Chapter 7: .unorthodox/interrogation
They had given us a big blanket to share. It ended up with me and Derrick sharing it, while Chris paced back and forward across the floor. All night, police were coming and going. Some of the officers I had never seen before. Others were what I would call friends. Not close friends, obviously, but I could still have a comfortable conversation with them. Many had gone to the same high school as me, and then gone on to the police academy. I doubted they were done with their training.
The hole in the wall with the camera and the computer equipment needed technical analysts. Scott made a few calls. The chief of police was sleeping soundly in his home. I had a feeling this bugged Scott.
“This is my first formal investigation. I feel a great responsibility,” he told me as he sat down. Some of the police officers in the room shot me angry glances. They didn’t really like this young girl, who had seemingly nothing to do with the case, being here.
“The chief of police is going to call the technical analysts. We need to find what this is,” he rubbed his forehead.
“It’ll probably take them a couple of hours to come. I don’t think there is going to be any further development. That means I want to have a conversation with you, Derrick.” Derrick jerked. He had a big dent in between his eyebrows. It was one of those wrinkles you get when you are really worried about something.
“I won’t talk to you unless Onila is there to hear everything.” Scott rubbed his forehead again. This time if left a red mark.
“I don’t have time or patience for bullshitting, Derrick.” It really sounded like a warning. “I’ll take you into custody if I really need to.”
“Look, I’m cooperating. All I’m asking is that Onila will be there during the questioning.”
“I don’t think you’re being fair,” I said to Scott. This seemed to make a hole in his determined façade. He looked at me and his features softened, if only for a little while.
“Okay, I’m fine with it. If that’s what Derrick wants, then it’s going to happen.” Scott smiled ever so slightly and led us into Derrick’s bedroom. The computer screens were off, but I could clearly hear the sound of the computer fan. We sat down on his bed. Derrick looked around his room, astonished to be back here.
“I thought I never would come back,” he admitted. “It feels strange. Like this house is no longer a home.” I stared at Derrick for a moment before deciding to let his comment slide. I had a loving family and came from the upper middle class. I knew nothing about life in the stormy life in the townships.
We divided the outskirts into two parts; the suburbs and the townships. I obviously came from the suburbs. A beautiful red house with a white-picket fence around the outside. Sheltering it from both stray cats and other intruders. Derrick grew up around the delinquents of society. In many ways he was one himself. And just like that I got an immense respect for Derrick. Not only for him as a person, but also for what he had to go through. Public schools, criminals on the block, an abusive father… It was all things I was too privileged to deal with. Derrick struck me as a very smart young man, but he probably couldn’t afford going to university. It was like a punch in the stomach to realise this fact. Derrick never had the same opportunities I had. And he still didn’t look at me with contempt. He was as loving and gentle as ever. I couldn’t help but feel sad for this boy.
“How could you afford this computer? It had to be at least a thousand quid,” Scott remarked. Then he threw his hands in the air, to say: It wasn’t meant to be rude. It still was though.
“It was more than a thousand. I probably shouldn’t tell you the prize. But I can tell you how I got it,” he paused and pointed at a framed photo. It was Derrick with a few other people and an older gentleman. “I worked at a sausage factory in the centre of town for a while. The place was going bankrupt so they didn’t really care about who they employed,” he sighed and smiled. “It was the time of my life. For the first time I got to bond with people. I met some pretty fucked up individuals, and I enjoyed listening to their stories.”
“Fucked up how?” Scott asked.
“Eh… What I meant was that I didn’t necessarily agree with everything they said… And stuff… I don’t really want to talk about it.” Derrick looked at the ground. I shot Scott a confused glance. He looked just as puzzled as me.
“What was the name of this place?”
“Raymond Brook’s Meat packing plant… It’s out of service now. It’s been gone for a year. I doubt Raymond still lives in town after the humiliation he went through,” Derrick sounded thoughtful.
Scott shook his head to clear it and found his notebook in his pocket.
“So you have no idea who the men that entered the house were?”
“I guessed they worked for some loan shark,” he shrugged.
“Did they come often, and when did they start coming?”
“They came at least once a week. Though they didn’t start taking furniture before about a month ago. They started coming about a year ago. Right after I stopped going to Raymond’s. I know this because I was at home the first evening they came.”426Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9dfIWCNWXN
“How do you know that was the first time?”
“I know because dad reacted in a certain way. He was surprised to see them at the house. Actually, when I think about it, he seemed scared that they were at his house…” Derrick started looking uneasy. He peeked out of the window. A couple of officers were standing outside.
“Can you tell me what the men looked like?” Derrick shook his head firmly.
“I can’t tell you any more. This interview is over,” he said, standing up and stretching.
“Wait, I still have more questions about them. Please answer them,” Scott pleaded as Derrick exited the room, shouting for Chris to come drive us home.
I put a hand on Scotts shoulder. He shook it off and walked after Derrick. Scott didn’t say anything, but he looked extremely disappointed. I didn’t know whether he was disappointed in himself or Derrick.
Chris drove us home only minutes later. A question was burning in the back of my mind. I needed to ask it before I exploded. I opened my mouth to ask, but closed it again. It was all too hard. I knew Derrick didn’t particularly want to talk about it, and I didn’t want to pressure him into talking either. But there was something I just needed to know.
“Why did you want me to be in the room with you as you were being questioned?” Derrick was sitting with his head in his hands and a frown on his lips. He barely moved when I asked the question. I could feel him looking at me through his fingers.
“I need a witness when they find out.”
The brakes screeched as Chris stepped on them. He stopped the car in the middle of the motorway. Thankfully there were no cars in a miles radius.
“I’m sick and tired of you talking about them. Who the fuck are they?” Chris threw the door open and stepped out. The door on Derrick’s side went up and Chris grabbed the collar of the teenager’s shirt. I jumped out of the car. Chris was shaking. He had tears of anger in his eyes. His nostrils were flaring. I was afraid he would hit the boy. Chris wasn’t violent, but the anger in his eyes was overwhelming. It almost scared me to se him like this.
“Let me go,” Derrick said calmly.
“I’m not letting you go until you tell me who they are.” Chris tightened his grip around Derrick’s collar.
“Let him go, Chris!” I shouted as loudly as I could. This looked like it got through to him. He dropped Derrick on the ground and muttered an apology.
“I don’t know what came over me. I got so frightened about Onila’s safety.” He fixed his shaggy hair.
“Drop me off at my apartment,” I said. Chris gaped but didn’t say anything. He knew I was angry.
Back at my apartment I sat down with my computer. I had hot cocoa by my side. I knew I should get back to my training schedule, but it was so tempting to just lie on the couch doing nothing. I had a music project due next week. Analysing songs was not my specialty. I preferred making my own music. I had a multitrack mixdown in Adobe Audition open, which I was currently working on. It was a great beat, but I wasn’t sure if I liked the rhythm. This song was due already on Monday. There was no way I would be able to finish it by then.
I opened my e-mail to ask my teacher for an extension on the project. I smiled as I saw the first mail in the inbox. It was from one of my best friends. Jennifer. I quickly opened the e-mail to see what it was about.
It’s been a while. I heard about what happened at France’s. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe we lost Em like that.
Are you willing to catch up? I really want to see that you’re doing all right.
How about tomorrow?
I found my phone and typed in a short message. I told her I would love to meet, sooner rather than later.
It only took a couple of minutes of schoolwork until my phone buzzed. Jennifer was in the neighbourhood and was happy to drop by my apartment. I answered, finished my cocoa and put the kettle on to make coffee. I found a fleece sweater and put it on. Today was a cold autumn day and I was, pardon the expression, freezing my ass off. I continued working on my multitrack mixdown. It was hard getting all the sounds to start in the right places, getting the duration and decibel right. I had time to make another cup of cocoa before Jen came. I drank it as quickly as I could, and went to find another sweater to put on. I came out of the bedroom feeling like a mannequin, but at least I wasn’t freezing anymore.
The doorbell finally rang, and I ran to answer. On the other side stood an average sized Latina with a grin on her face. I stopped smiling for a second when I realised how long it had been since I last saw her.
“It’s been so long, Jen,” I said, hugging her tight. She smelled of raspberries.
“I can’t believe you haven’t changed one bit. It’s been like, six months or something,” Jen muttered.
“Have you lost weight?” I asked politely. We both started laughing. Jen always used to say that the most awkward conversations either started with commenting the weather, or with asking about their weight.
“Let’s sit down. You probably have lots of questions to ask me,” I was prepared for the overflow of questions. Mostly about the incident, probably. It was all anyone could talk to me about.
“How have you been?” she asked.
“You know, studying. Studying a lot. Music was a lot harder than I thought it would be, you know. I thought since I had been working with it all my life, I would somehow know more than the others,” I laughed at my own stupidity.
“I was the same in my writing class. I’ve always been writing, as you know. Turns out, most of the other people are the same. They have been writing all their lives as well. Figures.” We laughed for a while until the water in the kettle was boiling. Then I rose to make the coffee. I could see that Jen was faintly quivering.
“Excuse me, but do you have a window open or something. It’s terribly cold in here,” Jen commented. Yes, now that she said it, it was abnormally cold in the apartment. I hadn’t opened any windows. At least not as I could remember. I went to the kitchen to make the coffee. It was then I noticed that the window was open. It was barely open, the cold autumn air came in through a small slit, but it was enough to make the place extremely cold.
“How long have you been open?” I asked myself and closed the window.
“What’s going on in there?” Jen asked from the living room. I came back with two cups of coffee.
“The window was open. I shut it, so the heat will return pretty soon.”
“So how is it going with Chris?” she asked.
“It’s going well. He had a small meltdown today, but it’s understandable. He has gone through a lot of stress, just like I have.” I stopped to drink my coffee.
“I’m sorry for not asking about the incident. It just didn’t feel right to pry. At least not with Em dead.” I appreciated that. The other people were just going around asking me without thinking that it might hurt. I explained that to Jen, and she understood.
“I might ask, just out of pure curiosity, but I’ll wait until you have put the whole ordeal behind you. At least until Em’s funeral.”
“Shit, I haven’t even thought of that…,” I said. Emily just didn’t really seem like the funeral type. I guessed her family wanted to have one for her. “We should have a wake. Just us, the kids from preschool and secondary school. Her friends.”
“Definitely. Who should we invite?”
“Scott Winchester, Chris, Bruce Milner probably, even though I kind of don’t want to, Lillian and I think we should invite Beatrice. I know we don’t like her, but Em was quite good friends with her.”
“So just us?”
“Yeah. No family, just the gang from school. It’ll be good for us to have an excuse to hang out again,” I smiled.
We talked for a while longer. Jen told me about her writing and I showed her the music I was working on. We gave each other compliments and laughed about things that happened in the past.
It was getting dark so it was about time for her to leave. I hugged her goodbye and went to brush my teeth and change clothes. It had gotten warm in my apartment and I was getting comfortable in my pyjamas.
My phone buzzed, and I expected it to be Jen saying thanks for the evening. My heart stopped when I saw it was Scott.
“What is it now?”
I opened the message. A smile spread across my face.
Good nightns 220.127.116.11da2