“So,” started Hornblende, “Did you have any?”
“Leeches. You said you landed in some disgusting water and you weren’t sure if you had any leeches on your body.”
“I honestly have no idea. You can clearly see that I haven’t showered yet, or even washed up much.”
“Yeah, we’ll get that taken care of. I do have one question for you before I put some people on it.”
“You got to the car, found your wife’s phone, and called the police. Nothing else happened? You’re telling the truth?”
“You were nearly batshit crazy when you first arrived. You had us all convinced that you were a psychotic, homeless person. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that you’ve calmed down, and I’m really not trying to be in any way derogatory towards people with mental issues. But, you were talking about monsters. You were shaking and crying. Now, it’s just some snake noises, some sort of algae that you might have thought was moving, some shadowy figure that, by your own admission, are not sure was really there?”
Phileus didn’t say anything for a few moments.
“Hey, I just need an answer, then we’ll get someone on this. Are you sure that you were telling the exact, entire truth? That’s the way everything happened, to the best of your memory?”
“Yes,” said Phileus.
Hornblende was sure that there was some deception in the answer, yet couldn’t help but want to believe the guy. His appearance was far from normal, being caked in mud and filth, bedraggled, long-haired, and stinking to high hell. However, there was something about the guy, a certain pervasive charm in his personality, in the quality of his voice, that made him almost want to like Phileus. “I’ll be back momentarily,” said the detective.
After about ten minutes he returned to the interrogation room, having had sent an officer to the location where Phileus was picked up. “I’ve sent some officers to the scene to check it out,” said Hornblende upon his return.
The man seemed to be on the verge of thanking him, but hen seemed to stop short. “I want to go home,” he said.
“I understand, but I have a few more questions for you.”
“I have told you all I know.”
“Let me just work this out, please, okay?” asked Hornblende.
“Fine.” The word did not match Phileus’s body language at all. Hornblende thought he might be losing the man’s voluntary participation.
“Look, we want to make sure we get this right, okay? I have to rule you out of this, so we can find out what happened. Put yourself in my shoes. This is certainly a weird situation, right? You seem calm now, but you were really shaken up when Reynolds picked you up.”
“Okay, ask your questions.”
“Thank you, Mister Phileus,” started Horblende, “Is there any reason that you haven’t stated that might make your wife leave you?”
“Look, tonight was a little bad, maybe worse than normal, but we’ve been together a long time. We get in small arguments. There is nothing major, no need for her to leave me or anything, and she wouldn’t do that without telling me.”
“Has she expressed any desire to leave in the past?”
“Has she ever left in the past, temporarily? Taken a break from your relationship?”
“How long have you been married?”
“Seven years, but we were together three years before that. We have been living together for about ten years, over ten years...I think.”
“Has she ever not come home at any time in the past?”
“No, she’s been late a few times, gotten home late, but never not come home at all.”
“Have you ever not come home at all?”
“Yes,” said Phileus. “I’ve done that several times I’ve had too much to drink, crashed at a friend’s house.”
“When you did that, did it make her upset at all?”
“I don’t think so, at least not lately. She might have gotten upset a few times, but that was near the beginning of our relationship. She doesn’t seem to mind anymore.”
“You said you stayed at a friend’s place? Because you drank too much?”
“Mister, Phileus, I don’t mean to offend you in any way at all, but I have to ask: Have you ever stepped out of your marriage?”
“Cheated on her?”
“Yes, have you cheated on her?”
“No, never.” Hornblende noticed that the man became visibly nervous at that question, almost a little angry.
“Has she ever been unfaithful to you?”
“No,” Phileus had seemed to lose his nervousness, his anger, but he also seemed to get a little standoffish as well.
“Has she ever expressed an interest in leaving you?”
“Look, are you married?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then you know it’s not a perfect thing, almost like people aren’t really made to spend their lives with one other person and constantly be with that person. It takes a lot of work and a lot of compromise to be in a marriage.”
“Of course it does,” agreed Hornblende, “I know what you mean, I’m not saying that it’s easy.”
“It takes a lot of sacrifice too...” Phileus seemed to look off into the distance for a minute, look through Hornblende at something only he could see on some imaginary horizon. “So, when you ask if she had ever thought of leaving me, I’m sure she did. We even had a rational conversation about it at one point a couple years ago.”
“How did that go?”
“It went fine. We decided to work on our marriage. We now...schedule things. Date night, stuff like that. We argue sometimes still, all couples do.”
“Of course, I understand that. There’s nothing recent that happened? She didn’t say that she was going to leave?”
“No, and it’s not like her to do that without saying anything. Even if she was capable of leaving without saying anything, that would be a pretty odd damn time to leave, right? Just leave her fucking car on the side of the road? It wasn’t a planned stop.”
“Have you ever thought of leaving?”
“No,” answered Phileus, cautiously. It seemed that he was answering slowly, as if expecting a trap of some sort.
“Have you ever thought that your life might be better without her? Ever thought that maybe things would be better if she weren’t around?” He had to ask that, but was hoping that he hadn’t misjudged the timing. Phileus’s lost, sorrowful, and confused state seemed to be shifting to anger.
“Look, it’s part of the investigation. I have to ask these questions. We need to rule you out,” stated Hornblende, not vocalizing the fact that Phileus was the prime suspect, just by the statistics of the way these cases went.
“I didn’t do anything to my wife.”
“All right, I have to ask these questions. I hope you understand.” After a few moments he asked, “Do you have a recent picture of your wife?”
“Yeah, on my phone, I have a bunch. I don’t really carry around actual photographs with me anymore.”
“Your phone is still damaged?”
“Your wife’s phone, does it have any pictures of her?”
“I don’t normally look through my wife’s phone. Let me check.” After perusing his wife’s phone for a few minutes, Phileus sluggishly replied, “No.”
I would like to keep your wife’s phone for a while, if that’s okay.”
“Why?” asked Hornblende.
“Because it’s not.”
“This could help find her. There might be something on there that helps, something that you might not realize could help the investigation.”
“I might be able to get a warrant for that phone.”
“Then get your warrant. I’m not giving up her phone.”
“You know, this is starting to make you look suspicious, Mister Phileus?”
“Maybe I should lawyer up then?” Phileus paused for a moment. It seemed to Hornblende that he was thinking about how to proceed. “Look, this phone is something of hers that I Have. It’s hard to explain. I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to be apart from it. It’s Perry’s and it is Perry, in a way. Also, my phone isn’t working anymore, and I technically pay for both of them, so it’s also my phone. I don’t even have a landline anymore.”
“I would like a photograph of your wife.”
“No problem, come by the house and you can have one. I can even bring you one. Shit, I can call my friend right now and ask him to bring you one.”
“In a few minutes we can call your friend, but it is very late. Dawn will be here soon. Will you be able to reach anyone?”
Hornblende switched the line of questions: “Mister Phileus, have you ever been in trouble with the law? Ever been arrested?”
‘Yes, for possession a few years back. You all thought it was with intention to distribute, but it wasn’t. You can probably look that up yourself. My lawyer got the charges diminished and I did some community service.”
“Mister Phileus, do you do drugs or are you on any medications?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Look, I don’t work vice. I’m not worried about it, but you need to be honest. Anything you give me can possibly help.”
“Yeah, it can help you push all this on me. I’m more of a suspect if I have a shady past, right?”
“It’s easier if you answer the questions.”
“It doesn’t seem to be easier for me. Just easier for you to pin shit on me.”
“I’m not vice. Marijuana is legal here now. Even if you do harder stuff, it may help to find you wife. I assure you that is the reason that I ask you all these questions,” Hornblende lied. It was mostly to do with finding his wife, but as a cop, it was always good to have dirt on people as one never knew what would happen in the future. It seemed this guy wasn’t as big of a fan of law enforcement as he had initially let on.
Phileus thought for a long time. Hornblende almost spoke again, when he finally opened his mouth again, “I don’t do hard drugs anymore. I smoke pot, and I drink. I suppose I’m on drugs now, if you want to count alcohol.”
“Have you done hard drugs in the past?”
“That has nothing to do with now. Nothing to do with my wife. I’ll plead the fifth.”
“I think that you are misunderstanding the law, Mister Phileus. If—”
“I’m not misunderstanding shit. I want a lawyer.”
“You are not a suspect at the moment and it would probably be better if you just continued answering questions.”
“Not better for me. Lawyer.”
“I could charge you with drunk and disorderly. It would be so much better for you to just cooperate.”
“Am I under arrest?”
“Not at the moment, shall we call your lawyer?”
“I want a shower. I want to go home. Are you charging me with anything?”
“It’s just better if we talk this out now, while it’s fresh. The longer we go in a missing person’s case, the less likely it is that we find the missing person alive.” Hornblende had pushed too hard. He was usually good at this, being able to judge how far to push, but he had erred this time.
“I’m aware of that. You can come ask me questions at my home, tomorrow, with my lawyer present.”
“It is tomorrow.”
“Later today then.”
“Mister Phileus, I am—”
“Are you charging me with anything? Am I under arrest?”
Hornblende could charge him with drunk and disorderly, however, he sensed that it would only make Phileus much more resistant to working with the police. He sighed, then scratched his chin. “No.”
“Am I free to go?”
“Yes,” Hornblende resigned.
“Great, let’s shoot for ten AM. You can come ask me as many questions as you’d like. I’ll give you some photos of my wife. If you have towed my wife’s car, already, you will find her bag in it, with her driver’s license. That ought to provide you a photograph for now. I’ll have many more for you when you come tomorrow. The car is in her name, but I bought it for her. You have my permission to search it to your heart’s content.”
“We normally do interviews at the police station.”
“I’m done here. I prefer my home. It will also give you a chance to look around my house, as I’m sure you want to do that.”
“Very well, Mister Phileus.” Hornblende didn’t like it, but felt he should cooperate. The guy knew his rights. Even if he got a search warrant, it wouldn’t happen by the time that Phileus had requested the interview.
“Goodnight then, Detective Hornblende.”
The older man knew that Phileus was covering up things, but still had a gut feeling that he didn’t have anything to do with his wife’s disappearance. It was a complete shift of personality in the last couple hours. Hornblende wondered just how much the guy could cover up in the next six hours, before the interview.