Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

Secret database1

Investigative Reporting

(Episode 44)

 Leland and Merlin weren’t the only ones on the track of a killer.  Back at the office, the ‘ladies’ were also discussing matters.

“I’d like to do a little background on the victims of our killer,” Nancy Gillis told Ruth, “and I was hoping I could use the Sheriff’s computer.”

Ruth rolled her eyes upwards.  “That’s a departmental data base in that computer and only to be used on official business.  That means, by a ‘departmental  official’.

“Whatever I find out, you’d be welcome to.”

“Isn’t that big of you,” Ruth scoffed.

“What you don’t seem to get, little woman,” Ruth continued, after Nancy refused to walk away, “is that this (she patted the computer tower) is proprietary information, which means that it is the property of a Department of the United States Government, a Federal database used by this Bureau, which can only be accessed by someone who has the proper occupational clearance.”

“I knew you would be the most likely person to hold a clearance,” Nancy replied happily with evident awe.

Ruth bathed in this for a moment.

“Of course.  For some things.  And the Sheriff holds the passwords for other, more sensitive areas.  But none of those people include you, young lady.”  Ruth riveted Nancy with her eyeballs.

“But the victims are dead.  And I don’t see how any of this covers the killer.  I mean, what is there about our killer that you don’t want me to find out? ”  Nancy implored Ruth with her best Shirley Temple look.

Ruth shook her head.

“Why not think about it this way Ms. Haphelstot?  Aren’t there a lot of things about this case that you would like to know, and that might help in the investigation if we could dig them up?  You would like to do that wouldn’t you, Ms. Haphelstot?  Help with the investigation?  And myself, I understand computers probably better than anyone here because…  I’m young.  Everybody knows that.”

“It’s true,” Ramey said.  “I’ve got a ten year old who helps me out at the office.”

Ruth was chewing on a painted fingernail.   “Well.  There are a few questions of my own, I’ve had about these murders.  Which Sheriff Leland hasn’t had the time, or the inclination I’m unhappy to say, to pursue.  And I can’t seem to figure out the data base.”

“Go ahead.  Let the girl try her luck,” Ms. Loomis, the Muffin Lady, said over whatever it was Ramey was saying.  “I’d be interested, what the government can tell me about myself that I don’t already know.”

“See.  So we’ve got one dead person already.  And she doesn’t care.”  Nancy nodded briskly.

“At the office,” Ramey shouted, after snapping his head hard.  Nancy imagined perhaps this tossed the Muffin Lady clear of his thoughts, or at least to the side.  “My ten year old often has to go into confidential accounts in order to repair things.  There’s no other way around it, unless I were to endanger their treatment.  So I just make him swear to non-disclosure.  And we treat it that way.”

“You made a ten year old swear to non-disclosure?”  Ruth frowned, un-amused.

“On a deck of baseball cards.  He takes it very seriously.”

“Wait a minute.  I’m a reporter,” Nancy interjected.  “How can I report what I’m not allowed to disclose?”

“Good point,” Ruth said.  “That might work.”

“Not for me,” Nancy protested.  “What do I get out of it?”

“You get the information.  You just can’t attribute it to this source.”  Ramey’s head snapped back sharply the other direction, as the Muffin Lady interjected.  “Trust me.  I’ve done lots of interviews, and that’s how it works.  And once you have the information, it’s usually easy to find another source.  For example, say you find out I once lived in Cincinnati.  Then you go to the Cincinnati data base and see if I’m located there.  And when you file your story you just say, ‘According to the public files in the data base of the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau, Mary Loomis previously owned and operated a shop called “Tasty Muffins” there from 1985-1987.’  You see, simple.”

“Is that true?”  Nancy asked.  “You’re from Cincinatti?”

“Pretty much.”

“C’mon,” Ramey urged.  “We all want out of here.  The sooner we crack this case the better, for all concerned.”

Everybody nodded, including Ruth, who eventually found herself agreeing.  “Oh alright,” she said happily, lifting her newly polished nails from the keyboard and allowing Nancy her seat.  “Let’s do something!”

Photo lifted from Google Images

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