I suddenly remembered a line from some movie or police procedural television show, “It’s the guilty ones that sleep.” The words drifted into my head like smoke just as the lack of sleep and the excess of whiskey finally caught up to me. My eyes were drooping shut and the fluorescent glare of my surroundings was starting to blur and prism through my eyelashes and the narrowing gap between my eyelids. I wondered if sleeping in my cell was more indicative of my guilt than being found still sitting on my victim and confessing my crime in detail to a cop. I smiled and let my eyelids close completely, the bright light was cut down to the muted tones that passed through my eyelids.
I laid on my side on a steel and fiberglass bed, my hands tucked under my head like a caricature of a person sleeping. If I was in a cartoon, I’d be wearing a pointed hat and striped nightgown instead of a blue jumpsuit. The papery fabric of the suit I wore was itchy and reminded me of the gown you put on when being examined by a doctor. The harsh artificial light and the faint smell of disinfectant added to the exam-room feel and I forced down memories of the last time I had been looked at by a medical professional before remembering could ruin the quiet calm of my cell.
In spite of the hard bed and scratchy paper suit for pajamas, I was relaxed and comfortable. Whatever indignities I faced, whatever punishment was meted out for my crime could not compare to the miserable life I had been living. I felt stress and fear melt off of my body like I had been encased in wax. The buzzing tube of glass that lit my cell sounded beautiful and reassuring. A humming murmur came from the air vent and I felt a dry, warm breeze land on my cheek.
I drifted into sleep and I did not dream. I was vaguely aware of my body as my consciousness receded. The flesh-colored spots of light in front of my eyes seemed to drift away. The sounds of my cell dimmed gradually like someone was turning down the volume on a radio. I have heard the term “fall asleep” a million times but I was not moving down. My mind was withdrawing, moving backwards through a void. I could feel that my cell and the rest of the world beyond it was getting farther away. I remembered feeling this way before but my mind could not focus on anything and the memories would not come to me. I had left my memories with my eyes and my body. They were beyond my reach there, in the dark. Soon, I was so far away that I felt nothing.
The sound and light rushed back to me in an instant, accompanied by a flash of pain. I had no idea how long I had been asleep. I sat up, groggily scanning my body for the source of the hurt. It was my wrist. I had scratched at it in my sleep. A trickle of blood started to seep and a strange type of heat pulsed up my arm from the burn under the bandage. I breathed slowly through my teeth. I wasn’t going to make any sounds of pain. I imagined Hoskins was outside my cell, his ear pressed against the door, too scared to actually look in through the window but too interested to actually leave me alone. I wasn’t going to give that bastard anything to masturbate about later. I shut my eyes, inhaled through my nose and exhaled through my teeth. I did the same thing a few more times until the throbbing pain in my wrist subsided.
It was because of Hoskins that I burned myself in the first place. After Kinsey sat with me and let me tell my story, I assumed I would go with him to the station. I let myself believe that Kinsey would be there the whole time. I was fooling myself when I thought that it was all over and I could let the cops take me into custody and not have to worry about getting hurt anymore.
I had not planned for an escape. I didn’t want to escape and I knew that it wasn’t even a possibility. After Kinsey helped me off of Jerrad’s body, I grabbed the Zippo lighter from the nightstand, and I put on some jeans. I slipped the lighter into that little pocket nobody uses anymore and it was invisible to a casual glance. I let Kinsey walk me out of the house and it wasn’t until we stepped out into the night air and I felt his piggy eyes on me that I even remembered Hoskins was there. A young cop put plastic cuffs on me and tried not to hurt me by putting the bands on too tight. When I was put in the back seat of Hoskins’ car, I hoped the young policeman would be coming too. I hoped Hoskins was too lazy to do anything completely by himself.
I saw Kinsey get caught up in a conversation with a crime scene guy. I sat there for a long time, watching the lights from all the emergency vehicles spin around the interior of the cop car. It smelled like sweat and fast food French fries. I heard a commotion, looked through the window of the cop car, and saw Kinsey talking to Hoskins. I saw Kinsey throw a sad glance my way before walking towards his own car. Hoskins and the young cop walked toward me. I watched the jowls around Hoskins’ chin jiggle with every step he took and saw his mouth twist into a disgusting smile as he approached the car. The young cop got into the driver seat. The car tilted to the right as Hoskins lowered his dense body into the passenger seat.
“Ugh, it smells like ass in here, Davis,” Hoskins chided as he rolled the window down.
“Thompson,” said the young man.
“Never mind,” said Thompson with a sigh.
Hoskins grabbed the radio mic off of his shoulder and contacted the station. I could see his eyes watching me in the rear-view mirror.
“En route with the suspect,” he said and winked at me.
Sergeant Roda said something back that I couldn’t understand.
“No, Davis here will resume patrol after he drops us off at the back portico.”
More unintelligible speech from the radio.
“You think I can’t handle this suspect by myself?”
This time I could make out one word in Roda’s response, “Kinsey.”
“Fuck you, Roda. You go back to watching your nerd movie and I’ll get her booked and into lockup. Just make sure you don’t turn it up so loud that you can’t hear me buzzing at the back door. Hoskins out.”
Hoskins returned the mic to his shoulder clip and continued to watch me in the rear view mirror. His right arm dangled out the window, his fingers wiggled in the night air like a bunch of crooked hot dogs and then started to tap a rhythm onto steel panel beneath the KVPD decal on his door.
“Yeah, me and Nicole go way back,” Hoskins said. “Don’t we Nic?”
I looked away from the mirror and looked out the window instead. Now that we had left the circus of spinning lights behind, the only illumination was from widely-spaced street lamps that lit the road. We drive continuously down hill and Thompson was took care on the curves to make the ride as smooth as possible. When the road came to the bottom of the hill and Thompson stopped for a stop sign, I noticed there was light from the headlights of a car behind us. I turned to look out of the back window and briefly caught a glimpse of Kinsey before our car turned right, toward the older part of downtown. Seeing Kinsey there made me feel a little safer. Until Hoskins started to talk again.
“Me and Nic will be just fine in the booking area,” He paused and I looked into the rear view mirror just in time to see him lick his lips. “We’ll be just fine all by ourselves.”
His words were innocuous, with a touch of innuendo. However the tone of Hoskins’ voice sent a chill through my body. The only warmth I felt came from the comforting weight of the Zippo in my pants pocket.
I watched absent-mindedly as the town crawled past the window of the cruiser. The late hour meant all the businesses were closed, even the bars. Only one car passed us going the other way and I didn’t see a single person walking outside. We arrived at the building shared by the Kiln Valley police department and the Beckham County sheriff’s office. Thompson drove past the front of the building, turned right at the corner and drove up to a gated parking lot. The gate was shut but as the cruiser pulled up, it began to roll back. The steel uprights went by like a row of skinny soldiers marching in pointed helmets.
Kinsey pulled up behind us and followed us through the gate. As Thompson pulled up to the portico that covered the entrance to the back of the building, Kinsey drove past and found a parking spot amid the KVPD motor pool. Thompson and Hoskins opened their doors. The cool air and the dome light hit me in the face. I sat, blinking while I waited for someone to let me out.
The police cruiser tilted to the left after Hoskins pulled himself to his feet. The fat man sighed and heaved his gun belt back up onto his hips. He slammed the passenger door and took a couple steps towards my door. Thompson walked around the back of the car and opened my door. He used a strong but gentle grip on my upper arm to help me out of the back seat.
I saw Kinsey waiting by the back door. Hoskins and Thompson each held one of my arms. Hoskins was digging his sausage fingers into the skin next to my bicep. I looked at Kinsey and gave him the best smile I could manage. Hoskins used his free hand to push the a button on some kind of intercom next to the back door. The door buzzed and Hoskins released his grip on my arm to allow Thompson to take me through the doorway. I heard Hoskins behind me, he stopped and turned.
I glanced over my shoulder to see Hoskins plant his hand on Kinsey’s chest and say something gruff. The two men continued to talk as Thompson guided me down the hallway. Then I heard the door shut and a single set of footsteps began to shuffle down the hall towards us.
Thompson sat me on a bench and I leaned my back against the wall. Thompson walked over to a desk and took a clipboard out of a drawer. He was busy putting carbon paper into the clip when Hoskins walked up and said something quietly into his ear.
“Sir, I,” Thompson began to reply.
“Nothing sir. Would you like me to call Lewis to assist with booking?”
“I’ll call Lewis. You get back on your fucking patrol like I ordered you to.”
“Yes, sir,” said Thompson.
The young cop gave me a worried look. Then his face seemed to relax. He gave me a curt nod and a half smile, then turned to walk back outside. Hoskins followed him to the button that released the back door. When the the pudgy cop turned and looked at me on my bench, he grinned again. The grin reminded me of someone who was about to open a long-awaited package, something they’ve been hoping would arrive and finally came to their doorstep.
The radio crackled and Hoskins reached up to turn it down but he stopped to listen to the following conversation.
“Thompson to Lewis. Lewis, you copy?”
“Go for Lewis.”
“Tonya, Hoskins requests assistance with booking of a female suspect at the precinct.”
“Copy that, on my way.”
Hoskins’ grin faded.
“That little fucker. Well, we might not have as much time alone as I had wanted. But we can still have some fun. Let me go tell Roda to leave us be for a little while, okay?”
Hoskins opened the door and poked his head out, with the intent of saying something to the duty officer on the other side.
“Shit,” he said and went the rest of the way through the door, into the offices on the other side.
I started to wiggle the lighter out of the tiny pocket in my jeans and hoped I had enough time.