[aesop_image imgwidth=”800″ img=”http://wordsmithholler.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/gangster-539993_1920.jpg” credit=”Pixabay” align=”left” lightbox=”on” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off”]
“You’ll never get me to tell you where the jewels are,” the child said. She leaned back and smirked.
Too much television, thought the inspector. He sat down across from her rattling the metal chair against the table in the interrogation room. The girl leaned forward. She glared at him. The stare-off went on for a few minutes until he leaned forward.
The girl pushed back pinning her arms into the rests. She was a small child with her hair tied back in a blue ribbon. She looked just like the picture sitting on the table next to him. Below her, the marble floor stretched out nearly a foot from her feet. She casually kicked the legs of the chair. Barely seven years and so far the kid had stuck to her resolve.
An older inspector, Don Sexton, had grandchildren her age. If anyone could play grandpa it was him.
He drew a cartoon hand of a large rabbit holding a carrot. The rabbit took an angry bite. Bits of carrot flew out of the rabbit’s mouth. The angry rabbit sported a fluffy cotton tail. The little girl put her hands on the table. She drew closer to the drawing.
“What’s his name?” she asked.
“Sergeant Baker,” he replied.
The girl studied the drawing.
“He needs a badge, or something.” she said.
Inspector Sexton added a badge above the mark identifying the rabbit’s belly button. The girl shook her head no. She eyed the drawing with skepticism.
“I think it should be a star badge.”
Sexton erased the square and drew a star. The girl smiled. Sexton began to draw a fence behind Mr. Baker. Behind that he drew a cottage.
“Stephanie, where do you think he should live?” he asked.
“Certainly not in a little house,” Stephanie said. “It should be taller.”
Sexton eyed the girl. She did know where the robbery took place, he thought. He drew a skyscraper behind the rabbit. He added a gargoyle to the top.
“There aren’t any mean dogs on his house,” she said.
Sexton erased the gargoyle. The robbery took place in the penthouse of the Greenberg Tower. A number of gargoyles and pointed pillars surrounded the terrace. He stared at the girl. She was looking down kicking her feet. Maybe she doesn’t know about outside the penthouse, he considered. That would mean she hadn’t been on the terrace. There was a possibility she couldn’t be the victim’s granddaughter. Sexton smiled as if he knew he was two steps ahead of the girl.
Through the observation window, Sergeant Tom Baker and Inspector Alice Prine watched Stephanie rock her legs. The little girl picked at her sweater. She seemed to ignore Sexton as he shaded in the skyscraper.
“They found her sitting next to the jewelry tools next to the empty safe?” Baker said.
“Sitting and rocking her feet just like that,” said Prine.
“No one else?”
“She was alone. We’re still waiting on the video surveillance,”
“She has to know something. Why is Sexton playing Picasso?”
“Trying to get her to open up.”
“Well, it’s not working.”
Police Analyst Mike Reagor sat at his computer watching the video from the penthouse. On his monitor, a figure dressed completely in black pulled trays of diamonds from the safe. The grainy video made it difficult to determine if this was a woman or a man. Reagor stopped the video on a single frame. The figure had turned slightly toward the hidden camera. He thought he saw blonde bangs. He hit play and studied the video.
After a few minutes, he heard on the video a loud pounding on penthouse entrance as an officer demanded to be let into the door. The figure froze before pulling off the hood and letting a blonde ponytail fall out.
“It’s a woman,” said Reagor. He reached for the phone.
“You and Sergeant Baker need to get down here. I need to show you something.”
Baker and Prine crowded around Reagor’s monitor. The video played past the part where the officer shouted to be let in and the woman revealing her hair. She hesitated for a second and then poured the diamonds and other trays of jewelry into a black bag. She then ran from the room.
Baker hit the space bar stopping the video.
“So we know it was a woman,” he said. “But why do we have a little girl in our interrogation room?”
“She shows up here,” said Reagor. He started the video again. A little girl walked across the room and sat down on the edge of a chase. She kicked her legs. The detectives could hear the front door breaking as two officers rushed into the room. The little girl covered her ears.
“And that is the same girl Sexton is drawing a cartoon for?” said Baker.
“Her name is Stephanie and so far we don’t know where to find the woman or the jewelry,” said Prine.
“But now we know there was an older woman?” said Reagor.
“Except the girl is the only one who might know where she is,” said Prine.
“We need to tell Sexton to drop the cartoon act and start asking some questions,” said Baker.
In the interrogation room below, Sexton laid down his pencil and studied the girl. He compared her to the picture found in the penthouse. It certainly looked like the same girl. He tapped on the picture frame. Stephanie adjusted herself in the seat. She pushed it away from the desk and sat forward in the seat.
Suddenly, the girl became taller, and as she grew Stephanie became a mirror image of Sexton. He reached toward her face and if touching a mirror. The girl jumped back from her seat knocking the camera above her into the wall. She then sprinted to the lights and turned them off. Darkness filled the room except for the red pinpoint from the disabled camera.
The first and second Sexton struggled in the pitch black room until the sound of a thud and hushed sigh of defeat.
Baker and Prine ran into the interrogation room and turned on the lights. Sexton leaned against the wall. The girl lay on the floor with a gash to her head.
“She tried to escape,” said Sexton.
Prine led him over to a metal chair. Sexton caught his breathe while Baker stood over the girl.
“This little girl tried to get the better on you?”
“She’s tougher than she looks.”
Baker radioed for medical help as Prine wiped Sexton’s forehead with a tissue. The medical squad lifted Stephanie off the floor onto a gurney and wheeled her out of the room. One of the technicians shined a light into Sexton’s eye. Seeing nothing, she turned off the flashlight and told Sexton he was good to go.
“Maybe we should send you in for some small fry wrestling?” said Baker. “I still can’t believe a little girl nearly cleaned your clock.”
Sexton looked up at the Sergeant. He pretended to be a bobble head. He hoped Baker would take his sarcasm as a hint to let it go.
In a waiting ambulance, the emergency technician wiped blood from the girl’s forehead. She placed a bag of saline on a hook and reached down to insert a needle in her arm. She looked away to reach for a tissue. On the gurney, the girl’s body began to grow and return to Sexton’s form. The dazed detective looked over at the confused technician and started to cry.
On the sidewalk, a replica of Sexton looked back at the steps leading to the precinct. The replica re-positioned the coat hanging on its arm and brought a coffee mug to its lips. The form took a long swallow before starting toward the end of the block. As the body turned the corner, its back dissolved into the deepening shadows. Following stride, a young woman emerged from the shadows wearing a black jumpsuit and a blue ribbon tying up her ponytail. Stephanie Mathers, master jewel thief and shape-shifter, waved down a taxi, climbed inside, and rode off into the city.