No Asylum – Chapter 5

September 1, 2010


Another point in Derek’s favour, Chris thought; the two of them had always played their roles to excellence when it came to the game of “Good Cop, Bad Cop.” A lifetime of intimidation tactics had given his partner a sure insight into the psychology of fear, while his own sincere need to solve a case honestly bled into the role with such a passion it inspired faith and trust in a listener.

Besides, he’d had a lot of practice at talking Derek down, so it was easy to make the performance believeable.

He’d been through the finest interrogation training San Paro PD could provide, had years of experience grilling literally hundreds of suspects. What was new this time was that his stomach was turning backflips and the palms of his hands were cold and clammy.

It’s just Derek, he told himself. Putting the wind up me.

It was definitely nothing to do with the long, cloistered nights spent at a telescope in a damp sixth story tenement room staring into what might as well have been a window to another world, drenched in light and warmth, draped in rich colours, full of life and love and laughter and moments that ranged from the sweetest, tenderest of intimacies to the feverishly pornographic.

It was definitely not because of the ten years he’d spent turning back to this case again and again, trying to reconcile the differences between what he saw in those timid-deer eyes of hers and what the experts told him: that trembling in the chair opposite him was a girl (woman, he corrected himself) steeped in murder before she knew puberty, someone riven with one of the least-comprehensible mental disorders known to science. Someone utterly untrustworthy, completely unpredictable, whose values and concept of good and evil were wholly alien to society at large.

And it was definitely not remotely related to the way her blouse stretched, leaving tiny oval gaps between its buttons as it strained to cover her chest, the fringe of black lace just revealed by the open neck of the garment, contrasting sharply with the creamy skin underneath and beckoning the eye down to that hint of come-hither cleavage. Nor the fact that his memory provided a near-perfect recall of what lay underneath.

Then Derek cleared his throat and Chris was left with the horrifying realization that he’d been standing, mute, with both hands braced on the table, staring at the girl’s chest. And sweating. Sweating a lot.

Derek leaned in and whispered in his ear. “Is this a new technique? Bad cop, horny cop? It seems to work well, because you’re certainly scaring the shit out of her!”

Chris looked across the table and saw that his partner was right. Phorbes had shrunk back into her chair as if trying to get as far away from him as possible… and who could blame her? He was just the bastard who’d electrocuted her unconscious, dragged her away in his car and dumped her in this place to be slapped around by a total stranger.

Not for the first time, he ached for the old days of a real police force, of proper procedure… of public trust. The days when she’d have been looking at him like he was a hero instead of a sweaty pervert.

The way she had looked at him ten years ago, when he wrapped her in a blanket outside the ashes of her home and carried her to a waiting ambulance, murmuring soft reassurances that everything would be alright.

They’d made him into a liar for that.

“I’ll get you some water,” Derek muttered, keeping his back to the girl as he spoke. “Cool down, get things back under control, OK? Don’t like seeing you fuck up like this.”

Chris looked at his partner with unfeigned surprise. The young enforcer grinned back rakishly. “You’re stealing my schtick!” Derek shoved a hand through his short-cropped black hair, narrowed his eyes and shot an intimidating look at Phorbes, then stalked out of the room as if something far more dire than a glass of water was involved.

He cleared his throat and sat down, carefully pressing down the record key on his dictaphone. “12:38, August 23rd, 2010. CSA Chris Walsaw and CSA Derek Fitzpatrick in attendance. Case Number 13516, interviewee…” He looked up at the girl and gave her his most reassuring smile, wondering in the back of his mind whether she remembered him from all that time ago. “…Peony Phorbes.”

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