Roger flashed his identification at Ann’s mother, who, having finished her exercise routine, mixed a blueberry-strawberry smoothie in a blender in the kitchen.
“Where is she?” Roger demanded.
“Where is she? Who do you think you are, bursting into my house?”
Roger thrust his police identification card and shiny badge into Ms. Wang’s line of sight. Ann’s mother often spent hours on her face, smooth, pale, unblemished, applying moisturizers, creams, powders, and lotions, massaging her wrinkles and facial muscles, plucking hairs from her nostrils and eyebrows, depilating above her lips, scrubbing the skin, cleansing the pores. “You’re with the narcissism squad?” Having completed a workout on her treadmill and stationary bicycle and then with kettlebell weights in front of a large wide screen television, she wore fashionable, stretchy skin tight athleisure, yoga pants, and a form fitting tank top made from a fabric that easily absorbed perspiration. After she examined the photo identification and pushed away the paperwork, the warrants, Ann’s mother realized this wasn’t a prank, practical joke, mistake, or misunderstanding. When she collapsed in the chair, trembling, Roger was surprised at her reaction. Wang shook violently, but, since she seemed fit, he felt concerned as he contemplated her reaction. Worried he needed to summon an ambulance, he asked Ann’s mother if she required medical attention. Saying she would be all right, she shook her head when he asked her again.
“She should be in her bedroom.”
Ms. Wang motioned down the hallway to the bedroom when he again asked her daughter’s whereabouts. When she asked Roger if she could stand, he joked he wasn’t about to shoot her, but he realized he needed to remember how intimidating he could look. Then, worried he might be falling into a trap, he allowed Ann’s mother to lead him down the hallway. “You have to understand. She was an influencer—”
“Ma’am, influencers were banned during the final wave of the last viral pandemic, after they were linked to super-spreader events.”
“I understand, but she did amass over forty thousand followers on social media. Internet fame can be an intoxicating.”
“Ma’am, the warrant mentions pornography offenses, production and distribution, third degree. You do understand the severity of those charges under the new modesty code, even if she was a young offender.”
“Yes, I’m sorry. I warned her about posting selfies a few months ago. I was under the impression she stopped. She said she deactivated her social media account and was studying for her college admissions exams.”
“I have a warrant for her arrest, Ms. Wang. The rap sheet mentions intimate images, nudity, minors, age of consent.”
“But she’s of age—oh, my God.”
Ann’s mother started to sob as she collapsed on the sofa in the hallway. Fearing she might resist or refuse to cooperate, Roger asked her help, explaining parents or friends oftentimes persuaded suspects to surrender, encouraging them to adopt a cooperative stance towards law enforcement, to avoid stricter sentencing and obstruction of justice charges. Knocking on Ann’s bedroom door, Ms. Wang nervously said there was a gentleman to see her. Ann gazed through the peephole in the door and, despite the fact his image was distorted by the fisheye lens, from social media she recognized the cop—the dude she nicknamed Roger Dodger.
Her friend Nicky said he saved her life, when she called into the distress line. He persuaded her not to take her own life by overdosing on tranquilizers and antidepressants and slicing her wrists in a bathtub overflowing with warm water. She said she ended up conversing with him so long from the bathtub she wound up with pruney skin and cellulitis. Nicky insisted on knowing his name, being friends with him, and following him on social media so she could speak with him again when she next called into the distress line. She claimed he helped her find purpose and meaning in life. As soon as Ann heard that phrase, she knew that Nicky, who liked to cut herself, slice the flesh on her arms and thighs with sharp knives, must have had epiphany. In fact, instead of threatening to kill herself or show up at school with a machete or hunting knife, or even her father’s hunting rifle or shotgun, she talked about pursing a career as a model and a photographer. Somehow, Roger Dodger managed to persuade her she possessed skills and aptitudes—that she could succeed if she applied herself. Then, when she texted him photos, selfies she took of herself in her swimsuit on the beach, he blocked her on every social media account he used, including CareerNet.
When Ann saw his face through the peephole, enlarged and distorted by the fisheye lens, she realized the police were pursuing narcissism charges, and she needed to escape. She turned on loud rap music on her laptop computer and the gangster rap from the YouTube music video boomed through the stereo speakers behind her bedroom door, which she already locked since her mother never showed sufficient respect for her privacy. When mother tried to open the door, she discovered the lock was solidly engaged. Ann urged her mother to go away, but Ms. Wang warned her to open the door for the police. Ann increased the volume on her laptop computer, so the rap music boomed loud. Gunfire burst from the overdubs on the soundtrack, booming realistically through portable wireless stereo speakers. Roger charged into her bedroom, smashing through the locked door, with a kick from his boot. He lunged into the bedroom just as Ann, in a tank top, short shorts, and puffy poop emoji slippers, smashed the double pane glass for her bedroom with the five-pound kettlebell weight, and fled through the broken storm window.
“A runner,” mutter Roger, who couldn’t remember the last time a suspect fled. Usually, the perps came out of their desktop computer or laptop in their bedroom with their hands raised, sometimes even holding the offending smartphone, the instrument of their troubles, tightly clenched in their grip.
Roger charged down the hallway, leaving Ann’s mom screaming, as he raced out the back door, which he slammed loudly, surprising her Mom with his agility, which she hadn’t expected in a mature man, since she had only memories of her father, confined to a wheelchair. Ms. Wang never expected she would see a middle-aged man run so fast. He ran through the backyard and through the back alley, chasing after Ann as she raced through her suburban neighbourhood for several blocks.
Then he turned back on foot and, since he had an idea where Ann might be headed, the scene of some of her past crimes and misdemeanours and selfies, he followed behind her in an unmarked police cruiser.
Through the front window shield, he saw her dash across the parking lot of shopping mall and run across concrete parking curbs into the Trillium Coffee, where she worked. In Trillium Coffee, she took numerous offending selfies and videos. In a bikini or short skorts and a homemade cropped top, she produced clips and pictures of herself demonstrating the best techniques to make fresh, delicious cappuccinos, lattes, espresso, iced teas, and frappe coffees, which helped her increase and amass a following on social media in the tens of thousands. Her viewership grew everyday.
Roger pulled up to the drive thru, parked the cruiser, blocking the laneway and an exit to the parking lot, a small parking lot bounded by yellow and black bollards bordering a massive larger parking lot for the shopping mall, and hurried into the Trillium Coffee.
“Where is she?” Roger shouted.
The barista, in his Trillium Coffee uniform, at the cash register, suddenly motioned to the back kitchen. Roger stepped gingerly down the corridor and, while Ann could hear him, she waited, on the other side of the double doors, beside the refrigerator, hiding. When Roger stepped through the door to the kitchen, Anna sprayed his eyes with a blast, an explosion of mist from the nozzle of a bottled oven cleaner. Blinded momentarily, Roger writhed in agony and anger, as he fled through the kitchen and hallway. Wiping his eyes with crumpled paper towel, his vision still blurred, he stepped outside the restaurant. He found no sign of her in the parking lot, huge, and empty. He thought there was no way plausible or feasible she could have run that far so fast and circled the squat square Trillium Coffee building. Then he came across a dumpster at the back. He saw beneath the lid of the dumpster, her puffy poop emoji slippers peeping through the gap between the crushed disposable coffee cups and donut boxes and food waste and coffee grinds and the closed lip of the dumpster. He crept up to the dumpster, removed his taser from his holster, and aimed at her as he opened the lid. Like a trapped animal desperate for freedom, she leapt from the dumpster, overflowing with garbage. She leapt too quickly for Roger to aim at her and shoot his taser. In the ensuing struggle, in which he managed to cling to the armhole on my tank top, she managed to free herself from his grip and regain her freedom. She even managed to seize control of his taser. She fired the taser and the two barbed darts punctured his skin and stuck to him. As she released some of the conducted energy, she screamed, spitting, “Pervert!”
Roger writhed in agony from the taser shot. She dropped the weapon and ran back across the parking lot in her puffy poop emoji slippers. When he recovered from the blow, and shocks, she chased him across the vast parking lot of the shopping mall. Her puffy poop emoji slippers came loose, as she, her soles bleeding from broken beer bottle glass scattered across the asphalt, continued running bare foot. Chasing after her, he managed to close the gap between them to a few meters.
When he noticed her skinny legs, the muscles and tendons in her thighs and calves and bleeding bare feet, he feared he couldn’t run any further, without suffering chest pains and potentially a heart attack. Still, he leapt, surprising her with his agility and speed, tackling her to the asphalt. He pressed her head against the pavement, as he restrained and handcuffed her, while she cursed, swore, and spit. At five foot five inches, he estimated she was less than one hundred pounds. He thought that, aside from whatever issues were already afflicting her, including this extraordinary effort to resist arrest, she must suffer an eating disorder. Despite his shouted warnings of further charges for assaulting a peace officer and obstructing justice, she continued to fight furiously, scratching, punching, flailing. He dragged her to her feet and informed her she was under arrest for criminal narcissism charges, posting selfies to social media. She screamed about oppression of her freedom of speech and spit in his face, calling him a pervert. He escorted her, kicking, screaming, back across the parking lot.
When he reached Trillium Coffee, exasperated, gasping for breath, he threw her back into the dumpster. He sat on the lid, and then called for backup. After waiting for over an hour, during which nobody responded to his repeated calls for assistance, he realized he would have to take the wild, volatile young woman on his own. He drove the cruiser to the precinct. When he arrived with her wrists in handcuffs and her ankles in zip ties, she was still belligerent and hostile.
Roger gave her his jacket, far too large, urging her to protect her modesty and she tried to kick and throw the outerwear back at him, but couldn’t because of her restraints. He expressed amazement the precinct was empty. No officer helped process her arrest, no jail guard apprehended Ann to properly imprison her and monitor her. The cadet, leaving the precinct as Roger arrived, said most officers responded to a call to disperse a massive party in violation of social distancing guidelines for the pandemic lockdown, during the latest waves of surging infections, and Roger nodded warily.
He processed Ann and led her to the cell. When he observed no jail guard or prison matron in the detention facility, he should have been cautious. Then he left her in the cell and brought her a long sleeve shirt and pants, without a belt, again urging her to protect her modesty. He also left a paperback Russian novel, his personal favorite, Crime and Punishment, for her to read. He even forgotten the stubby pencil in middle of the novel, to mark the page, where he last left off, despite having read the novel several times already. He returned to his desk to catch up on paperwork. When he went for coffee at the percolator, he heard a choking sound, an animalistic gagging and gurgling, and furious kicking. He hurried to the holding cell area and found her dangling from the long sleeve shirt, which he had given her and which she fashioned into a noose, a hang rope, and fastened to a bar of the jail cell, from which she dangled. Roger cut her down and sliced through the knotted rope around her neck. He initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as he used his walkie-talkie to call the ambulance. By the time the ambulance arrived at the precinct, the detention facility was crowded with officers. The paramedics brought her into the hospital emergency department within minutes of their arrival, but the attending casualty officer indicated any intervention wouldn’t make a difference. With few healthy vital signs, essentially brain dead, Ann remained on life support.
Before interviews with homicide detectives, part of the investigation, which lasted several hours, he removed the novel he had given her from the jail cell, despite the fact he realized the paperback might be evidence.
Crestfallen and heartbroken, he returned home to his midtown apartment late at night, having racked up over a dozen hours of overtime, to the dismay of the commanding officer. Having returned home to his condominium, he discovered Ann wrote a note inside the front cover of Crime and Punishment, when the stubby pencil fell from the pocketbook. He again expressed amazement at himself for his carelessness with the girl. He could barely decipher her handwriting, but he saw she had scrawled a note to the effect that if she couldn’t have her freedom to be herself, if she couldn’t have the liberty to express herself, especially on social media, if she was going to be treated like a depraved criminal because she was a content creator and social media influencer, she didn’t want to live anymore. After he read the message, he tore off the cover, ripped it to shreds, and burned the note in the kitchen sink. Feeling ashamed and culpable at her death. He sat down at his desktop computer, opened the word processor, composed a letter of resignation, cut, and pasted the letter into an email, and sent the email to his commanding officer. He took a tranquilizer, gulping the tablet with a cup of cold coffee he reheated in the microwave oven.
As he lay in bed, he continued to brood over Ann, a teenager who resisted arrested like no previous suspect he ever arrested or detained. He thought of the ghastly image of her, sagging from the sleeve of the oversized long-sleeved t-shirt he insisted she wear, which she fashioned into a rope, and the chaotic scene at the hospital emergency department as the doctors, nurses, and paramedics struggled to revive and resuscitate her. He feared her parents would decide to disconnect her life support in the intensive care unit of the hospital.
After he took another titrated dose of sleep medication and a tablet for anxiety, he finally managed to fall asleep on the sofa, beside his desk and computer. When he first awoke it was to a sense of dread, feeling his career was doomed.
Then he awoke to the sound of the cordless telephone ringing repeatedly. He thought for a moment he might be in the middle of a dream, but he realized that all these awful events had occurred. He listened for the voicemail to answer the phone call and record any message, but heard nothing. The supervisor was probably trying to reach him after he sent the email earlier in the day, so he answered the telephone instead of risking insubordination.
The superintendent summoned him to his favorite Starbucks coffeehouse at King and Yonge Street downtown. The superintendent said he needed a debriefing. They needed to discuss administrative and personnel issues—the bright future of his promising career at the Toronto Police Service. That could only mean he had received his letter of resignation and read the email.
Roger rode the subway train to the spacious café. He didn’t see what choice he had even if he made his resignation effective immediately. In full dress uniform, the superintendent, having returned from a press conference at police headquarters on College Street, where he showed off laptops, desktop computers, smartphones, external hard drivers, thumb drives, memory sticks and cards, seized from banned influencers, greeted him with a backslap. His immaculate appearance, pressed uniform, fine grooming, and older handsome appearance usually left Roger feeling inferior and intimidated. When the superintendent saw how downfallen Roger appeared, he pursed his lips, frowned sympathetically, and gave him a hug. They sat down with their gourmet coffees and biscotti, a treat the commander insisted on paying for with his own credit card.
“These things happen to all our officers, Constable, at one point or another.”
“Yeah, I think that’s a fair assumption.”
“Assumption? It’s a fact.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
“Don’t yeah, yeah me, Constable. You’re the oldest recruit I ever hired. You can’t just go quitting on me. In fact, you’re the oldest recruit the whole city police department ever hired. It would reflect badly on me, on us, the department, for you to depart abruptly.”
Roger stood up and snatched a few sugar packets and creamers for his coffee, even though he preferred his coffee black, with no sugar or sweetener.
“You know when I hired you, I had your complete social media profile and activity in my files. I thought: why is this mature man looking at these young women’s profiles.”
“I think I explained that during my job interview and screening: I worked as a volunteer counsellor at a suicide prevention and distress call-in centre. Often young women would call in and insist on having my name and knowing me personally. They would offer their names as a matter of routine, even though I insisted on anonymity. They even sent me invitations to join their circle of friends and acquaintances on social media. It became very difficult to separate work and volunteer activity from my personal life.”
“This isn’t an inquisition or an interrogation, Constable. No one is questioning your work as a volunteer or your integrity. I just can’t understand why you’d undergo the rigorous screening process, and then walk away from the position and a promising career, especially when I warned you there’d be setbacks—days like these. And I mention these relationships you managed to establish because I thought you were the perfect candidate for the narcissism squad.” Roger normally would have answered promptly, but his experience as a police officer taught him the value of restraint, refraining, silence. He sipped his coffee and wiped his eyes, which started to water from irritation. “Anyway, when I was first looking at your application—should I hire this older guy—I noticed this pattern. You were friends with these young women—smart, good looking—but you were single. I thought this an interesting pattern of behavior and you had an unusual character, one useful in law enforcement. I thought this former economist or data scientist—”
“I was a graduate student in Canadian economic history, writing my master’s thesis on the history of interest rates during the twentieth century as they related to Toronto stock exchange valuations.”
“But you were a financial wizard. A member of the police commission said you were his financial advisor at a wealth management firm.”
“That was before my early mid-life crisis.”
“Yes, the early mid-life crisis, which precedes the mid-mid-life crisis, which hits hardest before the late-mid-life crisis, which makes you realize it only keeps getting better since you needn’t worry about paying for the kid’s college tuition anymore.”
“Fortunately, I don’t have a wife or children, but you forgot about the house or condo down payments.”
“Anyway, I noticed all the young people with whom you’re friends—”
“Since they’re mostly from school and social media, I don’t think you’d call them real friends.”
“Still, you had a gift for establishing rapport with a younger crowd, so I thought you were an ideal recruit for the narcissism squad.”
“I think at one point so did I.”
“And I noticed you had no selfies—not a single selfie, not even from an authorized portrait photographer, or from the grandfather clause phase. Most mature men and women your age keep some flattering selfies on their social media profile under the grandfather clause, but not you, not a single selfie.”
“I don’t photograph well. I’m not photogenic.”
“That’s not what I hear from the ladies at police headquarters or the precinct or the narcissists you’ve arrested–silver fox is what I hear.”
“Pig or pervert is the insult I hear most often.”
“When you’re arresting suspects. You shouldn’t sell yourself short.”
“No, I think it’s a fact.”
“You’re ignoring reality. Then there’s the fact you didn’t even have a smartphone.”
“I was an academic, a scholar—well, not even that, but a graduate student—I didn’t need a smart phone. When you hired me, though, you made me get a smartphone.”
“We need to keep in touch and constant communications with our officers, if necessary.”
“Then you can understand sometimes suspects commit suicide.”
“Yes. But not on my watch.”
“Forget about it. There’s already been a preliminary investigation and you’ve been exonerated.”
“Not in my mind.”
“I want you to see the police psychologist.” He handed Roger the business card for the police psychologist and picked up his smartphone and scrolled through his list of contacts, the glow from the screen lighting his spiked silver hair and pale fleshy face, which received regular treatments for wrinkles with Botox, thinking he could call him that very minute. “Human resources will set up an appointment, so I’ll just get you their email and telephone number—”
“It doesn’t matter. I think I’m returning to studying interest rates.”
“You mean playing the market.”
“I was never a day trader, I was an investor, and the interests of my clients always came first.”
“Your city police service needs you.”
“I need to obtain my master’s degree.”
Roger took out his smartphone, held the device in front of his face, so he could see himself on the screen, as if he was viewing his reflection for the first time in a mirror, and adjusted the smartphone so it framed his head and shoulders for a self-portrait. The commanding officer saw him assuming a classic selfie pose. “Constable, don’t, posting a selfie to social media is an automatic suspension–one of the few firing offenses. You know the severity of the infraction.”
Roger tried to take a selfie, but he pressed the wrong button and then held his smartphone close, for a closer look, as he tried to figure out the smartphone camera controls and shutter. He set the self-timer for ten seconds and put the camera settings in burst mode, and, as he psyched himself, nervously attempting to relax to pose for a photogenic self-portrait, to capture an unblurred portrait, the camera took a series of a dozen pictures in a second and automatically selected an image it thought best.
“Constable! You know as a police officer few things can get you fired: taking and posties selfies will.”
Having moved from his side of the dark stained table, Roger stood alongside his commanding officer. He held the smartphone-camera in front of them with his extended arm. Having given himself a crash course in operating the smartphone camera, he figured he was close to understanding selfies, an art, in and of itself. He moved close to the commander, even pressing his face against the captain’s smooth-shaven cheek, which smelled freshly clean, with a musky scent from cologne and aftershave. Then Roger decided to throw caution aside—for Ann’s sake—and pecked the superintendent on the cheek as he stared at the camera phone lens. There was an audible shutter noise from the smartphone as Roger pressed the shutter button and snapped the selfie, which he uploaded to his social media account. He made the snapshot his profile picture, replacing the portrait of the cartoon character Wiley E. Coyote, while his commanding officer gasped, rubbed his smooth glistening brow, and shook his head in resignation.