A big welcome to new writer, Dom, from down under...
The room was bright.
No darkness, only light. Uncharacteristic of an interrogation room, one might dispute. But Roswell had grown weary of the darkness. In his line of work, change was good. Besides, the darkness was hardly the place for such a woman.
Roswell watched from the back corner of the room as she sat there. She was still, frozen, insipid. Understandable, of course. For the events that had transpired warranted such a reaction. But still, as she sat there in such a passive and inert state, her beauty was overwhelming. Draped in an elegant white ballroom gown, she was effortlessly captivating. She glowed radiantly, with an aura that was as enigmatic as it was natural. Her face, pristine, defined and pure. Her hair, long and dark, forever flowed down the back of her slender frame. And her eyes. Deep and brown, and whilst now solemn and empty, were absorbing.
And yet, this was a woman suspected of mass murder.
Still, Roswell stood there unfazed. After 25 years in the business, it was suffice to say he was a veteran of some sorts. Once a fresh-faced apprentice in the world of private investigation, Roswell had grown to become a man accustomed to the depths of crime. His once youthful exuberance had thinned, and the grey haired figure that now leaned against the wall of the interrogation room was one of calmness and ease.
There was a knock at the door. Roswell, eyes still transfixed on the woman, left the room slowly. Outside, Simons was waiting.
“How are we, boss?” smiled Simons, in the chirpy tone that Roswell had come to hate. “Looking sharp, as always.”
“Listen”, Roswell sighed, “for the last time, I’m not your boss.”
Simons had been recently assigned as Roswell’s partner. Young, cocky and eager, he reminded Roswell of his younger self; part of the reason why he irritated Roswell so much. Although somewhat of a raw talent, Simons had a lot to learn.
“Whoa. Who’s the dame?” Simons asked, turning his attention towards the window. “Just a bit overdressed for the occasion, don’t you think? Someone steal her handbag?’
“No”, Roswell said dryly. “That’s Mrs. Bale. She’s suspected of a bombing.”
Simons looked on, shaken.
“Nothing proven yet, its all pretty complicated”, Roswell continued. “She’s been held overnight. Police brought the case straight to us, didn’t bother probing further.”
“Lazy bastards. What’s the story exactly?”
“See, Mrs. Bale was aboard a harbor cruise with her husband some three days ago. One of those ritzy high-class balls, chic suits, fancy dresses. Wasn’t a huge event, 40 or so high class associates on a grand-yacht. Mrs. Bale says she was approached by a young waiter with a message saying that she was needed back ashore. For what she was needed for, the waiter apparently did not say. Mrs. Bale was then brought back ashore, and a short while after, as the yacht was returning towards the harbor, it exploded. Planted bomb. Plastic explosives. No survivors. Mrs. Bale was there on the shore, and was taken in by police.”
“And that’s all we have on it?” asked Simons.
“She gave a brief statement to the police, and as she was the closest thing to a suspect, they held her here. They’ve compiled a file on her, and they’ve got a witness report”, said Roswell, with the file in hand. “Makes for some interesting reading.” He handed the file to Simons.
Simons took the file, and sat down at the nearby table to read it.
Roswell spoke as Simons read at the table. “Mrs. Bale was arranged to marry Mr. Bale after an agreement between their tycoon parents, who together, owned a controversial pharmaceutical company, called Altzatec. After the passing of their parents, Mr. Bale was given sole control of the company. If you recall, the company was caught up in a litigation issue some years ago, whereby a particular batch of its products resulted in the deaths of 20 people. Nonetheless, the company overcame the scandal, and to this day, holds a multi-million dollar status.”
“Apparently, the marriage between Mrs. Bale and her husband was an unhappy one. Mrs. Bale was allegedly forced against her will into the marriage. She wasn’t fond of the high-class lifestyle and social circles. And she wasn’t exactly fond of her husband either. Reports suggest that he was violent, drunk and abusive towards her, yet she never came forward with anything.”
Simons interrupted, eyes running over the file. “And yet they had a son together. William. But he died, aged 18. Domestic death? Says here that he fell from the balcony of their home.”
Roswell nodded. “And only Mr. Bale was home at the time.” Simons looked up at Roswell. They both questioned it, but said nothing. Roswell continued. “After William’s death, Mr. and Mrs. Bale relocated and resettled.”
“And who’s this Marlon Kitson?” asked Simons, who was now turning through the pages in the file.
“Some dockworker. He said he saw Mrs. Bale coming off the yacht. Says she was looking frazzled, lost, but in a rush.”
Simons closed the file, stood up, and joined Roswell, who was watching Mrs. Bale at the window of the interrogation room. “Couldn’t they have at least given her a change of clothes?” he laughed. “Looks like she’s wrapped herself in bed sheets.”
Roswell rolled his eyes. “So what do you make of it all?” asked Simons.
“It’s not the time for assumptions. First, we talk to Mrs. Bale”, said Roswell, moving towards the door. “Listen. Just follow my lead.”
“You got it bo—.” Simons stopped. “I mean, sure thing… partner.” He smiled.
Roswell shook his head with a sigh and walked back into the interrogation room. Simons could see him trying to hide a tiny smirk of laughter on his face.
Roswell and Simons sat down across from Mrs. Bale. She didn’t move, but her eyes shifted. She looked at Roswell, with a stare that was both empty and piercing. Roswell said nothing. He could see how distraught she was. She was weary, empty. He noticed her hands resting on the table. Her forearms were bruised purple.
“Mrs. Bale, I’m Detective Roswell and this is Detective Simons. I understand you’re probably not in the best frame of mind right now, but I’d like to ask you a few questions.” Mrs. Bale nodded, but then interrupted.
“Please, Detective, I would never…”
Roswell ignored this plea and carried on. “Now, Mrs. Bale, you say that you were approached by a young waiter, but he wasn’t able to tell you why you were needed onshore, or by whom. Is this correct?” She nodded. “And you have no idea as to why you may have been needed, or by whom?” She shook her head. “Can you describe what the waiter looked like?”
Mrs. Bale, composing herself, nodded again. “He was young. Was fairly short, with short dark hair that was sleeked across, and fair skin. He was quite handsome.” She spoke in a tone that was wholesome and unspoiled. She was eloquent, firm and certain.
Roswell took note. “And before the yacht returned you back ashore, did you tell your husband where you were going?”
Mrs. Bale shuffled in her chair. “No. He was busy to talking to some associates. I’d thought I’d let him be.” She looked down at the table, and then stared back at Roswell, who was now looking down, sifting through the file. She paused, and then continued. “He would come home, late. Drunk, swearing. And he’d push, and shove. And hit.”
Roswell quickly looked up to Mrs. Bale. Although he knew, having read the file and seeing her forearm bruises, he didn’t expect her to be so abrupt.
“The bruises?” asked Simons.
She nodded. “He was relentless. I lived in fear, felt safe nowhere. I guess it doesn’t matter anymore…” She trailed off. Roswell and Simons watched her as she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and spoke again. “But please, you have to understand. Yes, I hated my husband. He wasn’t a good man. But I’d never do something so drastic. Please…”
Roswell again, ignored her pleas. But somehow, he sensed a genuine innocence. She spoke with passion, emotion. He sensed truth. “Thank-you Mrs. Bale.” Roswell signaled to Simons, and together, they walked out of the room.
“I don’t know about you, but I’d say it’s all against the woman”, Simons said to Roswell as they stood once more outside at the interrogation room window. But Roswell didn’t reply. He knew everything was against Mrs. Bale. The motive was there. And it was strong. But Roswell wasn’t too sure. She could have easily planted the bomb, made an excuse to leave. The dockworker had seen her leaving in a hurry. It was all against her. Yet, somehow Roswell saw truth in Mrs. Bale.
“Humor me, and run a profile on the dockworker. Marlon Kitson.”, Roswell said. With that, Simons nodded, and took off. Roswell, again, stood there, watching Mrs. Bale. But she was no longer the lifeless figure that had sat there earlier. She was slouched over the table. Her face, buried in her hands. Now, she seemed overwhelmed.
A short while later, Simons returned. “Got some good news and some bad news. The bad news, is that I’ve lost my car keys. The good news, is that I’ve think we’ve made a break.” Roswell’s eyebrows rose. “Marlon Kitson, was once married, and had a young daughter. But remember the Altzatec scandal? His wife and daughter were two of the 20 that died. Since then, he’s been busy. Armed robbery, aggravated assault. A string of offences… Mr. Bale and his buisness associates from the company were all on board, right? I think we’ve got our man.”
“Send a police unit over to Kitson’s. Have him arrested, and brought here”, said Roswell.
“I’m on it boss.” Simons just couldn’t help himself.
With the police unit on its way to Kitson’s, Roswell and Simons re-entered the interrogation room where Mrs. Bale sat, face still buried in her hands. The two detectives said nothing, as they sat down.
Mrs. Bale looked up. “I would never, please detectives. I’m not that kind of person. Just ask my son.”
Roswell and Simons looked at each other sharply.
“Your son?” asked Simons hesitantly.
“Please excuse us for just a moment, Mrs. Bale”, said Roswell.
Roswell stood up slowly. He walked out, Simons by his side, silently, and slowly, thoughts racing. His mind clicked. He paced calmly through the corridors of the station, and headed outside, towards the car.
“Her son? Is she serious, or what?” blurted Simons, breaking the silence. “He’s dead. Isn’t he?”
“Of course he is” replied Roswell.
“I don’t think Mrs. Bale’s all there”, said Roswell, as he started the car, and began to drive off. “I think we’ve overlooked everything, forget about Kitson. Sometimes, the mind believes what it wants to believe.”
Roswell and Simons arrived at the house. It was large, old, and sand stoned. Rather castle-like, it was remote, with no other houses nearby. A forest towered at the rear of the home. Parallel rows of immaculate hedges ran down the driveway, and were met by a soaring marble fountain at the centerpiece of the front garden. Roswell and Simons walked along a cobble-stoned path towards the front door. A balcony ran along the top storey of the house.
“This is Mrs. Bale’s old place, isn’t it?” asked Simons. Roswell nodded, as he knocked on the large wooden door. A grayed old woman answered the door.
“Hello M’am. I’m Detective Roswell and this is Detective Simons”, said Roswell.
“Why hello”, the old woman gestured politely. “You must be here about the Bale’s. Read about it all in the papers. Tragic really.
The two detectives nodded in agreement, before Roswell spoke. “Does Mrs. Bale ever come by here?”
“Well until a few weeks ago, she didn’t. Lately, she’s dropped by quite often. But never to the house. There’s a little old barn around the back, just as the forest begins. We never paid much attention to it when we bought the house, but lately she’s been visiting there. It must hold some significance to her, because she’s been adamant that we’re not to meddle with it. I think it must remind her of William in some way. So we’ve respected her wishes. Terrible, it is, losing a son so young.”
“Thank you M’am”, said Roswell.
Roswell and Simons paced around the back of the house, and approached the forest. There, they saw the barn. Wooden, old and small, it was tucked away beneath a row of trees. Roswell approached the door.
“It’s locked” he said, as he pained against the frame of the door.
“I’ve got it.” And with that, Simons walked back a few paces, raised his leg, and kicked the door in. “After you, M’am” said Simons, waving in Roswell.
Roswell walked in first, but stumbled on a cardboard box. He gathered himself, and picked up the box, taking it to a nearby bench. Aside from a few little household ornaments, only a photo frame was inside. It was a picture of Mrs. Bale, and William. They stood there, smiling together, a beaming Mrs. Bale in a flowing red dress, complete with a gold heart-shaped locket, and William, in a dark, black suit.
“Simons, look at this photo. Describe William for me.”
“Ah, lets see. Fairly young. Not the tallest of blokes. Dark hair smoothed hair, fair skin. Good looking lad. Wait… the waiter on the yacht. But….”
Roswell laid down the photo frame, and walked to the far corner of the barn. There was a large green blanket, over the floor. It was covering something. Roswell grabbed the blanket, and pulled it away.
“Plastic explosives…” Simons gasped.
Roswell crouched down. Among the explosives, he spotted a glittering spark of gold. “Recognize this?”
“The locket… from the photo. Mrs. Bale’s”, Simons answered.
Roswell gently picked the locket up. He opened it. Inside, there was another picture of William.
“I’m not following here” said Simons, bemused.
“Sometimes, the mind believes what it wants to believe. Yes, Mrs. Bale did plant the bomb, but she had no knowledge of doing so. You see, she’s suffered. Immensely. And I think she’s failed to deal with it, to the point where she no longer recognizes her actions, or reality in itself. William’s death pained her deeply. And I’m sure she, to a degree, blames her husband for his death. Accident or no accident. And then the abuse, the fear at the hands of her husband. She was driven into a state of panic, psychosis. She subconsciously planted the bomb. Her husband was too much. The pain cloaked her recognition of reality. And so she imagined her son, William, warning her to flee ashore, so that’d she be able to escape the blast.”
“So”, Simons began, “she genuinely believes that she wasn’t responsible for any of this?”
“I’m sure, deep inside, subconsciously, she knows what she has done. But on impulse, she’s unable to recognize anything. She needs to be confronted with the truth. The real truth.”
The officer, flanked by Roswell, led the handcuffed Mrs. Bale to her cell. Earlier, Roswell had spoken to her. Confronted her with reality. And somehow, she accepted it. He thought back to the vibrant woman in the picture frame. That woman was no more. What now sat behind the prison bars was a woman who had lost everything. Again, Roswell noticed her stillness, her inertness; a complete frozen state.
Roswell walked out of the holding cell. The officer, walking behind him, turned off the light, and walked off. Roswell turned around. He switched the light back on. Light was good.
Besides, the darkness was hardly the place for such a woman.
Dom Trimboli is a student from Sydney, Australia, who no longer wants to be a student. He spends a lot of time thinking, rather than doing, and sometimes wishes he was a fictional character.