Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Questions about Melody

Neither of the two men looked back at me as they walked. Our footsteps echoed in the empty corridor, and my feet were still cold and from standing in the rain. But mostly I saw the backs of their suits, dark as black in the greenish hallway light, as if they were a couple of undertakers and I was being taken to see the casket.

We walked down the hall and up to the second floor to a corridor of office doors. One of the men unlocked an office door and went inside. The second held the door for me, and I was surprised at how young he was and at the laugh wrinkles at the corners of his solemn eyes.

The first man sat at a desk in a cramped little office overflowing with books, papers, South Pacific folk art. His face was framed between two towers of books, their spines facing him, their pages a riot of sticky notes and loose papers. The nameplate on the desk said “Martin Radwell.”

The other man left and closed the door behind him.

He nodded toward the only chair in the room not covered in books and papers, and I sat down. He flipped through some papers in a file for a minute.

“Are you Martin Radwell?” I asked, more to break the ice than anything.

“He’s dead,” he said, not even looking up. “Killed this morning.”

“Oh,” I said and stopped, because there was nothing else to say.

“I’m detective David Campbell,” he said, “and I’m leading the investigation on the shooting this morning.”

I kept trying to prepare myself for the sentence beginning, “We have bad news for you.”

Instead he said, “What can you tell me about your daughter?”

“Wait,” I said. “You wouldn’t be asking me that if she were dead, would you? Does that mean Melody is alive?”

He continued to give me that look, detached, appraising, watching for something that I didn’t know I was doing. “Yes,” he said, neutral as a light post, “she’s alive.”

“That’s such a relief,” I said, collecting my purse and standing up. “Can I see her?”

“Not right now, Mrs. Davidson. I do need to ask some questions.”

“Melody --” I said. My knees gave way, and I found myself in the chair again.

“Do you have any idea why your daughter might open fire on a cafeteria full of students?”

I can’t finish this right now.

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