11. A Riddle

Drew was at a red light, reading his email with one eye, when his phone rang.

Heya Drew. Guess who.

I don't know. Mom.

It's Jennings, actually. Corporal Jennings. 'Mom'—ha. Very funny.

What do you want, Jennings?

Guess what I got for you.

I don't know, a headache?

'A headache' he says—good one. No, it's a riddle.

Something's a riddle, that's for sure, said Drew. Like why I take your calls.

Drew, you cut me up. Here it is. You ready? Here's the riddle. Why do I have your ... press badge! Give up? Give up?

You don't have my press badge. What's a press badge?

Oh you know, your—shoot, I don't know what you folks call it, I guess it's more like an ID card than a badge, says 'Journalist' at the top, has your name and photo and—

My press ID. What are you doing with it?

That's the riddle.

That's not a riddle. A riddle is: What has three teeth and drools and his middle name is Alan. That's a riddle.

How'd you know my middle name?

It's on your police badge. Which I've got right here.

No you— Oh. Funny ha-ha. But here now, you want to know the answer? The answer is I got it off some nutbat we picked up sleeping in the park. Well not me personally, it's not my case, I was just hanging around booking and— But that's pretty weird huh? The riddle in my mind is how the hell she got it. And here's another riddle: Guess what she said. Give up? She said she's your daughter, how do you like that? I think that's a winner, I do.

That probably is my daughter, said Drew. What's she look like?

Dark, sort of brown, dark brown I guess you'd call it hair, about five-three, sort of— Oh, I get it. Funny ha-ha.

Jennings, that is my daughter. What the fuck is going on?

Shit, said Jennings. No shit? Shit. That's funny. Cause she said she was your daughter but I, I mean we, I mean Collins and them, they figured, you know: nutbird in Nutland. She's going on, 'I'm Drew Dunkel's daughter and I got a press card right here now let me go or I'm going to the mayor' kind of thing. We figured, you know: Fruitland in June for sure. Shit. That's real funny. Who'd ever would've guessed?

Drew hung up and turned the car around. He'd been on his way to an interview with a liquor-store clerk who had just been held up for the seventeenth time in his career, but that could wait.

He called Jennings back.

What happened? What did she do?

Drew, said Jennings seriously, I'm looking at her case file right now and I want you to know that we, just, well, I don't know, we feel awful about this, but how were we supposed to know?

Is she okay?

Sure she's okay. She's fine. Least, far as I know. But I don't know nothing.

Where is she now?

She's in holding. Least I expect she must be.

What happened?

Well according to the file which I'm looking at right now she was, lemme see, here it is, she was picked up 'sleeping in High View Park.' Huh. That's all it says.

But you weren't there.

Nossir, I had nothing to do with all this chicken-fried mess-up.

Can I talk to Collins?

Er ... You'd best call back through the switchboard if it's all the same to you. I don't necessarily want it getting around that I, well you know, that I'm chum-chum-cheroo with somebody from the, you know, the press. Sometimes information leaks out and—

You leak it out. To me.

Well that's what I'm talking about here, Drew. Shit. You'd be doing me a favor if—

Give me his extension.

Sure, that's easy. It's forty-four eleven. Four four one one. Easy to remember, easy to dial—just like the commercial, hey?

He called the switchboard then punched in the extension. When he looked up at the road, some jackass was drifting into his lane; he blared the horn.

Hello? someone answered on sill.

Hello, is this Sergeant Collins?


No it's not?


Is he, Sergeant Collins, there by any chance?


Not there?

Not here.

Do I have the right extension?

Beats me.

It beats you.

You getting smart?

I feel like I'm getting dumber every second.

Who is this?

Who is this?

What's your name, mister?

What's yours?

Wait a minute. I know you.

You think so?

I know so.

Recognize my voice?

You think you're something clever, don't you?

You know what? I hate cops.

Yeah? I hate reporters.

Wait a second, said Drew, who is this?

Laughter, distorted by the sill phone's throat-patch, then: What's the matter, bozo, don't recognize my voice?

Drew hung up, looked at his PDR. What fucking number did I just call?

Still here, said the voice, and laughed.

He hung up again—and again and again. Each time he pressed the end call button the PDR beeped in impotent apology, as if to say: Sorry, no call to end.

Someone blasting their horn. He looked up, swerved back into his lane. Godfuckit.

Hello? Anyone there? "Hello?"

Of course there's no one there. Of course not. Just talking to myself. Just talking to yourself. Yes. Of course. So what? So nothing. Shut up.

He threw the PDR into the back seat.

Fucking technology.