"Honey, can you get Janie out of her high-chair," Jim's wife, Mellissa asks him.
Jim, distracted by an evening news story, playing on the television in the background, doesn't respond to her question, so she insists again with an edge of annoyance in her voice, "Jim?"
"I'm sorry, what?" he replies at last.
"The girls... can I get some help please?"
"Oh, yeah yeah, of course." He removes the toddler from her high-chair and begins to wipe the food from her face. "This story is insane… more bombings. It looks like we're gonna end up in yet another costly and pointless war. I swear this leadership is out of their minds."
"Well, what can you do about it really—there's no point in worrying about the world's problems that you can't control—Is there?" Mellissa says as she begins to clear the table.
"No, I guess not… it’s just frustrating is all."
That night, after they finished their usual bed-time ritual for the girls — brushing their teeth and reading them short, children’s books, until their little eyes were heavy enough to close without a fuss — Jim and Mellissa laid beside each other under the glow of their reading lamp, as Mellissa closed the novel that she had been reading, then gave Jim a quick, goodnight kiss on his cheek before rolling away and falling into sleep.
Jim however, lay awake still, unable to shake the images of war from his mind that lingered like a bad taste. One image in particular showed a man carrying a dead child from a pile of wreckage. The kid must've been around the same age as his own daughter, for Christ’s-sake.
He decided to purge his mind of serious thought by scrolling through some social media feeds on his smart-phone. It was a litany of the usual mindless posts, photos of people's dinners and absurd memes, until he came across a shared article on the same bombing that he had seen on the news earlier that evening.
The author of the article was able to express Jim's feeling into the words that were otherwise beyond Jim's skills of articulation. It was dead-on, but highly critical of the current administration. Jim, having felt some degree of passion for the subject matter at the moment, decided that it was something which others in his friends list might benefit from reading as well, so he reposted the article on his own timeline. Feeling satisfied with his role in spreading awareness on the topic, he then drifted off to sleep himself.
What Jim hadn't known at the time, was that one of the people in his friends list was not who he appeared to be. A few weeks back, Jim had received a friend-request from a man calling himself Mark Kissinger. Although Jim wasn't exactly certain how he had known the guy, who only had two photos in his profile and only twelve friends, Jim still accepted the request anyway, perhaps out of politeness or maybe even a little pity for the dude.
The man who called himself Mark Kissinger was actually Chris Pines, a spotter for a branch of the National Communication Agency, or NCA. As such, it was his job to befriend random people through various, fake social media profiles, then monitor their activity online for any rhetoric that might be perceived as terroristic.
On this particular night, he noted the article which Jim had shared, and the anti government sentiment which was apparent throughout. After analyzing Jim's profile he determined that for the most part it was seemingly benign, just your run-of-the-mill family man, but as he scrolled further back through Jim's timeline, he found two more articles which Jim had shared that could be considered red-flag material. So pertaining to title nine of the NCA rules and regulations, with three hits, Jim was a candidate for the watch list, and in the name of ‘do-diligence’, agent Pines put Jim's name on the list in their system.
About two weeks later, another agent, or rather unofficial agent, more of an independent contractor of sorts, operating under the code name Quick Sand, but who also went by just Bosco, received an email for his next contract. The email contained two pieces of information: the target's name, Jim Sorensen, and a link to his social media profile. Agent Bosco knew where to take it from there, after all, he had done this countless times before. His particular skill-set was unique and very high in demand in this new digital age of terror. He could track anybody and pick their life apart.
There was no hiding from agent Bosco—no sir; his own whore of a mother could attest to that fact, and she was very good at hiding her dirty secrets. She had hidden them from her husband and everyone else for years, but not from Bosco; he saw her for what she really was.
Who is Mr. Jim Sorensen? Agent Bosco asked aloud as he reviewed Jim's profile page. It brought up the usual family photos, nothing too interesting, two kids bla bla. His wife was sort of hot though, Bosco thought. He went on to pull the records from the county assessor and zillow for Jim's house. It was an average 2700 sqr ft split level; unremarkable. His criminal records however, showed Jim had only one arrest in 2008 for drunk and disorderly, probably his college years. Not so squeaky clean, huh Jimbo? Bosco asked rhetorically of the digital screen.
After collecting all the personal records that Bosco could find on Jim and his sort-of-hot wife Mellissa, Bosco moved on to phase two of his fact finding process: watching.
He began by watching the house from his utility van parked across the street. Bosco had discovered over the years that if a van has some kind of workmen’s logo, like Dave's plumbing or Sympco cable, nobody questioned its presence. The same was true for personal utility wear. He could enter virtually any location regardless of how restricted it was simply by wearing an orange reflective vest and a hard hat; this was his trade-craft.
Jim and his wife kept normal, boring people hours: They went to work and picked up their kids on time. They attended barbecues and birthday parties and the occasional movie out. This kind of bland normalcy made Bosco antsy. After two weeks of watching, his investigation had yielded zilch, not so much as a littered bottle in the street. It was time to up the stakes.
Bosco arrived early in the morning to be sure to watch Jim leave for work, and then a little later followed by Mellissa with the kids. Now was the time for a bit of fun.
He wore his usual orange workman's vest and carried something that looked like a meter-reader as he roamed around the side of the house. He knew its layout well as he went straight for the kitchen window, which was low enough to access from the ground. It was easy to open (no alarms), so he just shimmied his flat edge device between the panel then wiggled the latch with the specially tweaked end, and wah lah, like magic every time. It was low-tech trade-craft, but an under-appreciated skill as far as he was concerned; computer hackers were all the rave these days, but the art of physical lock-picking was eternal.
Just as Bosco had expected, the interior of their house, like the Sorensen’s themselves, was so typical middle-class family, that it made Bosco want to puke all over the Live-Laugh-Love decal on the wall. However, it was the smell of the place that was different, like lavender and pumpkin. Every household permeated it's own unique smell. This was the only surprise that delighted Bosco anymore. He reflected on the smell of his mother's perfume mixed with the dank odor of sex that would linger after that man would come by—disgusting.
Bosco placed one video device overlooking the kitchen and the living room. It was less then the size of a button, so it would not be noticed buried within the clutter of their decorative pieces.
Having the main floor covered, he made his way upstairs where the bedrooms were located, tracing his fingers tips lightly along the wall and humming a simple tune as went.
There would be no surprises in the kids’ rooms; pristine layouts of the perfect little lives of American children with an over abundance of toys and sweet little pictures adorned by pink and purple linens (How people love to dote on their little brats.) He placed one camera in each of the two children's rooms then on to the Master bedroom.
Yes, he thought to himself, this is where old Jimbo does it… where he gives her the business. Bosco removed his sterile grove so that he could touch the surface of the bed, feeling it's textures and it's warmth. The smell was different in this room—beneath the scent of lavender was a deeper odor that wouldn't be fully repressed—the sweaty scent of sleeping bodies(and sometimes of bodies grinding together). Yes, he knew it when he smelled it.
Bosco’s own living situation was out of sorts: he hadn't even been home to his one bedroom apartment in months, and his job was such that it made long term connection with members of the opposite sex impossible. At least that's what he told himself, but really it was his cold, detached personality, and he understood this fact somewhere deep inside where he refused to look.
Now he made the usual rounds rifling through their private possessions. After he finished thoroughly rifling the wife's underwear, he discovered a shoebox full of momentos from when they must've been dating; their life before children was reduced to this singular, little box.
He skimmed over the sickening love notes and happy photos of their various trips over the years. Then he came to a simple object—a tiny glass dolphin about the size of a paperweight. This he placed in his pocket.
He then finished situating strategic cameras and listening devices throughout, before installing a spyware app onto their PC which would allow him to monitor their computer activity in real-time, and also to control it remotely. This would be his true eyes, for in Bosco's experience, a person's Web data was the actual window into their soul.
The first couple of nights were slow though, no subversive action, in fact, no action of any kind, particularly not in the bedroom. If it wasn’t for the camera which he had hidden in the bathroom vent, then it would have been a total wash.
Even their Internet activity was bland, mostly just news feeds, emails, and work stuff. Where were the chat rooms for like-minded conspirators? Hell, where was the everyday search of pornography even… did this guy have any testosterone coursing through his veins or not?
Bosco decided to make things a bit more interesting, just to liven things up some. Accessing Jim’s browser from his own remote system, he searched some pornographic material, nothing too extreme, just enough to get a reaction, then he left it open on Jim’s desktop for Mellissa to find. When Bosco was a child he used to love placing insects into a jar then shaking it up to watch them fight. He just gave Jim’s jar a little shake, that’s all.
He watched her as she found it, the look of surprise turned to offense. But she waited until the kids went to bed to confront him. This was better then television. Bosco sat back and watched as the spat unfolded in the kitchen later that evening. Here we go, Bosco smiled with the dim glow of his monitors lighting his dark eyes and casting shadows around the hot, rank van (so humid in fact, that his back sweat was starting to stick to the seat).
The argument between Jim and Mellissa had something to do with an incident many years old, an incident that wasn't quite washed clean by the slow but rigorous scrubbing of time. It still created mistrust to this day, mistrust that Mellissa felt toward Jim.
"That was eight years ago," Jim pleaded, "When are you going to move past it?"
"I don't know Jim, maybe never, but how am I supposed to believe a word that you say?"
Bosco knew what this was about… they didn't have to spell it out for him.
Later that evening he watched as Jim approached Mellissa from behind as she removed the tear streaked makeup from her face. He whispered something too softly to be detected by the microphones then began to kiss her neck. They advanced to the bedroom where he undressed her. Bosco could still see the hurt in her eyes as they made love. He watched them, all the while stroking the dolphin trinket in his sweaty palms; the one that he had taken from their shoebox of memories.
The next day, Bosco received a call from HQ requesting a status update. The simple fact was that these types of investigations were very numerous and costly so they needed to be concluded quickly.
“Quicksand, what is your recommendation?”
Bosco thought for a second on how he should reply. There was no doubt in his mind that this man, Jim Sorensen was no spy, or agitator, or any kind of threat to the state what's so ever, but as he studied the light blue object in his hand with its beady little dolphin eyes staring back at him, he understood that he couldn't let old Jimbo off that easy; There needed to be justice for people like him—people like Bosco's own mother— liars, betrayers.
So he replied instead with a simple recommendation. "I suggest a code Orange, just to be certain."
"Are you sure about that Quicksand?"
"Ok… it's your call. Permission to execute code Orange."
Code Orange was the government’s answer to mass upheaval over secret arrests and disappearances. They determined that it was less inflammatory to arrest people openly on charges that weren't related to political reasons. Code Orange was a sort of slash and burn policy.
Bosco knew it well. Using his remote access to Jim's computer, he uploaded some incriminating files, and with an anonymous tip to the local authorities, the wheels were in motion.
As he drove down the block, he stole one last peek of Jim's house shrinking away in the rearview mirror. He wondered about what Mellissa's reaction would be as they hauled old Jimbo off in handcuffs for the kiddy porn they'd find on his hard drive. Even better, what would Jim's reaction be? The thought brought a smile to his sinister face as he placed the dolphin in his glove box with the various other trinkets that he had collected over the years—his own little momentos.
Written by MartinVang