It was an early start for the six people who were chosen from Homicide to join the special task force that Bradley had set up. It wasn’t based at the station. It was in a ritzy hotel that the FBI had “borrowed” rooms from. The power of having the Patriot Act behind you. They got to the door and were met by a couple of agents who were already there. Bradley was inside, setting up shop. The place looked like something out of a James Bond movie. Wolfe was impressed. If I’m going to be chased by a super-cop, at least they made his crime fighting team into super-cops too. As they got inside, he looked up.
“Ah, hello everyone! Welcome to Task Force Cyberspace. It’s a corny name we gave to this little detail, which you all are a part of until we get this case solved.” The screens in the room lit up. There were twelve in all. “I’ve gotten all the resources that one could need from the FBI. With the death of a Senator, this case just got bumped up to the highest level of priority that it can be. The Watcher is now the most wanted man or woman in the country. We’ve been given carte blanche to get him or her, with all the backing of the NSA as well.”
Ah shit, that’s just what I need. She smiled and nodded.
“Let’s get right down to work, because our opponent already has a head start.”
Everyone took a seat on the seats and couches that were in the room.
“First thing – what do we know?”
An older detective, Timothy Green, put his hand up. “They are using tech. I get the feeling that little to none of this is hand’s-on.”
A female agent with beautiful natural blonde hair also raised her hand. “The crimes are for the intent of killing. People have been saying that it is the public’s fault, but look at what they do and how they do it. The placement, the method, it’s all about getting the public to turn on these people.”
“That’s another thing,” her partner chimed in, “they don’t go after the typical bad person. This person is finding the worst of the worst. Is it ego?”
Her sergeant nodded. “I think so, but I’m sure they don’t. They probably see this as a public good.”
Wolfe hid her annoyance. If I don’t judge the guilty, nobody will.
Bradley also chimed in. “Something tells me that this is connected to the fact that these people are powerful. Let’s face it, the powerful tend to be above the law. I mean, look at the victims. We have a lawyer who was selling American girls, a CEO who got a bunch of hookers killed and a priest who raped children. These people are connected by the fact that the law almost never touches them. And when it does, it’s slaps on the wrist. While there is ego, they have a twisted sense of nobility where as well.”
She felt her insides churn. Oh shit. He is good.
Everyone was quiet for a moment. Then, it was her partner who spoke again. “What’s the long-term goal here? I mean, what is this person hoping to gain?”
Bradley smiled. “Now that is an interesting question. However, back to what we actually know about our target – they work in a very localized way. They leak the info they spread everywhere to Wikileaks, to show that they are trying to achieve justice, but the reality is that the real-time actions are very limited.”
The blonde agent looked up. “Would that mean that whoever it is is on-site when they do this? Somewhere nearby?”
Another agent looked up from a computer. “Exactly. We’ve managed to get some idea of how they are able to interact with the nearby machines. We think it’s a direct line-of-sight, using a phone.”
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. But he’s about to explain why that doesn’t help their case.
“But that doesn’t mean shit. We have dozens upon dozens of people who use a phone at any given time. Trying to interrogate everybody who is nearby when these things happen is an act of futility. Not to mention the fact that these demonstrations are deliberately done to get the public to go after said person. The longer this goes on, the more it is turning into street riots. People want to take out The Watcher’s trash. No offense,” he looked to Bradley, who nodded. It was the intention, after all, and they knew it.
“In other words, the longer The Watcher is free, the harder this case is going to get to prosecute,” a very foul-mouthed but gifted black detective groaned, rolling his eyes. He was the kind of cop who never stopped liking kicking in doors and had an eye for scum. But it was all over his place that a case this big, he felt out of his league.
“Couldn’t have put it better,” Bradley said, looking at the screens. “We have a case involving a person with the technological know-how to hack dozens of systems simultaneously, from their phone and have it look inconspicuous, while being nearby, following their target and not being found on cameras.”
“We’re looking for a genius, sir,” Wolfe interjected. “I mean, what run-of-the-mill hacker can do this? We’re dealing with someone who is very, very good.”
“Someone who knows the city, too,” the blonde agent added.
“What do you mean?” She had Bradley’s attention.
“I did a little digging – everyone who was a target was either in New York or had lived in New York for a substantial period of time. This person knows the city and is going after local targets. I get the feeling that the use of other out-of-state targets was to throw us off, but it was all in the city.”
I may have to kill this bitch at some point. “Good point. I hadn’t thought of that.”
The information they were adding was put on the board. Wolfe was paying attention. Part of the miracle of technology was that algorithms were made that could take this information and make a profile of their person. Granted, so could Bradley, and she assumed he was, but having that profile where all could see was a problem. With the tech man here, and since someone probably watched this equipment at all times, a spying program would never work. If they found it, she was busted. Process of elimination would have her dead to rights. So, she was stuck taking this as it came. Not the best place to be, but she couldn’t count on her good luck to make the man from the NSA not be able to find her program. In all likelihood, they would probably sweep the system daily for tampering, given who they were up against. All she could do was wait. And wait. Not a good place to be.
“So, we can sit here all day and deliberate, but we have no chance of getting evidence without catching the person in the act, right?”
“At the moment, that’s right. But we have baseline facts that we know, and as this case grows, we’ll learn more. The more we learn, the closer we get to putting them in jail for the rest of their lives.”
“Assuming we can get the evidence,” Wolfe countered. “The biggest drawback to this case is that there hasn’t been a single case of useable evidence obtained that could hold water in court. Until we have that, we could catch them red-handed and it won’t mean shit.”
His face got colder, but he couldn’t argue. “Ain’t that the rub?”
She got to the gym and hit the treadmill. With Nirvana playing on her iPod, she was in heaven. This new detail was a boon, but a problem. They were smart, and quick. She had discovered years ago that she could follow her targets using security cameras, but she had to be close enough to control them remotely, with her phone. With as many cameras as the city had, sorting out who was who put the situation in her favor. But there were algorithms that could sort through that as well, and pick out who is who and who is common in a given area. Her knowledge of how technology worked only did her so many favors.
The sweat was building on her as she kept going, blocking out a man who was trying to hit on her next to her. Bradley was going to be a problem. One that she could not hope to solve with violence. Indeed, her typical measure of dealing with the problems that came up was to use her role as The Watcher. She knew that she couldn’t stop her crimes. If she did, then the police would know that whoever it was knew that they were being investigated. It was the same problem as using a spy program to tap their computer. She knew that at some point, they would be telling the cops to leave their phones on a table, on the off-chance that a cop is the person they are looking for. She was shocked that the Feds hadn’t considered that option.
That’s when it hit her – they probably had. She was probably there because she was a suspect! That limited her options even more. There was a very real possibility that the same technology that she used was being used against her. There were too many variables to consider, and it was just starting. But the crimes had to continue. It just had to be done with more care. There was no other choice to be had. And the good part was, she had a new target in mind.
The call came in just after noon. Officer Barbrady was based in Harlem. He had been a detective, but was reassigned to patrol after he got into a fist-fight with his CO. It was another day, until a call came in of a fight breaking out between some kids. He was the closest, so he answered the call. He arrived to see a crowd had formed. It was a very ugly fight between a couple of high-school age kids, looking to be about 14 or 15.
“Alright, let’s break this shit up, now!” He took out his nightstick and starting running over. Just then, there was a massive wave of bleeps on people’s phones. It was a message. Everyone stopped and grabbed their phones. The officer got one too. His eyes went wide. He followed the news enough to know what this meant.
He checked his phone, only to be in horror. It was him! There were picture of him beating a black girl. An audio file was playing over the footage on loop.
“I fucking hate those damn niggers!” It was something he had said as a joke to his fellow officers, but it was pretty accurate to his feelings on the matter. He looked around in horror, his hand on his gun. The image showed him also beating another black man who he pulled over and dragged out of his car. The audio message kept playing, over and over and over again. The crowd was getting angry. Really angry. They came closer, some brandishing knives and other blunt weapons.
“Alright, everybody! Just stay the fuck back and nobody has to get hurt!” Fear was gripping his heart as he drew his gun. He wildly pointed it all over the crowd, wishing he had a vest on. The image changed to him beating another black girl. He felt his stomach get sick. The crowd got angrier and angrier. They were all within striking distance now. The cop could barely control himself. Finally, when he jumped and the trigger got pulled, taking out the eye of a young black man, the crowd was on him.
The police arrived five minutes later to see the cop left for dead in the street and the crowds having run off. They all saw the message on the phone.
Answer for your Sins.
Until next time, a quote,
“Death is the high cost of living.” -Envy, Fullmetal Alchemist