Well, I hope you enjoy what I have, anyway. -Winter)
The only thing Amanda had to say about the room was that it was very gray. She felt like a splotch of color - her skin looked weirdly pink in comparison to the gray walls, the gray ceiling, and the even-grayer carpet.
I wonder if this is what it feels like to be a black person in a sea of white people, she thought, and then she felt bad and mildly racist. The officer who had driven her here, Officer Rogers, was black, and he was nicer than any other Alabama police officer she’d encountered. Not that she’d been in a lot of trouble with police. A couple of speeding tickets; nothing more.
But now? After the events of today?
After today, well…she was still shaking.
It’d been another normal day, walking home from the bakery where she worked.
And then a dead person had fallen on the pavement in front of her with a sickening crunch, blood exploding from the sides of his body.
Amanda had screamed and screamed and screamed and tried to get the horrible crimson goop off her bare legs, her hands, her clothes. Somewhere in there, she’d looked up at the top of the building—no wonder the blood burst out, if he fell from that height, she’d thought with a strange rationality—and seen a figure.
It was a figure with bright gold hair. I should probably make a note of what he looks like, she’d thought with that same odd cool-headedness. The figure looked male, but she couldn’t be sure. He, she, or it wore a red bomber jacket and black jeans. And he was holding a gun roughly the size of Amanda’s whole body.
She’d heard him say, “Shit,” quite audibly—well, that wasn’t very pleasant of him, she’d thought, with no rationality at all—and then he’d vanished from the side of the building.
Seconds later, a helicopter had buzzed away. She had only seen its black underbelly.
That had been the entire experience. Decidedly the least pleasant one of her life. And now they were going to intensify it, drag it out of her over and over until they determined she knew nothing more of use. Wonderful.
Amanda twiddled her thumbs until the door opened. Two policemen walked in—one was Officer Rogers, from before. The other was a Mediterranean-looking lady.
“Hello,” said the lady.
“Hi,” said Amanda.
Officer Rogers traded a look with the lady and sat down, scratching his mustache as if contemplating. Upper lip…what a strange place to scratch while thinking, Amanda thought.
“Ma’am,” he said, “I’m sorry to tell you that there’s more to this than we thought. Based on the victim’s history, we’ve linked the murder to a gang—are you familiar with the Mafia?”
There was a long pause.
“Ha,” Amanda said weakly. “Ha ha. Ha.”
“Ma’am, we’re not joking,” said the lady. “I’m Officer Velez. I’m with inter-departmental relations.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” asked Amanda, her broad Southern accent removing the intended venom from her tone.
The lady’s lips thinned. “It means I just got off the phone with the FBI.”
“Yes, I know the Mafia.”
Officer Rogers traded another look with Officer Velez. “You’re going to have to undergo witness relocation, Ms. Hines.”
“But I’ll lose my job.”
Velez let out a sharp laugh, tossing her wavy black hair. “Ma’am, that’s the least of your worries at the moment. We’re talking about the Mafia.”
Amanda considered for a second. She didn’t like the idea of leaving everything she had in the dust, but she wasn’t fond of the idea of death, either. “Okay,” she decided. “What do I have to do?”
“Well.” Officer Rogers shuffled some papers. “Sign this, first.”
She signed it.
He continued, “We’ve found you a home in a middle-sized city in Arkansas—”
“Arkansas?!” Amanda’s shrill voice echoed in the room. Both officers winced. “I don’t want to go to the gol-darn backcountry!”
But it was too late. He had the signed papers, and soon she was heading off to meet Kansas’s less-important younger brother. She wasn’t even allowed to take her cat, but that was okay. He was fat and lazy and she’d never liked him that much.
Amanda hated her new apartment. She hated everything about it except for the fact that the landlord was attractive. He wasn’t attractive enough to compensate for the rest of the place, though.
They’d found her a job. They’d found her a job! They’d had the audacity to choose her profession for her!
Admittedly, it was identical to her previous position. It was even at the same bakery chain. But still. Amanda was feeling resentful, and she had to take it out on some circumstance or another.
So she sat behind the counter with a scowl on her face. The worst part was not being able to talk about any of this. An ‘issue of security,’ supposedly. Amanda thought it was all pretty dumb, like some low-budget B-movie. She played along, though, because she didn’t want to be that character from that movie that does stupid stuff and gets herself in trouble.
“What’s wrong with you, then?” said her co-worker.
“Have we met?”
The girl shook her head, tucking her messy brown hair behind her ear. “Nah. I’m Lexi.”
“So. What’s going on?”
Amanda faced her first real challenge. The temptation she was feeling to tell Lexi the whole thing was ridiculous, but she couldn’t just start spouting about the Mafia. Lexi would report her as being insane or something. So Amanda just shook her head, unused to showing such restraint.
“You’re new here, right?” said Lexi. She had a high voice, which Amanda found quite annoying.
“Shiny new,” sighed Amanda. “Just moved here.”
“Wow! Where from? How’d you end up here?”
The itch to spill all intensified. “Just, you know. Financial stuff at my old apartment. I’m from Florida.”
“Ah.” Lexi nodded sagely. “That’s cool, that’s cool.”
Amanda twiddled her thumbs and felt awkward. The secret seemed to take up physical space between her and the rest of the world, a bubble of insulation, a layer that ensured she would never lead a normal life.
Amanda found herself hating the dead guy. She didn’t even know who she was and she hated him for almost falling on her.
She wondered how frequently they did this to people. They seemed to be taking her wellbeing quite seriously, even though the policeman who they’d said would take her to work this morning had never showed. Wouldn’t that just make her location more obvious, though?
Not about to pretend she knew anything about the justice system, Amanda hadn’t called the police or anything that morning.
The rest of the work day passed without consequence.
After Lexi left, Amanda locked up the store, walked outside, and saw about half an inch of red bomber jacket before everything went black.