“Not funny Mike,” I growled as we were being led across the street.
Our interrogations were over and we were reunited for the walk to the county jail for processing.
The city jail was on the third floor of the police station. The county jail was across the street, and it occupied the north wing of the courthouse building.
The two facilities shared space for stripping you down, performing the body search, outfitting you in jail garb, taking your mug shots, fingerprinting, and completing the associated paperwork. County sheriffs were performing these tasks, and I was hoping that when they were done they’d take us back to the city jail. I’d heard some pretty viscous tales about county lockup.
As we were being escorted, Mike had slipped his right hand out of his handcuffs, laughing and boasting about how clever he was.
The jailer wasn’t impressed either.
As he rearranged his cuffs, switching his hands from being held behind him to being in front of him, he very softly said, “Next time, I’ll just shoot you. Say you were trying to escape. And your friend here won’t contradict me, will you now?”
His steely eyes bore into me as he repositioned me in front of Mike, produced a third set of handcuffs and linked Mike’s and my cuffs together. Me now marching in front, Mike attached behind and the jailer in step next to Mike.
Satisfied with this new arrangement, he sort of smiled. “Just take one bullet now to take you both out.”
After processing, they threw us in the same holding cell while they figured out where we’d be going next.
I was staring at Mike, thinking about what I wanted to say . . .
Once we were arrested and taken to the police station, we were passed off to two different officers to interrogate us. We were led into adjoining rooms.
I sat down facing Officer Callahan and figured this would be over quickly. I had nothing to say.
Callahan stared me down for a couple of minutes and then said, “So, you going tell me what you guys did tonight?”
I stared back without blinking, “I think, I’m in a lot of trouble right now. I need to talk to an attorney before I say anything more.”
There was a third officer, Fowler, walking back and forth between the interrogation rooms. At first, he listened silently, but then he started the good cop, bad cop routine.
“Hey Stearley, your buddy over here is spilling the beans and says you’re the leader of this little stunt. We’re going to paint you out to be the bad guy. You’ll be rotting in jail while we cut him a deal!”
“Back off Fowler,” said Callahan. “Stearley here thinks he needs an attorney. It’s his right if he wants one.”
The cops had set this up well. The adjoining interrogation rooms had a small, framed-in window space between them with a sliding door instead of a pane of glass. This Guillotine style access hatch had a handle on the bottom and could be raised to pass items through between the rooms. It was made of thin plywood, at ear-level, and not sound proof in any way. And it was situated in alignment with Callahan’s desk – midway between us. I could hear everything Mike was saying right though wall.
And boy was he motoring.
“Spilling the beans” didn’t quite capture it. He opened up like a waterfall. An unstoppable cascade of words without punctuation. Not even a pause for air. Vomiting up details only someone at the scene could describe. And he placed me at the center of it all.
“Stearley, is like my brother. If he says this guy owes him and we’re robbing the place, then I’m right there with him . . .”
I listened for a while in silence. Callahan could hear it all too, and he finally broke the silence. “You know this is going to go easier for you if you cooperate.”
“Well, since it appears that Mike has given you what you want, I can’t really add much to that.”
“There’s a couple of things I’d still like to know,” he said. “How did you give us the slip to begin with? We were right there on you from the beginning.”
I was a little startled because I didn’t realize until that moment that I had slipped away from anybody. But I decided to come clean.
“I made a couple of fast turns down the side streets. I didn’t see anyone behind me.”
“The big question though,” Callahan leaned forward, “where’s the stuff you took?”
“The neighbor reported you guys stealing a stereo and all we found you with was this small box, and that could have been in your car all along.” Callahan pointed to a chair against the wall where the lock box sat.
“We ditched it.”
“You want to take me to it. I can guarantee you bonus points with the prosecutor for that.”
“Ok, let’s take a drive.”
Callahan grabbed Fowler, and they loaded me into another cage car. I led them to Sam’s house and told them to go around to the side door of the garage. They left me handcuffed in the backseat cage, and a few moments later they were bringing the stereo out and loading it in the trunk of the police car. Once they finished and got back in the car, Fowler turned to me and said, “There, don’t you feel better now?”
“Not really,” I said.
Suddenly these two officers were acting like they were my best friends. They began asking about my background and seemed impressed when I told them I was going to college.
“Only one semester to go, if I ever get a chance to finish it.”
Callahan said, “Humm, no priors, middle-class background, college and working, and the big break you just handed us, I’m thinking a lot of what you’re worried about just might disappear.”
“Big break?” I was wondering . . .
The holding cell was about six by six with a twelve-foot ceiling. Solid steel with one steel bench attached to the wall. No breaking out of this place and there’d be no where to go if you did. We would have stood out like neon signs too because we were now clad in electric green scrubs. The scrub pants were torn off just below the knees, and being barefoot we looked like we were survivors on a desert island or something. At least it wasn’t prison orange.
I just looked at Mike and shook my head. “Thought I told you to keep your fucking mouth shut.”
“I did?! I did Stearley, but I hear you gave up the stuff.”
“Had to, after your complete confession. I heard every word of it. No use denying it, we’ll have to make the best of this now.”
We sat in silence for the rest of our wait.
They opened the holding cell door and the same jailer who brought us over was there to great us. We got lucky and were being taken to the city jail. They gave us back our shoes for the walk. I had been wearing cowboy boots and imagine I would have been quite a sight being paraded down the street in that costume. Fortunately, the sun was just coming up and no one was around.
Back at the jail they decided to throw us in with Tom. I think they wanted to make this as scary of an experience as possible, and locking us in a cell with an alleged murderer worked big time.
Tom had allegedly stabbed his girlfriend 52 times, stripped her, stuffed blunt objects in all of her orifices, and then bit her on her breasts. Nice guy. Tom sat on his side of the cell repeating the words, “I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it . . .”
They issued us each a burlap bag to use as a blanket on the steel bunks. One styrofoam cup and one plastic spork. “If you break that cup or spork, you’ll be using your hands to drink and eat,” the jailer told us.
There was a toilet behind a small partition and a community showering area in the center of the surrounding cells. You could have a shower once a week, right before visiting hours.
I’ve got say, there is something really ominous about the sound of a jail cell door closing – that loss of liberty echoes through your bones.
“What are you guys in for!” A voice rang out from across the cell block. “You two look too clean to be in this place.”
“They say burglary, drugs and guns,” I shouted. “We might have a different story.”
“Jesus, man! You’re looking at 50 in the pen.”
“Got a make living somehow,” I threw in for good measure. I wasn’t sure how long we’d be here, so I just earned us some street cred. I didn’t want to be an outsider when they ran us in those community showers.
“I didn’t do it,” Tom chanted on.
I’d be sleeping with one eye open.
After two days of stale, week-old donuts for breakfast, unidentifiable casseroles for lunch and dinner, and nothing but watered-down Kool-Aid to drink, we were taken over to the courthouse to be arraigned. Time to have the charges read off and have our bail set, if we’d get bail.
When our names were called, we were instructed to stand. The prosecutor, James Hagar, was there, but we had no attorney yet. The judge looked a little perplexed as he read off our names.
“I understand you have not obtained counsel yet,” bellowed Judge Hampton.
“That’s correct your honor,” offered Hagar. “So, for now I assume they’ll be pleading not guilty.”
“That’s for them to decide counselor, after I read off the charges.” He then turned to face us. “You’ve been charged with second-degree burglary and possession of controlled substances.”
There was a slight pause and that earlier look of confusion returned to his face. “I was led to understand there was a weapons charge in this case too, but I don’t see it on the information?”
“I’m sorry, your honor, there seems to have been some confusion over that,” Hagar replied. “No weapons involved in this case.”
“Well let’s hope there’s no more ‘confusion’ in this case, Mr. Hagar.”
“Yes, your honor.”
Mike and I silently glanced at one another. Big question marks all over our faces.
“I assume you’re going to want time to obtain counsel?” Hampton was staring at us.
I answered for both of us. “Yes, your honor.”
“And how do you plead?”
“Not guilty, your honor.”
“Very well, I’ll set a date for a preliminary hearing. Bail is set at $10,000 for each of you.”
“Your honor, the prosecution recommends bail of $25,000.”
“If there had been a weapons charge, that’s what it’d be Mr. Hagar. But there’s not. And there’s no indication that there’s a flight risk here. Bail is $10,000.”
We were escorted back to our cell. All the while wondering what had happened to our pistols?
The jailer had been generous with letting us have phone calls.
We had called the hospital and let them know we weren’t coming to work anytime soon. “What? Are you sick, Stearley?” “Just, read the paper,” was my response. I figured there’d be no job to go back to.
We had also called friends and family hoping someone would stick with us, bail us out of this mess.
All we could do was wait . . .
To be continued . . .
Disclaimer: As I’ve pointed out before, the same disclaimer made in Chapter 1 applies to every chapter of this story. *Parts of this story may be based in truth or fiction, or possibly a mixture of both. Any similarity to any actual event or to any person may be totally coincidental. Also, it’s easier to write myself into the story to tell it in both first and third person
Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain. No other attribution could be found.
Prior Chapters: You can find the first six chapters of this story here: