|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on October 25, 2016 at 10:00 PM|
So Shrine and his team set up this trap, though we have to dicker about how much time to give people to respond. We settle on a week though I think that doesn’t give people a lot of time to make arrangements. Shrine wants it even quicker in case this angle doesn’t work, and he has to start from scratch. It is really a constant and bitter trial working with skeptics.
The information session is set for seven at night in a town hall just outside the city line. The police use phone calls and registered mail and they succeed at making contact with all 42 pigeons who aced the pool the first week. Shrine is sweating bullets because he wants time before the victims/suspects show up to put in some cameras and hidden vantage points, but a town meeting is running late in our venue. Fifty people are squeezed in there getting irate, so help me, over whether the paint on a real estate office in town is of an ugly enough color to disturb the peace. Finally they disburse and leave the hideous space to us.
A couple of Shrine’s cops hand out claim forms when the people file in and Shrine and I watch from the podium to see when we have a quorum. We have thirty before the appointed time, and thirty-seven in another ten minutes. I tell Shrine this is an awfully good sample, but he insists on waiting another half hour when only two more show up. I finally convince him that we should move along and he leaves me to my little talk.
I introduce myself much as I planned to – another straggler comes in late, depriving himself of the full glory of my performance. “You may know that the man suspected of masterminding this swindle was murdered earlier this month. I have been asked to make contact with him to see if he can tell us anything about the night of his death.”
Those gathered are not too pleased about this and I remind myself that this is a hostile crowd. Someone in the front asks if he has to stay. I notice absently that every man jack of this crowd is a man, jack – not even one woman took Ten Moose up on his offer. I suspect that the magazine in which he advertised was not really strictly a sports magazine as it was described.
“It will only take a few minutes,” I tell the chap who wants to leave. “But contacting people is very difficult. All of you here corresponded with Ten Moose in the week before his murder, and anyone who dies leaves psychic traces on the people they meet. It will be much easier to make contact with him in the presence of these psychic traces.” Seems plausible to me, but a handful still get up to leave though they sit down after they notice the policemen and policewomen standing by the doors.
I close my eyes and put myself into a trance. “It’s working already,” I announce. “Thanks to your deciding to stay, at least for a few minutes. If you can concentrate on your dealings with Ten Moose it will help.” I listen for a few beats. “He is apologizing,” I say. “He regrets involving you in this offer. He- what? Yes?” I break the flow of my talk to listen more carefully. “He says- he wants to particularly apologize to a- is there a R- Rodney, no, Ralph here?”
Ralph Szewalski, whose name I had read on Shrine’s printout a few days ago, raises his hand. I break into a grin as though I’m greatly relieved.
“Also, a, is there, no there are several Toms. Can you- Tom? Is there a Tom Carter? Carton?”
“You probably mean me,” volunteers Tom Carver.
I address my next comments to a spot of peeling paint that I notice high on the wall above the entrance door. I inform the spot of paint that there isn’t time to apologize to everyone individually, and that isn’t why we brought these men here. I ask if it can tell me anything about the last day of its life. I look at it quizzically.
“I’m getting a- no. He was angry? Well, he would be, of course. He… Who was this? Did you know who it was? Is he here now?”
I look over the crowd as subtly as I can without noticing anyone sweating or cowering from the hideous glare of supernatural justice. I ask Ten Moose to give me a side of the room, at least, but still don’t pick up any hints from the seats. One of the cops shifts his feet, looking like he is embarrassed for me.
“Well, he is gone,” I tell the assembled pigeons. “There is hostility here, and I can’t keep the connection clear. I’m done with you – I don’t know if you’re free to go yet as far as the police are concerned.” And I leave the front of the room in such a way to make it clear how I disapprove of each and every one of them individually and collectively. The patrolmen look puzzled and collect the forms – the bettors seem to have more questions for them than for me. I watch them dribble out and notice that Geaddise Shrine has suddenly rematerialized. He lingers with his sergeants despite my most vigorous gesturing.
When the few remaining guests are out of earshot I make contact with him. “Before you hear it from anyone else, it didn’t go that well. The guy who killed Ten Moose wasn’t here.”
“Don’t sweat it,” he replies, waving a consoling hand.
I blink at the patronization, but move on with my theory. One of his assistants sidles up to give him a message but Shrine gestures for him to let me go first.
“I think we made a mistake assuming that the killer would necessarily have sent the thousand dollars. There could easily have been one or two more who hit the first week and decided they didn’t need Ten Moose anymore the second week. You may have to go back to the two thousand envelopes.”
“Mmm. Sounds expensive. Maybe we should just check the guys from the 42 who weren’t here tonight.”
I have some disapproval left over from the suspects to lavish on him. “Shrine, we had all but one or two. We were also assuming that one of the 42 murdered Elvis Ten Moose. The odds that one out of 42 just happens to be one of the one or two who didn’t make it tonight are pretty slim.”
Shrine smirks. “Padovano, I believe that you are confusing a random sample with a self-selected sample. Don’t feel bad, a lot of statistical novices make that mistake. Now me, I didn’t assume that people just randomly decided not to show tonight. I ask myself, is there any sort of controlling factor that makes it more likely that some victims of the scam would not want to come tonight? Naturally, being the murderer would be one such factor. I believe the statisticos call it, what is it, differential….”
“Differential mortality,” I answer him.
“Oh, good, you have heard of it. Then you remember that differential mortality ruins a random sample and turns it into a self-selected sample. Like if you’re testing a medicine against a dummy pill. The people taking the real stuff might feel better and be more likely to skip the part of the study when they get a second dose. The people who are left behind are the ones who didn’t improve and are sicker, and if you think that nothing’s wrong and people are dropping out randomly you’re going to get the impression that your medicine makes people sicker.”
“I am familiar with the concept.”
“So I thought, but you could always use a little brushup. Now today you met with the sample of vics who had no reason to avoid an activity with the police, leaving the other self-selected sample of people who did have some reason to stay away from the police. Or at least they were more likely to be in that category.” Shrine notices one of the captains walking by with a cellphone at his ear. “Mel, how are we doing?”
“We have a confession, chief, but he’s getting lawyered up now.”
"Are you telling me you caught the guy already?"
"Definitely caught him. He was one of the two not here tonight. But of course, we still need to make a case."
I seem to feel more irritation about this than I anticipated.
“And you worked this all out tonight?” I ask Shrine.
“Hell no. When you first suggested this little general assembly. Only reason I went along with it.” He chitchats with the captain, making a big show of ignoring me.
“Am I free to go?”
“Of course, you always are,” he responds expansively. “But our arrangement is still on, by the way, because I did this one myself.” He’s only saying this to be cruel – he certainly never implied that there was any limited number of cases for which I was indentured.
Categories: The Long Arm of the Law of Averages