After months of prowling Internet chat rooms, posing as the mother of two young daughters, Detective Michele Deery thought she had a live one: “parafling,” a married, middle-aged man who claimed he wanted to have sex with her kids.But was he just playing a twisted game of seduction?Shortly before six o’clock on the evening of Monday, September 19, 2005, Deery went to work in her cave, logging on to Yahoo and expertly navigating its public chat rooms.In one of the many rooms labeled “fetish,” she logged on with the suggestive screen name “heatherscutiepies.” At this time of day the weirdos were coming home from work, bellying up to their home computers.Her parents sent her to Catholic schools, and her mother, a retired district judge, now jokes that she wants her money back.Her daughter’s beat is in the vilest corners of cyberspace, in chat rooms indicating “fetish” or various subgenres of flagrant peccancy.For this account, both Deery and J were willing to speak openly and at length; transcripts of online chats and police interrogations have also been made available.The story reflects what they said about themselves and their actions, and presents two very different points of view.
This leads unavoidably into the gray area of thoughts, intentions, and predispositions—and into the equally murky realm of enticement and entrapment.
It is a way of conducting police business that, without extreme care, can itself become a form of abuse—in which the pursuer and the pursued grow entangled in a transaction that takes on a gruesome life of its own. Dick in his classic short story “The Minority Report,” and in the Steven Spielberg movie based on it, in which an official government department of “Precrime” identifies, charges, and jails people on the basis of anticipated actions.
As Jad, one of the policemen in the movie version, says, “We’re more like clergy than cops.”Bingo! The line popped up in a window at the top of J’s screen as soon as he logged in to the chat room.
It was the only really different, exciting thing about him.
He imagined it was like a colorful lure on the surface of a pond.