American Chimera – 19.1

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The lights in the interrogation room were dim. Janie Huffman sat, cuffed tightly, in a steel chair when the interrogator waltzed in. Their gazes met each other.

The interrogator moved first. She focused on her own chair and took her seat, unfolded her tablet onto her lap, and breathed deeply.

Janie clenched her fists and tensed. “What do you want now?”

The interrogator smiled. “I wouldn’t be so adversarial if I were you. I brought you here as a favor. You may never see another person or animal as long as you live.” Her eyes squinted. “I’ve got all the information I need to quickly free the innocents trapped in this facility. If you’re not nice to me, I can make the decision to let you rot in that cell, alone, until you die.”

Janie spat onto the floor. “Then do it. Put me in the cage. Least then I can ’magine you’re alone, too.”

“There’s still…well, there’s still one matter I’d like to attend to, and you have a lot to gain from working with me.” The interrogator stood to pace. “You already know that I had been trying to discover what made Dani female. My boss told me to give up on that, and I mostly had, but Dr. Smith, the head scientist here, got me access to Dani. It’s only been a couple days since, but her information has increased the speed at which I progress by an astounding rate. I feel indebted to the man, seeing as I might actually get out of this hell-hole within the next couple months. So I’ll ask you one last time – tell me about when you found the egg. Tell me the conditions you kept it in. I need anything you can tell me.”

“Like I tole you afore, I ain’t got no reason to help you. Rot in hell.”

“Oh, but there you’re wrong. You do have a reason to help me.” The interrogator reached in her pocket and withdrew an old hard drive. “Yesterday, I got video proof that a certain Reverend Hinkley deserves to be arrested, and not just because you hate him. There’s a bit of a problem with the evidence though, see…the problem is that I don’t have to give it to my superior. If you help me out, though, I’ll have him arrested. I’ll bring you proof that you exacted some petty revenge against the man.”

Janie’s jaw shook from anger. Through clenched, hateful teeth, she asked, “What did he do?”

“I’ll answer that question if you answer mine. You work with me, and I’ll give you plenty of reward.”

“Tell me what he did now. As up front payment.”

“No. I tell you what I will do, though: I have a message from Dani. I told her I’d try to relay it, so you get it for free. She says to tell you she loves you, though she requested I say it after you ‘calmed down.’ I thought she’d rather me get it out now anyway. She’s safe, has good medical care, but is lonely.”

Janie’s face softened a bit. Her hands relaxed.

“Tell me about the egg. Tell me about how you brought Dani into this world. If you do, I’ll let you know what Hinkley did, and I’ll talk with you one more time to show you video of his arrest and return to the facility. If you say nothing, I put you back in your cell, and it will never open again.”

Janie grunted. “I need one more promise.” She swallowed. “I want you to tell Dani to stay hopeful. Tell her that Mama loves her, that we’ll get through this. Tell her I miss her, but that I’m thinkin’ and prayin’ for her.”

The interrogator sat back in her chair. “If that’s what’ll seal the deal, sure. I can do that. I’ll bring proof and any response from Dani next time I see you.”

Janie nodded. “Listen up, then.”

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