Eddie has captured Red Ace, and now it’s time to interrogate the mysterious burglar. What could possibly go wrong? Come back tomorrow for the story’s exciting conclusion!
* * *
The interrogation room at Precinct 4 was a stark, utilitarian affair. It was not a room that the 21st century had touched, let alone the 22nd. The walls were bare, the table was made of a single piece of machined aluminum bolted to the floor, and the chairs were uncomfortably Puritanical in design and form. One wall was the traditional one-way mirror, and the door was set in the opposite wall. The one token nod to modernity was the small video camera that floated in the air above the table, maneuvering on small air jets to take in the whole room.
Red Ace was already there when I arrived, unmasked and handcuffed to the chair across from the one-way mirror. Turns out the burglar was a woman with a close-cropped shock of bright red hair and a dark complexion. Her eyes were a pale green, but burned with a fierce anger borne of (1) being stuck in an interrogation room and (2) having been caught by me.
“Red Ace, how nice to finally meet the real you,” I said as I walked in. I patted her on the shoulder as I skirted the table and took a seat across from her, my back to the one-way mirror. The door clicked shut behind her, locking again and only openable from the outside. She sat in her chair, resolutely saying nothing.
“So, what’s your name,” I asked, pressing on against the tidal wave of annoyed silence emanating from her.
The silence continued, unabated.
“You might as well say something,” I opined, hoping she’d open up after such a clever bon mot.
“You’re only making things worse for yourself, y’know,” I said. “Even now, Captain O’Mally’s getting a search warrant to toss your place. We’ll find the files, and we’ll find all the other stuff you’ve been stealing lately, too. It’s just a matter of time.”
This time, she snorted a laugh, and a smile that had nothing to do with humor flickered across her face.
“They won’t find anything in my place,” she finally said, a sneer on her lips. “And your client will just have to live with the fact that she’ll never have those files she wants.” Her voice had a slight accent, a melodic lilt that was difficult to place but made her seem exotic. It was the sort of voice you could fall in love with, if it weren’t for the fact she was a notorious thief.
“You know, you’ve got a nice voice. It was a shame to hide it behind the vocal modulator like you did.”
“It’s chauvinists like you who are the reason I did it,” she replied defiantly. “I hate being judged by what I look like, or what I sound like. Never for my abilities, always for my physical characteristics!”
I raised my hands defensively. “Easy, tiger, I was just trying to make conversation. Don’t get so defensive.”
Red Ace sat there casually, a defiant and confident sneer playing across her face. “Your kind is always the same. You think you know everything, but you’re just as ignorant and self-serving as anyone else. You’re just less honest with yourself.”
I was starting to get annoyed. “Look, lady, I’m sure your degree in gender studies or whatever makes you imminently qualified to lecture me on this,” I said, “but all I really want to know is who you’re working for.”
This time, she gave me another smile, one that not only still had nothing to do with humor but that promised someone wasn’t going to find what happened next funny at all. “Detective, that’s not really an issue right now. What is at issue is that I will be out of here in the next few minutes, and the only thing I’m not yet sure of is whether you’ll be able to walk out under your own power or not.”
I shifted uneasily in my chair. “You do realize you’re handcuffed to a chair, right?” I asked.
Red Ace barked a short, sharp laugh, shoved her chair back away from the table, and flipped over the back of it, bringing her handcuffed hands in front of her in the process. “A little help!” I called out to the floating camera, hoping the guards who had been posted right outside the door would be able to do something about this new turn of events.
The guards burst in, stun batons raised and ready. But Red Ace was ready, too, and swung her chair in a wide arc, catching both guards across the face and knocking them down. She knelt down and grabbed the handcuff neutralizer, touching it to the band on first her right and then her left wrist, deactivating the cuffs. Rubbing her wrists, she then grabbed the two guards’ stun batons, twirled them like she’d spent her life leading a marching band, then turned to me. The whole display had taken all of maybe ten seconds, and I hadn’t even had time to think about getting out of my chair.
“Well, detective, what will it be?” she asked, twirling the baton in her left hand.
Call me a coward, but I know when I’m beat. “I like walking,” I said, hands in the air with resignation.
“I thought you might,” she replied. She turned and walked out the door, balanced and poised as a dancer.