Res Publica: The Standing Cell
Copyright 2021 Lorenzo Marks.
The right of Lorenzo Marks to be identified as the author of this book has been asserted in accordance with Section 77 and 78 of the Copyrights and Patents Act
All rights reserved.
Civic Police Captain Thomas Mosley stood in the center of the basement and slowly turned full circle. The room was sparsely furnished with just an iron frame bed, a table and chair,
a refrigerator, a tripod and camcorder, and set back in the concrete wall, the focal point of the basement—the standing cell.
He stepped forward, turned around, and then backed into the narrow recess and closed the wooden door. At first he was enveloped by a suffocating darkness, but then his eyes adjusted
and picked up the ambient light coming through the air filter above the door. It would never be bright in here, but on the other hand total darkness would surely lead to insanity for its occupant. He
didn’t want that. He still wanted her to be Charlotte when it was over.
The builders had constructed the standing cell to his exact specifications—seven feet high, two feet deep, three feet wide. Thomas moved his arms back and immediately bumped his
elbows. He raised his right leg but it was impossible to properly stretch the muscles before his knee hit the door. He managed to tilt his head back far enough to make out the overhead shower and the
feeding mechanism. The sliding hatch, which could only be opened from the outside, was exactly at eye level, and the feeding tube a few inches lower. With the hatch closed, there was nothing to see
in here. Nothing to see and nothing to do. Just stand and drink. Perfect!
After a minute, he began to feel a little claustrophobic and he pushed at the door, but it didn’t budge. With a little flutter of panic, he shoved with both hands but with so little
room to move he couldn’t get any leverage. For a horrible moment he thought he was stuck, but then one more effort saw the door crack open and then he gratefully stepped out into the comparatively
brighter basement. He dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief and chided himself for being so cowardly.
How would it have looked if he had managed to lock himself inside his own standing cell and needed rescuing? He would have been the laughingstock of his department at Civic
Headquarters! That would have been far worse than being trapped inside the standing cell. Public embarrassment had to be avoided at all costs. Never
There was a mirror on one wall and Thomas studied his reflection. He was in uniform and he looked good in it. To this day he could never understand why Charlotte had rejected him.
He had attracted the interest of several good-looking women since he had acquired his position of power—but none of them could hold a candle to
“Peter has been arrested.”
It was the chief editor at City-State magazine.
Charlotte’s entire body went cold. This was the call that she had always dreaded even though Peter had assured her that the most dangerous times were behind them. Immediately after
the takeover, the Corporate Government had begun a systematic purge of its enemies and critics, and some of the reporters at the magazine were initially arrested and taken to Civic Headquarters for
political correctness education.
But despite his outspoken political views prior to the takeover, Peter had somehow managed to slip through the cracks, and by keeping his head down he seemed to have escaped the
government’s attention—until now.
“When?” Charlotte said.
“First thing this morning. The Civic Police raided the office, confiscated some laptops, and arrested five journalists—Peter was among
“But why now?” Charlotte said, trying to keep her voice even.
“They wouldn’t say,” the chief editor said. “They are the Civic Police—they can do whatever they want.”
Charlotte could picture the scene, everybody trying to be invisible as Peter was led away in handcuffs. Her husband. And now he was being held somewhere in the enormous white
labyrinth of the Civic Headquarters. Like everybody else in the city, Charlotte had heard the rumors about what happened inside that forbidding
“It could just be routine questioning,” the chief editor said. “We’ve had journalists released before. Have faith,
Faith? There hadn’t been much of that in this city since the takeover.
“I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything,” he said.
Charlotte hung up and stared at the phone in her hand.
What the hell do I do now?
She gazed out of the apartment window at the city skyline. Away in the distance, she could see the gleaming white towers of the Civic Headquarters buildings. Right now, Peter was
somewhere inside there. Why now? He had long since deleted any social media comments that could be used against him. Even Charlotte was beginning to think that he was in the clear. But somebody
within this evil new government had obviously dug something up. The question was—who?
Thomas watched her from across the crowded Students’ Union bar. She was surrounded by friends of course—the beautiful crowd. Thomas hated the conceited pricks. He wouldn’t even
have paid them any interest if she hadn’t been a part of that clique. He wished she wasn’t. If she had been shy and studious like him, it would have been far easier to approach her. Thomas had no
idea how to socialize with people like that. He was afraid they would laugh at him.
He drank his beer and continued to study her face from afar. She wasn’t even the prettiest of the girls over there if he was honest about it—but there was something about her. A
magnetism that attracted admirers of both sexes. People just noticed her whenever she came into a room. Every male student wanted to fuck her—and probably most of the lecturers
He watched her sipping her glass of wine as she listened to the animated conversation going on around her. She didn’t say much. She didn’t have to. The rest of her group were
flirting with each other, telling jokes and gossiping, but it was all for her benefit, it was plain to see. They all wanted to impress her, to be close to
All for Charlotte.
Thomas had finally found out her name from his friend, Luke, who had laughed at him and told him to forget about her. Out of your league, Luke had said. Thomas had blushed but
he couldn’t forget her and he couldn’t stop watching her. He was bewitched.
He tore his eyes away from her enchanting face and looked at the good-looking young man sitting next to her. According to her social media accounts, Charlotte was still single,
but this guy looked like he was preparing to make a move on her. He was playing it cool, not looking at her too much, but his body language spoke volumes. He was laid back about it, looking
comfortable in her presence, but his eyes kept flicking in her direction whenever he thought she wasn’t looking. And the guy was sitting too close to her. Way too close. And even though Charlotte
didn’t appear to be paying him any attention, she didn’t move away from him. She didn’t even look annoyed. She just kept that enigmatic half-smile on her face as she drank her wine and listened to
Thomas felt a tightness in his chest. Was he going to lose her before he had even made his play? He looked at the handsome guy next to her again. Thomas needed to find out his
Peter Blanchard sat anxiously in the interrogation room and searched his memory for whatever Tweet or Facebook post that might have triggered his arrest. He thought he had covered
his tracks thoroughly. Since the political takeover, he had towed the Corporate Government line impeccably, quickly realizing that right now survival was crucial if he were to fight another day.
Because surely these maniacs wouldn’t be in charge forever? Their Civic Police force was made up of dim-witted thugs! Peter was smarter than them, but he had to lay low and wait for the next
political wind change. Right now the lunatics were running the asylum—and they were dangerous!
The door opened and Peter looked up, forcing himself to appear calm. It was imperative that he didn’t show any signs of guilt. And why should he? It was the Corporate Government
that should be held accountable for its actions, not him!
There was only one of them, dressed in the notorious black uniform of the Civic Police, and in spite of himself, Peter felt his stomach twist in fear. Then he looked up at the
police officer’s face and his anxiety gave way to bewilderment and then recognition. Thomas Mosley! For some foolish reason Peter attempted a smile, but Mosley didn’t return it as he pulled up a
chair and sat opposite him.
Now Peter could read his silver and black badge—Civic Police Captain Thomas Mosley. Res Publica—and his stomach knotted
“Hello, Peter. Do you remember me?”
The stalker. The chocolate milk kid. The locker room loser.
Trying to sound cordial, Peter said, “Yes, I do. Ellis College. It must be eight years. How are you, Thomas?”
“You will address me as Captain Mosley.”
Peter dropped his fake smile. He tried to think back. College seemed like such a long time ago and so much had happened since. This weirdo had developed an unhealthy crush on
Charlotte. Peter hadn’t been too concerned. There had been plenty of boys chasing after Charlotte back then. But then Mosley's obsession had gotten out of
Mosley took out his phone and scrolled down the screen.
“You seem to have done well for yourself since college,” he said. “A best-selling book. Two awards for investigative journalism. A highly paid position at the City-State magazine.
An expensive apartment overlooking the city. I’m impressed.”
Peter didn’t know if he should be flattered that Mosley had been following him—he had all but forgotten about this
Mosley looked up at him. “And a beautiful wife—Charlotte Blanchard. Or Charlotte Dray, as she was known in college. A quite stunning young lady, as I recall. How is she these
Recalling the ugly final scene in the locker room, Peter cautiously said, “She’s fine, thank you.”
“I was quite smitten by her for a while,” Mosley said.
That’s one way to describe it!
“But she made her choice,” Mosley sighed. “I guess she saw something in you—although I have no idea what.”
Peter bridled and despite his tenuous circumstances, he said, “Captain Mosley, can you please explain to me why I have been
Mosley regarded him for a moment.
“You haven’t been charged with anything—yet. But some old subversive posts of yours have come to my attention,
Now Mosley did smile. “That is correct. I requested your detainment while your online activities are being investigated. It might take a
Peter felt his heart thumping.
“How long, exactly?”
“About two weeks.”
Peter stood up.
“Sit down, Mr. Blanchard,” Mosley said.
Peter took a deep breath and calmed himself.
“That’s better,” Mosley said. “You should understand that you are here at my discretion. I am in charge of this investigation. Do you get
Peter swallowed and nodded.
“Good,” said Mosley. “Now, we have plenty of time—so let’s talk about Charlotte.”