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The interview room was a grey cell. As small as life and twice as bleak. Grey walls. Grey ceiling. Grey floor. Grey table. Annabel sat in a grey chair facing a grey-faced Detective Sergeant Cassidy. A grey tape-recorder whispered softly in the background, quietly catching every word she hadn't spoken.
"For the sake of the record." Cassidy's Manchester accent disappeared while he spoke into the tape recorder. Clearly anxious to sound important on the recording he enunciated with the round and plummy tones of a BBC radio announcer from the 1940s. ".it should be noted here that Annabel Blake has refused legal representation."
Cassidy made no mention of the fact that, before he had turned the tape recorder on, he had said the only suspects who demanded a solicitor present were those with something to hide. She was not naïve enough to believe that was true. She felt slightly insulted that he thought so little of her intelligence as to use the line. Nevertheless, because she felt sure she could conceal the truth, Annabel agreed to be interviewed without a solicitor present.
He cast a glance toward the clock on the wall and said, "The time is now 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 9. We are recommencing the interview begun at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, November 8. Those present are myself, Detective Sergeant Franklin Cassidy. Constable Mary Elizabeth Watcham." He paused. The uniformed constable muttered, "Present."
"...and the interviewee, Annabel Blake."
Feeling a response was needed from her, she said, "Present."
And then, save for the hiss of the tape recorder and the whisper of its turning spools, there was more silence. Constable Mary Elizabeth Watcham, with her hands behind her back and her breasts thrust boldly into the chest of her flak jacket, studied the clock. Cassidy glowered at Annabel.
And Annabel stared at the table. Because she wasn't under arrest-because she was only helping the officers with their enquiries-she had been allowed to keep her possessions. She rummaged through her coat and retrieved the three things that were always in her pockets. A tube of L'Oreal grape lipstick, a stainless steel compact mirror, and her Zippo lighter.
Cassidy pointed toward a NO SMOKING sign, the only decoration in the room aside from the clock. She nodded silent understanding of the gesture. But she couldn't stop herself from tracing a finger over the raised image of the skull and cross bones.
"Come on, Ms Blake." Cassidy's tone was gentle and avuncular. The suggestion of a rare smiled teased his thin lips. It was obvious his mouth was not used to forming the expression. "You're a member of The Great Northern's writers' circle. You're a storyteller. Tell us a story."