Chapter I: Recrudescence
The interrogation room was dark. Only the dull light from the lamp hanging low above the table betrayed the presence of the two figures sitting on each side of it. One had their hands folded thoughtfully on the table, fingers entangled; the other kept their hands in their lap, their small frame shrinking into the chair. A small, inconspicuous surveillance camera was mounted in in the upper corner of the room, hidden in the shadows, and overseeing everything that took place. Both people were silent.
And then again, not entirely.
A soft humming was keeping the dead silence between the two people at bay. It was a light tune, way too light for a man, and sure enough, the one figure sitting with their hands grasped tightly in their lap was a woman. The slight swaying of the lamp cast little shadows running over her face, like caressing hands. This whole scenario was as if taken straight out of a movie, and yet it seemed to have the desired effect on most of the suspects brought into Interrogation Room 3 for questioning. The lighting was subdued, the walls were insulated to keep out sound, and everything about the room's interior had a specific purpose.
The woman's face was cut, bruised, and wet stripes from tears both dried and new were running down her pale face. Her head was tilted a little forward and her eyes remained partially hidden behind dirty bangs of dark brown hair. Once in a while her shoulders would shake violently, and more tears would spill behind her bangs and come trickling down her cheeks, leaving fresh trails behind. She had remained otherwise still from the moment she sat down. But she kept up the soft humming anyway, and only seldom did her voice fail her while she wept.
There were no words to the tune, just the same continuous melody, light and soft like velvet. Over and over again.
The person sitting across the table was studying the woman intently, debating on when and how he should start the interview. Evidently she showed no signs of wanting to initiate a conversation. Might as well get it over with, Commissioner Michael Fox thought as he heaved an inaudible sigh, exhaling carefully through his nose as he regarded her apprehensively. He cleared his throat and leaned forward. The sound made the humming stop in an instant. She knew, just as well as he did, that something had to happen now. If not, there was no way she would get to see the outside of a cell ever again. At least not without cuffs slapped on her wrists.
"Violet?" he started and straightened himself up a little in the hard metal chair. The woman didn't move, but Fox knew she was listening, so he continued: "Where is Mannis Rose?"
"Who?" she asked in a low voice, glancing away.
"You know who."
A pause. "No," she sighed.
"No, I don't know."
Again, Fox noticed that flatness in her voice. "Then what about the boy?" he asked carefully, assuming it might be hard for her to speak of, still. No answer. The air was static with tension; she knew she was being interrogated, and she didn't like it. "Violet... where is he?" he asked, leaning forward slightly. Still no answer. Fox etched closer to the woman across the table. "Where is your son?" She still did not reply, and he was about to say something again but she beat him to it.
"He's gone," she replied huskily. Fresh tears started pouring down her cheeks, and for a moment her face betrayed nothing as she lifted her head to look at him. Then her face twisted and Fox had to lower his gaze for a moment. Her eyes were piercing, glaring holes into his for that fragment of a second their eyes met. "He's gone, so just get me out of here, we're wasting time," she said through clenched teeth, and for the first time, her voice harboured real emotion in it. Fox was surprised to hear the anger, the violation behind the words. But there was something else. Something that didn't mesh with the rest of it, like... fear.
"I'm trying to do exactly that," he said and leaned back in his chair, "I just need a little cooperation here."
God, he thought, those eyes…They had been so indifferent when he'd brought her into custody just four hours ago. Serene, like nothing had happened to her at all over the past month. Dull, like nothing no longer mattered. But now they were ablaze with ire and a vast sea of poorly restrained emotion. They were a stunning shade of pale blue and purple hue; violet. Truly remarkable. No doubt this woman would have been beautiful, if it hadn't been for the many cuts on her. They were on her jaw mainly, and her neck. There was no real harm done to her face, other than the bruises on her cheekbones, and the bloody mess on one side of her forehead.
Someone ought to have stitched her up before bringing her in here, Fox thought sympathetically. But they had only just found her among the burned ruins, and people were still missing. He was acutely aware of the fact that time was their biggest issue right now. Especially with a child involved.
When Fox mustered up the strength to look into the woman's eyes again, she had withdrawn back into her shell, and was no longer looking at him. She had turned her gaze upwards, resting the base of her skull on the top of the chair back. She had started humming her little tune again with a resigned look on her face. He cleared his throat. Slowly the humming came to another stop and her eyes shifted so as to pay attention to him for now. Fox only had half a minute to wonder, before she spoke.
"My cooperation isn't going to get you nowhere closer to finding him," she stated dully, rattling a bit with the cuffs around her slender wrists. One had looked like it needed bandaging. Fox shifted in his chair, becoming restless at the mention of Rose. Bastard was still out there somewhere and this woman was the only lead he had. All the more reason to keep pushing. "Violet, we know that you've spent at least one month in close proximity with him. We've got several witnesses who saw you with him when--" "--And what, exactly, Commissioner Fox, are you getting at?" she asked, one narrow brow raised, flames smouldering in her unnerving eyes.
Fox cleared his throat. "If you have any information about Rose's whereabouts, I recommend you start talking. Otherwise you'll get charged with conspiracy, judged as an accessory, and afterwards you'll be--" "--I didn't agree with any of it!" she interrupted. He shrugged, bringing the tips of his fingers together: "All I've got is your word for it, and I'm afraid that won't be enough in court. There's no proof that you weren't in on the actions that took place before the fire…"
He should have seen the signs; she had angled her body closer to the table, her shoulders had rolled forward ever so slowly, like a snake preparing to strike.
Suddenly the woman shot forward, quick as a projectile, across the table and latched on to the Commissioner's collar. Fox flailed in a moment of surprise, and faint noise could be heard outside the interrogation room. But the silence settled again when Fox raised his hand as a cue for his colleagues to stay put. He couldn't risk an interruption now -- they might finally be getting somewhere. "Please get a hold of yourself," he said and slowly lifted his hands to her cuffed ones, "Calm down."
"Do you think I wanted this to happen?" she said quietly, lifting a trembling finger to point at her face. Something was horribly wrong with her wrist, he realised just then, seeing the skin bruised and purple, the bones all knotty-looking and out of place. That would have to be taken care of ASAP. "For how long have you had that injury?" he asked, but she ignored him. "Do you think I wanted to lose my son? Is that what you think? He's everything to me, and now he's all alone out there..." The yelling had broken off into a whisper, then a whimper.
"Violet, you don't know that for certain, calm down, see?" said Fox, and carefully pried her stiff fingers off of his collar. She was much stronger than he would've thought possible given the terrible state she was currently in. Then he slowly guided her back into the chair, pressing down on her arms with kid gloves: "Nice and easy." She nodded groggily, and Fox let go of her arms. She ran her long fingers through the tangled mass of dark hair on her head, before putting her hands back in her lap. "I'm sorry..." she croaked, appearing uncertain and disoriented all of a sudden.
He smiled gently, and sat back down in his own chair. "I want to help you find Caleb," he said, "But you have to let me help you out of here. And the only way I can do that is by convincing a jury that you have absolutely no commitment to Rose, that your time in his captivity was completely forced upon you, and that you took no part in his crimes." "Then tell the jury that!" she said, nodding her head vigorously as she did, "Tell the jury and the judge I didn't know. How could I have? How was I supposed to know that he was killing all those people? Tell them that."
"You know I can't do that. I need you to tell me where Mannis Rose is so I can stop him from killing more people. Help me help you."
She drew her lowerlip in between her teeth, and Fox frowned. "Violet, please, if that's your name... Be rational about this. If you don't tell me, you'll go to Gravestry Asylum, and then it'll be all over for you." "But... there's nothing wrong with me!" she argued defensively, "No, there's nothing wrong with me! He's the crazy one, not me!"
"We've got the drawings," he said and watched her face grow even paler, if possible, before she leaned back in her chair, her face now obscured by the darkness. "Your drawings," Fox continued, "The forensics dug them out among the burned ruins with your signature on them."
A scoff. "...My signature... I don't care, I am not crazy." Then the room grew silent again, and for a moment, Fox thought she wasn't going to speak at all, that she'd lost interest in the conversation entirely. But then a low, reluctant voice emitted from the darkness.
"I don't know..."
"I don't have any fucking idea where he is!" she snapped, and Fox blinked, somewhat taken aback by her sudden outburst. She was coming apart at the seams, and the Commissioner knew they would have to stop this soon or else she might go and react very badly. The poor woman was already stressed enough as it was without him poking questions at her. "I just want to get out of here and find my son... I just want my baby back. Don't you get it? He's all alone and I'm stuck in here..." Fox heard her snuffle again, decided it was no use getting her to say anymore at the moment and rose from his chair, "We'll continue this some other time."
He moved to stand, but hesitated half-way when she leaned forward and stared up at him with wet, imploring eyes. It was all he could do not to glance away.
"Do you have children?"
There was a strained quivering in her voice, as if she was trying her damn hardest to control the emotion behind the words. Fox sighed and nodded his head resignedly. "Yes, I have a daughter."
"And do you love her?"
"Of course I do."
"So would you give a rat's ass about any damn jury if she went missing? Would you not do everything in your power to get her back safe in your arms, regardless of what everyone else says?"
Fox straightened and opened his mouth, but he didn't get a chance to form an answer. The door swung open and hit the wall with a metallic clonk, and a male police officer walked in. The woman sighed and stood up, the cuffs rattling as she did so. The officer then took hold of her, obviously mindful of her injuries, and led her by out of the interrogation room by the upper arm. Fox followed, but stopped in the doorframe to watch her go.
That was the name she had written in every corner of those drawings, always. No last name. He shuddered as he recollected the images, the wretched people portrayed in them. The woman had gone insane, absolutely... He could not think of any other explanation why someone of sound mind would draw something like that. But then again, he thought grimly, who wouldn't go mental if they'd spent 34 days with Maniac Mannis. She had written Violet on the drawings, but he had been assured that since the police didn't know who she was yet, it would not be safe to assume that it was her real name. But hell, it suited her well.
Violet... and Caleb. She had had the little boy with her when she was kidnapped. The kid was only 4 years old... and now he was missing. Fox shook his head. Such a disgrace, such brutality, to put a child through something like that. And mistreating his mother, who knew what the kid might have witnessed? In all of the security tapes they had of her, though just a few usable ones had survived, that boy had been with her. But apparently he'd gone missing somewhere between the fire, and his mother being taken into police custody.
As Fox watched the woman be taken away to her temporary cell, he couldn't help but sympathise. It wasn't just the bruises and cuts on her face, or the drawings, or the fact that she'd lost her son to the mercy of Gravestry. In truth, he would have turned the city inside out in search for Charlotte, if she ever went missing -- and he wouldn't be able to sleep or eat as long as Mannis Rose was out there as well. This woman had probably led a normal life once, before all this. An average single mother (Fox assumed she wasn't involved with anybody since no one had cared to file a missing person report), working an average job, living an average life. And suddenly, in just one day, she had lost it all. Because of Rose. A familiar anger was starting to bubble up inside his chest, and he could feel his blood turn hot just thinking about the man -- who should be locked up in Gravestry Asylum, and who should not be exposed to the public.
Time was scarce. Soon the media would be on to the case, someone was gonna get their ass fired, and subsequently all of Gravestry would be gripped with hysteria.
Fox couldn't let this happen. He was positive that Violet knew more than she was willing to admit, if only she would trust him enough to talk to him about Rose. He had to get her out of here. Prove to the court that she was innocent, and the only thing she ever wanted was to get away from that psychopath with her son safely in her arms. Surely that was what she had wanted all along. How could it not be? The man was a lunatic, but the fact that he was smart only made things worse. Seeing the damage that had been done to her face, he couldn't bring himself to think of the things that Rose had put her and her child through. Fox had to find out who this woman had been, and most importantly, what a twisted, psychotic criminal like Maniac Mannis could possibly want with her.
After 34 days, why was she still alive?