It was a quiet morning. A cup of coffee on the table had long turned cold. It was a sleepless night for Rio. Dark circles under his eyes were prominent and his face was ghastly pale. He found the sunlight too blinding, so he drew the curtain. In his hand was a portrait of his wife in her wedding dress. She was smiling softly while admiring her bouquet of yellow roses. His expression unreadable, he put the portrait down next to his cup.
She loved taking pictures. What she loved most was taking selfies with him and post it on her Facebook. She'd caption it with some romantic words and some heart emoticon. He found it childish, but he didn't voice it out. And now, her last photograph would be on her funeral - in her funeral dress. But that could wait until the result of the autopsy. He wanted to laugh.
What kind of death required the authority to intervene? According to the police, a death that was not natural called for a thorough investigation. What was natural and what was not? Wasn't it all the same in the end? When the heart stopped, it would also stop supplying blood that carried oxygen to the brain. Without oxygen, brain activities ceased - not immediately, but may take some time before it would. That's a no-brainer. What's unnatural about that? Be it illness, murder, suicide or accident - they all went through the same process. They all resulted to death. The heart would die first, then the brain. An investigation couldn't change that fact. The forensic team would then inform the family members how their loved one died. Who, on their right state of mind, would want to hear such cruel thing?
"Your son died of blood loss due to the laceration of radial artery."
"The trauma caused epidural hemorrhage, which according to the report, is the cause of death. The injury was caused by a blunt object."
The medical examiners would read the report in monotone. There's no warmth in their voice. They'd do it as if they were talking about the weather. There's no compassion nor sympathy. And the family of the deceased would be left with such vivid description of how their loved one passed on. They would remember it for the rest of their lives.
That was not the case, however, in Nina's family. They wanted an investigation and it was being carried out. The cops were sent to ask her relatives, friends and neighbors about her, her behavior or if they noticed any abnormalities in her behavior prior to her death. But despite everything that's going on, Rio was kept in the dark. No one informed him of the progress of the investigation. He was the husband, but he was left out. Other than his parents and few close friends, not a soul was in the house. Yes, house. For a house was only a home if there was warmth, but there was none.
Dust had settled quickly like eclipse. In a matter of days, what was once a house filled with sunshine had become desolated. Rio found himself looking through the drawn curtains of the window. The light could barely seep through and with the AC in full blown, the cold was gnawing through his bones. He was cold, he admitted, but he didn't feel he needed to be warm.
A knock snapped him out of his thoughts. He blinked. It must be the investigator his father talked about during last night's phone call. He walked towards the door without any hesitation or expression on his face. There was no sign of fear, trepidation or nervousness in every step he made. He opened the door fully as if welcoming a guest.
"Hi!", a saccharine voice of a young girl greeted him accompanied by a radiant smile. He couldn't help but study the person before him. She was the same height as his wife and of the same body frame. She was quite pretty and definitely in the prime of her youth. She was as vibrant as a newly- opened flower. It was like his wife, Nina, the first time he saw her.
"Mr. Valdez?" That voice again brought him back to the present.
"You are - "
She showed him her identification.
"I'm Cielo Maravillosa. This guy here is my bodyguard, Mr. de Leon.He's a police detective or something like that. I forgot his name, so let's call him that". She gave the stern officer next to her an apologetic smile.
"I am not your bodyguard!" He glared at her ferociously like a tiger to its prey. He showed Rio his badge.
"Can we come in?", he asked with a face full of seriousness.
After confirming that they were indeed the investigators, Rio let them in.
"Do come in", he said expressionlessly.
"Thanks!", she grinned. "What a nice house, by the way."
He led them to the living room and offered them some refreshments, which the girl named, Cielo, gladly accepted. That earned her another glare from the man who chose to sit in a wingback chair. Rio made sure they were comfortable before heading to the kitchen. The living room and the kitchen were separated by a spacious breakfast counter.
The officer had his gaze locked on him the entire time, afraid that a single blink might cause him a loss of evidence.
"You have a serious case of trust issue, Mr. de Leon", she remarked nonchalantly.
He scoffed. "Unlike certain someone who'd make herself comfortable in a suspect's home and would even accept food and drinks. Totally brainless.", he said in hushed tone.
"No wonder you're single." She slumped comfortably on the soft couch next to him. "We are at the interviewing stage. He is not guilty until proven otherwise. Although I understand the reasons behind your actions, I have my own way and I hope your shy teenager tendency won't get in my way."
What shy teenager tendency? How come he had never heard of such terminology before? But that's not the main point!
"Being all tensed up and all out suspicious won't help you get evidence, officer. If you behave like that in front of someone under suspicion, you'll alarm him. As a result, he will be careful when facing you. Every word, every answer and every step will be carefully measured. If the suspect has his guard and psychological barrier up, do you really think you can easily extract information from him?He will go all out defensive and may not even talk at all. If he is smart enough, he knows his silence will be the best option. Do you really think you can make him talk? Will you resort to threat or torture to extract a confession?"
There was a hint of coldness in her voice as she whispered to him. The saccharine and syrupy voice from earlier was gone. Even her nonchalance was gone. There was only forbearance.
She took a deep breath and adjusted her expression when she saw Rio approaching them with a platter of cookies on his left hand and a bottle of soda on the other. He placed them down and went back to the kitchen to grab them a glasses for their drink.
After refreshments, they talked about trivialities of his day-to-day life. How was he? Did he sleep well last night? How was work? How much was the monthly mortgage of he house? Was his electricity bill big? What were his job responsibilities? All throughout the process, he answered shortly, but straight to the point. He didn't spare a single word or breath on anything not related to the questions. He didn't elaborate. He only answered the necessary and that was all.
Officer de Leon was observing him the whole time. To him, he was a suspect, so he refused to miss a single thing about Rio's expressions. Unfortunately, the target was like a robot. Other than blinking and answering, there was no expression on his face. How on earth was that possible? There should be micro expressions and he knew there were. He might have missed them despite being observant.
He shifted his position. He started to feel impatient with all these small talks. He wanted to get down to business, but this woman beside him was like a chatterbox. It was as though she found her BFF - a potential murderer.
"Mr. Valdez", she daintily tapped her phone, "You do know the reason we are here, don't you?"
Rio nodded his head. So it's finally here. Instead of feeling nervous, he was rather anticipating this. He smiled at her. She smiled back. There was a tacit understanding between them.
He was intelligent and he knew she was, too, and might be more than he was. Perhaps intelligent people had this innate ability to recognize their own kind. If they sensed that the other was of higher level than they did, they saw them as a rival or a threat.But whether or not Rio and Cielo viewed each other as a threat was up to them.
Officer de Leon turned on the recorder under the cue.
"Mr. Valdez", Cielo adjusted to a formal sitting position, "Tell me... Why did you do it?"