Oriana was caught unprepared by detective Peterson’s question. Although he had not said Kent’s name yet, she assumed they had to have been referring to him. Who else fitted the description of being a suspicious person? The two men were waiting for her answer, but she maintained the appearance of being surprised into silence longer than she needed to be so as to give herself enough time wonder: had Kent actually done something so wrong that it warranted a police investigation? True, he was an eccentric man, but he seemed gentle and harmless enough, in fact he had said he helped to catch some criminals. If he had helped the police to catch a gang of thieves courageously in the past, surely he can’t truly be a bad person?
Peterson grew impatient with Oriana’s deliberate silence which she had played out a little too long. He repeated the question, “Have you been in contact with anyone suspicious?”
Oriana slowly nodded, “Yes, I think I might have.”
“Well, I met a strange man, called Kent, yesterday, but…” she trailed off.
“But what, Miss Oriana?”
Oriana realised that these men who claimed to be with the police had not even bothered to ask her for her full name. Her suspicion grew; was this really about Kent? Was it normal for the police to ask questions like this?
“But he didn’t say or do anything wrong. He was just a bit strange. Nothing suspicious about him now I think about it. What has he done wrong?”
“That’s police business that you do not need to know. Can you tell us where you saw him?”
Something in Peterson’s voice came off as more than just gruff, but actually condescending. Was this an appropriate way to question her? Something inside of her rejected being spoken to like this. She felt she cheeks heat up from her growing anger.
“Actually, detective Peterson, I think I do need to know.”
Peterson froze momentarily as though stung by her assertiveness. Then he reddened a little in the face.
“Can you tell us where you last saw this man Kent?” he said firmly.
Oriana looked him in the eye, “I will not answer your question until you tell me what he has been involved in. If he is dangerous, then I have an interest to know about it.”
Peterson glared at her coldly. At this point agent Nix nudged his elbow, motioned him to keep calm with a gesture and spoke next.
“Miss Oriana, the man you referred to as Kent is known to us. He is involved with a dangerous religious cult and may be trying to lure people into joining it so that they can be exploited.”
Oriana gasped. This part actually had a ring of truth to it. She remembered the strange multitier sculpture in his underground chamber. What if that was some kind or altar or shrine? What if he practiced some kind of sacrifices? She shivered at the thought that she might have been in such close proximity with a religious nutcase. This inference had unsettled her.
“Miss Oriana, do you know where we might be able to find this man Kent?”
Oriana sighed with worry, “Well he lives down the end of Cutter’s Court.”
“Where is that?” asked Nix.
“Well it’s just over there across from here…” she trailed off. Oriana realised that she had assumed the police knew she had had contact with Kent from seeing her walking with him; which meant they had him under surveillance. But if these men had no idea which street he even lived on then they couldn’t have been lead to her by seeing her with him. How did these men figure out that she had been with Kent? Some fear mingled in with her existing anger.
“Exactly where down Cutter’s court? What number?”
Oriana searched the faces of both men carefully, she was afraid, but she pushed back against her fear to restore her composure.
“So you’re police officers?”
The men nodded.
“May I see your badges then please?”
Peterson and Nix both stopped breathing at once, the colour draining from their faces. She looked at them intensely, moving her eyes from one and then to the other, and back again.
Nix was the first to start talking, “We don’t actually have badges, we’re from a special department.”
Oriana shook her head slowly without breaking eye contact with the men. She knew from their body language that she had caught them out.
“No. You’re not really police are you?”
Peterson found his voice again, “We work for the government, but in a secret security department.”
“A government department that tracks down rogue cultists?”
“Yes, that is exactly what we do. We have been looking for this man Kent for some time. We haven’t involved the local police just yet. But if you don’t help us now then we will bring them in and get them to interrogate you properly.”
Oriana smiled, “Ok!” she said cheerfully, “I said hello to him the other day and he took me back to his place. It is this terrible dump in the old brick kiln on the hill.”
Oriana had an epiphany: These men were lying to her, so it would not bother her at all to lie back to them. She had no time for people who were dishonest demanding that other people be honest. Meet like with like, she thought to herself. Kent had so far been honest to her; she saw no reason yet to break his trust in her. Whatever weird religious stuff he was involved in, she would side with him for now.
“Didn’t you say he lived down Cutter’s court?”
“No, I said he lives down at the end of Cutter’s court. There’s a walking path at the end through to the park and on the other side of the park is Kent’s place inside the brick kiln. It’s a very primitive place, just a tent and some creepy magazines. He lives in a pigsty, when I saw it I just left. I mean, he seemed harmless enough, but completely creepy.”
“Where exactly in the brick kiln?”
“Oh, look, it was dark and I didn’t stay long. I don’t really know. That place is a labyrinth. But if you search it you are sure to find his place.”
The two men looked at each other and started to get up right away. They hurriedly said thank you to Oriana and then left. Oriana watched them cross the road and head straight down cutter’s court. Once they were gone Oriana keeled over and poured out a deep breath into her lap. They must have been reading my messages somehow, she thought to herself. She rushed out of the office and out into the street as fast as she could run.