Am I dead?
The last thing that Mark remembered was the blinding light of the train. That, and the fact that disgusting water from the subway tracks had splashed on his jeans. It had been a strange concern at the time.
“Do you want some water?”
Mark’s head twitched to the side. No.
Even that slight motion sent a fresh wave of pain through his temples. The stark, white light overhead wasn’t helping, and left him with a weirdly distorted impression of the drab interrogation room.
If I’m dead, this is very disappointing.
“Good.” The officer placed his hands on the metal table between them. “Not that I was offering you anything—after what you did.”
Maybe just my leg is dead, Mark mused. Pain lanced up and down his right leg with nothing but a vague memory of the fight.
Mark’s shoulders ached from leaning forward, and his long, dark hair stood up in random directions. His usually sharp grey eyes were bloodshot as he stared in silence at his cuffs, chained to a metal hook in the middle of the table. The cuffs were tightened past what he would call comfortable, but that was clearly the point.
Probably not dead, or everything wouldn’t hurt.
“What, no response?” The officer leaned closer, his breath hot with greasy food and coffee. “You think you’re tough?”
Mark’s mind felt like a ship battering through a hurricane. Each time he managed to get an actual thought together, it slipped away into a morass of questions and confusion. His vision tunneled as he blinked.
He forced himself to focus.
How did the girl do it?
“They all think they’re tough in the streets,” continued the officer, his gut stretching the wrinkles of his uniform. “But get ‘em in here and watch how quickly they break.”
Mark ignored him. After all that, what happened to her?
Despite his mind staggering to comprehend what had happened, it was odd that another thought had yet to cross his mind: what had happened to him? How did he get from the subway to the interrogation room? Everything with the girl had been unbelievable, and that was saying something–Mark had a much different sense for “unbelievable” than an average 16-year-old.
Maybe you missed something, a voice said in the back of his mind. Mark squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore the irritating officer, the strange ringing in his ears (was that from the station or the train?) and the light pressing against his eyelids.
Mark jolted as the officer slammed a meaty fist on the table. It felt as though a brick had hit him in the forehead.
“Are you deaf or just dumb?” asked the officer, his smile showing yellow teeth. “You realize that I’m holding your entire life in my hands right now?”
Why are the dumbest people always the loudest?
“No, you aren’t,” said Mark slowly. “You’re the lowlife assigned to keep an eye on me until the person with a real purpose comes in to ask questions.”
The sickly smile slid off the officer’s face as his eyes narrowed. “What did—”
“You heard me just fine. Now, how about you stop breathing your exhaust fumes in my face. What happened to the girl?”
“You little shi—” Spots of color appeared in his cheeks. He looked as though he wanted to throttle Mark. “Just wait until she arrives.”
To Mark’s surprise, apprehension appeared on the guard’s face.
Or is it fear?
“You’ll find out soon enough. And after what you did to that poor girl—”
“Don’t leave me hanging. What did I do?”
“Oh? You don’t remember?” the officer guffawed. “Haven’t heard that one before!”
I’m sure a sharp tack like yourself has heard all of them before. That must be why there’s mustard smeared on your holster.
Mark waited. The officer’s laughter turned to disgust. “That’s a pathetic excuse. You knew exactly what you were doing when you pushed her in front of that train.”
Mark’s eyebrows almost rose. Whatever he expected, it wasn’t that.
Before he had a chance to retort, they were interrupted by a knock.
The officer stomped to the door and murmured in low conversation with someone Mark couldn’t see.
A hand clapped hard on his shoulder. “Lucky you—she’s running late,” the officer hissed in his ear.
Mark rolled his eyes. “Go brush your teeth.”
The hand on his shoulder squeezed tightly.
“Officer Flannigan, that’s enough,” came a voice in the background.
Bye-bye, Officer Mustard Stain…
The new arrival walked around the table, and Mark tilted his head slightly. A young woman who appeared to be only a few years older than him, wearing a pristinely pressed NYPD uniform, sat across from him. She tossed a long braid of blonde hair over her shoulder before pulling out a battered notebook.
She smiled. “Hi, Mark. My name is Officer Sara Owens, and I have a few questions for you.”
Mark didn’t nod for fear of antagonizing his headache, but relaxed slightly as he assessed her. The casual way she leaned forward to talk to him was at odds with her perfect uniform. Her eyes were sharp, yet she seemed calm…almost as though she were enjoying herself.
“First, can I get you anything?”
“No, I’m good. What happened to the girl?”
“You don’t remember?” she asked, studying him closely. “Let’s start with where you were this evening at 6 p.m.?”
“Answer my question first.”
Officer Owens smiled. “I will. But first, I need to know a few things, starting with where you were.”
“I meant where you were geographically.”
Oh. My bad…
To his surprise, Officer Owens put her pen down before he could reply.
“Mark,” she said quietly. “I’m here to help you. You stumbled into something dangerous. I can’t explain more than that at this time, but I need to know exactly what happened today. We don’t have long before she gets here.”
“That’s a loaded question. I don’t have time to tell you about the detective now. I promise that you’ll understand soon enough.”
Mark couldn’t explain why, but something in her voice calmed him.
“That’s the best non-answer answer I’ve heard in a while,” he said eventually.
“I’m full of them,” Officer Owens replied with a smirk. “Now, start at the beginning.”
Mark shifted his weight, his leg cramping from being stuck in the same position. “Well, I woke up this morning, and it was a nasty day outside. Dark clouds, snowing—the works. I would’ve skipped school, but days like that are the worst in Seven.”
“The group home I’m lucky enough to call home. In the Bronx. It’s crazy with kids if school gets canceled.”
“What’s it called?”
“Can’t remember. It’s named after some President or Mayor—who knows? It’s a hole.”
“Why do you call it ‘seven’?”
“Seventh home that they’ve stuck me in.”
Officer Owens nodded and leaned back in her plastic chair, balancing on the back legs. “How much of this is relevant to what happened this evening?”
“Context is important.”
Mark smiled and shrugged. “Might be important. Might not. You can decide.”
She laughed and shook her head, letting her chair fall forward. “We don’t have long. Enough with the winding answers and let me help you.” She lowered her voice again. “If she gets here before I know, I can’t do anything.”
Mark stared at her incredulously.
“Mark, how did you meet the girl?” Officer Owens asked.
He gritted his teeth, trying to avoid the kindness in her eyes. It went against his every instinct to tell her, but he relented.
Officer Owens motioned with her hand. Hurry up.
“I was—we’ll say running from someone.”
“Why are you asking questions if you already know the answers?”
“There was a bulletin out for someone who matched your description: 6 feet, dark hair, grey eyes, bomber jacket and, apparently, leading officers on quite a goose chase, laughing and taunting. All in the same area where you were picked up. I may be new, but I’m not an idiot.”
Mark nodded wryly. “You’re a lot smarter than the doorstop that was watching me earlier.”
“Flannigan’s a waste of space. Three cops were chasing you—how did you get away?”
“A bodega near Houston Street. Desmond’s helped me out before.”
“By ‘helped’, you mean that he’s hidden you from the cops before?”
“Take it however you like.” Mark leaned forward suddenly. “Don’t you dare bother Desmond. He’s a good one and had nothing to do with today.”
She nodded slowly. “I can agree to that. So—you’re at Desmond’s bodega…”
Mark sighed heavily. “Yes.”
She’s going to put me in a mental house…
With that thought, he launched into his story.
“Desmond,” Mark commented with a nod as a bell tinkled and the door to the bodega shut behind him. The old black man behind the counter sighed before turning slowly.
“What did you do now?”
Mark grinned and shrugged casually as he hurried around the counter behind the deli. As usual, it was so spotless that Mark could see his reflection. “Come on, why would you think that I did something?”
A smile touched the corners of Desmond’s mouth as he dried his hands on the dirty apron tied around his waist. “How much time do we have?”
“About ten seconds.”
Desmond nodded before bending down and lifting a metal grate cut into the black and white checkered tiles. An almost vertical set of stairs descended into the darkness of the cellar.
Mark jumped and slid down the handrails, his feet not touching the stairs until he landed among the piles of half-empty boxes. The cellar plunged into darkness, leaving his nose itching slightly, dust intermingling with the overpowering scent of cleaning solution.
Seconds ticked by slowly, leaving Mark frozen as voices reverberated down to him. He wasn’t staying still for fear of being heard, though that would have been a better reason—he was terrified of knocking over stacked jars of pickled eggs. He had walked around smelling like pickles for the better part of a week the last time that happened.
The grate suddenly lifted, and Desmond peered down at him.
“They looked furious,” he commented as Mark heaved himself back out of the cellar.
Desmond returned to organizing the shelf behind the counter. “Care to tell me why?”
Mark shrugged. “I was just going for a walk, and out of nowhere they start yelling at me.”
Desmond paused, several cans of baked beans in his hands, and looked at Mark. He raised a bushy eyebrow.
“Okay, okay,” said Mark with a laugh. “Things went sideways.”
“You made a mistake.”
Mark shook his head. “I don’t make mistakes.”
“Everyone does at some point.”
Mark pulled several very wrinkled dollar bills from his pocket and placed them on the pristine counter. “Thanks, Des.”
“No,” replied the old man.
Desmond pointed at the money. “Take your money—and don’t call me Des.”
Mark pulled a single bill off the small pile and grinned at Desmond. He could hear the man’s hoarse objections as he weaved through tightly packed aisles toward the back of the store, adjusting the fur-lined collar of his jacket so that it hid a part of his face.
It was time to disappear. The longer he lingered in this neighborhood, the riskier it became.
Mark took a deep breath and stepped out the back door. He didn’t even have the chance to check if the coast was clear before a blur of movement caught his eye, and someone slammed into him.
A small body went flying as Mark stepped back in surprise, his eyes widening. A young girl lay sprawled face down in the slush and dirt of the alley.
She looks like she’s ten. Mark could never guess how old a kid was, but he knew she was too young to be running through Manhattan on her own.
She stirred slowly. Her bright blue winter jacket was covered in slushy snow, but she didn’t seem to notice.
“You okay?” Mark asked.
The girl didn’t respond. She staggered to her feet before sinking to the ground once more.
Mark frowned. Despite her olive-skinned complexion, she looked very pale. The slush melted in a thicket of dark, curly hair, and her jeans had torn at the knee.
“Hey, are you okay?” Mark asked again.
She suddenly looked at him, glaring. She seemed almost feral, but she studied him sharply.
Loud voices echoed down the alley. Mark shot a look. Two police officers were pointing at them while yelling into radios.
That was fast.
The girl seemed to be in shock, maybe a little lost and dirty, but alright.
Not my problem.
He made to leave, but the girl’s hand shot out and grabbed the edge of his jacket, stopping Mark. He stared down at her.
She whispered inaudibly.
“What?” he asked, bending over. Her mouth moved slightly, but no words came out.
Mark spared a glance at the officers and tugged at the end of his jacket, trying to dislodge her hand.
“H-help me,” she said in a soft voice.
Mark peered into her almond eyes, surprised and concerned by how weak her voice sounded.
“I have to go.” He made to leave once more, but her hand gripped like a tiny vice on the corner of his jacket.
“They’re coming for me,” she rasped.
The shouting grew louder. Mark made a snap decision and twisted the young girl’s hand off his jacket and pulled her to her feet. He held her arm tightly, and they started down the alley.
They had barely reached the street ahead when she collapsed to the ground.
“Get up!” Mark exclaimed, pulling on her hand. The girl made no sound but slowly stumbled to her feet, her legs shaking as she leaned heavily into Mark.
Mark didn’t have time for this. He had no idea who this girl was or what she had meant, all he knew was that if he didn’t get going, the cops would catch him. Mark tried to wiggle his hand out of her grasp, but she held on tightly.
“I’m trying!” Mark roared. The officers were getting close.
He tried pushing her along, but her legs shook violently, and she fell to the ground again. Mark swore as he looked around frantically. The little girl was still holding tightly on to his hand, her legs crossed beneath her, and her head bowed. For a moment, she looked almost peaceful.
“Step away from the girl!”
The officers stood before him, both slightly out of breath. The man who had spoken stood closest to Mark, snarling angrily. More alarming, however, was the gun in his hands.
Mark cocked his head. Cops didn’t usually start with their guns out.
“I’m curious, do you know of a good restaurant in the area?” Mark asked as he subtly stepped in front of the girl.
The man frowned, glancing at his partner and back at Mark.
“You know,” Mark continued as he flashed an easy smile, “A place with good food, but at a reasonable price. The city can be so expensive these days.”
“Get out of the way!” the man shouted as he brandished the gun once more.
Before Mark could reply, the world turned dark.
The depressingly grey clouds that had hung over the city for days began swirling, turning a deep and angry blue. Lightning crashed overhead, and a furious wind ripped across Mark’s body.
The ground shook and suddenly splintered, creating deep crevasses. Both men panicked as they hurried backward, crying out and falling into one another.
Mark stared, bewildered, as he felt a tug on his hand. The little girl was staring at him.
He didn’t hesitate. He scooped her into his arms and took off running.
Several blocks later, Mark stumbled, nearly tripping himself as he ran. The world around him was clearing. The sky returned, and large, soft snowflakes fell as he ran with the girl bouncing awkwardly in his arms.
The silence was deafening. Mark was very conscious of Officer Owens’ stare.
“These two cops—could you identify them?” she asked him eventually.
“I want to know who these cops are, can you help me identify them?”
She’s more interested in the cops than what I just told her, Mark realized. “Maybe. It happened fast, and I was pretty confused with the whole storm-forming-ground-breaking-chaos.”
“That’s fair,” said Officer Owens quickly. “Most people are alarmed or scared when they first see it.”
“But you weren’t scared, were you?” she asked, ignoring his question and watching him closely.
“You said you were confused. Like it was a problem that needed to be solved.”
“You could say that,” Marked replied, his curiosity building.
Officer Owens’ fingers tapped on the metal tabletop. “And you say the weather changed back as you ran away with the girl?”
“Like it never happened.”
They fell into silence once more. Officer Owens looked so thoughtful that Mark wondered if she had forgotten he was sitting across from her.
“You believe me?” he asked.
The officer jolted, and she laughed lightly. “It’s incredible, and I believe you more than you realize.”
What’s that supposed to mean?
“Oh, you’ll find out soon. What happened next?”
Mark grunted as he shifted the girl and fumbled through his pockets, feeling for the stack of old metro cards he had picked up off the ground. He swiped one, and the machine beeped.
Slightly disconcerted at the girl’s unblinking eyes, Mark pulled a second card from his pocket. This time the machine pinged, and he pushed through the metal turnstile.
Mark’s heart began to settle as he strode down the lengthy concrete platform. It was a small relief that the station wasn’t too busy today. Mark gently placed the girl on a wooden bench. The snow in her hair had melted, and her hands were dirty, but she seemed unhurt. To be honest, she didn’t look overly concerned.
At the very least, she watched him brightly.
“What happened back there?” Mark asked as he ran a hand through his unruly hair.
The girl continued to stare at him, silent.
“What happened? Why were the cops chasing you?”
Start with the basics… Mark dropped down on to his haunches, placing his arms on his knees so that he was eye level with her. “What’s your name?”
More silence. Why won’t she talk now?
“I’m Mark,” he said, continuing as though she had answered him. He got a small smile in return. “Now you’re meant to tell me your name.”
She shook her head, and Mark sighed as he rocked back and forth on his heels.
No name it is.
“Okay…” Mark said as he stood once more. “You don’t need to tell me your name, but you know what I think? I think you’re running from something—probably running away from home. How about you tell me why?”
He knew a thing or two about kids trying to run away and could spot it in a second. It’s the lost look that gives them away.
The girl quickly looked away from Mark, turning so her hair hid her face.
Mark grinned. Well, it was a start.
“Come on, I won’t take you back,” said Mark, trying to coax it out of her. “Not if you have a reason.”
She turned back to him and nodded slowly.
“Is it a good reason?”
More nodding. Progress.
“Can you tell me?”
She motioned toward herself before flicking her index finger against her hand in an outwards jab and making a round shape like holding a soccer ball.
Mark was dumbfounded. He didn’t know any sign language…but she had understood him.
“You can hear me, though?”
She rewarded him with a pointedly annoyed look.
“Okay, okay,” Mark replied quickly. “But you can’t—don’t—talk?”
If a smile could be condescending, Mark now knew what it looked like.
“No need for the attitude. Where are you going?”
She shook her head but didn’t look away this time.
Mark threw his hands up in the air in frustration as a small voice tugged at his mind. Should he ask how she did it? She must have changed the weather.
I’m not losing control…right?
Mark paced slowly, lost in thought. The peace was short-lived. Shouting echoed down the platform, and Mark saw a rough-looking group of men running directly for them, making several commuters look up in alarm.
Tattered clothing. Unshaven. Wild eyes. Not cops, that’s for sure.
Mark glanced back at the girl and cursed himself. Should’ve found her a different jacket. Too late.
They were trapped.
Mark lifted his arm and held out his hand as the men approached. “Stop!”
The five faltered and stopped, standing in a row in front of Mark.
Mark let his hand drop and smiled. “I don’t know what to say, fellas. I didn’t think you would actually stop.”
The man in the middle didn’t return his smile. “Get the girl. I don’t care what happens to him.”
The other men launched forward. Mark threw his shoulder into the first, sending the man flying before a clenched fist caught the side of his head.
Colored spots appeared across Mark’s vision, and he leaped backward to avoid the next blow. Hands grabbed at his arms and shoulders, and Mark thrashed violently. He fell to the ground and kicked out blindly, making contact with something that crunched.
Mark scrambled back to his feet, laughing and pointing at the man contorted in pain before hastily ducking as a fist sailed over his head. Mark reached out and grabbed an arm. He had no idea who was who, so he yanked hard and sent someone sprawling before spinning on the spot.
The man who seemed in charge had lifted the girl from the bench, throwing her over his shoulder despite her tiny fists raining down on his back. He shouted an order to the others and pointed toward the exit.
Without thinking, Mark threw himself forward and tackled the man. The three of them tumbled to the ground, and the little girl rolled off the mans’ back, landing roughly.
Mark tried to jump back to his feet, but a set of hands roughly grabbed him by the shoulders. An overpowering mix of sweat and cheap cologne filled his nostrils, making him gag. As he pushed and pulled to get away from the man, a ferocious wind ripped through the station.
Here we go again.
Bulbs shattered overhead and huge cracks spread across the ceiling, splintering like the many strands of a cobweb until large chunks broke free.
With a scream, the man holding Mark pushed him away as he dove for cover. Mark stumbled as he fell. His leg got caught awkwardly and he gasped, grabbing at his leg as pain lanced through his knee.
A rusting green pillar fell toward Mark and he frantically rolled away. The pillar smashed into the ground beside him, leaving an odd ringing in his ears.
The station was in chaos.
The girl lay in a heap near Mark with her head tucked under her arm. Their attackers scattered in the near darkness. The roaring and grating of metal and concrete filled the station, and the few remaining commuters sprinted for the exit.
Through a blizzard of dust, Mark scrambled forward on all fours toward the girl. She lifted her head as he reached her, her face contorted in pain. Mark frantically ran through their few options for escape.
Two pinpricks of light illuminated the subway tunnel. The train’s our only way out.
Adrenaline coursed through his veins as he scooped her up in his arms.
Someone shouted, and the girl pointed to Mark’s left. Apparently, they weren’t scared for long. At all.
The men were fast approaching, but headlights were visible in the tunnel now. Mark limped toward the platform edge as quickly as he could, straining to hold the girl as pain shot up and down his leg. They weren’t going to make it.
Mark could practically feel the outstretched hands behind him now. Cursing, he closed his eyes and concentrated as he breathed evenly through his nose. His talents had never let him down so far.
The chaos ended instantly, and Mark smiled.
Opening his eyes, he saw that the train had frozen; its nose was several feet to his right and still. Behind him, bright lights illuminated the untouched platform. The bench that Mark and the girl had sat on rested neatly beside a garbage can—the same bench that was obliterated by the falling ceiling.
He frowned. How is this possible?
Four very angry men stood frozen mid-stride, immediately behind him. Not the time to get lost in thought.
With his heart hammering in his chest, Mark carefully negotiated the girl in his arms and lowered himself down to the subway tracks. If he reached out with his hand, he could touch the front of the train. He stared straight ahead, trying mightily not to think of what would happen if it came back to life.
Subway-floor water splashed his jeans as he stepped over the tracks, taking care to avoid the electrified third line. Even frozen in time… Would it electrocute them? It’d be a damn shame to go through all this trouble to be done in by the subway tracks. Why ask? One thing at a time.
Groaning slightly, Mark placed the unmoving girl on the platform opposite before hoisting himself up beside her. The pain in his leg was almost unbearable now, and as he stumbled, the world suddenly roared back to life.
The train flew past them, the screeching of its brakes reverberating across the station. Mark’s forehead throbbed in agony as his eyes met the girl’s. She was as pale as ever.
Mark took a labored step toward her, but his leg finally gave out. The concrete floor rose to meet him, and his world turned black.
Officer Owens looked shaken. Her eyes were wide as Mark told his story; she hung on to his every word. Her calm, casual demeanor was replaced with intense focus, and she didn’t interrupt him.
Good thing, too.
The door to the interrogation room suddenly banged open, and Officer Owens jumped to her feet.
Sara scrambled forward, but she flashed her notebook at him. It happened so quickly, Mark might have missed it if he had blinked. LIE.
The door slammed shut behind her.
This is helping me out?
The detective who entered was not what Mark could have expected. She had long grey hair that was once probably a deep brown or auburn color. Her features were kind, if a little wrinkled, though she was dressed in clothing that would have looked more fitting on Fifth Avenue.
She’s meant to be a detective? Sara’s message flashed across his mind. LIE.
“Good evening, Mr. Shaw. I am Detective Foster, though Ms. Foster will do just fine.”
Mark winced. He hated his last name, chosen randomly by someone in his first home, which he had little memory of.
“Very well,” she replied with a light laugh. “Are you okay?”
“You had quite the limp when you arrived. I was worried that you might be hurt.” Her dark brown eyes filled with concern.
"Excellent. I'm relieved," she said as she clutched a hand to her chest.
Ms. Foster turned her attention to her jacket pocket and withdrew a small tablet.
"Mark…Is this you?"
Mark had to squint to focus; the bright screen sent a stabbing pain through his temple. The tablet showed a still picture from a video. Although it was somewhat blurry, Mark was able to make out a figure running down the street carrying a child.
That was after get-away #1. Still how? I still don’t get how the girl managed to create the chaos.
With this thought, the throbbing in his temples increased.
Or was it me?
"You look like you had a moment there, Mark.”
"I think we're having a moment here," said Mark, gesturing between the two of them.
"So, this is not you?"
He rubbed his chin absent-mindedly.
What does she want? Mark could feel the invisible tendrils of questions pushing him…Pushing in a direction he didn't know yet. But I will soon.
The woman tilted her head slightly and smiled. "Are you sure?"
"That's what I said."
"That's interesting," she replied as she rounded the table, her heels click-clacking on the concrete floor.
She touched his shoulder lightly, stopping behind him. "Can I ask you a question, sunshine?"
Mark took an even breath. The temptation to answer sarcastically was almost overwhelming. "You've already asked me a question."
“Don’t be silly,” she laughed.
“Can you explain why someone would run through the streets of Manhattan carrying a child they had just met?”
Mark stared at the blurry picture of him running through SoHo. “How do you know they just met? And how would I know?”
“Let’s play this game. Any theories?”
None for you.
“They were in a hurry,” replied Mark. The woman stayed silent, forcing him to continue. “Or maybe she was in trouble, and this person helped her out.”
“What kind of trouble?”
“I have no idea. Pick your poison.”
“Of course…” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Why, though, would a random boy in the system help a child he doesn’t know?”
Mark frowned. “Why would someone help a child in trouble?”
“No, no!” she exclaimed, straightening, and rounded the table once more. “I’m not some kind of monster—of course, anyone would help a poor child. What I meant was, how much would someone help a child? Say, if a gun was pointed at them?”
“I don’t understand the question,” said Mark.
“Yes, you do.”
Mark rolled his eyes. “I don’t understand what difference that would make. If anything, that means that the girl is in danger and needs help.”
“You would help a child in danger even if I were to pull a gun on you?”
“That’s a strange question.”
She stared at Mark for a long moment before abruptly switching topics. “Where were you tonight at 6 p.m.?”
“I’ve already answered that question,” Mark replied swiftly, not wanting to give her the benefit of his confusion.
“I didn’t have time to review Owens’ notes. Answer the question.”
“You wouldn’t know any of them.”
Detective Foster suddenly grabbed the tablet, her face disappearing behind a veil of hair as she tapped the screen. Wordlessly, she turned it to face Mark once more.
It seemed to be footage from a security camera in a subway station. Someone was thrown across the platform. Mark stayed silent as he watched himself fly through the air before the screen shattered and the video ended.
The woman tapped the screen again and the video played in slow motion. Mark put every ounce of his energy into forcing a yawn.
“Care to tell me what you were doing in the subway here?”
“Me?” asked Mark, managing to sound surprised.
“That’s a fantastic video. Where did you find it? YouTube? That’s not me. I don’t know what answer you’re looking for, Foster.”
“If you insist,” replied Mark.
“So, you were not in the subway tonight?”
“I never said that.”
Mark sighed. “I take the subway to and from school. So, I was on the subway coming home. You know—coming home from school.”
“Anything interesting happen during your commute?” she asked.
“Care to be specific?”
“I have been. I’m not sure what your usual subway ride is like, but it’s pretty much always the same for me. Hurry and wait.”
The woman raised her eyebrows.
“Hurry to get into the subway station, always end up waiting for the train,” Mark explained, and Ms. Foster burst out laughing.
“Hurry and wait!” She clapped her hands together.
The clapping stopped abruptly. “Enough with the games. You’re quite clever—I’ll give you that—but I want an answer. Why do I have surveillance footage of you in the subway station? The same station where multiple eyewitnesses have sworn they saw you fighting with a small, frail girl? And why,” she continued, “Do those same eyewitnesses swear they saw you throw this poor girl onto the subway tracks moments before a train arrived?”
“So, Mark. Care to make this simple?”
She slid a piece of paper across the table that Mark recognized as a confession statement. He lifted his cuffed hands.
“Of course,” said the detective with a smile. She pulled a small silver key from her pocket and unlocked Mark’s right hand.
He pushed the document back across the table. “Wasn’t me.”
Ms. Foster’s face turned to granite. “You deny what we have on camera?”
Mark held up two fingers. “One, you haven’t shown me anything where this person throws the girl onto the tracks.” He let his index finger fall. “And two, I’m assuming your eyewitnesses are the same group of men that attacked that girl. So, no, I won’t be signing anything.”
Ms. Foster stared at Mark for an uncomfortably long time before picking up the document. “I see.”
Mark stayed quiet as she slowly walked around the table to stand beside him. “I’m disappointed with your answers. I really thought we might be able to work together.”
“I don’t know what to tell you.”
“No matter,” she smiled as she patted his head. “We’ll talk again once you’ve had a chance to think things over.”
She suddenly grabbed his hair and, with surprising force, slammed Mark’s head into the table. It was the second time he saw black that day.