Sequence: The Watcher Watched (part two)
She knew this. And as Viola in silence pulled the door wide to admit him, Durco got to the point.
“Miss Huey, did a man named Bruner get in touch with you?”
Freda found the smell by the short partition wall―the one that separated the cell from the toilet (no door)―objectionable; but it had been the only open bit of wall against which to lean. But then, though she’d kept her back turned to the goings-on inside, one of the women making for the toilet had made a grotesquely vulgar remark. Freda scuttled to a place near the cell’s barred entry, and huddled there on tired feet, arms folded.
The women’s pen had two bunks and a cot. Someone was on the cot, rolled with her face pressed to the bars, snoring as she snoozed, phlegmy rattles, a whistling wheeze on the intake. But the woman who had spoken sat on the cot anyway, comfortably indifferent to its other occupant, and patted the mattress beside her. “I know you from the agency, don’t I?”
It was true. The chain-smoking one, with the gloomy face. She was talkative now. “Did you get the job?”
“I worked for a while,” Freda told her. “My name is Freda Murchison.”
She thought she ought to put herself on a social footing with this near-friend. The idea that had crossed her mind was dismally Dolores-esque, attributing the quality of trustworthiness to the woman’s grammatical speech.
She was silent for a minute or two, and Freda thought she had got this rhythm from years of smoking. Even now, when she had no cigarette, she paused, and her fingers twitched together, as though hinting to her what to say next. “Well, I don’t worry about work, because I have a job at the women’s shelter house. Over on Lancaster Street.” She waved her hand, small finger extended, in a way that pegged the shelter house Board of Guardians as so many gulls. “They always take me back, even when I’m drunk. But sometimes,” she added, seeing Freda on the verge of asking, “the ones who don’t want to help you treat you better. That’s why I go out to the agencies.”
Here, Freda told herself, was one who could advise her. She doubted she’d get a lawyer. Being a non-citizen, her position was not the same as the others’. She had spent a year serving on the Leviathan; she’d spent five years in America…as Phillip’s little helpmeet. She sighed. Freda’s notion of her place remained vague, as to what rigmarole came between alien status and that of naturalized citizen. She had never imagined herself charged with a crime.
The Watcher Watched
(2016, Stephanie Foster)