Leviticus Helms/License to Clean
They say the world began as a giant molten blob, billions of years ago.
They say life began as a couple of molecules in the primal morass just happening to bump into each other in just the right way.
They say that life gradually improved over the eons by biting and scratching its way to the top, with the bigger and badder creatures surviving to pass on their genetic traits to their offspring, while the losers passed on into the graveyard of prehistory.
They say we humans got here simply by being the biggest, baddest, and most vicious creature of all.
Seems to me this makes us just a bunch of meaningless pieces of meat, eating or being eaten as we chase each other around and around in the little boxes we call our homes and offices.
I don't know about you, but that's not the kind of world I want to live in. I choose to believe in a better world, where we don't have to bear the guilt, and the responsibility, for not making things all better, because we're all part of a bigger plan – where all the tragedies and stupid mistakes are just part of a higher purpose, in the biggest big-box business of them all, owned and operated by The Guy Upstairs.
That's the world I live in, and that's who I work for. I'm Leviticus Helms – Creationist Detective.
- Leviticus Helms (voice over): 10:28 a.m. Got a call from Chief Berkeley -- thieves broke into the soap factory, stole ten thousand dollars worth of lye and potash, and drove off. I arrived at the scene with my partner, Frank Watson.
- Frank Watson: Looks like a clean getaway, Lev.
- LH: Yep.
- FW: Except... what about that van over there?
- LH: You mean the bright red one?
- FW: Yeah
- LH: With the tire tracks leading to it?
- FW: Yep
- LH: ...straight from the broken window?
- FW: That's the one.
- LH: [a beat] Hmm, could be significant. Let's check out the window.
- FW: You don't want to look at the van first?
- LH: I'm pretty sure it's a decoy.
- FW: A decoy?
- LH: That's right, Frank. Didn't you hear what the Chief said? He said the thieves "drove off", Frank. Those tire tracks and that van are here to test our faith in Chief Berkeley's word.
- FW: Well... maybe he didn't know about the van, Lev.
- LH: Now seriously, Frank -- you don't get to be Chief of Police by "not noticing" a bright red van at a crime scene.
- FW: But Lev, he wasn't here, he was just relaying what the responding officer told him...
- LH: Frank, are you questioning the truthfulness of our city's best and brightest?
- FW: Well.... maybe he meant they "drove off" about 50 feet, and stopped over there, where that van is.
- LH: Now Frank, you and I both know what "drove off" means. That van is here to throw us off the trail -- to sow dissent among us, get us started disagreeing and arguing with each other. To make us weak, and divided. You don't want him to succeed -- do you Frank? No, you don't. Neither do I. We'll show the perpetrators of this atrocity that we can be unified, and strong, and trust our leaders, and act together -- no matter what the facts might be.
- FW: Well, when you put it like that...
- LH: Now, let's take a look at that window.
- FW: That would be the next most sensible thing to do, yes.
- LH (voice over): Frank and I carefully inspected the broken window. After thorough analysis, it became clear that the evidence pointed to one thing, and one thing alone: this dastardly act of cowardice had clearly been perpetrated by criminals.
- FW: Gee, do you think so, Wally?
- LH (voice over): Hush, Frank. I'm not done with the voice-over.
- FW: Oh, sorry.
- LH (voice over): I called for backup to have all exiting roads blocked and anyone entering or leaving the area to be detained for questioning at an undisclosed location. We also put wiretaps on all phones in the city, started a house-to-house search, and imposed a 6pm curfew. Anyone seen carrying soap, or soap-making materials, or looking suspiciously clean, to be shot on sight and held for questioning.
- walky-talky voice: Roger that, Lieutenant.
- FW: I dunno, don't you think that's a bit extreme for a felony, Lev?
- LH: We can't afford to be soft on crime, Frank.
- LH (voiceover): 11:48 a.m. Back at HQ I got a message that someone had left a tip. It was a dollar 98. Cheap bastard. Also, Al's Catering Service was having a "clean plate special" down at the local Vets' Association. It was nearly lunchtime, so Frank and I went down to check it out.
- FX: dogs barking inside a room, other animal noises if possible -- mixed with the clattering of dishware and people talking as if in a restaurant
- FW: What I don't get, Lev, is why they're serving a catered buffet lunch at a veterinarian's office.
- LH: Well, Frank, this just shows it's a dog-eat-dog world out there.
- LH (voiceover): Just then, I noticed something which set my hackles rising.
- LH: Hey Frank -- don't these plates look... suspiciously clean to you?
- FW: [a beat] Gee, Lev, I wouldn't think that's a problem... this is a public event where food is served; I think they're required by law to have clean plates
- LH (steps on FW's last word): But not this clean, Frank -- not this clean. If this were just the normal diligence of Hispanic kitchen workers trying desperately to keep their green cards, then you might chalk this up to everyday ethnic cleansing. But this goes far beyond that. What we're seeing here is clear and irrefutable proof that the enemy posesses... weapons of mass dish-sudsing.
- [dramatic notes]
- LH (voiceover): 12:35 p.m. Back at Police HQ I started checking into this "Al Catering Service". Four hours down in the records office turned up zilch... except for a copy of Dark Side of the Moon with the sticker I was missing, and a highly questionable Paul McCartney bootleg, which I detained for questioning.
Then, just as I was about to give up, I stumbled across the clue I was looking for – in a massive, time-hallowed reference work our ancestors depended upon for their everyday existence but which has now sunk, all but forgotten, into the mists of obsolescence – the Greater Metro Area Yellow Pages. According to the listings on pages two hundred and nineteen through two hundred and twenty-four, the town was absolutely riddled with catering agencies. Obviously this "Al" Catering outfit was just part of an underground ring of "sleeper cells", poised to infiltrate our offices, our sporting events and celebrations, and - yes - on certain special occasions, even our homes - and, without warning, ruthlessly serve and entertain us.
Only they wouldn't be delivering just desserts.
- FW: But what's the connection, Lev? I don't see it.
- LH: Frank, I don't have to see something to believe in it. If you insist on seeing proof for every little thing, Frank, you'll never get anywhere, Frank. I know in my gut that there's a connection, Frank, and that's all I need. That gives me an advantage over the bad guys, Frank -- one we can't afford to casually toss aside. We'll be able to move in on these Al Catering goons before they even know we're coming -- because we don't have to wait around for any namby-pamby, bleeding-heart "evidence" or "due process" to make its way through the bureaucratic sludge we call "government". That's how we stay one step ahead, Frank, and that's why we'll win.
- LH (voiceover): 4:15 p.m. It was time to take action. I got the Chief on the horn.
- FX: someone practicing playing the horn
- LH (voiceover): Fortunately, he was only practicing, so I was able to talk with him for a bit.
- Chief Berkeley: Ahh, Detective. Do sit down. (chuckle) It's been awhile, hasn't it?
- LH: Yes sir.
- CB: When was it again...
- LH: This morning sir.
- CB: Ahh, yes, of course! This morning. Gosh, I remember it as if it were yesterday. (chuckle) But enough misty-eyed remniscing; how can I help you?
- LH: Well, sir, the Al Catering situation is looking very grim, sir. They're everywhere, sir. We're convinved that they're behind the soap factory break-in, and we've also got them on five counts of hosting and entertaining, four counts of possession of consumables with intent to distribute, and a one-two-three count for a really bad Dean Martin impersonator, sir. They were undoubtedly the fiendish masterminds behind the McMillan wedding and the Lefkowitz bar-mitzvah, sir, and you remember what a travesty that was.
- CB: [pause] Grim, you say?
- LH: Yes sir. I'm afraid it may be time to bring in... the Ultimate Solution.
- CB: [a little excitedly] Gingerale cherry punch?
- LH: We may have to destroy the town in order to save it.
- CB: [somewhat aghast] You mean... allow dancing after sunset??
- LH: No, sir, I don't believe the situation has escalated to the point where we need to compromise our principles to that extent.
- CB: [relieved] Oh, good.
- LH (voiceover): I briefly refreshed the Chief's memory regarding the improvements to the advanced civil defense program our city had put into place last year in view of the ongoing threats to our nation's security, to wit: airline passengers possibly carrying more than 2.5 ounces of liquid straight into our town's airspace. The urgency of the danger caused enough people to finally pull their heads out of the sand and recognize the necessity for ground-based deadly response, resulting at long last in the jewel in our fair city's crown: the nation's only municipal nuclear first-strike capability.
- CB: So, I need to set the controls for the heart of the town, you say?
- FX: bass riff
- LH: Yes sir. The Downtown Chamber of Commerce is known to be harboring business licenses, certificates of operation, and other key documents for Al's Catering and many other criminal service-oriented businesses. It's a Chamber all right, sir -- a chamber of horrors, a hopelessly degraded cesspit of commerce in innocent human lives and trafficking in people's hopes and dreams, sir.
- CB: Well, when you put it like that...
- LH (voiceover): After a brief hunt for the instruction manual and twenty-seven minutes on the phone to tech support, we succeeded in finding the menu entry for re-targeting the system. A couple of reboots later, and after a quick check of Google maps, we successfully entered the coordinates for the Downtown Chamber of Commerce into the system's targeting data. We were now prepared to kick some serious criminal butt – and any supposedly innocent bystanders caught in the detonational perimeter would just have to take their chances. The true patriots would understand; and the ones who didn't understand – well, we didn't need that kind of seditious thinking in our city.
- CB: After all, we can't afford to be soft on crime.
- LH (voiceover): 3:35p.m. Back at the station, I briefed Frank on the latest developments.
- FW: So, what you're telling me is that you're planning to nuke downtown in order to destroy the Chamber of Commerce, because they are... "giving aid and comfort"... to the catering ring which includes Al's Catering, which you feel in your gut was behind the soap factory break-in?
- LH: That about sums it up, Frank.
- FW: ...has anyone bothered to, you know, check with any of those guys to maybe see if perhaps they weren't actually involved?
- LH: Frank, you know perfectly well we don't negotiate with terrorists.
- music: menacing notes
- LH (voiceover): 4:49 p.m. It was time to lay down the law, and show the criminals who was boss -- to give them a lesson they'd never forget... or remember, because they'd be dead. Which is what we wanted. I gave Chief Berkeley the go-ahead.
- FW: Wait a sec, Lev... isn't the Chief supposed to be the one making these decisions?
- LH: Frank, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We can't let a few petty bureaucratic procedures get in the way of justice.
- CB (on phone): Lieutenant! [like he's about to say something important]
- LH: Yes, Chief?
- CB (phone): ...does this mean I get to press the glowy red button?
- LH: Yes, Chief, it does.
- CB (phone): Excellent. [with a touch of Montgomery Burns]
- LH: Fire at will, Chief.
- CB (phone) (as if reading a line): Why? What did he do?
- LH: We don't know yet, but I'm sure he'll confess to something after the washcloth technicians are done with him. [laughs mirthlessly]
- CB (phone): [laughs with LH] Well, enough of this gay banter. Shall I get on with the Armaggeddonizing?
- LH: At your pleasure, sir.
- CB (phone): ...you know, I've been wanting to do this for longer than I can remember.
- LH: I'm sure that's true, sir.
- CB (phone): Well, okay... here goes.
- FX: MS Windows warning noise (through phone)
- CB (phone): It says... "Preparing to fire nuclear weapon on civilian target. Do you want to continue? Okay, Cancel."
- LH: Press the "okay" button, Chief.
- CB (phone): Oh! Okay.
- FX: MS Windows warning noise (through phone)
- CB (phone): It says "Warning: This action will trigger an automatic nuclear missile response from the United States National Defense System, which could result in the destruction of all human life on Earth; any unsaved data may be lost. Continue, Abort?"
- LH: I've always felt that aborting would be simply wrong, sir. Think of the innocent children whose freedoms you're saving.
- CB: Splendid. Very well, then, here goes...
- FW [interrupts, running into office]: Lev! Hang on, we got a confession from a guy who says he broke into the soap factory!
- CB (phone): What was that, detective?
- LH: Frank here found some wishy-washy turncoat pansy who thinks he can play with the big boys, Chief. But we're not going to let some petty "confession" weaken our resolve -- are we, Chief.
- FW: But Lev, this means that Al's Catering and the other catering businesses may not be involved! Don't you want to hear what this guy has to say?
- LH: Frank, you obviously don't understand the ruthless viciousness of the criminal mind. He's just telling us what we want to hear, Frank. If it wasn't extracted under torture, I wouldn't trust it.
- FW: So what you're saying, basically, is that criminals always lie, so if someone confesses to a crime, they're probably innocent?
- LH: Frank, I don't have time right now to engage you in nuanced philosophical discussion; we've got justice to deliver. Chief, press the button.
- CB (phone): You bet your sweet bippy. [pause, maybe some mouse clicks over the phone] Oh... rats.
- LH: What is it?
- CB (phone): "The Genuine Software Advantage quality assurance system has detected that you are using an unlicensed copy of Nuclear Missile Command 2000."
- LH: What? That's not true! We paid the seller 10 million dollars for this thing, plus another million for the extended warranty! Can you reinstall it from the setup disc?
- CB (phone): ....disc?
- LH: You know, the installation discs, in case you need to install it on another computer?
- CB (phone): ...uh, well, there were a lot of boxes and manuals and stuff...
- LH: Can you go look through the boxes and see if maybe the discs got left in there?
- CB (phone): ...uh, I don't really think that would be possible at this time...
- LH: Why not?
- CB (phone): Well, Detective, this is a top-secret program.
- LH: So what happened to the boxes?
- CB (phone): I'm afraid that information is distributed strictly on a need-to-know basis.
- LH: Well... surely you know where it is?
- CB (phone): I can neither confirm nor deny my possession of that knowledge.
- LH: [a beat] Chief?
- CB (phone): Yes?
- LH: You know I have deep faith in you, right?
- CB (phone): If you say so.
- LH: You are my rock, Chief. If you say something's gonna happen, then I don't need to wonder; I just know it's gonna happen.
- CB (phone): Absolutely. I'll definitely make a note to take care of... what did you need?
- LH: And as we all know, faith is one of the divine virtues that sets us apart from the animals. In fact, Chief, were I to be so crass and shallow as to physically verify that you had done what you promised me you were gonna do, that would be cheap and faithless, and a denigration of my dignity as a member of the human species.
- CB (phone) [pause]: I don't know what you just said, but it sounded pretty good.
- LH: So chief, will you promise me one thing -- will you promise me that you definitely will fire that missile, and that this will happen within the next five seconds, so that I can rest easy in the definite and absolute knowledge that it has been done, and our humble town saved from the terrorist threat, regardless of any apparent lack of explosion I might happen to notice?
- CB (phone): If that's what it takes to save us, then I could hardly do anything else.
- LH (voiceover): And so once again, the world was saved from terrorism by faith, determination, and blowing things up.
[dramatic, conclusive notes]
They say we humans got where we are just by being the biggest, baddest, and most vicious creature of all. But I chose to believe in a better world -- a world where the biggest and baddest can get taken down by one little guy with a tactical nuke. Where we're all part of a big plan -- a plan that keeps moving forward, resolutely, even if it doesn't always seem to make sense -- because The Guy Upstairs knows what he's doing, and it's not our business to interfere. That's the world I live in, and that's who I work for.
I'm Leviticus Helms – Creationist Detective.
See also /recording script
This is a better ending, but it still seems a little weak to me; I was hoping to work in something about the need to find the license code to activate the missile-firing software, and tie this back into the title somehow (the software license becomes the "license to clean"). Will write it if I can figure out how to make it work.
Another stub of an idea: some kind of reference to Slim Pickens at the end of Dr. Strangelove.