Chapter Thirty Three V
In any plan, the cumulative probability of at least one fatal error could be overwhelmingly high even when the individual cause of failure is negligible.
Plans fail because of ‘surprises;’ occasions on which the unexpected ‘uphill’ change occurs.
The simulation heuristic, which is biased in favor of ‘downhill’ changes,
is therefore associated with a risk of large systematic errors. In evaluating a scenario, alterations on ‘what could have been done differently’ are many times introduced.
These can be classified as either:
Uphill: a change that introduces unlikely occurrences or surprises
Downhill: a change that removes an unlikely occurrence or surprise
Horizontal: one arbitrary value replaces another in the scenario,
neither arbitrary value is more likely, or less likely
-people are much more likely to undo a scenario with downhill changes than uphill changes…
horizontal changes are almost nonexistent.
Think of a cross country skier. It is easier to ski down than up, the psychological distance from peak to valley is shorter than from valley to peak. Thus, mental simulations invariably have a preference for downhill variations.
Kahneman and Tversky, Judgment Under Uncertainty
The Society crunches names and numbers. Janah talks with Mrs. Epstein every other day. It takes three weeks to come up with tentative leads that lead mostly no place.
Mrs. Epstein, “We have six names of people who either work in family statistics with either the State of Arizona or the US census bureau involving Phoenix, and who live in the one hundred mile boundary. One who lives in Tucson, which is just out of the radius area. Doesn’t mean he can’t drive in the extra twenty miles. We have one psychologist who has a sideline in middle children with low self esteem and one unlicensed ‘coach,’ who works with kids of all kinds to prop up their egos. So far, none of them seem likely. They either have alibis for time frames, or, in one case, too old for this sort of activity, the woman is ninety, or too involved in families of their own to have much time for stalking, abducting and dealing with bodies. Our Surveillance people say none of them does anything that feels out of the ordinary. I think our list is a dead end.”
Janah, “In a way, that’s good, we eliminated the obvious candidates. Let me review details. When kids were reported missing, what the police did or didn’t do. Time of day, day of the week, anything that represents a pattern. I presume the cops have done a lot of this already, if there are reliable reports you can get to me, it will save time.”
Mrs. Epstein, “I can get reports from the state police, hopefully they turn up something on their own and we don’t need to do anything.”
Janah, “If we come up with a prosecutable case in the meantime, we can hand it to the authorities. If not, I’ll be happy to take my own prosecutors out to Phoenix and subject him to the Daphne and Nikko legal system of jurisprudence.”
Mrs. Epstein laughs, “He’ll be better off confessing.”
Janah, “Yes, but that won’t occur to him until it’s too late.”
The reports start coming in. The staties had done a pretty good job. They have a list of pattern-less abductions. No particular time of day, no particular place, not school, not the local hangout, sometimes near home, other times not. No friends noticed the child talking to anyone unusual. Nothing out of the ordinary.
It’s only six kids, at least that they know about. The parents had been decently diligent, generally knew their children’s friends, generally knew their whereabouts, when they were due home. No latch key kids, or ones that could have been gone for hours unquestioned. Nobody hated their sister or brother beyond normal childhood contention. Nobody’s brother killed animals for fun, nobody’s sister was Goth, into Satan worship, like most kids, too absorbed with themselves to worry much about siblings. Nobody had the same friends, played in soccer leagues that crossed paths, or took extracurricular lessons from the same instructors.
“No link between families, activities, schools, hobbies, or friends.”
Janah, “We’re not going to find this guy by links to the families, schools or friends. We’re going to have to find him by figuring out either how or why he’s chosen these specific children.”
We let the questions, the known facts, guesses and the unknown vagaries marinate. Janah calls Chan, then Black. She invites them to dinner the next evening. Then she called the moms. She wants fresh eyes.
Susan, “Do we include James, Lacy?”
Janah, “Yes, I will explain the problem to everyone at dinner. It will give me the day to ruminate. Daphne and Ning will be occupied with organizing and cooking dinner, Chan and Nikko can go to the building.
There will be fourteen for dinner, that will keep me occupied. Janah is going to the meditation loft and sit. She’ll turn it over in her mind for the day, or move to no mind and let the unconscious do the work. If nothing materializes, then we’d have the family around, hopefully to knock something loose that hadn’t occurred to her.
The family gathers for drinks and hors d'oeuvres, extra creamy spinach artichoke dip, nuts and cheese, a warm brie with honey and crackers. A selection of bold red Cabernet, subtle white Graves, and bottles of Charles Heidsieck champagne, Janah’s favorite along with Gosset. She likes sparkling wines as well, but Champagne is to sparkling wine, well… as silk is to rayon.
Janah outlines the problem during appetizers, the family carries on the conversation over dinner. I’d deliberately planned simplicity, since the purpose isn’t a glorious, rather a working meal.
I serve grilled fish, pan fried vegetables, buttery mashed potatoes with a simple au jus. Crème Brule for dessert.
James, “I’m going to need to think this over. There’s one pattern, which is interesting. There’s also the matter of no bodies, no ransom demands. As if the children just evaporated. What if they’re not dead?”
Janah, “I’ve considered that. The problem is obvious, if they aren’t then we have at least six children to be fed and watched. That implies more than one person unless they’re all locked in a basement. I’ve been ruminating all day and come up with exactly zero. There’s no hard evidence, nothing to build on.”
Lacy, “We have some middle children in the school, but I’ve no feeling of any resentment, no animosity towards the siblings. Then my students are a small sample. I think there are three or four middle children and I researched the older and younger ones, they attend other schools, mostly they’re boys. I found one student with an older brother and younger sister. If the family is dysfunctional, I don’t see any evidence of it.”
Chris, “Suppose, just for the hell of it, that it’s coincidental. Weird, I admit, but just suppose.”
Susan, “Or suppose it’s intentional, but only to confuse the situation. What if the abductor has no overwhelming need to abduct middle children. Rather it’s just a ruse to throw in a complication?”
Janah, “That hadn’t occurred to me. Maybe this guy, or woman, is smarter than we think. Maybe they are throwing out a distraction, a red herring.”
“Or he’s amusing himself by what will surely be figured out, middle kid with siblings of both genders. I can’t get my head around why, it ultimately narrows the search to someone who has access to specific data. He’d be far safer plucking a kid of the street that meets his gender and age requirements regardless of siblings.”
Nikko, “Let’s have the Society look into all cases of missing children in the area between the ages of eight and fourteen. Forget siblings. Perhaps a pattern will emerge that isn’t apparent.”
Mrs. Epstein, “I’ll get them on it tomorrow. Get the police sidetracked on a specific set of circumstances and the other children are seen as separate cases. It’s a long shot, but an interesting one. It brings a dimension to the case that I doubt anyone has considered.”
No one has any additional insights. Black remains silent, Sonia, “I’m stymied. But I’m going to let the wheels turn and see what comes out of the Society’s results.”
Janah, “Then that’s that. We wait for more evidence. I’ll give everyone a heads up when the data comes in.”
Chapter Thirty Four V
“What’s the square root of infinity?”
“I knew that.”
Mrs. Epstein, “In the last two years there are twenty eight reports of missing or abducted children in Arizona. Of those, most were female, twenty one.
There were a few very young children, but most fell in age between five and sixteen. Many were Hispanic, the jump to conclusion is that they were brought back to South America by a family member. But there’s no evidence or they wouldn’t be considered missing. The number is at least manageable. In California, during the same time period there were one hundred and five. In the whole country, the number is over one thousand thirty five, one or two a day over two years.”
Janah, “How many are found?”
“I should qualify the numbers a bit. The numbers I gave you came from one agency. The raw numbers are much bigger, a million children a year. But over ninety nine percent of those are located within hours or a few days. Most of those are either abducted by family members, a spouse argument thing, or runaways. So, they were either taken by someone they know, or they left on their own, not abducted.”
“So, in short, it’s hardly a science, just data. Not to mention reports of why children are gone are inaccurate or outright lies.”
“Yes, the data’s all over the lot. However, when the children get listed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited children, then the original numbers I gave you of twenty eight in Arizona become more realistic in terms of what we’re looking for.”
“So our six cases are actually significant. First, they’re located within a two hundred mile area around Phoenix, and second, they’re specific as to place in the family, and only in families with three kids, all of which, as far as everyone knows, are blood related, the same mother and father.”
“That about sums it up. It’s highly unlikely to be a coincidence.”
“Then we’re back where we started.”
“I’m afraid so.”
Janah delivers the news to the rest of the family.
Susan asks , “Then the solution is in how he finds out there are three siblings, with the right gender parameters. It’s just too much of a stretch to believe he finds them out of luck. Whoever has access to that sort of data, is either the bad guy, or has handed the data to the bad guy. We can close in from that angle, and we can close in from the angle of the personality of such a person, profile him, or her. What drives a person to this specific set of children?”
Janah, “I’ve asked dad and Dr. Epstein to ask around. It’s not the kind of thing they deal with everyday. If it’s not purely an intentional distraction by the abductor, somebody must have a general idea of why this has meaning for him.”
Three days pass, then James calls, “I’ve talked to a half dozen psychiatrists and psychologists on middle child syndrome. The general consensus is that it’s drama more than a syndrome. That doesn’t make it any less real for some of these kids. But once they have to sit down and outline everything that happens in the family, versus just everything that they don’t like, it turns out they aren’t more neglected than any of the other siblings. However, that doesn’t fix your problem. As you’ve no doubt already discovered, there are websites and chat rooms devoted to this ‘syndrome.’ It’s become self reinforcing.”
Janah, “Like anything else, for some it becomes an obsession, gnawing away at them. They see every action of mom and dad as promoting the happiness of number one and number three, they see themselves as ignored or shunted aside.”
“And they act out in a variety of ways, from silence to disruptive behavior. It seldom leads to violence, serious violence anyway. Mostly just arguments and pouts.”
“I’m the middle child between Daphne and Nikko, and I’m the most spoiled.”
James laughs, “My observation is the spoiling of one another is nonstop. And you’re all gay, you’re not siblings, and the relationships are much closer than just siblings.”
“Dang, you’ve caught on. Guess I won’t get to whine about my older and younger sisters.”
“Nope, although you call each other sisters, you are really lovers, and closer than even lovers. There’s no name for the relationship you have with each other.”
“Good point dad. So, what now? Do we look for someone with access to the data, does the data even exist, or do we look for someone who is either a very angry middle child, an older or younger sibling who feels some kind of perverse sympathy for the middle child, or have all these kids met up in a chat room and decided to run away and not be middle children anymore?”
James, “You know, that’s just weird enough to have merit. I need to call back some of my contacts. I’ll get back to you.”
Janah tells Nikko and I she may have stumbled onto a rationale that covers the unusual circumstances. That nobody was abducted, that six kids had worked themselves into a frenzy about being middle children.
Nikko, “How’s that explain the gender relationship?
Janah, “It doesn’t. Let’s see if I can explain it.”
She types in the possibilities.
“There are eight possibilities, four of which meet the parameters. But with only a sample of six instances, it’s not out of the question that the coincidence is that they happen to have siblings of both sexes. I have to run the numbers on the odds of each of the eight possibilities.
What is the probability that a family with three children will have two boys?
We have all the tools to handle this problem. We can list the sample space.”
bbb bbg bgb bgg
gbb gbg ggb ggg
“We count the successful results (success is purely a matter of opinion). There are three outcomes that have two boys, the probability is three in eight. Using the same format, listing the eight possibilities, It’s fifty-fifty that the oldest and youngest is either a boy or a girl. Remember we aren’t required to have either the oldest or youngest one or the other. For instance, if the firstborn is a boy, the odds that the third is a girl is reduced to two out of eight or twenty five percent. It seems strange that the odds would change so dramatically just knowing one piece of data, but it does. It’s a version of the Monty Hall problem. If you choose between three doors for the grand prize, and the host shows you what’s behind one of the doors you didn’t choose, which is not the grand prize, do you stay with your original choice, or do you switch to the other door? It turn out you should switch, although it appears that the choice is now one out of two, it’s not. The fact that new information was introduced, that an unchosen option has no prize, modifies the original odds from one out of three for your first pick, and two out of three for the other two. When you find out that one of the two has no prize, the odds don’t change. Your first pick is still one out of three and the door that’s left is still two out of three. So you should always change your choice from your first pick to the only door left.”
Nikko, “So what does this mean in terms of finding our abductor?”
Janah, “Not much. It does mean that only half the population of three children has the firstborn a different gender than the third born. If we’re focused on families with three kids, we can cut out half of them. It narrows the search.”
Nikko, “I’m not sure how, who has the data of genders of families with three children with the same birth parents? Does that information exist?
Janah, “It narrows the search for new possible abductions. If we know gender and birth order, families that don’t match don’t need to be contacted. If the information exists, it’s not evident anyplace public. Nothing Googles, the IRS keeps data on family size, but not gender, if all three kids attended the same school, that would be evident, and recorded.”
Janah calls Mrs. Epstein, “We can come up with two options. Someone who has access to school records where the school had all three children at some point, or had collected data on siblings. The other is health insurance companies. My bet is on health insurance companies. If you can get into the records of all insurers who cover the area in question, and then find out who can access those records, you have a good shot of a fairly small number of subjects. It would have to be someone who could access the information directly. Asking for a report of that information puts the requestor at significant risk. Who would want to know that kind of thing? Why? Someone would remember getting a report for Mr. X that listed all families insured who had three children insured. Even that doesn’t guarantee the children are all from the same parents, or that one or more isn’t adopted.”
Mrs. Epstein, “No, but it still narrows possibilities. Once he knows the families and the genders, he gets the addresses, and from there it’s pretty easy to figure out if the kids are all from the same mom and dad. The entire process is a fair amount of trouble, but the abductor has an as yet unknown obsession. Time isn’t likely as high on his agenda as finding the right mix.”
Janah, “In a way, the very effort makes the prize more rewarding. Anyone can pick a kid off the street, there’s no talent in that. If this is abduction, not a group of middle children acting out their drama, then he’s a very patient, very meticulous person. I’m ruling out middle child drama. There’s no reason that would involve siblings of different genders. If the middle children ran away because they felt less loved, there’s no reason to exclude half the potential population of three children. There’s also no reason to have a relatively narrow age range, eight to fourteen.”
Mrs. Epstein, “So what direction do we go?’
Janah, “Actuaries at health insurance companies. Nobody would question, likely even know about, their digging into the database, that’s what they do. They play with the numbers to keep the insurance company from charging too little. An actuary who isn’t playing around with the data isn’t doing his job.”
Chapter Thirty Five V
Phoenix doesn’t like immigrants, particularly so called illegal ones.
That doesn’t stop residents from hiring Latin American labor, legal or illegal. A version of hate the sin, love the sinner I suppose.
It’s an interesting paradox that everything in Phoenix is painted brown, like the immigrants.
It is very clean, likely due to the immigrants.
It’s perfectly legal to tote around a gun, registered or not, concealed or openly. It doesn’t have to be brown.
Best I can tell, everything else is covered by a rule, restrictive; there are few rights, only what politicians, elderly frightened citizens, and cops call wrongs. All wrongs are illegal.
Welcome to the future.
Mrs. Epstein, “This has been one of our more interesting challenges. First just to find the sheer number of health insurance providers in Arizona. Lots of companies have companies under different names. Then the name and location of every actuary that works for, or consults, any of the companies that cover people anywhere in Arizona. We subdivided the list to actuaries that live in Arizona and those who live near Arizona, a few hours driving distance.
According to the US Department of Labor, there are around twenty thousand US actuaries, under forty four thousand worldwide. Just over half are employed by insurance carriers. Sixteen percent work for management, scientific and technical consulting services. Others work for insurance agents, brokers or in corporate management. A relatively small number are employed by government agencies.”
Janah, “Loosely speaking then, ten thousand actuaries work for insurance companies in the US.”
“Yes, but those are mechanical, number crunching jobs. Lots of this work has been outsourced overseas. There may be no way to get the name of an actuary that compiled this specific data. We’d have to get access to every report produced by or requested by every actuary.”
“No, just every report that has something to do with three siblings from the same parents, with different genders at either end. This information is so specific, it must show up somewhere. I am as certain as certainty allows that someone has asked for this report, either for Phoenix or
Arizona, in the last two years. If you can, find out who asked for the report, or who generated it. Insurance company computers track who asked for what when. It’s in the records. Find that and we’ll find out what’s going on.”
“For a report that specific, maybe the list is short.”
“Hopefully. It may, however, be buried in another report. So start with all reports of families and the number of children in the area. If our guess is right about an actuary, then he or she is pretty smart. He would simply ask for all families with insurance that includes a two hundred mile zone around Phoenix, or certain zip codes. Likely he asked for the same report in different cities, or zip codes around Phoenix he didn’t care about. If our target is as patient as I’m beginning to think, he could take the raw data and track down the families that applied. In a way, it would be more interesting for him, and he may believe that the original report he asked for is so vague as to be overlooked. Start with general, give me the data and we’ll see how much more specific we need. It would be really cool to get the reports themselves. I have an army of monks who can pour over data like ants on honey.”
“Two days max. Then we’ll see.”
“Great. We know the zip codes involved. We just toss out irrelevant data until we have what we want, and the guy who asked for it.”
A day and a half later, Janah has several spreadsheets on her computer. There are five sets of reports that include family size. Two include Phoenix. She adjusts the spreadsheet for the relevant zip codes. That leaves one report. The actuary who asked for it lives in Bangalore India. Further research by the Society reveals he had never traveled to the United States.
“We have two choices, find someone in India to question him, or dig into his computer and find out to whom he sent the reports. Can you get me any information about the company? It will save Susan a lot of steps if we find out his IP address, but it’s not essential. She can hack the company’s computers and find out, but it’s time consuming. If there’s no choice, we have several Shaolin who can hack into most anything and a dozen terminals to work from.”
“I can save you all that. We’ll get every e-mail and package he sent over the last two years. I’m guessing his e-mails alone will narrow down our search. We’re on it. If this guy has anything to do with anyone close to the Phoenix area, we are going to find out.”
I take a long pull from a bottle of distilled water, Nikko is on the floor next to me doing the same thing. Both of us sweating away. We’d just come in from Chan’s where the heavy bag and the Dim Mak dummies are strung out across the room, the three of us spent an hour pounding on them. We are massaging liniment into each other’s hands. Camphor and Eucalyptus scent the room.
“We’re feeling the need to punch and kick something besides a leather bag. Are we going to get to work soon?”
Janah, “My guesses have to line up first. Mrs. E will get back to me with a name, if there is one. Until then, you’ll have to settle for letting me fulfill my sexual needs, so rest, take a long shower, then we’ll eat. After that, you two can lay on the mat and watch one of Daphne’s martial arts movies while I get what I want.”
Nikko, “Do you think we are sex toys for you to take out your excessive lust? Playthings for your filthy mind?”
Nikko, “Correct. Master J wins grand prize. Nikko and Daphne will have major orgasm, guaranteed.”
Janah, “A major and several minor aftershocks, I’m feeling particularly voracious. All you need to do is nothing. Lay on the mat, clothing free, I’ll take care of the rest.”
After showering, and a light supper, we follow the simple instructions, she spends over an hour providing the most delicious intimate sensations. finishing by getting herself off on my thigh while Nikko and I make out. We stumble to bed in a torpid stupor of hormonal excess and sleep in happy oblivion.
There are no reports yet, the guy is in India after all, and there are sidesteps that need to be taken to get to the data. Phone calls to highly placed people in US security agencies, then phone calls to highly placed people in Indian security agencies. The man they need balks, home rule and all that blather. The Society goes to work and twenty four hours later the intransigent is confronted with sufficient detail about his extracurricular sex life, obstinance transforms into cooperation. The package arrives two days later, bypasses US Customs in a diplomatic pouch that is now sitting on Janah’s desk in the temple.
Chapter 36 V
Three days after that, Nikko and I are sitting outside an apartment complex in Scottsdale, Janah in a second car with Chan down the block. All this firepower might be unnecessary, it’s only one guy. Mulholland, that’s the target’s name, had asked the Indian actuary for a series of reports, much as Janah deduced. Mulholland is a Senior VP of First Life and Health, a subsidiary of a monolith insurance conglomerate headquartered in Germany. He’s single, forty five. Never married, no brothers and sisters, his mother is in a nursing home, his father dead.
Janah, “So much for the theory that the perpetrator was wallowing in middle child thumb sucking.”
“It appears not to be the case. I sense you’ve decided that he thinks he’s so smart that it would send the cops off in a search for someone obsessed with middle children.”
Janah, “We aren’t absolutely sure this is our guy. The Society’s digging turns up a man who appears to be exactly what he is. A bachelor, with a degree in mathematics and actuarial science. He has no record, not a parking ticket, doesn’t travel much. He reports to the head of the company here in the US, has never been to Germany. He goes to work, analyzes crunched numbers and comes home. If he’s our guy, then he’s done a remarkable job of making six kids disappear without a trace.”
“But the names of all six children show up in the stack of reports he requested.”
Nikko, “Along with dozens of others, from smaller and larger families. Not all of them have health plans with his company. These insurance companies must readily share a fair amount of data, at least from the actuarial side.”
“So much for privacy.”
Janah, “Privacy is a myth. Which is why we have to keep our guard up all the time. Some agency someplace knows enough about us to draw some pretty specific inferences.”
“How come they don’t act on it?”
Janah, “Two possibilities come to mind. Either they haven’t put it together, or they haven’t figured out just how they might want to use us. I’m guessing they haven’t put it together. It’s not like they search for people who can read minds. They play around with telekinesis and telepathy. Studies haven’t born out any reliable results. I think it’s kind of dropped off the radar.”
We spend a couple of days following Mulholland around, normally a job for Surveillance. This time, however, Janah wants a firsthand look at his habits. Doesn’t take long to further arouse suspicion. Mulholland buys an inordinate amount of groceries for a single man living alone. He has no guests, no parties. But twice he went to the grocery and came out with a full shopping cart. While he has no idea anyone was watching him, he has taken precautions.
Chan, “There are surveillance cameras at each entrance to the house, and they’re real, no mock-ups to discourage thieves. I don’t see any other security. He likely wouldn’t want a security company. If there’s a problem, they send out the police. He must also have the place rigged to alert himself if there’s any motion inside the house.”
Janah, “Then the solution is rather obvious.”
Chan, “Yes. Do you want me to handle it, or shall we create a fake outage in the entire neighborhood?”
Janah, “Easier to cut the juice to his place, no public calling the power company. Nikko and I can keep an eye on him at work. If something goes wrong, like you miss a camera, or when the power goes off he bolts for the house, and Nikko will flatten a tire on his car. He won’t be a problem. Just get in and let Daphne sniff around.”
His shopping pattern and security cameras all over the exits make for a fairly obvious conclusion. He’s buying more food than he can eat, much of it prepared stuff, not things he needs to cook. He’d also bought some interesting nonfood products. Tampons, personal lubricants, girl stuff. Hair dye and makeup. Either he’s planning a sex change, or he has the kids in his house. All Chan has to do is avoid the cameras at the doorways, which are fixed in position. I provide a simple solution, I ease up behind one and cover the lens with a piece of duct tape.
Chan cuts the power at the breaker, I go inside and cover the cameras. He turns the juice back on.
Rather than waste time breaking into his encrypted system, I just take the computer and start looking around for any other external drives. He’s got a safe, I start in on it.
Meanwhile Chan discovers a basement door, calls me over, “Can you hear anything?”
I hear muffled, very muffled TV, and something that sounds like video game noise, “Get the door open.”
“Janah, we’re going to get noisy, I don’t want to waste time searching out hidden mikes. Make sure Mulholland stays put, get Extraction over here and have the Society figure out a story of how the kids got released.”
The door is dead bolted, who locks a basement door inside a locked house with a private security system? And with a deadbolt?
Chan puts his palm against the deadbolt and pushes, snap! crackle, pop! It’s open.
Halfway down the steps is another door, metal, also with a deadbolt. This time, instead of snap, crackle, there is the groan of stressed metal and BANG!
The door swings open and we’re staring at a half dozen kids staring at us.
“Time to go home people.”
Thirty seconds of disbelief, then tears form one girl which starts up the others.
I walk down the stairs into the room, couple of the kids are barely dressed, “Everyone get dressed, people are coming to take you home.”
Questions start, I hold up my hand, “We need to get you out of here and to your families. Questions later.”
Since Chan and I are breaking and entering, we are disguised. Kids will talk about a very thick man and a tall woman, but that’s all they have to work with. I take a look around, the place is virtually sound proof. The concrete walls are exceptionally thick. There is no other exit. There’s a shower and a toilet, the kids sleep on three bunk beds. Books and magazines all revolve around sex. Cheap porn paperbacks, magazines for almost every sexual persuasion. No S&M. The two rooms are meticulously clean. There’s a washer dryer, he makes the kids keep the place and themselves practically sanitized.
Extraction arrives, they take the kids to a van, pull away, I don’t know what the Society has in mind, but at least they’re out of here.
“Kids are gone, I’m roaming the house taking pictures, what’s up with the target?”
Janah, “When Mulholland discovered the power outage, then the power back on, but the cameras shut down, he figured out he needed to get gone and fast. He came right to Nikko, she was leaning against the car parked next to his. He spotted the flat, cursed and went to open the trunk. I pulled up in our car, Nikko cold cocked him and tossed him in the back seat. She’s back there keeping him company. I’m going to park him at the first motel we come across. Getting the kids out was great, but we were planning on collecting evidence and leaving, so I’m making up the rest of it now.”
“I didn’t want the kids down there another day, sorry to go Rambo, but I seen my duty and I done it.”
Janah, “No sweat, I want to talk to him anyway.”
“I have an idea, bring him here. You can extract a confession, I’ll video it on his own equipment and make it look like he’s telling the story to himself, documenting his narrative. The Society can get that to the cops and we’ll leave him here in a neat package for them to pick up.”
They arrive in ten minutes, Janah puts her persuasive powers plus a few pharmaceuticals to work and extracts the story. It takes almost three hours, I need it to look like he’s talking to his own camera, not answering Janah’s questions. Juggling the parts, cut this, take that and move it further up the narrative, or down, until it sounds like it should. It takes another hour and a half.
The kids are gone, but there will be a ton of DNA evidence, after a year, you aren’t vacuuming up every hair off the floor or the clothing we left there. Not to mention tooth and hair brushes. Even a dope forensic department can’t botch that.
We pack it in, leave Mulholland zonked on barbiturates, tied with picture wire to a chair. After collecting our things from the hotel, we go to the airport and first flight to Manhattan.
We have to wait a couple of days for the initial reports, when those come in we recap for the family.
Janah, “The upshot is that Mulholland got off on watching the kids have sex with each other. The place was full of porn videos, straight and gay, of both sexes. He apparently didn’t threaten them, obviously there was the underlying fear of consequences if they didn’t go along. He would take two of them upstairs to an extra bedroom, then video them having sex. Essentially, he put six kids together, filled their heads with porn and let nature take its course.”
Chris, “The kids just went along?”
Janah, “According to the interviews, not at first. Mulholland was patient. Only one child was eight when abducted, nine now, a girl. One was ten, two were twelve, two were fourteen, one a boy, the other boy was twelve when he was taken. All of them had crossed a birthday, been there at least a year. They said the sex started with a couple of the older ones. He encouraged, but didn’t demand. He took videos, but did not engage in any sex. I presume he replayed the videos and did his thing privately.”
Kara, “What was the point? I mean, did he sell the videos, upload them to a kiddie porn site? Personal use?”
Janah, “As far as we can tell, he got his thrill just doing it. The good news is it isn’t plastered on the web.”
Susan, “Where are the kids?’
Janah, “Back with their families, next comes therapy and lawsuits. We couldn’t intervene, we aren’t supposed to exist.”
Chris, “How did the Society bring the cops in?”
“He kept videos on his computer. I was originally going to take it, then changed plans and got the kids gone. Once we had Mulholland under wraps and Janah was working on him, I had time to bust his computer. I watched enough to understand what was happening. I downloaded material with the kids in case the techs screw up his files. We have his self incriminating documentary as well. The DA got a tip on the location of the kids and a warrant was issued with no questions.”
Susan, “He’s got no legal loopholes to crawl through.”
Janah, “None that we can see. He can say the sex was purely voluntary, but his videos prove his participation, and he has to answer for six abducted children. He’s not going to walk.”
James, “Did you unearth a rationale for the specific children?”
Janah, “Yes, one we entirely missed. He took the middle child with a brother and a sister because it left the family with children of each gender.”
Chris, “What the fuck?”
James, “To his tormented and deranged mind, it’s guilt relief. It simply made him feel better.”
Kara, “Then why not take a kid from a huge family, like six or seven kids, so one gone leaves a houseful?”
James, “I can only guess that the math of it made it interesting, a puzzle for him to find the kids and a puzzle for the police to solve. Can’t say for sure, maybe the DA will get it out of him.”
“Nishiko was disappointed, no chance to have a private interview with Mulholland. Her only consolation is that he won’t have much fun in prison. Technically he’s not a pedophile, he wasn’t having sex with the children. But it isn’t going to be seen that way by prisoners. They don’t deal much in technicalities. He isn’t likely to serve our his term in anything resembling good health unless he bargains for solitary. Even solitary isn’t solitary. Guards have children too.”