a tale in weekly parts
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…
“Smart moves,” Julian said to Bernice back in the depths of the AI, “what made you think to slow him down?”
“I knew there was a real cop on the way, so I had to bail—”
“And you knew that, because you’d summoned him, so to speak?”
“Of course. Well, I didn’t want the cop to find me, but I did want him to be able to deal with the incident effectively. So I relieved Mia of the clicker—”
“Because that could have been evidence of your involvement?”
“Maybe not that, but it would have muddied the waters more than they are already by what Mia was bound to say. Obviously, I couldn’t detain the bad guy, not being a real policeman, but I didn’t want him to get away and I didn’t want to do him any lasting harm.”
“That’s good. I knew I was right to trust you with his job on your own. What’s your next move?”
“I’m off now, so I can be at the station when Mia goes in to make her statement. I may want to take some control of what her attacker says, too. I don’t want either of them saying anything that could jeopardise our operation.”
Bernice transferred herself to New Singapore’s central police station. Her chosen persona was the image of her mother – a black woman in her fifties and clearly down on her luck. She entered the station and approached the desk officer.
“Ma’am?” the officer asked.
“I think I might have seen a crime, Sir.”
“Oh yeah? What sort of crime is it you think you may have seen?”
“I’m not sure I know.”
“Tell me what you saw.”
“Well. I see a young woman walking towards the bookshop in my lane—”
“Sure. It’s where I live.”
“You’re homeless, then?”
“Hell, no. I got four shop doorways to choose from, and if one of ‘em ain’t locked – well I pop inside to sleep. Except if they turn the aircon off, then it’s cooler outside.”
“So you saw this young woman.”
“I did. Then I see this man – fearful ugly man, all tattoos, couldn’t see his face for ‘em – he stops this woman and tries to rip her blouse open.”
“He ripped her blouse open?”
“No, he didn’t, Sir. I said, if you were listening, that he tried to rip it open, but she – God bless her – she slaps him in the face and fair sends him flying. Dunno where she got the strength from, him being a sturdy man and all, but she did. Maybe she just caught him off-balance or such.”
“Then what happened?”
“Well. He gets up, draws his gun then throws it away again—”
“Why’d he do that?”
“I only see what he did, Sir. I can’t say why he did it.”
“Then he starts to run away. That’s when your officer turns up and arrests him.”
The desk officer picked up his phone and tapped in a number. “Yeah. Front desk here. Got a woman with me says she saw your offence happen.” A pause while whoever was on the other end spoke. “Okay.” He put the phone down, turned to Bernice and said, “Third door on the right. Officer MacDougal will see you.”
Bernice went to the door indicated, where she was met by the officer she’d seen in the alley.
“I don’t recall seeing you there,” said officer MacDougal in dismay.
“I was hiding,” Bernice replied, “didn’t want to get caught up in what was going on.”
“Okay. Wait here. I’m just about to take Miss Harper’s statement,” he said, passing through a side door.
Bernice reached through the wall and listened in, exerting occasional light pressure as Mia recounted her version of events.
“So, Miss Harper. All you did, when Song tried to attack you was to slap his face.”
“I don’t get how a slap from one of your size could knock a man as sturdy as Song off his feet. I mean, you wouldn’t describe yourself as Amazonian, would you?”
Mia smiled. “It surprised me too, Officer. Yes, I’m small and light, but I have trained in various forms of self-defence. I didn’t have the wits about me to employ any of the techniques I had learnt, but I must have subconsciously used his weight against him. It all happened so quickly.”
“Now, tell me about the way Song dropped his pistol.”
“It’s all a bit of a blur. I have a recollection of the other officer—”
“That’d be Bernard Chowdhry?”
“The officer who, my checks tell me, doesn’t exist. It must have been someone pretending to be an officer of the law, in which case I’ll make it my job to track him down and bring him to justice.”
“Whether he was a real cop or not, he probably saved my life.”
“Bloody superhero complex, most likely. Happens more than you’d think. I blame all the comics and movies—”
“Either way, he did me a great service.”
“Okay, Miss Harper. I have all that. I’ll have it written up and prepared for your signature.”
“What about Song?”
“Have you ever heard the expression ‘sing like a canary’?”
“Only on TV. Do people actually say it for real?”
“Not usually, but that’s what he did. He seemed eager to let it all out. I can’t prove it, but I think he was on something.”
“His story is similar to yours, but some of what he said was such pure fantasy that we can’t believe any of it. He seems to have a problem separating fact from fiction. I’ve had him declared unreliable, and we’ll base his prosecution on the CCTV evidence backed up by your statement.”
Bernice probed into the next room and saw Mia’s attacker, Song Sung Bloo, sitting with his head in his hands, alternately weeping, sniffling and muttering something incomprehensible.
Bernice withdrew again to the AI and said to Julian, “Job done. Next?”