Short story, 1500 word limit, with a tag of an Adult Fairy Tale.
| Detective Monroe sat forward in the chair, resting his forearms on the table in front of him. He was known for talking with his hands. But today they remained still, his fingers knitted together.
Throughout the interview, his eyes remained fixed on the petite brunette sitting opposite him, patiently waiting for her to respond. It wasn’t unusual for a suspect to remain tight lipped during an interview. In some ways, he expected it. But this girl was different. It was her second interview since being brought into the station and it wasn’t going any better than the first. Despite his best efforts, she had continued to meet his questions with a wall of silence; relinquishing only her name.
Who are you really Cathleen Panrell? That question had occupied his thoughts ever since her name had broken free. He doubted it was her actual name. But he knew better than to underestimate its importance. After all, a name could be a powerful thing in the right hands.
Monroe glanced at the large one-way mirror on the far wall and frowned. In the adjacent room, his partner was monitoring the interview. Scrutinising every move that Cathleen made. A name really wasn’t much to go on – especially if it wasn’t real. He was still waiting on the results from the fingerprints he’d lifted from her discarded coffee cup. Hopefully, they’d get a hit off the National DNA database soon.
“Ms Panrell, things would go a lot better for you if you just cooperated.” he sighed.
His muscles were tired and a dull ache had begun to set in. He leaned back into his chair, but its straight back provided little support or relief. The interrogation suite wasn’t designed for comfort. Its bland, featureless walls encircled a small rectangular table and four plain chairs paired against each other across the table. A simplistic, yet abrasive décor designed specifically to prevent a suspect drifting off into a psychological void; a concept utterly lost on Cathleen Panrell.
Under normal circumstances, a suspect stonewalling him wouldn’t have fazed him. But he’d been on shift since 05:00 that morning and the exhaustion had started to weigh on his patience, as well as his body. He needed a break – and some caffeine.
On the desk sat a slim manila folder that held all of the photographic evidence and forensic reports pertaining to the case. Monroe opened the file and began filtering through it once more, hoping to find anything that would elicit a reaction from his muted adversary.
“Let’s go through it again…..” He paused for effect. “We have you on CCTV in front of Marlow’s bar.” Monroe pushed a greyscale photograph across the table and stabbed the figure it held with his forefinger. “That’s you. And it places you at the scene only minutes after the alarms were tripped.”
The monochrome image exaggerated the contrast between the figure’s dark cropped hair and fair skin. Despite the heavy pixilation the face staring back was unmistakeably Cathleen’s. He knew it wasn’t enough to make her talk; after all it wasn’t a crime to visit a bar on a Friday night.
“We also have a witness that can place you inside the building just before 22:00.” He staged another deliberate pause. “Now, at some point between Mr Bär leaving his apartment at 21:45 and 22:27 when the alarm was triggered, someone broke in into the apartment, accessed Mr Bär’s company network, and downloaded a number of highly confidential files. I think that someone was you Ms Panrell.”
In reality, the evidence against her was circumstantial. They could place her in the vicinity of the apartment building but that was it. The whole case hinged on a blurred image and a security guard who had indulged a little too much on the Christmas spirit. He knew the case was about as stable as a house of cards – one wrong move would bring it crashing down. And he was sure Cathleen knew it too.
“I’ve got to admit Ms Panrell, I do like your style.” he mused, shaking his head. “Most people would have got in and out as quickly as possible. But not you – you knew Mr Bär would be late back, so you took your time; enjoyed yourself.”
From the beginning Monroe had been impressed by the finesse used to carry out the crime. Despite her youth she’d successfully bypassed the building’s state of the art security system; overriding the digital security code in the lift, allowing her to stroll effortlessly into the penthouse suite – unchallenged. Once inside, she had accessed Bär Industries’ network using nothing more than a tablet.
When Monroe had first arrived at the scene, he had been surprised by the seeming lack of evidence. In the kitchen two bottles of champagne had stood on the granite countertop, disrupting the otherwise immaculate surrounding; each with little more than a sip taken from them. A third bottle had been found on the solid walnut dining table, accompanied by a single champagne flute; only a trace of the golden nectar remaining.
Inside the study they found further evidence. An aged office chair lay discarded against the walled bookcase; a leg fractured by the lack of care awarded it. In its place at the head of the desk sat the heavy walnut chair from the dining room; at odds with the rest of the delicate furnishings. But not even this had escaped unscathed, the left arm loose, marred with shallow notches along its bow.
There was a sharp knock, just before his partner’s head appeared around the door, breaking his train of thought. Monroe felt his heartbeat quicken. The interruption could mean only one thing – there had been a significant development.
He glanced at the clock on the recording device and spoke clearly into the microphone, his finger poised on the pause button, “Interview suspended at 18:06”. He rose jadedly from his chair on heavy legs. The sudden decision to stand caused his muscles to ache under his weight. He resisted the urge to breakout into a full stretch, but he could feel the need building and twitching just beneath the surface. A break would definitely do him good.
“Ms Panrell, I’m just going to step outside for a moment. Can I get you a drink? Maybe another coffee?” he asked, feigning his best smile.
Cathleen raised her head to meet his gaze and followed each step as he made short work of the distance to the door.
“Weren’t the first set of prints good enough for you?” she said. Her voice was smooth and even, conveying the same confidence that was visible from looking at her.
Monroe hadn’t expected a response and certainly not that one. He watched as the smirk unfolded across her face, in answer to his startled expression, contorting her delicate features. He fought to suppress his irritation once more. She’d been in custody for over three hours and until now, had only chosen to utter two words. She was toying with him; waiting until the recorder was on pause had proven that.
“I’ll take that as a “No” to the coffee.” he retaliated, depressing the handle and walking out of the room.
Fitz was waiting in the corridor, leaning against the wall; his stare boring invisible holes in the wooden door. His partner was a titan of a man, dwarfing Monroe by at least a foot. This evening his usual gusto was missing. Instead he looked pensive, something that Monroe had rarely witnessed.
“Hey Fitz. So what you got for me?”
“We got the results back on the prints you lifted – we got a hit.” Fitz replied.
The tension in Monroe’s shoulders began to relax, “Excellent, that’s just the break we needed….”
“Not so fast man,” Fitz continued, cutting his partner off, “The hit wasn’t from the criminal database. And it’s not recent either.”
“What do you mean?” confusion etched across Monroe’s brow.
“The hit came from a cold case – child abduction in Greenwich twelve years ago. A girl was taken from her bedroom in the middle of the night – guy got in through an open window.” Fitz paused, waiting for his partner to process the new information.
“And you think that’s her?”
The burly detective handed the report to Monroe and made his way back to the observation room. “Fingerprints don’t lie man. It’s her.”
Monroe thumbed through the report, scanning for anything he could use as leverage. She might be this lost girl, but she was still a suspect in a robbery and had to be held accountable.
He re-entered the room with a renewed vigour, restarting the recorder as he took his place opposite her. Her face and stance still cold and collected.
“Cathleen…..” Monroe began, his voice filled with assurance. “Or can I call you Petra?”
Hearing her real name seemed to shatter the mask of confidence she’d worn so well. At last, he had her. After all there was power in a name…. if you knew how to use it.