“Are you MS13?” asked Undersheriff Garrity, referring to the violent street gang that had infiltrated the County. He knew it was so, based on the tattoo inked into the suspect’s forehead. Joe Joe, as he was nicknamed, was a potential bonanza of information regarding all the recent kidnappings and unsolved murders taking place.
The media had blamed the rash of brazen lawlessness on the poor economy. Garrity thought differently. “It’s those immigrants causing all the trouble,” he was often heard lamenting. Now he had one that he could interrogate. Garrity was on a mission. He wanted leads. Leads led to arrests. Arrests led to newspaper clippings and public adulation. Public adulation filled the void of loneliness consuming his soul.
Joe Joe finally answered. “Fock you, Fatman.”
Garrity felt his polyester uniform stretching taut between the buttons. He didn’t like being reminded of his weight; it made him self-conscious. His tense energy manifested itself in his hands which fidgeted and made their way to the top of his head, feeling for the spot where his hair was thinning out. After realizing it, he yanked his hand down and rested it on the table. He resented himself for his inability to control his unconscious displays of weakness, and he didn’t appreciate being insulted by a suspect during an interrogation. Contempt-of-cop was a direct challenge to his status as a high-ranking, county law enforcer. He didn’t have a lot of tolerance for disrespect.
“Who are you with, Joe Joe?” Garrity asked him, his pudgy face beginning to smolder.
“I say fock you,” Joe Joe replied defiantly. He puffed up the torso of his five-foot-five frame and smiled mockingly, revealing a mouthful of silvery dental work.
Garrity sighed. His chubby cheeks blushed with his building rage.
“What gang are you with?”
“I no hablo Ingleis.”
Garrity discovered his hand had found its way back to his bald patch again. God dammit, he thought as he yanked it down again.
“You hablo ingleis just fine, Joe Joe. I know who you are. Who do you run with, these days? Romero?”
Joe Joe just grinned his silvery grin.
“Why weren’t you packing?”
“In the house…why no gun?”
“Cuz shooting gringos’ll get you the electric chair.”
“You’re right on that, Joe Joe,” Garrity answered as he leaned back, interlocking his chunky fingers behind his head so they wouldn’t meander. The armpits of his polyester uniform were marked with patches of sweat. “So,” he continued, “you break into this guy’s house solo, no gun, you knew he was home—what the hell? You stupido? Maybe so. You did tattoo your gang affiliation onto your face. You been sniffing that spray paint?”
Joe Joe leaned back and tried to stretch his hands up behind his head to mimic Garrity, but his chains snapped tight.
“I no talk to you. I wan my lawyer.”
“You’ll get your lawyer when you tell me who you’re working with these days. Give me some names.”
Joe Joe’s eyes scowled for a brief second but his face quickly brightened again. “You get my lawyer. I have my right.”
“I’ll get you something all right,” Garrity answered, his cheeks reddening, veins thickening in his temples. As far as Garrity was concerned, rights were just something written on a piece of paper, especially whenever they were applied to illegal aliens.
“You get my lawyer right now. I no talk to you.”
“C’mon, Joe Joe. Don’t make this more difficult for yourself.”
“You get my lawyer. You get my lawyer, now. I no afraid a you, Fatman.”
“No. I’m sorry, but not yet, Joe Joe,” Garrity explained, suppressing his rage. “You’re gonna answer some of my questions first.”
“You no fock with me, cop. You fock with me, we fock with you back. I have my right.”
“Who’s ‘we’, Joe Joe?”
“You fock with me, we fock with you. Comprende?”
“You better watch it, Joe Joe. I’m the undersheriff ‘round these parts. Sheriffs don’t like being threatened, especially by gangbanger illegals. Do you comprende?”
Joe Joe rolled his dark brown eyes while Garrity glanced up at the camera tucked into the corner of the interrogation room. He conspicuously did the kill-it slash with an index finger across his throat. The red light indicating the camera was recording switched off. “I’m giving you one last chance, Joe Joe. Who’s your boss? What were you looking for in that house? I want information. And I’m warning you, if you don’t cooperate, we’re going to use another form of interrogation—a more aggressive form. You comprende that?
“You no fock with me,” Joe Joe replied. “We know every-ting bout you, Robert Garrity.”
Garrity had enough. He briskly pushed his bloated body up from his chair, took a moment to straighten and calm himself, then slowly walked around the table to Joe Joe’s right side.
“You makin a big mistake,” Joe Joe warned. “We know where you live—7700 McKinley Dr.”
Garrity snatched Joe’s right hand and bracing Joe Joe’s elbow onto his hip, he bent Joe Joe’s hand down at the wrist at a 90 degree angle, a hold designed to create the sensation of impending wrist dislocation. Joe Joe squirmed.
“You listen to me,” Garrity growled. “You don’t threaten the undersheriff. You threaten me, I’ll bust your damn huevos. Understand?”
Joe Joe grunted in pain.
Garrity held his wrist at the precarious angle with his left arm and with his right, he removed his baton from his belt. Joe Joe groaned.
“Now,” continued Garrity as he bent Joe Joe’s wrist ever closer to the snapping point, “we’re gonna have a conversation which’ll involve me asking questions and you answering them. Understand? You’re gonna tell me what gang you’re with. You’re gonna tell me who your boss is. You’re gonna give me names and addresses and anything else you know about the kidnappings going on around here, lately.”
Joe Joe grimaced.
Garrity swung the baton down and jabbed Joe Joe squarely in the groin with the blunt end, not so hard as to cause injury, but with enough force to cause Joe Joe agony.
“Who’s your boss, Joe Joe?”
Joe Joe held back. Garrity swung the baton down again and Joe Joe let out a croaking noise like the sound someone makes while vomiting.
Garrity prided himself in being an efficient torture-master. He cherished his reputation with the deputies for his willingness to go that extra mile, and although most of them personally disliked and avoided the morally uninhibited undersheriff, many sought out his talents in especially tough cases. The recent county crime spree had opened the department’s minds to techniques of enhanced interrogation and Garrity pretty much considered every case as especially tough. He employed his enhanced interrogation techniques almost weekly.
He held Joe Joe’s handcuffed wrist at the brink of dislocation with one arm, and with the elegance of a symphony conductor, he hammered Joe Joe in the groin twice more with his baton. Joe Joe wretched and convulsed. He pulled his other cuffed left hand over to shield himself but the chain snapped taut.
“What was that, Joe Joe? Are you resisting?” Garrity asked mockingly. He released Joe Joe’s wrist, reached over and grabbed his other hand, pulled it forward and slammed it on the table. With fingers splayed apart, he rapped them with the baton twice so hard that it sounded like he was pounding nails into plywood.
Garrity was a man fascinated by how the Romans could calculate, within minutes, the time of death of a convict by the gore unleashed in a pre-crucifixion flogging. He admired the science of Roman sadism and had, himself, become weel acquainted with the limits of prisoner physiology.Joe Joe screamed and ground his silver teeth together in agony.
“You’re illegal, Joe Joe. That means you don’t exist. You have no rights in this county. I can do whatever I want to you. I can even make you disappear if I choose. There’s lots of places back in the woods to bury someone where no one would ever find him.”
“I no understand,” Joe Joe replied.
“You think you’re tough, eh? I know you understand just fine. Here, let me see if this makes you remember.”
Garrity took out his revolver and set it on the table. He was the only officer in the County that still used a revolver, but Garrity believed that his .357 hand-cannon added to his mystique. At one point, he had nicknamed himself “Dirty Garrity”.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cartridge and showed it to Joe Joe. Then he picked up the pistol, placed the bullet into a chamber and spun the cylinder, holding the barrel down. Unbeknownst to Joe Joe, he didn’t actually put the bullet in the gun, he was only a borderline psychopath. Instead, he deftly dropped it into his sleeve like a magician, but the effect of his Russian Roulette technique on suspects was usually profound. Garrity had employed it many times to coax suspects into confession.
Garrity put the gun into Joe Joe’s mouth, jamming it way in, deep enough to trigger his gag reflex. Although in great pain, Joe Joe had not shown any fear until this moment. He now had the look of terror that Garrity had seen in the eyes of a gazelle just at the moment where a lion latches onto its neck and digs its teeth in. Garrity thoroughly enjoyed watching predation on the Discovery Channel. Joe Joe mumbled Latin prayers as he choked on the barrel of the revolver.
“Now Joe Joe, are you gonna cooperate?”
Joe Joe just prayed.
“I’m gonna count to three…”
Joe Joe said nothing.
Joe Joe closed his eyes.
Joe Joe held his breath.
Garrity growled as he squeezed the trigger.
Disappointed, Garrity removed the .357 from Joe Joe’s mouth.
Joe Joe held his eyes closed and resumed praying. His left hand was beginning to swell. He was hyperventilating between verses.
“Joe Joe,” Garrity whispered in his ear, “I’ve got something to show you. Open your eyes. Yeah, that’s it.” Garrity went back to his side of the table and took his seat. “Look here. Look what I’ve brought for you.” Garrity reached under the table and produced a gray, hard shell briefcase and set it on the table before him. “Do you know what I’ve got in here, Joe Joe? Huh? Can you guess? Why don’t you guess for me. Take a wild guess.”
Joe Joe trembled, sweating, eyes flitting about, his shaved head and tattoos and patchy beard no longer gave him any aura of toughness. He looked less like an MS13 thug and more like some drugged up schizophrenic in a psych ward.
“Joe Joe, I want to tell you about this little present I have for you in this briefcase. You see, when I worked for vice back in DC, we used to bust these S&M outfits all the time. Well, I came across this one day, and I decided that I just had to hang on to it. You never know when something might come in handy. Know what I mean? Then it dawned on me. Yeah, it dawned on me that what I have in this briefcase would make a very persuasive tool for interrogation.”
Joe Joe stared at the case, unable to see the contents.
“Joe Joe, have you ever heard of Steely Dan?”
Joe Joe shook his head.
“No, you probably haven’t, have you. All you Mexicans listen to that damn ranchera music, don’t ya?” Joe Joe was actually from El Salvador. Garrity went on for a few moments impersonating a trumpet playing La Cucaracha. He continued, “Steely Dan is a rock and roll band, Joe Joe. Not one of my personal favorites as they are a little jazzy for my taste, but they had a hit song back in the seventies called “Black Friday.” Ever hear it? No? Well Joe Joe, I’m here to let you know that today is your personal Black Friday.”
Garrity took out his baton again and rapped it on the table three times. The door opened and in burst two deputies clad in head to toe black polyester. They had an SS aura about them. “Uncuff him,” Garrity ordered.
The two deputies freed Joe Joe from the chair but held his arms tightly.
“Let me tell you something, Joe Joe. Steely Dan is not just a rock and roll band,” Garrity explained as he clicked the briefcase open. “The name Steely Dan has an origin. Do you know what it is? No, of course you don’t.” He opened the lid of the case. Sweat rolled down Joe Joe’s forehead and into his eyes. Garrity spun the case around on the table. Joe Joe looked inside but what was there was covered with black felt. “Can we get this on video?” Garrity asked. “I think maybe Joe Joe’s fellow gangbangers would like to see this. No, not the room camera. Who’s got the best camera phone?”
One of the deputies took his phone out of his pocket and began to record the scene.
“Go ahead, Joe Joe,” Garrity continued. “Take a look under the felt. Check it out.”
Joe Joe remained frozen in terror.
Everyone jumped as Garrity picked up his baton and rapped it on the table again.
“Look inside!” He shouted.
Joe Joe extended his good hand. Reaching into the case, he pulled off the felt cloth. He instantly recoiled back in his chair. “No! No! No!” he shouted as he tried to break loose of the officers holding him.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Garrity replied with a sinister grin. “Now you know all about the Steely Dan. And now it’s time, Joe Joe. It’s time to assume the position.”
The officers bent Joe Joe over the table. Garrity came around to his side again and leaned down into Joe Joe’s face which was smashed flat against the metal surface.
“Isn’t this how they do it back home?” Garrity asked.
Joe Joe’s eyes filled with tears.
“Well? Isn’t it?”
“I tell you! I tell you! I tell you ever-thing,” Joe Joe sobbed.
“Too late, Joe Joe. I wonder what your buddies will think of this video.”
“No! No! I tell you! I tell you! Please.” He prayed again in Spanish. “I tell you. I tell you what I stealing.”
“He didn’t ask you about that,” barked one of the officers.
But Joe Joe’s comment fired a synapse in Garrity’s mind, stinging him as if he were chewing on tinfoil. As a lifetime bureaucrat, Garrity had evolved into a finely-tuned opportunist. He wanted to learn more about Joe Joe’s attempted theft. It had to be something good. “What are you talking about, Joe Joe?”
“I tell you what I steal. I tell you. Good news for you. I tell if you stop. Okay?”
Garrity let Joe Joe grovel and pray for a few moments. “Okay. Tell me. Go!” Garrity finally ordered.
“Okay. I go. Here, here it is. I hear from a dealer I know that this man got these coin—a whole lot a them.”
“Coins? Since when are you Mexicans into coin collections? The only things I’ve ever seen you guys collect are those velvet bullfighter paintings.”
“I know. It sound funny. I hear it from dealer. We’re no talking cheap coin. We’re talking bout gold coin…Krugerrand. The man I rob, he buy from my dealer friend and he tell me so I go to that man’s house to get them.Fifty one ounce gold coin,” he said.
“Bullshit. You were goin there to get his daughter.”
“No! No! I no kidnap. I no kidnap no kid. I no pedofilo. I kill them pedofilo.” Joe Joe spat. “I no lie. He have fifty ounces. Price go up every day. Monday up. Tuesday up. Wednesday up. Price go up every day.”
“He’s full of shit,” interjected one of the deputies.
“Shut up!” Garrity snapped as he went around the table, sat down, and leaned back in his chair in contemplation. He pondered how he might use this new knowledge. It probably was bullshit, he thought, but then again, fifty ounces of gold…
“Why’d you go there when he was home? Why not wait till the house was empty?”
“‘Cause I leaving for El Salvador that morning. I get out of the gang. I no wanna kill no one. I just need money.”
“Cuff him again,” Garrity ordered.
“So that’s it?” whined the other Nazi with flaring nostrils.
“If you really want some Steely Dan, perhaps we could practice on you?” Garrity replied.
The two officers cuffed Joe Joe behind his back.
“You gonna tell me who your dealer friend is?”
“He a pawn dealer. It all check out.”
“Get him out of here, then. And get him some ice for his hand.”
“Should we have it x-rayed?”
“It ain’t broke. I know what I’m doing.”
The two deputies hustled Joe Joe out of the interview room and into a cell.