A twenty-pound note persuaded the barman to stomp back down the stairs.
The transcription process ran in real-time, so Joseph began his chores. He collected the glasses, mopped up the spills and rearranged the chairs around the tables. Then he closed the windows, diminishing the sounds of car horns and Friday-night revelry. By the time he returned to the laptop, the first stage of processing had finished. Only now would he discover whether his bug had recorded anything worthwhile.
He scrolled through the text, stripping out extraneous material and marking up those nuggets that his pirated TellTales software could work with. On reaching the end of the transcript, he permitted himself a smile. Finally, after months of frustration, he had recorded a few precious memories. But would they prove sufficient?
There was only one way to find out.
Joseph selected TellTale’s “Biography” option, loaded the edited transcription, also the database he’d compiled while researching Gareth Llewellyn’s life. After crossing his fingers, he clicked “OK”.
He looked on–no less fascinated than on the three previous occasions he’d successfully recorded his targets–as paragraphs of narrative iteratively assembled themselves from the snippets of conversation. The process accelerated as the information from the database diffused through the text. Even to an experienced computer programmer, the process seemed tantamount to magic. No wonder Hollywood had stopped using scriptwriters.
While he waited for the process to complete, Joseph mulled over the fact that his obsession with reconstructing the lives of the dead from the memories of the living left him with no time for a life of his own. But perhaps that was appropriate. After all, he was the person who had caused those memories to become precious in the first place. Three years after the Swansea rail disaster, memories were all that remained of the seventeen commuters who had perished on that freezing January morning. Seventeen lives terminated because a contract programmer called Joseph Connell had failed to check a vital block of code that controlled a signaling system.
A chime from the laptop interrupted Joseph’s reverie. He pulled the jacket-less book from the shelf, inserted his forefinger inside the spine and activated the data link to the computer. When he opened the book to page fifty-three, paragraphs were already forming on the virgin paper. Within seconds, Chapter Four of The Book of Love had printed itself. Joseph smiled as he read about a madcap chase through the back streets of the city, a squad of policemen trailing behind Gareth and his friends. He chuckled at a description of a staff-versus-students football match that resembled mud wrestling more than a traditional sporting event. And then there were the tales of piss-ups and parties, the ridiculous arguments about nothing in particular: all the stuff of an ordinary life.