Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dex Langan: These Assignments Start Poorly, . . . and Get Worse

When I first took the call from the Special Agent in Charge, I hung up the phone and started a list. It’s what I do – make lists. 14 white, acoustic tiles were in the ceiling of my office at the Bureau. There were three windows to the outside and one into the central office area, which was filled with fax machines, copiers, office supplies and was almost always devoid of people. The parking lot I could see through the windows had four rows of parking spaces, three with 18 spaces, and one with 17. That is when the blinds were open.

It was my job to look for things outside the expected pattern, but first one had to recognize the pattern. And though it may sound strange to think of it this way, this is the way that we were taught to conduct our investigations, to conduct ourselves at the FBI.

Make a list, follow it, take notes, follow protocol, then arrest the black arab guy.

I keed, I keed, . . . about the black guy thing anyway.

Now, looking down at my phone, my list was a ranking of the horrible things that my boss had done to me since I had arrived here as my first assignment after finishing undercover training under the Bureau’s Milton School program.

With my brown hair, blue eyes and a love of outdoor sports, I expected that I might go to Idaho and infiltrate a gun-loving sect of gun-loving polygamist Mormons. Or maybe take down a few high desert biker meth labs back near San Bernadino. But I had no such luck, and my assignments were uniformly inappropriate – being asked to infiltrate groups that into which I would never ever fit.

There was the time that I had I was tasked with infiltrating a Nation of Islam prayer group. Though I was completely unsuccessful in obtaining any useful information, I do fondly remember those seven months as when I learned how to tie a real bowtie.

But now, this time, this phone call was even worse.

I was being sent to what sounded like an all-boys beer festival to look for evidence that the brewers were trying to market their products to children.

Oh god – this did not bode well.

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