Officer Linde pushes a scrap of paper in a plastic evidence bag across to me. “Someone sent our Simon Royale on a wild goose chase while you pretended to be him. If you sent this note or got somebody to do it, it’s clear cut rape by deception, a little unusual, but the District Attorney will enjoy taking you down. He gets tired of domestic violence and drunken driving.”

I stare at the note, trying to make sense of it. “I never told Madison Royale I was her husband,” I say. “I never deliberately said or did anything that would make her think I was her husband. I didn’t even know your Simon had a wife, much less that she was in Mad-24. And that’s all I’m going to say without a lawyer.”

It’s more than I should say, but the Babble Zone still makes it hard to stop talking. “Is Madison pressing charges?” I ask.

They glance at each other but don’t respond. Score. She probably hasn’t brought charges. If she hasn’t, that makes this situation even more puzzling. The note suggests a set-up, with her involved. If she hasn’t filed charges, why not?

“We’re trying to verify that,” Linde says. He twirls his glasses by the earpiece and I barely resist telling him to put them on or put them away.

Why would they need to verify that she’s filing charges? Either she is or she isn’t. I find myself hoping that she’s not part of a set-up, partly because if she is, I fell into Simon the Lesser’s trap like an idiot.

Beyond that, I like her. The hotel room wasn’t just good sex, it was an instant connection I hadn’t felt in a long time, if ever. How could Simon the Lesser know she would have that effect on me? Would he whore out the mother of his child to gain an advantage in a lawsuit? Would Madison go along with him if he asked her to? She doesn’t seem like the type who would. Then again, we didn’t do much talking during our time together.

“If I’m a suspect in a crime, aren’t you supposed to read me my rights?” I ask.

“What rights would those be?” Linde asks, putting his glasses back on and staring at me over them.

“The right to an attorney. The warning that anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law.” I should be able to quote the Miranda warning by heart, but my mind is fuzzy and can’t pull it up. When did the courts start making police give Miranda warnings? From the way these guys react, it must have happened after 1953 on Dirtball Earth and not at all here.

‘The past is a foreign country.’ I’ve heard that before, but in this case it’s almost literally true, though US-53 isn’t really the past. It’s a mutant off-shoot of our past, the fifties grown up and sneaky, with sharp elbows.

Mosley smiles at me. “We know something happened between you and Madison Royale. Maybe it was a crime. Maybe it wasn’t. If you didn’t do anything wrong, you don’t need to mess with lawyers or rights to remain silent. That’s guilty people stuff. Just tell us what happened, exactly as you remember it. If you didn’t do anything wrong, we’ll get you back to signing your books in no time.”

That crap comes out smooth and friendly. I bet it works on most people. Me, it irritates. I get an overwhelming urge to sue the smile off Mosley’s face and superglue Linde’s glasses to his ears.

Fortunately, the Babble Zone leaves me enough control that I simply smile and return the volley of crap. “If I was back home, I might do that,” I say. “And maybe when we get a lawyer in here, he’ll tell me to do that. I’m in a foreign country though. I don’t know the laws and I’ve just gone through a very strange experience. As much as I would love to help, I’m not comfortable talking to you without a lawyer.”

Officer Linde takes off his glasses and looms over me. “Did you deceive that poor woman into having sex with you?”

We go back and forth that way, with me repeating that I want a lawyer and them asking questions. Finally, I ask them to arrest me or let me leave. Bad move. They arrest me, then continue the good cop/needs-bifocals cop routine, but with me in handcuffs.

Do I stay calm and cool through all this? That would be no. I’m sweating from the afternoon heat and humidity and because this is scary crap. I could spend twenty years in a US-53 penitentiary if this keeps going south, and even if I rated their version of a country club prison, I could be getting Social Security before I sit down at a computer or enjoy air conditioning again.

All this, and the Babble Zone is still making me impulsive, making it hard to control my tongue.
Time to kick my game into passing gear. God, I’m so rattled I can’t even do a proper metaphor.

What advantages do I have over my interrogators? Not experience. I’ve never been arrested before. I don’t know our laws well enough to avoid screwing up and their laws have had over sixty years to mutate.

On the other hand, I’m a writer. I do a lot of research, including interviews. I’m good at listening to people. I’m even better at listening for what people don’t say. Linde and Mosley are asking questions, not answering them, but their questions tell me they already know what went on between Madison and me in the bookstore and the hotel room, maybe not all the details, but enough that they don’t press me on that.

I figure they’ve talked to Madison, but they never directly say she accused me of rape, though they make it sound like she has. That’s surprising. Our cops can lie in interrogations. I wonder if theirs have rules against it. In any case, they may not have her on board with the charges.

“When you talked to Madison, did she tell you why her wedding ring was in her purse?” I ask.

They look at each other, obviously thrown off stride. Mosley says, “We haven’t talked to—” He stops abruptly and Linde glares at him.

“You haven’t talked to Madison? How is that possible? There were only two people in that room. If you haven’t talked to her, you don’t know if we screwed or talked Shakespeare.”

I wonder if Mosley’s slip was deliberate, to throw me off. If they really haven’t talked to Madison, why not? How could they know as much as they seem to about what happened at the hotel? How much could they deduce without talking to her? A lot, given the broken condom. Would they arrest me if Madison wasn’t on board? Could they do it just based on Simon the Lesser’s say-so? Maybe. Our police probably wouldn’t, but does a mutated nineteen-fifties culture care what the wife thinks? We want to think that our kind of progress is inevitable, but is it? Maybe the wife’s opinion doesn’t matter here.

Still, Mosley and Linde know things about the hotel interlude that only Madison and I could know. If Madison isn’t on board with the charges, how do they know she mentioned anniversaries or Cynthia?

Something is missing here. “Who is pressing charges? Madison or Simon?”

They don’t answer. They’re good at controlling the interrogation, despite my attempts to turn it back on them and Mosley’s slip, if it was a slip. I think back to Madison’s reaction when I told her I didn’t know Simon the Lesser had a wife. I swear she believed me. How could she not believe me? I would have needed to know a lot of things I couldn’t know to deliberately get her to the hotel room.