They sat me down in an interrogation room with a single television, with a laptop plugged into it. They brought me a cup of coffee, black. And then they left, and I got to work.
I spent my first three weeks at the job asking for an actual office. Naturally, they ignored all of my requests. Turns out, new college graduates don’t have much clout on the police force. Especially since I had a BA in English. But the job paid, and so I did it.
I hit play on the laptop and started watching the recording, typing out everything he said into the form on my tablet.
“Officer James Scaggins, headed out at… 8:07 a m, November first, two-thousand twenty-one. Identification number—“
I cut him off by fast-forwarding. No one actually cared about the identification numbers. Worst-case scenario, I’d have had to rewind back to the beginning for the ID number, or just look at the recording’s file name. But I had to get the other information for the form.
I settled in to the uncomfortable metal chair. It scared me a bit when I first was brought to the interrogation room, but of course, once I heard the explanation, it all made sense. Turns out, once policemen had video evidence for every encounter they incurred on a day-to-day basis, there was a lot less they had to do in the way of interrogation. Still, the room was a little creepy. But they were the ones paying the bills, so there I sat.
Naturally, I was about to take a sip of coffee when the officer d’jour pulled over for a stop. I took down the license plate number and the alleged crime. The system pulled up the name, birthdate, and all other information of the accused from the policeman’s auto-report system. Once he swiped the perpetrator’s driver’s license, all that information was put in a report, which I was finishing up for him based on the video. All he would need to do later is sign the report. Fast, efficient, easy, and unbiased. Or as close to all those things as we’d ever gotten.
The officer returned to his vehicle and I hit fast-forward again. Transcribing and filling out the actions in these recordings was boring, but it paid the bills. It paid better than I expected, actually. And for rather easy work.
The officer’s day was short, and I got to its end just before lunch. I was looking forward to a break, but this recording had a > mark at the end of its file name. That meant that something important or interesting happened at the end, according to the officer or their supervisor. There was a whole system; I won’t bore you with the details. But that meant that I wouldn’t take an early lunch.
The officer pulled over, responding to a domestic disturbance call. It was an apartment complex, one that had seen better days, though I doubt anyone living there could remember them. He walked up to the front door and opened it cautiously, and was grabbed from inside.
Here’s where it got interesting.
There were three people: one took his gun, one took his taser, and the third reached for the second button on his shirt and ripped out the camera recording all of the occurrences.
A woman’s voice shouted, almost directly into the camera’s microphone, “We’re gonna show you what happens to pigs in this neighborhood!” as she threw his camera down and smashed it under her foot.
Unfortunately for her, she didn’t quite do the job.
When the cameras were first introduced, a number of perpetrators tried to damage or destroy the cameras so they couldn’t be caught or prosecuted. The first generation of cameras was somewhat fragile, so they didn’t need much to be destroyed. The second generation, however, was significantly more resilient. Even a good stomp couldn’t truly destroy one of those. But in this case, it knocked out the video. Once again, luck was not on her side, because the audio was far more incriminating.
There was a short pause, where all four people seemed to hold their breath in fear of what may come next.
“Sorry,” the woman’s voice continued, “I didn’t mean to grab you so hard.”
“That’s what you’re apologizing for?” the officer asked. “I thought you’d be apologizing for that ‘pigs’ comment.”
“I didn’t know you had such thin skin,” she retorted.
“You didn’t hurt my feelings, but could you be any more suspicious? I mean, how forced was that?” He seemed to be chuckling. He was obviously quite amused.
“Josiah, you have to agree with me on this.”
“Now’s not the time, Jim.”
This was a different man, with a deeper voice than the officer. Whoever named the file was right; this was interesting.
“Alright, well, do you agree with me, Artie?”
“Don’t answer that,” Josiah interjected. Artie must have been the other person that hadn’t spoken yet.
“So what’s the situation?” Jim asked.
There was a pause.
“You’re not serious,” Jim said, with significantly more gravitas.
“I am deadly serious,” Josiah answered. “Today’s the day we act. They can’t keep hiding information from us. It’s time we unearthed their secrets.”
Something was velcro’d onto the officer.
“The third one down the street on the right side. We’ll point you in the right direction. You just go.”
There was another pause.
“You promise me there’s no one in that building?” Jim finally asked. His indecisiveness was palpable.
“I promise on my life,” Josiah replied.
“Alright. Now or never. Let’s do this.”
As he turned, I heard him step on the camera once again, and the entire thing shut off.
I was unable to move. I hadn’t thought to ask where this hard drive had come from. But now I knew. I knew the media frenzy had descended on the building, the empty building destroyed by an officer of the law just one day prior, uncovering some kind of hatch or shelter that no one knew the purpose of. And now I knew who to ask, and where to go, to find out what that thing being built was.
Needless to say, I skipped lunch.
Drew Schackmann is a contributing writer for Gutai-Pravda Assembly. You can contact him on Twitter.
© 2014; David “Drew” Schackmann, Jr.