Physiognomy Ch. 1

Chapter 1

“I don’t fucking know him!”
“Calm down. We just need to make sure we have all the information.”
“Why do you need me? I already told you everything. He was standing there then he just flopped over,” protested the driver of the yellow Hybrid. “I want to go home now,” she pleaded.
“Just a few more questions. Please,” commanded the only female detective in southwest Nevada. “It will all be over soon.”
“I don’t know anything else! Fuck, are you deaf?” She had never been able to function in warm environments, and the fact that her own government neglected to provide for climate control in police stations definitely didn’t help.
The detective ignored her outburst and casually readjusted her own ponytail to sit slightly higher on her head. Anything she could possibly do to make the witness feel as though she was sitting with a friend at a coffeehouse instead of a depressing interrogation room with no mirrors let alone windows. “This was the first time you had ever seen the victim? You never saw him walking down a street or in a mall?
“I don’t know him,” she repeated harshly. It must have been at least seven hours that she’s been kept either in a hospital room or this hell. They wouldn’t let Oscar into either room, so he was indefinitely sitting outside in an awkward metal chair in the lobby of either building. Samantha desperately wanted him in there, but the pig couldn’t have anything that could distract its witness in the room.
“Why did you leave your car?”
“What?” What the hell?
“If you didn’t know him, why did you leave your car in the street for him?”
“What was I supposed to do? I saw a man get shot and you’re making it sound like I could just drive off to some close parking lot and leave him there!” Sam was sure that this anger was more than just the heat. She never cried because of heat, but now she could feel her mascara streaking down both cheeks. The right eye had apparently had a more generous application as it felt heavier on that side of her face.
The lady clicked her pen closed against her clipboard, arose from her seat, and stepped towards the door before turning and addressing Sam. “Okay, Mrs. Regan. You can go now. We may have to subpoena you eventually, so don’t go on any lengthy vacations for a while,” she said before she briskly exited and left the heavy door open. Her voice was monotonous and uninvolved enough to lull an infant to sleep, if only the infant were capable of sleeping.
Sam cupped her hands over her mouth and nose and tried to gain some sense of composure before walking out to face a building filled with men in dark navy outfits. She leaned the weight of her head onto her arms and let out two quick sobs before wiping her cheeks with the palms of her hands, which became stained in the dark green and black that once encircled her eyes. As she pushed away from the table, the cold chair scraped against the concrete flooring in a horrid screech that produced another sob from her chest.
In exiting the room, Sam was overwhelmed by the sounds of an over-occupied office that had the effect of momentarily draining her of all sense of self as she again gained her bearings. On the far end of a short, poorly lit hallway, at least six desks were visible in two neat columns of three, none of which excluded from a living cluster of papers that, if stacked on the floor, could have reached the fifteen-foot ceiling at least twice. On the nearer end of the hallway, which was to her right, Sam noticed the door she passed to initially enter the investigative department of the District 76 Bureau of Police Dispatch (or so it said above this door). It stood in every way similar to the hard mahogany barrier that had been swung ajar by the stereotypically feminine detective, save the presence of a warped square window of about three feet on each side on face-level that allowed for light to penetrate but restricted any vision. Painted in a black boldface font, Sam could read the word “LOBBY” directing her that her only business at present was through that door; she had no purpose and was therefore unwelcome to loiter around the desk column.
Obeying this instinct, she pushed the chrome-plated lever that caused the door to unlock on the opposite side she expected and sent her stumbling through the opening on misappropriated weight. Blushing slightly at the thought of being observed at such a performance, she scanned the room first for any staring eyes and next for any sign of Oscar camped out on one of the wooden benches against the far wall. Mortified at finding no evidence he had ever existed in the building, she was forced to inquire at the nearest receptionist’s leisure.
The shortest line held five customers, so she quickly assumed the sixth position. A short man in a stained wife-beater stood directly to her front and seemed determined to affix his eyes on the clock above the glum woman behind the desk. However, the slightly taller man ahead of him looked back at her and revealed a row of teeth with nicotine stains as a friendly gesture to the helpless lady. Whatever repulsion Sam should have felt at the sight was replaced by a fear of whatever her mind could conjure, not excluding what this man’s business might be at a Police Station. She smiled back timidly, careful to keep her lips pressed closed to avoid appearing inviting beyond social niceties, and pretended to be distracted by the introduction of a man in a grey business suit being brought in by handcuffs without offering any resistance lest he entertain his captors. The smoker should have noticed her feigned apathy in the speed at which she noticed the line had been relieved of one man in a blue cardigan with a Caesar haircut, but he was distracted to a higher degree by the same professional being dragged through the depths.
The patrons progressed fairly speedily as two of them including the friend had only been to pick up their possessions from a night in the drunkard’s tank. Approaching the lady with tortoiseshell glasses, a hay-colored bun of hair, and an obviously neglected figure behind the counter, the man in the wife-beater inquired about the incarceration of some friend over a Possession of Marijuana charge. Satisfied though disappointed by the recitation of an obscenely large sum of bail, he limped away on his left leg which seemed to prefer not bending at the knee. Sam finally looked at the clock.
It’s eleven o’ clock. How the hell has it been eighteen hours? You must have dozed off in the hospital. Such an inviting bed, such warm sheets, you can’t blame yourself, though that would explain why he isn’t here. Wouldn’t it be perfect if he gave up on you?
He finally realized he can do better than a simple skank. Good for him! Maybe now he’ll actually be happy instead of just saying he is. Was he ever? Not with you. Now, look alive.
“Ma’am?” cooed the receptionist. She was glad that this woman seemed to be the last complaint before she could take her leave for the day, but the bitch didn’t have to just stand there ignoring her. “Miss, I can help you now,” she almost yelled, toying with the ‘closed’ sign hidden just behind a partition near her computer, begging to be let into the open to laugh at the growing lines.
Samantha snapped to attention as a jolt of electricity permeated her nerves. She regarded the aging woman and stepped up to all but lean through the other side of the counter. Still dazed, she inquired: “Has there been a man here, about six feet tall?” Use specifics. She isn’t in your mind.  “…with blonde hair, probably in a polo shirt?” The woman tilted her head as if to determine her motive. “He’s my husband and he was supposed to pick me up when I got out,” she explained.
Though still confused by the woman’s eccentric behavior, the sagacious clerk felt compelled to offer an excuse for having no answer. “I’m sorry, Mrs.…” she pressed, trying and failing to extract a name, “ah, I’ve been swamped since I clocked in. If he was here, I wouldn’t know unless he came to the desk.” Her accent betrayed her to be from North London, immigrated across the pond some years after her birth required to develop a dialect. She smiled, expressing sympathy for the oblivious girl.
“Then do you know if there’s a yellow Hybrid in the impound lot?”
“So you’re here to pick up a towed vehicle?”
“It’s not like that,” Sam was becoming defensive and she knew it. “I mean, the officer told me it would be there.” Only with difficulty was she able to call him by a proper title rather than what he really is.
“Why is it being held, then?”
“What? No, he said they had to get it out of the road so they would bring it here. I gave him my keys. It’s not being ‘held’.”
The receptionist’s eyes flickered as she made the connection between this girl and the gossip over the murder witness. “I’m sorry, it was my mistake. License number?” The conversation assumed a professional format as the receptionist reverted to a script.
Taking a second to stare at the incompetent record-keeper, Sam recited the memorized three letters and four digits twice for complete clarity as they were typed into a registry.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but that car is still being processed.”
Eighteen hours and they’re not done with the paperwork yet? “What do you mean, processed?”
“It’s still in the forensic garage.”
“What?” You know damn well what. You’re a suspect, and they’re going to put it all on you because you’re the easiest way to make them look good. Jail would do wonders for your complexion. Let them.
“Again, I’m sorry but I can’t tell you anything else other than it should be ready for pickup within the week. We’ll call you.”
Sam walked away before her mouth could present her anger. A few feet off, she sunk into a bench and bit into her lower lip hard to spite her mother’s warnings as a child that she would bite it off unless she found a better way to vent her emotions.
She turned to her side for the brown leather purse that held her cell phone and wallet only to remember it was likely still in the passenger’s seat of her car. The expletive she projected drew the attention of none who cared enough to search for a source, so she felt confident enough to stand and walk out the double glass door to see a street lit by lamps on either side, otherwise dark. Given a couple seconds to focus her sight, her mind began to speak again.
Okay, so it was 11:00 at night. That’s twelve more than the morning, which means, oh twelve-plus-eighteen, thirty hours. You must have been completely out at the hospital. No wonder he wasn’t there. He has work when they need him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not in a different bed.
Sam walked north along the sidewalk until she reached a bus stop underneath a yellow streetlight. She felt like she was in an old shock-horror film, where the slut at the bus stop would be abducted, only to be found with a bullet in the back of her skull and white stains on her ripped blouse.
Why the hell not? It’s not like they’d care about that ring on your finger. An easy lay is just that, and aren’t you easy?
Samantha shook her head and leaned her forehead into her palms which were supported by her knees.
You saw the schedule on that sign. The bus isn’t coming for another seven hours. But, what to do? Walking home would be more dangerous than staying the night here. You’re right next to a pig pen, who would even try?
She stared at the concrete beneath her stilettos.
Rest, child. Unless you want to ask Miss Owl or Smiley for a bed. I’m sure they’d both accommodate, but I can’t promise you’ll be yourself after either experience. Sleep.
A couple spots on the concrete became darker as saline met the ground. She lay on the bench, barely stretching to feel the opposite armrest with her ankle. Rolling over to face the light-stained wood, she placed her forearm under her ear and closed her eyes.
Good girl.