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Today's Story by Darren Callahan

You’ve got to save that kid!

City of Human Remains – Chapter 53


It’s been 61 minutes since the call.  The sun is an hour or more away from rising.  She arrives to lights – red, green, blue – bathing the street and the nearby buildings in a hazy glow.  From this distance, she can’t see much: two fire trunks, three police glides, two-dozen wandering spectators, and a horde of uniformed officials between her and the wreckage.  She parks her vehicle close to the mess.  She has not more than opened her glide door when she is recognized.

Commissioner Van Nuys! calls a young, broad-faced firefighter wearing protective red armor.


Come with me.

She follows the firefighter.  He is weighed down by a heavy ax in his right hand, and smells of chimneys and dirt – nose, cheeks, and forehead coated in black soot, debris that could have come from this event as easily as any of the fires earlier this morning.  She knows the firefighter wasn’t the one who rang her Eye Dial.  That was someone else.

Passing barricades, Marsha can better see the wreckage.  A chuck of compacted metal is overturned in the middle of the road.  Beside it is a fairly intact Doll Repair Q-glide.  The Doll glide is scorched along the side, with its front window smashed.

Her brain processes the information: two vehicles, opposite directions on the same road, collision, one is crushed like a tin can, the other bursts into flames but retains its shape.  Strewn about are glide parts and glass bits, as if one of the vehicles has been blown apart by tremendous power.  The firefighter explains the physics of the crash and the entry points of the intersection.  She’s not paying him any attention.  Instead, she stares at the larger of the two smashed objects.

Tell Captain Coffland I’m here, she says.

The firefighter jogs away and returns a minute later (though without his ax.)  He gestures forward to an older, fatter, pasty-skinned police captain.  With buzzed and graying fringe around his severe head and gleaming bald spot, the man is traditionally ugly, physically plain, but with a voice and manner that is both welcoming and consoling.  He takes Marsha’s hand – not a business handshake, but rather an acknowledgement of personal connection, a second hand intimately resting on top of the man’s knuckles.

Marsha, the captain starts in a voice loud enough to overcome the accident scene’s clamor.  His soberness cuts the noise.  Thanks for coming.  Helluva crack up, isn’t it?  He cranks his head over his shoulder.  I ran the plates but didn’t know who ta call, ‘cept you.  Gonna be a big story tomorrow.  Thank God it’s the middle of the night.  Media’s still asleep…

They sleep? she jokes.  Coffland doesn’t even smile.  I was in a meeting with him a few hours ago.

Was he drinking?

Not really.

Good.  That’ll look better in the flashes.

What hospital did they take him to?

The police captain’s mouth opens then shuts.  He redirects attention to the young firefighter, who snaps and runs to other duties, as if he had planned to do that from the beginning of the captain’s conversation.  Marsha, Coffland eases, Efdrey was killed in the crash.

Yes.  Okay.  Tell me the rest.

She can’t believe she’s said this so simply.  She’s absorbed the horrible news and put it in a place far out of her mind so she can’t feel the immediacy of it.  For a held breath, she looks past Coffland to a distant place.

Efdrey must have been goin’ real fast.  And there.  See the spot?  He hit that Doll Repair glide.  Helluva mess.  Took us 15 minutes just to crack the glides open.  Andrezzi’s was the first we got to, but he’d had it.  Then we get into the Q, which looked like it had rolled a coupla times, and guess what?  No driver.  Engineer was thrown 20 meters and we didn’t even know it.  We’ve got him littered behind that dumpster over there.  Medics don’t want to move him.  They’re waiting on a special team.  Guy’s a bit out of it.

Take me to him.

They cross the ruins of Efdrey Andrezzi’s glide.  Marsha smells the air – burning skin and metal compression, tires and tar.  The odor wrinkles her nostrils and brings back memories.  She always hates crash scenes.  When she was young and on the beats, she knew this proximity wasn’t for her.  Either they are full of chaos – blood, damage, fires, gawkers, Media, good Samaritans, scavengers, and, as she liked to call them, ‘the shockers’ – people in Condition White that stand about like department store mannequins; or, the scenes are in recovery, when the worst of the carnage is over but the mess and stench linger.  Tonight’s intersection is the latter, only now the recovery period doesn’t promote in her mind an organized effort of authorities, but instead the death place of a close friend.  I was just with Efdrey, she spins in her mind.  She remembers the lawyer at the pool table with Franco, talking of the undiscovered children and strategies for locating them.  Alive.  She’d known only a few lawyers who were optimists, and Efdrey was 1 of them.  That’s why Franco trusted him.  Franco likes to know things are possible.  And, of course, the licensing, which, to Marsha, felt wrong and greedy, also circled in her conscience.  She wonders if the crash is a sort of cosmic retribution.

She will dial the mayor, whom, she suspects, had kept conversing with Chris Silvers about the Doll deal long after she went home and to bed.  But the call to Franco would have to wait.  Bad news is best delayed, even if the lurking threat of Media is only giving her an hour.

Coffland breaks her concentration.  The Doll driver is a lightweight, says the captain.  He was thrown real far from the Q.  Small guys do that.

Yes, she replies, he must be a feather to go this far.  Marsha follows the captain’s further and further off the street.

He’s a dwarf, the captain adds.

Oh.  She sees his body prone on the pavement with two flanking medics.  The driver has contraptions tied to his chest, his wrists, his head.  With the man’s small size, the machinery appears to be eating him.  The engineer’s eyes are open, pupils dilated and a glower on his face.

He can to speak better, announces a medic – female, Puerto Rican, stout, with hair pulled back and rubber gloves.  Says his name is Ingold.

Coffland bends beside the damaged man.  There are bruises along the dwarf’s chin and his left cheek has been sliced and bandaged.  Mr. Ingold… The captain speaks the man’s name tenderly.  I’m Captain Lars Coffland, City 32 police.

He drove right through the light, t-t-that guy, stutters the dwarf.

Yes, we assumed he did.

Did you get that other driver out?  Is he okay?

I’m sorry, Mr. Ingold.  The driver of the other glide has died.

Ingold closes his eyes then opens them again.  I’d be dead, too.  I’d be gone.  Shit.  That kid.  He saved my life.

The engineer tries to sit upright.  He struggles with the machines but the medics ease him back down.  Don’t move, Mr. Ingold, stresses the Puerto Rican.

You’ve got to save that kid!

Marsha moves forward into the engineer’s view.  What kid?

Hektor – he pulled me out of the Q when the fire started.  Guy ran the light.  We crashed and I was trapped.  Hektor drags me over here.  But then that f-f-fucker grabs Hektor and throws him in his trunk.  H-he drove off!  You’ve got to find Hektor!  Kid saved my life.

Coffland shakes his head.  Mr. Ingold, I’m sorry but I’m confused.  Both glides are back there.  The other driver is dead.  No kid named Hektor anywhere.  No one was in the trunk.

The engineer shakes his head.  two glides there, yeah, now.   But there were three.  Some fucker runs the light and barely gets a scratch.  I think his bumper fell off over there.  Ingold points to a spot far away, near a shadowy alley.  The dwarf, dizzy and restless, anxious to get to his feet, presses against the hands that hold him.  Please, you’ve got to find Hektor!

Is Hektor your son? asks Marsha.

Ingold dusts her away.  No, no, no.  Just some runaway kid I found hiding on a platform.  We ate together.  I was taking him on my route. And thank God, thank God, too, because I’d be dead.  He pulled me out and dragged me here, away from that fire.  And then guy with just a few cuts comes and grabs him like he owns him.

Marsha and Coffland catch each other’s looks.

Oh my God, Jesus, oh my God.  Marsha’s brain begins accelerating.  Can you give us a good description? she asks.

Yeah.  I think so.  Maybe.

Coffland’s back on his feet.  Don’t move, he tells the police commissioner.  I’ll get someone to take all this down.  He runs off shouting for a Post It Man.

Marsha calls after him: Find out if any kids named Hektor have been reported missing in the last two weeks!

A machine clacks on Ingold’s arm then wiggles to his body.  He squirms under the pincers.  Goddamnit, can’t you get these things off me?  I’m all right!  Hektor got me out.  I’m just rattled.

The medics, unsure of the protocol, seek approval from the commissioner.  She nods, oh-so-slightly, and the two begin the dismantling.

In a few moments, Coffland returns.  Four patrolmen are with him, clinging like magnets.  Kid named Hektor went missing from City Orphanage yesterday morning, Coffland declares.  Another orphan who disappeared with him got picked up along the highway tryin’ to thumb a ride.  Get this: kid on the highway said this Hektor went looking for the missing 81.

That’s him! chimes in Ingold.  Goddamnit, that’s him!  I know it.  Sounds like the kid I met.  He’d wanna help.

Marsha levels herself with Ingold and puts a hand on the engineer’s shoulder.  Did the boy say anything about the missing children?

Ingold shakes his head.  No.  He didn’t.  Not to me.

Nothing?  Nothing like – he knows where they are, or who is involved, or anything?

No – what? – you think he’s involved?  Ingold scoffs.  Pay attention: three glides crashed, lady.  The guy who caused it picks the kid up and throws poor Hektor in his fucking trunk and drives off!  The driver’s the one you wanna ask these questions!  Not Hektor.

Marsha lifts slowly and trains on Captain Coffland with his flanking officers.   This man’s right, she admits.  The person who took the orphan may be connected to Serkan.  We’ve known Serkan probably didn’t act alone.  And who just grabs a kid and throws him in a trunk?

Might be another copycat, says the captain.

It might.  But it’s still a dangerous person who’s taken a young boy.

Coffland nods.  I’ll put out a message.  Find the glide with the missing bumper.  And you— Coffland directs a finger at Ingold.  Give these patrolmen every detail you can remember about the driver – everything!

Marsha nestles into a storefront down the block.  She’s pushing things back in her mind so she can concentrate: Efdrey, this orphan boy, Ingold the repairman, the night, the noise, the lights and sirens.  But they won’t do her bidding.  The noise crowds her like stuffed commuters on a subway train.  She can barely remember the number to Franco’s office.


You’re still there!  You should get some sleep.

Chris and I are just finishing.

Scheming or playing pool?

Both.  What about you?  Why aren’t you getting 40 winks, Marsha?  You’ve got some kids to find today.  Sun’s up soon.

Marsha adjusts the Eye Dial so Franco’s booming voice is a mere whisper.  I have a lot to tell you.

Can’t be that much.  You only left two hours ago and it’s not even daybreak.

Efdrey’s been killed in a crash.  Silence.  Did you hear me?

I heard you, says the mayor over the line.

Best I can tell, some man ran a light and hit both Efdrey’s glide and a Doll repair glide doing night shift.  And then—

You’re sure Efdrey’s dead?

Yes.  I’m sorry.  But listen—

Don’t tell me it’s all this bad.

It could be worse, actually. A runaway boy was tagging along with the engineer.  His name is Hektor.  He escaped from City Orphanage with some notion that he could find the missing kids.  He saved the engineer from the vehicle, but the other driver snatched this boy and drove away.  Pause.  We believe that the driver, the one who took the kid, may have something to do with the 81.

What is this, a hunch?


Who’s on the scene?

Lars Coffland.

I like Lars.  He’ll keep quiet.

What do you want me to do, Franco?

There’s a long hold on the line.

Let me talk with Chris.

The line goes mute.

A full minute passes.

She hears nothing.

In two minutes, he’s back.

Marsha, I want you to call on Douglaz Doll first thing today.  Like Efdrey was supposed to do.

Are you serious?  You want me to run your business errand for you when we have such a strong lead on the children?  This contradicts everything you told us when I was there.  I offered and you said—

I said that when I had Efdrey.  Now I don’t.  You know Douglaz, Marsha.  And the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this is a conversation that has to happen sooner rather than later.

I know!  But Jesus, Franco.

Franco injects a measure of calm into his words.  What are you doing to find the driver?  Tell me.

We’re putting out a net.

Good.  Let me know if it catches anything.  In the meantime, go home and sleep 60 minutes.  And then knock on Douglaz Doll’s door.

She bunches her face in anger.  She can’t believe Franco has chosen to waste her morning on Douglaz Doll.  It’s infuriating.  Her hand goes white from the tight grip on her Eye Dial.  Chris Silvers is the devil, she thinks, but doesn’t mean it.

Okay, Franco.  I’ll run your errand.  But I’m going with Lars and leaving straight away to find this man.  If the business with Douglaz can’t happen in 45 minutes or less, I’m not doing it.


Understood, says the mayor.

Marsha takes a breath.  She’s not used to speaking with her boss this way.  She takes another breath.  Franco, she starts, I’m sorry about Ef—

The line breaks.