I heave into the wastebasket, my hair sticking to the sweat pouring down my neck.
“Tell us where Brittney is!” The pudgy detective screams.
“I don’t know!” I say for the thousandth time. I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand, thick black streaks of mascara scarring it. “Why don’t you believe me? Brittney is my best friend. I would never do anything to her. It was that man I saw go into her apartment.”
The taller of the two detectives laces his fingers and leans on the metal table as I cough, thick mucus running down my throat.
“Tabitha,” he says, “I want to believe you, truly I do. Prison isn’t the place for a dainty thing like you, but we all know you’re lying to us—”
“How many—” I lean over the basket, heaving again, “times do I have to tell you, I’m telling you the truth?”
“Only the guilty vomit,” the pudgy one says.
“The pregnant vomit too!”
He squints at me. “You don’t look pregnant.”
“I’m six weeks along.” I sniff, sitting up. “Ask my husband if you don’t believe me.”
“You’re husband?” The tall one says. “Bart Humphry?”
I nod, dabbing my eyes with shaking hands.
“The one having the affair with your best friend?”
“He—” The world swirls, my mind falling away.
After a moment of String Bean detective shaking my shoulder I push myself up off the table. “Get your hands off me!”
“Do you need some water, or something to eat?” String Bean says.
“I’m fine. When can I go?” I smooth back my hair.
“Legally, you can leave when you want, but we’d appreciate your help—”
“To figure out what happened to the woman you kidnapped. Where is Brittney?”
I take a deep breath, clinching my teeth. “She is wherever she is.”
“Tabitha,” Sting Bean says, “is it true she was having an affair with your husband?”
I look at the wall.
“Is your husband being unfaithful?” He says.
I push away the water he’s offering me. “I can honestly answer “no” to that question.”
Someone knocks on the door and Pudgy excuses himself.
My hands shake and I hide them beneath the table, squeezing my wrists. “You keep talking about Brittney in the past tense. Why is that?”
String Bean stays silent, staring at me.
“If you don’t have any reason for me to stay,” I say, standing, “then I think—”
The door slams against the wall when Pudgy barges back in, a file folder in his hand. “Sit down, ma’am. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, and for my behavior.”
His partner blinks at him.
“When I started this job I was a lot softer than I am now, but I assure you my chivalry isn’t completely dead.” He motions for the string bean to follow him out. “I’ve contacted your husband. Please try and make yourself comfortable until he gets here. If you need anything, let me know.” Before leaving, he drops the folder onto the table.
My hand wanders toward the folder. “No, Tabitha.” I dig my nails into my wrist. For a moment I close my eyes, my head feeling light.
My body shakes, my stomach knotting. I spread the contents of the folder in front of me, tears pouring down my face as I take in the dripping red photos. “I didn’t do this,” I say, my voice cracking. “Why don’t they believe I didn’t do this?”
“Because you did do this.”
I jump blinking as I look around. “Who’s there?”
“You know who I am.”
I look around the empty room and my heart rams against my ribs. I squint at the two way mirror. “Is someone there?”
I fall from my chair, clawing at the carpet until my back is firmly against the wall. “Help me! He’s here!”
The tall detective stands crouched in the doorway, his gun at the ready.
“The man that took Brittney,” I point to the mirror, “he’s in that other room.”
Glancing over his shoulder, the detective motions for the pudgy one to take a look. “Are you certain?”
“I know his voice, and I know his face. I saw him that night.”
“What night?” Holstering his gun, he tried to help me back into the chair.
“The night Brittney was taken!” I jump to run, hearing the man’s voice again. “Don’t you hear him?” I say.
The detective takes me by the shoulders and forces me to sit down. “All I hear is you squawking.”
“There wasn’t anyone in the room, and her husband is here to pick her up,” the pudgy one says.
The string bean holds up his hand, “You said you were with your husband the night Brittney was taken.”
I grab for the wastebasket again, bile biting at the back of my tongue. “I was! We went to dinner.”
Pudgy looks from the tall one to photographs spread out on the table. “Did you maybe block out what happened because you couldn’t handle having murdered your best friend?”
I dig my nails into my palm. “Brittney isn’t dead!”
“How can you be so certain,” he shrugs, “with all that blood in her apartment? No one could survive that.”
I push my back against the seat. “She texted me this morning saying she was in trouble. Don’t you remember? That’s the reason I came here in the first place.”
“No, ma’am,” the tall one says, “we brought you in because you were the last one to have seen her.”
“That’s not true.” Dumping my purse onto the ground I find my phone. “Here!” I say, shoving it into the tall one’s hands. “Maybe if I show you these messages again, it’ll stick in your blue brain.”
He scowls, scrolling through our conversation. “These messages are from a week ago.”
I snatch back my phone and shake my head when I see the time stamps. “No! You deleted them.”
“Ma’am, I need you to—”
“Tabitha?” Bart bangs on the door. “Tabitha, are you in there?”
When Pudgy opens the door, Bart shoves past him.
“The next time you want to talk to my wife, you can contact our lawyer.”
I wince as Bart’s fingers tighten around my wrist, and I stumble over my feet trying to keep up with him.
Helping me into his truck, he slams the door. It’s not until the police station fades into the distance behind us that he speaks.
“What did you tell them?”
Rolling down the window, I heave. “I told them the truth! Why don’t you believe me? I don’t have anything to do with this.”
His knuckles whiten, his adam’s apple bobbing. “That’s right baby,” he slowly nods, sniffing, “it wasn’t you.”
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Have a question you’d like to “ask” Tabitha? be sure to leave it in a comment bellow and I’ll include it in next week’s character interview. Also, don’t forget to check out the Ruling Reader contest! You could be “crowned” the next ruling reader! Click here for contest rules.