04

754 53 6

The prison was as austere a place as one would expect. Nina, despite all the times she'd had to step inside the place for the various articles that demanded it, never quite got used to the feeling being inside the building invoked. Still, it was a necessity—one that had forced her to call in a few favors to accomplish without having to wait for approval—and Nina had become accustomed to doing things she didn't particularly like for the sake of the truth.

The truth she was after that day was perhaps the most important of all.

She sat in the cold, metal seat she'd been provided and waited, with only the sound of the clock on the wall ticking away keeping her company. A cup of coffee sat on the metal table in front of her, black and still steaming. The scent it let out was the most inviting thing she'd come across in that miserable place. The taste of it was bitter, earthy—it helped to calm her nerves.

Nina had only to wait a short time before the door opened with a faint creaking sound and then the man she was there to speak to walked in followed by a guard.

Christopher Fearnley was as average a man as Nina had first thought he'd be when she'd seen his face displayed on her computer screen and then splashed across her television every time the news was on. He was shorter than her—though she was a tall woman—with mousy hair that was already graying, particularly around the sides, and eyes of a washed out blue tone. Dark circles gave him a sickly look as they contrasted with the paleness of his skin and the corners of his thin lips were tilted down into the slightest of frowns. Fearnley looked painfully pale beneath the harsh lighting of the room. The clothes he'd been issued seemed to hang off him, and Nina recalled that he hadn't looked so thin in the pictures she'd seen. The stress of it all must have taken a toll on him even in the short time he'd been imprisoned—Nina couldn't blame him.

The guard who'd lead him in cuffed him to the table and walked out without uttering so much as a single word. Nina sat there for a second, observing Fearnley. His gaze remained pointed down at the table, the paper cup of water within his reach went ignored.

"Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Fearnley," Nina said, her voice taking on the same tone she used when she interviewed people. It was professional—cool and calm enough to seem cordial while keeping a distance between Nina and whoever she was speaking to.

Fearnley didn't respond.

"I'm Nina Sheppard with—"

"I know who you are, the guards told me. Why are you here, Ms. Sheppard," Fearnley cut Nina off. His voice was calm, tired, and softer than Nina had expected. It fit the mild mannered looking man sitting across from her. "I've confessed already. What else would you need to know?"

It took Nina a moment to gather her thoughts and formulate an answer.

"I'm here because there's something that hasn't been made clear."

"You want to know why I did it," Fearnley said, mouth twisting into a frustrated sort of grimace for a second. "It's what everyone wants to know. The only thing they all care about."

"Motive is always important in a case," Nina said, reciting words she'd heard time and again through her career.

"A mad man doesn't need a motive. That's what the guards say anyway."

"You hardly look mad to me." Nina had seen her share of mad men in her life, had reported on many of them. Fearnley looked stressed—on the brink of breaking—but still sane enough to look positively haunted by his current predicament as he sat across from her. Still holding together well enough to be tired of the constant questions and therefore, to be wary of Nina.

The Persistence of Memory | ✔Read this story for FREE!