I hear, on the QT, that CBS is piloting another spin-off from its blockbuster CSI series. Here's the plot for the pilot: It's Christmas Eve. SWAT teams from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Vermont State Police swoop down on the Montpelier offices of the Vermont Commissioner of Insurance. They're acting on a tip-off from New York Attorney General Eliot "Ness" Spitzer that several hundred captives are being held there.
We open on the Montpelier skyline, through a chalk-gray filter. Pan down through menacing skies to a fairly empty street. You can see people's breath in the cold, cold air. The town theatre is showing a revival of "Double Indemnity."
Into the still of this crisp mountain afternoon percolates the sound of a siren, in the far distance. Then two, then more, then lots more. Soon the calm of the little burg is shattered as an endless line of black Hummers roars along the turnpike, swerves left and comes to a halt in a gridlock pattern right in the middle of the town square.
"Land o'Goshen! I'll be hornswaggled," says one of the women in the insurance commissioner's office, putting down her sewing. "Sure is a commotion yonder. We expecting the revenuers?" Work stops as everyone peers out of the windows, watching dozens of men with rifles in full body armor ducking behind cars and buildings. "You forget to pay yer parkin' tickets again, Jarvis?" asks one of the clerks.
"Does the vice president shoot in the woods?" Jarvis replies, with a lop-sided grin.
With the SWAT teams in place, commanding officer Brad Fitztightly (Keanu Reeves, in a guest spot) speaks calmly through a megaphone, pointed in the direction of the insurance office. "OK, whoever you are that's holding them captives in there," he says, the metallic sound bouncing off the hard streets, "come out with your hands above your heads. No funny business."
The tension mounts. A dozen people filter out, blinking in the light and rubbing their eyes. "This ain't right, not when a feller's havin' a nap," says Jarvis.
"You're always havin' a nap," chides Chevonne, a colleague.
"Hold it right there," bellows Fitztightly, through the bullhorn. "On the ground, hands behind your head." Everyone who came out of the building does so. One or two begin shivering in the cold.
"Who's the leader of this bunch of desperadoes?" the cop asks.
"That would be me," says Len, a gray-haired fellow in a suit. (They're hoping to get Don Rickles for the part.)
The cop bends down and puts his face right in front of Len's. "Where are the captives, punk?" Fitztightly says.
"Well, that depends on how you count them," the insurance man says. "Some jurisdictions report every captive they've ever formed, others only those still in existence. Cayman is hot. Bahrain has started issuing licenses. We're the largest U.S. domicile. Nevada bases its statistics on this week's lottery numbers."
"Don't give me that malarkey, you tax-free desk jockey," spits the cop. "The captives you're holding. Where are they?"
"No one else inside," calls out a SWAT member, fresh from a search of the premises.
"One last time, suit boy," the cop says, "and then I'm handing you over to Bono, our new commissioner. Where are your captives?"
"They're . . . they're in the filing cabinets and the computers, I guess," says the man in the suit.
We fade to black, with apologies to Vermont's successful group of captive regulatory officials.
ROGER CROMBIE, is a columnist for Risk & Insurance®.
May 1, 2006
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