Inside the station, Anderson pulled the detective’s tabbed notebook. This notebook served as the basis for any further action, and housed copies of the original report, investigative notes, warrants, photos of all materials collected, everything up to and including the ultimate charges and disposition.
Anderson wrote, Sean Tyler – Suspect refused to take polygraph. Drove subject past wife’s missing vehicle. The Toyota he had described to me. Subject failed to acknowledge presence of car. Impressions – suspicious behavior for a self-admitted concerned husband.
If lack of curiosity was Anderson’s professional flaw, lack of self-preservation was not. He called two other detectives. Detective Thompson, a veteran on a short-timers calendar, and Detective Jacoby who was beginning his second year. After outlining the facts, Anderson divided responsibilities for tomorrow as soon as Seán Tyler entered the station.
Jacoby asked about Shirley’s fellow the camper. Anderson responded, “I’ll take that part of the case. Buncha legal crap.” With that comment, the camper fell off the horizon. No follow-up, no investigation, no other suspect.
That same day, while Anderson and Thompson toured the street where Shirley’s car remained unattended, then the Ninnescah Hotel, the Auburndale police executed a search of Seán’s motel room.
Wednesday morning – 11:45. Seán searched for a parking space near the Berdan Police Station. Once again, the five public spots were full. He pulled into the library parking lot, then trudged over to the police station.
Anderson and Seán shook hands, walked from the waiting area through the detectives’ cubicle area into a pale white windowless hallway with numbered doors, then past a solid metal door, then into an open area. When a guard released a meshed metal gate, another gate opened onto a dull institutional gray corridor. Faded white doors with small glass openings on both sides of the gray walls. Then a stairway. After walking downstairs, they entered a musty metal mezzanine. Seán’s only way out was through locked doors and armed guards. Anderson directed Seán through the paint-peeled hallway, past more locked metal mesh doors with armed officers behind the circular counter.
“This is far enough,” said Anderson, uttering his first words since the catacomb walk began. “I have to ask you to spread your arms and look toward that black bulb near the ceiling.” Anderson said as he pointed to a camera.
Another guard searched Seán, and asked him to empty his pockets. The contents were photographed and returned. “Policy. Just policy.” Seán looked at Anderson who nodded.
“I know,” said Seán. He did not know.
Get the suspect so deep within the catacombs, and any spark will accelerate his dependence.
“Let’s go in here.” Anderson unlocked a barred door. He directed Seán to a gray metal table with three chairs. In the center of the table was a microphone. On the opposite wall a mirrored window, its purpose well known to any television viewer.
“Sit there.” He motioned to the only chair facing the mirror.
Anderson pulled heavy metal handcuffs from his belt, tossed them on the table, sat down, lifted the handcuffs from the table, “These,” he said while he dangled them between thumb and forefinger, “can get damn uncomfortable.” Then, without a word of explanation, looped them over the back rungs of his chair.
By the police records, it was now 12:20 p.m. Seán’s questioning began. “Mr. Tyler, my name is …. Could you state your name and address in full…?
“Thanks. We are here voluntarily. Is that how you understand it? “
“Yes? You are free to leave whenever you want. Is that how you understand it?”
“It is. Good. We are recording this questioning. Both audio and visual. Does that meet with your approval?”
“It does. Anything you wish to add?”
“No. Then let’s begin. Tell me the purpose of your call to missing persons on Monday.”
Maneuver the suspect behind seven locked doors, search him; then, in a dimly lit, sparsely furnished room, start with friendly questions, obtain a baseline, position him to become dependent for everything from water and bathroom breaks to going home. Remain friendly. Repeat everything. Record everything. Bring in another detective to repeat everything. Note how the person changed, altered, adjusted, molded his responses. Run everything by department supervisors, review with prosecutors; and, whatever you do, make sure the damn prosecutor has enough damn evidence to get a conviction.
At 2:00 p.m., Detective Thompson entered the room, tapped Anderson on the shoulder, and, with a stage whisper, “Detective, you are needed upstairs.” Without comment, Anderson left and Thompson sat down. He repeated Anderson’s procedures and questions.
Thompson began. “Mr. Tyler, from the beginning, just so I can understand it, tell me what happened.” Seán did as he was told.
After thirty minutes, Seán asked, “Do you think I could get some water?”
“Anderson will be back soon,” Thompson replied, “that’s a better time.”
At 3:15 p.m., Anderson re-entered the room. “Let’s take a break. Bathroom and all that. Seán, want something to drink? I’ll get it.”
When Seán reentered the room ten minutes later, his eyes rested on the unopened bottle of water. Anderson was seated across the table.
Procedure – the same. Questions – the same. Repeated. Re-repeated. Responses. Second responses. Third responses.
By police records, at 4:45 p.m. Anderson advised Seán, “By law, I am required to tell you that you have a right to remain silent, you have a right to …” Do you understand each of the rights as I explained them to you?”
“You do. Good. Would you like to continue answering questions?”
“Yes? Then, let’s continue.”
He asked two questions, then rose from his chair, pulled his handcuffs off the back rung, and said, “We are done. It’s damn near five o’clock. Time to go home.”
Past identical hallways, holding areas, numbered doors, more hallways, molded, bolted plastic chairs in the booking area, then into the main waiting room – only two more locked doors to the outside, Anderson, as if just remembering, said “We’ll need to talk some more tomorrow. Around ten. Is that okay?”
Seán nodded. “You’ll keep me informed of the progress? I wanna help.”
Seán returned home, tired and hungry. He microwaved a Tony’s pizza, drank a can of 7-Up, thought of making more calls, then lay on the sofa. He awoke the next morning in the same position.
Thursday. 9:40 a.m. He looked up, feeling strangely peaceful. Showered and dressed, Seán hustled to his truck. No way to avoid being late.
Sean ran from the library parking lot toward the police station. 10:35 a.m. Late. Damn.
Anderson contoured his face to appear upset, slowly looked at his watch, then shook his head. “You’re late. Today is important. I need you to show me this is as important to you as it is to me.” As if Seán’s reply were irrelevant, Anderson continued. “I have some things I want you to review with me. Okay? Can we do that now?”
Seán’s eyes widened, his hands came toward his chest, then back down.
Inside the station, they retraced yesterday’s steps. Basement descent. Seven locked doors. Two searches. Pockets emptied. Everything recorded. Everything filmed. Water. In a minute. Bathroom breaks. That’s for later. Focus on this now.
From Seán’s viewpoint, their meetings were interviews – a necessary part of a process. To Anderson, Seán was a suspect who had been Marandized and was willing to answer questions.
“Seán”, Anderson said as he gently pushed a box forward, “yesterday you were given, as a matter of course, your Miranda warning. Is that correct?”
Do I need to read it to you again, or do you remember it?” Again, without waiting for a reply, Anderson recited from his laminated sheet. Word for word. “Do you understand what I have just said to you?” Anderson smiled.
The video caught Seán’s face smiling. The camera not focused on Anderson, who also smiled. He had had been correct, Seán mirrored the emotions of the person to whom he spoke.
“Could you open the box please?” The camera lens focused closer to Seán’s face. Anderson continued to smile.
Seán opened the box, and extracted its contents.
“Would you identify the items, please?”
Seán looked inside, lifted the notebook, and said, “The marriage encounter journals Shirley and I were asked to keep. Also, four photos of Shirley and two of Shirley and me.”
Seán saw Anderson’s face form into a serious expression, eyes wide, pupils enlarged, mouth hung open, head cast down.
“These came from my house.”
“Yes.” “Not you and your wife’s house?”
“Well, yes – our house, then.”
Anderson smiled. The right side of his mouth rose slightly without exposing his teeth. Seán smiled back. His smile caught on camera.
“This came from the house – our house.”
“Did they? The journals? You failed to mention them yesterday when we talked.”
Seán was mute. His head bowed, Seán opened Shirley’s journal, turned the pages. His eyes watered. It was Anderson’s turn to sit mute.
When Shirley wrote her journal letters to Seán, she followed the marriage counselor’s instructions, “Express your feelings. Those feelings you are unable to tell your husband.”
Seán read her words.
I am unable to talk to you about your anger and temper. I’m afraid to. Your outbursts intimidate me, and sometimes, scare me to distraction. I know they’re not directed to me nor caused by me.
He wiped his nose with his right thumb and index finger, rubbed them on his jeans, and continued to read.
However, I freak out when you do that. I feel sad, panicky, unable to cope, ashamed, and very insecure, and unloved when you do those things.
The camera captured Seán’s images. He looked at Anderson, then the journal. He tried to read, but could not.
Anderson modulated his voice. “Talk to me about what your wife wrote. Please.”
“That whole weekend, she told me she loved me and felt better about me – about us. We made love twice. She even talked in the groups about the improvements in our marriage.”
“Were those counseling sessions recorded?” Anderson asked.
Anderson reached for the journal, opened it, flipped through a couple of pages, then handed it back to Seán. “Read this out loud. If you would, please.” The recorder whirred.
Seán looked at the page, and began to read softly, Seán, I came here with you to prepare you for our divorce. I have a deep affection for you, but our marriage is no longer possible. Seán’s voice broke. I did this to help prepare you. As his head rose, he said, “But she never said any of this to me. Not once.”
“But she wrote it right here.” Anderson pointed to the page. “And she wrote the date on it. That is her handwriting, isn’t it?”
“It looks like it.”
Anderson silently prepared his case. Good. Then this journal, if not the best evidence, is the only hard evidence available. Discordant marriage. Motive and intent. Wife fears husband’s temper. It’ll be admitted. “Well,” he leaned forward, “somebody was planning something then. Maybe both of you were.”
“You tell me, Seán, you tell me.” Anderson said, he stood, knocking the metal chair against the wall. Another practiced and dramatic gesture designed to startle a suspect. Anderson, without a word, pivoted and walked out of the gray room with the one-way mirror, leaving the husband of a missing wife alone.
The police record for that day was unclear whether Seán was alone for fifteen minutes, forty-five minutes, or longer. The prosecutor alleging that the police video timer may have malfunctioned.
Shunning. The silent treatment. Beyond the Pale. Ostracism. Isolation. The most severe form of punishment. Place the suspect alone in an isolated area unable to leave and with no place left to go.
Without notice, two well-fed detectives crammed themselves inside the confines of the interrogation room. Seán recognized Thompson from yesterday. Thompson introduced Jacoby as his partner. Jacoby, a rough, puffy, physically deliberate man, who had not eaten a meal that was not from a paper sack or inside his parents’ house until he was nineteen, thought of himself as a psychologist. He did not wait, “Mr. Tyler, have you ever driven northwest of Berdan on Creek Road?”
“You haven’t? In the entire time you’ve lived in Berdan, you haven’t been on Creek Road? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“Not that I remember,” said Sean.
“You tryin’ to act like a politician? That ain’t gonna fly here, boy.” Jacoby looked at Thompson.
Inside an isolated room, each sentence a question; each question a judgment; each judgment a conclusion; each conclusion a maneuver into their way of thinking. Failing, each failure leads to a decision that the other person is lying.