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Ding. The soft peal of a bell announced an arrival. I glanced upward from my notes and computer screen for just a second. Lyle, an intern with light brown hair, stood just feet in front of me. I raised my eyebrows questioningly as we maintained eye contact. He smiled, amused at my curiosity. His narrow shoulders shook, revealing the fact that he was silently laughing. I scowled. He laughed out loud, his voice mimicking the bell that I’d heard only seconds before. I willed my face to remain neutral, to show no change, but the smile prevailed. Lyle knew as well as I did that I couldn’t keep a straight face. We laughed for a few moments, then returned to the dull and serious mood that naturally filled my confined office.
“What is it?” I asked, exasperation seeping into my already strained voice.
He paused as though he didn’t want to tell me. “Your witness is here.”
I threw my hands in the air and let out a frustrated groan. This case had been hard enough already, never mind the fact that I hadn’t interviewed all of my witnesses yet! I placed my elbows on the desk and rested my head in my hands, letting out a soft sigh. I felt a sting behind my green eyes, but didn’t let the tears come.
There’s no way around this, I told myself. Just suck it up and do it. I pulled my red hair back into a loose ponytail and straightened my blouse.
“Okay,” I said with conviction, “I’ll be down in just a minute.”
The heavy metal door creaked as I slowly opened it. Its dusty grey color reminded me of an empty December sky and reflected the seriousness of my mood. As I entered the questioning room, smells of musty wood and a variety of metals welcomed me in. He sat in the corner in a green polo and blue jeans, paired with dusty cowboy boots. He looked about average height for a boy of his age, but I couldn’t be sure because he was sitting. There was something about his brown eyes that made me curious as to what he was thinking, but I guessed that I’d find out soon enough. He held my gaze for a split second, but I eagerly broke the connection. There simply wasn’t time.
“Alright, let’s get this over with,” I said urgently, surprised at how annoyed my voice sounded. He nodded his head, as if consenting.
Although he seemed relaxed, there was something in the room that made me nervous and on edge. The circumstance? Time? I couldn’t say.
“Let’s start with background,” I stated bluntly. “Begin with your childhood and continue to the present time.”
“I grew up in St. Louis, then moved to Chigago,” he began without hesitation. “When I was a child, I remember that we had raccoons in our chimney and scared them out with a shotgun. I have a traditional family with two parents, two sisters, and one brother. I’m sixteen, I wrestle at my high school, and I like parkour.”
He actually seems to like this interview, I thought. At least, he talks more than the rest of them. I noted the gun story as a potential point of violence, along with the wrestling and parkour background as reasons for rebellious behavior.
“Could you tell me about things you enjoy? As well as things you dislike and things you are fearful of?” I asked.
“My favorite color is green. I love my mom’s pot roast and mashed potatoes that she makes on Sundays. Warrior is probably my favorite movie right now. In school, I like my welding and foods classes the best. I enjoy watching Duck Dynasty. My favorite bands would have to be NEEDTOBREATHE and Imagine Dragons. A private island vacation is one of my all-time dreams.” He paused briefly, searching for something. “I’m most afraid of having no freedom. I don’t do well with confinement. My ultimate pet peeve is when people think they know what they’re talking about, but in reality they have no idea. That and low riding trucks,” he concluded with a smile.
I took a few more notes, hiding my smirk at his last remark. Pausing, I gathered my thoughts and racked my brain for a question that would actually cover some ground.
“I also need to know if you’ve ever messed around with your buddies,” I proceeded cautiously, “like teenagers do when they find things to do up in the hills.”
“Well….” he trailed off, showing vulnerability for the first time. “A while back, a few of us blew up this car in a cinder pit. It was pretty awesome, but the only thing damaged was the car.”
Ah. I raised my eyebrows and scribbled furiously on my notepad. This was something, something that could change the whole ball game for my team. This meant that we might have a chance at winning this case. My heart began racing, adrenaline surging through my veins, as I theorized in my mind what I could pull from this small piece of information. Numbers, faces, and scenarios flashed across the once blank canvas of my imagination. It seemed as though the possibilities were endless. I could feel my slender fingers working furiously to produce my thoughts onto paper before they slipped away into that all-too-familiar abyss of forgotten dreams.
“Aren’t you supposed to ask me what my name is?” he asked with sarcasm.
“What is it?” I replied sharply, kicking myself for not asking.
“It’s Taylor. Taylor Jensen.”