The Common Touch - By Brian Law

Cadet Miller knocked quietly on the door and announced his presence, “Cadet Jonathan Miller reporting as ordered, sirs!”


The two young FBI agents were seated at a table with Miller’s file in front of them. They had just interviewed Cadet Jameson and were ready to perform a perfunctory interview with Cadet Miller and clear the case. Open and shut. Miller clearly was their culprit and they both wanted to be back to Albany by Happy Hour.


“Come in, Cadet,” one of the agents sternly replied as they both looked up as the young man entered, his uniform cap neatly tucked under his right arm. “Take a seat. I’m special agent Argent and this is special agent Wilson. We’re from the Albany office of the FBI. We’re investigating the theft of a transistor radio from one Cadet Jameson.”


Cadet Miller sat in the empty chair and placed his cap on the table. He looked nervously at both of the agents and then said, “I’ll help if I can, agents.”


Agent Wilson began, “Good, Miller, good. Now, Cadet Jameson has indicated that his transistor radio was on the table in his room when he left to go take a shower on Thursday, 12 June at about eight o’clock at night. When he returned about fifteen minutes later, the radio was gone. He told us that you were the only person he saw in the hallway when he exited his room and when he returned from the shower. Do you have anything to say about those statements by Cadet Jameson, Miller?”


Cadet Miller cleared his throat and replied, his voice cracking a bit, “Around eight o’clock in the evening on June 12th? Sorry, agents, I don’t specifically recall being in the hallway or not. Of course, if Cadet Jameson says I was, well, he may very well be correct. Of course, people are coming and going all the time in the dormitory halls. But, seeing me at two separate times in the hallway doesn’t necessarily mean anything, does it, especially since it doesn’t seem like Cadet Jameson knows exactly the time his radio was stolen.”


Agent Argent nodded and wrote something down, and then started to say something when Cadet Miller added, “And, of course, there are any number of non-students in the dormitories at night. Janitors, repairmen, tutors and whatnot. I would say that your focus may have to widen from just looking at me, agents, if you really want to do a professional investigation.”


Agent Wilson interjected, “Let us make that decision, Cadet. Now . . “ 


But before he could finish, Cadet Miller said, “And there’s always the question of why Cadet Jameson would even have a radio in his room. As you must be aware, first year cadets are prohibited from having anything but their uniforms, their grooming supplies, their computers and their books in their rooms. No cell phones, no radios, no tablets, nothing like that.”


The agents looked at each other and one was about to say something when Cadet Miller said, “Then there’s the question of why Cadet Jameson was taking a shower at that time of the evening. Regulations strictly prohibit showers after six thirty on school nights, agents.”


Agent Wilson tried to get the investigation back on track by saying, “Look, Cadet Miller, we’ve come a long way to get your side of the story, so . . . “ but Miller continued.


“Of course, agents, you will find out through your investigation that Cadet Jameson’s father is a politically-connected billionaire and as a result his son gets away with a lot.” Miller paused and then added, “For instance, he has that radio, he has a small television, and he often has female companionship after dark. Some say he meets these females in the showers. It’s not up to me to say for sure. But, you really should look into that aspect, agents. You never know. One of those girls could have taken the radio.”


Agent Wilson looked nervously at the tape recorder that the agents had running on the table top. He was beginning to wonder whether getting this all on tape was such a good idea when Cadet Miller interrupted his thought process by adding, “And you probably will find out anyway, so I guess I can tell you what everybody here knows. Jameson is a White Supremicist, no doubt. Now that may be completely irrelevant to your investigation. As is the fact that he’s running an illegal gambling book among the cadets. Again, that may be irrelevant, but it might bear looking into, especially since I won four hundred dollars from his gambling operation on June 11th, the day before he says I stole his radio, agents.” Again he paused and then continued, “Now, would I really need to steal a little radio if I had just won that kind of money? Or is it maybe that Jameson is upset at me and perhaps wishes to sully my name with these unfounded allegations. You tell me, agents. You’re the experts at ferreting out the truth, right?”


As the two agents fidgeted nervously in their chairs trying to figure how to get Miller back in their sights, Miller went on, “And I’m sure you agents have more important investigations to pursue. Like terrorists, bank robbers, complaining parents at local school board meetings and the like. So, if there’s nothing else I can help you with, I’d like to get back to my studies. I have a History exam in the morning and I haven’t read the chapters yet.” At that, Cadet Miller stood up, placed his cap firmly under his arm and did an about face to the utter surprise and amazement of the two agents.


As Cadet Miller closed the door, Agent Wilson looked at Agent Argent and said, “Jesus, Walt, whatta we do now? This kid Miller’s got us between a rock and a hard place. Can you imagine what Jameson’s father could do to our careers if any of this stuff got out about his son?” He reached over and turned off the tape recorder, removed the cassette and pulled the tape out and threw it in the waste basket.


“But we have to submit a report, Jim!” Agent Wilson replied. As they both thought for a moment, Wilson suggested, “Let’s do a background check on these non-students who are around the dormitory at night. We’ll find some with sketchy backgrounds and suggest that anyone of them could be our culprit. But we’ll have to conclude that we couldn’t find enough proof to point to any one person, including Cadet Miller.


"Sounds like a plan. And you gotta hand it to that Cadet Miller. Quite the straight shooter, if you ask me. Would have been a real mistake to focus on that young kid. Could have ruined his military career," Agent Argent concluded. His partner nodded in return.

Back in his room with the door closed, Cadet Miller put his feet up his desk, leaned back and turned on his newly acquired transistor radio to his favorite channel. As he listened through his earphones, he poured himself two fingers of Irish Whiskey he'd recently won in a poker game in the boiler room with some of the girls from the next college over.


And he checked his watch. The Cadet he was paying two hundred dollars to summarize five chapters of History for him was due in a few minutes. He'd better hide the radio and use some mouthwash.


After all, he had a reputation to protect.




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