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The Proof

Everyone breaks

They all lie, you see, every last one of them. Sometimes you got to change tactics, it's all psychology at first. Some you finesse, go soft and quiet and sweet. Make them feel safe. Some you close in on, really loud and hard, scream if you have to, never break eye contact. And some, well, you have to go even harder on. Grab their elbow or neck. Slap them, hit quick while that fear is fresh, like an animal, while yelling. You overload them, get it? All that adrenaline and fear and sensation, the truth comes spouting out like a broken dam. 

I nodded and somehow understood everything, some deep primal thing in me. He nodded back, a proud father, knowing his boy would always listen to him. He's a cop, after all, a damn good one, a veteran detective on a force that handled the roughest part of the city. Prostitution stings, homicide, crack dens, even a few human trafficking cases. He's the kind that has seen it all and he gave me this lesson to use in life, hoping I'd follow in his footsteps.

Years later, I did just that. I was okay in school, bright enough, but easily distracted when it came to tests. Information retained long enough to do well, but forgotten soon after.

I worked better with my hands, thought better on the spot when actions mattered the most. Patrolled the same beats as my old man, moved up the chain a little after being a part of several multi-squad busts coordinated by state police. They noticed me and I eventually made detective like him. 

Used finesse when needed, got rough when needed. Slipped a piece, knife, or bag of rock when needed to make a case. Sometimes you just know it when someone's guilty. You feel it in your bones the way old people can feel it in their bones when the weather changes. It's almost a humming, a faint vibration at the core. 

The women, though, I've been rough with a few.

You've got to establish control, you're the man. Never let them forget that or they'll walk all over you and walk away with your balls in a jar. It's a trophy to them, never let them take that part of you.

Dad's advice again.

The last case was a woman and it was the hardest. Damn near had to break her to get the truth. Or maybe she was already broken before me and I just had to search for the right angles, the cracks, to see the raw truth. 

She didn't like my interrogation methods, but I couldn't use the station or go by formal training, you see? This was better. Handcuffed to an uncomfortable steel folding chair in the basement, a house nestled so far into the bad of the city that most cops wouldn't visit unless accompanied by a large squad and thick armor. A perfect place for this.

No one wanted to take her case. The evidence was flimsy and too many other complications came with it. An official investigation requires facts, falls apart with too much speculation. 

But the gut never lies.

Tell me the truth.

She talks, not meeting my eyes at first. The single bulb overhead is hard, casting shadows on her beautiful face. She looks like a frightened animal.

She tells me the story. How she wanted to break it off one night, that he had been rough with her before but it was more playful, almost like a game. But this had lately turned more feral, violent, and she was scared. That she was more scared than in love. She began to tell him that after dinner when they were on the road, heading home. He pulled on to the highway after that, speeding, took her to a remote park that led to the woods, said he wanted to talk, too, but wanted them to walk, that the walking helped him think.

But once they were through the park and into the woods, he hit her hard, closed fist, between the eyes. Pinned her down. Ripped her skirt. Was inside her fast, nothing gentle, all feral and painful, like he was giving her the message with his body. That she was his and he could take her whenever he wanted and there was nothing she could do. That no one would believe a whore like her. She could barely walk afterwards. Said she bled on and off down there for days.

She still went home with him that night, afraid with nowhere else to go. He knew people, she said, and would find her no matter where she went.

I scanned her body language during every word, searching for the signs I was taught and found none.

Tell me the truth, again, from the top.

She listens and complies. Same story, not a detail changed. I tell her to say it again, backwards, and she shakes her head. The slap is fast, the back of my hand there and gone in a blink. She looks shocked, her bruises from before shiny from perspiration, the mark between her eyes tender, but she's still beautiful. She tells it backwards. 


Now again, forward. I ask her random things to trick her. The times of events. The weather. Who wore what. Who ate what. The songs on the radio during their drive. All the same.

I ask her if she's a whore and loved what he did and just didn't want to admit it. That one made her cry and call me names. I didn't think that part would hurt me but it did and I also didn't show it. I have to show nothing. I have to be a force, uncompromising and unfeeling, relentlessly seeking the truth. 

Tell me the truth. 

She says it all over again. She's exhausted now, but doesn't stray from her version, her specific prism of events. I tell her to wait for me, that no one can hear her but to still not make noise or scream or I'll come right back and hit her, maybe break a bone if I have to. She only nods, not looking at me once.

I go upstairs where it's dark and almost silent. I take a deep breath and go upstairs. Same situation. One light bulb, a steel chair, someone handcuffed. I look at the man and tell him EVERYTHING that was said. To tell me his side. His face is pure rage and he spits at my face. It collides and I don't even blink, wiping it away with the sleeve of my hoodie. 

From its pocket, I withdraw a hammer, simple ball pein design, black rubber handle for an easy grip, carbon steel head for blunt precision. He says I don't have the balls to use it and I remind him to remember exactly who the fuck he's talking to, that he knows I will. 

He relents and tells me yeah, they had a date. She wanted things to end but that she doesn't mean it, that he'd been rough with her plenty before and she loved it. That if she was so scared, why didn't she call the cops?

She's lying, that's what they all do. They all want it like that but can't say it. That's a man's job, to break them open to see inside and know what they want. Sure, they'll say no and wiggle and cry, but the way they shake, the way they don't run, that says it all. They all tease us like that but only a real man can take it all the way. 

I ask him the same things. Same questions. Say it backwards. Forward. Again and again and again and again and again.

He does. He also says there's no proof. I look at his knees. I look at his hands, still restrained from cuffs. I think about using the hammer on his kneecap. Or maybe on his hands. Just a blow or two can break bones there. But while some people would crack from that, I know better. Blunt force trauma can be highly effective but is incomparable to a real interrogation where you have to both listen but also scrutinize the body's mysterious language. His balled up fists and eyes probably tell me more than any words can. I tell him I'll be back. 

I go downstairs and to the basement again, putting the hammer away. Even though everything in me feels like it's trembling, my movements are calm, deliberate. Almost mechanical. I know the truth now and even though that's all that matters, it makes me want to scream. It almost makes me want to run. But you can't do that when you have the truth. It's like a dead body that wasn't concealed well. It will be found out sooner or later, deteriorating from exposure to elements, but still there. It's for the best to know.

She's the same as I left her, unblinking as I approach, but she doesn't look afraid. Maybe she sees something in my face that tells her she doesn't need to be afraid, not anymore. I lean forward and down and she doesn't even flinch. 

I gently kiss the bruise, the tender spot between her eyes where I can see and, with my lips, feel the mark that was made there, can make out a barely imperceptible imprint, the outline of a wedding band. I reach around and uncuff her, whispering that I believe her. Tears have flooded her eyes. I don't think she's known tenderness for years. 

I don't wait for a response and I leave the basement, unsure of what she'll do now. It doesn't matter. With the truth, I can't stop. It's a helpless momentum guiding me now until I see this through as I put on a pair of gloves. 

I go to the room upstairs again, breathing relaxed, my pace methodical. He can hear me but doesn't say anything. He wanted to say something but I'll never know what. 

The door pushes open and right as his lips part to speak, I draw and fire three rounds, the deafening pops flashing with each trigger pull.  One between the eyes, a double tap to the heart. He jolts from each shot like he's being shaken by a pair of unseen hands. 

The 9mm Ruger is an orphan, unregistered, no serial number, virtually untraceable and I already have a safe spot to toss it. I know how to do things like that, to go outside the law to do what needs to be done. Sometimes you can't go by set laws. Sometimes you have to break people. Sometimes you have to kill them. I know how to do all of those things. 

After all, he taught me everything I know. His eyes are still open and I'll always wonder what my father was about to say to me.



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