Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Accused

All night, the howl of the sirens. Like whales calling across a sea of darkness.

One day the siren does not go away. One day the sound builds and builds till it is at its loudest and then abruptly stops. And I look out of my window and see the police cars parked outside my building, their lights flashing. And the four tiny figures making their way over to the entrance.

So it's someone in my building, I think. I wonder who it could be. Somebody I know? Unlikely. I don't know anyone. But perhaps somebody I've seen. That old lady with the ugly poodle perhaps. Or that guy with his extra tight shorts. I wonder whether they're coming for the victim or for the criminal? I hope there's been no violence. I hope no one's been seriously injured. I hope there's no gunfire involved. Could the person they're after still be in the building? Maybe even on this floor? I walk across to my front door and make sure it's locked.

The knock startles me. I hesitate by the door, then an authoritative voice says "Police!" and I unlock the door in compensating haste, opening it to find four unfriendly faces looking suspiciously at me. The formal antagonism of their uniforms, the glint of guns peeping out from side holsters.

"27J?", the one on the right says.

"Yes, that's correct".

"We received a 911 call saying an assault was in progress in this apartment."

"What? No, no, you couldn't have. I mean, I didn't call."

"Is there anyone else in the apartment?"

"No. No one. I live alone."

"You're sure you didn't call?"

"No. That is, yes, I'm sure I didn't."

"And nothing happened here?"

(Of course not, you idiot, I'm alone, who could I have been assaulting?)

"No, no, nothing. I've just been sitting around reading all evening."

"Hmmm. Do you mind if we come in and take a look around anyway?"

(Yes, I mind. Could this be some kind of trick? Are these even real cops? Should I ask to see a warrant?)

"No, of course, not" (drawing back from the door) "come in."

Four hefty men trampling into my tiny apartment. One of them stands in the living area, presumably to make sure I don't run, watching me as I sink back onto my couch, and me feeling suddenly very naked, very exposed, picking up my book again as if to show how unconcerned I am, but not reading at all, no, the words on the page a meaningless blur to me as I listen to the sounds of the three others going over my house, trying to imagine what it is they're seeing. The place is a mess; if I'd known they were coming I would have cleaned. Will they see the picture of you on the dressing table - the picture of us together - and wonder why you're no longer here? Will they figure out what happened? They could find out so much about me, just looking around. I hear a drawer sliding open. The drawer with your letters in them. I should protest, I know. They have no business looking into my drawers. What are they hoping to find - a dead body? But I'm too awed, too frightened. If I protested, they might think I have something to hide? They're suspicious already. What if they hauled me down to the police station? What if they beat me to confess something I've never even done. You hear such stories about the police. No, better to keep quiet. I have nothing to hide. What am I afraid of? That they'll find out I got dumped? That's not a crime, is it? And who cares what these guys think of me? They're just a bunch of flatfeet, right? I'm never going to see them again. Hopefully.

Lost in my thoughts I do not notice when the police are done. The one who'd spoken earlier says "Well, everything seems to be in order". I jump up from the couch, a little weak-kneed, say "Oh, good, good". Trying to smile, but not look triumphant. Or relieved. Or surprised. They still suspect something, I can tell. Their inquisitive looks make me nervous, I can feel my heart stammering inside me.

"Will there be anything else, officer?" Careful. Don't sound too snooty. Don't piss him off.

He shakes his head. "No, that's all. You're sure you didn't call?". "No, officer, why would I? Can't you trace the number?" Thinking, oh god, yes, what if someone called, desperate for help, and in panic gave the wrong address? The wrong apartment number? That's the most likely explanation, isn't it. What if even now, in this very building, a woman is being raped. Or murdered. Shouldn't they be doing something about it, instead of investigating my love life?

"We can. And we will." A threat, perhaps? "At any rate, you will call 911 if you see or hear anything suspicious?". "Yes, officer, certainly." "Good night, then." "Good night, officer".

I listen to their footsteps going down the corridor, the muted sound of their muttering. I go over to the window, hide behind the curtains. Careful not to be seen, I watch as they emerge from the building, climb into their cars, leave. Then I sink back onto the couch, feel the tension ebbing out of me.

Why did they come? Who could have called them? Someone playing a prank on me? But why? I have no enemies. At least, I don't think so. Besides, you could get into a lot of trouble for calling 911 like that.

Was there even a call though? Were they just using that as an excuse to check up on me? Am I under suspicion? Under surveillance? Are they preparing a case against me? Will they be back?

Try as I might, I cannot shake this feeling of having escaped, of having got away with it. But away with what? Why am I feeling so guilty? I've committed no crimes. Or have I? Did something happen here earlier this evening? Is something going to? Was the phone call, perhaps, a premonition?

What am I hiding from myself?

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good one there...
But honestly a heart burn , however recent it might be wouldnt be exactly the thing on my mind in such a situation, even if my mind is an incoherant mess in a moment of panic and tension.
The fear,and the extension that it gives to the protogonist's imagination, his senses perked up, are captured realistically.. some how the romantic reminescence seems out of place, but can be explained off as a stray train of thought sparked off by the letters..

P.S: by the way,Do people still write letters ?

Cheshire Cat said...

Yes, this one is almost perfectly judged.

drifting leaf said...

oh i liked it...i know the tag says fiction...but it sure says something about you... even fiction stems from somewhere, right fal?
oh in the defence of the protagonist, i still write letters :)

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Err..mmm....Afraid I didnt get it..if at all anythign was there to be 'got" :|

The starting reminded of Kafka's "The Trial"...subtle influence perhaps?:P

chandni said...

very very good.

Anonymous said...

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