A Day In The Life
By Mona Morstein
Bill Maxwell left the Wrightwood, California home of Harlan Blackford and Ira Hagert at 5:00 a.m. Monday morning. He had spent the weekend with them, as he generally did at least once a month, escaping the chaos of the city of Los Angeles to seek friendship and seclusion in nature, armed mainly with a fishing rod. He also enjoyed doing some handyman work on their home, bought after Pam Davidson won money for Ira from the City's eminent domain claim on his house, and which-combined with the sale of Ira's trailer-enabled them to buy a home in the woods north of the Los Angeles Forest. It was small but had three bedrooms. They hadn't openly stated the extra rood was for Bill, but it was kept ready for his use when he visited. Bill had some aptitude in various trades, and could in general fix a leaking pipe or chop firewood or change the oil in Ira's old sedan. He liked being helpful and was rewarded with Harlan's fine cooking, a surprising skill in a blind man.
Unfortunately, the working day called and Bill, dressed in a grey suit with his tie well loosened, and the top button of his shirt undone, drove the two hours back to town. He gave himself an extra hour in case of traffic, which usually occurred, beginning his week in a state of wistful annoyance. There was only one accident to set him back, so he got to work on time, in fact, forty-five minutes early, at 7:15 a.m. A couple of cups of coffee shook off the rest of his early morning fatigue and he was ready to go.
He casually said hello to the other Feds in the room they shared, their desks spread out throughout the large space. Bill's was over by the windows, regularly messy. Files and papers were strewn all over the surface, most of which Bill knew he had to quickly finish up and turn in for Carlisle's perusal. The fact that his boss seemed to enjoy grading his agents work as if they were in third grade English class was just one more reason Maxwell kept a roll of antacids in the top drawer of his desk. Maxwell always thought it was more important for him to nab criminals committing felonies than for him to know how to differentiate "who" vs. "whom", but Carlisle, who managed by criticism and suspicion, took such errors as seriously as investigating Russkies spying on military bases.
Maxwell hated paperwork, but had long ago gotten used to it. The problem wasn't really that he had to write up his cases, but that in the last two years he'd been working surreptitiously with Ralph and his magic jammies. Detailing the facts of the scenarios he pursued had to be delicately manipulated, so that all explanations of how Maxwell had found the creeps and arrested them were devoid of holographs, green guys, invisibility and super strength.
It was hard, sometimes, keeping it all a secret, but a big, silent secret it had to be. There was simply no way of telling anyone—anyone—about him and civilian Ralph Hinkley being chosen by advanced aliens, god knows why, to work together solving crimes and protecting the USofA and the world at large.
With a sigh, Maxwell hung his jacket on the back of his chair and sat down, his quick mind nimbly putting together the lies which would fudge the latest case particulars. Ralph's wife Pam had offered a suggestion would be beneficial to him in explaining on oddity of the case to Carlisle. She was useful that way as third string utility back-up. Sure, his boss would suspect something was fishy, but if Maxwell did the write-up well enough there would be nothing concrete for Carlisle to use against him.
A couple of hours passed until 9:15 Carlisle called all the agents for a meeting in their main conference room. Everyone strolled into the room and took their customary places, Bill in the center in the back. The Deputy Bureau Chief was with Carlisle, which was not common, and notched up the tension in the room just that little more beyond what Carlisle and his prissy, dictatorial manner already usually instituted.
"People, settle down," Carlisle began to a room that had been quietly respectful. Satisfied that his words were heeded, Carlisle motioned to the Chief. "You all know Deputy Bureau Chief Harlan Cain. He's going to be with us for a couple of days to see how our division works on a daily basis. We've been doing a good job and Chief Cain wants to see which aspects of our work he can use to guide the other departments under his control in California. Chief?"
Maxwell smiled, holding back a giggle. It would kill Carlisle to admit that Maxwell's kill rate was one of the leading reasons the L.A. office was flying high. And to prove it, Carlisle shot Bill a little scowl as he moved aside to let Cain speak.
"Good morning, Agents. I'm excited to be here watching your work. I'm proud to say that this section has received some notice from the FBI main office in Washington, DC. We've some tough new cases that need working on this week and I hope some real progress can occur."
Maxwell didn't budge for the first few. A hate crime case against a synagogue. Insurance Fraud. Mortgage Fraud. He had a well defined sense of urgency in his blood now, and was able to pick out cases that sat oddly in his system, and which usually elevated themselves to suit level scenarios. While hate crimes set poorly with him, he didn't feel it was suit class.
After a couple more boring cases the the next sent a surge of excitement through his body.
"There's an arsonist moving across the country, and that puts him in our jurisdiction," the Chief said. "We think the same person or group has set fires in Annandale, Virginia, Detroit, Michigan, Kansas City, Kansas and just last week in Bakersfield. All in warehouses and storage facilities. One homeless person was killed in the warehouse in Detroit, but no one else. Still, it feels like a larger crime is in the making, and I want it stopped beforehand."
Bill appreciated a guy who had an intuition of serious criminal activity, even when the evidence didn't quite stand out that way. Chief Cain was okay by him.
Bill had read of that fire in Bakersfield, and lodged it in his mind. Storage facility in Bakersfield, used by people to store random goods. Burst into flames in the middle of the night and before the firemen arrived, the facility had been engulfed in a metal melting fire. Nothing stolen, no reason for the crime discovered, but clearly arson, and high tech arson as well. There was something odd going on, something that sparked Bill's psychic sense of importance.
Bill raised his hand high. "I'll take that case, Chief Cain. I love tracking down firebugs. I got Torchy Tanner six months ago."
That was true. Ralph and Pam had, essentially, enabled Torchy to nearly burn down and steal from the Brother's Retreat in the Santa Barbara Mountains. After their embarrassment settled down, they'd been willing, eager even, to help Bill nab the guy and put him in jail again.
"I heard about that. Maxwell, isn't it? You've been doing some very good work lately. The Bureau is still grateful for you finding Sergei and Therea Valenkov.
"Thank you, Sir." Maxwell loved Carlisle rolling his eyes as he stood behind the podium. Bill couldn't pass up digging a couple of sarcastic claws into his boss's back; after all, Carlisle doled out compliments like some Scrooge with a bagful of charcoal. Maxwell added, "With such a boss as Les Carlisle we're all motivated to go the extra mile."
As death eyes shot from Carlisle to Maxwell, a few snickers escaped from various agents in the room. The Chief, however, missed the joke's derision and nodded in approval.
Carlisle interrupted, unable to keep silent. "Agent Maxwell is busy writing up some old cases this week, Chief Cain. I doubt he has the time to devote to a new case."
"Sure I do, boss," Maxwell quickly answered.
"I think we can let Agent Maxwell have another couple of days to write up cases, can't we, Les?"
"Thompson has worked on more arson cases than Maxwell," Carlisle said, pointing out another agent to Bill's side, much to Bill's annoyance.
"I'm busy with the sports bribery case, Mr. Carlisle," Thompson said, tossing a wink to Maxwell on the sly. Maxwell owed him a burger for that. "It's a pretty complicated scenario."
"Take the case," Cain said and handed Maxwell the file folder. He handed out another couple of investigations and then the Chief spoke to the agents as a group. "I'd like some follow-up by tomorrow morning. We'll have another meeting at 8:00 a.m. sharp."
As the meeting adjourned, Chief Cain got to Carlisle before Carlisle could get to Maxwell. "Solid agents, Les, solid. Maxwell in particular seems to be at the top of his game."
Carlisle knew that disagreeing with the Chief would seem petty. He bit down on his teeth to hold his tongue. Then he had a brilliant idea. As Maxwell giggled leaving the room he heard Carlisle call out his name and his giggle died a martyr's death.
"Maxwell, I'm sure you can progress deeply into the case by tomorrow, can't you…being as you are at the top of your game? Why don't we have you do a formal presentation to the rest of the Agents on your working methods?"
"Les, that's a great idea. Maxwell, 8 a.m. tomorrow, you'll speak to your fellow agents on your case. What do you say?"
Maxwell studied his two bosses waiting for them to burst into laughter and yell "Got ya!" But, they weren't jesting. Maxwell shriveled up inside. Public speaking was by no means his forte; in fact, he stank at it. When it related to solving cases that very likely involved magic jammies, Maxwell's heartburn leapt so high up his esophagus even his eyes seemed to be burning.
He stood there not speaking, in a kind of trance-like daze.
"Maxwell?" the Chief asked again.
Maxwell cleared his throat in a long and raspy roll. "Uh, yes, Sir. As you request. Tomorrow at 8 a.m."
"Don't be late, Maxwell. Chief Cain thrives on punctuality," Carlisle smirked.
Maxwell nodded half-heartedly and then turned stiffly and sped out of the meeting room. One day to progress on the case. Make a presentation to the other agents. Geez, how could this day get any worse?