FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID
Two husky gray pols, confronting the man ahead of Jason, said in unison, "These were forged an hour ago; they're still damp. See? See the ink run under the heat? Okay." They nodded, and the man, gripped by four thungly pols, disappeared into a parked van-quibble, ominously gray and black: police colors.
"Okay," one of the husky pols said genially to Jason, "let's see when yours were printed."
Jason said, "I've been carrying these for years." He handed his wallet, with the seven ID cards, to the pols.
"Graph his signatures," the senior pol told his companion. "See if they superimpose."
Kathy had been right.
"Nope," the junior pol said, putting away his official camera. "They don't super. But it looks like this one, the military service chit, had a trans dot on it that's been scraped off. Very expertly, too, if so. You have to view it through the glass." He swung the portable magnifying lens and light over, illuminating Jason's forged cards in stark white detail. "See?"
"When you left the service," the senior pol said to Jason, "did this record have an electronic dot on it? Do you remember?" Both of them scrutinized Jason as they awaited his response.
What the hell to say? he asked himself. "I don't know," he said. "I don't even know what a" - he started to say, "microtransmitter dot," but quickly corrected himself - soon enough, he hoped - what an electronic dot looks like."
"It's a dot, mister," the junior pol informed him. "Aren't you listening? Are you on drugs? Look; on his drug-status card there isn't an entry for the last year."
One of the thungly pols spoke up. "Proves they're not faked, though, because who would fake a felony onto an ID card? They'd have to be out of their minds."
"Yes," Jason said.
"Well, it's not part of our area," the senior pol said. He handed Jason's ID cards back to him. "He'll have to take it up with his drug inspector. Move on." With his nightstick the pol shoved Jason out of the way, reaching meanwhile for the ID cards of the man behind him.
"That's it?" Jason said to the thungly pols. He could not believe it. Don't let it show, he said to himself. Just move on!
He did so.
From the shadows beneath a broken streetlight, Kathy reached out, touched him; he froze at the touch, feeling himself turn to ice, starting with his heart. "What do you think of me now?" Kathy said. "My work, what I did for you."
"They did it," he said shortly.
"I'm not going to turn you in," Kathy said, "even though you insulted and abandoned me. But you have to stay with me tonight like you promised, you understand?"
He had to admire her. By lurking around the random checkpoint she had obtained firsthand proof that her forged documents had been well enough done to get him past the pols. So all at once the situation between them had altered: he was now in her debt. He no longer held the status of aggrieved victim .
Now she owned a moral share of him. First the stick: the threat of turning him in to the pols. Then the carrot: the adequately forged ID cards. The girl had him, really he had to admit it, to her and to himself.
"I could have gotten you through anyhow," Kathy said. She held up her right arm, pointing to a section of her sleeve, "I've got a gray pol-ident tab, there; it shows up under their macrolens. So I don't get picked up by mistake. I would have said -"
"Let it lie there," he broke in harshly. "I don't want to hear about it." He walked away from her; the girl skimmed after him, like a skillful bird.
"Want to go back to my Minor Apartment?" Kathy asked.
"That goddamn shabby room." I have a floating house in Malibu, he thought, with eight bedrooms, six rotating baths and a four-dimensional living room with an infinity ceiling. And, because of something I don't understand and can't control, I have to spend my time like this. Visiting run-down marginal places. Crappy eateries, crappier workshops, crappiest one-room lodgings. Am I being paid back for something I did? he asked himself. Something I don't know about or remember? But nobody pays back, he reflected. I learned that a long time ago: you're not paid back for the bad you do nor the good you do. It all comes out uneven at the end. Haven't I learned that by now, if I've learned anything?
"Guess what's at the top of my shopping list for tomorrow," Kathy was saying. "Dead flies, Do you know why?"
"They're high in protein."
"Yes, but that's not why; I'm not getting them for myself. I buy a bag of them every week for Bill, my turtle."
"I didn't see any turtle."
"At my Major Apartment. You didn't really think I'd buy dead flies for myself, did you?"
"De gustibus non disputandum est, " he quoted,
"Let's see. In matters of taste there's no dispute. Right?"
"Right," he said. "Meaning that if you want to eat dead flies go ahead and eat them."
"Bill does; he likes them. He's just one of those little green turtles ... not a land tortoise or anything. Have you ever watched the way they snap at food, at a fly floating on their water? It's very small but it's awful. One second the fly's there and then the next, glunk. It's inside the turtle." She laughed. "Being digested. There's a lesson to be learned there."
"What lesson?" He anticipated it then. "That when you bite," he said, "you either get all of it or none of it, but never part."
"That's how I feel."
"Which do you have?" he asked her. " All or none?"
"I - don't know. Good question. Well, I don't have Jack. But maybe I don't want him anymore. It's been so fucking long. I guess I still need him. But I need you more."
Jason said, "I thought you were the one who could love two men equally."
"Did I say that?" She pondered as they walked. "What I meant was is that's ideal, but in real life you can only approximate it ... do you see? Can you follow my line of thought?"
"I can follow it," he said, "and I can see where it's leading. It's leading to a temporary abandonment of Jack while I'm around and then a psychological returning to him when I'm gone. Do you do it every time?"
"I never abandon him," Kathy said sharply. They then continued on in silence until they reached her great old apartment building with its forest of no-longer-used TV masts jutting from every part of the roof. Kathy fumbled in her purse, found her key, unlocked the door to her room.
The lights had been turned on. And, seated on the moldering sofa facing them, a middle- aged man with gray hair and a gray suit. A heavy-set but immaculate man, with perfectly shaved jowls: no nicks, no red spots, no errors. He was perfectly attired and groomed; each hair on his head stood individually in place.
Kathy said falteringly, "Mr. McNulty."
Rising to his feet, the heavy-set man extended his right hand toward Jason. Automatically, Jason reached out to shake it.
"No," the heavy-set man said. "I'm not shaking hands with you; I want to see your ID cards, the ones she made for you. Let me have them."
Wordlessly - there was nothing to say - Jason passed him his wallet.
"You didn't do these," McNulty said, after a short inspection. "Unless you're getting a hell of a lot better."
Jason said, "I've had some of those cards for years."
"Have you," McNulty murmured. He returned the wallet and cards to Jason. "Who planted the microtrans on him? You?" He addressed Kathy. "Ed?"
"Ed," Kathy said.
"What do we have here?' McNulty said, scrutinizing Jason as if measuring him for a coffin. "A man in his forties, well dressed, modern clothing style. Expensive shoes ... made of actual authentic leather. Isn't that right, Mr. Taverner?"
"They're cowhide," Jason said.
"Your papers identify you as a musician," McNulty said. "You play an instrument?"
McNulty said, "Sing something for us now ...
"Go to hell," Jason said, and managed to control his breathing; his words came out exactly as he wanted them to. No more, no less.
To Kathy, McNulty said, "He's not exactly cowering. Does he know who I am?"
"Yes," Kathy said. "I - told him. Part of it."
"You told him about Jack," McNulty said. To Jason he said, "There is no Jack. She thinks so but it's a psychotic delusion. Her husband died three years ago in a quibble accident; he was never in a forced-labor camp."
"Jack is still alive, " Kathy said.
"You see?" McNulty said to Jason. "She's made a pretty fair adjustment to the outside world except for this one fixed idea. It will never go away; she'll have it for the balance of her life." He shrugged. "It's a harmless idea and it keeps her going. So we've made no attempt to deal with it psychiatrically."
Kathy, quietly, had begun to cry. Large tears slid down her cheeks and dropped, bloblike, onto her blouse. Tear stains, in the form of dark circles, appeared here and there.
"I'll be talking to Ed Pracim in the next couple of days," McNulty said. "I'll ask him why he put the microtrans on you. He has hunches; it must have been a hunch." He reflected. "Bear in mind, the ID cards in your wallet are reproductions of actual documents on file at various central data banks throughout earth. Your reproductions are satisfactory, but I may want to check on the originals. Let's hope they' re in as good order as the repros you carry."
Kathy said feebly, "But that's a rare procedure. Statistically -"
"In this case," McNulty said, "I think it's worth trying."
"Why?" Kathy said.
"Because we don't think you're turning everyone over to us. Half an hour ago this man Taverner passed successfully through a random checkpoint. We followed him using the microtrans. And his papers look fine to me. But Ed says -'.
"Ed drinks," Kathy said.
"But we can count on him." McNulty smiled, a professional beam of sunshine in the shabby room. " And we can't, not quite, on you."
Bringing forth his military-service chit, Jason rubbed the small profile 4-D picture of himself. And it said tinnily, "How now, brown cow?"
"How can that be faked?" Jason said. "That's the tone of voice I had back ten years ago when I was an invol-nat."
"I doubt that," McNulty said. He examined his wristwatch. "Do we owe you anything, Miss Nelson? Or are we clear for this week?"
"Clear," she said, with an effort. Then, in a low, unsteady voice, she half-whispered, "After Jack gets out you won't be able to count on me at all."
"For you," McNulty said genially, " Jack will never get out." He winked at Jason. Jason winked back. Twice. He understood McNulty. The man preyed on the weaknesses of others; the kind of manipulation that Kathy employed had probably been learned from him. And from his quaint, genial companions.
He could understand now how she had become what she had become. Betrayal was an everyday event; a refusal to betray, as in his case, was miraculous. He could only wonder at it and thank it dimly,
We have a betrayal state, he realized. When I was a celebrity I was exempt. Now I'm like everyone else: I now have to face what they've always faced. And - what I faced in the old days, faced and then later on repressed from my memory. Because it was too distressing to believe ... once I had a choice, and could choose not to believe.
McNulty put his fleshy, red-speckled hand on Jason's shoulder and said, "Come along with me."
"Where to?" Jason demanded, moving away from McNulty exactly, he realized, the way Kathy had moved away from him. She had learned this, too, from the McNultys of the world.
"You don't have anything to charge him with!" Kathy said hoarsely, clenching her fists.
Easily, McNulty said, "We're not going to charge him with anything; I just want a fingerprint, voiceprint, footprint, EEG wave pattern from him. Okay, Mr. Tavern?"
Jason started to say, "I hate to correct a police officer -" and then broke off at the warning look on Kathy's face - "who's doing his duty," he finished, "so I'll go along." Maybe Kathy had a point; maybe it was worth something for the pol officer to get Jason Taverner's name wrong. Who knew? Time would tell.
" 'Mr. Tavern,'" McNulty said lazily, propelled him toward the door of the room. "Suggests beer and warmth and coziness, doesn't it?" He looked back at Kathy and said in a sharp voice, "Doesn't it?"
"Mr. Tavern is a warm man," Kathy said, her teeth locked together. The door shut after them, and McNulty steered him down the hallway to the stairs, breathing, meanwhile, the odor of onion and hot sauce in every direction.
At the 469th Precinct station, Jason Taverner found himself lost in a multitude of men and women who moved aimlessly, waiting to get in, waiting to get out, waiting for information, waiting to be told what to do. McNulty had pinned a colored tag on his lapel; God and the police alone knew what it meant.
Obviously it did mean something. A uniformed officer behind a desk which ran from wall to wall beckoned to him.
"Okay," the cop said. "Inspector McNulty filled out part of your J-2 form. Jason Tavern. Address: 2048 Vine Street."
Where had McNulty come up with that? Jason wondered. Vine Street. And then he realized that it was Kathy's address. McNulty had assumed they were living together; overworked, as was true of all the pols, he had written down the information that took the least effort. A law of nature: an object - or living creature - takes the shortest route between two points. He filled out the balance of the form.
"Put your hand into that slot," the officer said, indicating a fingerprinting machine. Jason did so. "Now," the officer said, "remove one shoe, either left or right. And that sock. You may sit down here." He slid a section of desk aside, revealing an entrance and a chair.
"Thanks," Jason said, seating himself.
After the recording of the footprint he spoke the sentence, "Down goes the right hut and ate a put object beside his horse." That took care of the voiceprint. After that, again seated, he allowed terminals to be placed here and there on his head; the machine cranked out three feet of scribbled-on paper, and that was that. That was the electrocardiogram. It ended the tests.
Looking cheerful, McNulty appeared at the desk. In the harsh white overhead light his five-o'clock shadow could be seen over all his jaw, his upper lip, the higher part of his neck. "How's it going with Mr. Tavern?" he asked.
The officer said, "We're ready to do a nomenclature file pull."
"Fine," McNulty said. "I'll stick around and see what comes up."
The uniformed officer dropped the form Jason had filled out into a slot, pressed lettered buttons, all of which were green. For some reason Jason noticed that. And the letters capitals.
From a mouthlike aperture on the very long desk a xeroxed document slid out, dropped into a metal basket.
"Jason Tavern," the uniformed officer said, examining the document. "Of Kememmer, Wyoming. Age: thirty-nine. A diesel engine mechanic." He glanced at the photo. "Pic taken fifteen years ago."
"Any police record?" McNulty asked.
"No trouble of any kind," the uniformed officer said.
"There are no other Jason Taverns on record at Pol-Dat?" McNulty asked. The officer pressed a yellow button, shook his head. "Okay," McNulty said. "That's him." He surveyed Jason. "You don't look like a diesel engine mechanic."
"I don't do that anymore," Jason said. "I'm now in sales. For farm equipment. Do you want my card?" A bluff; he reached toward the upper right-hand pocket of his suit. McNulty shook his head no. So that was that; they had, in their usual bureaucratic fashion, pulled the wrong file on him. And, in their rush, they had let it stand.
He thought, Thank God for the weaknesses built into a vast, complicated, convoluted, planet wide apparatus. Too many people; too many machines. This error began with a pol inspec and worked its way to Pol-Dat, their pool of data at Memphis, Tennessee. Even with my fingerprint, footprint, voiceprint and EEG print they probably won't be able to straighten it out. Not now; not with my form on file.
"Shall I book him?" the uniformed officer asked McNulty.
"For what?" McNulty said. "For being a diesel mechanic?" He slapped Jason convivially on the back. "You can go home, Mr. Tavern. Back to your child-faced sweetheart. Your little virgin." Grinning, he moved off into the throng of anxious and bewildered human men and women.
"You may go, sir," the uniformed officer told Jason.
Nodding, Jason made his way out of the 469th Precinct police station, onto the nighttime street, to mix with the free and self-determined people who resided there.
But they will get me finally, he thought. They'll match up the prints. And yet - if it's been fifteen years since the photo was taken, maybe it's been fifteen years since they took an EEG and a voiceprint.
But that still left the finger and footprints. They did not change.
He thought, maybe they'll just toss the xerox copy of the file into a shredding bin, and that will be that. And transmit the data they got out of me to Memphis, there to be incorporated in my - or rather "my" - permanent file. In Jason Tavern's file, specifically.
Thank God Jason Tavern, diesel mechanic, had never broken a law, had never tangled with the pols or nats. Good for him.
A police flipflap wobbled overhead, its red searchlight glimmering, and from its PA speakers it said, "Mr. Jason Tavern, return to 469th Precinct Police Station at once. This is a police order. Mr. Jason Tavern -" It raved on and on as Jason stood stunned. They had figured it out already. In a matter not of hours, days, or weeks, but minutes.
He returned to the police station, climbed the styraplex stairs, passed through the light- activated doors, through the milling throng of the unfortunate, back to the uniformed officer who had handled his case - and there stood McNulty, too. The two of them were in the process of frowningly conferring.
"Well," McNulty said, glancing up, "here's our Mr. Tavern again. What are you doing back here, Mr. Tavern?"
"The police flipflap -" he began, but McNulty cut him off.
"That was unauthorized. We merely put out an APB and some figtail hoisted it to flipflap level. But as long as you're here" - McNulty turned the document so that Jason could see the photo - "is that how you looked fifteen years ago?"
"I guess so," Jason said. The photo showed a sallow-faced individual with protruding Adam's apple, bad teeth and eyes, sternly staring into nothing. His hair, frizzy and corn- colored , hung over two near-jug ears.
"You've had plastic S," McNulty said.
Jason said, "Yes."
Jason said, "Who would want to look like that?"
"So no wonder you're so handsome and dignified," McNulty said. "So stately. So" - he groped for the word - "commanding. It's really hard to believe that they could do to that" - he put his index finger on the fifteen-year-old photo - "something to make it look like that. " He tapped Jason friendlily on the arm. "But where'd you get the money?"
While McNulty talked, Jason had begun swiftly reading the data printed on the document. Jason Tavern had been born in Cicero, Illinois, his father had been a turret lathe operator, his grandfather had owned a chain of retail farm-equipment stores - a lucky break, considering what he had told McNulty about his current career.
"From Windslow," Jason said. "I'm sorry; I always think of him like that, and I forget that others can't." His professional training had helped him: he had read and assimilated most of the page while McNulty was talking to him. "My grandfather. He had a good deal of money, and I was his favorite. I was the only grandson, you see."
McNulty studied the document, nodded.
"I looked like a rural hick," Jason said. "I looked like what I was: a hayseed. The best job I could get involved repairing diesel engines, and I wanted more. So I took the money that Windslow left me and headed for Chicago -"
"Okay," McNulty said still nodding. "It fits together. We are aware that such radical plastic surgery can be accomplished, and at not too large a cost. But generally it's done by unpersons or labor-camp inmates who've escaped. We monitor all graft-shops, as we call them."
"But look how ugly I was," Jason said.
McNulty laughed a deep, throaty laugh. "You sure were, Mr. Tavern. Okay; sorry to trouble you. Go on." He gestured, and Jason began to part the throng of people before him. "Oh!" McNulty called, gesturing to him. "One more -" His voice, drowned out by the noise of the milling, did not reach Jason, so, his heart frozen in ice, he walked out.
Once they notice you, Jason realized, they never completely close the file. You can never get back your anonymity. It is vital not to be noticed in the first place. But I have been.
"What is it?" he asked McNulty, feeling despair. They were playing games with him, breaking him down; he could feel, inside him, his heart, his blood, all his vital parts, stagger in their processes. Even the superb physiology of a six tumbled at this.
McNulty held out his hand. "Your ID cards. I want some lab work on them. If they're okay you'll get them back the day after tomorrow."
Jason said protestingly. "But if a random pol-check-"
"We'll give you a police pass," McNulty said. He nodded to a great-bellied older officer to his right. "Get a 4-D photo of him and set up a blanket pass."
"Yes, Inspector," the tub of guts said, reaching out an overstuffed paw to turn on the camera equipment.
Ten minutes later, Jason Taverner found himself out once more on the now almost deserted early evening sidewalk, and this time with a bona fide pol-pass - better than anything Kathy could have manufactured for him ... except that the pass was valid only for one week. But still ...
He had one week during which he could afford not to worry. And then, after that ...
He had done the impossible: he had traded a walletful of bogus ID cards for a genuine pol-pass. Examining the pass under the streetlights, he saw that the expiration notice was holographic ... and there was room for the insertion of an additional number. It read seven. He could get Kathy to alter that to seventy-five or ninety-seven, or whatever was easiest.
And then it occurred to him that as soon as the pol lab made out that his ID cards were spurious the number of his pass, his name, his photo, would be transmitted to every police checkpoint on the planet.
But until that happened he was safe.