A short story.
Police officers Jill Malby, with Dan Obeid driving, are patrolling in their car late at night.
“If you think you shouldn’t say something,” says Malby, “something sexist or racist, then you’re not sexist or racist.”
“Yes, but you think it, therefore you must be.”
“No. Society teaches us adults to override inappropriate learned responses from our childhood. This is what functioning adults do.”
“Bullshit! If a shock jock or politician starts mouthing sexist shit your so-called functioning adults will instantly jump on the band wagon, line up on talk-back radio or vote for the bastard.”
Before Malby can defend herself, area command comes on line and directs them to the southern approach to the Bridge. Someone has reported a body.
As they turn on to the Bridge they see a man standing bent next to, what looks like, a person lying on the walkway.
As the car pulls over, Obeid says, “I’ll stake-out the bollards, you talk to the guy.”
Both officers get out of the car, Obeid gets four orange bollards from the boot and places them around the police car with all lights still on and flashing. He completely ignores the noisy traffic zooming past. Malby gets out her ID and approaches the standing man. He’s wearing a crumpled suit but no tie.
“Excuse me sir, Officer Jill Malby,” she says proffering her badge. “Please step back, sir.” She crouches beside the body on the walkway, scrounges inside the clothing feeling for a neck; pauses, turns to Obeid and shakes her head. Obeid immediately gets out his phone and calls an ambulance as Malby stands up.
The standing man looks at her intently. “Do you know me?” he says.
“No, sir. I don’t.”
The man just stares at her.
“Can I have your name please?” she says.
“I don’t know.”
The man just stares at her.
“Do you have any ID on you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you mind checking your pockets, please?”
As Malby taps away on her tablet the man pats himself down. He feels something, stops, looks surprised, and takes a wallet out of his coat’s inside breast pocket. He stares at it as if he’s never seen it before and hands it quickly to Malby, as if he knows nothing about it. She opens it and shows the man a driver’s licence with photo ID behind clear plastic. “Is that me?” he asks.
She checks the photo and his face and says, “It looks like you. Is your name Timothy John Reichmann?”
“I suppose so,” he says with a frown.
Malby stares at the worried looking man and says, “Sir, how are you feeling at the moment?”
He thinks about the question, his brow deepens, and then he says, “Lonely.”
Malby indicates the body lying at their feet. “Do you know this man?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I’m responsible.”
“What do you know, sir?”
The man just stares at her. “I don’t remember.”
Malby rephrases her question, “What’s the last thing you do remember?”
The man thinks and then says, “Not being able to turn on the television.”
Chief Inspector Sasha Lim, over-worked and undermined, sits at her desk turning her mobile phone over and over in her right hand. She stares into the nearest distance in a pose that dares anyone from the busy corridor outside her office to disturb her. Her mobile rings. It startles her. She drops it. The back-panel comes away and the ringing stops.
“Shit!” she says softly. She checks that no one is looking. She picks up the pieces, re-assembles them and turns the phone back on. She sees “Missed Call” and reads the name of her partner, Sal. She says, “Shit” again. She calls him back.
After two rings, he answers but doesn’t say anything.
“Sorry, I dropped the phone,” she says.
“I was hoping you would call me,” he says calmly.
“I would’ve if I had anything more to say; except I’m so so sorry.”
“Yes. You said that before, too.”
“I know. I don’t have an explanation.”
“Keep thinking about it. Something’s bound to occur to you.” He hangs up. What distresses her most is his sarcastic tone; as if he thinks she’s deliberately keeping something from him. Why would she do such a thing? What must he think of her?
Earlier that day, getting ready for her ninth night shift in a row, as she was in the bathroom her mobile rang and Sal answered it. When she emerged minutes later he was standing there leaning against the kitchen bench. It looked like he had been waiting for her. He was still holding her mobile phone.
The look on his face made her say, “What?”
“You just got a call.”
“Who was it?”
“A man named Samuel Moxey.”
“I don’t know any Samuel Moxey.”
“He knows you.”
“What did he want?”
“He was returning your call.”
“Impossible. Wrong number.”
“He referred to you as Sasha.”
“Samuel Moxey.” She shook her head. “No. Not for me.”
He stared at her disbelievingly.
She was getting annoyed now. “What?!”
“He said he has a buyer for the apartment.”
“I don’t know any Samuel Moxey. It was a wrong number.”
“He said he was returning your call. He said he had a buyer……” He shouted now. “Have you put the apartment on the market? First I’ve heard of it.”
“First I’ve heard of it,” she shouted back.
The argument raged without any new revelations. Sasha Lim swore she knew no Samuel Moxey; that she had not put their home on the market; that it was a wrong number; that Moxey’s client’s name was Sasha was just a coincidence. Sal obviously did not believe her. His rage and sense of hurt shocked her. He seemed to be accusing her of disloyalty, no, stronger, he seemed to think she was being a traitor, undermining him, owning an agenda that did not include him. She felt as if her feet would not support her or that the floor was giving way beneath her. With his prolonged fervour and anger she found herself saying that she did not do any of the things he was accusing her of and then as some sort of attempt to placate him, heard herself say, “I don’t remember.” It gave his accusations credence. It made her sound guilty. No. No. The argument was unresolved and left her shaken and unsure of anything her senses were telling her. Did she speak to a man called Samuel Moxey? Did she put the apartment on the market? Sal believed she did. Did she? And just forgot? It was as if she had stepped into another reality, a hideous new reality where she was sure of nothing. She went to work.
This scenario plays over again in her mind as she sits at her desk. How could he doubt her so much? How could he think she was lying? She loves him? He was behaving as if he didn’t love, as if he didn’t ….. He was behaving like a stranger. What has she done?! She is aware of a shadow in her doorway. She looks up. It’s an officer, Roméo, from the front desk. Roméo, isn’t it? is that his name?
“Ye-s?” she says as the word stumbles in her throat and comes out harshly, impatiently.
“Interview room 3,” is all he says as he hands her a single sheet of paper: a report of some kind. And he is gone like a scared rabbit.
She turns to one of the monitors on her desk, clicks it open, chooses ‘Interview Room 3’ from the pop-up menu and scans the report in her hand as the screen slowly comes to life. The screen shows Officer Jill Malby sitting across a table from the man in a very small and dreary room. Malby is looking straight at Sasha, at the camera up in the corner of the ceiling; confident now that the camera is on – there’s a little red light – she turns to face the man. Sasha watches and listens. What is she watching? What is she listening to? What is this?
Malby states her name, the date and the time; then his name, Timothy John Reichmann, and his address.
“Mr. Reichmann, did you call the emergency line earlier this evening?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know the man you were found standing over on the Bridge?”
“I don’t think so. It’s possible. I don’t know.”
“This wallet,” she says as she opens a plastic bag and takes out a wallet and displays its contents onto the table, “and these credit cards, receipts, and business, membership cards, all with Timothy Reichmann. Is that you?”
“I assume it must be. I don’t remember.”
Sasha Lim, with the report in her hand, hurries from her office, down corridors to Interview Room 3. She knocks and enters. She excuses and introduces herself as she takes a chair by a wall and sits next to Malby at the table, making it clear she is taking over.
“Mr. Reichmann,” she begins, “you were found standing over a dead man on the walkway of the southern approach to the Bridge this evening at about 11.30. Do you remember how you got there?”
“Excuse me, Ma’am, Mr. Reichmann told me that the last thing he remembers is not being able to turn on the television.”
“Did I say that?” asks the man earnestly.
“Yes sir,” confirms Malby.
“Mr. Reichmann,” says Sacha, “do you want a lawyer?”
“Do I need a lawyer? I want to cooperate. I’m as curious as you are.”
“You remember nothing of tonight before Officers Roméo and…” she consults the report in front of her, “…Obeid were called to you on the Bridge?”
“Excuse me, Ma’am,” says Malby politely, “it was me that was with Officer Obeid tonight.”
“Yes. And your point?”
“I’m Officer Jill Malby.”
“Yes. Of course!” says Sacha as she checks the report again. “Of course,” and she looks at Malby as if the girl is deliberately being perverse. “So, Mr. Reichmann you remember nothing of tonight before you were picked up on the Bridge.”
“I don’t remember.”
Sasha remembers those where her own words to Sal her partner, her stranger, earlier this evening in their apartment that wasn’t, or was, for sale. Is it? “But you remember something about an apartment?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Sasha repeats her question, “You remember something about a television?”
“No. I don’t know about that.”
“What’s the last thing you remember now?”
“Where did you wake up?”
“There. On the Bridge. Standing with a man lying at my feet.”
“Did you know that man?”
Sacha is aware of a wave of anxiety surging up from her loins and threatening to engulf her. She feels an affinity with this man, this man who does or does not remember who he is, is found with a dead stranger. She asks, “What do you feel right at this moment, Mr. Reichmann?”
Malby looks with surprise at her superior.
He says, “I feel as if something black is about to happen to me, that I’m going to be overcome by something sinister and un-named. I can feel neurons in my brain missing each other, searching endlessly, frustratingly for a connection but finding nothing. Nothing. It’s just blank. Nothing.”
Malby pushes a plastic card towards Sasha. She looks at it. It is a membership card for the Australian and New Zealand Association of Neurologists. Sasha turns the card around and pushes it slowly towards the man who may, or may not be, Mr. Reichmann.
“Oh dear,” he says.
“What does that say to you?”
“It says a little bit of joy to me that what I’m feeling has something to do with my past, my reality, with who I am, and what’s happening to me, but also… also …I don’t know … it’s as if …if …” and there appears a catch in his voice as emotion shudders him a little and his eyes glisten as tears threaten to overflow “…also a little bit of dread that .. that … if I knew who I am and what I do, my work, my life, and what I’ve forgotten, I would know exactly what is happening to me; I would know the dread is real and what is happening to me is a new reality and one that I would understand and therefore fear. Maybe I’m a neurologist who’s losing his mind. I don’t want that new reality, I … I … want the old reality … and …”
And Malby hears a sob escape the man’s lips but is then aware that the sob, followed quickly by another, does not come from the man, but from Chief Inspector Sasha Lim. She looks at her superior who is sitting rigid with a curved back in her chair, head down, trying desperately to hold on, to hold on to something.
“Ma’am? Are you alright?” asks Malby not sure what to do next. Malby hears something and leans closer.
“Room 4,” she finally discerns her superior saying through clenched teeth.
As Officer Jill Malby hurriedly leads a teary and even more confused Mr. Reichmann out of Interview Room 3 Chief Inspector Sasha Lim begins to shake uncontrollably and then vomits semi-digested food, coffee, and white and blue pills all over the table and onto the floor.
One hour and thirty-five minutes later Officer Jill Malby, having found someone with the authority and willingness to sedate Chief Inspector Sasha Lim, hurries out to the car park to join Officer Dan Obeid as they continue their rostered patrol.
“So where were we up to?” she asks.
“What do you mean?” he says innocently.