Matthew

Roger Grannis was known to the group as Matthew. Psychopaths are excellent liars, at least the successful ones, but their success at lying often relies on bullying or denying when caught. Matthew never needed to resort to anything of the sort, because he was a professional. Matthew worked for the NSA.

As a child, Matthew liked secrets. He liked collecting them, hoarding them, and revealing them at just the right time. Eighth of nine children, he started the practice out of necessity. There were only a certain amount of resources to go around in a family that big, so whatever he had to do to make himself the fair haired child he was going to do.

Two of his brothers were incarcerated before their sixteenth birthdays. Another was sent to a military academy after being caught multiple times with drugs in his locker. He systematically turned his parents against his three sisters, to the point that they were starting to wonder what they had done wrong as parents. None in the family ever realized that it was Matthew that was planting the drugs or the information.

The whole process had led Matthew to the realization that power came from the judicious use of information, and he focused his time on how to get more. He cultivated relationships with hackers, getting them to teach him how to access computer networks. At the analog level, he made more direct contact with both the criminal elements of his community as well as its law enforcement. He played both sides of the fence making sure that neither side took the advantage.

After receiving an accounting degree, an area where a lot of secrets are kept, he moved to Washington DC, another area where a lot of secrets are kept. He got little traction at the beginning because of the old boys network, but he got his break when he decided to take a big risk.

Eric Freedman had been an executive level manager at the NSA for fifteen years. The perks of the job kept him from entering the private sector. In the private sector you couldn’t bully congress members and White House staff. The feeling of power was unassailable until Matthew had shown up at his house with a folder detailing some of Freedman’s more shadowy exploits.

Freedman had considered turning the man into a ghost, but Matthew had cauterized many of the leaks that had allowed him to uncover all of the information. He also asked for a job, which Freedman guaranteed after a background check. At that point, Matthew produced another folder on himself. It was a background check that was more detailed than what Freedman knew he would get from his own agency. It also outlined where the typical FBI check would go wrong.

It was a risk for Matthew to put so much information out there, and it would have been more so if all of it was true, but the risk paid off. Freedman had the clout to hire Matthew as a consultant at first, ensconcing him in an out of the way office in an isolated part of the building he worked in. After a reasonable amount of time, Matthew was brought on as an employee of the FBI and became Freedman’s chief intelligence analyst. Freedman gave Matthew everything and anything he asked for, and Matthew gave Freedman information superiority over every other manager.

Years passed and Matthew built up a treasure trove of information resources. Most of it concerned the truth. He could find out just about anything he wanted to about a person. That was the grist for his mill. Making someone look bad was an art form and Matthew was its Michaelangelo. Need a labor leader framed for child pornography Matthew was your man. Need an activist’s marriage messed up by an obvious affair you knew who to go to.

After a decade of looking for and creating lies on a full time basis Matthew’s boss retired and Matthew took his job with no competition. No one else dared to apply. Now Matthew wielded a team of information ferrets that he employed to suck up and process every bit of data they could get their hands on. As before, Matthew stayed in the shadows as much as he could, revealing as little as possible about himself. He kept the out of the way office and established a reporting system that compartmentalized his team, so he was the only one who had the entire picture.

It was an ordinary day one September when Matthew found Jameson. Matthew had been sifting through random people’s secrets as he liked to do on days when he didn’t have a lot to do. It was an exercise in linking people to each other through diverse sources of information. He started with a dark star, what he called an unincarcerated individual who likely wouldn’t stay that way, and then found the people linked to them. Those people he tried to link to other dark stars, because they were of great interest to law enforcement. These were the people who knew the bad people, knew what they were up to.

He had started with John Dawson, a police detective in upstate New York who had the signature complaints of a dirty cop. Multiple brutality complaints with no convictions, missing evidence, and collars almost solely in the lowest socioeconomic brackets. Matthew considered the small-timers quaint amateurs, little sharks in what they thought was an ocean, but was really a doctor’s office fish tank.

The program he was using to run the search was one created by one of the more covert agencies. It saved him time on his searches, because it did so much of the connecting for him. The names of the known dark stars were already flagged. All he had to do was set the program to running with one of them.

His coffee cold, he went to the outer office to refresh it and flirt with his secretary. She pretended she didn’t like it, but that was because she was married and had to protect her idiot husband’s ego. It wasn’t like he really wanted to have sex with her, he just figured that was his role.

Sitting back down at his desk, the program grabbed his attention with multiple flashing lines. The top line had Dawson’s name and below it was the link name, Jameson. Below that, stabbing at his eyes, were the flashing names of the linked dark stars. He had never seen more than four linked to one person. Six names were flashing, and then seven. One was Dawson’s brother. An eighth and then ninth name arose from dark pixels before the program decided the laws of probability had to be given their due.

Here was a man who knew the secrets of bad men, and Matthew, for the first time, thought he might be able to learn something from someone else.

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