The Gentleman by Ivy Zhang

The man sat down across the woman dressed in the familiar monochrome grey. He gave her a once-over, and at one point her eyes met his. They held each other’s gaze for a moment. Then she shifted in her seat, and he cleared his throat.

“Alright, m’am. Let’s get started, shall we?” the man smiled. He was known to be the Gentleman. The woman said nothing. The man began, “Why don’t we start off by you telling me about yourself?”

“My name is Sienna Davis. I live in San Francisco and work as a waitress at a diner. There’s really nothing interesting about me.” the woman laughed a little.

“Ms Davis, come on, don’t say that. Everyone has something interesting about them.”

“In my case, there really isn’t.”

“Nonsense. Tell me more about yourself, Ms Davis. Don’t hold back.”

“I told you everything. As I said earlier, there really isn’t much about me.”

“What do you think are your best qualities? Your wits? Your charm?”

“I don’t possess either of those qualities.”

“You’re a humble person, Ms Davis.” The man didn’t drop his smile once. He was, in fact, a gentleman. He began tapping some buttons on his keyboard and the familiar sound filled the room. When he stopped typing, the room became silent.

After a while, he spoke again. “Ms Davis? Any other things you’d like to tell me?”

“I…I…My name isn’t actually Sienna Davis.”

“Oh, what a surprise. I thought you just told me that your name is Sienna Davis. How may I address you then, m’am?”

“Shannon,” she mumbled.

“Shannon, what a beautiful name. To make things easier, why don’t you just be completely honest with me from now on? Huh? Would you agree?”

“Alright.”

“Alright. However, I believe things should be a bit more formal. You wouldn’t prefer to be just called Shannon, would you?” the man’s fingers hovered on his keyboard.

“No…no…”

“Well?”

“Klein. Some people know me as Shannon Klein. Sienna Davis is my college roommate’s name. I took it when I applied for a job in San Francisco.”

“Interesting. So, Ms Klein, what makes you want to live in San Francisco?”

“I graduated university there a few months ago. I loved the city, so I decided to stay.”

The man’s smile was reflected in Shannon Klein’s eyes, which were focused on his fingers and the keyboard they were resting on. He didn’t speak, so she continued.

“I’ve worked as a waitress at the Disco Diner since I graduated. It’s the only job I have. They’re possibly promoting me to an assistant manager in three months. At least that’s what my coworker told me. Her brother is the General Manager.”

“You’ve worked there since you graduated university? That’s an awful long time, Ms Klein. It’s about time they give you a promotion.” the man chuckled. Shannon Klein mirrored his short laugh in response.

“Well, Ms Klein, any significant others?”

“A few dates here and there. Some guys I met on dating websites. Nobody special, if that’s what you mean.”

“Really? I don’t believe that a woman as beautiful as you doesn’t have a boyfriend, or even a fiance, perhaps.”

“No, unfortunately not.”

“Is that so?”

At this point the man paused for a moment. He fumbled in a drawer and took out a ring. “Look familiar?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you take a closer look?”

He brought the silver band in front of her eyes.

“This wouldn’t happen to be your wedding ring, would it?”

She let out a small grunt after a short silence.

The man took his fingers off the keyboard and widened his smile into a grin.

“Ms Klein, didn’t you promise that we’d be honest to each other?”

Shannon Klein said nothing and kept her eyes downcast.

“Ms Klein, you don’t happen to know a Jackson Klein from Connecticut, right?”

“What makes you think I’d know him?”

“Perhaps you’ve heard of his name in the news? His name is all over the news these days. Poor guy, on the run for betraying the military and his country. It’s been three months, and they still haven’t caught him! He must be really smart. Ms Klein, when did you say you moved to San Francisco?”

“Three months ago. What are you implying?”

“What would I be implying? I’m just asking a simple question, Ms Klein. I assume you’d keep up with the news.”

“I’m not too interested in political affairs.”

“That’s a shame. I’m simply asking because it’s a funny coincidence that you two share the same last name.”

“A lot of people share the same last name. It’s not that uncommon.”

“Perhaps so. But you see, Ms Klein, we did a little digging.”

“You did?”

“Yes, we did. We found out that you finished university in Connecticut a few years ago, under the name Shannon Berkley. Is Berkley another one of your aliases, or could it be your maiden name?”

The man’s fingers gently tapped a few times on the keyboard.

“It’s my maiden name.”

“Very well, Ms Klein. So, data here shows that you finished university quite a few years ago, yet you said you only moved to San Francisco a few months ago as you were finishing university there?”

“I was confused, I probably meant to say I moved after finishing university.”

“Why did you decide to move?”

“I wanted a change.”

“Is that so?” he repeated.

The man leaned closer to the woman. His hand stroked the keyboard.

“Or did you move because, maybe, you were hiding from someone? Or perhaps, simply hiding someone?”

Tap-tap-tap went the rhythm of fingers hitting keyboard.

“Where did you get married, Ms Klein?”

“Connecticut.”

“That’s what I thought. Funny thing, Jackson Klein was also married in Connecticut. I even attended his wedding. I’d always remember his bride. Such a beautiful lady.”

Shannon Klein opened her mouth, but no sound came out.

“You probably don’t know this, but Jackson and I were good friends back in the day.”

“Really?” she said softly at last.

“We joined the military together. In fact, we were partners for awhile until he,” the man’s smile dropped, “betrayed us all.”

“I did not know this.”

“Now, Ms Klein, there are probably a lot of things you don’t know. You said it yourself that you’re not interested in political affairs.”

“That’s correct.”

“Did you know that Jackson Klein stole hundreds of top secret military files and sold it to the enemy?”

“Did you know that he put the entire country’s lives in danger? You wouldn’t, right?”

The woman did not reply to either of the questions. Her hair fell into her face, concealing her expression. She made no move to pull it back.

“Very well.” the man let out a long sigh.

“What do you want from me?” her voice trembled.

“Ms Klein, why don’t you tell us where your husband is hiding right now, to prevent losing any more innocent lives?”

“I don’t know where he is. I told you everything. I have no idea where he is or what he did! I am telling you the truth!”

“Are you really telling me the truth, Ms Klein?”

“I am.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Ms Klein, I’m giving you one last chance.”

“And I’m telling you one last time that I don’t know anything else.”

He leaned back into his seat and stared out the window. The clouds moved behind the metal bars as rays of sun escaped into the dark room. Shannon Klein sat in her chair, unmoving, her posture unnaturally rigid. She didn’t speak again.

“We shall continue this another day then.”

The man sighed and pressed his finger on a key. This time, he held it down for longer than usual. He stood up after the ear-piercing scream had faded into a whimper, then absolute silence. He waved at the soldiers standing by his side to take the unconscious woman out of the chair. They unstrapped her bounds and carried her limp body back to her cell, where hundreds of prisoners in the same grey jumpsuit watched with mute terror.

The man stretched his arms above his body and yawned. It was a long and tiring process, but he kept his cool the entire time. His fingers and the control keyboard that was connected to the special chair did all the yelling, terrorizing and threatening for him. He never raised his voice once.

After all, he was known to be the Gentleman.