a detective story
Mike had been a detective for over 20 years. He had started young and idealistic but ended up looking a lot like most of the others he worked with; hard, weathered, and unhappy. The fact that he was unhappy was beside the point but, also quite possibly, the entire point.
He had distinguished himself from his colleagues because he was able to put little things together to make something larger. Every crime was a puzzle and he was never satisfied until he had every piece. He was never happy until the borders were unbroken and the picture complete. That never happened so, therefore, he was never happy.
His problem this morning was, that after 20 years, a lot of the unfinished puzzles were starting to come together in a completely unexpected way. Something that it would have taken over 20 years to see and only if you were looking. It had started innocently enough, an ironic term given the subject was crime, the prior evening with a party game called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” He had been encouraged to participate at a gathering he had no interest in being at and after the rules had been fully explained to him he quickly put his glass of scotch down and left without another word to anyone.
The game was loosely based on a concept put forth by a Hungarian playwright named Frigyes Karinthy that everyone is, on average, approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth. Well before social networks were popular and network theory was in its infancy, Karinthy believed that the modern world was ‘shrinking’ due to ever-increasing connectedness of human beings.
Hundreds of incomplete puzzles brought together with one final piece. It had been a very long night.
Regardless of how crazy and paranoid it felt, he hurriedly sat down into his chair and booted up his computer. After a few moments he typed ‘collective consciousness’ and hit the search button. It brought up another few terms and he spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out exactly what it was he was trying to put his finger on.
“I think you might also try ‘hive mind,’ Mike.”
Mike jumped, he had not heard his Captain come into his office. Next to Cpt. Nigel Snigget stood his partner of the past four years, Ed Breezly. Smiling broadly, Ed walked into his office and sat down in the chair opposite Mike.
“I think he might also have some luck with ‘eusociality,’ Nige.”
Behind Nigel, he could see others lining up to peer inside at him.
The Captain slowly closed the door behind him and walked slowly to Mike’s desk. “I guess congratulations are in order then” he said with no trace of good will in his voice. “You broke the case.”
Mike faltered a second, overwhelmed with what this meant. He felt for his side arm and realized it sat on the filing cabinet across the room where he had slung it, his jacket, and his keys in his haste to get to work in front of the computer.
“So I was … I am … right?” The words tumbled out of his mouth. His tongue felt think and his head dull.
“I’m afraid so Mike.” The corners of his partner’s mouth gave up their attempts at holding a smile.
Mike sagged back into his chair, trying to come to grips with what it all meant. He started small, like a baby letting go of a piece of furniture and hesitantly putting one foot out in front of the other.
“All the crimes. All of them are connected. Every one.”
His Captain decided to push the baby over. “Mike. It’s all connected. The crimes, music, wars, sports, hunger, the fucking Price is Right.”
Ed chimed in to try and help him; “It’s just a game Mike, ol’ buddy. Do you see that now?”
He couldn’t see. He couldn’t think straight. Only one word kept coming drumming against the back of his eyeballs and finally it leaked out as more of a whimper than a question.
“Because we don’t know how many of you there are.”
“Come on Nige, throw him a bone. Can’t you see he’s struggling a bit?” Ed’s smile returned but now it had a menacing luster to it.
“Ok, it’s like this.” Nigel straightened his shirt with a quick downward tug. “While our best and brightest are tucked away ensuring the survival and advancement of the wheat, the rest of us are entertaining the chaff.”
“You’re the chaff, Mike.” Ed piped up.
The recent recipient of the chaff moniker could only look on confused as Cpt. Nigel Snigget drew his service revolver and calmly put one between his eyes.