Thursday, April 29, 2004
Contrary to what you might think from watching Without A Trace, the Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't have a specific Missing Persons squad, nor are they called in any time someone disappears. The FBI is amazingly good at tracking people down - they have more or less eliminated kidnapping for ransom as a viable concern in the United States - but they generally aren't called in until there's reason to believe it's a Federal crime, or if a local police department requests their assistance.
I know this, because they explained it to me. There was an open case file on Samantha Haskins from when she ran away from her parents in Connecticut, so when she turned up in Boston a year later, escaping from a self-storage container where she was being held against her will, the police naturally considered that kidnappers had transported her across state lines. That's an automatic call to the FBI. And even once they found out that Sam was a runaway and the kidnapping wasn't Federal, Dmitri's involvement raised several flags. Alexei Gubanov, apparently, was a defector. He had apparently delivered some sort of GRU encryption program to America in the mid/late 1980s. His son was reunited with him when he came to America for college. I guess even after the Cold War's been over for more than a decade, our intelligence agencies still don't particularly trust the defectors.
Even without his father's history, though, the FBI still gets interested when a foreign national (Dmitri is still classified as a resident alien) is involved in a kidnapping. The whole mail-order bride/sex slave thing. They take that awful seriously. Which is why they had their very best computer crime people going over Dmitri's PC and laptop.
Which led them to me.
I didn't know all that at first, though - the two agents just waited outside the Winter Street office building where BioSoft is located, said they had a few questions they needed to clear up. They brought me to an interview room in the Post Office Square Federal Building, gave me a soda, quizzed me about the events of the 12th, same as the local police. What was my relationship with the deceased, and with Dmitri, why do I think Miss Haskins called me. I told them the same thing I'd told Boston PD - "Carter" had been my boyfriend until recently, Dmitri was a co-worker, and "Sam" and I had talked a couple of times and I'd given her my number if she needed anything. Then they asked me what my relationship with Martin Hartle was.
Some people might have been able to take that without blinking. My jaw dropped. I spoke in incomplete sentences, stuff like "how do you", "did you tell", and "how much". Seeing that they weren't going to answer my questions, I took a breath and tried to compose myself. "You found something on Dmitri's computer."
The female agent was the one who answered. "Yes, we did. Took us a while, though - Dmitri's father must have taught his boy something about making codes. And then, once we decrypted it, it was in Russian. Even before we got it translated, though, we found your name on a list next to Hartle's. 'Michelle Garber, colon, Martin Hartle.' What's that about?"
"There's a list?"
Yes, there was a list. I asked if there were a couple other entries on it - Martin Hartle, colon, Alexei Gubanov? Samantha Haskins, colon, Carter Drummond? Alexei Gubanov, colon, Samantha Haskins?
Which leads to the male agent standing over me in an imposing manner. "What. Do. You. Know?"
I sigh. This is going to sound insane, I say, but I'd really like to know who some of the other names on the list are. "It's a list of people who've had their minds transferred into other bodies--"
"No sir. Somehow they read out our minds and uploaded them into other bodies. The easiest way to think of it is that I'm Martin Hartle in Michelle Garber's body."
The woman says that's the craziest thing anyone has ever said to her during an investigation, and people claiming that aliens were sending them radio signals via their teeth were not terribly uncommon. It's true, I tell them. July 19th, 2003, I woke up in this body, and I've been trying to figure the whole thing out ever since.
"You certainly don't act like a man in a woman's body."
"Is that flirting?"
"You think this is a joke?"
"Look, I've had to live with it 24/7. I've been told to go to Michelle's job, date my own best friend, fit in, or else."
"And you didn't call the authorities? Nine months, and you just keep it to yourself?"
"Who are the authorities? You? The NIH? The NSA? Some other three-letter acronym? Who do you call for this? And when people can do this to you, you don't want to find out want to find out what 'or else' is!"
Apparently I sound sincere as well as nuts. The guy retreats from the room, probably talking to a superior officer. The woman sits down at the table, and starts trying to trip me up with girl talk. Or not trip me up; maybe if I sound enough like a real woman it'll make my story seem more implausible. What can I say; I've never had a crush on someone in a boy band. I know how to put lipstick on but can't tell shades apart. I don't wear perfume except on dates.
"But you go on dates. That surprises me."
"Not like it does me. But this body is pretty heterosexual, and I sort of got pushed into it at first. It's still weird, and I'm not looking to start something right now, but there it is."
Then the guy comes back in and looks at the other agent. "We're in X-files territory."
"There's an actual X-files?"
"Figure of speech." She turns to the other agent. "It is just a figure of speech, right?"
"Yeah. What she... he..."
I sigh. "Go with she."
"What she says matches with the insane things on the hard drive. It's for real."
Then came a new barrage of questions. They took me through practically every day since July. I felt guilty telling them about Carter in Samantha's body, since they immediately wanted to get him in here. I said he might not be up to it, and they interrupt me, asking why I refer to myself as she and Carter as he. "It's how he thinks of himself. It takes a while to accept this, and he might not want to. I mean, I've had mostly good experiences as a woman. Carter..."
They both look uncomfortable. They don't know how to deal with me. I think they'd probably planned to bring Carter right in, but changed their mind when they considered what Dmitri had probably done while holding Carter. You treat abuse victims with kid gloves, and folks like us are probably even trickier.
They let me go home then - it was almost midnight, and when I got home, Carter was practically in a panic. And telling them that I talked to the FBI and they know everything didn't help. I told him, though, that they could help. We found out the name of the guy who was in his body when it died - Mikhail Korpin. The name didn't mean anything to him, but it's nice to know. And if knowing that helps them find Michelle Garber in his body somewhere in Eastern Europe... Well, I don't know if the FBI would find her, but they must be able to get word to Interpol or local law enforcement. You'd think a guy who suddenly couldn't speak his native language would attract attention.
Carter went down to the FBI office while I was at work today, and they called Maggie in, too. We met for dinner afterward to talk about it. It's a relief, really, to tell all this to someone who functions in an official capacity; Carter looks the closest thing to calm I've seen him look since I first saw him in Sam's body. It's weird, though; the FBI want to run the investigation and us out of the way. I mean, I've been trying to figure this out for months, and Mags has been working on it since she found out, and even though we know that this is what the FBI does, it's unnerving to be told to back off and leave it to the professionals.
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