"get off on fourteen." said leslie. "i'll tell you where to go from there. it's not far."
"i hope not."
"hey, it's not far."
"fine, fine, no problem, we're making good time."
"you agreed - "
"it's cool, there's nothing to argue about."
leslie shrugged and looked out the window. it was quiet , inside the van and outside.
country girl got off the main highway on fourteen, the next exit. they were immediately in a neighborhood with narrow and dimly lit streets. the buildings didn't look too shabby.
'two blocks," leslie said. "then pull over." she reached under her seat and pulled out jennifer broughton's coat and dress, wrapped in a single bundle.
country girl brought the van to a smooth stop. leslie jumped out with her bundle and ran half a block, then into an alley.
country girl opened the little partition behind her again. "just a brief stop, citizens. nothing to be concerned about. we are almost at our destination."
"thank you so much, " came a voice. "we all really really appreciate your concern."
a few trickles of uncertain laughter answered.
it sounds like the blond girl whose sib i tossed in the water, country girl thought. "you're welcome," she answered, and smiled to herself.
leslie went halfway down the alley to another narrower alley on her right. she was behind a row of buildings. there were lights on in all the buildings, but none were close to completely lit. she stopped at a dark flight of stairs and started cautiously up it, holding her bundle in front of her as a shield.
"who are you?" came a deep voice from above her. now leslie could make out two forms seated side by side on a step above her, one hulking, the other ragamuffin sized.
"i came to see knuckleball," leslie answered. "i've got something for him."
"i asked who you were."
"leslie. officer leslie. knuck knows me, i've dealt with him before."
"so you say."
"leslie," came a girl's voice from higher up the stairs. a pigtailed girl in an old fashioned dress stood up and skipped down a couple of steps.
"charlene, what's up?"
"we haven't seen you around much lately, leslie."
'they've had me partnered up with robots. but i got something good here. listen, i've got to run. tell knuck i'll be back later to talk price, ok? a couple of hours at the most."
"all right. give what you got to carnegie there. the big guy."
leslie moved up a couple of steps and saw that the hulking form was a golem or homemade robot. she tossed him the bundle.
"i made carnegie myself," said charlene. "what do you think of him?"
"he looks great, charlene. he looks like a keeper. i've got to go."
leslie ran down the stairs and out of the alley without looking back.
country girl drove in to the lot of the 1473rd. there was an empty space beside the front door and she backed into it. when she got down from the cab she could see lorna standing at the front desk. she saw lorna turn and signal to the benches behind her for someone to come out and help bring the prisoners in.
leslie came slowly back down the other side of the van. country girl opened the doors and leslie jumped up into the back.
"all right, folks, we are all getting out here.
there is absolutely no reason to rush. come out one at a time, the side on my left - this side - first. jump down if you can, if you need help, the officer here will help you." corporal amethyst and officer grogan had come outside and left the doors open behind them.
inside the van, tomboy was whispering to james, but loudly enough for some of the others to hear.
"what have we got to lose? i'm not saying we can help ourselves, but maybe we can get back at her."
most of the others stared straight ahead, but pippi nodded approval.
"all right," james said, "but wait until we are sure we see somebody over her."
tomboy's turn came, and then james right behind her.
they both jumped down without assistance from leslie. grogan pointed them toward the door. they entered the station. lorna glanced at them from behind the desk as they entered.
the prisoners were being seated on benches inside the door on the left. country girl and amethyst were taking the cuffs off them before they sat down.
tomboy glared at country girl as she stepped up to the next empty spot on the bench. country girl moved behind her to take her cuffs off.
"here you are," said country girl. she lowered her voice. "i just wanted to tell you, i didn't really throw your sib in the water. well. actually i did, but it's only about a foot deep there, so i saw him get up and walk away. he's probably home right now, drying himself off."
"probably? how about probably i don't believe you." the cuffs came off her wrists and tomboy began rubbing them and sat down.
"what's your name?"
"i like you, tom. you've got spirit. you know, if i wasn't already head over heels in love, you might be the girl for me."
"oh puke! that's great! you think you can just go around killing people and then dump out garbage like that?"
"garbage is right!" exclaimed the woman on the bench beside tomboy.
"it's bad enough we get arrested for absolutely nothing but we have to listen to filthy garbage like this from the police that arrest us!" she shouted.
lorna was talking on the intercom behind the front desk and she looked up. "keep the noise down citizens, please! we don't want to have to keep you all cuffed!"
amethyst was bringing james in. "yes," she added to the people on the bench, "be calm, please! try to look on this a positive experience."
"runner!!" they heard leslie's voice from outside. amethyst left james with country girl and ran outside.
the young man who had been sitting between hurk and bettina was running across the parking lot into the darkness with grogan close behind him.
when amethyst arrived leslie took off after him too.
they quickly brought him down and brought him back between them, and into the station .
he didn't resist, and lorna didn't even look up, as they took him past the seated prisoners down to the far end of the bench.
"so what happens to him?" james asked country girl.
"nothing, except that he doesn't get his cuffs off. people, listen up . i'll give you the drill a little early.
you are in a police zone. there is nowhere for you to run to. if there was, would we be uncuffing you? think about it.
as the corporal said, try to make this as positive an experience as possible" - tom, james and susan, sitting just inside the door laughed and the woman beside tom glared.
"thank you," country girl concluded.
leslie went back outside. she whispered something to susan as she passed her. bettina was standing in the van waiting and leslie helped her down.
pippi was the last prisoner to be unloaded. grogan closed the doors of the van.
leslie brought pippi in and lorna looked up when she did.
"keep her cuffed," she told leslie. "it's the little ones that get away. studies prove it. "
"roger that, sarge, she's a troublemaker."
"then cuff her feet too, " lorna told leslie.
leslie took pippi to the far corner, beside the young man who had run away.
"thanks a lot," pippi told leslie.
"hey, if you don't want the cuffs, don't do the stuff."
"maybe you could just cuff her feet," country girl told leslie. she smiled at pippi.
"i don't need any help from you!" pippi shouted.
lorna looked up. "keep her quiet."
"come on, pippi," said country girl. "don't make us gag you too."
"i don't need any help from you," pippi repeated in a lower voice.
"what's the matter, you upset about the guy i threw in the water? i was just playing a little trick, to get you all to shut up." country girl went through her story again.
"i don't believe you. and maybe i' m just mad at being arrested, did that cross your mind?"
"what are you all mumbling about down there?" lorna asked. "cuff her hands, cuff her feet, and if she opens her mouth again, gag her. what's the problem?"
"yes sergeant." leslie answered. "come on," she told country girl. "let's get changed and get out of here."
she headed back down the row of prisoners. she whispered to susan as she passed, "sorry it didn't work out."
suddenly tomboy spoke up. "who is in charge here?" she asked loudly.
lorna looked up but didn't say anything.
"sergeant lorna is in charge," amethyst answered in a mild voice and pointed to her.
"i have a complaint to make," tomboy addressed lorna.
"citizen, we have no interest in your complaints," lorna replied. "you are a prisoner, please behave like one."
"it's about her," tom pointed to country girl.