He sat in the chair. Cold, metal, steel. Playing it cool, staring at the clock as they watched through the mirror. Jared had been here before and knew how it would all end up. The men behind the glass stared, searching for anything they could use against him when they went in.
The officers turned around to look into the opposite room interrogation room. This room was a different world. The same chair, the same clock, the same mirror. However, this wasn’t what was catching the attention of the men behind the mirror, as it had in Jared’s room. In this room, the men watched as Stephen continued to breakdown, tearing himself apart. Red-faced, tears streaming. There was a slight pause as Stephen glanced at the mirror, but then he quickly returned to his torment.
“Okay, that’s long enough. I’ll take Mr. Quiet, you get the cry baby,” Officer Bryant said.
“Once again, making a big deal when you know you are going to have to deal with him eventually,” replied Officer Singer. “Sometimes, I just don’t get you.”
Jared sat intently as the door knob turned and a man in a suit entered. Just by the way he walked, Jared knew he had this guy pinned. ‘He’ll start off as my friend, only to start working once the idiots let down their guard. They all think they are so smart.’
“Do you like what we’ve done with the place?”
“Not bad. Nice clean look, but the lighting scheme is a little harsh. Oh, and I could go for a glass of water, if you’re taking requests.” Barely moving, Jared watched the officer, seeing all the moves he was going to make, and planning the way to beat them all. A day at the office.
“We’ll get right on that.” Bryant knew the ‘buddy cop’ was not going to make much progress with this guy. This guy had been here before and was going to take more than Interrogation 101. “But I don’t know if that water will ever make it here.”
Stephen had begun to pull himself together just before Singer entered, but his entrance just set him off again. “You gotta believe me! I didn’t know it was there! Why would I?”
“Pull yourself together. You haven’t shut up since we found the drugs after you blew past that weigh station. And I’ve been watching you for 30 minutes in here, give it a break. It’s not helping your case.” Singer moved slowly to the other side of the desk and sat down calmly into his chair. He sipped of his coffee, he continued. “Now, tell me your story again. Start with the beginning and see if you can remember anything that I will actually care about.”
Stephen’s bloodshot eyes rose up to meet the officer’s gaze. He took a breath, made an attempt to fix his severely disheveled brown hair, and began his story. “I left early in the afternoon and got right on the road. I had a lot of driving ahead of me, getting the truck here by the next night wasn’t an easy task. I drove until about six and grabbed a bite to eat. And no, I can’t tell you which exit … there’s a Denny’s every two exits the whole way. Drove a few more hours and then pulled into a parking lot next to some offices that were right near the highway. Woke up around six, grabbed a coffee and a donut and set off to finish the trip.” Stephen sat up a little and straightened his flannel shirt. “Made it in pretty good time, too.”
“You realize that is the worst story I have ever heard?” Stephen sank back into his chair. “You have no one that can confirm your alibi of this entire trip and you can barely give me a time frame for anything that happened while you were in transit. You really expect me to believe that you had no idea where the drugs came from or how they got in your truck?”
Stephen sat there pathetically and shrugged. “If I had more I would give it. I don’t want to get charged with this just as much as you want to get your man.”
Officer Bryant was starting to get aggravated with all the flack he was getting from Jared. “That’s enough bullshit already! Where did the drugs come from? We know that idiot truck driver didn’t have anything to do with this. Why would he risk his life, and the security he had for his wife and kid, just to be some mule? Where did you pull the switch?”
Jared, who had been sitting back in his chair like he was counting the ceiling tiles, perked up a little. “Well, my lawyer seems to be running very late. I can just handle this by myself right now. I’ll respond to your comments in the order you presented them. Where did the drugs come from? I don’t know, have you checked where the truck was driven from? As for your comment about the truck driver’s IQ, I can’t comment, but you’d be surprised what things idiots are capable of. Moving on to your next question, more money is more money; some people don’t consider the risk of ruin.
“Now, for the only question that actually involves me, the location of the switch is simple. This is because it is none existent. I told you already, I haven’t touched any drugs since I got out of the joint. Sober for two years now. You can call my AA mentor if you want. There are plenty of active dealers in Nashville. If you had picked up one of those guys you might have a case. If my lawyer doesn’t show up soon, you can call Joey Mills. The three of us got invited to one of Joey’s friend’s house for a nice little poker game the night your genius Steve was working on getting his truck into town. I cleaned him out that night. He’s not going to forget a beating like that.”
Bryant was still stone-faced on the outside, but on the inside he was ready to jump over the table and pistol whip this guy a few times. Sure he had an alibi that might actually check out, but either way this guy needed to be brought down a few notches. With no attempt to hide the undertones in his voice, “I’ll have to go check on those names. You stay here, that is unless you would prefer one of the rooms with a view.”
Bryant and Singer met in the middle room between the mirrors once again. After just looking the other in the eyes, all the important details were been exchanged. Cocky, arrogant, asshole with a history in one room and some nobody that still hadn’t gotten over the idea that he had actually been arrested in the other. Neither could be charged yet and both needed to have more background information dragged out. Bryant and Singer went to their desks to look into some of the holes that were still causing huge gaps in the story of what really happened.
The sun was starting to go down, but you couldn’t tell with the bright florescent lights and lack of windows. Jared kept looking back to the clock, but nothing was registering. It was just something to pass the time as he waited for the officers to return and ask more questions that he could simply choose not to answer while waiting for his lawyer. Jared could tell he had been here long; his 5 o’clock shadow from last night was now twice as heavy. “My partner has told me so much about you,” Singer said as he entered the room.
“That’s sweet of him. I was looking forward to talking with him again. You seem nice, so it should be fine. Did Bryant tell you that I didn’t do it and he was just holding me here to make it look like the department was making progress on the case? … Just asking, ‘cause if he did, it would make my day a little easier. We could talk about sports or something.”
“How about I just say that everything he told me was dead on?” Singer tried, but failed, to hold back a smirk. “But, yeah, there are more important things at hand. I was on the phone with your AA mentor, he’s a nice guy. They have a real good program over there.”
“Yeah, saved my life. Things still aren’t perfect. You gotta look hard for people that are willing to hire an ex-con. I did find a good place little over a year ago where they work shipping routes. He’s got a couple other cons there, so he knew what I was dealing with coming in.”
Officer Singer sat there in awe. For the first time since entering the police station, Jared actually seemed like he wasn’t behind a wall, just talking from the heart. He decided to probe a little further. “Is that were you met Joey? When I ran his name I saw he did a short stint a few years back for robbery.”
Jared smiled. “He showed me the ropes when I showed up, but now I look for every possible opportunity to bust his balls. He’s tough though, he takes all my bullshit in stride.”
“Maybe it’s just me, but I would see a worksite full of ex-cons to be a hot bed for potential problems.” As Officer Singer finished his last words, the door began to open slowly.
Back in Stephen’s room the affects of time where starting to show. While the officers had been collecting more information, Stephen had begun to come to terms with his arrest. He was now left with just the task of explaining to the officers why he was innocent.
“I’m glad I no longer need to bring you a box of tissues.” Bryant took a jab at Stephen as he entered the room. “So here in your statement it says you left the shipping yard early afternoon. Are we talkin’ 1 o’clock, as soon as your lunch break ended, or did your lunch run a little long so you would be relaxed for the trip?”
“Well,” Stephen paused. “Look, it wasn’t my fault! My kid got sick at school, so I had to use my lunch break to get him home. We’ve only got the one car. I got back as soon as I could. Yeah, I was a little late, but once I was there I got right in my truck and pulled out.”
“Oooh, the plot thickens.” Bryant said with the same smirk he’s been wearing all day.
“I really don’t see how what I did right before leaving makes a difference. I was a little rushed, what does that change?” Just then, there was a knock at the door. Bryant went to the door and was informed he had a phone call he had to take.
After being gone for 15 minutes, Officer Bryant returned to Stephen’s interrogation room. “Don’t look so scared, I come with good news. Well, I have bad news too, funny how things like that work out.” Bryant paused slightly, almost sadistically watching Stephen as his brain ran around in circles, making attempts to see what might be coming. Continuing in his general cold manner, “I just got off the phone with to your shipping company. They were very excited about all the violations of company rules you made on your trip here. Skipping weigh stations and not even attempting to keep valid records of your driving time were some of their favorites. I’ll let them finish reading some of the less exciting ones when you return. My personal pick is that, in your infinite wisdom, you managed to arrive at your destination with a trailer that was full of drugs and it wasn’t even the trailer you were scheduled to drive. The trailer of stereo equipment that you were supposed to be driving is still sitting in Amarillo, Texas.”
Stephen’s look of panic had now transformed into shock. ‘All this information was coming so fast. What does it mean? If my truck is…’ The thought was cut off as Bryant continued.
“If you were paying attention you might have caught that I already mentioned the good news. You will be returning to your company in Texas. As for them keeping you, that will probably be a different story. While you were driving it seems one, Stuart Marshall, made quite a fuss when the trailer he was supposed to be driving to Chicago wasn’t there. The trailer wasn’t even on the books because the smugglers he was working for were just holding the truck there. Then you got pulled over with a trailer full of drugs. Which happen to be the same drugs that were missing from the shipping yard. We’ve already got people working getting Mr. Marshall charged. So, what can I say, my opinion of you has changed, but it’s still not a great one. You lucked out. That rushed lunch of yours saved your neck. Now get out of here and back to Texas where you can get fined, fired or whatever they want to do to you for your gross incompetence.” Bryant ended in a rush of emotion; visibly angered by the way things ended. Stephen quietly rose from his chair as he began to leave. Bryant noticed a subtle smile from Stephen as the door closed.
Officer Bryant closed the door behind him, glared at Jared, shooting bullets with his eyes. He then moved toward his partner and whispered into his ear quietly. Singer leaned back in his chair, “You gotta be kidding me. You know you could have at least sat at your desk for a while so I could work this guy too.” Jared smirked as he watched the officers bicker about things that never mattered in the first place. It was over and he was free. He would be out of here as soon as these monkeys finished a little paper work. With the same face he was wearing when he walked into the room, Jared left.
Jared was hungry, so he went to go have a sandwich at his favorite dinner in Nashville. Ms. Lucy’s was a quiet little place. One of those places where if you had to look at the menu, they knew you were not a regular. As soon as Jared entered, his face changed. Stephen was sitting in the first booth, his booth. Jared could see that Stephen had changed out of his flannel shirt. Stephen was now wearing a clean button-down top and khakis, his hair neatly combed. A few of the other customers had looked over their sholders’ as they had sensed the change in atmosphere. Everything in the dinner stood still as Jared and Stephen stared at each other for what seemed like eons. Then, Jared walked towards to the table.
“Steve, how’s your day been? Mine was decent, I could go with never seeing that head-case Bryant again.” Jared sat down across the table from Stephen.
“Like a breath of fresh air. I haven’t felt that alive in ages.” As Stephen replied he cracked a smile. “I guess the bet is a draw, since neither of us got off till the safety net showed up. If only we didn’t have to lay low and could move right on to mess with another set of detectives, I’d do it again tomorrow. Next time we need to find a way for them to not find out about the missing truck so soon. You know Stu is going to be mad about this. Why did you pick him?”
“Stu picked himself. He still wouldn’t admit that I beat him when we did Phoenix. He left me no other options. But talking about that now isn’t gonna change anything, so let’s move on to other things. I’m really starting to like your sob act. If I had cried after talking about AA and my job, I would have been out of there right then. I’m gotta remember to work that in next time. Oh, and there will definitely be a next time, ‘cause I don’t like leaving things like this undecided. But that’s enough about business, where is Lucy? I never got my glass of water at the police station.”
Ding. The bell on the door rang to let the staff know a new customer had come in. “…You are going to stand there and seriously tell me you’ve read all the Harry Potter books. I think I’m gonna have to go talk to the Sergeant and try and get a partner that isn’t a fruit.”
Officer Bryant and Singer walked through the door. “Two coffees Lucy, you know how we like them.”
“I’m just saying you should give them a chance. Maybe you will be surprised and actually … Oh Shit!” Singer recognized the two men sitting in the first booth. “Well, ain’t that something. Looks like we might have a small problem here.”
Officer Bryant turned from the counter to see what his partner what talking about. He started screaming, the only thing that could really be discerned from the rant were all the curse words that were getting thrown this way and that.
“Oh, hello Officers. Who would have thought that we both would pick this diner? I don’t know how long you were planning on staying, but feel free to come over and sit with us.” Stephen just smiled and laughed to himself as Jared twisted the knife. “The two of you really should be complimented on your detective work. You found Stu and closed the case in record time.” Jared turned back to his table and finished his water. “Steve, you were right. I’d do it all over again tomorrow, if we could.”