"We're sorry, but we're going to have to take her home."
In front of me sat two police officers. Heidi had just finished relating her entire story to them.
Heidi was like millions of other unmourned, unseen victims: she was abused. Having spent her entire life having her parents neglect her physical, emotional, and intellectual requirements, and having been mostly isolated from the world, Heidi herself was unaware that she was abused until she was 14 years old or so. Her parents bevisited horrors upon her that would later cause a judge to cover his mouth, and would make a former district attorney to recline in silent shock.
The police officers looked at each other nervously.
"The law is clear. Heidi needs to go home."
I wasn't so stupid as to lose my temper. The police officers were just doing their job. At the time, I thought that was commendable. Then again, the men who ran concentration camps were just doing their job, too. At what point does a sense of duty stop being a noble virtue and become an unforgivable sin? I sighed. It was going to be a night of many sighs.
Under the table, Heidi reached over and held my hand. She was taking this better than I was.
"Wow. This aquarium is really something...my god, how big is that?" asked the smaller of the two.
"You come here to take my girlfriend back to hell, and you ask me about the aquarium?" I didn't demand. Instead, I
forced a cheerful voice as I rattled off a few specs.
"By the way...We understand that there's a gun here?" So that was it. That was why they made it out here this fast. If they'd waited just five more days, until we had our appointment with the attorney, we could have had
temporary guardianship. And they would have. No one in the police department cares when a 16-year-old girl goes runaway -- not enough to seriously investigate.
Heidi's "step-dad" (the spineless wretch never really adopted her) gave her a gun for her birthday. Heidi claimed it was a WW2 German mauser, but I noted that it bore the emblem of the soviet union and cyrillic print. Whatever it was, its previous owner was playing indian-giver and claimed the rifle as his. A smart move, if dishonorable.
"It's downstairs. I'll go get it," I said.
"We'll go with you. Heidi, why don't you get your things together?"
They were worried I was going to shoot them. It was a small sting to my honor that they would worry about this
after I had just flat-out told them Heidi was here when asked. Besides which, these were -not- the two people I wanted dead at this point in time.
"So, you're not going to interfere with us taking Heidi?" the red-haired one asked with more than a little incredulity.
"My parents instructed us to fully cooperate with the police."
"Good." His gratitude was overwhelming.
He piped up again about the tank when we stepped into the basement. "My god, is all this machinery for the
"Yep. Yon black barrels make up our sand filter array. We mix salt water into the tank there -- it'd kill the fish if we just poured it in straight."
"If Batman had an aquarium..."
We went to the storage area in the back of the basement. Behind a picture, behind a row of boxes on a large rack, I produced the weapon they were so eager to reclaim. The bolt-action rifle had a clip, which Heidi had left behind. The clip was the property of her not-so-step-dad.
I tried to turn around as quickly as I could without alarming them to see if they had their hands at their holsters. I couldn't tell. I handed it to the tall one, and sighed. The police refused to help me when I went to them with Heidi's story. After I had done what our tax-funded enforcers of justice would not, they came to stop me. How skewed justice must become when under a legislator's pen.
"I'm going to go help Heidi pack."
"Okay. We'll be upstairs by the door."
As we went up the stairs, the red-head again piped up about the tank. I ignored his compliment, and made my way to
Heidi, who was waiting in the cubicle that had been her bedroom these past weeks. We did what we both knew we would be wanting more than anything in the world in the coming days.
"I'll be fine..." she said. I don't know if that was for her benefit, or mine. She smiled. She had her purse --
nothing near the carload of belongings that she came with. This gave me hope.
"What's the worst that could happen?"
"You could die!" For three words, my air of false confidence and strength failed. My voice dripped with the sad desperation that I had kept bottled up for the past hour. A stinging in my eyes told me that my voice wasn't the
only thing dripping.
"I won't die..." She gave me another smile, which faded. We heard heavy boots coming up the stairs.
"Are you ready?" asked the taller officer.
I walked downstairs. I tried to continue exuding confidence. I don't know why I was so determined to show the police that they hadn't hurt me -- I frequently look back, imagining myself if I went on an Ayn Rand-style lecture on how unjust this was. It wouldn't have done me any good. No, what I should have done is forbidden the police to come inside. My parents had told us to cooperate and to be honest, but I should never have let them inside without my parents being there. Could've, would've, should've.
After they left, I went to my room. I noticed that I had a new e-mail.
"ill be back in three days. love, heidi"