“Hello sir. Are you in charge here?” Inora asked the security guard sitting on a stool in front of the entrance. Moments ago, there were three guards huddled together, drawing lots. With the press conference only minutes away, two of them had jogged away to the front of the Asylum to catch the announcement live.
“No I am not,” the guard replied, “and you should not be here, miss.”
“No, you lie; look at that shiny badge that you are wearing! You must be in charge here.”
They give everyone a badge, miss.”
“And does everyone keep their badges so polished and shiny?”
There were two doors. The one in front of Inora was a sliding-door that would take her into the Asylum, and a the one on her left had ‘Temporary Holding Room’ painted on it. That door seemed fortified but had a small window on it through which the guards could keep abreast of what was going on inside. The window was big enough for a head to stick out through. Inora knew that because there was a head sticking out. It was not doing much, satisfied at just observing the proceedings.
“Not everybody. But I polish mine every night.”
“Then it is obvious to me why you are the best man to talk to.”
“Very kind words.” He said, getting off his stool and standing up, reaching Inora’s shoulders.
“Not at all. Not at all. I am from the press, see?” Inora said, pointing to the press-pass she had nicked and clipped-on just beneath her shoulder-blades, “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” he smiled sheepishly, “I noticed it when you were all the way over there.” He pointed over Inora’s head.
Inora looked back, “No! All the way back there?”
“Yes. I noticed it straight away.”
“Attention to detail. That is what all successful men are made of, if I may be allowed to say.”
“Oh please, do.”
The head-sticking out smiled, nodded its head.
“You are going to be a successful man, Mr…”
“Tarique. With a silent U and a silent E.” he said grinning.
Tarique blushed, “My ma named me. After I was born. She says she had to take one look at me and know that I was a Tarique.”
“Charming, charming!” Inora said; as she dug out a notepad and a pen from her tote-bag and started scribbling, “A very wise woman. Yes?”
“Oh yes, miss. Very wise. She was an extraordinary woman.” Tarique said, his voice tinted with nostalgia, but came back to the reality quickly, “Miss, if you are with the press, then a think you want to be at the press conference. This here is the loading bay. You have to hurry now, they may have already started. What you need to do is turn around and walk straight for…”
“But I am here for you, Mr. Tarique. I have got colleagues covering the press conference, so no worries. But I was walking by and I saw you and I thought, why not talk to the people who makes this place tick? I just had to take one look at you too, Mr. Tarique…with a silent u…and another silent e…and I could tell you are someone important.”
“You are a very perceptive woman, miss.”
“I am perceptive too! Just let me out…” the head started to say.
“Silent, Inmate! Or I will bash your head in with my baton!” Tarique roared, waving his baton in her face.
“And not…afraid…to…take…charge…” Inora wrote down on her notepad.
“Are you going to interview me now?” Tarique asked, “Should we begin at the beginning then? With my conception? Ma says it was a rainy, wintry night, and the road leading to our house was caked with mud puddles. The holes on the roof had just been mended the previous week, but the floor was still damp. Father, as he was called by many young people back in the village then, knocked on ma’s door not long past midnight. A little drunk, and a little randy…”
“I am going to go ahead and stop you right there, Tarique,” Inora said, “why don’t we work our way back instead? Let us start from right now, and we travel back, one tiny step at a time.”
“Then you could read the interview backwards as well, eh?”
“Precisely. So, Tarique, future leader of man, what are you doing here?”
“My official job description is Junior Assistant Deputy Sub Inspector of…”
“I meant more specific, what exactly are you doing right this instance?”
“Talking to you?”
“Not so specific.”
“Working a 12-hour shift?”
“Little bit more specific.”
“I am holding the new inmates in the holding cell until we are ready to admit them in the Asylum.”
“And you are doing that all on your own?”
“Yes, that is my job. I have to pacify anyone who gets disorderly.”
“Isn’t that door locked?” Inora asked, pointing to the holding room.
“Consider them pacified.” Tarique said.
“What would you do if one of the inmates made a run for it?” Inora asked.
“I would track him down.”
“And when you found him?”
“I would chase him down.”
“And when you reached him?”
“I would ram him down.”
“…ram…him…down…” Inora wrote on her notepad, “Care for a demonstration?”
“A demonstration? We ask a patient to run and then you track him down, chase him down, and then ram him down. In that order. Can you imagine how amazing that is going to look at the show?”
“There is going to be a show?”
“Certainly. And there are cameras hidden everywhere. Go on, unlock the door.”
“Gee, I don’t know...I mean what if…”
“You there, patient, come here!” Inora called out, “Did you not hear me? Come on. Tarique, let her out.”
“Go on. Let her out. And then turn around, put your hands over your eyes, and count to one hundred.”
“Yes, and when you are done, and about to come track us down, make sure that the hidden cameras catch your full face, ok? There is a camera there…” Inora pointed up at the sky, “Another there…” Inora pointed down at the gravel, “…and two more in that direction.” She did not point at anything at all, “So come quick, chase her down, track her down, then ram her down, and once we have the footage, we can have a proper interview over lunch, ok?”
“Yes. Yes. I mean no. are you sure I should be ramming down a girl?”
“Heehehehe, only thing this tub of lard is ramming into is…”
“Shut your mouth, inmate!” Inora commanded, “Tarique, don’t worry. It’s the magic of showbiz. You will look amazing. You are tough, you are motivated, you are capable. You are a man who lets nothing get between him and his job. You are, Tarique.”
“I am Tarique.”
“So turn around,” he turned around, “hands over your eyes,” he covered his eyes, “and count to a hundred.” “One…two…three…four…” “No peeking, now,” “…five…oh, I wouldn’t think of it…six…seven…Tariques never cheat…eight…nine…”
Inora with the key in her hand, pushed the head back inside, which was met with some resistance, and unlocked the door. “Ok Tarique, I am about to let her out. Ok?”
“Well, hurry, miss. I am already up to twenty. Twenty-one…twenty-two…”
“Do you have a place to go to?” Inora whispered to the patient.
The patient nodded her head.
“Ok, go there.” Inora said. The patient ran for it.
There were two more patients sitting in the room. Inora opened the door wide but they stayed in their place. So she waved them outside and whispered, “Go on. You are free. Run.” And they too made a run for it. One of them bolted immediately. The other one lifted Tarique’s stool first and made-away with it. Inspired by that, Inora took Tarique’s baton and put it in her tote-bag.
Before Tarique had gotten to fifty, his left-leg was fastened to a manacle to make sure he was not going to be ramming anyone down, and by the time he had counted to one-hundred, Inora was already through the sliding-door, past the long corridor, and into the inner sanctum of the Asylum.