"Good afternoon, madam. Please sit down." Dan gestured to the chair across from the desk.
As she sat, her body immediately relaxed and melded perfectly with the chair. Dan sat across from her, his back straight, his muscles tense. Before he could speak, she had already begun.
"You know, I've been questioned three times already. I hope you finally have some new information to go on."
"We might," Dan said, not too convincingly. "Why don't you start by telling me what you've already told the others?"
"I told them all the same old thing. I have no idea what happened. I was there with my son, Albert. It suddenly got darker outside, and there was an explosion. It was pretty far away from where we were. We didn't get up and go look at it, like all the other maniacs out there. I don't know what it was and I can't think of much else to say about it. To be honest, if anything HAD happened I probably wouldn't have noticed. My mind was sort of wandering, and my memory is fuzzy."
"I see," Dan said. He couldn't imagine getting anything useful out of this woman. But he had to try.
"When the explosion happened, were you looking in that direction already? Or did you only look after the explosion?"
"I wasn't looking there, and I never saw the man at all. I was focused on Albert. He was a little anxious."
"Anxious?" Dan asked. "Do you know why?"
The woman shrugged. "He kept talking about all the people, saying they were being weird."
"What did he mean? How were they weird?"
"I don't know, he just said they seemed slower than normal, like they were all tired."
"Exactly when did he start talking like this?"
"I suppose it was right after the darkness fell... because I told him that the sun had gone behind a cloud so quickly, and the people were just startled by the darkness. But he just kept saying that it was more than that, that everyone was being really weird, that I was doing it too."
"And this was before the explosion happened?" Dan pressed.
"Interesting... What did you and your son do when you heard the explosion?"
"Well, nothing really. We were sitting outside a cafe at the time, and we just kept sitting there. Albert wanted to watch the mahem... All those people... some of them running away, most of them scurrying closer to the scene like beetles after a carcass." She laughed to herself and kept talking.
"Albert said they looked like zombies. I told him HE looked like a zombie too, gaping at them like he was... Something weird was going on, I don't know. I felt weird. I remember all this stuff but I only remember how I felt, not what was actually happening. I wasn't really paying attention to anything. That's what I tried to tell all those reporters and policemen but they didn't care. I don't know why they were talking to me, I'm not one of those blood thirsty idiots trying to get a good look..."
Dan had stopped listening. He couldn't help thinking about what the little boy had said... everyone was tired. He wanted to believe that some magical spell had come over all the people, and that's why he couldn't remember things clearly. No one could. He could think of no other explanation as to why he had lost his awareness, his mental clarity... But that was no explanation either. How stupid! It was a little child. He was scared by the darkness, just like everyone else.
Just then, so suddenly that it made Dan jolt in his chair and realize that the woman was still talking, there was a thunderstorm outside.
He knew it had been a perfect, beautiful day. But nevertheless, there was darkness and a raging storm now. It wasn't gradual, it was instantaneous. Dan was shocked by the connection between the two events. Could it happen again? Is someone else going to die today? What the hell is going on?!
He could fight the urge no longer. He reached under the desk, clumsily opened the pack of cigarettes and drew one to his mouth. The woman was now staring at him quietly. She reached out and lit his cigarette for him.
He inhaled. First tentatively, then deeply. Very deeply. Why should he bother to try and quit, anyway? When it was sooooo good?
It calmed him down a little. He began to feel awkward, as there was silence between them now, and he had no idea what she had last said.
Then a thought came to him. Lightning... What if that's all it was? A storm showed up out of nowhere, and Frank Catcher was struch by lightning. Everyone was startled and confused because it happened so fast. That's got to be the answer! If that's the answer, we can close the case! We can go home and forget about all this...
"Thank you very much, madam... What was your name?"
"You may go now, Anita. We appreciate your help." Dan escorted her to the door. Then he remembered the rain.
"Oh... you can wait here for the storm to stop, if you like."
"It's okay," she said, and walked out into the chaos with no hesitation at all.