The Slave Quarters
Chapter 20: I’ve Seen Some Things
By Rock Kitaro
The next morning, Jessica, Leanne, and I arrive at the precinct promptly at nine. There was a vast difference on Moor Street between today and yesterday. No crowds. No screaming faces. Just littered trash.
The ladies pick up the pace as we step off the elevators. I end up falling behind with my hands in my pockets. There’s a square patch beneath my left eye to reduce the swelling. I’m pristine in my black suit and tie. One could safely assume I just came back from serving as a pallbearer. It wouldn’t be too far off from the truth.
It’s touching to see them all so concerned about Griffin’s well being. I understand why and I don’t blame them…but still…if only they knew what I knew I wonder if they’d be so quick to lend a helping hand. Yeah, probably. Perhaps that’s why the guilt’s beginning to gnaw at my conscience. In any case, it’s too late now. The damage is done.
On the 3rd floor, deputies and detectives are huddle around the desk closest to Griffin’s office. Agent Dixon sees Jessica and Leanne coming. He receives them with open arms. Leanne fires off question after question by which Dixon simply proceeds to nod. Jessica covers her mouth in shock. Everyone hears the click of a door handle and a round of shushing quells the conversations.
It’s Samantha Griffin…the wife. She leaves her husband’s office as two suits from Internal Affairs enter in her stead, closing the door behind them. I recognize Samantha from the photo on Griffin’s desk. That sandy blonde hair and the soft freckles bridging her nose, its Sam alright. She has the toned body of an avid tennis player, active and fit. She’s about my age, a couple of years younger than Griffin, but her tan complexion is now pale with grief.
Jessica and Leanne exchange awkward glances before approaching to introduce themselves. As soon as they reveal their involvement with the case, a despondent Sam breaks down in a gripping scene of tears, collapsing into Leanne’s arms. It’s as if she just learned her son was killed in combat. Leanne doesn’t know how to react. She keeps gawking up at Jessica but even Jessica’s at a loss of words.
Instinctively, Leanne lowers Samantha to the carpet and settles her against the side of a desk. There, she and Jessica console the wife with false promises about Griffin’s recovery. It’s all so melodramatic. I should be more sympathetic but I’m not.
“I saw the tape,” a country voice crawls over my shoulders.
Agent Dixon continues with, “It doesn’t make the darnest bit of sense. The boy just stands there while the sum’ a bitch walks up and splits his head open like a jack-o-lantern. Never seen anything like it. Beginning to think this place really is haunted. That’s what the papers is callin it after the last suicide. But what’s stickin in my craw is that the suspect seemed to have no concept of pain whatsoever. Just kept pounding away. Not even when his eyes popped out and his lips smashed in like a banana.”
As discreet as I assume he’s trying to be, Jessica and Leanne overhear. Jessica in particular looks up with a fiery glare. It’s no longer that she doesn’t believe it, but more so she smells foul play. Two suicides in the span of five days is a coincidence Jessica’s not willing ignore. She abruptly stands and straightens out her pantsuit, holding back her ire with a clenched jaw and slow steady breaths.
“I’m gonna need to see that video,” she politely demands.
“Yes, ditto.” Leanne says in a whispery exhale.
Dixon extended his hand to direct them toward the conference room in the corner of the bullpen. He informs them, “It should still be queued up. The D.A.’s in there right now so tread lightly.”
“It’s gonna be okay,” Leanne assures Sam.
Jessica doesn’t wait for Leanne to get up. She promptly marches into the conference room and takes over. No one rebukes her when she takes command of a laptop and starts the video from the beginning. Leanne enters the room choking on her own tears. Dixon helps Sam off the floor and escorts her to get her some coffee.
All the while, I say absolutely nothing with my hands in my pockets. I only observe as if I’m sitting inside the theater of my own head with eyes as my own personal big screens to the real world. And of course, as per usual, I’m conflicted by what I see. It’s all so morbid, so morose, the complete opposite of last night’s triumph. There’s so much pain and suffering in plain view. All of it’s my fault and the only one I want to apologize to is the wife. But I can’t. I won’t.
Be cold. Be cold, Cloud. Don’t let the tears soften your heart as it has time and time again. Don’t forget what happened. Don’t forget what led you down this path. Be cold. Harden your heart. This is the path you’ve chosen. Now see it through, dammit. Walk.
The shouting comes from Det. Griffin’s closed door. The Internal Affair agents come walking out with frazzled embarrassment. As one of them closes the door, I catch a glimpse of Griffin sitting on the floor with his back against the bookcase. He’s not wearing the black overcoat from last night and at once, a nervous anxiety settles in the pit of my stomach. I know it’s selfish to have such a one-track mind at this given juncture, but that overcoat is the only reason why I’m here. The only reason.
I start for the door and another detective calls out, saying, “Wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
My eyes flash with rage. I recognize that voice. Motherfuc…It’s the original bumbling detective who was assigned to lead the case. He’s the one who questioned KeNedra before leaving her to commit suicide. What was his name? Ah yes. Detective David Hornsby. The way he carried himself without a hint of remorse or shame, something tells me he’s glad this happened to Griffin.
“He ain’t in the right frame of mind. The chief’s already pullin him from active duty and Internal Affairs is likely to summon him for a hearing. Poor bastard. Poor Sammy. They’re talking about committing him to the nut house.” Hornsby says.
I don’t hide the contempt and Hornsby isn’t fazed. He’s got a hundred pounds on me and can’t stand my being so young. If the ladies had heard his insensitive words, there might have been a physical fight. It’s a knee-jerk reaction for my mind to go that heated place where Hornsby has the gall to put his hands on my women. And by accident, I twitch in a teeth-clenching snarl.
“I’m going to talk to him,” I say bluntly.
“If he bites your head off, you’re on your own.” Hornsby warns.
My lips tighten as I turn away from that slug of a human being. Turning the knob with a click of the handle, I open the door and enter. My God…Griffin’s trembling like an abused dog caught outside in the freezing rain. His white collared shirt is soaking with sweat, as is the tips of his jet-black hair. His arms are wrapped around his knees and he keeps shaking his head no.
I stand over this sniveling fraction of a man with my hands still in my pockets. Hornsby and two others are still outside, watching me. Ever so boldly, I slowly close the door while maintaining eye contact. Hornsby doesn’t try to open it, but I can see his heavy frame shadowing the door’s frosted glass.
Exercising caution, I treat the room as if there’s hidden cameras everywhere. My mask of sorrow is worn loosely. There! Griffin’s black overcoat is folded over the back of one of his guest chairs. I move whilst keeping my eyes on Griffin. Leaning over the chair, my hands grasp the wooden arms.
I’m nodding at Griffin as if to convey, “I feel your pain,” but my hands are slowly working their way towards the pockets. They dig around until they feel a dull prick. My fingers coil around Maggie’s necklace and as soon as its balled within my grasp, I stand up and back away. It was just in the nick of time too because Det. Hornsby comes barging in.
“We’re gonna keep this door open,” he tells me.
“As you wish,” I say in place of, “whatever…”
My heartbeat returns to normal. The heat in my chest simmers down. I can relax. I don’t care who hears or sees me now. My mission is complete. Everything I wanted to do, I’ve done. A heavy sigh of relief passes through my lips and finally I approach Griffin to join him on the floor, facing him with my back against the side of his wooden desk.
He glances at me in a nervous jitter. I casually turn to see if anyone’s watching. There’s only Hornsby sitting his fat ass in the bullpen. His beefy arms are crossed with his pot belly looking like its about to burst through the seams. He’s suspicious but well out of earshot with all of the background noise. Thus, I give Griffin my undivided attention. I’m not sure what’s going on inside his head. He’s afraid, clearly, but I’m not sure of whom or what.
“I’m not ca-ca-ca-crazy.” He mumbles with spit drooling from his lips.
“I know. I believe you.”
“Ya-ya-ya-you do?” He says in a glimmer of hope.
“Absolutely!” I whisper. “Tell me what you saw.”
Griffin shakes his head no. Horror hoods his eyebrows and yanks down on his grimace. “NO! I don’t want to! It’s not real! Nothing’s real! I don’t believe it!”
“Hey, hey, hey! Shish, Shish, Shish, Shish! It’s okay,” I whisper, scooting closer.
“Let me tell you what happened.” I begin. “You saw something that no one should ever have to see. Something you’ll never want to tell anyone else about because… because it was punishment.”
“Punishment?” Griffin mutters with teary eyes.
“Yes! I want you to know that I’m proud of you. Not many have seen what you’ve seen and survived. I know you might think you’re better off dead but you’ll get over it. I believe in you. Your wife believes in you! She’ll be right by your side every step of the way. Mark…your wife will be the only person by your side. No one else. Not your fellow officers, not Leanne or any other women you’re seeing on the side. And more importantly, not me.”
“Why is this happening?” He asks, weeping into his hands.
“Because I’ve passed judgment and found you guilty. Because I’m not happy or glad that my mother is dead. She was the sole purpose of my life, the only reason why I cared about being alive when I could’ve easily put myself out of this misery. There were so many paths I’ve could’ve taken with my knowledge and skill set. But when you and Detective Hart passed off my mom’s death off as a suicide, you eliminated every path but one.”
I reach out and take hold of his arms like a boy I just caught stealing. I want him to see the intensity of my eyes as I tell him, “You made me this way. But I don’t hate you for it. It pisses me off, sure. But the truth is, I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without Maggie.”
“Maggie?” Griffin mumbles.
“Yes! That’s right. Her name is Margaret. Margaret Sutherland. As you may have gathered, she’s quite protective of me. She depends on me and I depend on her. The angst I bare thee does not stem solely from you botching my mother’s case. The thing is…and I just only recently realized this…I can’t stand people who take love for granted. Leanne is a fool. She’ll always be a fool, single and miserable in her heart of hearts. She’ll probably end up a cat lady in her sixties still with the mentality of cougar. But you! You are a married motherfucking man with a committed wife and a son depending on your punkass, on your holy matrimony to survive and live a normal life. You’d risk throwing all that away for a single night with an idiot who sees all men as soft and disposable. You have no idea how lucky you are and I can’t fucking stand it. They say, ‘don’t hate the player hate the game’. Well unfortunately for you, my indignation is abundant and I’m not stingy about sharing it.”
This is what I tell him and as soon as the words pass from my lips, I feel terrible. I feel terrible about what I’ve done and more importantly the guilt starts to cave in. I didn’t rehearse these lines. I knew what I wanted to say, but I deviated so far from the script. Even what I said about Leanne made me feel shitty. Who am I to say how she’ll end up? I hope I’m wrong about her. Everything I just told Griffin came straight from the heart. It was how I honestly felt and it bugged the hell out of me. I just crippled this man’s mentality and it was all because I was fucking jealous. Like a child watching everyone else play tag and wishing I too found it fun.
I stand up, cringing from the pain in my midsection. “Goodbye Griffin. If you ever get your sanity back, do yourself a favor and never call me again.”
Just then, I hear the hard heels of Leanne and Jessica approaching. Leanne steps in the doorway and takes one passing glance at Griffin before shaking her head and continuing on. Jessica bounces her gaze between me and Griffin and I quickly have to hurry and put back on that mask of sorrow and sympathy.
With a heavy sigh I pass between Jessica and the doorframe. “So sad.”
She doesn’t respond. I’m ten paces down the hall when I look over my shoulder to see her still standing there, staring at Griffin. Then those inquisitive brown eyes sweep left and focuses on me. I sense distrust but only the guilty would see it that way. So with great deal of strength, I bury my internal shame and beckon her over with an inviting smile and a wave of the hand.
“Come on, Jess! We’re going to be late.” I call out.
Reluctantly, she comes. “I wanted to say goodbye to Agent Dixon.”
I nod in understanding. As Jessica walks past my outstretched hand, my senses are assaulted by her fragrance and the loose strands of her long brown hair that vacuum against my nose. Jessica Arroyo…you have no idea how powerful you are. You’re the only woman on earth who could reduce my prowess by half. The only woman I feel completely vulnerable around even when I’ve mentally prepared to receive you.
And right when I’m flared by the heat of searing infatuation, she abruptly turns and slides her arms around me for a warm affectionate hug. I melt on the spot. Her body is perhaps the most comfortable place on earth. She doesn’t tell me what she’s thinking. I know she’s sad, maybe angry, but I don’t know how to read this situation or if there’s something I should be picking up on.
I only wish I didn’t love her as much as I did. I wish I could control my level of concern, of care. Only Jessica could turn my life into an emotional roller coaster. Without her, I’d probably remain in a constant state of bleak silent angst. I’ll never get used to this. It’s all so very exhausting.