Chapter 1: The Memory Card
It all started on a Friday evening, I was just arriving home from work; rather later than I'd expected, because I was in the middle of some rather complicated negotiations on a bugger of a contract with some Yanks. They're several hours behind us, and now and again they tend to forget about the time difference; and that we have homes to go to.
"Dad, dad, it's gone wrong. I could only take seven photographs and it won't let me take anymore, what's wrong with it?" My tearful thirteen-year-old daughter Katie whined at me, before I'd even gotten out of my car.
It didn't take me long to discover that someone had removed the memory card from the digital camera she'd been trying to use for her school project. The camera was my old one, and I'd left it in the bureau for anyone in the family to use when they wanted to. Assuming that Jamie had removed the card, either because he wanted to wind his sister up, or —and much more likely for a randy little sixteen-year-old who was quite definitely a chip off the old block - because he - and his friends - had been taking some pictures that he/they'd prefer no one else to be aware of. I smiled to myself wondering just what kind of japes the little bugger was getting up to now.
Then I showed Katie where to find and how to put one of the other memory cards into the camera. Technology had moved on and - as is all too usual when you upgrade just about anything electronic nowadays - my new camera used a completely different type of memory card. I suspect that most people have been there at some time or the other, upgrade the main item and all of the little ancillary's that you've carefully accumulated over time are no longer compatible with state of the art technology.
Consequently, I'd been left with an assortment of different capacity cards that didn't fit my new camera; I'd put most (but not all, for nefarious reasons) of the spare memory cards for the old camera, in the bureau drawer with it.
I went further, we wrote my daughter's name on the chip and I told her it was her personal card and to keep the card safely away from her brother's grubby little hands. Panic over, I began to get the dinner going.
My wife Vivian was up country for the week, visiting her little sister again as she had just dropped her first sprog, so I was playing chef that week. Young Stacie had had a rough old time of it and Vivian had been (busy) running backwards and forwards to her house spending a few days with her every month for most of her pregnancy. Stacie who was ten years younger than Vivian — an afterthought their parents claimed, an accident I should really imagine — had had three miscarriages on the trot and during this fourth one she had been molly-coddled by the rest of her family in the hope that it would go full term. So Vivian and her other sister had been spending one week a month each with her since shortly after the conception.
The kids and I were old hands at surviving a week without Vivian by then and as usual we'd worked our way through all the different takeaways in town - well the near-by ones anyway - consequently that evening I was going to have to actually cook. Was I glad that Vivian was due back some time on the Sunday morning?
When the kids and I sat down that evening to risk our lives and eat my efforts, I tackled Jamie on the whereabouts of the other memory card. There should have been five altogether in that draw if you included one in the camera, but there was only three left in the bag.
"Haven't seen it dad. I borrow Frankie's camera nowadays when I want to take any pictures, it's far better than that old thing and it uses different cards anyway."
I wasn't too convinced about Jamie's statement, because I'd actually seen him with the old camera several times in the not too recent past. Although I had to admit that Frankie had been proudly showing off the new, all singing, all dancing technological wonder, that her father brought back from Japan for her some weeks previous. It must have cost her father a bleeding mint; the damned thing could do just about everything, but make coffee. I'd been quite jealous of the girl when she showed it off to me; it put my new camera really in the shade.
But then what would you expect? Frankie's parents had been divorced a few years back and like many divorced parents they were both vying for her affections. The little vixen was having a rare old time of it, playing the pair of them — and their respective new spouses - off against each other, the best she knew how. Between them, they had managed to turn the really nice little youngster that I remembered, into a spoilt little brat who could get just about anything that she desired, by playing one of them against the other.
Frankie by the way is actually Frances, the fifteen-year-old temptress that Jamie's whole life had revolved around for the previous year or so. Although she'd been living several doors away all her life. God, the girls didn't look like that when I was at school. Frankie was a great kid, if as I said, a little spoilt since her parents had broken up, and had really always been a bit of a tomboy. She'd grown out of the tomboy bit a little as she'd began to mature and was really turning the young men's heads, because she'd developed one hell of a figure - for a fifteen year old - and I foresaw Jamie having the same sort of problems that I had with his mother when we were young in a year or so's time. That's of course assuming that Frankie and Jamie's courtship - that they both adamantly denied was really happening - lasted that long.
Frankie and Jamie were still quite shy about admitting to Vivian and me that they spent as much time as I knew they did, snogging. Bit of a chip off the old block was my son Jamie! I had to wonder if my dad worried as much about what I was getting up to, as I did about what Jamie was doing; especially where Frankie was concerned.
The card was useless for my new camera, but it had cost me a fair old screw back when I'd bought it; prices have dropped a hell of a lot since then. But, yeah call me a "tight-arsed bastard" if you like, but all the money that was spent in our house had been earned with the sweat of my brow.
The other important point about the whole little charade concerning that missing memory card and in particular Jamie - the most likely candidate to have some knowledge as to its whereabouts - claiming that he hadn't taken the thing, was that it had set the "suspicious parent" part of my brain, off a thinking. Quite surprising what kind of scenarios my lecherous old brain conjured up.
Later that evening I had the bureau drawer out and emptied its contents onto the floor, but there was no sign of the card. Then I tackled the drawer below to see if it had been dropped over the back of the drawer somehow. Still no sign of it!
Jamie was one step ahead of me and promptly volunteered to turn the drawers in his own bedroom out, so that I could see that he didn't have the memory card tucked away anywhere.
I knew full well - because he'd volunteered - that should I search his room, the card was not going to be in there; well, nowhere that I would find it in a hurry anyway. So I told him that would not be necessary and the card wasn't that important; thanking him for his offer of assistance, I pretended to give up on the search. Well, I won't say I gave up completely; I just apparently gave up actively looking. If Jamie had the card tucked away somewhere I was wasting my time searching for it when he was aware that I was actually looking.
On the Sunday, Vivian came back from her sister's place full of stories of sleepless nights and shitty nappies. Yeah, just the kind of thing you need to hear about whilst eating Sunday dinner. Come on fellas we've all been there, at one time or another; well most of us have. Why is it that women seem to have much stronger stomachs than men when it comes to babies?
That first night back Vivian was all over me and demanded that we retired to bed early. Her excuse to the children was that she was tired from her journey, I saw no sign of that tiredness when we got into bed that evening and I could hardly keep my eyes open the following day in the office. We hadn't gone at it like that since the children had been born; or maybe since the last visit Vivian had made to her sister's place. She always seemed to come back from there feeling excessively randy.
Anyway, I'd almost forgotten about the memory card for a week or so; then one day when Katie had wanted to use the camera again, for some reason and she asked me what she should do with the card that was already in the camera. I told her to put it back in the camera bag with the other three.
"Four" Katie corrected me, "there's four of them in here now, dad!"
Not that I didn't believe that my daughter was capable of counting to four, but I broke off from watching the cricket on the TV and went over to check for myself. Sure enough there were four little plastic storage cases for the cards in the camera bag and each one had a memory card in it.
Curiouser and curiouser. I thought to myself, now I wonder what kind of pictures Jamie had taken that he hadn't wanted anyone to know about. And ... was there any chance that I could recover them?
"Mummy might have found the card in his room somewhere and put it back," Katie suggested, with a wicked smile on her face, "I told her that you were looking for it."
Possibly Katie was hoping to get her teasing elder brother into trouble. There was a possibility that she was right about her mother finding the card in his room, but I somehow doubted it; Jamie had been too eager for me to search his room that day.
But then again, had the little bugger been playing the infamous double bluff, and figured that I wouldn't bother to waste time searching? Figuring that if Jamie had been, the boy would have deleted any pictures from the card that he didn't want anyone else in the family to see. But then again, I thought, were they safely deleted from his cynical and cunning father's eyes? I knew I had to be careful how I reacted then. So I just shrugged my shoulders and told Katie not to worry about it; I must have miscounted when I was looking for the missing card the first time.
"Oh well they're all there now, so there's nothing to worry about, Kate." Then ostensibly I went back to watching the cricket on the TV.
But I'm going to admit that my mind wasn't really on the match. You can call me a dirty old man if you like, but I was curious about what kind of pictures Jamie had stored on that card that he hadn't wanted me to know about.
Come on, there's a bit of the voyeur in all of us, and even if Frankie was only just approaching her sixteenth birthday, she had the figure on her of an eighteen or twenty-year-old. And besides that, I had to ensure that my son wasn't breaking any age of consent laws, didn't I?
Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
My chance to start the process of checking things out came later that same evening, after everyone else had gone to bed. I took all the memory cards into my study to find out which one of them I wanted - or rather needed - to examine closely. It was relatively easy to work out which one I was interested in, because it was the only one of the four that apparently had nothing on it at all.
All of the other cards had the two "finders files" on them. You know, two files, one text and one jpeg that carried our details and a telephone number where we could be contacted should the card get mislaid somewhere. Okay some folks who might find the card or even the camera that the card is in, might just pocket the thing. But you'd be surprised how many honest people there are out there nowadays. Adding those two files, at least gives a finder - or the police if its handed in to them - a chance of tracking the owner down.
No charge for that tip by the way, I've been doing that since way back when we used to send photographic films away to be processed; the first picture on any roll of film I sent was always of a piece of card with my name and address on, just in case the film got separated from the paperwork somewhere in the system. Even all of my data CD's carry text and jpeg files with that information on, in case I should mislay them somewhere.
Whoever had wiped the card, it was apparent they had done it in a hurry, because they hadn't separated the "finders files" before they cleared the card; I was hoping that they had just highlighted everything on the card and hit the delete button or maybe just reformatted the thing. I wasn't too sure how well I could recover files from a reformatted drive though.
Switching the card in question for one of Vivian and my "special cards", that for nefarious reasons I still kept locked in my desk draw. Yeah well, all right, I'll explain, my wife Vivian is a very sexy woman and a bit of an exhibitionist to boot at times. She likes to dress up sexily and pose for me; and then undress even more sexily for the camera as well.
If I point a camera at Vivian in the bedroom, she can really get wound up; the best move I ever made was to suggest she posed nude for me a few years back. One of her favourite pastimes - between sessions of lovemaking, whilst I recovered - is watching the videos (CD's nowadays to be precise) that we've made of ourselves engaged in sex play together over the previous couple of years.
I first checked that the card I was replacing the "card in question" with, had been safely downloaded to a CD-rom though. Then I ran a scrubber program over the thing — twice - just for safety's sake. I wasn't dumb enough to fall into the same trap that I'd hoped my son had fallen into, so I wasn't taking any chances.
I doubted — or rather hoped — that Jamie hadn't thought of running a scrubbing program over the card in question, I figured that kids normally think that they are much cleverer when it comes to computers and things, than their elders. I was hoping that teenage arrogance was going to work in my favour.
Then I replaced the cards in the camera case and put the whole lot back in the bureau draw.
It was the following Saturday morning before I got the opportunity of looking at the card more closely. I hadn't told Vivian about my research, she'd have gone ape-shit at Jamie if there were any questionable images on that card. I figured that if necessary I'd tick the little monkey off myself, and Vivian need never know about it.
For a woman who was as liberated as Vivian could be in the bedroom; she could be very narrow-minded sometimes, especially where the children were concerned. Jesus, if she saw some of those mucky mags' that Jamie had hidden away down the garden shed he used as a den, she'd have thrown a bleeding pink fit.
Oh yeah, well, as a concerned parent I felt it was my duty, to be ... recognisant, of my son's literary interests. But I thought that it was better not to remove or destroy any of them - or even let on to him that I knew of their existence - because he might then find a new hiding place; or to be more precise, he might find a new hiding place where I wouldn't be able to vet his reading matter. That's my cover story and there's no hope in hell that you'll get me to admit otherwise.
That Saturday Vivian had taken Katie into town shopping. Jamie - with Frankie in tow - as usual had conned a lift into town with her also. We wouldn't see them for the rest of the day; they were planning on taking in a movie later. Then they'd tap Frankie's father for a lift home; the poor sob had a flat right in the town centre and his daughter was always tapping him up for a lift home to her mother's house late in the day. Kinda saved me running around all bleeding night.
I put the memory card into the reader on my computer and set the recovery program running -I'd got it free on a magazine cover disk—then left it to get on and do its thing. It was the first time I'd tried the program out and by the look of the way it was going, I figured that it was going to take some time; so I went out to cut the lawns, although I nipped back in to see how things were going every so often.
Why is it that these programs keeping stopping and asking you if you want to continue or what file you want to recover? Shit I wanted everything on the card recovered, all the damned thing was giving me was a list bloody numbers, how the hell did I know what they were until I could at least see them as thumbnails? I had to tell the thing to proceed again several times during the morning.
Anyway having set the thing going again, I returned to pushing the lawnmower around the garden. I'd have thought that by then my son should have been cutting my lawns for me, but no, the little bugger was off living it up with his bit of fluff. Mind, every time I looked at Frankie, I thought that I couldn't blame the little sod; at his age I'd have chosen sitting in the back row of the local flea pit with Frankie, over mowing lawns any day.
George one of the neighbours, who'd been mowing his lawn as well, came over with a can of beer for me and we chewed the fat for an hour or so. Guess what? His son was off with some bit of candyfloss as well, instead of mowing his father's front lawn like he'd promised he would.
I was still chatting to George when Vivian and Katie unexpectedly returned early. Katie had met some school friends — read boys - in town and she was also heading for the movies that afternoon; she had to come home first to make the necessary changes to her appearance i.e. put on a tighter sweater and pair of tighter jeans, not forgetting several layers of make-up.
"He's a nice boy Jim, don't worry so much!" Vivian had assured me when I questioned who this boy was.
"Oh yeah, your mother thought I was a nice boy, once!" I replied with a grin, after Katie had run inside the house to perform the transformation from thirteen-year-old out shopping with mummy, into a thirteen-year-old going on twenty-year-old temptress, who I knew would re-emerge from her room half an hour later.
"You can drive her back into town and look him over and to see if he passes muster." Vivian laughed back at me.
Funny how they do that, isn't it? Wives I'm talking about, how they set you up for playing chauffeur so easily.
I was just about to tell Vivian that she must have volunteered to drive Katie back into town in the first place, when I remembered that the recovery program was still running on the computer in the study.
Damn that would set Vivian's radar off; I normally used my laptop at home. I only used the family machine for stuff like downloading photographs from the cameras', because the remote card reader I'd originally had, died. There had seemed little point in spending money on replacing the remote one, because our new Dell had a card reader built into the case when we'd upgraded the home system. The old thing couldn't play the latest games, according to the kids.
I made some incredulous excuse and dashed inside to shut down the program. Luckily I set the recovery program to store the recovered files on one of my pen-drives. All I had to do was hit the shutdown tag and then pull both the memory card and the pen-drive from the machine. Then kill the PC as well.
Luckily it was all shut down by the time Vivian appeared after putting her shopping away in our bedroom and asked me how I'd wasted my morning. As if she hadn't been able to see the lawn mower outside the garage door and the grass all neatly cut?
Damn it women get me sometimes. Us guys are supposed to be able to tell that the vacuum cleaner cupboard door being slightly ajar, means that the wife has been busy cleaning house all day and someone else should volunteer to get dinner or possibly take her out for a meal.
An empty washing basket on the landing at the top of the stairs, means that she's spent he whole day washing and ironing, and should lead to similar conclusions.
But the lawn mower outside the garage door and the front and rear lawns having taken on the look of Crown Bowling greens, does not tell her anything at all about what I'd been doing all morning.
Anyway I was informed that Katie would be ready to leave in about twenty minutes and the hint was made that a cup of tea would go down very nicely. Then Vivian dropped the hint that we were going to have the house to ourselves for a few hours.
"I think I'll go soak in the Jacuzzi for a while, I've had a heavy week. Perhaps you can join when you get back, lover?" She grinned at me.
Katie's admirer got a cursory look over and the "Don't you dare try any hanky panky with my little angel!" stare when she introduced him to me. I'd got out of the car, better to give the little bugger the evil eye. Several of Katie's school friends and their boyfriends were going to the cinema as well, so I had relaxed a little.
Back at the house I found Vivian sitting naked in the Jacuzzi and watching one of our home videos at the same time. I knew that I was in for a harder afternoon than I'd had that morning.
Oh, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to explain that our Jacuzzi is inside a conservatory that we'd had built on the back of the house. That way we had the best of both worlds. Open the conservatory's sliding doors and we were virtually outside in the summer. Close all of the blinds and it could be blowing a gale or pouring down with rain on a cold winter's day; but in the Jacuzzi you'd never know the difference.
It was a very tired Jim who had to get dressed and drive into town to collect Katie later that day. Jamie's curfew was a couple of hours later and Frankie's father would transport them home. I'm not quite sure how I stayed awake on the drive home with Katie; Vivian had done a pretty good job on me during the afternoon. And by the time we got (back) to bed that night she'd got her second wind, if you understand where I'm coming from.