The line extends around the corner. People huddle under umbrellas and jackets against the unrelenting rain. A few of them talk. Most stand in silence, eyes downcast and unwilling to meet the gaze of those who have finished walking past with tears streaming down their faces. The wet pavement is far more inviting a view than the looks of abject horror and loss. The looks that will plaster the faces of each person waiting as soon as they’ve completed their obligation this Tuesday.
Hank risks a glance back. The officers pace the length of the line. One has just stepped around the corner. Her colleague won’t be in view for several seconds. If he wanted to run, this would be the time. He might make it. He might get across the empty street and into a doorway or alley before anyone could stop him. But then what? Hank considered the choice. He thought about it too long. What would happen would be inevitable. They would know. Even if he wasn’t caught immediately, they could see that he hadn’t participated by checking the DNA records. They would hunt him. They would find him. Without participation he couldn’t use any money, get any transportation, or find any way out of the country. They made sure that everyone did their duty. There was no escape.
When she walked by, Hank barely recognized her. Every line in her face screamed, but her voice was silenced. She wailed wordlessly as she wept impotent tears. Her head bared to the rain, hair sticking to her face, thrown back in agony as if the gray skies would hear the pain she could not utter. She stumbled and nearly fell. Hank instinctively reached out to steady her, but she pulled back from his touch. When their eyes met he saw her, Marie.
They’d worked together for just under a year. The flirtation had started slowly as they each tested the safety. Their first date had been two months ago. She laughed at his jokes. He asked questions about her cat. They were a cliche and happy. Marie stared at Hank with unseeing eyes, unable to resolve humanity amidst her pain.
“Marie?”Slowly she squinted and dashed the tears from her eyes. Hank fought the urge to embrace her and protect her from whatever horror dwelt within. But as he stepped out of line the officer approaching from behind cleared his throat. Hank froze. Marie began to shake.
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