I can’t tell you what I did for the National Security Agency. I can’t even tell you what they do, not really. I could explain all of it, but I’d go to jail and that doesn’t seem like something I’d enjoy. What I can say is that if you don’t think the government is spying on you, you are really oblivious.
Furthermore, it’s no mystery to me why Peter West one of the regional directors of the NSA is on the supervisory board of the serial crimes tracking unit. I basically did for the NSA what Myrna Clachan did for the CIA. Except, Myrna was supposed to be watching the Soviet Union, Cuba, and parts of Asia and I was looking at large cities in the US or places were there are lots of US tourists.
When my boyfriend, Brad Jackson went to our superiors to declare we’d been having an illicit affair and that I needed to be transferred to save his marriage. I was angry. I was even angrier though that my boss, Peter West transferred me to the SCTU. But I’d be lying if I said it surprised me. But perhaps, I’ve jumped too far ahead. Let’s go back to 17 year old me. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and I entered an online contest to program a database to look for specific patterns. I’d heard rumors that it was an NSA sting on the dark web to figure out some unknown hacker identities, but it seemed like fun, so I did it. It was an NSA sting, but not to capture hackers. About a month after I entered my algorithm into the contest, Peter West showed up at my grandmother’s house with news the MIT wanted me and would give me a scholarship to study programming and when I was done with college, he had a job for me.
Eventually, my algorithm became a central piece of the AI system that spits out patterns for the SCTU from the National Homicide Victims Information Database, a database my less computer savvy coworkers just call Victims. Every homicide in the US gets entered into it by a team of data entry specialists that work for the NSA. SCTU members can scan the database for patterns, but mostly it’s done using artificial intelligence. The training for those data entry specialists is intense. There needs to be standardization from thousands of case files written by thousands of different police officers and detectives in every city in the US. And god forbid the US Marshals or NSA or Department of Justice implement one specialized piece of software for that entry. So thousands of case files get emailed, mailed, faxed, and sometimes hand delivered to the data entry specialists that enter the data into the Victims database. AI scans every file looking for patterns. Then those patterns are reviewed by a person and a recommendation is made. Or the police working the cases can call the SCTU in themselves. Both ways work and since serial killers are the jurisdiction of the SCTU, even finding them using artificial intelligence works for them.
So, yes, I was angry, but not surprised to end up at the SCTU. The SCTU is really not a job for a programmer. But there are days Aislinn yells at her cell phone, because Siri pisses her off, so I understand the need to embed one with them. Except, I’m not brave. I’m definitely not the hero type. And I’ve never really had the desire to kill anyone, I was trained in firearms only because it was required for working at the NSA for some reason. And the Aislinn Cain horror stories had climbed from the Marshals to the FBI to the NSA. We all knew about her long before I met her. Her short temper. Her inability to work with anyone. Her quick trigger finger. Or my favorite description even today; “She’s one scary bitch.”
I would agree she’s scary. She scares the crap out of me even when I’m not making her mad. And when I first started with the SCTU, she was a total bitch. But then I got to know her and she isn’t a bitch. Stand-offish? Difficult? Complicated? Paranoid? Psychopathic? Sometimes a little too happy about killing a killer? Yes, yes, yes, and more yes. But if she’s a bitch to you, it’s because you’ve done something to deserve it or because you just don’t understand her demeanor is rather cold even when she’s in a good mood.
Our relationship started off rocky and I certainly didn’t make it easy for her to trust me or like me. I nearly wet myself the day she put a gun to my head. For a couple of seconds, I really thought she was going to kill me. Then the moment passed and I realized I was being just as much of a bitch as she was. The difference was, she was angry at me for my behavior and I was angry at the NSA for transferring me and taking it out on her. One of us was more in the right than the other.
Since then, I’ve gotten to know her and I consider her a friend. I love her like a sister. And in her own psychopathic way, she loves me like a sister, I know because she’s willing to kill for me and that’s kind of her definition of love.
Recently, I sent a thank you note to Peter West. I love the SCTU. I feel like I’m making a difference and I don’t need to be brave or a hero. Ace is brave enough for both of us. And she considers it her job to do the dumb heroic stuff and keep the gunfire away from the rest of us.
And Myrna good lord. That woman just randomly adopts people into her family. By joining the SCTU, I got a sister and a mother. Things I didn’t know I wanted, until they were suddenly there in front of me and mine. Myrna is every bit as warm and loving as Ace is distant and cold. The contrast is amazing, but perfectly balances out when they are together. If I needed something, Myrna would be there with it, I’d only need to ask. Need a cup of sugar? Call Myrna. Need a ride to the hospital? Call Myrna. Need help hiding a body? Yep, call Myrna.
It makes me wish I’d known Donnelly, Eric, and Isabelle Clachan. What kind of people beyond Aislinn would surround Myrna Clachan? Especially knowing that Donnelly and Eric are both psychopaths. I’ve been told Ace is the coldest and most distant of the bunch. Nyleena has said Donnelly and Myrna are both huggers. I can attest it to be true in Myrna’s case. It’s harder for me to picture a psychopath who loves to give and get hugs, but Nyleena swears he did. Even forced hugs on Eric and Malachi when the boys were teens and too old for that sort of thing.
I’m glad I don’t need to be brave to do my job, because I really like it. And Ace inspires bravery believe it or not. Not by what she does, but by what she says. A lot of what she does seems illogical to me, but she is always the first to tell me everything is going to be okay and when she says it, you believe it, even when you’re convinced she’s delusional and it will never be okay again. And somehow, it usually is okay. Things work out for the better more often than not with Aislinn involved. Furthermore, she doesn’t expect me to be brave or fearless. She tells me she expects me to keep her from killing her phone and her tablet and her laptop, not the bad guys. I used to think it was an insult, it sounds demeaning, like my job is less important than hers. But just because that’s how she says it, doesn’t mean that’s how it’s meant to be taken. She means it as a compliment. She can’t do those things, she needs someone else to do them for her. Whereas, she has no problems being shot and fist fighting serial killers and she doesn’t expect me to pretend I want to go six rounds against whoever we happen to be tracking at that moment. That is literally why the SCTU has her. They have me, because we require technology to catch serial killers and find evidence.
The thing that Lucas, Xavier, Gabriel, nor myself will ever be able to explain is not how we feel about Aislinn Cain the serial killer catcher, but how we feel around Aislinn Cain of the person. And they are different. The change is subtle, but it’s there. When we aren’t chasing serial killers and she isn’t falling into deep pits looking for serial killers to chase, she’s a different person. She’s less scary, less cold, less distant, and capable of unimaginable depths of emotion. She’d never willingly give me a hug because I was having a bad day, but she has shown up with hot chocolate, candy bars, and movies to watch when I’ve had a bad day. These acts of kindness of few and far between, she isn’t emotionally intuitive enough to figure out someone is having a bad day without them just flat out stating they are having a bad day. But for her family, her inner circle, she will go to extraordinary lengths when you do tell her you’re having a horrible, rotten, no good, very bad day.