The Dreamer — part 54

a tale in weekly parts

The story so far

Bernice Reed, a thirty-something African-American woman from Arizona, appeared in the street of a small Canadian town some two hundred years in her future in the body of a white male. Now known as Bernie, he settled into a high-tech life. But it didn't end there! Not by any means. Any change to the 'past' after her/his translation would (and did) rewrite the future - his present.

And then it became more complicated…

Episode 54

Entering the alleyway, Mia looked around as if she had heard or somehow felt a presence behind her. Tossing the booklet into her back-pack, she rested her right index finger on the band she wore on her left wrist. Remaining out of sight, Bernice surveyed the scene and watched her mark closely. Mia strode purposefully into the depths of the alleyway, making for the antiquarian bookstore at the far, dark end of the narrow, poorly lit road. High buildings on both sides funnelled the wind through the alley and ensured that, apart from a few minutes each side of solar noon, the rays of the sun never touched more than the few floors at the very top of the buildings.

As she approached the shop, Mia again looked around, her brow furrowed, and increased the pace of her steps, reducing the distance between herself and her destination. Passing a bookmaker’s shop, a man pulled the door open to the side of her and shouted, “Stop where you are!”

Mia stopped briefly and looked towards the voice. She saw a short, stout man with facial features almost totally obscured by garish tattoos. What she could divine from the look on his ink-laden face suggested to her that he was not driven by motives of friendliness to her. She upped her pace but her high heels and narrow skirt gave her no advantage over the man’s sweatpants and trainers. He overtook her within a few paces and stood mere inches away, facing her.

“I said stop,” he said, “and I meant stop.”

“What do you want?” Mia asked her assailant.

“I just lost a bunch of money on the horses. I want recompense.”

“I have no money. Only enough to buy a book I’ve wanted for ages. This shop has it and—”

“Shut up. I don’t want your money.”

“Then what?” she asked, constantly tapping her finger on the device on her wrist.

“Nervous?” the man asked with a leer, “or angry? Your quack might have told you tapping your wrist helps with anger or fear, but it isn’t true. It sure won’t help you now.”

“What are you after then? You just want to make me afraid? Cos if that’s what you want, you’ve succeeded.”

“No. I want this,” he said, reaching forward with both hands to rip open Mia’s blouse.

Without considering the likely consequences, Mia instinctively delivered the man a healthy slap across the face. Although he was prepared for this and braced himself against what should have been a relatively gentle blow, he hadn’t reckoned on what he actually received. The force of the impact he felt lifted him off his feet and deposited him in a heap on the ground almost three metres away. Mia looked at her hand in disbelief.

“Is this man bothering you, Miss?” a different, softer male voice asked from behind her.

She turned and saw Bernard looking at her quizzically.

“Well, yes. Actually. How did you get here so—”

“Hold on,” Bernard said. He had noticed that Mia’s assailant was back on his feet and beginning to run from the scene. Bernard sent a message to the man’s brain to such effect that the escape the miscreant had begun to undertake became, to him, like running up a dune of soft sand.

Bernard approached the man. “You. Stand still. Stop right here.”

“You gonna make me, copper?” he asked, drawing a pistol and aiming at Bernard.

“Sure am,” Bernard said, as the man screamed and dropped his weapon.

“What the—”

“See? I made you. Said I would, didn’t I?”

Driving close to the alley, a real police officer had a sudden urge to stop, leave his vehicle and run towards the scene, gun drawn. Arriving at the scene, he saw a young woman crying and a man, a known gang-member, standing in the middle of the narrow street, trembling. He saw no-one else.

“Can someone tell me what’s going on?” he asked.

“This man tried to attack me, officer, but your colleague took care of it.”

“What colleague?” the officer asked, “I don’t see anyone except the pair of you.”

Mia looked around for Bernard, but he was nowhere to be seen, “Oh, he’s gone.”

“Yeah, he’s gone. If he was ever here. Tell me what happened. Did you get this officer’s name?”

“Yes. His name-badge said Officer Chowdhry, but he told me to call him Bernard.”

“Bernard Chowdhry… Bernard Chowdhry… Never heard that name. I don’t know every officer on the Force, of course, but I know all the ones that work from my station. You sure about the name?”

“Sure about Chowdhry. I read it off his badge.”

Turning to Mia’s assailant, he asked, “So, Song… yes, I know who you are… tell me what happened.”

“Find out for yourself!”

“Don’t worry, I will.” Pointing to surveillance cameras at various points on the buildings either side of the lane he said, “See those CCTV cameras? It’ll all be on there. Can you tell me anything, Miss?”

“Yes, Officer. I was walking through to the bookshop – they have a book I’ve wanted for some time – when this man,” she pointed to the man Song, “told me to stop. When I didn’t, he ran past me and tried to rip my clothes. Said he’d lost money on the horses and presumably wanted to rape me as recompense.”

“Miss—”

“Please, call me Mia. It’s my name. Mia Harper.”

“Mia. Didn’t you know how dangerous it can be for a young woman to be walking through these alleys alone?”

“Of course, but I’m part of the security survey programme and I have this…” she looked at her left wrist and noticed that her data collection device was no longer there. “That is, I had a clicker.”

“Mia, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I know nothing of the programme you mention or the clicker.”

“No, you wouldn’t. He, Bernard, did say that only some officers were involved. Anyway, he said that if I found myself in real trouble, I should click it repeatedly, and he’d come to my aid. I was, I did and he came. What I don’t get is how me slapping that man across his face sent him flying and why, when he drew a gun on Bernard, he immediately screamed and dropped it. He couldn’t run away, either.”

“What do you mean, couldn’t run away?”

“Well, he started to, but then kind of went into slow motion.”

The officer walked away, his face betraying a level of confusion he wouldn’t expect to meet in a normal day’s work. He seized Song’s arms, turned him and clamped handcuffs on his wrists.

“Song Sung Bloo, I’m arresting you on suspicion of assault and attempted rape. You’ll be read your rights at the station. In the meantime, my advice to you is to say nothing.”

“Wasn’t going to anyway,” Song replied.

“Mia,” the officer said, “can you come with me to give us a statement?”

“I don’t want to share a ride with that man,” she said, “I’ll make my own way there.”

“Fair enough, Miss. See you there.”

The officer walked off with his prisoner.

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