A Strong Woman - Cover

A Strong Woman

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 26

We explained to Burque – I explained, actually, with Cecelia beside me – that after the cops made a case and turned it over to the DA, the district attorney would then decide whether to seek an indictment. In the meantime, it was probable that Higgins would get out on bail; constitutionally, the cops can't hold someone indefinitely just because he's a suspect in a crime. The United States isn't a South American dictatorship – one of our fundamental legal principles is protecting the rights of the accused, because the accusation doesn't in itself prove or constitute guilt. Burque wasn't very happy, and I hadn't expected her to be. From her viewpoint letting Higgins bail out was letting a vicious criminal go free. I understood the legal reality, and explained it to her, and she understood it too. But neither of us was thrilled that Higgins was walking around loose.

The district attorney did, in fact, choose to seek an indictment. To my surprise I got a call to testify – I'd expected that I'd be there only to provide moral support while Burque and the detective on the case went before the grand jury. But apparently the assistant DA handling the case thought that it would be easier to get an indictment if the jurors heard from me.

I certainly wasn't unwilling, so on a Wednesday in December we all went down to the county courthouse at 4th and Lomas. We all rode in my Blazer, and Cecelia got in back with Burque; they held hands all the way downtown. It never fails to surprise me when Cecelia does something like that – I know from long experience that she is a genuinely loving woman, but her innate formality keeps convincing me that I'm the only one who ever sees how warm she can be. I keep being wrong about that.

We went through the security at the entrance – I'd had to remember, before leaving the house, to leave my pocket knife on the coffee table – and rode the elevator up to the third floor. We all found seats inside the grand jury suite, and waited with other cases went in and came out. Finally the ADA called my name, and I went down the hall, my boots thumping on the carpeted floor, and into the grand jury room.

The foreman – I refuse to use the grotesque "foreperson," and "forewoman" isn't much better – administered the oath: "Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, under penalty of law?"

"Yes," I said, and she and I both sat down.

The ADA was also a woman, and she had me introduce myself. I gave my name, and she said, "How are you employed?"

I cringed inwardly at the passive construction, but confined myself to answering the question. "I'm a licensed private investigator."

"And how long have you had a private investigator's license?"

"Since 1992 in New Mexico. Before that I was a PI in Texas, and before that in Oklahoma."

"And when did you receive your Oklahoma license?"

"In 1988."

"And what did you do before that?" the ADA asked.

"I was a police officer for two years."

"So you've been in law enforcement for 22 years, is that correct?"

"Yes," I said.

"Have you ever investigated a rape?"

"Yes. There was one case while I was a police officer, and another as a PI in Dallas, and one here in Albuquerque. And of course the current case, for a total of four."

"But," the ADA said, "you've investigated many cases in those 22 years."

"Many, many cases."

"What sort of cases?"

"Rape, of course," I said, "as well as thefts, missing persons, missing pets, child abuse and child molestation, and two or three murders. I've also done bail skips and process serving, which sometimes require investigation to find the person in question, and I've done a number of background checks over the years."

"So you are well acquainted with investigative techniques."

"Right." I knew that if I'd been a cop the assistant district attorney wouldn't go through all that, but it was necessary to establish that I was qualified to testify in Burque's case.

"Did you investigate a rape which occurred on October 17, 2008, involving a Ra'Fale Higgins?"


"Tell the grand jury about it."

I did. I recounted Burque's call, her insistence on hiring me, the long tedious days canvassing the neighborhoods around the scene, and the tip and surveillance that led to Higgins' arrest.

"It was actually your wife who placed the target under arrest, is that right?" Until the grand jury returns an indictment, the person under investigation is a target rather than an accused or a defendant.


"Is she a licensed private investigator?"

"No. However, she wants to obtain a license and is working for me, under my direction, to meet the legal requirements for a license."

"And you were present at the time of the arrest, and supervised her?"


"And this all occurred in the city of Albuquerque, the county of Bernalillo, the state of New Mexico?"

"Yes," I said, verifying that the grand jury had jurisdiction over the case.

Then the ADA asked if the grand jury had any questions. There were a couple, relating to points of my investigation that they hadn't clearly grasped, and then I was done. The ADA escorted me out of the grand jury room, and called Burque. Cecelia squeezed her hand, I gave her a quick hug, and she was gone.

It was 15 minutes or so before she returned. I could see the tracks of tears on her face, and when I got up and hugged her again she was shaking. "Are you all right?" I asked her.

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