Catch and Release

Chief Inspector Maureen Thompson wanted to scream – or punch a wall – or shoot the hell out of a target practice mannequin. Her recourse was to bite off a hangnail. Now, the darn thing burned like a bitch.

Sooner or later, Captain Jamison would call on her, ask her why she was holding Rat Snatcher in interrogation so long. She needed answers. That’s why. He was a possible suspect, possibly posturing as an FBI agent. He was a silent stone sitting in that hot seat. She directed question after question. He didn’t ask for counsel, he didn’t answer. He didn’t twitch. But the most peculiar thing was his calm, softly alert eyes. They weren’t the eyes of a criminal.

Damn this day. It had started with huge questions and was now ending with more. Who left the baby? Poor little girl never had a chance. The coroner confirmed she was too premature to survive. Where was the mother? Who was the mother? Why had she left it on the cold, dirty cement in front of a derelict pharmacy?

Her office phone rang. “Thompson.”

“My office, now.” Captain Jamison sounded as snappish and tired as she felt.

He didn’t even wait for her to get all the way through the door when he barked as predicted, “What the hell do you know about this guy in Interrogation One?”

She and Balmario had raced to the scene and then changed course when he roared past them in his beat up van. It was apparent he was fleeing something, and coming from the direction of the shootout.

“He’s not talking, Captain. Balmario has worked him. I’ve worked him. He’s a clam.”

“Has he lawyered up?”

“No, he hasn’t done that either. He just sits and stares.”

“So we cannot confirm that he was the shooter. What about the other two? What are they saying?”

“Charlie Marchesi and Evan Fischer. I have them separated. I’d like to call Jack Tyler, sir. He was first on the Fischer case. I’ve already called the grandmother.”

“Do it.”

Jack answered his phone before the first ring ended. “Tyler.”

“Jack, it’s Maureen. How’s Tom?”

“Slowly hobbling down the corridor fighting every second of having to use a walker.”

Maureen chuckled. “Sounds about right.”

Jack mumbled, “For someone who wants to go home he grumbles a lot.”

Maureen listened as Tom called Jack’s name and said something she could not decipher. She was sure it was a snappish quip in Jack’s direction.

Jack replied, “Keep walking.”

Tom mumbled again, and Jack said, “Whatever.”

Maureen chuckled and then she said, “Jack, Evan Fischer is in protective custody.”

There was silence on the phone. She assumed he was updating Tom on the missing child case.

When he came back on the line, he said, “I’ll be right there.”

“You should know; we put his father in protective custody as well.”

Jack jumped to the same conclusion she had. “Conti?”

She said, “He is using the name Charlie Marchesi. He owns Marchesi’s Bar and Grill.”

There was silence. When came back on, he said, “What? Do you think one of them called me earlier?”

“I don’t know why they would ask for you specifically.”

“I have been obsessing about that since the call came through.”

Jack had received a phone call from someone who asked for him, but the caller hung up. He traced the call to a street booth in front of Marchesi’s Bar and Grill.

Maureen said, “I arrested Rat Snatcher, aka Phillip Morris.”

“Whoa, really?” said Jack. “I can hardly wait.”

“Mr. Snatcher is sitting in Interrogation One. There is a lot to tell you. Fill you in when you get here.”

“Roger that.”

Twenty minutes later Jack leaned against the wall near the door to the bullpen watching a tearful Claudine Fischer reunite with her grandson. He had no idea what they were saying, but he was relieved to see them together. Evan’s face was a mess. Poor kid lived through a brutal beating to witness the execution of Allessandro Santorini. His own life had been threatened by the eldest Morelli brother, Santorini’s executioner.

There was no information on Santorini other than what Evan had haltingly explained. Santorini was his father’s right hand man, helped to run the staff at the restaurant and at the food and drinks booth during mixed martial arts meets. He kept everyone in line. Now he was dead. They would never know for sure, but this explained the name “Alles’ on the mysterious note that Maureen found on her windshield while she was interviewing at Walgreens. It was clear after today’s events that Alles Santorini would have known Evan’s whereabouts at the start of their investigation into his disappearance.   

Jack left Evan and his grandmother to their business. He walked past the room where Charlie Marchesi sat. It was hard to believe that Marchesi was Calogero Conti, the notorious mob boss turned State’s witness. He was a short man, light boned and much younger than Jack imagined. Now he sat with the slumped-shouldered posture of defeat. Jack was unimpressed.

He turned and went to the observation booth adjacent to the interrogation room that held Rat Snatcher. Maureen was there, staring at Snatcher through the mirrored window.

“Is he the shooter?” said Jack.

“Don’t know. He doesn’t have residue on his hands, his jacket, or his shirt. The lab is testing a pair of gloves we found in the back of his van.”

Jack stared at Snatcher. He was every bit the bear sitting in the chair behind the table, as he was the night he first met him on the street in front of Evan’s apartment building.  

Maureen grabbed the tagged evidence bag with the FBI credentials off the table in front of them. “This was found on the console between the two front seats. No other identification was found on him.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s his,” said Jack. He took the bag and stared at it a moment. Then he said, “Claudine Fischer called him Phillip Morris. This could be real.”

“He won’t talk to any of us. Maybe he will talk to you,” she said.

Jack kept the bag with the credentials and opened the door. Before he stepped all the way through it, Rat Snatcher reacted by standing. The look on his face was that of shock, mixed with recognition.

Jack froze, and stared at Snatcher.

“Hey, Pig,” Snatcher said.

Jack’s shoulders dropped. He closed the door behind him and walked to the table. He pulled out the chair across from Snatcher, sat down, and said, “So nice to see you again, Mr. Snatcher, or should I call you Agent Morris?” Jack held up the evidence bag with the credentials. Then he threw it onto the table.

Snatcher stopped it from sliding off onto the floor and sat down to hold it in front of him. It seemed like the reaction of a man who was taking care of something that belonged to him.

Jack tapped open a picture of Evan Fischer on his phone and held it up toward Rat. “Tell me about this kid,” he said. “Why was he threatened with execution?”

Rat looked at him with a sharp, surprised expression.

Jack stared back for a full minute. “He’s in protective custody,” he said.

Rat relaxed an infinitesimal amount.

Jack was an intuitive thinker. Otherwise, he may not have noticed that change.

Rat said, “That’s not the kid you should be looking for.”

“What?” said Jack.

Snatcher shrugged.

“Where did he take the baby?” Jack was surprised at the words that just rolled unbidden out of his mouth.

If the look on Snatcher’s face was any indication, he was as surprised as Jack was.

Maureen knocked on the window.

“Excuse me a minute.” He pointed his finger at Snatcher. “You will be telling me when I return.”

Maureen was agitated. “Whoa. Jack?” she said. “What the hell?”

Jack glanced at her. He glanced at Rat.

Rat, stunned, bent over the table and cradled his head in his arms.

Maureen scolded. “What do you know about the baby?”

Jack threw his hands into the air. “Hey, I’m not the one in Interrogation.”

“You sure as hell are if you are going to crawl into everybody’s head.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean the baby. How did you know about the baby?”

“It was just a dream. I have no idea why I said it in there.” He pointed to the interrogation room where Rat still cowered under the cover of his arms.

“Oh Lordy, Jack.” Maureen put her hands on her hips and paced a circle. “Okay, listen. Before we got the call about a shooting in North Corktown, Balmario and I were investigating an abandoned infant case north of there. Someone left a premature stillborn on the steps of a shut-down pharmacy.”

Jack’s expression turned inward. “Oh god,” said Jack. “I wondered what happened to it.”

Maureen stared at him for a full ten seconds. “Okay,” she said. “Okay, okay. Quickly, in as few words as possible, what the hell do you know?”

“Umm. Woman struggling on floor, baby born still, midwife shoves baby in arms of the person I was. I assumed that was Evan, prayed it wasn’t Jon. People were knocking hard enough on her door to break in. I left…took the fire escape and ran. Does that help?”

“No. sort of.” She shook her head at him. She took a deep breath. “Did you see the midwife?”

“No.” Jack pinched the bridge of his nose. “I mean, yes. No.” He shook his head. “I saw her, but…,” but, he would have to sit somewhere quietly to try to remember what he saw. “She did seem familiar at the time.”  

Maureen said, “That is not helpful.”

She pointed at Rat. “He’s rattled. See what you can get from him. I am going to go find out what Evan can tell me the abandoned baby.”

Jack nodded. “Fine.” He returned to his chair in the interrogation room.

“Sorry about the interruption,” said Jack. “You were saying about the baby?”

“I wasn’t sayin’ no thing about a baby,” said Rat. “What are you anyway, some sort of psycho?”

“Uhh, the word is psychic, but I suspect you know that.” Jack glared at him. “Let’s start again.” He pulled out his phone and flipped on the recorder. “Please state your name.”

Rat glared back. “Rat Snatcher,” he said very deliberately into the phone.

“And, I’ll ask again,” said Jack. “Please state your given name, not your street name.”

“And I’ll say again, Rat Sna – ”

A tall FBI agent stormed through the door and flashed his badge. Maureen, obviously agitated, stood behind him.

Jack jumped up.

The agent announced, “We’re done here. Let’s go.”

Rat stood, grabbed the evidence bag, and retrieved his ID. Then he threw the bag on the table and stuffed his ID into his back pocket. Defiance shot from his eyes, slapping Jack as he watched the proceedings in disbelief.  

As the agent ushered Rat Snatcher out the door, Rat turned to Jack. His eyes were gentle, as if he suddenly dropped the charade. He said quietly so only Jack could hear him, “I told him to run toward the river. You need to find him before they do. You need to find him before we do.” He took a step out the door, then turned again to Jack. “It’s remarkable how much he favors you.”

The scene in front of Jack disappeared, replaced by a gray mist. Feet slapped pavement. Cars honked. Tires squealed. Someone shouted, “Fuck you.”  

Maureen grabbed his arm.

Slowly the interrogation room came back into focus.

The agent pushed Rat Snatcher into the hallway to usher him out of their precinct. Four other agents awaited them, ushering Charlie Marchesi, Evan, and his grandmother Claudine Fischer out of the building, as well.

Jamison shouted, “Debriefing. My office. Balmario, Tyler, you too.”

As they clustered in the office, Jamison barked, “Shut the door and listen up. The FBI now has jurisdiction over the shootout behind Marchesi’s Bar and Grill. It’s a turf war I would rather our officers stay out of. The word is that the Morellis were out for blood over the death of their little sister. Seems she and Evan were involved.”

“What about the abandoned infant, Cap? Is that part of it?”

“Unknown. Pick a team to follow up on that. You three have a bigger problem.”

Captain Jamison grabbed a bundle from his chair and spread it on his desk: a green and gold letter jacket. In one of his visions, Jack had grabbed it while transported to a Greyhound bus. At the time, he thought maybe it was Evan’s jacket, and it gave him comfort to think that maybe Evan was safe.

Jamison slapped a flyer on top of the jacket – an FBI BOLO for a missing teen.

Jonathan Tyler.

Jamison said, “Seems our little boy here was involved with Marchesi’s gang. He was not at the scene. The Morellis are looking for him. If they find him, he’s dead. The FBI is looking for him. If they find him, he is arrested as a State’s Witness and disappears in the system. We are going to find him first.”

Jack barely heard what the Captain said. His heart was beating so hard, it hurt.

In his mind, he heard Rat whisper, “He favors you. You need to find him before we do, before they do. I told him to run toward the river.”

His running feet slapped the pavement beneath him.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s