Eyes screwed shut behind her glasses. Her face, neck and shoulders are wet with pepper spray. Woman in a summer dress. Woman in the city on a warm night. Woman of a certain age. Old enough – sorry if this sounds rude – old enough to have grown a little fat; but no, our friend, the new friend we’ve never seen before, is growing thin and stringy instead. And this moment – with the pepper spray moist and prickly, condensing on her reddening skin – may be the moment that dries her out, thins and brittles her till the end of her days.
With so much frailty exposed, we can hardly fail to befriend her. She is to us like the tendons and muscles in anatomical drawings: raw and tenderised. Best not shake hands: hers might come away in ours.
Zap! Pow! A cartoon of vexatious particles aimed and fired at the woman of a certain age, the woman in a summer dress, in the city; streaming so neatly they could have been drawn on. Behind the thin straight line of pepper spray, a gloved hand holding the canister; and inside the glove, metal fingers? Or maybe no fingers at all: just the glove, and the padded sleeves, protective vest, over-trousers and over-sized helmet. Programmed from the outset but nothing inside except Robocop Till It Drops.
But look again at the narrow shoulders underneath the hard hat: you wouldn’t design Robocop to be so small. This is a case of Petite Police. A younger woman, perhaps; or a slim-hipped youth all booted up and set to go – who knows what human frailty that helmet is hiding?