Rebecca and the Community Policing Survey

Rebecca smelled money.

This wouldn’t be such a bad place to have a one-night stand.

Rebecca heard a horn, followed by the gentle hum of a well-maintained car. “Excuse me, Miss? Are you all right?”

“Yeah. Yeah,” she said, before she turned around to discover a police officer, a genial young fellow with a big, goofy, reasonably dim grin.

“I don’t mean to be rude,” he called after her, “but you aren’t a prostitute, are you?”

“No.” Then Rebecca realized that she had the right to be offended. “How dare you! I am not a hooker.”

“Oh,” the officer groaned. “Are you sure?”

Rebecca answered with a glare.

“It’s just that, we’ve got this really great program, you know, working with the hookers to get them off the streets and into job training and substance abuse counseling and anger management and like fourteen other different things. But nobody’s whoring.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Rebecca said uncertainly. It seemed like the least she could do.

“So if you are a hooker, you can tell me,” the officer continued, enthusiasm unabated. “I won’t arrest you or nothing.”

“I’m not a hooker.”

The officer’s grin disappeared at last. “Oh,” he said. “Can I give you some career training anyway. Or,” and here he gesticulated upward with the excitement of a fresh idea “Say No to drugs. That’s a big N-O to drugs. You don’t need that junk.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Rebecca grumbled.

“Really? It’s very important. We track the effectiveness of our community policing programs here in Northbrook very carefully. We won an award for our data gathering.”

Rebecca failed to reply. The officer took that as a cue to continue.

“I haven’t seen the award. They don’t let me touch things like that. I’m really only supposed to be ticketing cars at parking meters, but I bet no one would mind if I got some information. As a result of our conversation, would you say you’re more or less likely to become a prostitute? On a scale from one to five, with five being much less likely, one being much more likely, and three being about the same.”

“I’m not gonna do that…”

“It’s important,” the officer admonished. “I’m writing your information down on the back of my pad.”

“Fine. Three.”

“Very good. Oh.” The officer sucked on the end of his pen, oblivious to the blue ink dribbling from the corner of his mouth. “Only a three? May I ask why the number isn’t lower?”

Rebecca paused to consider how to frame her response to a query of this magnitude.

“I was never going to be a hooker,” she said, slowly. “So the fact that I’m not going to now would mean no change in the likelihood.”

“Okay, okay.” The officer struggled to note all of that information, as his pen started to extrude ink from the ball point only intermittently. “Next question, as a result of our conversation, would you say you’re more or less likely to take illegal drugs? Same scale of one to five.”

“Three,” Rebecca replied. “Same reason.”

“Good. As a result of our conversation, would you say you’re more or less likely to shoplift?”

“Four,” Rebecca said in a tone full of significance.

“Four, that’s good. And the reason?”

“Because I enjoy saying random numbers.”

“I get that a lot. Would you say you’re more or less likely to join a gang.”

Rebecca inhaled loudly and regretfully, through the corner of her mouth. “One,” she said with as much fake sadness as she could muster.

The officer was devastated. “Only one? Why is that?”

“Turkey giblets and cheese.”

The officer’s pen had reached hopelessness as a writing implement. He shook it one final time, trying to get whatever ink might have remained to pool at the bottom. Instead, it splattered through the top and across his face and uniform shirt.

“Oh, darn it,” he said. “Always happens. That’s why I keep a supply.” He wrote down Rebecca’s answer and continued the survey, asking such probing questions as whether or not Rebecca might burn down any buildings, or spray graffiti, or even become a police officer herself someday. To this last one, she replied “R.” The officer nodded knowingly; he got that particular response a lot.

“That’s it,” the officer said. “You’ve been very helpful. I’d give you a sticker that you could wear to show how you support the Northbrook Police Department, only I’m not allowed to carry them.”

“There’s something else you can do for me,” Rebecca said in her most manipulative voice.

“You are a prostitute! I knew it! I always hear stories about guys who talk to ladies of the night who claim that they aren’t but then offer a freebie in exchange for protection. Well, I have ethics, that can only be thwarted with something pretty special.”

“I’m still not a hooker. I’m a kidnapping victim.”

“Really,” the officer said. “We don’t get many of those up here. You seem well-dressed for it.”

“Thank you,” she said. She was annoyed and thrown off her game, which is how she came to use these foreign words. “But the thing is, I’ve just sort of escaped, and I’d like some help.”

The officer’s face brightened noticeably, in the sense of becoming happier, rather than smarter. “I can help. I’m required to. I’m a police officer.”

“Great,” Rebecca said, as she winced her way across the roughly paved road to the passenger seat. “I’ll show you where they are.”

********

This is a passage from Exile Issues. It’s late in the book, and I remembered being very pleased with it; I came across it again today in editing and realized that I never put it up here, so I figured I should.

This comes late in the book; Rebecca has been kidnapped by the three-eyed alien, and has now escaped him. She was kidnapped at the conclusion of a date for which she had dressed fairly sluttily (as she does), which is why she’s so easily mistakable for a prostitute.

Most of what I’ve posted from Exile Issues has involved Rebecca, which implies that she’s a bigger character than she really is. She really only appears in interludes throughout most of the book, and only joins the main timeline at the end. She is more integral than I originally intended, which I guess is what happens when a character hits the right note so easily.

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