Chapter Nine

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I misstated a fact in my story, which we all know is a nice way of saying that I lied to you. Maybe I'm more like my father than I like to admit. Whatever the brutal truth of that matter, here's another truth, if any human being is capable of offering such a thing: I haven't been interviewed by law enforcement two times, but rather four.

You'd assume, I'm sure, that the first time was when I was sixteen, after my mother's death, and about the crash that killed her, but it wasn't. That was law enforcement encounter number two. The first time was a year before, while on European holiday with Danielle and her father. It was then that I recounted an event that I'd witnessed, and in doing so, I told the truth and yet I told lies. That sounds like a contradiction, but it's not. Sitting across from a detective that I'd never met until that day, and would never see again, I actually believed what I told him. I, like Danielle, saw a woman take a selfie, lose her footing, and fall off a mountainside to her death.

It wasn't until later that I admitted to myself that my truth had been fiction. It wasn't until later that I admitted that I'd lied. She hadn't lost her footing at all. Nevertheless, whatever led that woman to that moment, it seemed then like a random, tragic event that shouldn't be a part of the rest of my story. Later though, much later, in fact, I'd find out that just as there is no such thing as real choices in life, nothing is ever random. But I'm getting ahead of the story. We'll come back to the woman on that mountainside.

Right now, we're focused on my third sit-down with law enforcement, which occurred the morning after Danielle disappeared, and not long after my twenty-second birthday. What I didn't know in advance of that meeting, but you do now, is that actions had been taken before it occurred, outcomes already set in stone, and nothing that I would say, or could have said, would have changed those outcomes. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that despite it being last week, and eight years after the interview I had following Danielle's disappearance, my fourth interview with law enforcement, was the spawn of those actions and outcomes.

***THE PAST—THE INTERVIEW...

My father's attorney, Bob Nickels, arrives an hour before my interview, and we gather around the massive dining room table in my suite; him across from me, with Rudolf at the end cap between us. I study Bob, and he studies a file in front of him, ignoring me, as if that file is more interesting than my words. He's mid-forties, with a GQ face and body, a Hells Angel's attitude, and in my opinion, no cares about anything but money and his own version of fame. In other words, he suits my father, and now I have to decide if he suits me.

Tired of watching him watch that file, I end the silence. "You're not a criminal attorney," I say, stating the obvious, which I doubt my father or Bob himself, gave me credit for recognizing. "Why are you the one that's here?"

"I spent two years with the DA before I decided I'd rather compromise my morals for money than a greedy DA."

"In other words," I say, "we the people should be pleased to know my father has an attorney willing to compromise his values for money?"

His lips tighten. "We the people," he bites out, "should be comforted to know the future President's daughter doesn't go to a bar and get into trouble, which," he opens a file that he doesn't look at, before adding, "I'm here to spin you as the innocent protector of your wild-child friend."

Danielle is not my wild-child friend, I think, but I barely manage those words without a cut of my eyes.

Rudolf laces his fingers together on the walnut finished table and looks at me. "You better lie better than that if you plan to lie your way through this interview."

"Why are you here?" I demand, looking from him to Bob. "Don't I have a right to client-attorney privilege?"

"He's former FBI," Bob replies. "Which makes him the perfect person to walk you through a mock interview." He holds up documents. "Danielle is working for your father. We know her party girl history, which she assured us in the interviews were long behind her. She was only hired as a favor to her father by your father, and with the understanding that if she slipped up even once, she's out."

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