Chapter 5: In Which
By two o’ clock Tabitha was dragging. What had started out as fun had turned into real work, and she wasn’t used to the manual labor. Plus there was the whole what-did-Detective-Gould-want hanging over her head. Leticia sent her home.
“Eight AM if you still want the job,” she said merrily as she sent Tabitha out the door.
Tabitha collected her car from across the street and went home, letting Fritz into the house immediately because it looked like rain. She collapsed on the couch as soon as she walked into the living room. Thistle jumped up next to her. “Good, you’re here. I just got off the phone with the guy at Broadway Security. He says he can have our surveillance equipment by this afternoon.”
“What?” Tabitha woke back up again. “You’re a cat, Thistle. Why can’t you act like one for once? How much did you spend?”
He was silent and she groaned. “I havent paid for it yet,” he said finally. “Don’t you want to catch who did this?”
“Yes! But you can’t do stuff like that. It’s not admissible in court for one. For another, we can’t afford it. I’m making sandwiches for a living now. We need that money to do things like pay the mortgage.”
“You shouldn’t have bought this place,” Thistle said. “Stuff’s always breaking, and the bank gave you a terrible rate.”
“Too late, too bad.”
Someone knocked on the door and a flash of fear shot through Tabitha. She peeked through the window and saw her fears were valid. A stern man in a suit stood at her doorstep. Caleb was still with him. How did he manage to stay on the case when Maya got kicked off? Tabitha wondered and opened the door.
“Can I help you officers?” she asked, trying to keep her voice cool and collected.
“Miss Silverstein,” Caleb said, “You need to come down to the station.”
She clutched the doorknob. “You can ask me any questions here.”
“I’m afraid we can’t,” Gould said. “Please come with us.”
Tabitha looked back at Thistle but the cat offered her no advice, nor would he in front of people. She sighed and grabbed her purse and locked the door. Across the street Mrs. Garret was standing in her yard, not even hiding the fact that she was staring as Tabitha followed the two police to their car. Caleb opened the door and she got into the back seat, immediately feeling trapped by the cage separating her from the front seat. This is so not happening, Tabitha thought.
“This is silly,” she tried to tell the two men in the front seat as they drove. “I didn’t do it--Caleb, you know I didn’t do it.”
“Last summer she had an affair with a guy who bashed his mother’s head in,” Caleb told Gould, ignoring Tabitha’s pleas.
“That’s not fair!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t know--Caleb. I’m sorry. I already told you I was sorry. Our relationship had been on the rocks forever before last summer, and you know that fully well.” She frowned. “You never even liked me much.”
Deciding it would be best to not antagonize the man with the gun and handcuffs Tabitha was silent until they sat her down in a bare interrogation room at the police station. “Please state your relationship with the victim,” Gould said, sitting down across from her. Tabitha was relived to see that Caleb would not be joining them.
She spent the next hour going over every minute detail of her relationship with Mr. Daws and his family. “I’ve gone over all of this with Detective Vargas,” Tabitha said finally. “You could have just talked to her.”
“Well, it’s not exactly wise for friends to interrogate friends,” he said. “And Detective Vargas missed something vital.”
“A can of rat poison we found in your desk, and we still don’t know how the poison was administered. But you brought him lunch every day.”
“Are you insane? Even if I did do it, why on earth would I keep the murder weapon in my desk?”
“You think someone is trying to frame you?”
“Obviously. You should be dusting for Vanessa’s prints, not mine. I didn’t kill him. I swear.”
“Okay.” He didn’t sound convinced. “Then you don’t mind if we take your prints?”
“I insist on it,” Tabitha said, a sick, empty feeling in her stomach.
Thistle could hardly sit by idyll while Tabitha was hauled off by the police. He was online and soon had the route to the Dawses house committed to memory. They lived in the Victorian Village on the other side of downtown. “Come on,” he told Fritz. “We have a mission.”
“I want to check out Mrs. Daws. People kill over three things--jealousy, money, and revenge. She had three reasons to kill her husband, which means she probably did.”
“But Thistle,” Fritz said, looking out the front window. “I think its going to rain.” All the same he followed Thistle to the back door, as the cat knew he would. Thistle slipped through the cat door and waited on the other side for Fritz to join him. The dog popped his head out the door. “I don’t think I’ll fit.”
“If your head fit’s the rest of you will,” Thistle replied knowingly.
After some struggle Thistle had to concede that though this might be true for cats, dogs didn’t follow the same rule. “My butt is stuck,” Fritz complained, scrabbling for a grip on concrete in front of the door. Eventually he managed to work his way through, though Thistle doubted he would be able to get back in again.
He looked up at the sky, way too dark for early afternoon. It was going to rain. He hated rain. “Come on,” he said to Fritz. “Listen, you don’t do anything unless I tell you to. It’s a big, dangerous city out there, and we have to cross it.”
Thistle led the way down the street at a fairly fast clip, concerned with getting back to the house before Tabitha did. They hadn’t even gotten off the street, however, when Thistle was taken surprise by a pair of strong hands wrapping around his middle.
Tabitha’s panic did not subside when they actually put her in a holding cell. The cell was ten by ten feet with nothing in it but a hard plastic bench, one of half a dozen in the room. There was a large woman with tattoos napping in the cell opposite her, but besides that she was alone. Alone and freaking out.
Their evidence is circumstantial, she told herself sitting on her bench. That Gould character can’t possibly think I had anything to do with it. My fingerprints are definitely not on that can. Why did they put me in here and forget about me? I want my phone call. The door of the room clanked open and Tabitha got to her feet. “I want my phone call,” she said before she saw who it was, and let out a breath of relief when she saw it was Maya.
“I can’t believe they still have you in here,” Maya said. “I pushed the paperwork through. You’ll be out in an hour. If I‘d known I would have been here sooner.”
“Thank you,” she said, relief flooding her. “I could kiss you through these bars.”
“I’d be sure to get fired for that,” Maya said with a smile. “You’re nowhere near the main suspect. Gould thinks you’re telling the truth and your prints weren’t on the can. No one’s were. We think it was planted to incriminate you.”
“No kidding. So why have I been here all afternoon?”
“Evening,” Maya admitted. “Its after eight. Caleb. He ‘forgot’ to file your paperwork. We’ve had words.”
“I’m going to have more words,” Tabitha bristled.
“My advice is to let it go and stay out of the way of the investigation.”
Maya gave her a long look. “Are you sure?”
“As long as I’m not going be arrested and sent to death row I don’t really care that much.”
“You weren’t wanted for murder when you went over my head about your neighbor.”
“That was for a friend.”
“Okay. I’m gonna go see if I can let you out yet.”
Tabitha felt drained when Maya dropped her off at home later that evening. It was raining now, a heavy downpour that did not improve her mood. She expected Fritz and Thistle to be waiting for her at the door, demanding their dinners, but no cat and no dog greeted her. “Thistle?” she called through the empty house. “Fritz? Here kitty-kitty!” They were gone. “I don’t need this,” Tabitha moaned, trying to bite back tears. She went out the back door to call for them outside--nothing. It was raining harder now, and she was soaked immediately. “Thistle you stupid cat!” The mental and physical exhaustion of the day piled up on her all at once and she began to cry, her hot tears mingling with the cold rain as it hit her face. She stumbled back inside. Surely they were simply hiding from the rain, and would be home as soon as it stopped.
It was all she could tell herself as she collapsed on the sofa, too tired to do anything but stare at the ceiling. Only a few minutes passed before the doorbell rang. “If they’re back to arrest me, I just don’t care anymore,” she moaned. “At this point I’d welcome the electric chair.”
It wasn’t the police at the door. It was Kyle--holding a pissed off and bedraggled Thistledown, Fritz at his side. “Oh my God, Kyle, thank you!” Thistle jumped out of his arms and walked into the house completely composed. Fritz began to jump frantically at her legs.
“They were wandering around outside,” Kyle said. “I know how much you care about them so I--”
“I could kiss you,” Tabitha said. “How are you doing? Please, come in out of the rain.”
“I do okay, I guess. I gotta get going though,” he said apologetically. “My mom thought I was insane when I brought them inside.”
“I’m so very glad you did,” Tabitha said.
“Maybe you’d like to go out for coffee sometime?” Kyle asked, looking shy and suddenly younger in his damp Hollister shirt. Oh god, Tabitha thought. What have I done?
“Yeah, maybe,” she answered carefully, not wanting to hurt his feelings. After all, he was very fragile after loosing Janine.
“I’ll see you around then.”
“Thank you,” she said, and shut the door. She turned to Thistle and Fritz, who were trying to look innocent. “Where the hell did you two go?”
“Nowhere,” Thistle remarked, but Fritz replied with several barks.
“You’re not going to translate that for me, are you?” she asked Thistle.
“Never,” he admitted. “What’s for dinner?”
Tabitha fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow, but she woke up slowly from dreams about the murder, and she started thinking. Her entire life had been blown apart in two short weeks. She’d quit, been fired, she found a new job, she’d been a suspected murderer and a suspected mistress. And when it got down to it, it was no one’s fault…but the person who killed Mr. Daws. She wasn’t just mad, she was furious.
And she couldn’t take it out on whoever did it unless she knew who they were.
Look, the chapter is on time and an appropriate length this week! I'm feeling better now, in case anyone was worried. I have gotten all but one of my school problems squared away, my personal life is back in order, and I've found homes for 3 of my cats. Life is still not good, but its better.