I looked intently at Jose’s face. The wrinkles around his closed eyes and the creases in his forehead gave off a painful expression. Jose had some vital information. Whether or not he could tie Diablo to the murders, I could not tell.
Gun decided to press a little harder. He tapped the photo on the table and softly said, “Tell us what Diablo, Alejandro, did to Kathy.”
Jose shook his head. “I cannot. If I do, they will kill my family in Mexico. It’s how they keep all of us loyal. There is nobody who will help you, señor.”
Gun and I looked at each other. We needed to come up with a plan outside of earshot of Jose. I turned to Gun and said, “I’m hungry, let’s go get a snack.” Gun agreed, and we left the room. I asked the officer in the observation room to remain and make sure Jose did not try to hurt himself.
Gun and I made our way to the vending machine. “What are you thinking, Barry?” were the first words out of his mouth to me. I was hoping he would have an idea or two about what to do. I went ahead and told him what was on my mind.
“We can bring out some big guns, and by guns, I mean carrots and sticks. After this next interview, I want you to call our contact in immigration and find out how we can get Jose’s family legally into the U.S. within forty-eight hours of him agreeing to testify against Alejandro. Also, find out how long it will take them to round up any of Jose’s illegal family members if he protects Alejandro.”
I reached down and grabbed a bag of pretzels and walked over to the water bottle machine. I was about to deposit my money when Gun grabbed me by both shoulders, gave me a suspicious look, and said, “Are you sure you want to do this? You’re using a man’s family as hostages to get information.”
I was annoyed and knocked his hands off my shoulders. “No, I’m not. I’m offering a sex slaving, child molesting, creep a chance to save his family from the clutches of the cartel and live a legal life here in the U.S. Anyone in his family that we arrest due to Jose’s lack of cooperation was already breaking the law.”
Gun crossed his arms and continued to argue. “Sounds to me like you’re using the law the justify punishing this guy through his family.”
I was not going to argue politics with my partner; it was not the time or place. “Gun, this is not about immigration rights. We have a dead ten-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted at some point before her death. We have her father executed in his own home, and her mother was raped, beaten, and left in a coma. You’ll have to excuse me if I use the rules to my advantage. Whoever did this is Charles Manson level crazy, and we need to stop him. Jose will come around. We won’t be deporting anybody. Trust me. The whole family will end up in some mid-west suburb under witness protection.”
Convinced or not, Gun went along with me. I grabbed my water, and we headed back to the interrogation room. I slid the pretzels and bottled water to Jose. “Get used to bread and water,” was all I said.
He grabbed the food and water. Jose tore open the bag, twisted open the water and attacked both. In between bites and swallows he managed to get out a “Gracias.” That told me he was more tenacious than he looked. He had never once asked for food or a drink, but he was famished. I was starting to have doubts about my plan.
I waited for Jose to finish devouring his meal. A smile was on his crumb covered lips as he finished off his last mini-pretzel. I was ready to start pushing him again. “I’m glad you enjoyed your snack. You looked like you could use it.”
Jose nodded and said, “Yes, we don’t get much food. We have to keep the women alive to work, but our bosses never leave us with enough water or food for everyone. The women who cooperate get fed first, then us, and if there is any left we feed the troublemakers.”
“Was Kathy a troublemaker?” I asked.
Jose shook his head. “No, Kathy should have never been there. Diablo found her chained to a bed at her Uncle Caleb’s house. He tricked Kathy by telling her she was being rescued, and then he brought her to us. Diablo told us if he let Kathy go she could connect him to our whole operation and her uncle’s murder. We were told to dope her up and train her. Diablo assumed nobody would suspect him because her uncle had kidnapped her.”
I could not believe my luck. Just a couple of bucks and I did not have to bring up the messy immigration idea. I decided to keep going. “I saw your tears. You didn’t want to hurt Kathy, did you?”
Jose continued to shake his head and then looked down at the table. In a strained voice, he said, “No. None of us wanted to have anything to do with Alejandro’s plan. Kathy was innocent and abused. Even worse, she was a local girl. If he tried to sell her, or pimp her out, somebody who knew Kathy might recognize her. We all talked about taking her somewhere and setting her free since she didn’t know who any of us were or where she was.”
Gun leaned in from his chair and tapped Kathy’s picture again. Jose looked at her picture and then up at Gun. Gun asked Jose, “Then why didn’t you set her free?”
“Diablo.” was the only word from Jose’s mouth.
There was a knock at the interrogation room door. We were motioned to come outside by another detective. A uniformed patrol woman stepped inside and stood guard. The door closed and the detective said, “The hospital just called. Mrs. Jackson is starting to come out of her coma.”