My mother stands firmly in place, no trace of a smile on her face.
“We have a few questions to ask you regarding Mr. Parr,” she answers me in an emotionless tone of voice.
I know how this works. I know that they’re here to interrogate me.
I frown and mentally roll my eyes at her before correcting her with a sneer. “Oh, you mean, Bryan? The boy you watched grow up, Bryan? Our family, Bryan? That Mr. Parr?
“You know him better than any of us,” she responds coldly, unaffected by my words.
“Start the interrogation already,” I gesture to her to proceed.
“We just want you to answer truthfully,” she replies, not denying it. “That’s all.”
I open my door wider and allow the three of them in. “Thanks for acting like I have a choice. It makes me feel less pathetic.”
My mother brushes past me wordlessly. Her team is just as aloof and unfriendly as she is.
“Hello to all of you too,” I say aloud, sarcastic.
My mother ignores my sarcasm and addresses her team, “I’ll be with you now. Make yourselves comfortable. I just need to have a quick word with my kid." To my astonishment, my mother pulls me aside and lowers her voice, “Let me give it to you straight, Mary, if Bryan’s convicted at his trial for the murder of Liz Montgomery, he’ll either be sentenced to thirty-five years to life or life without parole.”
Her words reverberate through me, the atmosphere suddenly growing palpable. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because my hands are tied,” she admits. “Everything is pointing to him. But you know him so well; you may see things that I can’t see or know things that I don’t, things that may save him from a life in prison. You don’t have much time before his trial. You don’t have much time to prove me and the entire law enforcement agency wrong.”
Since when did this become my job?
I arch an eyebrow at her, unable to fathom what I’m hearing. “What are you saying?”
She clears her throat. “I’m saying that I’ve never wanted to be wrong as much as I do now. This is cut-throat work. You’ve got a couple of days, maybe more.”
I follow my mother back to the other cops, my mind wandering. I can’t stop thinking. I can’t stop thinking about everything.
There’s a reason I decided not to follow in Anne’s footsteps and become a detective. I can’t do it. It requires too much out of a person. I’ve seen how the cases affected my mother over the years but if I’m Bryan’s last shot at freedom then I have to find something worthy of proving his innocence; I’ll have to find the real killer.
Anne’s voice pulls me from my thoughts. “Did you hear what Davies said?”
I glance over at the detective sitting beside my mother and apologize. “Sorry. What were you saying?”
“Was Mr. Parr acting any differently a few days before the murder? Did you notice any major or even minor behavioral changes?” he repeats himself.
I shake my head. “No. He was behaving normally. Nothing out of the blue.”
Davies arches an eyebrow at me, skeptical. “This is not meant to be an interrogation. We just need some answers and we’d appreciate an open mind. I know this is difficult on you but please try to remain impartial as you answer each question.”
I sigh heavily and decide to take a direct approach with him. “I’m telling you the truth, if that’s what you’re getting at? Bryan didn’t do it so why would he behave any different?”
“You’re failing to be impartial, Mary,” Anne points out.
“The purpose of this specific question is to determine whether the murder was premeditated or a crime of passion that took place in the moment,” Davies informs me. “Like an impulse killer.”
I shrug carelessly. “I don’t know. You’d have to find the killer and ask him or her.”
Davies watches me with a cool stare, analyzing me. “Perhaps you’re not aware of the details?”
I’d prefer not to know them.
He tells me them anyway. “Liz Montgomery was brutally stabbed to death. When we got there…” Davies falters as if lost in a reoccurring memory, one that seems to have had a haunting impact on him. “It was a bloodbath. The nature of this crime was carried out in a barbaric way. I can’t even begin to tell you…”
“Yes,” Anne agrees, “it was vile. Only a sadistic monster could be capable of hurting someone like that. We need you to take the accusations against Bryan seriously.”
Shaken up, I recoil and close my eyes, trying to erase the gruesome images flipping through my mind. I press your nails into the palm of my hand in an attempt to control my thoughts.
“Maybe knowing the whole story will help you to see something that we’re not seeing…or help you to see something that we are seeing,” Davies tells me.
In other words, he wants me to see Bryan in the light they do – a ruthless killer.
I blink at him and stare blankly, wiping all emotion off of my face. I will not be easily influenced. “Go on.”
“Liz Montgomery’s body was only discovered the next morning by her mother,” Davies starts, trying to break me. “She wasn’t answering any of mother’s calls, nor her friends’. She didn’t pitch for work. Everyone was beginning to grow concerned.”
“The last time anyone saw her was at the party. The last person she was seen with was Bryan Parr. Thus, it’s suspected that she’d been murdered in the early hours of the morning. We’re still waiting for the exact time of death,” Anne takes over, allowing Davies to get it together again. “Her mother found her in the kitchen. She was lying face-down, covered in blood. There was blood splatter on the walls and up to eight bloodstained knives were found in and around the body.”
I inhale sharply in a futile attempt to control my rushed breathing. “Why was more than one knife used?”
Anne glances from Davies and Wilson to me before nodding at Davies, giving him permission to answer.
“Because some of the handles of the knives had broken off. Whoever did it, plunged the knives so deep into bone that they couldn’t pull the knife out again. When they tried, the handles broke off,” Davies reluctantly answers me.
My mouth goes dry. I slowly swallow, speechless. All I can do is gulp down my fear and hear them out.
“It seems Liz was stabbed, roughly, over 400 times, with at least 150 wounds being inflicted on the face and head. The official autopsy is still in progress but that’s what has been surmised at first glance,” Davies goes on. “Her face was so badly mutilated that she had to be identified by dental records.”
I notice Davies’ hands begin to shake. Wilson must notice too because he suddenly finds his voice. “Her mother is understandably grief-stricken and devastated. She had to see her daughter butchered like that.”
I put a hand over my mouth, stunned, and choke back tears. It’s extremely hard to hear. I knew that she’d been stabbed but I never knew just how ferocious the attack was. The gravity of the way Liz went hits me hard.
“You can now understand why her family is so traumatized and desperate for justice. Their daughter, no doubt, suffered horribly,” Wilson adds.
The more I hear, the more I’m convinced that Bryan is innocent. He would never do anything as horrendous as this to anyone, especially not to someone he cared about.
“Ms. Montgomery suffered multiple stab and puncture wounds. The attack was frenzied and repeated. Not only that, furniture, among other items, were stabbed and destroyed, racking up the numbers in property damage,” Wilson says in a very matter-of-fact way, refusing to show his attachment to the case. “That kind of behavior shows a loss of control. It’s as if the person went into a manic rage. Something must have sparked a volcanic eruption like that. It’s unlikely that it came from nowhere. Whoever did this, it was personal for them.”
I feel light-headed and queasy. I feel like I’m going to collapse into a ball on the ground within the next second or two. “W-was she still alive?” I find myself asking him.
Wilson shakes his head. “When her mother found her, she was already dead. But pathologists reckon many of the wounds were inflicted while she was still alive. It seems it was a prolonged and senseless attack. Nothing has been officially declared yet but they are of the opinion that she lay bleeding out, alone, for at least an hour. At this point, the attacker must have fled.”
“It was savage violence,” Anne intercepts the conversation. “The wounds were inflicted with force and deliberate thrashing motions. Some of the stab wounds penetrated her lungs and heart. Defensive injuries were also found on her hands and arms.”
“Then…she was begging for the attacker to stop?” I ask as if seeing it through Liz’s eyes. “Hands raised?”
“That’s the image that comes to mind, yes, when looking at the wounds,” Davies nods. “She was also stabbed through the eye-socket and into the underlining brain. He or she wanted to blind her and stop her from crawling away from the onslaught. Forensic analysts are certain that blood clots will show that she moved around the room for a bit, trying her best to escape.”
“We couldn’t permit the family to see her after her mother found her,” Wilson informs me calmly. “People on the force have tried to reconstruct her face for identification but have failed. It would be too traumatic for the family to see her like that now. It’s not the way they’d want to remember her.”
I’m on the verge of hyperventilating, wishing I could rewind time and erase everything I just heard. Unsteady on my feet, I feel like I’m about to vomit and pass out. My breathing becomes labored and I have to force myself to not get trapped in the horrific details.
Bryan didn’t do this. Bryan didn’t do this.
“The attacker, if not Byan, is still out there, and we’re not sure if he or she will strike again. That’s why it’s imperative that we find whoever did this. They’re out of control and that makes them even more dangerous,” Wilson concludes.
Unable to speak, I nod meekly.