Chapter 30: Interrogation
Useless hated sitting at home all day.
When he was a kid, he would stay home with his mother when she was sick, and his father would call him by his first name. After his mother died, he hadn’t known what to do with himself, so instead of sitting at home ‘being himself’ all day, he went out and got a job, like his father told him to.
His mother had tried telling him that he wasn’t actually Useless, and if she could she would have changed it… but he knew how his father was, and she wouldn’t let anything happen to him while she was around…
He had already cleaned his apartment. It was a small place so it hadn’t taken him very long. He had paid his bills on the ad-screen by the door, and that had only taken a few seconds of his time. He had cooked himself some noodles and red sauce for lunch and had eaten as much as he could before packing the rest up and putting it in his fridge. That had taken maybe an hour and he was taking his time.
Useless had been surprised when Mr. Jones told him to go home and take a few days off. The words had been slaps to his face, but that wasn’t something he was unfamiliar with.
In hindsight, Useless guessed Mr. Jones was just trying to be nice to him, and yelling was all he knew how to do. Mother used to say that people usually ended up doing the things they were taught when they were kids by their parents.
Useless sighed as he cleaned his kitchen counters for the third time. He hoped he hadn’t become his father. He couldn’t even think about being so angry all the time, and not loving a woman like his mother.
His mother had told him about how she met his father. They had both gone to the same movie, and he had asked her on a date. It had been nice, and Father had introduced her to his parents, and she said they were very controlling, but they seemed to like her alot. Useless’s mother had grown up in a child’s home, so she had no parents to speak of.
Useless’ mother had become pregnant with him while they were seeing each other. His father’s parents had demanded that they get married and everything was wonderful until mother got sick. She had been so out of sorts that she had been in intensive care as he was being named, and as a slight to his parents, Father had named him Useless.
Before anything could be done about it, the name was already processed. The hospital system is very efficient, and thoughts of changing it would have cost a substantial fee.
Mother was crushed when she came out of it, but thankfully father had enough kindness left in his heart to give him a middle name that wasn’t all that horrible.
When mother started getting really ill, Useless was very young. He had been upset about being made fun of at school, and she told him that he should just let people think that he’s useless, because when he shows them he isn’t they’ll be blown away.
Useless had spent all of his time with his mother in her last years. Mother had come up with an idea that Useless really liked about his name. She had said that he should save his middle name for people he really liked and who really liked him so that they could have something special to know each other by.
His mother had been a really great lady. Father was always angry and rarely home, and couldn’t deal with his mother’s illness. Useless’ grandparents saw him very infrequently, but always sent cards at holidays with money that his father usually took from him. Eventually, they both died and Father got worse and then he drank himself into a stupor and got hit by a bus.
Useless had left the house by then. Mother was already dead and his father didn’t need him.
The kitchen counters were clean again and Useless sighed.
He was about to start scrubbing out his fridge when his buzzer for the front door went off.
Useless buzzed them in, assuming it was his neighbors forgetting their key again. It was about that time of day, and whenever he was home about now they usually went through the whole list until someone let them in.
Useless didn’t mind.
A minute later he was surprised to hear a knock at his door. Useless, thinking nothing of getting a knock (maybe Mrs. Johansson needed help with her groceries again?) went right to the door and opened it up.
“Hello, Useless.” Giselle smiled up at him, leaning a hip on his door frame with her arms crossed under her chest. “We have to have a chat. Can I come in?”
Without waiting for his response, she slid into his apartment, right under his arm. Useless blinked into the hallway.
“I’m over here now, big guy.” Giselle taunted.
Useless furrowed his brow and tried to tell himself not to get upset. This was sort of like his boss, he should be nice. He turned and shut the door behind him, seeing her take a seat on his couch like she owned the place. She crossed her long legs and threw her arms up along the back of the couch, tossing her hair behind her shoulder.
“Uh… do you want something to drink?” Useless asked, gesturing helplessly at the fridge.
Giselle cocked her head to the side, licking her bottom lip. “That is the most I have every heard you say in one sitting. Did you practice that?”
She snickered as Useless opened the fridge and took out a bottle of water.
“I’ll have one of those too, Useless.”
Useless grabbed a second one and crossed over to his arm chair, taking a seat to face his guest. He reached over to hand her the bottle, and she leaned forward to take it, brushing her fingers against his.
A shiver went up his spine. She smiled at him.
“Thanks, handsome.” Giselle winked at him.
A minute went by as she opened her water and took a nice long sip. Useless fiddled with his bottle as he watched her.
She was very pretty; he could see why Mr. Jones liked her so much. He really liked her hair – not a lot of girls in Cellar City grew their hair as long as she did. When it was all down, it went all the way down to her butt. The color was nice too, very vibrant for Cellar City. A few times, Useless thought that maybe she was from Mid-level. She was a free-lancer, Mr. Jones said, and no one seemed to know where she came from, so it was possible he supposed.
Giselle let out a satisfied moan and capped her bottle, placing it on the coffee table in front of her.
Useless waited a second before he took a coaster from the square holder in the center of the table to put under her bottle.
He avoided her eyes. Her smile made the little hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
“Don’t you want to know why I’m here, Useless?” Giselle twirled a lock of her hair between her fingers. Her eyes were narrowed at him now.
Useless shrugged. “Something about work?” He continued to fiddle with his bottle, unopened in his lap. He hoped he hadn’t lost his job. It was the best paying one he ever had. It didn’t have any benefits, but that just meant that Useless had to be careful. His mother always told him to be careful, so he didn’t see why he would need benefits anyway.
Besides, doctors in Cellar City were awful.
“You could say that.” Giselle shrugged. “Mr. Jones wanted me to ask you some questions.” She giggled.
“Like an interview?” Useless offered. He hoped it was; he had been told that he interviewed well.
“Sure.” Giselle draped her arms up onto the back of the sofa again and made herself comfortable. “I need to talk to you about Crank and the other night.”
Useless looked down at his bottle. He was starting to worry the label off of it.
Crank still haunted his dreams. He had lived in Cellar City all his life; he had seen a body here or there, a mugging once or twice, but so had everyone else down here. Crank hadn’t been some ordinary crime though, and Useless hadn’t seen that much blood since his father got hit by a bus.
Well, in fact he hadn’t even seen that much blood then, either.
“You saw the man who killed everyone. Shot him you said.” Giselle’s eyes never left his face.
Useless felt uneasy with her intensity. For some reason, he felt like if he sniffled or coughed she would just start laughing at him. She had a perpetual half-grin on her face. It reminded him of his father, how angry he had always been and how he used to smile when he did something cruel.
“Where did you shoot him?”
Useless indicated his side where he remembered shooting the man in the black coat.
“Then what happened?”
Useless took a slow breath. “The man in the black coat fell down on top of… George. I think it was George. Eddie told me to shoot him again. I was looking at Eddie when the man in the black coat took George’s gun and shot Eddie.”
Useless dredged up the memory again. He had been asked the same questions that night by Mr. Jones’ other men, but they hadn’t seemed to care.
They never really cared.
“The man in the black coat looked like he was going to shoot me, then something hit me in the back of the head –“
Useless nodded. “Yeah. Twice in the back of the head, and then I was out.”
“Are you going to drink it or just play with it all night?”
Useless looked at her confused. What did she mean by that? Drink what?
Giselle’s lips twitched within the confines of her smile and he jerked her chin towards his lap.
Useless felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment as he opened his bottle and hastily took a long gulp.
Giselle laughed lightly, watching him, still watching him.
“Do I make you nervous, Useless?”
“Yes ma’am.” Useless mumbled.
Giselle looked startled, a hand going to her chest. “Ma’am? What am I, your mother? Christ, Useless.” She leaned forward, smile returning to her face. “Please, call me Giselle.”
Useless blinked, but nodded emphatically at his request. She was kind of his boss, he had to listen to her. Useless balked at the idea that she compared herself to his mother, though. She couldn’t be more different.
Useless’ mother had been nice.
“Now. The night before last.” Giselle leaned back into his couch, swiping up the water bottle again.
Useless flinched. Another night he didn’t like to think about. Too much of it confused and frightened him. He wouldn’t admit it, but he found himself sleeping with his living room light on more often nowadays. Last night especially.
“Where were you when the shooting started?”
Useless shifted his weight. He wasn’t thick enough not to realize how strange it had been that he was in the bathroom both times the shooting started. “The bathroom.”
“Did you go out to help?”
“Mr. Jones came into the bathroom before I could leave.”
“Then what happened?”
Useless took a sip of his water to organize his thoughts. “Mr. Jones wanted me to get him out of there. So he told me to help him up into the vent by the stall on the end. I pushed him the rest of the way up, and then I put the cover back on.”
Giselle watched him for a minute, and Useless found himself fiddling with the bottle again. It was a long minute before he took another sip.
“Who named you Useless?”
Useless didn’t know why this was important but he answered anyway. “My father did.”
“Do you like it?”
“It’s okay.” He shrugged, frowning down at the bottle in his lap.
“What happened next?”
Useless looked up at her and furrowed his brow. He didn’t know why she kept asking weird questions. Maybe she would explain afterward.
“After Mr. Jones went into the vent and you closed it up.”
Useless picked at the label, starting to take pieces off and collect them on his knee. “I watched him go down the vent.”
Useless did everything he could not to look over at her. He could feel her eyes on him, and he was starting to run out of label as the silence started to stretch onward.
“What happened next, Useless?”
Useless chewed his bottom lip. No one else had bothered to ask him about the rest of it. He suffered a few jabs about him still being alive, and why wasn’t he dead yet? Everyone thought he was stupid, and most of the times it meant people didn’t ask him a lot of questions.
“Then… then the police came…” He struggled.
Giselle let out a surprised giggle, and daintily held up one hand to cover her mouth. When she spoke though, it didn’t sound at all like a dainty little girl. It sounded more like a venomous snake.
“There’s something you haven’t told anyone else, isn’t there?”
Useless couldn’t help it. She was so small, but her eyes were weighing him down, and he was so uncomfortable under their pressure that he just nodded.
“Aww, come on big guy, you can trust me.” She leaned forward and put a hand on his knee.
Useless jumped, the bits of label scattering to the floor and his bottle bouncing under his chair.
Useless looked over at Giselle, eyes wide with surprise. He started to bend and pick up his bottle, but she had moved into his way. In a moment she was kneeling in front of him, and he almost bonked heads with her.
“Let me get that.” Giselle breathed.
Useless felt a twisting knot of fear in his stomach, but he nodded dumbly, eyes wide. He was frozen in place and he felt his big heart pumping for all it was worth. Giselle snaked one arm under his chair, lowering herself so that he got a perfect show down her shirt, while letting her face hover over his lap.
Useless gripped the arms of his chair until his knuckles were white. A cold sweat started forming on his neck and hands, and all he wanted to do was get up and run. He had the most real fear that Giselle could eat him alive, and if he didn’t get away he would be dead.
Useless didn’t want to die.
As she reached for the bottle, Giselle murmured, “What happened in the bathroom, Useless? Did you see him?”
Useless found himself nodding, too terrified not to.
“The man in the black coat?”
Useless nodded again, squeezing his eyes shut. He could still feel her there, so it didn’t help.
“What happened, Useless?”
Useless swallowed, finding it hard to speak.
He suddenly felt her cheek on his thigh and he jumped in his skin, a short startled whimper escaping his throat. He could feel her chuckle near his groin, and heat rushed up into his face.
Don’t move, just don’t move and she will go away.
“What happened, Useless?”
“Th-the guy was g-going to shoot me. H-he recognized me f-from Crank.” Useless stammered.
Useless felt her other hand start to snake up his shin. It was like a bucket of ice was dumped down his spine. He whimpered again and squeezed his eyes shut tighter.
“Why didn’t he shoot you?”
Useless gulped back another terrified sound. “A girl. A girl came in and stopped him.”
“What girl?” Giselle urged.
Useless pictured the dark haired girl in his head. She had saved his life. She was kind. She was pretty, not like Giselle, a different kind of pretty. And she had a pretty name.
“L-lenora. Her name was Lenora. I…I met her at th-the bar b-before it happened.”
“Tell me more, Useless.” Giselle warned, the venom oozing from her mouth and tracing a path up his leg with her hand. Her hand was moving quickly towards his groin.
Useless felt like the fear was going to make his heart explode. “D-dark hair, black… l-little, and…and g-green eyes and she w-was n-nice…”
Useless felt the words starting to become uncontrolled, tumbling from his mouth with every stammer.
And then, it was over. Giselle leaned back and dropped the bottle of water on his lap and then got to her feet, slender hands dusting off her knees.
“Well now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” She grinned at him.
Useless stared at her bewildered. His mind had gone from fast forward to slow motion. As his eyes searched her face for an explanation, she only laughed at him.
“Don’t be such a baby.” Giselle snapped at him, tossing her hair. She licked her lips, the cruel smile giving the gesture a snake-like façade. “Next time I’ll finish the job if you want me to.”
Useless looked down at the bottle in his lap, refusing to answer. He picked at the bits of glue that remained.
“Suit yourself.” Giselle sighed, and he could hear her go towards his door. “Thanks for the water, big guy.” She giggled at her private joke, and for some reason Useless felt his cheeks redden.
Useless sat there motionless until he heard the door click lock behind her. Very slowly, Useless got to his feet and started cleaning up the bits of paper label he had gotten all over the floor. When it was vacuumed up, he emptied her water bottle into the sink and tossed the empty into the trash. As an afterthought he vacuumed the sofa and his armchair, and then he cleaned the coffee table off, putting his coaster back into the holder. As a final touch he cleaned off his doorknobs, too.
When he felt like he had erased her presence, he took a hot shower to warm up his bones and get rid of the chill that was clinging to his spine.
As the hot water rained down, Useless cried for his mother, the first time in 18 years.