…continued from Part I…
So, the culprit was French!
It wasn’t much to go on, but it was something. I started making a mental list of all of the bilingual people I knew in the province.
First, obviously, there was me. Now, I was pretty sure that I hadn’t done it, unless it was some sort of weird multiple-personality thing, which seemed highly unlikely.
Nevertheless, I decided to pursue this line of thinking as far as I could, just to be certain. I enrolled myself in several psychoanalysis sessions, I even briefly joined a fight club — but no dice. After just a few weeks, it became apparent that it was just me, myself and I in this ol’ noggin of mine, so I confidently scratched my name off of the list.
I was happy with my progress, but was becoming increasingly uncertain with the process I was undertaking. So far, I had only eliminated one suspect, and it had taken three weeks and over $700,000 of taxpayers’ money. Clearly, continuing to try and solve the case in this manner just wasn’t feasible. I would have to adopt a more practical, feet-to-the-ground approach.
But where to begin?
I decided to start at the University of New Brunswick. College kids know stuff, I thought. They’re smart, right?
So I started toward the campus. But somehow, as I passed the gates, I must have taken a right turn at Albuquerque, because I ended up in front of a a small, green-coloured group of buildings instead.
A sign told me it was “St. Thomas University.”
St. Thomas University, I thought, shrugging. Never heard of it.
Luckily for me, though, it appeared to be densely populated. There was no shortage of people to talk to. A swarm of angry-looking youths gathered around a podium set up in the middle of campus, chanting and carrying barely legible signs protesting various causes.
A banner informed me it was “Public Grievance Day” at the university, a day that promised to give everyone their “chance to get protesting out of their system and go back to studying.”
As I arrived, the dean was just finishing her opening remarks.
I walked up onto the stage to address the audience. While she was surprised to see me, the dean reluctantly handed over the mic. You can do that sort of thing when you’re premier. When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
“Wow,” I started, looking over the audience. “There are an awful lot of ethnic people on campus these days. That’s cool.”
There were some audible gasps, but I continued, unabated.
“Anyway, I’m looking for a man,” I said. “Or a woman, I guess, but it seems unlikely, given there’s a lot of tech stuff involved.”
Bitter cries could be heard in response from the crowd. A masculine-looking young girl yelled for me to get off the stage.
“Oh for christ sake, just quit your bitching and listen to me,” I said, getting pretty irritable myself.
Sensing that things weren’t going too well for me up there, the dean tentatively walked on stage to gently usher me off, but I pulled away.
“You can’t just give me the mic, only to take it away again,” I said. “My generation has an expression for folks like you: Indian give–”
Before I could finish my thought, I was whisked up into the air by a mob of angry millennials, carried off the podium and down the hill.
What a gyp, I thought, as I was tossed off the campus and the gate doors were slammed behind me.
I made my way back downtown, grumbling and rubbing my swollen jaw. The bastards had tossed me straight onto my big, dumb face. Blood and saliva filled my mouth. I spit over my right shoulder.
“Ew!” came a cry from behind me. I turned my head to look at the source. It was The Runt, trailing behind me with a military-grade loogie hanging off the edge of her nose.
“Well, Mr. Premier,” she said, wiping her glasses with a lens cleaner. “You’d said the work ain’t worth spit, but clearly you think I might be. So how ‘bout it, sir — can I have a job?”
I was about to turn on my heel and give her the what-for, but just as I opened my mouth, something occurred to me, and stopped myself.
“Say,” I said, thinking allowed. “For once, kid, you might be right. I need you to find someone for me.”
My thinking went like this: This bad press was a social media problem. Therefore, it was a computer problem, and you know who understands stupid computer stuff? Stupid kids. You know who’s a stupid kid? The Runt.
So I tasked The Runt with finding the source of the social media onslaught, but there was a snag.
“My parents took my phone away because they caught me looking at porn on it,” she said, with an embarrassed shrug.
“Yeah, parents’ll do that,” I said, sympathetically.
She thought for a moment, then said, “But I think I know someone who can help us.”
The Runt’s contact was an middle-aged man who I came to call The Geek. He told me his name when we first got to his house, but I was too busy looking at his massive toy collection to listen.
“Dude, you have the Gorn?” I said, admiring the small green figurine on his desktop. I had always had a soft spot for Star Trek.
“Yeah, one of the kids had picked it up for me at a yard sale on the north side,” he said proudly.
Apparently The Geek had a small infantry of children that he paid to buy toys for him at junk shops and yard sales across the city. The Runt was one of these foot soldiers.
“They buy the toys cheap, bring them back to my house, then I pay them,” he said. “It’s less weird that way.”
“Mhmm,” I mumbled, disapprovingly.
It was clear to me from the outset that The Geek wasn’t playing with a full Pokémon deck. He was missing something elemental, like a Charizard or something. I began thinking that it probably wasn’t the best idea for him to continue to be around children. I had to get The Runt out of the way.
“Wait outside,” I told her, playing with a small Kylo Ren doll in my hand. “This is adult stuff we’re dealing with here.”
She pouted, but obeyed, going out the back door.
She was right about one thing though, if anybody could trace this account, it’d be The Geek. He seemed to know all there was about social media, Wi-Fi, internet, email…you know — nerd stuff.
“Well, I Googled the name ‘The French EFF’,” he told me, after a few seconds of searching. “And it popped up as a username on Twitter.”
“Speak English, man,” I said impatiently.
“The account was last accessed by an IP address in Quispamsis,” he said. “So my guess is he’s probably based out there.”
“Quispamsis?” I asked. “Is that more of your hippie-dippie tech talk? Because if it is…”
I raised my fist threateningly.
“No, it’s a town…here, in this province,” he said, looking confused. “You haven’t heard of it?”
“Listen,” I said. “How do you expect me to know each and every little town in this big-ass province? I’m the premier, not Jesus.”
“It’s a small, relatively affluent community, just outside of Saint John,” he said, looking at me strangely.
“Oh, well shit, I know Saint John,” I said. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”
“Because it isn’t Saint John,” he said. “It’s Quispamsis.”
“I’ve had enough of your nit-picky details,” I scolded, putting on my coat. “I don’t have time for it. If I’m going to go to Saint John, there are some things I need to get in order.”
He shrugged and returned to his computer as I made my way for the exit. Finally, I thought, a lead!
I walked out the back door, and The Runt was there waiting for me.
“You done good, kid,” I said, winking at her.
“So what are you going to do now, Mr. Premier?” she asked, following me.
“Follow a lead. I’ll be making my way over down Saint John tomorrow morning. I might be gone a few days.”
This seemed to fill her with excitement. She grabbed my arm.
“Say, can I be the premier while you’re gone?” she asked, giving me a pleading look. “I promise I’ll do a really good job!”
“Sure kid,” I said, patting her head placatingly. “Whatever.”
To be continued in part III…