The “F” in FBI

by Laura Bedingfield Herakovich on July 17, 2012

Last week, our doorbell rang and I found a large badge pushed up to my face which didn’t belong to your run-of-the-mill police officer. Oh no. The badge came attached to the arm of an agent in the FBI. The Eff Bee Eye, people.

I was in the process of loading up my 2 younger boys, so we could fetch the oldest boy from basketball camp. As I had no back-up for carpooling, I had to explain to the very large FBI agent who was sporting a very visible gun that, no, I actually wasn’t available for a discussion at this moment.

To be fair, I knew this was coming. A dear friend of mine, whom we’ll call Ms. M., is in line for a pretty nifty job up in DC, and she needs federal security clearance. My friend listed me as one of her myriad contacts who could vouch that she doesn’t secretly run a puppy mill or moonlight as an exotic dancer. So I had it on my radar that I might be contacted by the FBI, but I did not expect the sneak attack. If I’d known, I’d have taken a shower and made the boys disassemble their blanket-and-sofa-cushion fort which currently took up 1/2 of the living room. And we would have taken down the lemonade stand that incorporated our mailbox as a distribution center. The feds get a little ticky about the mail, you know.

“When do you expect to return?” the agent asked. I stuttered a bit as I answered her. “Great. I’ll wait for you in the cul-de-sac.” Ok, then.

A bit later, my oldest son, Jack, climbed into the car and before he could put down his basketball, Tucker immediately announced “there’s a police officer at the house, waiting for Mama!” I realized right then that I needed to prep the boys, if for no other reason than to explain to them some critical behavioral expectations.

“Really? A police officer? What did you do, Mom?” Jack asked, perking up.

“Guys, she’s not a police officer. She’s actually an FBI Agent,” I replied.

“She has a badge! And a gun!” Tucker offered.

“FBI?” said Jack. “You must be in big trouble.”

I explained to them about Ms. M., whom they know and love dearly, and that I wasn’t in trouble. The conversation then proceeded as follows:

Jack: Can you lie to them?

me: No. I’ll be under oath. Why would I lie? You know we don’t lie.

Tucker: So you have to tell her about all the bad things you’ve done?

me: Huh? I haven’t done any bad things…

Tucker: Well, you like to drink wine. And you yell at us sometimes.

me: Seriously?

Jack: Ooh, I know another name for steroids: GYM CANDY!

Theo: I want some gym candy!!

Tucker: What’s gym candy?

me: Illegal drugs.

Tucker: Like Popster selling drugs?

[Popster is their grandfather who is a pharmacist.]

me: Yes. But Popster sells medicine legally.

Jack: So what’s the difference between a promise and an oath?

me: An oath is a promise you take under the law, so you can get in big trouble if you lie.

Tucker: So are you going to lie about Popster selling drugs?

me: Popster is a pharmacist, Tucker. It’s his job to sell medicine.

Theo: Give me some gym candy, Jack.

Jack: Is Ms. M. going to be a security guard?

Tucker: Maybe the FBI lady will buy some lemonade from me.

me: You will not try to sell the FBI agent any lemonade.

Tucker: How about a bird call? Or some gerbil art? I bet she’d like to buy some gerbil art.

Jack: So why is gym candy illegal?

At this point, we were closing in on our house, and I could see the FBI lady waiting for me, perched like a clove on a baked ham in her nondescript vehicle next to our driveway. I also had the giggles in a bad way, what with all that gerbil art and gym candy talk. What was intended as a simple confirmation interview was on the way to making me look like I had something to hide.

I’d barely closed the door behind me when the agent was ringing our front door bell again. Theo ran to answer it while I shooed our dogs outside. She walked in and all 3 boys stared up at her like she had 3 heads. Please don’t say anything, please don’t say anything, I mentally begged my sons.

Spylady and I went in to the living room, stepping around critical parts of the blanket fort, where she proceeded to ask me question after question about Ms. M., which I bungled again and again. If I’d been the agent, I would have ditched the inquisition on Ms. M. and cut to the chase. It looked like I had multiple things I was hiding, including possible bodies in the basement.

I forgot the word “acronym”. I had no idea where my friend had gone to college. I could not remember when she moved. I blanked on our other neighbor’s last name. I stuttered like Mel Tillis. I cut my eyes from left to right repeatedly, though this was more to make sure a child wasn’t headed our way with his piggybank and a cup of lemonade than out of actual shadiness.

Whenever I stopped to think about how conspicuous I was looking, I started to giggle because thoughts like “gym candy” would drift through my brain. All in all, I’d say I looked like a class A idiot. I could have been starring in Fletch vs. Austin Powers.

Spylady, to her credit, did not break form even when Theo came in without his shirt on and when one of the other children began throwing stuffed animals over the stair railing. She kept saying, “take your time. Just take your time.” That’s what they say to all suspects, right? She had several folders with her and a few times she flipped through a folder after I’d given an answer and would say, “hmmm. Why don’t you try again?” in a voice barely masking her irritation.

In the end, I doubt I wound up helping my friend out one bit. The agent stuck around for a little over half an hour, likely just to avoid rush-hour traffic. I’m sure I was providing her with an interesting study on maniacs. I’ve never been a very good test taker; maybe I should have warned her about that right out of the gate. At least Tucker didn’t try to make a profit off her. I doubt FBI Agents are down with day-old lemonade or gerbils (even if they are of the non-biting variety). That “F” doesn’t stand for “funny,” you know.

The Feds haven’t shown back up at Laura Bedingfield Herakovich’s house yet. Thank goodness.

 

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