Antony sat down on the sofa heavily. Carissa watched him out of the corner of her eye. His hair was frazzled and she noticed that he had started to bite his nails again.
She took a sip of her coffee. “You look like you have some questions.”
Antony looked up in surprise. “Uh, yes.”
“Go ahead. I have time.”
Antony looked at his hands and realised he’d been squeezing them together until his knuckles were white. “Where do I start?”
Carissa took another sip of her coffee. “You want to ask me how I solve all my cases right?”
“I–yes. How? How do you do it? And why do you work in total secrecy? With your ability, you could–”
“I could become famous, right? Rich even. I could make millions if I started my own TV show or start selling my talent. Really!” She put down her cup on her desk with a bang and Antony jumped. “Do you think my ability is that cheap? Do you think I’ll be happy catering to the whims of the masses?”
“No. I didn’t–that wasn’t what I meant.”
Carissa sighed. “Forget it. The things people want to see from me wouldn’t be what is really there. They love depraved stories of how these people start committing all these horrendous crimes. Guess what? Most of these people are perfectly rational and this will rob the masses of their superiority and sense of immunity. They’ll hate me for showing them how they and the criminals are the same. Or worse, what asymptomatic criminals there are will take their cues from my cases and start reenacting them. Really, people are quite easy to understand and quite hard to handle. It’s a pain.”
She took her cup back into her hand and took another sip. She could see the wrinkles between Antony’s eyebrows from where she was sitting. She swivelled around to face him. “Don’t frown like that. Come, figure out some things for yourself. I know for a fact you took something from the crime scene we were at yesterday.”
At the mention, Antony automatically put his hand on his jacket pocket. Carissa smiled. “And I see you have it with you today.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to steal evidence. I mean, I knew but–” he stammered, taking out a small gear from his pocket.
“What do you think of it?” Carissa interrupted.
“What do you mean?”
“Describe it. Tell me everything you know about it.” Carissa leant back in her chair.
He turned it over in his hand. “Well, it’s about eight centimetres in diameter, has ten cogs and is made of a combination of metals. It was probably used to operate the moving parts of the ceiling that we saw.”
“And why was it on the floor for you to pick up if it was part of the ceiling?”
Antony could feel a blush coming on. “It probably came down with the collapsed part of the ceiling. There were other, bigger gears nearby.”
“Why did you pick that one up?”
Antony hesitated before answering. He looked up to find Carissa looking at him with her serious eyes, the ones she used whenever she was trying to analyse someone. “It was different in size and was outside of the area where the other gears were. This was also the only gear that didn’t break or have any scratches on it.”
Carissa nodded, encouraging him. “Go on.”
Antony stopped. “But why? What about it?” He closed his fist around the gear, his earlier frustrations coming back. To his surprise, the gear bent easily.
Carissa smiled and swivelled back to face the window in front of her desk and took a sip of coffee. “You see, people are really blind. They operate on a facade of assumptions all the time. That’s why your disguises work so well. If you look the part, no one will think to dig deeper. That gear was made to feel and look the part and it fooled everyone. So now you know why the person who was in charge of ordering the building materials got arrested. She is quite clever. If it wasn’t me, the case would’ve been ruled as an accident.” She stopped, tapping a finger on her desk.
“You know, that is an important piece of evidence that you stole from the crime scene. I wonder what’s going to happen if the Superintendent finds out.”