Ronnie sat there watching her feet as she kicked her legs back and forth, not out of boredom but because she didn’t want to think about the fight she was about to have with her father. The chairs at his office waiting room were as uncomfortable as they looked, old brown lumps of wood with high spindly backs that managed to apply uncomfortable pressure to any body part they touched.
She had never been here long enough to sit down for more than five minutes, Ronnie had become an expert of avoiding direct contact with him than what was necessary, his long hours at the law firm made it that much easier. But now, handcuffed to a chair at his office she didn’t have much choice.
The officer had already been called into his private office some time ago, with him he took her bag containing all the files and photographs she had collected over the last few months, it wasn’t the first time she had skipped school to do some investigating - but it was the first time she got caught.
She had strained to listen for any bits of conversation, but she knew that the walls were too thick for that. He could be screaming and the sound would not penetrate these walls. The grey brick building had been a court house when it was first built back in the 1930’s, even the original solid wood doors had been restored when the building had been purchased 4 years ago. The building was lighter than you would expect as there were several large panelled windows symmetrically placed on each side of the building, and on the front above the large double doors was a window twice the size of the others which lit up the reception area, to either side if this were two brick pillars that stretched the full two stories, at the top of each one was a moulding of the scales of justice, ironic for it to now be turned into law offices.
A door suddenly swung open and a large, red faced man burst out. His tie was loosened around his neck, the top buttons undone, and he wasn’t wearing the jacket that matched the navy pants he wore.
“Veronica”, he seethed.
Her father was a stout man with a balding head. They had never had much in common, and since her mother had died their relationship had deteriorated into nothing. His work mostly kept him busy, even when he was in the house he was normally at the computer or reading briefs, distracting himself from everything but work, and Jemma, Ronnie’s older and less complicated sister.
His stubby fingers were turning white as he clenched the brown files in his hand, the ones with all the papers stamped with “CONFIDENTIAL”.
He stepped aside and with a wave of his arm sharply gestured for her to come inside. Beyond him stood Officer Higgins, man in his 40’s with dark brown hair and rugged features, often he would be seen at work unshaven and smelling of alcohol and breath-mints. Higgins had a passion for control and power, the glint Ronnie could see today in his bloodshot eyes only came when he was truly enjoying himself, when he thought someone was going to get what they deserve.
A feeling of dread was fighting for control of her actions but she drew a breath and pushed the feelings away, Ronnie forced a sly smile and raised her cuffed wrist with a shake, the metal clanking of chain on wood ringing out.
The action in itself made her father face thunderous, with a wordless glare he turned to Higgins, who looked momentarily sheepish before making a dash forward.
“Sorry Mark, I forgot about those”,
Confidently striding foward as he unhooked a set of keys from his belt.
“But you know kids these day…”, he trailed off.
His hands gripped onto the key clumsy, gripping onto her wrist he tried to get the key into the lock, scratching the metal several times before finally getting into place. With a click she was free.
Standing up, “Dad, let me explain…I..”
Cutting across her in a calm, low voice.“Don’t even go there Veronica! I don’t want to hear another word from you now.”,
Officer Higgins placed his hand on her back and with a gentle push he escorted her towards the office. She kept her eyes on the floor as she walked past her father, into the large office. There was a large wooden desk in the centre of the room, normally on it would be the stained glass desk lamp that her father received as a gift when the firm was starting up; it was almost always switched on. Today strewn over the black ledger and case notes were a bunch of papers and photographs, so many that they had cascaded few the edge and were blanketing the surrounding floor.
Ronnie remembered the day she had borrowed them from the Sheriffs department. It was at the start of Freshman year of High School last October, she had been befriended by Susan Davies, a tall gangly girl with muddy brown hair. At 15 she was a year older than Ronnie, but being born on the 2nd of November meant she couldn’t start academic life with those born earlier in the year. Being older Susan imagined herself to be more grown-up than the rest of her class, she was smarter than most of the children and she was know for being a sensible young person, but a bit of a story teller.
Susan’s parents had divorced and her father had moved back to New York when the was only 9 years old. In middle school she had always bragged about his big time play productions, how she went to New York every summer to stay with him in his luxury apartment. One day she brought in a snow globe with the New York skyline, she claimed it had been purchased for her at a weekend trip to see him. She told the class all about the skyscrapers that seemed to stretch up endlessly, they busy streets and the yellow taxis, the magnificent restaurant her father had taken her too and let her order two desserts. It all sounded so wonderful.
But Ronnie had seen the same globe for sale at the gas station on Glebland street, they sold a section of ‘capital city’ postcards and snow globes. It was only by chance Ronnie’s family had passed this station after a weekend at Holly Bay, she knew where it came from so after that she never listened much to Susan’s stories. The final months of middle school Susan’ had stopped mentioning him so often, said he was too busy working to have her over, but the end of term she stopped mentioning him altogether.
It was their first year of High School and the first school term that Ronnie would have without her mother, who had been killed in a store robbery. Susan was very kind to her, probably because she knew what it was like to be without a parent. Her mother worked as a secretary at the Sheriffs Department, mostly filing closed cases and typing up notes, Susan would often go there after school and stay till her mothers shift had finished. Often Ronnie would tag along and they would find an empty room to work any homework together. Sometimes her mom would treat them to pizza or ice-cream if it was going to be a late shift.
Ronnie had been trying to finds some more information about a boy who had gone missing July of that year, she actually had several cases the was looking onto at that time but the missing boy was something that attracted her attention the most. Since her mother had been killed Ronnie had developed a fascination with solving crimes. It had started with small things, missing cats or stolen bicycles but these didn’t bring much satisfaction. Most of the time they were so easy to figure out it didn’t take too much effort, a missing child was very different.
He was only 8 years old and his parents had taken him to a 4th of July celebration when he went missing. The police could find no trace of the child, Lance Welch and while there was speculation that the parents were some how involved there was no evidence to say this was the case. Ronnie felt as though she had to try and find out what happened, especially after the police stopped the search for him.
One day while waiting for Susan’s mother Helen to finish work Ronnie had the idea of checking the police case files, she knew that Helen would occasionally sneak outside the back door for a quick cigarette break the same time every afternoon, leaving the files unattended. Taking advantage of the situation, Ronnie excused herself for a toilet break and waited for the records room to be clear before grabbing the file form the cabinet, the keys still dangling from the lock.
She photocopied the pages from the file and carefully put everything back the way it was. Folding the papers up she stuck them in the waistband of her skirt and tucked her shirt over them so they couldn’t be seen. When she got home she added this information to the hand written notes she had made of her own observations.
That was weeks ago and she still had no further information so she had planned on taking all her notes and going to the library in Clinton to go though some of the news archives. Unfortunately Officer Higgins had seen her get off the bus stop near the library and had caught up with her just before she could get there. All her notes, and those copied case papers were all in her bag when she was picked up.
Ronnie had no idea how to explain this to her father, or how to explain how she had acquired official police files with our getting Susan or her mother into trouble.
It was all she could think about on the ride here.
Now the site of her things dumped out so carelessly, her empty bag laying in a heap on the floor and all the work she had put in to gathering all that information only to be taken away from her. Something inside her snapped, the fear she felt evaporated and anger took hold.
“You had no right to go though my things!”
“It’s not like you have been there to ask me where I have been”, her voice getting louder and more strained.
“Or where I am going”,
“Ever since mom…”
“Enough Veronica! Don’t you bring her into this” he father exclaimed.
“I have had enough. Skipping school is one thing, but stealing confidential files is quite another”.
Ronnie looked at her feet and pursed her mouth, there was nothing that could make her say how she got the information.
He continued, “If it wasn’t for Robert’s good sense to bring you to me you could be down the station now”.
“How do you think that would make me look?”
“Did you ever think of that?”.
Ronnie folded up her arms to hide her shaking hands, she replied “I haven’t hurt anyone, and you had no right to go through my things”.
“And when exactly would I have been able to talk to you about anything”, she jibbed back.
“Of course you didn’t think of that. Why am I even asking!”, he said to himself.
Turning away towards his desk he mumbled, “if only you could be more like Jemma…”
He began snatching up handfuls of the papers off the floor and desk, crumpling them up and throwing them in the large metal bin under the desk.
“This ends now. All of it”
“No more homework sessions and the station, no more snooping about in things that don’t concern you.”
Turning around Ronnie could see his face was stern with rage.
“From now on you go to school and then Mrs. Jacobson will be picking you up.”
“You will stay with her until myself or Jemma can take you home. Do you understand me?”
Holding back the tears Ronnie took a few breaths as she tapped her toe on the floor.
“Whatever”, she finally managed to force out.
“I’m going home”.
Before anyone could grab her she snatched up her phone which she had spotted on a side table near the door and ran. Not looking back till she was a few streets away.
Collapsing onto the deserted sidewalk all the emotions came to the surface and tears rolled down her face, sobs now escaping from her lips uncontrollably. Folding her arms and curling her knees up to her chest Ronnie rested her head and let herself feel everything, sinking into the darkness.