You find yourself fettered to a table once . . . and the next time isn’t quite as special. Interrogation chambers were becoming way too common in my life, quickly losing their charm. A very gruff looking security guard stood near a metallic door on the other side of the room. A black one-way mirror covered the wall to my right and I was definitely on the wrong side of it. Yellow bulbs buzzed above me like bees, making the already uncomfortable room even less inviting, as if that were possible.
“Got an E.T.A. on the investigator, Mr. Angry-Pants?” I asked the guard. He just huffed and mumbled some curses, not answering my question. “You’re not as pleasant when you’re angry.” I chuckled, wishing that I could see the guard’s face through the shadows, his eyes no doubt rolling out of their sockets.
After what felt like an eternity, the door clicked open and a tall man in a long coat came in, dismissed the guard who gladly marched away, and took a seat across the table. We stared at each other for a while. He looked angry.
“No,” he held up a silencing hand, “Just . . . Just be quiet for a moment.”
I nodded, tapping my finger against my shackles impatiently.
He finally continued, “I just need to clarify some things. Your case file is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read–cut that smile, boy. You’re in a lot of trouble!”
I fought a chuckle.
“Answer my questions honestly and without jokes, understood?”
“Yeah, I can probably do that,” I responded, feigning innocence at his deep-set frown.
“First, what is your relationship with David Brownie?” The investigator readied a pencil over a stack of yellow note paper.
Smiling, I began my tale. “Never met him, to be honest, but this girl I like is related to him. I think he’s her dad.”
He raised a brow. “You think?”
“Mhm. I tend to do that a lot.” I could feel the temperature rise in the room, he practically glowed red.
“So, you want me to believe that you went through all this trouble just for a guy who might be your girlfriend’s dad?!” He slammed his fist on the table, it echoed a bit. “That’s a little far-fetched, Mr. Conner!”
“Hey, hey, now. I didn’t say she was my girlfriend. Just a girl I dig.”
I’ve never seen a man so pissed off in my entire life. He squeezed his eyes, rubbing his temples with his pointer fingers. “Tell me how you got from there to here, Mr. Conner. And no lies!”
“Sure thing. So, I met this girl, Mariah Brownie, at an auction a few months ago. We both bid for an antique painting of a cat. You know the ones? The kind where the artist had clearly never seen a cat before?” I asked. He didn’t answer, so I continued, “Well, she beat me to the punch, managed to out-bid me by a long shot, so I did what any sane man would do . . . I waited by her car with a shovel that I had stolen out of some dude’s Ford Ranger.”
“You did what?!” The investigator yelled, furiously scribbling in his notebook.
I lifted my hands innocently as far as they could go. “Hey, man, if you want to hear the story, you’ve got to stop interrupting me.” Watching the investigator’s reaction, I found a similarity between him and the angry character from a Pixar movie.
He took a series of deep breaths, fighting to calm down. “Fine . . . FINE! Just keep going.”
“Thank you. Where was I? Oh! Yeah. So, she showed up to her car with the painting and I sprung my trap! Little did I know, Mariah is batshit crazy. She straight up rocked my shit, slamming that painting over me in such a way that my face popped through the canvas right where the cat’s head was!” I paused to laugh, the investigator watched me unamused. “The funny thing is . . . I’m pretty sure my face was more accurate than whatever the artist had painted! Mariah thought so too . . . us both bent over laughing at the pure absurdity of it all.”
“Sounds like a fated meeting.” The man commented.
“Reckon so? We thought so too. We went on quite a few dates all over the place after that. Coffee shops and bookstores and museums . . . robbed a bank somewhere in Memphis. Apparently, her dad taught her some of his tricks before y'all nabbed him.”
“You’re admitting to robbing a bank, successfully, in Memphis? When did this happen?”
“Bahhhh–that’s not important to why I’m here, but I’ll gladly tell you more later. Anyways, we dated throughout the summer and she moved in with me in October. Had a bar-tending marriage and got her pregnant in November.”
“A bar-tending marriage? I’m not familiar. Plus, I’m surprised there’s no legal trail of your union.”
“Oh yeah?” I cracked a wicked grin. “A bar-tending marriage means we nabbed a catholic priest from a nearby church and had him conduct a little ceremony in an Applebees.”
“An . . . An Applebees?” The investigator’s mouth was agape. “Wait–what do you mean nabbed?!”
“Yep! Not the most romantic, but the sex afterwards was great. So, I reckon she appreciated the wedding.” I ignored his other question. “We’ve been living happily since, but Mariah’s been missing her daddy David something fierce. Figured it’d be an amazing Christmas present for her if I could bust him out, so now I’m here!”
The yellow lights pulsated with an obnoxious buzz, the lull in conversation was painfully long and quiet. I fought the urge to ask the investigator about the wedding band on his left hand, the silver cross around his neck, or the fact that he wore two sets of dog tags–one clearly his and one clearly someone else’s. Regardless, I bit my tongue.
He finally broke the moment.
“You did all this nonsense to give your wife a good Christmas?”
“Aye!” I nodded vigorously.
“You . . . you impersonated a guard . . . who is STILL MISSING, mind you–”
“He’s tied up in the dumpster behind the janitorial wing,” I interrupted, “Don’t worry, I’ve been here for two weeks, but I made sure to take him food every now and then.
The investigator shuddered, but continued, “You brought a birthday cake–side comment, David’s birthday isn't even in December, it’s in July– with a literal hacksaw baked into the middle of it. It was caught by additional security for obvious reasons, confiscated, and the prison put on lockdown. THEN, as if your attempt wasn’t already a failure, you tried to hold up the ENTIRE KITCHEN STAFF with a gun carved from soap–poorly carved, mind you, very obviously a fake– and were promptly arrested.”
“Umm . . . I hate to break it to you, boss man, but you’re missing a few things. Y'all should really check behind any Evil Dead movie posters in the cells. There should be five.”
“Oh, dear God. We found three . . . THREE . . . fudging soup-spoon tunnels behind posters. You’re telling me that was you?!”
Only he didn’t say fudge.
I cleared my throat. “Sounds like y’all have two more to find! Good luck!”
The investigator stood up suddenly, irritated and in more surprise than I thought imaginable. “You . . . You’re going to jail for a very long time, Conner. A very very long time.”
“Ah. I look forward to seeing more of you.” I winked at him as he huffed, puffed, and exited the room. There was some commotion outside as he yelled and commanded a guard to watch me.
A female police officer walked in wearing shades, her hair drawn up into a tight brown ponytail. She had the telltale blue undershirt and gun holster around her waist. The woman leaned against the door, keeping it open with her foot, and waited for the hallway to quiet down. Quickly peeking outside, she tossed me a ring of keys. I unlocked my fetters and stretched.
“Heyyyyyyy baby! How’s it hanging?” I laughed, joining her by the door.
“You’re a royal idiot, sometimes. You know that?”
“Oh, you know what they say. Love is dumb!”
“No. Love is blind and you’re an idiot.”
“Your idiot,” I sang, kissing her cheek, placing my hand protectively on her belly. The bump was only five weeks large, barely noticeable if you didn’t know what to look for or weren’t the guy responsible for it. “How’s the little bugger?”
She smiled warmly, turning away from me. “They’re fine, sweetheart. Let’s get out of here.”
“Alright, but I was kind of getting used to the place.”
“Pfft!” She chuckled.
I followed her out of the room, pretending to be cuffed, and took two right turns through the main office. There weren’t many officers near the front of the building, most of them out searching the janitorial wing for that guard. Of course, they’d never find him. His real name was Jose and he had been arrested by the FBI under false pretenses about two weeks ago, the news of which was ‘coincidentally’ deleted off the station’s records before anyone could see it. Cruel, I know, but they’d sort through it and set him free eventually. No harm, no foul.
I hopped into the passenger's seat of her Camaro, she cranked the car and tore out of the parking lot, rolling down the window and undoing her hair. It flew frantically in the breeze and I’ve never been so in love with someone.
“How’d you know what I was doing?” I asked. “I worked so hard to keep it a secret!”
“You’re very easy to read, Conner. Very easy.”
“Is that a bad thing?” I smiled, watching the green leaves smear into each other as we sped past.
“Not really.” She paused, focusing hard on the road before us. “How did things go with my dad?”
“Heh . . . Well, sweet pea, I’d go ahead and lower your expectations.”