SINGULARITY ON PICKLOCK LANE
BY EW FARNSWORTH

 
One Friday evening, Sheriff Fatty Millhouse caught up on his paperwork in his spacious lodging on Picklock Lane. His clones assisted him, but he took care to see the records were intelligible and properly indexed. These all-night clerical sessions were teaching opportunities, so as the sheriff worked, he lectured everyone within hearing distance. All the clones could multi-task, and they had excellent interrupt capabilities, better than machine computers.

“We must use our tentacles to our advantage. Humans have an example to challenge us: Leonardo da Vinci could simultaneously write with one hand and draw with the other. So, we shall go one step further by indexing and cross-referencing with our tentacles. Our computation skills will help as we gather statistics on crime. Our organizational skills will keep our files well sorted. Do you have any questions? Good. Get on with your assignments. And don’t forget—if you meet with any impediments, stop and inform me immediately.”

One hour later, one of the brighter clones raised his tentacle to pose a question: “How should I cross-reference the case of the seven men who planned to cast bricks at the Butterfly Paradise?”

Millstone was familiar with that case. “Are you referring to the seven criminals’ prior arrests and convictions? I should think that was an easy matter.”

“Yes, Sir. But I was referring to allusions to the seven men’s involvement in unindicted crimes in other districts than ours.”

“Please be specific.”

“The seven men seem to be involved on a continuing basis in every aspect of the illicit narcotics rackets in this country. None of that material appears in our police records, but the national and tabloid press have allusions to heroin, morphine, opium and synthetics like fentanyl.”

Fatty rose from his stool and looked over his clone’s shoulder to examine the facts for himself. Each potential cross reference was indicated with a chartreuse slip with the clone’s hand-written notation. Taken singly, the data indicated nothing unusual or alarming. However, taken altogether, they revealed a decade-long history of the manufacture, sale or use of opioids with the implication that a factory most likely lay within the nation in an adjacent precinct.

“Your data look good. I have a special task for you. Stop doing work on the general records. By dawn, provide me with an analysis of your findings specifically related to the seven young men. See if you can provide the likely location of their factory.” He clapped the clone on the back for thinking out of the box. He also assigned two other of his clones to draw up reports on related matters: one to do a profile of the illicit narcotics trade in the area around Picklock Lane, and another to compose a list of known drug distributors during the last ten years.

The group was now excited at the prospect of a new hunt for criminals. So, by morning they had completed their normal duties as well as having written three new reports. The sheriff was excited the drugs factory was no more than ten miles away. He now had a current map of the locations of drug distributors as well as a list of pushers with their contact data. He did not like the idea hard drugs were being sold by a fixture in the park just off Picklock Lane, but no trafficking was being conducted on the lane itself according to the information the clones had sifted thus far.

Millstone was not known for foot-dragging. He appointed the three clones who had unearthed the data as his plain-clothes deputies to comb the area for evidence of the narcotics trade and, if such were found, to contact him at once so they could make arrests. Meanwhile, he drove to the factory where at its loading docks a lorry was standing by with a driver and two hard men to pick up and distribute hard drugs.

The sheriff had to make a call to his colleague, the sheriff of the adjacent precinct to apprise him of the situation and recommend an immediate raid with a search warrant. He remained vigilant near enough the factory to watch the enforcement officials arrive and make their searches and arrests. He smiled to see the police wagons depart with twelve arrested men. A second police wagon was loaded with a mix of finished drugs and precursors. Though the factory was not in his territory, he was delighted to break up an enterprise so close to Picklock Lane.

Fatty Millstone managed to be in his place at the table to the rear of the Cracked Bell pub before Crenshaw the tabloid writer arrived panting at ten o’clock AM.

“Sheriff, have you heard about the drug bust in Helmsley village this morning?”

“Thank you, Crenshaw, I did hear about those arrests. The sheriff there deserves credit for taking the manufacturers and dealers off the street—at least for a while.”

“On the record, please: did you and your people have anything to do with the operation?”

“Crenshaw, you know I cannot discuss an ongoing police action.”

“Does that mean we will be hearing of additional arrests in the days to come?”

“I certainly hope so. Why don’t you have a seat? Trudy, will you please bring the newshound a pint with bitters?”

“Thank you, Sheriff, but I have work to do or I’ll be scooped every which way on this breaking story. Before I take off, do you have any insights that might help me direct my reportage—on deep background, of course, without attribution?”

“The fentanyl angle is most disturbing. Two grains of that poison will kill. Anything you can publish to warn our youth would benefit the entire community. That’s spelled F-E-N-T-A-N-Y-L.”

“Right! I am on the story. You won’t be disappointed.”

Millstone was glad to have the yellow-press reporter out of his hair, for the tapster had told him Sir Douglas the MP was going to drop by the Cracked Bell before noon with his amanuensis to hear about the recent drugs bust “from the horse’s mouth.”

Sir Douglas arrived with his speech-writer at eleven o’clock AM in a dither. “We don’t have time to have a pleasant drink with you, Sheriff. Please tell us succinctly about the drugs bust this morning as we must deliver a speech and face questions afterwards.”

The sheriff spoke at a measured pace. He told what he knew and when he had learned it. The knight’s amanuensis took down all the details and raced off to compose the drat of the speech. As he was departing, the MP shook the sheriff’s hand and congratulated him for having the foresight and grace to tip off his fellow law man about the incident.

“Sir, if it is at all possible, I would like my name to remain silent in your speech. Keep our sources and methods from prying public scrutiny. The case continues. Additional arrests can be assumed. In fact, the narcotics problems we are facing are nation-wide.”

“Precisely so. I shall do my best to shield you from scrutiny. In the meantime, please keep up the good work.”

The sheriff was about to nurse his pint when his clone arrived to report the drug pusher’s presence in the park. The two men walked briskly out the back door and wound their way to the park where the second clone had been keeping the pusher under surveillance. They took positions in a triangular formation around the pusher, and they only closed in to make the arrest when money and drugs had changed hands.

Millstone had come prepared to make the arrest as he had two evidence bags for the money and the drugs to maintain the chain of custody. The pusher was boisterous about his being guiltless of any crime. The three enforcers took the man to the jail and phoned the Magistrate to obtain a search warrant for the prisoner’s apartment. 

Millstone did not waste a moment but picked up the warrant and searched the jailed man’s apartment where he found an address book with contacts, customers, preferred drugs, amounts and prices. With his two clones, he went back to the jail to conduct a recorded interrogation, but the man had asked to make a phone call first, as was his right. 

The interview therefore included the pusher, his lawyer, the sheriff, his two deputies and the recorder. The sheriff had carried out many such interrogations, and his handling of the recordings as well as the evidence bags was impeccable. The pusher, who had been boisterous and belligerent earlier, was now contrite after hearing his lawyer’s advice, and he was sweating with fear. The lawyer left the interrogation room with a frown on his face to deal with a bail bondsman for his client. Meanwhile, the arraignment date was set for the next day, and Millstone felt pretty good about the situation.

At the Cracked Bell, Sir Douglas’s amanuensis was sitting at Fatty’s table, waiting for his return. He wanted to have the sheriff peruse the draft speech for Parliament. As Fatty anticipated, the man’s wording was masterful, and no mention was made in the draft of Sheriff Millstone’s role in the drugs bust. Satisfied, the young man ran off to tell his master he could deliver the speech as it was.

In contrast to the demeanour of the MP’s amanuensis, the newshound Crenshaw appeared out of breath and panting. “Things have been progressing fast today on the drugs news front. I just learned you made an arrest in the park today—of a drugs pusher.”

“I suppose I will get to read all about it in the newspaper tomorrow morning?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether you will give me a statement for the record so I can print my story with authority.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“How about this: ‘Today at noon the sheriff and two deputies apprehended a suspect in a drugs deal in the park adjacent to Picklock Lane. The man was arrested and taken to jail where he made his phone call to his lawyer. His arraignment date has not yet been set.’”

“You might add only that the arrest is part of an ongoing police operation against manufacturers, middle men and pushers of illicit drugs, including fentanyl, a potentially lethal synthetic concoction. Also—the arraignment has been set for tomorrow.”

Crenshaw was making notes in his spiral notebook as fast as he could write. “Thank you, Sheriff. I must run to brief my cartoonist and make my deadline. I will be back to share a pint with you before dinner.”

Trudy fetched the sheriff another pint with bitters. “Having a tumultuous day, Sheriff?”

“It might have been much worse, my dear.”

“How so?”

“Someone might have been shot dead during the arrests. We were lucky today. I do have the idea that criminals have been pushing fentanyl in our very own park.”

“Some people call that drug the synchronicity.”

“The what?”

“Synchronicity. I don’t know precisely what the word means, but it is a world ender.”

“It certainly would end the world for those who take an overdose. Please promise me you will never take that drug.”

“You don’t have to worry about me, Sheriff. I have never taken any drugs without prescriptions. And I keep those at a minimum.”

Millstone relaxed in his chair at the table in the back of the Cracked Bell. He must have dozed off as he awakened with a start when Sir Douglas sat at the table and motioned for Trudy to bring him a pint.

“My amanuensis has done it again, Sheriff. My speech was a barnstormer. I have not been subject to such encomiums in all my time in Parliament. In short, our little regional action against the drugs traffickers will now stimulate a national anti-illicit-drugs effort. One aspect I could not properly address was how we managed to know where and when to strike. Will you enlighten me on that?”

“Sir Douglas, we do not want to jeopardize our sources and methods lest we spoil our ongoing operations. Suffice it to say we looked outside our narrow, prescribed manner of aggregating data and saw some frightening possibilities. I give all credit to my helpers and deputies for doing the analysis. Their work continues, and because of that you will have more victories in this nasty war to report in the near future.”

“I shall respect your need for privacy, but can you tell me more about this synthetic opioid drug called fentanyl?”

“It is terrible and an imminent threat to our citizens. Two grains of the substance will kill, and the street price makes it cheap and easy to buy. Your colleagues in the corridors of power should know fentanyl is the Doomsday drug. We wish we could dis-invent it, but we cannot. The Jinni is out of the bottle, so to speak.”

“Gor bly me!”

The newshound was back as he shouted, “You have that right, Sir Douglas! Congratulations on your rousing speech in Parliament today. Everyone is raving about it. The full text will be published in the national press tomorrow. Will you give this reporter a quote to insert in tomorrow’s tabloids?”

The MP thought for a moment. Then he got a serious look and said, “How about this, Crenshaw: ‘Fentanyl is the Doomsday Drug. Warn your loved ones and especially your children.’”

“Excuse me, gentlemen. I must exhort my editor to stop the presses to insert those words of wisdom.”

Trudy was applauding what she had just heard. “Will there be anything else for the gentlemen?” she asked. “I shall be going home for dinner soon. What a great day this has been.”

Seeing his two deputies approaching the table and behind them Sir Douglas’s amanuensis, Millstone said, “Perhaps you should bring three additional pints just before you go. If you do, I shall give you a big tip for your trouble.”

The waitress was off like a shot to the bar, and she returned with the drinks for the new arrivals. The sheriff gave her a five-pound note for her trouble, and she was away through the growing crowd with a broad smile on her face.

The two deputies and the amanuensis were drinking as they deserved, having together done the hard work that caused the best results of the day. Sir Douglas raised his glass to toast those three stalwarts as the heroes. Millstone seconded his sentiment.

Fatty knew the public would never be informed how the magic worked, much less who were the magicians. His fertile mind was leaping ahead to how the analysis that had led to the arrests today could be refined to capture other such miscreants and scoundrels throughout the nation. 

Sir Douglas must have been thinking along those lines as he made a point of increasing the sheriff’s funding for whatever and whoever were necessary to unearth crime from already-collected data. He and his amanuensis finished their drinks and headed for the front door. As they passed through the pub’s evening throng, all the people sang out, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” though the sheriff wondered which “he” they were referring to. No matter, he thought, as when the praise goes to the MP, it goes to all his constituents as well.

 

EW Farnsworth’s Picklock Lane stories are available now in book form from Amazon.

 


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