“Are you recording this?” asked Leep. The room was a little claustrophobic, with old grey metal filing cabinets in the corner, and an empty, unplugged water cooler, and a small square wooden table and three mismatched chairs.
Detective Spencer looked weary, with smudges around her eyes. Perhaps she’d had a long day. Leep had to work and couldn’t come in any earlier. Her hair needed a good brushing, but otherwise she was professional and trim, in a dark green shirt-dress with buttons from the neck to the hem, and a beige jacket with no buttons. With a wave of her hand, she invited Leep to take a seat.
“This is just an informal interview,” said Inspector Spencer, “just like the one we had at the factory. Should you decide to make a formal statement, we’ll document your testimony, and perhaps record it.”
“You remember me?” asked Leep.
“Of course,” said the Inspector. “A casual friend of Vincent Demarco.” She glanced at her watch. “Do you have some new information, or something you’d like to tell me?”
The chair he sat in was hard, uncushioned. He wondered if they did that on purpose, to make the person a little uncomfortable, put them on edge. It put him on edge. “I should have come in before, but I was nervous.”
Leep shrugged. Inspector Spencer said nothing. She sat very still. “Anyway,” said Leep, “that night that Hootie was shot.”
“The Friday,” said Inspector Spencer.
“Right. Well I couldn’t sleep, and was watching a movie on TV, and wanted a snack, and the only place that was open was the 7-11 at the gas station on Burbank, so I went out.”
“What time was this, Leep?”
“Around 11:30, midnight? Maybe closer to midnight.” He didn’t want it to sound rehearsed, so he paused as if to think about it, and looked at his hands, which were folded on the table, and then he put his hands in his lap. He noticed he had something like freckles on the back of his hands. Tony Gizmodo had hands like that, but he was old.
“Go on,” she said.
“I walked, and took a shortcut, between the bank and that boarded-up place, the brick one,” said Leep. “I, um, heard some shouting coming from somewhere, some guy yelling. Hootie, I guess.” He looked up at Inspector Spencer. She did not smile or look encouraging. He shifted in his chair.
“And someone ran past me a minute later.”
“In the alleyway.”
“Yes, the alley. And he was in a hurry and it was pretty dark, so I didn’t get a really good look,” said Leep.
“Tell me as best you can, any details. Did he see you?”
“I’m not sure. I backed up agains the wall and he didn’t look at me exactly. Sometimes people don’t notice me,” said Leep. “I just blend in.”
“He was tall? Short?”
“A big guy,” said Leep, “in black. Bigger than me. Big shoulders and all that. In a black jacket with a hood or a scarf. I didn’t really see his face. He had a gun in his hand.”
“What kind of gun, Leep?”
Leep shrugged. “A… modern gun. Like a German gun. I don’t know much about guns.”
“Good,” said Inspector Spencer. She pushed her chair back and stood up. “I’ll get a pad and pencil, and you can write all that down, just as you told me, and we’ll transcribe it and have you sign it, ok? It won’t take long.”
“Ok,” said Leep. “So that’s it?”
“That’s it,” said the Inspector. “Unless you think of something else.”
Leep wrote out his story in his choppy, somewhat childish hand, erasing here and there so that the entire sheet of paper looked like badly executed homework, for which he’d been in trouble before. But Inspector Spencer took it away without comment, and brought him a glass of water, and fifteen minutes later he signed a printed-out copy of his statement.
“Thank you Leep. We may be in touch,” she said.
“You’re welcome,” said Leep. He would stop at the liquor store for some Czech Pilsner beer on the way home, and he would make scrambled eggs for dinner. He would watch Jeopardy!, and then that Scottish police drama, and get to bed early, even though he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep. There was something about that interview with Inspector Spencer. Did he say something wrong? She was polite but very cold towards him, not like last time. She hustled him out of the interview room and out of the station, before he could even give her some of the other details he’d made up to make the story sound more authentic.
Maybe it had been a mistake to pretend to be a witness. He’d waited days and days after Hootie’s shooting to report his encounter with a murderer. That was suspicious, he knew. If she had pushed him, he was prepared with spontaneously remembered details like, what movie he watched, the man’s cologne, and in which hand he held the gun, and even why he didn’t come to them earlier. But she didn’t ask.
Tomorrow he would tell Deborah and Lizzie about what he saw. That would be hard too, but he would put all the details, even the ones he didn’t tell Inspector Spencer, into the binder. It was part of the story.