The story so far:
January 6, 2009
I arrived at the precinct the next morning to find that the boss already had Dum prepped and waiting in an interrogation room. I can’t say how pleased I was to see that he’s taking this seriously. It took some effort to swallow an oh-so-tempting ‘I told you so’ that was just begging to be said, but instead I dropped my coat at my desk and headed straight for the interrogation room. I was going to need all my energy to work Dum over properly.
Dum was already sweating when I walked into the room. A good sign. I moved deliberately slow as I sat down across from him and straightened my papers in front of me. I drew the moment out by taking a drink of water.
“Uh… um, why am I here?” Dum squeaked before I could talk.
I gave him my most charming smile. “I think we both know the answer to that, Clarence.”
He shifted in his seat, his eyes darting around the small room. “It’s ‘coz of Tatiana, right?”
Give the man a medal. I avoided making any snarky comments on his powers of observation, instead choosing to simply nod. “That’s right, Clarence. It’s because of Tatiana. Where is she?”
His face went blank.
I waited a full minute, but he didn’t say a word. Leaning forward, I rearranged some of my papers. “Clarence, where is Tatiana Willsey?”
“Come on, Clarence. This is the lady who almost got you killed with her network of markings. I’m sure you know how illegal that sort of magic is, don’t you? I’m sure she expected you wouldn’t survive that.”
“She doesn’t care about you. She just wanted to save her own hide. It’s time you return the favor.”
I felt my teeth clenching and forced myself to relax. “It’s a simple question, Clarence, with a really simple answer. We can promise you protection, if you need. She won’t touch you again.”
Clarence blinked a few times. “I don’t know where she went.”
Annoying git. I leaned back again. “That’s a real shame, D-” I cleared my throat. “Clarence. You see, once she finds out her little markings didn’t destroy you, she’ll probably come back to finish the job. And we can just sit back and wait for her to come. We’ll arrest her, but I’m afraid you’ll probably be dead before we’d be able to catch her. Such a shame.”
He was sweating even more now. “No, really! I don’t know where she went! I mean, I think she said something about it… but I can’t remember. Really, I can’t!”
“Bad memory, huh? Pity.” I scooped my papers up and stood.
“No, please!” He lunged across the table, grabbing at my sleeve. “Please, don’t let her come for me! I’d tell you if I could, but I can’t remember! I swear!”
I paused, milking the moment. He seemed just desperate – and stupid – enough to be telling the truth. Maybe there was something to what he was saying. She’d put a marking on him to make him mute, then a whole network designed to slow down or destroy anyone who tried to dig any deeper. And this Lilyan clearly was the sort who likes backup plans. Maybe she’d done something to his mind.
Giving a sharp tug to free myself from his grasp, I turned back to face him again. “You’re certain you can’t remember?”
“Yes! Yes, I’m sure!”
He was on the hook, no question there. Now to reel him in. “Are you willing to take a truth test?”
He hadn’t paused for a second, hadn’t even blinked. Maybe he really was telling the truth.
I sat back down. “You know what a truth test entails?”
Now he swallowed hard, but nodded anyway. “You put an aura of honesty on me. If I lie, the aura will change and you’ll be able to see it.”
“And you understand that the aura will not actually affect your ability to tell lies, but will merely allow me to detect if you do so?”
Having gotten the legalities out of the way, I motioned to the wall behind me. “Look over there and say, ‘I, Clarence Dunham, having a full understanding of what a truth test entails, do now give my consent to have a truth test performed on me.’”
He obediently repeated the words, then turned back to me, waiting.
I, of course, was already finished putting the aura on him. “Clarence, did you work for Tatiana Willsey?”
No change in the aura, obviously. It was silly, but department rules required that we ask a control question before starting the actual test.
“Do you know where Tatiana Willsey is?”
“I don’t remember.”
No change in the aura. Sure enough, he’d been telling the truth. Blast.
“You’re certain you don’t remember?”
So there it was. He really didn’t remember. However, I did have a truth test going on, so might as well use it to its fullest.
“Did Miss Willsey have you perform any illegal actions while in her employ?”
Still no change. Curious. Apparently Willsey hadn’t included her employees in whatever she was doing.
“Was Miss Willsey performing illegal actions while you were in her employ?”
I leaned forward, my eyes intent on him. This was a good sign, no question there. If he’d answered the other questions with no hesitation, a pause here meant that this was something of significance.
“Clarence, was Miss Willsey performing illegal actions while you were in her employ?”
“I – I think so.”
Still no change in the aura. The answer surprised me, and I took a moment to collect my thoughts. He didn’t know what his employer had been doing?
“You think so, or you know so?”
“I think she was doing something illegal, but I don’t know for sure.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
He paused again before answering. “If I was lying, you’d see it, wouldn’t you?”
He was right, annoyingly enough. “Okay, so what made you think she was doing something illegal?”
“There was a room in the back of the shop that she never let me or Rick go in. She said it was a different business of hers, and she didn’t want us to get confused by it all, but we were pretty sure she was up to something. When you showed up that one day, we were freaked out that we were going to get sent to jail for whatever she was doing back there.”
I took another drink of water, mentally kicking myself. I should’ve insisted on a full tour of the premises that first day instead of assuming those riptides were the only things she had going on. Idiot.
“And you don’t know anything about what she was doing back there?”
“She took boxes back there, but I never saw what was in them. I never saw her bring anything out, either. And Rick didn’t see anything. I asked him.” Dum glanced around. “We’d get deliveries, and the ones marked ‘Willsey’ were the ones we could open. Those were always her lotions and stuff to sell. But there were some marked ‘Tatiana’, and we weren’t allowed to open those. So we just left them alone.”
I sighed. This was proving to be a rather irritating dead end. I only had one question left for him. “Did you know that Miss Willsey put all those markings on you?”
“No, sir. I didn’t know until you came into my shop and I couldn’t talk.”
The aura hadn’t even flickered through the entire test. He was a moron, but he wasn’t a liar. I yanked the aura off hard enough that his hair actually got a little breeze through it. “Fine. Test complete.”
He stared at me with round eyes. “I passed, right? I told the truth the whole time, honest.”
I started to answer, but paused. This had all the signs of a rather juicy opportunity. “Well…”
His eyes widened even further. “I told the truth! I swear!”
Technically, it’s unethical to lie about the results of a truth test. However, the results are supposed to be given while the aura’s still in place, and I’d removed the aura early. So technically, the test was over. There was just enough wiggle room in the rules to let me fudge things, just a smidge.
“Clarence, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait here while I talk to my boss about this.”
“But I told the truth!”
I shrugged. “That’s out of my hands, Clarence.”
“No, I swear! I told you everything I know, honest!”
“Sorry, Clarence. I’ll be back shortly.”
I was smiling as I left the interview room.