A simple premise; a bold promise
To present one story per day, every day—
providing exceptional authors with exposure
and avid readers with first-rate fiction.

Today's Story by Darren Callahan

It means there’s something. It means Matthew is somewhere. He didn’t just become invisible.

City of Human Remains – Chapter 32



The truck zooms past the orphanage at top speed.  The driver is late.  The appointment was for 11 that morning, and it is already 10:51.  Estimated arrival at City Hall: 11:17.

The driver hopes Mr. Majoury will wait for him.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, he curses at himself in the front cab.  The truck, emblazoned with the Lamarche Clockworks logo – a 3-dimensional, functional, and green-painted clock – rips down the street.  The irony of being late while driving such a truck, with its oversized mechanism reminding him of every second, is not lost on Lou Lamarche.

For the first night since his son Matthew’s disappearance, he has slept a dreamless 14 hours.  His wife Lucinda had not woken him (even though he asked her to, begged her to, being certain to remind her of his Very Important Appointment with Mr. Majoury of the mayor’s office.)  But Lucinda disobeyed.  She left him comatose until the very moment.

He is a man who builds clocks and Time is his reputation.  Mayor Cocanaugher commissioned eight custom units to be built in the city’s premier buildings (City Hall, City Courthouse, City Library, Traffic Court, Small Claims Court, City Media Room, the Zigon Museum, the in-construction Doll Museum, and, lastly, on the City Pier.)  The work guarantees Lamarche years of employment and a minimum of $425,000.  It would be tragic to have the contracts canceled due to a single missed appointment.

He arrives at 11:16.  He locates the parking garage, shows his Limited Permissions, and is waved through the square’s still-standing riot barricades.

The underground lot is nearly full, so he drills down and down and down, growing despondent at sub-level 6.  There is a glide space on the lowest level and he rolls into it at 11:28.

He’s been messaging Mr. Majoury since 10:59, but nothing’s gotten through and now, in the dim and damp lower decks of the garage, Lamarche’s slouch is a sign of his resignation.  The mayor’s team has had enough on their hands with the children and the weather.  Now he’s made them worry over a middle-aged clockmaker.

Lamarche tucks in his faded blue shirt, straightens his pearl necktie, snaps his jacket and topcoat, and slicks his salt-and-pepper hair back from his forehead.  No time for grease — he uses spit instead.  He checks his wrist and the 3 circular watches on individually colored bands – white, black, red – and confirms they’re in synch with his tardiness.

Mr. Majoury? he requests from the mousy-haired woman at Security.  I have an appointment.

She presses numbers and smiles as she asks to be connected with for Mr. Majoury.  He’ll be right down, she informs Lamarche.

The clockmaker nods.

Maybe I’m not doomed after all, he hopes.

Lamarche waits in the center of the spacious marble lobby of City Hall and watches the buzzing employees.  He cranes to find the empty hole that will host of the grandest of his designs.  The overhead area has been strung with cables and electrics, but no Lamarche clock yet.  The plans are not yet complete.  The lobby’s current Shep-clock is embedded on the front of the security desk.  The Shep is plain and uninteresting, displaying cold digital time.  Lamarche prefers the mechanism to be revealed, the seconds to tick, and the hands to move in hitches.  He has never liked numbers.  He doesn’t like to think of time as mathematics.  He prefers to imagine it as movement.

He thinks of Matthew.

Lou, says Mr. Majoury, his hand outstretched as he steps off the silver escalator that funnels from the executive offices.  The manager is Lamarche’s age, but displays none of the clockmaker’s symmetry of dress and manner.  He’s rattled, sweaty, un-tucked, and in a hurry.  Lamarche knows him as a digital man, from a confession a few months ago.  Mr. Majoury understands none of the mayor’s romance with Lamarche’s clocks and only wants to conclude the annual budget without any overages.  But he’s pleasant enough, Lamarche supposes, for a bureaucrat.

Lamarche begins with apologies.  I am so sorry I am late.  My wife, she—

Mr. Majoury holds his long arms open, in disbelief.  If you don’t mind my asking, Mr. Lamarche, why the hell are you here at all?

Lamarche blushes to conceal his self-deprecating anger and the hurt.  I know, I know.  The contract.  It’s on hold.  I had the message from my foreman.  I’m so glad you wanted to meet with me to discuss—

No, not the contract.  No, no.  Forget the contract.  The contract isn’t on hold, anyway, it’s approved.  The foreman must have gotten the message wrong.  I’m talking about the news.  Your son Matthew.  He’s on the lists, isn’t he?  Haven’t you watched the broadcasts this morning?  Don’t you know what’s happened?

Lamarche’s throat closes.  He can’t breath.  He bends at the waist and tries to clear it, but it is as if a hangman’s rope has cinched his neck.

Mr. Majoury touches a hand to Lou Lamarche’s shoulder, an awkward and intimate gesture.  Are you all right, Mr. Lamarche?

Lamarche can’t seem to remove his eyes from his shoes.   Please, he pleads quietly, don’t tell me anything bad.  His body is about to crumble into tears, into sickness.

The brown-haired woman at security stands up, as if she may be required any moment to call for an ambulance, or, perhaps, the guards, as she doesn’t know this Lou Lamarche or his intentions.

With great effort, Lamarche straightens.  The news? he repeats, dumbly.

Mr. Majoury removes his hand from Lamarche’s shoulder.  It’s just that…well, I know about your son Matthew being on the lists.  I assumed you and your wife must have been glued to the broadcasts this morning and that’s why you hadn’t shown.

Is he dead?  They’ve found him and he’s dead, isn’t he?  Tears begin to burn his face, his eyes, the corners of his crow’s feet, but they do not yet come.

You’re serious, Lou?  You haven’t watched the news?

We’ve never owned anything to hear or see broadcasts, Lamarche confesses.  We’re isolationists. The neighbors keep us informed.

The story just broke an hour ago.  Didn’t you hear?  They’ve arrested someone.


Naturally I assumed you wouldn’t be here for the appointment.

Arrested someone?  The idea processes in Lamarche’s mind.  People in the marble lobby look at him.  He feels their eyes.  Did they find any, any more parts, like—? he starts to ask, but Mr. Majoury anticipates the question.

They found no one.  Apparently, this person broke into a house and somehow they’ve linked him to the 81.  I don’t really know much more than that.  There’s a Media conference starting upstairs in just few minutes.

I—I… Lamarche stumbles with his words.

Someone’s been arrested.  Someone’s been caught.  Why isn’t there a flood of people here, why isn’t there chaos, where is this suspect, who is he, can I ask him about Matthew, why is everyone so fucking calm, why didn’t my neighbors tell me anything, why didn’t I get a message during the commute, am I the only one in City 32 who knows nothing? 

All these questions hit like close-by explosions, but the only words out of his mouth are: I need to talk to my wife.

There’s no time.  Mr. Majoury takes Lamarche’s arm.  Do you want to go up with me?  I can get you in.  I have a pass.  You can hear the conference live as it goes out.

I have to call my wife.

Later, call her later.  Mr. Majoury hustles with Lamarche towards the gleaming escalators.

The office floor is brightly lit, confusing.  CITY EXECU-CENTER, reads a sign with arrow.  He mistakes it for ‘city executioner.’ Lamarche has been here during the bids and the contracts and the design approvals, but now he’s completely lost.  He stops at every corner turn and waits for Mr. Majoury’s indicating waves.  They pass by office doors quickly: CITY PLANNING, ZONING, POSTMASTER.  Then onto another set of escalators.  2 security desks (passed in no time thanks to Mr. Majoury’s escort badge,) and finally into a door with a flashing beacon: MEDIA EVENT HALL.

Lamarche is surprised at how few people are seated in the hall.  He had expected people like tight-packed pigs, not this spare collection of two-dozen men and women.  Most are seated in the very front row in plush red chairs.  They have their recorders, Post Its, and questions ready.  Each person wears a tag – MEDIA, in bold font.  Beneath the declaration is the name of affiliation and, below that, tiny print which Lamarche cannot hope to decipher from the top of the auditorium.

Mr. Majoury leads Lamarche to a chair in the rear row of the auditorium.  There are seven others in his row; each looks more uncomfortable than the next.  Lamarche assumes these are a privileged few, let in by connections.  No nametags.

Mr. Majoury gestures to the folded seats.  I’ll be back when it’s over.  I have something to attend to.

Don’t you have to stay with me?

Don’t worry.  It will be all right now.

Though he knows the man refers to Lamarche’s place in the room, the clockmaker is strangely comforted by the bureaucrat’s words.  And, for the first time since being late for his appointment, he relaxes his muscles and lets the idea overcome his senses.

Someone has been arrested.  There is hope.  Matthew has hope.

Thank you, Lamarche says with sincerity as Mr. Majoury scoots away.  The man returns a simple nod and thumbs up.

Lamarche sits delicately in one of the seats.

An older black woman is just down the row.  She inspects him up and down distrustfully.  This woman he recognizes.  Her image was in a flash edition loaned to him by his neighbor.  This woman was the instigator of the City Hall riot.  Her granddaughter is one of the 81.

Hello, nods the woman.

Hello, he replies.

Any conversation is interrupted by the start of the conference.

Eleven people take the stage.  Two women, nine men – three blacks, three Hispanics, two unidentifiables, one in a wheelchair, three bald, two in suits, five in uniforms, two policemen, two police captains, one fire captain, one nobody, and one woman with an eye-patch, all wearing some combination of elation and caution.

Lamarche cranes forward.

The lights dim to half.

The most generic of the suited men steps up to the dime-size broadcaster hanging center stage.  He’s older.  Stoop-shouldered.  Serious.  On display like a monkey.

Good morning everyone.  Thank you for joining us.  My name is Leon Burris.  I’m Second Lieutenant, City 32 Detective Division, Ward 8.  I am currently the lead investigator for 16 of the 81 cases of child abduction that occurred on October 23rd.  We believe to have had a significant break in the ongoing search for the children.  A Caucasian Male, age 41, was taken into custody last night shortly before 9 PM by 2 patrolmen, who had become suspicious of the man’s behavior.  The suspect had inhabited a home where three bodies were recovered: a man’s, a woman’s, and an infant’s.  He is currently being held under charges related to these deaths.  Other evidence recovered at the scene indicates a possible connection to the six children found in a drain tunnel this past Friday, October 25th.  At this time, we are not releasing the identity of the man arrested or the victims.  It is important to note that no other children have been recovered, in any condition, at the scene, aside from the three unrelated bodies at the scene.  As far as we know, these three additional deaths appear to have been murders of convenience.  Our current understanding is that the home may have been invaded, the residents killed, and the six children later murdered on the premises.  As this is an ongoing investigation, we will not be taking any questions.  There will be another conference within the next four hours.  Thank you.

The lights rise and the auditorium stage empties to a barrage of shouted questions.    The old woman beside Lamarche shoots out of her chair and shouts louder than all of them.  What is his name!  What is his name!  Where is my granddaughter!  Where is my granddaughter!  TELL US HIS NAME!

Lamarche excuses himself from the row, but no one hears him.  He’s a blur in the chair.

In the corridor, Mr. Majoury intercepts him.  That went faster than I thought.  I nearly missed you.

I have to contact my wife.

You can use my office.

In two minutes, Lamarche is standing in Mr. Majoury’s sparse office.  The director stands outside the glass to give Lamarche privacy.  Lamarche decides, for the first time, that he likes this man.  This bureaucrat.  And not just because he keeps the purchase order open for the eight custom clocks.  But because he gives him his office.  Because he wants to help.  And because he knows Matthew’s name.

Lucinda, it’s me.

Did you hear?

I was in the auditorium.

I don’t know what to think, Lou.  What does it mean?

It means there’s something.  It means Matthew is somewhere.  He didn’t just become invisible.  He is somewhere and this man knows where he is.

Come home.

I will.

Come home now.

I will.  I am.