“Start from the beginning.”
I sigh and turn back the needle of time to… what time was it? I almost chuckle. I was so desperately watching the clock tick by and now I can barely remember what it said. Nine o’clock, I think. I try to remember everything exactly as it was. Any small detail could help, could be the distant tapping sound or the odd stain on a shirt or the scrap of paper that cracks open the case. I know that. I’ve read the books.
“It happened around 9 PM. I was sitting in the security centre, doing my job when a man walked across the camera on the fifth floor. He was just walking down the hallway. And then…”
I take a breath. A thick layer of dust clings to my dark finger as I drag it across the desk, my mind elsewhere. In my head, I’m back in that room with all the screens and the uncomfortable squished chair that I hate, my eyes honed in on the screen just to my left.
“Take your time,” coaxes the detective. He looks down at me patiently from across the rickety old desk.
“And then another man walked into the frame with a knife in his hand. It happened so fast, I… I didn’t see it coming. He… he stabbed the man. In the chest.” Another steadying breath. My fingers move to my chest of their own accord, tracing the spot where the knife penetrated. “There was blood everywhere.”
There really was. I didn’t know there could be so much from only a small stab wound. Staining his beige polo shirt, saturating the already blood red carpet, dripping from the shimmering silver blade.
“What happened then?”
“The - uh… the security camera went black. I searched the other screens for the man but he was nowhere. It’s like he just…”
I chuckle humourlessly at the absurdity of it all. “It’s like he just disappeared,” I mutter. I know how crazy I sound, but still I stare into space, watching the dust particles drift in the glow of what small bit of street light seeps through the broken blinds. This room must not have been used in years. No wonder I’ve never noticed it before.
“Is that all?” the detective asks.
“It happened very fast.” And it had been fast. So very, very fast. I could’ve blinked and missed it. What would have happened then?
The detective stares almost aggressively into my face, trying to catch a lie, but he won’t find one. I would never lie about something so important.
“Mr. Kessler, is it?”
“Mr. Kessler, my officers are still searching the building at this time, but at the present moment, there is no evidence that a murder took place.”
My stomach drops. “What?”
“There is nothing unusual at the supposed crime scene you pointed out to us and the security footage was of no assistance,” he says.
“What? How is that possible? I saw it happen!” I say, nearly shouting.
It’s hard to read him, but if I had to place his furrowed eyebrows and calm manner, I would say there was a twinge of bewilderment and perhaps a touch of curiosity.
“There is no security footage. It was missing when we got to the security centre. You didn’t happen to take it, did you?”
“What? Of course not!” I yell, indignation filling my bones. Why in hell would I steal the security footage?
“As far as I know, you were the only one in the security centre after when you say the murder took place.” His nonchalant manner drives me up the wall. I know he’s a policeman, but how could anyone seem to care so little about a murder? Does he not believe me?
“But it wasn’t me.” I enunciate each word as if speaking to a child. “Why would I get rid of the footage?”
“I do not know, Mr. Kessler. That is exactly the answer I was attempting to obtain from you.” The detective pauses thoughtfully. “There was nothing at the scene of the crime. No blood, no weapon, no body. Nothing that even seems slightly suspicious. There are no missing persons reports of an elderly man in the city right now. The security footage you claim to have seen is gone.”
“Yes, I know. You’re a broken record.” I roll my eyes, frustrated.
“Why do you expect me to believe that a murder took place in this building tonight?” he asks, beginning to look annoyed and frustrated.
I almost open my mouth to shout but stop. With a start, I realize that it’s a fair question. He doesn’t believe me. Why would anyone? It seems so unlikely that a murder could have occurred in the first place aside from my account. No evidence at all. Nothing, except my word, and the detective has no reason to trust that. A new and cold fear rises inside me. Is someone about to get away with murder?
“Because I saw it,” I mumble unconvincingly. I only process how pathetic it sounds as it leaves my lips.
“Mr. Kessler, I am going to write in my report that this was a false alarm. I believe you are tired or somehow otherwise mentally distressed and you didn’t see what you think you saw.”
I don’t know how to react. At first, I’m angry. How could the detective so easily disregard this? How could I possibly make this up? But the rest of me knows he has a point.
“It was a mind trick, Mr. Kessler. You’re wasting my time and the time of all of my colleagues.” He raises his voice and it pulses with the kindling of anger. “Go home. Get some sleep. Don’t try to pull something like this again and just be grateful you’re not being charged.”
Now I know how to feel. I didn’t try to do this. This is not my fault. And if there’s even a chance I’m telling the truth, shouldn’t they at least find out?
The detective turns and walks toward the door behind him. But as he reaches for the tarnished golden doorknob, he hesitates.
“Do you recall what the so-called culprit looked like?” he inquires, turning to face me again with a look of sheer curiosity and maybe even a trace of amusement. What’s wrong with him? Didn’t he just say I imagined it?
“Why does it matter if you think I just made it up, Detective?” I say, feeling snarky.
“I can still charge you.”
I sigh, attempting to recall the man with the knife. “Greying hair. Black t-shirt. Maybe… five foot nine.”
The detective frowns. “Really? 5’9”?”
“C’mon, I look at least six feet.” The detective chuckles. “Oops.”