Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 5
Simon Guilford approached the door of the first house, tugging at the collar of his too-tight ballistic vest. For the next…he checked his watch…eleven hours and forty-nine minutes, all crime—including murder—would be legal, and though by all rights he should have been safe enough himself, in all the hubbub accidents were liable to happen.
He knocked on the door. “Purge Inspector!” he shouted through the letterbox. “As a government official of ranking 10, I’ve been granted immunity. I’m simply here to ask a few questions.”
The door opened—on a chain at first—and the occupant peered nervously outside.
“Good evening, sir.” Guilford put out his hand. “How are you doing this fine night? Keeping safe, I see? Not one for a bit of government-sanctioned murder?”
“Well,” the man smiled. “I supply half the security systems in Portland. I have to stand by my product, don’t I?”
Guilford laughed. “Yes, I suppose so. And it’s only the first year, after all: we expect participation will build up gradually as people adjust to the idea.”
“Oh, I’m participating now,” the man explained. “I’m just not going outside.”
“Ah, I see!” Guilford beamed. “You’ve paid a poor person to let you murder them. Well, I’m sure the victim’s family will appreciate the income.”
“What? No! I’m taking the opportunity to make false claims on my tax returns.”
Guilford’s face fell. “Come again?”
“I’m going to report that my business made no money and incurred a load of expenses that never happened.”
“But that’s against the law!”
“Yeah. And all crime’s legal.”
There was a brief, awkward pause.
“So, uh…do I offer you a cup of tea?”
Mr. Guilford paused a moment on the doorstep before knocking. It had been awfully quiet on the streets so far. If everyone was simply committing financial crimes from the comfort of their homes, the Purge was not going to make as much of a dent in the homeless population as the New Founding Fathers had planned…
But then, that had been a fairly affluent area. It wasn’t representative.
He knocked on the door of the second house, in a considerably less affluent area of the city.
“Hello!” he shouted. “Purge Inspector! I’ve got ranking 10 so you can’t…”
The door swung inward suddenly, making him flinch.
“Hey, man!” said the guy inside. “You here for the stuff?”
“What? No. What stuff? I’m—”
“Oh, hey, hang on a second. Steve!” Guilford found himself pushed rudely aside. “Four kilos of crystal meth, right? Got it all bagged up.”
“Hey!” Guilford snapped. “What’s going on here?”
“Don’t worry, man!” The resident patted him on the arm. “There’s enough for everybody!” He gestured to a very, very large pile of binbags sitting in his hallway.
“Where did all that come from?!?”
“Oh, I’ve been cooking up meth ever since they announced the Purge. Seriously. Twenty minutes in and it’s already more than paid for itself. It’s gonna be a good night!”
“But that’s so illegal!”
“You’ve just admitted to several months of possession with intent to supply!”
“Who are you, the Purge Police?”
“Pretty much, yeah!”
The guy went quiet.
“Well, if anybody asks I’ll just say I got it on the night.”
“You’re not making my job any easier, you know.”
“Sorry, mate.” He held up a four pack of beer with two beers missing. “Red Stripe?”
Guilford was now certain that the Purge was not going as planned. He drained the last of his Red Stripe, not sure he should be drinking on the job but also not inclined to care. If the New Founding Fathers weren’t going to give him a bodyguard, he sure wasn’t going to act like there was someone looking over his shoulder all the time.
At this point the only thing that would turn the night around was the discovery that all the violence was concentrated entirely in the most deprived areas of the inner city. He turned a corner and…hey. Was that shop door open? Were those people looting!? They were up to something: there were two of them—a man and a woman—sitting by a lantern.
He made his way over. “Hey guys, don’t shoot! I’m rank 10, just checking up. How’s the Purge going?” He took a look around the shop and was pleased to discover that the shelves were bare. “Looks as though you pretty much cleared this place out, huh?”
“We would have done,” explained the man, who had a seriously huge beard, “but everyone on the street just moved their stock the day before.”
“Bummer,” added the woman beside him.
“This place wasn’t locked, though, so we’re just taking the opportunity to get a night indoors.”
“I see.” Guilford breathed out through his lips for a moment. “Got anything illegal planned for tonight?” he asked at last. “All crimes including murder, you know. They’re totally okay.”
“Uhh…” said the guy.
“Joe went to buy some meth,” said the woman. “And I heard something about tax evasion. If you earn enough to pay tax, it sounds like that’s really the thing to do.”
“Yeah,” added the guy. “Tax evasion and maybe a little embezzlement. You know. If you’re in a position to do that.”
“Great,” said Guilford.
“You look pretty down.” The woman held up a bottle. “Vodka?”
Guilford stumbled back towards his office, the morning sun unfeasibly blinding. The Purge had been a total bust. He’d been up all night for absolutely no reason and, worst of all, he was now absolutely bursting for a pee.
He found a handy corner by some bins.
“Ahem,” said the cop who inexplicably appeared at the worst possible time.
“Hey,” said Guilford. “Any crime up to and including murder. Those are the rules.”
“Uh-uh,” said the officer, “those were the rules two minutes ago.”
“Oh, come on!”
“And if you don’t mind my saying, sir,” he added, leaning in a little, “if this was your plan, I think you wasted a Purge.”
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
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You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.