Friday, June 27, 2014

The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue, Pt. 16.

Here are the previous episodes of The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue.

Part 1
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15

The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue, Part 16.

Louis Shalako

SimTech security chief Letitia Bennett was working in her office when the call came through from Edwin, supervising Plan Nine activities down in the classrooms.

“What’s up, Edwin?” Informality with junior employees was one of her strengths.

They loved her for it.

“Bingo. I think we’ve nailed it.”

“Oh, really.”

“Yes. We have confirmed they are creating new IDs and credit cards. So far they have not been reported for fraud.”

“How is that possible?”

“Because they’ve been paying them off just as quickly—electronically.”

Letitia sat up, and had to stop herself from reaching for the icon showing Boyd’s desk.

She hesitated.

“Go on—please.”

“She’s got a shit-load of bank accounts. We’ve only been able to crack a small number of them. She’s got a few hundred here, a grand there, ten thousand somewhere else. It’s a good trick if you want to travel incognito. If an account gets shut down, she just tries another. All the retailers want to get paid, and the bank of course wants to see the transaction go through so they can get the fee. No crimes have been reported. Ergo, no crimes have been investigated. They’re off the radar insofar as that goes.”

“What about the IDs?”

He shook his head in awe.

“Making them up as they go along, adding in back history and entire family trees. And, as we well know, her internal capacity is vast—and very, very quick.”

It was a jolt, all right, but SimTech had built her—and their own resources were considerable. Now that they had something to go on…

“Interesting!” She had questions, and Edwin, with his short, thick black hair and bland face, every inch the professional educator, looked at her with alert blue eyes of the darkest shade from behind his vanity faux spectacles/Googgs.

She thought for a second. Taken along with the fact that Betty Blue had been stealing her employer blind, it made sense. She hadn’t shared that with the Plan Nine team or their supervisor as there was no real reason to do so. The source of that data was highly-confidential; but with a secure and private window inside of Mister Carlson’s head it was simple enough.      

“What about the cars?”

“The cars were stolen, used as briefly as possible, and then abandoned where they wouldn’t be found too quickly.” He glanced at his notes and then over his shoulder, giving someone, presumably their team, a smile and a nod. “The one where they tumbled it down an overgrown ravine was classic. She knew exactly where she was going on that one. When they stole a car, it was from one of several sources. Our team has some good imaginations…they stole from high-theft areas, information freely available from any number of sources. Betty could access that, under a false ID. They stole cars from folks who were not using them or out of contact. One was camping, one family was on a canoe trip, one was from someone sleeping in the very motel-room it was stolen from…er, outside of.”


He went on.

“One car was taken from a used car lot. It was a Saturday night, it was a small town, and the vehicle was taken from a back row—not the shiny, big-ticket items lined up along the street. It was just a beater no one was interested in.”


“One of them was an old car, a valuable antique. That was in a storage unit. The owner didn’t know it was gone until the police contacted them…”

“So. It can be done then—”

“Yes. If you had access to reams of personal data of the most obscure and trivial kind. And if you had time and resources to sift through it.”

She had more questions.

“But going from one jurisdiction to another, using public roads—how are they doing that?”

“Ah. Yes.” Edwin took a breath, again consulting his notes. “Surprisingly, there are long stretches of secondary roads with no cameras. Some are dirt, some clay, some are not maintained in winter, some are not maintained even in summer. Not even product and delivery trackers. Those are all satellite, right? The real trick is to link the sections up and stay on them for any distance. But this explains the remarkably eccentric track they’re leaving.”

The amount of data gathered at this level was so vast, it had to have local filters--a car moving down a road in Seattle was irrelevant in Oswego, as Edwin put it.

It was only over the course of many hours, several days in fact, that they had been able to get a general trend. There was no telling when they might zip off on another tangent. Since the team were still looking backwards, it was hard to guess forwards, although fuzzy logic would dictate to some extent…Edwin faded in her attention as the ramifications whirled around and around in her head.

The trail, so far as they had been able to reconstruct it—once they had the GPS data from recovered vehicles, (another neat trick, and only slightly illegal) showed an incredible zigzagging, back and forth, left and right and left and right again.

“When they came to a bottleneck, they simply abandoned the vehicle.”

“…and then they went across country?”

“Yes, Missus Bennett. Or, they were using phony IDs, including a high-powered chip. Betty could simply hold it in her hand and maybe…all they have to do is to interfere with the signal from her own chip. Just jam it, even though an alarm might sound somewhere. Once you’re over the wire—slum folks call it ‘going outlaw,’ they could just walk down the street until they were past the choke-point and then steal another car.”

While the penalties were high, so were the stakes. Some folks took the risk. Those were either the really dangerous ones, psychopaths on a mission, or folks with a lot to lose. Too many offences were capital offenses these days, but no one was interested in Edwin’s opinion on that.

In his opinion, it simply drove up violent crime statistics because there was nothing to be gained by surrender or cooperation. It was almost as if someone had a vested interest in promoting crime, and especially violent crime. It was strange, but the new capital-theft category the Justice System was now using had really been a mistake in Edwin’s opinion.

He cleared his throat.

“Mad as it seems, if you’re nervy enough, you can beat the chip-scanners. One case involved a person wearing a soft lead wrapper around their foot. That’s where they’re implanted in Eire. They’re not uniform around the world, which causes a few headaches when traveling. They had a fake chip in their hand and approached the reader with their arm extended. The reading device was presented with one warm body and one strong signal. In that case, they only needed to get through the one checkpoint. How long Betty Blue and this Nettles character can keep it up, is a very good question.”

They were also heading out into far more open country.

Letitia could hear their young team members chatting excitedly in the background, still following up leads and by the sounds of it enjoying the challenge immensely.

She chose her words.

“Well. Our criminals…the subjects must have some very good skills and equipment.”

“Absolutely, Missus Bennett. It’s not easy to fake IDs, chips and vehicle transponders. The cars are the easy part, I’m told, but it really is a tough job—the usual method is to grab the car and chop-shop it within the minimum time-frame. Ten minutes and off, is their motto, no matter how many desirable bits and pieces are left behind.”

And if the police didn’t find it within their own minimum time-frame, too much information was constantly being poured into the stream. They had to move on. They wrote a report and forgot about it.

There was another crime always being committed, and cops spent the bulk of their resources in areas where they thought it would do the most good. Or at least some good.

Unless a vehicle tripped a sensor with its transponder, it was as good as invisible—no one would be looking for it in the good, old-fashioned way, via radio calls, shift bulletins and vehicle descriptions. No one used their eyes anymore. It was a wonder they put license plates on them at all these days, but of course the department of motor vehicles had to sell the taxpayers something tangible and the license plate was a personal trophy of sorts, what with the cost of operating a vehicle and everything. The real tag was a string of data loaded into the car’s  transponder.


Mister Scruffles, looking devastating in his jacket and ruff, scampered around everyone’s ankles and sniffed with particular interest at Betty’s feet before giving her a grudging okay..

It was too bad Mister Nettles was blind, thought Rose Downie, her little doggy was a prime attraction, one that set this establishment off over a hundred others on this street alone.

“Yap! Yap!”


The animal came over and fell on its side beside her piano bench. It lay there with its tongue hanging out, knowing the routine very well, only looking up from time to time as if to check on how things were going.

The chapel was larger, and emptier than expected. They should have brought their own audience. Yet the tone and the atmosphere, the sounds and the smells, were loaded, like long wet branches bearing some heavy fruit.

Scott was beginning to catch on, having to fight for calm and for air. Scott forced himself not to breathe for a while…he was hyperventilating. He swallowed convulsively, trying to stand up straight and look right, and at the same time wishing he could see this for himself.

It was the moment of a lifetime, and Betty’s hurriedly-whispered instructions didn’t give the full flavour of the thing. Clad in glowing white chiffon, Betty stood in stark contrast to Scott in his rented dark grey tuxedo. She searched his face. No sign of fear and that was good.

Both heavily disguised, they were still the same people inside.

The Reverend Fallon Downie was brutally handsome, with a dimple on the chin, long, thin black hair slicked back with some kind of pomade, and a pencil-thin mustache. The other half of the dynamic duo that ran the place was gently playing the wedding march, looking over, head back, wearing an inane grin that Scott couldn’t benefit from and Betty ignored. Rose was a slender blonde lady of indeterminate age, with a breathy, whispery voice, wide cheekbones and a pointed chin. She had big, velvet-painting-children blue eyes. She gave the impression of hanging on to every word, with not a thought of her own to contribute.

Her questions had all been asked a million times. Someone had once said Rose had no unexpressed thoughts.

Everything in the world was all new to Scott and Betty.

They faced each other, holding hands. She had eyes only for him, and Scott was listening for all it was worth in case he made some bone-headed response.

“…blah-blah-blah…blah-blah-blah…blah-blah…richer, poorer…sickness and health…blah-blah…”

Tall, and wearing a Colonel Sanders white suit and black shoestring tie, the only thing missing was the monocle. It took but a moment for each party to place a ring on the other’s finger; a good sale and one the Reverend would have liked to have seen every day. Every so often it happened, and he was wise to stock a few rings.

"Do you, Betty Blue, take this man, Scott Nettles, to be your lawfully-wedded husband?”

“I do.”

“And do you, Scott Nettles, take this woman, Betty Blue, to be your lawfully-wedded wife?”

“I do—I do.”

The lone spectator, apparently waiting for their partner to show up going by the black tuxedo and creamy white ruff, coughed quietly and wiped a tear from his craggy, eighty year-old face, a lived-in face, a face that could hold a three-day rain. He reached for his big yellow handkerchief.

“You, sir, may now kiss the bride.” He turned to Betty with a big smile and threw his arms up and out. “And you, my dear, you may now kiss the groom.”

Scott and Betty proceeded to do just that.

“God Bless you, my children. For you, Mister and Missus Scott Nettles, this is the beginning of a whole new life.”

The organ music swelled, the lady playing it swayed from side to side and the Reverend beamed at the happy couple in unfeigned approval.

“Yap! Yap!”

They ignored Mister Scruffles, who uttered a profound sigh, wagged his tail and looked on in hope and wonder.


Not unnaturally, Gene MacBride wanted to be in on the kill.

While the Vegas cops were pretty good about such things, nailing enough credit for his own department was a valid consideration these days, and when had it ever been any different?

Armed with state and federal warrants for the arrest of Scott Nettles and the robot known as Betty Blue—that one was like pulling teeth from the judge. They had eventually agreed she was either a suspect or she was material evidence...

Gene, Francine, and Parsons hovered above Las Vegas in a courtesy LVPD helicopter..

The helicopter had a characteristic vibration, the noise was insane, even with the headgear and hearing protection. They were strapped in and the pilot was throwing the thing around like a fighter jock as they tried to pinpoint the location.

Francine peered out the side window with her high-powered Googgs and Parsons was in behind the pilot and copilot, talking a mile a minute.

Gene wasn’t nearly as excited as he should have been. First, the odds of them getting out of the desert city without being spotted were nil, secondly, it was almost like it was too easy. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bushes, he thought. It was like he wasn’t quite ready for them yet.

Gene had developed a sneaking affection for Betty Blue, and Mister Nettles too, for that matter.

They had made his life interesting, if only for a little while.

“Ah, we’ve got some kind of action…”

Gene’s pulse picked up on Dave’s words.


He sat up as straight as he could in his seat, and taking his scope, took a look out the window at the wedding chapel.

“What kind of action?”

Vegas police were having a busy night, or they would have vectored them in on the chapel already. Even their drones were busy with a food riot in the ugly end of town, however the pilot informed them that one was in the vicinity and that it would keep a lens on the chapel's front door. They needed people on the ground to make an arrest..

There were no good landing places nearby, and Gene wanted to make this arrest personally.

“We have three parties getting out of a vehicle—no, wait, there’s more over there…this doesn’t look good, boss.”

Gene spotted them.


He grabbed his com device, already tuned to dispatch downtown where they awaited his word.

“Emergency! I repeat, emergency! Roll all available units, destination, Made In Heaven Wedding Chapel…” 

He blurted out the address as well as he remembered it.

Gene shouted at the pilot, drawing a startled look.

“Put this damned thing down on the ground. Now, Mister. Or I’ll have you on guard duty at a homeless people’s recreation camp for the rest of your life.”

“But sir!”

“Do it!”

The pilots engaged each other in a look and then turned away, looking for the biggest parking lot they could find. A rooftop would do, if that’s the way the man wanted it.

Let that son of a bitch drop the last ten or twelve feet on his own, for all they cared.


After their kiss, Betty unglued herself from Scott.

“Honey, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you…”

“You’re pregnant.” He turned to where the Reverend was. “I’ll bet you didn’t see that one coming, eh, Bud?”

A quick sob ripped from deep in her gizzard and then she was clinging to Scott, almost knocking him over backwards in her need.

“Oh, my children.” Reverend Downie stepped in for a quick group hug, and even his wife, the tip of her nose quivering and hastily throwing back her piano-bench, came over to get in on all the free emotions going around.

“Oh, dear.” Missus Downie took Betty by the shoulders and led her over to a pew as the Reverend pumped Scott’s hand in delight.

“You hear that? She’s pregnant!” With their deep and abiding love of the unborn, Mister and Missus Downie were right in love with their latest blessed couple. “Well, don’t that beat all.”

“I—I’m going to be a dad.” Scott choked up for a moment.

Reverend Downie stepped back, still holding Scott’s hand and looking for his reaction—it occurred to him that Betty’s pronouncement was a bit unconventional.

Scott’s face lit, even as the first tears sprung from the ducts.

“I’m going to be a dad! I’m going to be a dad!” Yanking his hand free, Scott, barging around like a drunken cow in a ladies’ shoe store, began dancing a jib, an imbalanced rendition still reminiscent of a Highland Fling, but dangerous enough to onlookers for all of that and the Reverend stepped back.

Betty and Missus Downie were having girlie hugs and lots of whispering on the front pew, and he beamed at them, quickly grabbing Scott when he hit the top step of the low stage that was their marriage platform.

“Whoa, young fellow. You’re no good to anyone if you break your neck—”

It was right about then, as the lone spectator in the back row applauded with an exaggerated golf clap, that the door burst open and men in long black coats, dark glasses and carrying some of the finest assault shotguns that money could buy came in, and then one of them fired a shot into the ceiling.

Everything came screeching to a halt and there was a shocked silence.


Boyd and his apprentice hatchet-people Amity Sloan and Bengt Armitage had Betty Blue and Scott Nettles in custody. The pair were slumped side-by-side on the front pew, and the other three were face-down on the highly-polished tiles in front of the marriage platform.

The dog, one Mister Scruffles according to their sources, came racing out from under the pews where he had initially hidden in panic and with a quick lunge, bit Amity on the ankle. With an angry kick, she flung the little fellow off, but it came at her again.

“Wa, yew danged sun of a beatch!” With a quick squeeze of the trigger on her S.P.A.Z. 12 automatic assault shotgun, she blew the indignant dog’s head off.

What had been intended to solve the problem, left the headless dog zinging around the room, bouncing off of things and leaving a big red squelchy mark everywhere it hit…she fired again, and this time the thing was flung sideways and slammed into a wall.

Rosie was crying unashamedly, and Fallon and the other gentlemen were cussing and swearing and declaring undying vengeance.

Again, the doors burst open.

Again, someone fired a shot into the ceiling. (And again, a puff of dust came down from the ceiling.)

With the back-up perps outside in custody, Gene MacBride strode masterfully into the room as the trio froze. With the room flooding with bulky people in scuffed blue armor, resistance was clearly futile.

Gene looked over at the dead dog. He looked at Amity.

“Right. You’ll pay for that.” Proffering a hand, he accepted her weapon.

The other two didn’t put up a fight.

Gene turned, and Francine took a quick step to avoid being bowled over. Parsons merely looked vindicated—but a promotion looked very promising right about then.

Dave Parsons looked at the unhappy couple on the font pew, holding hands and with Mister Nettles clearly in shock and wondering if the end of the world had come.

Her eyes met his.

“Betty Blue, I presume.”

Her eyes fell and it was all he could not to crow.



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