The cop slapped down a file on the desk, freshly if illegally procured from Southern Michigan University’s Office of Student Records. “Saylor Effingham, is it?”

“I go by Effie.” Folding her arms, Effie leaned back in her chair. If the cop was too dense to pick up on her closed off body language, at least he wouldn’t get a look at her goods since she was wearing only her simple green tank–for practical reasons, naturally.

The cop snorted. “Effie, huh? Kids make fun of you for that?”

“Not as much as they did for Saylor.” Effie had no idea what her mother had been thinking. Mom claimed that a flash of inspiration had struck when she was about to name her daughter Taylor, and it certainly didn’t seem like much thought had been put into the proposition. Her short-sightedness had led to two decades of bad puns about “Saylor talk” and boys teasing with “Hey there, Saylor, looking for a good time?”

“Hmph.” The cop smirked. “Well, Ms. Effie, I’m Gerald Clayton. You can call me Gerry if you like. I also answer to Gerald, Clayton, pissface, asshole, or you-there.” Clayton had already been called all of them today, all but one by his wife.

“Charmed,” Effie sneered. “I’m sure.”

“Now I’ll be blunt, Ms. Effie.” Clayton pulled out a chair and sat backwards on it, draping his arms over the back in what he thought looked like a relaxed pose, even though it was uncomfortable as hell. “This isn’t an arrest. You’re not here against your will; you can walk out that door any time you like. But if we wanted to, we could have you in the lockup by dinnertime. So I’m hoping you’ll listen to what I have to say, since we have an out for you.”

Effie didn’t budge. “Who’s ‘we?'” she asked, narrowing her eyes.

“Tecumseh County Metro Illicits Unit,” said Clayton. “Not the catchiest name or acronym, but it wasn’t my choice.” Tecumseh Area Criminal Overwatch had been his suggestion, and it had gotten as far as the bureau chief before anyone realized that the initials spelled TACO.

“So I’m into illicit activity, huh?” Effie said. “I know my rights. Why don’t you just prove it?”

“Well, if you say so.” Clayton picked up a tablet off his desk, made a few swipes, and handed it to Effie. The color drained out of her features and the points on her pixie cut seemed to droop a bit at what she saw.

“I see kids like you all the time in here,” Clayton said. “First time away from home, first time out from under that apron, and you just go nuts without any regard for the law. I bet everyone said you were a real good kid at home, looked the other way when you got a little illicit. Well this ain’t home, and I ain’t your parents. This is real, kid.”

Effie struggled to maintain her composure. It was one thing for Mom and Dad to disapprove of her new hairstyle, the clothes she’d taken to wearing, and the fact that she only visited to do laundry anymore. But this…

“We’ve got video, we’ve got witnesses, we’ve got sworn statements,” Clayton said, sliding the tablet out of Effie’s stony hands. “Like I said, you’re free to go, but if you do, you’ll be back in here inside of 24 hours. And when you leave then, it’ll be with a conviction, which means a bust on your record and hard time in the lockup.”

“You really think they’ll believe I was busted for that I supposedly did?” Effie said, trying to sound confident. Most people liked to deny what she did even existed, after all, write it off as urban legends or hysteria.

“We list those…illicit…offenses under the Michigan State Penal Code § 113,” said Clayton. “Any Other Posession of Regulated Substances.”

“But I don’t possess anything!” Effie’s upper lip curled into a snarl.

“Whoa there,” Clayton said. “Down, girl. As far as the Penal Code is concerned, you are an illicit substance. You want that on your record? We put it in there in code, of course, but you’ll never be able to hold down a job with a conviction like that. No one’s going to want to hire you when there’s even a little chance of you going off on them. No one.” He scowled. “Now maybe if you were an art history major that wouldn’t matter so much, but veterinary science? They don’t take chances with people that have access to horse tranquilizers.”

“So what are you going to do, then? Just stand there and laugh at me for trying to have a little fun before you lock me up?”

Clayton shrugged. “Girl, if I wanted to laugh at you I got it out of my system after looking at your file. That name? Your parents? Hell, your emergency contact for the university is your pa, and his email address is @effingham.com!”

Effie drew her arms closer, looking very intently at the cheap linoleum.

“No, kid, I’m offering you an opportunity. Big things are going down in Hopewell right now. Lots of illicits, lots of confused kids getting roped in. You become an informant for us, and we let you walk. 20 busts and you’re out. We’ll even get you hooked up with medication, a shrink, and a support group.”

“You want me to be a snitch?”

“Like I said, 20 busts. It’s not a not. We have a nice, invisible two-way wire you can wear on…all occasions.” Clayton leaned over, opened a desk drawer, and produced it, a spidery set of wires around a button-sized transmitter. If it were taped under clothing or buried under hair, there might not be any seeing it.

“They’d smell it in an instant, and hear your voice a mile away.”

“Look, Ms. Effie, this ain’t my first rodeo,” said Clayton. “We’ve had over a hundred kids work for us as informants and there are three others out there right now.” He gestured to the tablet. “Or we could put you in the pound for that, have your parents find out exactly what their little precious snowflake’s been up to.”

Effie looked at the still image, paused, from the Secret Undercut concert. A large wild-looking dog was running through the frame. Her. “All right,” she said. “I’ll do it.”

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