No panties blues – Sally Blue – Pearl gets grilled – Zygote, Inc. – Return to the scene of the crime
It was cold. Pearl was handcuffed to the metal chair, a cold metal chair. Everyone else who had been arrested at Value Jean had already been released with no charges filed. Pearl’s misfortune was that while she had gotten rid of the gun, she had not been able to get rid of the knife. In addition, she went ballistic when the police wouldn’t enter the restricted area and pursue the guards who had Sara. That got her both a weapons charge and a resisting arrest charge.
So now she was in a cold interrogation room handcuffed to a cold metal chair behind a metal desk wearing nothing but orange coveralls and pink disposable flip-flops. She was cold, tired, worried sick about Sara, and had no panties on. It was maddening that being deprived of something as simple as a pair of panties would have such an affect on her. The coveralls were not very thick or very comfortable. She could feel the cold hard metal chair on her bottom through a scratchy layer of cloth. She wondered if the coveralls had been made by Value Jean, it would be some kind of ironic karma if they were. But why her panties? she thought.
“It was for her safety.” had said the officer in processing. “Safety?” thought Pearl. “Who could hang themselves with a pair of panties? Or who could strangle themselves with panties?” The whole idea of panties not being safe was absurd. “Ok,” thought Pearl “I guess you could choke on them while being gang raped by your cellmates. I’ll give them that possibility.” It had to be a humiliation factor. People could look at a person in orange coveralls and tell that she was wearing no panties. Pearl moaned and banged her head on the table.
Behind the two-way mirror Pearl was being observed by two people. One was Detective Sam Richards and the other was his partner, Detective Sergeant Sally Blue. Sally Blue gazed at Pearl for a long time and then looked at her tablet to read Pearl’s Record of Arrest and Prosecution, rap sheet, one more time. She looked up just as Pearl banged her head on the table.
“What do you see, boss?” asked Sam.
Sally sighed and replied “I see me in twenty years if I don’t get my act together. You ready?” Sam nodded. “Then let’s do this.”
The interrogation room door made a loud bang when the detectives flung it open. Sam flipped on more light switches and the room got three times brighter. A startled Pearl bolted upright. “Kathleen Ernestine Lemay, a.k.a. ‘Pearl’ Lemay!” boomed Sally Blue. “Your middle name is ‘Ernestine?” quizzed Sally in a quieter tone, but before Pearl could answer, she boomed “I’m Detective Sergeant Sally Blue and this is Detective Sam Richards. The fine folk in processing say you have a story to tell me and I’m here to be entertained.”
Pearl blinked trying to adjust to the bright light so she could get a better look at Detective Sergeant Sally Blue. She was an attractive woman with a stern gaze. She was wearing a green turtleneck sweater with the sleeves pushed up, a black a-line skirt, and black boots with a short heel. It was her long blue hair pulled back into a pony-tail that first got her attention, but the show stopper was the pistol in her shoulder holster. It had to be the biggest pistol Pearl had ever seen.
Sally Blue noticed Pearl staring at the gun and said “It’s a real beauty, isn’t it? I used to carry a much more sensible piece, but that was before I met my first Grath. Now how about you, are you going to tell me how you ended up in this fine facility, or should I move on to the next case where I’ve got a Zhuh-Zhuh who believes flinging shit on the subway is protected free speech?”
“Please, listen, they’ve got Sara, my niece. I’m responsible for her. I don’t know why they took her or what they will do to her.” pleaded Pearl.
“Ok, ok. Why don’t you start at the beginning? Sam, make the lady a little more comfortable.” Detective Richards stepped behind Pearl and removed the handcuffs. With a deep sigh Pearl told the detectives how Sara was taken by the guards for handing out flyers and the riot that ensued with factory workers trying to free Sara.
“Your story doesn’t match what the factory manager told us. He said that the workers got worked up over flyers that you were passing out and attacked the guards. He also said that you had brought a gun to the factory.” said Sally as she pulled up another metal chair and sat down at the table across from Pearl.
“He’s lying. I don’t even work there. I went there to see what kind of place my niece was working in.” said Pearl.
“Exactly why I’m more inclined to believe you, Ms. Lemay, if I knew the whole story. Why don’t you start again from the beginning?”
“Well, it started this morning when I went to my niece’s apartment…” Pear began.
“Excuse me, Ms. Lemay, or can I call you Pearl?” asked Sally.
“Uh, yes, Pearl is fine.”
“Pearl, would you like a cup of coffee?”
“Yes, that would be nice.”
“Sam, why don’t you step out and get us all some coffee? Do you take cream or sugar, Pearl?”
“Is there anything else we could get you to make you feel a little more comfortable?”
“Panties. I really would like….”
Sally chuckled. “Sorry, Pearl, no can do. It’s for your safety.”
“Safety?” asked Pearl.
Sally leaned forward and with a hushed tone said “You could choke on them.” Sally leaned back into her chair and chuckled again. “Sam, go get us that coffee, please, sir. Start from the beginning again, Pearl.”
Detective Richards left the room and Pearl restarted. “This morning I drove to my niece’s apartment to go to work with her…”
“Pearl.” said Sally as Pearl launched into details about the drive to Value Jean. “Pearl!” shouted Sally. This startled Pearl again and she looked into the detective’s face wondering what to say or do. “Pearl, if you want my help, you are going to have to be truthful with me. I’m just as frustrated as you are and probably just as tired. Put yourself in my place just for a minute.”
“I’ve got a crime wave going on that would make a tsunami look like a ripple in a puddle. New Hope is a backwater planet with barely a million people on the entire planet. Over half of them live here in New Hope City. Do you know how often a starship visits a backwater planet?” Sally paused for effect. “Maybe once or twice a year. The star port here on New Hope sees one come in nearly every week. Hell, that doesn’t even count the ones landing illegally on the backside of this rock.”
“The presence of most aliens is illegal in every system subject or allied to Gaea Prime, but not here. The planetary government has given them permission to be here, all except for Grath. Many of the aliens supply cheap labor, others act like they own the place. People without jobs either join the gangs or are victims of the gangs. The corporations have their own little turf wars going on with their private armies. And next week a regiment of PDF is arriving for ‘desert training.’ Gives a whole new meaning to that ancient phrase, ‘There’s something rotten in Newark.’ So, Pearl, if you want my help, you need to be on the up and up with me. Now, let’s hear your story from the beginning, the real beginning.”
Pearl decided that the detective was right and began with the invitation to meet Mr. Jones at Jake’s. She did leave out the part about shooting the gangers in the parking lot and hoped that omitting the shooting wouldn’t keep the detective from believing her. When she reached the end of the story, she felt drained. The three of them sat in silence. Sam spoke first. “I don’t get it, Sarge. Why grab a girl for passing out pieces of paper? They had plenty of time to stop her before she got to the guard if they didn’t like the message.”
“It wasn’t the message, Sam.” replied Sally. “You say she was in front of the door marked ‘restricted’? And the door opened?”
“Yeah.” said Pearl. “The door opened, there was some shouting, and the next thing I know, she’s screaming and struggling with the guard.”
“She saw something. Something she wasn’t supposed to see. Those guards you mentioned. They seem a bit overkill for a clothing factory. Body armor suggest corporate security. Tell me more about the guards.”
“They were helmeted with full body armor. You couldn’t see their faces. Fabric was a dark gray and the armor plates were a light blue, kind of a powder blue.”
“Any logos or badges?” asked Sam. “Corporations change colors and uniforms all the time.”
Pearl thought hard on that one. She hadn’t seen a logo, or did she? “A pin, they had a small pin above where the left breast pocket would normally be.”
“Here,” said Sally handing Pearl her tablet and a stylus, “draw what it looked like.”
“Circles.” said Pearl. “There was a pink one, a green loopy one, and a dark blue one.”
“Circles?” quizzed Sally.
“Yeah, but they had something extra. The pink one had a little plus sign and the blue one had something on the end.”
“Pink circle with a plus sign? That’s the symbol for female and the blue one must be the symbol for male. Let me see the tablet.”
Pearl handed the tablet back to Sally, who quickly entered some additional information and tapped it twice. Sally’s eyes widened. “How interesting. Is this what the pin looked like?” She turned the tablet where Pearl could see a large corporate logo. “Pink for female, a green infinity symbol, and a blue symbol for male. Pearl, you just I.D.ed the Zygote corporation.”
“The Zygote corporation, the birthing company?” asked Pearl. Just about every woman knew about Zygote birthing facilities. You provided the zygote, they placed it into an artificial womb, and nine months later you returned to watch your baby pop out.
“They run more than just birthing labs, Pearl. They’re also a leading company in rejuvenation technology.”
“Rejuv? Being able to live three hundred years? Why… what would they be doing with a jean factory?”
“I don’t know, Pearl. Unfortunately, I don’t have sufficient cause to look into it. So, that brings our chat to an end. Sam, take the lady back to processing.”
Pearl felt crushed and started sobbing.
“Stand up, please, and put your hands behind your back.” said Sam. The handcuffs made a clicking noise as they locked. Sam took her by the arm and led her to the door.
“Oh, Sam.” said Sally. Sam paused at the door with Pearl in tow. “When you get to processing, have them let her go.”
“The charges, boss?”
“Drop them. She was distraught over her niece being taken and not resisting arrest. And the knife was probably planted. She’s kept her nose clean for twenty years, no solicitation, no drugs. Let her go.”
“Thank you, Sergeant.” blubbered Pearl.
“Pearl, I can’t do anything about Sara. You can’t file a missing person report until she’s been missing for twenty-four hours. We both know that in twenty-four hours she’ll probably be dead or in the cargo hold of a shuttle. It sucks. I can keep watch on the space port for you, but that’s all I can do for now.”
“I understand. Thanks.” said Pearl.
It was two hours later when Pearl was able to leave the police station. Vivian had come down to pick up Pearl and had brought a photograph of Sara that Pearl had requested when she called Vivian from processing. They had taken the photo when they first met Sara. Pearl handed the photograph to Detective Richards and Sam said that he would make sure Sergeant Blue would get it.
By the time they reached Value Jean it was after dark. Vivian had brought Pearl’s other pistol, Pearl’s armored duster, and the twelve gauge shotgun with the Hughes-style pistol grip Pearl kept in her closet. Vivian had her AK-3147.
“They’re closed.” said Vivian.
“There’s lights on, so someone is here. Go around to the loading docks.” Pearl said pointing to the back of the building. The loading dock bays were open. Pearl told Vivian to keep the engine running, she got out of the car and pumped the shotgun chambering a shell.
There was no one watching the loading dock, but there were plenty of workmen in the factory. Pearl assumed that whatever was in the “restricted” area had been dismantled and removed in anticipation of a return visit by the police. She located Mr. Williamson standing over a workman as he removed the word “Restricted” from one of the double doors. Pearl was able to walk up behind him without being noticed.
“Mr. Williamson, we need to talk.”
A surprised Williamson spun around. “You! But, but you were arrested. You’re supposed to be in jail.”
“Where’s Sara, Sara Reid, Mr. Williamson?”
“I don’t know, home like all of the other employees.”
“Wrong answer and you know it. Let’s take a walk to personnel. I need to get my belongings out of a locker. We can talk on the way.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you. I’m staying…” Mr. Williamson didn’t finish his sentence. His bluster was replaced with an expression of fear as Pearl brought the shotgun up and pointed it at his chest.
“Come along Mr. Williamson.”
Mr. Williamson looked at the worker and said, “Go get Victor.” Then he returned his gaze to Pearl. “All right, I’ll go with you, but I don’t know anything I tell you.”
Pearl let Mr. Williamson lead the way. She nudged him a few times with the barrel of the shotgun just to let him know she was close behind. They quietly entered the office and as Pearl retrieved her gun and other possessions from the locker, she asked “What’s the deal, Mr. Williamson? Where is Sara?”
“I don’t know, they don’t tell me what went on back there.”
“They? You mean Zygote, right?” asked Pearl.
“Zygote… you know about Zygote?”
“Maybe you don’t know what went on in your factory and maybe you don’t know where they’ve taken Sara. But I bet you know someone who can enlighten us. Let’s go.” ordered Pearl motioning with the shotgun for Williamson to go back to where they had left the other workers.
When they entered the factory floor, they were met by three men. Pearl recognized the man in the center. It was the red haired man who had wrestled with Sara.
“I knew you couldn’t keep your mouth shut, Williamson.” said the red haired man.
“Victor, thank God…. No! I didn’t tell her anything, I swear. She knows nothing about the lab. You’ve got to help me.” said Williamson.
“You’ve already said too much.” hissed Victor. He drew a revolver from inside his coat and shot Williamson. Williamson slumped to the floor. It wasn’t until then that Victor realized the woman standing behind Williamson was armed with a lethal shotgun.
“Shit, scatter!” shouted Victor.
Victor started running for the loading dock. One of the men dived for cover. The third man decided to draw his pistol. “Wrong decision.” thought Pearl as she cut him in half with the first blast. She pumped the gun and fired again at the man diving for cover. Not so much to hit him, but to keep him down while she ducked behind a piece of machinery.
The man didn’t return fire. Pearl saw that Victor was now half way across the factory floor heading for the loading dock without breaking his stride. She looked at Williamson. He was obviously dead or soon would be. That meant she couldn’t let Victor get away. With the scream of a banshee, Pearl leaped up and began firing one round after another keeping the other man pinned down as she made her way across the floor. When she had fired the last shell she was clear of the machinery and bolted for the loading dock.
Standing on the dock she saw Victor speed by in a black sedan. Luck was with her as Vivian pulled up to the dock. Pearl leaped off of the dock and quickly got into the car. Vivian started moving before Pearl had closed the door. “Can you follow him, Viv?” asked Pearl clicking her seatbelt into place.
“I think so. Hang on!” Vivian floored the accelerator.
Either Victor didn’t know they were following him, or he didn’t care. They drove North of the space port and then West toward the dry riverbed of Broad River. Broad River had water in it where it emptied into the ocean near downtown. The part of the river that ran through mid-town was a muddy creek only a couple of feet wide. Up near the space port, the river was nothing but a dry gulch. Victor turned onto a drive which led to a building complex. The drive was gated and the guards wore the same powder blue body armor of Zygote, Inc.
Vivian stopped at the turn off. “What do we do now, Pearl? Do you think Sara is in there?”
“Well, if Sara isn’t in there, we know that someone who does know the whereabouts of Sara is in there. We have to get inside.” answered Pearl.
“But how? We can’t just drive up and say ‘Excuse us, we are looking for our kidnapped friend, mind if we have a look around?’ It’s going to take some serious muscle to get in there.”
“Getting inside of there is exactly what we need to do. Call Denise and Ian. Have them meet us out here and watch the exits for starts.”
“You know, maybe your blue-haired detective friend can get us in with some kind of warrant or something.”
“No, she can’t do anything unless we have a strong probable cause that Sara is in there and right now Sara isn’t even considered missing.” said Pearl as she reached into her pocket for her cell phone. “However, Sally Blue isn’t the only blue-haired person we know. I’m calling LFL couriers to see if she’ll meet with me.”
“Azumi? Please don’t tell me you’re going to call Azumi. Pearl…”
“Look Azumi has the resources for a job like this. I think she’ll deal with me.”
“Pearl, don’t do it. Even if she agrees her price will be so high… she’ll own you, Pearl.”
“Look, Viv, it’s not about me or my well being or what I’ll owe to whomever. It’s about rescuing Sara.”
“I know, I just don’t want to see you hurt by that blue-skinned bitch. She’ll do it, too, Pearl. You can certainly bet she hasn’t forgotten that you two were enemies years ago.”