Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Chapter 5, Part 1

Detective Varajian felt like Cassandra on the walls of Troy, preaching disaster to the heedless Trojans as they rejoiced and triumphed over the Greeks' gift horse. Aside from himself, all of the officers involved in the arrest were so utterly thrilled to have gone from the discovery of a body to the arrest of a suspect in less than three hours that they would not stop celebrating and gloating long enough to consider some of the finer points of what had just happened.

And though Varajian positively ached to berate Spevik and the other officers for their headlong rush up all those flights of stairs and into a private home without convincing cause, and their even more headlong and humiliating arrest of what might quite possibly be an innocent person, he dared not criticize his fellow officers in front of their superiors — such is not well-tolerated among officers of the law, by either the superior or the subordinate. Institutional law enforcement requires at least the pretense of internal unity in order to function, and Varajian did not get where he was without learning to play the game of diplomacy; he knew how to avoid ruffling feathers while getting his work done, and how to save his criticisms for "constructive" private conversations.

In keeping with this philosophy, Varajian dipped his oar into Spevik's report to the Captain whenever he felt it possible to do so without disparaging anyone else, pointing out the little problems of the case: the lack of video coverage of the murder itself, his opinion that the Vandervere boy did not fit the MO of the murder, the fact that he had not responded specifically when read his Miranda rights; he couched his objections as Devil's Advocate "what-if"s, but said anything he could think of to burst their bubble... and was terribly disappointed that nobody took his leads, not even the Captain, whose job it was to poke holes in reports. They were too busy patting their own backs and envisioning laudatory press-conferences to care much about the details.

"But we have a confession!" Spevik exulted, acting as if Varajian were being a silly old lady to object in any way to such a stellar arrest, even hypothetically.

"Not a full confession," Varajian pointed out, "Not an official confession. And he never answered that he understood his rights."

"Why don't you have a full confession yet?" Captain Gerrie Morris asked, startled out of her complacency by this information; she was a fairly tall and imposingly thick woman with freckled russet-brown skin and a slightly masculine salt-and-pepper Afro, her deep jovial voice and cheerfully maternal demeanor belied by small suspicious eyes and a lengthy crocodile's smile.

"Varajian wanted to let the kid calm down before we talked to him, so we came in to report first," Spevik said in a tone of sneering disapproval. He'd been all for browbeating a much more direct and specific confession out of Vandervere before he thought to ask for a lawyer, but Varajian was the senior officer and his will prevailed.

"He was no use to anyone, blubbering incoherently. I don't want a confession the judge will just throw out on a charge of duress," Varajian defended his position. The truth was, though, that the boy's disconsolate weeping broke his heart, and he thought it was cruel to interrogate someone crying his eyes out so piteously and dressed only in a gold-embroidered black towel; he'd given the suspect a pair of City Jail coveralls to put on, as well as a paper cup of water and a box of tissues, then left him alone in an interview room to pull himself together.

"Well, get in there and get his confession written down and signed," Captain Morris commanded, "And make sure he's given and understands his Mirandas... Varajian's right, we have to dot our I's and cross our T's on this case. I want a tight show, and I want it moving before the press starts in on us."

"What's your problem, Varajian?" Spevik hissed at him as they made their way across the busy division bull-pen toward the interview rooms.

"This arrest stinks, is my problem," Varajian responded, coming to a stop in the outer room behind the two-way mirror that allowed them to watch Vandervere sniffling pathetically and using most of the box of tissues to mop his streaming face, "You moved too fast, you went too far, and this is going to be a fucking disaster."

"What do you mean, a disaster? How is it a disaster?"

"To begin with," Varajian rounded on Spevik and vented the fury that had been building up in him for an hour, "your actions were unprofessional and unconsidered: you followed those idiot uniforms following that idiot concierge up seven whole flights of stairs, you let yourself get caught up in the emotion of the chase. Instead of leading your subordinates and making a safe, measured approach to that apartment, you let a hysterical civilian take charge and you followed him. Second, you broke into that apartment on the flimsiest of pretexts, a fucking dropped tray... not a gunshot, not a scream for help, but a tray of broken china. Third, you commanded and allowed the destruction of extremely valuable property belonging to an extremely powerful person. Don't you know whose apartment you broke into?"

"No, should I?" Spevik shot back arrogantly, but with rather less arrogance than before.

"If you had a brain in your head, or if you had stayed to take statements and secure the scene instead of parading that poor kid though a mob of press photographers, you would know. While you were doing victory laps around the squad car and preening for the reporters, I was being dressed down by Valerien de Seguemont, one of the richest men in this town and very popular with the boys in City Hall. The other guy, the one in the feathered robe, was Marque Willard-Wilkes, another of the richest men in town... in fact, his family was here for the founding, and he probably owns a good quarter of the city's real estate. They are each so powerful that they can, and probably will, have both of our heads on a stick by the end of the day.

"Oh?" Spevik tried to appear unimpressed, but failed.

"To return to the destruction of property: the door you ordered broken down was three hundred years old, an irreplacable family heirloom from Paris. The vase that got broken was over two hundred years old, and cost more money than both our salaries put together. I don't think they can blame the china set on us, directly; but if they do, we can say goodbye to next year's salary, too."

"They can't do anything to us," Spevik stuttered a little, visibly deflating, "we were doing our job."

"What I know of de Seguemont, he won't do anything to us, he has always been a staunch supporter of the SFPD... though I wonder just how tireless his fundraising efforts will be after this fiasco. And you can bet your ass his insurance company is going to be after the Division for restitution if you can't show sufficient probable cause to have broken down that goddamned antique door."

"Shit," Spevik wondered how much of his pay might be docked if such a thing happened.

"And here's another thing you might have known if you read any part of the newspaper besides the funnies and the sports: de Seguemont's first cousin is Richard Allenwhite, and rumor has it that Allenwhite and Willard-Wilkes are pretty buddy-buddy, too. Your little commando operation this morning may well have just brought the fucking Allenwhites down on all of our heads."

"Fuck!" Spevik swore, suitably awed. Richard Allenwhite was the richest man in town, probably the richest man on this side of the continent, and moreover he ran an immense business empire that included two national television networks, fifteen magazines, dozens of radio stations, and an impressive number of newspapers... including the best-circulated local paper, The San Francisco Bugle. He was also known to take great pleasure in crucifying enemies in his media, and was a dangerous man to cross.

"Now do you see why I call this a disaster?" Varajian was satisfied that he'd instilled a proper sense of fear into Spevik, but he knew it wasn't enough.

"It's not a disaster," Spevik decided after thinking for a minute, "I mean, Vandervere is guilty. Nobody is going to take us to task if we had to break a few doors and vases in order to bring a killer to justice. This Seguemont guy isn't going to sue us over his door when he realizes we probably saved him from being murdered the same as Marshall. Imagine what Allenwhite would do to us if we didn't catch that kid before he stabbed his cousin and his buddy."

"If that kid is guilty of anything more serious than jaywalking," Varajian threw a glance at Danny, who was finally composed and was trying to rinse the salt tears from his big faunish eyes by dripping water into them from a fold in the cup's rim, "I'll give you a crisp new ten-dollar bill."

"You're on," Spevik grinned, "Let's go get that confession."

***

Danny's red-rimmed eyes darted from one detective to another as they seated themselves at the old enameled steel conference table. He wasn't sure what to say at this juncture, couldn't quess what the expected behavior might be in this situation. And then the detectives simply looked at him expectantly, as if waiting for him to make the first move. But what to say? How to act? Danny was completely lost, and just went on looking from one to the other in hopes of getting some direction.

"When you were read your rights," Varajian asked quietly, "did you understand them?"

"Of course," Danny replied, having to clear the phlegm and tears from his throat to make himself heard, then tried on a smile, "Right to remain silent, right to an attorney. I watch a little television."

"Okay, I just wanted to make sure," Varajian wished the kid had watched a little more television, or had enough plain common sense to know he should avail himself of those rights; but he knew it wouldn't look good to his superiors if he encouraged a suspect to lawyer up, "You also understand that our conversation is being recorded and videotaped?"

"All right," Danny responded, trying to think if he'd done anything embarrassing in this room while he was alone. Aside from crying like a little girl and fussing prissily with the orange jumpsuit, there was nothing that he wouldn't want seen.

"For the record, can you give us your name and address?"

"Danny Vandervere, 125-A Ford Street, San Francisco."

"I thought your name was Marcus," Spevik broke in.

"My whole name is Marcus Daniel Vandervere IV, after my great-uncle; and Uncle Marcus was still alive when I was growing up, so my family calls me Mark-Daniel," Danny explained, babbling unnecessarily to fill the uncomfortable silence, "But I prefer to be called Danny. I think it suits me better."

"And where were you born?" Varajian asked after another uncomfortable pause.

"Vandervere, California."

"Isn't that your last name?" Spevik was confused.

"Both. My great-great-great grandfather... is that right? Yes, three greats," Danny counted backward on his fingers, trying to sound informative rather than self-aggrandizing, "Charles Vandervere the first, he founded the town in 1885 and built a paper-mill there. The family has lived there ever since."

"And what do you do for a living?"

"I get an allowance from the family Trust, and I have some rental property," Danny admitted sheepishly, embarrassed to tell these working men that he didn't have or need a job.

Detective Varajian wrote down all this information on his pad and the silence resumed, the two detectives looking expectantly at the suspect and the suspect looking expectantly at each of them.

Varajian found himself musing on how unexpectedly attractive Danny looked in the unflattering jumpsuit: the way his well-turned body filled out the sack-like garment as if it had been tailored for him, the way his milky skin was complemented by the impossible laundry-dulled flourescent orange color, the way he'd turned the collar up jauntily and zipped the front to exactly the right level to accentuate the length of his neck and the meaty sculpture of his chest, the way he'd casually rolled the sleeves and the legs to make light of the fact that the jumpsuit was far too short for him. And even with his eyes and nose red and puffy from crying, his face was breathtaking, a fascinating combination of handsomeness and prettiness that stunned and appealed from every angle. His beauty glowed like firelight in the ugly little room.

Spevik wasn't impressed with that beauty. He could see the kid had a build on him, and wondered how he got his hair to fluff out like that, but the doe-eyes and the succulent mouth had no effect on him. He in fact found his dislike of the suspect growing as he sat there looking at him, thinking about living off a family trust and growing up in a town named after your own great-great-great-grandfather. The beauty that entranced Varajian only made Spevik distrust him: too pretty, and pretty boys are always assholes.

Danny, on his side of the table, found himself calming down now that he was no longer alone with his self-recrimination and fear. He thought about choosing to remain silent, but he knew that silence only made people look more guilty; besides, if he had killed Marshall, even accidentally, he believed he should fess up like a gentleman and take his punishment; and though the contemplation of such punishment scared the piss out of him, he felt a certain swelling pride in his own noble ambition to pay society's price with his head held high: life as he knew it was over, but Marcus Daniel Vandervere IV would not stoop to whining, pleading, or excuse-making.

He knew he should call a lawyer, but he had no idea whom to call... the lawyer he kept on retainer dealt only in real-estate, probate, and other property matters; the only other lawyers he knew were the Vandervere Trust attorneys, none of whom practiced criminal law. His father was a lawyer, a criminal lawyer even, who had practiced as a defense attorney for a few years before becoming Prosecutor, and then later Mayor, of the city of Vandervere. But Danny would rather gouge out his own eyes than ask his father for help... so he waited until he could remember which, if any, of his boyfriends was a criminal attorney. In the meantime he intended to cooperate with the police.

He hated the pokey, windowless, dirty-looking room with its chipped greenish off-white enamel walls and dark veiny red-orange linoleum floor; he hated the hanging flourescent light-fixture and the discolored acoustic ceiling and the great flat smudged mirror that obviously wasn't really a mirror; he hated the heavy and uncomfortable taupe-colored steel chairs and the dented green-linoleum-topped table; and he hated the cheap and scratchy bleach-smelling polyester-blend jumpsuit against his bare skin. But the effort of trying not to think about the possibility of spending the forseeable future in such rooms and such clothing kept his mind fully occupied. Besides, the older of the two detectives facing him had such a calm and gentle face that he felt himself relaxing... this might not be so bad.

It was an accident, after all. He knew enough from the occasional television courtroom drama that killing someone by accident was still a crime, and that his anger would probably make it Manslaughter One rather than Two. But he had no police record, he'd never committed a crime before; maybe he'd get probation, or community service, or something not too horrible to contemplate.

"Why'd you kill Marshall?" Spevik finally broke the silence, shooting the question so brutally that Danny and Varajian both flinched.

"I didn't mean to," Danny said quietly after swallowing a few times, "I was just so angry, I couldn't see straight. I didn't mean to kill him."

"Why were you so angry?" Detective Varajian asked quietly, soothingly, his deep voice instilling confidence and comfort.

"Well, it's embarrassing," Danny demurred, but forced himself to go on when the black-suited younger detective started fidgeting impatiently, "He did things to me... he wasn't very nice."

"So you killed him because he wasn't nice?" Spevik sneered so violently that Danny flinched again.

"I told you, I didn't mean to kill him. But after he tried to handcuff me, I guess I lost it. I really saw red," Danny laughed a little, "I always thought that was just an expression. But my field of vision actually went red."

"Do you remember killing Marshall?" Varajian asked, hoping the boy could offer a temporary insanity plea.

"No..." Danny started and stopped short, then shook his head a little to clear it, "I mean, I didn't black out or anything. But I didn't kill him on purpose. It was an accident."

"How the hell do you 'accidentally' stab someone?" Spevik yelled, his head lunging toward Danny, who drew back in shock.

Varajian pinched the bridge of his nose again, completely disgusted with his impetuous partner; standard procedure required that the detectives not be the first ones to mention the method of death, they had to wait for the suspect to volunteer it. How Spevik got promoted to detective with such a shoddy grasp of methodology and so little self-control, he simply couldn't understand.

"Stab?" Danny blinked at the irate younger detective after a long silence, completely flabbergasted, "I didn't stab him. Was Marshall stabbed? With a knife?"

"But you killed him, you said," Varajian interposed, hoping he could save the interrogation without offering the suspect an alternate story he could use.

"Actually," Danny said after a moment's thought, a meditative pause that Spevik interpreted as calculation and Varajian interpreted as dawning realization, "He said I killed Marshall. I believed him. But I didn't stab anybody. I wouldn't even know how."

"Okay, we seem to be getting confused here. Let's back up," Varajian resettled himself in his chair and rested his arms on the table, his hands folded together in front of him, presenting the suspect with the pose of a nonjudgemental listener; it was the most effective pose for getting someone to talk, "Why don't you tell us what happened, in your own words, so we can understand."

"Where do you want me to start?" Danny asked, unconsciously mimicking this pose and facing Varajian squarely and calmly.

"Start with Mr. Marshall. Where did you meet him?"

"At The Brat," Danny answered, "it's a bar off Polk Street."

"A hustler bar," Spevik put in, getting up out of his chair and drifting toward a corner where Danny couldn't see him.

"Is it?" Danny responded dishonestly, not wanting to go into the whole story of why he had gone to a hustler bar in the first place, but also not wanting these detectives to think he was a hustler; he was irritated by the detective moving outside his range of vision, but tried to remain calm.

"You met Mr. Marshall at The Brat," Detective Varajian wrote a little note on his pad, just Met at The Brat, big enough that the suspect could see it... another ploy to gain trust and confidence from a suspect, though he wished he could get Spevik to settle down and stop spooking the kid.

"Yes, and after we talked for a while, we decided to go back to his place."

"To talk some more?" Spevik sneered. Varajian wanted to throw something heavy at him.

"When we got to his apartment, he offered me some cocaine," Danny worked hard to ignore the hovering Spevik and continued addressing Varajian after a moment, trying to tell the story without any flair or drama on the assumption that it would sound better to police detectives without his usual embellishments, "I didn't have any, but he did two lines. He gave me a drink, a martini, but I didn't drink it because I saw something suspicious in the glass, some kind of powder."

"Okay," Varajian said, jotting down a few more key words in block letters on his pad, just to keep the story moving.

"After a while we went into the back room. It was a sort of playroom, and there was this big waterbed thing in the middle full of oil. He ripped my shirt, and then he tipped me into the playpen thing without asking me if I wanted to play. I didn't mind so much, about the oil I mean, the shirt I did mind about but he said he'd replace it... but I would have preferred to be asked."

"Of course," Varajian prompted, relieved that Spevik had tired of hovering and was now leaning against the wall beside the mirror, where the suspect could see him.

"We played around in the oil for a little while, and then he tried to handcuff me to the side. He got one side of the cuffs on me..."

"Your right or left hand?" Varajian wondered, pencil poised.

"Right hand," Danny confirmed after holding up both his hands and looking at them to be sure, "I struggled with him and I eventually got loose. I think I broke his nose in the struggle. His nose bled, anyway. I got out of the playpen and tried to find the key to the handcuffs. I couldn't find it in the room, so I went through the apartment trying to find it. I couldn't find it anywhere, and Marshall wouldn't tell me where it was, he just kept whining about his stupid bloody nose."

"Understandable."

"So I yelled at him and then I left."

"You just yelled?" Spevik asked, finally catching on to Varajian's method and speaking gently.

"Well, I hit him," Danny admitted with just a touch of shame, "I slapped him really, really hard and I threw him away from me."

"And then what?" Spevik prompted.

"And then I messed up his living room and threw his cocaine out on the floor. I was really angry."

"And then...?"

"And then I left," Danny folded his arms across his chest and leaned back.

"What else?" Spevik prompted again, more forcefully, his irritation making his voice even sharper than usual.

"Nothing else," Danny said with a tone of defensiveness in his voice... he didn't want to discuss Valerien and Marquesa in this place, with these people. As far as he was concerned, The Story of Marshall ended when he left Marshall's apartment, and The Story of Valerien & Marquesa started when he got on the elevator: they were not and should not be connected.

"Why did you say you killed Mr. Marshall?" Varajian asked, hoping that this would get to the bottom of things.

"I thought maybe I'd hit him so hard that he'd passed out and drowned in the oil," Danny responded after another unadvisably long pause to collect his thoughts, a pause that could be interpreted by a suspicious viewer as getting his story straight.

"And you deny stabbing Mr. Marshall?" Varajian supplied the next line.

"Absolutely!" Danny was relieved that the detective seemed to understand him, and relieved beyond belief to discover that he hadn't, after all, killed a man, "I was angry, but I didn't want to kill him. And I certainly wouldn't have stabbed him if I had wanted to kill him. What a horrible thing to do."

"I don't believe you," Spevik said matter-of-factly, leaning on the table and staring into Danny's face, "You're lying."

"I am not lying!" his touchy honor was offended and he let it show, stupidly allowing generations of Vandervere arrogance to come surging up from the place Danny had buried it long ago, "How dare you? I was perfectly willing to take my punishment when I thought I'd killed Marshall; but I didn't stab him, and I'll be damned if I'll let you call me a liar to my face!"

The situation might have erupted into an altercation, Spevik looked like he was about to strangle the suspect, and the suspect looked like he was going to start shooting fire out of his eyes; but at that moment the door opened and Captain Morris's head popped in, "I'm sorry to interrupt, Detective Spevik, but you have an important phone call."

"Can I get you some coffee, or something?" Detective Varajian asked Danny after Spevik left the room.

"I'm sorry I swore like that," Danny apologized, mortified that he'd yelled at an officer of the law.

"We've heard a lot worse. I'm going to step out until Detective Spevik is free, we always like to have two officers in the interview room. Can I bring you back some coffee?"

"Yes please," Danny smiled at the detective, without intending to attract but with as much force behind it as his most carefully rehearsed seductions.

"Cream and sugar?" Varajian felt the impact of that smile in the middle of his chest.

"Black, please."

"We'll be back in a few minutes."

***

"What the hell is going on in there?" Morris demanded when Varajian closed the interview room door behind him, "Why is he recanting his confession?"

"Perhaps because he didn't kill Marshall?" Varajian offered.

"Or perhaps," Spevik spat with rage, lisping the word slightly to mock his partner's fastidiousness, "Perhaps while you were letting Princess Rosepetal in there get her little cry out, and then interrupting my report with your stupid little objections, and then laying me to filth out here about broken doors and Allenwhites, that poor kid as you so like to call him had enough time to think up a story to cover his confession."

"And perhaps," Varajian spit right back at him, "if you had brought him in for informal questioning, allowing him to get dressed and leave through a back door that wasn't covered with photographers, instead of arresting him right off the bat and letting the entire world know about it, you would have found out that he didn't kill Marshall before you got the rest of the Division involved in your stupidity."

"Fuck you, Varajian," Spevik pronounced the words with dangerous evenness.

"Okay, guys, that's enough," Captain Morris stepped between the two detectives and gently pushed them apart, "There's no point in fighting. Spevik is right, you shouldn't have given him the opportunity to collect himself and come up with a story, you should have gotten the confession on tape, using careful language to prove there was no duress. But remember that you fucked up, too, giving him an opening for his story by mentioning the murder-weapon. Your behavior was unprofessional."

"But..." Spevik tried to protest the criticism but was cut off.

"And I agree with Varajian that we should have done this more quietly; this is going to be a high-profile case and we don't need to commit ourselves until we have some evidence. But we have him in custody, and we'd better keep him. Vandervere remains our best suspect, our only suspect. He had access, opportunity, and motive. I think you'd better book him."

"Are you sure that's wise?" came a confident and resonating voice from the hall. Turning to the open door, the two detectives and the captain were dismayed but not really surprised to see Rodney Casterman, Esq., the famous and flamboyant defense attorney, striding into the room as if he owned it. He was a tall, elegantly narrow-built, and dramatic-looking but not handsome middle-aged man with a leonine mane of silver-streaked auburn hair and an ostentatiously expensive pinstripe suit that somehow looked so right on him that one couldn't really call it "flashy."

"I might have known you'd show up on this case, Casterman," Captain Morris greeted the attorney with a hearty handshake, as if they were the best of friends when in fact they hated each other passionately. She introduced the two detectives and then indicated the large Saks Fifth Avenue shopping-bag the attorney was carrying alongside his Herm├Ęs ostrich-skin briefcase, "A little lunchtime shopping?"

"Apparently it's not enough to arrest shirtless suspects anymore; television audiences have become so jaded," Casterman opened the bag to show its contents, "So the SFPD has taken to hauling in naked boys wrapped scantily in bath-towels. You can search the bag for weapons, of course, but this ensemble was carefully chosen for safety."

"I suppose you'll want to meet with your client right away?" Morris made a welcoming gesture toward the door into the interview room.

"A meeting you will observe closely, I'm sure, your little noses pressed against the glass," Casterman reached for the doorknob, but stopped before turning it, "Ordinarily I would request a private room, but I don't wish to incommode you. As a professional courtesy, you will of course shut off the recording equipment and that cunning little intercom? Attorney-Client Privelege and all that."

"Incommode?" Spevik repeated the word when the lawyer had gone into the interview room and the intercom had been switched off, "Who the hell talks like that?"

"The most successful defense attorney money can buy talks like that," Morris griped, "'Baffle them with bullshit' is his motto. This kid's got a good chance of getting off no matter what we do. But since Casterman will make the case newsworthy, and since pretty-boy and his little towel are going to be on the front page of every paper in town tomorrow morning, we'll have to make a good fight of it. Spevik, go get Griggs and find out if we have enough evidence to book him."

2 comments:

CarpeDM said...

God, I hate Spevik. But that's good, right? That I'm about ready to deck him for being such a jackass? Big, stupid, macho jerk.

Okay. Done vanting.

Anyway, like what you've come with so far, nice use of Greek mythology to describe how Varajian is feeling and can't wait to read what comes next.

Anonymous said...

Okay, why do I now believe that Varajian and Danny will live happily ever after?? Too many Disney movies??

Spevik is wonderfully machismo and inept, and the Captain is a wonderful characterization. Good balance, from here, taking her detectives to task, and then showing management poise in doing her job of directing their next task.

Oh yeah, MORE Robert, pant, pant.

Will