The Thousand Words

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Chapter 35

Bruno was right. Sitting in this interrogation room was not doing Jane any good. Her safety and wellbeing were more important than my standing with the police. Whatever was happening to her had something to do with me and that was not acceptable. I needed to get out of the police building to help find Jane.

Obviously, Bruno has some idea on how to help, otherwise he wouldn’t have hinted for me to leave. The big question was how. The twins said I could leave to get some coffee or use the restroom. A reasonable action would be my best way out of the interrogation room, the first step of getting out of the building.

I remembered what my dad had told me about his work as a police officer, cruising the streets before he became a homicide detective. He was successful in looking for people who appeared to be out of place. Not profiling, but paying attention to details which seemed wrong. A person acting nervous by looking around constantly for people who might notice them. An individual wearing a heavy coat on a warm sunny day. People loitering in an area they had no business being in. Someone staring down at the ground acting like they don’t want to make eye contact. The goal of avoiding suspicion can easily be accomplished by looking as if you belong.

The main way to blend in any situation or location is to act as if you fit in. Have a purpose with your actions. People who are busy doing something innocent don’t look over their shoulder to see if someone else is watching them. My dad had once told me the best way to shoplift from any store is to act like everything is normal and aboveboard. Simply walk into the store, confidently grab whatever you want to take and head straight out the doors as it is an everyday occurrence. No one would ever stop you. All of the security personnel are trained to look for suspicious behavior, not someone simply going about their business.

Figuring there was a limited amount of time before the detective twins returned, I decided I needed to get moving right away. I got up from the table and walked to the door. The restroom was the easiest and most explainable reason for leaving the interrogation room, so that’s where I decided to head first. Besides, after sitting in a couple of different rooms for hours on end, I actually had to use the facilities.

I looked straight ahead and walked confidently out of the conference room like I belonged there and had business to attend to. No one seemed to be paying much attention to me at all which increased the odds of this actually working. I gave a few head nods and polite smiles to the people who made eye contact.

The main police building downtown was a place I had been in numerous times growing up. From visiting my dad when I was young, to the work I performed for the police department in documenting crime scenes, I was familiar with the layout of the build and particularly this floor. There were two main bathrooms which serviced this portion of the building, one in the front that was closer and one in the back a little farther away. I chose the latter for a couple of reasons. It was hopefully a longer distance away from wherever the twins were meeting and it was closer to the back stairwell, my most likely method of leaving the building.

I made it to the door to the restroom without incident and pushed my way in. There were a few other people there when I entered, two men in casual clothes who could be office staff and one officer in uniform. As normal for a restroom, no one made eye contact with each other. I took the last stall at the end for the most privacy and closed the door behind me. Unable to use the facilities out of nervousness, I simply waited for a few minutes.

The other occupants had finished their business and left. It was my turn to do the same. I opened the door to the stall and went to the closest sink to wash my hands, splashing a bit of cold water on my face to help keep me alert and focused. I dried my hands and face using paper towels from the dispenser by the door.

With a few quick but deep breaths, I headed back out the door. I took an immediate right, walking farther to the back of the building going to a common break room. There were a couple of tables which dominated the middle of the room. The back wall was lined with a counter that had a sink with a couple of industrial-sized coffee pots next to it. Multiple large stacks of Styrofoam cups along with a dozen containers of cream and sugar packets occupied the next few feet of counter space. The police department did not mess around with their coffee.

The right wall was lined with a half-dozen vending machines, two different company’s pop machines and two standard looking ones filled with candy bars and salty snacks. The last two contained sandwiches, microwavable burritos, and other heartier foods for personnel who needed substantial food and couldn’t leave the building or during the overnight shift when no local eateries were open. The left wall near the entrance contained a few corkboards with a variety of information from coupons for local restaurants to items for sale.

I walked over to the coffee machine and poured myself a cup. It was late morning so the early rush was over and the lunch crowd hadn’t begun yet. There was no one else there. Still, I acted as calm as I could manage, taking my time and appearing to enjoy the coffee. It was actually pretty good. Every television show and movie pokes fun at police station coffee. In reality, police departments run on caffeine, so having decent coffee is an easy way to motivate your personnel and keep them productive.

I moved over to the corkboards near the door pretending to look at the information and sipping my coffee while on a quick break. In reality, the spot where I was standing had a decent view down the hallway and to the door at the back stairwell where I planned to exit the building. It was the same stairwell used to access the shooting range where I met Bruno last week.

Even though this was a police building, its security was similar to most office buildings where the main concern was keeping people out who didn’t belong, not necessarily keeping people in who were already there. Sure there were a large number of secure areas for prisoners and people who had been arrested, but the office and administration areas were easier to get around. Fortunately, I had technically been arrested but was still being interviewed in the less secure portion of the building.

There was little traffic in the hallway and no one near the door leading to the stairwell. No one uses the stairs anymore. People will walk a great distance out of their way to use an elevator instead. It was now or never. I threw my mostly full coffee cup in the nearest garbage can and smoothly walked to the door. Not too fast nor too slow. The normal walking pace of someone who had somewhere to be but not in a hurry. I made it to the door without anyone giving me a second glance.

With no one else in the stairwell, I started running down the stairs as fast as I could, taking them two or three at a time. My heart was racing, from the stress, adrenaline, and the realization I was technically escaping from police custody. Yet another first in a long list of events I hoped never to repeat.

The sound of a door opening up a few floors below echoed up the stairwell causing me to stop in my tracks. I realized quickly being seen standing still in an empty stairwell is practically the complete opposite of acting incognito. I started walking a normal pace back down the stairs and passed an older man who looked vaguely familiar, but whose face I couldn’t place.

As we passed each other, he glanced over at me and said, “Glad to see I am not the only one who takes the stairs these days.”

“Yup. Have a good day,” I said because I had to say something. I kept walking, not wanting to engage the person anymore for fear of being remembered. After a few more floors of casually walking down the stairs, I made it to the door leading outside. It was kept closed with a simple magnetic lock. From the outside, you needed a certain type of badge to unlock it. From the inside, you simply needed to hit the red button by the door to disengage the electricity energizing the magnet.

After hitting the button and opening the door, I headed outside into a back parking lot still far from being free. The streak of perfect fall weather had been broken. The skies were completely overcast and a light rain was falling. Not enough to drive everyone inside, but sufficient to get everything wet. I cinched my jacket up around my neck and headed briskly to the sidewalk that led to the street. A few cars were coming and going but no one paid any attention to a random person walking out in the drizzle.

Once at the main road, I made a quick left heading north into the heart of downtown. I had no idea where to head next as I honestly believed I wouldn’t make it this far. I simply kept my head down and walked as fast as I could, getting as far away as possible. I took the first right and then left again to be out of direct sight of the police building and anyone possibly out looking for me.

They had taken my phone, but I still had my wallet and money in my pockets. The streetcar was close but it went absolutely nowhere, so it wasn’t a viable option. My best possibility was taking a random bus somewhere. Anywhere. Once I was safely out of the area, my options of what to do next increase substantially. There was a larger bus stop a few blocks north of my current position I remembered from a recent dinner out with Kelsey a few weeks ago. I picked up the pace hoping to get there quickly and safely away.

I heard a car pull up beside me and kept pace staying off on one side behind me. Not wanting to risk a look, I made a quick right down an alley between a restaurant and an office building. As soon as I made the turn, I realized my mistake and regretted my initial reaction. I was now trapped between the buildings with nowhere else to go until I got to the next street.

The car behind me made the turn as well, following closely. I took off running as fast as I could in hiking boots. The car accelerated and pulled up quickly next to me, where I heard a familiar voice call my name out from the window of the car.

I slowed down to a fast walk and looked in the unfamiliar car.

It was Bruno.

“Stop running and get in the damn car before someone sees you,” he said.

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