57 minus 26: A Call From Miranda

Posted: 22 July 2021 in 57 minus, 57 minus new fiction, fiction, new fiction, writing
Tags: , , , , ,

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

In honour of that, here’s something new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before. I came across the following image this afternoon. I liked it, and it sparked an idea.

So here’s the story it inspired.

A Call From Miranda

The call came through just as he was heading for the door, a journey home, and an evening spent regretting too much.

Only one caller used that tone, and it was one every police recognised: it was Miranda.

OK, officially, the name of the caller was The City, but within days of the system going live, some wag in the fifteenth precinct had named the voice Miranda, and it stuck. A year later, they’d made it semi-official.

It was rare that The City called; rare, but not unknown. and he answered the call with no more concern than he would have his long-departed wife. In the days when she called. Come to think of it, he mused as he answered the call, he was probably more concerned by her calls back then, certainly towards the end.

He slowed his walking, just in case. You never knew with Miranda.

“Good evening, detective,” came the latest iteration of a polite voice he’d learned to recognise in his first week of training.

“Evenin’ Miranda,” he replied, wondering just for a moment how The City would have responded had he said another name.

“What can I do for you?” He continued, already half-assuming his evening was blown, but not quite ready to give up on the idea of leaving the precinct.

“There will be a murder in 13 minutes and 9 seconds,” said the voice.

He stopped walking.

“Repeat,” he stabbed out, any pretence at politeness evaporating.

“There will be a murder in 13 minutes and 5 seconds,” said the voice.

“Where?” The question was automatic, he was already thinking about who else would be getting the call, who else would meet him at the scene.

“At your current location.”

OK, that was new.

“At the house?”

“It will not be at your home, detective,” the voice seemed to gently chide him.

“No, no, I meant… forget it.” Sometimes, rarely, Miranda betrayed her ignorance. It was never worth mentioning it. She’d say thank you for new information but unless it was relevant to the case, it would never even be filed. Police slang? The City preferred formality in all things. He was marching back to his squad room, thinking bad thoughts about worse people.

“Who’s the likely victim?”

“Current indications, most likely probabilities, and–”

“Who’s the victim?” He barked out, already back at his desk.

It may have been his imagination, but the reply seemed to contain a trace of irritation at the interruption, but he didn’t care about that just now.

“You are the predicted victim, detective.”

OK, that was uncommon. Rare, even.

Crime prediction had been around for decades; it had a lousy success rate, but politicians liked it, and the public liked it, so The City was allowed to make the predictions.

Serious crimes only, and even they varied with the change in administration, but even then, thousands of hours were wasted every year checking out the warnings. Most times it never panned out, fortunately. But every time a prediction was accurate, or at least could be called accurate, the media went nuts, and the word would come down to treat the forecasts with more respect.

“Time?” He asked,

“The time is now 9:34pm, detective. Would you like to know the weath–”

“No,” he said shortly. “What is the time to the predicted murder?”

“There will be a murder in 11 minutes and 35 seconds.”

“Scenario?” It was odd how the training kicked in. Not “circumstances”, not “parameters”, not “how?”. But “scenario”. That was the word The City responded to best.

“The most likely scenario predicted is that an weapon undetected on arrest will be used by someone to…”

Did he imagine the pause?

“…kill you, detective.”

“Well, that’s not great,” he said aloud.

For a moment, he wondered whether the Miranda was composing a response, then the voice confirmed it.

“Other likely scenarios are available, together with probabilities.”

And then it hit him.

“Why have no other police officers been informed of this?”

“Your question is based on an incorrect assumption, detective. Other police officers have been informed of this likely murder.”

He glanced around the squad room. No one was looking in his direction; some detectives on their phones, but none looking worried or anxious.

“Who’s been informed, Miranda?” He asked.

“Would you like the list in alphabetical order or in order of level of seniority?” The City asked.

“No, I mean…” he paused. “Have any officers in the precinct been… no, strike that. Have any officers inside the precinct station been informed?”


“Why not?”

“It is police department policy not to warn potential criminals that…”

Oh great.

“Ok, I get it.”

“Reminder: There will be a murder in ten minutes exactly.”

He remembered the last time this had happened, the last time a police officer had been warned of their own murder. Three years back; the poor fool had barricaded himself inside a cell. Nothing had happened. But, he’d had an asthma attack while inside and had died before anyone could persuade him to take his medication. And a year before that, a couple of officers on patrol had become so paranoid, they’d almost shot each other before they could be talked down from it.

A thousand thoughts raced through his head, two racing to the fore, however. One was not very nice, the other was just possible, but…

He took a deep breath, and made his decision.

“Thank you for the warning, Miranda. I’m going home.”

“There will be a murder in…”

“Yeah, save it. I’m going home.”

“Warning saved.”

“Good night, Miranda.”

“Good night, detective.”

He ended the call, looked at his desk, looked around the squad room one more time, and walked away from it.

He maintained a blank expression until he got to the car, but as he thumbed the door and it opened, he smiled. It was a nice smile, tinged with appreciation.

It had been the ‘Warning Saved‘ that confirmed it. Miranda may have been literal, but she wasn’t that literal; she knew idioms, analogies and metaphors.

He wondered which of his colleagues was smart enough to have hacked into the phone system and either angry enough at him or annoying enough to have tried to haze him back. Colletti? Could be. He’d never forgiven him for the 37 pizzas. Or Robinson? She’d been livid after he made her call the local zoo and ask for Mr C Lion.

The smile faded as he considered the other possibility, that Miranda now was actually that literal.

He drove home, very slowly, and hoped that he’d still be around tomorrow to find out.

© Lee Barnett, 2021


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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