The Posture of Innocence, day 24.5

in writing •  3 months ago  (edited)

In the "Homemade Waffles" freewrite, Mr. Black gets a good breakfast and now gets the opportunity he has wanted to observe Captain Lee and his division in a morning's work -- a very intense morning, with a case breaking right in front of him ...

To get totally caught up on The Posture of Innocence, here are the prologue, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 3.5, day 4, day 4.5, day 5, day 5.5, day 6, day 7, day 7.5, day 8, day 9, day 9.5, day 10, day 10.5, day 11, day 11.5, day 12, day 12.5, day 13, day 13.5, day 14, day 15, day 16, day 16.5, day 17, day 18, day 19, day 19.5, day 20, day 20.5, day 21, day 22, day 22.5, day 23, day 23.5, and day 24!

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At 9:00 on the dot, the door was buzzed open the instant Mr. Black stepped up. Up he climbed to the second floor by 9:02, by which time Captain Lee and his five lieutenants were out of his office and the little nondescript hallway that contained it, files in hand, marching to a conference room. Mr. Black was impressed by the youth of the men, and also how focused they appeared for their age. Captain Lee had left a deep, deep mark on their impressionable young minds, for certain. His command over them was also marked; he called a halt so softly Mr. Black scarcely heard it, but they all did and stopped and came immediately to attention. Introductions were made, and Mr. Black scarcely recognized Lieutenant Jackson, whom he had frightened the day before – the young man was settled and confident and firm in his handshake.

Well, I thought I was the only one doing this kind of work with insecure young men, but you know what, Lee, I've got to hand it to you. Your young folks are just as much a mess, but you aren't in denial, and you've got quite a grip on these boys. No future domestic terrorists here; I bet they know you'd kill them yourself before that happened!

Clearly, these young men hung on their commander's every word, even his every movement. They listened intently as he said Mr. Black would be observing the division's methods for the day, and then fell into step – exact step – behind him as he turned and walked on toward the conference room they would occupy. Mr. Black observed much of the same hunger in these young men for a caring, mature father as he saw in many of the young men and women he was training up in Charlottesville, and recognized that much of the gravity of the relatively young Captain Lee was that he had been a very young father, and considered these men at the age his son would have been as his responsibility in a different way than many other men in their mid-forties might have.

Mr. Black re-considered American history through that whole lens, from General Washington to General Lee … those two had gotten a lot done, and had gotten away with a whole lot, owing to being able to make average White men feel cared for, and that they were worth something in the world. Perhaps all the efforts of some to make themselves look superior was to cover up the fact of their deep fears of inferiority – their deep insecurity. Not that it excused a single crime done in the name of white supremacy. It just confirmed Mr. Black's long-held notion that when Black people decided to act like the victors that they were, other people would largely fall in line unless they were literally hell-bent on their big secret not being exposed...

Into the conference room; Captain Lee did not sit at the head of the table. Perhaps it was instinctive; military commanders theoretically sat at desks, and presidents in the center of a long side of a long table – and King Arthur at a round table. Captain Lee's division just removed the table, and circled up in the rolling chairs, roughly recreating how they all clustered around his desk. Extra chairs were brought in to hold files.

“Good morning, gentlemen, officially,” Captain Lee said.

“Good morning, sir,” they said.

“Since we have Mr. Black with us, we are officially too big for my office for the morning conference. I have petitioned Commissioner Scott for more space for our division, and this is the temporary solution. The conference room is scheduled for use at 10:00am, so we will put the room back into traditional configuration before 9:50.

“Protocol changes: a change in our file handling is necessary. With the associated aspects of the Soames case, there will be a great deal of interest in certain files that we will be handling in the next few weeks. I have created a tracking index that we will use henceforth. Log every file that you access that is in that index, and make a photocopy for later use, a photocopy for which I have ordered an additional file cabinet that you need not mention outside this room except in our office, and while in the company of the division members there.

“General commendation for today: we are ahead of schedule for the week, thanks to your hard and diligent work on the five cases assigned for the week. The Soames case is closed; the Stedman case is scheduled to be closed today, and we are making excellent progress on the Lovelace, Marra, and Nathan cases. All of these have a measure of complexity that require focus and persistence in pursuing the lines of evidence, and I am very pleased with what I have seen from all of you. Special commendation to Lieutenant Anderson, who laid the foundation for the breaking of the Soames case with the first official interview in 25 years of the chief witness, and for his critical assistance to me in the apprehension of the suspect. Special thanks to Mr. Black, who provided me critical information to bridge the gap.”

The lieutenants looked over at Mr. Black with a great deal more respect.

“General instruction for today: I cannot overemphasize that witness testimony most appeals to us, yet is at the same time the least reliable. Every person we speak to has a personal vested interest in us seeing their viewpoint as correct. With the passage of time, their memories have responded to their wish to be right, and so even the most personally honest witnesses have selectively remembered what confirms their viewpoint and forgotten what does not.

“That does not even account for all the ways that witnesses lie. They exaggerate. They spin. They diminish. They embellish. Occasionally, they tell a lie they know is material to the case – but in most cases that will not be the lie that throws you off. People lie for reasons that have to do with what they want the world to see them as, in addition to the lies they tell to cover up wrongdoing – and there may be wrongdoing that has nothing to do with the case directly that they are lying to cover up. And then there is the problem with us, that we all tend to judge as honest those we have been taught to believe are honest, and disbelieve those we have been taught to be suspicious of.

“I cannot emphasize this enough: every piece of witness testimony is only a point of reference to be compared with other, less pliable evidence. That is why our division spends relatively little time with witnesses and so much time digging for and assembling hard data. That is why your attention to that work, every day, is the key to our success.

“In passing: working with suspects is another level upon the general one. Suspects are witnesses in custody, and with a greater fear-based motive to lie. But in essence, suspects are just people, like witnesses. We see them at a later stage of our data collection, and if we have done our job well, when we also have key data on said suspect. About this we will say more in particular at a later time.”

“Any questions – yes, Lieutenant Lightfoot?”

“Suspects are just people … hard to believe.”

“They are not bananas, Lieutenant. They are neither angels nor devils, unicorns nor monkeys. They are people. We have been trained to see whole swaths of people as less than that –.”

Lieutenants Lightfoot and Jackson winced.

“ – And in the end, the permission we give ourselves to make that false judgment makes us likely to make other false judgments based on prejudices not based in truth. Suspects are people. Convicted criminals are people. So are we. The difference on that spectrum of people is just the grace of God.”

“General guidance for today: we have to do a grab for the Stedman case, and we expect the warrant back early this afternoon, so, get as much done for the other cases as you can by lunch time. Eat a light lunch, please; only two of us are slated to make the arrest, but, depending on whether there are breaks in the Marra and Lovelace cases, it may not be the two we have planned. Lieutenant Anderson, you are in charge of the surveillance of the suspect; call in for the pre-arrest conference at 1, as I anticipate the warrant coming at 1:30. If there is any sign that the apprehension may be dangerous, let us know – call me at any time, and make your last report on the subject at 1.”

“Let me finish your specific guidance, Lieutenant Anderson – as you have done your share of stakeouts before, I don't need to go over the principles with you, but just remind you to follow them closely. Have you picked out your car yet?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then have at it, Lieutenant.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Lieutenant Lightfoot, summarize your plan for the morning.”

“Just after I completed my report, I received an email from Judge Presser's office: my subpoena request has been approved, so I am going across the street to get the subpoena, and then over to Mr. Exeter's bank to retrieve his records. I will review as much as I can by lunch time, and have a status report for you then.”

“Excellent. Go to it. Do not forget to track the timeline of what went where in each account.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Carter and Jackson, summarize your plan for the morning.”

“Mr. Nathan's remains are being exhumed at 10:00, per subpoena from yesterday. We're going to see that, and we'll be back by 12:30.”

“Excellent. Remember, however, the most gruesome tale from my family history. My most famous Lee uncle was five-feet-eleven all his life, until it came time to fit him to the only casket available. The body stretches out a little after death. Thus the remains you find should be somewhere between six feet and six-feet-one. Measure what you find. If those bones do not account for at least six feet of casket space, you know what it means.”

“Yes, sir – horrible thought,” said Lieutenant Jackson. “Whole different ball game – but, the data is suggesting that anyway.”

“If that's not Mr. Nathan, whoever it is will be rattling around in that casket,” Lieutenant Carter said.

“An early clue, then,” said Captain Lee. “But there is something called padding in those things. There will be no rattle. Don't waste energy on gruesome imaginations: the reality will be quite gruesome enough. Cut no corners on your bio-hazard precautions, before or after.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Lieutenant Longstreet, that leaves you. I read your report several times, and your supporting data. I agree with your conclusion thus far, and I think the best thing for us to do is to examine the critical data points and the timelines together. Mr. Black too is a renowned investigator, and may also see something of importance.”

“Thank you, sir … I've just never seen anything like it. A fork – a fork in the data! Two completely plausible paths to two completely different solutions! When you think of the sensitivity of this case, and the utter injustice getting it wrong would be … .”

“May you always have that sense of the gravity of this work,” Captain Lee said, “and may it always keep you from rushing to whatever conclusion is most appealing to your intestines.”


“Gut feelings,” Captain Lee said.

“Oh, those,” Lieutenant Longstreet said. “I certainly have one about this case, and it is that I need another set of eyes – two sets, and thank you, Mr. Black – on this fork.”

“You shall surely have them,” Captain Lee said. “Before that, we must put the conference room back together.”

Everyone got up and reset the room and then –.”


Four lieutenants departed; Captain Lee, Lieutenant Longstreet, and Mr. Black went back to the captain's office, where the captain cleared his entire desk, even putting his computer on the floor so that Lieutenant Longstreet could lay everything out. Meanwhile, Mr. Black made notes of the captain's general methodology and guidance. In many ways their approaches were similar. The development of a good investigator had a great deal to do with developing the ability of that young investigator to look past their gut feelings – emotions plus prejudices, minus experience at that age – to consider the facts at hand and consider that there may be facts not yet seen that needed to be brought to light. Frightened, insecure people – and thus investigators – did not wish to find evidence that challenged what little they thought was certain about themselves and others. Captain Lee did a great deal to make sure his subordinates were secure in themselves and what they were doing, and a great deal to provide sound methods to be secure in.

Mr. Black was surprised but pleased to note that Captain Lee did not believe the impact of a crime – and thus, the evidence being created by that impact – stopped at a fixed point in the past, but instead continued forward until the matter was resolved in some way. Any good investigator would be sensitive to that in witness behavior, but that the captain could also look for it in how circles of people, and landscapes, and cityscapes changed over time indicated that he was thinking– and was teaching his lieutenants – to think properly about the way systems in the whole United States worked through history, and how its crimes of racism and genocide yet informed patterns of crime, law, and justice in the present. Perhaps that was a bit of a stretch, and Mr. Black noted his wishful thinking – but, given that the captain was aware of but not trumpeting his family history had to count for something …

Mr. Black took special note about Captain Lee's dim view of witness testimony and the ability of investigators to judge it well. The approach definitely had weaknesses, but when working with investigators fully embedded in a culture adept in the suppression of all spiritual and emotional discernment that would hinder immediate personal benefit, it was probably the safest general approach. It also accounted for the captain's grave, reserved manner; with that kind of view of people, it was not likely that he was a “people person.”

Nonetheless, Captain Lee had important people skills, and one of them was calm patience. It took two hours for Lieutenant Longstreet to lay out everything – every statement, every photograph, every piece research – and then after that they had to pick up the computer and put it back on the desk and look at how all that data, crunched and sifted and collated, had produced a two-pronged fork. Lieutenant Longstreet was intensely frustrated, for he had combed through his data six times and re-inputted it six times – the fork remained, no matter what he did.

“So,” said Captain Lee, “allow me to congratulate you, Lieutenant. The fork means two things. The first you will find when you put 'fork result' into 'Help.' ”

“What? You mean... ?”

“Go to it, Lieutenant. Read the results aloud.”

Lieutenant Longstreet put “fork result” into the “help” search box, and read the result aloud: “A fork result means that the program has ascertained that two outcomes are equally likely from the user's acquisitions and associations of the available evidence. This also indicates that better than 95 percent of all available evidence that should produce the true final outcome has been collected and is in the proper place; because the set is so complete, two fully plausible outcomes can exist as a result. Since that result cannot be a final solution, this also indicates that the amount of missing evidence is small, and likely exists within the existing evidence, but human review will be necessary to find that evidence.

“The achievement of a fork result also unlocks 'Speculative Mode' within the program, whereby this program can assist its user in determining areas in which human review will be productive. Proceed to the Tools item on the toolbar, go to Mode, and select 'Speculative' to proceed.”

Lieutenant Longstreet's mouth fell open, and even Mr. Black raised his eyebrows.

“There is a great deal of science to investigation,” Captain Lee said, “but, we must not overlook the art as well. There are only five possible results that will unlock the ability to speculate, and a fork is one of them. Of course we speculate all the time as human beings, but this tool is to discipline our processes: gather as much evidence as possible and set it in order, and then we can speculate about what we are missing. Go on, Lieutenant.”

Lieutenant Longstreet put on speculative mode, and the program saved the data set he was working with, copied it, and opened the copy with just three tables: “Evidence needed to prove out Fork A,” “Evidence needed to prove out Fork B,” and “Alternative Outcomes.” In the center of things was the fork, representing the whole set of data and the probabilities it showed.

“The two sets are linked; if you were to add definitive evidence as true to your true set, the program will pick that up in Speculative Mode and generate new possibilities. For right now, list all that you think would be definitive if you had it. Do it now, and when you have finished, double-click on any one item to see what it does to the fork.”

“Yes, sir.”

The lieutenant busied himself for several minutes, listing, while Captain Lee served ice tea to him and Mr. Black. Mr. Black enjoyed watching the youngest investigator in the room thinking and thinking hard – the kid had brains and dedication and persistence, and it was good to see such a young man being carefully shepherded down a path of proper thinking and reasoning as opposed to defaulting to the poor thinking that was his American heritage.

One other thing was apparent: Captain Lee's dedication to his subordinates. Mr. Black had seen something the lieutenant had missed, and was certain that Captain Lee, who was more familiar with the case, had seen several things. Yet, down this long path he had gone with his lieutenant, so his lieutenant could learn how to go back and find for himself what was needed.

At last Lieutenant Longstreet finished.

“All right, I can't think of anything else that should –.”

He stopped, abruptly, and then gasped.

“Pursue it, Lieutenant,” the captain said softly, his dark eyes glittering with suppressed excitement. “Pursue.”

Day 25 is up!

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