An awkward silence befell Ackley’s hospital room. Without the putrescent sounds of the Shaggs turning their minds to jelly, everything settled around Ackley’s bed once again. Agent Winchester sat by her bedside, while the Nurse spoke with a policeman outside about pressing charges against him for assault. With the impending lawsuit and the pressure of his current mission, the agent looked worse for wear. His hair was a mess, his suit had been stained orange, white and green down the front and was still wet with foam, and his pants had ripped down between the buttocks from twitching so violently on the floor. He stared over his shoulder anxiously, and when the Nurse was facing his way, he’d stare back to Ackley. In the process of doing this he’d sometimes raise his hands as though to throttle her neck.
“Go away.” Ackley said, staring sharply at him. “You’re mean and gross.”
“Miss Hermes,” Agent Winchester withdrew a handkerchief and pressed it against his chest, and it wetted through with foam and excretions and stuck to his chest like a black patch, “I know you were the architect of the explosion that killed Mr. Fairway. I have witnesses, Miss Hermes, and Fairway was a man with a lot of money, and we can’t let little children just go around and kill men who have lots of money, that is not how Amera works.”
“I have the right to remain silent.” Ackley said.
“Homeland Security is aware that you used your Wish-A-Wish Foundation Wish to trick the Ladybird into helping you build a rocket, Miss Hermes. We know Ladybird broke into ASAN to steal a rocket for you. We tried to arrest her but she can punch through walls and cough acid. You can’t, so I’m gonna arrest you.”
“I have the right to remain silent.” Ackley said. A lot of interrogation tricks preyed on one’s silence and the inherent desire to respond to the belligerence of the interrogator, even to assert innocence. They attempted to extract even a simple tidbit out of one’s anxious and hasty words. Instead, Ackley kept repeating the same thing, her right to remain silent. This staved off the temptation to speak words which might have been more incriminating.
Agent Winchester bared and grit his teeth. “While the Ladybird and the Nurse present at the time are both refusing to testify and their statement is that they saw nothing, Mr. Handler has stepped forward to testify against you. While there are conflicts of interest due to his monetary ties with Mr. Fairway–”
Ackley smiled and interrupted. “I have the right to remain silent.”
Agent Winchester bolted to a stand and threw back his chair.
“No you don’t Ackley!” He shouted, stomping his feet. “You don’t have any right but to go in a cell forever, god damn it, look at this badge,” he ripped open his puke-stained suit and withdrew a puke-stained bronze badge with an eagle on it, “look at this cool badge. It means you’re going to jail forever you little brat!”
“I’m medically unfit to stand trail.” Ackley said. “You’d be convicting a middle schooler who can’t stand up from her bed because her lungs are full of liquid nitrogen. I might die on the stand.”
She pointed to the machine by her bedside, collecting all of the liquid nitrogen in her lungs.
“That’s impossible!” Agent Winchester said. “That’s not a real disease Ackley! You’re a liar and a terrorist. You’re a liarrist! I’m going to get you convicted of medical fraud as well!”
Ackley shifted a little on her bed and pulled aside her pillows. Under them was a little brown manila folder. She handed this to Agent Winchester. Though he looked as though he wanted to rip it up dramatically, his agent training was inescapable – the sanctity of little brown manila folders had to be respected. If an Agent could not respect a little brown manila folder and its contents, then the system would break down entirely; he grit his teeth, and he read. He looked over the pages, and the x-rays. Between pages that were particularly bizarre he would raise his head to stare at the little gray-looking girl. She would wave politely at him, and he would reread the same pages. He handed back the folder.
“So. It appears you are medically unfit to stand trial.” Agent Winchester said.
“I am.” Ackley replied.
“So. So. I can’t– So.” The left side of his face started to stretch up, and his eyes twitched.
“You can leave now. You lost. And you’re still gross.” Ackley said.
Agent Winchester’s legs shook out from under him, and he fell to the ground writhing and thrashing.
“No dad!” He shouted, holding his head in his hands and bitting savagely at his own tongue while beating his face against the floor. “I’m not a failure! I’m not a failure! I’ve got a cool badge dad, I’m a cool agent man dad! This is way better than being some pansy software engineer dad. FUCK YOU DAD. AAAAAAAH!”
Ackley covered her ears, Agent Winchester’s disturbing shrieks reverberating in her head. Her hands quickly proved an inadequate shield as his shrieking and bashing grew more violent. The screaming and crying, the crunching of bone and splashing of blood was growing intolerably loud. She cast eyes around the room desperately and finally picked up the earplugs still sitting on her bedside drawer. She applied them and savored the blessed silence.