<--Younger | The First New York Magician | Older-->
I went home.
I was still coping with the punishment Raymond's golem had put me through in the subway, much less stress from Galina's and my escape from the substation. Not enough time, and time was all that would truly finish healing my body. I considered attempting a Water of Life cast on myself, but decided that was something with far too many risks to attempt when I wasn't in immediate peril. Since I wasn't, I settled for going home and going to bed instead.
Before sleeping, though, I had chores. I had been thinking about my actions over the past few days, and I wasn't happy with myself. I'd gotten angry about Galina, too angry and too fast. I'd done things I wasn't going to have a easy time coping with it, but there were some things I could do to make myself safer.
Sitting at my kitchen table, I disassembled the Desert Eagle, cleaned it thoroughly, and then took a fine file and ran it several times across the surface of the extractor. I couldn't be sure, but I hoped this would change the marks made by the gun on cartridges it ejected. I did the same to the end of the firing pin, and then, just for good measure, expended three capacitors in an Entropy cast on the gun itself, hoping to age it by a week or so. Reassembling it, I packed it into its security case, locked the case, placed it on my closet shelf, and went to bed.
I got six hours of sleep before they showed up.
At least they weren't positive about anything, because they knocked, with a warrant. I opened the door sleepily to find myself facing two of New York's uniformed finest, two detectives and what had to be a junior DA brandishing a ream of paper. "Mr. Wibert? We have a warrant for the search of these premises, and these officers have some questions for you. May we come in?"
"What's this all about?"
"It's detailed here in the warrant, sir."
"Okay, okay. Can I read it before you start searching my place?"
"You may. May we come in?"
"Oh. Sure. Any of you fellows want coffee?"
The senior detective answered. "No, sir, we're fine."
"Oh, right. Well, only polite to offer." I flipped through the warrant, which looked perfectly legal. I handed it back to the DA. "Okay, I understand. Where do you want me?"
"Actually, sir," said the detective, "we'd like you to come down to the shop with us. We have some questions."
"Can I get dressed?"
"Yes. Before you do, do you have any firearms in this apartment?"
"Yeah. I have a license. I have a handgun in a locked case in my bedroom closet."
"No other firearms?"
"No...oh, wait. I have two black powder carriage pistols hanging on the living room wall. One of them's loaded, so be careful with it."
"Thank you, sir. Please go with my associate here-" he indicated his partner, who was looking at me intently out of what was an unexpectedly pretty face for someone with the stones to make it as a NYPD Detective.
I put on street clothes, carefully ignoring my tools, and one of the uniforms, the detective and I headed downstairs for the waiting car.
* * *
"Let me start by asking you, Mr. Wibert, if you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of Donald Belzer."
"Who?" I'm sure I looked confused, because I was.
"Mr. Belzer is the night bartender at the Silver Tap, on Thirty-Fourth Street."
"Oh, him. I have no idea where he is. Why?"
"Just answer the questions please, sir. Have you been to that establishment?"
I couldn't believe the level of cop-ese the junior detective was managing to spout while keeping a straight face. I hoped she was aware of the level of irony involved, but as I looked at her and realized how much younger than me she was, I wasn't sure of that. I'd been ushered into an interrogation room with no paperwork, so I wasn't under arrest; I was still "helping with inquiries." I took that as a good sign, but the closeness of the dance with the dragon I was undertaking was finally becoming viscerally clear to me, and it was taking all of the skill and self-control I'd learned talking to creatures and entities who could turn me inside out with a sneeze to get through this interview.
"Yes, I've been there. I was there, um, two nights ago."
"Did you have an altercation while there?"
"Yeah. Sort of."
She gave me a patient look. "Sort of?"
"The bartender was a wiseass. He sort of threatened me. I broke his jukebox."
"How did he threaten you, and how did you break the jukebox?"
"I was asking him about a friend of mine's daughter. She'd gone missing, and her father had told me she sometimes drank in that bar with friends, so I went to ask if he'd seen her. I showed him her picture, and he made some really inappropriate comment about her and told me to get the fuck out of his place."
"So you broke his jukebox."
"Well, not right then. He said something about how maybe there was a CD in the jukebox that she'd left there. He wouldn't open the jukebox, though, and I was really worried about her."
"Well, eventually I broke the front of the jukebox and took what looked like the only recordable CD in it. I left my card, though, and said I'd pay for damages. I never heard from them."
"Then you left?"
"Yeah, I left."
"What was on the CD?"
"Nothing. It was blank."
"Do you still have it?"
"Sure, somewhere at my office."
"Let's go over that again, please, sir..."
It went on.
Police interrogations aren't the sort of formal fencing matches you might see on TV. They're not tests of will or wit. What they are is repetitive and grinding. You're not matching wits with the interrogator, you're matching wits with yourself - lots of versions of yourself, all displaced just a few minutes or hours in time. Most people can't produce ten identical versions of an event they actually witnessed or took part in, if they're asked ten times. Ten identical versions usually indicates rehearsal, which is a bad sign. Sometimes, though, it's not the pattern but the facts - you'll eventually contradict yourself, usually several times, and the interrogators will run down each of those contradictions to see if any of them signify that you're lying.
It's a long and tiring process. By design.
Several hours later, I finally decided I'd looked innocent long enough. "Excuse me, but if we're going to keep going, I'd like my lawyer present."
That won me a fifteen-minute reprieve and a telephone, which I in fact used to call my lawyer. He shrieked at me for talking to the police at all (which I expected, and he was right) and then said he'd be at the station in twenty minutes.
I pay him rather a lot of money, you see.
So a brief time later, I was sitting in a room watching him and the cops and the DA fence with each other. It was better than television. His position was that I was being a model citizen and helping them (endlessly) with their questions, but that after five hours I should be allowed to go home if I wasn't under arrest, and if I was under arrest, he'd certainly like to know so that he could respond appropriately. Their position was that I wasn't under arrest and could leave at any time, but that it would Reflect Badly on me and that I really should stay and answer some more questions.
Patrick, my lawyer, decided the matter by grabbing me and hauling me out of the interrogation room. We were followed by the DA, who was reeling off the various conditions of my leaving, to wit that they were keeping my gun for ballistics tests. We stipulated that that was fine, and decamped to my apartment, which (miraculously) was mostly in one piece. I didn't dare check to see if they'd found the secret area above the closet while Patrick was there (never lie to your lawyer. It infringes on their territory) but did note that they'd taken both of the carriage guns.
At that point I remembered that they would likely find out there had been three guns in the lot I'd bought, and resolved to leave the pocket pistol in my office as soon as I could - I hoped like hell that that wouldn't void the Cabby's arrangement, but didn't see how I had a choice.
The next morning, with Patrick in tow, I went back to the cop shop for another round. Patrick kept mostly quiet, only perking up when they strayed into areas he considered over the line. There were fewer of those than I would have hoped for.
"So let me get this straight, Mr. Wibert - you haven't fired your pistol since you were last at the range?"
"No you haven't, or no you have?"
"The Desert Eagle hasn't been fired in over a week. I've never fired the black powder pistol you guys took off my wall."
"We have information that you were firing a black powder pistol at the range some time ago."
(Damn it. See?) "No, that was a different gun. The carriage pistols I've never fired."
"Where is this other gun?"
Bless Patrick. "Relevance, Detective? You're questioning my client regarding a shooting that involved a .44 Magnum round, nothing to do with black powder pistols."
They reluctantly left off the pocket gun.
It went on, again, all morning. Finally, after a water and coffee break, the two detectives came back in. The senior one started. "Mr. Wibert, we have the ballistics results back from the lab. We've provisionally determined that your Desert Eagle was not involved in the shooting in the bar."
"I told you that. I never drew the gun when I was there. There have to be twenty witnesses. I broke the jukebox, dropped my business card, and left."
"The shooting didn't happen then, Mr. Wibert. It happened later. Were you in the bar after that point?"
"If you've determined that the gun in question was not my client's gun, why are you asking him that?" Patrick asked pointedly.
I'd joked, once, about the oddity of having a Catholic lawyer in New York City, and he'd shaken his head sadly. "Michel, Michel. Think about it. Who deals with more arcane, pointless and downright self-contradictory rules without the advantage of the Talmud? We do. Rules-lawyering is built in to Catholicism." Couldn't argue, watching him dice with the New York legal system.
Finally, near the end of the day, the detectives were called out of the room by a uniformed cop. We waited for fifteen minutes, and then they came back in. "Mr. Wibert, you can leave. Thanks for your assistance."
"Not your concern, sir. Thanks for your patience. Counselor, please see your client out."
Patrick grabbed me again, but I resisted. I saw the uniformed cop who'd brought the message; he was lurking outside the room, trying to catch my eye. "Patrick, I'll meet you outside in five minutes."
"Are you nuts? What're you going to do...okay, okay, never mind, don't tell me." Patrick moved towards the exit, shaking his head. I left the room but stalled as the detectives marched off towards the rear of the station. The uniform jerked his head and led me down the hall after Patrick, but as soon as we'd gone around a corner, he stopped and spun.
"You're Michel Wibert?"
"My name's DiCanzo. I think you know my cousin."
"Oh yeah. Yeah. Do I have you to thank for my carry permit?"
"Me and some guys. I gotta ask, because of that I gotta ask. Do you have anything to do with this bartender?"
"I didn't kill him, DiCanzo. I swear to you."
"Is something treyf going on here?"
I managed not to boggle or laugh a the New Yorkism of an Italian cop using the word 'treyf.' "I don't know, man. I've been locked in here. What the hell happened? Why'd they drop me?"
"The bartender's body turned up. With another stiff. Looks like they killed each other; fell off a retaining wall at a junkyard out in the Bronx."
"Coroner gives the time of death as midmorning today, when you were sitting with the detectives."
"Huh." I thought about that, didn't really like the answer. It looked like I might owe Raymond a favor.
"Anyway, you should get out before they think to haul you back in about potential accomplices. Listen, if something goes treyf in this, you come find me, okay? Melooch, he's a friend."
"I will. Thanks, DiCanzo. Hey, what's your first name? Now that I know two of you."
"Don't ask. Dad didn't."
"Seems fair." We shook, and he vanished into the mass of cops occupying the building.
I headed for the exit, looking for Patrick.
<--Younger | The First New York Magician | Older-->