Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel(18)

By: Ingrid Reinke

“I guess so,” I replied. I really didn’t think I had much choice in the matter.

We walked out of the building, and he opened the passenger-side door to his cruiser. I slid in, a little bit surprised. Even though I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, I half expected him to put me in the back of the car and ride down to the station staring at the back of his head through the bullet-proof glass partition. He got in, and we both buckled up and drove quickly down to Seattle Police Headquarters in silence.

When we entered the building, Rocky escorted me up a long flight of stairs, through a large and formal looking lobby and down a nondescript, white hallway with seventies-style, dark wood doors and those cheesy, plastic-covered-with-brass door handles. We ended up in a little room with grey carpeting, a cheap plastic table, three plastic chairs and no windows, where Rocky told me to go ahead and take a seat, then left the room. I took a look around at the depressingly dingy grey chairs, and couldn’t help but notice that the walls were in desperate need of a coat of paint, and the table had a metal bar running underneath it, which was obviously there so that people could be handcuffed to it. I sat down in one of the chairs and examined the carpet, wondering what exactly comprised each stain. A few minutes later, someone brought me a cup of steaming hot coffee. Even though I hadn’t asked for it, I drank down the warm, acidic liquid gratefully.

I sipped my coffee and stared off into the distance for at least thirty minutes, and then really had to pee. I didn’t know if the door had been locked, but I was thinking about slipping out for a minute and finding a ladies room when the door opened quickly and both the Asian detective and the fat detective walked in. The Asian detective sat directly across from me and the fat detective took the seat on my right.

“Louisa, I am Detective Wang, and this is Detective Schreck. We are heading the investigation into the death of Sarah Lieber at the Merit office.” Her voice was sharp and emotionless and she spoke very curtly. There wasn’t an appropriate response to this statement that I could garner, so I stared at her and nodded. “We have some questions to ask you and then we are going to prepare your statement, which you will sign. Do you understand the procedure?”

”Um, yeah,” I said unintelligently, nodding again.

“Walk us through your morning at work, from when you arrived to when you found the deceased.”

Because the events of the day had happened only about an hour and a half after I arrived at the office, I was able to tell them the CliffsNotes version of my morning in just a minute or two. “Who else was in the office when you found Mrs. Lieber?” Detective Wang asked when I finished.

“Well, it was just me and Martin on our side of the building, which is pretty normal for that time of the day. And of course the receptionist and the IT guys, but they sit on the other side of the office. Most of the other employees don’t really come in until after nine AM.” My voice trailed off. I was getting distracted by Detective Schreck, and how much he actually looked like the large green movie character. His fingers and skin were pale and lumpy looking. He looked relatively young, but I could see traces of gray in his facial stubble. His grey-green eyes were a pleasant color, but looked too tiny for his massive face, pitted into his head above those large cheeks and below his bushy eyebrows. A few seconds went by and I realized that I had stopped speaking and was now fully staring at the man, and he was staring at Detective Wang, with a look of sweet admiration on his face. Maybe they are a couple, I started thinking. Then I started imagining them together (How would that work? He is so big and she is so tiny…). I must have been making a strange face because Detective Wang’s voice suddenly pierced through my disturbing fantasy like a laser beam.

“Ms. Hallstrom! I would like to get this statement down so I can find out how an innocent woman was murdered in your office. Now, I will repeat my question: did you find it odd that Mrs. Lieber’s office light was left on?”

“Oh. Yeah. I’m sorry. Um, not really,” I stumbled. What was wrong with me? I wasn’t even following her line of questioning. Snap out of it, Louisa! I scolded myself. Then, recovering, “Sarah’s working a lot right now on this big merger, so it’s not weird for her to work really late or come in really early.”

Detective Wang feigned puzzlement. “Oh, I see. The thing is, you said just a few minutes ago…” Detective Schreck handed her the yellow notepad and she scanned her finger up to the top, stopping it on a line of print. “…ah yes, right here. You said that it was normal for you, in the morning, to be in the office alone with the other employee, Martin…?” She looked at me sweetly, blinking.