Saturday morning. A rare sunny and windless winter day. Seán squinted against the sun that shot through the three-inch opening in his bedroom curtains. I’ll call Detective Anderson after I eat and shower. He failed in his first attempt to get out of bed. He laid back and closed his eyes.
Loud noises. Louder noises. Louder still. Noises at his front door, back door. Then silence. Then noise against his bedroom window. Again, at his front door.
“Mr. Tyler, Mr. Tyler. Berdan Police Department. Open the door.” More pounding, fists, open palms, side of fist pounding.
” Berdan police. Open the door.”
Seán, clouded from his deepest sleep in weeks, walked with ease to the front door. He opened the door the slightest crack, Detective Thompson shoved it wider, sending Seán backwards.
Jacoby followed Thompson into the house. “Mr. Tyler, we need you to come with us immediately. Get some clothes on. Let’s go.” Jacoby clapped his hands in the manner of a football coach rushing his players to a new drill at the other end of the field.
“Yes, sir. Is it about Shirley?”
“It may be.” Jacoby said using his well-rehearsed T.V. detective persona.
“Where’s Anderson?” Seán’s words ricocheted. “Will Anderson be there?”
He pulled on his Wrangler jeans and a gray sweatshirt, then removed the sweatshirt, replaced it with a maroon hooded sweatshirt with side pockets. No coat. No hat. No time.
“We’ll all go together.” Said Jacoby. He opened the back door of the squad car for Seán. Seán in the backseat, barely noticed the hard plastic, the wire-laced windows, the distorted bulletproof glass that blocked front from the back passengers. Nor did he notice the back door lacked inside door handles. “Where’re we goin’? The station?”
“Not yet.” Said Jacoby. Thompson drove without uttering a word.
The squad car traveled from North 9th Street to State Street, onto Old Highway 40, then Palmer Avenue, and past West Street. A few minutes later, Jacoby slowed the car. “Know where we are? I know you do.”
Seán, in the back seat pressed against the molded gray plastic prisoner’s seat, searched the sky from the side window. Are they taking me out in the country to …? No, too melodramatic. “Where are we going?” The sunny day turned damp and dark. The sky’s gradations of gray resembled inverted mountains.
“You’ll see.” Jacoby noticed Thompson smiling.
“Look familiar to you in the daylight?” Thompson asked Seán.
“Not really.” What now? “Will Anderson be where we’re goin’?”
“Possibly.” Another exchanged smile.
Hard washboard gravel, the staccato of tires against waffled county roads – even the too-much-car-for-the-driver police vehicle swayed and bounced.
Without warning, Thompson stopped the car. Seán shot his hands to the back of the front seat. Jacoby jumped out of the front passenger’s seat, did a modified right face, jerked open the rear door. “Let’s go,” he said.
As the three men walked with Seán positioned between them, Jacoby asked, “You refused to take a polygraph test? Correct?”
“I did. Too unreliable. Why?”
“No reason. Just wondering.” Jacoby tugged on Seán’s arm. “This way.”
Seán and his two escorts approached a ditch two miles northwest on Creek Road. At the ditch, Seán was led by Thompson. They neared a modest grove of trees surrounded by a rim of native grass. “Why’s the yellow and black tape wrapped around those trees?” Seán asked. Jacoby tightened his grip around Seán’s forearm. The detectives remained silent. They walked closer to the yellow and black tape.
Thompson reached into his left coat pocket and touched a laminated sheet. Jacoby released Seán’s forearm, clapped his hands, “There.” He said and pointed at the center of the grove. “She was there.”
Thompson shoved the laminated sheet near Seán’s eyes. “It’s her. Your wife. We have her body.” Jacoby emphasized the phrase, ‘her body’. Thompson’s voice rose. “Who’s this a picture of? Who is it?” He pried open Seán’s hands and pressed the photo into his palm. “Tell us. Who is it? Say it. Who’s in the photo?” Jacoby’s voice reverberated like a snare drum.
“You know where you are? You know don’t you.” Thompson said. “Answer our questions, Mr. Tyler.”
Jacoby released the pressure on Seán’s arm. He sat on the grass and held the laminated photo of his dead wife. He saw the red and black of three gunshot wounds in his wife’s head and throat. The photo did not show the fourth shot on the right side of her neck. A portion of his wife’s brain protruded through the bullet holes in her skull. “Turn the photo over,” said Jacoby. On the obverse side was another photograph – her autopsied body laid open to expose her stomach contents.
“That, sir, is the exact meal you and your wife ate that Sunday night at the Ninnescah Hotel.”
A softer voice then asked, “Why did you kill her? You can tell us.” It was Thompson. Then silence.
The standard assumptive close, assume the answer you want within the question. By-pass the admission. Presume guilt.
Jacoby waited, stared at Seán, then spoke. “She was killed with a .22 caliber pistol. We recovered a bullet.”
Seán looked at the photos.
Thompson snapped a photograph.
Seán’s body slowly constricted, cold, wet film formed on his forehead, suddenly lightheaded, he collapsed.
“Damn impassive reaction.” Said Jacoby as he smirked, then wrote in his notebook.
Inside the police car, Thompson took Jacoby’s notes, reached toward the police radio and called the supervisor relaying the information. The supervisor ran it by his chief, who talked to the public liaison officer, who contacted the newspaper offices and four network affiliates in Delano – the largest town in the state – fourteen miles east of Berdan.
Within ninety minutes, Chief Hatzenbeuler stood erect, and leaned toward the microphones taped together and described their case – murder. No names at this time. An arrest imminent within the hour. “Meanwhile,” the Chief continued, “come on into the atrium for coffee.”
The media – freshly sprayed, neatly pressed, lovingly coifed – hunted in packs. When their prey was absent, they huddled in conclaves – separated only by the sounds of indistinguishable codes. Eyes rapidly jerking right, left. Always alert, never where they are – but where they feel they must be. Their story is never here; it is over there.
The media repeated the various locations the police searched during their investigation. Truck. House. Cabin. Out of town motel room. During subsequent reports, the press failed to mention that no murder weapon had been found. There was no mention of a struggle, whether the body had been moved to the grove of trees. No mention of Shirley’s fellow camper. That person dissolved. Official police statement relayed and duly reported.
Seán was delivered back to his house during Chief Hatzenbeuler’s news conference. He immediately called Anderson. No answer. Within minutes, Seán heard a soft knock at his front door as if a brush whisked against wood.
He opened the door without looking out the window. Three uniformed police officers confronted him. “Mr. Tyler. Mr. James Tyler. We need to see some I.D. Preferably your driver’s license.”
“Why? What’s- “
“Just show us your driver’s license.”
He handed them his license.
“Are you the Seán Tyler identified on this driver’s license?” “I am.”
“Mr. Tyler, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. You have…You have… Do you… If you… Do you… If not, you will be provided … Do you understand?’”
“Do you understand?”
“You are under arrest for the murder of Shirley Tyler on or about the …”
Seán heard only white noise. The officers handcuffed him, pulled him from his home, and perp walked him down his driveway. An officer’s hand on Seán’s head, he was stuffed into the backseat of the squad car. Seán sat against the cold, molded, damage-proof rear seat. He thought he saw Anderson in the lead car.
The rush of events flooded, then drowned him like an avalanche. They were all the same at this point. Wife missing. Relatives unresponsive. Police. His wife dead. Shot. Arrested for murder. No bail for first-degree murder.
“Out.” Seán complied. No help with his head. No assistance offered. No one was watching but police officers. He stepped out of the squad car, stumbled, and veered toward a guard. The guard stepped toward him, then turned aside. Seán caught himself. In front of him stood the gray metal door with its barred window. Two locks. A buzzer on the left side.
The three men entered. Seán in the middle. Each officer had a hand on one of Seán’s arms. His hands were behind him – handcuffed. They stood alone in a tight room. On one side was the door they had entered. On the opposite side a standard vertical-barred door. The walls held small numbered lockers. Each officer placed his side arm in an individual locker prior to being admitted through the vertical bars.
The door slid from right to left. They stepped through, stood at the counter, removed his handcuffs, placed Seán’s hands on counter. Pockets emptied, belt, and shoes removed. Jail slippers issued. Contents of pockets identified and bagged. Sheet signed.
“Are you taking any medications?”
“Have you been prescribed any medications by a licensed physician?”
“Place your hands on this pad. Press with your fingers. Now press with your palm. Wipe your hands with this.” “Look at the ceiling.” Arrest photo taken. “Sign this.”
Driver’s license photocopied. Rights read again. Booked. Printed. Photographed. Charges entered. Led from one counter through locked doors into a large room with another counter. Anderson walked up to Seán, tapped him on the shoulder, nodded, smiled, then walked away.
Two officers stood behind the counter – one male, one female. The female officer handed Seán a roll of toilet paper and escorted him through another locked white door with a small-glassed window – his first cell. A nine-by-twelve-foot cement walled room.
Seán did not know, but would quickly learn, his decisions were stripped from him. He could not make an independent decision about where, and with whom, he slept, what he would eat, where, and for how long he would sit – or sleep.
Nor could he choose the clothes he wore, their cleanliness, when and with whom he would shower. Whether to open a door, close a door, stand beside a door, pass through a door, or where to stand. Someone else would decide for him.
No more choices. No escape. No options. No place left to go.
— The End —