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Lieutenant Saunders of the Metropolitan Police Department crosses his arms and stares through the one-way mirror, studying the tired-looking young man sitting in a plastic chair, handcuffed to the heavy table. Saunders should be in a good mood. If he can get this guy to break then he at least ties the pool. Last time he checked, it was about eleven grand. He should be a very happy man, but the pain in his guts wonít let him enjoy the moment.
Last time I eat Chinese food at two in the morning, he thinks. Making matters worse is that someone had used this room to eat a late fast-food snack, leaving greasy fingerprints on the one-way mirror, and the gagging, rancid scent of meat. Saunders closes his eyes for a moment, forcing himself to keep the food down. His stomach finally relents, settling down, for the moment.
"When did you bring him in?" he asks the desk sergeant, opening his eyes.
The blocky, uniformed officer checks his clipboard.
"Says here around 0245 hours. They picked him up at the airport. He fits the profile."
Saunders wipes errant rainwater from his forehead and then runs his fingers through his wet, jet-black hair. He looks up at the small sealed window near the top corner of the room. Outside, black night-rain streaks down the thick glass. Lightening flickers.
Saunders turns his gaze back to the prisoner.
The dull rumble of thunder rolls across the city.
The young man does indeed fit the profile, he thinks. Obvious middle-easterner, wearing western clothes, but looking uncomfortable. Theyíre too tight- as if they had been given to him to help him blend in without any real consideration to size. The young manís lower face is lighter than the rest, a sign of a recently shorn beard. Taken together, this man appears to be someone who has hastily changed his profile to pass as just another tourist, but the disguise canít withstand anything more than a cursory glance.
"Got his papers?" Saunders asks.
"Right here." The desk sergeant hands him a passport, a wallet, and a small day bag. Saunders takes the small stack, placing everything but the wallet and passport down on the small metal table next to him. He glances at the young man in the interrogation room, and then back down at the passport in his hands.
Itís a Saudi passport. Saunders thumbs through the worn pages, studying the stamps from Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran, Germany, France, Luxemburg, and the United States. He closes the passport and tosses it onto the table.
"This guyís quite the traveler," he says absently, searching the expensive leather wallet.
Credit cards, a social security card, a Florida driverís license, and cash. A lot of cash. Saunders quickly counts the money.
"Rich, too. Thereís over ten thousand dollars here. Whereís his suitcase?"
The desk sergeant jerks his thumb over his shoulder. "In the evidence locker. Thatís our weak link in this case: he ditched the claim ticket before we grabbed him, so we canít connect him to the dope without a confession. He put up a fuss when they hooked him up, yelling and screaming about being some kind of prince."
Saunders studies the man through the one-way mirror. "Saudi is full of princes. This guy doesnít look like a prince, but who knows?"
Damn, he thinks. If this suspectís smart, he already knows to clam up, and say nothing; Saunders will never get an admission out of him. He needs some leverage, something to force an admission- in a nice way, of course.
A machine kicks on somewhere nearby. Saunders looks at the sergeant who shrugs.
"Itís the pump," he says. "If it didnít work, the basement would flood."
Saunders nods. This isnít his precinct. He came over here when the call went out. One more confession and he can at least tie up the score with Mahoney over at the 73rd, and while he wonít get the entire pool, he might walk off with five grand. Hey- itís better than nothing.
"Who else knows heís here?" Saunders asks quietly.
"Letís see," the sergeant lifts the top page, scanning the page underneath. "The feds called around three, and the suspect called the Saudi Embassy around three-oh-five."
"Oh?" Saunders watches the young Saudi prince put his finger in his nose, and pull it out, inspecting the tip with a frown before wiping his hand across the table. "How do we know he called the embassy?"
The sergeant shrugs. "The feds told us to listen in."
"Which feds are we talking about?"
Saunders eyebrows shoot up, and he opens his mouth to ask why the FBI even cares when the door bursts open and two obvious FBI agents pile into the room, holding their badges high like talismans warding off evil spirits. Both wear gray suits and tan raincoats. One agentís hair is dark brown, cut in a brutal flattop, and the otherís head is shaved. Both canít be more than twenty-five years old. Saunders studies the two agents with a quick, up and down appraisal before returning his attention to the prisoner.
"Iím agent Driscoll," flattop announces. "And this is agent Wells."
Saunders nods and then asks the sergeant, "did he call anyone else?"
Saunders turns to leave the room. To get out he needs to pass the two FBI agents. They donít step aside.
"Excuse me," Saunders says, keeping his voice level.
"Where are you going?" Agent Driscoll demands.
"Iím going to advise this suspect of his Miranda rights, and then get a statement. You can watch if you want."
Saunders steps forward and Agent Wells puts his hand on Saundersí chest. Saunders looks down at the hand for a moment, and then back up at Wells.
"Get your hand off me."
Driscoll clears his throat and says, "Look, this man fits the profile. Heís under our control."
Saunders brings his hand up, and very deliberately, grabs Wellsís wrist and pulls it away, holding it like a piece of trash.
"Sorry," he says, letting Wellsís hand drop. "But, right now, heís my prisoner. We detained him because he fits the profile and because we found opium on him. Iím going to question him about that opium. If he cops to possession- heís mine. Not yours, mine. Heís a drug smuggler, probably a mule for someone bigger. I think I can force him to roll on his boss. "
The two agents exchange a quick look. Driscoll rubs his chin. "Um, whatís your name?"
"Right," he smiles, pointing. "Saunders. Look-"
"Lieutenant Saunders, pup."
The two FBI agents and Saunders look at the desk sergeant. His face is crimson, and his tight expression makes him look like heís barely keeping his emotions under control. He looks around the room, as if finally becoming aware that he has said what he said.
"Heís a Lieutenant," he finishes quietly before looking down at his clipboard.
Driscoll studies the sergeant for a moment. "Right," he says evenly, but thereís no mistaking the derision in his young voice. He turns back to Saunders. "Lieutenant Saunders. This man..." he gestures with his thumb, "...is no drug dealer."
"No. Heís a terrorist."
"We suspect heís a member of the Al Queda network. That means heís our property. Heís coming with us."
There goes the five grand.
Saunders stares at Driscoll, trying to find the right words, finally, they come to him.
"Okay, fine. You think heís a terrorist. Do you have any evidence? Something that I can use to explain to my boss in the morning when he asks me why I let a smuggler with a suitcase full of opium out the door?"
Driscoll licks his lips. "We have evidence."
The FBI agents exchange another glance.
"Weíd show you, but -uh- itís classified," Driscoll says, shoving his hands into his trench coatís pockets.
Saunders smiles and turns to the desk sergeant.
"He says itís classified."
The desk sergeant, still recovering and confused from his own outburst, shrugs, retreating back to the safety of his clipboard.
Saunders turns back to the FBI agents. He may win the pool this month, after all. All he needs is leverage, and these two agents may be just the thing.
"Well, then," he says, evenly. "Youíll have to wait until my boss comes in, then talk to him, but Iím not letting you take this guy without someone higher up signing off."
Driscoll smiles a tight, little smile. "Please... Lieutenant. We really donít have a lot of time to discuss the finer points of your chain of command. Iím asking you to cooperate with us, and hand this man over. I will sign any document you need, but you must hand him over to us."
As Driscoll speaks, Saunders watches Wells pull out a small, wafer-thin cell phone. He presses some buttons and holds the phone to his ear, murmuring something into the phone, listening for a moment, and then leaning forward to whisper into Driscollís ear. Driscoll nods and then says to Saunders, "I have a military escort that will be here within minutes. You have a choice: either you sign the man over to me, or you get to deal with the army- and they arenít really interested in diplomacy."
Time to act. Saunders shoves Driscoll, who slams into Wells and both land onto the floor in a thrashing heap. Saunders runs out of the room, towards the interrogation room door.
The sergeant stares at the two agents for a second and then carefully steps over them, leaving the room, walking down the hall. He doesnít know whatís going on, but he does know when to turn deaf, blind and dumb.
Saunders pushes open the door, closing and locking it behind him. The young man looks up with open hostility.
"You canít prove a thing," he spits. "I called my cousin the ambassador, and heíll be here with my diplomat credentials."
"Listen up," Saunders says with a smile. "Today is your lucky day."
The prisoner - ready to withstand torture, but not confusion, swallows. "H-How so?"
Saunders shrugs. Someone begins pounding on the door. Saunders leans over the young prisoner who is now trembling.
"Because you have a choice," Saunders whispers.
By the time the military does arrive, there are too many city, county and state bureaucrats milling around to do anything but have important meetings. Saunders emerges from the interrogation room with the confession two hours later. He and Mahoney split the pool.
The prisonerís arraignment comes on the morning calendar in Department D, the next day. Saunders watches the prisoner plead no contest to one felony count of transportation of a controlled substance for distribution. When itís over, the young DA asks him, "How did you get his confession?"
Saunders glances at the prisoner being lead away.
"I told him he could do a six year mid-term if he confessed to smuggling dope, or do forever in Guantanamo Bay if he refused to cooperate."
"I donít understand."
"It doesnít really matter, does it?" Saunders smiles. "I got my confession, didnít I?"
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