Of Innocence and Guilt (part 9 of 14)
Of Innocence and Guilt (part 9 of 14) postapocalyptic stories

ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Of Innocence and Guilt (part 9 of 14)

Very gently, Hyle engaged him in idle chit-chat about anything she could think of that had nothing to do with the current situation.

She asked about school, about his friends and what games he liked to play.

Soon, Evan was telling her about his favourite stories, what he liked and didn't like about school, what he wanted to be when he grew up and all the usual things grown-ups tend to ask children.

And Evan leapt eagerly for the opportunity to free his senses from the scary smell of adult authority which permeated every scuffed floorboard and stained wall of the constabulary.

When she ran out of questions, Hyle told him stories of Tuki as a child and the scrapes she got into at home and at Haven,

where her proclivity for climbing everything she could resulted in more than one letter home. Evan was soon laughing at these intimate insights into the normally very down to earth town doctor.

Then the door to the street opened. Sergeant Alana accompanied by the two constables arrived back from searching the Stanton home and all conversation stopped.

The constables waited by the door while Alana, carrying something long and thin and wrapped in a cloth, knocked on the interview room door.

The door closed behind her, and all around Hyle, the whispering began. Hyle felt a small clammy hand find her own and she automatically gave it a reassuring squeeze.

Half a minute later, the interview door opened and Chief Constable Bartosiewicz, accompanied by his sergeant, led a shaken, white-faced Arthur and his equally shocked father into the room.

Alana crossed to Evan and gently but firmly pulled him to his feet. Evan's hand slipped from Hyle's and she was left looking at Shadwell's grimly set features.

"Arthur Stanton. Evan Stanton. I am arresting you both for the murder of Margaret Louise Decker, more familiarly known to those here as, Magrat."

Hyle was quiet as the boys were led away to the cells, too shocked to take in what was happening to them. Shadwell indicated with a tilt of his head that Hyle should follow him to his office.

Behind them, sergeant Alana was politely but firmly explaining to Arch Stanton what was happening, when he could see the boys and what he could do for them.

Their voices were cut off as the door to Shadwell's small office closed behind them.

The Chief Constable and the Mayor took up the chairs on opposite sides of the old and battered desk, both gathering their thoughts, both unsure of how all this was going to go down.

Hyle spoke first.

"Shad? Are you sure? I mean, Evan, he's just a kid."

Across the paper-strewn and ink-stained faded leather inlay, Shadwell's shoulders rose.

"I don't like it any more than you do."

"So why arrest him? He had a crush on Magrat; he wouldn't kill her."

"Why? Because he's a kid? Kid's do kill, Hyle. Need I remind you about the some-time resident of Hope who not only kills people but eats their flesh... and she's younger than Evan."

Hyle knew immediately who Shadwell was referring to.

But Canni Belle, the name given to her by her Chota tribe, was a special case, a result of genetic jiggery-pokery the half of which she didn't even want to understand.

And, though she might look it, and act like it, Canni was a clone and, like her own daughter Tukiko, way older than the child body she occupied.

"No, of course not. It's got nothing to do with his age. Evan was besotted with Magrat, probably still is considering the risk he took in placing her stethoscope in her coffin."

Shadwell leaned forward, interlacing his fingers on the desktop.

"That's how you see it, Hyle. And I have to admit, that's how I see it too. But..." He paused to let the 'but' sink in. "... The evidence, the facts; are what they are."

Hyle sat back, she had already figured out where this was going and, whether she wanted to acknowledge it or not, Shadwell was going to spell it out.

He untwined his fingers.

"Two facts." He stabbed the desk with his forefinger. "Fact one. As you said, Evan was besotted with Magrat, and yet she was leaving Hope, and him."

The finger stabbed again, and Hyle noticed the nail was split and jagged.

"Fact two. Evan was in the vicinity of the murder at the time we believe it to have happened." He looked Hyle in the eye. "Motive and opportunity."

Hyle returned her Chief Constable's gaze steadily, Shadwell was right, of course. His next words were the only conclusion there was.

"On that evidence, and with finding what is almost certainly the murder weapon in his home, the 'means', I had no other choice but to arrest him.

There was a long, long, pregnant silence. Hyle sat awkwardly in her chair, shifting from one side to the other.

The facts as presented made sense but she just knew deep inside that the conclusions were wrong.

The short time she spent with Evan had not demonstrated a child with something as catastrophic as a murder to hide.

Frustrated, Hyle stood and paced the room, her face set, full of thought. Something was missing from the scenario as presented. Shadwell watched her, his own face set on what he should do next.

Hyle breathed out long. "Ok. You are the policeman." She admitted. "I'm just the politician." She stopped her pacing and looked directly at him. "But.

" Hyle leaned on the edge of the desk facing Shadwell, her face as serious as he had ever seen.

"I want you to spend a long time talking to Evan.

Not accusing, not even pressurising him into some story that a small boy will come up with, either to cover himself or perhaps even someONE else." Her ice-blue eyes bored into Shadwell.

"Maybe even leave his interview with Alana, while you speak to his brother. The brother is older, more mature, wiser. You could lean on him more; he can take it.

You have to get this right, first time, no mistakes."

Hyle's eyebrow raised at Shadwell, and she gave a short nod to make sure he understood.

Shadwell stared back at her, breathing out loudly through his nose. "OK."

Hyle left him to his task, closing the door behind her. The scant details as known at this point piled themselves up behind Bartosiewicz furrowed brow.

He trusted Hyle's misgivings, but only up to a point. He was a policeman, he dealt in facts. And the facts as they stood did not look well for Evan, or for his brother.

He opened his office door and called into the hall.


Sergeant Alana appeared quickly enough.

"Yes, Chief?"

"I want you to settle the boys in separate rooms, let them think about things for a while.

When you have done that, come back here and give me the most detailed report you can on what you found in the Stanton house. I need to know everything, every last detail."

Sergeant Alana walked towards the cells, shrouded in her own thoughts. The chief had arrested both boys.

She had no idea what had been said in the interview room before she had appeared with the knife she had found under the floorboards of Arch Stanton's house, but she had interviewed Evan and, no.

Her gut said no, and she trusted her gut. She also trusted her boss. Now her gut hurt.

Then she was at the cells. Arthur and Evan sat together; Arthur had his arm across his little brother's shoulders.

Their heads were together, and whatever was being said was being said in a whisper.

Only the sound of her key in the door ended the conversation, but not before she heard Arthur's last words to his brother.

"... just trust me."

She held the door open.

"Evan, come with me please."

The twelve-year-old followed her out of the cell and then to a small room with a bed and a chair which was usually used by the night shift constable.

Tonight, though, the constable would have to make do with the duty-desk chair.

Evan sat on the bed, and Alana sat with him. She tried to talk with him, to be friendly like before, but it soon became apparent that the boy was deliberately ignoring her.

Eventually, she gave in and stood up.

"I'll fetch you some supper." Evan didn't even respond to that, so Alana left the small room, locking the door behind her.

Shadwell and Arthur faced each other across the interview room table.

Arch Stanton had long since left to pick up little Dudley from the clinic and would by now be at the lodgings he had been given while his house was surrounded in police tape.

Alone except for a sleeping toddler, Arch would undoubtedly be trying to make sense of everything that had happened since a constable had come for him at work.

So, instead of his father's familiar face sitting beside him, Arthur had the company of recently recruited Constable Sweetly,

a large ex-enforcer sergeant with a buzz-cut and a very no-nonsense look to him.

In their previous little chat, Shadwell had found Arthur arrogant and childishly annoying. Arthur referring to his officers and himself as 'cuntstables' hadn't sat well with Shadwell then.

And now, if Arthur tried it with constable Sweetly sitting within slapping distance of him,

then Shadwell might have to include in his report that his attention was elsewhere at the time and he didn't actually see the incident in question.

However, he needn't have worried.

Since the arrival of the knife currently being examined by Dr Troy, Arthur Stanton sat in petulant silence, staring at the Chief Constable from his slouched,

arms-folded position across the table.

When it became evident that Arthur had no intention of cooperating, Shadwell had Sweetly take the smirking teenager back to his cell. Shadwell, himself, went in search of Alana.

Maybe she had had better luck with the younger brother.

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