I was looking through the two-way mirror at our suspect. He claimed his name was Jose. Given his lack of identification, it was safe to bet this was nothing more than an alias, and likely one that would lead to a dead-end. He was a portly Hispanic male in his mid-forties. Much like hungry wolves going after a herd of deer, Jose was easy pickings for the FBI when the five guards inside the house scattered.
The FBI found 12 women locked inside a ten-by-twelve bedroom. It was apparent by the filthy conditions that the captors rarely allowed any of them to use the bathroom, except to clean them up when it was time to prostitute them. The Bureau had not just found Hispanic women, but young girls of other nationalities enslaved within the home. Our missing person’s team were with them now. The team was hopeful they would be able to reunite these girls with their long-lost loved ones.
Jose sat in the interrogation room and appeared nervous. He had feigned not to know English. Unfortunately for him, I had Gun accidentally leave his cell phone behind. We watched Jose dial a number and warn a man in English that he had been arrested. Next, he attempted to erase the phone number he had just called, but it did not matter. All our police cell phones record both incoming and outgoing phone numbers on a server.
Jose’s hair was black and greasy. Dirt covered his small tank top t-shirt that clung to his barrel-chested body. Beads of sweat already sat on his forehead. The man was worried, and nothing had happened to him yet. I left the observation room and walked in.
“You can call me Detective Brown, Jose. Yes, I am already aware of your name. We’re just waiting for your fingerprints to get your real identification. The FBI and ICE are both eager to talk with you. Fortunately, for you, I get the first crack because I have a double murder to solve.”
Jose wiped the sweat from his greasy forehead. “Que’?”
I sat down and put my feet up on the desk. I wanted to be sure Jose knew I was ready to make this a long day. “You can drop the Spanish. We already know you speak English.” I reached over and grabbed the cell phone off the corner of the desk. Jose did not say a word. He only watched my movements. “I watched your phone call.” Still, he said nothing.
I stood up to leave. “Don’t worry. We have the phone number you called. I need to get this to the lab boys. I will be back when I feel like it.” With that, I left the room. We did not need the phone, but Gun had asked for a newer model cell for some time. I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I dropped Gun’s phone into an evidence bag. No doubt, my partner was already at his desk submitting the request for a new phone. I went to my chair and ate a sandwich. Lengthy interrogations put the pounds on me. I tend to spend a lot of time eating while my suspects ponder their lives.
I heard Gun’s desk phone ring. I hoped it was the lab with something useful. They had found Kathy’s DNA in the house that we raided. However, Jose’s fingerprints and DNA were not a match for Kathy’s murder scene or her parent’s house, but he did not know that yet. Gun decided to join me back in the interrogation room.
“I want a lawyer.” Those were the first words from Jose’s lips as we entered the room. I smiled and sat down. Gun closed the door and remained standing next to the door. I sat across from Jose’s dark eyes. They were cold, but they also looked scared.
My voice was calm, just above a whisper. Jose leaned closer to hear me. “I’ll get you a lawyer, but I think I should warn you. If I make that phone call, ICE will be getting involved. Once they detain you, there will be no getting out of jail anytime soon. We found DNA evidence at the house from a dead ten-year-old girl.”
Jose’s eyes widened, and he pushed his chair back. He wanted to put as much distance as he could between us, but there was nowhere to go. “No, señor. We have never killed a child there.”
His clarification caused part of my peanut butter and jelly come back up in my throat. “How old were the children that were living there?”
Jose lifted his hands’ palms up and shrugged. “It’s hard to say. Maybe eight or maybe twelve. The little girls look so much older by the time they come to us.”
I was glad Gun was standing in the room with me. His presence was the only thing stopping me from punching Jose. There was a knock, and Gun opened the door. The captain handed my partner a photo. He walked over and put it on the table between us. Gun sat down next to me in an empty chair. Kathy’s picture looked up from the table. She was in her school uniform.
“Have you seen this girl before?” Gun asked.
Jose’s eyes quickly looked down and then back up. He responded with a flat “No.”
Gun suddenly slammed his fist against the table. All four table legs hopped on the concrete floor. “Look closer. Consider your options while you do. On the one hand, we hand you to immigration. They will put you in general lockup and word will spread you cooperated with ICE and the FBI. Option two, you help us get Alejandro, and you will get to live the American dream through witness protection.”
I knew Gun did not have authority to offer any such deals, and I would make a mental note to lecture him about our limitations after the investigation was over, if I did not forget.
Jose leaned forward and looked closely at Kathy’s innocent face. “I do remember this girl. Alejandro brought her to our house one night. She was crying and said Alejandro had promised to take her home.”
“What happened to her?” The growl in my voice let Jose know I was not asking a question. I was demanding an answer.
Jose closed his eyes, shook his head, and tears slowly trickled down his cheeks.