Friday, June 28, 2024

Deadly Drafts - CH 1


Kavi's head throbbed. Her brains slithered out her ears. The room swirled like an out-of-control carousel, its carnie long gone, the steadying hand off smoking pot behind the pop-a-shot. Wooden furniture and silver mirrors and green walls slurred to a color approximating vomit. She struggled against the spinning to stay in her body. She took deep breaths into her stomach, just like the doc had suggested. "Concentrate on what you can control," is what James would say. "Keep focus. This too will pass." Except what Kavi could control was exactly fuck all. She stared at chair beneath her. A small bronze plaque affixed to its arm read, "Furniture Donated by Friends of the Bakersville Public Library, Barbara Ann Leslie, Director." Kavi groaned. Even in fucking prison, she couldn't escape work.  

Across from her, detective Alexis Dalkowski stopped her recitation. A tape recorder whirred through the silence. Alex leaned forward, spread four photocopies across the table like winning aces. 

"Where did you get those?" Kavi asked. 

Alex ignored the question. "The Sacred Theft, written by Kavia Adnan-Byrne. It's not a bad story, Kavi. I don't get the whole elephant and the orangutan thing, it could definitely use a strong female character, but it's… Interesting? Might make a decent first chapter of a novel." 

"You sound like Arthur." 


"Nevermind," Kavi shook her head. "The Sacred Theft is a terrible story. That's the whole point. No one would buy it. I sent that garbage to a hundred magazines. Not even a nibble. God, I need some Sumatra." 

“Sumatra?” The detective narrowed her gaze. "Like book?" 

“Oh my god, white people.” Kavi rolled her eyes. Big mistake. The motion pushed scrambled eggs and bacon up her throat. "Sumatra. Coffee. Black. Strong." 

"This isn't the Hilton." 

"I get headaches." 

"And I get cramps." The detective sat forward, smoothed her skirt, righted the lay of the badge on her lanyard. "We weren't properly introduced before. I'm Bakersville Sergeant Detective Alex Dalkowski. I very much want to be your ally through this process." 


"I just want the truth," Alex said. "It's literally my only job. You give me the truth and I'll move mountains for you. A cup of Sumatra? Sure. I'll roast and grind the coffee myself. So let's help each other. Let's tell each other the truth. I'll start with an easy one: tell me about yourself, Kavi. Name, occupation, favorite movie…all that dating profile stuff." 

"I don't date. I'm married." 

"I'm well aware of James and your daughters…Gwyn and Grace? Am I pronouncing that correctly? Like ‘Gwen?’" 

Close enough. Kavi nodded, something evil bubbling up her stomach. 

"I figured as a writer, Kavi, you'd understand a metaphor." 

"I'm not a writer." A hiccup pushed lava through Kavi's esophagus. "That's the whole point. It was never published. How do you even have it?" 

"What an adorable question." The detective produced a manila envelope in a plastic bag and flopped it on the table. "But first let's fill out that dating profile, yeah?" 

"I'm Kavia Adnan-Byrne. Born in Detroit, Michigan. I'm IT admin at the Bakersville Public Library. Writing is just… shit I don’t know. 

“You don’t know?” 

“It gives me something to do on Tuesday nights. I'm not a writer." 

"The Sacred Theft suggests otherwise." 

"I…" Kavi wondered if she'd wandered into some kind of hallucination. If someone had micro-dosed her coffee. Is this the part where Mr. Rinnings her grade school gym teacher rides out on a rabbit and starts singing backwards Beatles songs? "I didn't do it." 

"Your name is on the title page." 

"No, not the story. I wrote the story. For one of our weekly writers' meetings. I mean the crime. The robbery. I didn't dress up as an elephant or an orangutan or a fox. I didn't rob anyone, I didn't shoot that kid. That's not even in my story, the kid getting shot." 

"Twitchy trigger finger." Alex said. "Besides, I didn't say anything about playing dress up or shootings. I just asked your name and profession, and you start talking costumes and armed robbery." 

Kavi's carousel shifted into turbo. She sucked in her lips, bit her cheek to prevent a gush of swears. Or vomit. Or both. For a drawn heartbeat, no matter how hard she clenched, Kavi couldn't force air into her lungs. Panic had her in a sleeper in the middle of the ring. Her body floated through thick, gloopy air. 

"But since you brought it up, I do need to know where you were between 4:30 and 5:30 PM this afternoon" 

"I'm not a criminal." 

Alex squirmed in her seat. "I was waiting for you to say that, and now you have, and oh, it's like a unicorn farted a rainbow." She pulled a flimsy sheet from her packet. "An incident report from San Diego. Kavia Adnan charged with assault for punching..." 

Kavia winced. That damn report had been following her for years. It was a mangy mutt, caught on her scent, always nipping at her heels. "I did not punch [asshole tech billionaire] in the face." 

"Not that he doesn't deserve it," Alex shrugged, "but that's not what the police report says." 

"I was trying to swat a bee. His security overreacted." 

"Report says witnesses heard arguing. And now, instead of flying cars and shares in a trillion-dollar company, you've got ballet lessons and private school on a library salary. Where were you this afternoon?" 

Kavi closed her eyes and reached back into her memory. Just hours removed, stress had already an earth-sized hole into Kavi's mind. The accelerating spin of the room didn't help. She tried to swallow but her desert mouth refused. 

"Mrs. Byrne?"  


"Apologies." Alex slung her arm over the chair back. Her detective badge caught a glint of light, needled Kavi's already throbbing head. "Are you saying you don't know where you were just a few hours ago?" 

Kavi exhaled. It wasn't that she didn't know. It's that the knowing was worse. "I…I was at home. Alone." 

"Really. That's your final answer?" Dalkowski made a 'who farted?' face, her cheeks drawn. "Home without an alibi?" 

"The girls have ballet on Tuesdays. I tell James I'm updating servers at work, but…" Kavi let out a sigh. Focus on the chair. Focus on the chair. Breathe in one, two, three; out, one, two, three, four, five, six. "I leave work a half hour early and veg out in peace and quiet. I drink a coffee. Do a crossword. Then I leave the house, before James gets home with the kids, grab some take out, and go to our writing group at the library. Please don't tell him." 

"Mr. Adnan-Byrne is the least of your problems." 

"He's just Mr. Byrne." Sometimes Kavi wondered if society would ever enter the 21st century. "I'm the Adnan." 

Alex leaned across the table, close enough that Kavi could see the weariness under her brown eyes. "I want to be your friend, but what you're saying doesn't add up. Let me be your friend. Witnesses saw your van—a teal Chevy—driving away from Gonya Jeweler's at roughly 5:20 p.m. The quicker we get this done, the better you'll be treated." 

The room's spinning reached ludicrous speeds. Kavi's intestines smashed flat against her ribs. "I didn't do anything. I don't know anything. Please, I just want to go home. Let me have a coffee, see my husband and kids. Isn't there supposed to be a good cop here, too?" 

"That's just TV bullshit. You know what detectives really do? We interrogate. Relentlessly. For hours. Until you tell us the truth." Alex took a sharp breath and stood. "I'm going to go pay your two co-writers a visit. I'm going to try to be their friends just like I tried to be your friend. Think about that while I'm out, Kavi, that I really tried to be your friend." She clapped Kavi's rounded shoulder as he strode toward the interrogation room door. "For your sake, let's hope they don't make any friends before I get back."


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