The “long game” that our girl has long pursued finally begins to gather dividends. At first, she reports, she wasn’t really sure which way things would go. She “was remaining flexible concerning possibilities,” she had told our bosses at HQ. Yet eventually she realized the direction to take. If she could talk him into making her his wife, she would in return gain a measure of control over his mind and heart that she hadn’t previously possessed.

She tells him one night that she hadn’t actually revealed everything about her salacious past. In fact, during the era of her misspent youth, she had once found herself pregnant. She was emotionally manipulated by her then-lover, but never felt the same afterwards. “I just couldn’t shake the guilt…I wanted my baby back, but my baby was gone,” she whispers. “I felt like dying.”

The emotion that our girl displays on this occasion strikes the rest of us as so raw and real that we aren’t terribly surprised to hear later from her that it had been “based on true events” from her own (actual) life. “Normally, I don’t like to talk about it,” she admits. “But it’s only going to help our cause, so I’m willing to go there.”

Just as our girl had predicted, our man remains sympathetic when she relates this transgression. He tells her softly that he knows that she was a pitifully struggling young girl at the time, totally lost and miserable, easily misled by unscrupulous people. Significantly (and this makes us all very excited), he assures her that “there will be a reckoning soon.”

Our girl is indeed adept at her job. She knows that much of our man’s writings center around the evils of abortion and its central role in the coarsening and cheapening of modern culture. In one essay, he writes that the abortionist, being a spiller of human blood, ought not be shocked to find that many are thirsting to spill his own blood; such, he argues, is a natural manifestation of the dynamic of retributive justice, what they called “karma” in the East. In one short story composed by our man, a disgruntled and alienated young dropout goes on a wild rampage of vengeance, killing a pro-choice Supreme Court Justice and burning an abortion facility to the ground before ending his own life whilst on the run from authorities. “See? We’re definitely on the right track here,” our girl declares.

A date for our couple’s wedding is set. It will be a small gathering. Our man has very few family members; his parents are dead, and he was an only child, so no brothers, sisters, nieces, or nephews will be attending. It will be necessary, however, for our girl to have full “family” representation, in order to buttress her credibility and enhance her bona fides

Thus, auditions are held within the local branch of the agency, and soon the principle actors representing our girl’s extended lineage are hired. Her “parents” are perfectly spectacular in their role: the man, a stoical, emotionally remote representation of paternal masculinity; his “wife,” a well-meaning woman but perhaps overly garrulous, at times gratingly so. The couple are of course rendered as estranged; it was this difficult circumstance (our man is given to understand) which originally drove our girl into the desperate lifestyle choices which plagued much of her young adulthood. There is also a “brother,” amiable and benign, who managed to stay above the fray through tuning out via recreational drugs; at the wedding, this “brother” plays his stoner role to a T, bringing some needed levity and comic relief to a somewhat tense family reunion. A few uncles and aunts are thrown in, lesser characters who are mainly there to round out the whole, extras, really…

Though our girl had been raised nominally Catholic, she had fallen away from the faith, for which she had always been poorly catechized, like so many others in our decadent, post-Vatican II West, as our man would have it. Our man meets “Mom” and “Dad” at the wedding rehearsal dinner, as well as the stoned layabout “brother,” who actually lives in his mother’s basement. (We had wondered if working that cliché could be a bit too “on the nose,” but it was sold well by our young actor, who was able to project a goofy charm, being underdressed for the occasion and giving off a faint scent of cannabis all the while.)

The wedding itself takes place officiated over by an actual priest, albeit one who periodically worked as an asset for the agency in various operations. Our man up to that point hadn’t become a member of any specific Church parish; though he usually attended the Latin Mass services, he hadn’t ingratiated himself to anyone in the congregation, being the general loner that he was, and not a “people person,” his sporadic contact with scattered fans of his vlogs and essays aside. As he wasn’t personally acquainted with any of the local priests, we were able to obtain an excuse to use our asset priest, who went by the name of “Father Thick.” Our girl claimed she had recently reunited with this man of the cloth, who (as per her “backstory”) had played a major role in her childhood faith before she was led away by unsalutary influences into a life of unbelief and wickedness. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, our man gets to know Father Thick and comes to see him as a good and worthy Confessor and friend.

(Note: in retrospect, I see that we got a bit smug over this development, as I will now readily admit. Especially in our cheeky naming of the man as “Thick,” due in part to the priest’s corpulent physiognomy. Perhaps we field agents are a bit too clever for our own good at times. The habituation to deception develops into a kind of malign addiction, and we gain for ourselves a “duper’s delight,” which may often eventually come back to bite us…although our “Father Thick” is a tiny detail in our overall operation, it seems worthwhile, nevertheless, to take it to heart as symptomatic of our lack of prudential discretion, given how this project ended so catastrophically.) 

Mere days following the wedding, our girl relates to our man that she is pregnant. The timing of the conception is in keeping with the date of their one premarital tryst; she appears to be around three months along. About a week later, tragedy strikes. Our girl reports suffering terrible abdominal pains and vaginal bleeding; our man rushes her to the nearest hospital, only to be told that what they feared most had indeed come to pass: our girl has miscarried. Heartbroken, she asks the doctor if this awful event could have been a result of her earlier procedure and the possible damage it could have done to her reproductive system. The doctor replies somberly that he cannot be sure, but that such an eventuality could ​have been the result of such a procedure, if the procedure had been mishandled, which all too often happens, of course…he gives a brief amount of medical detail, designed to strike grief into the heart of our man. Our doctor is to be commended for doing a fine job in his role, not overplaying for dramatic effort but instead maintaining a professional demeanor at all times. (It helps, of course, that our doctor is an actual doctor, whom we brought in for our purposes, to enhance the apparent authenticity of the situation. Overall, it seems the best course of action, whenever employing an actor, is to hew as closely as possible to the real life experience of the individual cast in the role; if you need a priest, get an actual priest, if a doctor is required, hire a real-life MD, and so on.)

As our man lies next to our girl that evening, she sobs about how her choice to kill her earlier child in utero​ ​had led to this dreadful event, which must have been a punishment sent by God…on this occasion, our girl also finds it propitious to pour forth her rage against abortionists generally.

“They take everything ​from you!” she wails. “And they profit​ ​from it, too! It’s just so obscene! So obscene​! They took my baby away, and now another is taken…it never stops! I wish I’d never let them do that to me…I wish they were all dead!”

With that, she returns to a fresh round of weeping and sobbing. Our man holds her, speaks comforting words, but his face is hard set, like flint. We are overjoyed. Our girl has laid the perfect bait, and he has set himself upon that bait with great ferocity. Surely, we think, it won’t be long now before he opts to become a “man of action,” the sort of man he often writes about in his fiction; whom he calls “that poised, determined, inflexible being with his eyes fixedly riveted to the task at hand, who will never rest until his chosen task is accomplished.”

In fact, the very next day, our man is spied parked in his vehicle, scoping out a certain clinic in his area of town, the very place where our girl had told him she had gone to have her procedure done several years ago.

We spot him parked in his automobile, just staring at the facility and occasionally writing in his notebook. When he sees our girl in the evening, he has little to say about his stakeout. When she asks him about his day, he only mentions the time he spent at work. Apparently seeing that she must tread delicately so as not to give herself away, our girl simply asks our man how he would feel about purchasing a gun. He asks, “Would that make you feel safer?” She tells him that since her miscarriage, she has felt particularly vulnerable, as if the world were full of dangerous and hostile forces. “I mean, even our babies aren’t safe!” she mournfully declares. “I know that it’s not rational…but how can we really feel safe if even our babies aren’t safe?” Our girl has begun to weep again, but she knows better than to overdo things. Our man, however, seems sufficiently moved. He kisses her forehead and inquires earnestly concerning her state of mind and overall well-being in the wake of their recent tragedy.

A few days pass after the (ostensible) self-termination of her unborn child, and our girl has been “taking it easy,” attempting to recover both from the supposed physical ordeal, as well as the no less taxing mental upset of the experience. Late one evening, lying in bed, she confesses to him that she’s “really struggling with rage right now…those awful, awful men…they took my babies from me! I was young and stupid and I let it happen…they exploited me, exploited how frightened I was…they take advantage of girls, lonely and scared girls! They sell the lie that ‘termination’ is the only option…they do their horrible, murderous deeds and take their money…daily, this happens! They get away with it, day after day after day! It’s criminal! They are criminals!”

We are all moved by our girl’s performance, quite in spite of ourselves. A tear or two is even shed in the monitoring booth by myself and by some of my fellow agents. Surely, our man is also not unmoved. At the same time, we are hardheaded men, and practical-minded at heart. We are all excited, aware that our mission is surely approaching its endgame. We relay news of the progress we have made to HQ, and they send back an urgently-worded communique, telling us that they intend to dispatch additional staff to the facility in question, readying their law enforcers to “foil a potential attack,” one which they will instruct their spokesmen to say was “discovered based on collected intel.”

The next day, our man visits the nearest gun shop and makes a purchase of two high-range rifles. “Goin’ to do some huntin’?” the storeowner asks. (He is another one of our plants, but of course.) Our man has little to say in reply; in fact, all efforts by our asset to draw him out are unsuccessful. Our gun store owner (an authentic gun store owner, just as our priest is an actual priest, our doctor an actual MD, as surely you have guessed) amiably cajoles our man, but to no avail. He even makes a certain conspiratorial joke: “Hey look, brother…with our Second Amendment rights under attack the way they are, if you wanna start a revolution, that’s fine with me!” He grins guilelessly and pulls at the bill of his baseball cap, then adds, with a wink, ”…but you didn’t hear that from me, okay?” Our man, however, declines to be taken in, but simply thanks the storeowner for allowing him to purchase the merchandise in question “for a reasonable price.”

Later that day (a Saturday), our man visits “Father Thick” in the Confessional booth. This time, we eschew all niceties and make sure that our priest is micced for the conversation. Our girl is still surprisingly disapproving of us taking this step. “Maybe I’m still a Catholic girl at heart,” she muses. She has already complained of the strain involved in going deep undercover in this manner. My fellow agents and I catch wind that our girl even spoke to a bureau psychiatrist on this subject. “I know it’s right, because the end justifies the means…but it just feels wrong,​ like I’m betraying everything good, noble, and holy…” (This, verbatim, is what she is reported to have said to the bureau shrink, news which reached our ears, even though such sessions are of course technically meant to remain confidential, much like the seal of the Confessional.)

Luckily for us, our “Father Thick” has no such ethical compunctions. Instead, he agrees to betray his sacramental responsibilities on this score with nary a thought. (We are paying him a great deal, having expertly detected his central vice; he is a man of keener appetites than may be readily apparent, and a certain telling vanity can be easily be discerned when one penetrates his austere mode of speech and love of “high church” ceremonial.)

The confession itself, however, turns out to be somewhat underwhelming, and unfulfilling of our purposes. I have nevertheless appended a partial transcript of the exchange:

(Our man enters the booth.)

FT: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…

Our Man: Amen. Forgive me, Father Thick, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession.

FT: Very well, my dear brother in Christ…

Our Man: In that time, I have committed the following sins. I have committed acts of sexual impurity with myself. I have been angry and impatient with others. I have, at times, been doubtful of God’s providence. I have not loved God with my whole heart, nor my neighbor as myself. (Pause.) I believe that’s it.

FT: Thank you for your good confession. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss, my brother in Christ?

Our Man: I think that’s it.

FT: You can tell me anything, you know. We must, after all, unburden our souls before God in order to become pure for reception of the most blessed Body and Blood.

Our Man: Well… (Pause.)

FT: Yes, my brother in Christ?

Our Man: I have also struggled with sloth lately…sometimes it’s really hard to feel motivated.

Thus ends the confession, aside from closing pleasantries, final prayers, and so on. It is, to be sure, a disappointment, from the perspective of our mission, since nothing is revealed. It almost seems as if our man is consciously and intentionally holding back. Though he clearly plans to take action, he is also taking care to play things “close to the vest.” Still, we are all to a man confident that we are nearing the goal of our collective enterprise. Security has been put on alert at the clinic in question; sharpshooters have been dispatched to take key positions on the building; they will spot anything untoward and will seek to foil any violence or destruction before it takes place and will do their best to arrest our man without recourse to deadly force, although if some carnage does occur, it will (albeit regrettably) of course make for a “splashier” story…in any case, the bureau will certainly receive great commendation and praise for preventing yet another dangerous extremist terrorist from unleashing havoc. We will trumpet the saga of our man as an indication of another one who has been “radicalized by the darker corners of the internet,” which in turn will further our push for online platforms to take a “harder stance” against disinformation and fake news.

In short, as of this evening, things seem promising, very promising indeed. The trigger has been successfully primed and placed in our target’s hands. That trigger must now merely be pulled, and once it is pulled, we are (so to speak) home free.


For all installments of “Operation Triggerman,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. The Grooming, Part 1