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A Silver Jaguar

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“What are we gonna do with him?” One uniform looked to the other, folding his arms across his ribcage uneasily.

“We have to go in again.” The taller one shifted his weight, bending the corner of his ID card upwards with his teeth.

“Brosse and Jamison already tried. The kid hasn’t said a word.”

Bad cop had established a fair crag on his identification, evidently from years of chewing. “He’s gotta break eventually.”

The officers were staring tenaciously into the one-way mirror, desperately rifling for some sign. Body language, facial expression; anything that could be a window to this kid’s character. But they got nothing. He sat in the stark, pale room an enigmatic, emotionless blob on a blank canvas. He did not shake his leg wildly to his nerves. He did not pick at his cuticles or fiddle with his frayed hemp bracelet. He wasn’t sweating or fidgeting in his seat. His eyes did not wander anxiously. He didn’t even bother to push the shaggy strands of blonde out of his eyes or tie the laces of his well broken-in Converse.

The freckled officer straightened his back, inhaling confidence. “Alright, but if we’re gonna try again, we need to know about who we’re dealing with,” he tried, offering a file folder.

The taller one tucked his ID card back into its plastic envelope and his index fingers into his pockets, disregarding the file. “Tristan Pike. He doesn’t have a criminal record, but his messed up family sure does.”

Disappointed, the shorter one fit the file back under his arm, “I guess you know everything already.”

“Mom was a basket case, dangerously bipolar. Freaked out on his dad, killed him.”

“That case was never closed though, we had no hard evidence.”

“We had evidence enough for everyone but the judge.”

“But then she killed herself, anyway.”

“That case wasn’t closed either, Buddy,” he mocked haughtily; “The boy was a solid suspect, too.

“He was five, and he doesn’t have any mental issues.”

“No diagnosed mental issues.”

The officers silenced when Tristan Pike met their eyes, penetrating the deceitful glass that protected them from his disturbing tranquility. His lips were set in a ruler-straight line, his non-blinking eyes an arctic blue. His unexplainable sense of knowing twisted their stomachs and made their palms sweat. He couldn’t see them, but he knew. The freckled one fumbled for words, trying to prove his own composure, “He’s in honors classes, but he doesn’t have much of a social life. His teachers say he keeps to himself, and all the other kids keep away from him.”

“I would keep my distance too. He’s a loner. Deranged; a creep.”

“That’s not true, he’s a good kid. He takes care of his aunt, the poor woman… she just can’t keep herself together.”

The taller one scoffed, “And that’s who’s in charge of him, no wonder he’s fallen off the deep end.”


The door of the interrogation room creaked open and Tristan Pike barely flinched. The officers simultaneously pulled two chairs from under the table, the freckled one tripping over his own feet as he sat down. Clearing his throat authoritatively, the taller one spoke first. “Why don’t you tell us your version of the story, first?” But not a word slipped from the Tristan Pike’s lips. It was like his thoughts were so powerful that they pulsed through his veins and surmounted his voice, yet remained concealed, protected by his self- discipline. His eyes glimmered and he rested his chin comfortably between his thumb and pointer finger, keeping a steady aloofness.
Tristan Pike was always an outsider. He didn’t play kickball during elementary school recess, or attend his classmates’ birthday parties at the bowling alley. He never liked team sports, though his aunt forced him to do recreational basketball for a few years. Clubs and school activities were simply not on his schedule. He never. Ever. Ever attended school dances, and rarely graced the school cafeteria with his presence. Tristan Pike has only ever had two friends. Hailey Henderson and Wyatt Rivers. It’s an odd story how the trio came to be: they didn’t like tag in kindergarten. Wyatt, a meek and lanky string puppet of skin and bones, had the legs for running but lacked the breath. And the desire. Hailey Henderson was sufficiently fit, had plenty of athletic ability and fortitude, but never felt like she could belong in the group. Tristan too found more stimulation on the sidelines. Thus, when the daily game began, the three would hike to the roof of the jungle gym or hide in the hollow of the old oak, where they could observe the action without being tussled around amidst it. They liked to watch, predicting who would conquest and who would run whining to the teacher about a scraped knee. Who was establishing an alliance, and who was still standing after being tagged ten times. Tristan Pike was always a spectator.
The three peculiar kids in elementary school were the three peculiar kids in high school. When their worlds changed, the friendship was a constant. Though different they were, that was one of the things they liked the most. Three distant paths of life intersected and found belonging in each other. They talked, a lot. Every day. Sob stories, deep and thought provoking conversations. They talked about it all. Only, Tristan tended to do a lot more listening then talking. He never liked to talk about himself, not his life or his struggles. He preferred his vulnerability to reside only in his restless thoughts. Tristan Pike was always a thinker. Hailey was best at getting him to share his feelings. He always had a rigid shell. It took time and patience to ease him out, so gradually he’d open up. The mystery would exasperate anybody else to shreds, but Hailey Henderson knew it was worth it to hear what incredible things Tristan had to say. Tristan Pike was never easy to be friends with, but Tristan Pike was always loyal. And Tristan Pike was certainly interesting.
Sitting in the blunt chair before the officers, Tristan held the eye contact. He lunged into their insecurities, qualms, and ideas. He knew their thoughts before they did. He plucked and tuned each nerve as a guitarist does a guitar. Even the taller one had uneasiness to swallow. With a firm poker face, he persisted, “Boy, don’t you want to help yourself out? All it takes is an explanation.”
Tristan broke into an amused smirk, “Helping out is exactly what I want to do.” His voice was thunder, stunning so much that the freckled one couldn’t decide on a reaction. Relief that the cyborg showed some indication of emotion, or absolute horror that the bogeyman now had a voice.

The taller one grew three inches in the excitement, as if a boring movie finally reached the climax. “Great, so then start with your story. What were you doing in that house?” Tristan’s icy eyes roamed to the right placidly and he took an even breath, leaning back in his chair easily.

***********************************


“You’re really good at reading people, you know.”

“Am I?”

“Yes, you always have been. You’re like a mind reader.” The rusted swing creaked as Hailey Henderson leaned back on it, gazing up to the labyrinth of leaves and branches. She swung towards the old oak, occupying her fingers with the chipping bark.

“Nah, knowing when you’re not okay doesn’t say much. Knowing you ten years, I should be able to read you,” Tristan ascertained, swinging towards Hailey and clutching the chain of her swing. She fixed her emerald eyes on him and wrinkled her forehead the way she always does when she’s about to coax him into spilling his troubles.

“I can tell when you’re not okay, too.” The light breeze swept her chestnut waves back, tangling them with her loose side braid as she kicked his shin lightly. Tristan inhaled and his eyes meandered to the distance, outlining the cumulus clouds that dotted the sky.

“Kevin Burke.”

“Of course, what’d he do now?”

“Nothing too special, just some more damn rumors. Apparently I pulled a switch blade on him”

Hailey scoffed in disgust, “That guy just doesn’t know when to give it up— He’s not worth s***.”

“Relax, Hendy, I know. He’s got a problem with me, whatever. I couldn’t care less.” Tristan silenced for a moment, staring aimlessly in front of him and biting his lip softly. “It’s my aunt that it really gets to. It kills her that people are messed up and she can’t do anything about it.” He kicked up some woodchips and rocked back and forth on the swing, his sandy blonde hair flopping over his eyes. “Maybe that’s why I understand people.”

“Your aunt?”

“No, how messed up people are. Everybody’s always so quick to judge, make assumptions about people and things they don’t know or get… Somebody’s gotta be around who actually tries to understand them.” Hailey met his eyes with empathy and fascination, gently resting her hand on his knee. He never failed to amaze her.

Hailey parted her lips with caution, deciding whether to speak. “Are you ever going to tell me your story? The true story, how you know it” She tried. Tristan tucked his hands into his denim pockets, slowly slipping off the swing and letting it fall limp and clang against Hailey’s swing. Hailey stood up as well, adjusting the shoulder of her cotton V-neck. She searched his eyes, which seemed trapped in thought, and gave up. Not today.

***********************************


“Yes, I was there. I saw him, but I didn’t pull the trigger.”

“But there was nobody else in the house.”

“Not that I know of.” Tristan Pike always sounded genuine. He was a realist, took pride in saying things how they were. There was no censor. He was simply an honest man, or he was a damn good liar. The taller officer was chewing the cap of his pen now, growing impatient with the lack of progress. He was set on arresting this boy, and he wanted it to be easy. Unlike the freckled one, who wanted the story, he purely wanted Tristan Pike to be guilty. It all made sense that way. But Tristan Pike was not one for blatant confessions.

“What do you want us to believe then, a ghost shot him?”

“Well I don’t believe in the supernatural, but do you have evidence otherwise?”

The officers exchanged perplexed glances. They had a suspect placed at the scene and time of a crime. They had an innocent man in the hospital with a gunshot wound just below his heart, hanging onto the last thread of his life. But they didn’t have any evidence. Tristan Pike arched one eyebrow, knowingly, and the officers drowned in his presence. The door creaked open once more and a monotonous voice snuck into the room, “Phoebe Wilson is here.” Tristan straightened his back and looked towards the door expectantly, his solid expression softening.

***********************************


The woman hustled from her laptop to the stovetop, peered over the pot, and hustled back to her keyboard. Wavy strands of brown broke from her disheveled bun as she whizzed about the kitchen trying to grow six more arms. After clumsily hitting “control s,” she returned to the now boiling pot to pour a box of stiff noodles in. Scorching water spat at her and she flinched, bringing her burnt finger to her lips and mumbling something under her breathe. She could only afford Tristan an ephemeral glance and friendly smile when he sauntered in the door, swinging his backpack over a chair. He examined her with her limbs stretched and her things spread out across the kitchen, smirking lightly. Pulling an icepack out of the freezer he walked towards her and hugged her finger with it. He snuck his arm around and massaged her neck, forcing her away from the stove. “Aunt Phoebe, I can finish dinner.”

“Wh—no, I got it. I’m almost done.”

Tristan laughed slightly, “You just put the pasta in a second ago, and the chicken is still wrapped,” he glanced at the various papers and notes strewn around her laptop, blanketing every inch of the counter. “You’ve got enough to handle right now.” Knowing she couldn’t convince him otherwise, Phoebe stepped away from the stove, putting a hand on her hip.

“You’re a gentleman, you know that Tristan? Just like your dad, do you remember when—” she choked over her tongue. Tristan’s eyes flickered to the floor, and he swallowed something heavy welling up in his throat. “I’m sorry, I know…” She shifted her weight uncomfortably, “How could you remember anything, you were five.”
An uncomfortable stillness bled through the room. Phoebe carefully brought her gaze to Tristan’s. Her eyes were sad. His eyes were strong and detached at the same time. He knew his Aunt Phoebe; he loved his Aunt Phoebe. The woman was a basket case and she needed Tristan to keep her in line, to be her rock. But he needed her, too. He needed Phoebe’s gentle compassion and complete determination to be his rock. He admired her free spirit, and even her naivety. He saw her mind wandering to unhappy places, and it killed him. He didn’t like to think about it either, but Tristan Pike never stopped thinking. He turned a corner of his mouth up in a half smile and smoothly peeled the plastic wrap off the defrosted chicken on the counter.
“You’re right, I can barely remember anything about them, or those two awful nights.”
Phoebe nervously carried her focus to her laptop, “Its best that way.”
But Tristan Pike did remember. Vividly.


It was late spring, 77 degrees. After dark, the sky was flecked with dancing stars but lacked a moon. Any passerby would think nothing of the Pike household on that night. The dad was lazing on his tatty couch in front of the upstairs TV, bringing the cool rim of his Pepsi to his lips. There were stories woven into that couch, in the cheese doodle-finger and tomato soup stains, and under the cushions in the lost treasures. The mom was on the phone with her sister, sitting on the garage steps and speaking in that motherly hushed tone. Tristan, the five-year old son, was in the basement watching “Criminal Minds” on TV. His mom worried that exposure to an intense crime drama would scare her impressionable son, but his dad thought it was impressive that Tristan was so into it, even when he didn’t understand it half the time. He never watched cartoons. He didn’t like them because they didn’t have the same life in them that real people had. You couldn’t watch their expressions and read into their emotions, and often the only justification for their actions was thoughtless amusement. He didn’t like that cartoons didn’t need reason for what they did. That’s why he was so captivated by “Criminal Minds.” “Criminal Minds” was real, and exposed what’s hidden under the surface of humans.

The compassionate, muscled guy was about to catch the serial killer when Tristan heard it. It was an awful scream, a woman’s scream. Tristan immediately recognized that this scream wasn’t from the TV. The boy stumbled off his own historical couch and to the foot of the steps, intently maneuvering the minefield of LEGOS. He wanted to be brave and dexterous like Agent Morgan catching the bad guys. He climbed the first few steps with gallantry, inflating his chest and digging his fingernails into his palm, ready to jump to his mother’s rescue— but something struck him halfway up. Tristan Pike froze. His cause was lost. He sank to his knees, silencing his thoughts and his breaths to find those of whoever was left. The world around him came to a halt. Even time stopped. Then there was the piercing gunshot.

Tristan Pike remembered one image most clearly. It was a moment forever painted in his consciousness. The impressionable five year old boy, legs like jello, found his mother crouched on the icy linoleum. The cordless phone was shattered on the floor next to her, batteries bulging out. And she was motionless but for the bobbing of her head as she buried it in her husband’s departed, frozen face. She must’ve heard him swallow, because she abruptly cocked her head towards her young son, so he could see her sad clown face. The boy took two careful, mystified steps and his mother surged forward in defense.

“Tristan, n—NO! Get—get the hell away from here! Go! Go to your room sweetie, go, GO!!!” Her stentorian voice boomed directly through his skin and shivered down his spine and he was moving. Clumsily scuttling down the hall, hot tears streaming down his cheeks as he rammed into his bedroom door. Through blurred eyes he saw two circular lights, penetrating the darkness outside and sending streams directly through his window. They glimmered and something else glimmered, bouncing the light. He saw a streak of silver, glaring at him through the night. The lights and the silver backed out of his driveway and shrunk, until eventually vanishing.


That was only the first night. Tristan Pike remembered the second night with the same lucidity. There was no scream, but there might as well have been. His mom’s hopelessness was loud enough.
His mom had been lost for a week already, replaced by the sad clown. She stopped working, she stopped talking. She woke up only in time to drive her son to Kindergarten. The normal pills wouldn’t work; Tristan was making sure she took them. Nothing would work; his mom was broken beyond repair. She was an exoskeleton, merely going through the motions. There was no passion left. But still on that night, she looked more lifeless than ever.
When he saw her ashen, stripped body hanging in the closet, that lethal strip of leather at her neck, the five year old didn’t let himself freeze up again. He didn’t let his limbs turn to jello and powerlessly fall to the floor like he saw his mother do. The boy ran. Gallantly, he swung open the front door and ran barefoot to the driveway, stepping on his oversized pajama pants. He glared dangerously at the circular lights shrinking down the street. He narrowed his eyes through the rain plummeting down until they caught the silver. It had a shape now. He lassoed its beady eyes and pointed ears, pulling the four silver legs to his memory.

***********************************


“If you weren’t there killing him, what were you doing at the scene of a murder?” The taller officer pursued.

Tristan Pike was not moved. “Murder, is it?”

The freckled one stepped up, trying too hard to convey empathy. “We just got the call, that’s who was on the phone for us. Andrew Carson is dead. The wound missed his heart but drained too much blood and left too much damage.”
Tristan looked deeply into the one-way mirror. He felt Aunt Phoebe’s fingers entwining with his, through the glass, trying to stop her own shaking and let strength flow to him. He saw Wyatt Rivers shaking his head sagely with disapproval, trying to knock some sense into his best friend. He sensed Hailey Henderson’s worry; saw her puppy-dog eyes desperately screaming for him to get out. “Relax, Hendy, I know what I’m doing,” he’d say. But it wouldn’t calm her wild nerves, and she’d wish she could do something more to help. Then she’d continue to be baffled by him, and try to figure out why he wouldn’t just tell the truth. Tristan bit his lip as if skeptical, “Huh, isn’t that interesting.”
“You damn idiot, kid, you’re looking at murder now.”
“But I didn’t do it.”
The taller one slammed his palm to the table, aggravated. “Then what the hell happened?”
“I was getting you a present.”
The officers were dazed. “He’s a f***ing psycho,” the taller one muttered to no one in particular.
“There was an object missing from the crime scene,” the freckled one’s voice was small.
“What was it?”
Tristan fit his hands into his pockets, “I didn’t even have to go into the house, to do what I had to do. Just the driveway. He was watching me do it, too, through the front window. And then I heard the gunshot, that’s the only reason I went in.”
“Why did you have to take it, where did you put it?” The freckled one took the lead.
“Take what, what was the object?” The taller cop demanded. He didn’t like taking the backseat.
“An old 90s hood topper, a silver jaguar. It was ripped right off the victim’s car, but we haven’t found it yet.” Freckles brought his elbow to the table and leaned towards Tristan, “What’s so important about an old car ornament?”
“Nothing, the kid’s a schizo maniac. Just like both his parents were.”
Tristan’s icy eyes glowed, “Careful with your conjectures, officer.”
The freckled one ignored his partner, distracted. “You want us to find it, don’t you? That’s what this whole thing was about. Can you give us a hint?”
Tristan smirked mysteriously, “Look where you haven’t looked yet.”

***********************************


Hailey Henderson visits Tristan every day. They sit at a dull, sanitary table in the regular room full of irregular people. It’s always the table in the corner, farthest to the left. They play Scrabble or checkers, drink watery hot chocolate, and talk. They talk a lot. Hailey rants about how unfair the world is, and how she’s never going to the police for anything, ever again. She says as soon as he gets out, they’re going to do something really, actually crazy, just to slap those idiots in the face. Tristan listens and laughs at her stubbornness, assuring her that it’s a whole lot better here than prison. He is content. He got what he wanted. Wyatt comes too, sometimes, usually to bring the latest headlines. “Silver Jaguar Finally Found at Gravestones—What It Means,” “Police Rethink Murder 10 Years Late,” “Suicide— Why He Did It.” Tristan likes to hang them in his room. They tell a story. A story of people and reason and assumptions.




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