The Burden of Proof

It started at the SureSave on Fourth Avenue. Andy had been standing in line for nearly ten minutes, sweltering in the August heat that poured through the open doorway, before he dropped his basket onto the counter. Hair dye, promising 100% gray coverage. Baking-soda-infused toothpaste. A package of Freedom Day cards which should have been mailed two days ago. The clerk, a bored high-school kid who’d obviously never heard of the complexion pill, swiped his products and asked for proof of credit. Andy pressed his palm against the plastic panel, and the register shrieked.

The kid stared. Andy stared. The customers stared. The manager stared, then asked Andy to step aside. Andy did. The police arrived seven minutes later.

“Where’s your proof?” they asked him, and he offered his palm to their handheld reader. The reader shrieked. Andy was brought to the station. “I have plenty of credit!” Andy argued, but the officer merely lifted an eyebrow. He recited his work history to deaf ears.

The problem wasn’t a lack of credit, as Andy had expected, but an excess of credit.
Herman Sylle was his name, and he was wanted for falsification of funds. Nine million dollars, to be exact. “I’m not Herman Sylle,” Andy argued, but as the police pointed out, the records couldn’t lie. His handprint matched up. His DNA matched up. The police database was completely secure, and there was no chance that anyone could have tampered with it.

“If people can’t tamper with the database, how do people falsify funds?” Andy asked. It was the wrong question, and it wasn’t deserving of an answer. He was assigned a case number and put in prison to await his trial.

“Do you have anyone who can verify your identity?” his attorney asked him, but Andy was a freelance web designer, working from home for clients all over the world. It was rare for him to meet a client face to face, and when contacted, none of the clients could recall details about his appearance. He’d never married, and he’d been the only child of a couple that went into retirement-stasis at the age of 60. The law forbid the subpoena of retired citizens. “Convenient,” his attorney said. He tried to log into his records to find the contact information of the few friends he kept, but his proof was locked out of the account. When the police tried, they found the files empty.

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