I call him D
Cutting out a lot of walking through bland bleached white halls. Not too dissimilar from the inside of a hospital complete with the smell of death and cleaning products. Here I was waiting in an ‘interview room’. It was sort of a bland egg shelled colour and it smelled vaguely of crayons.
It was just a square room that could have been an empty storage closet but for the table and chairs. There was no long two way mirror, just a camera, I was sure was on. But they would see nothing of interest, no tell or wink or talking to myself. I was without guilt of any kind, incapable of feeling it in fact and as far as I knew actually innocent of any crime larger than an overdue library book. My fantasies aside I was a pretty solid citizen, on paper. That was as far as I knew. Two or probably thirty minutes from now a detective could walk in here with a video of me robbing a jewellery store wearing the barmaids head as a hat.
I’m sure I’d look quite surprised, then again maybe not. I had dwelled on the possibility that the dark back seat driver might have been taking me around for a spin in the wee hours of the night. Slipping his driving gloves on and sidling over into the front seat while I was away with the faeries. But it seemed fanciful even for me. Although it would explain why I feel so rundown recently, I could just be getting my period.
I was about to delve deeper into another dark daydream when the seal on the door behind me was broken. I turned awkwardly to watch detective Cartwell saunter in looking down at a bland manila folder as if I hadn’t been waiting at least an hour at this point. Sipping a hot cup of coffee probably one of many. Our tax dollars at work.
There was something I liked about this place though. There was something beautifully impersonal about everything I saw. Men and women in and out of uniform shuffling about in a trance pretending they belonged, all separated out in little cubicles and cubies. The smell of justice a dank bitter smell like burnt coffee and cigarette butts. People brought together working towards something that could never truly be but was worth their time anyway. Like a maid constantly making a bed for others to sleep in only to have to make it again the next day. Making order from so much chaos, what a daunting task, I liked it.
He looked up at me like he didn’t expect me to be in here causing deep creases to form on his smooth chocolatey forehead. He then proceeded to slap the folder on the table as if it had pictures of the Kennedy assassination from an until now unseen new angle. My money was on Jackie this time around. Maybe it was the butler with the candle stick.
He took a sip of his coffee, waiting to say something, this whole thing I guess was to soften me up, let me stew, all protocol I was sure.
I could have said something, that was sort of the point of me being here. But I felt it impertinent to be the first one to talk in this situation, surely that would break some sort of criminal code. At least let the cop ask a question before you spill the beans entirely.
So I sat, adjusted myself in my seat a little bit and looked at him as he continued to look down and sip his coffee. I cleared my throat quietly, readying myself.
“Do you know why you’re here” He asked some, I was assuming, very guilty looking coffee granules at the bottom of his cup.
“Err” Eloquent as always. “Something to do with the heads in the lockers?” I asked myself, the words tiptoeing out playfully. The heads seemed like a distant memory now, a memento from a special day I never got to keep, I didn’t even keep the ball. Maybe I could still get it out of the trash.
He made a face at his coffee like he got all the way to the bottom only to discover the body of a fly in a set of tiny Bermuda shorts.
He looked up at me with half lidded eyes and made a sucking noise with his teeth before setting the empty cup down. The sound of the empty cup touching down on the table echoing went right through me. We had so much in common.
He then readjusted himself in his seat and made a sighing noise like he was about to open some grand grimoire of Diana’s mistakes past and present. A catalogue of all my thought crimes recorded for all to see. Probably even had my tween fascination with Justin Bieber and Edward from twilight in there too. That would have been truly incriminating. Especially if he found my adolescent fan fic shipping the two. My mind was wondering trying to distract from the dark hissing noise. A black punctured tire whispering to me in that mock reflection of my own inner voice.
A quiet siren ripping through the dark foggy depths of the ghost town called Diana.
He opened the file and split his lips as he looked at me, flipping a Photostat copy of a picture over in my direction.
In it; a blurry night still from a security camera, the vague outline of a hummer pulling out into the night.
“That picture was taken from a gas station security camera of a car fleeing the scene of the latest Headsman murder.” I don’t know what was more shocking, the picture or the fact not even the police could decide on a definitive name for him, Head-hunter, headsman, pick one.
I looked up at him and gave him my best teenage ‘so what’ face. Trying both not to look completely blindsided and also trying not to open my eyes wide enough for him to see that there was nothing behind them. Too much emotion, and too little would both be mistakes, what a tight rope I walk, how I envied Manson. He’d just make a funny face and say something vaguely intelligible.
“I- err” Great work Diana, you’ve got him eating out of the palm of your hand.
“Now what would be the chances that you would be the one to find those heads.” He sat back in his chair laying out some figurative diorama of events with his hands on the table separating us. “And only a day later photographed leaving the scene of another murder in your boyfriends car- and that is your boyfriends car isn’t it?” The question was mute, devoid of any inclination of doubt. He slid a few more pictures across the desk, these ones were less blurry. Different angles of the car even a nice shot from the front, my ghostly white face projecting through the tinted glass windshield. So alien looking, that whole night slid past me, I didn’t remember any of the drive back, just got filed away, burnt in a fire. He could show me cell phone footage of me drinking someone’s blood and flying away on a broomstick next and I would have shrugged. My heart was pounding now, jumping up and down. I could feel something rising, but it was slow and pleasant like the steady beat of Wagner through paper thin apartment walls.
Termites crawling through drywall, making a steady humming sound of tiny feet.
“You want me to believe this is a coincidence?”
That would be helpful. But neither of us were that dumb. I started to feel small and put upon like I was sitting in the principal’s office and I was about to be ambushed by my parents. Who would inevitably take the side of law and order and all things good and abandon poor Desecrated Diana.
I didn’t say anything, they can’t give you the electric chair if all you do is nod and drool. Was there a precedent for that?
“That’s you on those tapes.” He said it defiantly almost as a question. But there was something in his voice and the way he pointed and moved his head. Pointing at an imaginary VCR that made me think he didn’t really want to believe it. He didn’t want evil to be this cute. Something about that really troubled him.
I shrunk a little more away from him into my own little world.
He readjusted and sighed making some exaggerated face wiping gesture with both hands. As if he’d been the one waiting in here all this time to be accused of multiple murder that you probably didn’t actually do. “Look-
I don’t think a teenage girl is capable of all- that.” He said now with an air of divine leniency, a saint ready to let the sinner have a quick and merciful death instead of a long awkward one sitting atop a dull pike lathered in goose fat. “But I think you know something, I think it could even be someone at your school- your boyfriend maybe?” He nodded at me he was fishing now, the fight he had a moment ago, the hot spark of discovery was gone. He must have thought I would throw up or burst into tears when I saw the photos, not stare blankly at them hiding the rising tide of- something.
An air of almost perfectly crafted indifference. “I was just-“ Yes? “My boyfriend was taking me for a driving lesson” Weak Diana, that is terrible.
“At two O’clock in the morning, through central city?” He scoffed.
Oh Jesus, I was better off as the strong silent type, I should have asked for a lawyer, no that would have made me look ten times guiltier, don’t you watch TV?
Just as the silence between us had elongated to an incredibly unpleasant cacophony. The door opened again with the sound of Tupperware popping and the head of a tiny red-haired woman poked around it.
“Cartwell, captain Hughes wants to see you in his office”.
“I’m in the middle of an interrogation”
I thought this was the ‘interview room’ that’s false advertising!
“He says it can’t wait” The woman said.
He got up without saying another word, just a gasp or another sigh and a quick searching glance in my eyes, he’d find nothing and that’s what scared me the most. An odd expression crossed his face like he’d suddenly realised he’d been talking to a Burmese python this entire time. And I was just waiting for him to lie down and stop wriggling so I could unhinge my jaw and fit him footways into my mouth.
“Excuse me for a minute” He said before awkwardly angling himself around the desk, almost like he was trying to jump over it.
“Err” I said.
I waited for another ten or twenty minutes, trying not to look up at the camera or blurt out anything incriminating. Now that I thought about it I couldn’t even muster a confession. All the events leading up to this point were so disjointed. Despite actually being there, I doubted I could relay it in any particular order that made any sense. Not without needing to talk to a priest first.
I sighed, saddened by the fact even if he did rake me over the coals for hours and break me I wouldn’t even make enough sense to muster an insanity defence. Despite the fact I technically didn’t do anything but I had nothing really to bargain with either, no names to give no hard evidence. It crossed my mind to throw them Wendy like some sad tired over made up life preserver. Then remembering I still didn’t have any of that evidence they loved so much. It would just be a pathetic witch hunt spurred by a false confession based on ‘women’s intuition’.
Just as I was starting to feel sorry for myself and think of ways I could maybe accessorize or dye my hair in a toilet to go with an orange jump suit. Cartwell came bounding in looking a little flustered. He looked stolid, hiding a streak of glacial anger, like he’d received a swirly for good behaviour and was now looking to take it out on someone small and cute.
He stood aside from the door and made a flat dull donkey-like face. “You’re free to go”
“Err, whu-?” Kill me now.
“Word from on high is you’re a state case, I can’t touch you” He said it like I was covered in bugs or something to that effect.
A shard of glass came off my back and I felt a distinct shiver, what did that mean? Was I supposed to know? Was it the FBI? I just did a little harmless amateur hacking I swear, it’s not like I back doored the pentagon.
He cocked his head to the side motioning to the door and I got up awkwardly picking my heart up off the floor. Bundling out of the opening brushing past him as he held it open.
Something like a restrained growl coming from inside. A hushed pained yelping from a wounded dog was there something sharing space inside the good detective? Probably not, not everyone is a nutty serial killer Diana, get over yourself already.
I breezed down the hall finding some air in my lungs and some blood in my legs, it felt like I hadn’t used them in hours. I walked up and down feeling a little lost. I remember there being a bunch of surfer dudes busted for partying too hard. Trying to start the party all over again in the hallway cuffed to a bench. They were gone and the hallway was empty and samey looking, a graveyard quietus holding me in place.
An alien noise erupted from my purse and I jumped like an idiot in a slasher movie, it’s just your phone Diana.
I closed my eyes smoothing out my shirt and taking a deep calming yoga breath putting the phone to my ear.
“Diana?” The rugged voice said.
“You called me” I answered.
“You see you do need me after al.l” Brodsky croaked, a hoarse hissing laughter eking out like the sound of two planks rubbing together.
“You got me out of there?”
“What, don’t want to know how some OC detective who couldn’t find his ass with two hands and a Sherpa got his mitts on that footage. And only a few days after the incident in question?” He cleared his throat, it needed a lot of clearing “Warrants have to be issued subpoenas given out, it can take weeks. How would he even know to look at that stretch of road or that gas station in particular? He’d have to look at the security footage of a five block radius of the house. And why would he even bother for some low life gangbanger?”
“So it was you, you’ve been shadowing me?”
“Not me personally, I don’t get around so good anymore. I can help you or I can bury you under so much red tape you’ll wish you were dead. Do we understand each other?”
“You brought me here”
“I brought you here and with one phone call I can keep you here for as long as I want.”
“What do you want?”
“You know what I want and I think I know what you want.”
“I’m working on it” I said.
A few days of inaction passed, school, home, sleep. That process continued on for a short time until the weekend got the better of me. I realised procrastination was getting me nowhere and prom was getting ever closer. So now, as fortunes would have it Dumb Dawdling Diana found herself snugly entombed in the cool dank dark of the fairly roomy trunk of a Lincoln town car. Black as far as I can remember, terrible for this heat.
Maybe I should have been more alarmed but I was too busy listening for the turn and feeling the speed bumps to think about my immediate future. Muffled voices of inane pleasantries exchanged, you’re regular ‘How do you do’s’ and all that, ‘isn’t the weather lovely, what a nice day for a vivisection’. And then a mechanical noise of a gate rising, engine biting and rising and nosing through the gate.
I waited for a moment for them to clear the checkpoint. It was a five mile zone in this neighbourhood so I opened the trunk and stepped out quick and low and braced into a walk as casual as Larry, whomever Larry was. ‘Yeah I live here, just an average girl walking her- nothing.’ Shit should have brought a leash or something, maybe a clip board and stick on tie to look official, life a teenage garden inspector.
Oh you thought? Dashing dark lit Diana trapped in a trunk by some dastardly dude? Nay, I mean no, not yet anyway. Not if I had anything to say about it.
It was just the slickest way I could think of breaking into a gated community unannounced.
I’m getting ahead of myself, what am I doing? I asked myself as I started to feel like I was walking aimlessly as my eyes adjusted to blaring mid-morning L.A sun. Forgot my sunglasses, who does that? Oh how I pity you, ditzy deadly Diana.
I felt pressed, moulded, pushed along by hands seen and unseen and possibly one cold claw. A little field trip was of vital import.
Wendy Vargas, my dear old pal and for all intents and purposes; blood sister, lived in a nice little three bed three bath Condo in the Anaheim hills. About a thirty minute drive from school in a gated community known as ‘Viewpointe north’. Very glitzy, I must say.
It was a Saturday, of course it was, you wouldn’t expect a solid citizen, model pupil like me to skip class to do what exactly? A drop of home invasion, some measured manslaughter perhaps? I could be so lucky.
I picked this day for two reasons, school being the latter. The former was that today I knew exactly where Wendy was going to be because I was meant to be there with her. Today was supposed to be early prep work for the senior prom which was only a couple of days away, now I thought about it. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?
Just benign things like hanging up streamers and sticking up posters, she had the whole committee helping I’m sure she wouldn’t miss me. I already called in sick ahead of time and subsequently turned off my phone. Promising her I would be buried under a mound of sheets and clothes sweating out some summer cold. Hoping to be rid of it before the ‘really like seriously important dance’. If I had had a conscience this is the moment it would popping up like that little Microsoft paper clip; “It looks like you’re trying to break into your best friend’s house to look for evidence implicating her in a murder”.
Of course lacking any of those oh so human draw backs I walked the streets without a care. Almost considering whistling a happy tune as I strolled the carefully pruned lawns and shrubberies of the block looking for her house in particular.
It was a very nice neighbourhood, reserved only for state senators, criminal attorneys and, I guess one ex-sandwich shop magnate.
I had been to her house before of course, being best buds and all. I could probably make some excuse with the gate keeper guard guy, say I forgot my iPod or whatever at her house. ‘Oh please mister guard could I go get it?’ Batting an eyelid or even two. But then there’s the problem of signing in and out. There’d be a record of my coming and going and although I didn’t plan on leaving any evidence there was a good chance she’d be told that I was here. And that was something I was willing to climb into the trunk of strangers car to avoid. In case you were wondering how I knew where the car was heading, they all have these stickers on them. Sort of a sign of status but helps easily identify peoples cars at a distance. So then the guards can decide when walking up whether to put on the fake shit eating grin. ‘Good morning Mr rich asshole’ or the stern Pitbull scowl ‘fuck off Mr nobody guy, no one’s buying bibles today!’.
Even their mail must have been sorted through that booth. I wandered if they filtered their internet too, maybe they warmed their toilets seats before they sat down. Who was I kidding? Of course they had heated toilet seats, goes without saying.
Actually now that I thinking about it, it had been a while since I’d visited her, maybe as far back as middle school play dates. But even then I think that was just an excuse for my ‘Aunt’ to see how rich people lived. Larp as one for an afternoon while Wendy showed me her collection of ethnic Barbie’s from around the world. Even then I found that tiresome and I could only dream of sticking all the heads of her Barbie’s on the gate surrounding Casa de Barbie’s dream villa. Complete with a real working hot tub and sauna.
In all honesty she didn’t really interest me back then, we’d stayed in contact, this was all before the ‘unpleasantness’ that befell her father. After that quite coincidentally we reconnected in high school. No one really interested me if I was being ‘really’ honest, not any further than I wondered what their insides looked like. Even then I felt like a shaved fox walking the cramped halls of a battery farm chicken coop licking my lips and asking only ‘when?’
The answer to that question always a shrill and chilling ‘Soon’.
Always soon, never now.
I had of course tried to get the area up on google so I could ‘walk the streets’ so to speak but even my digital footprint was denied access. I guess google wasn’t even good enough to set foot on these hallowed grounds, how privileged I felt even breathing their air. It was sort of heady and crisp, maybe they had it pumped in from aspen. It wouldn’t surprise me.
The houses of course were all perfectly breath taking. Smooth and gorgeous like they’d all been cut from one piece of stone, just giant liveable sculptures, little Mount Rushmore’s. Each distinctly wonderful and in keeping with the high end aesthetic. Without falling into the trap of being carbon copies of the other, wouldn’t dream of it.
Sprawling but perfectly modest two story buildings with beautiful well-kept lawns on all sides. Without any fences or gates surrounding them. Why bother when all the riff raff are kept out by armed guards and probably dogs, lots of angry dogs.
Finally after a couple of minutes of half purposeful walking. That’s half ‘I belong here’ confident, a little arm swing, fleet of foot, ‘I have somewhere to be, don’t stand in my way’ and half ‘shit, I’m lost’, have you seen fluffy? Is this my house or? Have you been drinking in the morning again?’ I came across a house I was sure I recognised.
It was a large two story condo, a sandy almost salmon pink colour, something like lime sandstone maybe I dunno, I’m not an architect. High school kid remember.
A huge almost church window on the front of the second floor and a giant white garage door below it. Tastefully dusted with trees and shrubs with some spikey looking desert plants put in for good measure. Gave it an overall atmosphere of look but don’t touch, sadly I could not comply.
The front door was for some odd design choice not actually at the front but sort of tucked at an odd angle almost in the house’s elbow. With raised partition of walls on one side and the full structure of the house on the other. Which was decidedly to my advantage as it would hide my advance around the house. To anyone given to an idle glance it would just look like a little rich white girl walking to her front door and then disappearing into the splendour she so rightfully deserved.
I know what you’re thinking; ’really you’re going to break into a probably nearing five hundred thousand dollar house in the middle of the day. Guarded by a team of armed ex-army and moonlighting cops? Yes, yes I was. I was that stupid, that desperate.
Really, honestly, you think I wouldn’t think of a way round this? Ok yeah you’d be right. I was just hoping something would come to me in the time it took for me to walk up the drive and open the unlocked door. Holy crap, you have to be kidding me?