Chapter Eleven

Day 11

The Mail on Sunday

June 23, 2021

The net closes in on Chinese ‘spies’ in UK universities where academics are suspected of passing pioneering British technology to Beijing

A high-level probe into Chinese ‘spies’ working in British universities could lead to arrests within weeks, The Mail on Sunday has been told.

Specialists at the Foreign Office, Special Branch and HMRC have drawn up a list of academics suspected of passing sensitive information to Beijing, including pioneering British technology that could be used to aid the repression of minorities and dissidents.

Investigators are understood to have ‘established a correlation’ between universities which earn significant income from students from China and the activities of staff which have prompted suspicion.

Universities under scrutiny include Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Imperial College, which earn 26/28 per cent of their income from students from China as against Oxford and Cambridge (10 per cent). 

There is no suggestion any of the institutions are aware of, or complicit in, any wrongdoing.

Last year it was revealed that a third of non-EU university students in the UK come from China, with 120,000 paying a total of £2.1 billion in fees. The investigation was launched amid fears academics were engaged in a ‘gold rush’ to strike deals with the Communist state over scientific breakthroughs.

Naomi Richards

Day 14

It is my first exhibition for some time. I have eight canvasses showing at The Atkinson gallery in Southport, which is around twenty miles from Liverpool. It’s a good gallery with plenty of footfall and quite a few tourists in the summer months. There are ten of us showing work, mostly with an urban theme and abstract in style. Altogether, there are eighty canvasses so there really is something for everyone.

   Although art is my first love, it is difficult to make a living from it unless you get ‘noticed’ by the art intelligentsia, so it is heavily subsidised by my psychic abilities which is what really pays the rent.

   I am Naomi Richards and I am 29 years old. I began my professional life as a teacher, happily married – or so I thought – living in suburban obscurity with my life mapped out for me. But within me was something I had managed to suppress since I was a little girl which was an ability that at first used to terrify me and my parents. I ‘saw’ people who weren’t there, heard voices giving me messages and I ‘knew’ when things were going to happen.

   At first, I couldn’t understand why my mum and dad were frightened of me. I was dragged around to doctors and psychiatrists who could find nothing wrong with me. I gradually realised, as I grew up, that it was sensible to keep my mouth shut. My mum and dad began to relax and treat me like a normal little girl. But I knew I wasn’t. I just kept the visions and messages to myself.

   Among my capabilities was, and still is, the ability to ‘read’ people. By that I mean I instinctively know if someone is dishonest or lying. I also sense when someone is in trouble. I tried to tell people what I ‘saw’ or ‘knew’ but I gave that up when I saw fear in their eyes, and I once overheard somebody calling me a freak.

   But I am not a freak. To me what I do is completely natural. Yes, I spent a lot of the time being frightened of the things I saw and heard but now I understand it, I simply treat it as an ability that few other people have.

   The other day when I was introduced to Maggie (I forget her surname) I saw death, but I could not tell whether it was in the past or yet to come or for that matter if it was her death or somebody else’s. If I meet her again, and I am sure I will, it may become clearer. I simply told her to be careful where she went because I had a feeling that something was going to happen to her and soon too.

   For some strange reason I can’t get her out of my mind and I’m not exactly sure why. It must have something to do with the strong psychic message I was getting from her. There is undoubtedly a darkness about her which scared me a little.

   Anyway, I am no longer happily married, or in my case unhappily married. I knew he was cheating on me long before I squeezed it out of him, and I no longer live in leafy suburbia. I am now a city girl with an apartment in Rodney Street in the centre of Liverpool, a stone’s throw away from Liverpool’s spectacular Anglican cathedral. I am not on the ground floor where many of the expensive consultants and doctors hang out. No, I am on the first floor, up two flights of stairs. But hey, it’s Rodney Street. What’s not to like?

   And I no longer teach either. I gave that up after I divorced. I decided my future lay in a different direction and I learned to use my abilities to help people, even the Police from time-to-time. My two most famous cases recently were the HAARP conspiracy a few years ago and the unmasking of my friend Joy Davis’s would-be murderer more recently. Only yesterday, I found a cutting about me from the time and saw, with some amusement, that I was described as ‘a striking, slender woman, around 5ft 8in tall with casual, shoulder-length blonde hair surrounding a serious face and two brown eyes.’

   So, it is my psychic abilities that earns me my living with art providing the luxuries. It is also something I enjoy immensely which is why I am savouring tonight with people taking my work seriously

   I am at the private view of our show when invited guests and potential buyers (hopefully!) are invited to a late opening and offered a glass of (cheap!) wine to assist them in their deliberations.

   It is becoming quite crowded and I have already been approached by three people wanting to talk about my work. I really enjoy these sessions, listening to the interactions and comments of people, even if I must give a sensible answer, now and then, to the inevitable ‘what does it mean’ question. I like to respond to this in the same way as sculptor Sir Anthony Caro did when interviewed on the BBC years ago in a discussion about his work and life. He had been standing in front of one of his pieces – an assemblage of metal using ‘found’ industrial objects – and the presenter had asked that very same question.

   Sir Anthony had responded by saying that whatever he had intended when he created it was irrelevant. What matters is what it means to the viewer and with that he had stared icily at the presenter, inviting him to comment. It was a good answer and is one I always use now because it is indeed true. A work of art can have different meanings to different people, whatever the artist may have intended.

   Anyway, I have been having a chat to a couple of potential buyers now I think it is high time I had a glass in my hand before my friend Joe Halsall gets here because that is the first thing he will do!

   A fewI walk slowly back along the gallery and at the other end I spot two elderly women talking earnestly to each other and glancing in my direction. They look completely out of place in their shabby clothes and I wonder why they keep looking at me. Nobody else is taking any notice of them. It’s as if they aren’t there.

   Then I suddenly stop. Of course I know them. They are two aunts of mine who lived together for years and who were always kind to me as a little girl. What puzzles me is what are they doing here? And even more importantly, why are they here?

   Because they have both been dead for ten years.

   As I stare, one of them turns and smiles at me. I smile back a little uncertainly. I am not sure what I am supposed to do and just then Joe turns up.

   ‘What are you staring at?’ he asks looking in the same direction but seeing nothing.

   ‘Two favourite aunts of mine,’ I say thoughtfully.

   ‘Where are they?’ he asks looking around.

   I turn to look at him with a half-smile. ‘They’ve been dead for years. I wonder why they have decided to visit me now?’

   ‘Jesus Naomi. You are the bloody end sometime. I would hate to be with you in a cemetery on a dark night.’

   ‘What did you make of Maggie the other day?’ I say, changing the subject and wanting to steer clear the topic of graveyards.

   He grimaces. ‘A pretty cool lady I thought. Easy to talk to. I’m looking forward to being one of her post-grad students.’ He grins lasciviously.

   I study him. ‘Be careful Joe,’ I say. ‘There is something about her that makes me uneasy.’

   ‘I think you’re over-reacting. She knows her stuff and she’s popular with the undergrads. She knows how to put it over. She’s never boring or tedious at lectures. You can tell she’s passionate about her subjects.’

   I tell him that I don’t doubt it. Her abilities have little to do with her private life and at the risk of being somewhat cynical, I daresay her looks may well have something to do with her popularity but I don’t say that to him. I simply tell him not to become involved.

   I can tell from the slight smile on his face that he thinks I am being influenced by her looks and figure but I am not.

  It is the aura of death about her that scares me.

Published by pod1942

I am a cereer journalist having worked for the London Dail Mail, Reuters and latterly the Liverpool Daily Post on Merseyside as well as the journalists’ leader in the region. I have experience as a crime reporter, feature writer, business editor and latterly, a senior sub-editor. My qualifications include a BA (Hons) English, from the University of Liverpool; a BA (Hons) Fine Art and an MA in Creative Practice both from Liverpool Hope University. I now divide my time between art and writing. I will shortly be publishing my first full-length novel, The Poseidon Files and as a taster I have written a short story which features the same central female character in which she talks about her world and her life. It is, however, essentially a ghost story.

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