Our little mystery keeps droning on

This is being written a week before you’re reading it, so the whole thing might be over, but: The drone fleet is one of the weirdest stories I’ve covered in four decades as a reporter. It might even arguably be the weirdest.
    And believe me, I know weird; I once interviewed Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church guy (who was more of a jerk than a weirdo, but still was plenty strange).
    My guess — and the coming week may prove me wrong — is that the drones will disappear just as suddenly and mysteriously as they appeared. And we’ll never get an explanation.
    Like any good mystery, it’s actually a constellation of unknowns, Because we don’t have any idea who’s behind it, we can’t even speculate on why it’s being done. The explanation could be everything from the benign (somebody with a lot of money who’s just yanking our chains for his own amusement) to the nefarious (this country’s enemies, although why they’d be interested in rural Nebraska is a bit puzzling) to the conspiratorial (some sort of secret government operation).
    It’s one of those times when speculation that otherwise would be confined to people who wear tinfoil hats actually is one of the possibilities.
    In fact, and I don’t have the hat — yet— I lean toward the secret-government-operation theory.
    Were it a private company flying the things, they’d really have no reason not to do it above-board and admit to it. The one exception was if the drone guys had contracted with another company to do the work and the contract contained a non-disclosure agreement. But even if that were the case, why wouldn’t the company hiring out the work cop to the whole thing?
    God only knows why the government would be flying drones around here, but the sheer size of the fleet, and the size of some of the drones, indicates a pretty sophisticated operation, with a fair amount of money behind it. The government would fit that bill nicely.
    But again, what would the government be looking for?
    I spent a lot of my career as a police and courts reporter. One of the reasons those beats were always my first love is that as horrifying as some of the stories are, other crime stories are entertaining for their sheer weirdness.
    Criminals, by and large, are pretty stupid. A lot of guys wind up in prison because they’re simply too dumb to hold down a straight job. And dumb people are pretty unpredictable. They do things that would never even occur to somebody with half a brain. The sheer weirdness quotient in those stories is pretty high.
    Sometimes, the weirdness comes because the person is not necessarily dumb, but just has unusual tastes.
    Up until lately, the weirdest story I’d ever done involved a guy we’ll call the Happy Times Stripper.
    To make a long story very short, and leave out a lot of the best parts, the guy was a flasher who managed to talk himself into a woman’s home. He told her he was starting a new out-call male stripper business, the Happy Times Agency, and if she let him send over one of his performers and she and her friends critiqued his act, he not only wouldn’t charge her but he’d pay her $10. The woman, no genius herself, consented.

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