The table’s surface was gray, hard, stark, cold and empty. Just like the windowless room. A woman with neat blonde hair has both her hands clasped on it while sitting in a plain metal chair. She is tired. She is also many other things, but mostly resigned. She doesn’t talk, and the silence clings to everything. Her eyes, small liquid drops of pale green in a weary face, scan the room twice, corner to shadowed corner, with only the slightest movement of her head. She is about to say something but then decides not to. She is not alone, and the other person, occupying the only other chair, does not hide his frustration.
“Look,” he says, “we have to talk. Joanne, you need to tell us what happened.”
Do I? she thinks. The words feel like they are coming from somewhere else, another place far away, as if some part of her was left behind and cannot begin to place any importance to this strange room and this little man with his pointless desires. She stares at him and studies his face, the raised cheekbones which are slightly lower on the left side. His cropped dark hair is handsome, and his stubble could be charming under different circumstances.
“I didn’t realize,” she finally says, “that we were on a first-name basis.”
The man doesn’t allow himself to feel accomplishment, but he can’t hide it because of the way he leans back and tilts his chair. His instincts tell him that this is only a small crack. Joanne Mitchell is likely to prove difficult. He sighs; he can’t even begin to remember when a female perpetrator took so long to start talking. He looks at his watch but has difficulty figuring out how much time has passed. Less than a day, but certainly more than an hour.
He leans forward, sitting up straight. He wants to stand up and improve the circulation to his legs but doesn’t want to break eye contact. “You’re right, Mrs. Mitchell, we weren’t. But you can call me Doug, if you want.”
Officer Doug, she thought. Or maybe it’s Detective Doug or Investigator Doug. Whatever. She only wants to be free, but the concept is beyond explaining. Your problem, my dear Doug, is that —
There is a knock on the door, an impatient one. It opens and another man, older and balder, peers inside. “How’s it going?” he asks.
Joanne loses her train of thought, but only because she couldn’t care to keep it. Nothing in this place interests her; her body has become a mere container and her soul feels like it could easily fly up and out, leaving her material form behind. It is almost as if she has to make an effort to stay here; the room and its contents keep fading out. She has to blink every now and then to keep them from disappearing. And why should I talk? she thinks. You won’t listen anyway.
Investigator Douglas takes the opportunity to stand. “Slow.” he says. There simply aren’t any better words for it. “I’m open to suggestions.”
“Get a sex change.” Joanne quips. She says it quietly, and the words would have gone unnoticed in any normal situation, but in the deathly quiet room it smacks both men in the face.
“What did you say?” Douglas asks, twisting his neck. He starts to turn his body but the older man places a large meaty hand on his shoulder.
“Hold on Doug.” A moment passes so that thoughts can be had. “Let’s get Sam in here.”
Douglas thinks about it. He knows he can veto, but he has too much experience not to see the rationale. But he doesn’t want to give his prisoner the satisfaction of being able to change things this easily, so he paces the room as if his partner’s suggestion is just that, merely an idea. After almost a minute he nods and the other man leaves.
“Mrs. Mitchell,” Douglas says as politely as he can, “I’m going to have someone else take over my side of the conversation. But I’ll be around in case there’s anything you want to tell me specifically.”
Sure, Joanne thinks. You’ll be standing right behind the one-way glass.
Contemplating the chamber behind the glass — which must be full of men — reminds her of an earlier time. She is standing in a conference room where everyone has left except for one man, her boss. No, the others have not left, it’s still too early — there is a meeting and they are waiting for the others, all men, to arrive. But for now it is just her and him, and he is trying to explain something. Like most memories, she has remembered this one because it is special.
“I know you’ve worked hard,” he is saying, elegant white hair above stylish, conservative eyeglass frames. “but I have to let Mike give the presentation. We can’t afford to take chances with some accounts.”
“But Mike doesn’t know the material as well as I do. All the research and —”
The old man puts up a hand. “I know, and you’re right, under normal circumstances there’d be no question. But it’s not about the material.”
“Oh? Then what is it about?”
“Joanne, please. Look, you’re a great banking professional. You’re very smart. No one disputes that. But this is... political.”
He presses two fingers to his lips. “Hmm, well, it’s not quite the word I’m looking for. But what I’m trying to say is, and I’m sorry if this sounds blunt, but... they’re men. They won’t really listen to you.”
She has her hands up in protest, but he waves her down like a wise father denying his little daughter some party she wants to attend. “Trust me, alright? They’ll humor you, but everything you say will just go in one ear and out the other. Or they’ll doubt what you say and they’ll keep turning to Mike for confirmation.” He puts one hand on her shoulder, thinking that she needs to be comforted. “Is that what you want? To be embarrassed? I know how these things go, I’ve seen it before. By the end of it Mike will be front and center giving the presentation anyway, and you’ll be standing quietly against the wall.”
She is holding back tears, but more from anger than sadness. Her fists are so clenched that her palms hurt. “This isn’t right.”
“I know that, Joanne. But —”
“I spent ten years giving you my very best, and this is what I get in return?”
“I don’t make the rules, Joanne. It’s just the way things are.”
“I’ll make them listen to me. They want to hear it from Mike, I’ll tell them that I’m the one they’re dealing with.”
He shakes his head, looking sad. “It won’t matter. Do you understand? It simply won’t matter. They’re not coworkers. They’re clients. They’ll just take their business elsewhere.”
“Fine.” She had to spit the word out. “Let them.”
“I wish I could.” he sighs.
She wants to believe him. But later that day, after the meeting is over, she watches how he shakes hands with the departing men, how he is smiling and laughing at their casual post-meeting jokes and patting Michael on the back for a job well done. She cannot tell them apart, these men, one from the other. They are part of a club, and no matter how nice their words are, the unspoken truth is that she can rise only so far; she can do only so much.
Later, when she is walking past Michael’s office, her boss happens to be with him, and they are talking just a little too loudly with the door open just a little too wide, and she hears him say Don’t worry kid, I got that girl under control.
And then they both laugh.
A faint clicking of heels on concrete turns into a louder clicking, and finally there is another knock on the door, and this time a short but stocky woman sticks her head through. “Doug?” she asks. Joanne looks at the floor past the table and confirms that the heels are not high.
Douglas opens the door all the way and welcomes the lady in. As she enters he spreads an arm wider. “Hey Sam. Meet our latest confessed murderer, Mrs. Joanne Mitchell. Domestic dispute we think. Don’s team in Forensics is still working on the victim. We were wondering if you could take over here for a bit.”
“Sure.” she says. Her eyes give Joanne a good once-over, sizing her up. She moves toward the empty chair and Douglas leaves, not looking back. The door closes and makes a satisfying click that echoes well, until she starts to sit down and causes the chair to scrape several times.
“I’m Samantha.” she says, trying not to smile too much.
“What are you?” Joanne asks, studying Sam’s casual earth-toned jacket and neat slacks. “A shrink?”
Now Sam cannot avoid smiling. “Naw. Just another cop. But my friends felt it would be better if a woman was here.”
“Yeah. Your friends.”
Sam tries to figure out what Joanne means but her eyebrows crease instead. “Well, that’s what I call them, anyway.”
She’s keeping things deliberately light, and doesn’t care if the group of men behind the one-way glass are doubting her effectiveness. Trying to beat information out of anyone, verbally or even physically, is likely to backfire. How she knows this, she cannot say, but all the best wisdom has this strange intuitive quality. She does allow herself to think that Joanne Mitchell is extremely lucky that the “kids” — the younger officers — are on other duties today. Things have to be kept cool, casual. The right road slopes gently, gently...
“And what,” Joanne says, “do they call you?”
“Beats me. I don’t really think about it, you know. Just ‘Sam’ I guess.”
A minute goes by. Sam uses the time to check her nails. All short, of course, but one on the right hand manages to be uneven. “Do you want to talk about what happened?” she finally asks, as deadpan as possible. Before Joanne can reply Sam realizes her mistake and smoothly adds, “Do you want to tell me what happened?”
Joanne thinks. The part of her that wants to talk is so small now. She actually likes this woman, just a little, but her spirit keeps drifting elsewhere, dancing, playing, detached, uncaring. She does not honestly know what good it will do to say anything now. Actions speak louder than words, and she has already acted. It is only these other people that need closure, and she cannot put herself in their shoes. The distance is like the gap between planets or stars; all she can see is empty space, black and devoid of purpose, all the meaning drained off a long time ago.
“Tell me about your husband.”
The words seem to arrive from nowhere. She blinks yet again, and sees Officer Samantha across the table.
“What was he like?”
She lets her mind drift into the past, memories trying to form. Images come and go at their leisure, time is unordered. A sudden glimpse of her wedding surprises her, and she laughs, a suppressed chuckle that helps a tear form in her eye. Sam waits, and another minute goes by.
“I thought he loved me.” Joanne says. “I really did.”
Oddly, Sam does not know what to make of this. Too vague, she thinks. It could mean nearly anything. So she waits and hopes that the crack has widened, or is widening, and that this strange blonde-haired lady will fall farther into it. But from looking at her eyes, and the way the woman’s head is now slowly pitching forward to press her chin against her chest, Sam knows the crack is sealing and won’t open again soon.
“I’m going to get some water.” she says, standing up. “I’ll get you some too.”
Sam went to the other room, the one from which Douglas and the others have been observing. “Can anyone,” she asks, “give me some more background on Mrs. Mitchell?”
Douglas hands her a file folder. “She owns a sportings good store. Started it herself a few years ago. Before that she worked as a bank teller, then a loan officer. Upper middle class, the husband had his own business too. No kids. Nice home, his and her cars. Financially very well off. No priors, no criminal record on either of them. Both well educated, pillar-of-the-community type people.”
She flicked her way through the file. “And then what? She just snaps out of the blue?”
Douglas sighed, hands in both pockets. “Yep. One hell of a snap too.”
“It took Don two hours to find all the pieces of the dearly departed. He was diced up... like a vegetable. Christ, I’ve been here a while but I haven’t seen that much blood except when it was gang-related.”
“But she did it herself? All by herself?”
“Yeah. I made sure. I mean, Don’s pretty sure. We got the prelim report now. And the woman doesn’t deny it. She was still cutting him up when we got there.”
Sam still couldn’t find what she needed. “Did she say anything at that time?”
Douglas thought. “Nope. Just breathing hard. She was like... in another place, you know. Not drugs, but you know, like when you’re mentally just in some other zone, focused or whatever.”
“Just one. Cleaning lady let herself in because nobody answered the door. She ran and called 911 on her cellphone outside. Says she didn’t talk to Mitchell and didn’t hear her say anything.”
“Cleaning lady, huh? Well, someone’s living pretty good to afford that.”
“Yeah. Sure, they’re pretty well off. Check the pics of the place. I wish I had a recliner like that. Man, that sofa’s bigger than my bed.”
“I don’t get this part.” Sam said, eyeing another photo. “How come Don had to search for all the body parts?”
“The lady wasn’t just cutting him up, she was throwing the pieces away. Tossing ’em left and right. There was a stairway leading to a basement and some of them went down there unfortunately, you know, falling between the steps and getting hidden in the shadows and stuff.”
“But... that wasn’t an attempt at hiding the body.”
Douglas shook his head. “No, not at all. I don’t think she cared. I think she was trying to... like, really take him apart. Literally. Spread the poor guy out as wide as she could.”
“Interesting. She must have been really pissed. No drugs, right? What about alcohol?”
Another shake of the head. “Nope, just a little nightcap the evening before. And no history of drug or alcohol abuse either. Christ, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say aliens took over her brain.”
The other men laughed, but nobody offered any other theories.
“Time of death?”
Douglas looked genuinely perplexed. “Don says it was in the evening, but we got there and found her in the morning.”
Sam blinked. “What? You mean she was cutting him all that time?”
“I think so.” He didn’t want to say it but he was at a loss for an alternative. “It explains why there was so little of him left by then.”
Sam allowed herself a whistle. “Well, it’s certainly strange. Nice home, nice life, no child-raising stress, late thirties, good health, good social standing, good social life, good mobility. Another few years and even the mortgage would be over. I don’t suppose it will help to ask the obvious.”
“An affair?” Douglas had to laugh. “Not a clue. No notes, no clothing, zip. Neighbours reported nothing out of the ordinary. Coworkers, employees... nothing. Hank Mitchell was, as far as anyone cares to say, a stand-up guy.”
Douglas’ partner leaned over. “Didn’t she just now say that he didn’t love her? Or that she thought he loved him but it wasn’t true?”
Sam waved it down. “I don’t think she meant that he was seeing someone else.”
“Oh. And you know this because...?”
Sam let it pass. “Just a feeling.” Turning to leave, she added, “Gimme some more time.”
She returned with two glasses of water, one for Joanne and the other for herself. It was impressive, she thought, how a murderer could look so... plain. So ordinary, as if she’d just returned from work and were about to start on dinner. But then, come to think of it, Mrs. Mitchell wasn’t really a murderer. Something had happened, and her mind had become bent. Some strange tipping point normally well out of reach had been accessed and given a good shake. That good old thin veneer of civilization had been hit in one special weak spot. Some well-aimed meteor had blazed down and punched its way through.
Aimed, Sam thought. Aimed...
“Can I call you Joanne?” she asked.
“Umm? Yeah... sure.”
“Was there someone else?”
A new question, Joanne thought, again from the ether. It was so hard to care about answering, but it was nice that, finally, the men weren’t around. Even if they were still watching, which they must be.
“No, he wasn’t having an affair.”
Sam could almost feel the pats on her back. Progress, sweet progress. Bit by painful bit, if she had to. “So he was faithful, you’re saying.”
No answer. “Joanne?”
Thinking about Hank was difficult. The way he had looked, the way he had sounded. Even the smell, the simple memory of it, something like Stetson cologne... was offensive. Which was strange, because how many times had she enjoyed that? Faithful, yes; he’d been loyal. He had so many good qualities. But he was a man, in the end, and...
“I can’t tell you.” she said. She waved a hand behind Samantha to where the glass was. “Not with them around.”
“Them?” Sam asked, glancing behind, careful to keep at least one eye on the prisoner. “The other officers, you mean.”
“The men.” Joanne said. “They won’t understand.” And the way she said it, with a blunt unforced venality, was enough for Sam. She raised her palms off the table while her wrists maintained contact, then placed them flat again, then pressed her lips tight.
“Give me a minute, okay?”
It took a lot of talking, even into the next day, but in the end Sam’s supervisor let her escort Mrs. Mitchell outside the police station to a nearby park where they could talk privately. Douglas didn’t like it one bit; he didn’t know this Mitchell woman well enough to be sure if it was safe, but the park was mostly open, and two other officers were watching from a distance, and if anything happened they could all be there in under ten seconds. He conceded that the open air might even help Mrs. Mitchell open up. A lot of guys broke down under pressure in that closed room, but maybe women were different. He was still running the investigation and could take Sam off it, but frankly, he didn’t have any other ideas.
Joanne liked the sunshine on her face. It was almost a shame, she thought, after all those previous weeks of rain, that now some good weather was here but Hank was not. Ironic, perhaps. The lady police officer — Samantha was her name, although they all called her Sam — was leading her to an ornate park bench next to a nice bush with bright green leaves and big pink flowers.
“Did you have a good sleep?” Sam asked, her badge glinting in the sun. They both shifted to get more into the shade of a nearby tree.
“Yes, thank you. Well, good as it could be... I couldn’t really sleep too well.”
Sam folded her hands in her lap. “Well, that’s understandable.” She casually scanned around for the other police, and spotted Douglas ordering a concession stand coffee in his sports jacket. A fully uniformed patrolman was in plain sight to the right. A bumblebee emerged from a bush and visited them, keeping low, but then left just as quickly.
“So your husband... Hank was his name, right? He was faithful, you said.”
“Yes.” She wrinkled her nose, then scratched it. “Yes, he was.”
“Did someone make you kill him?” she asked. Sam didn’t like using the K-word, but she felt it was better to just be upfront and call all the spades by their proper names.
Joanne seemed surprised, then looked down. “No.”
And slowly, carefully, going slow so as to be sure she got everything straight, Joanne Mitchell started to explain.
There had been nothing on TV that night, and with the rain still going the Mitchells didn’t feel like driving down to the video store to rent a movie. They were somewhat beyond such entertainment anyway. After a while, every show and film starts repeating the same basic truths. Hank had said it while Joanne had thought it.
“You know,” he said, “I think we only really watch the news anyway, because it’s the only original thing left.”
“Yeah. But even it’s getting old. And they’re all turning into propaganda outlets anyway. Fox is a write-off, and how late do we have to timeshift just to get anything worth watching from CNN these days?”
“I know.” Hank agreed, shaking his head in a sincere lament. “Ever since they put Nancy Grace on, it’s all been downhill.”
She chuckled, helping herself to a drink. “It never ceases to amaze me how history repeats itself. An empire gets nicely built, and then slowly but surely destroys itself.”
“America, you mean.” he said, sitting down in his favorite recliner and propping up his legs on its matching black leather footrest.
“Yep.” she said, sweeping her glass in an arc as if she could indicate all of the country. “The endless fake warfare, the constant fearmongering, the repeated lies. Straight out of Orwell. I almost wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t so horribly unoriginal.”
“Yeah. But the election’s coming soon. Do you like anyone this time around?”
She reflected for a moment. “You know, I haven’t really thought about it. Maybe I’ve become too jaded.”
He shifted his weight to get more comfortable and nodded. “Well, I don’t suppose it’s a big deal. The whole thing seems rigged, or bought, and what with you being a woman...”
She turned sharply, her head first and then, slowly, her body. Hank immediately regretted the words, and trailing off only made it sound worse.
“Please go on.” Joanne asked. He had her undivided attention as never before. I’m not getting any tonight, he thought.
“Well, what I mean is, the whole concept of the women’s vote. It’s just one more lie, except it goes back further.”
“What do you mean? That a woman’s vote doesn’t count?” Now Joanne seemed more intrigued than hurt. “How does that work?”
Hank returned to his feet so that he could pour himself a drink. He tried to gather his thoughts while fumbling with ice cubes from the bar’s mini-fridge. “It’s kind of basic, actually. If we go all the way back to the beginning, when people evolved from apes, it was men who had all the power.”
“Okay.” she agreed. “I follow so far.”
He tasted his drink and decided it was cold enough. “Well, what I mean is, women never had power originally. Even the so-called sexual power they have is illusory. The alpha gorillas have harems, and these individuals just boss everyone around. It’s a simple matter of brute force. Or the men control all the resources, and the women have to cooperate. In a suitably large enough population, there’s always some percentage of women who capitulate, and those statistically are the ones who reproduce. Eventually the submissive behavior makes up a huge part of being female. What is it the sociologists say? Men look for beauty and women look for wealth.”
“Alright. But a woman’s vote is counted now.”
“Yes, that’s true.” he said, but shaking his head, a little frustrated at not getting his point across. “But my point is, the very right of a woman to vote was not something given by fiat or divine... whatever. The rulings in Congress — and elsewhere for other nations — those had to be voted on by men, since by definition men were the only ones who could vote at the time.”
Joanne shifted in her stockings uncomfortably. “And that matters because...?”
“Well, think about it. Women never had any inalienable right to vote. It was manufactured and granted at the behest of men. Even our precious Bill of Rights says ‘all men are created equal’. Men. It’s like women didn’t even have any legal status whatsoever only a few hundred years ago. Only men did, so it was solely through them, and solely up to them, if women gained rights.”
She put down her drink and crossed her arms, and fixed Hank with narrowed eyes. Her forehead almost hurt from the effort.
Mistaking her silence for confusion, Hank kept going. “All that women have — hell, all that women ever had, aside from their innate talents and the thoughts in their heads — was given by men. And men are still in control. Women only vote because men let them.” He softly punched the top of his recliner to stress the point. As he did so, Joanne felt as if her own flesh was being struck. “And if men ever wanted to take back that right to vote, they could, and do so at any time they wished. And there wouldn’t be anything women could do about it. Too many of them would accept it, and the rest would either get killed, or go into exile or whatever. And then in a few generations they’d be hopelessly outbred by their complacent sisters.”
Joanne didn’t know what to say. It took her a few moments to realize that her mouth was open. Her husband’s words circled in her mind, teasing her, unable to leave because they were so heavy with truth. It was a subject no one talked about, but he was right, and that was precisely why no one talked about it, because some truths are indeed too unpleasant to bear.
He took a generous swallow of scotch. “Look at those countries where women can’t vote. The women either accept it as the way things are or they quietly hope that enough men will change their minds. But either way, they don’t do what men would do, which is rise up and just take it by force. They don’t have the same fragile ego as men that demands a level playing field. Or maybe it’s pride, I’m not sure. But whatever it is, they just keep sitting around hoping and hoping, while the men revel in their unassailed power to do what they damn well please. Even in these modern times where brute muscular strength doesn’t mean much, women still come in second. They just don’t... want it badly enough.”
“Well,” Joanne finally said, the ice still in her, “maybe some things aren’t worth having if you have to debase yourself by taking them by force.”
Hank reflected on that. “Interesting point. But how else does one get anything? Men overthrew tyrants to gain democracy. We don’t live in a world where things are just handed out equally.”
She didn’t know what to say to that, so silence surrounded them once more. She walked out of the room and up the stairs, and Hank could hear her undressing in the bedroom. For a moment he wasn’t sure if he should follow or prepare to spend the night on the sofa.
“You’re not angry at me, are you?” he shouted upwards. In another time, or if he had more testosterone, he could even now just climb the stairs and rape her. The thought both revolted and tempted him.
The silence was surprisingly hard for him to bear. He earnestly wished he knew why he had said all that he had, and finally concluded that it was just his dumb male nature that insisted on possessing all the facts. I really am from Mars, he thought.
“I am... angry.” she said, opening the bedroom door so he could hear better. “But at men in general, not you. Why don’t you get up here and we won’t talk about this anymore, alright?”
Fair enough, he agreed, anxious to put it well behind him. I’m a lucky man, he told himself as he bounded up the steps.
“And that was it?” Sam asked. She almost seemed disappointed.
Joanne was softly biting her lower lip and seemed to retreat into herself, her eyes once again scanning the ground. The sun had moved lower and the shadows had lengthened, and a nice breeze had picked up, fluttering her skirt. It had a lovely floral pattern, and Sam idly wondered if Joanne thought it was too feminine now.
If she had to guess, it was that Joanne had reached the critical part and was struggling to relive it. But a plausible motive had emerged, some raw nerve had been struck. Sam resisted the urge to speculate and carefully placed a hand on Joanne’s lap. “Please, more for your sake than mine, you need to tell me what happened next.”
She was breathing awkwardly. “There... there isn’t much more to tell, actually.”
“Did he say something else? Did the discussion continue in the bedroom?”
“No, no. We didn’t talk about it anymore.” Tears from her left eye had managed to stream down and she was swallowing them. Her eyes looked past Sam to somewhere far away, as if she herself were that distant.
“Then what? You went to bed and called it a night?”
Joanne laughed, but it was immediately tinged with regret. “Almost. We almost got away.”
She steeled herself. “I had already finished using the washroom, so Hank went in to brush his teeth. I got into bed and started reading a book. Then I realized that I had left my reading glasses in the washroom and went to get them.”
Sam had a feeling how the story would progress, but she kept quiet.
“Hank had decided to take a shower, so he didn’t see or hear me enter. I had to get close to the shower doors to reach my glasses, which were on top of the toilet bowl tank past the countertop where the sink is, and...”
Again Sam waited. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Doug flash a hand signal asking if everything was alright, and she discreetly signaled back a thumbs-up.
“Go on.” she said quietly.
“Hank was singing to himself, some simple tune. At first I didn’t notice because I was focused on getting my glasses, just do a quick in-and-out to let him shower in peace, but... then I was hearing the words, and it was like a country song melody, and...”
Oh I’m all for women’s rights
And I’m all for women’s lib
But God made Adam in His image
And Eve from just a rib
Oh, Eve’s all broken
She’s just a little girl
Her rights are merely token
And she’ll never have this world
Joanne was crying harder now, openly weeping. Sam took her hands and asked if she had snapped.
“No! I mean, yes, I did, but not because of what he was singing.” The words were tumbling out of her, practically falling over themselves as she tried to form them. “It was because of what he did after.”
“What? He then did what?”
“He...” She struggled to go on. “He...” It was visibly taking all her strength to find the next word. Her body trembled, and then shook, and Sam had to hold her lest she slip off the bench.
“He what? For God’s sake, let it out!”
Joanne brought her head up and looked right at Sam, eyes fully wide, impossibly sad and angry. “He... he laughed.”
Sam held her tight, hugging her, and Joanne sobbed, wailing so loudly that everyone nearby had noticed and was staring, but now she was truly somewhere else, crying for everything that was wrong in the world, weeping at the things that can never be unsaid, and especially at the things that can never be undone.
Later that day, after Joanne had been taken back to her holding cell, Sam wondered how to write up the report.
The details were straightforward enough. Joanne Mitchell had snapped and attacked her husband while he was showering. He had tried to protect himself and had run downstairs, but she had followed him into the kitchen and, like a demon possessed, did anything and everything to make him suffer. At some point she got a butcher knife and couldn’t stop hacking him to pieces. Once she had broken, there was no turning back, and even worse, it probably had just made her angrier and more violent. How can anyone heal a wound so deep, so primal? Joanne stood excellent chances of getting off on an insanity plea and spending the next long while in a nice mental ward.
The other officers and staff were waiting anxiously. Douglas was the first to congratulate Sam.
“That was a great job you did. I was beginning to think she’d never talk.”
“You’re welcome.” she said. But do I really need your affirmation of my skill?
Whoa, she thought. Where did that come from?
Joanne’s story still rung in her ears. And it was true, wasn’t it, what Mr. Mitchell had said about women’s rights. Doug didn’t seem as good a friend now as he did just a few hours ago.
“Everyone’s looking forward to your report.” he said.
“Yeah, um... I should have it done tomorrow.” But already she knew that she was lying, because such a report could never fulfill its goal, which was to communicate understanding.
As they walked down the hall towards the locker room, she looked at the others. They were mostly men, and the higher in rank they were, the more they were men. And she knew that if she were to talk to the men at the top and ask about certain things, they would just stare blankly at her, as if she was ignorant of the very nature of reality. They couldn’t even bring themselves to call her Samantha, only ‘Sam’, as if being a police officer required her to be masculine.
How such pathetic beings amassed so much power, she didn’t know. They talked about rights and equality and progress, and didn’t even realize what incredible hypocrites they still were. Blind, so very blind...
You can’t understand, she thought, because you’re men. You will read the words and think you know what they mean, but you still won’t understand.
Not really. You just... can’t possibly know what it’s like.
And she decided, right then and there, that if men ever did try to take away women’s right to vote, she would be the first one to fight back. And that would feel good, because then the cards would be on the table, and whatever rights she acquired would then be worth having, because they had been worth fighting for.She patted the gun that nestled comfortably in her shoulder holster. Douglas stared, and then asked why she was doing that, but she just smiled.