Chapitre Quarante Deux.
Par Jolie Adam
Officer Dawes took a long, reflective breath holding on to the burning hot cup of coffee. It was his third for the evening and he started feeling the effects of the caffeine. He was definitely awake but too alert, to the point where he felt jittery every time there was a noise in the office. The air in the empty water bottle caused it to pop and that little noise almost gave him a heart attack. Ever since his wife left, he’d been having anxiety attacks and all the caffeine did was highlight that weakness. He lowered the cup and looked at his watch. In five minutes, he would enter the interrogation room with an air of authority and calm as the suspect felt exactly how he was currently feeling. On edge, jumpy and panicky, a huge ball of nerves and anxiety, afraid of the next move. He’d been doing this for 12 years now and despite his personal shortcomings, Officer Dawes was great at his job. Maybe too good at it that he couldn’t devote that much energy to being in a committed marriage. He sighed heavily to prevent himself from frowning. He had two minutes to down this coffee and get his shit together.
Lola’s head swooped up when the door open. The room was so cold that her blood was freezing. It was wintertime in this brightly lit room, with no windows, no sign of life. She was seated at a desk, facing the door, waiting for something, someone, thinking of all the alibis she could come up with. Yet when that door opened, she felt her brain power diminish and surrender to fear and guilt.
The officer was neat and young, no older than 35. In different circumstances, she would’ve flirted her way out of this. But she couldn’t be herself, her cold, calculated, dominating self. She had blood on her hands and even after she spent a better part of the night washing herself clean, every time she looked down she saw that limp body in a pool of blood. He sat down; she looked up wishing she could be that calm.
“Miss Marlese, where were you on Saturday night between the hours of 7pm and midnight?”
Officer Dawes observed her posture. Her background check states that her occupation is a model. He typed her name on Google and skimmed through some of her pictures. She was a ridiculously attractive girl with moderate success in her field. Yet looking at her sitting across from him, nothing exuded French supermodel. His subconscious began waving a small red flag.
“Is there anyone to testify that you were indeed at home? Any concrete proof?”
“No.” Lola found his British accent stern and distracting. She looked up at him when he looked down at his files.
“Well, luckily for us, you live in a pretty fancy building with all sorts of security cameras all over the place. We’ve already asked for the tapes so if you weren’t home, we’d be able to see that.”
Lola’s eyes began darting back and forth. Officer Dawes’s conscience began waving the red flag frantically, with tired arms. He looked back at the files, re-reading them as he put his interrogation strategy in effect, letting the silence bring forth the suspect’s burden. Seconds rolled into minutes and she began to sweat amid the low temperature of the room, eyes darting back and forth, pacing in their sockets.
“I was told there was bad blood between you and Ms Allen. Now I’ve heard Mr Bourgeois’ end of the story. Would you like to elaborate on your side?”
“He was with me when he started sleeping with her. Of course, I got mad.”
“Mad enough to get into a fight with her..?”
Lola scoffed. Officer Dawes continued,
“Mad enough to beat her to a pulp and leave her deserted in a dark corner?”
“No.” She swallowed hard after responding, a heavy gulp seizing her throat.
“Ms Marlese, you do understand you are a prime suspect in the attempted murder of Jennifer Allen. If guilty, you are looking at years of prison. You can kiss that modeling career of yours goodbye. So you can either start cooperating or I’m going to be forced to resort to methods I prefer not to use on women.”
Every organ in her body stopped working for about a second, just enough time to digest his subtle threat.
“If it would be easier, do let me know and I can get a translator to facilitate things.” He added when he saw that his previous comment had the exact impact he knew it would. She was guilty. Years on the job and you grew killer instincts. And everything about her confirmed his suspicion however he needed proof. He wanted to book her right then and there, contact the boyfriend and call it a day. He couldn’t keep another cup of coffee down and he’d been up since late Saturday night. A confession was very unlikely at this stage but he knew just which angles to work. With tenure also came good timing, he paused, letting her tortuous guilt ride its waves of languish. Just as a cinema, the scenes from that night began rolling in her mind and he sat, almost guessing along as she remembered it. Just at that moment, they were both brought back into the present by a detective bringing forward some a new piece of evidence. The lean, tan officer nodded to his co-worker before exiting the room. Lola watched him, feeling invisible as he didn’t even attempt to make eye contact. Officer Dawes reviewed the thin stack of papers but stayed on the first page which had all the information he needed to proceed.
“Alright, let’s get to the nitty gritty. Did you or did you not try to kill Miss Allen?” His tone was stable, like a voiceover from a film. Unaffected, professional. Despite his worn out appearance, there was no hint of impatience.
“No.” She was looking at him, trying to vindicate herself.
“Records from the security tape show you leaving your building on Saturday night at 8:15 in the evening and returning a little past midnight.”
“I was at the grocery store to get some things so I could stay home.”
“Right. You stayed home. Four hours is a large gap, a little too much time for just an ice cream run.”
“No, um I had coffee with a friend too.”
“Great, what is the name of your friend? I can have a chat with him or her.” He was now losing his patience. He didn’t want to have to interview anyone else with the deep-rooted certainty he had that the suspect in front of him was guilty.
Lola tried to think of a name but just couldn’t. Her brain short-circuited and she was gasping for air just to come up with any name. Breathless, she felt her tongue weigh heavily in her mouth and her throat close. Before she realized that she was hyperventilating, her vision turned blind to light and she fell faint, slipping off her chair.
Larry was sitting outside Jen’s room. A few hours had passed since the doctor advised him she’d lost the baby and he just needed to be alone. His family had gone home with the exception of Laurent who was still waiting in the lobby. Larry wondered what he was waiting for but deep down, he already knew. He saw his brother’s expression when the doctor mentioned the baby. Lau had no idea about the pregnancy prior to that conversation. He was waiting for answers. Larry rubbed his head in frustration. He wanted to lash out somehow but had to keep it together. A tiny band was playing drums inside his head as it pounded and evolved into a migraine. His day was just getting worse by the minute and he couldn’t believe that a day ago, he was the happiest he’d ever been. His biggest worry was finding the right time to pop the question. He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve such bad luck and misery. Larry had to remind himself to release his jaw as he was unconsciously gritting his teeth together in anger. He had enough anger bottled up to kill an army and it kept building up as he forced himself to stay seated and fight his impulse.
Laurent was in the waiting room, head against the wall, and eyes to the ceiling. This day was hands-down the most drama-filled day of his life. He was scared, nervous, weak, hungry, tired and uncertain. The possibility that Jen had been carrying his child was there and as much as he wanted to know, he also didn’t. What good would it be? The child was dead. He felt bad for himself and for his twin. If he felt this way, Larry must’ve been losing his mind. Everything he’d ever known was being tested, an active epiphany hanging from every corner of his mind. Hospitals were worse than asylums. At least there, they helped the crazies. Hospitals just drove you to insanity. Lau felt dead to the world, watching his soul escape him as he wasted his minutes in the empty waiting room, staring at the white ceiling. Snapping him back into life was his phone, vibrating slightly in his pocket.
“Hey.” A soft voice met him on the other end.
“Hi.” He’d texted Ayara early this morning to apologize for deserting her at the party, stating it was due to a family emergency. She’d texted back letting him know not to worry. She figured something was wrong when his mother asked everyone to leave shortly after. They’d been texting back and forth until the doctor told him the news. He’d forgotten all about his phone until now.
“Is everything okay? Are you alright?”
“Yeah, everything will be okay.”
“How is she?”
“She’ll make it. They said she should come out of the coma tomorrow or after tomorrow.”
“That’s good. I’m sorry that happened. That’s awful. I wish I could help.”
“Thanks.” He was actually glad to hear her voice. It distracted him from his chair-ridden state.
“I miss you. If you need anything, just let me know and I’ll be there in a flash. I know it’s a family thing but I’d like to help.”
“No it’s okay. When are you leaving?” He knew she was heading back to America to record her upcoming album shortly after the weekend that’d just passed.
“Oh, actually. I thought about it and I’m going to stay..”She left the ending of her sentence uncertain, waiting for his reaction.
“You are? What about the album?”
“Well, my label has some studios in Europe they work with so they’re okay with me staying here to record. Maybe I’ll have to go back just for one or two collaborations but the rest I can do from here.”
Lau didn’t add anything else. His mind began wandering off to Jen again.
“Yeah, sorry. That’s cool.” Ayara frowned at his unenthusiastic response. Perhaps she was jumping ahead of things.
“You don’t seem to care.” She hadn’t meant to sound so whiny but she couldn’t help it. She was staying because of him. She couldn’t bear the thought of leaving just when things between them had gotten so personal. Besides she had something important to tell him.
“It’s just not a good time, I’m going through some stuff an—Hold on, there’s someone else calling.” He answered the incoming call, “Hello?”
“Hello, this is Officer Dawes. Is this Laurent Bourgeois?”
“Yes. Did you find the person?”
“I’ve been trying to reach your brother for the last 30 minutes but I suspect his phone may be off. Can you get him on the line please?”
Following the stern tone of the officer, Lau did as he was told. He approached Larry who was still sitting on the chair outside Jen’s room. He looked so forlorn and Lau feared he might break at any minute.
“The cop wants to talk to you.”
Larry reluctantly grabbed the phone. Separating his top lip from its bottom counterpart felt painful. He didn’t want to speak nor did he have any interest in listening to anyone talk.
“Hello, I’ve been trying to reach you for half an hour. We’ve arrested the culprit; I just thought you might want to know so th…” Larry ceased listening as soon as the words escaped Officer Dawes’ mouth. All of his senses perked right up from their anger coma, thoughts rummaging through his head like trains going at the speed of bullets.
“Who…Who did this?”
“Lola Marlese, sir.”
Larry eyes met Lau for less than a second as he shot up from his chair, throwing the phone at his brother. He started making his way towards the exit, picking up pace as he did so until he was practically running. Lau’s eyes followed him, confused and returning the phone to his ear.
“Hello? What happened? Did you find something?”
“Yes, the ex-girlfriend admitted to it not too long ago after she woke up from a fainting spell. We have the confession on tape; everything will be taken care of from here.”
“MERDE! Ok Ok Thanks Officer.” He didn’t wait for a response, hanging up the minute he said that. Larry had been a huge ball of stress, anger and resentment for the past 24 hours, waiting for news, waiting for Jen to wake up, waiting for something, anything. Especially in the last few hours, his tension grew more palpable, almost incandescent. There was no telling what he was capable of doing in a moment of ill-tempered disposition. He ran towards the exit, following the trace of his twin, in dire hopes of catching up with him.
The 52nd division of the police precinct was less than a half an hour walk from the hospital. Larry made it there in twelve minutes, stumbling into the guarded office. He managed to get it together long enough to disclose who he was there to see. Waiting for Officer Dawes to come forth seemed like the longest wait of his life although it couldn’t have been more than five minutes. By the time he came out of the office area, Lau had caught up with him and was trying to subdue Larry.
“Where is she? I need to see her.” He was surprisingly calm on the surface, despite all of the underlying emotions ready to burst beneath the tough exterior.
“Maybe it’s not such a good idea. Larry? Larry, look at me.” Lau was trying so hard to bring Larry back from the dark place he was currently in but it wasn’t working. Larry was as fragile as a weak branch, ready to snap at any moment.
“We don’t usually let people into the interrogation room. It’s against the policy. You can go visit once she’s behind bars.”
“Yeah, Larry. Let’s just go. Lola’s going to be locked up for what she did. Leave it alone.” Lau grabbed his twin’s arm, attempting to coerce him into leaving the police station.
Larry jerked his arm from Lau’s hold and took a step towards the tired officer.
“I’ve been living inside my head for 24 hours…I can’t sleep without having nightmares or waking up in panic…This is the first good news I’ve gotten and all I’m asking is to see Lola and talk to her.” Larry’s tone came off as menacing whereas he was opting for convincing. Officer Dawes sympathized with the lanky boy standing in front of him, he could’ve said no without thinking twice or feeling any remorse. He was used to standing his ground in his profession and didn’t even flinch at Larry’s half-threatening, half-pitiful speech. Any other day and he would’ve firmly reiterated that the interrogation room was strictly off limits. Perhaps it was the combination of a slight caffeine overdose, lack of sleep, the ease of solving this case and what the case actually entailed but the officer felt very lenient. The victim had been unjustly beaten and almost murdered. By law, he couldn’t put his hands on the assailant but he understood Larry’s anger. Justice would be served in other terms. Lola would go to jail but she’d never feel the gravity of the physical injuries she inflicted on Jen. What harm could Larry do? Nothing even remotely comparable to what Lola had done.
“Alright, let’s make this quick.”
Larry followed the officer and Lau was right behind him. Officer Dawes opened the door slowly and once Larry’s eyes landed on Lola, she began shaking her head and asking for forgiveness. He lunged at her and grabbed her neck forcefully. His fingers tightened around her collar, almost digging into her flesh as her eyes gauged and teared, her body unable to but desperately fighting for air. He had her pinned against the wall, speechless and chest heaving furiously trying to unleash every ounce of anger he’d been holding on to. Lau was on his back, pulling him back and unwrapping his fingers from Lola’s neck. Her legs were in mid-air, kicking without zest, as tears flowed forcefully down her reddened face. Officer Dawes grabbed Larry in a headlock as Lau moved in between his brother and Lola to aid the officer in separating them. Loud wheezing and coughing filled the frigid room as Lola held on the floor trying to direct air into her body. Her throat was aching and pulsating with pain as she swallowed the oxygen she’d been deprived of. Larry had been pushed out of the room and Lau was right behind, closing the door to prevent his brother from re-entering. He was shaking, his hands still held tightly in front of him as if they were still wrapped around Lola’s neck. Lau wrapped him into a restricting hug to calm him down. Officer Dawes looked on, exhausted and relieved.
TWO WEEKS LATER:
Larry was watching the recap of the previous night’s soccer game in his room. A word search puzzle was scrawled across his chest as Jen used his torso as a table. A known player scored a goal and the crowd erupted in cheers. Larry punched his arm in the air moving the puzzle.
“Hey! Stay still.” Jen pouted. It’d been five days since she’d been back home and twelve days since she awoke from the coma. She’d healed miraculously fast, so fast that the doctor couldn’t keep her at the hospital despite only staying for a week once she was out of the coma. He was wary but had no medical reason to keep her any longer so Jen was prescribed a grocery-long list of painkillers and relaxants. Mostly for her fractured ribs which were the only real cause of any pain. The stitches had come off, the bruising had gone and there were surprisingly no defect of any sort. Her face looked as it always looked, beautiful and charismatic, which the doctor had once again used the word ‘miraculous’ to describe. Miracle or not, Larry was just glad to have Jen on the road to recovery, happy and alive. Also he was grateful to not have to spend another minute living in a hospital.
“You’re still doing that puzzle?” He joked, making fun of the fact that she’d been working on it for the past 45 minutes.
“Don’t get lippy with me.”
“You want me to shut up?” He taunted playfully.
“Then make me.” The game no longer had his attention. He was looking down at her, letting the sport announcer’s voice echo in the background. Jen lifted her head and kissed him quickly.
She smiled as she kissed him again, this time for longer, letting her lips imprint on his. He pulled away once he began to desire more than a kiss. His thoughts had wandered there already but he didn’t want to act on them. She was undoubtedly not ready for anything more physical and he couldn’t help but want to, especially when they were in such close proximity.
“What?” She asked him.
“You know what?” He blushed, a shy smile lurking on his face.
“Why not?” She lifted her eyebrows playfully in an attempt to be naughty. She’d missed all of him
“I don’t want to hurt you.” He shook his head, forcing his eyes back to the flat screen.
“It only hurts a bit when I laugh. I think if you were really gentle, it’d be fine. Come on, you know you want to.”
“Don’t tempt me.” He augmented the volume to submerge himself back into the game.
Jen sighed dramatically. “You know there was this once when I was in no-man’s land –”
Larry laughed unwillingly, “Why do you call it no man’s land?”
“It’s better than calling it a coma. Anyways, I could kind of hear you talking to me.” This got Larry’s attention once more. “Yeah, it was like a dream, a semi-vivid dream that’s almost like a fantasy movie. I could hear your voice so clearly, as if I was the one speaking but it was your voice. You sounded scared and alone and I was trying to scream or cry – I can’t remember which. But I couldn’t. Yet I could hear you. I think…actually, I’m pretty sure you kissed my hand at one point and I felt the softness and warmth of your kiss on my skin. Nothing else would respond but I felt that. I thought it was a mirage until I actually felt that contact.”
Larry just watched her speak.
“So when the doctor kept saying it was a miracle, I know you were all just glad I was okay but I believed him. I think I was dead..or dying but then somehow, you saved me. I think your love saved me.” She sounded so poetic that he couldn’t help but indulge in her words.
“Well, I had a dream too,” He lowered the volume and continued, “I had a dream about you and I. We had a beautiful daughter, beautiful just like you, named Anabelle. It was Sunday and you were making cupcakes and it smelled so good. I woke up hungry.”
“That’s it?” Jen asked.
“Yeah.” Larry’s pained expression told her there was more to the dream but he didn’t want to delve back into it. It was understandably a touchy subject for him, for both of them.
“Well, that sounds beautiful. And when we do have a daughter, you get to pick her name which I’m sure will probably be Annabelle.” He smiled at her, kissing the top of her head as she returned to her puzzle and he to his game.
“I’m so happy to have you back to myself.” Ayara grinned in post-coital bliss, “Of course, I’m happy Jen is okay too.”
Lau took a huge bite of the crispy blueberry waffles, chewing as if it was his last meal.
“How’s the album coming along?”
“Right now, we’re writing the songs. The songwriters find that I’m writing a lot about love these days.”
“That’s a good thing. The world needs more love.” Lau replied, not picking up on her hint.
“Yeah, or it could mean that I’m in love.” She looked at him through her long bangs.
“Are you in love?” He continued stuffing his mouth with more waffles.
“I am.” He finally stopped chewing and tackled her.
“Awwwwwwwwww, you love me? That’s so sweet.” She screamed as he tickled her. She was running out of breath right when he stopped. Lau gave her a big wet kiss on the cheek and she wiped off the whipped cream with a smile. He began eating his waffle when she continued,
“I have something to tell you.”
“More love?” He joked.
The waffle fell out of his mouth as he looked at her in wonderment. She smiled innocently back at him.