The Society is a private vigilante group formed a few years earlier by a group of wealthy and influential citizens. They came together because too many people, mostly men, were getting away with physical, psychological and sexual abuse of women and children. Women refused to testify, intimidated by their abuser. They used to talk about an Asshole Court, independent judiciary to find and convict the subjects. That morphed into The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to People, or The Society for short.
After I left the Shaolin Temple as an ordained priest, Janah and I set to work for the Society as a Social Skills team.
The Society by department:
Our area is Social Skills, refocusing, as in, ‘Asshole, you need to work on your social skills. We’re here to help you refocus your energies, so you will cease being an annoying putz.’
Others do the pre-planning, learn target habits, document bad behavior. We deliver the message and keep targets occupied so innocents can be extracted and relocated.
Opportunities funnel into the Identification Group which decides if the problem rises to the level calling for a closer look. It’s their job to investigate circumstances, verify information, make sure it’s not embellished or overstated. The Society’s sources don’t advertise themselves in any way, they just hear stories. The stories are independently confirmed by Surveillance, which gathers physical details, what the target is up to, is the reported behavior accurate. They follow the target, get his routines, suggest the most logical time and place for the refocusing. We may override suggestions based on the situation. With few exceptions, Social Skills teams don’t appear until show time.
Each arm is critical to the mission, Surveillance has to be more devious than Social Skills, they have to be on the ground near the target without raising suspicion. For that reason, it’s made up of the most innocuous people imaginable. No trench coats or private eye types, instead manned primarily by seniors, men and women. Often the targets themselves are quite helpful in providing information leading to their own refocusing. Nobody thinks twice about a nosy old lady. The men, expert at adopting a kind of slow dopey drawl, pretend to perfection that they could barely remember the answer to their last question. The old guys ask the same stupid questions two or three times. How could a guy who can’t remember two seconds ago be any kind of threat? The success of the Society is based on the premise that people see what they expect to see and act accordingly. It would be a long stretch for targets to connect a barely noticed old lady a month earlier with my fingers in their throat today. Targets lack the imagination.
Transportation and Travel arranges flights, cars, lodging. They deliver fake driver’s licenses, passports or other ID, a valid license saying Janah is a brain surgeon if it came to it. There is so much work in the states, international travel isn’t a part of it. Passports do come in handy as alibis. The Society could supply a passport verifying that we were in Venezuela, or Paris, or Uzbekistan if we were ever charged with anything. Additionally, Travel arranges rooms to park targets if we need them quiet for a while. It is up to Social Skills to convince them to go there.Extraction removes any innocents and takes them to wherever they need to go to be finished with the target forever. Extraction details what will be done for them, and what won’t. Running back to the place they came from is a choice, but there wouldn’t be another offer to escape. The Society concluded that the only convincing that they would do is to convince the target to quit being an asshole. If the innocents couldn’t get a grip and take advantage of the chance for a new life, they aren’t considered innocents any longer. They become accomplices in their own misery. C’est la vie.
Placement sets up the innocents in new locations, new jobs, gets them needed medical or psychological care. Placement never sees them, never sees the new employers or landlords. They might be ghosts for all anyone knows. Placement personnel don’t know they are Placement personnel. They don’t know why they are setting up jobs, or apartments, arranging to buy used cars or calling for doctor’s appointments. They don’t have a clue about the Society or any of its activities. They work individually from home, off a set of online instructions. One might set up a job, another person across the country might arrange to buy a used car, someone else schedules medical appointments, a fourth arranges for an apartment. Once their role in the process is done, the site they log into disappears. When it’s time for them to do another job, they’re contacted, given an online address with a new set of instructions. They are paid very well, in cash. None of them complains about their employer. None of them have the slightest idea who employs them. They are told they are working for a company that provided the services they are asked to perform. Despite the answer being completely circular, the rate of pay trumps any curiosity.
Compliance, also called Minders, monitor targets for whatever time it takes to ensure the refocusing is effective, no less than a year, sometimes longer. Compliance personnel are also older, retired. No one asks why they aren’t at work or school, or how they can just hang out all day. Targets are followed from time to time. They get an occasional postcard reminding then to be a good boy, a phone call with a similar message, a note stuck under a windshield wiper.
If the target moves, they get a call or a note within a day or two after settling in. There is no place to run unless they leave the country for good. People think about doing that, they mostly don’t. Too much new language, finding employment, even illegal employment, is a problem. In movies, people move around the world like everything is as simple as a plane ticket. It isn’t.
The Society incorporated a new millennium solution. If it thinks a target has the means or the intent to bolt, it supplies Homeland Security with information that the target is involved with terrorists. Now he’s on a watch list. He’ll never get a passport, if he has one it will be revoked. Moving out of the country is not an option unless they wanted to be an illegal in a far less friendly country.
No Society department knows anything about the members of the other departments. Teams within departments don’t know other teams. There are four Organization people. Planning calls one of the four Organization personnel. Organization contacts Travel and Extraction. Once details are sorted out, they’re put on an encrypted site, which is what Janah ultimately reads. Social Directors, such as the Epsteins, each have their own Social Skills team. Only the Epsteins know Janah and me. If a Social Skills team needs something at any point during the job, we call an encrypted answering system from a phone with a scrambler. We leave a message with requests and get a message when the requests are fulfilled. Transportation and Travel handle these requests. Request is polite terminology, Social Skills teams get whatever they ask for in superhuman speed. There is no second guessing requests, no chain of authority.
My Life of Crime as a Shaolin Priest IV