I didn’t stand up right after Detective Roth turned off the voice recorder, just to make sure it didn’t look like I was in too much haste to get away from him. In all reality, as his bright blue eyes stared right through me, all I wanted to do was run. He looked at me in such a way that I thought he’d grab my collar and throw me against the wall just so he could crack my skull open and read the secrets hidden away in my grey brain matter.
He tucked the pad and pencil and the voice recorder back into the inside pockets of his coat, and I thought about how pointless it was to write down what I had said when it was already recorded. I guess if one piece of evidence somehow got destroyed, there was always backup just so the proof wouldn’t cease to exist.
Detective Roth looked at me. He wasn’t my type—not usually. Actually, I preferred blonds so I supposed that Zacharias hadn’t necessarily been my type, either. Despite the fact his hair was raven instead of golden, however, it didn’t stop me from turning my head. Roth could’ve nearly passed as a redhead, so my attraction seemed alien.
He opened his mouth, then closed it. His lips were thin, and I could make out a freckle that landed right on his Cupid’s bow. He seemed to be deliberating, scrambling his thoughts to find the right thing to say. At first I thought he was going to tell me he thought I was a liar, a withholder or even a fraud. Instead, however, he asked me questions then told me truths.
“You asked the doctor if he ran a blood test, correct?”
I furrowed my brows. “Yes.”
“And he denied the fact he ran a blood test, correct?” I wondered briefly if Roth had ever had a normal conversation with anyone where it didn’t sound like he was interrogating them. Even though he was asking me about someone else, it was as if I was answering a questionnaire about myself.
“Edie, the doctor lied to you,” I felt myself blanche. “You were awake briefly upon arriving at the hospital. The doctor asked you questions regarding your wellbeing, as well as if there were any sexual acts you willingly or unwillingly participated in. You denied engaging in any intercourse, but the doctor wasn’t content. Under your consent, a SANE was brought in to swab you for any DNA evidence.”
My heart was racing like a stallion. I didn’t remember any of this. “Did the results come in yet?”
“No, you should be getting a call in two to five business days with the results,” he gave me a suspicious look. “They also took blood from you, and they should be calling you tomorrow to let you know of any health concerns or abnormalities. You ensured hospital staff that everything was alright, but they figured they’d run tests to ensure you weren’t lying.”
“Did I speak to anyone about what happened when I was awake? I don’t remember anything...I don’t remember them running tests and I don’t remember talking to them.” And I didn’t. I tried to rummage through everything in my head, but everything was blurry up until I woke up the last time.
“You spoke enough to the doctor. It was under my demands he never mention anything to you when you woke up because I was concerned it would interfere with your statement to me in case you failed to remember everything you said. If you only remembered fragments you could repeat to me what you remembered and leave out what you didn’t, and if you remembered nothing you could claim amnesia and not give me a scrap of information.”
I pursed my lips. “You were worried that I wasn’t going to tell you the truth—that I was going to withhold information.”
He took off his trench coat and slung it over one arm, before grabbing my bicep with his large hand. I gave him a funny look as he pulled us to our feet, leaving his coffee behind. I barely managed to throw my empty styrofoam cup into the garbage as he pulled me out of the vacant waiting room.
We passed reception and Roth thanked the receptionist for allowing us to carry out the questioning in the waiting room. The automatic doors hissed open, and for a moment I was brought back to the sound of the vents hissing the day that Zacharias first waltzed into my life. I hated how ordinary things that I never paid any mind to before suddenly became so symbolic to me.
The morning air was cool and sticky, and my skin tingled as the humidity settled onto me. The pavement was still wet from the rainfall from the night before, and I could smell the maple trees bordering the hospital. It nearly brought me back to a forest setting, even as I stayed surrounded by concrete. I never thought I’d miss the concrete jungle.
“Three...two...” Roth started to countdown, like a smart system ready to self-destruct. I gave him a terrified glance as I looked from my feet up at him.
And then shouting ensued. Caught off guard, my eyes darted forward as a sea of people started to run towards us. My feet, suddenly as heavy as lead, rooted my body into place as I faced down the press that charged at us. Everyone held either a camera, a microphone, or a clipboard. Everyone, also, looked sophisticated, as if they were all broadcasters. So this was the press.
Everyone started to yell at us, and the cacophony of loud voices was enough to send darts of pain through my skull. I closed my eyes as I ducked my head and massaged my temples. I should’ve ran, both away from them and Roth, but I was absolutely frozen in place. This place was so hectic and spastic, completely different from the stillness and quietude of the cabin.
Then, suddenly, my vision was completely obstructed and I couldn’t stop myself from letting out a small shriek of surprise. Instantly, I could smell the cologne that was spritzed onto the trench coat that shielded me like a blanket. I was grateful for it and gripped the hem as I sheltered myself with it more, hoping I’d wilt away.
Roth wrapped a sturdy arm around my shoulder and started pulling me away from the scene, moving fast enough where my little legs struggled to keep up with him. The crowd still followed, even as I heard security threatening to call the police, and their voices all rung in my ears. I felt my anxiety spike through the roof.
A couple times a microphone hit me in the face, and I heard Roth getting upset with whoever was guilty of carrying said microphones. It felt like we ran for miles and miles until Roth let go of me and shoved me into a car, keeping his hand on my head so I wouldn’t clack it as I scrambled to get inside. He got into the drivers side moments later.
I could hear the press banging on the windows, still shouting questions that I had no desire to answer. Roth screamed a string of curses at them as he started the car, reversed, and screeched off out of the parking lot. I hadn’t even put my seatbelt on yet, so I had to rely on the holy-shit handle to keep me somewhat stable.
Once the driving went from abrupt and bumpy to smooth and calm, Roth told me I could “come out from hiding. They’re gone now. And put on your goddamn seatbelt. I don’t need a photo radar because you forgot to strap yourself in.”
I rolled my eyes underneath the fabric so he couldn’t see it. I was beyond grateful for him swooping in and getting my ass out of there, but I didn’t like the way he spoke to me like I was an incompetent child. Still, however, I draped his coat across my lap and strapped myself in. “Where do you want your coat?”
“Just throw it in the back,” he said, and I did so without arguments. “Would you like to stop at Timmy’s for a coffee? It’s on me.”
I shook my head, mostly to myself. “No, thank you. Also, thank you for what you did back there...and sorry that I went full damsel on you.”
I looked over at him as a thoughtful frown appeared on his face. Again, I noted my strange attraction to him. I shouldn’t have been attracted to him, but I couldn’t help myself. He wasn’t surfer-blond, and he wasn’t on the opposite end of the spectrum like raven-haired Zacharias. He fell almost directly in the middle which made him seem, if anything, exciting.
“No need to apologize. I imagine it must be a culture shock. You said you were isolated, so I imagine all of this human contact is overwhelming to put it mildly,” I huffed my agreement. “If it makes you feel any better, you’re not the first woman I’ve rescued from the press.”
Woman, not girl.
“Yes, that makes me feel a little better,” I told him honestly. “I always thought they were depicted so dramatically and stereotypically in the movies, but nope. Hollywood has it mastered.”
“Hollywood better. If the press is rampant anywhere, it’s there,” I watched as he licked his thin lips. He looked over at me briefly, and I ducked away in shame. He didn’t address my staring, however. “The press leaches onto celebrities. Now you’ve got your first taste as to what it’s like to be a celebrity. How do you like it?”
I thought for a moment, then leant back in my seat. I looked out of the window and stared up at the sky, watching as cotton-candy clouds drifted past us. “I don’t like it. I liked it better when I was virtually unknown. I like the quiet...I like peace.”
“You’re going to be the buzz around town for a while. Given that both your kidnapping and your return has been the most exciting thing to happen in years, your presence will be spotlighted. You’ve made national news. Do you understand the severity of this case?”
“Yes,” I rubbed my hands down my face, before lacing them in my lap. “I’ve had a lot taken from me these past twenty-four days—hell, I was taken. But the biggest thing he took from me was my peace. I liked being in the background, now I’m just a showcase.”
“It won’t last forever,” Roth told me gently. “Once the press stops hounding you everything will return to normal, and eventually things will start falling back into place. I know you must feel stripped of your normality, but just give it time.”
Time...I felt like I no longer had a sense of time. While I was locked in Zacharias’ bedroom time seemed to just become an illusion. Time relied on sunset and sunrise, but it was never anything specific or concrete. Now, I feared I’d be glued to the clock just so I wouldn’t lose my sense of time again. I feared that if I gave myself the gift of time, I’d take it for granted.
I had taken so much for granted before. I had taken my bed for granted, my car, my independence...and Roth said it best; I had been stripped of it, of my normality. I didn’t know if I could ever fall back into a routine again, or if I’d ever stop constantly looking over my shoulder when I was alone. I wondered if I’d ever turn the lights in my house off. I wondered if I’d always view the darkness brought in by the night as malevolent.
“But, we can’t avoid our previous conversation forever,” Roth said, but by the way he said it I configured he wasn’t too happy with having to bring it up. “Yes, I was worried that you were going to withhold information. Victims, witnesses, and the guilty do it all the time. Sometimes information is all you have.”
“But there was evidence,” I said to him, still lost in the frothy clouds high in the sky. “Wasn’t there? There was evidence in my home.”
There was a long pause from Roth, and I just noticed how there wasn’t any music playing from the radio. I could hear vehicles whizzing past us, however, but I blocked the sounds out. “Yes, Edie, there was evidence. There was a broken mirror in the upstairs bathroom, there was a half emptied shampoo bottle, there was shampoo smeared across the bathroom, there a lamp in the middle of the upstairs hallway, and there was a broken clay pot at the bottom of your stairs landing. But there was no DNA evidence.”
Again, I felt myself blanche. I distinctly remembered the clay shard I had stabbed into Zacharias’ arm, and I remembered him taking it out of his arm and throwing it across the living room. I remembered the blood that soaked the shard, so there must’ve been blood splatter along the floor or something. Had Zacharias taken the time to somewhat clean the scene?
“Out of everything there was no DNA evidence? Not even a hair or a flake of skin?” I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that Zacharias had been so thorough.
"Should there have been DNA evidence?” Roth asked, turning the tables.
“Well, I’d like to think so...but I suppose not. He was covered from head to toe in black but...wow. I shed hair like a dog, so maybe that’s why I’m so surprised.”
“There have been killers that removed themselves of all body hair including eyelashes and nostril hairs, and there have also been killers that cut off their fingertips so they had no fingerprints. I have to say I put this Zack guy or whatever his name is up there with them. He had to have some tricks up his sleeve.”
Oh, if only he knew.
“But you, I think you have some tricks up your sleeve too, Edie. I must confess, I think you know more than you lead on,” I stopped looking at the clouds, then looked over at him. He didn’t break his focus from looking forward, so I figured he had been planning to say this to me as soon as the interrogation was over. “You understand that withholding information is a federal crime, correct?”
“Yes, I’m aware,” I licked my lips that suddenly seemed to go dry. “Why do you think I’m withholding information? Did I give the doctor a different statement? I don’t remember that situation—”
“I have yet to compare the two statements, but to answer your question...you just have that look in your eyes,” he looked over, met my eyes for a second, then looked back through the windshield. “You have secrets in your eyes. I know there’s more to your story.”
We hit a red light, and I remembered groaning in annoyance when I drove this road and got caught at these lights. These lights would stay red for three minutes, sometimes longer depending on how heavy the traffic was. Sometimes I’d be able to listen to a song the whole way through and I’d still be sitting. Now, I was tempted to throw myself from the vehicle.
“I have secrets in my eyes?” I grew a little too defensive as I asked him this. “What does that mean? Is the truth written on my forehead, Detective? Would you like a closer look?”
“Edie, calm down. I never said you are withholding information, I just said I think you are—which, I do. And the fact that you’re growing defensive is only adding to my suspicion. I think you do have secrets in your eyes, and if I looked closely enough at your forehead I could discover some more truth,” he mocked me there. “But I have no evidence to backup my claims. I do doubt a lot of what you told me, but I don’t yet think that you’re a liar.”
The light was still red as I looked out of the window. A car full of teenage girls pulled up beside us, and as soon as I looked over at them they rolled down their windows, whipped out their cellphones and started to take pictures of me. I was absolutely mortified as I heard them shouting their disbelief amongst one another that they were actually seeing me in person. I heard one girl refer to me as someone who could star in a sequel to The Revenant.
I had to look away. It was all too much to take in at once. Not even the clouds could serve to distract me this time.
“What have I said that gives you the impression I’m not being fully truthful with you? It doesn’t matter which angle you look at it from. Even if I had fibbed a little of the story, I’d still be a liar.” And a rightfully labelled one, too.
“I suppose you have me there. But, Edie, understand this. I envision a liar as someone who lies to protect them-self, I view someone as dishonest when they’re protecting someone else. I don’t think you’re a liar, Edie, because you are not protecting yourself—you are protecting the person you couldn’t protect yourself from. And that, Edie, is your biggest crime.”
I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him until the light was green again and the car started to move. I listened as the girls drove past us, still shouting things both to me and about me. I wished the world had a mute button, because I never understood just how welcoming the silence could be.
“Why would I protect him? What makes you think I would protect him?” I asked defensively, then started staring at the clouds again. I’d just have to ignore the girls, I supposed.
Not for long, though. They branched off somewhere.
“Your answers to me were vague, Edie. I don’t doubt that you were unaware to a lot that took place out wherever you were, but I don’t think you’re oblivious. I believe you had no knowledge of where he took you, but I don’t buy for a second that he never revealed his identity to you. Twenty-four days and he wore nothing but a mask? Seems fishy to me, but I could be wrong. I’ve dealt with stranger things.
“And I think you’re protecting him because you feel something for him. I can tell by your face right now that you’re in denial; you’re trying to convey loathing, repulsion, hatred and absolute disgust, but you’re failing. It’s all fake, artificial. You’re like a bad actress in a good movie—you can manage to sell the plot, somewhat, but you can’t sell yourself.
“I think that deep down beneath it all, you grew to care for him. Even in your statement you never spoke ill of him—never portrayed him as some sort of beast or villain. In fact, if he hadn’t committed a crime against you, I’d think he was a real stand-up guy, wouldn’t you? My, he seems just peachy.”
If only he knew the real reason I was protecting Zack.
What the fuck was I supposed to tell him? Oh yeah, since you want the truth, I was actually kidnapped by a werewolf. Oh yeah, I tried to escape about a million times and blew each chance. Oh yeah, I witnessed Zack turn into a wolf and nearly chew that missing cops head clean off.
No matter which way I looked at it, I couldn’t sell the detective an accurate representation of what took place without mentioning that Zack was someone who had supernatural abilities. If I were to describe what actually took place it would seem unbelievable if I failed to mention Zack was, in fact, a werewolf. Either way I looked at it, I needed to depict something completely inaccurate or else the next stop Roth made would be at a sanitarium.
And I had just been released from one by the grace of James. I’d rather be considered a liar than a crazy. At least being a liar couldn’t quite be proved...if I started talking about werewolves than I could easily be proved as crazy. I did, admittedly, care for Zacharias...but if he was just a normal human being, I knew I wouldn’t care about him enough to protect him.
But apparently I did, though, because my statements about him were still ambiguous enough to never lead a trail to him. My statements ensured he’d never spend a second behind bars. Maybe I did care about him...maybe I was in denial.
But I still had to keep up my I-swear-I’m-telling-the-truth act. “You’re mocking me. How could I grow to care for someone who never revealed them-self to me, someone who kept me tied to a bed for most hours of the day?”
“Because clearly you never went malnourished. You walked out of that place with your pretty face intact and meat still on your bones. Clearly he was never hostile to you. You must’ve thought that because he never starved you that he cared for you, and because you thought he cared for you, you started to care about him too. And that, Edie, is Stockholm Syndrome. But I can guarantee you that whoever the fuck kidnapped you never gave a shit about you and he never will, so you should stop protecting him and give me the truth.”
His voice was even the whole time. He was patronizing me. Truth was, there was some truth to his words—a psychology in them that made sense to me and explained a few things. Yes, there was the bond that we shared, but it had subtle effects on me. Nearly everything I felt was constructed by myself psychologically. My only criticism was that Zacharias had cared about me...he loved me.
I faked a frog in my throat. “I’m telling you the truth. No matter what you say to me, nothing will change the fact I told you all I knew.”
We pulled up in front of my house, and I knew I couldn’t drop my act just because we had entered my territory. As far as Roth knew, I was waging an internal battle and his words were hitting soft spots that rang true in my head. He thought he was really chipping away at my vulnerable exterior, and that at any moment I’d spew out verbal diarrhea and tell him what he wanted to hear—that I hadn’t been completely truthful. He would be waiting a real long time for that moment, let me tell you.
Angrily, I threw off my seatbelt and opened the door just as angrily as I stuck one leg outside. Before I removed myself from the vehicle completely, however, Roth grabbed my bicep with the same grip he had at the hospital. I looked back at him, met his electric blue eyes. “Edie, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
The perfect lines to leave me with.
“I think I’ll hold my peace.”
The perfect lines to leave him with as I removed myself from his vehicle, closed the door behind me, walked past my rickety car, and started to walk up my pathway.