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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

The List

Malcolm took a couple of headache pills, logged into the List and pondered on his occupation for the forthcoming month. Last month’s foray into classical piano recitals had been quite fun, despite him being tone deaf and not able to play a note. It had only taken the three concerts with ten people at each, paying two hundred pounds a ticket, to net six thousand pounds - quite enough for his modest lifestyle.

The List was a database that drew on hundreds of thousands of other lists. All the information amassed from mailing lists, consumer data, medical records, insurance databases, bank records and the other pockets of personal information held on us all. The List collated these, and by entering a string of characteristics into the computer, the database would generate names and addresses of people who fitted the given criteria.

The list of those living within thirty miles of Malcolm who were wealthy, blind, tone deaf patrons of the arts, and suffered severe short term memory loss, comprised some forty-two people. A quite large enough number from which to select audiences to launch his career as a virtuoso, concert pianist. He was sorry that it had lasted for just three concerts, though grateful that he had been tipped off about the plan by the local newspaper to send a reporter to cover the fourth. Whilst they would have probably just sent a cub reporter, suspicions may have been aroused by a number of factors including the absence of a piano.

His headache began to wear off at last. Last night had been wild. He had initially been kidding when he had interrogated the List for a wealthy, generous, unattached, stunningly attractive nymphomaniac in her late twenties who enjoyed (almost) nothing more than a few pints of bitter and a game of darts and was uncontrollably aroused by talk of computer systems, football and cars. It had, however, generated three options within a reasonable drive. When narrowing the field by specifying a person who eschewed relationships or commitment and, indeed, had a strong preference for anonymous one-night-stands, the name of Janice Goodley of 27, The Drive, Ramsbottom Hill had shone out like a beacon.

But enough of reminiscence, he had a living to make. Perhaps a great surgeon this time? He typed: wealthy, healthy, hypochondriacal, suggestible, and printed the names and addresses.

The door bell rang. He invited the police officers in to explain their purpose.

‘......therefore I will have to arrest you for fraud and deception,’ one concluded.

‘How did you find out?’

‘We typed ‘Conmen using the List’ into the List. It’s how we solve most crimes these days. On Monday mornings we just ask the List for all those who’ve committed crimes in the last week, and that keeps us busy arresting them until the following Monday.’

Malcolm could have kicked himself. The distraction of Janice had quite made him forget to check the list this week for all those policemen who were about to arrest him.