For the first time in our twenty minute interview, I say something to displease the burly police officer: “I often walk home alone at night. I’ve never had a problem.”
His stern facial expression conveys more displeasure than does his simple warning, “You shouldn’t do that in this area, you know…especially not through that catwalk.” I nod obediently, trying not to look at the closed-circuit camera in the corner of the room.
Before this, I had never been inside 23rd division, the large new police station across from the Albion mall, but I’d heard about it long before the building wore the official crest of the Toronto police.
The neighbourhood had been alight with chatter. I remember two women talking about it as we waited for the bus. One said, stony faced, “Now our boys have some new best friends. Real good at takin’ care of our kinda neighbourhood.” The other woman sucked her teeth.
I have definitely never been inside a “soft interrogation room”.
The word “soft” doesn’t do much to make the idea of an “interrogation room” less intimidating. The tiny grey space features little more than a round table, three chairs, and the conspicuous camera. The officer is writing down everything I say, word by word. The pencil looks like a toothpick in his large hand.
I feel nervous.
“So, repeat that last detail again. Where did you find the knives?” He asks.
“I found them in a round flower patch…well, I guess it’s not really a flower patch because it only has a shrub in it.” I speak slowly, awkwardly, trying to curb my tendency to chatter. Every word matters.
“What time was it?” He asks.
“Well,” I gulp, uncertain, “It must have been around 9:15 am because I started work at 9:00 and I was sent outside to clean almost as soon as I walked in.” I pause, still trying not to babble.
I remember that morning clearly: Winter was ending and the snow outside Albion library had visibly melted. A season’s worth of garbage, strewn over our lawns and walkways, lay exposed in the soft daylight. My meticulous supervisor, Sue, had approached me as I walked through the door to begin my shift.
“Fabiola, would you mind being upgraded to caretaker? It looks terrible outside,” She said, wringing her hands. I agreed, thinking of the pay increase and mild weather.
As I swept broken bottles and fast-food containers into a large bag, I thought about the latest gossip from the staff room. A teenage boy had stumbled into the library the day before. He had been stabbed on the catwalk. One of my co-workers speculated about his gang affiliation. Another claimed that he was a victim, an unfortunate kid who was attacked for his iPod. All I knew for sure was that the boy had been taken to the hospital.
I glanced at the catwalk where it had happened, mere steps from where I was now sweeping up bright flyers and pop cans.
As I approached a flower bed–or shrub bed, I guess–I sighed heavily. There was a large plastic sheet tucked into the dirt. I came at it with a rake-like tool and ripped it away from the shrub.
That’s when I had discovered the two kitchen knives.
Alarmed, I had rushed inside to tell Sue, who only looked even more anxious at the news. The police were called but did not show up until much later when I was shelving books.
“Fabiola, a policeman is here,” said Sue, trying to sound calm.
The officer that greeted me had the knives wrapped in a sheet of scrap paper. I tried not to stare at them or ask why they weren’t in a CSI-style plastic bag. He asked me my name, age, address, phone number, etc, etc, and wrote down my statement. Then he scooped up the evidence and left.
Yes, that had been the end of winter.
Returning my thoughts to summertime and the soft interrogation room, I ask the current officer if the knives have been linked to the stabbing and he says, gently but firmly, that he can’t release that information. I nod to show that I understand but wonder why they would call me had there been no connection.
Suddenly another brawny man enters the room. The two joke around like old chums before the first one turns to me and says, “Ok, miss, now tell him what you told me” and leaves. The new officer sits down with a big smile on his face and another pencil in his hand. I draw in a deep breath. Well, this is certainly no rapid-paced episode of CSI.
I would never find out what happened to the knives, my three testaments or the boy.
Note: I wrote this short non-fiction piece in the summer of 2008.