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“Come on, Carl. Quit wasting my time.” Sargent Tony Sanchez smacked the corner of the wood laminate desk. Carl Jones jumped in his chair. Tony knew Carl had information about Julie. Tony grabbed the young girl’s photo and slammed it again in front of Carl for effect. Carl startled again, but not as much this time. Tony watched Carl lean down towards the photo.

Carl’s index finger traced the outline of the child’s face. A chill ran down Tony’s spine as Carl ran his finger down the thirteen-year old’s black hair. He raised his hand and resettled it on the girl’s high cheekbone and tan skin.  Suddenly, Carl raised his hand, extended a second finger, and poked out the photo’s two brown eyes. A gasp left Tony’s mouth before he could stop himself. Tony could feel his chest tightened and rage began to build.

Tony jerked the photo away and slapped it down on the far side of the table. Carl’s eyes followed it, and the corner of his lips curled up. Tony stood over Carl, placing himself between the photo and the disturbed, evil man that sat before him. “Tell me, Carl. Tell me who has her.”

Carl shrugged, “How would I know?”

Tony slapped the wall of the interrogation room. “Don’t play dumb with me. Not after that little show.”

Carl crossed his arms and smiled. Tony’s knuckles turned white as his balled-up fist shook to restrain themselves. He cleared his voice and spoke to Carl in what sounded almost like a growl. “I promise you, Carl, if you don’t help me, I will make sure you go down for this.”

Carl lifted an arm and waved off Tony’s threat. “Really, Sargent? How do you propose to do that?”

Tony took two deep breaths, turned his back to Carl and walked over to his chair. The old metal groaned as Tony rested his weight in it. There was a broad smile across his lips by the time he sat down and faced Carl.

Carl frowned, “Why are you so happy all of a sudden?”

Tony crossed his legs and watched himself pat the top of his knee. He looked up at Carl. “Well, I was thinking about how much fun it’s going to be to have you put back in jail. Those boys over in County probably won’t let you make it to the state prison.”

Carl’s voice grew higher. “You can’t do that. I ain’t done nothing wrong. I want a lawyer; you’re bluffing.”

Tony raised his hand, and Carl took a breath. Tony leaned towards Carl. “I was just trying to help you out, but you’ve made it clear that you don’t want my help.”

Carl scowled, crossed his arms and legs and glared at Tony. “Don’t play your games with me. You didn’t help nobody but yourself. You had me arrested. I wasn’t doing nobody no harm until you showed up at the halfway house.”

Tony nodded, “I know, and we know you didn’t take this girl.”

Carl nodded his head furiously.

Tony continued, “Now hear me out, we also know who did. Of course, you know we need evidence for the jury. I happen to know that you know who has her, or I should say who had her.”

Carl looked at the floor and said nothing.

Tony continued to press. “See, here is my problem. Because the two of you associate in the same, um, social circles, one might argue that you had something to do with it.”

Carl bristled, “You can’t prove that cause it ain’t true.”

Tony shrugged, “Perhaps, but it’s still a violation of your parole. You know you aren’t supposed to be hanging around your old crowd. I was doing you a favor by letting you return to town to be with your sick mother when she passed away. Now, you need to do me a favor and tell me where to find the man who has Julie.”

Carl pulled his legs up on the edge of the chair and wrapped his arms around his knees. His dull brown eyes peeked over the top of his dirty, faded jeans. Tony stared into the angry, dead eyes. There was something about them that seemed to exude evil. Carl spoke from behind his knees, “I ain’t no snitch.”

Tony sighed and said, “Well, Carl. Then I’m going to arrest you. You know what prisoners do to convicted child molesters. You’d be safer being a snitch.”

Carl grabbed the back of the chair, “I won’t go, I can’t go. They’ll kill me,” he screamed.

Tony lifted his hands, “Now calm down, take a breath. All I need to know is where your buddy is keeping the girls. That’s it; I have everything else I need.”

“What buddy?” moaned Carl. “Do you mean Curtis?”

Tony nodded.

“Curtis is staying in that abandoned cabin just outside of town, near the edge of the lake. But he has booby-trapped the woods, so don’t just go walking up and knocking on his door.”

Tony had his lead, but he focused and kept his calm. “Do you mean the cabin right off the road on the south side of the lake?”

Carl shook his head. “No, there’s an old place on the north side. You can only hike to it. It’s about a mile through the woods. Most of the trail is overgrown, that makes it hard for people to find. Curtis told me it was the perfect place.”

Tony pulled out a legal pad from the corner desk and began to write furiously. “Perfect place for what, Carl?”

Carl released his knees, and his feet slapped against the linoleum floor. He leaned forward on his elbows, “You know what for, Sargent.”

Tony felt queasy to his stomach as he nodded his head. “How do you know all of this?”

Carl’s voice was flat, “Curtis and some of his friends told me.”

Tony flipped the page and kept writing. “Friends? Are you on the internet again? You know that’s against your parole.”

Carl shook his head, “No, I’m not violating my parole. We talk in the park some days. The fellas find me out there reading or feeding the squirrels.”

Tony nodded, “Do you know what happened to Julie.”

Carl closed his eyes and nodded, “Yea, she’s gone. Curtis said she tried to get away twice and kicked two of his friends in their groin. They let loose on her, and then buried her in the mud about a foot under the water.”

Tony worked to keep his lunch in his stomach. “Okay, Carl. You helped me. Now I’m going to help you. I’m putting you in protective custody.”

Carl jumped to his feet and tried the doorknob, but it was locked. He turned to Tony, “You can’t do this, they’ll kill me if I go back to prison. I ain’t touched a soul, just like I promised. I wanted to, but I’ll kill myself before I do that again.”

Tony grabbed Carl’s arm and pulled him away from the door. “Easy, you aren’t going to general lockup. We’re putting you in solitary in a nearby town until all the arrests are made. It won’t take Curtis long to figure out you snitched on him. I want to make sure none of your friends show up at the halfway house.”

Carl crossed his arms and shivered, “Two of the guys live there.”

Tony nodded, “We’re aware. Well, turn around and let me cuff you so we can be on our way.”

Carl took a step back. “Wait. If this is protection, why can’t I go without being handcuffed? Believe me; I’m no flight risk now.”

Tony nodded, “Okay, Carl. I suppose you did do the right thing. Have it your way.”

Carl stepped back to let Tony take the lead, and then he gently put his hand on Tony’s shoulder and spoke, “You know, Sargent, I know I’m a monster, but even monsters can be redeemed if they really want to be.”

Tony nodded, “I hope so, Carl. I hope so.”

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