“Are you married, Ms Pavel?”
She shifts awkwardly on her seat. “I’m sorry?”
“Married. Are you married? Single? Divorced?”
She sips at her black coffee through pursed lips without looking at me. Divorced.
She doesn’t answer. She doesn’t have to. The pretense of the voluntary confession or contribution these people believe they are giving me is merely that. What they don’t give me is enough credit. More than half of the time they walk out of this room, relieved, congratulating themselves on an academy award-winning performance.
I think they might be less confident if they knew that after our one hour together, I knew more about them than the people they had shared their lives with.
“How old are you, Ms Pavel?”
Thirty-four, I thought. Her slight pause gave away the lie, the confidence with which she said “thirty” was genuine but the “one” was not. And besides, the question was redundant; I had checked her date of birth on her driver’s licence when she first turned it in and mentally calculated her age, the question was a multipurpose test – assessing her honesty, betraying some of her tells.
“Pastimes? Do you have anything you do outside of work, for pleasure?”
Her lips said, “Tennis, and walking my dogs.” But her body said otherwise.
The harsh blush that turned her face scarlet as a result of my question was an indication of embarrassment, awkwardness, taboo. And judging by the answers she gave, the first two to come to her mind, she was associating the swinging, striking motion of the arm in tennis, and the leather of the dog’s lead and collar with the regular S&M sexual activities she participated in with strangers.
“Okay Ms Pavel… You told me you work in finance? I hope it isn’t too presumptious of me but judging from the custom-made designer business suit, you are a very well-paid…financer? Is that accurate?”
“Can I smoke in here, Doctor?”
“Please yourself, Ms Pavel, but please, answer the question.”
She lit a cigarette and crossed her legs, pushing backwards into her chair as if to assess me. She kept my gaze for several important seconds.
“I’m filthy rich, Doctor. More money than I know what to do with.”
“I thought as much. No desire for more, though?”
“No,” she answered curtly. “Next question, unless we’re done here?”
Keen to change the subject from the topic of money. This is important. I have no intention of doing so.
“What would you say is your biggest fear, Ms Pavel?”
The faintest twitch. The tiniest narrowing of her eyes.
She was telling the truth. Good girl.
“And… any recurring dreams? Nightmares?”
“Lose…Losing my teeth. My hair.” She was beginning to look bewildered.
But… she was still lying. I had her. Losing something, sure, that part was true. But her nightmares weren’t about her crooked, stained teeth falling out, but about losing something else. Her money. Despite her overpaid job she was terrified of being left destitute.
“Really, Doctor, what is the point of all these fucking questions? I’m getting pretty fucking tired of…”
“Your parent’s, Ms Pavel. Tell me about your parents.”
She glared at me. “None of your fucking business.”
“Ms Pavel, I’d like you to know something. You may not believe it, but i can learn almost as much about you by what you don’t tell me as what you do. In actual fact, your cooperation is barely necessary. However, the more you do tell me willingly, the quicker we’ll be done here.”
She sat silent for a few moments, livid. For a moment i thought she might actually attack me. Her eyes certainly suggested it, the way they sized me up. She thought about making a run for it too, judging the distance to the door. But it was only momentarily, and she remained seated.
“My mother… passed away when I was six. My father… raised me alone, if you can call it that. He started drinking, and…”
“And he started hitting you, correct?” I hadn’t glanced up from my notebook. I didn’t need to for this one.
“If you’re trying to suggest…”
“I’m suggesting nothing Ms Pavel, answer the question please.”
Grudgingly she answered. “Yes.”
“And how long did this continue for?”
“I was… 8. And I left home when i was 18. I haven’t seen him since.”
“That remains to be seen. So for ten years you suffered abuse at the hands of your alcoholic father. Is that accurate?”
“And is that where you got your tendency towards aggression, Ms Pavel? Your history of violence?”
She stared daggers at me, seething with rage.
“…Is that why you killed him, Ms Pavel?”