Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 11 of 64

He retold the story from the top, speaking slowly and clearly. PC McGivens aimed his comm Artwards, and tapped out the occasional note as Art spoke.

“Thank you sir. Now, once more, please?”

Art blew out an exasperated sigh. His feet hurt, and his bladder was swollen with drink. “You’re joking.”

“No sir, I’m afraid not. Procedure.”

“But it’s stupid! The guys who tried to mug us are long gone, I’ve given you their descriptions, you have their identification—” But they didn’t, not yet. The wallet still lay where Art had dropped it.

PC McGivens shook his head slowly, as though marveling at the previously unsuspected inanity of his daily round. “All very true, sir, but it’s procedure. Worked out by some clever lad using statistics. All this, it increases our success rate. ’Sproven.”

Here it was. Some busy tribalist provocateur, some compatriot of Fede, had stirred the oats into Her Majesty’s Royal Constabulary. Art snuck a look at Linda, who was no doubt being subjected to the same procedure by PC DeMoss. She’d lost her rigid, angry posture, and was seemingly—amazingly—enjoying herself, chatting up the constable like an old pal.

“How many more times have we got to do this, officer?”

“This is the last time you’ll have to repeat it to me.”

Art’s professional instincts perked up at the weasel words in the sentence. “To you? Who else do I need to go over this with?”

The officer shook his head, caught out. “Well, you’ll have to repeat it three times to PC DeMoss, once he’s done with your friend, sir. Procedure.”

“How about this,” Art says, “how about I record this last statement to you with my comm, and then I can play it back three times for PC DeMoss?”

“Oh, I’m sure that won’t do, sir. Not really the spirit of the thing, is it?”

“And what is the spirit of the thing? Humiliation? Boredom? An exercise in raw power?”

PC McGivens lost his faint smile. “I really couldn’t say, sir. Now, again if you please?”

“What if I don’t please? I haven’t been assaulted. I haven’t been robbed. It’s none of my business. What if I walk away right now?”

“Not really allowed, sir. It’s expected that everyone in England—HM’s subjects and her guests—will assist the police with their inquiries. Required, actually.”

Reminded of his precarious immigration status, Art lost his attitude. “Once more for you, three more times for your partner, and we’re done, right? I want to get home.”

“We’ll see, sir.”

Art recited the facts a third time, and they waited while Linda finished her third recounting.

He switched over to PC DeMoss, who pointed his comm expectantly. “Is all this just to make people reluctant to call the cops? I mean, this whole procedure seems like a hell of a disincentive.”

“Just the way we do things, sir,” PC DeMoss said without rancor. “Now, let’s have it, if you please?”

From a few yards away, Linda laughed at something PC McGivens said, which just escalated Art’s frustration. He spat out the description three times fast. “Now, I need to find a toilet. Are we done yet?”

“’Fraid not, sir. Going to have to come by the Station House to look through some photos. There’s a toilet there.”

“It can’t wait that long, officer.”

PC DeMoss gave him a reproachful look.

“I’m sorry, all right?” Art said. “I lack the foresight to empty my bladder before being accosted in the street. That being said, can we arrive at some kind of solution?” In his head, Art was already writing an angry letter to the Times, dripping with sarcasm.

“Just a moment, sir,” PC DeMoss said. He conferred briefly with his partner, leaving Art to stare ruefully at their backs and avoid Linda’s gaze. When he finally met it, she gave him a sunny smile. It seemed that she—at least—wasn’t angry any more.

“Come this way, please, sir,” PC DeMoss said, striking off for the High Street. “There’s a pub ’round the corner where you can use the facilities.”

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