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Breathing Space

The officer led me into a depressingly gray room with one steel chair and an overhead fluorescent light. There is an obvious two-way mirror facing the chair. Is this some sort of cliche torture chamber? I haven't gotten arrested, but I'm afraid this could end in a trial by fire.

It's comfortable here for a place that looks like the site of multiple fingernail removals. The steel chair must be some sort of power move to make me feel uncomfortable. A detective will flaunt his power over me. Maybe it eliminates the whole "good cop, bad cop" routine, unlike my visit to the station. At this point, all he can do is ask questions.

I didn't need to be interrogated. I know I'm not the most morally sound person walking the tightrope of legality. But I've never physically harmed another person. I know my rights if he says something that I might not like or sweet talks me into self-incrimination, I'll ask to leave.

I take my place in this performance for one with two others behind the mirror and cameras recording it all. "You mind if I smoke, Detective Fisher? It doesn't look like you're worried about discolored walls or bad smells."

"Not at all, Tyler," Fisher replied while I pulled out a cigarette. He lit it to be a nice guy. I guess it's going to be a pissing contest of who can make this into a noir scene. "You can ash on the floor."

"Okay, thanks," I said playing along. "Y'want one?"

"No thanks, I'm trying to cut back for the wife," he said waving his left hand. There's a faint tan line on his ring finger, so he's working to keep her around or we're going from playing nice to lying games. By the look of his messy, cheap, navy blue suit, I would suggest the former.

I dragged off my cigarette, making sure my hands were in Fisher's view the whole time. I felt my cheeks flush and sweat form below the epidermis, perhaps from the stress of being here or they turned up the thermostat.

"Mind if I take my jacket off?" I asked. "It's starting to feel pretty warm in here."

"Sure thing, then we'll get started," Fisher replied. I slipped off my leather bomber jacket and slung it over the back of the chair, revealing my ratty, old Motor City Five shirt. I made sure to keep everything kosher with him. Act natural and shift the cigarette from hand to hand as I freed myself. "Nice shirt, great band."

"Thanks," I said, flicking the ash. "It was my dad's. I found it after going through his things after he died."

"Well, now that you mention death..." he started. "Tyler, what do you know about your brother's stabbing?"

What the fuck? How can he consider me a subject in how Kevin died?

"I'm not sure," I said. "It was sudden. I was in the library when I got the phone call. Why are you asking me about this?"

"We're following up on a few leads," Fisher said standing over me. "Did you two argue about anything the night before."

At least he's cutting to the chase, I've gotta admire that.

"Yes," I answered through the smoke. "He got into some trouble with a few guys from our old neighborhood. I was sick of dealing with him and his messes. Nothing more than two brothers arguing."

"And what about your mother?" he asked.

"What about her?" I asked.

"Was she involved in the argument?" he asked.

"She was," I said. "He's the lovable screw-up. She would take his side if he set the house on fire after I finished paying the rent. I have to be the hard-ass to make sure we are, were, all safe at the end of the day. She thought I was too hard on him."

"What was the nature of the argument?" Fisher asked. "Give me more than the words."

What is he getting at?

"We yelled, we argued," I said.

"But it wasn't an ordinary argument, was it?" he cut in.

"Like I said, he got in trouble and I was fed up," I said. "I laid into him because I shouldn't have to be his parent. I was done cleaning up after him, but my mother thinks I should have treated him better. Nothing I don't already know."

"Answer my question, instead of repeating what you already said," Fisher ordered.

Well, I guess the nice game is over for him. I looked him dead in the eyes to prove my trustworthiness. Then I took the remaining half of my cigarette and crushed it against the floor.

"We swore," I obliged as he paced the room. "I have a habit of talking down to them, especially when I'm angry. I know it's disrespectful, but I'm not conscious of it until it's over. It's like prolonged or built up anger and resentment."

"And what happened after the argument?" he asked. "Did you apologize and go on your way?"

He's a good cop. He's just doing his job.

"I left," I said. "I went out for a drive to clear my head. I would've smoothed things over the next morning if he were home."

"Did you see anyone while you were out on this drive," Fisher asked, facing the mirror.

"No sir, I drove around listening to music," I lied.

I went to see my best friend, Jamie. He says what I need to hear even if it isn't what I want. He calls me out on my bullshit and comforts me because he knows all sides of my stories and he cares. It's a 90-10 shot he makes me feel better or starts an argument, but it was a ten percent day. This time I argued and called out his calling me out. Our time was cut short because he had plans early the next day. I'd rather have honest conversations to solve problems than obsessing over them on my own.

"Tyler, do you have any proof you were at the library the next day?" Fisher asked turning on his black, patent heel to face me. "Because we have a claim you were at Marshall "Mellow" Garvey's house." He stared through me at a lie.

"Are you bringing up charges on me because this doesn't feel like a friendly conversation?" I asked. "This feels like you are accusing me of killing my brother. Or at least being involved in it. I know my rights."

"Garvey is a known criminal," Fisher said. "He's been in and out for suspicious gang activity over the years, including to being connected to a series of murders. It would be in your best interest to tell us if you knew anything leading to his killer. Please don't lie to me anymore."

So I'm an angry person; I don't think emotion qualifies me killing or putting a hit out on my brother.

"We grew up with Mellow," I told him. "If you know so much about him, you would know my brother got involved in a few things with him over the years. I asked if he knew what happened, so I knew a little something. I wouldn't know what goes on in his head."

"What did he say?" Fisher asked.

"Everything we both know," I said. "Then he told me I was a good kid and to take care of my mother for as long as I can."

"Did your mother know you went to see Garvey, Tyler?" he asked me.

"Yes," I said. "We argued about it over the phone on my way to the library."

"And you talked down to her," he assumed.

He thinks he's got me figured out. If he had to deal with this shit in his personal life and not his job, he would know he's a fucking prick, just like me.

"Can I go now?" I asked, drumming up the attitude he accused me of having. "I've told you everything, I swear. Believe me, I want to help you do everything I can to find Kevin's killer, but you're wasting your time trying to pin it on me. I may not see eye to eye with my family, but there is no chance I could have done it."

"One last question," Fisher said. "Why are you so prone to fighting with them?"

"Because someone had to be strong and take care of everyone," I said. "I couldn't be a gang banger while trying to mitigate suffering. Kevin wanted to do his own thing and my mother loves us unconditionally. It's not that I don't feel remorse, but I can't keep holding myself back. You get over it."

I picked up the extinguished cigarette, stood from my chair, and messed up my dark brown hair after slipping on my jacket. Fisher probably thinks I'm some sort of a selfish asshole, but not a murderer. He's not wrong about that. If anything, I would kill for them.

"Hold on to the people you care about, friends, family," Fisher said as he opened the door for me. "You never know when you may lose them."

"Ditto," I said as we walked down the hallway. "Good luck with the whole quitting smoking thing and your wife. You should probably make the interrogation room a little more welcoming."

"Thanks, Tyler," he said. "And I'll leave your note in the suggestion box."

He as much of a smartass as I am, but I smiled and shook his hand. The crowded police station was too noisy and hectic for my liking, so nearly ran out of the building. I couldn't stand the busy clicking of shoes against the stone floor. Hopefully, I didn't piss him off too much. If he wanted to torture something out of me, he should have sat me in the middle of the department instead of the interrogation room.

The parking lot felt crowded with all the cars, so I kept hitting the unlock button on my remote until I heard my horn. I could use some time to get away and listen to music. When I reached my car, I heard fast-paced clicking of patent leather heeled shoes chasing after me.

"Tyler!" Fisher yelled without losing a breath. "Don't leave."

What the fuck now? Maybe I forgot something.

"You can't leave," he said. "You have to come with me, to get you somewhere safe."


"It's your mother," he said. "A couple of troopers found her on Magnolia Street with stab wounds in the same pattern as your brother. She didn't make it."

Everything in this parking lot faded from a blur to black. The surrounding traffic stifled to silence. I collapsed to my knees and the tears streamed uncontrollably. They were both gone, I got my wish, but now I'll never see my mom or brother smile or laugh. Why? Why did I have to treat them like I did? Surely there could have been a way for me to make sure they were safe and still be my own person. But now I'll never know.

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