The air passes through the older policeman’s throat as roughly as a piece of heavy furniture being dragged across an uneven wooden Aoor. When he’d reached a certain age and weight, he’d noticed himself starting to sound like that, as if older breaths were heavier. He smiles awkwardly at the real estate agent.
“My colleague, he… He’s my son.”
“Ah!” the Realtor nods, as if to say that she’s got children, too, or perhaps that she hasn’t got children but that she’d read about them in a manual during her real estate agent’s training. Her favorites are the ones with toys in neutral colors, because they match everything.
“My wife said it was a bad idea for us to work together,” the policeman admits.
“I understand,” the Realtor lies.
“She said I’m overprotective. That I’m one of those penguins that squats on top of a stone because I don’t want to accept that the egg has gone. She said you can’t protect your kids from life, because life gets us all in the end.”
The Realtor considers pretending to understand, but replies honestly instead. “What did she mean by that?”
The police officer blushes.
“I never wanted… Look, it’s silly of me to sit here and go on about this to you, but I never wanted my son to join the police. He’s too sensitive. He’s too… good. Do you know what I mean? Ten years ago he ran onto a bridge and tried to talk some sense into a man who was going to jump. He did all he could, all he could! But the man jumped anyway. Can you imagine what that does to a person? My son… he always wants to rescue everyone. After that I thought maybe he’d stop wanting to be a policeman, but the opposite happened. He
suddenly wanted it more than ever. Because he wants to save people. Even the bad guys.”
The real estate agent’s breathing has slowed, her chest is rising and falling almost imperceptibly.
“You mean the bank robber?” The older policeman nods.
“Yes. There was blood everywhere inside the apartment when we got in. My son says the bank robber’s going to die unless we 1nd him in time.”
The real estate agent can see how much this means to him from the sadness in his eyes. Then he runs his 1ngers across the tabletop and adds with forced formality, “I have to remind you that everything you say during this interview is being recorded.”
“Understood,” the real estate agent assures him.
“It’s important that you understand that. Everything we say here will be included in the 1le and can be read by any other police officer,” he insists.
“Everyone can read. De1nitely understood.”
The older officer carefully unfolds the piece of paper the younger officer left on the table. It’s a drawing, produced by a child who is either extremely talented or completely devoid of talent for their age, depending entirely on what that age is. It appears to show three animals.
“Do you recognize this? As I said before, we found it in the stairwell.” “Sorry,” the real estate agent says, looking genuinely sorry.
The policeman forces himself to smile.
“My colleagues reckon it looks like a monkey, a frog, and a horse. I think that one looks more like a giraPe than a horse. I mean, it hasn’t even got a tail! GiraPes don’t have tails, do they? I’m sure it’s a giraPe.”
The real estate agent takes a deep breath and says what women usually say to men who never seem to think that their lack of knowledge should get in the way of a con1dent opinion.
“I’m sure you’re right.”
In truth, it wasn’t the man on the bridge that made the teenage boy want to be a policeman. It was the teenage girl who was standing on the same railing a week later that made him want it. The one who didn’t jump.