“The call came from a burner phone,” Detective Oliver says, taking the cup of coffee offered to her by Michael. Officer Black had called her. “Those are harder to trace, but not impossible.”
James stares out the window. The sun has just started to rise. The call came in over an hour ago, but Alexander’s scream hasn’t faded from his mind.
He doubts it ever will.
“Tell me again what your relationship is to this child,” Detective Oliver says. “How do you know him and Jenna Saunders?”
“I met them on a hike,” James says faintly. He continues to stare out the window. “I met them on a hike and we became friends. We’ve been friends for a few months now.”
“That’s a little strange, isn’t it?” Detective Roberts says from across the room. “Do you often befriend seven year old boys?”
Michael takes a threatening step towards him. “What are you trying to say?” he asks, glaring at him. Detective Roberts shrugs.
“I’m just saying it’s curious is all. If there’s something you’re not telling us…Maybe about how you really know this kid…Now would be the time to speak up.”
“He told you how he knows him, okay??” Michael growls. “Now back the fuck off.”
“How much time would you say you spend with him?” Detective Oliver says, shooting her partner a warning glance.
“As much as possible,” James says automatically.
Michael clears his throat. “He sees him every couple of days whenever we’re in LA. More, when we’re not too busy. He cares about him.”
Detective Roberts smirks.
Michael whips around to face him. “Have you got something to say??”
Detective Roberts straightens up from the bureau he’s leaning on. “Actually, yes. I do. I’ve seen the headlines. I’ve heard the rumours. I think this kid is your brother’s kid, and you’re both jerking us around. We looked into Ms Saunders and found that she mysteriously adopted this kid about seven months ago from her dead sister’s ex-boyfriend, the supposed biological father. One day she has no kid, the next day she’s filing for adoption. The father just signs him over, just like that.” He snaps his fingers to emphasise his point. “No contest, no custody battle, nothing. And then,” Detective Roberts says, looking between James and Michael accusingly, “and THEN when we go over to see the supposed biological father, he’s nowhere to be found. Skipped town in the middle of the night. Told his landlord he’s never coming back and left no forwarding address. We asked the neighbours, and guess what they saw?? Two men leaving the house just after 2am the night before the father disappears. Neighbours say they heard yelling. The sound of a fight. Does any of that sound familiar??”
Michael stares him down. “No,” he says flatly. “Not at all.”
Detective Roberts scoffs. “Yeah. Right.” He turns to James, who has is still staring out the window. His hands are folded in front of him. Trembling.
“We can’t help if we don’t know the full story,” Detective Roberts says. “Let us help you.”
“That’s all of them,” a man a blue jumpsuit says, entering the living room and dropping a pile a ziplock bags on the coffee table. Each bag contains a tangle of wires. James stares at him. The back of his jumpsuit says Forensics. “We found thirteen cameras in total. With the positioning, they must have been able to see whole house.”
“Can you trace back the signal?” Detective Oliver asks.
“Should be able to, yeah. We’ll know once we get them back to the lab.”
Detective Oliver nods and the man picks up the bags. “My team will be here for a few more hours, dusting for prints and checking for anything we may have missed.”
“We’ll need a list of everyone who has been in your house for the last six months or so,” Detective Oliver says gently to James.
“It’s a long list,” James says, staring at his hands. They look far too big attached to his now bone-thin wrists. They look like clown hands.
“There’s people in and out of here all the time with the agency we run,” Michael says, recognising that James was rapidly becoming incapable of answering questions. “I’ll have our assistant write you a list.”
Detective Oliver nods. “Good. Repair men, delivery guys, friends, family…Everyone. We need to find out who bugged the house, and why.”
“I know why,” James says bitterly. “So they could find out the best way to hurt me. That’s what they said, isn’t it? That they want to hurt me?? Well they succeeded.” He looks up at the ceiling fan, at a place where the Forensics team had removed one of the cameras. ”You SUCCEEDED!” he shouts. “I HURT! I FUCKING HURT ALL OVER!”
“J,” Michael says, coming over and putting his hand on James’ shoulder. James shrugs him off.
“It should have been me,” he says, standing up. His breathing is erratic. “They should have just killed me. DO YOU HEAR THAT?!” he yells at the ceiling. ”TAKE ME!” He whacks himself against his chest, right over his heart. “KILL ME!” He rips his hand away.
Like he is ripping out his own heart.
“KILL ME, YOU BASTARDS!! KILL ME!!”
“Okay,” Detective Oliver says, standing up. There’s pity in her eyes. “I think we’re done for now. Officers Grady and Black will be here if you need anything. Your phone is still tapped, so if they call again, keep them talking for as long as possible. Don’t hang up until they do. Do you understand?”
James doesn’t say anything. He’s still staring at the ceiling with a deranged look in his eye.
“Got it,” Michael says, putting his hand on James’ shoulder again. James flinches, but Michael doesn’t remove his hand. “We got it.”
Detective Oliver looks Michael in the eye. “Listen,” she says, lowering her voice. “If there’s something you are leaving out…We need to know. It wouldn’t have to be public knowledge. But we need the full story.”
“We’ve told you everything,” Michael says evenly. “Now how about you stop entertaining conspiracy theories and find Alexander.”
She holds his gaze for a moment longer before turning away.
“Okay,” she says, picking up her things from the coffee table. “We’ll be in touch. If there’s another call, one of the officers will contact us.”
Michael nods and gives Detective Roberts a filthy look as he leaves. When the front door closes, he turns to James. He’s back to staring numbly into space.
“Come on,” Michael says gently. “You haven’t slept in two days. Let’s get you to bed.”
For a minute James allows himself to be led, then he stops.
“Michael.” His voice shakes. “Michael, that sound. That sound.”
“It’s just the forensics team,” Michael says, trying to guide him up the stairs.
“No,” James says, shaking his head vigorously. “No no no no no no.” He balls his hands into fists and raises them to his ears, covering them. He sinks onto the floor.
“What sound?” Michael asks, dropping to the floor in front of him. “What sound? I’ll tell them to stop, I’ll tell them to leave…”
James lowers his head and begins to rock backwards and forwards, shoving his fists against his ears, desperately trying to block everything out, to hear anything but the sound of Alexander screaming and falling to the ground.
But he can’t.
The sound expands until it is all he can hear.