Question of Identity
To an outsider, the basement would be chaos personified – strange, confusing and frantic. A dozen computer screens created a familiar, yet eerie fog. The steady hum of the fans mingled with a constant stream of audible alerts. It was as if the e-mails, texts and instant messages were the chirping and croaking inhabitants of an electronic marsh, with Charlie as its ranger.
Charlie reveled in the bedlam and responded instantly to everyone, seamlessly switching tone and message to match the dozens of identities being portrayed on the various sites.
Meanwhile, sophisticated trolling software was tracing each contact while simultaneously accessing and processing personal information. Like a robotic matchmaker, the program determined the best candidates for Charlie’s list, instantly downloading the data and creating a profile. When a photo printed, Charlie knew the process was complete and it was time to act.
Charlie looked at the freshly-printed photo. The girl couldn’t be more than 17 years old, her smile radiating innocence and hope. After adding the picture to the gallery of other young women, Charlie put a pin on the map of the city posted beside the photos. It stood alone, isolated from the other markers. Seeing this physical evidence of a new location made Charlie’s pulse quicken with anticipation.
Two hours later Charlie was so entrenched in this world of deception it took the cell phone three rings to break the spell.
Looking at the readout, Charlie swiped the screen and listened without a word. Data was provided; instructions conveyed. All the while Charlie stood dispassionately, eyes fixed in a steely gaze of concentration. Eventually, a simple “understood” ended the call.
Charlie again made a fluid transformation – abandoning the computers and their online relationships in an instant. Beeps and pings continued, the senders unaware that their phantom companions had morphed back into one entity, now consumed by the task at hand.
After dressing quickly and gathering the necessary tools for the job, Charlie went to the board to retrieve the latest photo, taking a moment to memorize all the women’s faces.
Finally, she moved to the door, stopping only to look at herself in the mirror and adjust the ID badge, which read: Charlotte Griffith, Federal Bureau of Investigation.