Juliana arrived at the downtown Denver Police headquarters at 9:00 the next morning. Despite being assured that she wasn't a suspect in Imad's murder ? how could she have been? She had been in Mongolia at the time he was killed ? she was ushered into an interrogation room and left alone for half an hour.
The room was nothing like what they show on TV cop shows. It was small, windowless, and furnished with three chairs and battered table. There was a video camera on the wall in a corner and a large two-way mirror that she stared into while she waited. She could hardly believe that she was looking at her own reflection. Her green eyes, which had always been large, seemed larger still and the whites showed all around, as if she were a spooked horse. Her skin, pale when she was alive, paler after becoming a Vampire, had taken on a sunken, waxy look and the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose and cheekbones stood out in stark contrast. Her hair, normally a lively raven black, hung around her face, limp and lank. Lines of grief were etched into her face and she couldn't stand to meet her own eyes for more than a few seconds at a time.
The door to the interrogation room opened and Juliana glanced up, wondering if she'd been forgotten or if this was some sort of trick to get her to talk out of sheer desperation to leave. She looked over Detective Dekker ? she assumed it was him ? and was surprised at what she found. He was tall, though not as tall as Imad, and powerfully built ? broad shoulders, huge arms, narrow through the waist and hips, long, strong legs. He was dressed in black jeans, a white t-shirt and a black leather jacket. His hair was brown, short and carefully styled to look as though he'd just rolled out of bed. He had a square jaw, small mouth, and warm blue eyes that were filled with sympathy and kindness. Either he was a good actor or he really felt sadness for her loss.
He sat down across from Juliana, his back to the mirror, and set a bottle of water, a Manila file folder and a Styrofoam cup of coffee down in front of him. He took out a pen from inside his jacket, flipped open the file to reveal a blank sheet of paper and began writing something. Then he finally looked up at her and smiled. His smile was infectious and she found herself smiling back. ?I'm Charlie Dekker,? he said. ?We spoke on the phone.? Juliana nodded and his smile turned sad. ?I'm sorry for your loss, Ms Crowe. Did you know al-Naseri long??
She shrugged. What was two years compared to her long existence? ?Two years,? she answered, angry at the way her voice cracked. ?He...he worked for me.?
Charlie nodded and made a note. ?In what capacity??
?He is...was a research assistant. I'm an archaeologist and he...helped with that.?
Charlie made another note and glanced up at me. ?Helped how? What did he do, specifically??
Juliana frowned, wondering what Imad's job description had to do with anything. ?Do you think he was killed because of his research?? she asked.
?I'm trying to get a more concrete picture of Imad, Ms Crowe. Anything you can tell me, anything at all, no matter how trivial it might seem to you, will help me investigate Imad's murder.?
She sighed and looked down at the scarred surface of the table. Someone had carved their initials into it ? JRB. Juliana wondered for a moment if JRB was a suspect or a victim. She hoped for his sake ? or hers ? that he was a suspect. She didn't want anyone to feel as she did right now.
Juliana looked back up at Charlie and found him watching her closely. The Hunger flared in her and she closed her eyes, hoping to disguise the sudden blood-lust as overwhelming grief. Finally, she regained control of herself and answered Charlie's question. ?He was good at deciphering clues and tracking things down,? she said, shocked at how quickly she'd begun referring to Imad in the past tense. ?He had a quick, brilliant mind.? Juliana stopped speaking. She didn't want Charlie to know how she felt for Imad, how his loss had affected her.
?You returned from a dig in Syria about two months ago, correct?? Charlie asked, not looking at Juliana any more, his eyes on his notes now.
?Yes. The dig was unsuccessful, through no fault of Imad's. He had bad information to begin with.?
?You were lovers, were you not??
Juliana blinked, a little shocked at the sudden change of topics. She nodded. ?Yes, I love...loved him,? she said softly and closed her eyes again, this time against the threat of tears.
?Did Imad have any enemies??
She opened her eyes and shook her head. ?No, he was well liked by everyone he met. Besides, he'd only been here for two months. That's hardly enough time for someone to hate him enough to want to kill him.?
Charlie didn't say anything to that. He put his pen aside and flipped through the folder. He drew out a photograph and pushed it across the table for her to look at. Juliana glanced down and gasped in shock, immediately realizing what had killed Imad. The photo had obviously been taken while Imad had been in the morgue.
Juliana reached out and pulled the photo closer, touching just the closest edge with the very tip of her nail. She tried to pretend that it wasn't Imad in the photo, that it was someone she didn't know, hadn't shared her life with for two years, hadn't welcomed into her bed on a nightly basis. She saw what Charlie wanted her to see ? a gaping wound in Imad's neck, like someone had taken a huge bite out of him. She went cold, clear through to her bones, and remembered what she'd forgotten ? that odd day in the oak grove, the unexplained silence. Had someone been stalking them? Had someone followed them all the way from Syria to Denver?
?Imad's body was drained completely of blood,? Charlie said quietly. ?The average human body contains seven pints of blood, Ms Crowe. Imad was a big man; his body no doubt contained more.? Charlie's eyes had lost that soft, soulful look and had become hard, giving her what Juliana thought of as cop eyes.
Juliana shoved the photo away and crossed her arms over her chest, both to warm herself and to protect herself against Charlie's rather pointed questions. ?You think I did this?? she barked at him. She was suddenly very angry, using her anger and outrage to disguise her real emotions ? fear and a dawning realization that somehow, even though she'd been on the other side of the planet at the time, she'd killed Imad. ?How could I have done this, Detective? I was on the other side of the planet!?
?No, Ms Crowe, I don't think you had anything to do with this. You were in Mongolia at the time; I've spoken to several people who can attest to that. I do think, however, that you know who did kill Imad.?
She must not have schooled her features well enough when she first saw the photograph. She must have let something slip, some small sign that Charlie immediately picked up on. She stood up and began pacing, feeling more like a caged tiger than she ever had. ?No, I don't know who could have done this. Completely drain a large, powerful man of all of his blood?? She was lying, of course. She did know someone who could have killed Imad, and she believed Charlie knew that she suspected someone.
Charlie stood, too, and gathered up his folder and his untouched bottle of water. He went to the door and held it open for her. Juliana shot through it like a bullet from the barrel of a gun and stood in the hallway, shaking with fury. Charlie handed her a business card with his name and direct phone number on it. ?If you think of anything, anything at all, that might help us, please call.? He looked directly into her eyes for a long moment and then smiled sadly. The cop eyes had been replaced once more by the sad, soulful look and she found herself wondering which was the real Charlie Dekker. She took his card and left the station without another word.
[size=9][[All credit for this scene goes to its original author, Lelah Rivka. This is what will be found on the "video" posted on the Post website, seeing as we obviously will not have actual footage posted there. Thank you!]][/size]