PDF

Death's Honesty (6)


by Mathew Paust


Blow's interest in the case sharpened as he watched Chip Morowitz respond to Capt. Carl Callahan. The dynamic shift, he knew, would reveal more, possibly much more, than he'd gotten in his own interview. With just the two of them the stress on Morowitz was whether he could trust Blow, and to win Blow's trust. With Callahan there was little to no chance of trust either way. Blow pretty much trusted Callahan, and would have preferred to watch them through the one-way window. But Morowitz was still shaky, and Blow knew better than to trust any cop completely. At the same time he knew better than to trust unconditionally a client, especially one suspected of capital murder.

The small interrogation room smelled faintly of vomit. It was empty when they entered. Its only furnishings were a metal table bolted to the floor and three heavy, straight-back wooden chairs. A too-bright bulb hanging over the table in a wire cage projected spidery shadows on institutional green masonry walls. Hans had led them there, one of three rooms off a corridor about a mile, it seemed to Blow, from the comfortably larger lawyer's room. Blow concentrated on displaying a calm exterior despite this being his first time sitting in on a client's police interrogation.

Moments earlier a visceral recognition of the situation's gravity jarred him when he saw Morowitz's ankles shackled together with a short length of chain intended to preempt any impulse to run. Clinking chain links and jangling jail keys with clops, scrapes and slaps of shoes and flip-flops accompanied their progress as Hans led them along corridors from the jail to the administration area. The locking mechanism in a barred steel door at one point responded with an electric buzz after Hans signaled someone through a mounted intercom box. Blow noticed a red button light on a ceiling camera above them flick to green when the door clacked open. Their unhurried, unhappy procession, with its clinks and echoing footsteps, the mechanized barrier's grudging grant of passage and heavy door's righteous slam behind them, imbued in Blow a queasy proximity of what it must be like for a death-row inmate on his way to the execution chamber.

Capt. Campbell's grim sudden appearance in the room had an unsettling effect on Blow despite Blow's knowing it was staged to create just such an effect. He also knew that making him and his client wait alone in the room for a ten-minute stretch that seemed an hour or more was part of the staging. He knew the unsettling effect he felt came partly from knowing the stakes at play were deadly serious, that professional interrogators had proven this approach effective over many years, and that Campbell himself had proven exceptionally effective winning confessions as a top homicide cop in Newport News before moving to Leicester County.

Blow also knew his unease was in part an emotional accompaniment to the professional bond he'd made with his client moments earlier. The private empathy came from assuming Chip Morowitz, whether innocent or not, was feeling sweat fear as the lean figure of Campbell, with its shaved bullet head and fierce grey eyes, moved toward its prey after bursting open the door and staring coldly for several seconds that seemed to stretch interminably. The barely perceptible nod Campbell tossed at Blow before jerking the remaining chair back from the table and slapping down the manila file folder he was carrying, served notice their lethal game was underway. The teen surprised Blow with an alert yet apparently stoic response to Campbell's theatrics. His forearms rested in front of him, hands open, fingers still, and his face was immobile, looking straight ahead. Other than steady breathing, there was no visible movement at all.

With a cat's grace, eyes never leaving the target, Campbell lowered himself onto the chair directly across from Morowitz and planted his own forearms in front of him. When he finally spoke, the rapid-fire word clusters he used in ordinary conversation came out slower and measured: "She said to tell you she loved you. And that she was sorry." The effect might have been taken as gentle in different circumstances. Now it required a keener guard than Blow had expected. He angled his chair slightly to keep his client in view, and was watching him closely, as the information Campbell had just conveyed didn't jibe with what Blow understood. He saw the boy's jaw drop and eyes widen.

"She...she did?" he croaked.

"Those were her last words, son. That's what she told the deputy."

"But she was already dead when I found her. Her eyes were open. So...so much blood. I..." He gasped for breath, whipped a quick glance at Blow who saw a face contorted with emotion and now very much awake.

Campbell opened the manila file in front of him, turned it around and slid it across the table. "Like this? This how she looked?" His voice had sharpened. The quick bursts were back. Blow caught a glimpse of a photo. Close-up of a face. It was black and white, but the blood was easily recognizable. The boy stared, transfixed, his breathing coming now in spasms.

Campbell persisted, harshly. "Look at the rest of them. Ty's in there, too. He was already dead when we got to him. You shoot him first?"

"No! I didn't shoot them! I loved them!" He was sobbing. He pounded his fist on the table, splattering tears on the photos.

"You loved them? Both of them? Or just one of them? Which one, Chip? Were they cheating on you? Is that why you shot them? Was Tyrone fucking your woman?" The words flew across the table like machine-gun bullets. Morowitz, choking back the sobs, shoved the file back at Campbell.

"No, god dammit, I didn't shoot them!" he shouted. "I saw somebody out there!" He inhaled abruptly, rattling snot. He wiped an orange sleeve across his face. His voice softened. "I knew whoever it was shot my friends, and I shot back, officer. That's who I shot at. I wouldn't hurt Kitty or Ty. I loved them. It wasn't like you said." The sobbing started again, this time a high-pitched, constricted squealing as he fought to choke it off. Blow reached over and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder.

"I think you've pushed him far enough for now, Captain. Isn't it time for the good cop to take over?"

Campbell glared at Blow. "You're here as his counsel, not mine," he snapped. Blow snapped back.

"Then charge him, if you have the evidence. I'm here to protect his rights. You're trying to badger a confession out of him. He said he didn't do it. The burden's on you, Captain. Show us some proof and charge him, or release him. Right now."

Campbell held the stare, but Blow saw a corner of his mouth twitch. The cop leaned back then and held up his hands. "It's your call, Counselor. No more badgering, but you might be interested in your client's answers to a couple more questions. Blow nodded. It suddenly occurred to him the room he'd interviewed Morowitz in might well be bugged. Not illegal, technically, although anything anyone overheard would be inadmissible as evidence. Campbell proceeded, addressing Morowitz in the earlier conversational voice.

"Who do you think shot your friends, Chip?"

The boy looked at Blow, who nodded and said, "You can answer that."

"I don't know sir. I have no idea."

"OK, so why did you have the gun?"

"For self defense. We didn't know if there might be a dog or something that could attack us."

"A dog, huh? You mean the owner of the island's dog?"

"I don't know."

"Don't know if the owner has a dog?"

"No. Don't know the owner."

"You went on the island without knowing who owns it?"

"I think Kitty knew him. I think she talked to him."

"You think. But she never mentioned his name? You never met him?

"No, sir. I never met him."

"Did she say who he was?"

"I think so. I'm not sure."

"Do you remember his name?"

"No, sir."

"OK, so why were you out there in the middle of the night, with a metal detector? And a gun."

"Treasure hunting."

"What?"

"There was something in the paper about it. Somebody who lives out there said Blackbeard the pirate buried some treasure there, on the island."

Now it was Campbell's turn to look surprised. Blow figured it was an act if in fact the earlier interview had been bugged. If so, if it was an act, Campbell brought it off pretty well. He turned his surprised face to Blow, who kept his own face straight. Campbell turned back to Morowitz. "So, let me get this right. Your two friends were trespassing on an island--"

"My client said he doesn't know. Perhaps the girl had gotten permission. There's no evidence they were trespassing."

Campbell glanced quickly at Blow but kept his attention on Morowitz."OK. But you didn't know. So why sneak out there at night?"

Blow interrupted again. "Not if they had permission they weren't sneaking."

Campbell ignored the comment. "So why go out there at night. Why not in daylight?"

"Kitty had to work. I had band practice. We figured it would be cooler at night. We just sort of decided it would be better."

"To look for buried treasure in the dark."

Morowitz nodded. "Yes, sir. But we weren't going to dig or anything, Just wanted to see if maybe something was down there."

"Uh huh. In the middle of the night. With a metal detector and shovels. And a gun. Uh huh."

"I wasn't with them."

"Oh! So. Where were you then?"

"I was supposed to be with them, but I got there late."

"Uh huh. You love your friends who are trespassing--excuse me--who might be trespassing on an island at midnight to hunt for pirate treasure but you, what, something on the TV distracted you?"

"I got held up."

"Held up? You mean robbed?"

Morowitz tried to laugh. "No, sir. Our band was having a little party. I lost track of the time."

"Your band! Uh huh. You love them, too?"

Blow interrupted: "Captain--"

Campbell held up a hand, shook his head, grimacing. "OK OK. You got there late, and what, then somebody started shooting at your friends? Were they shooting at you, too?"

"I didn't see anybody shooting. Ty and Kitty were already dead. Then I saw the shadow, something moving. Then I shot at it."

"You shot at a shadow? Could have been the owner, right."

Morowitz dropped his head, nodding slowly, staring at the table top. "I s'pose. I don't know, sir. I guess maybe I, um, panicked or something. I thought maybe it was whoever killed Ty and Kitty."

"Uh huh. Or maybe whoever owns the island. Did you use your laser?"

Morowitz's head snapped up. "Yes, sir. It's part of the grip. It works when you squeeze the grip."

"Didn't the laser light up what you were shooting at?"

"I didn't see anything."

"You didn't?"

"No, sir. I was...I couldn't see that well. I--"

"With a green laser? You couldn't see with a green laser?"

"No, sir. I guess I was pretty upset."

"Upset, huh? But you shot anyway, didn't you? It could have been anybody, but you shot anyway."

"Yes, sir, I did."

"With exploding bullets."

"With what?"

"Exploding bullets. You know, the kind Hinckley used on President Reagan. The ones in your revolver."

"I...I don't know what you mean. I just had snake loads. I don't have any exploding bullets." He turned to Blow, face crinkled in helpless confusion. Blow studied his client, then looked up at Campbell. The clean-shaven cop wore a grim smile.

Endcap