MONSTERS ARE REAL. We’ve gone over this.
But aliens? Again, we’ve gone over this.
“Aliens?” I said.
Pat just smiled.
“Aliens.” I repeated.
“That’s what the guy said.”
There’s no such thing as aliens.
“I’ve told you before, Pat,” I said. “Aliens ain’t real.”
“What about vampires?”
“Well, yeah. But aliens? Come on, Pat.”
She said nothing, just stared.
“No aliens,” I said. “I’m not wasting my time on it.”
She continued to stare.
I gestured to the door. “Just, you know, get the door open, gimme my stuff back, and I’ll be on my way.”
It was like talking to a stone.
“I have to see someone about replacing the window in my office, Pat.”
“I’ve already done that, Norman. And I put plastic over it in the meantime.”
“Who’d you call?”
She just stared.
“When will they be out? I should be there when they arrive. It ain’t good to leave an installer alo— ” That’s when it hit me. “What’s that?”
“What’s what?” She said, her smile growing larger.
“That... aroma? Smells like—” I took a long sniff. “Coffee.”
“Oh, yeah. We got a pot brewing up there,” she said, nodding to the ceiling. “Just got it started before I came down.”
“Coffee?” I looked up at the ceiling. The scent was almost heavenly. It marched straight down my nasal passages and set up camp. “What kind of coffee? Cop coffee?”
I felt weak in the knees and nearly swooned. Pat’s coffee was famous. She was a frugal woman; you had to be on a cop’s salary. But when it came to coffee, she splurged and bought only the best of the best. She sent away for a bag of beans once a month, beans that had passed through the digestive track of some kind of squirrel or raccoon in Southeast Asia. Which, of course, sounds disgusting on most every level, but damn if it doesn’t make one perfect cup o' joe.
I continued to look up at the ceiling as though I could see through the layers of wood, plaster, and insulation to the coffee maker upstairs. I thought I could taste the coffee, and maybe I could.
“Where’s this fella?” I said, my eyes still glued to the ceiling.
“We’ve had him cooling his heels in Interrogation Room One all morning.”
“Interrogation Room One?” I said, and laughed. I tore my eyes from the ceiling and gave her a look. “You’ve only got the one interrogation room.”
“Yes we do, Norman, that’s why it’s called Interrogation Room One.”
“Okay, let’s go see him.”
She led me upstairs, pausing for a few moments at the coffee maker so that I could pour myself a cup and seal it with a lid.
The coffee maker was at one end of a large room where all the action was. Two rows of four desks made up the center of the room. Only one desk was occupied.
Pat and I walked straight through to the interrogation room at the back of the building. We entered the adjacent observation room where we could see the fella through the one way mirror, just like them cop shows on television.
The guy sat cuffed to a table that had been bolted to the floor in the center of the room. He wore an orange jump suit and his hair looked as if he’d just finished kissing a light socket. He sat facing the window; though from his side it would look like a mirror. His eyes darted about like a frightened animal. They made me nervous. His left hand lay flat on the table, palm down. His right hand was clenched into a fist.
On the other side of the table, her back to us, sat a uniformed officer of the Eudora Police Department. She had black hair that had been pulled back into a tight bun on the back of her head. She had a file folder opened up on the table in front of her and though we couldn’t hear her, I could see that she was talking to the man.
“That the new officer?” I asked.
“That’s Officer King,” Pat sat. “Transferred in from out of state.”
Officer King sat up a bit straighter, as if she could hear Pat talking about her.
“Okay, so who is this guy?” I asked. “What’s he said?”
“He’s been babbling nonsense for almost an hour. He gave us a name,” she consulted the file, “Maggie Keaton. He referred to her as his fiancé and said she’d been taken by little green men.”
“Who is he?”
“We don’t know. Officer King found him behind the Happy Hamburger an hour ago. He was lying on the pavement trying to eat his own toes. Oh, and he was naked. No clothes anywhere.”
“Naked?” I said. “Fun.”
“We’re running his prints now, but with all the alien talk, I thought you might want to see him.”
I waved my hand dismissively. “There’s no such thing as aliens. Who’s Maggie Keaton?”
She flipped through the file in her hand.
“Maggie Keaton, twenty-three, night manager at the Happy Hamburger, and student currently attending KU. Lives on her own in Cedarwood. I checked her place out myself. Knocked on the door. No one home.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. She could be clubbing in Lawrence or Kansas City. Or visiting her parents. She could be in Florida for all we know. Good Lord, Pat, there’s all manner of places this girl could be, and ain’t nothing so far is pointing to anything nefarious other than Nature Boy in there knowing her name. He could be a drugged up stalker for all we know.”
“I know that, Norman,” Pat scowled at me. “But I try not to dismiss possible abductions in my town until I feel all bases are covered. There’s such a thing in my job called due diligence. Ever hear of it?”
“I just think you’re wasting your time.”
Just then Officer John Singer stepped into the room. He’d been on the force almost as long as Pat, though it didn’t show anywhere but for a few wrinkles under his eyes and the cap of pure white that was his hair.
“We may have found the girl’s phone,” he said, holding up a large smart phone in a plastic bag.
“Where?” Pat said, taking the bag from him.
“I made one last sweep of the Happy Hamburger and found it lying by the back fence. Well, under the back fence actually. I only found it because it had started vibrating. Made an awful racket against the wooden fence.”
“How do we know it’s hers?” Pat asked.
“We don’t,” John said. “Won’t know for sure without getting into it.”
Pat pulled the phone from the bag and pushed the power button. The screen glowed and showed an image of a smiling young girl with brown, shoulder length hair. She looked to be in her twenties and wore shorts and a t-shirt. Standing next to her, his arm around her shoulders and smiling with her at whoever had taken the picture, was the man currently sitting in Interrogation Room One. Granted, the version from the phone looked sane, but it was the same guy.
“It could be his phone,” I said, gesturing to the fella on the other side of the glass.
“The phone’s locked,” Pat said. Then she swiped her finger across the screen and a list of icons popped up over the background image. “Good, no password.”
“That’s not very secure,” I said.
“You can set up your phone so that it can be accessed without a password,” John said as Pat swiped and tapped at the screen. “People do it so that if there’s an accident, emergency responders can have access to your emergency contact info and such.”
“This is Maggie Keaton’s phone alright,” Pat said. “I found her information.” She powered the phone down and slipped it back into the plastic bag.
“So that means this guy is on the level?” John said. “Aliens took Maggie Keaton?”
I sighed. “There’s no such thing as aliens.”
“Regardless,” Pat said. “You have to admit now that there’s something strange going on.”
As if one, the three of us turned to the window and watched Officer King with Maggie Keaton’s apparent fiancé.
Though we couldn’t hear into the room—there was a speaker next to Pat, but the switch was currently resting in the off position—we could see that Officer King was speaking. The man, however, he just sat in the same way he’d been sitting since I walked in. Left hand flat on the table, right hand clenched into a fist.
“What’s in his hand?” I asked.
“His hand?” Pat said.
“His right hand. He has it wrapped around something. That’s not a threatening gesture.”
“We don’t know,” John said. “We tried to pry his fingers open earlier, but they wouldn’t budge.”
We watched again in silence until the man began to speak, pat flipped a switch under a small speaker to the right of the window and a raspy voice crackled through.
“...when the men in tights run the engineering program.”
He sounded like someone who hadn’t spoken for a while, someone who had forgotten how to speak, but could still do so due to muscle memory, someone who also seemed more than a bit surprised to hear the sound of their own voice.
“The moon weeps,” he said. “Did you see it? The moon cries for all the children who have gone to bed without brushing. But no one understands that the kids would brush if the hamburger stand would just simply stop screaming. But that’s how things are nowadays, right? That’s what people do, people see, people hear and say and think and paint. Did you know that just last Thursday a penguin tried to sell me a house on Mars? Can you believe that?”
“Sir,” Officer King tried to inject but the guy was on a roll.
“I mean, Mars? Come on, everyone who’s anyone knows that the only houses worth buying these days are on Venus. I mean, think of the women.”
“Sir,” Officer King tried again.
“Hercules is a homeless man, he roams the streets with little thought for anything above the intellectual realm, and no one knows he’s even there. Why would they? After all, the Nine Realms seek their champion still. They need not look far, however. They only need to look to the grease and fat. That is where heroes dwell. But I know the secret. Only me. Only I and only me. Me and I. I and me. A, E, I, O, U. What about you? Sometimes why? But why sometimes? STOP FLUSHING THE TOILET!”
Silence. I thought that maybe I could hear a cricket. No one breathed.
“Wow,” John said.
Pat and I could only nod.
“Well, I better get this phone dusted for prints,” John said. “Of course now yours will be all over it, Chief,” he smiled.
“Couldn’t be helped, John,” she said. “Thanks.”
And with that, John left.
Officer King stood, turned, and walked over to the mirror. She was tall, almost as tall as me at six feet. She had a crooked little smile plastered on her face like she knew the punch line to a joke that the rest of the world wasn’t aware of. She also had a streak of white, about an inch thick, in her black hair. It started just above her right eyebrow and swept back to be engulfed by her bun.
For a moment, as she was looking into the mirror, our eyes met. It lasted for just an instant, but in that moment I felt as if she could actually see me there through the mirror. I’m sure she was aware that someone was there, watching, but to think that she could see me was probably due to not being fully awake quite yet.
I took a sip of the coffee and nearly moaned with pleasure.
“Let’s start with your name again,” Officer King said. Then she turned back to the man.
The man did not respond.
“Your name?” Officer King said. “What is your name?”
“The snakes are everywhere,” he said. “Elephants wearing trousers and spinning records on the sun.”
“Tell me again about your girlfriend,” Officer King said, ignoring the man’s ramblings.
“Maggie?” The man said. “Maggie Keaton. They came from the earth and took her. Little green men. Red mist. They took her down with them!”
“Little green men?” I said.
Pat switched off the speaker.
“Aliens,” she said.
“No, he said ‘little green men’. Has he mentioned aliens at all, or has it always been little green men?”
Pat flipped through the file folder.
“From Officer King’s original statement it says: ‘They came from the earth and took her. Little green men. Red mist. They took her down with them’.”
“The same thing he just said. The exact words,” I said.
“Yeah,” Pat said. “Aliens.”
“No, not aliens, Pat. Not aliens at all.”
She turned to me, a quizzical look on her face.
“It makes sense,” I said. “His behavior, the red mist, little green men coming out of the earth.”
“But why?” I said. “Why take a woman?”
“What? What took her?”
“Oh no,” I said as it really fell atop me. I put my hands on my head. “I can’t go back down there. Not again.”
“What, Norman? What the hell are you talking about?”
“I know what took Maggie Keaton.”
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