He sat in the interview room, the bright overhead light pulsing into his eyes, adding to the white noise in his head. Two uniformed officers stood to either side of the door ignoring him. His hands lay on the table before him, manacled together, his ankles shackled to the legs of the chair. They had taken his shoelaces and belt and fingerprinted him. He was struggling to assimilate the fact of his situation. For the past hour he had been furiously reviewing every stage of the operation, where had he slipped up? He was invincible, this was not in the plan.
The door opened and two plain-clothes coppers walked in. The burly thug who’d arrested him and a woman in a charcoal pant suit and roll-necked sweater, blond hair twisted up behind her head. He didn’t recognise her at first, the smart clothing, hair and make-up at odds with his longtime vision of her. Then he noticed the slight redness around her mouth and across the lower half of her face beneath the foundation, where the tape had been. Over by the wall, the gorilla was pressing the record button on the tape machine. The uniforms left the room.
‘Interview with Dennis O’Connor at 3.22 a.m. on 3rd October 2015. Detective Chief Inspector David Napier and Inspector Belinda Marriot present. Dennis, you’ve been read your rights; do you understand them?’
‘Yes.’ Dennis sat silent, staring at Belinda, a slight smile lifting his lips.
She began placing files carefully on the desk. Opening the first, she took out a bundle of photos and slowly, deliberately sorted them laying four in a row before him. The rest she dropped one by one into a pile just out of reach. The stack held crime scene photos, proof of his art. Briefly he glimpsed the deep copper of the first girl’s hair, spread wildly across her pillow, until she dropped the next on top. His fingers twitched, he fought the desire to touch. That’s what they wanted him to do, to acknowledge his ownership. He drew in a deep breath and willed his hands into his lap, the left one restraining the balled fist that the right had become. He tried to swallow but his mouth was a desert, the saliva congealed to a tacky paste, gluey in the creases of his desiccated lips. His eyes kept flickering toward the trove on the other side of the desk.
The woman sat down opposite. She raised her eyebrows at him and indicated the first photograph before him, tapping it with her finger. He forced his eyes away from the works of art lying ignored and out of reach.
The red head, skin chalky white, lay beside the first brunette, her once tangled nest of hair now a smooth dark crown. Beside her the blond with the bottomless sea green gaze and lastly the second brunette. What had they done to them? All four now lay devoid of anguish, all traces of terror and pain smoothed away, their eyes closed. Each lay on a silver table, a white sheet shrouding them to the neck. He surveyed his once beautiful masterpieces, each an exercise in patience, control and terror. The images before him offended every part of his being. Slow rage began to roil in his gut. Looking down he drew a deep breath and willed himself to stillness. He had to find that quiet place in his mind where they couldn’t get to him.
‘See how peaceful they are, Dennis,’ she murmured moving her finger from one photo to the next.
Shut up, shut the fuck up! Calm Dennis. Don’t let her get to you. Breathe.
‘Not much of a pro are you? Bloody useless.’
You’re not useless, don’t listen, just breathe, relax. Fucking Bitch.
‘Just a hairless little prick. Real men have hair, Dennis.’ She moved her left hand to the pile of crime scene shots and swept them onto the floor.
Fucking Bitch didn’t even look at them! Tears of frustration squeezed out past restraining lids. He shook his head to clear it, still not looking up. He held both fists trapped between his thighs.
‘Did she laugh at it, Dennis,’ she said tapping the first picture before him. ‘At how pathetic and limp you were? Did you even get it up?’
‘Harder than you could handle.’
Belinda looked toward David leaning casually against the wall of the room and raised her eyebrows. He shook his head and motioned for her to continue. She pushed her chair back from the table and stood up. Walking round the table to stand to his right she trod on the spilled photos on the floor.
Picking up the photo nearest to her she swiveled, foot still planted on the others on the floor and rested her hips against the edge of the table.
‘They’re laughing at you, Dennis.’
His body began to vibrate,
‘Shut up, you don’t get to talk.’
‘But I am talking, Dennis. You can’t make me shut up. You can’t make me do anything. You’re a joke.’
Relax. Stay calm. But she’s trashing them!
‘Do you know what’s really funny? How invincible you thought you were.
You’re contemptible, powerless, pathetic.’
He raised his head slowly and stared at her, flat cold pupils gouging at the wall of calm Belinda had built around her.
‘Take your filthy fucking foot off my art.’