“And you thought this was a good idea why?” The interrogator sat with her legs crossed, tablet and stylus at the ready, waiting for a response. Cameras and microphones hung from the ceiling just behind her, recording anything her organic mind might miss.
A man in a prison jumpsuit slouched even further in his chair, rear end nearly falling off the front edge. A few more hairs graced his chin than the top of his head, but the middle-aged white man scowled and wrinkled his brow all the more anyway. He crossed his arms and managed to jangle the steel cuffs on his wrists in an even more annoying manner than before, making the interrogator wince. “I ain’t tellin’ you nothin.’ Gov’ment ain’t ne’er done nothin’ good for me – not now, not ever.” He leaned to his left and spat on the floor.
The interrogator put her tablet onto the small side table next to her chair, taking care not to disturb the small orchid that sat there. “Mr. Huffman, do you know where you are?”
“Not too good, no.” He took a deep breath. “Some basement ’bove the Mason Dixon line, I’d reckon. Smell of Yankee cowardice gives that away.”
“Well, you’re wrong.” She clicked the screen of the tablet and brought up something other than a notepad, sifting through images that flashed different colors in the dark room until landing on something brown. “This is an image of the facility, Mr. Huffman.”
He took the tablet from her delicate fingers and considered the barren desert landscape for a few seconds. “It’s a wasteland. Prob’ly Massachussets.”
The interrogator refused to take the tablet back when he proffered it, instead leaving her hand hanging just off her knee. “I suppose your guess is…inconsequential. While you may be able to escape this facility, you would be dead long before you could reach either water or another person. Even if you managed to get out, the only thing you could do is return, because no one here is going to risk going after you.” Her fingers twitched and her eyes squinted as she finally leaned forward and plucked the tablet from Mr. Huffman’s grasp. “You won’t leave this place, ever, but you can make it more comfortable. Now tell me – why did you pick up that box?”
He lifted sad, thoughtful eyes. “If I tell you, will I git me some chaw?”
“Some chaw.” He mimicked taking something from his pocket and lining his lower lip with it. “You know, chewin’ tabaccy.”
She shook her head with a vigorous no. “This is a government facility, Mr. Huffman, and tobacco is banned throughout most of the country. No, you will not-”
“Then you git nothin’ out of me.”
She squinted and tapped the screen of her tablet. “If that bribe will work, I will put in a request you be blindfolded and taken somewhere to enjoy a bit of tobacco.” She held up the tablet and showed him how easily she could submit the request. “All you have to do is tell me why you and Mrs. Huffman picked up that box, and I will press this little button.”
His hands flexed, his blue eyes twinkled, and his jaw tightened. Mr. Huffman held out as long as he could, but at last his resolve wavered. “I suppose it ain’t no big deal to tell you that. Don’t let Janie or Dani know I squealed, y’hear?”
The interrogator smiled and reopened her notes on the tablet. “Not a word from me, Mr. Huffman. Not a word.”