“Matthew Laurey, did you murder Carlos Rivera Barcella at two-thirty this afternoon?”
Laurey knew there could only be one answer. His horoscope for the week had said he was going to be tested. It went on to warn that he was about to pass through a difficult period. And this was only Tuesday.
Captain Brian Cavanaugh, Chief of Detectives at the second largest station in Chicago, dismissed the response and proceeded to inquire about Laurey’s age, address, date of birth, occupation, and if he’d ever been arrested for a crime.
“Have you been read your rights?”
“Do you understand them?” Two decades after Miranda was enshrined in law following the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision, Cavanaugh remained offended that he had to warn criminals of their rights. He felt it gave them an unfair advantage.
He paused thoughtfully, then removed a pistol from a large glassine envelope and pushed it across the table. “Do you recognize this gun?”
Matthew knew there was no other revolver like it. The balance of the .380 was uneven, but not unwieldy. Its six-inch barrel was scarred with a maze of unidentifiable scratches behind the front sight. The chipped plastic stock cut into Laurey’s soft, untested hand. But, it made him feel important, and a person not to be taken lightly.
“And can you describe, in your own words, what happened at two-thirty this afternoon in front of the Grand Canal Restaurant at one-thirty-nine Mercer Street?” Cavanaugh handed his notes to a patrolman standing nearby and lifted himself to his full six feet three inches of consequence.
Outside on Third Avenue a crowd of reporters gathered. Powerful forces whose intentions were not confined by the first amendment were also massing. From Brazil to Columbia, from Mexico to Canada, each pointing the finger of suspicion at the other while no one was really upset at the outcome. Word on the street was that Barcella was linked to the FBI. He was in serious debt to one of the major Columbian drug gangs. When word broke that he had been gunned down in the street there was neither jubilation nor relief, only a sense that justice had been done.
The larger question was who was powerful enough, or crazy enough, to sanction a hit in the middle of the afternoon, a block from one of the most dangerous housing projects in Chicago, and why.
“I saw the man and shot him.”
The dimly lit, airless interrogation room was steeped in a sauce of hoary locker room musk, cigarette smoke, sweat and the faintest hint of innocence. It was number 313, though every detective at the station simply referred to it as ‘the room.’
Laurey made a quick study of the cigarette burn marks on the wooden table. It reminded him of little brown caterpillars, the kind he toyed with as a child growing up in Michigan.
He folded his hands in his lap and tried to relax. He remembered his wife’s warnings about his predisposition to nervous tics when under stress. He wished she were at his side now. Perhaps he would not have been driven to commit such an act, nor had the same horoscope, if she were alive.
“Can I have a glass of water?” he asked. His throat was dry and stiff, and he was slightly claustrophobic, but did not want to appear so.
“Get the man a glass of water,” Cavanaugh bellowed to no one in particular. “You want some soda? Coffee?”
Matthew Laurey didn’t exactly fit the description of a hired killer but a dozen witnesses made Cavanaugh’s reservations moot. There were witnesses, a weapon, and a killer. The only question was whether the murder would make the 6 p.m. news.
“No. Water’s fine.”
Laurey’s feet hurt. He had forgotten to take his medication last night. He had been distracted and out of sorts these last few weeks. Friends had commented on his moodiness but he dismissed their concern.
There was some discussion between Cavanaugh and several detectives, and then everybody, including the young lieutenant who was one of the first at the murder scene, left the room.