Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Autumn/Winter 2003-2004

When they caught Ted Kaczynski, I realized that he and I had been at Berkeley at the same time.
                                                               I never met him,, but I must have set eyes on him. Which makes the following all the more chilling ...


WHY TV DETECTIVES COULDN'T CATCH
THE UNABOMBER

Joseph T Major

As you know, in the eighties and nineties, a mysterious lone terrorist targeted universities and aircraft with individually delivered bombs of a painstaking cleverness of construction. Finally, when his turgid academic manifesto was printed in the public press, his brother identified him as Dr. Theodore John Kaczynski, Ph.D. (Harvard '62). Police responded to this by pulling him out of a small, cluttered hut in the Montana hills (which residence earned him the contemptuous title of "Hut Man" from one of his victims, David Gelertner). His wild, uncouth appearance was a perfect camouflage among the many dehoused vagrants cluttering American streets. But this investigation and arrest was a coordinated effort requiring the work of many different and many different kinds of law enforcement personnel. How would the famed lone detectives of TV-land do in this case?
  JESSICA FLETCHER [Murder, She Wrote] could clear easily enough the old friend, come to Cabot Cove, Maine (called "Murder Capital of the World" in secret FBI reports) on a trip, who is arrested, accused of the crime, but since the Hut in Montana is nowhere near Cabot Cove, she would be at a loss at fingering the actual Unabomber.
NERO WOLFE [Nero Wolfe] would have the problem that Dr. Kaczynski would not have enough money to be one of the six suspects with equal motives, equal access to the murder weapons, and equally plausible alibis, who would band together to hire him to clear them of the charges. Besides, traveling to Montana would entail leaving West Thirty-Fifth Street. Pfui.
  MULDER & SCULLY [The X-Files] would be searching for alien abductors, ghosts, psychic remnants, and the like, and never even suspect the fellow looking like a homeless man who just walked by carrying the box from Frank B. I. Wood.
PERRY MASON [Perry Mason] would have the problem that Ted would never be called as a witness in the trial of his client, so he couldn't get him to break down on the stand and confess to the bombings.
  THOMAS MAGNUM [Magnum, P.I.] couldn't leave Hawaii to look into the case. Robin Masters, his mysterious never-seen mystery writer landlord, might need his car back.
JIM ROCKFORD [The Rockford Files] would be at a loss, since Ted would never break into his mobile home and beat him up. Blow him up, of course, but never beat him up.
  THE CSI TEAM [C.S.I. with various suffixes] would intensely survey the scene of the latest blast, retire to its labs, and after in-depth study produce a profile of the working-class, some high school, guy with a compulsively neat home and a fully equipped shop in the basement where he produced these bombs. Then the guy in the hooded sweatsuit would drop off a package outside their office.
LIEUTENANT COLOMBO [Colombo] would get the insight, drive up to Montana, hitch a ride with a trucker after his decaying rattletrap Toyota broke down, walk miles into the wilderness, ask the Hut Man a few questions, finish, take one step, turn and say "One last thing . . ." and find the door had been slammed in his face, so without his key tactic available, he would fail to solve the case.
  The HILL STREET BLUES [Hill Street Blues] gang would, after a long investigation during which each participant got to pull his or her own particular shtick, get pulled off the case due to the need to wind up the matter. Someone along the way would have stopped and asked a question of this homeless fellow carrying a wooden box, but then been called off to play off another member of the precinct.

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