Friday, March 14, 2014

The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue.

Louis Shalako

Constables Darnell Wood and Randall Zonaras sat in the squad car, holding at a south central location and monitoring radio traffic and updates on the laptop, angled on the seat between them.

“Huh.” Randy Zonaras was in the passenger side.

He pointed at the screen.

“Unit Twelve is on the scene of that missing robot.”

They had laughed on hearing it on the radio.

“Hmn.” Darnell glanced over.

It was a slow night so far, yet it just wasn’t worth committing to some small-time play when sure as shooting something more interesting would break three minutes later.

“They’re asking for assistance. She says the thing just walked off, ah, not too long, several minutes ago.” Randall read further. “Three-hundred block of Jefferson.”

Randall turned the laptop computer and tilted the screen back thoughtfully so his senior partner could get a better look at the details.

“All right, we’re near there. Tell them we’ll keep a lookout.” Darnell barely glanced out the window, giving a disgusted snort.

It was pretty good policy, one where they didn’t have to do anything in particular and Saunders, senior cop in Unit Twelve along with Young Miss Bradley as everyone called her, might be kind enough to put them in their report.

It helped to account for their time on shift. The fact that it was a slow night didn’t help, and Darnell’s eyes slid down and he took another look.

“That’s a robot?” His eyebrows rose. “She’s not bad looking.” 

“I don’t know if you saw that thing on the tube the other night, but they make these robots nowadays that…”

Randall was going on but Darnell waved it off and the other trailed into silence.

The fact was that he had seen it, and it was still kind of disturbing…to the jaundiced eye of a cop.

Darnell reached for the ignition.

“Might as well have a look around.”

Randall grinned and typed in a quick text message to Constable Bradley that they were mobile and in the area.

They’d never apprehended a robot before, but there was a first time for everything.

In the event, they circled and circled in an ever-increasing radius, block after block after block along with one other stray unit. It was a bunch of rather bored cops. And with all of their combined efforts, they found exactly nothing.

“She’ll turn up somewhere, and we are killing some pretty good time.” The taxpayers hated seeing the police sitting around in the vehicles doing nothing, when in fact that was when they should have been the most grateful—surely it was a sign that things were going well, i.e. no crime and folks really ought to try and be a little more happy about it.

Randall nodded sagely at this observation. He typed a few notes in, made a mention of the other units, and eyed up the calls list without much hope of action. It was bitterly cold, and the thieves and the pimps and the pushers were staying in tonight.

The few people, an oddly cheerful lot they were too, but the folks about at this hour of a cold January night hadn’t seen too many lady robots around and probably would have remembered that sort of thing if they had. That was the big consensus so far. Also, it seemed pretty much everybody had seen one on TV, or knew some little thing about them, or what they cost, or had some idea of the moral dilemmas.

It was a deadly slow night and Darnell realized at some point that you couldn’t possibly have seen it all because it all hadn’t been invented yet.

You could not possibly have seen it all—life was just too damned short to ever have to worry about that happening.


“I must thank you young lady, you really are most kind.” The gentle voice, rusty and unused to much company, was slightly apologetic.

Scott had been blind for over ten years, legally blind that is, although he had ten percent vision, maybe a little less in the right eye. He’d lived alone since long before that, up three floors above an old laundromat on the East Side. He had the white cane and everything, as he was wont to say.

So when a pleasant young woman had offered to help him home with his groceries, he was initially nervous but then thought why not.

Why not?

It had happened before, more than once, not that he expected such help—Scott had become hardened, used to shifting along all right for himself, but this one seemed so young and pleasant.

He never knew what to say, perhaps that was his problem. What did he have to offer in the way of conversation? He had nothing but pride and deprivation to talk about, nothing witty, or smart, or positive to say to anyone these days.

A conversation composed entirely of social pleasantries got pretty boring after a while and then you were in for it.

It was usually older people, although there was this one really big dude who turned out to be a preacher one time. It was a certain sort of person, and you recognized that after a while—some big dude with something to atone for, in other words. He was making amends for something nameless, and long, long ago. Scott didn’t give a shit, really.

Eager to please, that was it. She put his groceries away and everything, bustled around, grabbed a broom and swept the floor, which probably did need doing. She washed up his one plate, a cup and a fork or something. He hoped she was putting everything back exactly where she found it, but he didn’t want to say anything. All of this house cleaning, now this had never happened before. It was like he’d just been adopted or something, and he couldn’t quite account for how that had happened.

It was a feeling he wasn’t used to. No one had ever cared what Scott thought, or what Scott wanted.

No one had ever worried about what Scott needed.

But he was having a hell of a hard time getting rid of her. Rudeness was beyond him, apparently, and she didn’t seem to be able to take a hint. At some point he just gave up and wondered when she might wander off on her own. He would simply wait her out. He felt bad inside for thinking that, he really did, but…but.

She seemed kind of vulnerable herself. How he knew that was a question for some other time.

He just felt it. It was somehow self-evident.

Betty was terribly quiet, with long gaps in the conversation when neither one of them knew what to say, although she did ask quite a few of the more obvious questions at first.

With his limited vision, he had the impression she was rather tense, preoccupied. Her voice was dead neutral, though. That was a little different, but then he didn’t get out much.

It was like she was listening, for something, a knock at the door or something, and she had absolutely no idea that this was someone’s private home and you couldn’t just come walking in and take over like that.

He had this crazy idea that she was drop dead beautiful. Somehow he just knew it.

“A blind man would be glad to see it.” The bleak tone shocked him, but it was out there and nothing else for it but to own up to it.

“Pardon me, Scott?”

“Never mind. Just an old saying.”.

She smelled lovely, that almost went without saying.

Betty Blue, or whatever she said her name was, sure sounded nice, and the dim silhouette up against the kitchen window certainly bore that out.

She must have some kind of a story.

Sooner or later, she was bound to spill it.


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