Detective Matt Sykes sat in the interview room. He sat back in his seat, with his arms folded across his chest, glaring at the man across from him. “Quit wasting my time, Johnny.”
Johnny was in his mid thirties. He had a pock marked face and greasy brown hair. He nervously pushed his bangs out of his eyes. He licked his lips. “I didn’t do anything, Sykes.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t.”
Matt bared his teeth. “Come on. We have five dead people and witnesses who put your old purple El Camino in the area. We both know that you’re in this up to your neck.”
“I’m not the only one with a purple El Camino.” Johnny patted his pockets with shaking hands. “I could sure use a cigarette.”
Matt pointed over his shoulder at a sign painted on the wall. “No smoking.”
Johnny fidgeted in his seat and his eyes darted everywhere except Matt’s face. “You can’t pin any of this on me. I was visiting my sister in San Diego the last two months. You can ask her.”
Matt sat forward. He opened a file and slid some photos towards Johnny. “I have to say I’m surprised at you,” he sighed. He saw Johnny wince at the sight of all the blood and gore. “I thought you were a small time operator,” he continued. “And, without a doubt, the worst getaway driver ever. I never thought you could get involved with anyone capable of this.”
Johnny swallowed and held a hand over his mouth. He shoved the photos back at Matt. “I didn’t do anything,” he maintained.
Matt shook his head and clicked his tongue between his teeth. “Graduated to murder. Wouldn’t your mother be proud?” he drawled sarcastically.
Johnny’s voice shook. “You can’t prove anything.”
“Why did you do it? Money?”
“I didn’t!” Johnny yelled.
Matt stood and circled behind Johnny. “Maybe you didn’t commit the actual murders. It would help your case if you tell me who did it.”
Johnny clenched his hands into fists and stared at the table top. “I’m not involved.”
“That’s why we’re letting you go,” a voice said smoothly.
Matt arched an eyebrow. “What are you doing, George?”
Detective George Francisco stood in the doorway. “We have nothing to hold him on, Matt.”
Johnny threw a brief sneer over his shoulder at Matt. “I knew you didn’t have jack, Sykes.”
George stepped to the side and gestured out. “You’re free to go, Mr. Gomez.”
Johnny stood. He started to smirk at Matt until Matt made a move to punch him. He jumped out of the way and started for the hallway.
“I have made sure the word has gotten out on the street,” George said casually.
Johnny stopped short and gaped at him. “What do you mean?”
George smiled earnestly. “About how helpful and cooperative you’ve been to our investigation.”
Johnny’s eyes got wide. “You--”
Matt turned away and covered his mouth to hide his grin.
George patted Johnny’s shoulder. “The police won’t be bothering you again.”
Johnny’s face paled. He gulped. “I’m a dead man,” he whispered, clearly overwhelmed.
“We’re all headed down that road eventually,” George said philosophically.
Johnny stared at George as if he’d grown a second head. “You…I…” he squeaked helplessly. His shoulders slumped. “I’m dog food.”
Matt came up behind Johnny. “Not necessarily. If you help us, we’ll protect you.”
Johnny jumped. He looked from George to Matt and then back again. “All right,” he said slowly. “I’ll tell you everything, but can I get a cigarette first?” he pleaded.
Matt clamped a hand on Johnny’s shoulder and felt Johnny shrink from the contact. “Sure,” he said cheerfully. He waved to a uniformed Newcomer officer. “Hey, Nate. Can you take Johnny here up to the roof for a smoke.”
The officer dwarfed Johnny by a foot. Johnny stared up at him. His voice cracked. “Okay.”
Matt chuckled. “Johnny, meet Officer Nathan Hale. He’ll take good care of you. Then, after you have your cigarette, we’ll talk.”
Johnny’s head bobbed up and down. “Okay, Sykes.”
Matt watched the two of them disappear. He chuckled and looked at his partner. “Smooth move, George.”
George grinned back. “Thank you.”
“How did you learn to be so sneaky?”
George inclined his head to Matt. “I learned from the best.”
They walked back to their desks. George sat in his chair while Matt perched on the edge of the desk next to him. George lowered his voice. “Buck and Emily will both be out of the house tonight. Susan wanted me to make sure that you are coming over.”
Matt felt the flush creeping up the back of his neck. After Cathy dumped him, he never thought he’d have a use for that interspecies sex class. He briefly wondered what that teacher would think of the three of them. Then again, he’d seen plenty of couples and triads in his time.
“Matt,” George said softly. “She bought your favorite scotch.”
Matt cleared his throat. He smiled at George. “Yeah, and I’ll bring the sour milk.”