Chapter 13 - Zoe
I expected the building to look foreboding, intimidating. The North Yorkshire Police Station reminded me of flats or offices. It sat sandwiched between a carpark and streets lined with leafy sycamores. The brickwork matched the surrounding houses, the only difference was the size of the place. It was a big station. Out of the two options in York, we decided on the main, central base. Figured they’d have more manpower. More resources.
Upon walking up to the entrance, I couldn’t shake my nerves.
“Why is it that I feel like I’m the one in trouble?” I queried.
“Police have that effect on people,” Viv responded, calmly. “We have nothing to fear.”
“What do we say when we reach reception?”
This part we hadn’t discussed.
“Let me do the talking.” Viv squeezed my hand briefly, before sauntering headstrong towards the lady behind the desk.
“Can I help you?”The receptionist behind the desk was smiley and approachable. I instantly felt more at ease.
“We need to speak to someone about a couple of old cases. We believe we have important information to share.” Brief, succinct, and to the point. Viv must be badass when conducting interviews.
The lady behind the desk widened her eyes. I guess they don’t get these types of visitors often.“Right. If I could get the names of the cases in question?”
I looked around to see if anyone could overhear.
“Jane Powel. The other female was never identified.”
“And you are?”
“I’m Vivienne Cooper,” she gestured to herself and then over to me, “this is my friend Zoe Murphy.”
The lady scribbled the names on a piece of paper and advised that we take a seat while she found an investigating officer.
We must have waited only five minutes when a short, clean-cut officer approached us, arm outstretched. His hazel eyes darted across from Viv to me.
“I’m DC Wilde. Which one of you is Vivienne and which one is Zoe?”
“I’m Vivienne.” Viv shook DC Wilde’s hand firmly. I noticed the dark hairs on the back of his palm.
“And I’m Zoe,” I responded with my hand loosely enclosed within DC Wilde’s grasp.
“Let’s find a nice, quiet room where we can talk, shall we?”
I felt like a schoolgirl being sentenced to the headmaster’s office as we navigated the long corridors. My hands began to shake uncontrollably by my sides. My legs wanted to buckle underneath me with the weight of our ordeal. I knew it was the adrenaline, my fight or flight responses kicking in. I told myself, I was going to fight.
We stepped into a neutral room with an oval wooden desk and four chairs. There was a clinical smell to the room, reminiscent of polish cleaner. Opposite, sat a female officer with a folder, pen, and paper in front of her. As we came nearer, she stood to greet us.
“My name is DI Jones. I hope you don’t mind me sitting in on this discussion. ”
Viv and I shook our heads in unison.
“Can we get you anything before we start?” She tucked a loose strand of golden hair behind her ear as she spoke. Her frame was slight, but I could tell by the way she held herself that she took no prisoners.
“Water please,” Viv answered.
Did it look bad that I let Viv do all the talking?
DC Wilde left the room and re-entered with two cups of water, fresh from the cooler.“Our receptionist informs us you have information regarding some cold cases. Would it be okay if I record this conversation in case you have anything valuable to offer?”
“Of course, we don’t mind.” Viv didn’t need to check with me. She knew I’d just be happy to get straight to it. My throat felt so parched already. I almost finished the cup of water in a single gulp.
“Before we begin, can you state for the recording your full names and connection with the case?”
After reinstating our names, Viv turned straight to me. This was my cue. All eyes fell upon my face.
“Viv is my best friend, she’s only here for moral support really. I’m here because… I think my father is a… murderer. I have reason to suspect he killed a woman back in 1987, in Howardian Hills… and Jane Powel in 2000.”
As the officers regarded one another, I felt on edge, exposed. A sense of powerlessness radiated across my core. There was something deeper too. Something lying in wait at the pit of my stomach, making me nauseous. Guilt? Fear? The worry of what this admission could set into motion struck every muscle in my body. If I’d have been standing, my body would have surely succumbed and crumpled in a heap on the floor. I took a deep breath and swallowed my anxiety, waiting for their judgement.
“That’s a serious allegation, Zoe. What makes you think your father committed those crimes?” DI Jones seemed to be taking the lead on the questioning. Was it because we were females too?
I reached tentatively inside my bag and pulled out the letter. As I shakily handed it over to DI Jones, she announced what was happening – for the tape.
“My mother wrote me this before she died. Cancer. Nearly two weeks ago.”
I filled them in on where I found it, before outlining the rest of our research. Darting glances flew across the room. Why did no one seem alarmed by the information? It was my world that had been shattered. My sense of reality had been warped. When no one spoke, I unexpectedly slammed my hands on the table, demanding their feedback.
“Don’t you think it looks suspicious that he went missing on the same nights that two women wound up dead? Especially after what my mum wrote?”
This time DC Wilde broke the silence. “It is certainly something we are going to have to look into. However, I need to tell you. These cases have no physical evidence. No witnesses. It is going to be incredibly hard to prove anything. I’ve been in this job a long time, and I don’t want to see either of you get your hopes up.”
“Even with the letter? Isn’t that evidence?”
DI Jones leaned in and held my hands. “If we can prove it is written by your mother it certainly warrants an inquiry, but alone, it doesn’t show culpability.”
I felt shameful then. Was all this for nothing?
“Listen, until we speak to your father, we don’t think it is safe to visit him. If he is dangerous, he could be angry with your statement.”
My eyes flashed at DC Wilde. “You aren’t going to tell him it was me who ratted him in, are you?”
“No, no. We won’t mention you directly, but the evidence of the letter may do the talking for us. We will try and just focus on gathering testimony for his whereabouts on the nights in question, but if he isn’t cooperative, it is the only leverage that we have.”
I bit my lip hard, thinking. What have I done? I want him caught if he is guilty. This is potentially worse. If he isn’t convicted, where does that leave me and my relationship with my father?
My palms were getting incredibly sweaty. Sensing my turmoil, Viv’s soothing hand tapped my thigh.
“She can stay with me for as long as it takes, officers. When will you bring him in?”
“Let us know the address and we will be over there later today.”
As they spoke, I started to feel odd. My brain felt heavy like sludge, and I could sense the colour draining from my face. Visions of my future life with my father flashed through my head. I would be forced to live perpetually in silence, without resolution. Without retribution. I couldn’t let that happen.
“Zoe…Zoe…are you alright?”
All of a sudden, the corners of my vision were blurring. I couldn’t keep a steady rhythm with my breath.
“I… think… I’m… having… a… panic… attack.”
Viv coached me through my breathing, trying to calm me down. “Count, breathe in for 5, breathe out for 5. That’s it, nice and steady. You’re okay.”
DC Wilde and DI Jones comforted me with compliments. “It is so brave of you to speak with us today. No matter what happens, we won’t let anything bad happen to you or your friend.”
Finally, my breathing steadied. I was too embarrassed to look directly at anyone. “Thanks,” was all I could muster.
I managed to sign some documents and let Viv say our farewells. The thought of having to go back to the station for any follow-up questions left a sour taste in my mouth. All I wanted to do was hide under a rock until all of this was all over.