by J.S. Downing
Glade interrogates a murder suspect that is more than he bargained for.
The letter P was branded onto her neck just above the left collarbone. Her hair was long enough to cover it if she chose, but she kept it in a single dark braid that snaked down her right shoulder. The clothes she wore were professional; a white button up shirt that was neither too loose or too tight, adorned by a black vest with a gold pen protruding from the right pocket; black khaki pants with a simple brown belt that was clasped with gold; flat, open toe black shoes that revealed scarlet painted nails underneath. He made note that there was no wedding ring. She sat with a relaxed dignity, as though she were about to give an interview for a job.
Glade leaned forward, squaring his shoulders and folding his hands on the table. “I have a legal obligation to remind you that everything said here is being recorded, and may later be used against you in the court of law,” he began, “I need you to acknowledge that you are of sound mind, not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and that what you say is of your own volition.”
She shrugged simply. “My testimony is my own.”
“I'd like to get through with this as quickly as possible. It seems like a pretty straightforward case. Before we get into specifics, however, I'll need to know your name for the record.”
“Your full name, please.”
“Tessela Markevna Kedrov.”
He pulled the pad close and wrote Tess. The information officer would have to be the one to butcher that name. “Thank you. What is your date of birth?”
“June the 5th, 1982.”
“You are thirty-three years old?”
Glade jotted down the date and then looked up at her. Tess watched him with a mild curiosity. She was abnormally calm for someone involved in a murder case. Persons brought into the interrogation room were always extremely anxious, whether guilty or not. The atmosphere demanded a certain tension in an individual. This woman, Tess, looked like she could have just as easily been withdrawing money from the bank.
“Where were you on August the 12th at 8pm?”
Again, she shrugged. “At the house of Senator Erich Brown,” she began, “specifically his kitchen.”
He studied her posture, but could discern nothing. “We received a 911 call at 9:45pm from his wife, who had found him dead on arrival. The coroner determined it was death by asphyxiation. The time of death was around 8pm.”
Tess kept her eyes locked on his. “It was 8:09pm, to be precise.”
That gave him pause. “There were no witnesses, but the security cameras at the senator's home caught two people entering the house, you and another that has yet to be identified. Who was the other individual involved?”
“That information is not for me to give.”
An odd way to phrase that.
He scowled. “Need I remind you, Ms. Kedrov, that failure to cooperate with this investigation is a crime, and withholding information on the case could implicate you in the murder. If you are worried about your safety, we will protect you so that you may testify.”
She leaned back, glancing up at the camera before meeting his gaze cooly. Glade couldn't read what she was thinking. “I'm in no danger from anyone. I suppose the easiest way to explain it, Detective, is that my part in that night is my property to do with as I please. I give that information willingly. The other party, however, is not here to speak for themselves, and therefore cannot give you their happenings that night. If I were to give that to you,” her voice had an edge, “It would be stealing.”
Stealing? Glade took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She admitted being at the scene of the crime—and divulged the exact time of the victim’s death. That implicated her as either the murderer or the accomplice. From what he could see, she didn't seem to care which he thought she was. It was a senator that was killed, meaning there was also a potential political factor. Discover the motive, first, and worry about the details after.
“You have a Russian name, but no accent. Are your parents from Russia?”
She laughed. “New Jersey.”
“When did your family come to the United States?”
“Long before my time.”
He sighed. I feel like I'm jousting with her. “To what country do you belong?”
Tess tsked and regarded him. “I believe you misspoke.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You meant to ask me to what government I belong. That's the way of the world right now”—she sounded like there was more she wanted to say—“but more precisely, you meant to ask what government belongs to me.”
At that, Glade frowned. “I'm not following you.”
Tess laid her hands on the table, palms up. “There are no shackles on my wrists, Detective. We can agree that a government is not an entity. It is something that is created by people for a specific purpose. A service, if you will. So, by this logic, how can I belong to something that is created to serve me?”
What a strange shift in topic. “Tess, I need information regarding the murder of Senator Brown. That is my job, and my only concern with you. Please, I'm trying to find a motive for the murder.”
Nodding, she drew her arms back and crossed them under her breast. “I'm trying to give you one.”
He watched her for a time, trying to figure out a way through the wall she had raised. She wasn't going to answer questions regarding the other party directly, but in all other regards she seemed more than willing to talk. Almost as though she had things she wanted to tell him, but she wanted him to find them for himself. He felt like she was the one interviewing him.
“This is going to take some time to get through, it seems.”
She laughed. “I have nowhere to be, Glade.”
His breath caught. I don't remember telling her my name.
“In my opinion, this is going to take far longer than any interrogation you've ever done. There are things you need to know, but first you'll have to prove to me that you are worthy of knowing,” She stretched out, arching her back and coming to her feet like a jungle cat that had just found the scent of prey. “I suggest you let me guide this conversation for the next while.”
Glade watched her apprehensively. “And in this 'conversation', you will give me the information I need on the Senator's murder?”
Tess raised an eyebrow. “Indeed. Although by the end of it, the death of the Senator will be the least of your concerns.”
* * *
When I was a child, I always dreamed of being something special. We all do, I suppose, and in that way we all feel like we, ourselves, are special. I remember wanting to be an astronaut, a doctor, a soldier, a cowboy, even a bank robber. So many things are romanticized to us that almost anything can seem noble and worth doing. What we can imagine is limitless, before we grow up to see the limitations that are imposed on us. That is why I used to believe that the only truly free people are children.
I grew up in a middle class house in a middle class neighborhood of a middle class town. My parents were kind, though not terribly ambitious. They each had gone through school and started jobs that gave them just enough to get by. They neither liked their careers, nor hated them; to my parents it was just something people did. I guess if I had to pick one word to describe them, it would be lukewarm. My friends came and went, I was neither popular nor picked on. As a child you never analyze your own life, and so it was as I expected it should be.
One night coming home from a date, my parents died in a car accident. It was winter and the roads were icy, and my mother lost control of her car and took them both over an embankment. My heart was broken. As a child, your parents are your entire life—and losing both suddenly left me feeling hurt and empty. I realized then, earlier than a child ought to, that I didn't know how to live. I was alone, and with no one to teach me how to survive.
And that is when I met my Uncle Jory.
I had been staying at my neighbor's house. Their son was my best friend but even now I can't remember what his name was. They had told me I was only staying there temporarily, that my family had been contacted and someone was coming out to get me after the funeral. I didn't even know I had other family; my father was an orphan, and my mother's parents were deceased, and her remaining family lived in Russia. Apparently she had a brother named Jory that she had never told me of.
He was a tall man, broad, clean shaven and bald. There was a harsh look to him, and he had eyes so blue I used to think they were made of ice. When I saw him at that funeral, he did not approach me. Only one time do I remember our eyes meeting, and he gave me a crooked smile that looked more menacing than sincere. I admit that for the first while, I had nightmares about that smile.
That night I waited in the den for him to arrive, my bags packed and my coat and beanie on. I had never been so nervous in my life. I wanted to scream that it wasn't fair, that I didn't want to go with him. He frightened me in a way I couldn't explain. My friend and his parents, and everyone I ever knew must have been crazy to leave me with someone so scary. It's still a blur to me exactly what happened, all I remember is that when he finally came to the door, he took up the entire frame. His icy eyes met mine, and he gestured with a flick of his head to go out to the taxi. Something about his glance commanded obedience, and I went without question.
I don't even remember if I said goodbye to my neighbors.
The taxi took us to the airport, and we got on a plane to Canada.
* * *
Glade took a sip of his coffee, watching her curiously. “So your uncle was Canadian?”
There was a mild amusement on Tess's face. “He was from all over. Technically he lived in Colorado, but before we could do anything else, he had to take me to Ithaca.”
“Ithaca is in New York.”
“It is. And it is an island in Greece. Or in this case it is a settlement in Nunavut, Canada.”
He frowned. “I've never heard of it.”
Tess took a sip of her coffee as she leaned against the back wall. “Few ever have. Its name is metaphorical of an ancient city in Homer's The Odyssey. Are you familiar with it?”
Glade nodded. “Vaguely.”
“The main character of the poem is named Odysseus, King of Ithaca. His defining attributes were intelligence and perseverance, as it took him ten years to return to his homeland after the fall of Troy. His journey is the metaphor of the modern day settlement of Ithaca,” she smiled distantly, “it is the place to return to, no matter how harrowing the trip.”
He thought that over. A place to return to. It seemed that everything she gave him was metaphor for something else. Under normal circumstances he would have decided she was being uncooperative and sent her to jail. After all, she had given him more than enough evidence to hold her until the District Attorney put a case together. So far the story had little to do with his investigation, but he felt that she was hinting at something he needed to know.
“What did you mean when you said your uncle had to take you to Ithaca? If he had to do it, someone or something was making him do it.”
The smile she gave told him she had been expecting the question. “Precisely,” She set her cup down and returned to her chair. “In this case it was a something, not a someone. A moral code demanded he bring me there.”
“So you had no choice in the matter.”
“The choice would come later. I was simply being presented an opportunity.”
He weighed that for a moment while watching the steam rise from his cup. “What moral code was guiding him?”
This time she was the one who took a moment to consider her words. “Aftos pou ginetai to provato ton troei o lykos.”
“What does that mean?”
“He who becomes the sheep is eaten by the wolf.”
Silence followed for a time. “That was the opportunity? To become a sheep or a wolf?”
Tess only watched him.
He nodded as he tried to work it out in his head. “So the trip was for you, not for your uncle. Jory, you said his name was. What is it that he did for work?”
“Well, in not so many words,” she hesitated, “he killed people.”
Glade choked on his coffee.