Conflicts Of Interest

Thursday, September 11,1997

“The witnesses have implicated Caleb Mitchell as a supect-” Brant was in the middle of telling his father.

“He’s from New York. The guy who tried to buy drugs from Dani. You can go on that, right? Wait Caleb? What witnesses?”

Brant and Sheriff Garrison both stared at me as they clasped their hands and strummed their fingers.

“I’m sorry Mer, I can’t discuss this case with you,” Brant said.

“Ok, then why don’t I go sit in the hallway and listen from there. And Sheriff, you should probably come with me, seeing as this isn’t your case so Brant isn’t able to discuss it with you either.”

Sheriff Garrison merely chuckled before saying, “You can stay, Meredith. I’d like to hear your thoughts.”

“Pop-” Brant started.

“Consider her a consultant,” Sherrif Garrison said.

“She’s Dani’s best friend. She’s a conflict of interest,” Brant argued.

“And you aren’t?” I snapped.

The Sherrif put his hand on Brant’s shoulder. “What did Dani’s co-workers say Brant?”

“Did you at least bring me any pizza?” Brant asked.

“Brant.” Sherrif Garrison warned.

Brant sighed, “The co-workers said that Dani constantly had unexplainable injuries and absences. They assumed that her husband was beating her. Similarly, the neighbors said that she was gone a lot, but she never took Allie with her. They believe that she was trying to leave him, but she was trying not to screw over her custody rights.”

Brant couldn’t be serious. He knew – we all knew – that Dani was a klutz. I can’t even keep track of how many times she went to the emergency room as a child. When she was 2, she tried to jump from the toilet to the bathtub – 5 stitches. When she was 10 she ran into a tree while playing an out-of-water version of Marco Polo – broken nose. When she was 14 she busted open her knee while dusting the fireplace – 3 stitches. When she was 16 she spilt an entire catering tin of black beans on her hand – 3rd degree burn.

So was I surprised that she constantly showed up at work with mysteriously acquired injuries? Hell no. She probably told them that the red scar on her neck was from trying to pop her shirt collar with a hair straightener and they assumed she was covering for Caleb’s abusiveness.

And frequent tardiness? Dani had 3 alarm clocks in college and I still had to wake her up every morning. One time, Freshman year, she slept over at some one-night-stand’s house the night before the finals and I had to go over there and make sure she woke up in time.

Walk of shame? By the time Dani rose on Saturdays, her bed buddy was already heading back out to the bars so he might as well drive her there with him. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit – that only happened once.

“Why didn’t you question me, huh?” I asked. “I could have told you that you were wasting your time because this wife-beater theory is bullshit.”

“You’d rather us believe she was selling drugs?” Brant challenged. “You know her so well, huh? Would the Dani you know have gotten caught up in something like that?”

“I don’t know but-“

“Exactly my point.”

“-But I do know that there is a guy from New York that threatened Dani two weeks ago. And if you don’t go out there and find him then I will,” I said. Sheriff Garrison had resorted to leaning against the bookshelf, watching us, letting us duel it out ourselves. I imagine he found this whole exchange rather amusing.

“What do you mean you’re going out there?” Brant demanded. “You sound like you’re going out into the jungle or something. There’s no here and there.”

“I know there’s a gray area,” I told him. I wasn’t stupid.

“Gray area? It’s all one big gray area,” he said. “You ever been to L.A., Mer? You know why it’s so drug-ridden? It’s not because there’s a bunch of thugs forcing drugs onto you. It’s all the pretty people, the people that you think are right here with you, that are pressuring you into doing drugs. You’re there before you even realize you left here.”

“Geez, Brant,” I said. “I wasn’t looking for a lecture. I was looking for your help.”

“No, you’re trying to help me find Dani, but I’m doing just fine without all of your theories.”

“Oh yeah, then where is she?” I asked.

“We’re still working on it,” he said.

“Well, good luck with that. Let’s see who can find her first.” I stormed out of the office.

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