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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

White Noise

4:10 is our favorite bit- the management
      Taylor Caussyn poured herself a cup of coffee from one of the staff room pots, made a few polite morning missives to her co-workers, and then retreated to her most isolated of offices. The J. Edgar Hoover Building, like most corporate edifices, was organized from top to bottom, highest to lowest with the Director’s office on the top floor and Taylor Caussyn buried so far below ground that she was outranked by the mechanical room and the expansive evidence storage facility that were located above her.
Her remote existence was the subject of rumors and playful banter for those who even knew that there was an office for the Anomalous Research of Criminology, or ARC.
            Where most office employees of any organization dreaded seeing ever-growing piles of work, Taylor, on this Monday morning, was delighted to see nearly thirty new files on her computer screen. She took one last sip of her coffee and dove in. The information in these files would fully consume her for the next three hours and her coffee would be ice cold before she returned to it. Despite her isolation, Taylor was probably the happiest and most engaged employee at FBI Headquarters.
            At around eleven o’clock, Taylor’s eyes narrowed and she began running a mental checklist on one particular case. “Random. Cause of death: gunshot to the throat causing him to bleed to death. Little thought given to disguising the shooter’s presence or intention. No identifiable suspects.” She leaned back in her chair, barely noticing when she spilled coffee onto her white shirtfront. She sat for a long moment, her eyes glued to the words in front of her while she considered her options. Finally, she shook her head, spilled a little more coffee on her shirt and dialed the number of her boss, biting her lip nervously as she did so.
Christie Steele was toe-to-toe with John “Bronco” Bestwick when her cell phone rang the first time. The three Iowa State Troopers were leaning against their cruisers were having difficulty containing their laughter as the five foot five FBI Analyst loudly and demonstrably interrogated Mr. Bestwick, a former offensive lineman for the Iowa State Cyclones.
            “There’s a dead man in that car and you don’t remember seeing anything?” Christie’s face was inches from his chest.
            “I guess so. I had a lot to drink.”
            “Eight hours ago that man was alive and you were sitting with him in that bar and now he’s dead. What did you talk about?”
            Bronco looked over at the three officers, his eyes pleading with them to offer him some sort of relief. The three officers’ smiles and a slight shrug of their shoulders confirmed for Bronco that he was on his own. “Sports?”
            The officers lost their composure and bent over in raucous laughter.
            Christie’s scowl turned darker and she turned to the men behind her,” I’m sorry, is something funny?”
The first of the men shook his head, “No, Ma’am.”
 “Good. I am an FBI Special Agent and if I don’t get your cooperation and attention than I will bring…obstruction charges against the three of you. Do you understand me?” Despite her anger, Christie was praying that her embarrassingly feeble threat would help make the officers respect her, despite her lie about being a Special Agent instead of the analyst that she actually was. It didn’t work. What did work however was the murder that shone from her eyes.
            “Ma’am, maybe you need to settle down.” one of the men offered, and somewhere inside Christie’s neck came very close to bursting.
“Settle down?” After seven years in the Bureau she had yet to hear any man speak to another man and use those words. She narrowed her eyes and smiled, “Mr. Jenkins, expect an official inquiry.” That did the trick. His eyes opened wide and he shut up.
 She turned her back on the crime scene and lifted her phone after it rang twice, “This better be fucking good, Taylor.”
            “Having a good day?”
             “I’m trapped in god knows where trying to communicate with three knuckle-draggers whose only connection with the intelligent world is their ability to pop a beer can, operate their zippers, and wear pressed uniforms with shiny badges.” she took a breath, “How do you think my day has been?”
            The three officers tipped their hats to Christie, but when she shot them another glance they hurried away. Bronco sighed and sat on the nose of his car with a look on his face just like a playground bully who had just been caught.
            “I’ve got another case for you. I think it’s promising,” said Taylor.
            “Where am I going?”
            “Just outside of Dayton, Ohio. I already booked your flight.”
            “Again? When was I last there?”
            “Approximately six months ago and then again six months before that.” Taylor frowned, “There definitely seems to be a pattern in the area.”
            “Thanks. Send me my boarding passes.”
            Christie leaned against the side of her rental car and watched the paramedics remove Robert Perkins body from the inside of his Chevy pickup. Perkins or ARC Case one hundred forty-six would bring Christie no closer to proving her theory. For a moment, she lost focus and indulged in self-pity. The thought that seeped into her mind was one she had had many times before, ‘Why did I write that program?’
            The slam of the pickup’s door broke Christie’s self-indulgent musings and she focused once again on the crime scene at hand. Robert Perkins’ death was an obvious homicide: a drunken Perkins had left the bar, started the engine of his truck, and lit a cigarette. Within a few minutes he fell asleep for the last time, since someone had connected one end of a hose to the exhaust pipe and then put the other end through a small opening the murderer had created in the molding surrounding the back window of the cab. Perkins died within minutes and the simplicity of the crime didn’t raise anyone’s suspicions even if they walked right past the truck.
Perkins was an alcoholic and a degenerate gambler: he was thousands of dollars behind in child support mainly because he was not only unemployed but also a lousy poker player.
This was a classic ARC case: Perkins had died suddenly in a public place with dozens of witnesses who hadn’t realized that there was anything out of the ordinary. The family members or relatives who were most affected by Perkins’ shiftless behaviors had motivation to commit the crime but they simply weren’t suspects, no matter how much they hated him, simply because the nearest one was over a hundred miles away at the time and had no connections to anyone in the town.
Christie knew that she could spend a few days in Iowa but she would learn no more than she already knew, so she called Taylor back. “Put another pin in the bulletin board for the Perkins case, and lets leave the rest to these fine gentlemen in blue.” she said ‘fine gentlemen’ in the same way that someone would say ‘dog shit,’ “I’m on my way to Ohio. Maybe we’ll catch a break there.”
She hung up, and Taylor returned to her computer, casually browsing her emails when she suddenly stopped dead and clicked on a very important internal email labeled “department review.” It wasn’t until she had scanned two thirds of the way through it that Taylor realized that it was from the director, and that he was demanding to see Christie. The meeting had been scheduled to begin roughly thirty minutes before Taylor had found the email. She swore, grabbed her blazer and ran out of the office.
            Tom Franks, the director of the FBI, valedictorian from Harvard University in Criminal Psychology, recipient of the FBI’s Meritorious Achievement, the Shield of Bravery and the FBI Star for being shot in the throat by a drug mule, sat angrily behind his desk, staring across the gleaming mahogany at the empty chair across from him.  He had been waiting since nine thirty for his meeting with the head of the ARC department, Special Agent Christie Steele, and although it was now ten o’clock, he had not so much as received a memo about her absence.
            He was just about to angrily take a late lunch when the door to his office slid open and a shame-faced woman in wrinkled slacks and coke-bottle glasses poked her head around the door, “Director Franks?”
            “That’s the name on the door. Who the hell are you?” Director Franks’ left eye was twitching lightly, the way it always did when he was about to lose his temper.
            “I am Agent Taylor Caussyn. I am the Deputy Director of the Department of Anomalous Research of Criminology.”
            “Ah. The Deputy Director of ARC has seen fit to grace my presence in the place of her Director half-an-hour after we were supposed to meet. I’ll be sure to mention that to both the Finance Division and HR when we have our quarterly meeting.”
            Taylor paled, and ran a hand through her tangled curly hair, which made it stick out from the top of her head even more. She somewhat resembled a dandelion spore in a business suit, and Director Franks couldn’t help but smile slightly, “Sit down.”
            She hurried over to the chair, and set down a briefcase by her feet, “I’m so sorry for the delay. There was some mix-up over our schedule.”
            “Where is Special Agent Steele?” Director Franks shifted in his chair so that he could see Taylor’s face better.
            “Um…she sends her profound apologies. She authorized me to answer any questions you may have and to explain what we do.”
            “That would be helpful. Understand, though, that as I am the director of the entirety of the FBI, Special Agent Steele is not the person to give that authorization.”
            “I understand, sir.” Taylor took a deep breath, “Now, about our department. We were put together two years ago as a sort of blend between the Cyber Division and the Criminal Investigative Division, and as such we answer directly to the Executive Assistant Director for Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.”
            “I know that.” Director Ford interrupted, “I have seen your pay stubs. What is it that you do, Agent Caussyn?”
She fiddled with the hem of her shirt, “We investigate a specialized series of events, sir.” Director Ford just stared at her with an impatient look on his face so she swallowed hard and went on, “Two years ago, Special Agent Steele created a particular program…we investigate a specialized series of events, sir.” Director Franks stared at her with an impatient look so she swallowed hard and went on, “Two years ago, Special Agent Steele created a unique program…but you already knew that. What you probably don’t know is just what that program does. Director Franks, how many crimes are currently being committed in the U.S right now?”
“As we speak, on average how many crimes happen every hour?”
“I have no idea. A lot.”
“That is quite an understatement. According to our own numbers, there is one violent crime every six seconds, a murder every thirty two seconds, a robbery every fifty seven seconds, an assault every seven seconds, a theft every two seconds, a rape every two minutes-“
“Yes, thank you. I get it. What does this have to do with Agent Steele’s program?”
“With this volume of crimes every day, it is easy to be so overwhelmed as to not see a pattern within them if there is one. Special Agent Steele’s program tracks these crimes and searches for anomalous coincidences. Basically, it tells us if any of these crimes are connected.”
The director’s face was impassive, but his voice held a strange edge to it, “The connections would be very weak if there were any. I really fail to see the practical application-“
“The computer can catch what human investigators cannot. We would be able to judge and predict the most subtle of connections that could potentially help us prevent terrorist attacks, discover sleeper cells and catch serial killers with no M.O.” Taylor’s eyes were bright with excitement, “The applications, director, are endless. We received information yesterday about another related case taking place in Xenia, Ohio. Agent Steele went there personally to investigate-“
            “What?” Director Franks interrupted, his eyes suddenly wide, “She went there herself? I know I do not have to remind you that she is an analyst, not a field grunt!”
            “I understand, sir, but she insisted-“
            “She insisted? Jesus Christ, Agent Caussyn! Even if she finds what she is looking for there, that is gross misconduct and she will probably lawfully lose any evidence she gathers because of it!” His face turned bright red and Taylor was suddenly afraid for the well-being of the top button of its shirt as it strained valiantly to keep from bursting free.
            “I will call her back in, Director-“
            “Damn straight you will, but I doubt she’ll listen.” He stood up and paced restlessly, “I’m sending someone after her, and when she gets back here she’ll be lucky if she keeps her badge.”
            He glanced over to where Taylor had shrank back into her chair far enough that it looked like she was trying to merge with the cheap upholstery. He took a deep breath just as his button gave up the ghost and clattered to the floor, “Get back to work, Agent Caussyn. Expect an audit by the end of the month.” She nodded silently and hurried out.
            Franks snatched up the phone on his desk and stabbed at the numbers until he heard a quiet voice on the other end, “Agent Thomas.”
            “Thomas, how do you like Ohio this time of year?”


1 comment:

  1. You guys are hilarious! The music is super funny if you understand anything about film theory.