Unprotected

By Melissa R. Mendelson

(Based on a Dream)

I found the camera in the backseat of the car. It was under the driver’s seat. I was curious as to what was on it. Most of the pictures were scenery. There was one video. I played the video, and a teen-aged boy came into view. He was walking down the street, talking to someone when a van flew around the car. It screeched to a halt, and men dressed in black jumped out. They grabbed the teen-aged boy and dragged him into the van. Whoever was behind the camera took off, and somehow, that camera wound up here.

There was a police station not too far from the car dealership. I had gotten a good deal on the used car, but I didn’t expect to stumble across this. I placed the camera in my backpack. I backed out of the lot and maneuvered myself onto the street. It was quiet for the morning, and traffic wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t sure where the turn was, and I didn’t want to use my GPS. Then, I saw a small blue and white sign for the police station. It was barely noticeable as if it were trying to camouflage itself.

As I made the turn, I saw people sitting on the sidewalk. They weren’t waiting for a bus. They weren’t enjoying the sunshine. They were living there. Men and women sat together on the concrete with their backs pressed against the brick. A few wandered across the street, not caring how close they came to being hit by a car. It took a long time to get into the parking lot without pulling one of them under the car.

I pulled the key out of the ignition. I dropped it into the backpack. I was about to open the door when a face pressed against the glass. They weren’t there to say, hello. They were looking for something to take, and they didn’t care that I was still in the driver’s seat. As soon as I open the door, they would make their move, but just then, a police officer stepped outside for his smoke break. He couldn’t care less about the No Smoking Sign on the side of the building, and he looked at us. This made them pause, but they didn’t walk away.

“Get lost,” I screamed as the person pressed their face against the glass. “Get out of here!”

The police officer dropped his cigarette. He looked away. He turned back toward us. “Hey, you,” he said. “Beat it. Now,” and this finally made them walk away. But the police officer hurried inside after that, denying any more help.

This was a mistake, but I had to report it. The kid was taken. Someone needed to do something, and that someone was me. I’ll hurry in and give them the camera. That’s it. That’s all that I would do, and I hurried toward the front entrance. I was safer going in that way, but I ran into a mob of screaming people, waving angry signs.

This was ridiculous. I was pushing past people that were getting in my face. All because I wanted to go inside the police station. Someone struck me on the head with their sign. “Defund The Police,” and another struck me just before I could get inside. Maybe, there was a back way out of here. If I had to push through that mob again, I was definitely going to punch someone.

As I stepped inside, I nearly walked into a fight. People were just going at it, and the police officers were standing there, watching. A few people waited on line to walk through the metal detector, but this was far enough for me. I approached the desk sergeant, and I tried to explain to them why I was there. But he didn’t want to hear it.

“Just go inside, and talk to one of the detectives.” He raised the newspaper up to his face. Its angry headline snapped at me.

“Don’t you want me to go through the metal detector first?”

“Does it matter?” He didn’t even bother to lower the newspaper to look at me. “Do you see that line moving?”

The desk sergeant was right. The same people were standing there, waiting. The police officers continued to watch the fight. They had no intention of breaking it up. I walked past them, waiting for someone to stop me. No one did, and the line of people followed me in.

“Excuse me?” I stopped at one desk, where a couple of detectives were talking.

“Excuse me,” one detective snarled. “Can you move on, please? We’re trying to have a conversation here.”

“Excuse me,” I muttered as I walked around the crowded station. Someone was yelling in the back. Paperwork was all over the place. The phones were ringing. Some detectives leaned back in their chair and watched the chaos, and they shook their heads at me when I tried to approach them. One detective stood up and was about to walk toward me. I could see the look on his face that he wanted to help, but his partner told him to sit down. He sat back down and turned his back on me.

“If you’re here to report something, you have to fill in paperwork.” One detective sat at his desk, not making eye contact with me.

“Okay. Where’s the paperwork,” I asked.

“Hey, you can’t be in here with that backpack.” I realized a woman police officer was yelling at me. “You have to leave that outside.”

“I came alone,” I said.

“You have to leave it outside,” she repeated.

“With who? A stranger?” I turned back to the detective, but he had slipped away when I wasn’t looking. I glanced over his desk. A few chewed pencils. Paperwork that was already completed. So much for his help. “Can someone please help me,” I exclaimed, but no one did.

More chaos broke out in the hallway. What the hell was wrong with people? Why was everyone fighting with each other? The fight spilled into the area, where I was, and it was already cluttered with desks and chairs. And the phones were still going. People were screaming. I had to get out of here, but who was going to help that kid?

I walked over to the detective that initially was going to help me. I opened my backpack. He flinched. His partner reached for his gun. I placed the camera in his hands.

“Here. If you give a shit, you will watch the video. A kid was taken.”

“Did you take the footage,” he asked, holding the camera.

“No, I found it. Do something about it.” I moved away from him and his partner.

“Look around here. No one is doing anything about it,” his partner yelled at me. “Give them back the camera,” he said to the detective.

“What am I supposed to do with it,” I asked. “Put it on Youtube?”

“Why not? The Media is to blame for all the shit going on, so why not? I need a coffee.” He stepped away but glanced back at his partner.

“I’m sorry,” the detective said. “I can’t help you.” He gave me the camera and hurried away.

“This is ridiculous, and that kid could be dead right now.” They were not going to help me, and that woman police officer was still glaring at me. If she could put her hands on me, she would. “Fine. I’ll put the video on the internet. Is that what we are reduced to for help?”

Now came the hard part. Getting the hell out of here. People were screaming at each other. People were fighting. You had that mob outside with their signs. You had the other people that had nowhere to go and came here for help, but no one was going to help them or me.

I remembered the side door, where the police officer had his smoke break. I found the door and opened it. No alarms went off. I stepped outside into the parking lot. My car was gone.

“Are you kidding me? I just bought it today.” I pulled out my cell phone, but I looked around first. No one was nearby, and I quickly called my father. “Yeah, you’re not going to believe the day that I had. Can you pick me up?”

“Where are you,” my father asked.

I was about to tell him. I looked across the street. There was an old woman sitting on the sidewalk in her nightgown. She looked at me, but she wasn’t staring at me for help. Her gaze was empty. It was as if whoever was home had left before they could see all this, and I couldn’t let my father see this. It was too insane. Too horrible, and I’m sorry that I had tried to do the right thing.

“Where are you,” my father asked again.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m calling a cab.” I ended the call and found a cab service. “Yeah. I need a cab to pick me up at the police station.”

“That’s going to be extra,” a harsh voice said.

“I don’t care.  I’ll pay extra.”

“Okay. Give me ten minutes, and I’ll pick ya up.”

“Hurry up.” The waiting felt like forever, and forever came, packing knives. I pressed my back against the brick. At least, no one could sneak up on me, and I listened to the protests, the yelling, and the fighting. I realized that someone was crying. It was the old woman in her nightgown. Tears ran down her face, and her hands curled around her legs. A protestor stepped over her like she wasn’t even there. Finally, the cab flew into the parking lot, and the driver flashed his headlights at me. He didn’t have to do that twice. I jumped into the cab, and it took off. As I sat in the backseat, I clutched my backpack in my arms.  Sorry, kid, but no one is going to help you.  No one is going to help me.


Melissa R. Mendelson is a Poet and Horror, Science-Fiction and Dystopian Short Story Author.  Her stories have been published by Sirens Call Publications, Dark Helix Press, Altered Reality Magazine, Transmundane Press, Wild Ink Publishing and Owl Canyon Press.  She also won second place in the Writer’sWeekly.com 24 hour Short Story Contest. She has written two books “Better Off Here” and “Stories Written Along Covid Walls“, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, or found on our Bookstore page.
She has previously published the short story “That’s Not My Face” on The Yard: Crime Blog.

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