2.11: False Accounts

The interview room at the Tortus Bay police station was fast becoming a familiar location to Henry. Sitting in the chair on the far side of the empty black table, he tried to master his frantic breathing. He wasn’t restrained. There was nothing he had to panic over; he hadn’t done anything wrong. Somehow, telling himself that did nothing to stop the panic.

Leia Thao was running down Movie Cop 101. She scowled at him from across the table. She rapped her knuckles and hummed to herself, but didn’t say a word. Several times she left the room, to fill her coffee or have a loud and banal conversation with one of her deputies. When she finally sat down and spoke, it was in a calm and measured tone. “You’ve been avoiding me.”

“I haven’t.”

“Don’t pull that monosyllabic stunt of yours on me now. It’s time to talk.”

He shrugged. “I’ve never had a problem with talking.”

“Fine. Then tell me why you’ve been running. This village isn’t so big; you must have known I would find you eventually.”

“I thought this was about Emmaline Cass.”

Her mouth twisted. “I’m the one who decides what this is about, and right now it’s about you.”

“I told you what I knew, and you chose not to believe it.”

“And what if suddenly decided that I did?”

“Then you would know that I don’t belong here.”

Leia leaned back, and took a long drink from her mug. “Do you know that we dug up Mathas Bernard?”

“No.”

“Empty grave. Now that’s two bodies that we’re missing. Two missing bodies, an escaped murder suspect, a disturbing goddamn scene in the lighthouse, and you somehow in the middle of it all.”

“I don’t have anything to do with any of that.”

“You and Clair didn’t dig up any bodies?”

Henry hesitated. “Why would we do that?”

“You’d have to tell me. But you claim to have seen Mathas.”

“I have.” 

After his murder.”

“So has Beth. You must know about that.”

She set her mug down hard on the table. “What is it about Clair that you’re all so desperate to protect?”

“What?”

“Don’t think that I don’t know what this is all about. All of this nonsense—this poorly conceived misdirection. You had something to do with Clair getting out of here. She was seen. We know she went to your place that night.”

“Yes, to try to collect Emmaline’s locket before the Festival.”

Leia threw up her hands in frustration. “That garbage won’t work here. Maybe with Kara, but not with me. Just tell me where Clair went.”

“I don’t know.”

“Have you had any contact with her since that night?”

“No.”

“Not a word?”

“Not a word.”

She stared at him. He blinked back. “You said that Emmaline was buried somewhere in the park. If you’re right about that, maybe I can start considering that you’re right about other things as well. So tell me exactly where to find the site.”

“Can I have a glass of water?”

“Answer the question.”

“My mouth is dry.”

“Fuck.” Leia pushed herself off the table and swung the door open. “Bring our guest a glass of water!” she shouted down the hallway. “Anything else you need?”

“That should be fine.” After a minute Taylor, eyes cast down, sidled into the room and placed a plastic cup on the table. “Thank you,” Henry said. Then, before the deputy had the chance to leave: “I wish Clair were around. She would know exactly where to look for Emmaline.”

He thought that he saw Taylor nod. “Thank you, you can leave,” Leia said, and the deputy retreated. “Now where were we?”

The water was cold on his lips. “She’s on the outer edge of the park,” he lied. “Near the street. I can show you.”

***

Henry spent the night at the station. The cot in his cell was comfortable enough, at least compared to the cot at the Anderson, but there was an uncomfortable breeze that he knew was blowing in from the hole in the wall next door. Leia made calls deep into the night. From what he could hear, she was mostly speaking with the mayor. She finally left at two in the morning, and the station lapsed into absolute silence.

There was nothing to distract his thoughts. No chance in hell that he was going to sleep. He stared up at the ceiling. If they locked him up until the next Festival, would Clair come back and knock another hole in the wall? If she did, would it be to free him or kill him? 

Had he made a mistake, coming to Tortus Bay in the first place? It had given him nothing but quasi-homelessness, unemployment, and a fresh new criminal record. But then, not all of it had been bad. He fell into a fitful sleep thinking about a pair of beautiful brown eyes.

In the morning, Leia returned with two coffees, her sunglasses, and a more conciliatory tone. Together they climbed into her patrol car and ate a donut apiece out of a box sitting on her dash, before heading over to the park. “I didn’t mean to come down on you so hard yesterday,” she said. “I appreciate your help. We’re just trying to get to the bottom of what happened.”

“What happened before I arrived, I would point out.”

“I know that. You sure picked a funny time to pop up.” The sheriff drove slowly down the main drag. “Was it Kara?”

“Kara what?”

They parked beside the police tape that stretched around the village’s only park. “That you came here for. You seem pretty deep into this local occult bullshit, if you don’t mind me referencing it that way. Beats me why it would interest anybody outside of our bubble, but I suppose you found it on some message board somewhere.”

“You know a lot about that particular bubble?”

“What I need to. What anyone learns, coming up around here. It’s folksy, when it’s coming from Teresa Bramble. I know that. But if you want a word of advice, and you never seem to, then be more careful around Kara and that lot. You and her and whoever else can believe whatever you want on your own time, but it gets a lot less cute when we’re talking about a murder.”

Leia didn’t wait for a response. She stepped out of the car and escorted him past the police line. They walked around, in and out of the trees, for what Henry dubbed to be a believable amount of time. Then he pointed out a stretch of bare dirt near the road. “There.”

“No disturbed earth,” she said.

“I’m telling you, this is where I saw it.”

The sheriff sighed. “Alright. You can leave.”

“I can?”

She crouched down, no longer paying him any attention. “Don’t leave the area. And do yourself a favor, and take my advice this time.”

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