Mariela wondered if the slurping noise was really necessary.
The interrogating officer sat across from Mariela, painstakingly sifting through her file. It was the same routine. He licked his thumb, turned the page, and shook his head with disapproval. His gray caterpillar eyebrows always managed to inch a little closer towards the center of his forehead.
But the slurping–oh God, the slurping! Every time his thumb touched his lip–sluurp! At first, it was just a detail that blended into the monotony of this place. Now it took up all her attention. With all her pent up energy, she felt the persistent itch to just reach across the table and yank his hand away just to maintain the taut string of her patience.
Mariela took a steadying breath through her nose. She couldn’t stand this nothing. Ever since he walked in, it’s been this. Silence cut jaggedly with wet noises.
She drummed her fingers a couple of times on the table before leaning forward.
“What was your name again?”
The police officer pursed his lips, his eyes never leaving the page. “Palmer.”
“You have a lot of Palmers in the department, don’t you?”
This he didn’t answer. He slurped his fingers as he turned another page.
The arresting officer was also a Palmer but he looked far younger than the officer before her. A bit more rotund in shape and…wait, was that actual powdered sugar on his mustache? She decided to ignore it and persist on.
“That must be some pretty good reading.”
The officer licked his fingers and set aside another piece of paper. Her file was a good stack of paper stuffed between a dirty manila folder but as she leaned in for a closer look, she realized most of the pages were blank with a single detail centered on each one. Page one had her photo, page two her current address, page fifteen her birthday. He seemed particularly put out by the numerical month, taking the time to shake his head as he tapped on the eight.
She didn’t know why her time was being wasted like this. It’s been three hours since Mariela and Emery were put under arrest in Mirkwood Park. They were driven up and down Grimwell Boulevard and Tell Street for a good forty minutes before parking at the police station. It hardly distinguished itself from any other one-story concrete office building on the road. It had no sign, no noticeable jurisdiction on the door, and no letterhead on any of the documents that she happened to peruse. After being rushed into the interrogation room, she was left there for another good hour.
She got too well acquainted with the white walls, the harsh light, and high pitched whispers shushing each other behind the two-sided mirror. The only other interaction she had before Officer Palmer bumbled his way into the room was a voice from the corner whispering, “You should confess.”
And now she was forced into the weird position of actually wanting to be questioned for possible crimes and misdemeanors just to get this over with.
“So are you actually going to charge me with anything or–”
Palmer cut her off with a sigh and closed the folder. He folded his hands and pressed his lips into a thin line.
“You have quite the record, Ms. Hudson.”
“I agree. The number of trees wasted to make it is a crime in and of itself.”
He pursed his lips. “This isn’t the time for jokes, Ms. Hudson. Your past deeds show a very troubled criminal history.”
Mariela blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Your juvenile record is quite, uh, expansive. Cookie theft, unpaid library fees, reckless driving, crossing state lines after being involved in a candy ring–”
“What are you talking about?”
Palmer cleared his throat. “Why were you trespassing on the O-Neg private lot at 2 AM, Ms. Hudson?”
Mariela tilted her head. “I wasn’t trespassing.”
“Well, according to the security guard, Mr. Van Williamson, he saw you and your co-conspirator roaming around the grounds in the direction of the labs. Care to explain that?”
Mariela rolled her eyes and leaned forward. “We were walking in the park adjacent to the corporation to do some research on a recently released ecological study. The one about troll habits and their fascination with bridges”
“Then why were you so close to their headquarters?”
Mariela smiled. “On the west side of the building, there’s no fence clearly dividing their private property from public lands. It’s possible we may have crossed whatever imaginary line they made up. Due to their, let’s say, adverseness to transparency, they’ve developed a hostility towards the press.”
“So you’ve bothered this company before?”
Mariela shook her head. “I’ve submitted general questions to them before about Hollow Grove’s pharmaceutical industry in the past. About a year ago, I think. All in line with my job, officer, which I’m sure you can understand.”
Palmer twisted his lip. “But why were you there at 2 AM?”
“Hmm. Well, as a private citizen, I think that it’s my business what I do at a park free to the public at all hours.”
Palmer stared at her. He leaned closer… cloooser…until Mariela was forced to lean back in her chair.
He then stood and walked past her abruptly, file tucked under his armpit. “I think we’re done here.”
She turned in the chair. “So I can leave?”
“I’m afraid not, Ms. Hudson.”
“What am I being held for?”
He opened up the file again with pursed lips. “Loitering, trespassing, collusion, and contradicting an officer of the law.”
He closed the file with a snap. “All in all, you’re looking to be put away for a while. Maybe 30 years?”
“Are you serious?”
“Not taking an officer seriously is another offense, Ms. Hudson,” He started closing the door behind him. “You’ll work your way up to two life sentences at this rate.”
Mariela was stunned into the silence, the sound of the door bolting waking her out of it. The whispering behind the wall began again in earnest.
She hoped Emery was faring better.
When Emery had this assignment forced on him by that bastard September, he didn’t think he would be arrested. But of course, he was. Why did he expect anything different when he got partnered with Mariela?
But as he sat there, fuming in the interrogation room, he tried to figure how the hell he got into this position. Why did he force himself out of the house at 1 in the goddamn morning when Mariela called him up about a lead? Why did he stay after he realized that it was nothing more than one of her tedious stakeouts?
And now there was this bullshit.
Officer Palmer was an ass. There was more than one of them apparently. The arresting Palmer was a bit too handsy. He took every opportunity to grab onto Emery’s hand, shoulder and leg when forcing him into the police cruiser. When he switched on the ignition, hummed a little and then started reading off their Miranda Rights.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney….”
Over and over again. He repeated it for the forty minutes’ drive. When Emery and Mariela finally parked into the station–after passing it a good 5 times– he kept blinding them with his searchlight before opening the car door.
The other Palmer, the one he was currently faced with, busted into the interrogation room spouting off trumped up charges of trespassing and assault. Granted, Emery did snatch his arm away during the arrest but by the way this clown’s making it sound, he tried to break that guy’s teeth with his elbow. Again, granted, he did feel the urge.
Officer Palmer bared his teeth as he gripped the table with both hands. And then he asked the same question.
“So you’re saying that you weren’t anywhere near the O-Neg office building at 2:48 am?”
“My car was on the park side of Tell Street. Your own report should tell you that we were arrested along one the many trails in the park.”
Palmer leaned across the table. “Don’t you think that’s mighty suspicious?”
“Parking?” Emery said with a raised brow. “Or walking in a municipal park?”
“Trespassing, Mr. Fall,” He said as he put his finger down on his record. “It looks like you have a history of parking offenses. You got 5 within the last 10 months, correct?”
“What does that have to do with this?”
He got up in his face. Emery shrank from the onion in his breath.
“Answer the question, Mr. Fall.”
Emery pushed back in his chair causing the legs to scratch the floor.
“Look, the real criminals are those parking meter ghosts in the school zones.”
Palmer shook his head in disgust. “Is there no low you won’t sink? Attacking members of the neon stripe is a capital offense.”
“What the hell are you even talking about?”
Palmer slammed his hands on the table and yelled, “You’re on thin ice, Fall!”
Emery’s knuckles itched to punch Palmer in the jaw. He pinched the bridge of his nose. Even by Hollow Grove standards, this was getting ridiculous.
“Are you going to charge me with anything?”
“You shouldn’t be so flippant about your crimes, Mr. Fall,” he said as he looked down to consult his folder. “You’re already booked for loitering, trespassing, collusion, resisting arrest, talking back to the police, and insulting the ghosts of the stripe. With your parking record, you could be locked away for 50 years at least.”
“What the hell are you even–!”
“If you just admit to your crimes, this could all be over right here and now.”
Emery leaned back in his seat, folding his arms. “Bullshit. I’m not saying any more until I speak with my lawyer.”
Palmer smiled. “So you’re admitting guilt?”
Emery blinked. “Fuck no! If anything, you’re getting your asses sued.”
Palmer stroked his square jaw and nodded knowingly. “So you’re admitting guilt.”
Emery slammed his hand on the table. “No! I’m instituting my right to an attorney.”
Palmer laughed. “It won’t do you any good.”
The officer stood and made his way to the door. “That’s not my problem.”
Part (1) of Gallow’s Hall, a Hollow Grove story