The Interrogation

Why are crazy people called nuts?

*  *  8  *  *

“You can’t keep me in here forever! I know my rights!”

Through the two-way mirror, the old man’s cries were muffled. “He’s right,” said Cody with his head in his hands. “So how long can we keep him?”

Idris turned away from the mirror. “Without charging him? About another hour,” she sighed. “Honestly, I’m surprised we’ve been able to keep him this long without his lawyer stepping in again. Did he even say anything before he left?”

“Not to any of us.”

“Audio?”

“Still out from this morning.”

“Were you here when they met?”

“No,” Cody said. “Maria was on duty, but she told me they met for less than five minutes before the lawyer left.”

The old man stood and cautiously walked up to the two-way mirror. He cupped his hands against the glass as though it would help him see through. “I know you’re watching me,” he said. “You’re always watching me! You think I haven’t seen the listening device you planted in my car?” The look in the old man’s eyes was exactly what Idris had been waiting for since she had come on duty two hours earlier.

“Make the call,” Idris said, locking eyes with the old man.

“You really think that’s enough?”

“Did you hear him just now? Besides, after what happened earlier, I think they’ll be willing to take a chance on anyone. At any rate, it’ll be enough to keep him overnight.”

Cody nodded and left to make a phone call.

Idris smiled. “Finally got you, you bastard.”

 The old man shook his head. “You don’t have anyone, my dear.”

Idris froze. “You can hear me?” she whispered.

“Of course I can hear you,” said the old man. “You think your people are the only ones who can plant listening devices? I can always hear you.” The old man grinned. “Anytime I want.”

“Alright,” said Cody as he returned. “They’re on their way. How’s our friend holding up?”

Idris continued to stare at the old man. “What’d you say?”

“Are you ok?” Cody put his hand on her shoulder.

Compelled by hours upon hours of reflex training, Idris spun around, grabbing Cody’s arm and pinning him to the floor with her knee in a single move. Realization dawned on her as she snapped back to reality. “Oh my . . . Cody, I’m so sorry.”

Cody simply looked at her with fear and confusion.

“Oh goody,” said the old man. “Looks like my friends are here.”

Idris looked up from her stunned partner to see a group of people in black suits marching into the interrogation room. “They’re here,” she muttered as she and Cody both leapt to their feet and hustled to join the agents on the other side of the glass.

Ten minutes of silence later, Idris couldn’t take it anymore. “Is this it? We just sit here staring at each other?”

The agents all muttered to each other.

“What?” Idris shouted.

“Twenty-seven people were brutally murdered with a broccoli sculpture, and their bodies were organized into a recreation of a scene from Lysistrata,” said a red-headed agent.

Idris just stared at him. “Uh . . . duh. That’s why we’re here.”

The old man grinned.

The agents muttered to each other.

“Clearly,” the agent continued, “whoever committed this crime was mentally unstable, and, in my experience, the crazy dog barks first.”

Cody’s face, which had never fully returned to a non-terrified expression, seemed to fill with even more fear.

The old man grinned.

“What are you saying?” Idris asked.

The agents muttered to each other.

“Look,” said the red-headed agent. “There’s a very simple way to find out the truth. We simply have to ask Maximilian.”

Idris waited for the shoe to drop. “Who the hell is Maximilian?”

The agent gestured and one of his colleagues withdrew an enormous cage from the inside pocket of her jacket. Inside the cage was a large squirrel, writhing and squealing as though being tortured.

“We have found,” the red-headed agent continued. “that people who are criminally insane attract the attention of squirrels. Especially ones trained for just such a task like Maximilian.”

Idris’s jaw dropped. “Are you kidding? You people are nuts.”

“We’ll see, won’t we?” said the agent as he opened Maximilian’s cage.

The squirrel leapt to freedom.

Cody ran to the corner and dropped into a fetal position.

The old man grinned.

Maximilian made his way around the room, hissing and spitting as he sniffed each person in turn. He passed up all the agents, took a long time circling around Cody, ignored the old man completely, and stopped in front of Idris.

Then he lunged at her face and started clawing and biting.

The old man grinned.

Idris passed out.

When she regained consciousness, Idris found herself still in the interrogation room. As it came into focus, however, the grey walls seemed to melt away into white padded walls. Maximilian vanished completely. The agents’ black suits were replaced with white scrubs. Cody’s uniform was replaced with a straight jacket.

Idris couldn’t move.

And the old man grinned.

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