Back on the street, I pull my jacket forward and turn up the collar. A wind is picking up and I can hear a dull roar toward the city center. I follow the old woman’s directions and find myself on the bustling square. I stand for a moment and take the square in. It must look like a giant ant hill from above. Each person with their own goal and their own path. They travel in every direction. They bump into each other often and apologize rarely. Automobiles have come to a complete stop, each one waiting for the next to move. The air feels dirty, almost gritty as it enters my lungs.
I’ve missed this city.
I find the police office is on the square like the old woman told me. As I make my way around the square, I notice that a large crowd has gathered outside the steps leading into the station; men in trench coats and hats, some with cameras and huge flash bulbs, others with pads and pencils scribbling furiously. I’m certain at any moment their paper will combust from the sustained friction, but it doesn’t. A tall, large man in police uniform decorated with badges and ribbons is talking behind a podium, his entourage just behind him. The man’s mustache is as austere as he is. It’s been 10 years and he’s put on some weight, but I recognize him. He’s the chief of police. As I approach, he’s in the middle of a press conference.
“That may be possible,” he answers a reporter, “We’re ruling out nothing at this time.”
Pencils scribble quickly on their respective pads. One reporter puts his hand in the air and waves.
“Chief! Who are you primary suspects at the moment?”
“We . . .” he pauses for a beat, “have several individuals who we are investigating at the moment.” A beat. “I can’t say anything more than that in the interest of protecting their identities.”
That was a lie. I shift my posture on to one foot, cross my arms, and continue to listen. Another reporter waves his hand.
“Do you have any theories as to how this thief got past security so easily?”
“It was apparently an inside job. Only someone with very detailed knowledge of the security layout could’ve done this.” A beat, “But as I said, we’re ruling out nothing at the moment. We have a lot of good leads to track down.”
The inside job lead must’ve been a dead end. He doesn’t know where to take the case now. Another reporter is about to ask a question, but the chief is already turning to walk away from the podium. The crowd of reporters frenzies and begins shouting questions. The police chief tries to shout over the roar, but I don’t think anyone hears him.
“I really can’t answer any more questions at this time,” he says, “but rest assured; we are doing everything in our power to bring this thief to justice!”
He turns and walks back inside the station, his entourage in tow. The reporters, though disappointed, begin to quiet down and disperse. It’s not long until I’m the only one standing on the sidewalk. Other people are still bustling to try to get somewhere else. I stand and look at the police station for a moment. The view from here is better than when I was stuffed in the back of a police car 10 years ago. And my hands are free. I look at my hands a moment and rub my wrists. My hands were tied with rope and I remember the burns. I raise my eyes and look at the front doors to the station for a moment. I walk up the stoop and inside.
The lobby is mostly quiet now. A few officers are milling about with files in their hands and several people are sitting on benches waiting. There’s a young, pretty receptionist waiting by a phone behind a desk. She’s new. Or new-ish. Well, she wasn’t here the last time I was here anyway. I realize the irony of this situation; my first day out of prison I go back to the same police station where I was interrogated immediately before I was thrown in prison. But my reason for being here is different this time. Nevertheless, this is awkward. I take a deep breath and proceed into the station lobby. Hopefully, no one has worked here long enough to remember who I am.
I approach the receptionist’s desk. The receptionist doesn’t look up from her desk as I approach. I stand in front of her for a moment and say nothing. She glances up at me, then back down.
“Something I can help you with?” Her voice is soft and sweet if only a tad nonchalant. I thought to be offended, but she couldn’t possibly know the gravity of what I had to say.
“Yes, I’d like to speak to the chief please,” I reply.
Now she looks up at me, “The chief currently isn’t seeing anyone. He just finished a press conference. If you like, you can make an appointment. He should have some time . . .” she begins flipping through a calendar. I decide not to wait.
“He’ll want to see me now. Trust me. Just let him know I’ve got information regarding the San Marco casino,” I start walking backwards away from the counter, “and I’ll be waiting right here when he wants to talk.” I take a seat at a bench facing her. “Right here,” I reiterate.
I watch as she gets on the phone, a different phone than the one I originally spied on her desk. She covers her mouth and talks under her breath, so I can’t hear what she says. Occasionally, she sends a suspicious eye my way which I meet with a calm, watchful stare and a confident smile.
This is going my way.
It isn’t long before a slender man in a gray, three-button suit comes out from a door behind the receptionist. He makes a beeline for her and begins talking to her in hushed voices. I see him send a glance my way and he looks me up and down. I just look at him. He says a few more words to the receptionist and then comes over to me.
Standing over me, he looks down. “You got information for the chief?”
Still sitting, I look up at him. “Yeah, I think he’ll want to hear it.”
“Alright then,” the slender man takes a step back from me and turns around. Looking over his shoulder, “you can follow me. He’ll see you now.”
I follow him behind the same door he emerged from. We walk down a corridor, turn, down another. We go up a flight of stairs, another corridor, another turn, and then the slender man bends slightly to open a door. He doesn’t go in, but gestures for me to enter. I do and he enters behind me. Inside is a plain, steel table with two uncomfortable metal chairs on either side of the table. The setting sun is entering through the room’s only window. The room is warm and slightly amber due to the sunlight.
“Grab a seat,” says the slender man and gestures toward the far chair,” Let’s hear what you have to tell us.” The slender man closes the door, walks behind me as I sit, closing the blinds on the window. The room turns to a cold, blue, steel color.
I sit down, but I make my protest vocal, “I don’t think you understand,” I say, “I told the receptionist that I have information for the chief, and seeing as how I don’t know who you are, I can’t tell you what I have to say.”
As soon as I finish speaking, the slender man grabs my arms, pulls them behind my back, and cuffs my wrists. The cold steel of a handcuff link is all too familiar. Forget what I said earlier. This isn’t going my way at all.