19

An officer came down the stairs, and approached the bars of the prison cells looking for someone. He did not seem too satisfied with his life, almost like his marriage was crumbling down due to his night shifts, the romance of old gone and substituted by the existential ennui of a couple that had been in love, but, at the same time, a couple which had never loved. He walked up and down the corridor, without even looking at the cells.

He only looked up when he went past Mamma Luca, who was strolling up and down the corridor while talking with Amanda. He just nodded and kept walking. He was not surprised by the fact that all cell doors were open, they had been like that since you had all arrived to the prison, as Mamma Luca had refused to stay in an enclosed space without the possibility to walk or talk to other people.

He stopped in front of a table that Laurel had produced with magic, where Laurel herself, Vee, a girl named Denna and you were all talking while sipping at your coffees. A woman was sitting in the back of the room, concentrated on some classic Spanish literature, the book that she had chosen for that moment was Pedro Páramo.

“Anne Black?” the officer asked.

You finished your coffee and looked up to him. “Yes?”

“You have to come with me” he said.

“OK” you said, as you stood up and went out the room.

As you started to advance, the woman in the back of the room left her book aside and marched towards the both of you with a few large steps. She held the officer’s shoulders, which made him turn towards her, and, after a couple of seconds of hesitating, she looked at him directly in the eye.

“Your marriage is doomed, and you will die alone. The bitter ash of failure will accompany you for the rest of your life, and there is little to nothing that you can do to avoid it”.

Having said that, she just turned back to her books ignoring all of the looks that everyone gave her. The officer cried in silence, without sobbing. You both went into an elevator and up a few levels, all in a silence that was only interrupted by the officer’s sobs. When the elevator doors opened, a woman looked at the officer, and she cried, too.

“I’m sorry” he said.

She shook her head. You awkwardly moved out of the way as an inspector called you into a room from the other end of the corridor. The drama ensued while you went into the interrogation room, but you only heard of it from the inside of the room. You sat in a chair and the inspector sat in front of you. You heard a man cry out loud.

“Excuse officer Jones. He’s been a bit… sensitive recently” the inspector asked, clearly uncomfortable with the whole situation.

“His marriage is doomed, and this woman who was down in the cells with us told him that he would die being a failure” you commented.

“Oh, that was to be expected, I guess. I mean, it’s sad, but still, quite predictable” he said.

You stayed silent, trying to get the feel of the situation. They surely wanted something from you, but the inspector just smoked a cigarette in silence. There was a gunshot, and you heard people running in the corridor. The door of the interrogation room opened, and an officer popped up. He looked at you both, doubting whether to say it or not, and then spoke.

“Inspector Williams, it’s Jones. He’s shot himself. His brains are scattered all around his office” he said.

The inspector nodded, and signaled with a hand that he should leave. He let the smoke come out of his mouth in the shape of a square. “Poor guy” he muttered, and then looked back at you.

“Anyway, Ms Black, I’m inspector Williams and…” there was a scream outside. “Just ignore that” he bashed it. “Anyway, you and I have some business here. You know why you are here”.

“Homicide of Doris Waters” you said.

“Yes, homicide of Doris Waters. So, here’s the thing. Both Vee and you have been charged with homicide of Doris Waters, and you will both go to prison, unless one confesses against the other. I’m offering you a deal”.

You looked at him with a ‘WTF’ face. In fact, you even did a hand gesture. “Really?” was the only thing that came out of your mouth.

“Yes, obviously. Come on, think about it”.

You cleared your throat. “OK, so I’m going to straighten up the facts to you”.

“I’m all ears” he said.

“You have no corpse to prove that any of us ever killed Doris”.

“Yes, I can see how that might be a problem” he responded.

“You also haven’t found any murder weapons; in fact, you don’t even know what the murder weapon might have been in this alleged murder” you added.

The inspector nodded. “That sounds like a reasonable reason to doubt the case”.

“You have no witnesses”.

He seemed quite happy with that. “Actually” he pointed out nervously, “Actually, we do have a few witnesses who say that you killed Doris Waters. They have proclaimed you a town hero”.

“But you have no witnesses who saw Vee kill Doris” you said.

It took him a bit to think about it. “No…” he said, almost disappointed.

“And Doris Waters herself is alive, out there in the town, terrorizing the citizens”.

That was the killing blow. He took a hand to his face. “I understand why the case crumbles down…” He sobbed a little bit.

“Oh, it’s OK, don’t cry” you held his hand.

He covered his face with both hands. “Do you… do you have a tissue?”

“Sure” you brought out a package of tissues from your pocket.

The inspector used them all to clean the snot and tears from his face. When he had finally calmed down a little bit, he finally spoke. “Vee and you are free to go, then”.

“About that… we’d like to visit our friends in their cells, if that’s OK with you guys” you asked.

“Sure, make yourselves at home”.

You were about to leave when you turned back. “By the way, I think that you’ve arrested Denna Sanders wrongly. Her sister has started a civil lawsuit, not a criminal one. Also, there is no proof she actually destroyed any of those potions, and she is probably mad. Like, needs to go into an asylum level of mad. Oh, and she’s officer Rod Peters’ high school sweetheart and girlfriend of seven years, which is the only reason why he convinced you all that Denna should be sent to prison”.

The inspector went into another burst of tears and snot, apologized, and told you that Vee, Denna and you could all leave whenever you wanted to. Not like they could stop you, anyway. You went down to the cells.

“Vee, Denna, we are free to go” you said.

Denna cheered. “That’s great!”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do anymore for the rest of you…” you said, looking at Mamma Luca, Laurel and Amanda.

“It’s OK, cara” Mamma said. “We’ll manage”.

“I mean, we can come visit anytime, and we can bring whomever we want to, so Ba’al, John and the rest of us outside will come everyday. Also, if there’s anything I can do for you guys…”

The woman who had been reading Pedro Páramo in the back of the room spoke. “So, hi, I’m Joana, and… well… how to put it… So you know that horoscope that sends messages to certain people only?”

Vee and Laurel seemed surprised, Amanda just nodded. Joana kept talking. “So, I also receive those messages, and… And I was told that I should get together with you guys… I mean, not that kind of together, you know what I mean, just together”.

“That was very brave of you” Amanda said. “Come sit with us, you want a herbal tea?”

“I wouldn’t want to bother you…” Joana gestured nervously with her hands.

Amanda just smiled while she prepared a herbal tea. “It doesn’t bother me. Just relax, it’s hard to get into a group, specially after it’s already been formed”.

Joana accepted the cup of herbal tea. “Thank you. I’m just a bit introverted, and it takes an effort to socialize” she took a sip of the herbal tea. “This herbal tea is amazing!”

“My family has been full of plant experts for generations” Amanda smiled. “It’s a brew that only my family knows about”.

The gang had grown a little more.

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