By Michael Workman
Before dawn, the whippoorwills cry in the trees, their song carrying across the empty expanse of flat land and a two-story Tudor house. As seen from the road, the house appears solemn and absent of movement, the windows dark, horse and pig corrals beside it, only a single sow trundling across the broad side of the barn, nuzzling the damp mud for scraps. Three groups of men in helmets and black body armor appear, blue Ford slowly rolling up behind them as they advance toward the house, unslinging their assault rifles, front and back of their clothes marked, in big, bright yellow, with the letters F-B-I.
It is Summer 2009 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 3am. Uncle Sonny sits in his Steelcase office chair in the basement, hair weighted with the hours he’s stayed awake, precisely tapping the butt of his Winston on the edge of an aquamarine ashtray, not noticing it’s finished. He’s fixated on the lines of file names as they scroll down the screen, 5,000 or 10,000 of them, and CLICK, another page, more files to share, a huge number of video clips. Small lights blinking on a series of computer panels stacked on the bookshelf beside him: internal storage discs whirring as they read, transfer, copy, transmit and receive child pornography. The small silhouette of a video camera is mounted on a tripod standing in the dark behind him, staring out past him, unnoticed, forgotten.
He is so completely absorbed in his concentration that he second guesses the noise as the front door crashes in upstairs, the wood frame suddenly splitting, hurried footsteps on the floor above his head confirming what he thought he heard. In that moment, he feels all the blood in his body present and gushing, a sensation familiar to what he felt in the Korean War when mortar debris hit his face and left him with one lazily sagging eyelid. Reaching out to press the square button on his computer monitor, Sonny hears the boots upstairs and his shrieking wife. He releases the button. The room around him plunged into darkness except for the array of computer lights all blinking out of sync.
Eyes open, he sees the FBI men in helmets and black raid gear, assault rifles trained on him, waiting, two plain-clothed men in dark jeans and t-shirts with pistols drawn, looking. Moment. Moment. One of them lowers and holsters his pistol, eyeing Uncle Sonny, and weaves his way forward through the officers to him, “Sonny J. Swiers*. You are under arrest for the sexual exploitation of children and distribution of child pornography.” Pause. Beat. Sonny, still seated, stammers, “You guys have guns,” mouth the driest it has ever been, near-impossible to form the words, unable to force his voice above a whisper. “Please take out your guns and shoot me. My life is over.” Read the rest of this entry »