Guiltless Chapter 10: The Student

I knew I’d been rejected as soon as I saw the thin brown envelope. I decided to get it over with. I inhaled deeply, slowly and peeled the sealed flap loose. My hands felt awkward, cumbersome as I unfolded the letter and read it.

‘Dear Jean Wellings ,

Thank you for your recent application for the position of Junior Process Engineer. I am writing to inform you that, having considered your application carefully, we have decided not to proceed with your application at this time.  

We will keep your details on file should a suitable opening arise in the future.

I would like to thank you for the interest you have shown in BRI Chemicals and wish you every success in your future endeavours.

Kind regards,

Collin Wilson.’

Thanks a bunch, Collin. I popped the cheap paper; devoid of even a letterhead in the shredder. That made it rejection number 102. I found comfort in the inorganic whine of the shredder; knowing their response to me was worth less to me than my application to them; a crazy thought but I didn’t really have much to work with.

I couldn’t get my head around it, was it bad karma? I knew somebody up there was taking notes. A part of me, strangely foreign now but with a long turned macabre sense of humour reasoned unemployment was a small price to pay for my sins.

There’d been no more letters in my post box, slow business I guess. Being so close of concluding my Graduate Program  meant I had to start considering my prospects.

I begun brushing out my damp hair, fresh from the shower. I grimaced as it regained its normal, ridiculous volume. As a debt free student living off her hard earned cash I didn’t have the luxury, or knowledge of any hair taming products I could buy without wincing every time I look at the receipt.

Next came the contact lenses. Brown; non prescription; to hide my creepy amber eyes. As if frizzy hair wasn’t bad enough; my 5’ 11, 143lbs frame made me look at best like Bob Marley and at worst like a starved lion. A constant and painful reminder of my high school nickname.

Medusa. Not nice.

After a hurried breakfast of single grain toast and cheese I threw the brown envelope in the bin and grabbed my bag from its hook on the door. Being a Engineering major looking to get out of the CIA; I was one of those students constantly lugging eye popping amounts of work around in the vain attempt to keep a perfect GPA. I’d managed it too, till a couple of months ago.

I’d previously assumed I’d tie down a job early due to my decent academic record. However, with my BRI application rejected I had to seriously reconsider my options.

Or option, more accurately. Hammond promised to take me back in a heartbeat, but I’d gone on hiatus for a good reason…

I caught myself and killed that train of thought quickly. Thinking about the Agency meant thinking about that night. Thinking about that night was a distraction, and that lead to mistakes.

Mistakes get you killed.

It’d taken me six months to return to some semblance of sanity. I wasn’t about to give that up.

I walked to the door, pausing to set the alarm before locking up and walking down to the car park.

Pam Rogers was waiting for me; a friend since a memorable Oktoberfest two years ago and housemates for a year. We haven’t looked back since.

‘Hey Jay’ she said, shivering in the chilly September air.

‘Morning Pam’ I said; winking at her and climbing into her Seat Leon. Pam’s father owned his own supermarket chain and was one of the few business owners slugging it against the corporate behemoth called Wal-Mart; in spite of the government’s lack of protection. He could afford to give his youngest daughter a new car for her 21st birthday.

‘What’s that?’ I asked, gesturing to the newspaper on the dashboard.

‘You heard about Jazmin Garrett’s murder, right?’ said Pam as she drove out of the carpark.

‘Yeah.’ I shuddered, not from the cold this time. What were the odds on having a ex boyfriend accused of murder. I was shocked to say the least. I hadn’t seen Ryan in months, and tried to put him out of my thoughts. Readjusting to a normal life, trying to pretend nothing happened, had been difficult enough . And now the shocking realisation of Ryan’s actions came flooding through the pitiful appearance of normalcy I’d been able to put up.

To have him suddenly thrust back into my life wasn’t something I’d been prepared for. Anxiety welled up within me as we approached a traffic light, compounded by conflicting thoughts and memories. My hand instinctively grabbed at my jacket, reaching for a gun that wasn’t there.

‘You ok?’  said Pam; turning to look at me as we eased to a stop.

I shrugged. ‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ I said, pushing back at the swelling apprehension which threatened to envelope me.

Because she was your ex boyfriend’s new girl, and he killed her.  And he’d been arrested at the GWU Metro station after shooting at a cop. What did that mean?

Were we birds of a feather? I preferred to think I’d dodged a bullet. Literally.

The light turned green and Pam resumed driving.

When I remained silent she said. ‘You still won’t tell me what happened between the two of you?’

‘It’s nothing Pam.’

She shook her pretty, blonde bob. ‘I know you Jay. Six months ago you guys were the sweetest couple on campus. Now you’re either in the library or curled up in bed and not eating. There are quicker ways to kill yourself you know?’

I tried, and failed to scowl. Pam pulled up alongside the library and turned to look at me.

‘I mean it, Jay. Even if you’re not gonna tell me you should move on. He has.’

‘I have!’ I said. My chest tight with indignation.

‘No, you haven’t’ said Pam firmly. Her cheeky blue gaze swept over my face; taking in my frazzled hair; the lack of earrings; the gaping absence of just about anything that would make me appear feminine.

‘You look a mess’ she said.

‘Thanks, I try’ I said. I scanned the street before throwing one long leg out unto the curb.

‘It’s time I put a stop to this then; we’re doing Lindsey’s Red Lion then hitting town tonight!’ said Pam.

Somehow; going out for drinks three days after a nightclub murder seemed highly inappropriate.

‘Lindsey’s Red Lion’ I said.

Pam shook her head. ‘You’re a tough one, Jay Wellings’ she said, before driving off.

‘I wish that was true, Pam’ I mused as I watched her drive off. ‘I wish that was true.’

***

‘Mr. Chow. You have been charged with the murder of Miss Jazmin Garretts in the first degree. You have also been charged with felony assault of two public officials. I see you do not have an attorney. The constitution acknowledges your right to counsel. Do you have plans to hire an attorney or do you request a public defender?’

‘I request a public defender your honor’ replied Ryan.

‘Very well, the District will assign you legal counsel within the next six hours’ said the Judge. He rapped his gavel.

Devino watched Ryan slink away from  the stand. Devino estimated the young man had lost four lbs in two days.

The detective had woken up that morning with the strangest feeling.

Dissapointment.

No leads, no alternative suspects. He’d started to consider the possibility Ryan had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A guard told Devino how Ryan had only slept that morning, for the first time in two days.

Ryan had seemed distracted, lost in thought. Something was bothering him. He looked up at Devino as the bailiff prompted him towards the courtroom exit. He stopped.

‘Detective?’

‘Yeah?’

‘I’m sorry about Saturday.’

An awkward apology, but Devino accepted it with a nod.

‘No hard feelings’ he said.

‘I need your help.’

‘Help? You’re pushing your luck, Chow.’

‘Please, hear me out. There’s someone I need to see.’

Devino found his interest piqued.

‘I’m listening’ he said.

 

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