I was stretched out in my easy chair trying to watch the Seattle Mariners beat up on the New York Yankees. The game was in the seventh inning and Seattle had a commanding 8 to 1 lead. With the outcome all but decided I was having a hard time staying awake and found myself nodding off in between pitches, or maybe it was in between several pitches. During one of these dozing periods I was startled awake by a banging noise–just loud enough to wake me but I couldn’t immediately place the source. I looked at the TV just as Derrick Jeter connected on a Jamie Moyer 3-1 fast ball and launched it into the left field bleachers. A grand slam, ouch! I didn’t even know the bases were loaded. I better stay awake or these guys are gonna find a way to lose this game.
Bang, bang, bang, three loud raps at the door. Just what I don’t need, company.
I walked down the hall, opened the front door and was greeted by two nerdy looking men in suits. The man on the right was tall, about six three, six four, but didn’t look like he carried over 150 pounds, including his suit. The other man was a full head shorter but just as skinny and was wearing a pair of glasses that may have been the replacement lenses for the Hubble telescope, huge and thick. I immediately thought Jehovah’s Witness.
“Yes?” I said, irritated at the interruption of the ball game and ready to close the door after quickly telling them I wasn’t in the market for whatever religion, vacuum cleaner, insurance policy, or encyclopedia they might be selling. Instead, tall guy, smiling politely, flashed a badge at me and said. “Mr. Miner, we are with the Global Internet Bureau of Investigation, I am agent Arnold Whitherspoon and this is my partner agent Clarence Nethercutt. We are conducting an investigation and would like to ask you a few questions and possibly have a look at your computer. May we come in?”
“You’re kidding, right? I asked.
“No sir,” replied tall guy–his smile fading. “This is official Bureau business and we really must insist on speaking with you.”
“I’ve never even heard of the Global Bureau of… whatever it is you said.” I told him.
“That’s the Global Internet Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Miner and regardless of whether or not you’ve heard of us, we are an official branch of law enforcement operating under the same mandate and with the same enforcement powers as your United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. Now Mr. Miner, you can either invite us in, answer our questions and let us have a look at what’s on your computer or you can come with us downtown to answer our questions, at which point we will then confiscate your PC and take it downtown to get what we’re after. Now, which of these options sounds simpler to you Mr. Miner?”
“I don’t like either option,” I told tall guy. “Am I being charged with something here?”
“Should we be charging you with something Mr. Miner?” Tall guy answered my question with his own question. “Are you maybe hiding something from us Mr. Miner?”
“Look, I don’t know who the hell you people are but unless you have a warrant to arrest me or search my home I would appreciate it if you took your act elsewhere, I’m watching a ball game.”
“Not a good answer Mr. Miner,” said tall guy. “I think you just upset Clarence.”
I looked at the shorter guy just as he was pulling back the left side of his suit and reaching for his gun. Before I had time to rethink my last comment the little guy with the glass bottom eyewear was in my face with his gun to my head, pushing me back into the house and screaming in a squeaky, high pitched voice, “This little son of a bitch is hiding something from us Arnold, I know he is, I knew it the second he opened the door. Let me take him out Arnold, and then we’ll see what kind of criminal activity he’s been up to on his computer. Let me kill him right here, right now Arnold, just say the word Arnold.” Tall guy followed us into the house and slowly closed the door.
“Yep, you upset Clarence, Mr. Miner,” said tall guy. “He’s a little high strung as you can see. Hold on there Clarence, I don’t think we need to kill Mr. Miner just yet. I’m sure he’ll cooperate with us now that he understands we mean business. Won’t you Mr. Miner?”
“Jesus! Yeah, sure. Just tell him to get that gun away from my head, would ya?”
“Put the gun away Clarence,” tall guy told four eyes.
As calm as could be, Clarence holstered the 9mm Glock, took two steps back and stood next to tall guy looking around at the wall hangings in the hallway as though nothing had just happened.
“You might want to be a little more careful in what you say around Clarence, Mr. Miner. He doesn’t always recover this well and someone’s liable to get hurt.
“What is it you two want?” I said. “I’ve done nothing wrong, or illegal. What is it you’re after?”
“We’ll ask the questions, Mr. Miner. You supply the right answers and maybe we can be done with this little unpleasant intrusion into your all important life.” He said that last with a strong hint of sarcasm in his voice, like my life didn’t mean shit compared to what they were tasked to do. I made one last attempt to recover at least part of my dignity they were trying to steal.
“Can I see your credentials again? And I think I’ll call my lawyer before we proceed.”
That was a mistake. Little four-eyed Clarence was in my face again with the barrel of his 9mil pressed under my chin begging his boss to let him do it. “We don’t have time for this shit Arnold, I say we waste him now, look at his hard drive and move on to the next asshole.”
“No… hey wait… I was just kidding! My computer’s upstairs, you can have it; take it with you; I don’t care. But don’t kill me. Jesus, please don’t kill me.”
I’d never been more frightened in my life. Whoever these two fucks were, they meant business and I was through trying to save my dignity. “Whatever you want, okay?” I pleaded.
“That’s better Mr. Miner. Let’s you and me sit down and talk while Clarence has a look at your computer, okay?”
“Sure, whatever you say. The computer is upstairs in the hallway.” I told him.
Arnold and I sat down in the living room while Clarence went upstairs. Before tall guy could ask his first question we heard Clarence mumbling something from the top of the staircase.
“What’s that Clarence?” Tall guy yelled.
“I said he’s got one of those stupid iMac machines. A real non-conformist, hey?” Clarence yelled back.
Without thinking I said, “Beats the hell out of those idiot Window boxes.” Luckily it wasn’t loud enough for four eyes to make out clearly, although tall guy Arnold heard what I said and once again came to my rescue as Clarence tromped half way down the stairs and leaned over the banister with his gun pointed at me, screaming, “What did you say puke?”
“Clarence!” yelled Arnold. “Get your ass back up there and interrogate that hard drive so we can get out of here. We have several more people to visit and I want to be home for dinner.”
“Yeah, sure Arnold, you’re right; sorry.” Clarence retreated back up the stairs to “interrogate” my hard drive while Arnold began asking me questions. Jesus, these guys are insane. I thought.
Tall guy took out his notepad and started in.
“What do you use your computer for Mr. Miner?”
“I use it for the same reasons most everyone else does. Email, surfing the web, banking, play a game or two. Stuff like that.” Arnold made a note in his pad.
“How about pornography? Is Clarence going to find evidence that you or your wife have been frequenting any porn sites, Mr. Miner?”
“No, I do not visit pornography sites.” But I’ll bet you do, you skinny little bastard. I said on the inside. Not wanting to rile any more feathers, just wanting them to go.
My answer raised tall guys eyebrow. “You say you don’t but what about your wife?”
This pissed me off but I remained calm.
“My wife, agent Witherspoon, does not use the computer. I doubt she even knows how to turn it on.”
Arnold spoke the words he wrote in his notepad. “Wife, computer illiterate.”
“How about pirated or illegal software, Mr. Miner? Any of that floating around your hard drive?”
“You know Clarence will find it, so you’d better fess up if you have any illegal software on that machine of yours.”
“I don’t,” I said.
“Do you know the penalty for possessing illegally obtained software Mr. Miner?”
“Fines, possible jail time I suppose.”
“Those were the penalties before the Global Internet Bureau of Investigation took over. Now that we are in control the penalties are a bit more, shall we say, decisive.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?” I asked.
Agent Witherspoon didn’t answer right away. He looked uncomfortable. In fact, he almost looked scared. Finally he said, “Let’s just hope you never have to find out what that’s suppose to mean Mr. Miner.”
“We’ve got the bastard!” I heard Clarence yell from the upstairs hallway. He came down the stairs, his chest all puffed out like he’d just single handedly solved the biggest crime of the century.
“What’ve you got Clarence?” Arnold asked.
“Seven unlicensed, unregistered copies of shareware programs. From GraphicsConverter to Tetris. None of them paid for. A clear violation of the Global Internet Bureau of Investigation pirated software code 17-572. This man is guilty of capital piracy and must suffer the consequences.” Clarence pulled his gun out once again.
“Hold on there Clarence,” said Arnold. “The defendant has the right to defend himself first.” Arnold turned to me and asked, “Are these allegations of capital piracy true Mr. Miner?”
“What capital piracy? Since when is it illegal to download Shareware?”
“It’s not illegal to download Shareware, but most Shareware licenses stipulate a 30 day trial period after which you either pay the specified price or delete the program from your computer. Did you do either of these Mr. Miner?”
“I must not have deleted the files if agent Nethercutt say’s they’re still on the hard drive but I never use those programs anyway. I just forgot to delete them.”
“Arnold really looked scared now. “So you agree Mr. Miner that there are several illegal pieces of software on your computer?”
“I guess, but only because I forgot to delete them. I’ll go delete them right now if you let me and we can forget they were ever there, how about it?”
Arnold Witherspoon not only looked scared but sick and pale. In fact he looked like he was about to blow his lunch. He looked at Clarence pleadingly, asking, “Can’t we let this guy slide?”
“NO! You know the procedure.” Arnold said. “It must be carried out.”
Arnold nodded agreement, rose from the sofa and went into the kitchen. I heard him getting a glass from the cupboard and the faucet turning on.
Meanwhile Clarence, with a maniacal grin on his face and his gun in his hand hanging by his side, began. “Mr. Miner you have been found and judged guilty in accordance with the pirated software code #17-572 of the Global Internet Bureau of Investigation. And having been found guilty must suffer the consequences of your actions. I hereby sentence you to death.”
Before any of this had a chance to register in my mind Clarence raised his nine millimeter handgun, pointed it at the middle of my forehead and pulled the trigger. I never heard the report as the bullet entered the front of my skull and then tore through my brain before tearing out the back of my skull leaving a fist sized hole in the back of my head. My brains went everywhere and I was dead.
Beware of the Global Internet Bureau of Investigation!