You have reached the blog of author Jaye Viner. Feel free to wander around and explore, and if you're inspired share whatever comes to mind. New Posts come on Mondays with new fiction posts on Wednesdays.

The best way to find us is on Twitter @JayeViner. We'd love to know you here, there, and everywhere.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chapter 25--The Memory Room

Send to Kindle

We're in the middle of an all-cast confrontation. Daniel has asked why Jane married Brandon. Everyone's on edge.

In the living room Steve paces. He explodes as soon as he sees me. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me your brothers are terrorists? Maybe we could have all had a party together and talked about why they can’t tell the difference between me and Dan?”
“Steve, please calm down. I think there’s a lot we don’t understand yet.”
“Come on, Mom, don’t you want to know the inside story? She was there. She watched those goons beat Dan within an inch of his life. I’d like to know.”
Riley sets me down on the couch beside Mrs. Helston, who is doing her best not to look at me like she’s just discovered I escaped from prison. “Jane saved my life, I believe we owe her a chance to defend herself.”
            Great, now I have to do it again. Riley brings me a drink, straight liquor, a new experience. I take the whole thing at once and wait for the buzz to blur my panic into a more peaceful high. She works her way around the room lubricating everyone. I wait for Daniel. He leans against the back of the couch. There’s no way for us to make eye contact.
I begin by repeating that I’m the only one in danger because I’m the one that’s been hiding and now, because of the whole stupid phone throwing thing, my husband and brothers know where I am.
From there I walk through the hours after leaving Battery Park. I stall for time over my dinner with Jason, hoping the banality will give Steve time to chill out and perhaps not kill me, which he has every right to do. He is the one walking around with the collar of guilt around his neck for being the one who should have been taken.
At the safe site, I remember my surprise and disappointment when I find out Jason didn’t come to New York just to talk to me about Boston. I’m the one who suggests they check the wallet to confirm they’ve grabbed the wrong guy.
The tension in the room ratchets up as I describe the debate, hesitation, and anger that ensues among the Vanguard following the wallet check. I sense they want me out of the room so I take water down to Daniel. When I return I can tell something’s gone on but I don’t have enough experience to understand at least one of my brothers has allied against me in secret.
I pause, again stalling for time. Mrs. Helston and Riley look a little blank. They’re processing a lot right now, maybe they still think I’m talking about a very organized gang of thugs who randomly targeted Daniel for his money. 
Jason is in a hurry to get me out of the house and doesn’t want to talk any more about the kidnapping. I’m worried that the obvious right thing isn’t going to happen so I fight to stay and drag a promise out of them to release Daniel that same night as soon as it’s dark. I don’t leave until I’m satisfied.
“What was the promise?” asks Daniel.
“It doesn’t matter. They lied to me.”
“Say it anyway.”
Gulp, gulp, gulp. “I promised to finish college at home and to marry my ex-boyfriend. I didn’t know their side hadn’t been kept until Steve told me at the hospital.”
Now it’s all out. I’m done. Everyone else looks to Daniel, waiting for him to accept my story or counter it. There isn’t anything new to read in his body language. But then, I’m not sure what I would look like after I just found out someone had given up their life dream to marry a guy they didn’t love so I could carry on with mine. My ulterior woman crosses the room to reach out and hug him, to feel whatever he’s feeling and share it. More than anything I desperately want to share it, whatever it is.
“I knew there was something off about her,” says Steve.
Without thinking I pitch my glass at him, not really aiming, more of a reflex really. The glass shatters against his shoulder with disappointingly minor damage.
“Hey, what the fuck?”
“That’s why you’ve gone around telling everyone I’ve slept with you, right?”
Steve turns Cornhusker red from his neck up to his hairline.
If you don’t know what a Cornhusker is, that’s okay. Normally I wouldn’t admit such a thing either. It’s a Midwestern thing.
Riley actually bursts out laughing she’s so surprised. “Would you look at that? I’ve never seen him blush before.” She claps me on the back. I’d bet anything Riley grew up with brothers.
“Whatever,” snaps Steve. “It’s not like Dan wanted her. He hasn’t touched a girl in a decade.”
There it is: the pin that pops the balloon that has been brooding with his back to us. I can almost hear the snap. Steve barely has time to congratulate himself on his quip before Daniel’s fist finds his face. This isn’t like a hard right uppercut, this is Daniel actually leaping up into the air and bringing his fist down on Steve’ face, serious ninja stuff, except a little clumsy because he only has one completely strong hip.
Mrs. Helston gasps, horrified, but of course she can’t do anything to stop him. I’m sure if she’d been able to get off the couch fast enough she would have tried.
It’s all over before the three of us women are done blinking off our astonishment. Daniel appears from behind the couch first, adjusting his clothes. There’s blood on his knuckles. Steve is slower to get up, whining in a sort of moaning howl, “You bastard! You fucking bastard, you broke my, my—did you forget about Hawaii?”
“We’re leaving tomorrow. If she doesn’t want to be found by her relatives she’s coming with us.” Daniel looks at me. Finally I see him and he sees me. I summon up what little energy I have left to beam into my expression every possible suggestion of trustworthiness, hoping he’ll believe I’m not going to betray him. I’m not really sure it’s possible to overcome that kind of bias in an expression, but I’m trying. I could sit under the gaze of those eyes the rest of my life and not care about anything else. I want him to believe me. It isn’t clear what message he receives but something appears to decide itself in his thoughts. He leaves the house, probably to go up and sit on his deck and watch the ocean.
Maybe I’m a bit drunk and this is why Steve’ nose just won’t settle correctly into place. Maybe being knocked off-kilter twice in a day is too much for a nose. He escapes me as soon as I’m done, making his exit as guilty as a dog with its tail between its legs.
Riley and I stand in the kitchen not quite sure what to say to each other. If there’s some kind of small talk follow-up commonly used after such revelations I could make use of it. It’s possible we’re both just too tired, tired beyond tired in my case.
“Cheers,” says Riley, tapping her glass to mine.
“I thought it was just a mugging,” mummers Mrs. Helston. “Someone did all that on purpose…I can’t tell if that makes me feel better or worse.”  She hands me an armload of blankets. “There isn’t any insulation in the tower. You’ll need these.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Mrs. Helston can’t read my mind and doesn’t know that I’m just itching to spend time in that room full of pillows. It certainly isn’t a thought I’ve had in the past hour.
“Go up and find him,” she says, her smile vague, trying to absorb the shock.
The rain has fallen back into a light mist but the wind is blowing arctic air inland and it can’t be more than fifty-five or sixty degrees. My poor bare legs are half numb by the time I reach the top deck.
It’s too dark to tell if Daniel is surprised or expecting to see me. He leads the way inside and flips the light switch which turns on little lantern lights sitting in enclosures along the wall. There’s just enough light for us to see, but not enough for anyone in a neighboring house to see us.
Gauzy curtains cover the windows in translucent Indian sulfur and turmeric and curry and indigo and emerald. It feels like the place I’ve always wanted the best dream ever to be set. I sit on one of the window seats and crush a square of mustard colored pillow against my stomach. Daniel sits on the edge of the adjacent window seat watching me closely. That he waits for a reaction is my first clue that this isn’t just a room in the house. It isn’t just Poppy’s princess tower.
“You made this room for me. Why? There’s no way you could have expected to meet me again.”
“I feel emotion in color. It’s not like red is anger or blue is fear but impressions of color pallets usually overpower any image-based memories. After I got out of the hospital Mom wanted me to have a project. I wasn’t particularly motivated to relearn to walk knowing I wouldn’t ever be as strong as I had been. I had a lot of negative colors tearing around my head. This room became a way to remember something I wanted to remember. This is what you look like when I remember you at Battery Park.”
I could have sworn I don’t have any water left in my body, but my eyes are leaking again. “I’m so so sorry I ever left that day.”
He holds my face in his hands. The tears run over them, catching between his fingers. He kisses me.
In case you’re wondering this is not a night where clothes are wildly removed in the dead heat of passion. In the sunken center of our tower room, we huddle under blankets and enjoy the novelty of the room rising around us instead of falling away below. We feel each other in length and breadth and shape, and remember.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chapter 24--Secrets Emerge

Send to Kindle

This scene continues from the last installment when Daniel throws Jane's phone out the window after he discovers she's talking to the Vanguard.

“What’d you do that for?” I demand.
No answer.
“I need that phone, all my contact information is in that phone, my email, everything.”
Daniel is angry. It isn’t just silence anymore. I see it in the way he’s gripping the steering wheel, his wet hands creaking into the leather. It’s tempting to reach out and touch him, to try and draw him out of that steel-edged cocoon on the other side of the car. My eyes see Daniel but every other one of my senses registers a stranger as likely to lash out against me as that Vanguard policeman to lock me in cuffs and drive to Nebraska. For the first time since imposing myself on the Helstons I feel nervous with him the way I’ve seen people at the back lot nervous as though he’s some kind of time bomb or a villain demanding fearful respect, the same way people respect fires and tornadoes.
Here we are driving through the no man’s land south of the city. No one knows who I’m with. Come to think of it, there isn’t really anyone who would care to know. My phone is gone. He could do whatever he wanted with me. There’s nothing to stop him. Strange how it isn’t hard to imagine. What does it mean that I can look at him and imagine violence so easily?
Daniel skids into Mrs. Helston’s garage and is out of the car before I even have the chance to unbuckle my seat belt. From under the hood of my jeep in the adjacent stall Steve’s head pops up, startled by the Prius’ turbulent arrival.
“Pack up your stuff, we’re leaving tonight.”
“Come on, get moving.”
Steve wipes grease off his hands, looks at me like I hold the key to understanding this unexpected shift. Let’s see, what visual message am I sending right now? Drowned and disheveled rat sounds close enough. But I’m standing between the front of the car and the wall so Daniel can’t get out of the garage unless I move.
“Aren’t you even going to say one word to my face before you run off? And what’s with the sunglasses? Everyone in here knows what you look like. There’s no one to hide from unless you’re ashamed.”
That did it. He’s at me so fast I haven’t even closed my mouth before I’m up against the wall staring into those eyes. This doesn’t come with as much relief as I expected because he’s pretty scary right now, rioting energy that could probably peel my skin from my bones with very little trouble.
“What do I have to be ashamed of?”
“You won’t talk to me,” I whisper.
“Why should I talk to you? I knew from the very beginning finding you in that hospital couldn’t be a coincidence. Don’t you have anything better to do than screw up my life? Or are you and your terrorist buddies actually going to get it right and nab Steve this time?”
“What’s all this yelling?” Mrs. Helston calls from the top of the basement stairs.
“Nothing, Mom. Close the door.” Steve pulls at Daniel’s shoulder. “Calm down, braugh. What happened?”
“She met one of her contacts and now they know we’re here.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chapter 23--The FBI

Send to Kindle

I’ve sobbed myself silly in the corner of the interrogation room by the time those idiots finish their paperwork. This isn’t something I’m proud of, crying in public. I don’t help matters imagining Grace behind that one-way window looking on with smug satisfaction. I’ve never seen Grace smug, and struggle to envision her as the kind of person who takes satisfaction from other people’s misery. I’m not miserable. I’d like to take this moment to make use of the art of hyperbole. I’m fucking miserable.
Because Mrs. Helston said I am starting my new life, I’ve decided my new life will involve swearing. However, I will not take the Lord’s name in vain. It just makes me cringe and think of this pair of twin boys who took piano from my aunt while they were in junior high always saying G—this and G—that. If they’d spent even half the time they spent praying instead of swearing they’d have turned out as much more reasonable adults.
Swearing is for adults, I’ve decided. And it’s high time I exercised the adult delicacies of the English language, not in excess, but when something is deserving. While some of you reading this book may be marking this new turn as yet another on my path of self-destruction, I would like to go on record saying that there’s nothing particularly sinful about swearing up a good storm of four letter words, excluding God’s name, it’s just not polite or very socially acceptable. Soon I’ll be arriving at the conclusion that I’m not socially acceptable either but it hasn’t happened yet so externally I’ll remain that nice young lady who drove out of the Midwest pregnant and married and miraculously arrived in California unpregnant and unmarried.
While I’m going on the record I want to say that there’s no way in hell Jason killed our father. He wouldn’t do that. Okay…I can see a few scenarios where that might have been the result. I’ve had too much time sitting in this room to explore all possibilities. Every time I settle myself enough to stop crying another idea presents itself and I start off tearing up again and soaking my eyes in Daniel’s sweatshirt sleeves. They couldn’t be more wet if I’d gone for an afternoon walk in the rain.
Jason was in the army so he knows lots of ways to kill people. But he wanted our father to live through his shame so he could heal from it. Jason believes in giving people the chance to heal. That’s what all those anti-trial people don’t understand. It’s not about making statements or getting revenge, and he’s not a psychotic. He really wants to make things better and founding the Vanguard
was the way God showed him to do it.
 I’ve emptied myself out so I can barely walk when the officer comes to release me. The lawyer is waiting outside the door with Kleenex. Thank goodness she doesn’t ask why I’ve been crying. Maybe from her end of things everyone should cry after they’ve been questioned by the FBI. She tells me everything is going to be fine and gives me her card in case I need her again. I’m confused because it seems like she’s saying goodbye but we’re in the middle of the city, I have no idea what time it is and no clear way to get back to the Helstons. I still need her help.
The words are on the tip of my tongue when she detaches from me and moves to greet a man rising stiffly from a bench. He’s wearing a beanie and sunglasses, thus the delayed recognition. I cover my face with my hands in the soggy sleeves. Daniel hired the lawyer. I’m pretty sure I’m turning bright red. With those sunglasses I can’t tell if he’s seen me or if I can duck into the bathroom to try and make my face more presentable. I turn to look for the bathroom and bump into a police officer standing, or coming up, right behind me. Either way his destination is me because he takes hold of my arm and pinches it tight.
“Your behavior tonight has been noticed. It will be reported up the chain.” His voice more than his words drain the blood from my head. I feel it depressurizing, ready to float away into unconsciousness with the least provocation. He’s deadly serious, the same as those men who killed Annie Maybe, a fanatical true believer, part of the Vanguard network.
“Is there a problem, officer?”
Daniel is so polite.
Yes, there’s a freaking problem! I’m noticing a marked increase in my need to mentally scream. In the future this may push even further into actual screaming, just to warn you.
“And who are you?”
“I’m her ride.”
End of discussion. Please get me out of here.
I follow Daniel into the rain, into the car, and we begin a very silent drive back to his mother’s house. He keeps his sunglasses on. This starts out as something I find funny, but the further we go without him taking them off the more irritated I become. It’s past midnight. Who is going to recognize him driving through a deluge after midnight? My next irritation becomes the silence. He doesn’t make any attempt at small talk, he doesn’t even turn on the radio.
“Thank you for coming to pick me up. I hope you didn’t have to sit there long.”
No answer but I’m too keyed up to sit and stare out the window all the way back to the house. “And really I didn’t thank you enough for setting up James Horner for me. I’ll never forget that for the rest of my life.”
No answer. My phone starts ringing. At first I’m excited, thinking its Shayla or Brooke. My heart drops when I look at the ID. 

“Hello?” I try and sound calm.
“What did you tell the police?”
I don’t like that tone, no sir, not one bit. Who does he think I am? That I’m just going to cave into two detectives glaring at me? I don’t shout back, but my voice becomes the dominate sound in the car.
“What do you think I told them? It’s not like I know anything anyway. Wait that’s not true, I know you guys lied to me in New York. When did you start taking orders from Brandon, huh? I suppose you all laughed afterwards about how gullible I was to think I could trust you. I trusted you!”
“Jane….” Jason sounds tired, ready to capitulate, but I’ve got a lot of pent-up words after all those hours so focused on not saying anything to the police and I’m going to say them all, damn it!
“And while I have you on the phone because you just accused me of ratting to the police so I don’t think we’ll be talking again anytime soon, what about Dad? Not that I believe them, but the Feds are under the impression it wasn’t suicide, that you killed him, which makes me wonder what the hell else I don’t know. I’ve had a very long night and I’m sorry you don’t have any faith in me but I guess I don’t blame you since I—”
This is the end of my phone call. Screeching to a stop on the freeway, Daniel snatches my phone and projects it out the window. The tires burn rubber in his haste to put as much distance between us and that phone as possible.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chapter 22--Martens and Sao

Send to Kindle

Continuing from the previous installment, Jane is about to be taken for questioning by the police.

I notice Mrs. Helston and Poppy are the only ones in the living room, the civilian family members.
“It’s okay, Jane, dearie, probably nothing to worry about. Poppy, run and get her purse.” Mrs. Helston holds me around the shoulders.
This could be about work. I did accidentally kill someone. Maybe the family filed…but that would be taken care of with the hospital internally. This is something else. I look for Daniel. If this is the last time I see him, I want at least to make eye contact, instead of carry on remembering how he’s kept me, the dangerous one, at a distance. He’s on his phone in the kitchen, back turned, whispering. Oh well.
The good news is no handcuffs. The bad news is the two officers who’ve come for me aren’t authorized to say anything about how they found me or why. At the station, they confiscate my purse but let me keep Daniel’s sweatshirt. I’m shut up in one of those interrogation rooms with the one-sided windows, a prison issue table and four chairs. I sit, then stand and pace. I sit on the floor; there are no spiders, I check. I think better when I can write things down. It’s driving me crazy I don’t at least have a pencil to scribble notes on the wall, or a pen to write on my hand. If this isn’t about the hospital, it could be about my condo alarm going off. But then why would they be questioning me here? Maybe it was just a run of the mill robbery and the guy got caught. On the other hand, this does seem the week for the most unlikely one in a million chance events to occur, so I’m going to bet this has something to do with the Vanguard.
Jason and Brandon and Tommy and Phil, and Sam the logistics guy. Do they all know my marriage bargain was rigged against me? Does Tommy? It’s especially difficult to believe this of him. What Grace said is true. He likes being in the background and supporting Jason and knowing what he can do and what he can’t. There’s only one time I remember Tommy surprising me. He came back early from a trial, the one of the ex-con rapper who ‘rapped’ about having anal sex with ‘bitches’ and killing them. Tommy felt Jason let the guy off too easily, that despite expressing repentance and committing to a new life, the rapper deserved more than just the brand. Tommy wanted the rapper’s tongue cut out. In my world this isn’t really startling talk except that it isn’t usually Tommy saying it, especially when it goes against what the others had already decided. I’d never seen him so angry, furiously angry. He broke a baseball bat into our garden shed wall.
An isolated incident. But this returns me to Brandon and someone, or Brandon and everyone. At least it keeps me distracted until I’m finally interrupted by visitors.
Detectives Martens and Sao show me their badges. I ask for a piece of paper and something to write with.
“Why?” asks Sao.
“Because I think better that way.”
“This is a one-way interview.”
“I’d still like to be able to write things down.”
Martens tears a sheet from a legal pad. I write down their names and badge numbers. No, I don’t watch a lot of crime TV, there are just certain things I’ve picked up while living on the fringe of a group of vigilante justice fighters.
“So, what am I doing here?”
“Why don’t you tell us?” says Sao. I don’t think I’ve ever turned off anybody I’ve just met so quickly. Christie, might be the exception, but at least in the beginning she pretended. 
“I have no idea. I’m really curious how you found me.”
“What were you hiding from?”
“My life. I just got fired so I thought I’d take a vacation. You used my phone signal didn’t you. Is that legal? Am I going to be charged with something?”
“Depends if you deserve it.”
Interesting way of putting it. At the moment I’m not sure what I deserve under the merits of either law system. I can’t imagine God is particularly pleased by the thoughts I’m having about Daniel—the ones I’m choosing not to tell you about, yep, those kind. Under U.S. law, I think the list of potential criminal complaints they could find against me if they discover the truth will last through the night. This is good news because I wasn’t too anxious to try and go to bed and avoid the inevitable creepy crawly spider thoughts, but it also means I’ll be going to prison.
“Ask me something and we’ll see.”
“Where did you live before California?”
“I’ve always lived in California.”
“Where’s the nearest zoo?”
“San Diego?”
“You’re not from California.”
“Fine. You caught me. I moved here from Colorado about four years ago.”
“I heard there was a nurse shortage.”
“Is your family from Colorado?”
Now I know why Sao doesn’t like me. He probably doesn’t like anyone these days. He’s older than me and he’s got braces. How embarrassing to be a police officer and wear braces. Correction, these aren’t the police, they’re FBI.
“They’re from everywhere around. I’ve got family in the Dakotas, in Colorado, in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa. We spread out but we don’t spread far.”
“Spread from where?”
“Omaha…that’s in Nebraska.”
“I know that,” snaps Sao.
“Tell me about your family in Omaha,” says Martens. “Your parents are still alive? Siblings?”
“Yes and Yes, two brothers and a sister.”
“What do they do?
“One works in a bank, the other is in Japan. I don’t talk to my sister.”
“Why not?”
“Why is that relevant? Is there a crime I missed somewhere along the way?”
Sao is relentless. “What does your brother do in Japan?”
“He teaches English to college students who can’t afford to study abroad in the States.”
“How nice for him.”
“You’re the one who asked.”
“You seem defensive,” says Martens. He has someone bring me water. We’re going to be here a while.
“I haven’t been sleeping well. A few days ago I accidentally threw my phone and hit someone. This afternoon, a spider tried to eat me.”
“Eat you?”
“I guarantee you’ve never seen a spider this large except on the movies or I suppose a tarantula is a bit bigger. Do you want to know how to say dog in Japanese?”
“No,” says Martens.
“What about neighbors? Who did you spend time with while you lived there?”
Neighbors. What stupid thing did I recently say about neighbors? When I half lie-half tell the truth it’s hard to remember what I said in each category. I know I didn’t say anything about my real neighbors, a bunch of old codgers living alone on both sides of us, and a young couple with three kids across the street. It wasn’t in Omaha either, so if they do any sort of fact checking before they let me go, this is going downhill fast. The most important question is if they can tell I’ve been married and that I use my married name to pretend I’m single.
“Maybe this would go faster if you told me who or what you’re looking for and I’ll tell you if I know anything about it?”
“Ms. Dalton…”
“Please, call me Jane.”
“Jane, we’ve had reports that you can help us identify and locate the men who run the Libertines on Trial.”
“That show that’s on the internet with kidnapped celebrities?”
“That one. We think there are four men about your age involved.”
“Omaha is a fairly big city, you know. Not by California standards, but its big, and pretty even keeled. We don’t have any of those Bible-thumping crazies like down in Topeka.”
God forgive me.
“What were the boys like that you grew up with?”
“Jocks mostly. They didn’t really like me because I wasn’t cool enough for them, but they were around. Tommy Matthews taught me to play chess, I guess he was more nerdy. Sean Markus was into church quite a bit but I never went with him so I couldn’t tell you much about it. Luke and I were pretty tight, we dated off and on before graduation, he made me watch, Pulp Fiction, have you seen it?”
“Yes.” They answer.
Let’s see, I’m running out of source material. I’ve just described every one of Grace’s failed romances using the names of the apostles. Only one left. Time to move on to Shayla’s love life? I wonder if I’m being convincing enough or if I should have less ready details? One movie I  discovered because I liked the composer but then the movie ended up being more interesting than the music: The Usual Suspects. Let’s talk about how awesome Kevin Spacey is in that film, using all the words around the office to weave the fiction of his story and throw the cops off his trail even as he sits right there in front of them. I’m assuming since I’m always the late one to the party you all have seen that film and I haven’t just ruined it, because it hinges a lot on the big revelation at the end. Too bad there isn’t anything written here for me to pull words and names off of to feed my misdirection.
“If that bullshit all ends up being true, why do we have sources telling us you grew up with the terrorists?”
They’re not terrorists.
“I don’t know. I admit I watch the show sometimes, but doesn’t everyone?”
“Explain why you are not against it.”
I try not to smile as I use a line Jason would love seeing me use turned on its head. “Who am I to say they’re wrong?”
“They’re saying you and this entire country are wrong.”
“I thought they said we were sheep led astray by a media that wants us to be so tolerant we lose all sense of moral responsibility. I don’t suppose you’ve given any thought on the argument that the Middle East doesn’t hate us because of our government or our military or the wars. They hate us because our Gay agenda TV shows are being beamed across their sovereign borders, corrupting their citizens with visions of immorality punishable by death in some countries. They’re appalled by us.”
This obviously isn’t the track the detectives planned the conversation to take. They both make furious notes and clear their throats and give me looks out of the corners of their eyes, slightly reminiscent of Steve, trying to figure out what to do with me.
“So you support them,” says Sao.
“I think there’s enough space for two sides of the issue and that they must be doing something right if they’ve got people so loyal they kill for them.”
“You didn’t answer the question.”
“Contract killing is illegal,” says Sao.
I’m leaning halfway across the table almost in Sao’s face. “Is it? Gay marriage used to be illegal, too.”
“Okay. I think we need to take a break,” says Martens. He presses an optimistic grimace into his expression as though to draw himself into my side of the table, a reaching sympathy I might have attempted to grasp if he had waited a few more seconds. “We’ll be back later.”
“Miss Dalton, I’d give some serious consideration to what you just said,” warns Sao.
“Yeah? Well I’d like a lawyer. Don’t come back in here without one.”
Is that how it works? I’m allowed to just ask for a lawyer and someone from the state gets summoned to give me advice? I have no idea but I feel like I could have a heart attack. My arms tingle. I feel ready to do battle. This must be what men feel like all the time, all that testosterone and the urge to go at someone’s throat. It’s an amazingly savage feeling, the caged animal and all that.
I can’t decide what impression I’ve given the detectives. Obviously I didn’t quite mean to throw in my lot with the Vanguard so eagerly, it just happened. I get tired of people complaining about how wrong it is, how kidnapping is wrong, and branding is wrong, unless you’re some kind of celebrity and you’re supposed to make a brand out of your name so it sells. In that case, it might be a little sleazy and/or arrogant, but it can be chalked up to that’s how the world works. If celebrities were seen by what they did rather than their brand, if we treated them as hypocrites and criminals, we wouldn’t be so quick to cast blame on a group of guys trying to balance the scales.
This is taking way too long. I don’t need time to think. I just want to get this over with so I can go back to the Helstons and explain it was all a big misunderstanding and let my new life go on as it may. I wonder what the process is for people who know so-called criminals and don’t report them? Does the government really expect me to report my brother? Do you think Sao has siblings?
I’ve got it! Neighbors. I told Grace I’d grown up neighbors with some of the Vanguard. Duh. So Grace’s feeding information to the FBI, sneaky bitch. I bet Tommy doesn’t know. I hope Tommy wasn’t stupid and told her things he shouldn’t have. Tommy probably told her things he shouldn’t have. Crap. I wonder if she’s standing behind that one-way mirror watching me, thinking this is the best revenge ever.
The detectives return. They have coffee this time so I expect they’re planning on an even longer chat. I need to calm down and control my words. No more diatribes.
“I think we should talk about Tommy,” says Detective Sao with a confident gleam in his eye that all but confirms Grace is standing back there feeding them clues. This sucks.
“I mentioned I wanted a lawyer.”
Martens waves to the glass. An immensely-tall African American woman walks in wearing what even I can tell is an expensive suit. Most importantly, she’s got huge calves. This is not a state appointed attorney. I lean over and whisper to her,
“Are you a surfer?” She nods affirmative. The whole world just got loads better. She tells me I only have to answer the questions I want to, that some may sound accusatory, but I’m not being charged with a crime. The detectives just want my help with their case.
“Tommy who taught me to play chess?”
“Your brother.”
“Your source thinks I have a brother named Tommy?”
“We have several sources,” says Sao.
“Is it usual for all your sources to give you the exact same information? Maybe they’re talking to each other behind your back.”
“Tell us about Tommy.”
Tommy’s got a soft heart. He’s shy around girls and we’re best buds. What do you want me to say? That without Jason he’d never have gotten involved, that no one even remembers anymore that he and Brandon were inseparable before Jason came home from the war. Is that the secret story here? The world shifted and Tommy had to shift with it or get left behind.
“I’d like to skip this question.”
“Jane,” says Martens in earnest, “please be aware that there are severe penalties for obstructing justice.”
I’m done talking. Surfer Lawyer Lady says I don’t have to talk. So I’m not talking.
Tommy was a good kid. I guess now he’s a good man. If all they have is Grace, and I’m sure all they have is Grace, I’m not risking screwing anything up by talking.
The detectives drink their coffee and watch me like hawks. I whisper to my lawyer that I really like her outfit. I ask who she works for but she says she can’t tell me.
“Young lady, you are being very cavalier with your future. Do you realize I have the power to hold you indefinitely until you cooperate?”
“No, I didn’t know that. And I have cooperated. But your source, who I imagine is my disgruntled coworker, Grace Lovejoy, is hardly motivated by ideals of justice and the greater good. She boasted at work about dating one of the terrorists. How she decided he was my brother, I’m not sure, but you can ask anyone who works at the hospital and they’ll tell you that she was gungho about the Vanguard until Annie Maybe got killed. Now she’s had a change of heart.”
The detectives exchange looks. I think I’ve won but that sneaky Sao has one more card to play. “Do you know your father was killed by the terrorist known as Gnosh?”
Wham! Cheap shot. It takes all the bluster out of my sails. I stammer, “My father isn’t dead.”
“It could be someone else’s father. But we have several reports from kidnapping victims boasting of killing Sis’ fornicating father. Are you Sis?”
“No…not that I know of.” I blink back the tears coming without permission. I don’t for a minute believe Jason killed my father. It’s just the thought of it that makes me cry, or something.
“When was the last time you spoke with your father?”
“Almost ten years—not since I’ve moved.” I’m using Daniel’s sweatshirt sleeve to pinch snot and suck it back up my nose.
“So he could be dead?”
“I guess so.”
“Wouldn’t you want to give us any help you could to catch his killer?”
“I’ve helped you all I can.”
Under the table the lawyer squeezes my hand. “Do you have any other questions for my client?”
They hesitate. I can’t stop the tears. Stop, stop, stop. It’s just stress talking. I’ll be fine when I get out away from these guys. Jason didn’t kill our father, he killed himself.
“She can go after we file our report.”
I’d shout, hurrah, but I’ve lost all my cheer leading spirit.