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Day Fourteen

After a sleep in the cells, I felt like a new person. All night long I heard voices through the walls complain in their language, inspectors march past, air conditioning tick on and off. In those small hours, I understood the true desperation of my situation—an international prisoner with no representation, no understanding of local law, no hope.

 

After breakfast, Blott arrived and escorted me to the same empty office for the second part of my interrogation. I could see other employees through the blinds. They were wearing these strange, tall hats and were sharing out punch from an ornate bowl, all to the sound of party music.

 

‘That looks like fun,’ I said.

 

Blott’s top buttons were undone, sleeves rolled up. ‘It is fun, and I’m missing out.’

 

‘Sorry,’ I said.

 

‘Don’t worry about it. I just hope we can get this resolved presently.’

 

I nodded. ‘I’ll try my best.’

 

‘Let me re-pronounce my understanding,’ said Blott. ‘You deny the murder of your friend and ex-colleague, say you have no involvement in his disappearance. It is merely coincidence that you arrive in the Capital at the precise moment he vanishes.’

 

‘That’s right,’ I said.

 

Blott sighed. ‘And you have no explanation for your purpose in the Capital, other than ‘research’, an activity my inspectors describe as loitering around the records bureau, swivelling on a chair, looking out of windows. You can see where my doubts are born.’

 

‘I suppose I can,’ I said.

 

‘This is my dilemma—the choice we will make now. Either we can together begin the laborious process of launching a murder enquiry, or you can be honest with me. You can say, yes Inspector Blott, the missing man is me. There is, in fact, no missing man and the whole incident was a scheme cooked up for want of attention, or some psychic illness.’

 

It sounded so wrong to hear it like that. I remembered my colleague—he was someone I knew. A whole separate person.

 

‘I suppose it’s possible,’ I said.

 

‘There we have it!’ Blott exclaimed. ‘If something is possible then who is to say it isn’t true? No one, that’s who.’

 

We talked together for a little longer. Once we were finished, Blott left me in the office and went out to the main room. All the other employees cheered.

*

An inspector dropped me off in the eastern district, where I first arrived, at night, and I found myself in what appeared to be the height of the celebrations. Everyone was drinking this dark wine from plastic cups and within the crowd people were playing instruments and carrying aloft life-sized versions of the skeletons. Each of them glowed green, like jelly.

 

I wandered for a while until a stranger passed me a cup and someone else hung beads around my neck. They were smiling at me. It was a good feeling. It was like coming home.

 

A hand tapped me on the back, and I turned to greet them.