Cole sat behind an empty desk on the main floor of the Sitwell Police Department. Rusty stood nearby, while Paul sat in a chair across from Cole. The cops had found an oversized pair of sweatpants and a Sitwell PD sweatshirt for the boy to wear in lieu of his wet clothes. However, the sweats were so big and the boy so small that Paul was swimming in them.
“Wrong place at the wrong time,” Cole said.
“Twice,” Rusty added.
“That’s the story you’re going with?” Cole asked.
“Story?” Paul asked.
Cole clicked the button on his pen and jotted a few notes down on a yellow legal pad. “For the official report. Gotta be thorough.”
“You said you were in the vicinity of the bathroom where Chad Becker was murdered?” Cole asked.
Paul sipped a complimentary soda pop Rusty had brought him in a prior attempt to feign good cop. “I don’t remember saying that.”
“You did,” Cole said. “Best not to change your story now.”
“Again with that word,” Paul said. “‘Story.’”
“Again,” Cole replied as he scribbled down some more notes. “For the official report.”
“I’m the frat’s Beermeister,” Paul said. “That’s the guy in charge of…”
Cole held up his right hand to form a “stop” motion. “I know what a Beermeister is. I went to Sitwell Community College.”
“OK,” Paul continued. “So, Chad got wasted. I helped Britney get him to a bathroom because he was puking and shitting all over the place. The sorority house was the closest place with an unoccupied bathroom. Britney and I got Chad there, got him on the bowl and I stepped outside. Then I heard a godawful noise…”
“What kind of noise?” Cole asked.
“A roar,” Paul said.
“A roar?” Cole asked.
“Like a lion,” Paul said. “I heard it at the trailer tonight too.”
Cole clicked the button on his pen a few times. “You on drugs, Paul?”
“No,” Paul said. “I never touch the stuff sir.”
Cole reviewed his notes. “What were you doing at Roxy’s place?”
“I consider myself to be a good citizen,” Paul said. “I like to help out senior citizens and need, so I was helping her redecorate and…”
“Cut the crap!” Rusty shouted.
“Fine!” Paul said. “I met her at Big Ray-Ray’s and she offered to rock my world for twenty bucks. It seemed like a great deal while I was buzzed but as I sobered up I began questioning my decision and was about to leave when…well, whatever happened, happened.”
Cole twirled his pen between two fingers. “I dunno. Just seems odd.”
“What does?” Paul said.
“That you were on the scene at two of the murders,” Cole said. “You ever been to Miami?”
“Once,” Paul said.
“To a Countess Cucamonga concert, perhaps?” Cole asked.
“No,” Paul said. “I prefer the musical stylings of Stank Daddy.”
“Boca Raton?” Cole asked.
“Good God, no,” Paul answered. “They don’t even let you in Boca Raton unless you’ve got an AARP card.”
Paul looked out the window. It was dawn and the sun was rising. “How long do I have to stay here?”
“Just a few more questions,” Cole said.
“I didn’t do it,” Paul blurted out.
“No one said you did,” Cole said.
“You all seem to think I did it,” Paul said.
“What makes you think that?” Cole said.
“Because you’re asking me questions as if I did it,” Paul said. “Plus that redheaded cop is giving me the crazy eyes.”
“Maybe my eyes aren’t crazy,” Rusty said. “Maybe my eyes are normal and you’re the one with the crazy eyes. Ever think of that, hotshot?”
“Can’t say that I have, Rupert Grint,” Paul replied.
Cole flipped through the pages of his legal pad. “So, answer me this, if you were…”
“I’m done,” Paul said.
“With what?” Cole asked.
“This,” Paul said. “All of this.”
“We’re just asking questions to a witness,” Cole said.
“Don’t you want to help catch the guy that killed your friend and your hooker?” Rusty asked.
“Sure,” Paul said. “But I’m not about to get a bunch of bogus charges pinned on me because you pigs are too lazy to get off your asses and find the killer.”
“Pigs?” Rusty said.
“If the oink fits,” Paul said.
“Paul,” Cole said. “You’re overreacting. Everything’s fine.”
“This isn’t fine,” Paul said. “All cops are corrupt. I know how you all operate. I streamed Serpico.”
“Just a few more questions,” Cole said.
“Nope,” Paul said. “Not another word without my lawyer.”