Someone pokes me on the shoulder repeatedly while I struggle to do as the thick voice says. My left cheek pressed against the rough texture of the wooden table, saliva dripping between my parted lips; I open my eyes and can’t comprehend my surroundings for a moment. Then I attempt to pull myself together: close my mouth and lift my head to come across a pair of brown eyes staring into my own.
I know exactly where I am, and everything hurts.
“Hello again,” he says carefully, then signals to the guy in the corner behind him without looking away from me. “We brought you some food.” The guy comes over and puts down a McDonald’s bag in front of me.
“I’m not hungry,” I mumble, but that’s not exactly the truth. The truth is, my stomach is boiling with rage and guilt and acid, and even the thought of eating the things they put under my nose makes me want to throw up.
“Come on now, don’t be shy,” he says as he puts the items of the package on the table one by one. “You’ve been here all day without anything to eat so, we figured you wouldn’t say no to a Big Mac.”
“Just let me go,” I say, my voice is coarse, breaking in each syllable. “Please.”
“You know we can’t do that,” he says, voice low, trying to be sympathetic.
“What-” I’m tired, and the light above my head hurts my eyes. I put my head in my hands, close my eyes, and try to clear my throat. My eyes fly over the coke can when I open them, then they move to the cop’s face. “What more do you wanna know? I already told you all I can recall.”
He quirks an eyebrow. The guy behind him scoffs, back in his corner. I fix my eyes on somewhere on the table.
The good cop softly sighs as he takes out three pictures from his briefcase. He puts the pictures carefully on the table and pushes them towards me.
“I want you to look at these pictures,” he says with his calm voice. “And tell me what you remember. Every detail.”
There are two bullet shells in the first picture.
The second is a picture of a girl, lying motionless on the sand, her entire body soaked wet.
The third picture is of a gold cross, a necklace, half sunk in the sand.
As soon as I take the second picture in my hands, my eyes start watering. “Oh, Jenny…”
“That’s Jennifer, yes.”
“She looks… different,” I whisper, with tears in my eyes. “Her face- her face looks weird. Is she supposed to look like that?”
“She’s dead , kid,” the bad cop chimes in, irritated by my emotional reactions, leaving his dark corner to come closer to me. “She looks like it.”
The good cop sighs. I lock eyes with him. He taps the other two pictures. “I’m listening,” he says.
Nothing comes to my mind.
“I don’t know... I don’t really- I don’t remember.”
“Oh, bullshit!” the bad cop cries out. He slams his palms on the table, and before I know it, his face is uncomfortably close to mine.
“I know what you’re doing, kid,” he says. I can see the white hairs in his thick, brown mustache. And the blood vessels in his bulging eyes. “You’re stalling. And you’re making me angry.”
He says, “So why don’t you drop the act and start remembering shit already?”
I’m trying. For her sake.
The roots of the incident, they all lead to that day. The heart of the mystery. The key point of the story.
It was late September. There was this huge party going on, and every popular kid in town was invited. I, of course, wasn’t. But there are ways to be accepted into a place full of jocks and cheerleaders and wannabe rockers and their groupies without being called out for not being “cool enough”, and I happened know the most effective one: Have an insider.
Me, I was the only son of a middle class family with three children, living inside our cute, tiny house with white picket fences.
Her, she was my best friend that I grew up with. We were neighbours, my father and her dad would often make barbecues in each other’s garden until my father’s company went bankrupt and we had to move to a cheaper district. But we didn’t let that stop us the way it stopped our dads.
We were inseparable, Jenny and I.
She would get invited to every event that’s worth going. And I would go only because she was going.
You see- I was a little in love with her. At least I thought I was.
I didn’t know how much she could change. Or how much I could.
And now she’s...
Back to the party.
Not long after we arrived at the scene, she already was in control of everything. She’d been like that since junior year of high school. Her making out with boys, her making out with girls to look good for the boys- I was there through all of it.
She waved at some pretty, pretty boys she calls friends. I didn’t want to be there to witness her obnoxious flirting with all of them to get something she wants, so I told her I was going to get myself a drink. She nodded without tearing her eyes from one of the boys, and I went straight for the snack table.
That was when I met Andy.
Andy, who was alone, and slightly tipsy -and possibly soon to be drunk, if he wasn’t planning to put down the bottle he had in his hands.
Andy, who was just another jock.
He had a dark red blazer on with a white v neck underneath, accompanied by a blue jean -like most of the guys there. His light brown hair was messy in a way that was not intentional but more like someone just messed it a few minutes ago. Either way, it looked good.
Andy, whom I admired a little since the first year of college, even though I hated to admit it.
“Hey,” he said when he noticed me staring, catching me off-guard. He came closer, and I waved and said “Hi,” trying to buy time as I struggled to remember how socializing works.
“Andy, right? You’re in the football team?” I said, to which he nodded. “Um, you were great on the field last week.” Well, he was incredible.
He scoffed and mumbled a thanks before bringing the bottle to his lips. “You alone?” he asked.
I pushed the thought of Jenny out of my mind. Jenny and her boys.
He tilted his head to the side and studied my face for a few seconds.
“Walk with me.” He started walking towards the exit, grabbing a new bottle on his way out, and I followed him.
“I know who you are,” he said as he swayed his way into the woods.
I panicked. A little. What he could’ve heard about me? Me, a nobody?
“You’re that guy Jenny always keeps around.” Oh. Figures. “The one everyone thinks is gay.” Wait-
“What? I’m not-”
“Dude, I don’t care.”
We stopped. He looked at me over his shoulder.
I said, “I mean, I thought jock types were supposed to be, you know…” I shrugged.
He let out a short, loud laugh. We resumed walking.
After a little while, he stopped in his tracks, turning towards me.
“Look what I found in the master bedroom,” he said, grinning like a maniac. He drew out a handgun and pointed at me.
“Whoa, hey,” I raised my hands defensively.
“Relax, man, the safety’s on.” He lowered the gun. “What do you think I am, a psycho?” He scoffed and flopped down in front of a tree. There was something in his eyes, almost like he was sad.
I sat down next to him, our backs rested against the tree. He took a gulp of his bottle before offering it to me. I took a careful sip. He put the gun on his lap.
“Andy,” I said slowly, “why are we here?”
He shrugged. “It just got… a little, uh, overwhelming in there.” He began to examine the gun, like it was the most fascinating thing he’s ever seen. “There’s this girl- she’s the owner of the house, actually,” he said, his words rushed. “I guess she likes me. Or just wants to fuck me but like, bad . So she caught me in the master bedroom, thought I was there for her. And she came onto me, I mean she was crazy , wouldn’t leave my lips alone.” He chuckled. I could almost taste the bitterness. “So I pushed her off of me, went straight for the drinks and got myself a bottle or two or five. I figured here would be great to, you know, escape a little. But I didn’t wanna go into the woods alone. Pleasantly drunk. With a gun.” He made eye contact with me for the first time since we sat down. “That answer your question?”
“Doesn’t matter though, because here we are. I’m here with you, and all the girls are…” he pointed the gun towards the way we came and squinted his left eye. “There.”
He took the bottle back and downed the last few drops. “Well, I’d better be off,” he stood up, put his gun back in the small space between his jeans and his lower back. You know, like some mob. “So… thanks for accompanying me, I guess.”
“Sure,” I said. “Anytime.”
He smiled, and although it was more of a drunken smile, it was genuine. He put his hands on the sides of my face and kissed me on the cheek, near my lips so the corner of his mouth and mine brushed together for a second. Then he patted the same cheek two times, smiled again, and said, “I’m gonna ask Jenny out.”
As he walked away, he shouted, “Wish me luck!”
And that was the day everything in my life took a completely different turn. That was the day it all started to go down.
“I remember,” I blurt out. It’s all coming to me - what happened, how it happened, who did it.
I look up from the picture in my hands. The picture of my best friend’s lifeless body.
“I know who killed Jenny.”