*FYI, the prologue from Indecent Arrangement is a flash forward. We are taken 9 months into the future after several events have already transpired. Chapter 1 brings us back 9 months earlier, and the story unfolds from there…
Where: 108th Police Precinct – Long Island, NY
When: Present Day – August 1, 2018
Have you ever wondered why when we are most frightened, the first thing we forget to do is breathe? I mean, yes, we’re breathing, naturally. The creator built our bodies smart enough to know just when to tap in whenever we tap out, unconsciously.
The breaths are less though.
It almost feels like we’re dying.
There’s a name for it – the freeze response. First we freeze, then we run – or as we know it, take flight – and when there’s nowhere left to go, we fight.
We hear more about the fight-or-flight responses but hardly ever about the freeze. That paralyzing hold that hints death is imminent and that keeps everything worth moving still – practically deflating our lungs.
In this moment, the one where I found myself forgetting to breathe, death would’ve been a blessing.
I’ve always prided myself on my imagination. It’s quite vivid. But even I never pictured myself being here. In a room that reeked of stale caffeine, cheap cigarettes, and bad decisions, breathing less, and my mind attacking me from within.
Thick cement walls damn near coffined me. A sheeted one-way mirror inches behind my head magnetized the unsavory aura the room emanated, making it appear bigger, less inviting.
Everything was a tarnished gray. Even the chair where I sat waiting.
And waiting, and waiting…
I seesawed my jaw below my top lip and tried to breathe through the pain. The tender nerves beneath my shoulder blade throbbed to the rhythm of my heartbeat as I massaged the area for relief. Uncomfortable would be an understatement but this pain was the best-case scenario compared to what could have been, believe me.
Under the table, my legs bounced on the balls of my feet. They wouldn’t quit. How could they? I barely had control over my mind how the hell would I stop something as simple as fidgeting?
“I cannot believe this is happening to me,” I whispered.
Oh, but it was…
Nine months ago you couldn’t tell me I would end my day sitting on a cold steel chair in an interrogation room at the 108th police precinct, struggling to remember to breathe.
That my life was destined to be turned upside down and left spinning like one of those toy tops, close to losing momentum and toppling over.
That I, Joelle Victors, who has never so much as gotten a parking ticket, would know firsthand the feeling of my eyes burning as I gazed up at the spaced apart police precinct lights, beaming ugly orange-yellow rays down on me. Those boulder-sized iron fixtures were so prominent a buzzing sound vibrated from them, obviously not making the moment any easier to deal with.
“God?” I prayed low, eyes squeezed shut, “I promise if you get me out of this I will never agree to do anything like this again.”
From outside of the room, I heard the subtle tapping of leather shoe bottoms approaching.
The turning of the doorknob seized my attention, and I twisted at the waist in my seat to glance that way.
A black gentleman with auburn skin, about 5’7, medium-build, entered the interrogation room alone with a manila file folder and a tiny black notepad stacked in one hand while clutching a paper cup of coffee in the other.
His suit’s walnut-brown jacket laid against his frame wrinkled like he’d rolled out of bed fully dressed the moment his phone chirped with the call.
“Mrs. Victors,” he said. “Thank you for your patience.”
I peeled my tongue away from the roof of my mouth quick enough to respond with, “Detective?”
He nodded then made his way to the opposite end of the table.
“I brought you some coffee.”
Caffeine. An acceptable drug to have that will only rev up my nerves. Exactly what I needed to fuck everything else up.
I accepted it anyway given the situation.
He leaned over the table to place the cup in front of me then slid the metal chair out beside him. The legs scraped against the concrete floor as he inhaled audibly while copping a seat.
“As I told you at the scene, I’m Detective Winston.”
“I know you’ve had a difficult night but your cooperation is appreciated. Like I explained to you, I only wanted to bring you in for questioning to discuss what happened tonight.”
I swallowed hard.
“Now, if you would like to have an attorney present—”
“No, no,” I interjected. “That won’t be necessary.”
“Oh-kay.” He shrugged his brows.
Detective Winston flipped open his black notepad. He licked his thumb to leaf through a few pages, pressed down on his pen’s ejector then glanced up at me.
“Let’s start with you telling me exactly what happened tonight.”
I clenched my fists then quickly released the tension. Bending my arm at the elbow, I lifted my hand to the bridge of my nose to pinch the innermost corners of my eyes in an effort to steady the migraine fading in.
“All right, but, umm…” I inhaled a laboring breath, held it for a moment, and on my exhale said, “We’re going to have to go further back than that for all of this to make sense.”
END OF SNEAK PEEK.
Indecent Arrangement is a continuation of my short story “Tasteful Taboo” from my Forbidden: Anthology. There are references from this short in Indecent Arrangement so it’s recommended that you read “Tasteful Taboo” before reading IA.
Indecent Arrangement is available for pre-order via Amazon!