Quick disclaimer: Basement of a Bull is a comedic work of fiction. Everything you are about to read is part of a story that is evolving each week, none of these characters are real.
Chicago Police Station
Thursday, December 21, 2017
I stayed up until 2 a.m. scouring the internet for other headlines about the United Center heist. I overheard Barboza saying that he solves a lot of his cases by simply looking up online chats, message boards, or dipping into “the dark web.” He said people openly brag about the stuff they’ve stolen and they confidently put the items up for sale as if no one could find their trails.
I’ll try to explain this concept that I overheard him talking about, but just a warning in advance, I got lost trying to follow it. I sat there like I did in high school math class; all the concepts flying right over my head.
He says there’s this site on the dark web where you can buy items with something called “Elbur.” Or at least I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard him say. It reminded me of Elmer Fudd (my favorite Looney Tunes character). I guess people exchange these “Elburs” instead of US dollars. Most popular items, of course, being drugs, followed by electronics, basketball shoes, and then strangely enough cast-iron skillets.
Well, I’ve got a lot to learn about the dark web, or even just the regular web, because I couldn’t find anything else on the United Center heist.
I came into work the next day, I’m always 15 minutes early, McDonald was at his desk visibly stressed out. Barboza nowhere to be found, but that was normal. He liked to show up 20-30 minutes late.
I sat down at my desk, turned on the computer, saw a new list of red light violations to fill out. I was running really far behind. Sadly, this is how I needed to spend my entire day. Aggressive catch-up. The detective work would just have to wait.
“What up, what up, what up,” Barboza called out like the Camel in that “Hump Day” commercial.
I looked over my cube, he was strutting down the hallway, gave someone a high five. I looked at the clock on my computer. Wow, he’s really rolling with the fashionably late approach today.
“Yo, Red Light,” he said. He walked over. “I found the kayak last night, already returned it to the owner. Landed the Bernese Mountain dog too. Really weird story on that one, we’ll need to talk about that in a second. Then I went ahead and knocked out two missing laptops and a stolen bike just cuz I was kind of bored. You got time for lunch today?”
“Oh, I, well I mean I brought my lunch today so,” I said.
“Bring it home for dinner,” Barboza said. “You good with 11:30?”
“Yeah, sure, that works,” I said.
“Need me to knock out any of those red light things?” he said, looking at my computer screen.
“Oh, no, I can handle it, thank you though.”
“Let me know,” Barboza said. “I’m gonna go find some donuts, throw on some Netflix, really don’t mind knocking a few of those out if you’re swamped.”
Barboza walked over to his desk.
“Hey yo Mickey D, you wanna hop on the lunch train, we’re gonna grab some sandwiches at The Marsh,” Barboza said.
“Those sandwiches are horrible,” McDonald replied.
“Nonsense, hands down best pastrami in the city.”
“If you like rubbery pastrami and stale bread, sure.”
“Hey, who pissed in your Cheerios today?”
“Look, I’m trying to work, ok! I need to get these three cases done.”
“Here, I’ll knock some out. Actually, I did a few extra, want to just turn those in, say you did it? Take tomorrow off, that’s what I’m doing. Pretty sure I’m just gonna head out after lunch.”
“Yeah, well, some of us are going to be working today so, if you don’t mind, I need silence.”
Barboza walked back over to my cubicle.
“Alright, you good to go?” he asked. “And hey, check this out, hit refresh on your screen.”
I hit refresh and the entire queue of red light violations was gone.
“Grab your coat, let’s get some sandwiches.”
That whole walk to the car, then the first few minutes of the drive, I had to know what happened with the red light violations.
“Hey, I appreciate the help, but you didn’t need to do that,” I said. “You were probably bored out of your mind doing those.”
“Oh, I didn’t do it,” Barboza said. “I’ve got this freelancer I use. I pay some dude, who knows where he is, I pay him the equivalent of like two dollars to knock it out.”
All sorts of red flags, alarms, sirens went off in my brain. You did what?! That means whoever that was has a login to the system. That has to be some type of violation. Hundred percent Barboza could get fired for that.
But I didn’t want to be the whiner. “You broke the rules!” I’d never get invited to lunch again. So I just let it go.
Barboza parallel parked the car with ease. We hopped out, walked up to the front doors of The Marsh deli. The lights were off but there wasn’t a “Sorry, we’re closed” sign up or a note on the door about being closed for the day.
“Huh. He has this place open at nine every day,” Barboza said. “That’s really weird.”
“Maybe we’ll see ‘kidnapped deli owner’ in the files today,” I joked.
“Yeah, right,” Barboza said with a small chuckle. “Alright, well, let’s go find somewhere else.”
We walked down the street to a diner on the corner. Went in, settled into a booth.
“Ok, so the Bernese Mountain dog,” Barboza started. “I met with the owners, it was a really nice couple. Two kids. That has to be a cramped apartment with the kids and the dog. And they were devastated. They said they had Bernie, that was the name, he was like their third kid. They had him chipped, had this app that kept track of where he is, but they couldn’t locate him. Until one night they were checking on their phones and saw him show up way up north in Chicago, up at the Howard stop on the red line. So they hopped in the car raced up there, but by the time they arrived, they looked at the phone again, he was moving down the interstate, out toward the burbs, and then he was nowhere to be found. Off the radar again. I told them to breathe. They were getting hysterical. I said the good news is you know he’s alive. I had them set up the tracking on my phone, then went out and set up my stakeout near the Howard stop around midnight.”
Barboza took a sip of his coffee.
“I actually was starting to fall asleep in my car when I heard a few beeps. I looked at my phone, the dot was moving along the highway. I followed along, it was coming right my way. I slapped my cheeks a little, woke myself up. And waited. Eyes glued to the screen. The dot getting closer and closer. Then finally that dot was right on me. I looked out my window, saw a minivan pulling up. One of the sliding doors rolled open, and there it was, the big slobbering Bernese Mountain dog. He looked happy. Healthy. And dumb. Then the driver’s door opened and out stepped this woman with half of her head shaved, the other half spiky purple hair.”
Our waiter brought out our lunch, set it down on the table. Barboza nodded. Took another sip of coffee.
“I hopped out of my car, started to walk over. I don’t think she noticed me. So I cleared my throat. ‘Excuse me, Ms.’ She looked at me for a split second then started to sprint back to the minivan.”
Again, Basement of a Bull is a work of fiction. I want to try out this approach of releasing segments every week instead of all at once. Next installment on Thursday. Thanks for following this wacky tale!