by Karen J Mossman
Nick was about to put the key in his door when the cops turned up.
Charlie was called to the foreman’s office and asked to accompany them to the station.
Marie, Charlie’s girlfriend, was working on reception when they came for her. Russ tried to dodge them which didn’t go down well. Wasn’t he the one who told Michelle he would kill her?
“I didn’t!” Russ frowned.
Her friends said she had been depressed lately. Was it true?
“Yeah, she was a little down.” Nick remembered.
What was her relationship with Russ like?
“Stormy.” Charlie had found her crying.
What was she like the last time you saw her? They asked Nick.
“Quiet, tense, like. I asked her what was wrong and she told me to mind me own business. I heard her cryin’ in the night. She was gone when I got up.”
They asked Russ the same question. What was she like when you saw her last?
“Sulky,” he scowled.
Charlie shrugged. “She wanted money to feed her ‘abit.”
She was a user?
“What?” Nick was indignant. “Bullshit!”
Marie chewed her nails. “I thought she was, but she swore she never touched the stuff. Russ had the habit. They had a one sided relationship, y’know?” She said referring to Russ and Michelle.
Nick pulled a face, “She was besotted with Russ. He was bad news. She knew it, deep down, like. But try telling her anything….”
Charlie lit a cigarette. “I think she was scared of him. I think he had some kind of hold on her.”
They felt one of them wasn’t telling the truth. The brother? The ex? The boyfriend? The flatmate?
What about home life, parents?
Nick shrugged. “She and dad were always arguing.”
“Boyfriends, I suppose. She always picked the dregs, y’know? Wrong sorts for a girl like her, that’s what dad used to say, anyway.”
“Ones with problems, trouble makers, ones who had been in trouble with you lot, know what I mean?”
What did you think about Michelle, Marie?
“I didn’t like her much, but what could I do? Nick was Charlie’s mate. His sister and Charlie, well, it’s over now. Least Charlie says it is.”
And was it over?
Staring at the table Marie followed the white cup rings with her eyes, gauging how much to tell them. “I think she was coming onto Charlie.”
Charlie looked away. “No. It was over.”
They left his word to hang in the air, compelling him to say more. Instead he reached for another cigarette. Taking a long drag he blew smoke towards them. Playing for time, they’d seen it before. They waited.
“No,” he said again.
He was lying.
They were playing it softly, but in interrogation room 3, the air was blue. Russ wasn’t having that. “Me and Shell, we were like that.” He crossed his fingers.
Softly, softly was getting nowhere. It was time to go in for the kill.
Marie looked horrified. “I didn’t kill her, I didn’t.” She was tired, nerves spent. “I was sick of her coming on to Charlie. He’s mine now, mine, not hers, not any more.”
They accused her again.
“I didn’t kill her, we argued that’s all.”
Charlie put out his cigarette and reached for yet another. “Course she liked me, we’ve been friends a long time. She didn’t want to let go. Wanted to get back together, but I’ve got Marie now.”
Nick looked at them, “Bullshit! We didn’t row about Charlie. She wasn’t after him. Who told you that? When I asked her what’s wrong, she told me to mind me own business.” He shrugged. “I went out; left her to it. When I came back I heard her cryin’, but I didn’t go in, I mean, it ain’t the first, like. She gets mixed up in things.”
They were interrupted then as formal identification of a body was required. As next of kin, Nick would have to do it.
Afterwards he sat with his head in his hands. It was a shock. He had never seen a dead body before.
They explained it was time to come clean.
Marie burst into tears. “I hit her, we fought, but she left, she left afterwards, honest she did, honest.”
Russ went ape, he threw back the chair and kicked at the table. It took five of them to restrain him.
As they locked the cell door, one said dryly, “I think he’s upset.”
“Or guilty,” said the other.
Charlie clenched his jaw and balled his fists, but apart from that he showed little emotion. It was an odd reaction for someone who was once in love with her. Or perhaps he still was.
Nick was relieved when they let him go. Whoever that body was, it didn’t belong to his sister. So where was she? Where was Michelle?
“I dunno,” said Charlie. “Why would I know? She didn’t come to me. I’m not her keeper. Why would I know?”
If Marie was relieved, she showed no sign. “Ask Russ, my guess is she told him about her feelings for Charlie. Or he found out or, maybe she got her comeuppance another way.”
Russ fixed his gaze somewhere above their heads. “You put me through that, and it weren’t even her. Bastards.”
They told him what they thought, too.
“No,” he yelled. “There was no relationship with Charlie. All right, so I shouldn’t have accused her. I was jealous, see. Come on, man, why would I kill her? She was the one who got me off the stuff. I’m clean now.” He banged his fist down on the table. “It’s him, Charlie, I know it’s him. He’s the one who couldn’t let go; couldn’t accept she loves me now.” He put his head in his hands and groaned.
It looked like they’d have to let them all go, until there was a body that is, or new evidence. Maybe Michelle wanted to disappear. Russ was perhaps one more lame dog she’d helped. And Charlie, well he had Marie now. Perhaps she did want him back, or maybe it was the other way round. Marie was jealous, and Nick, well Nick had probably seen it all before.