Corinna’s eyes went even bigger, pupils dark with the flash of adrenaline that Javier pushed at her; as if genuinely surprised. Javier leaned forwards, one elbow on his knee.
“So you’re saying whoever shot my sister planned this all out,” he said slowly, “fudged the cameras so they could make a clean getaway?”
Ian reluctantly turned to Javier.
“We don’t know who did it,” he said, words clipped with wariness, “but something isn’t right.”
“You bet something ‘isn’t right’,” snapped Javier, “she got shot.”
Ian didn’t seem moved, so Javier attempted the naivete of a model citizen, which seemed more Felicity’s type.
“How did they even get a gun?” he asked, looking from the officers to Arthur and then back again, “…that’s illegal!”
Arthur gave him a very dry look, but turned the full force of his patronising stare on Ian instead.
“We’ve established that Miss Arden — like many of us here, I’m sure — cannot identify someone from an eight second static filled recording,” he said, “is there anything else you need from her today?”
“One more thing,” said Ian, nodding apologetically. He looked at his colleague who turned the tablet around on the table. On the screen was the ID photo of Timothy Jardine; the collar of his blue Arden Pharmaceuticals uniform visible above the camera frame.
“Do you recognise this man?”
Corinna leaned forwards to see, hair fanning past her shoulders to hide her face.
“Oh,” she said, “I think so, from the news…?”
“Giulia updated her on everything that’s been happening,” said Javier, running his thumb across Corinna’s knuckles.
“I see,” said Ian, “did you see him at any point that evening, while you were in the building?”
Corinna frowned, thoughtful. She shook her head.
“Giulia said he was doing retail stock takes and stuff.”
“That’s right,” said Arthur, “unlikely that you two would have crossed paths.”
“I …can’t say,” said Corinna, mouth twisting in a self deprecating smile, “but honestly, I don’t…everything feels a bit surreal.”
“You didn’t see him, or you don’t remember?” asked Ian.
“I don’t remember seeing him,” said Corinna, brushing her hair behind one ear.
Felicity made a note on her tablet.
“When you left the building, could you step us through again what happened?”
Corinna glanced at Arthur, who sighed at the repetition.
“How many times does she have to say the same thing? This can easily be noted in the written statement.”
“Just want to clarify the exact events,” said Felicity, smiling.
Javier was careful not to move. Corinna was calm and apathetic by default, and the slope of her shoulders was relaxed with the knowledge of a script well planned.
“Sure,” said Corinna, “I left the building. It was raining the whole night so I had the taxi waiting for me outside. Didn’t want to wait for a new one.”
“Makes sense,” Felicity agreed.
“Did you take the front entrance, or another entrance, when you left?” asked Ian.
Corinna blinked, once.
“I took a side exit because it ran under cover. I didn’t have an umbrella with me.”
“The side exit being the loading bay exit?”
“It had been raining all evening,” said Ian, “you didn’t think to take an umbrella with you?”
Corinna tilted her head.
It was time for a distraction. Javier nudged her elbow.
“You forgot your phone too,” he said, “typical.”
Corinna made a face at him, then turned an earnest gaze on Felicity.
“Forget my own head next,” she said, conspiratorially, “I’ve lost so many earbuds, you would not believe.”
“Did she leave her phone with you, then?” asked Ian conversationally.
“No,” he said, “but when I called, no one picked up. So I assumed she’d left it somewhere.”
“She always takes your calls?”
“Or texts,” said Corinna.
“Where were you that evening, Mr Arden?” asked Ian.
“I was at home.”
“And before that?”
“Sorry, this was not in the scope of the interview,” said Arthur, “if you need Mr Arden to make a statement you can go through the usual process.”
“Does this help catch the shooter?” asked Javier, projecting confusion as strongly as he dared, “I don’t understand.”
“You arrived at St Ophie’s hospital shortly after your sister was admitted,” said Ian, tone still casual, “is that right?”
Javier raised an eyebrow.
“I mean, I don’t really know the timing of things, but I got there as fast as I could.”
Javier glanced at Arthur.
“…I may have broken a few speeding laws,” he said, “I…you understand that I wasn’t exactly thinking about traffic regulations, Officer.”
“Of course not,” said Ian, “you got a call that your sister was in hospital and rushed downstairs. Is that right?”
Arthur flicked his palm up at Javier just as he opened his mouth.
“We’ve taken quite a tangent,” he said, “I think perhaps it might be more appropriate to schedule something else formally if you want to speak with Mr Arden.”
“We’re just trying to piece together all the events that night,” said Ian, “Miss Arden had no ID on her and was initially admitted as a Jane Doe. Mr Arden arrived before she had left the ER.”
He turned back to Javier, gaze clear and dissecting.
“How did you find out your sister was in hospital?” he asked.
Corinna made a noise at the back of her throat.
“You know we are twins, right, Detective?”
She pressed a hand to Javier’s cheek, “we don’t need phones. I always know if Jav is in trouble. One time when we were seven, we were visiting mum at work, and Jav accidentally wandered off and got locked in a—”
Arthur cleared his throat. The policeman, meanwhile, looked utterly unimpressed, though Felicity seemed mildly amused.
“So telepathy?” said Ian, in a polite dead pan, “I wasn’t aware you were an Aptee, Mr Arden.”
It was clearly sarcastic — there were no such things as Telepaths — but the proximity to the truth sent a jolt of cold-panic down Javier’s spine. Corinna must have felt it because she squeezed his hand hard.
“I got a call,” Javier blurted out, “from the hospital.”
“I see,” he said, “who was it?”
Javier looked desperately at Arthur, who was impassive but his eyes promised a through scalding afterwards. Bollocks.
“They didn’t give a name,” said Javier, “I — I don’t want anyone getting into trouble. We’re very grateful to the medical staff there, obviously.”
“Obviously,” repeated Ian.
“We’ve established that Miss Arden is a well known person,” said Arthur, “clearly someone recognised her and contacted her family. The EMTs weren’t sure who she was so she got admitted as a Jane Doe. I’m not sure what the big mystery is?”
“The mystery is who shot me,” said Corinna sweetly.
“Yes, that,” agreed Arthur, smiling like the score of a pen at the end of an affidavit, “speaking of which we should let you two get back to it. Unless there’s anything else?”
There was the barest of pauses, before the Detective Inspector stood up. Felicity followed suit, slipping the tablet into a sleeve. They all shook hands, Javier with a little more hesitance than the others. Ian was a rock solid whorl of calm distaste, hands rough with callouses; while Felicity felt alert more than anything else.
“Look forward to seeing the write up,” said Arthur, “send it to me and I’ll arrange everything.”
“Of course,” said Ian, “thanks very much for your time.”
He nodded to Corinna.
“Hope you feel better soon.”
“Thank you Detective,” said Corinna, giving Ian her best demure smile; glossy as her lip balm. Then her eyes widened, gaze catching Javier’s, “oh, I think I left my bag in the other room!”
Javier pushed open the door.
“I’ll get it,” he said, “where was the…?”
“Jav, you’re hopeless, I’ll just go and—” she turned to Arthur, Ian and Felicity, “I’ll be just a second, then I can walk you all out.”
“Oh, that’s really not necessary,” said Felicity.
“I’ll walk them out, Miss Arden,” Arthur said, holding the door open with one hand, “you go home and rest.”
Corinna looked like the picture of gratitude. She blew Arthur a kiss.
“Thank you. Ugh, see, I’m just. Leaving things everywhere. Alright, safe trip back downstairs officers.”
“We’ll be in touch,” said Ian, holding Javier’s gaze.
Corinna tugged Javier through the door, and past Pascal who didn’t look like he had moved a single inch in the past forty minutes. They walked down the hall and swiped into the restricted areas of the office, and as soon as that door closed behind them, Corinna’s expression went blank as a slate.
She felt pissed off.
“Rina, I’m sorry,” Javier began, but stopped short at her severe glare.
They returned to the briefing room, where Corinna went straight for her bag, fishing her phone from her pocket.
“I need you to plant a call,” she said, without any preamble, “after I was admitted. Hospital to Jav’s phone…I know what we had planned, I’m telling you the new plan.”
She stared at Javier the whole time she was talking, eyes very clear; like a solid chip of amber. Javier felt frozen to the spot.
“Well, no, they pushed him. Wh…no, I don’t care who, just pin it on someone! No one too senior, just a nurse or an intern or something. Someone new, that’ll be easier to explain away. We’ve got the staff roster don’t we? Fine. Yes. Yes. Talk soon.”
She tossed the phone back into her pocket.
“Rina,” Javier tried again, “I’m sorry, I had to say something plausible. He was really sceptical.”
Corinna narrowed her eyes.
“You should have kept your mouth shut when Arthur gave you an out.”
“Ian felt really on edge, just…” Javier searched for words, Corinna’s displeasure like ice in his mouth, “he was looking at you like he knew something he shouldn’t. I didn’t want him to leave feeling like we were deliberately hiding something which should be so easy to exp—”
“Whatever,” said Rina, impatiently, “it’s done now. Peter will take care of it. It’ll be fine.”
She reached for Javier’s hands, and he blinked rapidly at the touch.
His nerves felt wide open; her irritation a loud static, but at odds with the slow rhythm of satisfaction and calm, like a default aftertaste. She slid her hands up so her fingers encircled both his wrists, in place of his watch and cufflinks. She squeezed.
“I’m not mad,” said Corinna, “did he give any other signs of disbelief?”
Javier swallowed, throat dry.
“No, he just seemed suspicious, like you said. No obvious reactions. He was waiting for a slip, I think.”
“He bought your line about the cameras, at least,” said Corinna.
“Yeah,” said Javier, “I think so.”
His twin sighed, rolling her eyes. She let go of him.
“Look it’s fine, stop feeling so — ugh, stop feeling so guilty, you’re ruining the vibes. That went alright.”
Javier rubbed his wrists, self conscious.
“I’ve got my watch in the car,” he said, “and I think it was okay, as long as none of the tampering can get traced back to you.”
“Or Peter,” said Corinna.
“I don’t care about Peter,” said Javier, stubbornly, “do you think they’re going to ask for our internal records? Were you actually even in the building at the times that you—”
Corinna tapped him on the nose.
“Don’t stress about that; not your problem,” she said.
Javier shrugged on his jacket.
“I’m just worried about you,” he said, quietly.
“I know,” replied Rina, taking out her sunglasses and sliding them on, “I can bloody feel it.”
They left the room together, making their way back to the main hallway of the client conference rooms, and then down the wide wood-and-glass internal staircase which led to the main lobby of the corporate headquarters. Javier could feel the pinpricks of attention and curiosity at the back of his neck; people noticeably pausing as they passed. Corinna had one hand looped lazily through Javier’s elbow, and she smiled at the receptionist — something she almost never did.
“Miss Arden,” the lady said, standing up, “we’re so glad to see you back?”
Javier looked from the receptionist to Corinna, confused. She wore a small gold-brushed name-tag that said Lee-Anne.
“Oh, I’m not back-back yet,” said Corinna, pushing up her sunglasses to frame her hair, “the police just wanted to chat about the whole…injury thing.”
“We were all so shocked when we saw the…well, I hope you feel better soon,” Lee-Anne said.
She nodded at Javier.
As they walked away, Javier raised an eyebrow at his sister.
“You want to tell me what that was all about?” he asked.
Corinna matched his expression.
“Didn’t you see the email?” she asked, “sent it around corporate this morning before we came in.”
They stepped into the lift to take them down to their parking spot, and there was already someone in there. Corinna gave them a blank stare, and flipped down her sunglasses. The man legged it, and Corinna grinned when the door slid shut with a soft chime.
“What email?” echoed Javier, patting his pocket for his own phone. He flicked it off airplane mode and was immediately bombarded with four missed calls and twenty seven texts – a cursory glance at his notifications told him that they were all from Stephen. He swiped down for his work email, which he kept on permanent mute.
There was a long pause, within which they arrived at their destination. Corinna had to pull him bodily towards the car: incredulity was like toffee on the soles of his shoes.
“…you told the entire office?” said Javier, horrified, “I thought it was a secret! Please tell me you asked Guilia first—”
A flare of indignation.
“I don’t need to ask Guilia for permission to do anything,” said Corinna, sliding into the passenger seat and slamming the car door shut, “but for your information, it was mum’s idea. Anyway, policy says we need to inform staff if police are attending the premises.”
“Policy,” repeated Javier, “you wanted to follow policy.”
He punched the icon for home a little harder than necessary, and the car purred to life, the tinted windows brightening as they backed out of the parking space and towards the exit.
“Mmm,” said Corinna, “what do you think is gonna get more coverage? A potential security audit, or…”
She leaned in close, voice rising to a dramatic whisper:
“…an actual assasination attempt?”
Javier dragged a hand down his face.
“You’re not important enough to be upgraded from ‘murder’.”
Corinna made a noise of outrage that was soaked in sickly sweet amusement.
“How dare you.”
“Put your seatbelt on,” said Javier.
Corinna hummed, and reclined her seat slowly, holding Javier’s gaze the entire time until she was out of view, fully horizontal. Exasperated, he reached over and physically strapped her in, and getting twenty individual finger jabs to the stomach for his trouble.
“Let’s stop for food on the way home,” she said, “being pathetic is exhausting.”
Javier breathed out slowly. He wanted a nap.
© Frances Wren 2020, all rights reserved.
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