Saturday, July 23, 2016

Liberty #61: Pineapple & Banana

This is the city. Redemption City. Built in the Middle East as an apology for western colonization after World War III, there are a million stories in this city and this will be one of them. It was two in the morning and most of the city was asleep but the Northern Karaj Harbor was bustling with activity. In one of the warehouses, two men, one with a handtruck approached a massive crate surrounded by five other men.

“That’s a big crate,” one said.

“Filled with the finest drugs in the Middle East,” the one with the handtruck said. “Let’s take a peek and make sure our cargo is still intact.”

They pried open the lid to the crate and moved the various fruits covering the drugs to the side. “They look safe to me,” the one chuckled. “That’s some big-ass fruit in there.” The man looked away to grab the lid.

“Yeah, like you’re so petite,” a voice said, coming from the crate.

The two men looked down and saw a pineapple and banana pointing guns at them. “You’re under arrest for drug trafficking” the banana said. Other officers began rushing into the warehouse surrounding the men and the crate.

“Good work, you two,” Chief Morse said as he bent down to shake Pineapple and Banana’s hands. “This definitely puts a dent in the Great Pumpkin’s empire.”

“Maybe for a day. Within 24 hours, he’ll have twice as many drugs as this out on the street,” Pineapple said, despondent.

“We’ll get him, Piney. This is a huge start,” Banana said.

“In other cases, there’s one that we would like you to take a look into,” Morse said.

“What is it?”

“A missing person. I’ll give you the details when we get back to City Center.”

“Missing person?” Pineapple asked. “Special Detectives don’t handle missing persons.”

“They do when the missing person is brown,” Morse said as he walked away.

Decades ago, when Persia was created from the ruins of war-torn Iran, Iraq, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan, the constitution included preference to Islam. Persia was split at the Karaj River into West Persia and East Persia. One government controlled the country as a whole but each side had their own governments but appointed delegates for the country to serve as the overseeing government. The chain of command was further complicated by the President and Congress of the United States being very involved despite Persia being a wholly sovereign country. The preference to Islam was given, again, as an apology.

“So who are we looking for?” Banana asked.

“Shanzay Younan. 17-years-old,” Morse handed Banana a picture. “She’s been missing for a little more than a week. Local police has told the parents that they are looking and investigating but the parents aren’t so sure.”

“Local police?” Pineapple questioned. “She didn’t go missing in Redemption City, did she?”

“Nope. Mieville.”

“Is that even in our jurisdiction?” Banana asked.

“We cover all of the District of Wisconsin and Mieville is in Wisconsin,” Morse said. “You are going to have help on this case.”

“Help? Why would we need help?” Pineapple asked.

“Mieville is a small town and they may not take lightly to answering questions from pineapple and banana detectives from Redemption City,” Morse explained.

“Who is it?”

“Caitlyn Bilko. She just transferred from New Assyria.”

“Bilko. Where do I know that name?” Pineapple thought.

“Probably from my father,” a voice said. “His picture is hanging in the hall of heroes on the way to department.”

“Edmond Bilko, of course,” Pineapple said.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Banana said, extending his hand to Caitlyn and using his charming voice.

“Nice to meet you, too,” Caitlyn accepted.

“Here. Let me get you the case file,” Morse said. Caitlyn stepped toward the desk.

Behind Caitlyn, Pineapple smacked Banana on the arm. What are you doing? he mouthed.

What? She’s cute, Banana mouthed back.

Just because you are shaped like a dick doesn’t mean you have to act like one.

Banana was taken aback. How dare you, sir. I did not choose how I look.

“Are you two coming up with a strategy for looking for this girl?” Caitlyn asked, noticing their gesturing and mouthing words.

“Yeah,” Banana said. “Just bouncing ideas off each other.”

Mieville had a population of around 4,000. It’s claim to fame was the first college in Persia during Reconstruction. Others followed soon after but Mie University was the first and was still the pinnacle of the District of Wisconsin. The hotel Pineapple, Banana, and Caitlyn were staying in was a cheap one-story thing with small rooms, and doors that faced the highway.

“This seems depressing,” Pineapple said as the three of them went into the room.

“We won’t be here long,” Banana said. “We have numerous people to question from her parents to her friends to her classmates. We should go ahead and get started.”

“I figured we’d split up,” Pineapple said and handed Caitlyn a folder. “We’ll talk with the parents, get their story of where Shanzay was last seen, what had she been doing her last few weeks, and try to connect the dots. Can you go to the local high school and question her friends and other classmates?”

“Yeah,” Caitlyn agreed. She opened the folder full of information and statements from Shanzay’s friends and classmates. The statements were very detailed which made it seem odd that no one could find this girl. “She was a very visible girl the last week or so being she disappeared.”

“Something was going on with her,” Banana said. “Everyone mentions that she had started acting differently. I’m thinking it might have something to do with drugs.”

“It always is,” Pineapple sighed.

“It’s a strange world out there,” Caitlyn said. “It could be something no one would ever think of.”

The Younans, Bashar and Maazah, were not your typical East Persians. Bashar was a well-respected cardiologist and Maazah was a Professor of Religious Studies at Mie University. They were a quiet couple, who admitted that they moved for the better opportunities in West Persia for both them and their daughter. When Maazah got her professorship, they debated whether to move to Redemption City where the hospital Bashar would be working at was located or to Mieville where the university was. They chose Mieville because it was similar to the town they came from and they thought that they would be accepted.

The Younans were eventually accepted by the community when their neighbors realized they posed no threat to them. A doctor and a professor rarely suicide bomb a public school. Shanzay had a tougher time in high school. While she had made numerous friends, many classmates called her names behind her back and, occasionally, to her face.

“She never let that bother her,” Bashar said. “She a very strong girl. She’s going to make something of herself unlike most of the other bastards in this town.”

“Bashar, please,” Maazah squeezed her husband’s arm. “We upset and a little on edge. She never made it known if it bothered her. We know she kept a journal, she wanted to be a writer; we were pushing her to follow one of our careers,” she smiled tenderly. “But we would’ve been happy with whatever she chose. We just wanted her to have options if writing didn’t work out.”

“She kept a journal? Was it entered into evidence or anything?” Pineapple asked.

“We don’t know where she kept it,” Bashar said. “We tore her room apart trying to find it but came up empty. We think she took it with her when she disappeared.”

“Can we look in her room?”

“Sure,” Bashar pointed down the hallway. “Down the hall, to the left.”

Shanzay’s room was an identity crisis bouncing between westernized teenage girl, devout Muslim, and all-around gentle soul. “We need to find that journal. Look under anything that you think her parents wouldn’t look under,” Pineapple said and bent down to feel around underneath the dresser. The looked in drawers, in the closet, under furniture, and even tried to see if there we loose pieces of carpet but found nothing. They did find evidence that Shanzay drank, smoke marijuana, was sexually active, and possibly was a cutter. “Her parents would’ve had to see all this,” Banana said, nodding toward the door. “What they must think of their daughter now.”

“She was a teenager. I bet they understand how difficult it is to be a teen these days,” Pineapple said. “Seeing all this doesn’t make them love her less. They still want her back.”

“Does anything stand out to you?”

“Nothing,” Pineapple sighed. “Let’s get more info from the parents and then we’ll head to the high school and see where Caitlyn is at.” They went back to the front room where Bashar was still sitting. Maazah had gotten up and went into the kitchen. “We didn’t find anything new. A colleague of ours is at the high school questioning friends and classmates so we’re going to head over there. We’ll get in touch with you if we have any further questions.”

Bashar nodded.

“Oh, before we leave, was there any place that she hung out without her friends. You know, not really in the normal places?”

Bashar thought. “Not that I can think of. Oh, she would sometimes go to the creek underneath the Sixth Street bridge and there was an abandoned house just out of town. She liked to go to both places to write. I don’t think she knew that we knew she went there. We didn’t like it when she would go but she was responsible enough.”

“Sixth Street bridge and an abandoned house? Where is the house?” Pineapple asked.

“Follow Center Street all the way to the west, head south and it’s one of the driveways off of Western Street. I don’t know which one, I just know it’s along Western,” Bashar said.

“Thank you. We’ll be in touch.”

“She liked being around people but she also liked being by herself.”

“One of the reasons she had her ‘secret’ places to go. Away from people.”

Caitlyn was talking with Shanzay’s three best friends in one of the conference rooms at the high school. The girl talking about Shanzay’s secret places, used finger quotes around ‘secret’ which Caitlyn noted in her paperwork. “So they weren’t secret?”

“We all knew about them. The abandoned house was a place we all would go. The other places were places she could be alone.”

“Where were these places?” Caitlyn asked.

The friends told Caitlyn about Shanzay’s other private spaces. Among the house and bridge, they also mentioned the cemetery and another place that they weren’t sure where it was.

“Thanks,” Caitlyn said. “If we need any more information, we’ll get in touch. You can all go back to class now.”

The girls left and Pineapple and Banana walked in. “What’d they have to say?” Pineapple asked.

“Shanzay had at least places she would always go to if she wanted to be alone.”

“Let us guess. An abandoned house and a bridge,” Banana said.

“And a cemetery and one other place.”

“Ah, the parents didn’t know about those. Where should we start first?” Pineapple asked.

“The bridge,” Caitlyn said. “I want to go to the house after school lets out. Maybe some kids will be there.”

The Sixth Street bridge was an average bridge spanning a narrow creek. The side of the creek closest to the road was only slightly elevated, perfect for sitting down with your thoughts. The other side was lined with newer trees. Pineapple, Banana, and Caitlyn walked along the banks of the creek looking for clues or evidence of Shanzay’s existence. Searching for nearly an hour along a quarter mile of the creek, they found nothing. Banana took pictures of the creek, trees, street intersection, and bridge for the file and then they were off to the house.

They drove up a rutted out road to the house. The house was once beautiful and was probably once occupied by someone with more wealth than your average person in this area. It looked like it had been abandoned since before the War and no longer had any windows, just gaping black holes in the walls. Several trees around the house had dropped their branches and a couple had broken in half.

“Where do we start?” Banana asked, trying to figure out how many rooms were probably in the house.

“We start there,” Caitlyn said, pointing to a group of high school kids out by what looked like a chicken coop. The three of them approached the kids and pulled their badges. “Hey guys, Redemption City Police,” Caitlyn said.

The kids began throwing their illegal beer and marijuana cigarettes away in a panic. One actually started to run. “Wait. We all have this eye condition where we can’t see any illegal activity because we are so focused on trying to find Shanzay Younan,” Pineapple said.

“Shanzay? What do you want to know?” one of the boys asked.

“We know she hung out here. What did she normally do here?” Caitlyn asked.

“Just what we’re doing. We never really saw her do anything different. Sometimes she would go exploring in the outbuildings but normally she was out here smoking weed or in the house smoking weed,” the boy answered.

“When was the last time you saw her?” Pineapple asked.

“She’s been missing about ten days,” the boy thought out loud “so I last saw her at school. I didn’t see Shanzay here or anywhere else in town when I headed back. I told all this to the first cops.”

“We read the file. Was there anyone who had a problem with Shanzay? Someone who just didn’t like her or held a grudge?” Pineapple asked.

“Not really. We all got along with her. At the start we called her names and all that but the novelty of having her kind in town wore off pretty quickly.”

“Except for Doug Middleton,” another boy said. “He hated her. The things he called her. I never heard...the S-N word so much.”

“Doug Middleton?” Caitlyn wrote down his name. “I think he was in the file.”

“Thank you, boys. Stay out of trouble,” Pineapple said and the three of them walked back to their vehicle. “I read Middleton’s statement. The local police should’ve brought him in for extensive questioning.”

“That bad, huh?” Caitlyn asked.

“Yeah, and I’m sure he’s going to love being asked about it again.”

Doug Middleton was working on a car in the front yard when Pineapple, Banana, and Caitlyn arrived. They flashed their badges but Doug was unimpressed. “You’re on private property,” he said.

“We have good reason to be,” Pineapple said.

“I don’t talk to fruit,” Doug said, snidely. “What is this world coming to? Dad, the cops are here.”

Doug’s father came out of the house. He and his son looked exactly alike, Mr. Middleton was just older and a couple hundred pounds bigger. “You better have a good reason for being here. You have thirty seconds,” Mr. Middleton took a drink of beer. “Fruit? What is this world coming to?”

“Mr. Middleton, we’re here to talk to your son about Shanzay Younan. She went missing a week ago and…” Caitlyn said but was interrupted.

“I know who she is. Damn camel-jockeys,” Mr. Middleton grumbled.

“Your son was one of the last people to see her, at a party at someone’s house. You and her apparently had an altercation. What about?” Caitlyn asked.

“She got offended by something I said, I told her she was too sensitive. She started yelling about how this is all her land and someday her people will have it all back. Who has the largest military and all the bombs? Last time I knew, they sure as hell didn’t,” Doug said with a chuckle.

“What did you say to her?”

“What do you think I said to her?” Doug asked.

“I’m just going to assume that you are going to stick with the statement you made to the Mieville Police?” Caitlyn crossed her arms.


“You can leave now,” Mr. Middelton said.

Pineapple, Banana, and Caitlyn went back to their car and drove off back to the hotel.

“He did something,” Pineapple said as they drove. “I don’t know what but he did something.”

At the hotel, Pineapple and Banana shared one of the beds and Caitlyn got the other one. They woke up and saw Caitlyn already up and pouring over the Younan file. “What are you trying to find?” Banana asked.

“Shanzay’s friends mentioned that she went to four places. The house, the bridge, a cemetery, and one other place. I’m trying to figure out what that place is,” Caitlyn explained.

“Her friends weren’t clear?” Pineapple asked.

“No, so I’m reading over all the statements to try to see if someone mentioned it. In Middleton's statement, he mentions the party and the altercation he had with Shanzay but he told the original investigators that the argument was about something she said. She told him that she knew what he was thinking and that he should just do it,” Caitlyn read. “Doug didn’t know what she was talking about, called her a few names, and left her.”

“Could she have known that he wanted to kill her?”

“Then where is she? Middleton's not smart enough to dispose of a body without someone stumbling upon it,” Caitlyn said. “I think this was something else but I don’t know what it could mean.”

Banana picked up one of the files and read through it. “This is one of her friends talking about places that Shanzay said she went to be alone. She mentions a place with a lake past a dead end road.”

“Dead end road? Get on the laptop and let’s look at a map of Mieville,” Pineapple said.

Caitlyn logged in and went to a satellite mapping service and zoomed in around the area. “There are three dead end roads in the immediate area. One that ends by the creek, one that ends at a foot bridge over a creek, and another that ends but keeps going into the woods. It you follow that road for half a mile, you come to a lake,” Caitlyn pointed on the screen.

“Any proof that the first investigators checked it out?” Pineapple asked.

“They made a note of it but considered it inconsequential,” Banana read.

“All right. We know where we’re starting out today,” Pineapple said.

They parked at where the road ended, a large steel gate that blocked the road. They climbed over the gate and began walking down the inaccessible part of the road, following it into the woods, over a creek, through a small field, and back into the woods. When they reached another clearing, they saw a small lake, more of a pond, with a tiny island of trees in it. The three of them approached the pond and saw that it had a makeshift dock and on the edge of the woods, a small cabin.

“I’ll walk the pond, you two investigate the cabin,” Pineapple said.

Pineapple went off to the pond and Caitlyn and Banana went to the cabin. The cabin was unlocked so they walked right in. It was completely empty and looked like it hadn’t been touched in decades. Pineapple walked along the edge of the pond, looking into the water trying to see if he could see something. In the cabin, Banana and Caitlyn looked in cabinets, closets, tried to find loosened floorboards or hollow areas of the wall.

Pineapple was halfway around the pond and he stopped to look at where the dock ended. He tried to focus on the water which was clear enough but deeper than it looked. In the cabin, Banana and Caitlyn had split up. Banana went into the one bathroom and looked in the cabinet and behind the mirror. He began to leave but then stopped and turned back to the toilet. He opened the lid to the tank and found that it had no water and there was a book in it. “Caitlyn,” he exclaimed, carefully pulling the book out.

Pineapple was now standing on the dock and looking into the water. He still couldn’t see anything but knew something was down there. In the cabin, Banana and Caitlyn were reading Shanzay’s journal. They had turned the journal to the end where she was writing about the party and her last days alive.

I never went to these parties often but I wanted to confront Doug about what I was hearing. I could hear everything they were thinking, even friends had thoughts that scared me and I can’t tell anyone. I got a couple drinks in me and went up to Doug, shouting at him to just get it over with. I told him that I knew what he wanted to do and ordered him to just do it. He denied everything but I could hear his thoughts. He wanted to. And later, when most everyone had left the party, he did.

He came into the bathroom while I was peeing, yelling and calling me all the names I have heard hundreds of times before. He grabbed my hair and pulled me over the bathtub. I hated what he was doing but glad it was finally happening. He finished and left me there. I knew this was coming and I wanted it. I knew Doug hated me but now I know just how much I hate myself.

Caitlyn and Banana continued reading. Pineapple, still on the dock, finally saw something in the pond. The sun was reflecting off of something in the pond, a bracelet or something. He ran his eyes from the reflection, up an arm, and to the slight hints of a face. “Banana, Caitlyn, come out here,” he shouted. Caitlyn and Banana ran out of the cabin to the dock. “She’s down there. Shanzay is down there.”

“We know. We found her journal,” Banana said.

“She killed herself,” Caitlyn began. “She could hear people’s thoughts and she couldn’t control it. She couldn’t filter what she was hearing so she heard everything. It drove her insane.”

“Insane enough to let Middleton rape her,” Banana revealed.

“She knew Middleton wanted to rape her. She knew it was going to happen. She let it happen so she would quit hearing him think it. She then came out here a couple days after and killed herself,” Caitlyn said, softly.

“She could read minds? Is that a thing and I’ve just never noticed?” Pineapple asked.

“No, as far as she knew, she was the only one.”

“Telepathic people,” Pineapple sighed and shook his head. “What is this world coming to?”