“Tell me something, Mr. Burkley.”
“Depends on what that something is, I’ll gladly tell you.”
“Where were you the night Mrs. Woodrow disappeared?”
He already knew this was gonna end in an interrogation-like way. The minute Matthew saw detective Powell come in through the tavern’s door and head toward him without any hesitation, he became absolutely certain of the fact that no one here would ever trust him. Not completely. Not after the incident from ‘99.
“Helena?” Matthew asked noncommittally, taking a sip of his beer and belching silently.
“You call her by her name...” Pinky—name detective Powell had acquired due to an accident he had; he almost chopped his pinky finger off with a machete trying to open a barn’s door—said, lowering the stool next to him when he sat on it. “Interesting.”
“You’re gonna question me and list me as a suspectjustbecause I call her by her name?”
“Oh, but don’t think like that! You’re already a suspect.” Detective Pinky laughed, a guttural chortle that would’ve scared anyone away. It brought Matthew a faint memory of a dying beluga whale.
“Marvelous,” he muttered.
“Hey, Ralphie!” Pinky bellowed, and Ralph, the bartender, came up with a fake smile on his face. “Get me a beer—no, actually, scotch.” Ralph nodded, taking a glass from the lower cabinet. “On the rocks, please. “So, Matthew.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“I was right here, same stool, same drink,” he said, taking a sip of his beer in an almost ceremonial way.
“Anything or anyone that can confirm that?”
“I can,” Ralph said, putting Pinky’s scotch in front of him with a gentle smile. “He was here all night long; we were just watching the game and talking ‘bout the fine chick that gave me her number.”
“Sounds too convenient...even for you, Ralphie.”
“Oh, well, you can’t please everyone—now, can you?”
“Lying or holding back information is considered a federal crime, Mr. Gilbert.”
“And imposing false accusations is considered harassment,” Ralph retaliated.
Detective Pinky sighed—an angered, bitter sigh that brought everyone’s attention to the scene going on—and drained his glass in one gulp. “Very well, have a nice night, gentlemen. I’ll ask you to swing by the precinct—bothof you—this week to formally write your whereabouts from last Friday night.”
“Sure,” Ralph muttered. “I will even swing by your own office to say hi.”
“I’d be delighted to see your face again,” Pinky said, already going through the door and leaving no trace of him other than the empty glass with melting ice on the bar.
“Son of a bitch pisses me off,” Ralph said. “And who the hell does he thinkheis—calling meRalphie?”
“Just do what I do, Ralph,” Matthew said.
“And that’d be...?”
“Stay quiet, nod, and wait for the perfect moment to humiliate them.”
“See, that’s the thing. You’ve got willpower. I don’t. And wherewereyou last Friday night? Not that I mind lying for you, but, you know.”
“I was going around; nothing important,” he said, copying Pinky’s actions and gulping down the remaining quarter of beer he had left in his glass. “Gotta go.”
“Matt,” Ralph began. Matthew could see concern reflected in his face. They’d been friends since college. They knew each other all too well. “Should I be worried?”—he lowered his voice—”You did see Helena that night, didn’t you?”
Matthew looked around, standing up. Not many people were there that night, just the usual clients. Joe Heart; the young boy who drank his sorrows away, Kevin Morris; the businessman whose wife was a professional cheater; Paula, who knew everyone and everyone knew her for the...particularlyspicyjobs she did; Frederick Harris, the rich boy who was always accompanied by his colleagues and slutty girlfriend; and Veronica Wallace, the fifty-year-old singer, quite famous in town—a slut, too.
“Yeah,” he finally answered, his voice just as low as Ralph’s. “I did.”
“Okay,” Ralph said—for Matthew’s surprise, he didn’t sound worried at all. “I’ll see youtomorrow?”
“All right. G’Night, Matt.”
He began walking toward the exit, nodding at Paula, who hadn’t stopped looking at him with seductive eyes. She wasn’t his type, though, and someone else was on his mind. “Night, Ralph.”
And with that, Matthew Burkley left the tavern.
(Hello! So, this was just an excerpt of the actual short story. I would like to know if it's going well and, you know, any details that sound or appear off. :) Thanks for reading!)