t moved. Just staring forwards, pale.  A few try to push off the bus. “I just didn’t see him” the bus driver repeats over and over.

As Ryan seals off the scene, closing the road a sound can be heard looping from a cars radio

“What has risen may fall, what has fallen may rise again. What has risen may fall, what has fallen may rise again” repeating over and over and over.

“What has risen may fall, what has fallen may rise again”

(Note from Chris: Since I was not present for the session , notes were taken by the player Andy, allowing me to do the write up. Many thanks to Andy for his excellent work)

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