Heleda bolted into the empty police station, yelling out for help.
“Keep your hair on, I’m coming”, said the indifferent man. “Oh, it’s you again. Any more letters?”
“Yes, you bastard—“
“Well, that’s harsh…”
“If you listened to us, none of this would’ve happened.”
“Now, don’t go blaming me for issues in your life—“
“Shut up! My sister is missing. I got another letter, saying that she’s been taken, and they’re now threatening my boyfriend too—”
“You’ve got a sister?”
“Yes! Helana! She came with me the other day! You talked to us. She’s missing, I need your help. Please!”
“Where’s the note?”
“Now, why in the world would you burn it?”
“I didn’t! It burned! Bloody hell, I can’t deal with you. Call somebody else! Now!”
“There is nobody else. There’s only me here for you, lassie, so we’ll have to work with that.”
Heleda turned around, clutching the hair at the sides of her head, holding her body just straight enough to be called standing, and inhaling just enough breath to be called breathing.
“Sir. Please”, she said in a calmer voice full of pent-up fury and desperate hope that this man had at least a dust-speck-worth of interest for her. “I need you to help me now. I’m going mad here!”
“’Right, ‘right, let’s talk in the office”, he said, leading her to a grey room, “and let’s start from the beginning.”
“No need and no time. The story’s short: I’ve been getting these cryptic letters and now my sister is missing, and I can’t reach my boyfriend either.”
“When was the last time you talked to her? You tried calling her?”, he asked, taking a seat between a stained wall and a stained desk.
“Of course I did. You think I’m an idiot?”
“Calm down, now”, he said in a deeper tone, maintaining that infuriating – provoking – subtle smile, and barely blinking below the wide, patchy brows.
“Sir, with all due respect – don’t fucking tell me to calm down! You are way too calm for this situation.”
“Just answer my questions, lass.”
“I haven’t talked to her since she left.”
“She’s not in the country? Ooh, well now, that’s a different story altogether. So when did you last hear from her?”
“I only got a dodgy, short text saying she’s fine. That’s it.”
“Well, there you go.”
“No, no go! That’s not how she talks.”
“She didn’t talk. She wrote.”
“Fine, then. It’s not how she writes. Better?”
“Has another family member or friend talked to her?”
“No. Nobody. There’s barely anybody to begin with. Are you going to write any of this down?”
“What the hell are you talking about? Are you going to remember all of this? You can’t even remember seeing her with me!”
“I understand you’re agitated—“
“But the fact remains that a person must be missing for 24 hours before we can search for them. Not to even mention all the procedures for asking the authorities in another country to search for our citizen—ooh, so many procedures. We’ll have to wait, I’m afraid.”
“What kind of logic is that? Isn’t it best to report somebody missing right away? Search for them right away? How do you know she hasn’t been missing for 24 hours or longer by now?”
“I don’t. But neither do you. You haven’t talked to your sister in days, and only now did you notice that curious fact… Either way, we have no evidence to go on. We’ll have to wait.”
“I can’t wait. What’s wrong with you? That’s my sister!”
“What’s going on here?”
Heleda turned around towards the source of that new, reprimanding voice and saw a man approaching the desk, around the same late middle-age as the police officer, but a lot more interested. And this interest was nothing short of menacing.
“Oh. Detective. We’re just having a situation—“
“Detective? I thought you said there was nobody else here.”
“There wasn’t. I got reinforcement, it would seem.” The officer widened the smile.
“Detective! My sister’s been taken! I need your help, I beg of you!”
“Yes”, the first one said. “This girl’s been allegedly getting anonymous messages—“
“Letters…for several days—“
“Weeks…Telling her stuff, but not exactly threatening her—“
“Just the fact somebody kept on bringing them to my door is threatening!”
“And now the letter said this alleged sister’s been taken, some lad’s in trouble, but she burned the letter, and also realised she hasn’t heard from her sister since she’d left to Amsterdam, except for two short texts, apparently hasn’t tried contacting her either, and her not being able to contact her sister is somehow my fault.”
“You son of a bitch…”
“Calm down, miss,” said the one that the other called a detective.
“Stop! Telling me to calm down. He’s not taking me seriously—“
“Does your sister smoke cannabis”, the detective interrupted her in his even tone.
“Does she use marijuana for recreational purposes?”
“Where are you going with this?”
“Please cooperate, miss, would you?”
Heleda pushed out a quick, short breath to regain her composure. “No,” she lied. “What’s your point?”
“My point is that she is most likely high as a plane in Amsterdam. Time for her is different now.”
“You’re taking the piss, right? Surely. Then what about the bloody letters?”
“Somebody’s just messing with you.”
“Then do something about it! Bloody hell! You mad bastards! How do you mean just messing with me?”
“Stop telling me to calm down and start listening to me!”
“Listen, girl”, said the detective, “ you are obviously on drugs and if you continue with this, we’ll have to keep you here, so just save yourself the trouble and go home, okay?”
“Hah! On drugs? On drugs?! Ahahahaha! Dear fucking mother of god, this is absurd. How am I on drugs?”
“Well, let’s see: on a thinner side, sunken cheeks, dark circles, generally unkempt state, shivering, needle marks on both arms, neurotic, stinks of sick…. I could go on.”
“I’m not on drugs, I’m sick, had my blood drawn and am on medication.”
“Fine. Medication. Now, go home. Leave us your sister’s number, we’ll ring her. If you don’t reach her till 13:00 tomorrow, come back.”
She stared at them, her mind unable to process what she thought could only be wilful torment on their part.
“I’m not leaving. You hear me? You are here to protect citizens, so protect this bloody citizen! She’s my baby sister! Out there, among strangers! And go find Luka!” Heleda weakly slammed the desk, getting into their faces. Or she was perhaps just leaning on the table.
“You really don’t look well. Calm down.”
Blood. Boiling blood of a sister. A woman of a man.
“Fucking pieces of shit… You’re not listening to me… I need you to hear me—”
The world was not on its axis anymore. It shifted, but kept on rotating, with each spin around nothing getting more scared and more scarred and more lost and more distant from its centre which it so frantically tried to maintain. There was no breath left for Heleda, no motion, and her body caved in on itself. She swayed to one side and clutched the air and suspended smoke, seeking support. The two men, their faces intent, observed her body hit the ground.
Photo: Howard J