The Glass House.
‘Now, Izora, can you start from the beginning?’
The police had chosen the Art department’s office as their pseudo-interrogation room. It was an appropriate choice. The room was not easily accessible because of the automatic lock on the door, the windows were blacked out because it often doubled as a darkroom. There were minimal light fixtures, so the detectives could provide their own intense white lamp of judgement. The room was both practical and atmospheric. If they could not get the children to talk by traditional means, the hint of TV dramatics would hopefully separate the false from the innocent.
The lamp was Iz’s favourite part of the set design. She could not look directly at it, and she assumed even if she had slept the night before she still would not have been able to. The white light seemed to consume the whole room, it was in the corner of her eye wherever she looked. She had to squint to make out the detectives, and kept rubbing her darting eyes. Through her discomfort, she could still appreciate that it was a clever prop. It showed the police everything they needed to see. That she was hiding something. Or that she had a lot of essays due. Or that it was hay fever season.
‘Start from the beginning of the year?’ she asked. She was not being pedantic for pedantry’s sake. She just wanted to be as cooperative as was necessary. Unlike most of the students who had been, or were about to be, interviewed, she really respected the police’s effort in this investigation. Teenagers were dying all the time in the capital. It would have been easier to put Charlie’s death down to gang violence and move on. But Chelsea and Westminster police seemed invested in this case. Perhaps because Charlie went to a good school, or came from a decent home. Or maybe because the amount of odd details made it harder to shove this case underneath the solved pile. Either way, she hoped they would gain something from these interviews. If not the truth then at least a better interviewing technique.
‘From when you found Charles’s body.’ The male detective clarified.
‘We were…walking home from school…’
Despite her aforementioned respect for the police’s efforts, Is was going to lie to them. All the students would. Because the truth, they had been told, was a cluttered and complicated business.
‘Sometimes the truth can do more harm than a lie.’ Their Head of Year had said in that morning’s assembly, ‘Since none of you were involved in Charlie’s death, it would be a waste of time to tell the police your various stories. From what we’ve gathered these are the facts. Stick to them. There’s no need to cloud your statements with personal accounts.’
This was the result of the school’s private investigation. Or as Is would put it later, its private ambush. For what she met when it was her turn to hand in her statement, was a panel of senior management, stony faced, hands tightly folded. There was one chair set out for her, which she took with trepidation. Her form tutor explained that the school had been informed by an anonymous source that she, Izora Adjei, specifically knew something about the disappearance of Charlie Verbenne. It was not long before she began to recount in a flurry what she knew. How she had heard whispers while waiting in line for a Drama lesson. How someone had messaged Bill the address. How he, alex and herself had gone to the abandoned office building after school. How the whole class was there; Ghettos, chavs, art kids, everyone. They had all gathered to marvel at the partially covered, decomposing dead body. How they had all been stunned when weeks later it was revealed to be the body of Charlie Verbenne. How she was ashamed that she had gone, that she had not told a teacher. How the body smelt so strong she had buried her face in Bill’s blazer, and how she hoped this mistake would not hamper her future university applications.
There was a long silence when she was done, and this allowed her to mop her face. She was told she could leave and muttered an apology. It was over.
But then the police had started hanging around the bus stops near the school. Then 10G were ordered to a private assembly and told to keep quiet. And now Iz was rattling off a much shorter, much less detailed tale to the police. All the time wincing under the bright white light.