prompted by tragicllyhip
The girl stepped lightly on the cool stone of the square. People stared at her and she tried to cover herself up, knowing what she must have looked like, knowing how she must have appeared to them. It was a strange thought she supposed, to be so self-conscious at a time like that but she was scared and a frightened mind could only react in specific learned ways. Hers was modesty. She tried to speak but her throat was dry and all she could do was open and close her mouth, silent croaks and pleading eyes asking for help. She recognized this place, she’d seen it in books and movies but she wasn’t sure how she’d managed to get halfway across the world to now be barefoot and naked in the center of the Winter Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia. A woman from the growing crowd pushed through and circled a jacket over the girl’s thin shoulders.
“Thank you,” she whispered, her blonde hair obscuring most of her face. The woman was speaking to her, asking her questions but she couldn’t understand what she was saying. Shaking her head just slightly she said, “I—I don’t understand.”
The woman thought very hard, trying to remember the scant bit of English she’d learned in elementary school. “Your name?” She managed to ask.
The girl shakily replied, “Chloe.”
The body of the young man was found off the coast of Greenland. He’d been caught by a fishing trawler, snagged in nets, skin as blue and white as ice. The body was clean, no marks and no sign of decomposition. It was not swollen and other than the pallor, he looked alive, as if he were only sleeping.
The captain lifted his eyelids to find oily blackness there, obscuring everything. The men jumped back, some, long absent from church or prayer crossed themselves at the sight. Before they could kiss their thumbs, those black eyes opened and the blue and white man began to move.
The fishing trawler was found off the coast of Greenland. The entire crew was dead.
“San?” The man in the polyester suit called out to him, walking into his hospital room. The young man knew his name now but he still wore those suits and he had a hard time separating the name from the visual. His name was Detective Shang Tao and for the past three days he would visit his prisoner to check in with him. They’d given him the name Zhang San, for lack of his actual name. He still wasn’t sure why they were so determined he was foreign but through the Detective’s daily visits he was beginning to understand his world.
“Good morning,” San said with a smile. Easing up in his bed he felt a wave of dizziness pass over him and he groaned. Ever since his collapse at the police station he’d been in the custody of Peking University International Hospital, a police guard posted at his door. For days he’d been in and out of different departments of the hospital, mostly neurology, as they tried to find out what caused his collapse and his memory loss.
“Relax, relax,” Detective Shang said, placing a hand on his shoulder. Looking down to San’s face, the Detective saw he still wore the bruises he’d given him during his interrogation. Shang Tao had never regretted anything much in his twenty year career except perhaps this. “Here,” he said, handing him a few books. San’s eyes lit and he took them with a grateful smile. Glancing to the stack of books at his side table, Shang was amazed at this boy’s curiosity and thirst for knowledge. He absorbed information like a sponge and retained it like a lockbox.
“Thank you,” he said.
Shang pulled up a stool and sat down. “Remember anything?”
San shook his head, “No. I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright. Your fingerprints didn’t match up in our databases and we’re trying to collaborate with the embassies here to see if they’re missing any nationals.”
With a curious frown, a look Det. Shang had by now gotten used to, San asked, “And I can’t be a Chinese national because . . .?”
“You aren’t Chinese,” he said simply. San tried to understand the qualifiers for that assessment. Shang continued before receiving a list of counter-arguments, something San was too good at doing, “And you have no accent.”
“Your speech. It’s very fresh and book learned. When people grow up in a certain place their speech has a . . . flavor. Yours has no flavor.”
“And that’s foreign?”
Shang was stumped. “Umm . . . no, not exactly. Foreigner have accents. They’re very distinct actually. Most butcher my language as if it were a piece of raw meat.”
“But I don’t?”
He had no good way of answering this to avoid more questions. “No.”
“I believe I’m confused.”
The Detective chuckled, “And so am I.” He sighed, becoming serious. “You show up out of no where with no memory and no markings and no language but our own. No one’s reported you missing and the passport office doesn’t have any record of anyone with your face entering the country for the past five years.”
“And I’m sick,” San quietly added. He understood what the tests were looking for even if no one would tell him.
Shang only nodded.
“You have theories,” the young man observed. “It’s your business to have theories, isn’t it? The word Detective means so many things, doesn’t it?”
“I solve mysteries.”
“And I’m a mystery?”
“The biggest of my career.”
“So?” San wondered, “What do you make of all of this?”
The older man shook his head. “No,” he said. “I’ve been convincingly warned off by your doctors. My theories are theirs.” Turning to the books he said, “Your world right now is very small, San. You don’t understand what it’s really like here. Something’s made you forget and whatever it was that erased an entire life from your mind it will stay that way until its ready.”
He didn’t understand. Maybe the Detective was right. Maybe his world was too small to understand the undercurrent of dark fear in the man’s words. The books he’d been given were mainly geography and stories written for the young. He knew the beauty of the Chinese Opera and the tales that had been passed down generation to generation but even though knowing the words strife and conflict and war and evil, he couldn’t visualize them. He couldn’t comprehend the concepts.
“You think someone did this to me?” He asked.
All he would say was, “I think someone did something to you and your mind is protecting you from that.”
“And that’s not common?”
Shang Tao exhaled. The kind of trauma involved with this level of memory loss, the absence of a missing person’s reports fitting San’s description, the way he was found said so many things he just didn’t have the heart to expand on. “No,” he said. “It’s not common at all.”
San didn’t press any further. Setting aside his questions for later, he opened up the first book and absorbed what he now understood was a false beautification of the world he’d been so curious to comprehend.
“Jones!” The desk sergeant shouted as Detective John Jones hurried past him. “Captain’s been looking for you.”
John waved, acknowledging he’d heard him, his ear pressed to his cell phone. “Get back to me if you hear anything,” he said.
“Of course,” Oliver Queen’s voice replied over the line.
Hanging up the phone, John took the stairs three at a time and briskly walked down the second floor hallway to Captain Ronson’s office. The door was open and he was waved in. The Captain was on the phone and the red color of his face and the tightness of his voice told John he was talking to someone just a little bit higher on the food chain. “Yes Commissioner, yes, I understand. Will do. Have a good—” He didn’t finish and just stared at the receiver for a moment. John quickly understood he’d been hung up on.
“You,” the Captain said, his eyes burning, “You think the MPD is your own PI unit?”
“Shut the fuck up, Jones. Just,” he held up one finger and couldn’t decide if he wanted to speak or explode. “That was Commissioner Brines. Seems like Federal’s been on his ass about you asking questions regarding some Smallville wedding party disaster?”
“Pretty well connected four-star’s picked up your scent and seems you and Senator Kent’s been in pretty tight communication, off book.” He picked up a few faxes in front of him, “Smallville PD did a little reconnaissance at the four-star’s request and it seems Senator Kent’s son’s been missing at least a week now. You know something about this?”
John grit his teeth and then shrugged. “General Sam Lane?”
The Captain gave a cold smile, “We know everything, don’t we?”
“The Senator asked for my help, yes, off book. I’ve known the family for years.”
“Yeah, well, this isn’t the FBI field office, Jones. This isn’t Smallville and this wasn’t your case.” He handed him the files, “But it is now.” He pointed just over John’s shoulder, “And now you’re getting an attaché. Have fun.”
Detective John Jones turned around and a long deflating exhale escaped him. She wore an angry and yet smug look on her face. Her hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail and she wore an all black suit.
He groaned, “Lois Lane.”
With a grin she said, “I see my reputation precedes me.”
prompted by tragicllyhip