“I’m going to have a crap and a cigarette, when I get back I want you to start telling me the truth”
“Why am I being detained here?’
I’d been in the room for over three hours and it was at this point I caught myself falling into what certain healthcare professionals have identified as ‘Victim Mode’. Soon I was actually shaking, pathetic whimpering sounds escaped out of my dry throat. Meanwhile, Detective Lane kept on at me in his booming voice. He was sitting so close an acrid spray of nicotine juice and Nescafe leavings landed on my face.
“Maybe I’ll do it the other way round – a cigarette and a crap – that makes more sense”
All the while I kept thinking of Shannon’s Maxim – ‘The enemy knows your system’. I guess that was the clever part of me, the non-victim me. When Lane came back I asked him again why I was being detained.
“You tell me Puffin”
“I must have done something very bad”
“What were you doing in the forest?”
“I was going to visit Sniff”
“At half past 3 in the morning?”
“I should have a lawyer”
“There are no lawyers here, how about you just tell us how it all started”
“How what started?”
“What did you do that morning?”
“I went into the forest”
“Which door did you use?”
“Was it dark?”
“At first it was”
“I was scared, really quite very scared but sang to myself and started to feel better, the leaves were super slippery. I kept losing my footing and sliding down into the gullies”
“Did you see anyone else?”
“Just heard a lot of squawking and shrieking’
“Are you religious?”
“I’m not, I’m not anything, not really”. Now I’d developed a stammer, it made Lane talk even louder.
“Your record says you spent six months in Fractal Therapy”
“Why do you need to know about that?”
“You said yourself – ‘I must have done something bad’. We just want to clarify a few things, background details and wotnot”
“Wotnot what’s wotnot?”
“Why were you scared?”
“There was a Wumpus. A Wumpus had been seen in the area”
“Right, a Wumpus” said Lane elongating the word as if I was a village idiot and he was a mind reader. Mind-reading was something Sniff and I had always taken for granted.
The thing about Shannon’s Maxim is that secrecy makes a system brittle, whereas openness gives it flexibility, or what Shannon called ‘ductility’. Like a big old air duct your system can change shape but it wont break. At least that’s the idea. Conversely, every secret creates a potential failure point. At this stage we didn’t have a clue how much Lane and the others knew about our secrets. Shannon said systems should be designed with the assumption that the enemy will immediately gain full familiarity with them. That was our guiding principal.
“So, how long have you known this Sniff character?” Lane was flicking through a fat folder of written sheets, some of them were handwritten but most of them were typed. My eyesight and upside down reading skills weren’t good enough to make sense of them.
“Isn”t that information in your file?”
“Yep” said Lane “But I wanted to hear it from you”
“We were at school and then at University together”
“Computer Science right?”
“We’ve known each other since we were five year olds”
“And it seems he was obsessed by money right from that start” Lane made tut tutting sounds as if he was reading something he disapproved of.
“He has a lot of good traits” There was no point in denying Sniff’s continuous involvement in get-rich-quick scams. Even at school he had tried to sell access to the best library books. “Moominpapa wouldn’t have adopted him as a brother if he wasn’t a good type”
“Yeah well, these Mumi – they’re too good to be true if you ask me” He slung the file onto the grey concrete floor, ‘Was Sniff due to inherit from the Moomins?”.
This took me by surprise, why on Earth would he ask such a question? I shrugged my shoulders, Lane immediately leant forward and smiled.
“You really don’t know do you Puffin?”
“Know about the Finn Family Moomintroll”
“Know what about them”
“All gone, Puffy. Moominpapa and Moominmama, Snuffkin and Moomintroll – sometime between 3 am and 5. Missing, presumed dead”
In his cell, later that night, Puffin worried about Sniff getting radicalized in prison. He had anti-social tendencies and was prone to philosophical fads. At school he had formed a militant wing of the Moomin Valley Bird Watching Club. He and his cronies trashed hunters sheds and burnt down scare crows. Now Sniff was in a notoriously fertile breeding ground for extremist bad boys. He’d read all about it in the Dentist’s waiting room earlier that week. Basically, if there was a status quo of any sort, radicalized bad boys were out to demolish it. The common prison dress and myriad constraints placed upon prisoners was highly conducive to reinforcing processes. the best thing would be to introduce a wider range of clothing choices and soft furnishings. The article went on to observe that one of the first things radicalized bad boys did was remove comfortable chairs from their cells. Puffin was slightly surprised that they had them in the first place. The last time he visited Sniff there were a number of radicals hanging around outside the jail, they had an assortment of uniform looks, either novelty ties or elaborate moustaches. Puffin couldn’t exactly picture Sniff in either. Perhaps Sniff’s enduring individualism would be his saving grace?