“Good Enough For Police Work”
A woman walked into a chaotic police squad room late in the afternoon. She stood waiting until someone, it happened to be a homicide detective, noticed her. She was then guided to a chair beside an unattended desk. There she waited patiently for 47 minutes.
Finally another detective, this one assigned to robbery, sat at the desk, filled in a form, then glanced up to notice her. “Yes? May I help you?”
She gave her name as Mona Abromski, her age as 38, her address in a decent apartment building on the hill overlooking the commercial district, and told him she worked for R. V. Sloan & Company, an architecture and design firm, as a secretary. She had seven years experience and was respected at work. She was not married, having had no time, as she put it.
Prior to working at Sloan, she had held various jobs such as waitress, barista, and even school janitor for a time. Her relatives lived one city to the east.
“So, Ms. Abromski, how can I help you?”
She sighed. “You won’t believe this.”
“Try me, ma’am. Something brought you into this hornet’s nest.” He gestured to the hubbub surrounding them, people walking, talking, gesturing, yelling, crying, fighting, and generally being processed through the city’s law enforcement system.
“I’m not sure there’s a crime involved.”
“You let us decide that, ma’am.” The detective kept his voice soothing for now, not wishing to spook her. He suspected she’d been raped. Rape victims often hemmed and hawed and couldn’t face up to the point until they relaxed enough. He let her tell him in her own time and way.
She dived right in, to his surprise.
She told him she’d gone in to work as usual at eight. She’d been at her desk from eight until ten, sifting through papers, answering emails, and checking referents. She’d been generally doing her daily tasks.
At eleven, she found herself at her desk, as if she’d blinked, or nodded off. She noticed what she described as light particles around her, glittering but fading. Puzzled, she pushed back slightly from her keyboard; the particles seemed familiar somehow.
She thought a moment and remembered they’d come to her before, around ten, but had brightened. “That’s when it happened, I guess.”
The detective waited. Here it comes, he thought; boss or co-worker jumped her.
Instead, she told of recalling an entirely different kind of assault. She said she felt herself, at ten in the morning, rising.
“No, floating.” She said she’d gone up through the ceiling and roof, upward in the sky until she entered a metallic sphere. “It could only be a space ship, I guess.” She said this as if ashamed, glancing shyly at the detective.
He kept a straight face. Humoring her might reveal the point of telling such a ridiculous story in a busy day at the police station.
She claimed what happened in the metal sphere was a blur but felt a sinking feeling then, and more light particles, and she came down through the sky, the roof, and the ceiling, back into her chair, where she’d awakened. Or come to. Or… “I don’t know how to describe it.”
“Oh-kay.” The detective, Mark Peters, had no idea what to write down on the note pad. He doodled a flying saucer beaming someone up. Then an idea struck him. “Wait, does your office have security cams?”
“Yes, it does. There are valuable papers and some of the equipment is expensive.”
He decided a field trip might be in order, and after he could grab lunch.
On the drive over to Sloan, she said little. She bit her fingernails. She was not a bad-looking woman, the detective noticed, once her nervousness passed. That harried look on her face bothered him.
At Sloan, the detective met head of security and managed to get a look at the CCTV video for the general office floor, where Ms. Abromski worked along with a couple dozen others in a scene not unlike the controlled chaos behind the bull pen at the station, the detective thought. He cued it to 10 AM and watched her. She seemed to glow for one frame, as if a sunbeam had found her. By the next frame she was gone.
He scanned the room for her. No way she could have gotten out-of-frame that fast. He checked the view from another camera in the opposite corner, to see if she’d fallen in a swoon behind her desk. She had not; the floor was empty beside her chair.
He fast-forwarded to 11 AM and sure enough, the sunbeam came and, inside one frame, she appeared. Her head nodded, she jerked awake, then pushed back from her keyboard, exactly as she’d described.
“Well I’ll be a zebra’s ass-stripe.” The detective could not believe what he was seeing.
She had not stepped out for a smoke or tryst. She had not fainted. She had not sat gaping in a hallucination. No one had raped her or molested her, at least not in the office. She had, according to the video, vanished.
Stranger, those around her gave no sign of noticing. A sunbeam appearing from a solid ceiling should draw attention, no matter how busy those around her might be. No one glanced, stared, or pointed. No one seemed to remark to anyone else about the strange interior weather they were having. Nothing showed but her disappearing.
Detective Peters seized the video on a thumb drive. He drove Ms. Abromski back to the station to give a more detailed statement. He’d write it down this time. He wanted his superiors in on this.
Seating her beside his desk, he found the proper form and plugged in the basics. Routine, standard procedure, nothing to worry about, he told her.
She nodded, meekly.
He waved at someone across the room, then stood and gestured. Come over here now, was the message.
His direct boss, Detective Sergeant Gamelli, scowled, set down a stack of file folders on someone’s desk, and marched over.
Peters shrugged, as if to ask what else he could do but consult his higher-ups.
“What is it, Peters? You find Amelia Earhart?”
“No, sir. Uh. This is a strange one, but we have corroborating evidence. Surveillance video confirms the story but, boy, it’s a doozy.”
“What story, Peters? I’ve got about three minutes before I get myself a new asshole from the commissioner over that ball-up mess downtown and—“
Peters nodded, all-too-familiar with his boss’s litany of pressures, troubles, and hassles. He sat, plugged in the thumb drive, and pulled up the video. “This little lady,” he said, gesturing to…
…the empty chair beside his desk. “Fuck.”
“What’s the joke, Peters?”
He stood and scanned the busy room, not spotting her. He described Ms. Abromski and told his boss her story, showing him the video as he did so.
“Movie tricks. Kids do ‘em. Photo-Store or what ever it’s called. Fuck’s sake, Peters, you going stupid on us?”
“No, sir.” Peters blushed and shut up as his boss stormed off. He did not blame her for absconding. They’d call her crazy and treat her worse, video or no video.
It bothered him, though. How fast she’d vanished. He wondered. He wondered enough that, late that night, after he’d caught up his paperwork for the week prior, he could not help himself. He had to check.
He went to the electronics closet, as they called it. More a room. He fiddled with things until he found the surveillance video for the time Ms. Abromski would have walked out on him. He found an image of her sitting primly beside his desk as he pecked and hammered his keyboard, filling in the forms. He saw himself stand and wave his boss over.
He saw the sunbeam find her, blink her out.
“Oh fuck, no.” He ran to his desk, got the thumb drive, and put what he’d found on it, following the original. It had happened again to her at the police station, exactly as it had at Sloan. He could not believe his eyes, and watched it many times. Finally, eyes gritty, he called it quits and went home to grab a few hours shut-eye.
His wife tried to feed him a warmed-over supper. She tried to acquaint him with their son’s latest antics, their daughter’s most recent contretemps, and gave up on him the third time he nodded off in his easy chair as LAW AND ORDER: SVU snarled on the TV.
He went up to bed when she asked him if he wanted to, and lay down to instant sleep, exhausted.
Next morning, Detective Mark Peters woke in a pleasantly-dim room. His wife’s bustling in the adjoining bathroom had brought him up from a dream about a gunfight, dead bad guys, and him getting a medal.
As he lolled, his wife Anne came out of the bathroom. She was wearing a towel, on her head. She began walking across the room toward her closet when Peters sat upright and yelled, “Stop. Don’t move.”
He’d noticed a sunbeam slanting down from between venetian blind slats. She’d almost walked through it.
He did not want to take chances.
“What is wrong with you?” She continued to her closet, walking through the beam of light without effect.
“Nothing, nothing.” He shuddered. “Bad dream, I guess.”
He tried for a week to track down Mona Abromski but her apartment was unoccupied, Sloan reported she’d not been in since a week, and her relatives, once he found them by phone, hadn’t heard a thing.
He handed it over to missing persons but decided to keep the thumb drive in his locked drawer at work, where the throw-away revolver and half-full bottle of Chivas Regal waited.
As far as he heard, she was never found, and as far as Detective Mark Peters admitted to his closest friends, usually after having had a few too many at their watering hole, he did not really want to find out the facts of her disappearance.
“There are some things our owners don’t want us to know.”
That’s how he put it, never explaining who the owners might be, and letting his pals figure he meant city hall or corporate.
For cops, that sufficed.
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