The door to the cramped interrogation room thumped shut.
Charlie Whittmore sat silently, handcuffed to the table with his fingers laced. He looked up as Peirson slid into the chair opposite him. Peirson placed a small voice recorder on the table between them, and with an exaggerated effort he pressed play.
“You wanted to speak with me personally?” Peirson asked.
Charlie breathed a heavy sigh. “I killed Irma Patterson.”
“That’s a different song than the one you were singing back at the Carmine residence.”
Charlie sighed again and restarted. Peirson realized he had interrupted a prepared speech. “I killed Irma Patterson. She found out about the affair Carol and I had, making Jack my son and not John’s. Irma would have told John, and I had no idea what John would have done to any of us, including Jack.”
Peirson reached for the recorder and pressed stop. “Bravo. A well delivered speech that is now on record.” Peirson stared at Charlie, who now had small beads of sweat forming along his hairline. “Alright, show’s over, enough of the bullshit. It’s obvious that you were in on it, but I know you did not kill Irma.”
Charlie opened his mouth, but Peirson used his hands to make the “time out” symbol.
“I’m going to tell you what I think happened,” Charlie’s mouth clamped and his head dropped between his slumped shoulders. Peirson took that as a sign of defeat and continued, “And you’re going to fill me in on anything that I might have missed.”
Charlie never moved as Peirson restarted the voice recorder.
Peirson took out his notebook as back up and drew in a breath, “John was an abusive husband, most likely the mental aspect rather than the physical. Carol is every bit the battered wife. No surprise why she came to you for comfort, and boy, did you comfort her.”
“I know what I–,” Charlie tried to interrupt, but Peirson spoke over him.
“But to keep the peace, you three kept the secret locked up tight. Then a meddlesome babysitter put a dent in your plans and forced a course of action.”
Peirson glanced at Charlie, his body was clenched and his knuckles were white. A nerve had been touched.
“So you three decided to snuff out the match before it could start a fire,” Peirson let his accusations lay heavy in the air. “You decided to crowd up the house one night for dinner and make it impossible to find out who killed Irma Patterson because there’s safety in numbers!” If you want an egg to crack, put it under pressure.
“We didn’t mean to!” Charlie shouted in defense, mistakenly giving away vital information.
“‘We’? So it wasn’t just you?” Peirson was so close he could feel it tingling in the tips of his fingers.
“Ok,” Charlie began, “you’re right about the ONE TIME affair. And , yes, we had all agreed on keeping it quiet: Linda, Carol, and I. The less John knew, the better.” Charlie’s eyes began to brim with tears, “but she couldn’t do it anymore. She had had enough of his shit…”
“Fantastic,” Peirson breathed. “A bunch of fancy pants taking matters into their own hands and now two people are dead! Why didn’t you call the police sooner?” Peirson’s hands flew up into the air in frustration.
“She did! Her dad said he would make sure it looked like an accident,” Charlie unlaced his fingers to place his cuffed hands palms up on the table, as if he was giving up the last bit of information he had.
Act like a detective. “It was right in front of me the whole time…” Peirson mumbled, remembering Jackson saying he was first on the scene. “If her father could make it look like an accident…” Father. To Carol. Who named her son after the grandfather! Peirson’s hands slammed down hard on the table and Charlie jumped. “Where is Jackson taking his family?”
Charlie sat in brief silence with his lips pursed. “I’m willing to take the fall for this if it means Jack and his mother are far away from everything they have been through.”
The detective let out a breath and counted backwards from ten. Charlie believed he was doing what was right. After someone had that mindset, they were immovable.
“An innocent woman is dead,” Peirson slid Irma Patterson’s photo across the tabletop into Charlie’s hands. “Do you know where they went?”
Charlie glanced at the photo and lifted his head to meet Peirson’s stare. “Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you, Detective. John is dead and my family is alive; that’s all that matters.”
Peirson gritted his teeth and stepped away from the table to compose himself. He turned back to Charlie and pointed a shaky finger at the tip of Charlie’s nose, “You’ll all go down together.” Peirson left the interrogation room, slamming the door behind him.
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