Lights Off by Charlie Cunningham
I sat there frozen.
Somewhat glued to my seat.
It felt like I was watching a horrible scary movie where I knew how it would end but couldn’t speak.
I tried to play the how, understand the why and fathom the when, all in my head.
How could I tell them that I had seen her the night before?
What happened? How was Nora dead? Did someone hurt her?
There were murmurs in the lobby. All our activities for the day were cancelled as we tried to wrap our heads around this thing that has shaken the core of the group to its foundation.
Was it someone in our group?
A robbery gone wrong?
Eight hours had gone by now and we were all in our rooms. Nobody seemed to want to be seen. I laid in my bed as I remembered the night before.
I continued to play out scenarios in my head. The fact that the officers hadn’t told us what happened didn’t help either. It only gave our minds free range to craft and build stories in our heads.
I couldn’t imagine someone within our group wanting to hurt Nora. I continued to lean towards the theory that it was a robbery gone wrong. I think this was because my mind didn’t want the rape theory because it would mean that I was fucked. My touches were all over her. My skin probably under her finger nails.
I would be the prime suspect.
I needed answers. I needed Nora to not be dead.
At this point I had truly forgotten about the pain I was feeling in my ankles when I heard a knock on the door.
I opened it up and there stood a police officer along with a hotel employee.
“Mr Sage Moka, would you mind coming down with us”
I followed them slowly and when I arrived at the small conference room Dillion, Sai, Beth and Rachel where already seated. The others arrived shortly. There were some officers standing around. It almost felt like a holding cell.
We all sat down and two men came to address us. One of them came up and said,
“As you all know, there was a tragic event that occurred to one of yours sometime ago. My name is Detective Ballazar and this is Detective Matthews and we are just here to ask you some questions, so we can get to the bottom of this.
Hopefully this doesn’t take too long and you can all return to your lives”
They randomly called us in, or so I thought but I was the 4th one to go in.
Beth, Rachel and Phillip had all gone ahead of me.
When I walked in the room, the detectives were pleasant and then the questions came.
My biggest concern was, would they take my word as my word or will I be judged or be a suspect.
Detective Matthews said,
“Mr…Moka, can you account for whereabouts last night from 10pm till 3am”
I replied quickly,
“I was in my room. With a sore ankle. You can ask all my friends.”
He nodded and then asked,
“How would you describe your relationship with your group of friends?”
I was surprised by the question but I answered,
“It’s a good and fluid relationship with all my friends”
Detective Ballazar would jump in and say,
“So from the background check we ran on you, it seems like you’re familiar with the system. A huge incident with the law a few years back in Arizona?
Do tell us about that please”
I dropped my head.
I guess it was true what they said, sometimes you cannot outrun your past.
“Dad, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”
He looked down from the radio system he was fixing as he said,
“What is it son?”
There was so much honesty in his eyes. I swallowed hard.
I wanted to tell him.
It’s something I knew he had to know but the how was something I struggled with.
My father was my protector.
We had that cliche father and son relationship. We played sports together, supported the same teams, he came to all my Lacrosse games, my recitals. He taught me how to cook as my mom worked.
They had such a beautiful understanding that encouraged me towards commitment and faithfulness.
I could talk to him about everything. I remember the first time we had the sex talk.
I was 12 and a few days before my 13th birthday and a girl at my school had promised me a kiss and a blowjob.
I didn’t know what one felt like. I remember coming into that same garage where my father worked on the radio chips to ask him. That was his “home office.” My mom hated when he started a new creation there because he would always make a mess. She was a top Avon distributor in the community and we knew all the families. I played with all their kids while our moms had skin product dates.
My father was a top microchip developer for police radios and emergency equipments. He had a lab just 15 minutes from our home but absolutely loved working in the house. Occasionally he would travel for days and sometimes weeks for seminars and expositions.
Whenever I had to talk to him, he would always give me his full attention, no matter the issue.
He had the same initial look of concern on his face as I told him.
He then smiled and explained it all to me. He told me I could say no but as a young man, he knew I wouldn’t, especially since all the other boys in my class had been getting theirs.
He just made sure that she was not a “group girl”; one that had been with many of my friends.
She wasn’t but the head sucked. My little wiener was bruised up. I probably should have told my dad that she had a retainer in her mouth.
My father looked at me and said,
“Son, what do you want to tell me?”
I looked up at him from where I was sitting and I lied.
“Nothing important dad.”
He looked from the top of his glasses and said,
“Ooookay… Just know that I will be going to the plant and not back till Friday for your game. If it can wait, then okay. If not, then talk to your mother before I get back”
He knew I was lying but he never pushed. He always let it come naturally.
I left that night heavy in my heart but it was something so heavy I needed a bit more time to think.
It didn’t take me very long to gather all my thoughts. That weekend, my father and I set out on a drive to one of my games with my friends.
It was a playoff game and if we won, we would move on to the regional finals.
I was pumped and I remember playing a really good game but we eventually lost.
Gutted, I tried really hard to keep a straight face.
I walked to the car and my dad said nothing.
I hopped into the back seat and slumped into my seat.
My dad waited a few minutes before saying,
That was the nickname he gave me growing up.
“Losing only means one thing, you have a reason to come harder next year.
To work on your game and play better next time. From the way you have played all season, your team didn’t lose because of you and you played your hardest. You can be proud of that.”
He stopped talking and didn’t look into the rear view mirror. It felt like he knew that making eye contact would probably open the floodgates.
I fought back the tears and I remember clutching the seat.
A few minutes had passed. My father started up the car and slowly turned around and faced me. He said,
“Sage, it’s okay to cry. We can talk it out and you’ll feel better.. It’s never impossible to…”
He was mid sentence when I blurted out,
“Mummy is cheating!”
He froze. The look of concern on his face turned to sadness.
He was stunned. I was shocked.
I don’t know how it came out. I was relieved it did for a split second but the sadness and eventual pain my father would feel made me regret telling him.
He turned back around in his seat and started out the car. He slowly reached for the key in the ignition and turned it off.
His mouth was dry as he began to tear up and without turning around, he asked,
“Who is he?”
You see, that was the problem for me.
There was no he.
“How did you find out?
Did she tell you she’s thinking of leaving?”
My dad asked those questions seeking answers to calm himself down. This was a sucker punch.
“I saw them”
He asked for second confirmation.
I looked into the rear view mirror and made eye contact with him and then I said,
It didn’t hurt any less that my mother was cheating with a woman. I think the sanctity of what they had being broken just flat out hurt.
He swallowed hard but slow and asked,
“Are you sure, son?”
I nodded as if I wished it was truly not so.
He followed up by asking
“How did you find out?”
“I came home from school early a few times and saw them. The first time was on a minimum day at a school and the other time, I came through the garage and saw them on top of each other. In the kitchen… On the counter. I remember because it was Comic Con weekend and you were in Seattle for the week”
My dad never turned back or made eye contact the rest of the way.
That drive felt shorter than most even though I had fallen asleep a few minutes after he started driving.
When we returned home, it was business as usual. My dad was pleasant to my mother as he always was in front of me. They never fought in my presence.
I was expecting a big blow up like in the movies later that night.
It never came.
Nor the day after or the one after that, I began to think that my father had accepted his fate. My mother was in love with someone else but he wasn’t going to rock the boat.
I was wrong.
Boy was I wrong?
So much blood.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The foyer was covered in blood.
Ms. Wagner’s blood. It was all over.
I had returned from school that day to a sight that would be forever etched into my memory like Mt. Rushmore.
Two lifeless bodies.
Hopes and dreams dashed. Families affected.
In movies, you normally see the person that discovers the bodies, all hysterical, scared and loud.
I had the opposite feeling.
My mind began to race. I was thinking how, and why?
And then my mind went to my dad. I knew he would be the prime suspect.
They would come for him.
A crime of passion?
Was this why he didn’t confront her?
It didn’t make sense to me but I knew for sure that my father was not a killer.
I walked over to my mother’s body laying on the ground. There were no open wounds in her body.
I checked her pulse.
I walked over to the phone and speed dialed my father. He answered and I said,
“Dad, mom is gone”
I couldn’t tell if the reaction I got from him was fear or confusion but he was back home in Arizona about 3hours later.
Historically, Arizona has not been the most welcoming to the African American population so this storm was something of a media storm.
Think OJ Simpson.
The headlines would read,
“Broken Chip: Shocking Death of Tech Exec’s Wife and Friend”
“Double Homicide or Crime of Passion”
And so on.
The media tried to spin this in so many ways.
My father was a suspect because he had only left on his trip that morning after dropping me off at school. There was window before his flight.
There were so many different permutations and theories. I was sure my father was innocent.
The case was nothing but straightforward though. In my parent’s room, my dads bags had been packed.
On the kitchen counter, the divorce papers my father had filed were found.
Leading people to speculate that he was planning to run away anyways hence the packed clothes or that he served her the divorce papers and they fought.
That was what was crazy about this case, there were no wounds on her but Wagner had been stabbed.
Why kill Ms Wagner?
Oh and the knife used to stab Ms Wagner you ask?
It was in the kitchen sink. Washed clean.
Not a single one.
In many ways, this could easily have pointed squarely at my father but the man was miles away when it happened.
But coroners can’t give you a specific time of death, just a time frame. They certified my mother died of poisoning but how remained unknown.
The double murder shook our lives to the core.
The detectives worked tirelessly.
They tried to come after my father but got nothing.
No charges were ever brought against him.
But one thing always seemed to confuse me, why Ms Wagner was at my house was never explained. My father never told the story of how she was cheating and I never did either.
I guess I learned a lesson on secrets very early on. The thing about secrets is, they never stay hidden forever.
Detective Ballazar asked me,
“So what was your relationship with Ms. Lamar”
I leaned back in my chair and said,
“We were friends. Good friends.
We have all been friends for years”
Are you sure about that Mr Moka because that’s not what we’ve heard.”
I became concerned and I sat up.
I tried to look as confident as I asked the detectives,
“so what did you hear?
Detective Matthews leaned back in his seat and said,
“Well, we heard and I quote that you and Nora had a tumultuous relationship. A few years ago, you had a big fight and you have reportedly.. And I quote… Always liked and wanted her.
Is this true?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Nora and I?
Where would they have heard that if not from one of the people in our group.
I tried to keep a straight face to hide my growing fear as I said,
” I don’t know who told you that but Nora and I were great friends. And I cared for her and respected her”
Detective Ballazar said,
“Cared enough to kill her because she didn’t want to be with you?”
“Why would I kill her?!
We we’re friends. You can ask anyone, I was even supportive of her engagement…”
Ballazar cut in and said,
“You mean the engagement she called off?”
I didn’t know that.
When did she cancel the engagement? Why did she cancel the engagement?
“I didn’t know that the engagement was off. When did this happen?”
Detective Ballazar smiled and said,
“That’s irrelevant but here’s what I think happened. I think you have always wanted her and she’s turned you down.
She became single again and you thought you could make another move. You did and she still shut you down. Soooo… you poisoned her and killed her”
All I heard was poison and I knew this was serious.
I immediately said,
“I need my lawyer”
Ballazar smiled and said,
As they exited the room I placed both hands on my head and planted it in into the cold table as you all say it with me #WhatTheHeckMan
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Thank you for reading and commenting. You are highly appreciated.
Lookout for Fade 3 starting next week.
© 2015 #WhatTheHeckMan