“Why did I kill her?” Marshall W. Adams stroked the gray hairs on his chin, a stubble that had been forming over the past few days. He snickered. “Did you ask me why I killed her? Surely you jest…You really do know why, don’t you? Don’t you, De..tec..tive?”
Gavin did all he could to keep his tone level. “You heard me, you…If it were up to me I wouldn’t bother asking, but that’s our justice system. You tortured and murdered a ten-year-old, and I have to read you your rights.”
“Maybe I didn’t kill the little…er…girl. What if you’ve got the wrong man? What if I confessed because you tortured me De…tec..tive?”
I’d like to kill the bastard, Gavin thought. But that’s just what he’d like to see me try. He’s baiting me. Sharpening the hook. And he’s getting to me. Damn him. Gavin retaliated by smiling in appreciation. “Touche,” he said, “but I know how well you understand the law, how the mind works.”
Adams leaned back in his chair. He whined. “I need a shave.. I won’t release any information until I get a shave.. You can only hold me on suspicion of murder and felony kidnapping until I’m arraigned. I want to look good in the newspaper photo, not like an unshaven convict. After all, I’m related to the Adams who was president.’ He ran his fingers through the blondish military crew cut that made him look younger than his forty-seven years.
Psychotic schiz. Remember what you’ve been told. You’re dealing with a psychotic schiz. That’s how he got away with murder the first time. Gavin could smell his own perspiration running down the rolled-up sleeves of his limp shirt. Slowly, casually, as though they were discussing a television movie, he responded. “You’ll look great when the cameras roll. But you’ll have to play fair with me.”
“Look here,” Adams whined, the steeliness in his blue eyes giving way to a softness that belonged to some unseen person, “I want a shave.”
“And I want to know why you murdered Carrie Shaw.”
“If I did, do you think I’d tell you? You think I’m some kind of dope?” Adams asked. “Remember, I was an agent for the FBI. I hold two advanced degrees from Harvard University in criminal law, and I am a member of the American Mensa Society.”
You’re a psychotic schiz. A murderer. That’s who you are, Gavin thought. Hostile, suspicious, delusions of remarkable talents, high social status, and power. Could Adams or the criteria for evaluating his condition have changed? Did it matter? “I know who you are,” he said. “It has all been confirmed.”
“That your little girl in the photo…De..tec..tive?”
Gavin placed both hands on his knees and pressed down on them to keep himself in the chair. His eyes moved to the family photo he had placed on top of the bookcase, the only personal item he kept in the office he shared with Detectives Joiner and Plorny. Gavin had tilted it toward his large cluttered mahogany desk. His daughter, Maria, had been about the same age as Carrie Shaw when a neighbor had taken the picture almost a year ago, in the circular driveway of their newly built pastel Florida ranch. Similar ranches wound their way around the gated community. Maria stood between her parents. Gavin had one arm around her and the other around his wife. Their Great Dane, Samson, sat next to them. “Last in the line-up,” they had joked.
Maria’s trusting eyes stared at Gavin from the phone but he didn’t see them. Instead, Carrie Shaw’s brown eyes leaped before him, filling her pinched face with terror, her skin so milky-pale she looked sickly; gone the shy elfin smile, the little girl who rode her bike that day with his Maria. To think it could have happened at all. Right on his own street where watchful mothers in shorts and tee shirts gathered in little groups while their children played in the street.
“Take a good look,” Gavin said. “You saw my daughter the same day you spotted Carrie Shaw, didn’t you?”
Adams dragged his words. “You want to trap me, De..tec..tive? You think I’d fall for anything as simple as that? Why do you think I turned myself in after I killed my mother? It was self -defense but they didn’t believe me. She had a gun but I shot her first. I am not a psychotic schiz.”
“Isn’t that why the editor-in-chief sent a reporter from that newspaper to interview you? He thought you might have been unjustly accused?”
“That snooping reporter posed as an FBI agent investigating terrorist claims I made in letters. I recognized him immediately. I am an expert in detecting spies. I can tell who they are because their voices have a tinny sound. Pinnnng! Pinnnng! You know I have incriminating evidence against them. I have a twin who records voices on ultrasonic tapes. I could transpose them for you.”
“Thanks,” Gavin said, “but…it…”
“You don’t believe me, De..tec..tive? You are more of a fool than I thought. You must have the I.Q. of a flea. I told you and I know. They keep tabs on me. Like I said, I recognized him immediately.”
“Did you really?” Gavin leaned forward and asked in a confidential manner.
“I told you I know who they are. I know their chief. They’re after me. I’ve got those tapes. I’ve got something on them.”
“Then the reporter was really an F.B.I. agent.”
“Look,” Adams said, “ it was him or me. He threatened me with the death sentence. I learned how to open my handcuffs a long time ago but until this agent jerk showed up there was nothing I could do. So I followed him into the bathroom and smashed his head against the wall.”
Gavin kept his large frame immobilized. His back ached. “Really,” he said. “I’m impressed.”
“I heard ‘pinnnng, pinnnng, pinnnng, ’ coming from his head each time I smashed it. I ordered my twin to record it. When no more sounds came from him, I made sure none ever would. I choked him with his own tie.”
‘I still can’t figure this out,” Gavin said. “How did you escape?”
“Easy. I just switched clothes. No one in that loony bin ever comes when they hear screams anyway; they hear them all the time. So I called the guard to open the door. You know, if you act the part, people believe you. ‘Guard,’ I called. ‘I’ve finished interviewing Mr. Adams. Open the door, please. ‘ Then the agent’s beeper went off. You should have seen that guard hustle. ‘Have a good day,’ he called after me.”
“Then what?” Gavin asked, afraid to say more.
“Then I walked outside my residence and picked a flower from the garden. A beautiful yellow flower growing all over the lawn. I snapped its stem. I like the sound of snapping…quick…poom…like a broken neck. But it was more fun snapping a stick my twin had left for me. Then I put the flower in my buttonhole so people would know who I am. And…I’ll tell you what I found next. Two hundred dollars in that stupid agent’s wallet and a lot of loose change. It jingled in his pocket…I mean my pocket.”
“What did you do with it?”
“Took a bus. It pulled up just as soon as I was standing there. Stopped right in front of the loony bin. The door opened. Ali Baba. ‘Let me introduce myself,’ I said oh so gallantly to a middle-aged woman. Marshall Adams is the name. Kindly move your shopping bags and let me sit down.’ She not only moved her shopping bags but also got up and changed her seat. I followed her to thank her.”
Gavin started to say something but changed his mind.
“The bus driver asked me to sit down and stop bothering the lady so I started talking to a young woman…real pretty…I wanted to touch her hair but she kept moving away from me. ‘Leave me alone,’ she said, and that’s when the pinnnnginnnng started…so she didn’t fool me. She was taking notes on me…keeping tabs, you know. The words she wrote roared in my ears until I had to cover them but still they rang and rang. ‘Shut up, you shut up,’ I yelled at her but still she kept on writing, and the words snapped my eardrums and I yelled, and yelled,”Call the Supreme Court.”
“What did you think the Supreme Court could do?” Gavin asked.
“Reverse the decision. They always reverse the decision. Whoever I vote for president will pick new judges and they’ll change everything everyone else changed before them. But the bus driver told me I’d have to get off at the next stop or he’d call the police. So I got off the bus.”
“Did you know where you were?”
“Of course.” Adams replied. “ In a place where peace descended. I could see large royal palms, and canals bordering a housing development. A high wall surrounded the community, tall hedges behind he wall, a great place to hide…but this is the best part…De,,tec..tive…the canal side had been left open.”
“How could you cross a canal?”
“Listen to me. Listen to me. Do you hear me? My flower is wilting…wilting.” With that, Adams plucked the dandelion from its buttonhole, and tore it to bits.
“I’m listening.” Gavin said.
“I walked across a space between the end of the canal and the street on the other side of it. I could see mothers sitting on bridge chairs in their own driveways, breast-feeding their babies while they watched their children play. My mother told me not to play in the street but these kids were riding their bikes in the street…screaming, yelling, making too much noise.”
“But…children…” Gavin hesitated. If ever he needed the right words, it was now.
“But,” Adams sneered. “But…this one little…er…girl…kept riding her bike around the cul-de-sac…away from her mother and those other brats. She was out of her mother’s sight when she rounded the corner.. She stopped pedaling when she saw me trying to find a way to cross the canal. She recognized me.”
“How would she know you?” Gavin asked.
“You really are stupid, De..tec..tive. She knew. I could tell by the way she stared at me. She stopped riding her bike and stare at me. I had to kill her before she told.”
“Kept on walking as though I belonged there. My twin transposed voices in my ear. Louder and louder the voices rang. When I reached the end of the cul-de-sac…you’ll think I don’t know what the word means but I do…it’s just that this cul-de-sac ended where it was open to the canal…they hadn’t put a house there…and she…the little…er…girl…was staring at me. But remember…De..tec..tive…I knew she really was a spy. You think you can fool me or my twin or my voices.”
“No.” Gavin said, under his breath.
“You don’t say’no’ to me. That’s what the little girl said when I grabbed the handlebars and threw her to the ground. She opened her mouth to scream. ‘Mommy’ she sobbed in a stupid little voice. But I knew better. I heard ‘pinnnng, pinnnng. Pinnnng.’ I put my hands around her neck…poom…snap… and choked her until her face turned bluish-purple. Even hen her eyes protruded, thy were still staring at me.”
“I see,” Gavin said, in as steady a voice as he could muster, and a vision appeared to him of Maria as she became one with Carrie Shaw, while up and down the streets of America, little children rode their bicycles toward them.