Janet was watching an old movie with her friends Bill and Erica.  It was one they had seen several times before and all three of them were talking over the movie as they expressed their opinions.  Bill snickered.  It was a snorting, unfriendly sound.  "Not even the paper airplane convinced him."

            "He knows!" Janet protested.  "That's why he crumpled it up."

            "Like he said, he thinks flight is impossible," Bill countered.

            "He said flight is impossible," Janet insisted.  "He saw the paper airplane and asked what it was.  He knows enough to identify what needs to be suppressed."

            "Aren't there any birds in the future?" Erika asked.

            "Must be," said Janet.

            "You don't see any in the movie," Bill pointed out.  "You don't see any wildlife at all, except for plants and the humans who raid crops.  Unless you count horses."

            "OK, so nothing flies," Janet conceded.  She looked at Erica for an answer and the other woman smirked and nodded.  "It's no mistake that the defender of the faith is also in charge of all scientific research.  The establishment knows full well what it is covering up."


            Armand was working at his day job when the receptionist paged him using the office intercom.  What he was doing was not particularly exciting, typing paperwork into a database, but it needed to be done nonetheless.  The woman's smug voice scolded him from every phone in the office.    "Armand, the police are here to see you!"

            Armand picked up his phone and poked a button.  "In my cubicle," he said before hanging up.  His voice was cool and slightly condescending.  He busied himself typing until the two uniformed officers came to him.

            "Armand Tayochit?"

            Armand grinned.  "Hi officers," he said warmly.  "May I ask you something before we proceed?"  One of the officers nodded, looking hard and skeptical.  "You are here to arrest me and any evidence you gather will be tagged, examined and held under lock and key by the county police, right?"

            The two officers exchanged a look.  "Yes, sir," one of them said, curious.

            Armand stood and pressed the palms of his hand against the cloth surface of his cubicle and spoke up formally.  "I am under arrest on the charge of breaking and entering.  I have the right to remain silent.  Anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law.  I have the right to legal council and to have an attorney present during questioning. If I cannot afford an attorney, council will be provided by the state at no cost to me.  I have the right to a fair trial by a jury of my peers.  I do understand these rights.  The stolen documents are in the shopping bag to my left."

            One officer searched Armand while the other examined the contents of his bag. Among other things, there was a clear, plastic case of the sort that normally held a movie on disk, but an unlabeled computer disk could be seen inside.

            "Place your hands behind your back, please," one officer instructed. Momentarily, Armand was being led out of his workplace in handcuffs under the curious and suspicious eyes of his coworkers.


            "The talking doll is not really evidence," Bill was saying.  "I saw a talking panda toy once."

            "Pandas don't talk," Erika agreed.

            "I know he is an intolerant and oppressive ape, but he's not stupid," Janet countered.  "He and his followers called that whole area 'the forbidden zone' because they're covering up the evidence.  And as bad as he is, he's right."  Janet sat back, anticipating an entertaining reaction to her provocative conclusion.

            "What?" Erika's reaction would have been appropriate if she had just been told she was pregnant.

            "He's an evil government conspirator using bogus scriptures to hide the truth!" Bill accused, flabbergasted.

            "His scriptures say that humans are dangerous," Janet pointed out with a giggle in her voice.  Erika gave her a look of realization.

            "Isn't the forbidden zone radioactive?" Erica asked, taking the opportunity to nit-pick.

            "Yup!" Bill exclaimed, pouncing.  "That is why the zone is forbidden."

            "Was radioactive," Janet corrected.  "As a result of..." she let the question dangle as bait in front of Bill and Erica.

            Bill's grin reflected Janet's smugness.  "So, it's OK to destroy evidence even if it means having a man stuffed in order to keep a secret?"

            "His methods are harsh," Janet conceded.  "But he's doing it to defend his species and his way of life. I always assumed he figured that his kind will go back to being slaves if the truth gets out."

            "So it's OK to keep the human race down?"  Bill needled.

            "The humans are down no matter what happens," Janet pointed out. "Did it to themselves."


            Armand sat in an interrogation room.  The detective sitting across from him had introduced himself only as "Howe", presumably his surname.  "We have examined the evidence", Howe was saying.  "Names, locations, dates. It appears that you took valuable research from your victim."  Howe paused and looked at Armand, expecting an answer.

            "I would like to consult with council before responding," Armand decided.

            Howe gave him a disappointed look.  "Federal agents are here.  They want to examine the evidence as well.  Once this becomes a formal proceeding, with council and all, I will have no choice but to hand over the evidence and let them decide whether or not to bring federal charges."

            "According to the law, you are obligated to keep the evidence until my trial," Armand said.

            "If your case goes to trial," Howe answered.  "We have you on breaking and entering.  You have admitted as much, but you did not actually remove anything, just made copies.  Industrial espionage, on the other hand, is a federal matter.  Also, if you will not take a deal, we will have to lock you up until your trial date."

            "Sir," Armand said firmly.  "I must insist that you honor my right to counsel and to a fair trial."

            "And you are sure about that," Howe prodded.  "You're release on bail is unlikely.  You would serve time until your trial."

            "I'm sure I want the evidence exposed in open court," Armand mumbled.

            Howe looked agitated and stood, walking away from the table and speaking with his back turned.  "The victim could always drop the breaking and entering charge and press the federal charges.  We would have no choice but to hand over the evidence."

            Armand fidgeted.  "I would like to speak to council.  You're not refusing, are you?"

            Howe turned.  "Of course not," he responded before summoning an officer with a knock on the door and instructing the man to take the prisoner back to holding.


            "I still can't believe you think he's in the right," Bill commented, enjoying the argument.

            "I meant right, not right," Janet, responded, also pleased to have the opportunity to practice her persuasion skills.

            "Huh?" Bill prompted.

            "Right about the situation he's in, not morally right," Janet explained.

            Bill pounced.  "So, you admit that the cover-up is immoral!"

            Janet leaned forward and glanced from Bill to Erika.  Both were fascinated by the debate.  On TV, the ending credits rolled with accompanying music. "Brutal repression is immoral, of course, but I do understand his motive.  He knows the truth and he'll do anything to defend his way of life," Janet explained.

            "At the expense of the human race," Bill added.  Erika smirked and looked to Janet.

            "Yes, at the expense of another species.  And the humans handed him that opportunity when they pushed the button," Janet countered.  Janet buzzed suddenly.  Her whole body stiffened, as if she had just been shocked.  She swore softly and opened the leather sheath on her belt where she kept her phone.  It was set on vibrate and continued to buzz in her hand.  "It's work," she declared, with her eyes on her phone.  "Hello?"


            A policeman saw to it that Armand was seated comfortably with his hands cuffed on his lap.  The room he was in was small and empty except for a table and two chairs.  There was no camera, unlike the room where Howe had questioned him.  The policeman left the room and Armand waited.  Eventually, the door opened slowly and Janet entered, carrying two cups of coffee that she had to juggle in order to open the door.  She looked to Armand and grinned.  "Good evening," she said.  "I'm with the public defender's office.  Call me Janet."

            "Hey," Armand said.

            "Coffee?" she offered.  She put the white Styrofoam cup in front of him, along with cream and sugar and waited while Armand fumbled to prepare his coffee while wearing handcuffs. He took a satisfying sip of the hot, bitter stuff.

            Janet favored Armand with an engaging smile and began her usual speech. "I've been assigned as your representation for the time being.  Anything you tell me is protected by attorney-client confidentiality and I am required to disclose any deal that the prosecution offers, although whether or not you accept is entirely up to you."

            "I want a trial," Armand informed her, testing.

            Janet nodded.  "Howe told me.  I've read your file, but I have not had a chance to examine the disk."

            "Howe wants to deal," Armand said.  "What I want is a nice, public trial, with the evidence exposed for all to see.  It's important.  Don't care what happens to me."

            Janet paused, surprised and calculating.  "It's Howe's job to try to convict you with as little effort as possible.  Anyway, after he examined your disk, he had it placed in a safe inside the evidence room.  They usually only do that with drugs or something really valuable."  Janet lowered her voice and glanced at the room's only exit.  "He's also trying to convince the DA's office to charge you with burglary.  It's a more serious charge, but it would be the state's decision to press or drop, not your victim's." 

            "Yeah?"  Armand's demeanor changed to one of surprise and appreciation.

            "Yeah," Janet confirmed.  "Howe's a decent guy, I've worked with him before."

            "I thought that Howe was going to hand everything over to the feds," Armand admitted, relieved.

            "The police have jurisdiction as long as they have charges to prosecute," Janet concluded.  She lowered her voice.  "We need to keep the evidence, and you, out of federal hands if you want a trial.  The feds can get away with detaining you for as long as they please, without so much as a hearing."

            "Um," Armand began.  "What's the difference between breaking and entering and burglary?"

            "Breaking and entering is simply going into an area that is supposed to be secure.  Burglary involves taking something."

            "Confidentially?" Armand asked.  He paused until Janet nodded.  "I copied files stored on a secure hard drive and deleted the originals. My disk is the only copy of those files.  If I can't expose that information to the public, maybe I can at least keep it out of the wrong hands."

            "The hands of the people you took it from?"  Janet asked.

            "And the feds," Armand added.  "The company has government connections.  For everyone, including those in the government who have not been compromised, to see the evidence is one thing, but just handing it over to the feds would mean a cover up and they would be able to act against us."

            "Us?" Janet asked.

            Armand looked at his hands.  He made a circle with his the middle finger and thumb of his right hand while holding his straightened index finger behind.  Then he looked at Janet, who looked back without any sign of recognition. "Never mind", Armand mumbled, looking away.

            Janet took a slow, contemplative sip of coffee.  "And you are sure there are no backups?" she asked.

            "Reasonably," Armand concluded.  "The files were on a hard disk designated secret.  If the company followed their own procedures, there would be only one copy."

"Removing information might qualify as burglary," she decided.  "It might also qualify as industrial espionage, in which case you're screwed."

            "So, if I admit to deleting the information I risk facing federal charges, but there's a chanced I would be charged with burglary and Howe can see to it that I have a trial.  If I don't, the company will be able to drop the breaking and entering charge and proceed under federal law," Armand calculated out loud.  "Who decides if I'm charged with burglary or not?"

            "District attorney's office," Janet answered.

            Armand leaned forward with his elbows on the table.  "I'm going for the burglary charge."

            Janet nodded.  "I'll ask Howe to take down your confession."

            Janet found Howe at his desk and waited for him to finish talking on the phone. Quietly, she explained that her client wanted to confess to a burglary and Howe hurried to the interrogation room as Janet followed.  While the detective recorded the conversation on his cell phone's camera, Armand admitted that he had downloaded files onto a disk and then permanently deleted them.  In other words, he had stolen the information.

            After turning off his phone, Howe declared that he needed to see the district attorney.  He patted Armand on the shoulder as he headed for the door.  Soon afterwards, a uniformed officer took Armand back to holding.


            Armand had been held for two days when Janet met with him again.  She had bad news and she was not looking forward to telling him.  She was also wondering if she was being watched.  She had notice two large men when she had arrived at the station.  One or the other of them had been around as she had signed in, spoken with Howe and arranged to meet Armand.  Neither of the men wore badges, but they also did not have white ID cards like the one she was required to wear.  They could only be federal agents.  One of the men was down the hall when she was escorted to see Armand. The room was more like a conference room in a civilian office than a police interrogation room.  Armand wore an orange prison uniform and was not handcuffed this time.  He stood politely as she entered.

            Janet took a breath before speaking.  "I have unfortunate news."  She paused, studying Armand's reaction.  "The District Attorney's office has declined to charge you with burglary."

            Armand's face dropped, but he did not seem to be about to lose his temper. "I'll be a federal prisoner soon?"  He turned away as he swore quietly.  "Is there anything you can do?"

            "As your defense, I can't ask that you be charged with a crime.  About all I can do is try to convince a federal judge to drop the charges when the time comes.  I will be preparing your defense, but it won't be easy with your confession on file."

            "And my file will be delivered to federal authorities," Armand concluded.

            "You are still charged with breaking and entering," she pointed out. "If those charges are dropped, you will be released."

            "But my file will go to the feds," Armand griped.

            "Unfortunately, yes," Janet confirmed.  "And you will be instructed not to leave town, but a lot of defendants disregard that order."

            Armand bristled with frustration.  "The evidence is the important thing!"  He was about to say more, but the door opened.  Howe walked in carrying Armand's file and one of the federal agents had followed him in.  He was a middle-aged man with a military haircut, wearing a severe suit.

            "You said you needed his file to prepare your defense," Howe offered.

            "Mm-hm," Janet confirmed.  She had not asked for the file, but she thought she had better follow the detective's lead.

            Howe placed the file on the desk in front of her.  "That file will be surrendered to federal authorities," the agent said firmly.

            Howe turned to the man, stepping very close.  "All prisoners have a right to a defense.  It's the law."

            "Well, than," the agent began.  "I'll wait here until you're ready to hand it over."

            "Any meetings with my client are confidential," Janet protested. "And I will see if anything is missing," she added pointedly, giving the agent a reproachful look.  She opened the file and thumbed through the paperwork.  Armand's unmarked disk was also there and she removed it from its case.  Both Armand and the agent eyed the piece of plastic lustfully.

            "I'll need to examine this," Janet declared.

            "So, exam..." the agent paused as Janet dropped the disk and heard it land on the plastic pad that her wheeled swivel chair rested on.  As she leaned over to pick it up, her chair rolled slightly to the left and an audible pop could be heard.  When she picked up the disk it was cracked.

            "You just destroyed evidence!" the agent accused, leaning over Janet. "You are in a lot of trouble, young lady."

            Armand folded his arms on the table and buried his head between his elbows. Howe spoke from behind the agent, still standing too close.  "The disk is in our custody, so it is up to us whether or not charges are brought," he interjected.  "This was clearly an accident."

            The agent spun to confront Howe.  "OK," he growled.  "You arrest her."

            "No!"  Howe's voice was high with indignation.

            "That's an order," the agent demanded.

            Howe's face turned red.  "I give the orders around here," he answered.  His voice was quiet and controlled, a tone that carried more weight than if he had shouted.  Armand began to shake, still with his head down.  "This is a confidential meeting and you're upsetting my prisoner.  Get out!"

            "This is not over," the agent challenged.

            "Out!" Howe demanded.

            The agent left and Howe followed him out and slammed the door.

            Janet looked at Armand, still shaking violently with his face buried in his arms.  Was he crying? "Armand, I'm sorry," she said gently.

            Armand lost it.  He made a long snorting sound through his nose and then he exploded in boisterous laughter, containing the sound in his arms.  He was still giggling uncontrollably when he sat up.  "I think I'm in love!" he exclaimed.  He took Janet's hand by the fingers and planted a kiss on her knuckles.

            Janet looked down.  "Great.  I can visit you in prison."

            "Cool!"  Armand answered.

            "I might end up in prison myself," Janet speculated.  "Or out of a job."

            Armand sobered up.  "Um, thank you."

            "As for your defense," Janet prompted.

            "At this point, I'll take any deal I can get," Armand declared.

            Janet grinned.  "I'll try and enter a guilty plea to breaking and entering, before the charges can be dropped.  It's the least severe charge."  Armand nodded.  Janet went and knocked on the door.  A uniformed guard entered and escorted Armand away while Janet hurried to make his plea official.  She arranged a meeting with a judge and a prosecutor in chambers the next day and Armand was convicted and given a relatively light sentence.  When she gave him the news, he agreed to serve his time.


            Two days later, Janet was seated at a local restaurant, waiting.  Jim had asked for an informal meeting and she did not know why.  Jim was a defense lawyer with a reputation for underhanded tactics.  Janet normally called him by his first name in order to be deliberately irreverent, even though he was her senior by a few decades or so.  A meeting outside work was not unusual, but as far as she knew, Janet was not working on anything to do with Jim.  She was early and had been seated in a booth with a view of the door.  The restaurant was not far from the courthouse and judges and lawyers frequented the establishment after work.  Janet took a contemplative sip of beer and looked around.

            She recognized one of the other patrons, a man who was sipping coffee across the room, and a nervous shock went through her.  He was one of the agents she had seen watching her when Armand had confessed.  It could be a coincidence, but she doubted it.  Soon, she saw Jim enter and have a brief conversation with the hostess before he saw her and hurried over.

            Janet stood and greeted him.  She saw the agent move slightly out of the corner of her eye.  He was watching.  Jim was all smiles as he took his seat at the booth and Janet joined him.  "So, what did you want to see me about?"

            Jim's leer widened.  "It's about a recent case you worked on.  Tayochit."

            Janet nodded, prompting him to continue.

            "A certain interested party is looking for information pertinent to that case.  Perhaps you can help with the investigation."

            "And you would make it worthwhile," Janet added.

            "Certainly," Jim answered, brightening a bit.  "There's no law against buying information."

            "Not as such," Janet said.  "Breaking confidentiality, on the other hand..."

            Jim nodded.  "The investigation is not focused on the case or your conversations with Mr. Tayochit.  My client only wishes to recover stolen research."

            "Who is the client?" Janet asked.  She glanced at the agent, who was still nursing a cup of coffee and looking casual.

            Jim gave her a conciliatory smile.  "You know I can't tell you that."

            "But they're willing to pay for the research that Armand had with him when he was arrested and you think I have a copy," Janet said.

            "They are willing to pay quite well," Jim added.

            Janet sat back.  "Sorry to disappoint, but I did not even have a chance to examine the disk, much less make a copy."  Janet's voice dripped with condescension.  "Howe had it, why don't you ask him."  They both knew Howe.  Such an offer would only serve to upset him and may have resulted in bribery charges.

            Jim leaned forward with his elbow on the table.  "Six figures," he whispered.

            "Seriously!" Janet exclaimed.  Jim's wince at the loud reply satisfied her.  He nodded.  "I can't give you what I don't have," she added.  "The only copy I know of was destroyed."

            "By you," Jim added.  "I heard about that."  He watched her for a reaction.  "Obstructing justice is against the law.  You could be hauled into federal court."

            Janet smiled reproachfully.  "It was an accident."

            "Sure," Jim said with deliberate insincerity.  "And you don't have a copy."  Janet shook her head.  "Certain interested parties might be able to arrange leniency if the research were to be returned."

            Janet looked at the agent, making it obvious to Jim.  "I don't have a copy to sell and even if I did, I would go through proper channels.  We have nothing more to discuss."

            Jim looked at the table.  "Unfortunate," he said.

            "Bye, Jim," Janet insisted.

            The old man got up and left.  As Janet watched, he glanced at the agent.  As she finished her beer, the man paid his bill and departed.  When Janet went home, she noticed that the dead bolt on her apartment door was open.  She rushed inside and examined everything.  Someone had searched her apartment.  Whoever it was had been subtle about it, but a few of her belongings, especially her disks, were out of place.  Her first reaction was to be upset, but then she calculated.  As for reporting it, she did not have any real evidence of a break-in.  She decided to tell Howe, quietly.  He could investigate without a formal complaint.

            Janet spent a quiet evening at home.  She was not expecting more trouble as her place had already been searched, but the sense of violation nagged at her consciousness.  At work the next day, she had no trouble finding detective Howe.  He listened as she explained about her apartment having been searched.  The old cop pursed his lips.

            "Some of my things were out of place, too," he said thoughtfully. "I noticed it after I got home from work."

            "And you are investigating?" Janet asked.

            "I will be," he answered.  Janet could see by his expression that he had not concluded that his home had been searched until she had brought it up.

            "So, should I expect a team to check out my place?" Janet prompted with a relieved smile.

            "Not exactly," Howe said.  He looked around, furtively.  "I have something else in mind.  My shift ends at seven tonight.  You'll be home?"

            Janet nodded.

            She did not see detective Howe again until that night at home.  When he showed up, he was not alone.  The detective introduced the man with him as agent Augustine and the man showed her an FBI badge.

            "He contacted me during the Tayochit case," Howe explained.

            "A federal agent?"  Janet blocked the door, her face hard with suspicion.

            Augustine smiled.  "I'm assigned to an internal task force on corruption," he explained.  "Detective Howe has been quietly assisting me."

            Janet grinned a relieved grin.  "Please, come in," she invited.  "Would you like me to make coffee?"

            Howe favored Janet with a grateful grin.  "One thing before we talk," Augustine requested.  He retrieved a cell phone from his pocket and plugged a small antenna into a USB port on the underside.  Then he turned the device, pointing the antenna around the room while studying the phone's screen.

            Augustine paused and put a finger to his lips.  He moved slowly, still watching the screen, and then picked up a pen on Janet's coffee table.  After opening and inspecting it, he carried it to the nearest smoke detector.  He held the pen up to the detector and pushed the test button, causing the alarm to emit a shriek of mechanized panic.

            Janet's eyes twinkled with amusement and Howe snickered and turned away. Augustine yanked a listening device out of the pen and turned to Janet.  "May I borrow a zip-lock bag?"  Augustine followed her into the kitchen.  Silently, he went to the sink and opened the faucet just enough for a trickle of water and carefully wetted the device.

"We can talk now," Augustine informed her as she held open the plastic bag.  The agent bagged and pocketed the device as evidence.  "I understand that a federal agent, who did not identify himself, attempted to supervise a meeting with your client.  Is that correct?"

            Janet thought for a moment.  "I assume he was an agent.  He was in the station without an ID or badge, which means he must have presented credentials at the desk.  He wanted to see my client's files and refused to leave the room until detective Howe ordered him out.  And yes, this did take place during a meeting with my client."

            "I see," agent Augustine said thoughtfully.  "I'd like to get a sworn statement from each of you?"

            "Definitely!" Janet said with a grin.

            "Sure," Howe added, standing in the doorway.

            "Want me to write it up, nice and legal?" Janet volunteered.

            "Yes," said Augustine.  "Yes please.  And throw in a statement from Howe about the accident."  Janet's look asked a question.  "In which the disk was destroyed," he added.

            While Janet and Howe composed their statements, Augustine examined Janet's apartment.  He concluded that whoever had been there had been careful, as he found no additional evidence.  When the statements were completed and signed, Augustine showed the two witnesses pictures on his phone and had them identify the agent in question.

            "You have what you need?" Howe asked as he stood and put on his jacket.

            Augustine nodded.  "This will probably become an internal matter, so I doubt you will have to testify in person."

            "But you have our contact information," Howe added.  He glanced in the direction of the clock. "I need to head for home."

            Janet and Augustine said their goodbyes at the door as he left.  Janet turned to the agent.  "Thank you," she said with sincerity.

            Augustine fidgeted with the file folder that contained the statements and evidence bag.  "Thank you," he said, looking smug.

            "Um," Janet began.  "Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of Armand's evidence to give you."

            Augustine gave her a surprised and thoughtful look.  "That's for the best," he said in a low voice.

            "I might still be in trouble," Janet said quietly.

            Augustine shook his head.  "Not after I present my evidence."  He raised his voice slightly.  "It's been a pleasure meeting you."

            "Likewise," Janet responded.  "Let me know if you need anything more."

            "Certainly," he answered before shaking hands and leaving.

            Janet locked her door quietly, organized her stuff and deleted some files from her computer.  She was still a bit spooked, knowing someone had searched her apartment.  However, she went back to her normal life and she never did hear from Agent Augustine or have any trouble over the destroyed disk.  It was as though the whole thing never happened.



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