The Borrowing

“Did you get a look at your attacker?”

Gertrude looked down at her bare feet before responding to the patrolman.

“I told you, it was dark. And bright,” she explained. Her matted, grey hair clung to her scalp in incongruous clumps.

“Dark and bright. Got it, ma’am,” Officer Page replied, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. He was at the tail end of a double shift, and no loony old bat was going to cost him the first five minutes of Glee. SVU was going to give him eight kinds of hell for calling this one in, but they could kiss his wide Welsh keister. She would be their problem as soon as he finished up his incident report.

“How about height? Tall, short or average?”

“How would I know what’s little for a little, green man,” Gertrude asked.

“Okay, I’m just going to put down average,” the officer noted. He did the same for weight and listed race as other.

“And you say this little, green man … he, uh … probed you?”

He regretted the question before the words were out of his mouth. Sure as the crazy in this hag’s milky, hazel eyes, he’d just forfeited the title sequence.

She stared off into the night, appearing to see nothing and everything all at once.

“Yes, that animal probed me. In all my years, I’ve never been so mistreated. Not even that weekend in Puerta Vallarta when Harold, God rest his soul, mixed up his blood pressure medication with the Spanish fly that Marvin from the bowling league gave him as a gag gift for his seventy fifth birthday.” A violent shudder wracked her entire being. “I’ll never get that smell out of my nose. Like burning tires in a snowcone factory. Cold as ice, and scalding hot.”

“Cold and hot, got it. How many times have you been abducted, Ms. Gunderson?”

“Counting this time? Once,” Gertrude said. She began fiddling with the hole in the knee of her pantyhose.

“Let’s get back to the actual abduction. You say there was a bright light and tractor beam,” the officer asked, turning to wink at the dashboard camera in his cruiser as he did so. The fellas would eat this up, especially Pennington.

“I already told you all about that. One minute I’m sitting on the sofa watching my program, then before you can say Here’s Johnny, I’m flying through the bay window. Harold, God rest his soul, was always on me about leaving it open, but it was such a pleasant evening. Now are you going to sit here and ask questions all night, or are you going to catch the monster that had me spread out on that table like a fish,” Gertrude demanded.

“And what else did this … processor, you called him? What else did this processor do to you, ma’am,” the officer asked. He hazarded another glance at the camera, crossing his eyes and twirling his index finger near his temple in the universal pantomime for crazy.

“Are you having a laugh at me, sonny?”

“No, ma’am,” he replied, stiffening and turning back to find the galactic traveler eying him with evident suspicion.

“You look here, young man,” she began, wagging a crooked finger at the officer, “that thing is getting away while you have yourself a gay old time at my expense, and I won’t stand for it.”

“We need to make sure we get the right one is all, ma’am,” Page responded, suppressing a grin.

She continued to scrutinize him under a furrowed brow.

“He took my blood,” Gertrude said at last.

“You mean he drew some blood, like a sample?”

“No, I mean he took it. All of it.”

Page stared at the translucent face in front of him and suddenly felt pity. Nutter or not, this was someone’s mother, someone’s grandmother. The panicked family was probably canvassing the streets right now, wondering where she had wandered off to this time. He thought of his late Uncle JJ.

“How about we get you a cup of soup back at the station,” he suggested. He grasped the radio on his belt to call off the special victims unit. The lark had gone far enough.

“There’s no time,” Gertrude objected. “It could be violating somebody else right now! You have to stop it!”

“I understand, ma’am,” the officer began before she cut him off.

“You don’t believe me. Here, I’ll show you,” she interjected.

Before he could stop her, she withdrew a plastic spork from her purple, zebra-patterned handbag and plunged it deep into her forearm.

“Christ,” the officer shrieked, lunging for the makeshift shank.

He yanked it out by the white plastic handle, the beefy fingers of his left hand disappearing into the spongy folds of her triceps.

“Told you,” Gertrude boasted, extending her arm into the pale moonlight for him to see. Not a single crimson drop of blood arose from the fresh wound.

“What the hell,” Page exclaimed, directing the beam of his maglight to the mottled appendage. Three holes connected by a semi-circular gash, completely free of gore.

“It took my identity,” she informed the incredulous officer. “Poked me, prodded me. Stole my DNA and credit information.”

“Hold on,” Page objected, willing the jumbled thoughts in his head to coalesce. “Credit information? What would an ET want with your credit information?”

“I can’t rightly say, but it made me provide my social security number, date of birth and proof of employment on three separate forms. It also demanded bank statements for the past three months.”

The officer stood in slack-jawed silence. His eyes remained fixated on the bloodless wound.

“That’s the only reason it let me go, you know,” she continued. “I’m supposed to fax all of my documents by the end of the week.”

The patrolman’s radio squawked to life, startling him.

“Dispatch to one thirty eight,” a non-inflected voice croaked.

“One thirty eight, go, dispatch,” the officer responded.

“Are you still with the 13-1202, Page?”

“Affirmative. And look, this is going to sound crazy, but,” Page began.

“Hold fast, officer, a black and white is on its way to your location,” the voice interrupted.

“Copy,” Page responded, holstering the radio as a pair of headlights swung around the corner, bathing the pair in halogen light.

“It’s back! Oh, lord help us, it’s back,” the woman squealed.

Page had to physically restrain her as the driver side door opened.

“Got a guy in the back who thinks your lady might belong to him,” the approaching officer announced. “He’s been out looking for her all night. Found him talking to a cat over on twelfth.”

The rear door of the squad car swung open. All six eyes squinted against the glare at the form that stepped out.

“Gertrude,” an uncertain voice called.

“Harold?”

An old man shuffled forward with a hurried, laborious gait. Page released his hold on the woman, who lurched to meet the newcomer. The couple cast an enigmatic two-story shadow on the warehouse behind them as they shared a fierce hug, the officers looking on from just outside the glow of the headlights.

“What’s your guy’s story,” Page asked his colleague, checking the name on the badge.

“He’s not much help,” Officer Davies confessed. “Until dispatch put it together with your call, I figured the old coot was just confused.”

The two watched the couple in silence for a moment.

“Only thing he said that made any sense was that they were signing papers on a house this afternoon. From the sound of it, they haven’t taken out a new loan in damn near forty years,” Davies continued.

Page let out a low whistle.

“Poor bastards,” he acknowledged. “They wouldn’t have known what hit’em.”

“Apparently, the missus went outside to grab some air around the time they were redoing the affidavit statement because the signatures were outside of the margins. She never came back in,” Davies concluded.

“Ah, I get it now,” Page said.

“Come again,” asked Davies.

“When I first found her, she was mumbling weird numbers and trying to snatch something out of the air. Four point three five, two points. Four point eight, no origination … must have been the terms that finally made her snap.”

“You wanna deal with this, or should I,” Davies asked, taking a half step back from the scene.

“Ah hell, I’ll do it,” Page answered. “I already missed the Cardinals’ tip-off.”

“You mean the Suns?”

“Yeah, the Suns,” he acknowledged, feeling his face flush. “Besides, I’m refi’ing my house right now.”

“So?”

“So I want to see where they put the microchip.”

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Paul Slaybaugh is here to sell houses and chew bubble gum. He's all out of bubble gum. More About Me >>>

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