Operation Camilla

By: Tabitha Ormiston-Smith


Good lord. The boy was even younger than he looked. Blackman did his best to paste a mysterious expression on his face. “Need to know basis, Josh, capisce?”

***

Tammy hummed happily to herself as she sanded. She’d set herself up as usual with her headphones and an audiobook, but had found her attention drifting away from it as her thoughts returned, again and again, to her own book and its problems. After half an hour she’d tossed the headphones aside. The mindless, monotonous physical work seemed to activate her writer’s brain, and as she worked, plot glitches sorted themselves out and opportunities for character development occurred to her. She decided to add a romance subplot as her thoughts drifted to Ben, now boarding his flight to Melbourne. Her detective protagonist was modelled on him, although of course she’d had to make him rather more clever. Ben wasn’t… well, he was lovely, and beautiful-looking, and endlessly good-natured, but he probably, she thought, wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box. It didn’t matter to her. You didn’t need everyone to be clever. Neville, her ex-husband, had been as brainy as they came, and look at him. The prick. Ben had better not ever play around. She’d report him to the internal affairs office. The police still had an internal offence of Moral Turpitude, Ben had told her. What a great word ‘turpitude’ was.

All the same, she mused as she wrapped a fresh sheet of sandpaper around the block, it would be nice if Ben could share some of the more intellectual of her interests. He never seemed to have read anything she mentioned, and, now she came to think of it, she didn’t think she’d ever seen him with a book in his hand. And when he’d moved in, he’d unpacked his clothes and personal stuff, and kitchen gear, but there hadn’t been the boxes of books she’d expected.

She pushed away a guilty thought of the pile of boxes still stacked in the back bedroom. What was the point of unpacking them anyway, when she didn’t have any bookshelves? Perhaps she should have looked at furniture first, instead of all this painting. But then she’d have to move it all to paint. She shuddered at the memory of the one time she’d rearranged her living room. No, once a bookcase was in place it needed to stay there. Forever.

Anyway, you couldn’t do everything at once. Get this room painted, so it would be all nice and fresh when Ben came home. And finish the book, those were her priorities. Everything else could wait….

***

Josh worked steadily, headphones pumping a blast of rock music straight into his mind. He was already into the Yarralove site, and had downloaded their client database. It had been a stroke of luck that they used cloud storage for their admin system. He wondered how many of these losers were actually spies. Maybe Uncle Don would recruit him to do some real espionage work, in person. He wouldn’t mind matching wits with some of those women. Phwoarrrrr….

The site offered a service that allowed members to arrange their first meeting anonymously, using only their designated nicknames. Josh was a bit surprised at this; if he was going to hook up with some woman he met online, he’d want to talk to her first, at least chat on the phone before he committed himself to a full-on date. What if she was a moron? Still, he supposed these people weren’t in it to find life partners. It was all too apparent what they were in it for, just by the information they entered on their profiles. ‘Love new and exciting experiences…’, ‘looking to share’, whatever that meant. He shuddered to think, especially after looking at the photograph that went with that one. ‘Humble slave looking for a master’ – yuk. ‘Likes it doggie style’- okaaaay. ‘Enjoys risk-taking’. ‘Likes brown showers’. Josh stopped at that one. Surely no one cared that much about bathroom décor? He took a minute to google the phrase, then wished he hadn’t. These people were all perverts. Josh liked to think he was as open-minded as the next person, but some things were just… he hoped the brown shower guy was one of the spies.

The downloaded data were in an Access database, and it didn’t take long at all to generate a few reports. One master list linking codename, real name, email address, billing address, age and credit card number. Josh didn’t really see the relevance of the credit card number, but it looked weak just to have names and addresses, so he added this, and also gender and gender sought, and then a freeform text field to contain the variable-length descriptions people had provided. These were the ones mentioning things like ‘brown shower’ and ‘looking for a master’. Josh set up the report to output into an Excel spreadsheet, rather than print. He didn’t think Uncle Don would be printing anything out, for security reasons.