I awoke staring at a bland ceiling.
My head hurt like hell and my eyes were screaming for help, but I ignored them both. Looking around slowly, I found that I was on my back, lying on a bench in a small office. There was a desk. Across from me, behind this desk, was a man who was staring at me. He looked important.
"Are you awake, Mr Poland?" he asked.
I raised myself to a sitting position and nodded, still looking at him.
"Where am I?" I croaked. I must have been out for a while.
"You are in the police building in the office of Chief Forrester."
What the hell was I doing here? "Why..." I started to ask, but could not finish, my voice catching in my parched throat.
"You feinted when the police caught up with you in that building. Why were you up there, Mr Poland?"
I took a moment to recall what had happened just before I blacked out. "I was chasing Jerome Harvey."
The man wrote this down in a notebook. "And he is?"
"A schedule skipper."
An eyebrow lifted. "I don't recall hearing of a schedule skipper."
"Harvey was arrested and reformed several weeks ago."
"Then what were you doing chasing him?"
"I believed that he was connected to the murder of George Daly."
"Why?" he asked.
"Because of the circumstances surrounding the death."
"But Mr Harvey had been reformed. He couldn't possibly have killed this man."
"Yes, I now think it was a suicide. But that's not the point. I think that his reformation has failed."
This created quite a reaction in the man. He looked shocked, frightened, concerned, angry, and unconcerned all at the same time. It was quite a look.
"Reforment does not fail, Mr Poland." His face was now blank.
"Apparently it does, as Harvey ran away from me when I arrested him, disregarded traffic laws several times, and is still involved in-" I stopped. This man probably had the power to ship me off to reforment should get even the hint of dishonesty toward him. If I tell him about Liberation, he might find out that I have been having 'impure thoughts.' Illegal thoughts. Thoughts worthy of reforment.
"And is still involved in what, Mr Poland?" asked the man quietly.
"In- in illegal activities." I stuttered.
The man nodded. "Anything else?" I shook my head.
He rested his elbows on the desk and leaned forward. "Mr Poland, listen very carefully to what I am about to say. Reforment never, never, fails. It is foolproof. All who go in, come out perfect citizens. No exceptions. Do you understand me?"
I nodded dumbly. He continued.
"And prominent leaders of the community do not just go and kill themselves. That would be a disgrace to themselves and those who know them. They do not commit suicide. Am I clear?"
Again I nodded.
"George Daly was killed by some unknown person who has yet to be found..."
"But Harvey said-"
The man got to his feet and shouted down my throat, "Harvey said nothing! Harvey was never involved in this case and has not been failed to be reformed! Daly was murdered and the culprit has not been found! The case is closed for you! Do I make my self clear Mr Poland?"
I opened my mouth to scream back at the man about how the law officials were supposed to uphold the truth, and fight for justice not quick fixes, and lots of other such ideals, but all that came out was, "Yes." I mentally kicked myself while the man nodded curtly and strode from the room.
I sat in the office silently running over the conversation in my mind until a young officer came in and ushered me from the building to my car which was now parked out front. I drove home to find Elizabeth sitting at my desk looking out the window.
As I opened the door, she ran up to me and practically jumped on me with a hug.
"What happened to you?" she asked sternly. "You just left me there! Something could have happened to me while you were off chasing that guy!" She started to hit me until I held her arms and looked into her face.
"I am sorry, but I had to get to him before he was caught by the police." I smiled and said teasingly, "But if you had been faster, I wouldn't have left you behind."
She renewed her struggle to attack me but I held her fast.
"Come on, the day's almost over. Let's have some tea, yes?" I said, releasing her.
She nodded and sat back down behind my desk.
I handed her a cup and opened the door to the balcony.
She followed me out and perched herself on the railing, looking at me.
"So did you catch him?" she asked.
"The guy you were chasing."
"Oh. No. He got away."
"So you think that he was the one who killed Daly?"
I paused before answering this. I was pretty sure that Harvey didn't do it, but I was told that he was innocent even though the evidence I had suggested otherwise. Why would that man have told me to stop the case, defy the evidence, and declare that some unknown person had killed Daly? If cases were that easy to solve, I would have been out of a job.
"No," I said finally. "He was innocent."
"Then who killed Daly?"
"I don't know," I lied.
"So we continue it tomorrow, then?"
I shook my head. "No. The case is closed."
"Without finding the killer? That doesn't make sense."
I leaned on the railing and sighed. "I know, but that's how it is."
Elizabeth thankfully didn't bother to argue the stupidity of this. I found it stupid myself. It was as if that man, whom I can only assume worked for the Board, had wanted to cover up the fact that Harvey might have been connected to Daly's death, and that Daly might have killed himself. This was the man who was in charge? A man who wanted quick fixes to save face? If he was so willing to ignore facts now, had he done the same before? That was a man who should not have held such a high rank in the world. That was a man who deserved nothing but the bottom rung of jobs.
But what can you do when those you trust and rely upon to make the right decisions are corrupt? What can you do when the truth and the well being of people is put aside in order to achieve some petty goal such as reputation? If that man had lied, did that mean that others in the government were also lying? Just how far did the corruption go? Was it like a disease or a plague that inevitably would spread through the system to all who work within it?
When the government becomes focused on reputation instead of upholding the truth, it would be the people who follow that government that suffer. And they would never know it.
A clock tolled the hour and it's call was taken up by thousands the city over. The sun was slowly setting and the windows of the city were briefly illuminated by the unsurpassable beauty of nature. I looked, with Elizabeth nearby, to watch the falling star dip below the skyline and into oblivion to rest until the next day. We silently watched the recurring spectacle until the cold night had pushed it away and then we headed back inside to await another day.