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George Pollock

State Kid
Issue 32
The Murder Suspect

Furious at the breakdown of order, Director Carson issued a flurry of orders:

The safety exercise (lockdown) will continue indefinitely. All students (inmates) are
confined to their rooms (cells), except for showers three times a week. Meals will be
eaten in rooms (cells) instead of in the dining hall. All students (inmates) will wear
protective devices (handcuffs and leg shackles) everywhere outside of the room (cell). All
classes are cancelled. Television is prohibited. Dayroom privileges are suspended.
Weight-lifting is suspended until further notice. Smoking will not be allowed anywhere.
Basketball is cancelled until further notice. The cottage system (group cells) will shut
down immediately. Officers (guards) will enforce all new regulations (punishments).
The garden of euphemism that was Granite City School for Boys flowered as never
The next morning, Billy was pulled out of Seg and hauled into the interrogation room --
for a session with two homicide detectives. As soon as the detectives walked through the
door, Billy told them that the new inmate, Roger Stansky, had killed Julio.
“That's funny,” said the tall detective with hooded eyes, a widow's peak and a joltingly
loud voice. He took his time undoing his tie and rolling up the sleeves of his white shirt.
“We have witnesses who say you did it.”
“No, you don't. Give me their names.”
“In due course,” the other detective said, with a self-satisfied pat of his considerable
paunch. Also in white shirt and tie and quite a bit shorter than the other detective, he had
small, deep-set black eyes pressed like two raisins into his round face.
“If the guards named me, they're lying.”
The tall detective said, “Look, let's get right to it. You went after Julio de Cruz with the
spike and you gave it to him in the belly. Isn't that what happened?”
“What!!” Billy said, jumping out of his seat. He thought, My God! They really do think I
did it! “No, that's not what happened. That's sick!”
“Sit,” the tall detective said, shoving Billy back into his seat.“What did happen, then?”
Billy opened his mouth to speak -- then realized that he had not actually seen Stansky do
“Well ... well ... you see ... uh.”
“We're listening,” the other detective said.
“I looked up and I saw Stansky standing over Julio holding the pipe and ...”
“So you didn't see him do it.”
“Ah ... er... well.”
“Oh, I see -- you were watching TV,” the tall detective said.
“No. I ... I was reading a book.”
“You were reading a book ,” the shorter detective said. “What book was it?”
“Les Miserables,” Billy said, sounding and looking guilty of murder.
“Oh, I see, Les Miserables,” the tall detective said, glancing at his partner. He bent over
and put his face in Billy's. “We are not idiots, kid. DO YOU THINK WE ARE IDIOTS?”
The detective undid his tie and began pacing. “Billy, would you mind telling us how the
murder weapon happened to get in your hand? Did it fall there?”
Billy shook his head. No, this is not happening.
“You don't dispute that when the officers arrived you had the murder weapon in your
“Well, that's good, since every single officer saw you standing over the victim with it.”
The short detective said, “Billy, why don't you make it easy on everybody and just tell the
truth. How 'bout it?”
“How about if the two of you listen to what I'm telling you?”
From then on, the two detectives took turns firing accusing questions inches from Billy's
face; leading, suggesting, re-creating, trying to pull admissions from the suspect. As one
paced, the other bore in. The tall, formidable-looking detective would turn up the heat
and the volume on his already booming voice; then the other would affect a softer, more
reasonable tone, like a father talking to a son.
Billy thought: My God, they're doing good cop, bad cop. They think this is a TV show!
It kept on like this, with Billy saying, “No, no” or “That's nuts” or “You got to be
Finally, he yelled, “ENOUGH!”
He covered his face with both hands. In a low, contrite voice barely audible through his
hands, he said, “I thought I could pin the rap on Roger Stansky, but I see that you guys
are too smart for that.” He took his hands down, revealing a sad, beaten-down face. In a
plaintive voice, he said, “Before I tell you the truth, I have a few questions. May I?”
“By all means, do,” the tall officer said.
“Yes, please do,” the short officer said.
Both officers, pleased with themselves, could almost taste the confession to come.
Billy said, “When people kill somebody, do they normally have a motive? Yes? No?” The
detectives nodded. “That's what I always thought. So, just for the sake of discussion, you
obviously have my motive down cold. May I ask what it is?”
The detectives looked questioningly at each other.
“I understand your reluctance to get into the finer points of the investigation. But sharing
this information with me could not compromise anything since I presumably already
know my own motive. Again, just for jollies, why did I kill Julio?”
“You tell us,” the tall detective said.
“Whoa -- I don't want to do your job for you. I'll just tell you that I'm not the only one
with a motive. Stansky and Julio hated each other. They have been at each other's throats,
repeatedly, the last time being the day before the killing. Of course, we both know that
my motive was stronger than Stansky's.”
The tall detective looked at his watch.
Billy went on,“There is also the matter of evidence. I assume from your questions that
you have hard evidence pointing to me. My fingerprints on the pipe is good and the fact
that Stansky's fingerprints are also there does not preclude me from being the killer. Tell
you what. You give me your evidence. I come clean. How about that for an honest
The detectives doodled on the blank legal pads they held at ready for the suspect's
“I understand. Early in an investigation, you need to keep the evidence under wraps.
That's for later, in court. So let's move on to the victim, Julio de Cruz. It might interest
you to know why he was here. The Fairview Police drug unit snatched him off the steps
of his home and later planted cocaine on him. Julio never used drugs; his mother would
have killed him. By the way, the same thing happened to me and a lot of other inmates
Both detectives were dying to shut Billy up. He was definitely getting on their nerves.
But having come this far and with the ultimate investigative prize -- a confession --
within tantalizing reach, they didn't want to blow it now. They let Billy continue.
“I have given this information to Debra Florsheim of the Sentinel. I believe she is
preparing an investigative report. I think she has just about finished her interviews with
East Side residents and Granite City inmates and is starting to talk to officers in the
department. Should I tell her that the two of you would be happy to talk to her and help
put an end to this sort of police lawlessness?”
Neither detective acknowledged a word he said.
“We are ready to take your statement, William,” the tall detective said.
“Yes, I'm ready. But before I give you a statement, one last clarifying point. In your
interviews with inmates, I am sure you encountered a lot of closed mouths and selective
memories. I would guess that some were willing to tell you that I did not do it, but not
one of them was willing to tell you who did. What does that tell you?”
Both officers doodled.
“Obviously, it tells you that they saw exactly what happened. No one, not even the real
killer, Roger Stansky, will go on record fingering another inmate. Would you like to know
The unspoken answer was no -- which Billy ignored.
“For the same reason no one in the police department will finger these two dirty cops.
The inmates here and these two officers in your department have something in common:
both hate a snitch. Since I've been here, no inmate has ever snitched on another. When
was the last time an officer in your department reported a brother officer to Internal
Affairs? Never?
“Finally, are you curious as to why I, and I alone, am willing to violate this code of
silence and turn snitch?”
“To save yourself, obviously,” the tall detective said.
“True, but you are only partly right.”
Billy's audience of two was now his.
“Why you alone?” the tall detective asked.
“In addition to the natural urge on my part for self-preservation, for three simple reasons.
One, this code of silence is a misplaced, macho-based perversion that places fraternal
loyalty above duty, law and truth. Two, it is unjust, protecting the guilty and punishing
the innocent. Three, unlike the other inmates and officers in your department, I'm not
afraid to tell the truth. Actually, truth is all I have in this world. It has been my honor to
violate this evil code. Now, if I may please have a piece of paper and a pen, I will give
you a statement.”
The detectives looked confused.
“More official when it's in writing,” Billy said. “Even better when it's in the suspect's
own hand.”
The tall detective gave Billy his pad of paper and pen.
“Thank you,” Billy said. “First, could I have your names? The statement will be to the
two of you personally so you will both receive full credit.”
“Lt. Gordon McIver,” said the tall detective, “capital I.”
“Sgt. Michael Milberry,” said the short detective, “not Mullberry, one L, two R's.”
“M-I-L-B-E-R-R-Y,” Billy said. “Got it. Nothing's worse than having your name
misspelled on an official document. Okay, here we go.”
Billy thought for a bit, and then started writing. Two increasingly nervous detectives
Within a few minutes, he had a draft.
“Now I just have to make a few little changes to make sure it's exact.” He crossed out,
wrote, crossed out, wrote. Billy Stone, writer, was at work. “Now I'll just get you a clean
copy so it will be legible,” he said, as if talking about a shopping list. He took a new sheet
and wrote a clean copy. When he was done, he held up the statement, read it closely and
said, “Good. We're done. Shall I read it?”
“No,” Lt. McIver said. “I'll read it.”
Billy handed the statement to the Lieutenant. He read -- and his whole body went rigid.
“This questioning is over,” he said, throwing the statement on the table. “Let's go.”
The two detectives called for guards and hurried out the door.
“You forgot my confession!”
Bye guys. Must be awful to be so stupid.
Billy let a tiny smile escape.