‘Come in, sit down over here please, Mr Woods.’ Dillon sat down at the plain grey melamine table, noting the uncomfortable, hard plastic chair. Or maybe it wasn’t the chair that was uncomfortable, it was him.
‘Right, you know why you’ve been asked to come down to the station today don’t you? For the record, I would like to make it clear that Mr Woods has come here of his own free will.’
Dillon nodded, but he didn’t feel able to speak. Something about the starkness of the room and the formality, with which he was being addressed, made him feel nervous.
‘Let’s get straight to it,’ said the Police Officer. ‘Interview with Mr Dillon Woods, Saturday 20th August 2009. Present in the room is DCI Marshall and PC Logan.’ Dillon noted that DCI Marshall had a no nonsense presence about him. A towering bulky figure of a man, he had intimidation down to a fine art, even his PC look terrified every time he spoke to him.
‘Mr Woods, let’s start at the beginning. You and Aimee Land were boyfriend and girlfriend were you not?’
Dillon nodded again, a lump coming to his throat.
‘How long were you together?’
‘A year and a half roughly,’ Dillon said, thinking of the roller coaster ride that had been their relationship. No one could ever say that as a couple they had lacked passion.
‘What would you say your relationship was like?’
‘Oh, well, just the same as everyone else’s I guess: normal, quiet.’ Dillon wasn’t about to admit to the wild arguments they sometimes had, often not caring about who heard them.
‘That’s not what others have said. It says in my notes here that the two of you often rowed, publically and that you were a jealous and possessive partner.’
‘Who said that?’ Dillon snapped as he jumped up out of his chair.
‘Mr Woods, sit back down please. I can’t disclose that kind of information.’
Dillon sat, cursing under his breath. The police were out to get him, he could feel it; they were going to pull him to pieces, make him look guilty; they wanted to pin this on him. A wave of dread washed over him, along with an accompanying heat, just to make him feel even more uncomfortable.
‘Ok, well it’s true that we sometimes argued, but doesn’t everyone? That’s what I meant by normal.’
There was an awkward pause as DCI Marshall’s stare weighed heavily upon Dillon, before he looked down to his notebook and scribbled something. Dillon tried to see what it was, but it was written in illegible handwriting.
‘Aimee’s parents said that about a month ago, she started to get a bit depressed, stayed in her room most days. They couldn’t find out what had upset her. Do you know anything about that?’
‘We had an argument and we weren’t getting on as well,’ Dillon said. ‘Maybe it was that.’
‘What did you argue about?’ Now Dillon was really uncomfortable. If he told the truth, it was sure to incriminate him. He couldn’t risk that.
‘It was nothing, really. We were growing apart. You know how it is when you get together with someone when you are young.’
‘Did you end things with her?’
‘Not really, well kind of. It was more of a trial separation. It was all very amicable, but maybe Aimee took it a bit hard.’
‘Do you think that’s why she ran away then?’
‘I don’t know, maybe. I hadn’t spoken to her for about a month, so I don’t know what was going on in her head.’
‘When was the last time you saw each other?’
‘I don’t remember the exact date, but it was around the end of term. Some of our group had finished GCSE’s and we were celebrating. There was a lot of drinking and I can’t even remember what we rowed about in the end. I left early and I didn’t see her after that.’
‘What, you mean that neither of you tried to make up with the other? That doesn’t sound very believable to me, Mr Woods. Normal couples, as you say, would talk things through and try to work things out.’
‘Yes, that’s true sir.’
‘Tell me Dillon. What would make a young sixteen year old girl, with a normal family background and stable home run away? A row with a boyfriend doesn’t cut it for me. OK, so she might have been down and upset by the break up, but that’s not enough to make someone leave home. Do you want to know what I think? I think that she was murdered and someone staged it to look like she ran away. The question is, who murdered her and why?’
Dillon paled and put his head in his hands. He rubbed his temples, trying to soothe the headache that was building up. This is what he had been dreading ever since Aimee disappeared: the call from the police, the accusations. ‘It’s always the boyfriend,’ he could hear people saying already. They had him down as guilty just because of who he was and how he had been involved with Aimee. Dillon knew that if he told the police the real reason he had argued with Aimee that night, it would seal the deal. It would make him look like he had a motive to kill her. He didn’t need to give them any more ammunition to throw at him. He was in way too deep as it was.
‘I didn’t kill her, sir,’ he said.
‘I didn’t say you did, did I?’
‘No, but I feel as though you are pointing the finger at me.’
‘Mr Woods, I can assure you that I am merely trying to get to the bottom of what happened to your girlfriend and to establish where she is. Her parents are very worried about her.’
‘As am I,’ Dillon said.
‘Really?’ said DCI Marshall.
‘Yes, really,’ Dillon snapped back. He was feeling annoyed at DCI Marshall’s tone.
One week later...
‘Dillon Woods, I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Aimee Land. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court. Anything you do say will be given in evidence against.’
‘Mum.’ Dillon shouted.
‘What the hell is all this racket, Dillon, what’s going on.’ Dillon’s mum said as she came running towards the front door. When she saw the Police officers restraining her son, she paled.
‘It’s ok mum, don’t cry, it’ll be fine. They’ve got nothing on me. Just get me a lawyer or something or whatever it is you do,’ Dillon shouted back as he was escorted out of the door. He looked back round just before being man handled in to the back of the police car and felt as though a knife had been pushed in to his heart as he saw his mother collapse in to her husband’s arms.
‘You don’t need to do this to them,’ he said, as the police car drove away. ‘If anything happens to her I’ll…’
‘You’ll do what, Dillon?’ the police officer sitting next to him said. ‘I’d keep quiet if I were you. You’re in enough trouble as it is.’
Dillon stared at the officer with as much venom as he could muster, before tutting and turning to face the other window. He noticed as they drove off, that the scene at his house had brought most of the neighbours out to see what was going on. They would love that, he thought, but his poor parents would be mortified. They would never live it down. He hated himself for having caused them so much pain.
At the station, Dillon was dragged out of the car and in to the station. The police officer escorting him stopped at the front desk to let the attending office know who he had brought in, before pushing him in the direction of a door.
‘You’re staying in this cell for now. DCI Marshall wants you for questioning. He’ll be along in a little while. Empty all your pockets please and put all your personal belongings in here,’ the officer said, handing Dillon a small tray. He then frisked Dillon before holding out his hand to gesture him in to the cell.
The door slammed shut and Dillon stood motionless in the middle of the cell. He felt as though a tornado had just swept through his house, destroying everything in its path, including his and his parent’s reputation. Dillon didn’t care about what people thought of him, they could all go to hell as far as he was concerned. He knew though, that being arrested on suspicion of his girlfriends murder was something that neither he nor his parents would ever live down. It didn’t matter from that moment on whether he was found innocent. People would judge him and they would always suspect him. Nothing would change that until Aimee came home and proved them all wrong.
‘Damn it,’ Dillon shouted and slammed his fist against the wall. It hurt like hell and he winced, rubbing it with the other hand. He paced the small room a few times trying to think. What could they have against him, he couldn’t work it out. Dillon didn’t know much about the law but he was pretty sure that unless the police had any solid evidence against him, they wouldn’t be able to hold him prisoner for long. He reckoned that they had 24 hours, 48 max and realised that he would face some tough and gruelling questioning during that time. But if he could get through it, they would have no choice but to release him and then he would be free to go home. Go home to what though? That was the question. Dillon was no idiot. He knew that life would never be the same again.
‘Where is she?’
‘I don’t know’
‘What did you do with the body?’
‘How did you manage to stage her disappearance? You must have been planning this for some time.’
‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’
‘Oh come on, Dillon, work with us not against us. This is not going to help you in the long run.’
‘I’ve told you already, I don’t know anything.’
The questioning was relentless. On and on, the same things over and over. They were trying to break him, he knew, but Dillon was prepared for everything thrown his way.
‘I think my client has said enough and unless you have any solid evidence against him, I suggest you release him immediately,’ Dillon’s lawyer said.
DCI Marshall and his assistants looked nervously at each other. Dillon noticed it and it made him feel a bit more reassured. They had nothing on him, but there was a missing girl and they were panicking. They needed to find her dead or alive and they were going down the dead route. They’d made the big assumption that the jealous boyfriend had done away with her and were hoping that with enough questioning Dillon would break and confess. Dillon could see they were under pressure to get a result, but he wasn’t going to be the one to give it to them.
‘I haven’t done anything wrong and you’ve got nothing on me,’ he said, sitting back and folding his arms.
‘Listen son, you wipe that smug little smile off your face before I wipe it off for you,’ DCI Marshall said, coming up so close in to Dillon’s face that he could feel his hot breath.
‘We’ll find her, you know. And when we do it’s your door we’ll come knocking on mark my words. Get him out of here.’ The DCI stormed out of the room, slamming the door as he left. Dillon breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t like the man and his overbearing intimidation tactics. A tiny part of Dillon respected the DCI, however. There was no doubt that this man was good at his job and every criminal should beware him. It was no fun, being on the wrong side of him though, that was for sure and Dillon couldn’t wait to get out of there.
‘Mum I am so sorry.’ Dillon stepped in to his mother’s open armed embrace as soon as he went in through the front door. Relieved to be back home after his ordeal, the feel of her arms around him made him feel safe and secure, like a child again. At age 18, Dillon was anything but a child. His tall, 6 foot, 2 frame meant that he towered over her and should have made her feel like a child in his arms, not the other way round. But despite her tiny size, she felt the same as she always had done: warm, safe and smelling of vanilla and fresh baked bread.
‘It’s ok, my love, we’ll get through this.’
‘But the neighbours, everyone saw me being taken away.’
‘Yes, son they did,’ Dillon’s dad said, as he stepped forward to give his son a pat on the back and his signature manly handshake. ‘Don’t you worry about them; I’ll deal with that lot.’
Dillon knew that his dad was trying to ease his guilt and was grateful for that. His dad was a proud man though and Dillon could see the strain etched across his features.
‘Listen,’ his mum piped in, ‘I’ve made steak pie, your favourite and apple crumble and custard. Come and eat and let’s try and forget about all this nonsense, at least for a few hours anyway.’
Dillon smiled. If in doubt, his mum would always cook or bake. It was her answer to any crisis and Dillon had to admit that the amazing smell coming from the kitchen was certainly helping to take his mind off other things.
‘With a full stomach, the world looks like a different place,’ she said. It’s what she always said and Dillon could feel himself relaxing due to the familiarity of it all. Being locked in a cell for two nights had taken its toll on him. He had hardly slept and his neck and shoulders ached from trying to sleep on the hard, thin mattress. It wasn’t as though he had been expecting luxury surroundings, but the stress of the situation he had been in was only just begun to manifest itself physically.
After eating what seemed an enormous dinner, it was all Dillon could do to make it to the sofa to collapse in front of the television.
‘You look exhausted darling,’ his mum said.
‘Stop fussing over him, Moira, he’s not sick.’
‘I know, Ed, I’m just worried about him after what he’s been through.’
‘I’m fine, mum, just tired. In fact I might just go to bed now if you don’t mind,’ Dillon said. He got up from the sofa and gave his mum a peck on the cheek.
‘Oh, Maia called. She can’t come over tonight as she’s working the dinner shift at the hotel. She’s going to call in tomorrow though.’
‘Tell her she needn’t bother.’
‘Dillon, don’t say that. She’s your sister and she’s worried about you.’
‘She needn’t be there’s nothing wrong with me. Goodnight mum.’
Dillon went up to his room. Struggling to remember what day it was, he realised that he had missed his shift at the nightclub where he worked. He called his boss and friend, Alex to let him know why.
‘No worries, it’s cool. I knew all about it anyways – news was all over town,’ Alex said.
Dillon took a sharp intake of breath. Good news really did spread fast.
‘Do I still have a job?’ he asked Alex.
‘Of course, stuff them. Stuff the lot of them. They can think what they like. Might bring a few more punters in when you’re on shift, you never know. You could be good for business mate.’
‘You’re a prick, Alex,’ Dillon said, letting out the breath he had been holding and even managing a laugh. It was a relief to think that not everyone had turned against him. Not yet anyway.
Dillon switched on his TV, whilst he began stripping off his clothes. He felt dirty and desperate to wash off all traces of the police station and questioning. The local news was on. The reporter began to speak about Aimee, and then he heard his own name.
‘Aimee’s boyfriend, Dillon Woods, was arrested and taken for questioning but was later released without charge.’
There, she said it – released without charge. Would that be enough to silence his critics, Dillon wondered. There were two camps forming in their small and insular town. One that believed Aimee had run away and would soon be found somewhere like London, where many teenagers tended to head for. The other group believed that she had been murdered and that it was only a matter of time before her body was found. His arrest wouldn’t have done much good to silence that particular group and Dillon doubted that his release would either.
Dillon’s attention was suddenly caught to the heart tattoo on his left arm, with ‘Aimee’ written inside it. He rubbed at it until his arm was red and raw, desperate to erase all traces of her. The pain of loving Aimee equalled the pain of losing her and Dillon wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to erase it, no matter what he did.