Orla and Clare came to visit that morning, but their visit was cut short when two policemen came in.
“Michelle Mallon and James Maguire- are they present in this room?” The female officer said. She had a kind face but a stern tone, enough to make Erin sink back in bed.
“Aye, right here,” Michelle said, pointing to herself, as well as her cousin.
“You two.” The officers said to Orla and Clare. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you two to leave. I need to ask these two important questions.”
Clare and Orla, of course, understanding, nodded. The police officers momentarily left the room.
“I think I’m going to be held up,” Michelle said to Clare. “The Quinn’s plane lands in an hour- can you pick them up from the airport? It's section B gate 13.”
Clare nodded, glad to feel useful.
“Of course I can.” She whispered. “Is… Is everything okay?”
“Aye,” Michelle said, looking nervously at Erin, who thankfully was being distracted by James so she couldn’t hear their conversation. “I think the police just needs to hear our sides of what happened... make sure everything lines up.”
Clare and Orla nodded.
“Be careful, Michelle,” Orla mumbled. “They won’t arrest James for kicking the lights out of him, will they?”
“No, I don’t think so. He saved Erin’s life.” Michelle said, looking back at the two of them sitting on the bed. “Without him…”
The three girls were silent. “Alright, we’ll head out. Should I bring Mary and Gerry over after they land?”
“Call me when you’re at the airport. I’ll let you know where we are. Erin could even be released from the hospital by then and back in our flat.”
“Okay. Good luck, Michelle. Help James out; he can be quite shy and flustered under pressure.” Orla said.
“Thank you, Orla. Don’t worry, I've got everything under control.”
The two girls left without another word, meanwhile, James was trying to reassure a very nervous Erin.
“They must question us, Erin,” Michelle added after Clare and Orla left. “They need to know the story.”
“I’m just worried.” She spat. “What if...”
The door was knocked on again and the officers came in.
“I’m Officer Downey, this is Officer Layle.” The female said gently. “Can I speak to James Maguire first? We’ll talk to you in the room next door one at a time. It won’t be too long.”
James gulped, and Erin was about to plead with him not to leave her, but she kept her mouth shut. Michelle took his place on the bed and the girls watched him depart with the two officers.
The door was shut behind him, and although James had nothing to hide, he was as nervous as Clare on a school exam day. His hands were shaking and his heart was pounding out of his throat.
“Alright, James. I just need to ask you a few questions about what happened yesterday.”
“What happened before Erin left that night with William? It looks like she mentioned she was with you.”
“Indeed. We were studying for an exam.”
“Yes, she mentioned that.” Officer Downey said. “Can you elaborate?”
James nodded. “I noticed Erin had been acting strange- not herself for the past couple of weeks; I’d know, she’s my best friend. I thought she was just oddly stressed with school, as it's very important to her. She and I have the same Shakespeare course, and she badly failed the exam. Of course, I offered to help her study. She’d been jumpy that week, flinching whenever I touched her or our friends made an elaborate noise. I… I thought it was from the lack of sleep. The more it happened, the more I grew suspicious. When William came over that day when we were studying, she looked as though she were going to be sick. Her face went white and she cowered like a dog behind me… I knew something was wrong.”
“And so you followed them?”
“I didn’t want to make a scene… now I know I shouldn’t have let her go with him in the first place. I blame myself for not making that decision sooner. Thirty minutes after they left my gut was telling me to go find her, so I did. Her….her nose was bleeding, and she looked so scared when William answered the door to his dorm. I had to make up a lie to get her out of there.”
“What was the lie?” Officer Layle asked him, hand on the recording machine strapped to his lapel.
“Oh, I just said that our friend- Erin’s cousin, Orla had been rushed to the hospital.” He said. “It got her out of there, and it was when I took her back to my dorm room that she began to cry and I noticed the fresh bruises and marks on her neck and shoulder- the ones from that day that she didn’t have time to cover up. She had no choice but to tell me the truth. That's when I called Michelle, Erin’s best friend and my cousin. She was at work… I didn’t know what to do. She immediately came and helped me comfort Erin and tend to her injuries.”
"Why did you wait thirty minutes?"
"If I'm being honest, I've always been intimidated by William. I didn't want to get into Erin's business too much, and I was worried I would embarrass myself. I wish I went right away, or better yet, never let her go with him."
“And if I’m following correctly, this is when William shows up to Erin’s dormitory.” Officer Downey said, looking at her notepad.
“Yes. Erin began to freak out, knowing he’d hurt someone if it was in fact him at the door, so I told the girls to lock the door to the bathroom. Michelle called 999.” His voice began to crack. “He began to threaten us, saying things like he was going to kill Erin because she told me about how he'd been hurting her. I asked him to leave, as he was pissed drunk, but he swung at me. I tackled him to the ground, and that’s when our bookshelf fell. Erin knew he’d be out to hurt me, so when she heard the smash of the bookshelf falling, she….” He took a breath.
“Take your time.” Officer Layle added.
“She unlocked the door and ran into the living room, and when she saw him pounding his fists to me, she yelled. I tried to grab him, but I’m not strong enough against him and he had a knife- I saw it, so…so… he kicked me down. His hand…” James held his hand to his neck. “Grabbed her, like this, and he reached into his pocket to pull the knife out. Will pushed her against the wall, choking her with one hand, and pressing the knife to her throat with the other.” James took a deep breath, trying to clear the tears.
“This can be traumatic for you as well… so please, James… Take your-“
“No, I’m okay. I just want to make sure this bastard is put in jail. He almost killed the person who I love most in this world, and he deserves to suffer.”
The police officers nodded, going back to writing in their notepads.
“He told us that if either Michelle, whom might I add, ran out shortly after Erin did, or I moved a centimetre that he’d slice her throat. In his words, he said ‘there’d be a lot more to clean up than just the broken shelf’. I didn’t know what to do... Erin was gasping for air and begging for him to stop, sobbing aloud. I saw the broken shelf, so I mouthed to Michelle for her to distract William. I knew that with one wrong move, Erin could die right in front of me. As Michelle talked, I grabbed a wooden board from the shelf, and swung it, clambering him in the back of the head. He immediately passed out, which greatly relieved me, because I didn’t think I swung hard enough. I… think it was because of the alcohol in him. Michelle went down to meet the ambulance and police, and Erin went to the hospital while Will was taken. That's it. I just want you to know that everything I did, I did to save Erin. I know that if I didn’t take those actions, Erin could be killed or seriously injured.”
“We do not doubt that. We also feel like you deserve to know that William had two counts of assault on his record already.”
“Indeed. I can’t give any more details.”
“James Maguire, you truly saved your friends life.” Officer Layle said.
“I did what anyone would do for someone they love,” James said.
“We have everything we need to know from you. You’ll be getting a call for updates with the case shortly.”
James nodded, not really understanding the whole court thing, but knew enough to know that domestic abuse cases rarely were taken to court.
“You may go. And can you bring Ms Mallon in as well?”
“Of course.” He said, exiting politely.
James, hands all sweaty from nerves, walked back next door. The minute he opened the door, Erin and Michelle looked up.
“Go on in Michelle.” He smiled. Michelle got up from the bed, patted Erin's hands, and walked next door.
“How’d it go?” She croaked, looking warily at James, who sat down beside her on the bed. He grabbed one of her hands, playing with her fingers.
“Fine. I told them the truth.”
“Are you going to jail?”
James chuckled. “No. But guess what?”
“What?” Erin looked at him, eyes widening.
“William.. he had two other counts of assault on his record.”
“What?!” Erin said.
“They couldn’t give me any more details… I’m not all sure that they were even supposed to tell me that much.”
“I guess that won’t be in his favour.”
“I have a feeling he’ll be in jail for quite a while. He could even be charged for attempted murder.” James mumbled.
“I doubt it. Cases like these… they don’t pay too much attention to them.” Erin sighed, grabbing his hand. “As long as you’re not going to jail, that’s what I care about. Now all I need to worry about is mammy and daddy.”
“Everything’s going to be fine, Er. They’re just worried.”
“They’re going to try to make me come back home.” She mumbled. “I won’t want to. I can’t leave you… you guys.” She said nervously.
“You need to do what’s going to be best for you and your health.” He said.
“I know. And moving away from you definitely won’t help. You’re the only person I can trust one hundred per cent right now. Moving away from you will make me stressed and anxious.”
James couldn’t help but smile knowing Erin felt safe and comfortable around him. He knew he did everything in his power for her to feel that way, so clearly, he was doing something right.