“You understand, I have to clear you before I can tell you anything more. So Tom here will take you into one of the rooms and a couple of us will be in shortly to ask you some questions.”
There was no point in objecting. He was absolutely right. Jack knew I had nothing to do with this besides rushing to the child after the assault, and then flagging his vehicle down for help. But he and his small staff, viewed by other departments as country bumpkins, would have their methods scrutinized more than others. If he wanted to solve this case and see justice done, he’d have to do everything by-the-book.
I followed the officer into an interrogation room that looked nothing like the television renditions. A heavy wooden desk, reminiscent of my elementary school days, sat in the middle of the small office setting. There were empty shelves to the right, and I shuffled sideways between them and edge of the desk to sit in the chair facing the door. The wall opposite the shelves was covered, from corner to corner, with file cabinets and an even smaller space to squeeze through. As I sat in the squeaky roller chair, I took a deep breath to chase away the nagging sense of claustrophobia I was feeling. Across from me, on the “business” side of the desk, a faux leather chair faced me. Tom brought in a second chair, smaller but of similar style, and placed it next to the other. He smiled and excused himself.
Ten minutes later, Jack and a detective I didn’t recognize entered and sat down. I leaned forward, my chair squeaking as I scooted it back a bit, and planted my forearms on the desk. I noticed their chairs were completely silent as they made themselves comfortable.
The detective placed a tape recorder on the table. His finger poised on the record button as if preparing to pull a trigger, he focused on me and asked, “You’re familiar with this, yes? I understand you are a detective. I’m going to hit record now if you’re cool with that?” His tone was less about seeking my permission and more about an established protocol. I nodded and the red light glowed on the little machine. He stated the date and he and Jack’s name, title, and badge number – never taking his eyes off me. “Please state slowly and clearly into the recorder your full name, date of birth, address for your home of record, and a phone number where you most commonly be reached.”
“Legal name Molly Malone. Born June 23, 1984. I live at 271 W 3rd Street, Fingerbone, Idaho. Cell Phone number 409-435-3242.” The detective wrote down the information as I spoke, even though he was recording it. It was a common interrogation practice. I knew he would start by asking some questions I’d be certain of the answers, and that anyone would be comfortable answering regardless of their guilt or innocence. They would then observe the subject’s body language and demeanor, the speed of their answer, the direction they looked … and would use these as a baseline for gauging a person’s truthfulness later on in the interview. If the interrogator was really good, they could identify micro expressions commonly associated with dishonesty, fear, or other aspects that could help answer questions left unspoken.
The detective continued. “Are you married?” Interesting. Not even one minute into my interview and I was already enjoying some observations of my own. I could tell by the way Jack tensed his jaw for a millisecond that the question made him uncomfortable. I assumed he was nervous about what the detective’s reaction would be when he got around to what Jack perceived as “outing” me.
“Have you ever been married?”
“Do you have children?”
“Are your parents still alive?”
“Where do they live?” He was keeping the introduction to this process simple, asking only one question at a time to give me a false sense of comfort or security. When he started in on the important questions, he would turn up the heat and throw them at me two or more at a time. Cranking up the intensity as the interview progressed was classic methodology and this guy wasn’t impressing me with anything innovative.
We progressed through the ages of my folks, the state of our relationship, and to Jack’s pleasant surprise (I’m sure), this guy never asked me about my orientation or whether I’d ever killed anyone. This guy was not the sharpest tool in the shed. If I had any part of this thing, I’m certain he would have missed it. He then followed protocol and had me dictate a timeline of my whereabouts for the past two days up to the present. He discovered that I didn’t know my neighbors, not by name anyway. The extent of our “relationship” had been me waving and smiling, according to standard social norms for that region, and getting the cold shoulder from “Ma and Pa Kettle.”
Of course, I didn’t tell him what I thought of their ridiculous front yard, it’s remnants of “Hee Haw” days gone-by. Carcasses of sun faded, plastic “Big Wheels,” and long defunct “Sit-n-Spins,” cluttered the scene … along with old tires, cinder blocks, and the quintessential yard-car adorned with blue tarp. I didn’t mention the various camouflaged clothing items (skivvies included) that were habitually hung on the clothesline for weeks because none of them could cart their lazy asses back out to take them down.
Eventually he hit on what he thought to be the key elements of his interview. “Can you think of anyone that would want to see them gone or that would want to harm them in any way?”
“As I’ve said, I didn’t know them at all. I don’t know any of my neighbors except for the people with the game processing business on the corner. And even with them, I don’t spend time or talk with them much.”
And that was that. He concluded that I was not a suspect and thanked me for my time. Asked me to contact them if I have anything further that might help them with the investigation. Walking out with Jack, I waited until we were out of the earshot of any of the regulars at this station. “Jack, please tell me he’s not going to do the rest of your interviews in this case.”
“I’ll be handling the case personally; I just couldn’t question you myself after spreading the rumor that you’re helping us with the case and that I called you in.”
“Yeah, about that. What do you see as the next move?”
“Malone, I only said that to keep you out of danger. I can’t have someone outside the department messing with this. Hen and the boys and I will get this thing done. We’re not the “Barney Fife‘s” some people make us out to be.”
“I know that, Jack. I don’t think that. But you need my help. There’s too few of you and you don’t want to bring these people down here in, if you can help it. There’d be too many chiefs and the search would go south fast. You know me; you trust me. And though you don’t want to admit it, you need someone who can easily skirt the red tape. You need that kind of speed on this case. Jack – listen to me dammit. I can’t tell you what went through my brain when I realized what that dirtbag did to this kid. I won’t walk away from this, can’t walk away from this, even if you order me to. I just have to DO something to make it all make sense … to put things back in order in the cosmos or something.”
He started shaking his head halfway through my protestations, as if the act would negate what was spewing at him. He gripped his jaw, now scraggly with the long day’s growth (we’d been off the hill since the late morning and it was now nearly seven in the evening). “I’ll think about it.”
“It’s not uncommon for private investigators to consult with police departments from time to time, Jack. I think – ”
“I said I’ll think about it. I will. Now let’s go grab a few pizzas for the team and head back. I got a long night still ahead.”
“Great. You can finally fill me in on everything Hen found so far on the way back up. Don’t look at me like that. You’re thinking about it – I get it. In the meantime it can’t hurt for you all to add my perspective on everything … until you are finished thinking about it, that is.”
“Sometimes I wonder what my sister ever saw in you.”