The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 25

I made it a point to stay around the station until the interview was done. And as good an investigator as Allen Mills was, that wasn't soon. We weren't a big department, and so we didn't have a one way mirror in the interview room. We did have a speaker in a supply closet, and I'd poke my head in periodically, turn the speaker on – with the volume low, because the wall in between wasn't all that thick – and listen. Mills kept coming back to things, approaching from a slightly different angle, picking up on details he hadn't covered the first time around. It was a more methodical approach than mine – I just randomly wander over the map – but the style wasn't as important as the results.

By the time 8 AM came I was about to fall asleep on my feet. I'd proven that you don't own Coke, you rent it – multiple times. I was beginning to conclude that I had become immune to caffeine because it wasn't working. Twenty years before I could have stayed up all night – or two nights, for that matter – without much trouble, and had done it on occasion. But I'm not in my 20s anymore.

I had about decided to find a place I could be minimally uncomfortable and try to get a nap when the interview room door opened. I was wandering along the hall at that point, headed vaguely for the patrol squad room, when I saw Mills and Cecelia come out, with Ramos handcuffed between them. I followed them as they took him back to our little jail area – six whole cells including the drunk tank, which in my experience had never been all full at the same time. They put him in one, locked the door, and had him put his hands through the slot to remove the handcuffs. It was good procedure. I saw that Mills let Cecelia remove the cuffs, and watched closely while she did. And I watched closely too.

She handed the cuffs to Mills – they must have been his – and they both turned and saw me. "Are you as exhausted as you look?" she asked me.

"If I look half as bad as I feel, I'll scare off the buzzards," I said. "You get it all?"

"I think so. Allow us to brief you – using the term in two senses, for I am not rested either, and Officer Mills has worked hard – and then we can get some sleep."

"Yeah, you go sleep, puta!" came Ramos' voice from his cell.

I took a few steps and was in front of the door. "You shut your rank mouth," I told him, "or I'll—"

"You will not, Darvin." Only Cecelia can speak so coldly, without even a hint of a suspicion that I might not obey her.

"Cecelia, you heard what he called you."

"But we both know I am not a whore – and this case is too important for us to lose it over a jailhouse beating. You will not lay a finger on him, nor will you call him the names that I know you wish to – for I too wish to excoriate him, in two languages. You will, of course, have noted that except for the Spanish word he had almost no accent."

The sudden swerve onto the subject of Ramos' English caught me by surprise. I don't know anyone who can change subjects as swiftly as Cecelia, and she always does it for a reason. "Yeah, I noticed." I looked at Ramos for a moment. "Son," I told him, "you better be glad we got good cops here." And I turned and stomped out.

None of us said anything else till we were all seated in my office. I looked at Mills and told him, "You know, you weren't much help back there."

He gave me a small smile. "Officer Carpenter didn't need my help."

"Yeah, I gotta admit you're right. She's got practice keepin' me from bashin' idiots' faces in." I looked at Cecelia. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," she said. She's never believed in false modesty ... well, there's one subject where she hates compliments, but that's not false modesty, just an innate inability to appreciate how good she looks. "As much as I wanted, at that moment, to open the cell door and demonstrate the proper way to break someone's jaw with a bare hand, I could not allow myself to do so, nor allow you to do it. I want him to – the phrase is 'go down, ' is it not? I want him to go down for his crimes."

"Yeah, that's how you say it. Wake up, Allan!"

He jerked. "Sorry, Chief. I kept awake during the interview because I was concentrating, but I'm worn out."

"Yeah, you an' me both." I looked at my watch, and saw that it wasn't all that much later than the last time I'd looked. "Before we crash, though, I gotta know what you got."


"Just like that, eh?"

"Just like that." He yawned. "Could I bum one of your Cokes off you, Chief?"

"Cokes are on me," I said, and grabbed on for each of us. "I've got vanilla Coke pumping through my heart instead o' blood this mornin'."

"My back teeth are floating in coffee, but it's not helping anymore."

Cecelia didn't say anything, just twisted off the cap and took a huge slug.

When we were all done with our first drink, I said, "Tell me about it."

"When he started talking, he went almost immediately into English. That 'me no spik Englis' was just a front – he speaks English as well as anyone, almost. He says that Rodríguez attacked him, and in self-defense he swung the cutlass. Maybe – I don't believe it, but maybe. There are things in what he said that aren't consistent, but we'll have to listen to the tapes and read the transcripts to sort them out. At least he's admitting he killed Rodríguez. And by the time we can sort it all out, he'll be in the county jail anyway." Mills said the last with weary cynicism, knowing that a small town police department didn't have much choice with a case this big.

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