This is an excerpt from my novel Necklace of Time. My protagonist, Simon Royale, a well-known writer is in an alternate reality that in many ways is like a fun house mirror version of the 1960s, thought the chronological time is 2015. There is a bit of a twist to the background: existence of the alternate reality is public knowledge. Southwest Airlines flies there out of Sacramento. Simon recently had sex with a woman who turned out to be the wife of the alternate reality’s Simon Royale. She claims she thought she was with her husband. There are repercussions.
Rape by deception. It’s a thing over here. Apparently enough pervs try to sneak into wives’ beds while hubby is working the night shift that they passed a law against it. Come to think of it, we probably have laws like that back in the civilized world. I’ll have to check. I could use a law like that in a novel if we have them back home. Never let a personal catastrophe go to waste.
Eastport police officers Linde and Mosley are polite in a hulking, menacing way. They’re both a couple inches taller than my six feet one, probably in their late thirties, very white. Poster boys for a fifties Officer Friendly campaign if you don’t look at their eyes too closely. They’re wearing gray blazers two sizes too small in the shoulders.
They have a ‘Why yes, we would love to use our nightsticks’ look to their faces, so I go along without asserting my constitutional rights. Actually, I’m not sure what constitutional rights, if any, I have over here. I’m a citizen, but not of their US.
I figure I’ll sort that out where there are witnesses to any nightstick usage. They don’t cuff me, so at least I don’t add a perp walk to this already catastrophic day. I don’t see anyone I know on the way to the station, another small blessing.
Eastport police station is a set of offices and cubicles tucked into one corner of a municipal building made of crumbling brown brick. No air conditioning. Fans shove stale, humid air around without cooling much. Typewriters sit on a few desks, not even antique computers with big tube monitors. Guys type with two fingers onto forms with carbon-paper between the sheets. Someone is running one of the crank things people used to use to make copies before copying machines got cheap. Mimeographs?
The only evidence of computers is a punch-card machine in the corner, with a policewoman running it.
Flashback time. I took my first and only computer course using those silly punch cards and getting cryptic crap back on green bar computer paper four hours later. I typed my first few novels on a typewriter I bought at a garage sale. Life here will get so much better when they get modern computers and laser printers. They’ll get to push out ten times the paperwork in twice the time and surf the net when they’re supposed to be solving crimes.
I study the two officers. Linde looks older than I first thought, with deep wrinkles, gray temples and eyeglasses that he takes off and puts back on five times in the minute it takes us to walk through the office. Mosley smiles a lot, with the smiles never reaching his eyes. I figure he’ll play good cop if they do a good cop/bad cop routine. He has a round, heavy face and a gold tooth at the left corner of his smile.
The office machines aren’t the only differences between US-53 and us in police procedure. I ask for an attorney. Officer Linde says, “That won’t be necessary.”
“Am I under arrest?” I ask.
“Not yet,” he says.
“Then am I free to leave?”
That would have been the right move in US-2014. Apparently not here. The officers stay polite, but with a frosty edge to it. “Let’s keep this civil and informal,” Linde says.
They escort me to a glassed-in room with an oversized round wooden table in the center and heavy wooden chairs around it. When I sit across from them, I ask if I get a phone call. They look amused. “Is that what police do where you come from, Mr. Royale?” Linde asks. “No wonder your big cities turned to crap.”