Dylan stowed Rosa’s body in the basement and returned to his apartment, forcing himself to walk slow and act normal. He scarcely had time to sit on the couch and catch his breath, before a knock sounded at his door. Dylan cursed under his breath. That would be the cops. He knew without looking, just as he knew who had called them. It was the same person who always called. Rhonda Futch had been obsessed with him, since he moved into the building. A plain, dowdy potato of a woman with long stringy brown hair and evasive eye contact.
She had the annoying habit of cornering her neighbors in the elevator, the hallway and the laundry room and then subjecting them to seemingly endless stories about the minutiae of her humdrum life. They learned quickly never to ask her how her day was going or how she felt, because she would proceed to tell them in excruciating detail. Rhonda seemed wholly incapable of picking up on cues, like tortured sighs or the annoyed rolling of eyes. Their apartment could be on fire, and she would still insist on finishing her story.
Most people feigned polite interest. Dylan did not have that much patience. He never hesitated to cut her off, always cushioning his curtness what he felt was a disarming smile. After a while, she stopped attempting to talk to him. Dylan was relieved. Then came the realization that Rhonda was trying to ruin his life: campaigning to get him thrown out of the building, going to the landlord with myriad exaggerated complaints about him, attempting to turn the other tenants against him and routinely calling the police with countless allegations against him.
He had attempted to smooth things over, to no avail. She seemed to derive some twisted sort of pleasure out of her ruinous behavior. All because he wouldn’t listen to her drone away about the latest cute thing her cat had done? Belately, Dylan suspected that she had a thing for him and felt rejected, when he wouldn’t give her the time of day. Perhaps he should have been more patient with her. Oh well, it was too late now.
The knock sounded a second time. Dylan stood and scanned the living room. Nothing appeared to be out of place. He used his feet to smooth out the indentations left by the coffee table and went to the door, using the spyhole to get a look at the officers and quickly size them up.
The male officer was tall and thin. Dylan saw him grin at his partner sardonically, standing with a relaxed posture. That was potentially good sign. The other officer was a short stocky female in a starched uniform, with one hand cocked on her plump hip. Of the two, she appeared to present more of a challenge.
He had seen officers like her before. They seemed to take their jobs a little too seriously. For them, everything had to be done by the book. Dylan took a deep breath, arranged a pleasant smile and opened the door. He looked quizzically from one to the other. Knowing they would try to get read on his emotional state, he held the easy smile as he greeted them.
“Good evening officers.”
“Good evening sir. I am Officer Hightower and this is Officer Davies May we come in,” asked the female officer.
“Oh yeah sure. Where are my manners? Come on in officers. Would you like something to drink?”
“No thank you. We’re here, because one of our dispatchers received a call alleging domestic abuse. Who all lives in this apartment,” asked the female officer.
“I live here alone.”‘
“Did you have any visitors tonight?”
“Just Cynthia, but she left hours ago.”
“Well the caller told dispatch that they heard you fighting with a female. They also heard a loud crash and screaming.”
“As I said Rosa left hours ago. We didn’t have any sort of disagreement. After she left, I started watching a horror movie. Perhaps the volume on my television was a little too loud,” suggested Dylan amicably.
He and the male officer exchanged brief grins of amusement. Dylan turned his charming smile back at Officer Hightower, but she remained solemn.
“Officers have been called out here on several occasions, for domestic disputes between you and your girlfriend.”
“Oh that…my ex-girlfriend Cynthia liked to use the police to win arguments. She was always doing it. You know how that is,” Dylan said with a sheepish grin. Officer Davies commiserated with a knowing smile. Officer Hightower said, “no, I don’t know how it is Mr. Maxwell. Why don’t you explain it to me?”
Dylan picked up on the harsh tone of her voice and instantly regretted his choice of words. It wouldn’t help his case to come off as flippant. The last thing he wanted to do was piss her off. Judging from the fact that Officer Hightower was asking all of the questions, it was obvious which of them was in charge.
He needed to get and stay on her good side. Otherwise, he might wind up finishing the interview in cuffs at the police station. Dylan needed to stay home, where he could keep a lid on things. That body needed to be moved sooner rather than later, or else the smell would betray him. How long did it take for a dead body to start stinking? Dylan was so preoccupied; he almost didn’t hear officer Hightower’s next question.
“Is Rosa your girlfriend?”
“Not really, we’re more like friends with benefits,” he explained. That sounded bad, but it was important to tell the truth as often as he could. Keeping a lot of lies straight would prove difficult. The worst thing he could do was get caught lying to the cops. Even an insignificant lie would make Dylan look bad, if they later discovered that Rosa had come to see him and then disappeared. Besides, they might decide to question Cynthia.
“Do you mind if we look around,” she asked.
“No, not at all go right ahead officers.”