(Author’s Note: This is the first of the last four chapters of BROKEN. Thank you so much for following this story. It was important for me to write it, and I am grateful to the characters for agreeing to take part in it, but also to all of you for following their story. I will be taking a short hiatus after the end, and will start the blog again after the new year of 2021 starts. If you want to finish BROKEN quickly instead of reading week to week, follow this link. The chapter starts right after it.)
Inspector Marcus Balmario reached for the door to Jonathan Tyler’s room when he saw his father, Inspector Jackson Tyler get off the elevator and walk toward him. He had invited Jack to sit in as Jon’s attending parent while he interviewed him.
“Balmario,” said Jack.
“Tyler.” Balmario nodded. “How’s the ex and her new hubby?”
Jack cocked his head. “He’s hardly new. I suspect she had him lined up in the wings before she divorced me,” he said, but there was not a trace of bitterness in his voice. “However, they are settling into the hotel. Are we ready?”
“Still waiting on Social Services,” said Balmario.
The Social Services Recorder stepped off the elevator.
“I guess your wish is his command,” said Jack.
Balmario said, “Let’s get this over with.”
While Jack explained the proceedings to his son, Marcus set up a small table for the Recorder near the bed. When he finished, he said, “Is everybody ready?”
“I’m ready, Sir,” said the Recorder.
“How about the two of you?” said Balmario, catching Jack’s attention.
“Jon?” said Jack.
“I’ll ask questions for clarity, but mostly I just want to hear your story,” said Balmario.
Jon said, “Okay.”
“For the record, please state your name and age.”
“Jonathan Tyler, fifteen.”
Marcus said, “Let it be known that the subject, Jonathan Tyler, aged fifteen is considered a minor and therefore accompanied by a parent, Senior Inspector Jackson Tyler of the 12th Precinct, Detroit PD. Jon has suffered a brutal attack and has agreed to answer questions. Please confirm this is correct.”
“Use words, Jon,” said Jack.
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Jon, do you understand you have been arrested for three crimes: truancy, shoplifting, and prostitution?”
“If, during the course of this interview, it is determined that you have broken laws, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?”
“Who beat you, Jon and why?”
“I don’t know the name of the man.”
“Can you describe him?”
“He was tall, wore a plaid shirt. He wore boots. His face was angry.”
“Do you think you could describe him to an artist?”
“Maybe. I was scared.”
“How did you meet this man?”
“Uhm. He pulled up to the corner and grabbed me.”
“What corner was that, Jon?” said Balmario.
Jon shook his head.
“Words, Jon,” said his father.
“We were near the university. The guys I was with said – “
“There were others with you at the time you were beaten?”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I was working a corner with them, but they had left. That’s when the man drove up. He came after they left.”
Marcus paused a moment and regarded Jon. His gut told him that this kid was about to admit to a crime. Whether or not he was a teen and protected by Safe Harbor laws, there were still consequences, especially if he was there of his own free will. “Jon, it’s very important to be careful with details and the timeline. Do you understand?”
Jon avoided his eyes, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “I don’t know.”
If Balmario could have a penny for every teen that looked away while shrugging and saying ‘I don’t know’ to avoid answering a question that could possibly get them into trouble, he would be a rich man.
“Just tell me in your own words.”
He could always re-question Jon to clarify if necessary.
The Recorder said, “He pulled up to the corner and grabbed me. Start there.”
“He grabbed me. It hurt. He shoved me in his car and drove away.”
“Can you describe the car?”
“It was silver. I’m sure it was a CT6. My grandfather and I saw one at a show.”
“Let’s get back to what happened next.”
“I tried the doors, but they wouldn’t open. Neither would the windows. I was locked in. I told him I didn’t want to work for him, but he wouldn’t listen.”
Balmario glanced at Jack. It seemed that Jon was guilty of more than one prostitution charge.
Jack bowed his head.
Balmario said, “Go on.”
“He stopped at an auto body-shop.”
“Do you think you can identify it?”
“Maybe. I wasn’t thinking about it. It had lights across the ceiling. I saw them when we went inside. Another man came out of an office. I recognized him.”
“He was in an alley behind Marchesi’s Bar and Grill. The Morelli brothers had taken Alles, Charlie, and Evan as prisoners.”
“Please stop the recording.”
“Sir, I really can’t.”
“This interview may be over. Jon, sit tight a minute. Jack, and you,” he pointed to the Recorder, “hallway.”
Marcus shut the door behind them. “We should have counsel for this kid before we continue. If Morelli is involved in this, I want everything by the book.”
“Agreed,” said Jack.
“I don’t understand,” said the Recorder. “Isn’t this a simple child endangerment case?”
“Child endangerment, yes. Simple no,” said Balmario. “If the person that Jon claims was present, his testimony could be pertinent to at least two dozen open cases of human trafficking and homicide. At the very least, we should call Chief Thompson and Captain Jamison.”
Jack said, “Agreed.”
“The Recorder said, “I have another testimony to take in forty minutes.”
“We’ll have to get our own people in here to finish. Do you have some sort of paperwork I can sign that would exonerate you from derelict of duty and allow our tapes to be used for your purposes?”
“Sure. They’re in my briefcase.”
“Good. Jack, you get the papers, reassure your son. I’ll call Thompson and Jamison and the usual attorney that works for Vice. Maybe we can move a conference table in.” He pointed at Jon’s room.
The Recorder said, “I will have to notify the custodial parents.”
“Understood,” said Jack.
An hour and a half later, Chief Inspector Maureen Thompson said, “For the record, Jonathan Tyler, aged fifteen, is considered a minor and therefore accompanied by in situ parentis, Senior Inspector Jackson Tyler of the 12th Precinct, Detroit PD, and custodial parent, Meghan Bordeaux, Hartmann Law Firm, Stockton, California, and her husband, Mr. Phillip Bordeaux. In attendance are Inspector Marcus Balmario and Chief Inspector Maureen Thompson, both 12th Precinct, Detroit PD, and defense attorney, Mary Styfford.
“Jonathan is a victim of a brutal attack and has previously stated that he was grabbed from the corner of Forest Avenue and Mitchell by a man driving silver CT6. Said man was tall, wearing a plaid shirt and boots. Jonathan has given a description to the Precinct artist and a bolo has been issued. This man took Jon to an auto body shop, which Jon has yet to identify.
“Another man was at the body shop. Jon recognized him as a Morelli. Jonathan. Please verify that this is correct.”
“You have to say, ‘That is correct,’” said the attorney.
“That is correct,” said Jon.
“Jon. I want you to tell us what happened after the man you identified as Morelli stepped out of the office.”
“He hit me. Then he stole my money and found my ID card.”
“Jon. Is this the man who stole my letter?”
Jon’s face colored. “That was other money. I had money stolen two times. God, is it illegal if someone just gives you money when you are sitting on the street?”
Maureen knew she’d be talking to this boy again. “Jon let’s get back to this story. Morelli stole money and took your ID. Then what happened?”
“He told the man in the plaid shirt to teach me a lesson.”
“What lesson was that?”
“He said I couldn’t work one of his corners.”
“Then what,” said Maureen.
“Then Morelli told him to throw my body into the dumpster so the garbage men would take it away.” Jon burst into tears. “First it was Lincoln, now me? How is that fair?”
“Lincoln?” said Maureen.
“He was my friend. He made it seem like I could earn a lot of money working….” Jon shut his mouth and looked at his lap.
Meghan was horrified if the expression on her face was any indication. Jack wasn’t too far behind her. She caught the eyes of both of them. “Jon, before we open too many cans of worms, if I showed you some pictures, could you pick out Morelli?”
“Yes, I think so.” He sniffed and wiped his nose with his hand.
“I’m going to get some pictures sent over. Then I want to hear about all the things you did, all the people you met, all the places you went while you’ve been in Detroit. Do you think you can do that?”
“Balmario,” she said.
“On it.” He quickly left the room.
Ten minutes later, he returned with a folder of mugshots which included any they had of Morelli brothers. He passed it to Maureen. She put it into Jon’s lap and said, “Take your time. Look at them one by one, and let me know if you recognize any of them.”
Jon looked at each of the five pictures one by one. He said, “No,” after the first two and turned them face down on the bed beside him. He stared at the third one for a long time and set it aside. He looked at a fourth and added it to the pile that was face down. He gasped when he saw the fifth. Emilio Morelli, the youngest brother in the Morelli triad. Then he picked the picture he’d placed to the side and said, I think he was at the confrontation behind Marchesi’s Bar and Grill, also.”
It was the oldest brother. “You know about that?”
“Yeah. Rat Snatcher and I were there, but Rat told me to run.”
“Why were you there?”
“We were going back to Charlie’s. We had just buried Lincoln.”
Meghan gasped, again. Jack reached for her.
“That sounds like something we want to talk about later. Right now, we are talking about the people who hurt you. Are you positive that this man…,” she held up the picture of Emilio Morelli, “was the one who ordered the lesson?”
“Okay. For the record, Jonathan, were you afraid for your life?”
With tears streaming down his face, he said, “Yes.”
“Jonathan Tyler has identified Emilio Morelli as the man who ordered a beat-down to teach Jon a lesson. Jon has indicated it was a death threat.” Maureen clicked off the recorder. “You, young man.” She poked the bed beside him when she said, “You and I are going to record your whole story tomorrow. You read me?”
“Yes,” said Jon. He looked relieved.
She hoped she could find some peace for him, and perhaps his telling of his story would exonerate him from some of his crimes. For now, she decided she had enough information for warrants. She hoped someone would find the man in the plaid shirt. She’d like to give him a beat-down.