I hadn’t seen it coming. I thought I’d gotten away with my sins. I thought the blood would be cleaned from my hands. I thought I would be redeemed, because the blood was of the cold-hearted who no longer deserved to have it running through their veins. I thought my sins would be overlooked. But I was wrong. Oh, how wrong I was.
Seven is my number. Seven weeks. Seven days. Seven letters. Seven bodies. It took seven weeks for my investigation to advance. It took seven days for the cops to trace me. Santana, seven characters in my girlfriend’s last name. And seven bodies of my seven criminal victims I hid around Persephone. I’ve even thought of having it tattooed on my body somewhere.
I was working on my motorcycle in the garage of my home. Three-quarter wrench in hand, I was inspecting the bike. There was silence. There’s always silence. Being deaf occasionally has its perks. Amber used to tell me that I was lucky I couldn’t hear the noise of Eavesdown Docks, seeing as I live only a few blocks from the crowd. I always told her I couldn’t imagine hearing. I can’t imagine not being able to completely zone out when I want to.
I crouched down to tighten a loose bolt on my motorcycle wheel. Feeling the tool strain against movement, I pulled the wrench away from my bike and brushed off the bolt. A bright light caught my eye and I quickly looked up, fingers still on the metal. It blinded me. My eyes were so used to working in the dark of night, in little light.
The source was a car, but before I could identify the type of car, the door opened and two more lights switched on, practically blinding me. Being deaf, I depend on my other senses. On my touch, my taste, my smell, but most importantly, my sight. Being unable to see well, I felt helpless and confused. What was going on? What was happening to me?
I stood up, looking toward the two men that had exited the vehicles. I squinted, trying to see better, see through the harsh light. Their lips were moving, but the flare of the lights made it rather difficult. However, I quickly realized they were cops and my hands were up, wrench still clutched. That seemed to aggravate the officer, though, seeing as he quickly advanced on me. But I still couldn’t read his lips. He came more into the light which gave him a halo more so than define his features. In fact, his face got darker.
The officer grabbed my arms, causing me to drop the wrench. He twisted my arm behind my back and I felt pain shoot up to my shoulder. I clenched my teeth, hoping to ignore the pain, but my confusion and fear only seemed to emphasize. He pushed me to the ground, still pinning my arm to my back. My cheek hit the cool surface of the cement and I could feel the dust, dirt, and grime sticking to it.
Something squeezed my wrist, something cold and metal. My blood seemed to resist travelling to my hands. They had cuffed me. The cop picked me up. I looked at him and a small moan escaped me. My attempt to speak. Despite having months of speech therapy, though, I couldn’t bring myself to talk. I still struggled to open my mouth at times. I’ve grown up never needing to; I grew up in silence, not just in hearing, but vocally. I’m practically mute.
I could see his lips this time when he spoke.
“You got something to say?” he asked. I wasn’t sure whether he was taunting me or actually serious. Still, I responded… with my hands. But my movement was limited in the cuffs. I doubted he would’ve understood even if I did have free motion of my hands.
I’ve heard about arrests like these. They're not uncommon among the deaf community. Most officers never give us a chance. They assume our lack of response is rebellion. They don’t give us a chance; they don’t take the time to understand, to even figure out that we can’t hear them. I wasn’t even scared that they’d discovered my transgressions. I was scared that I couldn’t do anything. For the first time, I hated being deaf. And because of that, I hated myself.
So, now I sit in an interrogation room. Waiting. Just waiting. They’re waiting on the proper authorities to come deal with me. For right now, I’m sitting on this cold, metal chair, highly uncomfortable. I shift every few minutes, unable to find a suitable position, but it’s an impossible feat. My fingers tap against the table in front of me. I can’t hear the beat, but I can feel it reverberate up my arm. Occasionally, my gaze leaves the shiny silver of the table surface and moves to my wrist.
My wrists now possess red marks from where the handcuffs were clamped too tight. They had refused to ease up on them and my silence only seemed to make it worse during that long drive. Their tones seemed to get more aggressive every time I put my hands up.
I sigh as my eyes come to them again. Yes, I am a murderer, but they hadn’t even told me if that was actually what I was here for. Do they treat everyone like this? I look back at the table, my fingers still tapping the metal table. A gentle hand rests on my wrist, fingers caressing the tender skin. I look up, knowing it’s not a cop, wondering who has come in without my notice.
And I see her. She wears her school uniform that I remember so well. The white button-up shirt. The red over shirt that she always tied an inch or so above her belly button, the sleeves reaching to her elbows. Her school’s crest was attached to the over shirt. She wears jeans to go with it. Her hair is dark, almost black, and gets curlier the longer it gets. Her skin is pale, despite her Spanish heritage. Her eyes are a bright brown, one of the main reasons her name is Amber.
My eyes fall to her lips, reading them as she speaks, and it’s one of the rare moments I wish I knew what her voice sounded like. She signs as she speaks, occasionally skipping words.
“I wanna go to the police and tell them I’m responsible,” I just manage to catch. I lift my hands to stop her from continuing.
“I’m the one who did it,” I quickly sign.
“But it’s my fault,” Amber replies.
“Doesn’t matter,” I sign to stop her. “They’ve probably found the bodies and traced it to me. It’s not your fault they’re dead.” I paused and I see reflected in her beautiful eyes that my face has hardened and I look almost threatening. “It’s their fault,” I finish.
“Well, if I tell them, maybe they’ll give you a lighter sentence,” she reasons. I shake my head.
“I don’t want your help. I need to be helping you. Okay?” I reply, my expression tender and full of love for her. She needs to know that I love her to no end. Nothing has ever been so important to me. And I know she sees that in my eyes. She nods. I look down at my wrist again, feeling her fingers stop moving.
She crouches down to my level and, out of the corner of my eye, I see her observing the mark on my wrist. Amber begins caressing my skin again after a long moment.
“That must have hurt,” I see her say. She then signs, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I answer. “I’m more worried about you.”
She gives me a sad smile, still trying to sooth my aggravated skin. The pain eases once again. I hear the door open and look towards it. An officer comes through the door with a file, followed by an interpreter now that they’ve realized I’m deaf. When I look back at Amber, she’s gone. Merely a figment of my imagination.
“Mr. Xiao,” the officer says and the interpreter signs as they both sit across from me, “you’ve been brought here due to seven counts of murder.” The officer pulls out a few photographs of the victims as well as documents that prove my guilt. I simply stare at him with a stern expression. I know that the real Amber could never forgive me for being a liar. “How do you plead?”
I lift my hands to give a short, direct answer.