Checking In After Hours (Part V)

Flash Fiction: Arresting Tess

Topher Brocklin stood there, weary-eyed and unfocused on the serious issue building before him. Had he seen Tess or Daphne earlier at all? Did either of them clock in? He scratched his oily head as if to unearth the answer.

“Well, officer … I — I can’t says I have.”

“You can’t say or you don’t know, Topher. Topher Brocklin? Those are two different things, you know?”

“I mean … I don’t recall. I can’t remember.”

Tamara huffed out an exasperated sigh and just shook her head. The officers stood there, flummoxed by the situation unfolding right before them. And the strange old man cried.

Just as the first tear fell, the shadow reappeared.

Officers Bends and Dibbs direct Topher Brocklin to the motel’s lobby. With what could be Tess’s hair sample bagged and tagged, they needed to know where she lives. Topher shuffles his Oompa Loompa’d body back to the lobby hurriedly. The intensity of what could be a harsh issue for the motel settled in his system unwantedly. Officer Dibbs has the first words since they exited the family’s room.

“We gon’ run this to the lab — have the forensics team flush this out. Run it through the database and see if we get any hits. We need a sample of Tess’s hair — DNA purposes and all.”

Topher searches for his address book and lunges toward the desk phone.

“I think I should be the one to call her . . . I mean — I think . . . this could end up being a lot for her. She ain’t the brightest of the three, but I can’t imagine how torn up something like this would make her.”

Officers Dibbs and Bends stare at each other intently. Both think the same thing, but only one will say it. Bends begins . . .

“Now, Topher, if Tess is the one that’s got herself into this mess, how you reckon us confronting her with the possibility of committing this crime is going to be too much for her? If she’s our gal — I highly doubt that.”

“Tess couldn’t do something like this. Had it been Daphne’s hair, I’d probably lean toward an ‘Oh, I can see that,’ but Tess?! She is quieter than a church mouse — lives with her aunt, Hazel, and their three cats, attends Sunday service religiously — both of’em, and has never missed a day of work. I just . . . this ain’t her.”

Officers Dibbs and Bends get the green light from the lab — Tess Lynne Windermere is in their criminal database — but from fifteen years ago. An arson, second-degree charge from back in her high school days. A sample of Tess’s hair isn’t necessary now — they have their proof. The two officers zip over to Tess’s house to make the arrest.

Tamara and Dale say their goodbyes to Topher and they head up the road to find another place to rest for the duration of the night. It is 3:00 AM, and the children have been asleep in their car for the last two hours. The family has had their fill and wants to be done with this town and the creepiness within it.

Dibbs bangs on the door of Tess’s home. Outside are three squad cars, including theirs, and four other officers. Each of them stands armed and dangerous, yet scared shitless after hearing about the story and the weird shadow.

Tess’s Aunt Hazel is the first to wake up. She slips on her robe, slides her feet into her slippers, and shuffles quickly to the door. Tess isn’t too far behind her.

“Who is it?! This time of mornin’, ain’t nobody out but trouble or the devil or both. Ain’t nothing godly comin’ at my door at this time! Who is it?!”

Officers Dibbs and Bends shout in unison . . .

“This is the Bloomfield Police, ma’am. Open the door! We’re here for Tess Windermere!”

Aunt Hazel turns her head sheepishly toward her impish niece, sucks her teeth, and unbolts the door.

Dibbs flashes a shiny pair of handcuffs before her eyes as soon as the door opens. He fancies himself a wrangler of sorts with the small contraptions and is eager to slap them on Tess’s wrists. Bends announces the Miranda rights to the air as if he’s singing them as a celebration. Officer Dibbs clamps the handcuffs onto Tess’s hands and smiles sinisterly in her direction.

“You are under arrest for the murder of one Magda Kowalski. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Tess looks around the room, stares into her aunt’s eyes — sighs heavily — cries into the thick air, “I knew you were comin’. I just didn’t know when.”

Officer Beau Dibbs and Officer Clive Bends escort Tess away from her home, each hanging on to one of her arms, the handcuffs clinging in sync with their footsteps.

The three of them headed toward the arresting officers’ squad car, and the entourage readied themselves to follow behind them.

Bends gently guides Tess into the backseat, checks the handcuffs one more time, and closes the door.

As he turns away from Tess, she winks at the shadow sitting next to her and smiles.

Originally published in Hinged.Press via Medium.

This completes the Checking In After Hours series. Need to catch up? Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.Thank you for reading.

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