Harlan was amused by the advice that Gloria gave him before the interview began.
‘Harlan, you’re quite, erm, vocal?’
He chuckled, his voice raspy and metallic from the shitty air conditioning and lack of sleep.
‘On the page, perhaps. But, yes, is that a problem?’
Gloria sighed and shook her head.
‘You are not to speak until I say otherwise.’
He thought of a retort that made him smirk, but it was tasteless and he put it aside. Eddie, wet with his own blood and the blow that took him out entirely. The clean perspiration of his skin, the breathy sighs that he made when he came and how his hands would grip Harlan hard at that moment, apologising for the fingertip bruises and how Harlan would kiss them away.
‘I can go with that.’
Avery had brought over clean clothes, and it was the first time that Harlan had gone longer than a day without a close shave or hair product but he looked presentable enough. The dark circles around the eyes and the ragged skin on his lips spoke to an impact that his flippant sarcasm did not hide entirely.
Gloria however, looked immaculate. Her caramel hair worn down and away from her forehead, dark red lipstick and brown-red eyeshadow, a touch of liner and the smell of Chanel Fraiche. A black pinstripe suit and a briefcase. When she strode in on Manholos, Lee hid his intimidation behind mockery.
‘OJ ain’t here, ma’am.’
She turned her head, gave him a look of withering contempt that made his testicles retreat back into his body and his cheeks grow red with humiliation.
‘No, but my client is, so would you see that he’s ready to receive me, deputy?’
Gloria brought in two coffees from the store in town. An americano for her and a mocha latte, which he received with an absurdly powerful surge of gratitude. She smiled and opened her briefcase.
‘So far, they’re fishing. They have you at the scene, but you were unconscious, right?’
He nodded. swallowing as his throat grew tight with another swell of emotion.
‘Mr Foster, they’re going to ask why you were.’
He grimaced and sat back in his chair.
‘You know why. We were lovers.’
She did not flinch as she picked up her coffee.
‘They’ll seize on that as a motive. I don’t rate this department, Deputy Marsden was competent enough, but I’ve rarely seen evidence of any capability outside of a frathouse.’
Harlan blew across the surface of his coffee.
‘So my freedom is to be determined, by what, idiots?’
She raised her eyebrows and turned the cup with the tips of her fingers. He like her nails, told her so which made her smile briefly before her face resumed a mask of professional consideration.
‘Idiots are one thing, but they’ll appropriate that they’ve had one of their own murdered and your presence is a stain on his reputation.’
She raised her hand and shook her head.
‘Mr Foster, I’m sure you believe he did, perhaps even he did. What you probably had, was what Gabriel Garcia Marquez described as something like love, without the pain of love.’
The blood drained from his face as he sat back in his chair. Gloria folded her hands and looked at the door.
‘Mr Foster, I’m doing my job here, part of that is presenting to you that as a gay man in a small town, sleeping with a married man is probably going to do you more harm than good in the eyes of the investigating officers. Agreed?’
She gestured around her.
‘This isn’t a fucking hugbox, my job is to get you out of here as soon as possible. Their job is to make sure that you stay here or somewhere far less comfortable until you die. The internet is not going to save you, it will be whether I can get them to drop the case or whether I can persuade a group of people too stupid to avoid jury duty that there is no case to answer, or reasonable doubt. I’m up against CSI series that believe you can scan for flatulence with 3-D lazers, that posit that not speaking to a member of law enforcement means that you are automatically guilty and that brilliant, maverick detectives can see to the truth of a man’s heart with a knowing squint.’
Harlan leaned forward, rested his chin in his hands.
‘You rehearsed that, didn’t you?’
She gave a cold smile.
‘A little, did I rush it?’
He shook his head and sat back.
‘No, not at all. So, on a scale of one to ten, how fucked am I?’
She frowned and picked up her coffee.
‘We’ll see when they come in. Drink your coffee, Mr Foster, don’t say a word until I give you the nod.’
With that, the door opened.