The principal's office was a rather forbidding place.
The fact that I was about to be questioned by a detective about a murder didn't make it any more welcoming.
I found Detective Alder sitting in a chair in front of the principal's desk. I was glad he hadn't decided to sit in her desk, that would have made the task at hand even more daunting.
He looked up as I came in, and smiled rather wearily. I figured investigating murder cases couldn't be an easy job. "Hello, Mr. Madriago," he said with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Have a seat." He gestured toward another chair. I sat down.
"So," he said, leaning back in his chair. "It's not easy losing a loved one, is it?"
I shook my head. But I wasn't thinking about Ally.
"I lost my best friend a few years ago," I whispered, looking at the floor beneath my shoes. "A drunk driver."
I looked up, and saw a flash of recognition in the detective's eyes. He leaned toward me. "Laura Mallory?"
I nodded. "You called me after the...after the accident. I was so angry...I threw the phone against the wall and broke it." I met his eyes. "But it wasn't your fault."
Detective Alder's face grew serious. "Ethan, do you know anything- anything- about the poisoning of Ally Prior?"
And that's when it hit me.
"Ally Prior- she died of poisoning," I repeated, staring at Detective Alder. He nodded. "Fast acting poison. Someone must have done it right there in the subway station. The autopsy showed that she collapsed and hit her head, that's where all the blood came from."
I felt my heart beating faster. "So- she didn't die of...knife wounds?"
I bit my lip. "Listen...Detective...you may know that I have some...underlying mental issues. And, at times, when I'm under great stress, I can have hallucinations. You wouldn't believe what I saw after Laura died." My voice caught, and I swallowed. "The night that Ally died, I was at the subway station. I- I thought that I killed her..." I was sobbing now. Detective Alder's eyes were wide as he scribbled furiously on a note pad. "I had planned to kill her...I thought I did...but it's such a blur...I had a knife, I was going to stab her, but..." I couldn't go on.
Alder stared at me for a time. Then he said, "Someone came to talk to me earlier. He had suspicions that you might have been involved in Ally's murder. But if you didn't kill her- and I have no reason not to believe you as of yet- then the real murderer is still at large."