Mathematics in the Workplace.

In any career, there’s maybe 20%–no, make that 10%–of what you do that’s what it makes sense for you to do. Say you’re a doctor. You’ll spend 10% of your time actually doing doctor things. The rest of the time you’ll get dragged off to conferences and called into consultation and write little forms illegibly. Or maybe if you’re a cruise ship captain, 10% of the time you give orders on a ship. The rest of the time, you sit at radios, or have dinner with rich women with large teeth and large shoulders and large voices and tiny sunburned husbands. I don’t know what the breakdown would be for something like a carpenter. 10% building, 90% wearing huge overalls?

Dananana Batman!

In my business, the unrelated 90% involves a lot of social functions. My successes have made me something of a public relations mascot for the force, so any time an alderman’s wife is the sister of the life partner of the guy who’s putting up an exhibit or whatever, I get dragged to the opening gala.

Free food and boring conversation plus overtime pay is a fair trade, I guess. It could be worse. I could be working on a cruise ship.

The laser wire grid, is state of the art. Yes. It, will trigger the alarms if, anyone steps within, two feet of the piece. The exhibitor–and I say that with the understanding that you’ll read it with a little finger gesture for the sarcasm quotes–is showing off his fancy stuff with a voice that sounds like it’s come through five different noses before it comes through his own. There’s a long line of people following him around like ants to a picnic.

And you can see, that our system, is entirely impregnable! Yes.

Does dat mean they have a dame? Max whispers.

I don’t bother answering that one. “Go check out the buffet. I’ve got a few questions to ask Bob Dylan here.” He gives me this look as I cross the room, halfway between coming on to me and smug satisfaction that he’s got more money than I do. It’s almost enough to make me forget the free food and regret coming here. But I smell something better than free food in the offing.

“You said this system was impregnable?” I begin.

Hmmm. Yes. You can see the laser projectors, over your head. Go ahead, and test them if you want.

“No need. I just have a few, well, let’s call them tips. I assume you designed the system yourself?”

Yes. I cannot help, crowing about my achievements, you know. You and I are not so much different, detective. Yes. He sounds like he can’t decide if that’s disgusting or promising. Me, I’m gonna go with disgusting. I wanted to be sure, that it was the best, and you know what they say. Yes. If you want, it done right-

“Fill it full of holes.”

I beg your pardon?

“This isn’t a security system, it’s a sieve. You’ve got the statue protected on this level, yeah, but what’s to stop someone coming through the floor? Is the floor made of lasers?”

Detective, there is no need, to be rude.

“Don’t worry, I’m not charging you extra for it. And what about the ceiling? There’s plenty of ways to get through a ceiling, you know. But that’d be true of pretty much any laser system. Let’s talk about why this one might as well not exist.” Funny. You’d expect a man in his position to look either indignant or shocked, maybe both. He looks downright terrified. Interesting. “Look at how high the lasers are. I can reach em without even going on tiptoe, and I’m not exactly tall. A hacksaw’d be all I’d need to take off every last one. Or if that wasn’t my style, Just grab a ladder and reach over the top. Heck, an elephant could knock the whole thing off, easy, with nothing but the clothes on his back.”

If you have any, recommendations, detective, then you ought to deliver them, to the proper authorities. Nothing but contempt for me now. Good, but I’m not finished.

“Oh, I’ve got recommendations. Doubt you’d like them. Because they’d point out that not only is your system unworkable, but it’d be going off every time some kid slumped too close to your invisible fence. There’s no rail, no sign, no step, no nothing. You can’t have the exhibit open at the same time th security is on.”


“No you can’t. How would you arrange to have this replica you made stolen then? And then how would you collect the insurance money?”

His jaw drops. He’s got horrible dentalwork. How, did you, you can’t, I wasn’t, don’t tell anyone! I’ll be ruined!

I shrug, barely holding back the grin. Being right is so much better than free food, but this was easy. It was a simple three card monte scam: show everyone influential in the town what they think is the real thing, tout how safe it is, then have it vanish under their noses while they’re all busy looking everywhere but at you. Classic, and easy as holding out a pan and having the fish tossed right in, if you don’t get cocky. “No need yet. The only crime here is against common sense. But I’d get a better system if I were you. If this, ahem, priceless artifact goes missing, I’ll know who’s door to knock on in the middle of the night. And it won’t be for what you want.” Funny. Here I was, ready to write this whole day off as right in the thick of the 90% useless crap, and here I go, detecting again. Maybe I should make it 15%.

Then, you won’t say anything about, the substitution? Please? Ugh. Theatrics.

“That depends on if you can make it worth my while.”

The Final Word.


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