This week's edition is a short story called It doesn't hurt that much by Frank Symons.
Detective Chief Inspector Jane Brando enters the interview room. A junior officer is already there and sitting opposite is a man in an expensive suit. He is a rape and murder suspect. Jane obsesses about this suspect. She was almost a victim of rape; she and a male friend successfully fought off the man who assaulted her. She feels a pain in her gut every time she sees this suspect. If only she could unearth some proof of his guilt. Without it she has to release him into the public where he can and probably will commit more rapes.
Her hair is a mass of golden ringlets pulled back by a black ribbon which allows just a few curls to escape its care. Her sweater is just a little tight and might allow the connoisseur’s eye to discern the lace on the top of her brassiere. Her lipstick is restrained, with only a touch of eyeliner. A serious officer. Yet there is a suggestion of the possibility of something else.
He says, “This ugly room is now beautiful because you are in it.”
A Casanova, in this day and age? What kind of a fool is this? She coughs lightly, then bends over and coughs violently, gasping for air. Her cough gets more violent until her entire body shakes. He hands over his breast pocket handkerchief. She stops coughing, and holds up her hand to show she is all right. Good chance she has his DNA on the handkerchief, but she needs more.
Her iPhone plays Chopin. It’s her, sergeant. “The last call on the victim Stanley Jones’ phone card we found in the garbage was made the morning of his murder. It was made to the man who’s with you now at 7.42 a.m. It lasted six minutes.”
“You received a phone call,” Jane says. “A man, Stanley Jones, called you. Can you tell me, do you remember that call?”
“That was a Thursday, wasn’t it?” he asks in a calm voice. “No, it was Sunday,” she says, and gives him the date.
“Ah yes, it was a Sunday. I was probably at home.”
“Don’t you remember?”
He pauses. “I believe I didn’t go out that day.” He does not bother to ask who Stanley Jones was. Interesting.
“I’ve had a lot of work to finish, so I take it home with me,” he says. “You know how it is.”
“Do you remember talking to Mr. Jones? We think he threatened you. About an assault on a woman he witnessed. The call lasted six minutes.”
“I have no clear memory of it. People feel free to call me very early.”
“7.42 a.m. for this call. We have his phone card.”
Silence. His face turns white. A minute passes. She knows it is best to wait at this point because the suspect might react, or talk more. Looking at him she recalls movie images of man-sized reptiles disguised as humans. Their human carapace falls away, revealing the giant reptile within when threatened with certain death or mortal beatings or captivity. They shrink right away, shrinking until they die.
Suddenly his face turns from white to purple, his carapace of casual human arrogance wiped out. His lips quiver as he produces a bleated, “Uh, uh.” His eyes lose brightness. His back bends, then curls, and he seems no longer able to keep himself upright.
On her face there is the joyous glow of nailing key proof against another reptile. In her gut the pain fades away.
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