Are you ready for another addition to our ongoing story? I am sorry to say but the strangeness is only getting started. Be prepared, this is going to be a bumpy ride.
You can get up to date with the story by following the links…
The line had been a test of patience. Each window stood at the end of a queue, each queue blocked by walls so that citizens could not make eye contact or speak with others waiting in separate lines. Lined up like cattle in a chute, they were forced to look straight ahead as they had waited for their turn at a window. Stan and Able had waited an hour at the only window open in the Health and Comfort office, had waited as the same piped in muzak droned overhead, broken up at regular intervals by a chipper voice that handed out banal platitudes that told them ways they could improve their life.
“I’m sorry sir,” she said. The woman, the name Arlene How May I Help you on a name tag on her blouse, popped her gum. She looked at the computer screen on her desk and swished and typed before she looked up again. “There is no Ema Miller within our care. I have searched through the data fields several times and her name isn’t showing up at all.”
“She has to be here,” Able said. “Inspectors took her from me over on Washington Boulevard today. Where else would they take her?”
“Sir, please lower your voice. If she were in our care she would be on the charts right now.” She spun the monitor toward him and showed him the names, in alphabetical order. Ema was not on the list. “Our comfort inspectors are very thorough. If they find a citizen in need of special consideration, the citizen is processed quickly.”
Able slammed his fists down on the counter. “This is bullshit.
“Easy,” Stan said. He left a hand on Able’s shoulder. “She’s just doing her job.”
“Is that what you call it when they beat me and took her?”
“Is there a problem here?” A comfort inspector stood behind them with his arms crossed.
“These gentlemen were just leaving, Officer Hammond.”
The smile on Arlene’s face turned Stan’s stomach. He fought back the urge to climb over the counter and bash her computer screen. Stay strong he thought. It was bad enough that Able stood at the precipice of danger. He felt control of the situation draining away by the second. “Let’s go Able. Clearly, you were mistaken.”
Able glared at Arlene, as Stan pulled at his arm to drag him back out onto the street. As he turned to walk out on his own his view crossed the path of the officer. He hadn’t recognized the voice but the face, he would never forget that face. “It was you. Where the hell is my wife?”
Officer Hammond raised his hands like he was about to surrender. “I am sure I don’t know what you are talking about, sir,” he said. “I think you may have me mistaken for someone else.”
“No, it was you.” Able lifted his shirt and jerked his thumb at the bandaging around his ribs. “You remember this, ass-hole? You remember kicking the shit out of me today?”
“I haven’t left the station house since I started my shift an hour ago,” Hammond said. He placed his hand on his standard issue Taser.
Stan yanked on Able’s arm. “You were mistaken,” he said. “You’ve had a rough day and need to go home and get some rest.”
“Listen to your friend, citizen,” Hammond said. He stood stoic, made no move to follow them as Stan dragged Able out the door and back street side.
“It was him. He was the bastard that caused all this,” Able said.
“Listen to yourself. You’re speaking madness, at least in this,” Stan said. “Didn’t you say that Ema scratched his face? There wasn’t a mark on him.”
“No, it was him. It had to be him.”
“I believe you,” Stan said. “But look at what’s in front of you. The man was uninjured, even his uniform looked freshly pressed. If he had been in that group, don’t you think we would see evidence?”
“They are hiding her,” Able said. “You know that right.”
“I don’t know anything. She could be anywhere right now. Maybe they took her home and she is waiting for you there?”
“Don’t be a fool, Stan. Open your eyes to the evils we are living in.”
“Let’s go to your apartment and see,” Stan said. “Maybe you were mistaken to what happened when you were attacked.”
“I know what happened. Look at me. How could I make this all up. What are you suggesting, that I broke my own ribs?”
“I am not suggesting anything,” Stan said. “Sometimes things are not what they appear to be though. There is more to this than what we have seen today.”