Chapter 20

NYPD headquarters was a zoo. As Jesse stepped through the door into the lobby, he didn't recognize it. There were reporters everywhere he looked, setting up their equipment and doing microphone checks. A few guys in expensive-looking suits stood in one corner. They were either politicians or lawyers, Jesse guessed, and that was reason enough to move toward the other side of the lobby. The secretary who had helped Jesse and Sascha the week before was swamped. If she wasn't answering questions on the phone, there was someone approaching her desk with papers or inane, I-already-answered-that-for-you-sir questions from the reporters. Looking around, though, it was clear to Jesse that nobody else in the room could help him.

Jesse made his way toward the secretary's desk. He did his best to stay out of cameras' lines of sight, which reminded him of action movie scenes when the hero contorts himself to avoid detection by red laser beams. When he finally found the desk, the secretary had stepped away to resolve a dispute between reporters from the Sky News affiliate and another camera crew who insisted that they had left their gear on the blue chair, and not beside it. She returned a moment later, shaking her head and looking harrassed.

"Grown up question for you," Jesse said, offering a smile.

"This will be a first," she said. "How can I help you, sir?"

"I'm here for a meeting with Detective Forth."

"Yes, of course. Is he expecting you?"

"Yes, he is."

"All right. I'll ask his secretary to send someone out to get you. Stay right here, please. If I ask you to move somewhere else, I might never find you again."

Jesse took the spare moment to stretch his neck and shoulders. He checked his phone to make sure that Sascha hadn't tried to call. No canceling this one, he thought.

He listened to the banter of the reporters. From the chaos, he was able to work out that there had been a scandal involving the president of a New York bank, and he was expected to turn himself in any moment. Why every camera crew in the area needed to broadcast a live remote from NYPD headquarters that wouldn't even show the man walking in the door was beyond Jesse's comprehension. He had grown up on nightly news and magazines, and the dizzy media blitzes that filled the airwaves left him feeling empty. It's all empty calories and no fiber, he told Sascha one day at work. "At least the news can't make us fat," Sascha had retorted.

Just when Jesse thought that the noise might drive him mad, a young man dressed in a black shirt and jeans emerged from the crowd. "Mr. Winter?" he called to everyone nearby, raising his voice.

"Yes, right here," Jesse said.

"Right this way, sir."

He led Jesse through the crowd to the same door that he had gone through on his last visit. As the door closed behind them, Jesse heard the hiss in his ears that accompanied a sudden drop in noise level. Everything was now too quiet, but at least he could think clearly again.

"Mr. Winter," the young man said, "I'm Bradley Johnson. I'm an intern here, working with Detective Forth." He lowered his voice slightly. "I was a graduate of CUNY's investigative journalism program last year."

"Ah! Pleased to meet you, Bradley," Jesse said, offering his hand. "I hope that I'm not too late."

"No, no. They're just getting set up. It takes a while to prepare the room, get everyone ready for the interview, and then move the suspect. You know, we don't see too many outsiders in these interviews. I'm hoping that you'll bring some fresh angles. This guy is a real nut, and none of the traditional methods have yielded anything. He's too smart for that. Loves to tell stories about himself."

"Sascha Greene and I made a list of questions that might tease out some nuggets. Sascha sent it to Detective Forth a few days ago."

"We've worked those questions into the line-up. We'll need you to listen for them, and if you have any suggestions for the interviewers, then shout them out. We want to get the guy to open up and keep him talking."

They rounded a corner, and Bradley ushered Jesse into a dim room. There were two tables pushed agaist a wall, a gray coatrack in the corner, and the wall appeared to be glowing. Once his eyes adjusted, Jesse realized that he was looking into a one-way mirror, and on the other side was a bright interrogation room. Inside the room there were two simple chairs that reminded him of the cheap variety that his elementary school had used. He discovered, with relief, that the chairs on the near side of the mirror were cushioned and comfortable. There were four chairs in total, two at each of the tables. A pitcher of water and six plain-looking glasses sat on the table to Jesse's left.

"Please make yourself comfortable, Mr. Winter," Bradley said. "I'll be back in a few minutes after we finish our prep work."

Jesse nodded. He pulled off his coat and hung it on the coatrack. Retrieving his phone from one of the pockets, he checked the time. It was nearly 4:15 p.m., and both Jesse and Sascha had been asked to drop by at 4. Jesse used the free moment to send an SMS message to Sascha's phone. Given the circumstances, Jesse wanted positive contact. Any number of delays could have held Sascha up, but he almost always responded to messages.