Thursday, November 30, 2006

Third time's a charm

This post might look familiar to those of you who have been reading my blog for a while. That's because it's a continue-a-story that I have posted (at various stages) twice before.

I'm hoping that this time I get some more responses, and that maybe this story will actually conclude. [I have an idea of where I want to take this narrative in mind, but I'm willing to let it go wherever it gets taken as well.]

So, yeah. In case you are unfamiliar - the idea is that I will post the beginning of a story. The comment section is where the next person continues the story, and it just builds from there. The only 'rules' that I ask are that 1) you don't end the story (that's for me to do) and 2) that you don't post twice in a row.
If you want to add a sentence, or you want to add 452 sentences, it's cool by me. If you don't like the direction the story is going, then change it. And note that the previous incarnations are also still up, so if you want to visit the old tellings and have those stories wind up differently, feel free.

Whew! With that, I will now post the story...

Paul Washington was woken up by the ringing of the telephone. A beam of almost-noon sunlight sneaked in his bedroom window between the thickly drawn curtains. Groggily, he reached for the phone, willing the hangover away. "Hello?" he answered.

The voice on the other end shouted something in German. Paul didn't understand it, but there was no mistaking the urgency, whatever the message may have been. "Sorry, dude. Wrong number." He hung up and fell back into a deep slumber.

Ten minutes later, the door was kicked in. Paul sat up instantly, heart pounding. The adrenaline raced through his body and he was sweating as three men in dark black uniforms and brandishing machine guns surrounded his bed. The men were all yelling at him, obviously irate. Paul stuck his hands up, terrified. Well, at least my hangover
is gone
, he thought mindlessly as his brain attempted to understand the bizarre situation he found himself in. The leader of the men poked the nozzle of his machine gun into Paul's ribs and barked some sort of question. Paul shook his head and said, "I...I don't speak German."

The leader said the same phrase again, and again poked Paul with his weapon. Paul's vision blurred and he feared he would faint. He willed himself to stay conscious and said, "Take whatever you want. Just don't hurt me. Please." The leader grabbed Paul's arm roughly. He looked at his forearm, but obviously didn't like what he saw - or as
Paul quickly determined, what he did not see. All three men had a barcode tattoo on their forearms, and they were expecting Paul to have the same. One of the other men asked a question - most likely, "Where's his tattoo?" - and the leader barked angrily at him. Paul was ferevertly wishing this was all a horrific nightmare that he'd soon wake up from.

Paul protested as the leader placed a pair of handcuffs on him, but these men did not seem to understand English any better than he spoke German. "You've got the wrong guy!" he yelled, as they forced him to get out of bed. He had on his jeans, but no shirt.

Realizing that dealing with these thugs wasn't going to work, Paul decided his best course of action was to get help from a neighbor. As the men started to march him out of his apartment, he screamed, "Mrs. Johansen! Mrs. Johansen, call 9-1-1!" His yells brought his next door neighbor to her door. Mrs. Johansen had been Paul's neighbor for the past 4 years. They attended the same church. He knew she'd help. The woman opened the door, and Paul nearly did faint when he saw that Mrs. Johansen had a barcode on her forearm...
It occurred to Paul later that perhaps he had fainted, because the next thing he knew he was sitting at a metal table in a small room with no windows. It looked like he assumed a police interrogation room might look, based on his impressions from television, but there was no mirror and he couldn't see any other sort of surveillance system.

One of Paul's arms was handcuffed (or otherwise tied - he couldn't actually see it) to the back of his chair. It was, incidentally, a very uncomfortable chair, made of metal or plastic or some other material that makes you feel as though there is no padding between your bones and the seat. His other hand was cuffed - if that's the
right word - to the table with one of those plastic zip-ties that he was pretty sure cops and maybe soldiers carried. His head felt very heavy and he couldn't turn it properly. It crossed his mind that he might have been drugged, but he wasn't sure what that would feel like.

He was pretty sure that people on drugs had hallucinations, but he wasn't sure what those were like, either.

Paul blinked and suddenly there was a man standing at the other side of the table. Now Paul was certain he'd been drugged. Either he had blacked out and the man had come into the room, or the man was a hallucination. Paul squinted his eyes in an attempt to focus better.

The man's gun looked real enough. He wasn't sure what kind it was. It looked like something from a Sci-Fi movie, but for all Paul knew, that's what all guns looked like. He wasn't exactly an expert.

He tried to ask the man where he was, but his mouth was dry and no sound came from it. He cleared his throat, because he wasn't sure what else to do, and managed to croak out something along the lines of, "May I have a glass of water?"

His vision became blurry again and, wondering if perhaps he needed glasses, he blinked a few times again.

Now there was a woman standing next to the man. She looked familiar, though Paul was certain they had never met.

Placing her hands on the table, she leaned toward Paul and said something, but now his ears weren't working properly either and he thought he heard wind blowing, or the ocean, like when you put a conch shell to your ear.

"I'm sorry?"

She leaned closer. "I said..."

"Can you understand me? Is the translator operating?"

Paul blinked. This day was becoming stranger and stranger. When the woman had spoken, he had heard her ask in English, but also slightly speak in German. Additionally, her mouth had not quite been in sync with the English he had heard. It was very similar to seeing someone on television who spoke a foreign language and hearing the translation spoken over it. All the while, the ocean wind noise was faintly whispering in his ear.

In a state of shock, Paul simply asked, "Translator?"

The woman, who must have been wearing her own translator - or who understood English - nodded and tapped her ear. Paul then noticed that something was in his own right ear. It felt like an earplug, but was, undoubtedly, a piece of machinery that was translating the conversation into English for him.

Paul thought all these thoughts, along with "Who are these people??" before realizing that the woman was again speaking and the machine was translating:

" will do best to answer my questions honestly. We do not know what connection, if any, you have with Fredrick Muller, but the fact that you were found in his apartment implies at least a casual relationship with that criminal."

Even though the translator did not convey much tone, it was obvious to Paul that this woman despised Fredrick Muller, whomever that was.

The woman went on, "My first question is - how do you not have any identification? Where is your mark?" She pulled up her sleeve, revealing her own bar code tattoo.

Paul swallowed, trying to get his bearings and determine exactly what he was going to say in response. The man with the gun made him nervous and he was confident that if he said the wrong thing, that he would end up a dead man.

"First," he said, "I do not know Fredrick Muller. The apartment you people pulled me out of was mine. You've obviously got the wrong person. As for identification, I have my driver's license at home in my..." the woman smacked him across the face, hard, silencing Paul.

She snarled, "Do not lie to me!" in German and the translator managed to chill Paul.

"How did you remove your identification?" she asked, yanking on Paul's free arm, looking again for his nonexistent bar code. "How?!"

Paul didn't know what to do, but didn't think that attempts at deceit would work with these people. Besides that, he didn't know what it was they wanted him to say, so he stuck with the truth. "I'm trying to tell you I've never had one!" he said in an exasperated tone.

The woman heard this in her translator and looked at Paul like he were crazy (Paul was beginning to think she might be onto something there). "That is not possible." she said flatly.

At that moment there was a knock on the door and another guard (Paul assumed, he had the look of a guard) entered and spoke to the woman. Paul's translator picked up the conversation and converted it to English for him, despite the fact that he probably wasn't meant to hear any of it. "Burr," (Paul at first thought the guard had said
"brr", but then quickly realized that 'Burr' was the woman's name - or title, perhaps), "there is something you must see."

"I am interrogating the suspect right now." Burr growled back. The guard said, "There is another like him. Another person with no identification. A Negro in his thirties. He only speaks English. He was found in district five, trying to break into someone's home. Schmidt has him in the other room and is requesting you come right away."

Burr looked at Paul and then at the guard. "Bring the other man in here. I will interrogate them both at the same time. Perhaps the lack of identification and the English language are not all these men have in common."

The guard nodded and left the room. Paul didn't think his request would be granted, but saw no major harm in asking - especially since he could now be understood - "May I get a drink of water, please? And perhaps a shirt?"

Burr considered Paul briefly, then said to the man with the gun, "Water. Shirt." The man nodded and left the room without a word.

At that time the other guard entered, forcing a scared looking black man in front of him. He looked at Paul and seemed to draw several conclusions quite quickly. "They arrest you, too?" he asked Paul. Paul nodded, afraid to say anything aloud, but inside he was ecstatic to hear another person speaking his native tongue. The black man was forced into a chair beside Paul, and the guard with the gun said to Burr, "I'll go get a translator for him." The black man said, "I told you! I don't speak German. No shpreckin the Deutsch!" Paul smiled in spite of himself. He liked this man.

Burr frowned. "Tell your friend to shut up," she ordered Paul, "or I will kill him."

Paul had no doubt she would do it, either. He said to the man, "Hi. I'm Paul. Paul Washington. That woman there? She's in charge. Don't piss her off. Right now she doesn't want you to talk. I suggest you listen to her."

"Huh." the man replied. Then to Paul, "Oh. My name is Derrick. Derr..." but at that moment Burr smacked Derrick across the face.

Derrick leapt up and was going to retaliate, but Burr kneed the middle aged man in the groin, dropping him instantly. "I told you to tell him not to speak." she said coldly to Paul. Paul simply gaped at the whole scene, unable to help Derrick up, since he was still handcuffed to his chair.

The other guard returned at that moment with a glass of water and a light blue shirt for Paul. The shirt was tossed into Paul's lap, the glass of water was put in his free hand.

Derrick slowly got back up and sat in his chair. The guard took that opportunity to handcuff his arm. Derrick didn't object - at least verbally - but Paul knew he wasn't happy about this development. This guard also had a translator and he placed it in Derrick's ear.

Burr asked Derrick if he could understand her, if his translator was working and to simply nod if the answer was yes. Derrick nodded.

"Good." Burr said. "Now we will begin to get some answers...

"First, you will tell me why you were breaking into a district five house."

There was a half second pause before Derrick answered, in which Paul could see him swallow all manner of emotion. He had a fire in him, and Paul could tell that he wanted to let it out. But that hit to the face seemed to have sobered him pretty well. When he spoke, it was in a low and even voice.

"Like I told your boys when they came up behind me, it was my house I was getting into. I was not breaking in. My key was stuck."

It was hard to tell from her face what Burr made of this answer. Then she smiled.

"You certainly cannot expect me to believe that ... one of your kind ... has a home in district five."

"That so?" Derrick bit out.

Burr continued to smile. "So were you there for stealing, or were you sent to terrorize our good citizens?"

Oh how Paul understood (as much as he understood anything) what was going on behind his new friend's bewildered face. If he was that - "friend" was an appropriate word for a guy you instinctively trust in an utterly foreign situation - right? Paul wondered idly when the Germans would leave them alone so they could make sense of everything and ... maybe make a masterful escape? Somehow, he didn't that was
going to happen. He had to do his best with these unnerving guards staring him down. It was like trying to solve a crossword puzzle with a bomb counting down. They both had to play their hands well. "But our hands are tied," he thought ridiculously. What was Derrick going to say?

He wouldn't get to know, it seemed. The door opened again, and again, an urgent message was calling Burr to the door. Paul strained to hear the hushed tones, and he saw Burr's eyes narrow.


"Huh?" Derrick had whispered to him.

"Jackson," he repeated. "The other half of my name."

"Oh." Paul smiled. He pushed down the urge to laugh. He felt a little crazy.


The harsh, reverberating syllable brought Paul back to reality (assuming that word fit).

"Separate them!" Burr barked. She was smiling again. Maniacally.

The two guards swooped down on Derrick. One of them cut the band around his wrist. Derrick's eyes were painfully wide as they pulled him from the room. So much for company.

The woman was approaching him again.

"Now we have you," she said.

"You do?" said Paul, blankly. He had given up all illusion that he could control this situation.

"The phone call to the apartment..." she began.

The phone call to the apartment.

"...was traced from your friend's house."

A deafening noise from outside the room followed this pronouncement, as Burr glared at him, unblinking.

"I swear I don't..." Paul started to object, convinced that it would do him absolutely no good. These people didn't listen to reason, they wouldn't listen to the truth, and Paul didn't even know what the hell the truth was anymore. But it didn't matter, and Paul didn't get to finish his declaration because another loud boom interrupted him, this one much closer. It was accompanied by the smell of smoke and the sound of panicked screams of anguish and confusion. Burr had turned to face the door when it exploded inward.

Paul screamed and attempted to hide himself underneath the table. His arm was still handcuffed to the chair and his wrist was cut badly as a result. Burr had been knocked backward from the explosion, but was regaining her composure quickly. She pulled a gun (Paul wasn't sure what type, but it was small enough to have been concealed earlier) and fired into the smoke that was pouring into the interrogation room. Paul closed his eyes and so he did not see the number of people who came into the room, and he did not see the shot that hit Burr in the abdomen. When he opened his eyes, there were three strangers in the room and Burr was lying beside him with a bullet wound in her gut, possibly dead.

One of the men reached into Burr's pocket, pulled out the keys to the cuffs, and tossed them to the man standing above Paul. He unlocked Paul's chains and offered his hand to Paul. Part of Paul's mind that wanted to retreat to a fantasy land thought, "Now he'll say 'Come with me if you want to live', just like in the Terminator movies."

The man did speak, then, but he did not quote Arnold Schwarzenneger. Instead, he spoke in German, and the translator whispered in Paul's ear, "Paul Washington, my name is Fredrick Muller. We don't have much time."


CosmicAvatar said...

Dude, I've got nothing, but it's awfully exciting. I'm expecting Wolverine to come busting through the window any minute.

Er, should I have written that in?


Simon said...

His voice, even through the bizarre translator, was so commanding that Paul found himself obeying before he'd had a chance to properly think about it. The two other men fell in behind.

"Maybe this is my chance to get some answers," he thought as the quartet walked through what was left of the door. Muller had only nodded with satisfaction when he saw that Paul was going to follow him.

"Uhm, Mr. Muller," Paul began timidly, rubbing his wrist where the cuffs had cut him, "could you tell me what's going on?" But the man only shook his head.

"There is not time," he said, blasting open another door and shooting everyone inside bar the prisoner. It turned out to be Derrick Jackson. Muller released the man from his bonds and gave the same short speech to him that he had to Paul.

Derrick fell in with the group. "Hi," Paul said sheepishly. "Hey there!" Derrick said expansively. Muller and the two other men moved off. Paul and Derrick found themselves following the trio without ever intending to do so.

"So, how's tricks?" said Derrick, smiling winningly. "Oh, y'know, same old, same old," Paul replied, flashing a pale imitation of the same grin as Derrick.

"So I asked that guy," Paul started, "but he won't tell me what's going on. Can you?" Before Derrick could respond, there was another explosion as Muller and his friends freed another prisoner.

"Truth is," Derrick began, "I have no idea."

Anonymous said...

I really want to participate again, but I've got nothing. I don't even think I could manage 55 words.