bark, bark, bark, bark, bark

Barking Up The Right Tree

The office supplies are neatly piled in the corner of the freshly painted office. Amongst the chaos, a computer, fax machine, file cabinets, copier and as much stolen office supplies as one could possibly steal over three months lay neatly in an impressive pyramid of cardboard boxes. The state’s newest private investigator, Catherine Bethesda Jones, was quickly off-loading all her clerical treasures into the office, trying to strike some semblance of order. Once completed with her task, she sat on a stack of fax paper and marveled at her industriousness. From a distance, she looked like she was building a fort out of office supplies and she scampered from one side of the pile to another, consolidating her empire and congratulating herself for a job well done.

Catherine Bethesda "CB" Jones was a recently retired twenty-year veteran of the city police force and was known amongst her fellow cops as a solid but lucky peace officer. Initially, she discounted the luck for well-disguised police work, but as the years went on, even she couldn’t help become impressed with her fascinating and significant run of luck. In a five-year period, she was involved in six separate auto accidents with her police cruiser with wanted felons. After the first five felons were apprehended at the accident scene, her sixth victim was actually detained for several hours, for no legitimate reason except for the respect to her streak. And no one was surprised that two hours after placing the accident victim in administrative lock up, federal firearms warrant surfaced with this man’s face on it. CB had also collided unknowingly with two well-armed bank robbers while walking to work, inadvertently incapacitating both of them until the police arrived on the scene. Finally, once on her vacation, she discovered a recent kidnap victim being held hostage in a storage locker. She mistakenly tried to open a locker, thinking it was hers, and demanding the proprietor to cut the lock. CB’s temper and badge was all the manager of the mini-warehouse needed to acquiesce. In fact, she had discovered the victim even before the kidnappers had made their initial phone call to the family.

One aspect that was overlooked constantly due to her well-documented lucky streak, CB was unfortunately lazy to a fault. She hated chasing criminals, she hated stakeouts and she hated the third shift. Small in stature, CB would take every opportunity to sneak away to grab a catnap or to relax. She didn’t abuse her duties, as she was a loyal cop, but she knew when things were usually wastes of time and she would react accordingly. There were a lot of things one could say about Catherine Bethesda Jones but she wasn’t stupid or a bad cop but the combination of her distaste for hard work and her luck made her unique amongst her peers. The lucky coincidences followed her so tightly that in retrospect; her true abilities never were fully brought to the surface due to the fact that she usually unwittingly solved the crime before the actual police work happened. She always had the right answer, but rarely showed her work. All in all, that was fine with both the force and Catherine Bethesda Jones.

Over the years, she was a media darling with her long strings of impressive collars and police acumen. The print media especially played up her accomplishments and she found herself a local celebrity; a cross between Batgirl and the Amazing Kreskin. Her twenty years on the job saw her receive regular promotions and since she was a cop before court-ordered gender equity, she was considered one of the guys and was rarely singled out by her peers as anything other than a cop. At twenty years however, she was eligible for an early retirement and chose to take it. The world of private investigation was better suited to her; she would make her own hours and not be pressured into uniform compliance. As a PI, she would take the cases she wanted to take and at worst, she could get by on her investments. Way down deep, she really didn’t care if she worked or not but decided to give people the impression that success was actually her goal. It always was a big time saver for her if people were assuming her motives and she saw the efficiency in the situation and let it go.

The phone rang and CB reached over the case of post-it notes stolen from the Accounting Department and answered the phone.

"CB Jones, Private Investigations," she said with a cool tone, "May I help you?"

"Ms. Jones?" said the voice, "I want to know if you will help me find my son?"

"Depends," said CB, "Where is he supposed to be?"

"In town," said the motherly voice, "I am worried."

"What is the problem, specifically?" asked CB, "I mean, is there something bad going on? Drugs? Are you worried for his safety?"

"I am worried about everything," said the mother.

By now, CB had grown tired of pleasant customer service and asked her for his vitals: name, physical description, known hangouts, friends and related information. After copying down the descriptions, CB told her she would get back to her as soon as possible.

She was sitting on the floor in her yet-to-be unpacked office and was rethinking why she decided to give up her safe civil service gig for the unknown pay for services world. She grabbed a case lot of legal pads, stolen from the city attorney’s office and peeled off a pad. She wrote his name and the case details on the top of the first page and began drawing arrows to the different bits of information that was harvested from the almost useless talk of this kid’s mother.

"If I had her for a mother," thought CB, "I would probably take off too."

She was planning on calling a contact in the Missing Persons department and requesting he run this kid’s name through the intake process. If he was found dead or if a warrant was active, he would show up there. She really didn’t wish anything horrible to happen to the kid but she wanted some clues. Time passed and CB lost some interest in the urgency so she began to unpack other boxes while she thought about her next move.

The phone rang about an hour and a half later.

"CB Jones, Private Investigations," she said, "May I help you?"

It was the mother.

"Thank you, thank you!" screamed the mother, "He’s home and he is fine!"

CB just listened and didn’t know what to say.

The mother asked, "How much do I owe you?"

CB thought for a moment and said, "Two hundred dollars."

The mother said, "Best deal I have ever made. I am putting a check in the mail right now."

And hung up.

CB thought this was a pretty good gig so far and went back unpacking her boxes. The phone did not ring any more that day and CB had time to organize her life. She began wondering how the mother got her number because it wasn’t yet listed and the Yellow Pages were at least six months away. She didn’t dwell on that too long because she was concentrating on her organization of her office because the door would be lettered in the morning and potential foot traffic would arrive soon afterwards. She was located near City Hall and the sheer volume of pedestrians would cause at least the random drop-in visitor; whether they are new clients or curious ignorance. The place was finally presentable and she viewed it as a good day. She had made her nut that day and that was with sheer luck, a concept she which she was comfortable.

The next day brought CB into the office early. She hadn’t decided on how to manage the office; whether to hire an administrative assistant to answer phones and manage the business or just go it alone. She had always worked within large precincts and there were always people around to do things, with her and for her. As the years went on, her seniority in the force allowed her to avoid all types of mundane tasks from canvassing witnesses to cataloguing evidence. She liked the ability to come and go so the idea of being chained to a desk, even if it was her desk, didn’t do much to excite her. In the start-up phase, she knew that she would have to do everything but she wasn’t looking forward to it but if yesterday was any indication of how Private Investigators made money, it wouldn’t be that hard.

She spent the morning filing and organizing her manuals that she accumulated over the years of forced continuing education classes. She had crates of these large three-ring binders with bold titles on their spine that could fill up the bookcases that she had stolen from central supply. She had a friend that worked there and arranged a delivery of a dozen matching bookcases from the main inventory department. The value of the cases was secondary and they were happy to get rid of them. Everybody benefited from the creative transfer except the taxpayer but CB viewed it as some additional compensation that she had richly deserved and justified. The morning was over and CB seemed pleased to be getting into the secondary piles of stuff and took some extra time to organize the binders by color and size. She hadn’t cracked the binders since she left the class, usually earlier than required, so the chances of her needing some obscure passage in one of the books were rare but she loved the way they looked all lined up in the book shelves.

After a quick lunch at the diner in the basement of her building, CB arrived back at her office and noticed an older man waiting by the door.

"Hello," said CB, not wanting to be impolite.

"Hello," said the man, "Are you Catherine Jones? The private investigator?"

"Yes, I am," said Catherine Bethesda Jones, "how did you know that?"

"It is on your door," responded the man, as he pointed out the freshly lettered door with a sense of polite bewilderment.

CB looked at the door and was surprised to see "Catherine Bethesda Jones, Private Investigator," emblazoned on the door in powerful, gold letters. The lettering must have happened when she was at lunch or at least, she hoped it happened at lunch versus while she in the office. Her demonstrating a capacity of being completely oblivious to a painter who had to be making some noise wasn’t exactly a sign of investigative prowess so she changed the subject before the man connected the dots.

"Come in," said Catherine, "have a seat and tell me what I can do for you."

The man took a chair, one of the ones CB had stolen from a recently closed precinct’s break room. He took off his suit jacket, sat down and began to talk. The man’s name was Alan Albright and he was leaving his Accountant’s office next door when he saw her door. Evidentially, Alan’s business associate was embezzling significant amounts of company funds through a series of petty accounting frauds. The most common one was the issuance of checks to pay for fictitious invoices which were paid and then, when the checks came back after payment, were destroyed. He wasn’t sure how long this was going on but after a long period of confusion; he had hired his corporate accountant to conduct an after-hours audit. After the audit was complete, he had the accountant come into the office during the associate’s vacation and confirm that he was stealing significant amounts of money.

When he was done with the story, CB paused and said, "You likely have a case for fraud, embezzlement and if you are lucky, you might have mail fraud and tax evasion."

"That is enough," said Alan, "but I want to make sure about it without bringing in the authorities. I have known this person for over twenty years and our wives are very close. I need someone who can put together a case quietly and bring it to the police in one neat box."

"You want me to do the police’s job for them?" asked CB.

"Yes," said Alan Albright, the world’s most inept supervisor, "make it open and shut."

CB started thinking what she had to do to bring this case to a District Attorney. She would have to put this guy under surveillance, go through his garbage, pull a few strings at the bank to find his shadow accounts and generally, work a fair amount to put this guy away. She hated sneaking around night, touching old skanky foodstuffs and dealing with other people’s used trash. Her ass began to ache with a slow, steady pace.

"It will take a few days to get everything," reacted CB, "the more time, the more stuff I can get."

"I don’t care how long it takes," said Alan, "just make it open and shut."

They shook hands and Alan gave her a thousand-dollar check from his personal account for starters. She had not given him a price range or an estimate of time but the thousand dollars was a good start. He gave her some personal effects including a rough intiniary of his schedule, some pictures and some suggestions of where to start looking. They shook hands again and the door closed behind him.

CB sat at her desk for a few moments and decided she was going to make an effort to bring this guy down. Alan was right about an open and shut case because the television cops are a lot different from the real life cops. Too often, viewers see policeman solve several crimes in an hour drama and still have plenty of time to act dramatic and still provide some comic relief. In the real world, cops are swimming in paperwork and hundreds of open cases. No cases take precedent over the next and one rich guy complaining about another rich guy usually doesn’t get a lot of action. She will get the goods, as legally as she could, and make a call to one of her detective friends. They loved getting cases all set to go; it increased their personal metrics by opening and closing a case quickly and a sure conviction also helped their averages. She decided to take a walk and see if she could at least eyeball the guy. She grabbed her utility bag, which looked like a big purse, which held her camera, cell phone, binoculars, general forensic equipment as well as all the traditional purse supplies. She liked the bad because it could hold everything she needed without having to endure the matchy-matchy requirement of an actual accessory.

She walked down the street towards Alan’s office and was amazed to see the guy, walking out of the building with two large legal briefcases. He was hunkered down with the two cases and he whistled for a cab. CB got into a cab right behind him and uttered the most famous detective phrase in the world:

"Hey Pal, follow that cab," she said proudly.

"Who are you, Mrs. Columbo?" said the cab driver with a smile.

"Nope," said CB, "Just trying to earn a buck."

"Fair enough," said the cabbie, "do you want to know where that cab is going without having to undergo all these dramatics?"

"Sure," said CB, "how do we do that?"

"All it takes is his cab number and a radio call," said the cab driver, "Let me show you. Both of us work for the same company"

He grabbed his radio and asked the dispatcher for the destination of the cab they were following. He got the address and said, "Instead of following the cab, why don’t you get there before they do?"

"Fine with me," said CB, "That works."

The cabbie smiled and passed the cab quickly on the right side. He hit a few yellow lights and easily put some distance between the two cabs. A few quick turns and CB got to an industrial area with several great points of observation. CB tossed the cabbie two twenty-dollar bills for the five-dollar cab ride and thanked him. The cabbie said he would return in a half-hour and with that, took off and disappeared around a corner. From her vantage point, she enjoyed a great view of a long line of garbage dumpsters; all lined up like a fleet of tanks. About five minutes later, the first taxi appeared and slowed down in front of the dumpsters. The crooked associate got out of the cab and threw both cases into the dumpsters and got back into the cab. There was a brief pause and the cab zoomed around the corner, just like hers. She had taken numerous pictures showing the man with the satchels coming out of the cab, disposing of the satchels and getting back in the car.

CB bounded to the dumpster and took a ladder and peered in the dumpster. The dumpster appeared to be on a track and it appeared that when activated, would follow along a track directly into an incinerator. There was nothing like that going on so CB sat on the dumpster’s edge and swung the ladder around and into the almost empty dumpster. She climbed down in, grabbed both cases and reversed her entry out of the dumpster and returned to her hiding place. She got out a pair of rubber gloves from the stash she stole from pathology and got comfortable and started looking carefully through the cases. Everything she wanted was in there: complete annual ledgers, original cancelled checks, computer disks and copies of account balances. She kept thumbing through the files when the car’s horn startled her.

"Hey, Mrs. Columbo," shouted the cabbie, "Time to go home?"

"Absolutely," said the amazed investigator, "absolutely."

She went back to her office and started to look through the cases. Everything was there and much more. It appeared to be everything that had occurred since the start of the embezzlement and the evidence was completely damning. Her only explanation was that he wanted to dispose of all the evidence so he took it upon himself to gather up hard copies from his stashes and have the county incinerator take care of the rest. He had violated every law that came to mind and the addition of her interstate and international adventures would make this a crime a doozy. It appeared that a majority of the stolen goods were in several accounts and he appeared quite liquid. Once she gave the cases a review, she called Alan Albright. It was four hours since he left her office.

"I have it," she said, "I got everything we need to make this stick."

"Impossible," said Alan, "I will be right down."

"I want to have a Fraud detective at the meeting," said CB.

"The more the merrier," said Alan, "I will see you in a hour."

One hour later, CB had several piles of evidence for them to review. She was careful to touch items with tongs or gloves, in case they wanted to take fingerprints but she knew that this would be an easy case to try and win. With advance notice, all accounts would be frozen without his awareness, and Alan might be able to get a lot of him money back. The detective and Alan walked into the office at the same time, pulled up two precinct chairs and sat down at the table. In ten minutes, CB told them what she had found and they both were dumbfounded. Alan’s worst fears were realized and the detective was salivating at the opportunity to knock this case out as a legal home run.

The entire episode took CB about four hours and she picked up an additional ten thousand dollars. So far, in two days work, she had made ten thousand two hundred dollars. Not bad.

She was realistic about the easy money and knew down deep that the luck couldn’t last too much longer. She did believe that most of the money was earned and by turning down either job would accomplish nothing. The whole concept of luck continued to follow CB’s thought processes through the day; if she hadn't almost bumped into the crooked associate, she would have had to start at the boring beginning. The inventory within those two cases made for a complete and total victory for her and without the evidence, she knew she would be digging through garbage for a year before she would found anything interesting.

With her new found wealth, CB decided to start taking some of her colleagues out for lunch. Referrals from cops are some of the best, especially faced with the limitations of police budgets and procedures. If she could get a one or two phone calls a week from a friend on the force, that would be enough to keep her going until she caught some bigger breaks. She was always well liked at the local police precincts and continually made efforts to stay connected with her friends out of common courtesy. She was never viewed as mercenary or opportunistic, just as a solid police officer that had the greatest luck in the world. During her twenty years, she never was shot, had an affair with a fellow officer, was the subject of an internal investigation or faced any disciplinary actions. She had a clean record and was a competent investigator that seemed to have a lot of friends.

She was always up front with her contacts, telling them to go to lunch with her to keep her in mind for opportunities. Everyone said yes because CB was good company and someone from the outside could always refer after-hour jobs back to the police. There were plenty of events that needed off-duty officers and she had just as much of an opportunity to help them as they could help her.

CB had just come back from a Thursday lunch with her old partner when her answering machine was just finishing up a call. She decided not to interrupt the message and hoped that all the key information was there. The last sentence of "and I need to speak to you as soon as you can at 334" was all she heard before the hang up. She quickly rewound the message and heard:

"Hello? Catherine Jones? My name is Jerry Zurier and I need to discuss some family business that needs a professional. In some many words, I need to speak to you about my sister. She is engaged and planning to marry the world’s biggest idiot. I would appreciate a prompt call back and I need to speak to you as soon as you can" and precisely and deliberately gave the telephone number.

The phone message concluded and CB called back right away.

"Hello, Jerry?" said CB

"Yes, this is Jerry," said the man, "Who is this?"

"This is Catherine Jones," said CB, "I just missed your phone call and wanted to get back to you right away."

"I appreciate that," said Jerry, "what do you know about the situation?"

"Only what your message told me," said CB patiently, "Who referred you to me?"

Jerry went to tell the story of his Uncle, an old cop that retired several years earlier, had given him her name. He didn’t even pause to allowed her to make some connection and went on a long story, detailing numerous situations about his potential brother in law that troubled him. He hadn’t worked in four years, had a mysterious and vague past and demonstrated on dozens of occasions that he had no real grasp on reality. Jerry was worried but couldn’t interfere formally with his sister’s impending decision and whatever happened, he had to remain insulated because even if the guy were a mass murderer, she would never forgive him. He needed an intermediary and this new private investigator was the perfect candidate.

"What do you want me to do?" asked the already fatigued Catherine.

"Get something on this guy, it can’t be too hard to do, and make sure myself or my Uncle are completely out of it."

CB was torn: a job is a job but so far, every assignment had been based in goofy circumstances and low-energy but professional police work has not been exactly called for as part of the challenge. She got the basic information from him and also requested one more thing: his fingerprints. She hoped that if Jerry could bring in a beer bottle with a few usable prints, she could go right for the throat and see how much trouble this guy was really about. There was also a legitimate chance that this individual was clean; perhaps he was just socially retarded but somewhere inside was attributes that this woman found charming. CB never viewed herself as either a pessimist or an optimist but she had a feeling that he was trouble. Cops, whether it is CB or Jerry’s Uncle, are always processing information. Looking at situations and assessing what they are seeing; it was a lot like the kid’s game that dealt with several items and one of them didn’t belong. As a cop, you were always studying people’s mannerisms and their behaviors and making quick decisions to assess threats. For example, anyone out on the street at three in the morning was either drunk, crazy or into some wild-ass trouble. That is why the third shift cops were the goofiest, thanks to the constant parades of perverts and oddballs that were constantly in the face of the police. Enough philosophizing thought CB and she took the gig.

A day later, Jerry brought in a few beer bottles used by the potential brother-in-law and some other anecdotes such as his alleged educational background and some older jobs. She placed the bottles into a carrybag along with a few notes she had scribbled earlier and went down to see a few friends on the force. The first stop was a friend in forensics and that is the bottles were passed off. In a few moments, several good prints were lifted and placed into the computer for a search. Then, CB went up stairs and met a friend in the records department for lunch. At lunch, she described what she was looking for and her friend assured her that another record search would take place at the same time as the fingerprints. She gave her the file and walked back to her office. By the time she got back, the forensic department called to say they had a confirmation of this guy was wanted for several felonies in the southwest. In fact, there was a reward on his head and once they got the report back from records, they were going to pick him up.

And pick him up they did. About two hours later, two plainclothes detectives walked up to his apartment and were face to face with the subject. Standing in his underwear and oblivious to everything, they cuffed him and hauled him downtown with brutal efficiency. John’s sister came home and saw a note that implied he was leaving and she spent the evening crying her eyes out. John and the Uncle were never happier and by the end of the evening, the sister was feeling better.

On Monday, CB got a call and was informed that she was going to be in line for a reward that was offered by a skiptracer at a southwestern bail company to gather this dirtball back in. John had already paid her fee and the reward money was too much for her to accept under the circumstances. She gave half of it to John with instructions to give it to the broken-hearted sister in some manner that didn’t connect the events but allowed her to finally get some fun out of life. He agreed and was thinking the money would buy her a nice long vacation or finance her going back to school. There were plenty of ideas for the money.

Things were coming too easy and CB was wondering why all these circumstances were falling primarily in her direction. She had always been lucky, whether it was in school or on the force, and the effort she expended had historically given her embarrassing returns. She never studied that hard and got good grades, she rarely make an extra effort as a police officer and she still won numerous awards. The people around her considered her lucky but she knew she was far more than that, her luck was bordering on the freakish. When analyzing these events too deeply, CB would lose some perspective and begin dealing with hypothetical issues that had no wrong or right. What if she was never a cop? Would she be the world’s luckiest air traffic controller? What if she was five minutes earlier or later than all the times that through dumb luck she stumbled or ran into some legitimate perpetrator. The sheer statistical percentages of pure coincidence were astronomical and there had to be some other influences that were affecting her life.

The first month of the new office was going well. The crazy beginning was shown to be a slight anomaly but the month’s income far exceeded her expectations. She had budgeted for a sparse first year and already she was significantly ahead of the game. Most of the business came through very unique circumstances and her relationship-building lunches with her fellow officers were her priority to continue to develop. Cops made great referrals; they saw people at their worst and their most desperate and their advice goes a long way. People will listen to cops before they listen to almost anyone else and by her count, her business card was on the way to being in the breast pocket of most of the force by the end of the year. She was open-minded about splitting the commissions depending on the cop and the effort but so far, no one seemed to be expecting any money.

She was alone in office and she realized she missed the camaraderie with her fellow cops. They were all dressed the same and in conflict with all the television shows, most women on the job were viewed as peers. CB missed the major wars in the early 1970’s when departments were forced, via court cases, to aggressively change the way the departments did business. Things were pretty stable when she had graduated from the Academy and the novelty of women, the bathroom accommodations and all that stuff were old news when she got her shield. The patrol teams were randomly sprinkled with male and female teams and the most part; CB and her female counterparts were tough and certainly capable of dishing out anything that they received. As she sat at her desk, with her feet up, she was wondering about her next adventure. The office was cozy and allowed her some creature comforts but she always made an effort of getting out of the office and visiting friends at courthouses and precincts around the town.

She dressed nondescriptly; she needed to wear comfortable clothes that were professional but didn’t want to call any attention to herself so she made efforts to find muted, boxy suits that allowed her to go just about anywhere without being noticed. She legally carried a handgun and was fully trained but way down deep she realized that the gun was not going to worn too much longer. Initially worn out of habit, she realized that if she ever needed her gun, she would be better off getting the hell out of the area and calling in the pros. It would be in her safe probably within a month or two but it wasn’t just time yet.

The other frustrating issue she was dealing with was a lack of identity. As a cop, everyone knew what she did and she didn’t have to explain anything. As a Private Investigator, she had to be patient with friends and potential customers because she was finding out that the world of Private Investigation wasn’t that glamorous. Too often, people assumed her life was a lot like some television show but they didn’t see her staking out some jerkoff until five in the morning, taking pictures of a cheating spouse or digging through garbage.

She picked up a few jobs: conducting surveillance on an insurance fraud that insisted he was bedridden until CB presented a movie of him changing his girlfriend’s tire. She also chased down a troubled teen by conducting at least fifty interviews with frightenly stupid young adults that were generally unable to form sentences or pick up simple verbal cues. She had to combine those interviews with dozens of mind-numbing hours cross-referencing phone and pager numbers to find the kid about three blocks from home, sleeping in her friend’s basement. Finally the piece de resistance, she accepted a guest lecturer at the local community college to lecture on basic police work. The gig was clean money but the curriculum was inflexible and the students were a collective group of idiots. She never could figure out how stupid people thought they could become good police investigators.

She was busy and easily making ends meet when one day, her old precinct Captain stopped in unannounced. They always got along great but she knew this wasn’t a social call because he was not the type to drop in without a clear and well-established invitation. He was almost forty years on the job and had done each of his jobs well. He understood the beat cop, he interacted well with the press, he understood how to budget a department in good times and bad and he had buried his fair share of policemen and policewomen during that time. CB was in the middle of archiving case notes and interview notes when he knocked politely and walked in. She noticed that he looked tired and beaten and she handed him a cup of coffee without asking as he sat down in one of chairs that immediately faced her.

"You look like hell," said CB as she took a sip of her coffee.

"I feel worse," said her Captain, "things are going bad and I need some of your luck."

"You can have it, I was getting tired of it anyway."

"I came here to enlist your help. It has to be done quietly and by a professional."

CB thought of Jerry Zurier and was hoping she didn’t have to shake down some potential son-in-law.

The Captain continued, "I am one year from retirement and I have been grinding on this for several years. As you know, the Police Commissioner is a political hack that was appointed by that craphead Mayor once he got elected. Every day this guy berates me, making me feel like I am worthless, all the while hoping to heap on enough pressure for me to retire early. I won’t quit but I have had enough."

CB knew the players and as a cop, she knew all about the political logrolling that occurred behind the puppet police commissioner and the Mayor. Arrests of certain citizens were hushed up; cops were used on numerous occasions as valets and trivial assistants for one of their wives shopping sprees. Although nothing technically illegal was happening, the lack of respect for the badge and the abuse of the office bothered all the peace officers throughout the city. The crime statistics, no thanks to the Mayor or the Commissioner, were good and they were all very aggressive to take the credit for the trend but the cloying nature of the Commission sucked any creativity and ingenuity from the force. If it was a good idea, one of those two would take the credit and if the idea wasn’t wildly successful, a story would be leaked to the press citing unnamed sources that was extremely critical of specific officers and precincts. The Captain needed someone from the outside that knew the inside to see what was going on. The person had to be savvy enough to know where to look but not conspicuous enough to call attention to oneself. This person had to have the run of the entire system and understand how each piece fit together. Finally, this person had to be able to be trusted to go just far enough; a television investigative team would be serving their ratings master and wouldn’t look out for the injured parties. In other words, she was the perfect and completely inconspicuous choice.

The Captain didn’t say anything specific but left a large manila envelope on her desk. He was seeking plausible deniability by not instructing her to do anything illegal or specific but rather was expressing his own frustrations and letting her connect the dots.

She shook his hand and said, "It was great seeing you. We won’t be seeing each other for awhile."

Or in other words, she took the case.

Once he had left, she opened the envelope and reviewed its documents. First off, there was five thousand dollars for an advance on her services and if she didn’t know better, the money appeared to have been collected. She allowed her mind to wander and an image was conjured up of the Captain, walking from precinct to precinct, taking donations to try to take out the Police Commissioner. There was phone records, a copy of his personnel file, pictures, several lists and a collection of press releases and other public information about the commissioner. Finally, the Captain’s card with several private numbers was in there as well, almost as a lifeline to be used when anything was needed. CB vowed not to abuse his nature or involve him; it was her versus the Police Commissioner. It was going to be an interesting summer.

She went out to get some lunch and placed the information into her safe. It was a beauty and anything in there was perfectly secure. Firstly, it was ingeniously hidden in the office in a place that a professional safecracker would have an extremely difficult time finding. In fact, a professional safecracker installed it and since he was a family friend, she wasn’t worried. Secondly, it was state of the art and basically uncrackable due to its original application. She liberated it from the Narcotics division; they have moved into a new building, complete with a separate evidence locker. During their construction, they had inadvertently ordered two of the new portable safes, although their invoice showed one. One night when CB was over seeing friends, she saw the safe loaded on a pallet with some hand written documentation. It was easy for her to offload it into her vehicle and that is exactly what she did. She had no current plan for the safe but she knew it would come in handy down the road so she took it. CB skimped on a lot of things but binoculars, purchased or purloined, and safes were something that she would not compromise. After she got her lunch, she spread out everything on her only extravagance, a large rectangular conference table from Juvenile Justice and started to think. She needed her luck and hoped it was appearing soon.

She decided that this case was her ticket to the major leagues and for once, she was going to do this right. She was going to this one by the book and expend as much energy as she needed to solve this case. She started her thought process organizing her evidence and then begin to write things down that she knew were absolutely true, then things that may be true and finally, she would get around to categorizing things that she knew were patently false. Each list would grow longer and longer which allowed her to look for dependencies and patterns between the three worlds. From these patterns, strategies would have to come into focus, which she would test and place in priority order of those realistic to those strategies that bordered on the ridiculous. CB felt that if she thought of all sides of an issue, even the bizarrely stupid, she would be better prepared. The one emotion that kept coming apparent was her complete dislike of the Commissioner. That hate had to be exorcised from this exercise because emotion always caused mistakes and she was going to do this with a cool and professional attitude.

CB poured over the documents; placed them in different piles of importance and kept a running tally chart of clues and orts of information to review later. Up on the wall, she started brainstorming ideas and posing questions to herself to review later. A lot of data was flowing in and out of her and as she wrote, the walls filled up with multi-colored information with arrows being drawn from different sheets of paper. As the arrows began to bleed together, she approached the probably from a new tack: inventorying things that she knew were true. She began to write:

    1. The Captain disliked the commissioner
    2. The Commissioner has demonstrated significance in many behind-the-scenes issues.
    3. The Mayor and the Commissioner were allies on many issues.
    4. The Commissioner and the Mayor were egotistical.
    5. The senior police officers disliked the Mayor and the Commissioner.
    6. The Mayor always wanted to be re-elected.

Then, with a new color and a fresh sheet of paper, she started writing circumstances that were likely true and would be used as simplifying assumptions as she built her plan. She had written:

    1. The Commission probably truly disliked the Captain and most career cops but didn’t allow it to affect his plans.
    2. Neither the Mayor nor the Commissioner would risk their jobs to save the other unless they were being implicated together.
    3. The Mayor wanted to keep a distance between the Commissioner on all activities.
    4. The Commissioner wanted to gain more power and probably didn’t want to be a career Police Commissioner.

She stopped and slumped down.

The charts and the two lists made her concentrate so hard that she had to sit down. She had to stop thinking, as she felt completely exhausted and spent. She looked around the room and felt was drowning in her own multi-colored analysis. Notes are scribbled everywhere with photographs and copies of checking accounts scattered across the table and onto the floor. She was so preoccupied in doing this job the correct way that she lost track of time and of her internal systems. She was so tired that she didn’t know if she was hungry, tired, completely lost or on the cusp of finding the key to unlock this whole puzzle. She dropped her highlighter, pushed away from the table and sat back at her desk and looked out the window. She put her feet up on her desk because it helped her think and because it was the only surface that did not have a stack of documents or ubiquitous yellow legal pad. She un-holstered her gun and threw it in a drawer; she felt that she lost twenty pounds.

CB knew in her heart that this type of exercise was doing her no good. It was sucking whatever creativity she had out of her soul, leaving her paralyzed with analysis and brain dead. She looked at her watch, it was five o’clock and downtown was emptying out for the day. She was watching the sun slowly head towards the west when the epiphany hit her and for the first time in thirty-six hours, she smiled.

Catherine Bethesda Jones grabbed her bag and headed out of the door, she finally had her plan.

"It’s about time," she thought as she ran towards the elevator.

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