The female cop gave Joe a stern look and then shook her head while she led him down the stairs and into the brightly lit kitchen, "It's just standard procedure, Mr. Breen. We don't know what happened to your daughter, but your wife was hysterical on the phone and clearly said that it was you who beat that little girl."
Jesus, thought Joe, what must Melinda think of me to immediately jump to that conclusion? His heart sank a little bit. There was another cop standing at the kitchen table, holding a pad and a pen. He also placed a small recorder on the table. He was a big guy, too, enormous. Probably a linebacker in college. Looked like he wore a 3X uniform top. Joe wondered if the guy specialized in intimidating the "Guy" in domestic calls.
To the girl he said, "No, no. I would never hurt my little girl. Rosemarie is my life, Officer."
The female cop motioned toward a seat at the table, "Please sit, sir."
Joe plunked himself down heavily on the uncomfortable cushion Melinda had picked out the summer before and cleared his throat, "You see, the window was open when I got there --"
"Please be aware that we are recording, Mr. Breen," 3X interrupted and nodded at the little black microphone on the table.
"Yeah, fine. Whatever," and back to the female cop, "I mean, you were up there, right? Rosemarie's room is still cold, isn't it? Much colder than any other room in the house? Her window was open when I got there. Someone came into my house and tried to take my little girl!"
The female cop, who was barely five feet tall, nodded impassively as she spoke at the recording device, "There was definitely an obvious drop in temperature inside the room in question than in the hallway just outside the door, for the record."
"See? I would never hurt my daughter!"
The female cop's mouth was small and puckered, and made her look as if she were constantly sucking lemons. It didn't help that she had a severe overbite that pushed against her lips. Joe wanted to know her name but her name badge was placed directly on her left breast and he was afraid to look, lest she got the wrong idea. Her expression never changed as she looked up at Joe and asked, "Then why did your wife think you did?"
Joe sighed. That same question troubled him as well. He shook his head and answered, "I don't know."
3X leaned in tighter, "Do you have a history of violence, Mr. Breen?"
"No, and I'm sure you would have brought up my police record on your way here. I haven't had so much as a parking ticket since college, and you know it."
The female cop asked, "Do you ever hit your wife, sir?"
"I don't mean illegal stuff, narcotics. Do you have anything in your medicine cabinet that might say 'Do not operate heavy machinery' or 'Avoid alcohol while taking this product?'"
Joe shook his head, his frustration levels rising. He knew the cops thought he was the one who had bloodied Rosemarie's face, but Joe couldn't understand why they weren't at least considering the possibility of another, unknown party, "No, nothing like that. Just drops."
"Drops?" the female cop's eyebrows raised. Teague! Her name was Teague!
"I get Swimmer's Ear during the summer. I use drops to clear it up. Prescription's been filled twice."
"Uh-huh. What about your wife?"
"Uh, she has stuff for migraines -- I forget what it's called -- and she has allergies. Both over-the-counter stuff."
Teague leaned in closer. Between the two cops crowding him, Joe suddenly felt claustrophobic, and he leaned back. "So you have nothing around this house that could cause, say, hallucinations?"
"Oh Jesus! Of course not!"
3X put a hand on Joe's shoulder, "Easy now, Mr. Breen."
Teague grew even more serious, "What if we were to search the premises?"
"Why the hell would you ask a stupid question like that?!"
Teague shot 3X a glance, to which the big man returned a nearly imperceptible shake of his head. She said to Joe, "Two things: First, the window to your daughter's room is locked, and second, there are footprints of any kind under that window -- or anywhere else on your property, for that matter."
3X towered over Joe, whose mind refused to accept their words. He spoke to Joe in a very intimidating growl, "So the only thing we can think is that you're lying."