The Right to Remain Silent
“I think I’ll just not go home today,” Aaron announced halfway to his neighborhood.
“What do you mean?” asked Haley as she carefully guided the steering wheel. “Where will you go?”
“I’ll spend some time with you. We can do whatever.”
“Won’t your... your mother notice if you’re out late?”
“As far as I’m concerned, she no longer has any sense of time. She wouldn’t care. And maybe I could come back after they’re asleep.”
“You sure about this?”
“Yeah, of course! Take this left here.”
Haley swerved the truck in the opposite direction of her friend’s home. Aaron let out a short, light laugh—the release of a flood of tension. “Let’s go faster!” he urged.
“I hope this isn’t going to get you into trouble.” Haley leveled the accelerator, looking thrilled but slightly apprehensive about their escapade.
“What I do or don’t do has no bearing on how they treat me. It’s always the same. Now let’s find something exciting to do.”
First they simply drove aimlessly around neighborhoods, talking all the while about everything and nothing. Then they went on to the city streets and drove slowly past stores and pedestrians. They talked briefly about Peter, who was reportedly still in critical condition in the hospital. Though he didn’t mention it, in the back of his mind Aaron wondered when he would enter his own violence-induced coma. This drive with Haley was his way of delaying the inevitable.
They decided to park in front of an antique shop and then wandered through the store commenting on every item but buying nothing. They walked next door to the record store and got deeply engrossed in conversations about music. Santana’s new record was out, and they debated whether those were bubbles or leaf chloroplasts on the cover. Again, they bought nothing.
After that, Aaron pointed out a tiny cinema across the street and suggested they sneak in. Though Haley hesitated and brought up all the legal implications, she quickly gave in and followed him around to the alley. Aaron felt especially impulsive and lawless today. He knew he could do whatever he wanted and not get in anymore trouble than if he had simply walked home. So why shouldn’t he take advantage of that? Since he slept on the street a few days ago, he realized he could get away with a lot more than he'd ever thought possible before.
By the time they reached the back door, Haley changed her mind. The only movie playing was a Rocky sequel, and she didn’t like violence. That was okay with Aaron. He didn’t care about the movie; he just wanted to spend time with her and maybe get away with doing something he wouldn’t normally do. He now had a rebellious hunger to satisfy.
Determined to fill his evening with something just as adventurous, Aaron led Haley down the alley in search of an intriguing distraction. They passed metal trash cans, some spilling foul garbage across their path, and hurried under fire escapes that clung to sooty brick walls as if for dear life. Haley seemed to be getting increasingly nervous, but Aaron had fallen too deeply into the search for adventure to turn back now.
When they reached the end of the line of buildings, they crossed the street to a more wooded area. A dirt road twisted through the tall, half-bare trees. Orange and red leaves screened the dirt and rustled continuously as the teenagers ran.
“Aaron!” Haley panted behind him. “Do you have any idea where we’re going?”
“Anywhere! Come on, let’s find a cave or something to explore.”
“I’d love to, but I need to get back home soon.”
“It’s just one evening. Just one day to ourselves.”
“Doing what, exactly?”
Aaron came to a stop and held out a hand to steady himself on an aspen. He had reached a small clearing where a faded red farmhouse sat glumly among the overgrown foliage. A tiny square barn, big enough for only one cow, stood a few feet away. Both structures, as well as parts of the clearing, were strung up with yellow tape. Haley came up beside Aaron and tried to comprehend his intense stare.
“Are we in somebody’s yard?”
“That...” He remembered a picture from the newspaper. “That is the scene of the murder.”
Haley took a sharp breath. “You mean...”
Aaron stepped forward, intrigued. “That’s where it happened. A man and his wife, both killed on this site.”
“Interesting. Let’s go home.”
He remembered her reaction to a mere frog getting slain. “You don’t have to see it, but I want to get a quick look.”
“Aaron, someone could be here!”
Aaron scanned the woods in every direction and spotted the slivers of another house behind layers of trees. Apart from that, the forest appeared still and unoccupied. “I’ll be careful.”
“What if the bodies are still there? What if the killer returns?”
“Don’t worry. The police have removed the bodies. If I see anyone, I’ll get right out.”
Haley caught his hand as he started walking away. “Why don’t we go back to the cinema. I wouldn’t mind seeing Rocky III with you if it means we stay away from here.”
Aaron did want Haley to be happy, but he was having immense trouble resisting the urge to explore an actual crime scene. FBI Agents Gideon and Rossi had probably been to this very location and gotten a firsthand look around. Gideon even encouraged Aaron to keep up with the case. Homicide rarely ever happened in this town. Aaron had to know more, and he couldn’t possibly walk away from a rare opportunity such as this one.
He took Haley’s hands and faced her. “I know you don’t like this sort of thing, but I can’t help wanting to know more. I’ll only look for a few minutes, and then we can do whatever you want. Please understand.”
“I would think you’d want to get away from anything associated with violence!” Haley said. “I don’t want to look at some dumb crime scene! You’ll get in trouble, Aaron.”
“I’ll only be a second. Don’t come after me. I know you’re bothered by this stuff.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I don’t have a morbid fascination with killers. But I’m more concerned about this yellow tape!”
“Wait for me here.” Aaron could not be swayed. He left his friend at the treeline and crept up to the farmhouse.
“Aaron!” Haley’s call sounded like a strained whisper.
He kept going, hoping she would forgive him later. The tall grass shivered in the autumn wind as he stepped purposely around twigs and leaves. Yellow tape screamed “CRIME SCENE — DO NOT CROSS” every few feet from where it spanned the house’s yard. Aaron ducked under the tape, glancing every which way. A few pieces of trash, mostly wet paper scraps and a plastic bag, skittered through the grass. An empty Coke bottle settled on the front step of the curtilage, and the neck regularly swiveled in the breeze and knocked against the bottom of the screen door frame.
Aaron passed the front door and peered in through the six-panel window at its right. He could see a simple country kitchen barely illuminated through the dark window. Three sets of dishes sat long neglected on the table. Numbered crime scene markers perched on the table, on the chairs, and all throughout the room. Aaron saw the thin lines of tape outlining where the bodies had been found in two chairs. Two markers pointed out the trails of brown blood arching across the wood floor, one beside each chair.
As he stared, he could envision Mr. and Mrs. Archer—black-and-white newspaper faces livening with color in his imagination—sitting across from each other as they prepared to eat. He could see the surprise and horror on their faces as their assailant somehow subdued them. He could see every sweep of the knife that opened each victim’s throat. Streams of blood dashed across the floor. The knife glimmered. And what expression did the killer make? Did he gloat over his victims? Was he angry or merely evil?
The initial disgust Aaron felt became mixed with an odd sense of intrigue. He had to know more. Why did somebody kill two people, and why in this exact fashion?
Aaron walked slowly along the wood siding. He found another, smaller window around the corner. From this angle, he saw how very tidy the room appeared. There was no sign of a struggle. He tried the window only to find it locked. He had expected to find broken glass on the scene, or some other sign of forced entry. He continued around the house, trying every window and both of the doors. Even the cellar door was locked. Every room, including two bedrooms, looked perfectly put together from his window views. No glass, no destruction or mess of any sort.
Aaron came back to the front window and stared at the table. Three sets of dishes, perfectly clean. No break-in. Two bedrooms, one with a queen-sized bed, both looking lived in.
The Archers must have known the killer quite closely and even let him into the house! But were they really related to the suspect, the man who broke out of jail over a month ago? Did he live with them?
“Aaron!” Haley’s strained call pulled him from his revelation.
Before he could look around, Aaron heard the sound of a car pulling up. His pulse spiked and he turned to see a police car with flashing lights but no siren come to a stop in front of the tiny barn. Aaron paled and glanced in Haley’s direction from the corner of his eye. She peered around a tree, eyes wide. Aaron made a faint motion with his hand to urge her out of sight.
A blond policeman emerged from the driver’s side and put his hand on his gun. Another cop, this one with a spare winter tire sagging over his waistline, came around the car scratching his neck and eying Aaron with mild confusion.
“Let me see your hands,” ordered the first officer.
Aaron slowly raised his hands to the level of his ears. His heart pounded nervous, icy blood through his trembling muscles. If his mother found out...
“Neighbor called, said they saw some kid trespassing on the Archer’s place,” said the overweight officer. He nodded in the direction of the house that was half concealed by a distance of trees.
“So what are you up to?” asked the other cop.
“I... I only came to look around,” said Aaron. “Nothing more, honest.”
“Do you see that tape?”
“Yes, sir. My mistake, sir.”
“Put your hands on your head and face the wall.”
Still shaking, Aaron complied, and he felt a strong hand grip his wrist to pull it down into a handcuff. His second arm was brought down a little too swiftly, pulling his shoulder muscle where a recent wound still stung. Aaron cried out unexpectedly and yanked away. The officer seized his arm and jerked it back; Aaron yelped and pulled away again.
This time when the officer grabbed his shoulder, his rough motion combined with Aaron’s forceful yank away caused the shirt to tear in the officer’s grip. For a few seconds, there was silence, then the cop called to his partner. “Hey. Come look at this kid!”
His partner looked, then leaned around to Aaron’s eye level. “Do you need medical attention?”
Aaron shook his head.
“Alright. Then settle down and wear these cuffs. It’s for your own good.”
On top of getting caught, his secret was out, and now the police knew he was getting battered. Aaron didn’t have anything else to say. He would let the evidence speak for itself.
“You have the right to remain silent...”
All he could do now was pray that his parents would not hurt Sean when they found out. As long as they didn’t find out, this whole arrest might work to his advantage.
He glanced surreptitiously to the side, where Haley still hid behind a tree. Her eyes remained wide and she seemed conflicted over what to do. Aaron gave a small shake of the head, and she stepped out of sight.
Hopefully they could smooth things out during jail visitation hours.