"So, Mr. Jarl ... sir, we didn't get to snag a Howard, huh?"
The chief shook his head slighly, smiling at my inquiry. He shut off his phone, ending his call with my dear friend, Alexander Byers. He looked at me for a long moment before responding.
"Sorry, Charlie," he said with a grin. "It is safe to say that the Earl is no longer under suspicion." Then, with a friendly grimace, he added, "And don't call me Jarl."
"Yes, Mr. Jarmon," I replied with as much false seriousness as I could muster. The chief saw right through my ploy, though.
"It is a good thing that you are one of my best agents." He wagged a finger at me, emphasizing his point.
"Who else to keep Alex in line?" I asked, knowing all too well what his response would be.
"More like the other way around," the chief responded as I expected.
Changing gears, trying to regain some sense of professionalism, I said, "I heard you mention a big mission coming up. Care to give me a heads up before dear ole Alex gets back." With the chief's stare growing darker, I added with a smile, "Wouldn't want to give him equal ground, now would we?"
"No, you can wait for the official meeting just like everyone else," Mr. Jarmon said right as his phone was beeping at him. He looked down to read the message. Looking back up, he continued,"I have to go, but I will tell you this: another high profile character is involved."
The thought thrilled me; knowing how things work, though, I knew that busting a high profile criminal was next to impossible. Accusing a high profile criminal in person, on the other hand, was within my grasp, an activity I had done on more than one occasion. It made me feel real good to see the fear in someone's eyes, knowing that they know that I know what they did. Too bad other circumstances made them mostly untouchable.
Not long after Mr. Jarmon was on to his next engagement, I left the Bullpin, the name we gave the main office, for I had the privledge of showing the new recruits around, which I didn't actually mind as long as the people involved weren't complete imbeciles. Today's group was adequate.
Stopping our group in a narrow hallwall and pointing to a door to our right, I continued in my tour guide tone, "This door leads to our Temp Ants, which is short for Temporal Analysts. Bascially our resident computer nerds, but their job is very important.
"You see, before we are allowed to bust a criminal, several things have to fall into place. Step one: research. A lot of it. We have to know everything, everything about the time period, the location, and each and every person involved.
"The Temp Ants job is to familiarize themselves with each piece of information and more imporantly put together a Probability Report, which bascially will give us the best guess as to what we will find when we go back in time."
An eager recruit chimed in, "That's when we get to go back and crack some skulls, right?"
I smiled at her choice of phrase before responding. "Not so fast. One thing that you have to realize is that everything in this organization takes place very slowly. As our company motto says, 'We have time on our side.'
"By the time we actually bust someone for a crime, a lot of other things have taken place. A little later in our tour, I will go over some of the details of the Observation Stage, which basically means that we go back in time, blend in, and make sure that the Probability Report is correct.
"And, finally, once we know without any doubt who committed the crime, there are various other reasons that we can't bust someone. We have to work those out as well. Busting one criminal could easily mean years of research both before and after you step into the machine."
Alex came around the corner and addressed the group. "Don't believe a word he says. He lies so that he will remain the top agent." He winked as he struck me in the shoulder with a friendly fist.
"This is Agent Number Two, Alexander Byers," I jeered, introducing Alex to the group. "He's number two because he can never quite out do me."
"The chief has rescheduled the meeting. We are going to have to postpone the rest of the tour," Alex informed us.
"All right, kiddies, you heard him," I said. "Be sure to check your email, and we will let you know when we can schedule another tour. Hopefully in the next few days."
"Any reason for the change in schedule?" I asked Alex after the recruits dispersed.
"Nah," he replied. "It seems kind of fast. Wonder what it's about."