“I’ve got a fixer.” The lights in the operations center were dim. The smartly dressed FBI agent had short black hair and intense brown eyes. She was sitting in front of a sleek computer with a pair of massive flat screen monitors. At least 20 application windows were open. The agent, Gail Burrows, was carrying on online conversations in each of them.
“Careful,” said her supervisor, as a charge of excitement flowed through the room, “They scare easy these days.”
“I know,” muttered Agent Burrows, “It isn’t getting any easier.”
The agents were part of an elite squad. They were seeking out the lowest form of human scum – people selling or renting their children for molestation. The job required a cold and calculating demeanor. You had to play a sick personality – a buyer. You had to keep your stories straight, the prey wasn’t stupid. And, most importantly, in order to do a convincing and effective job, you had to become the predators you were playing. It was method acting at its most painful.
Nobody was better at it than Agent Burrows. Like a champion chess player playing six boards at one time, she was expertly weaving through dozens of identities and fishing, simultaneously, for dozens of suspects. On the job, she was dry and robotic. But off the job – she worked a very late shift – she drank too much, cried frequently for no reason, and avoided children like the plague. On the job, she had teammates. Off the job, she was totally alone. Almost nobody could relate to her and she had no patience for them. Those who could relate were evil – and she had enough of that on the clock.
The job was killing her, but nobody knew it.
The job was killing her – but she couldn’t stop.
One of the roles Agent Burrows – Gail – was playing, was the role of a ‘scared serial.’ A sick guy who preyed on multiple children – but was too fearful to actually seek them out himself. Such people relied on child ‘fixers’ who – by paying parents or the kids themselves – arranged for kids to be available. Fixers and scared serials were by nature hard to find and harder still to convict.
“Everybody ready for transfers?” There were nine other agents in the room. When a live lead was in play, the agent who generated the lead passed off their other workload. The process involved sending brief character notes and an online ID and conversation log to the new agent. Because Gail worked so many conversations, the others hated her transfers.
Nonetheless, heads nodded.
Gain hit a button and the transfers were made. Now, she could have a single-minded devotion to catching her fixer.
She had to play coy. Her character had lost his fixer and was seeking another. But nothing other than innuendo could be used. Law enforcement was constantly on the prowl and both fixers and scared serials were excellent at getting wisely spooked. She only knew the lead she had was a child fixer because the site she was on had a reputation as a hangout for those exploring the immoral.
This fixer was unusually willing to provide. The conversations started when Gail wrote, “Had a friend who used to help me out. But he moved to Phoenix.”
“Too bad.” came the reply, from her potential mark.
“I’m looking to make new friends.” wrote Gail.
“I might be able to help,” said the fixer.
From there, the conversation continued for hours – dancing delicately around the subject. The shared bonafides – Gail’s being her character’s Facebook page. The fixer found her very respectable resume and called her listed references. Other agents deftly handled the calls. The fixer shared his bonafides, including a simple web site that spoke in intentionally vague terms about the services provided.
Finally, they agreed to meet – on the steps of the public library.
The fixer would bring product.
The whole team prepped for the meet. Fixers were big fush – serious sick enablers of some of the work people humanity has to offer. some worked on an industrial scale.
Gail, being a woman who couldn’t play the perp, watched from a distance. The scared serial was played by an Agent Franks, a thin man in his lower 30s. He did it a lot. He was wearing an ‘in the canal’ mic and speaker. She could communicate with him and tell him what to say.
When they got to the meet, the target was obvious – a young Asian man with a Caucasian 4-year-old girl. But it wasn’t enough to prosecute.
Agent Franks drew close. Contact was made.
Gail watched, directing the conversation from a bench in a plaza across the street. Waiting for the magic works – ‘She’s for rent’ or ‘She’s for sale’ or ‘She lovable, physically.’ Something to trigger an arrest.
Slowly Gail moved Franks closer and closer – bringing him to the border of explicitly planning to engage in a crime. Finally, after 20 minutes, the fixer gave them what they needed. “She’s available,” he said, “Anything you want to do in one hour – as long as there are no scars – for $5,000.”
“Move!” instructed the team lead, “And Franks, keep him there.”
“I’ll buy,” said Franks.
Gail jumped up fro the bench. Across the plaza, a man with intense eyes did the same thing at exactly the same time. The agents converged simultaneously. Three tackled the fixer. Three tackled Franks. Both quietly insisted, “Check my wallet.”
Gail and the man from across the plaza reached the scene together. “What’s going on?” they demanded, almost in unison.
Minutes later it was worked out. Both the ‘fixer’ and the ‘scared serial’ worked for the FBI. They’d stung each other.
Gail looked at her counterpart – a handsome man named Robert Jones.
A smile crossed her heavy eyes. Her job may have been to pursue evil – but this outcome was far more pleasant.
A smile crossed his eyes. He was thinking the same thing.
Together, they went for drinks.