Fiction Friday: Bargaining

With the holidays coming up, this is likely to be the last Fiction Friday for a couple of weeks.

***

Daphne stared down at her hands, biting her lip.

“Yeah, I knew him,” she said finally. “But that doesn’t mean…you know…” She trailed off.

She couldn’t lie, but she couldn’t talk about it, either.

It’d be better to come clean, better for her, better for those around her. That’s what the therapist had said. And she believed it, but she couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t. She’d open her mouth and say nothing.

Words would make it real. But it hadn’t been real. It couldn’t be real. It felt like a lifetime ago. Like a dream.

The detective smiled patiently. “I’m not implying anything. We’re just trying to piece together the timeline from that night.” She paused, letting the words sink in.

“Neighbors saw you enter the apartment. What time would you say you got there?”

“Around 7, I think,” Daphne paused, deciding where to go next. There was no choice, she’d have to lie. “And then I left, around 10.”

The detective tried to keep her face a mask, but Daphne saw it. The detective thought she was lying. Her mind snapped to focus. Anger and adrenaline began to kick in. The truth didn’t matter any more, she had to survive. She’d do anything to survive.

Daphne took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. She smiled. There she was, her fearless savior.

“We had dinner together. I would have stayed later, but I had to get to work early the next morning,” the lies were coming easier now. “I almost wish I had stayed. Maybe if I had been there…maybe then this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe…I could have done something to stop it.”

Daphne’s eyes glistened as she bit her lip uncertainly. She knew how to play this game. “I know I should have come to you sooner, but…I just couldn’t. I couldn’t. It was too much. I couldn’t believe he was really….gone.” She stayed strong despite her grief.

The detective sat there silently, giving Daphne her space.

“I know it’s difficult,” the detective finally said. “But I need you to walk me through exactly what happened that night. I need your help.”

Daphne nodded silently. She was in the zone now, she could make this work. But she’d have to be careful, thoughtful.

She didn’t trust this woman.

***
Detective Jones waited patiently. She’d smoked out criminals before and this would be no different.

Be calm. Be polite. Be observant. Don’t force it. It was like playing chess. And Detective Jones was very good at playing chess. She smiled.

“I’m not implying anything. We’re just trying to piece together the timeline from that night. Neighbors saw you enter the apartment. What time would you say you got there?”

The woman she was interviewing responded – a little too precisely. Detective Jones made her face a mask, trying not to reveal her hand.

Everything told her that this woman knew more than she was saying, that she herself was likely the killer. But she’d have to get there in time. She didn’t have enough yet.

Jones listened with detached compassion as the woman told her story, shared her grief. It seemed so real, but something was off.

She took a deep breath, focusing her mind. She could do this, she knew. Just a little further.

“I know it’s difficult,” Dective Jones said “But I need you to walk me through exactly what happened that night. I need your help.”

She sat back and listened, thoughtfully, carefully.

She didn’t trust this woman.

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