Chaos is the fuel that feeds the ignorant.
A government employee believes he is more powerful than his reality dictates. When you pit one government against another, the chaos expands exponentially.
My powers emerge not because I am stronger than any government. My authority is derived inversely to what they lose by bickering amongst themselves. Their anger with the other destroys their ability to focus on me. Thus, as they weaken, I become stronger.
Returning from San Francisco, Ben was dripping from the rain when he ran into the buzzing police station. He went immediately to Captain Black’s office, where he was surrounded by the captain and several unfamiliar, yet official-looking men. None of the men seemed very happy when he entered. The perpetual scowl on the captain’s face was similar to the one the man normally wore, only deeper. Without introductions, the captain said, “Give us your update.”
Step by step, Ben poured through the meeting he had had with Arthur and Sharon Douglas. No one said a word until he was finished. The first to speak was Bill Anderson, a short, husky man who looked as if he received his fashion designs from the old TV character, Columbo. Anderson introduced himself as the lead detective of the SFPD assigned to the Amanda Douglas case.
“First, let me make something perfectly clear. It really pisses me off that you would go and speak to the Douglases without at least giving me the courtesy of a call. No matter how important the information, at the very least, I deserved that from this office. I have worked on this case for two years and have busted my ass trying to solve it. And now you guys get some crackpot sending you a message, and you just waltz in thinking you can take over. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.” Anderson’s face was getting red, and his voice ended an octave higher than when he started.
Willie Mason, Anderson’s SFPD counterpart from homicide, was taller and thinner, looking like someone who believed in dressing sharp. We wore a charcoal gray wool suit, stylishly suitable for the winter weather, with a bright red tie.
“As I am sure everybody here realizes,” Mason began, “the disappearance of a child is a very emotional experience for anyone associated with the case. Bill and I talked at length about what the captain told us over the phone, and to be honest, we don’t like where this is heading. However, we’ve agreed that we should state our positions about the matter and then do whatever’s necessary to help the Douglas family get their daughter back. Above all else, that is the most important issue here. The second most important thing is to catch the son-of-a-bitch that did this to them. We have agreed that if Detective Simeon is to be the lead on this case, then so be it. We’ll help in any way we can. And detective?” He looked into Ben’s eyes. “We don’t know all that much about you, so I hope to hell you have some sort of idea what the fuck you’re doing. This asshole, Mr. Smith, is going to ream you any way he can, and you won’t even get a kiss. Your career and maybe your life are at stake here.”
“Well I, for one, appreciate your little speeches, gentlemen.”
That was coming from FBI Special Agent Walter Conley. Special Agent Conley was your stereotypical poster-boy FBI agent. He wore the black polyester suit and dark sunglasses…even though he was indoors and it was raining outside.
“Let’s get a few things straight right now,” Conley said. “The FBI, at present, has no jurisdiction in this case because it is considered a local matter. We are here only because Captain Black asked us to come and listen to what was going on and offer any support we can for now. However, should the letter be accurate and the people involved indeed spread over several states, we will take over this case. And then we will dictate your actions. Frankly, I think if you follow through with this crackpot’s demands, you are going to be setting yourselves up for a lot of hoops to jump through without much information to help you catch the man, and you will be setting up yourself and your respective departments for lawsuits. It is my opinion, and that of my partner, Special Agent Richard Smythe—“he looked toward the other suit sitting next to him, “that you avoid playing this guy’s game.” He paused for effect. “However, as I said before, for now we’re only here as observers and to support you folks any way we can.”
From personal experience, Ben couldn’t help but feel disdain for the FBI. Their manners were crass and their attitudes condescending. He understood the SFPD’s position. He’d feel the same if the shoe were on the other foot. But none of this mattered. It was his contention that no matter what any of them said, neither he nor his suited cohorts would be in control any time soon.
Captain Black finally spoke. “For now, we have to keep a lid on this. If word gets out to the press, it will cause us a shitload of trouble. We have to consider what we know, not what someone may or may not do about people we don’t have an idea about. Ben, at least for now, I want you to spend some time with detectives Anderson and Mason and have them bring you up to speed on the Douglas case. I will bring the DA up to speed and get them in the loop. If we are looking at the possibility of legal actions against us, I want them in on this ASAP Agent Conley, if you could—“
The door opened, and Sue Garrison poked her head in the door.
“Sorry for the interruption, Captain, but there is an urgent phone call for Detective Simeon. I tried to take a message, but he said that it was about Amanda Douglas.”
“Who is it?” Ben asked.
“It’s John Abernathy, the station director from KRIC-TV. He said he got a message from somebody by the name of Smith and that you would want—sorry, you would need—this information in your meeting. He’s on line three.”
“Jesus Christ,” the captain said.
Sue Garrison waited for a response.
“He’s not wasting any time making up our minds, is he?”
Ben’s eyes met Sue’s. He gave her a nod that said, “Thanks, I’ll take the call. I appreciate you coming in here risking the captain’s wrath. I’ll bring you up to speed as soon as I can.”
She gave him only the slightest of smiles and closed the door.
Captain Black punched the button on the speakerphone. “This is Captain Donald Black,” he said in a gruff voice. “How can we help you, Mr. Abernathy?”
For reasons appreciated by many police personnel, the captain had considerable disregard for the media. On more than one occasion, he had said he thought of them as being little better than the Ebola virus. He once said, “They rank somewhere between the snot running from a kid’s nose and the gum that gets stuck on the bottom of your shoes.” Ben smiled to himself as he remembered the conversation.
“Well frankly, Captain, I was hoping to speak to Detective Simeon,” Abernathy pushed. “Actually, it’s more like I was instructed to speak with the detective. I got this letter about the abduction and murder of Amanda Douglas from some guy who calls himself Mr. Smith. Is the detective around? I need to ask him a few questions.”
“Detective Simeon is right here,” the captain said, not volunteering any information about the rest of those present. “You can talk to him as soon as you tell us what letter you’re referring to.”
“This afternoon I had a letter dropped off at my desk, telling me about this missing person, Amanda Douglas. Mr. Smith said that Detective Simeon was notified that the girl is now dead and that I’m to run an introduction for him this evening confirming everything that was given to Simeon. He said that the police were instructed to follow his rules and that if you complied, he would reveal the location of her body. I’m calling to confirm the information.”
“Mr. Abernathy, could you hold on for just a minute?”
Without waiting for an acknowledgement, the captain cut off the connection.
“Well, isn’t this just fucking grand,” the captain said to no one in particular. “It looks to me that our Mr. Smith isn’t going to wait for us to decide how, or if, we want to play his game. He is going to force us to talk whether we want to or not.” He paused for a moment then looked to his detective. “Ben, are you ready for this? Do you realize that if you take this on you’re going to be looked at under a microscope? I don’t normally give someone an out, but the way this thing is stacking up, I think maybe I should considering your just getting back on duty. Do you really know what the hell you’ll be getting into? Do you even want this case? I’m not bullshitting you here. This thing can get out of control real fast.” With some hesitation he added, “In more ways than one.”
“Captain,” Ben began, “to be honest with you, I have no clue what I’m getting in to. I know for a fact that I don’t know what this is all about. What I will tell you is that, for some reason, this asshole wants me to run with the case. He wants me to fall flat on my face and fail. He’s arrogant and thinks that he’s smarter than all of us put together. Well he’s not. Ben took a short breath. “Yes, I want this case. I want this son of a bitch in the worst way. I haven’t worked my ass off all these years to be made a fool. I’ll play his game and I’ll beat him. I don’t know how, but I’ll find him and stop him. I just can’t do it alone.”
He lowered his head, knowing deep down that his words sounded a lot more confident than he felt at that moment.
“Okay then,” the captain said, “Talk to Mr. Abernathy. And let the games begin.”