Chapter Twenty-Three

OK, don’t panic.

One scary ride in a cop car wearing a pair of handcuffs later, and I’m sitting on a very hard plastic chair at a police station in the Ninth Precinct, being interviewed by a very hard-faced Officer McCrory.

On second thoughts, maybe I should panic.

‘So let me get this straight . . .’ Clearing his throat, he looks down at his notes. ‘You trespassed on city property and lit a fire.’

‘A candle,’ I correct. ‘A white candle.’

It’s important to be completely clear and stick to the facts, I tell myself calmly. Otherwise I could be mistakenly tried for a crime I didn’t commit. Like a robbery. Or a kidnapping. Or even a murder.

I feel a clutch of alarm.

Facts, Lucy. Remember, stick to the facts.

‘And why was that?’

‘I needed to burn a piece of paper and say a chant.’

A chant?’ His eyebrows shoot up like two thick, hairy, grey caterpillars scuttling up his forehead.

‘Well, it was more a poem,’ I explain. ‘Gosh, what was it now . . .?’ I try racking my brain, but I’m so nervous it’s as if it’s been wiped clean like a computer disc and there’s nothing on it. ‘Um, something about winds . . .’

‘According to these notes, you were also caught attempting to bury a deceased animal.’

‘It was a hambone,’ I say quickly. ‘My roommate keeps them in the freezer for Simon and Jenny.’

‘Simon and Jenny?’

‘Her dogs. Two rescues. Very cute. Well, Simon is, but Jenny has a dreadful underbite. That doesn’t make her ugly, though. I mean, she might not win Crufts, but—’

‘Miss Hemmingway, can you please stick to the question?’

‘Oh, yes, sorry, of course,’ I apologise hastily. ‘Officer.’

Shit. I’ve seen those cop shows. Robyn is always watching CSI, in between Oprah and The Secret DVD. If I’m not careful, Officer McCrory is going to throw me in a cell with lots of deranged lunatics and prostitutes called Roxy who chew gum and seem tough but who are really kind-hearted and have a sick kid at home and are just trying to make ends meet. Actually, no, that wasn’t CSI – that was an episode of Law and Order.

‘And you were doing all this in order to break up with your boyfriend?’

I snap back. ‘Ex-boyfriend,’ I correct. ‘We’ve already broken up.’

Frowning, Office McCrory puts down his pen, rocks back on his chair and, steepling his fingers, gives me a long, hard look.

Fuck. This is not good.

‘Miss Hemmingway, you do realise that the New York Police Department has reason to believe you have violated the law on three points . . .’

Really not good.

‘Trespassing . . . arson—’

Arson? But I only burned a bit of paper with my ex’s name on . . .’ I trail off.

There have been times in my life when I really should have kept my mouth shut. Like, for example, the time when I was eighteen and got hideously drunk on Scrumpy cider and told Jamie Robinson, who I’d been on three dates with, that I was madly in love with him and wanted to have his babies. Suffice to say, there was no fourth date.

Then there was the time Mum bought me a yellow mohair jumper, the reasoning being that my favourite colour is yellow. Which is true, except yellow is my favourite colour because I think of sunflowers and sunshine, not big, fat, furry mohair jumpers that make me look like I’m seasick.

It was OK, though, because she told me that she would return it if I didn’t like it. She wouldn’t be hurt or offended. So I said it was a lovely thought but would she mind returning it?

Mum promptly burst into tears.

And now this is one of those times, I muse, looking at Officer McCrory with a beat of apprehension. If I say anything, I will deeply regret it. I need to keep my big mouth so firmly shut a can-opener couldn’t prise it open.  

‘And resisting arrest,’ he finishes gravely.

‘No, I didn’t!’ I cry, before I can stop myself. ‘Look, I know how that must appear, but I was climbing over the railings to get towards you, not run away from you.’

‘Miss Hemmingway,’ he says sternly.

‘Officer McCrory.’ I sit bolt upright. This is it. He’s going to charge me.

‘I need to say something.’

‘I know what you’re going to say,’ I blurt. Well, what the hell. It’s too late now. I know I’m going down.

‘You do?’

I vacuum my throat nervously, then launch straight in. ‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.’

For a moment there’s complete silence and he just stares at me blankly. Then, shaking his head, he lets out a low whistle. ‘Jeez,’ he says finally.

‘My roommate is a huge fan of CSI,’ I explain, my voice trembling fearfully. ‘I know the score.’

Visions of me being carted off to the cells swim before my eyes. Flashes of my parents’ shocked reactions, Kate campaigning as a lawyer to free me . . . I can see the newspaper headlines now:

‘She thought she’d found her soulmate,’ says former roommate Robyn Weisenberg, ‘but then she couldn’t get rid of him. The universe wouldn’t let her. It’s a tragedy.’

Still, I suppose that’s one way of having closure with Nate. A life sentence.

‘So, do you have any questions?’

I zone back to see Officer McCrory looking at me expectantly.

My mouth goes dry. ‘Do I get a phone call?’ I stammer. My eyes are beginning to sting with tears and I feel slightly dizzy. ‘Before I’m . . .’ I can barely get the words out. ‘Before I’m taken down.’

‘Down?’ He raises his eyebrows. ‘Miss Hemmingway, did you not hear me? You’re free to go.’

I stare at him in shock. ‘Free?’

‘I’m letting you go with just a warning.’ He nods, shuffling his notes.

It takes a second to register and then . . .

‘Oh my God, thank you!’ I gasp in astonishment. ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you!’ Overwhelmed with gratitude and relief, I jump out of my chair and before I know it I’m flinging my arms round his stout blue-uniformed figure. Taken aback, Officer McCrory stiffens and stands statue-still, his arms out like a scarecrow.

‘Gosh, I’m sorry. I was just . . .’ Suddenly aware that I’m bear-hugging a police officer in the NYPD, I jump back. ‘I’m sorry. I’m just so emotional.’ I feel my eyes start prickling.

‘I understand. I know how hard it can be to break up with someone,’ he says, lowering his voice. ‘My wife left me less than a year ago.’ Reaching over to his desk, he grabs a box of tissues and holds it out to me.

‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ I reply, taking one.

‘Ran off with my best friend. But she’s still in here.’ He bangs his chest with a meaty palm, his eyes glistening, and reaches for a tissue for himself. ‘It’s like she’s everywhere I go.’

‘I know the feeling,’ I say wryly.

Sniffing, he blows his nose loudly. ‘I just want to forget about her.’

‘Me too.’ I nod wistfully, thinking about Nate. ‘Forget about him, I mean.’

Officer McCrory and I meet each other’s gaze in solidarity. Then, remembering himself, he stuffs his tissue in his pocket and says gruffly, ‘Is there anyone you can call to come pick you up?’

‘Oh, I’m fine. I’ll catch a cab.’

‘I’m not letting you outta here on your own – don’t want you reoffending.’ He looks at me, his eyes twinkling.

I think about Robyn. She’s my obvious choice, but she was going to her reiki class tonight and it usually goes on late. Last week she was out until the early hours having her aura read, apparently, and no, I don’t think that was a double-entendre.

Then there’s Kate. I glance at the time. It’s nearly midnight. On second thoughts, no, there isn’t Kate. She will have been in bed for hours by now, earplugs in, wave music on, as she gets up at five every morning to hit the gym. She won’t take too kindly to her little sister waking her up. Even less so when she discovers I’m at the police station downtown.

I rack my brains – Magda? Magda is the most liberated boss I’ve had, but there’s liberated and liberated. Calling her at midnight to tell her I’m at the cop shop and could she please come and get me probably wouldn’t be the wisest career move.

Which leaves . . . I scroll through the contacts list on my phone.


His number jumps out at me. I punched it into my phone after he sent it to me on Facebook. I stare at it for a few moments, toying with the idea, mulling it over in my head.

Well, he did say to call him.

‘Lucy! Are you OK?’

Twenty minutes later I glance up from staring at the scuffed floor of the police station to see the fire doors swinging open and Adam appearing through them. Like a knight in shining armour, I can’t help thinking, only instead he’s wearing a scruffy T-shirt, baseball cap and ripped jeans. He looks at me, his face etched with concern, and my heart swells. I have never been so pleased to see anyone in my entire life.

‘Yeah . . . fine.’ I jump up from my plastic chair to greet him, then hold back, feeling suddenly self-conscious. ‘Everything’s fine.’

‘You usually hang around in police stations for fun, do you?’ he says, his mouth twitching with amusement.

My cheeks flush. ‘Well, there was nothing on at the movies,’ I quip feebly.

He laughs, an easy, relaxed laugh and, tilting his head to one side, surveys me from beneath the peak of his cap. ‘Sure you’re OK?’ he asks quietly. Reaching for my hand, he squeezes it gently.

As his fingers brush mine, a little tingle rushes up my spine. ‘Sure.’ I nod, but as I’m saying the words, I feel my lips tremble unexpectedly. ‘Everything’s cool,’ I manage, and then, to my absolute embarrassment, burst into tears.

You're the One That I Don't Want