“Let’s try this again.”
“Do we have to?”
I’ve met this guy before, somewhere along the line. He’s been with the precinct for months, probably transferred from a quieter one, which must be why he’s so up in arms about being in the city. The vein in his forehead has been bulging for two hours, and if I keep him any longer I’m sure it’ll burst. His last name has Pepper somewhere in it; I didn’t catch the full moniker only because I had my eyes on the upside-down heart of one of the junior officers.
“Listen, Jay. I don’t want to keep doing this. I just need some truth outta you before things get complicated. Paperwork, signatures, finger prints...it’s a mess. A nightmare. You don’t want it, and neither do I. So why keep this up any longer?”
He slides the picture across the table again, maybe hoping I’ll see something new, but it’s the same bloodied dame to me.
“We’ve gotcha, Jay. The cuts...made with a knife you own.”
“A knife that I, along with many other people own. Boatsmen like it to cut rope and replace a broken fillet knife. Hunters carry them by the dozen. I’ve even seen a paramedic with one. Me? I enjoy an annual hunting trip upstate.”
“You don’t have a hunting license.”
“Not one for this season. I should have the time next week to go.”
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“Circumstantial evidence may be enough to break down a skinny teenager who just wanted to take a Range Rover for a spin, but I have no reason to break down. I’m innocent.”
“The spacing on the bruises matches the spacing between your fingers. They peeled it off a coffee cup you left standing in some dive last week. The knife? Sure, you can talk your way around that in court, but what about this?”
“How sure are you that it’s my coffee cup? If I’m right about the day and time that you swiped it, it was pretty damn busy in that dive. I just had enough room to breathe, but I was still elbowing some suit on his lunch break while his secretary elbowed me.”
“We know it’s yours.”
“Though how sure are you?”
“Sure that you were seen at the same bar that Miss Larson was last seen at alive.”
“Also circumstantial. I go to that bar every weekend with a good friend of mine. George, remember? Some of your men gave him a ring the other day.”
“Yes, I know George.” He’s getting annoyed with me now. “I’m the one who talked to George, though in my opinion he did sound rehearsed.”
“George? That’s how he always talks. Debate team in high school. State champions. Not national, they couldn’t get past a twat from Philly that could make the Pope himself an atheist.”
Pepper-something pushes the picture even closer to me. “Do you remember seeing Miss Larson that night at the bar?”
“There were a lot of people there.”
We do this dance for another two hours and he keeps pushing that damned picture closer to me, until it slips off the edge of the table and lands on my lap. There she is, the late Miss Larson, fallen into my lap. They’d found her the next morning sprawled in a crude fetal position behind the bar, mouth cut ear to ear and pepper-somethinged with bruises. She must have put up a fight.
I push the picture back to him. “I’ve been here a while now. It’s been four hours of this, but before you were holding me in the back with the others for a long time. A real long time. It’s getting close to being twenty-four hours since I walked in here. There has to be some kind of law about that, especially if I’m not being charged with anything.”
“Are you a lawyer, Jay? You sure talk like one.”
“George rubs off on me sometimes.”
Another hour of dancing, before an officer in navy blue ducks in only to give a nod. Time’s up.
“You have any plans for the next few days, Jay?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Well, don’t go anywhere.”
Every single person in the precinct stares as I make my exit. They’re still going about their business, talking to each other and on the phone and shuffling papers, but they look.
I remember two weeks ago she looked at me when I came into the bar. When I was ordering a drink before I joined George, she walked right up and introduced herself. Beverly, which she thought was outdated because it had been her great-grandmother’s name as well. Names? I don’t really care about names. I was just looking at her, knife burning in my pocket, and imagining that I could put it in her mouth and see what happens next.