Puppet Perps

Detective Anderson glowered at the little man in the frock coat. I hate full moons, he thought to himself, it brings out all the crazies. And this guy’s a little more unscrewed than most.

“Mister Nelson, I’m sure you are aware that street racing is a serious crime. People have been hurt or killed doing it. And your activities were even more irresponsible!”

“But detective, I wasn’t even in the car! How can I be accused of reckless driving?”

“You were found at the scene, and you placed a bet with an undercover police officer. The car has been reported stolen and you own the … thing that was in the driver’s seat!”

“Noodlehead, detective. His name is Noodlehead.”

“Whatever. Now, tell us how you were controlling the car.”

“It wasn’t me, it was Noodlehead. He’s a bad puppet.”

There was a knock on the interrogation room door. The detective was visibly annoyed as he stepped out of the room. His mood was worse when he came back in a few moments later.

“Enough games, Nelson. Who are your accomplices?”

“Accomplices? But I haven’t committed a crime!”

“Then why was ‘Elder Dude’ picked up for inciting a riot and ‘Princess’ for soliciting prostitution? I assume you know that they are also puppets!”


“Uh-oh what, Mister Nelson?”

“That means Dames Jean is still out there. He’s a rebel without a string; I hope he isn’t doing anything naughty.”

Anderson held his forehead a moment and sighed. “Just tell us who your accomplices are, Mr. Nelson. Your human accomplices.”

“I don’t have any, detective.” He sagged a bit, and his face took on a resigned expression. “My accomplices are the puppets. I’ve fitted them out to act autonomously.”

“You’ve what?” Anderson’s head hurt.

“Do you know the DARPA Robotics Challenge? A few years ago it was robotic vehicles, this year it’s automated search and rescue. These puppets are the prototypes for my entry. I built four of them: an old surfer, a princess, an idiot, and a street punk. I hadn’t planned on setting them loose, but I had to go public.”

“Why? What possessed you to do this?”

“Yesterday I was contacted by a woman from a large company. She offered to buy my research work. I told her I’d get back to her and did some checking: it turns out her company is a front for a Chinese corporation that’s tied closely to their government. I needed a way to draw the attention of the US government and convince them I was for real.”

There was another knock on the door and an officer leaned in. Anderson stormed over. “Tell me you’ve found the fourth damned puppet.” The officer whispered something to Anderson, who then turned on Mr. Nelson.

“Well, Nelson, it looks like you got your wish. Your other puppet was caught breaking into the Pentagon. There’s a pair of federal agents on the way here to take over the interview even as we speak.”