Guilt

“Have a seat there.” The man in the suit motioned to a metal chair on one side of a table. There were three other chairs in the room. The one he was to sit in faced a mirror on the wall.

As soon as he sat down, the man in the suit spoke again. “Someone will be by shortly to talk to you. Wait here.” The door closed, and he was alone.

This wasn’t good. A grey, featureless room with a window, in a police station. Nothing about this could be good. Should he ask for a lawyer? Or would that make him seem guilty? What would they ask him? And did he have answers that they would like? He had no idea.

Minutes ticked by, with only the hum of the florescent bulb overhead to break the silence. He tried to listen for the sound of someone in the hallway or behind the glass. Was someone watching him? Or was he really alone?

There was no sound he could detect. No one around. This was maddening. At first he thought he’d have to wait just a few minutes, but… There was no clock, and he didn’t have a watch. His phone had been confiscated. He was isolated with nothing to distract himself.

More time passed. He felt antsy. With nothing to read, nothing to think about, he needed to move. But he’d been told to sit. If he started pacing, would he get in trouble? Would they take it as a sign of guilt? Maybe only the guilty needed to move around; the innocent sit peacefully forever.

He was psyching himself out, he knew. He had to relax. There was no use getting so worked up, in getting paranoid. Whatever questions they wanted to ask, he would be able to answer. There was nothing to worry about.

Just as he managed to calm himself down, the door opened. A woman walked in reading a file. Without looking up, she sat down across from him.

“You know Julie Stein?” She still didn’t look at him.

“Uh… yes. Yes, I do.”

“How?”

“We have some of the same friends. See each other at parties and such.”

“You never dated?” Now she looked at him, brown eyes hinting that he shouldn’t lie, that she already knew the answers.

“Okay, yeah, we dated a few times.”

She nodded. “When did you see her last?”

This line of questioning was getting uncomfortable. “When…? Uh… I’m not sure… Last Saturday, I think. Yeah. A week ago Saturday. At a friend’s party.”

“This friend’s name?”

“Sam. Sam Patterson. Do you want his number?”

“Maybe later. Where were you four days ago, last Thursday?”

Uh oh. More than uncomfortable. This was downright dangerous. “Thursday? I was home.”

“Were you with anyone?”

He tried to keep from shifting in his chair. “No, I’m afraid not. Just me and the game on TV.”

This had gone bad in a hurry. They suspected him, that much was clear. But why?

“So you have no idea how Ms. Stein ended up like this?” The woman slapped a photo down on the table in front of him. It was Julie, pale as a sheet, lying on her back with her eyes closed, looking very dead.

“What?” His nerves finally took over. “No! Holy… That’s Julie? What happened?” He forced himself to look away from the photo.

“I was hoping you’d tell me.”

“Me? How should I know? You think I had something to do with this? This is awful!”

The detective studied his face, looking for something. He couldn’t tell if she found it or not, if she believed him or not.

There was a knock on the glass. She stood up. “Wait here.” And she left him alone in the room again.

This was very bad. Why did they think he had something to do with Julie’s death? What did they know? What did they suspect? Did they think that they had already caught him in some lie? Is that why she left the room?

He really wanted to start packing now, but he didn’t dare stand up.

Several minutes went by, and the door opened again. It wasn’t the woman who came in, but the man in the suit who had first brought him here. “You’re free to go, sir.”

“But the other detective…?”

“She was called away. Told me to tell you thanks for your help.”

“My help?”

“Yes, sir. Here’s your phone back. Sorry about that. Policy, you know. Can I have a patrolman drop you somewhere?”

Called away? Did that mean she didn’t think he was involved anymore?

“Sir?”

“Huh? Oh, no. That’s okay. I can walk.”

“Okay. Let me just show you the exit.”

He followed him to the main entrance and was back in the sunlight on a busy street. Maybe they had found something that suggested someone else had killed Julie. Maybe they just believed him. Maybe they would come back to him later. Whatever the case, he seemed to be in the clear for now. It was an unexpected twist, but he wouldn’t object. For now, he planned on enjoying his freedom. He hoped it would last.

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