Everatt Neilson vaguely wondered how many decades old the furniture was in the large waiting area of the vital records department at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. He sat waiting for them to call the number he held, signaling that the records he requested were ready. The health department was a multi-storied concrete building, comprised of several floors designated for various services, though none of them differed much aesthetically from the base floor, which housed the parking garage.
When his number was called, Neilson walked up to a large window restricting access to vital records. The young woman who sat lazily on the other side slid a single form into his waiting hands through a slot cut in the glass. Glancing down, he saw the form he held was a copy of Kyoko Harjo's death certificate.
Glancing up at the young woman, Neilson said in a silky tone, "I requested several records."
Staring back at him with a bored look she said, "And you are holding the one that was available."
"Is there no death certificate on record for Gephardt Harjo?" Neilson asked.
"Of the records you requested, you received the one that is available." She repeated in the same flat tone.
Neilson thought for a moment. He'd never been able to locate Dr. Harjo over the years in any of the searches he had conducted, and for a few years after Harjo's disappearance HomaTech poured considerable resources into the corporation's attempt to locate the missing researcher. It occurred to Neilson that the lack of a death certificate in Oklahoma for Dr. Harjo only confirmed that Harjo had not died in Oklahoma. It did not indicate whether in fact he was still alive, or dead, some other place.
"If a woman was pregnant and died in an accident, say in a train crash for example, what record would exist of the fetus?" Neilson asked, his tone careful.
The young woman's expression now conveyed a clear wish for him to move out of the space he occupied in front of her window. She was disconcerted by the intensity he emanated. His eyes seemed to bore into her out of the refined, bird-like features of his face, his lips set in a thin expectant line that reinforced the sense something unreasonable was being demanded in that icy politeness.
She narrowed her eyes. "A record of birth resulting in still birth is not open for public inspection. It may only be requested by the parents of record, and is only provided with appropriate documentation and identification."
"What about the birth certificate I requested for Quinn Moore?" Neilson asked, his eyes flashing as his voice grew even softer.
Her eyes mere slits now, the young woman sitting opposite where Neilson stood drew her response out loudly and slowly this time, "Of the records you requested, you received the one that is available."
Neilson smiled coldly, and the young woman became vaguely aware that a thin film of sweat had erupted over her top lip.
"Yes. Thank you for your help." He replied, holding her gaze, while those still waiting on records started shifting uncomfortably in line. As he turned to leave, he imagined pressing the girl's eyes slowly out of their sockets and feeding them to the fish that swam in a murky tank that stood neglected against a far wall of the vital records floor.
As he waited for an elevator to take him to the parking garage, he noted with irritation that the only information he had managed to acquire from this tedious trip in the public records domain mostly confirmed what he already knew. He knew Kyoko Harjo had died in a train crash almost two decades ago. He knew she was pregnant at the time, which was more than the death certificate he had just received even indicated.
YOU ARE READING
A Singular WitnessScience Fiction
Quinn wants to escape her claustrophobic hometown after her father dies unexpectedly from a rare parasitic infection, and an internship filming feed in cities around the world for a software company developing a virtual running game seems like her t...