Continued from Chapter 16.
Prior to his interview with Douglas Peters, Colin stopped at Lieutenant Smith’s office to return the call from the page. Joe excused himself to use the head. Colin dialed the unfamiliar number, a state government phone system prefix. The call was answered by a female voice.
“Good afternoon, State Adult Parole, how may I direct your call?”
“This is Detective Colin Fahey of the San Diego Police Department. I’m returning a page to this number,” replied Colin.
“Yes, Detective. Please hold,” said the voice.
A few seconds later the familiar voice of Morgan Toru came on the line.
“Hello, Round Eye, where are you?” said Morgan.
“Hey Morgan,” said Colin, “I’m at the watch commander’s office at CJ. Joe and I are about to interview a guy who might give us some kind of lead. What are you doing at State Parole?”
“Their fax machine went off line this morning — government equipment, you know. I brought down the Polaroids the Flash took of our other two victims to see if we could get an I.D.” said Morgan. “We lucked out.”
“Really? What have you got?” asked Colin, pulling his rapidly filling tablet open to the next empty page as he prepared to write.
“John Doe’s name is Alfred Schmidt,” began Morgan. “He was looking at doing some time in the joint for dope convictions. That was about six or seven months ago. He did a deal and was released after his ninety day evaluation at Chino. He was on parole, sort off. He was assigned a parole officer, Madeline Conklin, but only as a formality. He was under loan to the Feds as a C.I. From what Madeline tells me, it sounds like he was turning some pretty good stuff and getting paid too. Get this — he has been paid $74,000 in the past six months.”
“Jeez, we’re in the wrong line of work, pal,” interjected Colin.
“Judging from Mr. Schmidt’s current condition, you can have it. The down side to his line of work is a little too drastic for me,” said Morgan, then continuing. “Like I said, the parole was only a formality; he did not report in to Ms. Conklin on a regular basis, the Feds were handling his leash. She says he had a girlfriend named Donna Bosch, but she never made her acquaintance. I had DMV run the name and they are supposed to fax the pictures of three possibles to our office. I copied Mr. Schmidt’s file and I’m headed back now. What have you got at your end?”
“We’re about to interview some tweaker named Douglas Peters, aka Screwie,” said Colin. “He got a little talkative and told some law student who was in for DUI and possession about some friends who were going to off a couple of snitches last night. This sounds like we might have a tie in. What do the Feds say?”
“Apparently, the murder of a local cop isn’t very important to these guys,” said Morgan, with a snort. “I called the agent in charge, some dickhead named Milton Ferris. He wouldn’t even confirm Schmidt was working with them. It might jeopardize ongoing investigations. How do you like that? I called Tom Bach; he and Raines are going to bring some serious pressure to bear on Milton. Anything else I can help with?”
Colin thought for a moment. “Yeah, Carl and E are headed back to the station. We didn’t discuss pulling Douglas Peters jacket; his record might be useful. Could you see someone does that and fax’s anything useful to us over here?”
“I’ll call right now and have it ready when I get there. See ya,” acknowledged Morgan.
“Oh, Morgan, don’t hang up.” blurted Colin.
“Yeah?” said Morgan.
“Could you do me a big favor?” asked Colin.
“As long as it doesn’t involve sexual servitude,” replied Morgan.
“Oh, but you have such a cute little yellow ass,” said Colin.
“Hey, hey, hey,” said Morgan in mock chastisement.
“Sorry, I just can’t help myself” joked Colin, then seriously, “Could you call Claire at work and tell her I’m tied up and I’ll call her at home later?”
“Consider it done Colin-san. I’ll talk to you later,” said Morgan, hanging up the phone.
Colin put the receiver in the cradle. He was almost tempted to call Claire himself, but he knew he would not be able to get off quickly without sounding abrupt. He knew she was probably worried about him, but Morgan would make her laugh. It would be better to talk to her at home anyway.
Colin got up to leave and found that Joe had not returned.
“Have you seen my partner?” he asked the deputy in the adjacent office.
“I think he went to the interview room,” replied the deputy, pointing down the corridor.
“Thanks.” said Colin, as he turned and walked in the direction the deputy had directed him.
When Joe left Colin, he headed straight to the employees’ restroom. He was not feeling well at all. He had now gone almost eight hours without a drink, his longest abstinence in several months. He was dehydrated and shaky. Worst of all, his withdrawal included some severe stomach cramps. He felt like he was going to mess himself the entire time he was in the hallway with the others. Now that he finally had the opportunity to relieve himself in the privacy of a stall, he found there was nothing in him to come out. All he could do was feel his bowels tie in knots, waiting for the pain to pass.
To top it off, the jail was a smoke-free facility. He would have dearly loved a Camel to give himself that brief heady feeling. It was one thing to piss off a technician at the coroner’s office. He did not want Lieutenant Smith dropping a dime to Scott Raines if he got caught smoking in the boys’ room. Sometimes informal discipline was worse than the formal type and right now he was walking the line with Raines.
The pain subsided temporarily; Joe felt sleepy. He knew he dare not doze off for even a second, or else he might start dreaming. And that dream might come back. He had not had the dream for several months, successfully anesthetizing himself before he slept. When the nightmare came earlier, it had not changed. Always the helplessness, always just a little too late, always Joey’s open empty eyes staring at him. He would remember Joey’s eyes until he died. He would also remember it was his fault. Joe Amadiana’s fault. No one else but Joe Amadiana. Your son is dead because of you. All by yourself, no one else.
He was suddenly gripped with another spasm of pain deep in his abdomen. Joe let out a low moan, holding his stomach with one hand and supporting himself against the door with his other outstretched.
“You okay in there?” a man’s voice asked.
“Yeah,” gasped Joe, “don’t eat the tuna salad.”
“Are you kidding? All they give us in here is bologna sandwiches for lunch,” said the voice, giving its owner away as a jail trustee.
“You had better just be cleaning up in here,” barked Joe. “Because if you’re slacking I’ll put you back in the main line.” The hurried footfalls and then silence indicated Joe’s statement had the desired effect of returning his temporary privacy. The pain once again diminished. Joe stood, pulling up his pants and buckling his belt. His handcuffs fell out of the back of his waistband and landed with a “plunk” in the toilet. He gingerly fished them out shook them off before slipping them back into place. He left the stall, his right hand dripping wet, and walked to the wash basin. The face in the mirror looked back him sadly. The rheumy eyes implored him to slow down, rest, if only for a few minutes. Maybe later, he thought.
“I’ll take care of you later,” he said out loud. He splashed the tepid faucet water on his face and ran his fingers through his hair. He wiped his face with the rough paper towels he pulled from the dispenser. He checked his zipper and reached instinctively for his .38 calibre detective special and momentarily panicked. He then remembered he had locked it up before entering the jail. Joe left the restroom and walked to the interview room.
Screwie was also experiencing withdrawal symptoms. His were decidedly different from Joe’s, but just as severe. Screwie had awakened from his sleep about the time Colin and Joe had arrived at the jail. He was now up and pacing the small interview room, licking his lips, trying to force saliva into his dry mouth. He was anxious and itchy. His breathing was not as rapid as when he had a system full of crystal, but rapid nonetheless. When he would temporarily stop pacing, he would wrap his arms around himself and rock back and forth. He spoke to himself in low tones, carrying on a conversation with an unseen entity, his face animated as if he was negotiating some transaction. Then, without warning, he would collapse on the floor, curling up and holding his legs while he softly chattered to himself. He would appear to drift off into sleep. Scarcely would he close his eyes when he would abruptly jump up and resume pacing.
Colin watched Douglas Peters from behind the safety glass which enclosed the interview room on all four sides. He had not seen, or at least had not acknowledged Colin. Joe walked up.
“Where you been?” asked Colin. You look awful, he thought, wishing to avoid another confrontation.
“Just in the head,” replied Joe. “I’ve been holding it all day,” he said, with a look that said let it go. “Who was the page?”
“It was Morgan. He was at State Parole. They I.D.’d John Doe as Alfred Schmidt, a snitch for the Feds, except the Feds aren’t talking. The girl is maybe Donna Bosch. Morgan is still working on that,” said Colin matter-of-factly, eyeing Joe, who was watching Douglas Peters’ antics on the other side of the glass.
“A snitch?” asked Joe. “Maybe we got lucky.” Taking a deep breath, he turned to Colin and saw him looking at him. “What? You’re not going to start in on me again. You want to search me for a bottle?” extending his arms.
Colin did not reply. He merely shook his head and turned away.
“Listen, let’s just get this over with. How did you want to handle this?”
“Why don’t I ask the questions and you play the strong silent type. I don’t think good cop-bad cop is going to work here.”
“Fine with me. Let’s do it,” replied Joe.
Colin nodded and reached to open the door.
The sound of the opening door startled the already agitated Screwie. He turned to fight whatever danger came through the door. He’d had plenty of time to think about why he had not been bailed out by Leonard Jefferson and what Leonard might have in store for him if and when he got out. The two men who entered the room looked like cops, but you could never be sure.
“Hey, little man, relax. We’re not going to hurt you,” said the younger of the two. “My name is Detective Fahey, and this is Detective Amadiana,” motioning to the older man.
“Let’s see some badges,” said Screwie.
Colin pulled his badge and identification card from his jacket and laid them on the table. Joe retrieved his from his sport coat, quietly mouthing the, “Badges? Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges,” line from Treasure of the Sierra Madre, laying them next to Colin’s. Screwie looked at them, comparing the faces on the cards to the two men who stood across from him, his arms now wrapped tightly against himself, as if touching them would be an act requiring terrible reprisal.
“OK, OK. All right.” said Screwie, satisfied for the moment. “What do you want?”
“Sit down,” commanded Colin, gently. “We just want to ask you some questions.”
“What about?” asked Screwie suspiciously.
“Sit Down!” barked Joe. Colin, surprised, turned to look at Joe as Screwie complied instantly.
“Now look, asshole,” said Joe, menacingly, “Detective Fahey is going to ask some questions, and your job is to answer, not the other way around. Got it?” Joe waited for a reaction from Screwie. When Screwie nodded, Joe continued, “I’m going to stand over here nice and quiet, until you start jerking us around. If you jerk us around, which, by the way, I don’t care for, then I’ll become involved and you really don’t want that. Understand the ground rules?”
Screwie, his eyes wide, focused on the threatening old man, nodded again. Colin, taken off guard, looked at Joe. No matter how bad Joe got, he always seemed to read people. His response never seemed to fail in getting their attention.
“Detective Fahey,” said Joe, retrieving his badge and identification card, nodding to Colin to continue.
“Mr. Peters?” said Colin, looking back to Screwie, his eyes were still riveted on Joe, who was now leaning back against the glass window, feigning disinterest. “Are you ready to answer some questions?”
“Yeah,” said Screwie, turning to meet Colin’s gentle gaze.
Colin had decided to go right to the meat of the issue; perhaps the shock value might elicit the response, verbal or nonverbal, he was looking for. “Why were you going to kill Alfred and Donna?”
Screwie’s eyes went wider still with terror. How did these guys know about Alfred and Donna? Were they dead? Had they picked up the others? Had they talked? Had they involved him? What if Leonard was arrested? What if he was in the holding tank right now and thought he’d ratted? Oh shit, Leonard would kill him! He began to tremble uncontrollably at the thought of Leonard just down the hall.
“Oh, man,” whined Screwie, cringing in his chair. “Oh, man,” he repeated, as he lowered his head.
Looks like I struck a chord, thought Colin. He looked over at Joe, who nodded approvingly.
“Douglas,” said Colin. “Douglas, look at me.”
Screwie lifted his head, his face imploring Colin.
“We have it all wrapped up,” continued Colin. “Everyone’s arrested and they’ve told us everything.”
“Oh, man,” whimpered Screwie.
“We just want to know why you had them killed,” said Colin, with disinterest.
It took a moment to settle in, and then, “What?!” shouted Screwie, jumping up from the chair. Alfred and Donna were dead and they were saying he was the one who set it up. That fucking Leonard! His fear had been suddenly been replaced by rage. “They said I set it up? They said that? That fucker Leonard said I set it up! That’s bullshit! Leonard told us to kill them. I wasn’t even there. I was here all fuckin’ night. Check the books. I was here. I didn’t even know where they were gonna do it.”
“Sit down, Mr. Peters,” demanded Joe, masking surprise that the information had come this easily.
Screwie sat down and started having another conversation with his unseen friend, rocking back and forth. “Oh, man. Oh, man,” he began chanting, wearing himself down.
When Screwie had worn himself out, Colin proceeded. “Leonard said, um, let’s see here…” sifting through his tablet, ignoring Screwie,”…Leonard, Leonard…Joe, do you have Leonard’s last name there?”
“I think so,” said Joe, pulling out his notepad. “Let’s see…”
“Leonard Jefferson! Leonard Jefferson!” shouted Screwie. “That fucker said I set it up. He’s the one you want. You just go and pull him out of the tank and bring him here and have him say I set it up. He’s the one who said they were snitches and we had to do ’em. He told me and Chris to get the others and do ’em.”
“Well that certainly puts a different spin on things,” remarked Colin. “We better check that out, Joe. Looks like ol’ Leonard Jefferson pulled one over on us.”
Joe nodded in agreement.
“Just one thing, Douglas,” said Colin. “Leonard won’t give up his girlfriend, the blonde. What’s her name?”
“Sheila?” said Screwie, trying to focus. “Sheila’s not his girlfriend. I don’t know her last name. She’s new. I think she hangs out at some after-hours dance place on Laurel.”
“C’mon, Douglas, no use protecting her. Give us her last name. Doesn’t it piss you off seeing such a nice looking white girl with that big black stud Leonard?” interjected Joe.
“Leonard’s not black. He’s white,” said Screwie, correcting an obvious mistake. “Besides, Sheila hangs with Tyrone, he’s black…” Screwie trailed off. It abruptly dawned on him that he had been had. “Oh, shit! You guys don’t have them, do you!” shouted Screwie in anger. He stood up, pacing in a small circle, carrying on the conversation with his invisible companion. He stopped and looked at Colin contemptuously, “I’m not saying anything else. I want a lawyer.”
Having asked for a lawyer, Colin realized the interview was at an end, unless he was prepared to start cutting deals. No deals for Pete’s murderers, thought Colin.
“I think that’ll be all for now,” said Colin, rising from the table. “We’ll be in touch.”
Joe opened the door. Colin walked through, followed by Joe, who hesitated.
“Thanks for all your help, Mr. Peters. We’ll give Leonard and the gang your regards,” he said, closing the door behind him.
“You motherfuckers!” shrieked Screwie, leaping over the table and slamming against the glass window of the door. “You motherfuckers, you’ve killed me! Do you hear me? You’ve killed me!” The commotion brought several deputies running.
“It’s OK,” said Joe, holding up his hand to stop the charging herd. “He just realized he ratted out his buddies.” They watched for a moment as Screwie settled down to his circular pacing, and then to the floor, rocking back and forth. His invisible friend listened silently as Screwie chatted away, tears and snot running down his face.
“Well done, partner. Too bad he caught on so soon,” said Joe, as he and Colin walked to the watch commander’s office.
“You weren’t too bad your own bad self,” said Colin, returning the compliment. “I suppose we should add conspiracy to commit murder, two counts, to Mr. Peters’ charges before we leave.”
“I think that would be appropriate,” smiled Joe. For all of Colin’s self-righteousness, Joe admitted that he was good. He knew how to push the right buttons. Sometimes, too well.
“While you get the new charges approved, I’ll call Central and have them start running Leonard Jefferson through ARGIS.” said Colin.
ARGIS was the acronym for Automated Regional Judicial Information System, a system used by local law enforcement. ARJIS would flag any contact Leonard Jefferson had with any agency in the county. Traffic citations, field interviews, crime reports which listed Leonard Jefferson as either a victim, witness or suspect, or arrest reports would list height, weight, eye color, date of birth, addresses, and vehicles. Leonard Jefferson would provide a number of hits due to his rather common name. The additional information of his known associates, however, would narrow the scope of the search and might yield a location where Leonard could be found.
Colin looked at his watch. It was almost five o’clock. “It’s getting late. I’ll try to get someone at State Parole and see if they can run Leonard Jefferson through their system.”
“This close to five o’clock and a civil service agency? Good luck,” replied Joe.
“It’s worth a try,” said Colin, admitting they would probably have to wait until the morning. “I wonder if we’ve been able to get anything from the Feds.”
“Man, you sure are the perennial optimist, Colin,” said Joe, with a wink.
“Either way, it looks like an all-nighter,” remarked Colin.
“Oh, boy. Been a while since you and I pulled an all-nighter,” said Joe, as Colin winced. “Just a joke,” he said quickly. “Do you think after we check back in at Central, I could slip home for a shower and a change of clothes?”
“That’s probably a good idea,” said Colin. “Listen I don’t want to start anything, but…”
“Trust me,” said Joe. “I think I can I go a few more hours without a drink. And that’s all I’m going say about it. No more about it, OK?”
Colin nodded agreement, and hoped he was not making a mistake letting Joe out of his sight.
The storm coming from the North had hit downtown with a fury. The wind blew the heavy rain almost sideways. The gutters, which had been bone dry an hour earlier, were now rushing creeks flowing toward the chronically inadequate storm drains.
Their telephone calls finished, Colin and Joe sprinted to their car. Colin snatched the parking citation from the window and shoved it in his pocket. Oh well, thought Colin, Another “Dear Chief” letter for the Colin Fahey file. He started the car and pulled into traffic for the short trip to Central.
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