The first thing I realized when I woke up was that I was in jail.
Let me tell you—that’s one hell of a wake up call.
I blinked the sleep from my eyes and looked around, taking in the cinderblock walls, steel bars, and sparse furniture of a simple cot and toilet. My breath came short and shallow as panic settled in—why was I here? What was going on? Where was I? My mind was already racing—I’mscrewedI’mscrewedI’mscrewed—but I forced myself to breathe deeply and think about how I could’ve gotten here. It really didn’t help my fraying sanity when I came up blank.
Fleeting memories flitted through my mind like paper in the wind; classes and friends and a life…I knew I had it, but I couldn’t remember the specifics. Names were a blank, and the specific faces and places seemed to blend together. The harder I thought about it, the blurrier the memories became.
I re-examined my surroundings instead, hoping for any sort of clue. The cell was bare and, if anything, cold. It seemed like there was only one cell here, and from where I was, I could only see down the hall to the reception area. I could see a desk piled high with papers, pens, folders and the like. Squished between the stacks of files was a desktop computer humming away with the screen lit, though I didn’t see anyone at the desk. Next to the desk was a counter with paper bins, and a set of twenty or so small square cubbies, for mail or flyers. Above the counter was a pinboard, with mugshots and wanted flyers for the area’s criminals.
I scanned the board, hoping to recognize names, faces, even one or two of the crimes mentioned. Anything that would spark a memory. No luck—I couldn’t read very well from that distance anyway, but nothing leaped out at me. I tapped the bars of the cell anxiously now, wondering just how long I would be stuck here.
“Nervous, are we?”
I had to bite my tongue to keep from shrieking, but that didn’t stop me from jumping ten feet in the air. I leapt away from the bars and the face that had appeared inches from mine. I narrowed my eyes at the man with a scowl. At seeing my face, he looked somewhat…surprised.
“Oh,” the man stepped back suddenly, looking me over, “You’re…younger than I expected.”
“Yeah, like you’re so much older,” I frowned, oddly offended.
Sure, I was only sixteen, but he looked pretty young himself, for a police officer—nineteen, maybe twenty tops. He came off as the easy-going slacker, relaxed and uncaring. He was in standard police uniform, but his shirt seemed a size too small and was stretched tightly across his torso, whereas his pants seemed larger and somewhat baggy, like a teenager trying to find style in uniform. He had sharpie-black hair that was tucked up into a backwards police cap, but still managed to fall into his cloudy, light blue eyes. He slouched like a delinquent in detention, though his posture looked fluid and natural as he stood there, one hand in his pocket, the other leaning on the bars of my cell while he eyed me.
“My age isn’t what’s up for debate,” he frowned after a moment, still looking highly confused.
“Then what is? Why am I here?” I pressed, disregarding his confusion.
“Were you read your rights?” the man asked instead, disregarding my question in turn. He seemed to pull himself up a little, as if trying to show he was the one in authority here.
“Sure,” I shrugged, though whether or not I had been was unknown, at the moment.
“Funny…I’d have thought you’d be a little more…psychotic,” he queried.
He moved slightly closer to examine me, a sense of deep confusion still coating his actions. Despite the fact that he was now closer, he also seemed to maintain a somewhat…cautious air about him; as if I was going to attack at any moment. Before I could process his words, much less react, another officer turned the corner and caught sight of us.
This one looked older, though I doubted he was over fifty. He carried a large manila folder in his right hand, and his police hat in his left. He secured it on his head over a crop of tousled red hair before locking in on the other officer. He had what looked like naturally tan skin, and jaded grey-green eyes that, at the moment, were speaking volumes of fury.
“Riley, what the hell did I tell you?” the new officer growled, grabbing the guy’s—Riley’s—shoulder and spinning him a 180.
“Sorry man,” Riley readjusted his hat nervously, “I forgot.”
“Don’t you ‘man’ me! Twenty minutes ago we had a little meeting. Remember that? Or did you ‘forget’?” the man sneered.
“I remember,” Riley nodded, then hastily added, “Sir. I remember, sir.”
“Better. Do you remember what I said at that meeting?”
“Not to talk to the new girl, but, sir, I just wanted to see, and then when I saw she was this young, I couldn’t help but wonder how psycho you had to be at her age to do something like that, and I—”
“You think that little girl is being charged? With this? Moron,” the older officer gave a long-suffering sigh, “Damn it Riley…you’re new. Okay? You need to remember that. I know you’re trying to be helpful, but this is a high profile, high risk case. Our best officers have next to nothing, and what they do have is the compilation of months of blood, sweat and tears. You simply can not jump in on your own and ruin their hard work, understand? If you wanna be helpful, get outta here and help them find him, alright? No more of this lone wolf crap.”
“Sorry sir. Yes sir.”
The older officer shook his head before handing Riley the file in his hands, “Winchester and 44th, another homicide. Same M.O., still no identifiable weapon. I want this guy, you hear me, Riley?”
“Yes sir, Commander.”
“I want this sick bastard behind bars. Soon.”
“Yes sir, Commander.”
“I better not see you back here without a suspect, reasonable guilt, and a search warrant to be signed.”
“No sir, Commander.”
“All right. Get to it then,” the older man ordered gruffly to Riley before shaking his head. He faced me, an odd expression in his eyes. It seemed like a combination of pity and remorse, “How long he talk with you?”
“Oh,” I startled slightly at being addressed, “Only a moment or so,” I paused, then added, “Sir.”
“The name’s Commander Daniel Fields, miss, but Commander’s just fine,” the Commander gave me a sympathetic look, though I couldn’t fathom why, as he pulled up a chair and sat down. He tugged a notebook out of his jacket, a pen from his breast pocket, and clicking it he asked gently, “You want to tell me your name?”
“Jenny,” I lied without missing a beat, “Jenny, uh, Elison. Hey, um, Commander? Why am I here?”
He looked up sharply, an intense look in his eyes. We locked eyes a beat, before he looked away, running a hand through his hair in an aggravated manner. He seemed to have an internal debate with himself, before standing abruptly. He looked at me again, sizing me up.
“You get your phone call yet?”
“…uh, no sir,” I answered, beginning to be somewhat unsurprised at everyone’s avoidance of my questions, though no less annoyed.
“Right then. Come with me,” the Commander nodded, rustling in his pocket a moment before removing a rather impressive set of keys.
Expertly twirling them once before settling on the right one, he then rolled back the bars and gestured for me to follow him. We went down the hall to the reception area. It was what I had seen, plus a few chairs opposite the desk and another hallway behind it. Beside it, however, was a pair of twin sliding doors. My freedom, if I could just get a chance. They hadn’t handcuffed me, and the Commander was the only person around.
What had been an innocent enough thought—if I could just get a chance—slowly started to change. I could feel something stirring in me, and a heavy feeling began to settle, pressing almost painfully on my mind. It was like time just…slowed. I could see the doors, my way to freedom. I knew I couldn’t outrun the Commander. I also knew that it was just him and I; he was the only one in my way. A dark, ominous feeling began pooling deep in my stomach.
It was a strange feeling, one of those feelings that you just know is…wrong. Until a moment ago, my compliance wasn’t a choice, it was a given. But as I watched the officer in front of me, my vision swam with red. Everything was fading, everything but this deep need. The feeling that pooled in my stomach was now clawing its way upward until I could feel it pulsing in my throat, until it was thick and dark and sinister and I could taste it on my tongue.