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Today's Story by Darren Callahan

What would the police want with Hektor?

City of Human Remains – Chapter 17

|| City 32 Media Release #5678-B18D ||


An interview with incumbent Mayor Franco J. Cocanaugher at the start of his second term.

Q: Your name comes up a lot when talking about this city.  In fact, others outside of City 32 sometimes refer to it as ‘Franco’s City.’  How do you feel about that sort of connection?

FC: Next Mayor comes along, I’m sure it’ll be that person’s name that comes up, for better or worse.

Q: Are you worried that some of what you’ve accomplished won’t carry forward to the next administration?  For example, your subway improvement project, the updating of the power grid, installation of the sunrise platforms on city buildings, or your support of the Doll System?

FC: All those things you list are about becoming a world-class city.  Cities such as Tokyo or Paris have already beat us in some ways – their power grids and production facilities were re-done from scratch, whereas a lot of what runs 32 is rooted in twentieth century technology.  Sure, we’ve modified it, kept it running, but the basic infrastructure that powers our lights are actually very old.  And, it’s not going to last forever.  Energy demands are only going to increase.  There have been some alternate forms introduced in the last 30 years, but nothing limitless.  And I’m also really proud of the housing we’ve built and all the innovative solutions from my city planners.  Renters pay out their income on tiny rooms.  If you have more than 2 bedrooms, it’s a luxury.  We can do better.

Q: You’ve gotten almost all of the appropriations needed for these changes.  And that seems to be due to public as well as private support.  How did you orchestrate such a rally?

FC: To be blunt, you have to sell them something extraordinary.  No one contributes $10 billion to a power plant without an image of the future along with it.  When plants open, there is usually a prolonged period of ‘revenue recovery,’ as they say in the boardroom – the plant operates in the red.  To an investor, that’s very bad.  You have to show them the city in 100 years – with residents warm and with lights on, contributing to the tax and paying their bills.  A vision, if you will, of a thriving local economy, and a respected national and international reputation.  You want to be a destination city.  As much as the doubling of our city’s population has hurt us in the last 50 years, believe me, you don’t want the reverse.  People leaving 32 would be 100 times worse than people coming.  But if they’re coming, you want to make it worth it.  You want to solve problems, not create them.

Q: How does the Doll System fit into that ‘vision of the future?’

FC: That’s a part of that vision, certainly.  But for now, it’s considered more of a toy.  Something we’re trying out.  To me, it’s not as important as the power grid, roads, basic services, and police protection…and all the other important hubs of the civic wheel.  But the Doll System is the sexy part, if you don’t mind the metaphor.  To be in a city that can actually turn its daily weather from bad to good (or at the very least tolerable), that’s a place you want to live.  You go 50 kilometers outside the radius of Doll’s invention and what do you have?  A cold farmhouse, same as the last 10 centuries.  Why live in that cold farmhouse when you can live here?

Q: Does City 32 have handicaps to overcome?

FC: Oh, I wouldn’t call them handicaps.  But we have no glorious beaches.  We have no great tourist sites – well, we do, but none as iconic as, say, the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Opera House.  What we do have, though, is the ability to make people profitable, comfortable, and secure.  And that’s all anyone wants anyway, isn’t it?  A place to safely raise your children and make a good wage to support them.

Q: You’ve always had a soft spot for the children of City 32.  Your programs seem to reflect that.

FC: I guess that’s what I say when I mention a vision of the future.  Certainly someone who gives a fortune for a power plant probably won’t live long enough to reap all the profits.  Compared with all that, the Doll System is relatively cheap to implement.  But it all comes down to future generations.  They will know this city as a better place than it is today.  They will grow up and they will control our destinies.  So let’s give them the best world possible.



Jose stands near Hektor’s cot.  It is 6:30 in the morning – wake time on Sunday.  Most of the other boys have run from sleeping floor to the breakfast hall, where they mingle with the girls and charge through the orphanage’s daily routine.

Up, Hektor.  Jose gives the boy’s shoulder a soft shake.

Hektor opens his eyes.  He sits up slowly on his cot, moving the rough white cover from his bare legs and feet.  The Batman comic floats to the ground, displaced, and Jose snares the comic by its much-touched cover.  He safely sets it on the bed.

I had a dream, says Hektor.

Really?  What about?

That I knew 1 of the dead girls.

Jose sits beside the boy and drapes an arm over Hektor’s small shoulders.

But you did know one of the girls, he says.  You had seen Matty with Ms. Ximon.

Not her.  Not Matty.  Another girl.


I can’t remember now.  You woke me up too fast.

I’m sorry.  But look …         Jose gestures to the bare beds around them.  You’re the last.  Didn’t you hear the bell?

No, I was dreaming.

Well, come on, Jose smiles.  You don’t want to miss breakfast.

Hektor swings onto his feet, rubs his eyes.  He’s still groggy.  Jose pats the boy’s back then rises with him, walking with Hektor towards the door to the corridor.  He has a thought: Nary Ximon lived here, too.  Was it her you dreamed about?

Hektor shakes his head.  I don’t remember.

They pass the rows and rows of empty white cots.

Are you upset about Matty?  Or is this about what you saw Friday – that woman getting beaten?

I’m not upset.  It was just a dream.

They bump into Lorenzo at the corridor.

Someone’s here for the kid.

For Hektor?

A man is waiting in Ms. Ximon’s office.

Who is it?


Police?  What does he want?

Didn’t say.

Jose considers then looks down to Hektor.  It’s probably just some questions about what you saw in the yard.  They’re still looking for that woman.  I suppose you had better talk with him.

Will you come with me?


What about breakfast? Lorenzo calls as they move down the corridor.

I’m not hungry, Hektor replies quietly, just to Jose.

I’ll scrounge you something for later, assures the supervisor.

The slow elevator car takes them down past the Boys and Girls sleep floors to the administrative center of the building, the second floor.

Katherine Ximon is not in her office.   Instead, there is a uniformed Asian man in his 40s stretching in a chair behind her desk.  He listens to music through nodes stuck in his wide ears.  His eyes are closed and he hums along.  A few seconds go by before the man registers that there are others in the room.  When he sees Jose and Hektor, he is not startled.  He slowly smiles and removes the nodes, then springs upright.  From his nodes, faraway brass instruments float into the air.  Hello, greets them with an almost aristocratic inflection.

You wanted to talk with this boy?

The man walks forward, tucks the nodes into the pocket of his blue uniform – the formal and tight-buttoned regalia of a precinct captain.  Yes, yes, of course, of course.  He nods with his hand outstretched.  Are you Hektor?

The boy looks to Jose.

When the Asian man shakes the boy’s hand, Hektor feels the cold tips of his white fingers.

To Jose, he asks, Five minutes with the boy?

What would the police want with Hektor?

The man nods, happy, and dusts his uniform.  Just 5.  If you could wait outside.

Can I ask what this is about?

Don’t worry, sir.  This boy’s not in any trouble.

Damn right, he’s not.  He hasn’t left the wire in 6 years.  If he’s in been into trouble, I’d know it.

Jose’s defensiveness is making Hektor even more nervous.  It’s all right, Jose, he says with a tug on Jose’s white sleeve.

Jose eyes Hektor, then the police captain.

Five minutes.  That’s all.  The captain smiles.

Jose meets the captain’s unchanging facade.  Katherine Ximon is out on bereavement.  No funny business.  5 minutes, he reiterates.  He opens the door to leave then stops.  Shout if you need me, Hektor, I’ll hear you.  Jose shuts the door.

Hektor and the policeman stare at each other.  Hektor’s face betrays nothing.  He feels very bare in his issued gray shirt and trousers.  The man is not very tall – not nearly as tall as Lorenzo – but he has craned his neck to the side and, at the angle, looks like a giant.  His wide face and narrow eyes distort Hektor’s lower angle.  He is having trouble reading the man’s intentions.

Hektor, my name is Captain Woo Ren.  I co-lead the local precinct with another captain named Carlos Gutierrez.  And it seems you and I have a mutual friend.  Pause.  His name is Lucrecio.

Hektor’s face changes.  The policeman?

Yes.  He’s told me once that he sometimes talks to you through the fence when he’s patrolling.

The boy doesn’t respond.

Says you like comic books.

Shyly, Hektor kicks his shoes.  Batman.

Ah.  The Batman.  Goes back a century and a half.  The Dark Knight – isn’t that what they call him?  Bruce Wayne is what he calls himself in the daytime?  Good choice.  I’ve always liked Batman.  I side with Commissioner Gordon on that one.  Batman is one of us, isn’t he?  A do-gooder without super powers.  Just courage.  Pause.  The boy does not speak, so the police captain continues.  Lucrecio and I have been friends for a long time, Hektor – longer than you’ve been alive.  And I’m concerned about him.  He’s missing and I’d like to know that he’s all right.  Last week, a hard-to-find policeman would make the papers and we’d have searchers out.  But now, with all those missing children…  Responsible adult like Lucrecio.  Some say he’s capable of taking care of himself.  If he doesn’t find his way back, that’s Lucrecio’s own problem.

Hektor hasn’t moved.

Do you understand?

I haven’t seen him.

He didn’t pass the yard yesterday?


The day before?

Maybe.  They kept us inside most of the day.


They didn’t want us stolen.


Hektor opens a bit.  One of the kids from the orphanage was killed.


Matty Ximon.

Ren nods sympathetically.  Um, yes.  I remember now.  So… the captain leads, you didn’t see my friend recently?  Hektor shakes his head.  And did he say anything in peculiar the last time you saw him?  Hektor doesn’t answer.  Come now, Hektor.  Did he say anything queer?  Anything that might help me find him?

I don’t think what he said will help.

It might.  Why don’t you try me?

Hektor debates.  Okay.  He told me I was big enough now that I could climb the fence, if I tried hard enough.

Why would he say that?

He asked me if I ever wanted to leave the orphanage.

Do you?

No.  Not before.

Not before?  But you do now?

Hektor stops talking.

What, son?  Ren reaches out a hand and touches the boy’s shoulder with his finely manicured fingers.  I won’t tell anyone what we’ve talked about.  I won’t tell Jose.

I just wish I could help.


Help find them.

Ren moves his hand.  Thinks.  Nods.  The children?  Well.  You are a noble sort.  Batman would be proud.  I can understand why Lucrecio thinks so much of you.  He once called you, Hektor Vieja Alma.  Hektor Old Soul.  And I can see why.  Ren bends to 1 knee and reduces himself to Hektor’s size.  From the inner pocket of his jacket, he pulls out a piece of paper and a pencil.  He writes and speaks.  Would you please tell your friend Jose to contact me if Lucrecio gives you a message?  Or if you see Lucrecio?  That would be very helpful.  Here is my information.  Ren hands Hektor the paper then tucks away his pencil.  Before rising, he asks, Are you sure Lucrecio Adalberto didn’t say anything else?

Hektor pivots his head back and forth slowly.

Not quite satisfied, Ren shrugs with finality, Fair enough.  He pats the boy’s head and leaves.  When Hektor is alone, he can hear Captain Ren’s mumbled voice through the door as he speaks with Jose.