Feather in the Tar: Squelchy

           Florescent tubes follow exposed pipes along the ceiling and tint the grey walls yellow, a muddy sulphur glow, squelchy. Along the baseboards, scuffs and stains spread toward the end of the hall. Scribbles appear at random intervals, phone numbers, addresses, even a childish drawing of a house, yard, and family: it’s at knee height. Genie glances at them as she passes. Her breath shortens, and she can fill sweat run down the inside of her upper arms. As the posse approaches interview room no 3, one tube dims above the door; it’s not dead but flicker bright every 30 seconds, as if attempting to reset itself. Sampson turns the handle, Cochran enters first then Ms. Hallowell, Bardo, and finally, Sampson closes the door behind him.

          The room is not any less used than the hall way or the building in general, worn down not from rust but the constant weight of men and women on the wrong side of the glass. A table sits in the center with two chairs on either side. The carpet is a dull matrix of grey, black, and pea-green, and at each leg of the table, a blackened steel hoop pokes through the carpet. A mirror, a two-way, is built into the top half of one of the walls, old school observation. Lt. Inspector Cochran sits with her back to the mirror and motions for Hallowell to sit across from her. Bardo sits next to her, and Sampson stands at the door with his arms crossed.

          Genie stares at the Lt, and Cochran stairs back. The two size each other up. Genie’s hands shake, but she doesn’t look away, she is breathing extremely shallow and fast. Cochran’s face is stone, and her stare penetrates the thickest babble. Genie takes Seven’s hand and looks away to him for support. Cochran exhales loudly, but her face muscles are frozen.

           “Lieutenant,” Seven says, but Cochran continues to stare at Ms. Hallowell. “Lieutenant Cochran,” a little more formal, Seven tries to break her trance. “Em.”

           “Stop,” Cochran flashes her palm to Seven’s eyes. “I told you Bardo, we are not familiar anymore.”

           “But Lieutenant..,” Bardo says and the Inspector looks at him and then Sampson.

           “Inspector, escort Mr. Bardo to the hallway.

           “NO,” Genie shouts. “I said I would talk to you with Seven.”

           “Mr. Bardo, are you Ms. Hallowell’s counsel?” Sampson crosses the room to Seven and puts his hand on his shoulder.

           “No, but I thought,”

           “Your are making an ass of yourself, dick.” Sampson says as his hand clamps down on Seven’s shoulder forcing a lean.

           “I ain’t saying SHIT, unless he stays,” Genie squeaks out.

           “Mr. Bardo,” Cochran says softly.

          Seven arches his head up from the restraint and looks at her face.

           “Seven,” she says, “please, we need to speak with her alone.” She motions her head slightly at Sampson. He releases his hold.

          Seven rises up from the table and exhales. He turns to Genie and grabs her hand. He holds it softly, but firm through the tears welling up in her eyes, “don’t worry Genie. They just need the truth. You’ve nothing to hide. Just tell them what you know.” She lets them out, and they roll down her cheek as she whimpers softly.

           “I, I, I don’t want any trouble…m, m, my life sucks, but, but it’s mine,” she stutters. Seven pulls a tissue from the box on the table and hands it to her. Cochran sighs and leans back in her chair as Sampson opens the door to the interrogation room.

           “Don’t worry.” Seven drops her hand and wraps his arms around her. “Just tell them what you told me. Tell them what you know and everything will be fine.” Seven squeezes. Genie sniffles and wipes her face with the tissue.

           “Ok.” She whispers.

           “If you need me, I will be right out side.”

          Seven stands from the table, walks over to the door and passes though it in front of Sampson. Sampson follows and closes the door. They step to the next room, and observation room on the opposite side of a two-way mirror. It’s dark in the room, with a small LED lamp on a table in front of the window.

           “Sit.” Sampson barks at Bardo, and pulls out chair for him to sit in. Both men sit, and Bardo takes out a micro digital recorder and a leather clad notepad. Yellow paper peeks out at a corner and in the middle along an outer edge; the pad’s cover is misshapen, handmade out of raw, chocolate brown cowhide with a layer of black smut where his fingers touch again from years of being on this side of the looking glass.

           “Do you want something to drink?” He asks.

           “Coffee, black.” Seven answers.

           “I’ll be right back.” Sampson opens the door and motions to an officer standing guard at the end of the hall.

           “You know, she doesn’t really know anything.” Seven says to Sampson’s back.

          He turns, “probably not, but she may know more than she realizes.” Sampson turns back to the hall.

           “Two coffees, one black, one all the way.”

           “Yes, sir.” The officer can’t be any older than 23, pressed stiff, and fresh out of the academy. Before he can turn away, “And, run a report on Genie Hallowell.” He pulls a small ring bound note pad out of his coat and writes her name on it and hands it to the Blue. “Use my name and badge number.”

           “Yes sir.” The rookie turns to walk away.

           “Bring the coffee first then run the report.”

           “Sir.” The Blue says and smiles over his shoulder.

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