The Memory Stick - Parts 1-5

Part 1 

The brownish golden leaf fell gently to the ground, no 
wind to snatch it from its branch just a combination of nature and gravity bringing it gently to the ground. Steve watched it fall before turning his attention back to the girl in the red dress. He sighed at her unrelenting beauty. Every day he’d watched her come down the steps with that little spring in her step then walk across the park and sit on the bench opposite his. She’d eat her lunch, read a book and then when her time was up, walk jauntily back into her building. That first falling leaf was a reminder that it would soon be too cold for lunch on the park bench and that would mean she would disappear indoors until spring.  She was his girl from Ipanema, every day when she walked to the sea she stared straight ahead not at he. Only she was walking to a park bench not the sea and this was Clapham not Rio. He was infatuated by her but she didn't even notice him as he ate his lunch on the bench opposite. She’d worn a range of dresses that summer but the red one was his favourite. It was the one that caught his eye way back in May when she had first made that journey across the park. Steve loved way it clung to her body as she walked, revealing her curves, then letting them go. He knew every curve, every contour of that body. He watched as she read her book, idly playing with a strand of hair that had fallen down over her face before nonchalantly tucking it back behind her ear. He saw her lip curve slightly up as something she read amused her, he smiled with her.
He longed to talk to her, it would be so easy, he had played it out so many times in his head; he would stride across the park full of confidence and sit on the bench next to her.  But even in his imagination when he opened his mouth in front of her, nothing came out. And what would he say, I’ve been watching you all summer? How creepy did that sound? But it was better than you're beautiful.
Suddenly Steve stood up, grabbed his jacket and started towards her bench. He didn’t know what had come over him, it was like he was being remote controlled, something in his brain had clicked; he was going to go and talk to her and nothing was going to stop him.  But his pace slowed as he walked along the path and the realisation of what he was doing dawned on him. Where he had started out marching he was now meandering. His real brain was fighting back against the imposter that had assumed control and made him leave the sanctuary of his bench. What the hell am I doing? he thought to himself, there’s no way I can talk to her, what was I thinking?
As he neared the girl his timid side was back in control, gone was the bravado, he no longer had the strength to talk to her, he knew he would just walk on by, go on a circuit of the park and go back to his office.
‘Excuse me’,  the soft almost childlike voice ferociously wrenched him from his thoughts like the harsh pull of a parachute. What? Who? Where? it couldn’t be could it? It was! He looked around and saw the oh so familiar girl in a red dress, she had spoken to him.  
He looked at her, she brushed her hair from her face in the way he had watched her do from afar so many times before,  there was something fragile in her gesture. She smiled a half-smile, Steve stood looking at her as if frozen by her voice; his brain was not firing synapses but firing blanks. 

She leant forward, he involuntarily jumped back, she smiled amused by his shyness, she held out her hand.
‘Can you look after this for me?’ she whispered, Steve looked down and saw a memory stick in her hand. Silently he reached forward and took it, their skin brushing, his head nodding dumbly.
‘Now go’ she said, still whispering but a steel in her voice. Steve meekly did as he was told, memory stick in hand, head racing with unanswered questions, heart beating with excitement. 

Part 2 

As Steve climbed the stairs to his office he paused a moment to look out over the park. His girl was still there her book resting on her lap, her head tilted toward the sun, eyes closed, a small smile on her lips. He twirled the stick in his hand as he watched her. She brushed that hair behind her ear again and Steve watched it fall straight back to where it was before. 

Steve thought nothing could tear his attention away from that beautiful vision but the screech of car brakes made him look round. Two men jumped out of the car in question and jog walked into the park in the way that only secret service men seem able to do. Steve knew what would happen next without having to watch. The two men made a beeline for the girl, they took an arm each and dragged her to the car, not violently but efficiently. 30 seconds maybe less, was all it took for his object of his desires to disappear. He twirled the stick in his fingers again wondering what the hell he had let himself into and went back to his desk.

 Steve’s desk seemed alien to him, his world had changed in one small moment. At once he was bemused and amused. She’d spoken to him, their hands had touched, she’d trusted him. She had noticed him. Questions swam around his head like goldfish in a bowl. What had made him get up and approach the girl? Why had she chosen him? What was on the stick? Should he look at it? What did the men want with her? Would they come after him now? Loads of questions no answers. He felt the pen drive in the zippo pocket of his jeans; maybe that contained all the answers, could he look at it? She'd said look after not look at.  He certainly couldn’t put it in the work computer in case someone else saw. He’d have to wait until he got home. But looking at it would mean knowing what she knew, and he didn't fancy Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith coming and dragging him off a park bench.  Uff he was getting a headache. 

He tried to concentrate on his work but that was impossible, so in the end he reached for his phone, called his boss and asked if he could leave early as he had a migraine coming on. As soon as the boss agreed, Steve was out of the door and on his way home. Questions still swimming, answers still missing. 

All the way home Steve debated with himself, should he or shouldn’t he? To look or not to look? But deep down inside he knew he would. He had to, it was the only way he would ever be able to unravel this mystery.  

Steve drew the curtains in his living room. He didn’t really know why but he kind of felt he had found himself in the middle of a film and had seen people do that in the movies. He took a deep breath and opened the folder.
There were two icons on the screen in front of him. A word document that was called ‘read me first’ and a folder simply called ‘New Folder’.  He did as he was told and opened the ‘read me first’ document.
‘I am writing to you because there is no one else I can trust. I think I can trust you because I know you like me. I’ve watched you watch me all summer. J
I also knew you’d look at what was on the stick. Don’t feel bad, it’s human nature.’ 

Steve blushed.

‘Feel free to open the folder but prepare to be shocked, I may not be what I seem.
I am in a little bit of trouble. I know they are coming for me today. On this disk is some very sensitive information about some very important and well-known people. This disk is my insurance. Please make a copy, keep this one and the copy in different places. Someone will come to collect one copy, they will give a password. The password is ‘The Red Dress is my favourite.’ I hope I will be released soon. When I am, I shall show my gratitude.’
Steve read the letter a couple of times. He wondered what she meant by ‘show her gratitude’. But he couldn’t waste time fantasising, he pulled open his desk draw and searched for a flash disk. He made a copy of what was on the original and then looked round for hiding places. He was no spy but he remembered that the electric socket in his bedroom was loose; there was room behind there. He wobbled it and worked a space to fit the memory stick in, then manoeuvred the socket back into place. That was one done but before he could hide the other one he needed to look at the ‘New Folder’. She said she wasn’t what she seemed but how bad could it be? 

Part 3 

How bad could it be he thought to himself again, but 12 minutes had passed and he still hasn't clicked on the folder. What could she be that would shock Steve? Maybe she was some kind of government assassin or scientist that had details of some kind of cover-up that she was blowing the whistle on. 
Or a plastic surgeon who operated on the rich and famous? No, for those goons to come and take her away like that it had to have something to do with national security. Maybe she was a spy, did they have spies anymore? A terrorist? There was only one way to find out and that was just a click away. 

Steve held his breath and clicked. He looked at the screen with his mouth open. There was a picture gallery of about 100 pictures. He opened a few.
In every picture there was a man and a woman, the woman was always the same, it was the girl from the park. But she was not in the flouncy summer dresses that had occupied his mind all summer but clad head to toe in leather and wearing the highest pointiest heels Steve had ever seen. He lips were painted bright read and were so stern and thin that Steve couldn’t believe they were the same lips that had smiled so gaily all summer.
He blinked to see if he was dreaming, his beautiful, fresh-faced fantasy dressed as a draconian dominatrix. She was certainly right; she certainly wasn’t what she seemed.

Every 6 or so pictures the man in the photo changed, but each time it made Steve’s jaw drop even further. Some were chained, some were on leads, some were dressed as school boys or babies but all of them were faces Steve recognised. They were all public figures, politicians, journalists, senior policemen. It was incredible. It was no wonder those men had come to take her away.

Steve closed the folder and out his head in his hands. What on earth had he let himself in for? Did he want to help this woman now? She certainly wasn’t what she seemed. Steve had imagined her life as being something from a tampon advert, in-line skating, playing with a cat, drinking with her friends, doing a nice sensible office job. But he’d obviously known nothing about her; he’d projected that life on to her and fallen in love with the girl in his imagination. That was not her fault; that was his.

He thought about what might happen next. They could come for him. If they did then they’d know about the memory stick, so no point pretending he didn’t have it. In fact feigning ignorance might be his best bet. He decided to make another copy of the content of the stick.
He had an idea; he burnt the content onto CD-Rom, then he found some cotton and hung the disk from a hook above the window. He’d been in flats with similar adornments and thought they were corny but he reckoned that the police would not figure a tacky decoration would be what they were looking for. He then put the original memory stick back in his pocket and made sure there was no trace of it on his computer.
The rest of the day Steve was restless, like he was waiting for a bus he knew was never going to come. He paced, he channel hopped, he picked at food, but he just couldn’t settle.
It was just before 10 when there was a knock on the door. He jumped, he’d been snoozing in his chair. He listened carefully, had he dreamt the knock? No there it was again, the moment of truth had arrived.

Part 4
Just as Steve was getting up to answer the door he heard an almighty clatter. Suddenly the place was full of men screaming and shouting, radios blaring, buzzing around like wasps in a beer garden. Their leader was one of the men that Steve had watched take away the girl away earlier that day.
He stood in front of Steve, arms crossed, assessing his quarry. Steve was tempted to say I’ve been expecting you like those bad guys in the Bond movies but he decided against it. Instead he put his hand out and said.
‘I guess you are looking for this?’ and proffered the memory stick to the man in black.
‘Let’s go in here.’ The man pushed Steve towards the kitchen while the other spooks continued to ransack the place.
‘Who are you?’ Steve asked surprisingly calm.
‘Never mind that?’ The voice oozed with arrogance.
‘Do you have a warrant?’
The man ignored the question and instead held up the memory stick?
‘Why did she give it to you?’
‘I don’t know.’ said Steve firmly, he was pleased with how strong his voice sounded; he did have a tendency to go high in times like this.
‘How do you know her?’
‘I don’t.’
‘So why did she give you the stick?’ there was a growing impatience in his voice.
‘I don’t know.’ Steve tried to keep his voice steady while trying to see if those searching had taken down the CD-ROM.
‘Did you look at it?’ The man waved the stick in Steve’s face.
‘No? C’mon, pretty girl gives you a memory stick and you don’t have a look-see?’ He pointed at Steve with the stick.
‘She told me to look after it, not look at it.’
‘So did you make a copy?’
‘No, I just put it in my trouser pocket expecting her to come and get it in a few days.’
The man scratched his chin and stared at Steve.
‘Why did you give it up so easily?’
‘Well where would I hide it? I guess you guys know all the nooks and crannies to look in. Just thought I’d save you the time and energy’
They sat in silence for a little, the man looking at Steve with suspicion. Just as it was getting uncomfortable another of the men in black came to the kitchen door.
The two of them spoke in hushed tones. Then his interrogator turned back to Steve.
‘Right, we’re out of here, but if you’ve been lying to us, they’ll be big trouble. Thanks for the stick.’ With that they were gone.

Steve felt strange, violated. Was this how people felt after a burglary? He walked through the house expecting the worse but he was amazed at how tidy it was; if he had been out he would never have known they were there. They had put things back in order immaculately; in fact if anything things were a bit tidier now then they had been before their visit. The disk was still hanging above the window and the electric socket looked untouched. It was just gone midnight but Steve was more wired than tired. He wondered where she was, what they were doing with her, what she was saying. How had they known about him? Where he lived?  

The next day on very little sleep Steve staggered to work. He didn’t want to go but he needed to be in the park at lunchtime; just in case. He hoped she’d be sitting there, so he could see she was okay, so that he could get an explanation but the bench was empty, the park was empty and no one approached him for the stick.

After work he took a look in her office building, but there were no clues to be found there. It housed a myriad of companies and without knowing her name he didn’t know where to start. He hadn’t even got going and he’d reached a dead end.

Part 5 

Autumn came and went in a blaze of colour cloaked in mist and drizzle. Everyday as Steve walked up the stairs to his office he looked out over the park hoping to see her sitting on her bench. It was too cold and wet to sit in the park at lunchtime but he still took a brisk walk every day in the hope someone would tap him on the shoulder and ask for the stick. He thought about that leaf that fell on the day she'd given him the stick, the first of many - they'd all fallen now, the trees were bare as was the park bench.

That morning was the first frost of winter and the grass was still white as he looked out over the park from his vantage point on the office stairs. He looked at the bench. There was a figure sitting there. It was her!
He bounded down the stairs across the road and into the gardens. She looked up and saw him coming. As he reached her he realised she was wearing the same summer dress that she was in the last time he had seen her. She was shivering like there was no tomorrow and if she sat there much longer there would be no tomorrow. He enveloped her in his arms; not the nervous, shy man of a few months ago but decisive acting on instinct. She was pale and cold and needed warmth, she said nothing, just sobbed, her nose running and teeth chattering.

Just over an hour later the girl was sitting on Steve’s sofa, cupping but not drinking a steaming hot mug of tea. Her hair was still wet from the shower and she was wrapped in a blanket. She hadn’t spoken since Steve had found her and had only just managed to control her breathing. Steve was on the phone to his boss explaining his sudden absence by claiming a violently upset stomach.

Steve sat opposite, watching her, waiting for her to speak. She was stunningly beautiful even in this state.  She sipped at her tea and smiled.
‘You look at the stick?’
Steve nodded.
‘I made it all up.’
Steve stared at her blankly, not comprehending.
‘I made it all up.’ she repeated her voice getting stronger.
‘So…’ but Steve was lost for words.
‘The photos are fake, photoshopped.’
Steve just stared.
‘It was a fantasy, an alter ego, a life I lived in my mind. Then I started to make it real by making photos, it was fun, silly, harmless fun.’
‘So the men in black?’
‘Well I showed the photos to a friend.’ Steve nodded ‘Unbeknown to me he posted some online, next thing I know I get a call from someone saying they are coming for me.’
Steve took in the news for a moment.
‘So why give me the stick?’
The girl was sitting up straight now, control back in her voice.
‘I just wanted to keep my work. Didn’t want them to delete all those photos. I’d slaved over them.’ Steve excused the pun.
‘I knew you liked me, you’d been watching me all summer. Thought you’d be safe.’ She smiled, Steve smiled back enchanted by her beauty.
‘I told them straight away it was a fake, but they didn’t believe me. They questioned me everyday. Where did I meet them? When? My answer was always the same, it’s all made up.’
Then today out of the blue they drove me back to the park and left me there.
Steve went over and put his arm around her, she snuggled into him. Something didn’t quite add up but for now Steve was just glad she was safe. 


  1. This is a great story and the first part is so poetic. Do you think you could record it?

  2. so what's the girl's name?

  3. I love this story :-)