The Thousand Words

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Chapter 32

I found myself sitting in an interrogation room in the main police building downtown. The police officers who handcuffed and later arrested me had driven me to the building, handing me off to an unknown individual working the night shift at the precinct. They led me to this room where I had sat for the past three hours. It was nearly five o’clock in the morning.

The interrogation room was sparse and worn. A large metal table bolted to the floor sat in the middle of the space. The chair I sat in was on the far side with two more chairs on the other side of the table. An empty metal industrial style trash can was placed by the door. The walls and ceiling were all covered in sound dampening tiles, with the exception of one wall dominated by what I assumed was a large two-way mirror.

After initially complaining loudly about Jane’s kidnapping, I simply gave up. No amount of yelling or screaming would do any good. The entire force was ignoring me, oblivious to the importance of what I was telling them. I kept my mouth shut waiting for the right opportunity.

I was able to actually get a few moments of sleep while waiting. Thankfully, the officers had removed the handcuffs when leaving the room. This made a quick nap possible and was in my best interest. The short rest was needed to reinvigorate my tired mind and body, ready to take on whoever entered through the door first.

Much to my surprise, it was Bruno. He was a sight for sore eyes. He did not, however, look happy at all. The complete opposite. He was livid.

I started talking quickly as soon as the door closed, not caring if someone was on the other side of the mirror listening in. “Bruno. Thank God. Did you find Jane? Is she OK? Nobody has told me anything.”

Bruno didn’t say a word. He simply walked over and set a welcomed cup of coffee down in front of me, placed his notebook on his side, and sat down in one of the empty chairs. I attempted to talk again, but he simply held up his hand. He wasn’t ready to begin. Whatever he knew and what I thought he was about to tell me, was not positive news. Far from it.

After a few more moments of silence, he said, “First off, we are alone in this conversation. Just you and me. No one else is listening behind the glass. I traded in every favor, every ounce of political capital I have earned throughout my career to get this meeting alone with you. Tell me everything that happened tonight. Leave out nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

During all of the years I had known Bruno, I had never seen him like this. It was downright scary. I believed I had seen his cop face my dad and Bruno used interviewing and interrogating suspects over the many years of watching the two of them work, as well as interrogating my friends for their own entertainment. His intensity was nothing like I had witnessed before. This was more than Jane being kidnapped. Much more.

“Everything?” I asked. It was not like Bruno to waste any time with theatrics if it meant putting Jane in harm’s way. Searching and ensuring her safety must already be covered by trusted coworkers.

Bruno said nothing. He simply stared back at me with an impassive glare.

I looked at the floor. My hands, shoes, the empty chair and garbage can. Anywhere and everywhere but back at his face. Bruno knew about Neil Shelton’s murder and me being at the scene. No question or uncertainty about it. I had his mood completely wrong. Bruno wasn’t angry or upset. Not seething or furious. It was the only worse possibility. He was disappointed.

After letting a long breath out I didn’t realize I was holding in, I spent the next half hour telling Bruno what had happened from the time I went to see Neil at his house to the time I was arrested. The story only paused during brief moments allowing the possibility of questions.

Bruno said absolutely nothing. He stoically sat taking notes.

I reran through the entire story quickly, this time seeing if any minute detail I missed the first time through came to mind. This instance I added going into the bathroom at the office to wash and change clothes. I hadn’t forgotten those actions, rather leaving it out to get to Jane’s kidnapping sooner.

Bruno still said absolutely nothing.

The third time through was much quicker. The story was the same and no new details were added. Reviewing a witness’s story over and over again was key to see how, and if, the narrative changes. If a person uses the same words and descriptions each and every time in telling a story, it has been rehearsed, practiced over and over again. Descriptions which change in words, but stay the same in details and inherent meaning, is likely the truth. I knew the repetition was what Bruno wanted, which is why I ran through the story three times without being specifically asked to do so.

Bruno once again said absolutely nothing. I, however, was done being the only one who talked. Regardless of how pissed off Bruno was at this particular moment at me, it was his turn to speak. I waited for him to speak.

He stood up and paced the room a few times. Finally, after the few laps, he said with pure disgruntlement, “What were you thinking? You should have called me immediately after finding Mr. Shelton. You running makes you look nothing but guilty regardless of how you explain it.”

“I had absolutely nothing to do with his murder. I hope you believe my innocence.”

“Give me a break,” Bruno shot back. “I have literally known you your entire life. You simply don’t have it in you.”

I didn’t quite know how to take his statement, but at least he was not accusing me of murder. Not knowing what to say, I simply stayed quiet. Bruno eventually sat back down.

“Before you ask, we are looking for Jane but so far we have nothing. Absolutely nothing. Let me tell you about my night. I am called to a house in Walnut Hills, by none other than the Thompson twins, where a homicide has taken place. They want my opinion. Very strange but not out of the realm of possibility on a major case or where they are in over their heads. The first thing I notice when I walk into the house is one of your large metal prints of the downtown skyline hanging above the dead body in the middle of the floor. The exact same print you showed me you made for your editor. The twins must have recognized the print as being one of yours. It’s all over the local area these days.”

Bruno was trying very hard not to appear angry, but it wasn’t working. His dictation when he spoke and his pointed movements telegraphed his feelings.

“Everyone’s initial perception was the killer had gotten blood on them and cleaned up the scene and wiped down whatever they touched. Not a soul mentioned the possibility of a second person finding the body, disturbing the crime scene and then trying to cover their tracks. Obviously, you know exactly what happened, having been there and doing it yourself.

“As I am still at the scene in the middle of the night, I get a call from none other than you telling me Jane has been kidnapped. I start contacting everyone I know in the middle of the night trying to find out what’s going on. Eventually, word gets to me you were pulled over after blowing through a stop sign at some ungodly speed and then running from the cops.”

“They shouldn’t have been going after me they should have stopped the people who took Jane,” I said trying to defend myself.

“They were trying to pull you over for the stop sign violation and failure to pull over. Word hadn’t even gotten to them yet. 911 is quick but not that fast. By the time they were behind, you hadn’t even finished telling the emergency operator what was going on.

“Anyway, little did I know at that point in time the twins had put out an arrest warrant for you. They recognized your print in Mr. Shelton’s house and used the connection as justification to bring you in for questioning. This is where the situation spirals out of control. The officers search the car you were driving, which doesn’t belong to you in the first place, and they find a bag of bloody clothes and shoes in the trunk. They end up calling the twins with the information since they were the ones who issued the warrant for you in the first place.”

I reached up and rubbed my face, not able to take much more of this. Bruno was right, this entire situation had spiraled completely out of control. “I guess I made the biggest mistake of my life.”

Bruno shook his head. “I actually don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, you made some colossal mistakes recently, but I believe the actions you took may be for the best in the long run. I’m upset at the situation. Not at you.”

“I don’t understand,” I said very confused.

“If you would have stayed at Mr. Shelton’s house you would have been held up there forever answering questions and giving an official statement. Meaning, you wouldn’t have been at the office when the two goons kidnapped Jane. You said multiple times you didn’t see the sedan when you pulled up even though you were looking for any vehicle that was out of place. It wasn’t following you either. No way with the route you took and in Jane’s car. They must have shown up thinking or hoping she was there. Maybe even with the intent of killing her for some reason. They saw her on the street going to her car and just grabbed her, throwing her in the trunk instead. Without you actually being there, we would have no idea she was missing.”

I opened my mouth to talk, but my brain was overloaded processing everything Bruno was telling me.

There was a knock at the door. Someone who I did not recognize poked their head in the door and said, “Two more minutes. Nothing more.” The door closed, allowing us to talk in private once again.

“Listen to me carefully,” Bruno said with urgency. “When you tell your story, do in the exact same way you told me with one very important difference. Leave out the part of going up to Cesar’s Creek to think about what happened. Tell them you were concerned for Jane’s safety and went to her place looking for her, but couldn’t find her. It might not hold up to further scrutiny, but it will give me some time.”

“Why,” I started to ask but Bruno stopped me.

“We don’t have time. Just do what I tell you to do for once. You are going to be on your own for quite some time. No hand-holding. Keep to the story and don’t be fancy with them. Simply answer the questions you are asked and offer nothing more. You know the drill.”

“Wait. Where are you going to be during all of this?”

“I have been taken off the cases due to us knowing each other. All three of them. Zoe Burke, Sarah Jacobs, and Neil Shelton. Not that I was ever really on the last one. It came down from the top so there is no challenging it. I am going to do what I can to track down Jane. There are not many leads, but I will do what I can.”

“Who is the new owner of the cases?” I asked, already knowing and fearing the answer.

Before Bruno could answer the door opened up and both of the twins walked in. “Times up Bruno,” the tall skinny one said. “Pack up and leave. It’s our turn to talk to little Alex now.”

They were both grinning and staring me down at the same time. My nightmare continued.

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