Monday, July 8, 2024

Deadly Drafts - CH 5



Arthur lounged across the interrogation chair, crossed leg bobbing. The handcuffs looked almost designer against his muscled forearms, Gucci’s latest foray into absurdist couture. Alex had to admit, they paired nicely with his baby blue shirt. He radiated a warmth that knocked detective Dalkowski askew. Even put through the paces of booking, moved like cattle to slaughter, not a single blonde hair or stitch of clothing so much as whorled the wrong way. 

Dude was a living Ken doll. 

"So is it you, Sargent Detective, or I who is our protagonist?" 

"Protagonist?" Alex felt the room tilting under her. 

"'All the world is a stage, and we merely players?' We're all just characters in some strange Odyssey. I'd like to say I'm our Scout Finch, but that tulip skirt contrasting against a badge and gun? You've got all the markers of a grade-A mystery heroine. Stephanie Plum in the flesh." 

"Kavi was right," Alex said. "You're something else." 

"Given the alternative, I rather relish being ‘something else.’" 

"So you're convinced we're all characters in Kavi's story? You seem rather calm, Mr. Kite, considering how crazy that makes you sound." 

"We're in a fiction," Arthur wagged a slender finger as best the handcuffs would allow, "but not Kavi's. Can you imagine? The horror of being trapped in her sloppy prose? All our actions would be done adverbially. We'd 'leer adversarially' at one another. We'd 'jog angrily away.' No one would ever just 'say' anything and nothing would ever happen. We'd be trapped in perpetual twilight. No, detective, contrary to your rather entertaining speculations, I'm calm because all things pass. The literary universe has a way of smoothing out the rough patches by tale's end. 

"Tell that to Old Yeller." 

"I'm innocent and I've enjoyed an otherwise smashing day. I see no reason to fret." 

"Your accent. Harris said you're not American." 

"Don't you want to click on your tape recorder first?" Arthur nodded to the silent device. "Wouldn't want to waste my words if they're not going to be memorialized." 

Alex rolled her eyes, clicked the red button. "There. Now tell me why I shouldn't have IMF down here." 

"Because I am American as apple pie, lite beer and George Washington's wooden dentures. Naturalized last July 4th. Your keen ear, however, does not fail you. I was born in Bath, England. Just southwest of London, for the geographically challenged." 

Alex couldn’t help but feel she was failing an open-note test. "It says your profession is 'artist?'" 

"Artist? No," Arthur said. "Actor, painter, performer, activist…I prefer to self-describe as a voracious creator. A bon vivant. A mirror to the world. An influencer, though that term has been lately twisted. I tap into the unreality of our universe in an attempt to wake the sleeping public to the true nature of existence." 

"And what does ‘tapper of unreality’ pay?" 

Even Alex's jab, the suggestion of motive, did little against Arthur's cool. "I've got some commissions on the horizon. If nothing else, I can teach." 

Alex smiled. "'Those who can't do,' right? Tell me, where were you this afternoon between 4:30 and 5:30 pm? You have a vague non-alibi like your peers? Somewhere without witnesses? Performing alone in the woods?" 

"On the contrary," Arthur delivered his lines with a theatric aplomb, suddenly Colin Firth. "I have an airtight alibi." 

Alex could almost groan. Too good to be true is always too good to be true. "Explain." 

"I politely decline." 

"Of course. You have an airtight alibi and choose not to give it. Your friend Kagan said you were acting strange this afternoon. Showed up late to your meeting. This isn't some bit of performance art; this is an attempted murder investigation." 

"I know Kavi’s prose is bad, but I wouldn’t say it’s attempted murder." 

"A boy was shot in the commission of the crime." Alex slammed the table. "If you can prove you weren't at the jeweler's then you should sure as crud say so." 

"Sure as crud?" Liam sighed. “Alibi or no, facts will prive. So all things considered, I'll keep my private business private." 

Alex cursed herself for thinking one of the three would spill the beans. Maybe Kavi had the right idea about getting that coffee. She pivoted to another line of questions. 

"You own a gun?" 

"A Glock 17 with a Silver slide." 

"And why does a 'performer' need a Glock, Mr. Kite?" 

Arthur churned the air with a hand, jangling his cuffs, trying to wipe the question from the room. "It seemed the American thing to do after being naturalized. Bought a case of Budweiser, some fireworks. A gun. 'Murica!" 

Alex rocked in her chair. "I'll tell you what I told your friends. I'm trying to be your friend. All I want is a quick execution of the truth. I want the same thing that you do: to get this over with and go home." 

"I can only say what the author writes for me, detective." 

"You know what?" Alex drummed 'Wipeout' on the table and stood. "You go ahead and be as crazy as you want. I've got enough for a warrant. I'll see you in the morning. Bail hearing is set for 9 a.m. sharp." 

"You can't hold us overnight," Arthur shook his head as the door creaked open behind him.  

"Unless you're hiding a 'Get out of Jail Free' card in that designer shirt," Alex said, "your story, the kid as witness and your golden gun…I can hold you here until rapture. Now not to be rude, but I'm tired as all get-out. I'm gonna go home and get nine hours of solid shuteye in my own bed. Hope you can manage a little shuteye. Big day tomorrow." 

Arthur sucked in a cold breath, for the first time feeling the tightness of fear sinking its claws into his chest.

What story had he jumped into?

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