A Lengthy Interrogation Concerning a Murder I May Have Committed, by Nathaniel Tower
For the third time in as many hours, they asked me where I was on the night of the murder. There were no bright lights shining in my eyes and no good cop bad cop routines, at least not at first. Just questions. There weren’t really emotions, but I could still tell what they thought of me. What they erroneously thought of me.
“Did you not hear me the first two times?” I asked.
Long pause. I was expecting a hard ass response, possibly something along the lines of I’m the one asking the questions here. Instead I was greeted with the scrunching of eyebrows and the rubbing of tired faces.
“The sooner you answer the questions, the sooner we all get outta here,” one of them replied. Officer Parks, or at least that’s what I thought he had called himself. The other one was Officer Dansberry. I was sure of that one. Or Dinsbarry.
“Fine, but this is the last time I’m telling you.” I paused, waiting for them to confirm that this was indeed the final time.
Dinsbarry’s nod gave me the green light.
“Like I said before, on that Friday night—”
“It was a Thursday, wise ass,” Parks interrupted.
“Yeah yeah yeah. See what your repetition is doing to me.” I cracked a smile. I didn’t look to see if the smile was reciprocated. When I was sure enough time had passed for all smiles to be smiled, I continued. “So, like I said before, on that Thursday night, I went to a restaurant with a friend, then I went to see a movie, then I went home.”
“Hows’bout some ‘pecifics?” Park asked in his best bad cop attempt. There was nothing bad about the guy, other than his affinity for abbreviating and combining words. I found it interesting that he wanted me to give so many details when his speech was so lazy.
“I gave you the specifics already.”
“Well, we need ’em again. Jus’ to be sure.”
“So this is all just to confirm what I just told you?”
“Something like that.”
“Why don’t you just read it back to me and I will tell you if it is correct or not?”
“That’s not how it works here.”
“So is the idea then that you just keep asking me until I get confused and change my story and then that is some sort of instant sign of guilt?”
“If that’s how you see it, then that’s how it is. We just need the answers.”
“Alrighty. Now what was the question again?”
“Where did you go to dinner?”
“Is this a trap?”
“What do you mean?” Officer Dinsberry looked confused.
“I never said I went to dinner. I said I went to a restaurant with a friend,” I said with a wink. This time I looked. There was no return wink.
“Do I need to get rough with you?” Parks barked.
“Is that another tactic to confuse my story?” This time I decided not to smile or wink.
Dansberry took over again. “Okay, tell us what rest’rant you went to that night.”
“Thursday night, right?”
“Yes, on Thursday night, August 23rd, what rest’rant d’you go to?”
“I’m supposed to remember what restaurant I went to on a Thursday night three weeks ago? I go to restaurants at least three nights a week. I need to see my receipts.”
“You told us earlier where you went.” That was Parks speaking.
“I was more confident then. After thinking about it, it doesn’t make much sense to remember all of my meals, especially on a night that was so mundane. I suppose that if I had killed someone that night then I would be much more likely to remember exactly what I ate and where I ate it, whether it was before or after the murder. But since that night was nothing special, I don’t see why I would need to remember that I went to a restaurant.”
“Then how’re you sure you went to a restaurant that night?”
“Because I just told you that I went to a restaurant. I’m not dumb enough to lie to a cop in an interrogation.”
I could tell that Parks and Dansberry were getting a bit flustered. I could also tell by the grumblings of my stomach that dinner time was approaching. I had reservations at Anderson’s that night, a nice little restaurant that specialized in caramelized steaks, and I was beginning to worry that I wasn’t going to make them.
“Can we hurry this along? I’ve got a dinner reservation tonight,” I groaned.
“Yeah, wherya goin’?” Dansberry asked.
“Anderby’s,” I responded. “Best caramelized steak in the city.”
“Ever been there before?”
“Yeah, I went there a few weeks ago. It’s almost impossible to get a reservation, but I got one a few weeks ago.”
“Do you remember which night?”
“I think it was a Thursday. I could check my receipts.”
“Do you save all of your receipts?”
“Only the credit card ones.”
Dansberry and Parks looked at each other. I could tell what they were thinking. They were thinking that they should let me go home and get the receipts. The receipts could prove my innocence.
“What time do you usually go to dinner?”
“I go when I have a reservation.”
“And what time did you have a reservation at Anderby’s?”
“Probably 8:30. It’s really hard to get in there.”
“What time is your reservation tonight?”
“Why so early?”
“Because that’s when they had an opening.”
I could tell that they were interested in either usurping my reservation completely or perhaps inviting themselves along.
“Alright alright alright. Let’s get back on topic. You might have gone to Anderby’s at 8:30 on that Thursday. Let’s pretend that’s true. What time did you leave the restaurant?”
“In time to make it to the movie theatre four miles away.”
“What movie did you see?”
“A Clockwork Orange.”
“That hasn’t been in theaters in decades.”
“Midnight showing. Classic movie series. They have it every summer at the Tivoli. I always go with Jack to see it.”
“So you had dinner at 8:30 and then went to a midnight movie?”
“So what did you do ‘tween dinner and the movie?”
“Well, I paid the bill, went to the bathroom, drove to the movie theatre, bought tickets to see the movie, maybe bought some popcorn and a soda.”
“You bought refreshments even though you were coming straight from eating a steak dinner?”
“I never said I got steak at dinner. And I always get popcorn at the movies. That’s what Jack and I do.”
“How did Jack like Anderby’s?”
“Jack’s never been to Anderby’s.”
“You said you went to Anderby’s and a movie with Jack.”
“No, I said I went to a restaurant, possibly Anderby’s, with a friend, and I said I always go see A Clockwork Orange with Jack during the summer. I didn’t say that I went to Anderby’s or to the movie with Jack on that night.”
“Then who did you go with?”
“I met Jack at the movie.”
“To know for sure, I would have to know where I went to dinner.”
“Well, we think you went to Anderby’s.”
“I’m going there tonight, if we ever get out of this interview. You should go there some time. I could call and change the reservation to three.”
“Are you going alone?”
“Either that or I am only inviting one of you.” I winked again. Dansberry appeared to chuckle. Parks looked pissed, but that was because he knew I meant that I wasn’t inviting him.
“Are you going alone or not?” Parks bellowed in another attempt at toughness.
“I was planning on going alone tonight.”
“Why is that? Did your friend from last time not like Anderby’s?”
“No, that’s not why.”
“Well then why?”
“Because last time I went with Franklin.” Eyes widened, as I knew they would.
“Do you mean Franklin Hinton?”
“He’s the only Franklin I’ve ever known.”
“The same Franklin Hinton that was murdered on the night you went to Anderby’s.”
“I’m not entirely sure it was that same night. We’ve been over that already.”
“How the hell can you not know? Quit jerking us around you jerk off.”
“I assume I don’t know because it wasn’t that important to me. Had I killed Franklin Hinton after eating at Anderby’s, well then I would probably remember for sure that I had eaten with Franklin Hinton at Anderby’s on Thursday, August 23rd. Since I didn’t kill him, I’m not sure if it was the same night.”
The two looked at me dumbfounded.
“When did you first know Franklin was murdered?”
“When you arrested me.”
“Then how did you know that he couldn’t go to Anderby’s with you tonight?”
“Because he wouldn’t return my calls. I’m guessing he didn’t return my calls because he was murdered.”
“So you just found out your friend was dead tonight?”
“And this is how you act?”
“How should I act?”
“Well, your friend is dead.”
“I guess I haven’t read the manual on how to act when you find out your friend is dead. Besides, don’t you remember the exasperated look on my face when you arrested me? Or didn’t you write that down on your little pad?”
The two officers exchanged a frustrated glance before peering at their watches. I snuck a glance at the clock that ticked slowly by behind them. I only had thirty minutes before my reservation, and I certainly needed to stop at home and shower before heading off to the restaurant. One couldn’t go to Anderson’s in such disarray. Anderson’s cooked perfection, so it demanded perfection from its customers.
“Couldn’t we just continue this conversation at dinner?”
The two officers looked at me, then looked at each other again. It obviously was against their standard procedures, but the two were ravenously hungry, and no self-respecting officer could turn down a caramelized steak, especially not from a restaurant that touted the best caramelized steak in town.
“Fine,” Dinsbarry snapped, his stomach rumbling in that moment even louder than his voice.
“Well, I need to go freshen up,” I told them. “You should do the same. Anderby’s doesn’t just take all comers. You have to look the part if you want them to serve you.”
We all agreed that a short recess was in session, so we planned on meeting at the restaurant at 7:10. It was the type of place where you had to arrive a little early if you even wanted to get in within thirty minutes of your reservation. I had eaten there quite frequently, almost always on Thursday, so I knew the routine. I gave them the address, which Parks scratched down on a piece of paper he tore from his pad.
At 7:05, I stood in front of Anderby’s waiting for the officers. I was wearing a blue sport coat with a white shirt, tan pants and my favorite loafers. The officers pulled up at 7:12, both of them dressed like characters from Miami Vice. I chuckled to myself, half expecting the matre d’ to tell them not to bother coming inside. But I took them in nonetheless and declared my intent to dine with my two friends at 7:15. I apologized for the late notice on the change in party size, but I reached for my pocket in a manner that made it clear that I would compensate the man for accommodating me.
“I’m sorry, but we’re totally booked tonight,” the man said in a rather snooty fashion.
“Really, because I see at least two open tables and I have a reservation for 7:15. Besides, I’m a regular.” I said it with such conviction that I certainly believed it, and the two officers did as well. But the matre d’ did not budge.
“I’m sorry, sir, but Anderby’s does not have your name in the book.” The man had barely glanced at me the whole time we spoke, and I doubted he could even point me out of a police lineup if the situation ever arose.
And then it occurred to me. What were we doing at Anderby’s? My reservation for that night was at Anderson’s. The officers must have confused me with their moronic questioning. For a moment, I was unsure of what to do, and then I remembered that Anderson’s actually had much better food than Anderby’s. Sure, we’d be a little late, but Anderson’s is the type of place where you don’t sit until twenty minutes after your reservation time at the earliest. So I risked sounding like a fool and told them what had happened.
“You mean you took us to the wrong place?”
“How’re we s’posed to believe anything you’ve said?”
The cops were visibly upset that they couldn’t eat at Anderby’s. They really wanted a caramelized steak, but little did they know that Anderby’s didn’t even offer such a dish. Anderby’s was a hoity-toity type of place that cost an arm and a leg for a half bottle of wine. They wouldn’t have wanted to eat there if it was the last restaurant in town.
“Anderson’s is much better,” I explained. “It’s hard to get to, though, so I’ll drive.”
And drive I did indeed. We had the best steak dinner in town. And then I killed the nosey bastards, disposing of their bodies right next to where I thought I had buried Franklin Hinton’s several weeks ago.
Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 50 online and print magazines. A story of his, “The Oaten Hands,” was named one of 190 notable stories by storySouth’s Million Writers Award in 2009. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, can be found anywhere e-books are sold, and Hallways and Handguns, his first novella, comes out in May 2012 via MuseItUP Publishing. Visit him at www.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm.. He currently lives in Missouri with his wife and daughter.
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