Chief Inspector Maureen Thompson and Senior Inspector Jackson Tyler had just finished gently grilling Emilia Rodriguez who they had pulled in for questioning about the disappearance of Evan Fischer, aged nineteen. His grandmother, Claudine had reported him as a missing child. Sra. Rodriguez had picked up a pain prescription written for him. Claiming that she was just an errand runner, she refused to say anymore.
Seemingly demoralized, she cowered in the first interrogation room.
Maureen said, “Maybe if she sits there long enough, she’ll be more cooperative.”
Jack had doubts as he watched her deflate in the chair.
The two of them entered the second observation booth to observe Rodney Heathe, the manager of Walgreens, where Evan worked. Maureen had sequestered him in the room next to Emilia Rodriguez who worked for him. Arms crossed and chin defiantly jutted forward, he leaned against the wall in the far corner of the interrogation cell and stared at the mirror, challenging those behind it.
“He obviously knows his way around,” said Jack.
“Or he watches too many cop shows,” said Maureen. “For someone who highly values an employee like Evan Fischer, it seems very strange he knows so little about him.”
“He’s very put together,” said Jack, noting the silver suit, cut to perfection, cobalt tie that matched his eyes, and polished nails on obviously manicured hands.
Maureen nodded in agreement. “Not this morning, though. When I interviewed him at the store, he was a wild bird. It looked like he threw on his clothes in a hurry, as if I caught him in the act. Know what I mean?”
“Hmm,” said Jack, wondering how Heathe spent his time in the back offices.
“He was together by the time I went back there, more business, less breathless. Not quite this arrogant, but it was obvious he was capable of it.”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “Maybe he was exercising before you came the first time.”
“Yeah, right, exercising.” Maureen scoffed. “When I showed him this…,” she opened her phone and shared the picture of the tattoos on the shoulder of her river victim, “…I could swear he recognized them. But, he claims no. Claims he doesn’t know anyone who practices mixed-martial arts, that he isn’t from the neighborhood, just works there. He didn’t lie about that. However, this is an interesting coincidence. He lives in North Corktown.”
Jack’s spine stiffened. What was the deal with North Corktown? “The phantom caller,” he said.
Maureen nodded her head. “The one who hung up on you.”
Jack stared at Heathe, trying to read something, anything, but there was nothing to read except a haughty attitude by a man affronted by entrapment in a brick cell.
Jack said, “Let’s do this.”
Jack entered before Maureen and said, “Mr. Heathe, please take the seat.” He pointed to a chair on the opposite side of the table, away from the door.
As he sat across from Rodney Heathe, he placed his phone on the table between them. “This will be recorded.”
Heathe glared. “That’s fine, I guess.”
Maureen sat and added, “It’s protocol.”
“Fine,” he reiterated.
Jack said, “State your name for the record.” It was a by-the-book routine when interviewing suspects, not necessarily witnesses as they already knew their names. He didn’t know why he was asking such a formality of this man, but his instincts told him to do so, so he did.
Maureen quickly caught Jack’s eye and questioned him with an eyebrow.
He glanced back with a mental shrug.
Rodney Heathe looked at the two of them and said, “She has my name.”
Maureen said with the sternness of a mother scolding a child, “State your name, please.”
Mr. Heathe leaned over the recorder and said very deliberately, “Rod-ney Hea-thhhh-huh. What am I being charged with?”
Maureen said, “Mr. Heathe, we are not here to charge you with anything at this time. We are here to find out what you may have remembered since our talk earlier today.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know what you want me to say. Evan Fischer was…is…an employee of mine. He didn’t come in today.”
Jack said, “When was he supposed to arrive?”
“I told her already,” he nodded toward Maureen.
“Well, tell me again.”
“Don’t you people confer?”
Maureen stood up. “Inspector Tyler, would you like some coffee? How about you Mr. Heathe? Would you like some?”
Jack sat back into his chair and looked at her. “Sure,” he said, with a question in his voice. Then it dawned on him. Heathe wasn’t going to talk with a woman in the room. Heathe had to know she would be right outside, behind the mirror.
Maureen said politely, “Mr. Heathe? Coffee?”
The man was wily. It was clear he could tell something was up. “Is this like good cop, bad cop stuff?”
“No, sir,” she said. “That’s not real. We don’t play those games in real life.”
Like hell we don’t, thought Jack.
“Yes. Thank you. Coffee would be lovely,” Heathe replied. When she left the room, he visibly relaxed.
“So tell me the story from the start,” said Jack.
“You can get your information from that perky policewoman.”
“Perky,” said Jack. “First of all, she is Chief Inspector. You don’t want to mess around with her.” Challenging Heathe with a stare, Jack thought, “You are so lucky she left to get coffee. She could break you in half.”
Heathe stared back, but then something in his expression changed. “She said that Evan is missing. I guess that explains why he didn’t show up for work at nine.”
“Probably,” agreed Jack.
“She asked me a bunch of questions, and I answered them.”
“Things like what kind of employee he is, is he part-time or full-time, does he have a girlfriend.”
“And what did you say?”
“I told her. He was one of my best employees, always on time, a good worker. He’s been working for me for two years, never missed a day. I just moved him up to full-time to take the place of another employee who left right before Christmas.”
“Oh? Who was that?” Jack sat forward and rested his arms on the table, knowing he was about to get some information that Heathe had not shared before.
“An employee named Sobrina. Sobrina Morelli.”
Morelli? Jack leaned back and scratched his head, gazing offhandedly at the mirror. He knew Maureen was on the other side slotting the name into her mental files. The Morelli brothers were part of a gang that roamed throughout the city. He wouldn’t be surprised if they were involved with mixed-martial arts and that avenue of the human trafficking business.
He said to Heathe, “So, Evan Fischer is part-time, and takes a full-time position after Sobrina Morelli leaves.”
“Why did she leave?” said Jack.
“Something about a pregnancy, I think. She came in looking kind of beat up one day and informed me she was quitting?”
“What do you mean, beat-up?”
Heathe shrugged. “I don’t know. She had a bruise on the side of her face and one on her forearm. She could have fallen. I didn’t ask her.”
“But she quit the job, and you moved Evan into the slot.”
“I was able to give him more hours, yes. He said he needed them. He is a good employee. It was logical.”
Jack was quiet for a moment. Maureen knocked on the door and came in with two coffees. She nodded to Jack, held up her phone, and then slipped out again.
Jack slipped his phone off the table and set it on his thigh to turn it to silent mode. It was still recording. While Heathe sipped at his coffee, the screen flashed. Jack clicked on Maureen’s text, “Evan’s girlfriend is called ‘Bree.’”
‘Bree’ could be a nickname for Sobrina. Surely, Heathe put that together. Jack looked at Heathe. Maybe not. “Mr. Heathe, you said that Sobrina was beat up.”
“I said she looked like she was beat up. She could have fallen.”
“Or someone could have hit her. Did you say Evan had a girlfriend named Bree?”
“Something like that.”
“Have you ever seen Evan display a temper of any kind?”
“Is Evan the kind of guy who could get rough with his girl?”
“How the hell should I know? And why would I care?”
“Well, Sobrina was one of your employees. Didn’t you care about her?”
“Her personal hours are just that, personal. I don’t ask questions. And what does that have to do with Evan?”
Jack’s screen flashed again.
The text from Maureen said, “MMA.”
“Mr. Heathe, is it possible Sobrina got her injuries in a fight, like say…mixed martial arts?”
“How many times do I have to say this? I don’t care, and I don’t ask about my employees’ affairs. I care if they are doing their jobs well. That happens? I don’t have a problem.”
“Okay. Fair enough.” The screen flashed again.
She had sent a picture.
Jack put the phone back on the table. “I have one more question for you right now.” He tapped his phone, and then showed Mr. Heathe the picture of the tattoos on the river victim’s arm. “Mr. Heathe, you said earlier you didn’t recognize these.”
Heathe looked and then arched away from the table. He turned his head toward the door.
“It seems you do recognize these tats, Mr. Heathe. I don’t want to hold you for obstruction, so tell me the truth. Where have you seen them?”
“I…I.” Mr. Heathe crossed his arms across his chest and bowed his head. “I don’t know anything about those tattoos.”
“Oh, come on. It’s obvious you recognize these. Where have you seen them?”
Heathe struggled to regain composure. Jack could tell he was working on a story. Jack prepared for a tale about tattoos, knowing that there was a good chance he wouldn’t hear the truth about these particular renderings.
“Spit it out, Heathe. All I am asking for is the truth.”
“I see tattoos all the time. I can’t say where. I see them everywhere. Doesn’t everybody? Maybe I saw these, maybe I saw others. I don’t pay attention.”
“Well, how about this. Have you seen this?” He scooted a small scrap of paper across the table with the words ‘go ask alles.’
Heathe said, “Why are you showing me this piece of garbage?”
“This was left on Chief Thompson’s window this morning. I want to know if you put it there.”
“Of course not.”
Recognition flashed in Heathe’s eyes. Jack didn’t know if it was the note itself or something on the note. Maybe he knew the name Alles. Maybe he recognized the handwriting.
“Who is Alles? Does he know Evan?”
“How should I know,” Heathe said. He banged tightly closed fists on the table.
“You know what? I am going to take a break. You sit here and think about tattoos, truth, and the consequences of lying during an investigation. And remember, one of your best employees is missing, and we are trying to find him.”
Jack grabbed his phone, stood, and strode out the door.
He said to Maureen, “I see what you mean. He recognizes these tattoos. He seems more afraid than Emilia Rodriguez does. He recognized something about this as well.” He handed the little piece of paper to Maureen. “You have one more question for Rodriguez.”
“I do, huh? Okay.”
Maureen knocked on the door to alert Emilia Rodriguez she was stepping in. She sat down and said quietly, “You seem calmer.”
“Yes. I feel better, thank you.”
“I have one more question for you. I noticed that after you told Mr. Heathe I was there to speak to him, that you were quite nervous after that. What was he doing in his office?”
“Oh, you cannot ask me that. It is none of my business.”
“Was he indiscreet?” said Maureen, in a gossipy voice.
“It is none of my business what he pays for. None of my business.” She shook her head.
“Do you think other employees know about his back office purchases?”
Emilia Rodriguez nodded her head. “Yes. I think they do.”
Maureen glanced at the mirror and nodded. Jack understood.
He stepped back into the room with Mr. Heathe. “Rodney Heathe,” he said, “seems you are quite the player. What is it? Girls? Boys? Both? Did you see the tattoos on one of your visitors? Is Alles one of your playthings?”
“I have no idea what you talking about,” snapped Heathe.
“I am talking about getting a little action in the back office. Who do you pay? Do you pay Alles? Is he or she a private contractor, your pimp, or your madam?”
“That, that is…I am scandalized,” Heathe retorted.
“Me too,” said Jack. “Unfortunately for you, I am sure that with a little inquiry, I can find out exactly what you do during your break time, and who you contract with. Get comfortable. You’ll be sitting here for a while.”
With that, Jack left the room.