C4 Chapter 04
The girl lifts her pink head and looks straight at me. I clear my throat, knowing that I have to remain professional. Last night was an error; she was right. I crashed into her. We don’t need to bring this incident to today’s case.
“Tahlia Sanderson?” I ask, still standing by the door like a fucking moron. She raises her left eyebrow, smirking. Yep, she recognises me. There is no doubt about that. I don’t know why I feel uneasy when I approach her. I take a seat on the chair, so she is right in front of me. I wish I didn’t have to be so close, because this makes me realise how stunning she really is. When we crashed into each other last night, she was soaked right through. Now her pink hair is flowing down her face, and her wide grey eyes are staring straight at me with a mixture of anger and arrogance. She has piercings in her nose and lip, and when she sucks in on her bottom one, my dick twitches.
“You’re the asshole that damaged my bike last night,” she responds, not taking her eyes off me.
I feel an instant heat in my groin, a pulsing sensation that spreads all over my body. The tension in the room thickens as the silence stretches for a long uncomfortable moment. She remembers, of course. She knows that I lost my temper with her last night. I take my badge and place it on the table. I can’t let her walk all over me. On the other hand, maybe I should apologise. If I play bad cop, that might complicate things.
“My name is Micah Thomson and I’m the leading investigator in the Suranne Wallace murder case. I’m here to ask you a few questions, find out what happened last night,” I say, getting straight to the point, forgetting about the apology for a second.
Tahlia looks down at my badge for longer than is necessary. After a moment she opens her mouth to say something, but then she seems to change her mind. I have longer hair in that picture and I wonder if she likes it. Shit, what’s wrong with me? It’s not a pissing contest, but I can’t deny that the buzzing energy around us is almost intimidating.
She tenses and draws in another deep breath. When our eyes meet again I see some sort of acknowledgement in them that soon turns into shock or disbelief. She keeps staring at me, sucking in on her piercing. Her eyes are wide, enormous. The hint of hope or whatever I’m reading is quickly gone, replaced by a cold blunt look.
“I don’t want to talk to you. Get someone else in here, some other cop,” she demands, tensing her shoulders.
I shift on the chair as anger rises in me slowly. She’s wearing a yellow short-sleeved dress that exposes her freaking tattoos, the skulls and flowers. I need to stop thinking how sexy she is and get on with the questioning. These sudden emotions are making me uneasy.
“There is a big difference between wanting and getting someone else. I’m leading this case and I want answers. If you won’t cooperate, I can throw you in a stinky jail cell for obstruction of justice. Do you understand me?”
She snorts, like she does, but she wouldn’t give a fuck. Her eyes are locked on mine, and all I can think of right now is bending her over the table and fucking that attitude out of her head. I drag my hand through my hair, wondering what the hell is wrong with me today. She is a witness and I can’t touch her. On top of that, I need to stay calm.
“There is no case. Suranne was murdered; someone got into her room when I was sleeping and slashed her throat. I don’t need some fancy leading investigator to figure it out.”
I pin her down with my green eyes, and for a good few seconds I try to figure out why she is so pissed off with me. I fucked up her bike and all right, I lost my temper, but her housemate was just murdered. She should be more upset than this. Her chest keeps rising and falling. She looks tense, fiddling with her fingers nervously. On top of that, she keeps licking that round piercing on her lips and I’m getting turned on by it.
“I’m sorry about your bike. Last night was difficult. I was hoping to nail a few druggies, but I failed. Today is a new day. Trust me, I want to be over with this as much as you do, but first I need to know—what did you do last night? How about we start from the moment you arrived back to the flat?”
She snorts, letting me know that she still doesn’t want to take me seriously. Then she looks disappointed, moving her gaze from mine down to my lips. This isn’t normal. This girl Tahlia is a freak, but the heat that radiates from her makes me weak, and I instantly want her.
“How about you go fuck yourself, Mr. Detective? I won’t say a word until I get someone other than you,” she snarls, narrowing her eyes and leaning over the table. Her face is inches away from mine. I catch the scent of her perfume. I recognize the exotic flowers with sandalwood and jasmine. The skin on my face tingles, and I’m getting an instant hard-on. Despite that, I’m fucking furious, ready to lose my temper with her again. I have the urge to slam my lips into hers, grab her arm and yank her down on the table, so she can’t move.
Instead I get up, walk around the table and bring the chair next to hers. Now I’m even closer than I was before. She doesn’t look scared of me, but she should be. Without thinking about it, I grab her wrist and bring her closer to me, so my eyes are on the same level.
“That kind of language doesn’t suit a pretty face like yours. I’m planning to keep you in this room until you tell me everything I want to hear, Miss Sanderson, so stop fucking with me and start talking,” I say, almost in a whisper, making sure that she catches every single word. The air is filling with an electric current, drifting around us; the tension in my groin is unbelievable. All I can think of is her lips. Her body is lean, fit, and her tits are small but perfect. I’m picturing myself running my tongue over her hardened nipples, hearing her gasp.
What the hell am I doing? Losing my shit with a potential witness. I need to calm down and stop bringing anger into this. Stop acting like I know it all.
Snippets of conversation with my shrink are coming back. It was my final session.
“Micah, we can be here all day, but in the end I won’t be able to clear you until you start telling me what is bothering you. Why are you so uncomfortable being in here with me?”
My shrink is a woman in her thirties. I have been coming to see her for over eight weeks. The idea of talking to her about my feelings is making my skin crawl and my anxiety hit the roof. I don’t talk about personal stuff, about Steph, to anyone.
I took a bullet for someone. That doesn’t mean that I’m not stable enough to carry on working.
Dr. Foster is pretty and when she looks at me, she is seeing a twenty-something- year-old man with dark brown hair, green eyes and strong jaw. I didn’t shave yesterday, so I might look a bit scruffy. Most women like that look, but not Dr. Foster.
I need to fucking say something, because I can’t imagine being here next week, and the week after.
“My girlfriend was murdered when I was seventeen. The crime was never solved. I’m afraid that you might ask me about that, about how I felt then and if this thing still affects me now.” I force myself to say it, clenching my fists.
The gut-wrenching guilt is back. I should have been more upset about what happened eight years ago. I should have cried, but instead I shut myself down.
Dr. Foster writes something on her paper, then looks back at me.
“Why are you afraid? You don’t like talking about it?”
I swallow hard, feeling sweat gathering on my forehead. All of a sudden I feel suffocated. This is so wrong, because after so many years I should be able to talk about her, about what we had. I can’t keep living in denial, pretending that she never existed.
“Because I want to grieve over her, but I can’t,” I say, hiding my face in my hands. I’m supposed to be strong, for fuck’s sake. The bullet was nothing. It was my duty to protect my partner, but I couldn’t protect Steph. I was more angry than sad and I never cried. Fuck, I should have cried.
“What’s preventing you from grieving over her?”
It’s just pain and guilt. I should have stayed over with her that night, and then maybe she would still be alive.
“I can’t cry, and I don’t feel sad. I have never felt sad. Her mother was howling and I just stood there, angry, detached and isolated.”
“Some people deal with grief in different ways. You shouldn’t be feeling guilty that you can’t cry, Detective. Sometimes we don’t need tears to feel sad,” she says, giving me a warm smile, but that doesn’t help. I haven’t talked to anyone else about this. I have no friends, no girlfriend. It’s just me, and maybe that’s part of the problem. I have chosen loneliness, thinking that I might disappoint someone again. It’s me and work, but that bullet changed it. Now I have Rogers trying to be my friend and I don’t know how to act.
I run my hand through my hair, trying to get rid of the pain that keeps mounting, the overwhelming emptiness. Maybe it’s time to change, to let someone in. It’s a scary world out there and I’m alone. I have always been alone.
She tries to get free and I loosen my grip, realising that I’m back in the room with the suspect.
“Your bullying methods won’t work on me, butthole. I have shitloads of coursework on my plate and I don’t want to waste my time with arseholes like you. That’s the only reason that I’ll answer your questions,” she finally says, turning away from me, like she is afraid to touch me, to stay close.
I glance down at her tattoos, fascinated by the bright colourful skulls with hollow eyes. I don’t get it. Maybe she’s hiding behind the look, trying to be someone else. For no apparent reason she fucking hates my guts. Well, maybe that has something to do with the fact that I ruined her bike and wasn’t very nice to her last night.
“What happened after you left me on the street? You went straight back to the campus?”
She glares at me, trying to hide the fact that she is aware of that damn pull between us.
“Yes, I went back to the flat straight away. Suranne was in the kitchen cooking lunch for tomorrow. We chatted for a bit and then I went back to my room to read. She asked me to wake her by nine the next morning because she had an early lecture and she isn’t a morning person. Then the next morning I got up early, around eight, and I knocked at her door, but there was no response. I tried the door, but it was locked. I was surprised, because normally she doesn’t lock her room. I knocked for about ten minutes. I had a feeling that something was wrong, so I eventually managed to barge inside. A moment later I saw her lying on the bed with her throat completely open.” Tahlia rubs her arms, looking tense. I give her some space; understandably this whole situation is very disturbing. Suranne’s neck was pretty much butchered; whoever did it must have been very skilled.
“If the door was locked, how did you open it?” I wonder aloud, wanting to get some clarification on that. Tahlia seems angry and reluctant to continue with her tale. There is something wrong with her body language. Her hands are shaking and I have a feeling that this might have nothing to do with the fact that she is in shock over the murder.
She bites her lip and stares at her hands for some time, probably considering her answer.
“I used a hairpin, twisted it and played with the lock for a bit. I was anxious to see if she was all right,” she replies, looking uneasy. Most of the time her gaze rests on my badge, but then I keep seeing shock and disbelief in her eyes. When she finally looks at me, I’m baffled, knowing that she managed to open the lock without a key. Not many people can do that.
“A hairpin? How did you even know how to use it?”
“I grew up in a rough neighbourhood, so I learnt from an early age how to take care of myself. The bottom line is that Suranne wasn’t responding. I had to do something, so I opened the door.” She shrugs, like it’s not a big deal, but her voice gives away the fact that she is annoyed that I keep pressing her. Maybe because she wasn’t planning to reveal that much detail.
“Didn’t you think about calling other students or your friends or the college management to open the door?” I keep throwing questions at her. She’s talking, but holding back things that are crucial and I don’t like the fact that she is so uncomfortable around me.
“I don’t have any friends. I have been here three weeks, and the term only just started,” she says through gritted teeth.
I lean over, invading her personal space, maybe because I can or maybe because I can’t help myself from inhaling the scent of her exotic floral perfume. “What happened after that?”
“I stood there looking at her for a bit, unable to move, and then ran upstairs to the other students,” she replies with a heavy sigh, staring directly into my eyes.
“Your housemate, Suranne, was she close with anyone on campus? Did she have a boyfriend?” I press.
Tahlia shakes her head.
“No. As I said before, the term has only just started. People are still arriving. I know that she was friendly with the other student from upstairs. As far as I know, she didn’t have a boyfriend.”
I nod and get up, forcing myself to pull away. I remind myself that this girl is still a suspect. Parts of her story don’t make much sense. I need to check her background, find out why she is acting so odd, and verify a few details.
I glance at the clock, realising that Rogers is probably already done with the others.
“That should be all for now, Miss Sanderson. My partner and I will be hanging around campus. We will probably visit you again at some point. I’m determined to get to the bottom of what happened last night,” I tell her, shoving my hands into my pockets.
“Fine,” she snaps and stands up. That’s all I get, a short acknowledgement that she understood me. She narrows her eyes at me and then leaves, slamming the door behind her. I press my palms to the wall, inhaling deeply for a good few moments, trying to stop thinking about her as a sexual object. Rogers knocks a few minutes later, poking his head inside the room.
“I’m done. What about you?”
“Yeah, almost,” I reply. “You remember that girl from last night, the one that I crashed with?”
“The pinky head?”
“Yes, well, that’s Tahlia Sanderson, the victim’s roommate,” I inform him.
“You’re kidding. The cutie that you knocked off the bike?”
“Yes, the same one. She gave me a hard time, barely wanted to answer any questions,” I mutter, not wanting to admit that she got under my skin, igniting a burning sensation deep in my stomach.
Rogers smirks, shaking his head. “Well, mate, you damaged her bike. No wonder she’s pissed.”
“Yeah, probably should offer to pay for that, but there was something about her story that didn’t resonate with me. I need to look at her file, check her background. She stated that she spoke to the victim right before bed. Suranne was cooking in the kitchen, and she asked Sanderson to wake her around nine….”