As they stepped off the plane, Eddie and Ala were met by two people in black suits. The first one to speak was a 7 foot tall black man, who looked as wide as two of Eddie. “Dr. Edgar Donnelly?”
“I am.” Eddie checked his pockets for his wallet with his ID.
“You’ll need to come with us, sir.”
Ala protested. “You cannot just arrest him without showing any ID or a warrant! This is unlawful.”
The tall man bowed to her, as his shorter partner produced documents from her pocket. “My apologies, ma’am. He’s Agent Robin Bearshak and I’m Agent Peggy Nast. We’re with the Gendarme Federale, and we’d like to bring Dr. Donnelly in for questioning.”
“On what matter?” Ala put her hands on her hips. “He’s just arrived in Golgonozza. He’s had no time to commit any crimes!”
“It’s a matter of imperial security, ma’am,” Bearshak intoned in his deep baritone.
Eddie put up his hands. “It’s OK, Ala, these people are from the government. I’m sure I can trust them.” He followed them to their black SUV, and dozed off in the back while they drove. Neither of them talked to him. He woke as they parked in an underground lot.
“Dr. Donnelly, you’ll bear with us, we have to cuff you as we take you into the facility.” He sighed, and put his hands forward.
“Behind your back, please,” Agent Nast requested. He would have protest, but he acquiesced. He wanted to be done with this. He turned around, and they fit the cuffs around his wrists. Then his vision went black as they pulled a bag over his head.
“Hey!” His screams were muffled. They led him onward. After a long walk, including several flights of stairs and opening and closing doors, he felt himself being sat in a hard metal chair, and the bag was pulled from his head. He was faced with bright lights, a table, Agents Nast and Bearshak, a mirror to his left, and a door behind the agents.
“What’s this about? If I’m being arrested, you need to read me my rights. I need to call a lawyer.” His heart was beating too fast, and he was hyperventilating.
“You’re Carson Colt, Dr. Donnelly?” Agent Nast slid papers across the table to him. He looked at the posts, the IP addresses, and his name attached to their registries.
“OK, OK, fine. Yes. I’m the worst at pseudonyms. You’ve got me, I run a blog.”
“You write garbage.” Agent Bearshak cleared his throat. “What you write is disgusting. There’s nothing to be proud of there. It doesn’t matter how many people read it. Lesbians? That’s just sick.”
“Some of Colt’s writing is erotica, yes.” Eddie tried to stay cool, but they were attacking him just like Mercy had. “That’s not everything. There’s fiction there, and some stuff about politics. What’s wrong with lesbians?”
“Deviant sexual behaviors are the result of trauma, Dr. Donnelly. I would’ve thought you knew that. How does your wife feel about this?”
“I don’t agree, about deviancy. Psychology doesn’t view homosexuality as a mental illness anymore. Mercy was upset.”
Agent Nast snickered. “You can believe whatever you want. If you were my husband, I’d be upset too, to find out my husband is making pornography. What do you think your kids will think about you when they find out? How are Sheena and Tommy and Leo going to grow up, seeing their Dad once every couple months, in prison or in a halfway house?”
“I haven’t committed any crime. There’s nothing illegal about publishing a blog.” Eddie’s head spun. He needed to shut up and demand a lawyer, but he kept talking, sure he could explain, if they were just reasonable. “Am I under arrest?”
“You don’t think sex trafficking is a crime? These women are selling their bodies for money, whatever you might think. That’s not the way it’s meant to be.” Nast folded her hands.
“I don’t even have nude pictures on my site. There’s just some artistic pictures of adult women, no nipples, no pubic hair. There’s some paintings I use for illustrations. It’s not pornography. There’s much easier ways to get off on the internet than my writing. People who read my work are there for the story, the characters, the humor, and if they find it kind of hot and rub themselves, what’s the harm?”
Agent Bearshak leaned forward. “You know, Dr. Donnelly, there was a guy I knew, and he ran an exotic flower garden. And he would bring everybody in to see the flowers he had. Then he molested a boy. The boy’s father came in the middle of the night and beheaded him. The guy’s daughter is a lesbian now and the son is a psychologist, so they’re both pretty fucked up.”
“Think everything you could be doing instead of writing perverted stories.” Agent Nast took the lead. “You could be using that time to get better at your job. You could be writing blog posts to inspire people to return to Urizen and get active with the church again. You could write anything! But you want to write filth instead.”
Agent Bearshak put his sizable hand on the table. “Good, faithful Urizenites I know will ask for mercy. They’ll go out in their backyards and get down on their knees and beg the father for forgiveness. They’ll cry, strip to the waist, and pray for Urizen to change them. Have you tried that? Asking for remission of your sins, and to be free of them? Who’s Barbelith?”
Eddie was jolted, but tried to keep his composure. This was bullshit, they were just fucking with him. “Barbelith? Like chicken barbecue”
Agent Nast chuckled. “Don’t be coy with us, Dr. Donnelly. We know everything already. You might as well make it easy on yourself and tell us.”
“I don’t know anything about a barbecue. Or Barbelith. I’m a doctor who writes a blog because he thinks he’s funny and he’s bored. That’s it.”
Agent Bearshak leaned back in his chair. “We have enough already to charge you and make it so you never see your kids again. We can put you on the sex offender registry.”
“I’ve had enough of this and your dime store bullshit. I’m 38 years old and I went to medical school. I have one the toughest, most cognitively demanding jobs on the fucking planet. Do you think throwing tired Urizenite sex shame at me is going to make me ashamed? You think I don’t see what the Urizenite ministers do, how often they get caught hurting a kid? You’re missing the point. I’m not interested in your middle class propriety or spirituality. I’m making my own meaning here. I’m defining my own values. And if that’s upsetting to this corrupt and dying government, so be it. You don’t have the right to manipulate me.” He sat back in the chair, his wrists aching with the shackles.
“One last chance, Dr. Donnelly. Tell us who Barbelith is, and give us everything you know about Ala Almazil, and we’ll put you on a plane back home this afternoon.”
Eddie wanted to spit. “Go fuck yourself.”
“That’s really nice, Dr. Donnelly. OK, have it your way. We’ll be back soon.” They exited through the rear door, which they left slightly ajar. Eddie tried to get comfortable, but it was nearly impossible. He put his head on the table, he leaned his head toward his shoulder, but he just ended up more uncomfortable. After several minutes, he got curious about the door.
He looked around. He stood up and walked slowly toward the door. He was able to balance on one foot and slowly get the door open. He walked down a long empty hallway, and turned the corner to a find another door, halfway open, where he heard voices and saw light. He put his shoulder to the door and opened it, and there was Ala, sitting with Agents Bearshak and Nast, as well as a striking blonde woman and a tough looking guy in a suit with dark curly hair and a light beard.
“Eddie!” Ala shouted. “You did it! You passed the test!”
Eddie sucked in his breath as Agent Bearshak unlatched his shackles and clapped him on the back. “You are a tough nut to crack, my man. We threw everything at you, your family, religion, sexual shame, and you just got more stubborn.”
Eddie shook hands with the blonde woman, who he recognized as June Loos. The tough-looking man introduced himself as Jon Fox. Eddie greeted them and smiled.
Ala pressed her hands together, like a prayer. “You did not give up me or Barbelith, Eddie. We are so grateful. That’s what we needed to know.”
Then he sat down in one of the chairs and put his head in his arms. His head was spinning. But he felt relieved. He hadn’t fucked everything up.