Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sample Sunday: Ain't No Sunshine


The officer placed a cup of black coffee on the table in front of me.

"I don't drink coffee," I said, continuing to stare out the window at the Chicago skyline.

"Well, you might want to start. You're not going anywhere for a while, son."

I crossed my arms and slouched in the chair. "I'm not your son," I said through gritted teeth. I focused on a pale yellow Volkswagen van driving past the window of the police station. I shook my head with frustrated regret. I should have bought a new car before we left. I never thought a broken taillight, of all things, would land us in this police station. Now they were asking me questions. Questions I wasn’t prepared to answer. Not yet, anyway.

The officer didn't respond at first. The only sound was that of the rotating fan in the corner of the room, blowing out the same hot, stale air.

"Fine," he said after a few minutes. "Let's talk about whose son you are then, huh?" He took some pictures out of a file and laid them out on the table. I refused to look; I knew what they would show. "Do you see this, Stephen? Why don't you look at your father's mutilated body? Beaten to death with a shovel outside his own home."

He picked up one of the pictures and waved it in front of my face. I shut my eyes tightly. I was there when it happened. I knew what it looked like. I didn't want to be reminded of the image; it was already permanently ingrained in my mind.

"Did you do it, Stephen? Did you kill your own father in cold blood?"

I kept my eyes closed and refused to answer. The image of my father's bloody corpse floated behind my eyelids.

"No, you couldn't have done it." I heard the officer's footsteps as he walked to the other side of the room. "There's no way a smart, wealthy boy like you could murder the man that took care of you and loved you for eighteen years."

I opened my eyes and glared at the fat, sweaty man interrogating me. "My father never loved me. Never!"

His eyes expanded. My tone shocked him. He took a step back as if he was actually afraid of me for a second. He quickly recovered his composure, though. "Well, then I guess you did kill him."

I bit my tongue and turned away. I had already said too much. There was no way he was getting me to talk. Not yet, anyway. I needed a few more minutes to get my thoughts together.

"I guess we're gonna have to do this the hard way," he said after a few moments. He sat down in the chair across from me and opened his file again. "Maybe I'll just have to ask that pretty little colored girlfriend of yours," he said, staring at Ruthie's picture and licking his lips.

"You leave her out of this." My hands clenched into fists.

"I don't know if I can do that. She seems to be pretty involved." He kept staring at her picture as he spoke. "Your father is found dead at your home in Virginia and you're found seven hundred miles away with a nigger whore. I can't -"

He didn't get to finish his thought. I leapt across the table and started pounding his face in. Seconds later, I was subdued by several officers. They placed me back in the chair and handcuffed me to the table as everyone stepped outside and decided what to do with me.

This was getting worse and worse by the minute. I'd gladly go to jail for killing that man. He deserved to die. I just didn't want Ruthie to get dragged into this. After all we'd been through, at least one of us deserved a chance to be happy.

After what felt like hours, another officer entered the room. He placed a bottle of peroxide and some napkins on the table.

"You gonna behave?" he asked, holding up the key to the handcuffs. He was much younger than the other officer. With his dark hair and blue eyes he kind of reminded me of my older brother, Matthew, except with a bushy mustache. For some reason, I felt I could trust him.

I nodded and he unlocked my handcuffs.

"What's that for?" I asked, indicating the peroxide.

He looked at me strangely. "Stephen, your face is covered in cuts and bruises. The officers who subdued you kind of went a little too far. You have open wounds. You’re bleeding.” He pointed to a couple of places on my face. “Doesn't it hurt?"

I shrugged and reached for the bottle and paper towels. I didn't feel pain like most people. It was a coping mechanism I'd developed at an early age.

"I'm Lieutenant Drake," he said, still staring at me as I cleaned my wounds. "This must have been a hard few days for you."

I nodded.

"Your father is dead, your mother is missing, and you and Ruthie are on the run."

I nodded.

"Why are you running? You know running only makes you look guilty, and I don't really believe you killed your father. I don't think you're capable."

I stared at him. "You have no idea what I'm capable of. You have no idea what that man did to me."

"You're right. I don't," he said, trying to hide his surprise at my response. He sat down and crossed his arms. "So why don't you tell me? You obviously have a story and you need someone to listen. So tell me your story. Tell me everything."

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