You can rest easy, Cracked Fans. Bruce Ivins, the man who allegedly tried to destroy Cracked has committed suicide. How did he try to destroy Cracked? Terrific question, Daniel. I'll elaborate.
Some of you may remember the series of anthrax attacks in the Spring and Summer of 2001, (what was up with that?). While it was first suspected to be the work of terrorists, suspicions later turned to American scientists who worked exclusively with anthrax. All available evidence pointed to Ivins as the lead suspect and, when he realized that the government wanted to "talk" to him, he took the shit out of his own life.
Since the I'll-kill-myself-to-prove-how-not-guilty-I-am defense strategy is actually quite damning in a court of law, it is believed with almost absolute certainty that Ivins was the man who attempted to cripple this great nation by mailing anthrax to the Big Three of the American Economy, (Big Three includes the Government, the Media, and Cracked Magazine). That's right, the targets of the 2001 anthrax attacks included South Dakotan Senator Tom Daschle, news correspondent Tom Brokaw, and American Media Inc., publishers of the now defunct Cracked Magazine, (and various other publications of less importance). According to words I read from former Cracked Editor Mort Todd in the Comics Journal, due to contamination, all of the film used to print the beautiful Cracked magazine from 1958 to 2000 had to be destroyed. That's right. We lost all of the original Cracked prints because some asshole went a little nutty with the anthrax. (It's also suspected that people were so scared of the anthrax attacks that they almost unanimously refused to buy our magazine during its latest relaunch, causing its epic failure after just three issues.)
"I never had a chance."
Now, Cracked might seem like kind of an unlikely target. When you're attacking Tom's of both the Brokaw and Daschle variety, why set your sights on Cracked and not, say, Tom Arnold or Selleck?
Well...I may have the answer to that. Yes, for anyone who's ever wondered why the seemingly inconsequential Cracked joined an exclusive list of high profile targets some seven years ago, wonder no more. I have a little story for you.
It just got extremely fucking noir-y up in here.
It was 2001. Enron was filing for bankruptcy, an earthquake in El Salvador killed 800, and a little movie called The Fast and the Furious was quickly and ferociously speeding towards box office glory. The streets were tough and the times were tougher. I was in a transitional period as far as jobs went. I was just starting to work for Cracked, but I still had my old job as a detective-for-hire, a Private Investigator. (Dick before dick jokes.) We all did what we had to in the Early OO's just to get by.
My detective agency was hired by the United States government after the anthrax attacks on Brokaw and Daschle to get to the bottom of this mystery. Why the government decided to put this case in the hands of a gritty, small-time, totally cliché detective agency instead of, say, the FBI or the army or scientists, is anyone's guess. The point was, the case was ours, so we had to solve it. We never said "no" to a case, so long as the price was right. I remember heading over to the Chief's office when the case was first handed over to us.
I approached Dolly, the Chief's secretary.
"What's the good word, Dolly?" She flashed me a smile sweet enough to make even the blackest coffee drinkable. Dolly had these big, blue eyes that she hid behind thick, horn-rimmed glasses. You might miss them if you weren't looking for 'em, but I always was. She kept her red hair tied in a tight bun on top of her head, like she was trying to hide her beauty from the world. A sweet kid, but scared; scared of the big city, scared of men, scared of living. I always kinda wondered what it would've been like to nail her.
"The Chief will see you in just a minute, Guinness," she said. Oh, right. We already had a Dan at this detective agency before I showed up and, because I was Irish, I was given 'Guinness' as a nickname. This bit of playful racism really cut me to the core and almost made me cry every time I heard it. It was actually the main reason I was leaving detective work for Cracked. I heard they already had an 'O'Brien' there, so I figured I was safe from stereotype-based nicknames. After Dolly nodded to me with that sweet, sexy head of hers, I went into the Chief's office.
How is it raining inside the office?
The Chief sat behind his desk looking exactly like one of those hastily-conceived TV Chiefs you've probably seen before; balding, moustache, suspenders. He was maybe even smoking a cigar sometimes. The usual.
"It's good to see you, Guinness." They know my family has a history of alcohol abuse.
"This looks like a pretty open-and-shut case to me." He then opened and shut the briefcase on his desk repeatedly to demonstrate his point. This went on for a lot longer than you'd expect, and I was growing pretty uncomfortable.
"Chief, I'm not so sure it's all that open-and-shut."
"How do you mean? Terrorists hate America. Someone is trying to poison America. Logic points us towards terrorists. That's open-and-shut." He squinted at me and reached for his briefcase to again visually explain what he meant by 'open-and-shut.' I stopped him.
"That's what I mean, Chief. It can't be terrorists. It just doesn't make any sense."
"How do you figure, Guinness?" My suspicion that terrorists weren't involved was entirely motivated by the fact that I didn't want to travel to a foreign country to solve this case. I knew that wouldn't fly with the Chief, (he loves traveling), so I needed to make something up, and fast.
"Well, Chief, the first rule of Detective-ing is to figure out who has the most to gain from any given crime. Qui bono, as the saying goes in Latin. 'Who benefits?'"
"I know what it means, Guinness, you didn't have to translate it." I stared at my shoes for a little while. I forgot that the Chief was fluent in Latin. I knew he was particularly proud of the accomplishment, and I could tell that I hurt his feelings and I felt downright rotten. He probably doesn't get a lot of chances to show off how much Latin he knows, and here I was, totally blowing it for him. I'd have to remember to make it up to him somehow after we solved this case.
"Still, Chief, we're straying from the topic. Who would benefit the most from Anthrax attacks? Terrorists? No way, and here's why: When we get attacked by terrorists, we don't even think twice about it- we cut the motherfuckers.Everybody knows that. We're like Dolemite, but with Nukes." I wondered if the Chief was familiar with Dolemite and, specifically, his policy on dealing with motherfuckers. (He cuts them). "So, we have to figure that terrorists wouldn't do it, because they know they'd just be signing their own death warrant. We need to ask ourselves 'Who would benefit?'"
"By God, Guinness, you're right! The scientists who work on Anthrax research! The more attacks we receive, the more funding they'd get for their research! It's the scientists!" Wow, I was gonna say "Anthrax Farmers," but the Chief's suggestion sounded much less retarded. Still, I was going to keep "anthrax farmers" on my secret shortlist of suspects in case this scientist theory didn't quite pan out. I wrote "Farmers" in my little detective notepad and slid it back into my pocket.
"I want you doing everything you can to track this lead down. Shake up all of your informants, get your hands dirty, and get Tacos on the case, too." 'Tacos' was the nickname given to James Rodriguez, because he's vaguely Mexican. This was a shockingly racist office. "Do whatever you need to do to solve this case."
And we did. James and I, (I refuse to call him 'Tacos'), were a tenacious pair of detectives. We weren't afraid to bang down doors, even if it meant getting our hands dirty.
"This door is filthy," I recall James saying one morning. And it was, but we banged on it anyway, getting the dirt all over our hands. Even after he washed them, James couldn't stop smelling his hands all day, that's how dirty the door was.
I remember meeting Bruce Ivins. There was nothing remarkable about his door. It wasn't as dirty as the dirtiest door we ever banged on, but that isn't saying too much. As I recall, Ivins looked particularly diabolical, like some kind of mad scientist, though, James pointed out later, that might just have been because he wore a lab coat, and, well, my imagination likes to take me places.
Bruce Ivins as I remember him.
"Let's just ask him straight out if he's mailing anthrax to people. I am so sick of beating around the bush," I said as we were walking up to his studio apartment. James was quick to correct me.
"Let's not give out too much info too soon. I've got a hunch about this one. If we ask him, he's gonna think we're on to him. We need make him think that we think that anthrax is cool. That way, he'll admit to mailing out anthrax to people, just to impress us." James was a much better detective than me. Ivins came to the door after we fearlessly banged on it looking either like a mad scientist or like a totally normal scientist, depending on which detective you ask.
"Can I help you, gentlemen?" I noticed an unmarked jar of flour on his kitchen table next to a list of addresses of important figures in the media. I immediately dismissed this as a list of people he wanted to send cakes to. I shook my head. He's gonna need a lot more than just flour to make cake, I thought.
Like eggs. Most cake recipes call for eggs.
"We'd just like to ask you a few quick questions, Professor Ivins, if that's alright with you," James said.
"Question the first," I barked. "Have you been mailing anthrax to people?" I had to listen closely to his response. All subsequent questions would be based on his answer to this one. If, for example, he said 'Yes, I do that all the time,' then I think we'd have our man.
James looked at me, dumbfounded. I couldn't tell how, but I knew that I'd severely disappointed him. Great, I thought. First I upset the Chief by forgetting his expertise in Latin, and now I've got James pissed at me, too. What's next? Am I gonna forget Dolly's birthday or something? Good grief.
"I think what my colleague is trying to say is... Do you enjoy working with Anthrax, Professor Ivins?" Even while James was talking to him, Ivins never took his gaze off of me. At the time I thought he was trying to read my mind. Hah. My imagination. What'd I tell you? Like a train.
"I appreciate my Anthrax studies strictly as a scientific pursuit. My end goal is, of course, to come up with an antidote so to avoid any future Anthrax-related casualties." James looked at me suspiciously and subtly indicated with his eyes that there was more to this story here. I couldn't imagine what, though. The guy said 'No.' Not wanting to waste any more time, I decided to cut our interview short. If it were up to James, we'd be there for a million years.
"Listen, Professor Ivins, if you see anything suspicious, why don’t you just give us a call or write to us." I reached for my little detective notepad and realized I only had one page left, and I'd already written "Farmers" on it. Wouldn't want to erase that. "Here, Professor, I'll just write down our contact info on this sheet where you keep all of your other addresses." With that, I wrote down James's home address as well as the address of his mother. Then, I wrote down the address of my new office at Cracked Headquarters, (I was excited about showing off my new job. Sue me.), and thanked Professor Ivins.
"Really, if you see anything at all, contact us at any of these addresses."
James wouldn't let me get even a word in when we were driving back to the office. He kept mumbling about how he and his mom had to move away now and how it was all my fault. He's a good detective, but James can be so weird, sometimes, I swear.
So that brings us up to the present. As near as I can tell using my now-rusty detective skills, James and I had gotten too close to the truth, and Ivins didn't like it. He wanted to send us a message. But instead, he just sent a bunch of anthrax. Had I known then what I know now, would I have done anything differently? Well, as a result of Ivins's stupid bullshit attacks, our prints were destroyed, our magazine took a devastating face-first plunge into the shit swamp, and our office had to be moved to a new building, a building shared by some dumb fucking jerk website for fatheads. [Sidebar: Hey, Google, we're getting Baja Fresh for lunch tomorrow. That shit is catered, you stupid motherfuckers. Whatchu got?!] Also, James is dead. So, yes, I probably would have done a few things differently. (Also I probably would've tried a little bit harder to nail Dolly. You live and learn.)
There's really no final punchline here. A seriously disturbed individual tried to cause a whole bunch of chaos, which is always unsettling. And now he's gone and committed suicide, but that's never good news. All I've really been able to do is offer up a little story that may have, in retrospect, been too noir-y...Noire...sque? Noir...ish?
. Chuck Noirish.