The fluorescent lights seared my eyes open and my brain was dying for sleep. Officer Mustache had found me in the bush and threw me into the back of his wagon on “reasonable suspicion,” and the way I’d been skulking around there, I couldn’t argue. Now they had me in some asylum white room with a two-way mirror, trying to sweat me into taking the fall for whatever happened at Molly’s house.
A detective came in looking like a bored French waiter, with a pencil mustache and his remaining hair drenched in pomade.
“I’m Detective Kim,” he yawned. “So, do you care to explain what you were doing loitering around a crime scene?”
“I wanted to make sure no one was hurt.”
“Yes, well the Evanston Police Department is responsible for that.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
Kim found a way to make his face look even more bored.
“Officers Brick and Schultzman both reported that you were in the area before the crime scene was established, can you explain that?”
“Like you’d listen to me even if I tried to.”
“I’m afraid it would be my duty to listen.”
I gave it a shot. At least the story would make me sound so stupid they might laugh me out of the station.
“Look, she called me. On the phone she made it sound like something had happened to her, but then she looked fine when your boys brought her out on the porch.”
“Miss Wright called you?”
The slightest flash of interest crossed the detective’s face.
“Yeah, that’s what I said.”
He gave me a long stare and walked out of the room without saying a word.
“Could you turn down the lights?” I called out to no one in particular. Police must be afraid of the dark. They let me stew in there for what must have been another hour until Detective Kim came back into the room with a manila folder.
“You said you had contact with Molly Chambers earlier this morning.”
Chambers. I’d heard the name before but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“Wait.” I jumped. “You said the girl on the porch was Miss Wright.”
“You volunteered Molly’s name. If you help us find her whereabouts, the judge will go much easier on you come trial.”
“What happened to her?”
“The innocent act isn’t your strong suit,” Kim said, drawing a few large print photographs from the envelope: a living room with a blood-spattered oriental rug, a broken screen door and a smushed sleeve of hard-coated gum the police deemed particularly auspicious.
“Our source heard the whole - ”
“Your source Wright? The girl on the porch?”
“I didn’t say that,” he quipped, not giving a damn whether I went for it or not. “Our source heard the whole thing. Just help us end this now.”
Kim slid another photo out of his folder.
“She doesn’t deserve this.”
Not only did I know the face, I knew the photo. It all came back, like hearing the first couple words of a song no one played anymore. Molly Chambers, Northwestern’s own youngest Pulitzer Prize winner in history, pictured receiving her award a little more than a year and half ago. It was my freshman year, and back then you couldn’t even look up from your Flyers without seeing that photo somewhere. From the photo I always thought she’d sound like Megyn Kelly, but she came out more like I’d imagine Emily Dickinson.
“Honestly, I’ve only ever talked to her on the phone. She said she was in trouble and that she lived on Grove Street. I didn’t even know which house to go to until you guys showed up.”
“You never met her in your life?”
“And she specifically called you to say that she was in trouble?”
“Yep.”“And you ran all the way to Grove Street?” He sounded so bored, I almost felt bad for him.
“And that’s it, there’s nothing else you can tell us?”
I thought about the name Chicago Fire and something dropped in my stomach. Even if I thought they were a bunch of holier than thou cultural imperialists that antagonized any sense of rhythm or melody, deep in their blood a deejay could never drop a dime on any musician.
“No… nothing. I don’t have a clue where she is.”
“You’re just some wide-eyed kid who caught a tough break?”
“I know how it sounds, but I’ve got even less of a clue what’s going on than you guys do, I swear!”
“Cross your heart and hope to die?” he asked without so much as skipping a beat.
He paused for laughter but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. After about a minute of sitting there, I realized he actually wanted an answer.
“Well, then it looks like keeping you here has served all the usefulness it’s going to. If you’d excuse me, I’ve got two tennis players on a hit and run in the next room, so I’m going to run over your paperwork one more time and then you’re free to go.”
For a brief moment, he looked right through me, and we both knew this wasn’t going to be the last time we were going to be in that room together.