The Calling: Part 2

December 10th, 2010 by Wordsman

Luckily Escobar was able to regain his balance, because the floor of the subway station was something he wasn’t entirely comfortable walking on, let alone meeting face-first.  As he turned around he dove into a standard cop apology, the kind designed to make you think the whole incident was mostly your fault.

The woman slowly lifted her head to look up at him.  She looked as dazed as if someone had just flung her off the subway without so much as a “No ticket,” so he had trouble telling whether what she said was a statement or a question: “Buckets of dead hair.”

Her words unsettled Escobar.  In his line of work—at least as it was conducted by officers with less powerfully selective senses—hearing a homeless woman muttering gibberish to herself was, sadly, not that unusual.  This woman, however, was not talking to herself.  Her wandering eyes had latched onto his face like he was the only man at a high school reunion with whom she had not had a messy breakup; she expected an answer.  And she was not muttering.  The woman spoke with perfect clarity.  Escobar wished she hadn’t, so that he could convince himself she had said something different.

Rather than attempt a response, he decided to take advantage of his new perspective on the woman’s face to get a better look at her.  His first impression was that she looked like an old witch, but not one who could afford ruby slippers, castles, or armies of simian aviators.  She had a face ravaged by age, though she lacked the warts and other skin diseases children come to expect from practitioners of the black arts.  Her hair, most of which was stuffed into a shapeless hood, could have been any color, especially under the unnatural lights of the subway station.

The rest of her was covered in filthy, faded, frayed garments that would make a fashion designer cry and a germaphobe gag.  Escobar could not tell if she was wearing one layer or many, and her figure was a total mystery (a mystery he felt was probably best left unsolved).

After sizing up his opponent, Officer Escobar took another, friendlier stab at conversation—making sure he hadn’t hurt her, asking who she was, why she was there, etc.

The woman’s eyes narrowed, as if it was finally dawning on her that what they had here was a failure to communicate.  “Satan’s zoo of bees?” she asked, this time in a decidedly questioning tone.

Escobar decided that this was as good a point as any to give up.  The woman was clearly nuts, but she seemed like one of the harmless ones.  After her second errant serve, instead of yelling or attacking him, she put her head back down and began speaking rapidly under her breath, like an orator who had gotten lost in the middle of a speech and was trying to find her place again.  Mere insanity was another thing Escobar believed did not merit police intervention; he himself had been known to lose it from time to time when he arrived at the Dough-Re-Mi only to discover that they had run out of their Minuet in Glee cookies (three quarters dark chocolate chips, one quarter white chocolate chips, one hundred percent sinfully delicious).

Still, something about the woman bothered him, and it wasn’t just her fondness for grim imagery.  He wanted to find out more, and if she wasn’t going to tell him anything useful, then there was only one place to go.

Officer Escobar gave Simon Park Station one last sweeping glance.  Satisfied that it was safe for another day, he set out to find Larry.

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