a short-short story by Frank Diamond
Detective Grant Porter leans forward.
“Come again, Bob?” Porter asks.
Just say the one word that’ll make you confess.
Across from Porter at the interrogation table sits Bob Donato. Forty-one years old, shaved head, runner’s build, goatee. Married with 2 children. He’d been read Miranda, and knows he’s being taped. Donato teaches high school, and students call him “Mr. D.” He’s one of the cool teachers, but he sweats now. Donato glances over at the door. No, there’s no way out.
“What?” Donato asks.
“What did you just say, Bob?”
Donato sighs, lifts his gaze toward Porter, but his eyes slide to Porter’s shoulder.
“Do you want to call your attorney now, Bob?”
“You think I am one who has an attorney, Detective? I’m a teacher.”
“A great teacher by all accounts, including Debbie Rider’s.”
That word! Say it again!
Debbie Rider wanted to move to New York after she graduated college and break into publishing. She lived at Temple University, but came home a lot.
“I taught Debbie in two classes in high school,” Donato had said earlier. “Advanced English. She’s one who comes along every once in a while that reminds a teacher just how much influence he can have.”
When she graduated high school, Debbie Rider had given Donato a silver chain with a pendant that said “Quoth the Raven.” One of Debbie’s high school friends texted over a photo of it to Porter during the investigation.
Debbie’s body had been found in Lake Lenape Park, facedown in the water. There had been alcohol in her system, and she’d just broken up with a boyfriend. Simple: Either an accident or suicide.
Still, some people had to be interviewed. The friend who told of the pendant. The ex-beau who showed Porter texts proving that Debbie had broken with him, and provided whereabouts of his movements the night she died.
“She told me she loved someone else,” the boyfriend explained.
“Definitely not Mr. D.”
Homicide by drowning. Tough case. Forensic evidence gets compromised. Water in the lungs proves nothing. The cause of death itself could be anything from heart attack to stroke to drunkenness. There had been no bruising or other signs of a struggle. On Debbie Rider.
Now, Porter reaches in his pocket and with just the hint of flourish places a“Quoth the Raven” pendant on the table.
“The real pendant is in the lake. We’ll find it, Bob. Debbie pulled it off you. Explains those marks on your neck.”
Debbie had wanted to break things off with Donato, as well. Bury the mistake of having had an affair with her married high school English teacher.
“You and Debbie really had something special, didn’t you?”
Come on! Say it!
Porter knows that that one word would open the dike and let truth flood the room. Donato looks up.
“Love, Detective,” Donato whispers. “I really did love Debbie Rider.”
“Go on,” Porter says.