Based on Janice Wong's "Always A Motive". Written from the perspective of Joe Manetti.
|The brick apartment; this was it. The streets are empty, the dim lights illuminating but a speck of what seems like an abyss. My arms feel heavier by the minute, weighed down not by the child but by the ominous dread that clings to me with fervish intent. In fact, the baby is superbly behaved. Really, a warm and quiet little bundle, fragile as porcelain. You’d think one wouldn’t be capable, or even held remotely responsible, for ever destroying such a precious gem as this.
I gather myself once more in the frigid air, and make my way into the red-stone building. I am confronted with a steel metal rack, as I search for the Millers’ unit. Second floor. I step into the the stairwell, immediately blasted with a dinky scent. The lights hung within throb with a steady low hum, along with the deafening buzz of my restless heart. The baby’s still asleep. Unbothered by the noise, this god-awful noise. The door swings open to the nook of a white-walled hallway. My arms shake as I approach the unit, as I lift my weighted fingers for the doorbell. When the door opens, I stiffen. Then relax, at the sight of a man with hair just as blonde as the boy’s, nevertheless confused and rubbing sleep out of his eyes–framed by a sallow sullen face. It contorts through a series of mixed emotions. Painful emotions, as he realizes what is happening.
“Here’s your kid,” I breathed, “he’s all all right.” I search for the father’s eyes, for one thing. For anything, just about. Fear.
Wait, what? No, you’ve got it wrong.
Suddenly, my heart twinges with an utmost surge of panic as the father ducks into his flat with haste. I’m scared, vulnerable. I flee down the stairs and it strikes me. But before I can do anything, the lights and blaring sirens beat me to it.
“I'm Inspector Winters. You’d better begin to talk. It'll make it easier for all of us. Especially you.”
I felt as if someone had stabbed me with those words and twisted it in the wound. I'm drained, I've lost half my battle on the way here. Whatever I say, they won't believe me.
I take a shaky breath anyways,
“You think I kidnapped that boy. But you're making a mistake.” I plead, not knowing I would sound so desperate. Maybe I am just that desperate. For what?
The series of questions he asks me thereafter strips me naked. I feel as if my rights are being raped by the conversation. They spit in response to my attempts in proving not guilty. Until someone calls in. I feel a thrill, an adrenaline rush. I meet the weary eyes of the inspector, hoping that it had been someone to bail me out. I guess I misjudged his gaze.
“Joe,” He said, “that call came from your apartment. One of our men has been there finding out some things about you. Is it true that you lost your six-year-old son a few months ago?”
I’m exasperated. Exactly what I’ve been trying to avoid; the excruciatingly haunting, painful memories come flooding back. Memories of not being there, of not being by his side when it happened.
It was my fault.
It was my fault.
It was my fault.
The chilled air snaps me out of it. I'm trembling within and trying to contain it as best as possible,
“He was killed by a truck. A street accident when I was out of town on a job.” I almost whimper aloud. My heart is bleeding, twisted in horrific pain, but it’s nothing as painful as the thought of my son alone. Somehow,that still didn’t satisfy them. The same,hopeless, painful and useless questions persist. They are cruel and disgusting humans who bear no sympathy. Yet, they’re just doing their job. Just like how I had been on my job... I’m going ballistic. The agony in being reminded is unbearable. A firm knock echoes throughout the interrogation room, and little did I know that would become my saviour. When I’m deemed innocent by the toll keeper, I crumple from within. Sure, I’ve triumphed, but I've been torn down. Nothing they say now could change the fact that I'm broken.
“I told you I was telling the truth,” I croaked.
“Why didn’t you bring the kid directly to us?” He asked meekly.
I warn him it would be a challenge to figure out, that he wouldn't follow, but he insists. I leave like a ghost, with Winters frozen on his spot.
All I needed then, was the look on a father’s face, after rejoicing with his lost son. All I needed was a picture, a happily ever after. All I needed, was resolve.