At eight 'o clock Thursday morning, Tom was on autopilot. He went through the motions of working. Every fiber of his body ached from lack of sleep as he drove to his first stop. He was in Tacoma when a King County Police detective called to request another "routine" interview. Tom had no problem answering more questions. "Where and when?" he asked. They wanted him to come to the Regional Justice Center in the town of Kent, just south of Seattle. Tom called his boss, to let him know what was happening, and then it seemed to take forever for him to drive through sluggish traffic to Kent.
He struggled with his gut feeling that Tanya was fighting to get back to him—and to life in general—but he could feel her slipping away. Maybe he was just suffering from the effects of excessive anxiety and sleep deprivation, but reality started to grab at his heart and mind. He questioned his own feelings. Was there any hope of finding her? Would she be a different person if and when she came back? Was Tanya indeed fighting to survive?
Nearing the Regional Justice Center, he let out an exhausted sigh.
He met the detectives in the Center and one of them asked if he was willing to undergo a polygraph exam. Tom readily agreed. First, they wanted to ask some "routine" questions of their own. They sat around a conference table with the tape recorder running while they went through their battery of questions. Then, they led Tom down a hallway to a small room. Finally, he thought. Finally, they'll see for themselves that I'm in no way responsible for Tanya's disappearance! Since Tanya went missing, Tom's perception had slipped into slow motion and each second became an unbearable lifetime of strained and stretched moments. His lack of sleep showed on his strained face. Each step was a concentrated effort and each breath a labor. In such moments, Tom would have sworn that he could hear Tanya's voice talking to him, calming him, telling him not to do something stupid. "I will be home soon," her sweet voice said, "and then we can talk."
Those passing thoughts sustained him. Sometimes, he felt as if they were all that kept him from slipping over the edge where he would be swallowed in a very dark place. Stay strong, he reminded himself. I'm the only one who can help Tanya, so I need to stay strong.
Walking down the hallway, Tom's legs felt rubbery. With each step, he grew wearier. Passing faces in the hall, he noticed their sympathetic smiles, betrayed by looks of persecution in their eyes. He could see that they already had their answers. They assumed that he was guilty.
The polygraph examiner introduced himself and explained the procedure. Though his eyes were open, Tom had mentally dozed off into a dreamlike state.
"Tom," said the examiner, "I'm going to ask you a series of questions to make sure that we get a clean test. To get a clean test, there can be no surprises to taint your responses. Do you understand?"
"Sure," Tom responded. He didn't really care how the contraption worked or why, just wanted it to prove his innocence. Tom looked into the man's eyes and saw his disgust, as plain as if he had a sign tattooed on his forehead that said, YOU'RE GUILTY AND I'M GOING TO PROVE IT TO THE WORLD. Given the entire feel of it, Tom felt as if he was being led to the gallows, as if the wires would be woven into a noose to fit Tom's neck.
Finally, the examiner spoke. "Okay," he muttered, like a robot. "We can get started."