Consequences Part 9

October 21st, 2011 by Wordsman

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”

Officer Tang had mixed feelings about the Miranda Rights.  It had never been successfully explained to her why criminals had any rights at all.  If they wanted rights, they shouldn’t have broken the law.  In general, she paid very little attention to the post-arrest stages of criminal procedure, which she often found confusing and/or unsatisfying.  In her ideal world, you got the bad guy, and that was it (Officer Tang was one of the few people whose ideal world still had bad guys in it).

On the other hand, reading an arrestee her Miranda Rights was a symbol of victory.  It was a way of showing you had won, like saying “Checkmate!” or hearing your country’s national anthem or dumping a barrel of Gatorade on the coach.  Every time she got to say, “You have the right to remain silent,” it was a reminder of another job well done.  So she relished the delivery of the lines, even if the philosophical background behind them made her somewhat uneasy.

Most of the time she did not care whether or not they waived their rights.  It didn’t matter to her if they said anything compromising—that was all for the detectives to take care of.  In fact, she generally preferred that her arrestees keep quiet; after all, what had they done to earn the privilege of talking?  Officer Tang was not the first cop to reinterpret, “You have the right to remain silent” as meaning, “You have lost your freedom of speech.”

But this time she wanted something.  She had to know.  What had the woman been doing down there for all those months?  The mystery had consumed her like no previous case ever had.  She had the assault charge, and that was enough to bring the woman in, but it was not enough to satisfy Officer Tang; it was just an excuse.  You could hardly say that Al Capone’s great criminal act was failing to pay his taxes.

“Thought you could get away with it, didn’t you?”  Lacking experience actually talking to suspects instead of just reciting at them, she was forced to rely almost exclusively on clichés.  “Well, you might have somewhere else, but not in my town.  You didn’t reckon with the Crescenton Police Department!”

The old woman was in no mood to respond.  She had arrived at Grief Stage Four: Depression.  She was never going to get out.  No one was ever going to listen to her.  She would die in that subway station, and it would most likely be several days before anyone even noticed.  And, because apparently that wasn’t funny enough for the universe, it had decided to throw this disagreeable police officer at her as well.

“I bet you’re wondering what kind of sentence you’ve got to look forward to for what you did,” Officer Tang continued.  She certainly was.  “Five-to-ten?  Twenty?  Life?  I hear there’s a proposition in the legislature to get rid of the death penalty here in the state of Ohio, but I wouldn’t count on that to save you.”

“I’m already serving a life sentence.”  She didn’t want to talk to the police officer.  Then again, she couldn’t remember the last time she had done something because she wanted to.  If it was her lot in life to be toyed with for others’ amusement, she might as well play along.  Stage Five: Acceptance.

“So you’re a repeat offender!”  It was all coming together now: a hardened criminal spends decades digging an escape tunnel with spoons stolen from the prison cafeteria.  One night she jumps in, claws her way to undeserved freedom and finds herself in the subway system.  That explained why she had just been sitting there for months.  She was laying low until the whole thing blew over.  “Where were you doing time?”


Officer Tang faltered, but just for a moment.  She couldn’t possibly mean here here.  She must mean, “in the state of Ohio.”  “Well then, you’re in luck.  We can put you back where you belong in no time.  Just need to run you by the station to do a little paperwork and you’ll be on your way.”

The woman laughed.  It wasn’t funny, really; it was just . . . fair.  For the first time, her situation was going to cause problems for someone else instead of just for her.  “If only it were that easy.”

“What?”  She tightened her grip on the woman’s arm.  “Ma’am, you’re in enough trouble as it is.  You don’t want to add resisting arrest on top of it.”  Officer Tang didn’t want any complications, and she certainly didn’t want to have to beat an old woman into submission.  She just wanted the intruder out of her station.

The woman kept laughing.  It hurt her throat, but she couldn’t stop.  Sometimes all you can do is laugh—it’s not one of the stages of grief, but maybe it should be.  “I’m not resisting.  Believe me, I would love to go with you.  But like I said: it’s not that easy.”

Officer Tang was starting to feel very uncomfortable.  The people she arrested did not usually laugh.  Cartoon supervillains laugh.  Real criminals don’t laugh.  “What the hell are you talking about?”

The laughter finally subsided.  “You’ll see.”

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