the department of crimes against scum

I’ve been playing around with a concept. Imagine a near-future police procedural whose animating conceit is “The Department of Crimes against Scum,” an informal division of the police force that puts subcompetent detectives on crimes that no one really wants solved. The reason to make it near-future is to heighten the contrast with the sci-fi technosupercops who get the good crimes, and so I can fudge details about science and police procedure. “Of course I can get his location from his DNA—IT’S THE FUTURE.” Anyway, trying to worm my way into a short story here. First draft copy for sure, but maybe it has legs?

Penelope Jin ran her finger through a smear on a shard of plate glass fanging a shop window newly open to the bay breeze. “I have a suspect in custody,” she said to no one in particular, waggling the red-tipped finger around as though she was trying to figure out which way the wind was blowing.

“We know who did it,” said Peter Stone, looking over the scene: scorch marks, atomized gore, tooth and bone shards and bits of white cloth over a cordoned-off length of Third Street, just in front of the Bayview Opera House (which itself showed no scars). “We’re supposed to figure out whether he was acting alone.”

Jin contemplated her finger. “So you’re saying this could be two suspects.”

“Jesus, Jin, you know what I’m talking about,” he said. “Was he acting alone. As in, will this happen again?”

Jin sucked thoughtfully on the red finger; Stone turned away with a retching noise. “Hate crimes are usually associated with hate groups,” she mused. “But hate crimes against hate groups? Are there anti-hate-group groups? Is anyone missing from the local offices of the NAACP?”

“It’s not a hate crime if it’s against a hate group,” said Stone.

“Now you’re thinking like them,” Jin said darkly.

“Like who? The NAACP?”

“No,” said Jin. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“You didn’t answer my question first.”

“They’re not going to tell us,” Stone said, as though reminding a child which shoe goes on which foot.

“The NAACP? Please, give me a pliers and five minutes with an intern and I’ll get the social security numbers of those people’s super PAC donors, hippies have no spine whatsoever in the clutch—”

“Not the NAACP, the department.”

“There’s your answer.”


“Shut up, rookie. Call it in.”

“You’re the rookie!”

“Yes, that’s what they keep telling you, isn’t it?” Jin murmured. She pursed her lips and made an odd sucking noise with her closed mouth. “Ah, that’s what I wanted to hear.”


“They haven’t locked me out of all the databases yet,” she said, almost dreamily. “This is living, Stone. This is how real work gets done. No janky intranet, no keyboards dusted with Cheeto pollen and lacquered with donut cum, no eight-inch monitor inside a three-ton cubical box with pixels the size of cold sores. How is it you people don’t hang yourselves with your own viscera every Goddamn day?”