"But I don't," I said, my voice sinking to a half-whimper.
At that moment, the door sprang open and a young officer beckoned for Weathers.
"Excuse me a second, Maggie," Weathers said, standing. "I'll be right back."
He stepped to the edge of the doorway, his back to me, listening to the young officer's report. What were they talking about? How could this be happening to me? What in the world would make the police think I had anything to do with Jimmy's death?
When the officer left and Detective Weathers walked back across the room, I could tell that his manner had changed. I could see it in the way he strode over to the desk, his back stiff, his shoulders straight and his movements terse and economical. He didn't sit down. Instead he placed his hands on the side of the desk near me and leaned over, inches from where I sat.
"Maggie, would you like to start over?" he said, leaning in a little, staring deep into my eyes.
"Not particularly," I said. "We need to be about catching the person who killed my brother-in-law, not wasting time going over the same little details. I don't have anything more to add."
"Oh, I think you might." His tone was almost hostile.
"No, I don't." The McCrarey temper, my mama's temper, began to simmer somewhere deep inside me. How dare this man think I was a liar?
"Miss Reid, I could arrest you right now. In fact, I need to go ahead and advise you of your rights. You have the right to remain silent," he started, droning on rapid-fire until at last he stopped. "Do you understand your rights as they have been given to you?"
"Yes," I said, "but no, I don't understand what in the world you're trying to do to me. I am an innocent, law-abiding citizen, and I haven't done one thing wrong."
A muscle in Detective Weathers's jaw started to twitch, his face had a dusky red undertone to it, and he seemed to be barely reining himself in.
"Perhaps you can tell me," he said softly, "how your brother-in-law's credit card came to be in your possession?"
"I don't have his credit card," I said. What was this?
"It was in your car, on the floor of the passenger seat. How did that happen?"
"What were you doing in my car?"
"You signed the search warrant." He was smug.
"I want a lawyer," I said quietly.
"Maggie," he said, straightening up. "You don't want to go and do that. Why, if you call a lawyer into this, I won't be able to help you. Your options will be limited."
That's when I lost it. I could feel the fire burning up from my gut, creeping across my throat, singeing my ears. I'd had a belly full of manipulation and fear and it was time to set some things straight. Unfortunately, my temper's never been better than a rabid dog treeing a coon in hunting season.
"Listen," I said, "all my life I've let men run over me like lawnmowers over fall leaves, but them days ended three years ago, and you aren't about to start it back up now. When I tell you I don't know anything about Jimmy's death, I mean it. When I say I want a lawyer, well, son, I mean that, too. You may haul riff-raff and convicts through here like lambs to slaughter, and your scare tactics may work with them, but, buddy, not with me. You're running a twenty-four-hour sucker lot and I ain't buying, because while I was born in the dark, I wasn't born yesterday, I know my rights and I know what I want. I want a lawyer."
Weathers didn't say another word. In fact, he was out of his seat so fast, I flinched, thinking he was about to come for me. He was gone, the door slamming behind him and leaving the rubber chicken dancing at the end of its rope.
I must've sat in that hardbacked metal chair for an hour, alone with only the cooling coffee and a rubber chicken to keep me company. I didn't say a word. I tried to not even look anxious. If real life were like TV, then there was a hidden camera somewhere. Finally, Weathers came back, slammed a phone down on the metal table, plugged it in, and shoved it in my direction.
"Make your call, Ms. Reid," he said.
I pulled the phone a little closer, my heart pounding. Who was I going to call? Not my divorce attorney. She didn't handle criminal cases. Not Vernell. Not Sheila.: Not Bonnie at the Curley-Que. She had enough on her with six kids and running the shop. The simple fact was, I had no one to call.
I sat there with my hand on the phone, not wanting Weathers to know I was in a bind. As Mama always said, pickings are slim when your mouth plants the seeds of pride. I slid the phone back in his direction. The time had come to take action.
"You know," I said, "I'm not gonna make that call just now. Instead, I'm gonna do you a favor." I pulled my purse onto my lap. I wasn't a lawyer, but I'd watched enough TV to play one.
Weathers snorted. "You're going to do me a favor, huh?" His eyes were lasering through me, sparkling. Beneath the angry exterior, he seemed secretly amused.
"Yes, I am. See, you don't have enough to charge me with murder. If you did, you'd have a D.A. in here." No discernible reaction from him, so I went on. "Jimmy was a good man. I don't know what's going on, or who wants to make me out to be a killer, but I do know one thing: If you don't find his killer, I will. So, I'm going home right now, and you can't stop me. I'm closing in on twenty-four hours without sleep, and I don't function like that."
I stood up, slinging my purse strap over my shoulder. "I'll talk to you later, if you let me leave. But if you jam me up, I'll have my attorney here in a New York minute, and then I won't say another word to you."
I turned around, headed for the door, and left. I couldn't believe he hadn't tried to stop me. I glanced up at the wall clock in the investigators' room, it was almost five A.M. It hit me as I reached the door of the main office that I'd gone and sowed the seeds of pride once more. How was I going to get home? Before I could stop myself, I'd whirled around and glanced down the corridor at the door to the interview room. There he stood, leaning against the doorjamb, a half-smile edging his face.
"Need a ride?" he drawled. His eyes slid over my body. He didn't try and hide his interest.
"Don't go to any trouble," I answered. I just couldn't help myself.
Weathers walked slowly toward me, the smile never leaving his smart-aleck lips.
Marshall Weathers left me in the parking lot of the Golden Stallion Club. I stood next to my battered white '71 VW and watched him drive away. As sure as I stood looking at his taillights fading off into the early Greensboro morning, I had not seen the last of him. And there wasn't going to be a damn thing I could do about it either.
I reached for the door handle and noticed for the first time that black fingerprint powder smudged the door handle, the steering wheel, and most of the interior of my car.
"Good, great, all I need, "I said into the cold morning air. "Why don't you just put one of those fluorescent orange stickers on the car and say murder suspect?" The Golden Stallion parking lot was empty, except for the cars of those customers who had been unable or unwilling to drive home alone last night. Beer bottles littered the broken asphalt lot. The building, normally outlined in bright neon lights, looked seedy and exposed by breaking daylight.
I slid into the driver's seat, stuck the key in the ignition, and cranked up the car. It would take the entire ride home for the heat to begin kicking in, and even then, it would be minimal. I drove a VW because it was a personal symbol to me. Before I got married, I'd owned a white Beetle. It was my pride and joy, earned with every penny I'd saved since childhood. Vernell wrecked it one night when he was drunk, not long before we got married. Another omen I'd overlooked.
I puttered out onto High Point Road, driving down the commercial strip that gradually disintegrates the closer you come into town. It took me all of the five-minute trip to Mendenhall Street, until I drove up my block and saw the crime scene van still parked in front of my house, to realize that I couldn't go home.