Friday, October 30, 2009

the seventeenth letter, part 5

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here

larry kept following sally. he had heard her tell bessie that she was going to the employment agency, so he kept well behind her, not making much effort to conceal himself. when she turned on to avenue a-33, where the agency was located, he slowed down even more.
but when he turned the corner and looked up the long broad avenue he didn't see her.

larry turned and saw sally standing in the first doorway around the corner, staring at him expressionlessly.
"hello yourself." larry smiled pleasantly. "nice day for a walk."

i'm going to the employment agency," sally said. "probably thanks to you."
"you mean me personally? i didn't even know you were arrested until this morning. i didn't have anything to do with it."
sally just stared at him.
"i was otherwise engaged."
"why are you following me? i was let go - it was a mistake."

a street patrol robot approached them. he had a small baton in his hand and waved it at larry, in an almost friendly way, indicating that they were standing too close together.
larry showed him his i d. the robot tapped his head with the baton in a salute, and moved on.

"do you want to come to the agency with me?" sally asked. "you could tell them my getting arrested was a mistake. you could make yourself useful in that way."
larry looked around. "i have a better idea. why don't we go someplace and have a little talk?"
"talk about what? i have to go to the employment agency. i need coins or credit to buy something to eat."

"you don't have to eat right now, do you? besides, don't you have something to tell me?"
"what about the note in your mailbox?"

"what note?"
"you didn't look in your mailbox this morning - or last night ?'
"there was nothing in it last night. why would i look at it this morning?"
"so you didn't see the note?"
"hmm." larry looked up at the sky. "then maybe we better go back and get it."

"we? i have to go to the employment agency. you can go back and get it.'
"i think it would be a good idea if you came with me."

"i think it would be a better idea if you went back and got it and i'll wait for you at the agency. wait for me out on the front steps and if you're not there i'll wait for you."
'i don't - "
"you'll be back before me, i guarantee it. i already wasted time going over to uuu. haven't you ever been to the agency?"
"yes, i have been to the agency and that's why i'm not waiting for you. and why you're coming with me."
"i need a job so i can get some food."

"look, i'll buy you something to eat, ok? and then i'll drive you back to the agency. i left a car back by your apartment. or you can get up tomorrow and start over like today never happened. now, let's go."
"oh, all right."

they went back around the corner and headed back to sally's apartment. the walk was slightly uphill.
"maybe we'll see a police van and we can get a ride from them," larry said.
"i'd rather walk."
"suit yourself. not in such a hurry now, huh?"
"you said you'd buy me something to eat.'
"and i will. how come you didn't ask me what was on the note?'
"you didn't say you read it. ok, what was on the note?"
"it wasn't mail, it was just a note that someone stuck in the box. just one word - hate."
"eight? the number, like seven, eight, nine?"

the van with the two robots that larry had seen before was coming toward them and stopped across the street from them.
"everything all right?" the driver asked larry.
"fine. thanks, guys."
they drove off and larry turned back to sally. "no , hate - h - a -t -e."
"what's that ?'
"i'm not sure, i just know it's something bad. it's like war or cannibalism or something, it doesn't exist any more."

"then why worry about it?"
"we just want to know why you are getting this stuff. don't you want to know?"
"not any more. i wish i never brought you the first ones."
larry laughed. "yeah, well, you might not be the only one who wishes that."
they walked on in silence for a while.
"if you already read the note, why do we have to go back and get it?" sally asked suddenly.
"i don't know, just to have it - to prove it was really there."
"prove it to who? who cares?"

"can we take a break? please," annabelle st teresa asked tania.
"of course," tania answered.
annabelle got up and looked out the window of the small room.

she and tania had been going over the files of the cases annabelle and roy torquato were taking over so that tania and larry could concentrate on sally's case.
"do you think anybody cares about this stuff any more?" annabelle asked tania.
"excuse me?"
"these cases." annabelle half turned from the window and pointed at the files "mrs nelson. laura poll. delacruz-rossini. does anybody really care? "

"i care," tania answered. "it's my job."
annabelle laughed. "you mean it's my job."

'"you know what i mean. i don't make the assignments. take it up with charlotte or jeanne if you don't like it."
annabelle sat back down. "so if roy and i had the johnson case and you and larry had the rest of this stuff, you'd be cool with that?"
"of course."

"how about if i worked the johnson case with larry and you did this stuff with roy?"
tania hesitated. "larry and i have been together for awhile. we're a good team."

"oh." annabelle rolled her eyes slightly.
"what! what are you implying? i must say i don't care for the tone of your voice, miss."
"you know," annabelle went on. "this whole situation, with both of you disappearing, and then suddenly popping up again, some people - not me, of course - might get the idea -"
tania turned red. "oh! oh! how vile! you filthy creature! back into the darkness, devil woman!"

annabelle laughed and picked a file up. "don't get your knickers in an uproar, detective. i was just making a little joke."

tania got hold of herself. "knickers in an uproar. where do you get an expression like that? have you been reading romance novels?"
"i wish i had the time to read a romance novel. come on, let's get through this."
there was a soft knock on the door. then it opened and roy torquato came in a step.

'sorry i'm late," he said. "how is it going here?"
"great," annabelle told him. "we've got everything under control."

"i'm going to get a coffee. do you want anything?"
"a coffee sounds great," annabelle answered.
"tania?" roy asked.
"i'll have a glass of water, please."
roy went back out. "i'm sorry if i upset you." annabelle told tania again. "i was just trying to lighten up the dreary day a little. and besides, roy and i are a good team too."

"let's take a short break here," mrs roosevelt announced.

"everybody back in their seats in seventeen minutes. we've still got a lot to go over."

the duc d'otrante turned to olivia and nodded toward the door, to indicate he didn't need any any help and she could take the break. soon everybody had left the conference room except the duc and charlotte, who remained seated beside each other at the table.
"you have something to ask me?" he said.
"yes. what do you know about the johnson case?"
"there are probably a lot of johnson cases. which one did you have in mind?"

the seventeenth letter, part 6

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the seventeenth letter, part 4

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here

charlotte and jeanne were the first to arrive at the conference room in the tower for the meeting. although charlotte held the relatively modest title of head of the unspeakable crimes unit, she was also a member of the council of seven. she was seen as a favorite of mrs roosevelt, and was regarded with trepidation by most of the other council members.

charlotte took her seat at the table with only a small pad of blank paper and a pencil that she twirled in her fingers as she waited for the others.
there was a line of chairs along the wall for the assistants, and jeanne took one. she set a heavy briefcase on the floor beside her.

the other members of the council, some of whom, including the duc d'otrante, had offices in the towers, arrived. nobody was late. all were in their seats when madame defarge and mrs roosevelt entered together.

besides charlotte and the duc d'otrante, the council included barras, head of security and population; margot de valois, director of religious containment; anna akhnaton, head of public works including robot manufacture; madame ching, supervisor of prisons and education; and the only robot in the group, mrs brown, in charge of food, energy and the economy.

mrs roosevelt, like charlotte, had only a pencil and pad of paper in front of her. madame defarge had nothing at all. blinking and suppressing a yawn, she opened the meeting by addressing mrs brown.
"how is the economy running, mrs brown?"

"smoothly, madame."
"good. and public works, anna?"
anna was the youngest human member of the council and very serious.

"ahead of schedule, madame. public works is ready to take on any new job you can think of. i would like to take the opportunity at this time to thank m barras, madame ching and mrs brown for all their cooperation."
"thank you, anna," said mrs roosevelt. "i'm glad you had the opportunity at this time instead of some other time to express your gratitude. let's move on, shall we, unless anyone has any questions for anna or mrs brown."

"i have a question for mrs brown," said barras. "how come i can't get a decent sandwich any more?"
"i don't have any problem with mrs brown's sandwiches," madame defarge answered quickly. "in fact, i find them quite tasty."
margot de valois turned to barras.

"mrs brown's sandwiches are most excellent and coordinate well with the new order. what did you have in mind, monsieur, a sandwich with a big slab of bear meat dripping blood and cartilage ? "
mrs roosevelt tapped her pad of paper with her pencil. "don't be improper, margot. are you suggesting, m barras, that the quality of sandwiches, or of food in general, is contributing to unrest in the population - the unrest that we are here to discuss? if so, you should speak in plain terms."

"no, no, nothing of the sort," barras replied quickly.
"i think an apology is owed mrs brown," madame defarge added.

"i apologize to mrs brown. i meant no harm."
"i know m barras meant no harm," mrs brown answered with a smile. "i have always found him a perfect gentleman and very cooperative in his role of head of population. he has often made humorous references to sandwiches to me. it is a little joke between us." she smiled again, directly at barras.
"i am glad that is settled." said mrs roosevelt.

"can i add something?" madame ching spoke up. "in all seriousness, we have had good results with extensive substitution of mush and gruel for sandwiches among the prison population - a population which as we all know, is growing in great increments every day. of course," she added with a glance at mrs brown, "mrs brown is also providing the mush and gruel."

"did we come here to talk about sandwiches and mush?" charlotte asked. "as far as i'm concerned, a sandwich is a sandwich and mush is mush."
"no, charlotte, we did not," mrs roosevelt agreed. she turned to madame ching. "your point has interesting implications, madame. perhaps we can take it up in detail at a future meeting. if you could prepare a paper on the subject -"

"oh, but i already have, " madame ching interrupted. she picked a sheaf of papers up from a pile in front of her. "i have copies for everyone."
"that is excellent," madame defarge told her.

"if we have time at the end of this meeting we will take it up. if not, we will consider it at the next meeting."
"thank you." madame ching settled back in her chair.

"now." mrs roosevelt looked down at her blank notepad. ""this is all well and good, but the only one of us who need be concerned about feeding the human race is mrs brown, who, we are all now agreed, is doing a great job. the rest of us are not here to feed the human race but to keep it in line. which brings us to the purpose of this meeting - the same purpose as the last one.

unrest - particularly religious unrest - continues to rise. the new policy of widespread arrests, agreed on at the last meeting, does not seem to be bearing fruit. margot, what do you have to say about this?"

"the new policy was the idea of monsieur barras."
"i know that. but we all agreed to it. i asked you what you thought of it."
"it's not making my job any easier."
"nobody cares how easy you find your job. we can always find someone else to do it. what do you think the result of the new approach has been?"

"it has made religious containment more difficult. the religious groups feel - predictably - they have nothing to lose,"
"predictably? the theory was that the accredited groups like the christians and the darwinists and the church of bruce lee would cooperate and welcome the new policy. is this not happening?"

"it's not working. the general level of unrest is up a little. as i predicted."
madame defarge nodded. "she did express skepticism at the last meeting," she told mrs roosevelt.
"what do you think, monsieur le duc?" mrs roosevelt asked. "you've been quiet so far."
"yes," said margot. "it has hardly seemed like a meeting."

the duc ignored this and adressed mrs roosevelt directly. "after an initial period, when the similar groups with long standing antagonisms rushed to denounce each other, the effect of the new policy has been negligible or a little adverse. nothing has changed - religious containment is what it has always been. the groups - large and small - see it as a first step to elimination."

"as it should be," said charlotte. "religion should be an unspeakable crime."
"thank you, charlotte," said the duc. "we know how hard it must have been for you to hold that in until now."
"call my department religious elimination instead of religious containment," said margot, "and let's see what happens. just give me a chance."

"can i say something?" asked barras. "if the religious groups were dealt with a little more diplomatically , the current policy might have half a chance. as it is - "

"no one is asking margot or anybody else to be a diplomat," mrs roosevelt said.
"we go over this at every meeting," barras persisted. "the cold fact is that most humans have some sort of religion, large or small, even if its just something like astrology or einsteinism. we can't put them all in prison."

"i don't see why not," said charlotte. "with everybody in prison we could start some serious re-education."

the seventeenth letter, part 5