Greta sat rigid in the hard-backed chair. The quiet was oppressive. Thoughts she didn’t want to acknowledge— thoughts that crawled and lived in abandoned corners of hermind—crept into the light. What was taking the police so long to conduct their investigation? She’d recounted her story and answered each question. Only one had taken her by surprise.
What’s a daughter’s obligation to her parents?
Greta wasn’t sure what her obligations were to anyone but herself. And she didn’t know why she couldn’t answer.
Except that wasn’t true… She did know why.
If she’d answered the question honestly, the detective might have seen the raw, feral side she’d worked so hard to tame, and that, quite simply, was too much of a risk. She’d buried the past and she wanted to move forward. And so she’d left that particular question dangling, unresolved.
Minutes later, the door swung open. Detective Perez stepped into the room, walked to her desk and sat down in the chair, shuffling through a file of papers in her hand. She took off her reading glasses and laid them in front of her.
Greta’s chest tightened. Even with her lawyer beside her, she struggled for air. She reached down, felt around the front pocket of her jeans, and found the coin hidden deep inside. She rubbed it, working hard to calm herself, breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth. Slow, steady breaths.
Detective Perez focused her eyes on her. “Let’s go over process,” she said.
Greta sighed. Process? Again?
“The police lay charges in an investigation,” the detective told her.
She nodded. She knew. Sometimes they consulted the Crown. “We collect the evidence.”
Yep. She’d heard it all before.
“In cases like yours, I want to review the possibilities.” The detective’s tone made it sound like she was having an everyday, routine conversation.
Greta stiffened, jaw clenched in an effort to stay poised.
Detective Perez held her hand up and pressed a pencil to the tips of her fingers. “One: first-degree murder; two: second-degree murder; three: manslaughter.”
Greta looked to her fourth. “Or no charges at all and I’m free.”
The detective paused. She didn’t look at Greta’s lawyer as she spoke. “That’s correct and—”
A cellphone buzzed, causing the words to dangle in the air. Detective Perez reached across her desk and flicked the button on the left side to silent. She smiled apologetically and glanced at her notes.
“So, between the Coroner’s report and our investigation, I determine whether there’s enough evidence to lay a charge.” The detective stopped and looked at her. “I’ve made that decision.”
Greta’s heart thumped. Her mouth went dry. This was it. She stared back at the detective and wondered what she was thinking. What sort of person could kill her own parent? But the detective’s eyes gave nothing away.
The phone lit up again. No sound, but Greta could feel the vibration through the desk. The detective looked down and groaned. This time she picked it up. “What?” she said. She listened. “Really?”
Greta curled into herself. To her surprise, Detective Perez stood, picked up the file of papers and left. She leaned back. Her palms left sweat marks on the chair. A hand squeezed hers gently. In the adjacent seat, her lawyer shrugged, then smiled, but not before the expression on his face had dissolved completely.