Here we go with another installment of the story we saw a bit of last week. Nope, still not done, but we do travel a bit deeper into the strange world we have gotten a glimpse of. I do believe this is going to be a bumpy ride.
As I have done in the past, previous and future sections will have links below.
Tea and Biscuits
“What do you think he wanted?” Eric Miller said. He had burst into Stan and Charlotte’s apartment a few minutes after the uniformed man had left their hallway. He didn’t bother knocking.
Stan looked him up and down, then stepped past him to close the door. “Are you crazy,” he said. “He was just here. What if he returns and sees you running about the hall like a madman?” He guided him to their kitchen table, then put a kettle on the stove.
“They haven’t been here in forever,” Eric said. “I thought we were safe here.”
Stan pulled teacups and saucers from the cupboard. “Don’t be foolish,” he said. “This is exactly why they will come here now.”
“I heard it was a new inspector. A couple of young kids took over the Addison’s apartment,” Charlotte said. “Doing a show of force to keep the young ones in line.”
“That’s more likely,” Stan said.
“More likely but I don’t buy it,” Eric said. “Why would they go door to door? The rest of us have been here a long time already. We haven’t been any trouble.”
Stan poured the steaming water into the three teacups in front of him. “Oolong or orange pekoe?”
“Pekoe, them Asian teas give me gas,” Eric said. “Autumn will be home from the café soon. A few officials from he Comfort Office have a reserved table. She has gotten some interesting information “passing by” their table.”
“Biscuit?” Stan set a box of tea biscuits on the tray then picked it up as he walked to the kitchen table.
“Did we have anymore of that raspberry tea?” Charlotte said. “I’m in the mood for something a bit different right now.”
Stan pushed a tea packet toward Charlotte. “It sounds obvious, but I don’t know if I buy the idea that they are just trying to shake us up a little. They could do that at any time.”
“That’s it isn’t it,” Eric said. “It’s a show of force, keeps us from getting ideas.”
Charlotte pulled her tea bag from her steaming cup. “Of course, all of your guesses are obvious things. What might be the less obvious thing they could do?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Eric said. “They are going to do what ever the hell they want to do anyway. You can’t tell me that you haven’t heard the stories coming from the other neighborhoods.
“I’ve heard stories, and I have read testimonials,” Stan said. “It’s all heresy and boogie men.”
“Why were we hiding then, Stan.”
“You aren’t buying into this too? Listen, I don’t believe it all but I don’t want to take chances either. If that means we aren’t home if they knock at our door, so be it.”
“Look around you, Stan. There is something going on and they aren’t telling us everything,” Eric said. He smacked his fist against the kitchen table. “Dammit Stan, what more are we going to let them take from us.”
Stan pushed away from the table, further away from Eric and the droning voice that pummeled his psyche. “Stop! Just stop,” he said. “Can’t you see what you are proposing here. Don’t make me say the words. I don’t want a part of this.”
Eric crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “Look around you, Stan,” he said. “How much longer can we live like this? I am afraid to step out my door. We must be ready for the return. You know this as much as I do.”
“Get out –” Stan’s words were cut off as the door to his apartment burst open.
Able Brown rushed into the apartment and fell to his knees in front of the table. Gasping for breath, words fumbled at his lips. Useless babble burst out without a semblance to proper speech. Blood dripped from cuts and scrapes on his arms and face. Fresh bruising blossomed around his left eye.
Stan grabbed him by the shoulders and looked into his eyes. “Breath man, give it a moment to catch up with you.”
“They… they took her,” he said. “They took my Ema.” Tears fell from his eyes as his breathing slowed.
“Who? Who took your wife?” Stan said.
“You know damn good and well who,” Eric said. “That must have been the reason they were here earlier.”
“Tell us everything,” Stan said.
“We had gone to the store this morning,” Able said. “We needed milk and eggs. On the way home we stopped and had some lunch over at Bernie’s place, you know, the diner on the corner.”
“We know the diner. What happened with Ema?”
“We saw the trucks parked in front of our building. They were everywhere,” he said. “Comfort Inspectors stood in groups outside the apartments. There must have been at least fifteen of them all told. Ema and I didn’t make eye contact. We avoided them. But this one, a young one, he bumped into Ema.”
“Was he with the rest of the group?” Eric asked.
“No, he had come from the building next to ours. He walked into us as we tried to slip past them. We apologized, but he would have none of it. He pushed me down, spit at me.” He paused and took a deep breath. He released it in a slow exhale. “Ema kicked him. She was like the demon. She scratched at his face and left long gouges in his cheek. I jumped up to get between them but it was too late. Others came over and subdued her. They beat me. I fought them, fought them with all I had and they beat me,” he said. “I lay on the ground bleeding as he kicked me in the ribs and I didn’t care. They took her, locked her in the back of one of the trucks.”
“They can’t just abduct people on the street like that,” Stan said.
“I told you this would happen,” Eric said. He paced beside the table. “So it has come to this, taking people from their homes in the middle of the day. Did they say anything? Did they tell you where they would take her?”
“No, I was deaf to their words. I could hear nothing but the boots that struck me and the fists that smashed me,” Able said. “But what I saw, I couldn’t believe it. Locked in the back of the truck with Ema, they had children. Young kids locked away, taken from their families.”