FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID
lights, shine you no more!
Early in the gray of evening, before the cement sidewalks bloomed with nighttime activity, Police General Felix Buckman landed his opulent official quibble on the roof of the Los Angeles Police Academy building. He sat for a time, reading page-one articles on the sole evening newspaper, then, folding the paper up carefully, he placed it on the back seat of the quibble, opened the locked door, and stepped out.
No activity below him. One shift had begun to trail off; the next had not quite begun to arrive.
He liked this time: the great building, in these moments, seemed to belong to him. "And leaves the world to darkness and to me," he thought, recalling a line from Thomas Gray's Elegy. A long cherished favorite of his, in fact from boyhood.
With his rank key he opened the building's express descent sphincter, dropped rapidly by chute to his own level, fourteen. Where he had worked most of his adult life.
Desks without people, rows of them. Except that at the far end of the major room one officer still sat painstakingly writing a report. And, at the coffee machine, a female officer drinking from a Dixie cup.
"Good evening," Buckman said to her. He did not know her, but it did not matter: she - and everyone else in the building - knew him.
"Good evening, Mr. Buckman. " She drew herself upright, as if at attention.
"Be tired," Buckman said.
"Go home." He walked away from her, passed by the posterior row of desks, the rank of square gray metal shapes upon which the business of this branch of earth's police agency was conducted.
Most of the desks were clean: the officers had finished their work neatly before leaving. But, on desk 37, several papers. Officer Someone worked late, Buckman decided. He bent to see the nameplate.
Inspector McNulty, of course. The ninety-day wonder of the academy. Busily dreaming up plots and remnants of treason ... Buckman smiled, seated himself on the swivel chair, picked up the papers.
TAVERNER, JASON. CODE BLUE.
A Xeroxed file from police vaults. Summoned out of the void by the overly eager - and overweight - lnspector McNulty. A small note in pencil: "Taverner does not exist."
Strange, he thought. And began to leaf through the papers.
"Good evening, Mr. Buckman." His assistant, Herbert Maime, young and sharp, nattily dressed in a civilian suit: he rated that privilege, as did Buckman.
"McNulty seems to be working on the file of someone who does not exist," Buckman said.
"In which precinct doesn't he exist?" Maime said, and both of them laughed. They did not particularly like McNulty, but the gray police required his sort. Everything would be fine unless the McNultys of the academy rose to policy-making levels. Fortunately that rarely happened. Not, anyhow, if he could help it.
Subject gave false name Jason Tavern.Wrong file pulled of Jason Tavern of Kememmer, Wyoming, diesel motor repairman. Subject claimed to be Tavern, with plastic S. ID cards identify him as Taverner, Jason, but no file.
Interesting, Buckman thought as he read McNulty's notes. Absolutely no file on the man. He finished the notes:
Well-dressed, suggest has money, perhaps influence to get his file pulled out of data bank. Look into relationship with Katharine Nelson, pol contact in area. Does she know who he is? Tried not to turn him in, but pol contact 1659BD planted microtrans on him. Subject now in cab. Sector N8823B, moving east in the direction of Las Vegas. Due 11/410:00 P.M. academy time. Next report due at 2:40 P.M. academy time.
Katharine Nelson. Buckman had met her once, at a pol-contact orientation course. She was the girl who only turned in individuals whom she did not like. In an odd elliptical way he admired her; after all, had he not intervened, she would have been shipped on 4/8/82 to a forced-labor camp in British Columbia.
To Herb Maime, Buckman said, "Get me McNulty on the phone. I think I'd better talk to him about this."
A moment later, Maime handed him the instrument. On the small gray screen McNulty's face appeared, looking rumpled. As did his living room. Small and untidy, both of them.
"Yes, Mr. Buckman," McNlilty said, focusing on him and coming to a stiff attention, tired as he was. Despite fatigue and a little hype of something, McNulty knew exactly how to comport himself in relation to his superiors.
Buckman said, "Give me the story, briefly, on this Jason Taverner. I can't piece it together from your notes."
"Subject rented hotel room at 453 Eye Street. Approached pol contact 1659BD, known as Ed, asked to be taken to ID forger. Ed planted microtrans on him, took him to pol contact 1980CC, Kathy."
"Katharine Nelson," Buckman said.
"Yes, sir. Evidently she did an unusually expert job on the ID cards; I've put them through prelim lab tests and they work out almost okay. She must have wanted him to get away."
"You contacted Katharine Nelson?"
"I met both of them at her room. Neither cooperated with me. I examined subject's ID cards, but -"
"They seemed genuine," Buckman interrupted.
"You still think you can do it by eye."
"Yes, Mr. Blickman. But it got him through a random pol checkpoint; the stuff was that good."
"How nice for him."
McNulty bumbled on. "I took his ID cards and issued him a seven-day pass, subject to recall. Then I took him to the 469th Precinct station, where I have my aux office, and had his file pulled ... the Jason Tavern file, it turned out. Subject went into a long song and dance about plastic S; it sounded plausible, so we let him go. No, wait a minute; I didn't issue him the pass until -"
"Well," Buckman interrupted, "what's he up to? Who is he?"
"We're following him, via the microtrans. We're trying to come up with data-bank material on him. But as you read in my notes, I think subject has managed to get his file out of every central data bank. It's just not there, and it has to be because we have a file on everyone, as every school kid knows; it's the law, we've got to."
"But we don't," Blickman said.
"I know, Mr. Blickman. But when a file isn't there, there has to be a reason. It didn't just happen not to be there: someone filched it out of there."
"'Filched,'" Buckman said, amused.
"Stole, purloined." McNulty looked discomfited. "I've just begun to go into it, Mr. Blickman; I'll know more in twenty-four hours. Hell, we can pick him up any time we want. I don't think this is important. He's just some well-heeled guy with enough influence to get his file out -"
"All right," Buckman said. "Go to bed." He rang off, stood for a moment, then walked in the direction of his inner offices. Pondering.
In his main office, asleep on the couch, lay his sister Alys. Wearing, Felix Blickman saw with acute displeasure, skin-tight black trousers, a man's leather shirt, hoop earrings, and a chain belt with a wrought-iron buckle. Obviously she had been drugging. And had, as so often before, gotten hold of one of his keys.
"God damn you," he said to her, closing the office door before Herb Maime could catch a glimpse of her.
In her sleep Alys stirred. Her catlike face screwed up into an irritable frown and, with her right hand, she groped to put out the overhead fluorescent light, which he had now turned on.
Grabbing her by the shoulders - and experiencing without pleasure her taut muscles - he dragged her to a sitting position. "What was it this time?" he demanded. "Termaline?"
"No." Her speech, of course, came out slurred. "Hexo phenophrine hydrosulphate. Uncut. Subcutaneous." She opened her great pale eyes, stared at him with rebellious displeasure.
Blickman said, "Why in hell do you always come here?" Whenever she had been heavily fetishing and/or drugging she crashed here in his main office. He did not know why, and she had never said. The closest she had come, once, was a mumbled declaration about the "eye of the hurricane," suggesting that she felt safe from arrest here at the core offices of the Police Academy. Because, of course, of his position.
"Fetishist," he snapped at her, with fury. "We process a hundred of you a day, you and your leather and chain mail and dildoes. God." He stood breathing noisily, feeling himself shake.
Yawning, Alys slid from the couch, stood straight upright and stretched her long, slender arms. "I'm glad it's evening," she said airily, her eyes squeezed shut. "Now I can go home and go to bed."
"How do you plan to get out of here?" he demanded. But he knew. Every time the same ritual unfolded. The ascent tube for "secluded" political prisoners got brought into use: it led from his extreme north office to the roof, hence to the quibble field. Alys came and went that way, his key breezily in hand. "Someday," he said to her darkly, "an officer will be using the tube for a legitimate purpose, and he'll run into you."
"And what would he do?" She massaged his short-cropped gray hair. "Tell me, please, sir. Muff-dive me into panting contrition?"
"One look at you with that sated expression on your face -"
"They know I'm your sister."
Buckman said harshly, "They know because you're always coming in here for one reason or another or no damn reason at all."
Perching knees up on the edge of a nearby desk, Alys eyed him seriously. "It really bothers you."
"Yes, it really bothers me."
"That I come here and make your job unsafe."
"You can't make my job unsafe," Buckman said. "I've got only five men over me, excluding the national director, and all of them know about you and they can't do anything. So you can do what you want." Thereupon he stormed out of the north office, down the dull corridor to the larger suite where he did most of his work. He tried to avoid looking at her.
"But you carefully closed the door," Alys said, sauntering after him, "so that that Herbert Blame or Mame or Maine or whatever it is wouldn't see me."
"You," Buckman said, "are repellent to a natural man."
"Is Maime natural? How do you know? Have you screwed him?"
"If you don't get out of here," he said quietly, facing her across two desks. "I'll have you shot. So help me God."
She shrugged her muscular shoulders. And smiled.
"Nothing scares you," he said, accusingly. "Since your brain operation. You systematically, deliberately, had all your human centers removed. You're now a" - he struggled to find the words; Alys always hamstrung him like this, even managed to abolish his ability to use words - you," he said chokingly, "are a reflex machine that diddles itself endlessly like a rat in an experiment. You're wired into the pleasure nodule of your brain and you push the switch five thousand times an hour every day of your life when you're not sleeping. It's a mystery to me why you bother to sleep; why not diddle yourself a full twenty-four hours a day?"
He waited, but Alys said nothing.
"Someday," he said, "one of us will die."
"Oh?" she said, raising a thin green eyebrow.
"One of us," Buckman said, "will outlive the other. And that one will rejoice."
The pol-line phone on the larger desk buzzed. Reflexively, Buckman picked it up. On the screen McNulty's rumpled hyped-up features appeared. "Sorry to bother you, General Buckman, but I just got a call from one of my staff. There's no record in Omaha of a birth certificate ever being issued for a Jason Taverner."
Patiently, Buckman said, "Then it's an alias."
"We took fingerprints, voiceprints, footprints, EEG prints. We sent them to One Central, to the overall data bank in Detroit. No match-up. Such fingerprints, footprints, voice-prints, EEG prints, don't exist in any data banks on earth." McNulty tugged himself upright and wheezed apologetically, "Jason Taverner doesn't exist."