Todd waved the police car in. Officers Bishop and Parker got out, both rushing to the passed out Maggie. An ambulance was only seconds behind, and the paramedics quickly took command, leaving the two cops to pacing the scene rapidly. Bishop made a slight gagging sound and sat down on the curb while Parker sent in a call to dispatch. Todd quickly walked inside, tapping Kate gently on the shoulder and pointing her towards the responders on the scene. He headed back to the dishwashing station as the officers entered the diner. Tyler, The Creator’s baritone voice barked out the words, “rape a pregnant bitch” and Todd smacked the speaker system, a small yelp leaving his lips. He hadn’t realized he was crying until looking at the blurry lights on his iPod as he shut it off. From the front of the house he heard Bishop say his name, and Kate’s high-pitched response.
When trying to look back on this morning, Todd always said he wasn’t sure why he did it. He knew Maggie’s phone should be handed over to the cops, but for some reason he slid it quickly into the pocket of his bubble goose jacket, next to his headphones and dungeons and dragons miniature. The jacket got tucked into a small alcove next to the washing machine, and he busied himself with scrubbing last night’s lasagna off a baking pan. When officer Parker came back in the kitchen and asked him to follow him, that they wanted to ask him a few questions at the station, and read him his Miranda rights, Todd just nodded, and followed him to the car. Kate was crying softly at the same table when Todd carefully ducked into the back of the cop car.
Ethan, Big Mac, Reggie and Jackson sat outside the sheriff’s office. Reggie had made a comment about it being the “principal’s office with guns” but no one offered him a response. Ethan was separated from the rest of the boys by three chairs. They had been asked to come down to answer a few questions, and while there had been no mention of arrests, guilt and shame was highlighted in each boys face.
Ethan stared straight at the carpet in the police station. It looked just like the fabric public buses upholstered their seats with. That awful vomit of dull reds and yellows with a black background. He could feel Big Mac’s eyes probing him. They had been doing that since the boys had ridden to the station in the back of the same Police SUV. The last thing Big Mac had said to him was, “I hope you are fucking happy with yourself.”
The door to the sheriff’s office opened and Todd Sizemore walked out. His eyes looked puffy and red, there were still noticeable tears in his patchy facial hair and in his hand he carried a dirty apron. He waved slightly at the gang assembled in the chairs. The sharp voice of Deercliff Sheriff Essie Boyer followed him out, “Thank you Mr. Sizemore. If you can remember anything from when you first arrived on the scene, you don’t hesitate to give us a call here. I understand this must have been hard for you to see, but it means a lot that you were there for her during this time of need. If there is anything I can do personally, just let us know. Will you please send Reginald in?”
Before Todd could even open his mouth, Reggie was standing up, muttering loudly, “Ten bucks the fucking freak show did it.” He stopped right next to Todd, looked up at him, scoffed and entered the office slamming the door behind him.
“Hey guys,” Todd said, turning to the remaining group. “I know Maggie is your friend. This must be really hard to hear about. I’m… I’m sorry, you know. I hope she gets better. It’s not easy when someone you love gets hurt.”
Ethan looked up at Todd, “What the fuck did you just say?” But before the conversation could escalate any further Officer Parker sat down across from the group. He drank loudly from a cup of coffee, the sleeve advertising for one of those bikini barista joints. A smile cracked his lips as the caffeine slithered through his bloodstream.
“Your mom is outside Todd. Oh and Kate called, wanted me to tell you the diner was closed for the weekend, maybe longer,” he offered up a plastic bag, “Your jacket and some other shit you left there, she wanted you to have it.” Todd snatched up the bag quickly, something like a “thanks” stumbling out of his mouth. He walked toward the front of the station, leaving Big Mac, Ethan, Jackson and Officer Parker sitting awkwardly in front of the ocean green door to the sheriff’s quarters.
“Listen boys, I’m gonna give you some advice,” Parker said, leaning forward. The smell of his cologne and coffee breath lingered in the small space. “The Sheriff is a tough little broad. Little too liberal for my liking, but other than politics she’s a no-nosense beat your ass to pulp medieval kinda girl. And it’s cause of that bleeding heart shit that I can tell you, Essie isn’t gonna hold back with this investigation. There’s a hurt, violated, innocent girl, and a pretty good chance it was some sick dude who has a hard time getting laid who did it. For your own sake, tell the Sheriff everything you know, and I mean everything. Not one little detail left out. Cause at the end of the day, at the end of this investigation, there’s a good chance our dear sheriff has already picked out a special bullet for the perv who did this. You might call that vigilante justice, but, when you are the red right hand of the law, well, fuck it am I right?”
He leaned back, slurped the rest of his coffee, and made a big show of adjusting the gun on his hip so he could cross his leg easier. None of the boys looked at the cop after that, or each other. They wouldn’t have admitted it at that moment, but they were legitimately scared. Big Mac had been pulled in a few times before, mostly for driving like an asshole and one time shooting roman candles at cars on the freeway, but other than that these kids stayed on the right side of the law and community. Can’t be potential prom kings, football team captains and heads of the robotics clubs with a juvenile record. To not only get caught with illegal substances, but to have a friend of theirs be sexually and violently assaulted (and in someway to feel like/be accomplices) while consuming those substances with them meant the end. Flashes of prison (which they had only experienced through Netflix), suspension, and worst of all, disappointed parents created kaleidoscopic nightmares in their heads.
While the boy’s had minor panic attacks, Parker got up, still smiling, to throw away his coffee cup. He was deeply concerned with what was going on, and not looking forward to taking the lead on this case, but he had always taken some small joy from giving young kids a hard time about being dumbasses. He didn’t think any of these boys had anything to do with the case. All signs pointed to them getting far too whiskey drunk and stoned the previous night to do much but play whatever Call of Duty had just come out and call each other fags all night. That’s what he used to do in high school. A weekend was getting drunk with the boys, getting consistently turned down by the girls, and playing in whatever sort of competition was available at the empty house. Ping pong, quarters, shotgun contests, smashing up old cars, bonfires. Those were the things of Parker’s childhood. He had seen these kids grow up, watched them play in little league, junior high teams, so on and so forth. They might be pricks, but Parker didn’t think any of them had it in them to be monsters. He walked back, thinking of a few more little ways to make them squirm before the Sheriff asked her questions and let them go. As he went to sit in the chair though, his phone began playing “It Came Out of the Sky” by CCR. The call was from his wife, so he left the kids sitting there to go try and reassure her that everything was going to be ok.
It was twenty minutes before Reggie came out of the sheriff’s office. She pointed him out, and he left without saying a word to the other guys. Jackson went in next. He took about ten minutes. When he left he was visibly shaking, and basically jogging out of the station. Then Big Mac. Ethan had been at the station for two hours before it was finally his turn with the sheriff. As Big Mac left, he bumped into Ethan who was walking into the open door. “I’m sorry,” Big Mac whispered.
Ethan sat down in the office. Sheriff Boyer sat across a large wooden desk, jotting a few notes down in a large moleskine notebook. There was a computer on her desk, but it didn’t look on. The room was Spartan in décor, as was the woman who ran it. Essie’s dirty blonde hair was pulled back tight, her sharp features showing the first signs of age, or perhaps the proto-wrinkles were stress related. She wore no earrings or other jewelry, the only makeup on her face was a smidge of eyeliner, which made her eyes look deeper set then they really were. Somewhere between gaunt and athletic, as she adjusted things on her desk the visible muscles in her neck and arms seemed to writhe like so many snakes coiled within. Ethan had never met the woman, but as she offered out a hand and his eyes met her bright blue ones, he could only think of one term to describe her. Predator.
“I’m hoping we can skip the formalities, Mr. Largo. Would you prefer it if I called you Ethan or Mr. Largo?
“Alright Ethan. I have a few questions with the regards to the events of last night. Now I know you and your friends were intoxicated. Celebrating youth, vitality, enjoying the day of the dead with a few libations. Would you agree that? Can we call that a fact? That you were intoxicated last night?”
“That was a yes or no question Ethan, no need to expand. Now, seeing as you’re underage, consuming alcohol is illegal. At this point, I feel the need to inform you that you may have a lawyer present, if you wish. Did the officers read you your Miranda rights?”
“They said it was just a formality, that they just need us to answer some questions with regards to the party.”
“There you go explaining things when I just asked for yes or no. Did they tell you your Miranda rights?
“Ok. Do you want a lawyer present?”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“The sooner we get this done with the sooner you can get back to your life Ethan.”
“Then no, ask your questions. I want to go home.”
“Is it true you just turned eighteen a few months ago?”
“And by your own account, you were intoxicated last night?”
“You already asked me…”
“Yes or no.”
“Were you on any other substances?”
“I smoked some weed.”
“Like a few puffs from a joint, that’s all. I don’t really like it.”
“Did you interact with Maggie Nice at the party?
“Did you interact with her outside of this environment?”
“Yea, she is part of our friend group.”
“Were you two friends?”
“I think so.”
“Would she think so?”
“Yea, I think so. I thought so?”
“Your friends told us you two got very close last night. Is that true?”
“They said that before she left, or they saw her leave, you two were making out?”
“We won a game of beer pong together.”
“Which caused you to kiss her?”
“She kissed me. Which was like, wow. She is so amazing.”
“Have you kissed a lot of girls Ethan?”
“Was Maggie the first girl you ever kissed?”
“You knew she kissed a lot of boys though, right? And some girls too. By all accounts, Maggie has had a lot of practice kissing. You knew that right?”
“yea, but what does that have to do with this?”
“Did you like that she kissed a lot of other people? That she’s done a lot of things with other people? She has a lot of experience.”
“I… I don’t know how I feel about all that.”
“Have you ever called Maggie a slut before Ethan?”
“No… I mean… like just like giving her shit I have but…”
“But that’s just how friends talk to each other isn’t it.”
“I thought you wanted to know about last night, what does all this have to do with it? Trying to figure out how millennials talk to each other? “
The sheriff sat quite still after that comment. Her eyes studied his face, watched the beads of sweat roll from his forehead and down his nose. Eventually, she closed her eyes for a second, leaned forward and said, “Listen Ethan, I’m just trying to make sense of what’s going on today. Your friends told me a lot of stuff. And a lot of it has you being the last person to talk to Maggie. And that it wasn’t a good conversation you two had. And they have you leaving the party some thirty minutes after Maggie and Ann Marie left to “go get beer”. And they say that you asked Maggie out last night and that she turned you down. As of right now, things don’t look good for you. You have motivation, you have no alibi, and you are legally an adult. Now, I am going to ask you as many questions as I can today, and try to get to know every little thing I can about you. I need you to cooperate, say your yes’ and no’s, and maybe, just maybe, you leave here tonight and go home. There is equally a chance you sleep here until a trial. I can’t have you shooting off on tangents and questioning my method each time you get uncomfortable. I don’t want you to be the main suspect in this rape and assault case, you’re a young man with your whole life in front of you. Yet there is a young girl who just lost a good chunk of her life to some monster, and all signs point to you right now.”
Tears were rolling down Ethan’s face, “I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it.”
“Help me prove that then,” Essie said, her right hand still jotting down notes with a red pen.