The next day Healy and Raymond resume therapy.
He looks so much different dressed normally. “I wasn’t always like this. I used to have a good job.”
She plops her hand on his. “And you will again. Our number one goal is to restore you to peak performance.”
He takes a deep breath.
“Do you have any family?”
“I used to.”
“The chart says you have a wife and three children. How is your relationship with them?”
“I would describe it as rocky. Perhaps crumbly is a better word. Maybe sinkhole, no, better yet, mineshaft collapse.”
Under marital relations she checks the box for average.
“I don’t even remember what happened. The last time I saw them, I think, was a couple of years ago. I’m sure they want nothing to do with me.”
“Don’t say that. You mustn’t blame yourself for your illness, and neither should they. With ample time, we can repair those relationships. The Prevention Force has the best family counselors.”
“I don’t know if that’s going to be possible. From what memory I do have, things got pretty ugly.” He sobs. “I called my wife horrible names. I said bad things to my children.”
She hugs him for a while. Doesn’t speak. Just sits, being with him. She understands how hard these issues are.
He takes a sigh of relief, and she says, “Repeat after me:
Brain disorder is a disease.
It’s not my fault.
I am a good person.
I forgive myself.”
He repeats the words through tears.
She speaks so gently. “You’ll be surprised how forgiving people can be once they understand. Our counselors successfully treat these issues all the time.”
“I appreciate you doing all this for me.”
“We have to make sure you have a strong family unit. It is the foundation for everything you do in the community.”
“For all I know she remarried and the kids hate me. They have every right. I’m a terrible person.”
“You have to stop saying that. Our first task is to end the shame. It is vital for your recovery.”
She holds his hand. “The family specialist is making the arrangements right now. With a little luck, very soon, you will be hugging your kids.” She makes another note. “And what about friends? Are you in contact with any of them?”
“Everyone hates me. You don’t know what I was like.”
“I have some idea.” The memory of him chopping her neck flashes through her mind. “But anything that is broken can be repaired.”
Raymond lowers his head. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
Liesl perks up. “You’d be surprised what we can do with microengineering.”
“I think we can write my so-called friends off as a total loss.” A scene replays in his mind:
In a tavern, a younger, less obese Raymond and a couple of his buddies are sitting at a table, working on their fourth pitcher of beer. He is transfixed on his friend Marcus’ plaid shirt. Stares at it a while, then says, “I like that shirt.”
Marcus takes a sip.
Raymond reaches across the table. “I want that shirt.”
Marcus, half-amused/half-annoyed, pulls his arm away. “Keep your hands to yourself, dum-dum.”
Raymond grabs the sleeve and pulls.
Ten percent laughing, ninety percent growling, Marcus says, “Get off me, you crazy--”
“I’ll show you who’s crazy.” Raymond tugs hard, tearing a big hole in the shoulder. Marcus tackles him, and they wrestle on the floor. Raymond gets a good grip on the shirt and pulls. Buttons pop off one after the other.
Marcus looks at himself, bare except for one sleeve.“What’s wrong with you? You owe me $500, dude.”
Raymond crawls to a corner like a feral animal and holds his prized rag to his cheek, the whole bar staring. Someone says, “I told you he had a screw loose.”
Liesl sees the anguish on his face and strokes his hand with a sorry look on her face. “We don’t just throw things away here. We fix them. It just takes time and commitment.” She takes a deep breath. “Okay. Why don’t we take a break from personal relations. Let’s talk a little about your employment situation.”
He says sarcastically, “What employment situation?”
“No worries. We will evaluate your skills and place you in a position that utilizes your potential to maximum efficiency.”
“I used to have a good job, but that was a million years ago.”
“What did you do?”
“I was a Project Manager at Robotics International. We designed AI systems for the Litterbot 409 series.”
“So you have a degree?”
“A doctorate in computer engineering.”
She chuckles. “We are going to have absolutely no problem placing you.”
“That was twenty years ago. My skills are as obselete as a DVD player.”
“You’re really going to have to stop saying things like that. I bet we can get you your old job back.”
He laughs. “That would take a miracle. Let’s just say I didn’t leave on the best of terms.” His mind flashes back:
A cleanly shaven, much younger, much thinner Raymond stands buck naked on a conference table surrounded by colleagues in white shirts and ties. He’s screaming at the boss, who keeps his arms crossed, contains his anger, and thinks, He is so fired. Raymond hops down, rips a monitor off the wall, and smashes it through the fifth-story window as security rushes in to grab him.
Liesl says, “Let us worry about that. You’d be surprised at the power of forgiveness.”
“Even if they did want me back, my skills are way out of date.”
“We will retrain you if necessary.”
The possibility of a second chance transforms his attitude. He smiles. “Imagine that.”
“Can we talk about your childhood a little bit? What was it like?”
“Pretty normal, I guess. Up until college. That’s when I started hearing voices. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Then they gave me magnet treatments and I was fine. I don’t know what happened. I guess it came back.”
“No. Schizophrenia doesn’t come back. Besides, it wouldn’t cause violence. What you had was a defect in the brain’s impulse centers. But that’s all in the past now.” She smiles and says enthusiastically, “Let’s dwell on wellness.” She looks over her notes. “How would say your emotional health is?”
“Besides being crazier than an outhouse rat, not bad.”
She grins, then gets back to business. “I’m going to show you a series of pictures. I want you to tell me the first thing that comes into your mind.” She pulls out a picture mounted on cardboard, of a young girl sniffing a flower.
He drops his head, starts to cry, escalates into uncontrollable sobbing for a good minute. Finally he gains composure, takes the tissue she offers and wipes himself. “Wow. I don’t know where that came from.” He blows his nose. “Boy, you’re good. I’m sorry about that.”
“There is no judgment here. Let’s try one more.” A farmer is pushing a plow through a field.
“I hate my mother!”
“Okay, I think we’ve hit a nerve.” She makes some notes. “Why do you hate your mother?”
“I don’t. I love my mother. She was a good woman. I don’t know why I said that.”
“Even people we love very much, we can also have negative feelings for.” She goes to the shelf and picks up a silver helmet with little clear bumps spaced out over its surface. “Can you put this on for me?”
He turns it over in his hands. “What is it?”
“It’s going to read your memories.”
He puts it on and the LEDs blink randomly.
A movie plays on the big wall screen. It starts black with muffled sounds. A baby is being born. The picture is from the point of view of the infant. Bright lights. Voices of doctors and nurses.
“Okay the recollector is operating properly. Now we’re going to search for times when you experienced intense emotional responses.” It fast forwards through the years, one, two, three, four, …. She types some commands, fingers wiggling six inches away from the keypad.
They watch Raymond at age four, skin his knee on roller skates and cry hysterically. At six he is stung by a bee. Age seven: fighting with his little brothers.
She turns up a dial so that only the most intense memories will be displayed. A car accident. Raymond cries. “My brother Alvin.” He sniffs. “He was hit by a car.”
“I’m so sorry.” She stops the movie and holds his hand for five minutes.
Age eight. The kids at school are laughing and calling him Fatso. His neurotransmitter levels spike.
“I can see this formed a neurosis that has been bothering you for years. This is something we will have to explore further.”
Age nine. Kids laughing again. “Ah-ha. You’re fat!”
She frowns. “Kids are unbelievable.”
“I really did have a messed up childhood. It’s funny. I forgot all about that. ”
“That’s the brain’s way of protecting you from pain.” She examines charts. “But the problem is: the negativity is still inside your head festering. That’s why we have to go back into that memory.”
“I don’t want to.”
“It’s the only way to fix it. Trust me, you’ll feel better.”
Raymond is eight years old, in a school hallway. Two girls are mocking him. “They’re laughing at me.” His voice sounds childlike.
“They’re just little kids. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
“I can’t stop crying. It hurts.”
“It’s okay. It’s just a feeling. It will pass. What they are saying has no validity.”
“They’re just stupid kids.”
“That’s right. You have nothing to feel bad about. They’re being awful. It is right to tease someone? Of course not.”
“You’re right. I shouldn’t feel bad.”
“They’re the ones who should feel bad for being so cruel.”
“That’s right. Screw them. Now how do you feel?”
“I think I feel better.”
She smiles and proceeds to the next memory.
“I’m on Coney Island Beach, eating a hot dog.” It takes a moment to orient. He smiles. “I’m fourteen.” He can smell the smoke from the hot dog cart. He can see every person’s face and movement, exactly as it happened so many years ago. “This is incredible. How can I remember in such detail?”
“Your brain remembers everything, even though we may not be aware of it.” “There’s my mother.” She’s sitting on a blanket in a polka dot bathing suit and floppy hat. He smiles. “I remember that bathing suit.” Watches his mother put lotion on her red skin. “I never realized how beautiful she was. Ah. Those were the days.” He sighs. “It’s strange. When I was a kid, I was so embarrassed at how fat my mother was, but looking at her now, she wasn’t even that bad.”
“The human mind is capable of great distortion.”
“I swore to myself that when I grew up I would never be fat like her.”
He hangs his head. “As you can see I did a heck of a job.” He grabs his belly.
“Is that why you have negative feelings toward her? Because she made you fat?”
“I don’t hate her. I love her.”
“You are experiencing something known as body shame. It used to be quite common back in the olden days. People used to think there was something wrong with fat people, and would persecute them horribly.”
“I’ve been trying to lose weight for years. Nothing seems to work.”
“Why didn’t you use the eggbeater?”
“I wanted to do it on my own. I just figured if I could just find the right diet…”
“Let me put your mind to rest. Appetite is controlled by brain chemistry. That’s why we have the eggbeater.”
She raises his chin with her hand. “But more importantly, and you must get this: You are okay, just as you are.”
“I know that’s what everyone says, but it’s stuck in my head. I won’t be okay until I lose weight.” His face hangs from a lifetime of shame. “I spend all day long working out and obsessing about what I eat and I’m still a fat pig.”
“Hey, that’s all in the past now. You don’t have to torture yourself anymore. You’ve had the treatment. You can just sit back and watch the pounds drop off. You don’t have to worry about what you eat anymore.”
“That sounds pretty good.” He takes a deep breath.
“But we still have a lot of work to do. The real problem isn’t the fat. It’s your belief that being fat makes you inferior.”
She continues scanning memories and comes to a spike in adrenaline. Raymond at sixteen, slightly chubby, jogging. He runs past three delinquents sitting on a concrete wall, smoking and horsing around. As he passes, one makes a loud fart noise. The others laugh.
Raymond cringes but keeps going.
She sees the pain he still carries. A wave of determination clenches her. “I’ve seen enough.” She scowls and starts typing.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m issuing three arrest warrants.”
“The farting bandits.”
“You’re going to talk to them?”
“We’re going to do more than talk.”
He chuckles. “What are you going to do?”
“We’re gonna teach them a lesson-- how to treat people with respect.”
“That was a long time ago. I don’t even know their names.”
“We’ve already got their names. They’ll be here shortly.”
She sees that the thought of seeing them makes Raymond nervous. She grabs his wrist and says forcefully, “We don’t let people go around making fun of people.”
“Look how much damage it has caused in your life. Now imagine how many other victims are out there. When they get here we can all have a nice chat.”
“I don’t want to talk to them.”
“Don’t worry I’ll be here with you.”
* * *
Two police officers approach a man wrinkled from decades of drinking and smoking. “Lorenzo Huffenhousen?”
“Who wants to know?”
A quick laser to the face confirms his identity. “You’re under arrest.”
He scowls, “For what?”
“I didn’t do nuthin’. Screw you.”
The officer points. “That’s another count added to the charge. Sixteen years ago you harassed a Mr. Raymond Franks. Does that ring a bell?”
“Who remembers five minutes ago, let alone sixteen years?!”
“Mr. Franks does.” They take him in.
* * *
After a full psych workup the three delinquents are reunited with Raymond. They sit and watch the video of the incident from 16 years ago. There’s young Lorenzo, wearing stylishly-shredded clothes and nasty tattoos. Dirty fingers wrapped around a beer.
Healy freezes the picture. “Drinking in public. Looks like you were never written up for that.”
Lorenzo shrugs defiantly.
“That’s a $750 citation.”
“Plus interest accrued over 16 years.” She calculates. “That’s $1203.”
He throws up his hands. ““Oh come on! That wasn’t even my beer.”
“ I was only taking a sip.”
“In that case the fine is only…” She pretends to type on an adding machine. “$1203.”
Liesl starts the video again. Young Raymond jogs past the three delinquents. Lorenzo makes the infamous fart noise. She freezes it on their hysterical pimpled faces. “You guys thought it was pretty funny.”
“You have to admit it was. Look at his fat butt trying to run.” He snickers.
Healy sees the haunting pain on Raymond’s face and asks him, “What were you feeling right then at that moment?”
“I was embarrassed.”
He yells, “Because they’re right. I am fat.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being fat.”
“If there’s nothing wrong with it, why do people make fun of me?”
“Because they’re rude jerks.” She wiggles her fingers over the controls. “Now we’re going to relive that incident, but this time using an optimal response.” She starts the dramatizer. Raymond and the three hoodlums go to sleep in their chairs.
Young Raymond is jogging. Lorenzo makes the fart noise. His buddies laugh.
Liesl coaches sleeping Raymond. “Tell them to stop laughing.”
Raymond stops. Faces Lorenzo and points, “Stop laughing.”
Lorenzo and his buddies are surprised by his response. “Shut up, Fatso!”
Raymond gets in his face. “No, you shut up.”
Liesl stops the playback. “Instead of engaging in a confrontation, why don’t you keep running as you respond.”
She replays the scene.
The jog. The fart. The laugh. This time Raymond looks back and shouts, “Stop being a jerk,” and keeps running.
She turns off the machine and they wake up. “Now how do you feel?”
Raymond nods. “Yes. I think I do feel a little better.”
She directs him. “Lorenzo is sitting right here. Tell him there’s nothing wrong with being fat.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being fat.”
Lorenzo rolls his eyes.
“Make him understand.”
“What gives you the right to harass people?”
“We were just having some fun, bro.”
“You think abuse is fun.” She makes some notes. “Intensive psychotherapy should straighten you out.”
He folds his arms defiantly.
“Your poor attitude will be corrected.”
“Who gives a rat’s bum?”
“You’d better start caring. You’re not going anywhere until you are safe to be released into the community. You’re going to have to apologize, and you’re going to have to mean it.”
“Me apologize?” He laughs.
“OK, Mr. Tough Guy. Looks like a year of sensitivity training is called for.”
“A year of what?”
A couple of attendants enter.
“That’s two hours a day. Five days a week. Have fun.”
They drag him away.
She turns to Ray. “Don’t worry. When he’s ready, he’ll be back with a full apology. No one wants to be a jerk. He just has issues he’s dealing with. He was the product of a poor environment.”
“Wow. I never expected this. You know, I really do feel better.”
“We’ll meet back tomorrow. How do you like your new place?”
“Do you have a car?”
“A car? I didn’t even have socks, remember?”
She types some commands. “I’m putting in a voucher for a car. Just go to the dispensary and they will issue you one.” She shows him a picture of an electric two- seater.
“You’re giving me a car?!”
“A person needs transportation if they’re going to be a productive member of society. Now let’s get you some clothes.” They go to the police clothier. It is fully stocked. “What style do you like?” She feels the fabric on an expensive suit.
“I’m more of a blue jeans kind of guy.”
They go to the hippy section. Many styles to choose from. A whole rack of clear plastic outfits. Shirts, pants, everything translucent. Another rack for bead clothing. Another for nudist accessories.
There is an area with metal bands, a style popular in the 2090s. People would cover themselves in arm, leg, and torso bracelets.
Denim is subdivided based on percentage of holes to surface area of fabric--from zero to 100% holes. Some have cut-out shapes. Some look more like a tangles of thread than pieces of clothing. Raymond chooses jeans with 90% holes.
He picks out a t-shirt with The Rolling Stones’ lips. Then bottoms it off with neon green squeakers. He tries them on. They make rubber ducky squeaks with every step. A winter jacket of cellophane. He looks at his new outfit in the mirror. “I really appreciate this.”
“You’ll also need some spending money.” She hands him a shrink-wrapped brick of freshly minted Harriet Tubman $200 bills.”
“Hey, thanks. I should’ve gotten arrested a long time ago!”
“You are most welcome.”
He stuffs it in his coat pocket and starts to leave.
“One last thing. There’s someone here to see you.”
Spoct ushers in a woman and three children. They cry and hug. The kids jump on daddy.
Healy says to Spoct, “This is my favorite part of the job.”
Five-year-olds in winter jackets scream joy and run around the Elwanger-Barry School playground. The face of the rock-climbing wall displays a Shawn Dunwoody mural which tells everyone in vibrant, playful letters, “YOU CAN DO IT!”
A girl with elaborate braids reaches the very top, throws up her arms, and exclaims, “I did it!” She loses her balance and falls a hundred feet. She bounces once, twice, thrice, rolls to her feet and runs back to climb again.
The most popular ride is a twenty-foot-diameter yellow disk lying in the middle of the grass with a black line coiling around it from center to perimeter. A few kids step on, and it starts to spin. The slowly rotating spiral pattern is hypnotizing. More children jump on. One says, “Faster!” It speeds up. They laugh and try to maintain balance. A girl shouts, “Faster.” They accelerate. A boy full of bubblegum-chocolate feels like an off-balance sock in a clothes dryer. His eyes widen and he spews a stream of vomit that flings in every direction, including right in a girl’s face. She retches twice, then joins the puke party. Two streams of stomach contents whip out from the merry-go-round, one pink and one yellow, painting the snow like a spin art machine.
Someone with leadership potential shouts, “Faster!”
Another cries, “Sweet mother, no!”
Fast as tops. A screaming blur. Bodies fly every direction.
But the blubber saves the day again, translucent, nearly invisible, a million times spongier than rubber, catches them, absorbs their energy. They land gently on the ground, spray-painted and laughing.
They pile on to ride again. A tall girl pushes past a short boy, who says, “No cutting.”
She shoves his shoulder.
DING! DING! DING! The sound seems to come from everywhere. Everyone stops to see what’s going on. The alarm continues. A 50-foot circle of lights appears on the ground and shrinks in diameter into a single point at the location of violence. The circle goes back to 50 feet and shrinks again to the girl’s feet. The pattern repeats, guiding the way for the teachers running to ground zero.
The first to arrive frantically asks, “What happened?”
“She pushed me.”
She inspects him for injuries, holds him and asks, “Are you all right?”
Adults surround the two and escort them inside.
Inside a classroom, ten teachers sit in a circle with shover and shovee at opposite ends. They watch a replay of the incident.
The principal puts her hand on the back of the girl’s chair and asks softly, “Deborah, can you tell me what’s going on with you?”
The girl keeps her eyes forward. They wait for an answer as she knocks her shoes together seven times. “Nothin’.”
“You pushed Kenyata.”
The girl shrugs.
Concerned looks circle the room.
“Why did you do that?”
She puts her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Okay, dear.”
The man sitting next to Kenyata asks, “How are you doing?”
“How did you feel when Deborah pushed you?”
“I didn’t like it.”
He turns to Deborah. “You made Kenyata feel bad. What do you think about that?”
Deborah keeps her head down, raises and drops her shoulders, almost comically, not seeming to comprehend the gravity of the situation.
One teacher shakes his head in disappointment.
The principal sighs and says, “Okay. Enough for now.”
One teacher rises, and escorts Kenyata with his arm around his shoulder to the infirmary for a physical exam.
The principal turns to Deborah. “Your mother is on her way.”
The girl continues knocking her feet against her chair, blocking out all awareness of the incident.
“We haven’t reached your father yet.”
Deborah shifts nervously in her seat.
The girl’s mother enters, sprinkled with fresh snowflakes, wearing a coat with a faux fox collar. “Dear Lord, where’s my baby?”
The principal rises to meet her. “Mrs. Blanford. Thank you for coming. I’m afraid there was an incident of violence involving your daughter.”
Mrs. Blanford passes the principal and goes straight to her daughter. Smothers her in a hug. “My poor baby, are you all right?”
The principal answers, “She’s fine. Your daughter was the assailant.”
The mother pulls away. “What?” Smacks her daughter. “What did I teach you about being ignorant?!”
All the teachers jump up. “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” They pull the two apart. Get between them. The little girl cries, but holds it in.
The pair are sat back down at opposite ends of the circle. They watch the video of the shoving incident again as the mother fans herself.
The stern faced principal says, “I guess we know where Deborah learned this behavior.”
The mother tightens her coat around herself, holding onto her pride.
“No worries. We will provide your family with all the counseling it needs, and everyone will be happy as clams in no time.”
“Counseling? We don’t need no counseling.”
“I’m afraid you do. Deborah violated the Peace Act. That gives us the right to counsel her immediate family as well anyone else who had significant contact with her, such as friends or neighbors.”
The mother nods in compliance.
“We still haven’t located the girl’s father.”
Mother rolls her eyes, not caring where he is.
* * *
A call comes over the radio, “Car 54, pick up one Parker Blanford for poor parenting.” The dashboard screen shows the subject’s height, weight, and species: human.
“We’re on it.” Healy makes a sharp U-turn and B-line.
Spoct’s excited ears point back and he howls.
Liesl frowns. “Poor parenting. My heart drops just thinking about it.”
The computer shows the client’s current location and a live video of him inside a Schmegman’s Megamart.
They approach the grocery store, which is a castle, a sight to behold. A gigantic Ferris wheel slowly rotates over the skyline. People scream in delight as they slip down the heated water slides curling around the exterior of the store. People eating on outdoor patios. Dogs, cats, ferrets, and robopets chase each other around the animal playground.
The partners pull into the parking lot where a giant mechanism picks up customers’ cars and stores them in the underground garage like a vending machine. The chrome convertible bypasses the parking machine and pulls right up to the front entrance. It gently lowers to the sidewalk. Lieutenant Spoct jumps out in a single agile leap. His claws click on the pavement. Healy lifts one leg, then the other over the side. She puts on her trenchcoat.
“We’re just going inside.”
She takes the time to buckles the belt and tie the loose end as Spoct nervously trots in circles, waiting for her. They approach just as the subject exits.
Liesl says, “Mr. Blanford.”
He’s munching chips from one hand and slurping red drink from the other. “What did I do this time?”
“There was an incident involving your daughter. You need to come with us.”
“What did that stupid moron do this time?”
Spoct says, “Hey. Watch your language.”
Liesl adds, “Negative words can damage a child’s psychological development.”
“Don’t tell me how to raise my kid.”
She recites, “What you teach your child today, affects my child tomorrow.”
“You can’t arrest me for tomorrow.”
“That’s our sworn duty, to prevent crime.” She extends her arm, pointing the way.
“Screw you. I’m not going anywhere.” He runs inside.
Healy looks at Spoct in disbelief. “Really?”
“The tree doesn’t fall far from the nut.”
They chase. The enormity of the store is overwhelmingly. Aisle after aisle, vanishing into the horizon. Blanford runs down the one for olives. Hundreds of varieties. Black, green, red, and blue. Square ones. Pyramidal ones. Some big as melons. Olives stuffed with everything imaginable. As the fugitive rounds the bend, Spoct closes the gap.
Capuchin monkeys in store uniforms do acrobatics as they prepare sushi. One does a flip and lands, holding a tray of sushi in Spoct’s face. “Would you care to sample an avocado roll, sir?”
Spoct chomps it down while maintaining pursuit. “Don’t run, Parker. It only adds to your charges.”
Healy pauses to admire a display of potted plants.
The chase goes past a rotating display of prepared meals with flashing lights, bells, and music. Customers stroll by with hovering shopping carts.
Healy calls to Parker. “All we want to do is help you form a healthy relationship with your daughter.”
He turns to yell back, “No one tells me what to do,” and slams right into a display rack, knocking it down. He flops on the floor among boxes of ruined cheesecake.
Spoct says, “Sir, please calm down.”
“I’ve got an app for that.” Healy fires the relaxer ray at Parker’s head, and he folds like a wet noodle on the floor.
Spoct says, “Too much.” Chomps Parker by the scruff of the neck and lifts him to his feet.
Liesl dials the device up and down, controlling him like a puppet, until finding the right level of sedation, where he is able, barely, to stand on his own.
Spoct laps up one of the cheesecakes off the floor. “Mmm. Pizza flavor.”
“I thought you were a germophobe.”
“I am. But cheesecake is cheesecake.”
She shakes her head as she watches him lap the floor. “You are a dog of many mysteries.” She turns her attention to Mr. Blanford. “Sir, if you promise to control yourself, I’ll take the ray off.”
He nods with eyes half shut.
She shows him that she is slowly putting the remote control back in its holster. She puts the strap over it and fastens the button.
Spoct shakes his head at her fastidiousness.
Parker smiles warmly, then takes off running in the opposite direction, slipping on a cheesecake and landing in the meat case. He does the Australian crawl through packs of synthetic steaks and chicken.
Spoct and Healy look at each other, not impressed.
Spoct says, “I knew this guy smelled funny.”
Liesl unbuckles the strap over her tape gun. “Looks like the situation is about to get sticky.”
Spoct stands on his hind legs. “It’s good he’s going to get the education he so desperately needs.” He aims his weapon.
Healy assumes the textbook two-handed stance.
Mr. Blanford climbs out of the meat case and takes off. They fire at the same time. Long strings of tape fly out and wrap around him. The ribbons keep coming, accumulating on his body. His arms and legs are bound up. He falls, squirms, and flops like a trout caught in a net.
Healy walks over. “We tried to tell you.”
They wrap him in the trailing ends of the tape like a cocoon, and carry him out.
“You b*&^%$s are gonna pay for this!”
Spoct takes a strand of hanging tape and puts it over his mouth, quieting him. “That’s enough negativity from you.”
Healy pats him on the head. “We’re gonna teach you some manners back at the station.”
They drop Mr. Parker off at the precinct, into the skilled arms of the intake officers who will be facilitating his rehabilitation. Father, mother, and daughter will undergo family counseling until 100% personal actualization is achieved. The first thing they do is set Raymond the mummy down at a dinner table. Before him is a fancy place setting. The instructor uses a pointer. “This is a salad fork and this is a dinner fork.” The captive’s blue eyes dart side to side beneath blond lashes.
Healy and Spoct watch through the one-way mirror. She says, “You know, that’s the second incident of violence this week.”
Spoct replies, “That is odd.” He does a calculation in his head. “Hmm, that’s a p of .04.”
“The chance of that happening randomly is only 4%.”
Liesl nods and speculates about the possible ramifications.