Authors: Alan Jacobson
“I read people for a living, Grouze. You avoided looking at me when I walked into your office, and then you treated me like I’m carrying the Black Plague.”
Grouze picked up a pen and jotted a note on the outside of the folder. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. And I really do have work to do. Please close the door on your way out.”
“I usually know when I’ve pissed someone off.”
And I’ve tried hard not to, because, well, I promised both my bosses I wouldn’t cause problems.
“Did I do something wrong?”
Grouze tossed the pen onto the desk. “Fine. You want to know what’s bothering me, I’ll tell you. We don’t need you here. We’re perfectly capable of handling a bombing and threat assessment without your help.”
“‘Your’ meaning me? Or a woman? Or an American?”
Grouze removed his glasses and threw them onto the file, beside his pen. “Well, you are perceptive, I’ll give you that.”
“And you’re unbelievably direct. For a Brit.”
“It’s not a virtue. It tends to get me into trouble.”
Vail couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah? Me, too.”
Grouze’s lips reluctantly thinned into a grin.
“If it’s worth anything, I didn’t want to come here. But I wasn’t given a choice.”
“Neither was I.”
“So maybe we should agree to work together. Doesn’t mean we have to like each other.”
Grouze considered that a moment, then lifted his glasses and slid them back on his nose. “I never said I didn’t like you, Agent Vail.” His eyes flicked up toward hers and remained there a long second before he turned back to his paperwork.
Vail took the hint and, having reached some kind of détente, figured it was best to leave with a small win. When she walked out into the corridor, Reid was standing there.
“I’m afraid to ask how that went.”
Vail chewed her bottom lip. “Actually, I think we came to an understanding.”
“Really.” Reid hiked his brow and turned to the door, as if having a hard time fathoming the concept of Vail and Grouze reaching any kind of an accord, let alone an understanding.
She started down the hall, Reid following.
“So all’s good?”
Vail chuckled. “I didn’t exactly say that. I’m not sure if he didn’t like having to ask a woman, or an American, or an American woman, for that matter, for assistance.”
“Now that does sound like my boss. But I think I know what the problem is.”
“Here you go,” Losner said, holding a cardboard carrier with three cups of coffee. His gaze flowed across their faces and he tilted his head. “You’re both too calm. What happened?”
“Your boss and I came to an understanding.”
Losner snickered. “Good one.”
Grouze’s voice boomed down the corridor. “Reid—where the bloody hell are you?”
Reid took a step forward and peered down the hall. Grouze’s head was barely visible around the edge of the doorframe. “Here, sir.”
“We just got another call from our English Anarchists. They’ve given us twelve hours. Then there’ll be another bombing. And this time someone might get hurt. Their words, not mine.”
Vail came up beside Reid. “I can help. That’s what I’m here for, right?”
Grouze ignored Vail and spoke to Reid. “Get everyone together in five in the murder room. And notify SO15 and MI5 that we’ve got a viable threat.”
ail followed Reid as he moved about the floor, informing the inspectors of the meeting.
Reid consulted his watch, then glanced around the room. “Counter Terrorism Command, part of the UK’s Police Special Operations unit. Wouldn’t be surprised if they took the lead in this investigation.”
“What does that mean for us?”
“Not much. We still do what we do. But we’d be reporting to them. Them and MI5, who’ll be supporting us, taking on a domestic intelligence role.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but it sounds like you’re locked and loaded. You still need me?”
“A couple of minutes,” Reid said to a colleague, then gave a thumbs-up to Grouze, who was talking to an inspector down the hall. “Honestly, Karen, only a fool would send you away right now. We Brits may’ve screwed things up a few hundred years ago with you Americans, but we’re not daft. That said,” Reid went on with a chuckle, “I hope you brought your A game. Looks like we’re going to need it.”
I didn’t bring a whole lot with me to England, but my A game is one thing I always pack.
Vail’s phone vibrated. She stole a look: Jesus Montero, her Legat. She hit “ignore.” “You said you know what Grouze’s problem is with me.”
“I thought you squared things away.”
“A truce. I didn’t want to push it.”
“Ah, right. Well, it’s not you. It’s profiling he has the problem with. He doesn’t believe it’s scientific. He can’t justify making an arrest on the say so of someone who tells you the offender will be five foot six, lives with his mum, watches football on the telly Saturday afternoons, and likes milk chocolate. He can’t get that evidence in front of a court. That’s just not enough to make the case.”
“That’s not a fair appraisal—”
“This is the guv’nor’s position, not necessarily mine. Problem is, he’s got a history with an offender profile that blew up in his face. He had a profile done up by a criminal psychologist and it led to the arrest and conviction of Colin Stagg for the Rachel Nickell murder back in ’93. Problem is, the profiler took over the investigation and led us down the wrong road. Stagg was innocent, he sued, got lots of money. It was a big embarrassment on a high profile case.”
“I’m beginning to get the picture.”
“Years after, the guv’nor did a dissertation on offender profiling and he concluded that a lot of it was based on gut instinct and guesswork. At the best, it provided circumstantial information. Not enough in our courts, which tend to be very adversarial. You really need a strong case.”
“Why didn’t he just tell me all this?”
Reid tilted his head, indicating she should look behind her. She did and saw Grouze approaching. Not only that, but every seat in the long rectangular room was filled with inspectors. They had pushed their files aside and sat at their desks facing Grouze, Losner, Reid, and Vail, who stood with their backs to the windowed office of the detective inspector, who ran the Murder Investigation Team.
Grouze addressed the squad, pressing the need for a swift resolution because of the threat of further attacks, and going over the details of the bombing. He highlighted the three phone calls laying claim to it, and their potential lead involving the Army of English Anarchists. Everyone was familiar with BHP politics, so there were few questions. Vail stood in the background, her bottom against one of the wood desks, observing.
That is, until Grouze turned to her. “I’d like to introduce Karen Vail, a profiler with the FBI. Now,” he said, holding up a hand, “I know I’ve not been a positive sort on profilers over the years, and been known to throw a wobbly over profiling in general—and I don’t want to hear any bollocks from any of you—but she’s here, and the Anarchists have got us by the short and curlies, so we should listen to what Agent Vail has to say. We don’t have to follow any of it, but we should listen.” He turned to Vail.
Now there’s an intro for the ages.
She pushed away from the desk. “Well, I don’t ever want to be accused of making your boss throw a wobbly.”
Whatever that means. A bad Frisbee toss?
She scanned the faces in her audience. No reaction—so far, so good. “So let me just give you a very brief background on bombers. My goal is to help you narrow down the suspect pool, so you can identify the
of person we’re looking for. That’s a good place to start, since we don’t know who these English Anarchists are. And we’ve got no way of verifying if these guys are really behind it just because they say they are, or even if they’re the same group or individual who made the first claim.
“The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit has studied bombers for years. We’ve charted the commonalities in their crimes, we’ve looked at their demographic and behavioral characteristics and the things that motivate them, and we’ve studied the techniques these people use to deploy their devices and the techniques they use to keep themselves off the grid. Based on all this, we’ve developed investigative approaches that could help police agencies identify the type of person who’s most likely to commit this kind of crime.
“Now, time’s ticking. So before your boss gets his short and curlies balled in a fist, let’s talk about how this helps you catch these people. First, let’s look at the different kinds of bombers there are, which’ll lead us to motive. And if we can figure out their motive, we’ll know what their purpose really is. Sometimes what they say they want when they call in a threat isn’t really what they’re after. And we have to know that, or we’ll be chasing wild geese.”
“Wild geese?” one of the inspectors asked.
“I’ll get to that later. Moving on...A researcher named MacDonald categorized the different types of offenders: the compulsive bomber, the psychotic bomber, the sociopathic bomber, the Mafia bomber, and the military bomber.”
“Isn’t that a little too neat?” Reid asked.
“These are just general categories,” Vail said. “And yeah, you’re right. The assholes don’t read the research, so our attempts to fit them into cubbyholes screams ‘error.’ So we should look at these as
An offender is often a blend of one or more of these types. The point is to understand the concepts of why these people do what they do, to help us look for the right person and to cut through the crap, so we can zero in on what’s really going on.
“First. The compulsive type has been around explosives all his life and may even work in an industry that gives him the opportunity to blow shit up. So, he’d be a soldier, a stunt man, a demolition expert in a mining company or a construction company. That type of thing. Their motive is power and excitement. Sometimes that excitement takes on a sexual nature.
“Next one. Psychotic. As you might think, he’s driven by paranoia, schizophrenic tendencies, or even sadism. He can be just about anyone, but certainly a check of mental health databases may be helpful. Then again, that’s a large number, so it’d have to be combined with some other filter we devise so we can narrow down that list.
“The sociopathic bomber doesn’t feel remorse, guilt, and so on—they have no emotions in general, and that certainly applies to killing people. According to MacDonald, his goal would be profit, revenge, power, hatred of something or someone who’s pissed him off. He also may bomb to conceal another crime—a diversion.”
“But those categories,” Losner said, “don’t include political motives. And with Northern Ireland, we’ve certainly had our share of that.”
“You’re absolutely right.” Vail turned away from Losner and addressed the room. “Other motives we’ve observed include vandalism, protest, crime concealment, experimentation, fraud, burglary, and ideological—which obviously includes all things political, terrorism, religious, and so on. And remember, there are times when we get an overlap of one or more of these.” Vail sat down on the edge of the desk. “There’s a lot more detail to each of these categories, but for our purposes, I’m going to try to narrow it down a bit so we’re not here for the next three days while more bombs go off in the city.
“If we believe that the Anarchists are behind this attempt, then we’re dealing with a ‘group cause’ motive, something that Robert Ressler, one of my profiling unit co-founders, studied. I think we should focus on this—but we should also keep in mind that they could be using the bombing as a front for something else. Here’s an example: in the late eighties, a federal judge was killed by a mail bomb. Two days later, another bomb killed an attorney in the same town.
“A third one targeted another federal judge and a fourth the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It appeared that the judges, attorney, and organization were targeted because they were known for their work in civil rights. But the investigation turned up a series of connections between the accused bomber and his first two victims. The offender had a pattern of experimentation with bombs.
“In the early seventies, one of the bombs he built accidentally injured his wife. He was found guilty and did prison time. That conviction and his failed appeals gave him a deep resentment of the court system, and the federal judge in particular—the same judge he killed in his first bombing attack. The third and fourth bombs were meant to lead the FBI down the wrong path—red herrings—by making us think the crimes were racially motivated.
“So if we look at that case, we see a combination of motives and offender types: experimentation, sociopathic, revenge, concealment—with a deliberate attempt to make us think his motivation was ideological.
“Point is, the Anarchists may’ve had nothing to do with this bombing, and they’re being opportunistic, taking credit for something they didn’t do. Just to raise their profile. And if that’s the case, they’d know that until we have proof of their involvement, we can’t prosecute them just for saying they did it. No evidence, no conviction. I’m sure that’s as true in the UK as it is in the US.”
“So we’ve got to get some evidence,” Losner said.
That’d help, yeah.
“The type of person we’re looking for is not your typical killer. He’s a male, often married with children, who has a good relationship with his loved ones. He’s probably not the product of a broken home, and he wasn’t abused. He is intelligent and well-educated. Chances are good that religion played a role in his upbringing, with a majority being Protestant. Catholics are a close second. Perhaps most importantly, there’s a very strong likelihood that he has an extensive criminal history.
“I should qualify all this by reminding you that this is a guide, looking at percentages and likelihoods. If your Anarchists fall into the 20 or 30 percent that don’t follow this profile, we’ll be off.”
“Sterling,” Grouze mumbled.
“And—” she looked over at Grouze—“just a guess here, but that’s probably why your boss is a bad Frisbee player.”
Reid made a face that could only be interpreted as, “Huh?” The other inspectors shared a similar, puzzled look.
Vail brushed it aside, spent another few minutes hashing out the profile, and then sensed it was time to turn the inspectors back to Grouze.
When the meeting was over, Grouze left the room in a hurry, possibly to avoid getting into it again with Vail.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” Losner said. “In less than a day, there’ll be another bomb.”
Reid pushed through a set of doors into the stairwell. “Ingram. Why don’t you set up a meet for us with Leon McAllister. We’ll follow up with Idris Turner.”
“Who’s Leon McAllister?” Vail asked as they descended the steps.
“The leader of the BHP.” As they reached the second landing, Reid said, “Oh—what was that about the guv’nor being a bad Frisbee player?
Vail shrugged. “He said he’s been known to throw a wobbly.”
Reid snorted. “It means to throw a tantrum, have a fit.”
Vail stepped outside, into the rain. “Why can’t you Brits just speak English?”