Glenwood Springs Colorado
Sometimes fifteen minutes can make all the difference. Fifteen minutes later and he would’ve been gone for the day. A mere quarter of an hour…and this would’ve been someone else’s problem.
Agent Martinez peered out his office window at the four teens being escorted into the red-brick building. Four sets of eyes darted back and forth between one another in silent dialogue, but not a single pair of lips parted. Not one kid took advantage of this last chance to communicate before they were separated, each led into a different interrogation room to await their fate.
The sizzle of anticipation that usually coursed through him with each new case proved elusive this afternoon. A new investigation, late on a Friday afternoon, warranted little enthusiasm. He should be wrapping up the week’s paperwork in preparation for a weekend of fishing at his cabin, not starting a new assignment.
He took a swig of his coffee and shook his head.
Why did he have to be the lucky one assigned to this case? The weekend crew should be taking care of this. And to add insult to injury, he now had to deal with a bunch of teenagers. In his line of work, he’d yet to find a single young person who cared about anything besides themselves. They were good at partying and getting into trouble, but failed abysmally when it came to concern and consideration for others—or for the law.
With a glance at the wall clock, calculations began spinning through his mind. If he hurried, he’d be kicking back on his porch, enjoying a cold brew and the view of the lake before the sun set. Ever since Maggie left, that’s the way he preferred to spend his weekends—out of town, apart from everyone, away from his problems. His self-prescribed cure. The only living beings he wanted to see for the next two days were fish, preferably dangling from his line.
Resigned to the task at hand, he rolled his neck then snatched his notebook and recorder. Time to get this over with. Outside Interrogation Room 1, he huffed a frustrated sigh, pulled his shoulders back, and put on his game face.
Come on, Martinez, pick it up. What’s behind door number one?
The girl wandering around the room turned towards him as he entered. Her long, light-brown hair cascaded over one shoulder. Jean shorts and a Colorado t-shirt shouted tourist—although, when it came Coloradans and their state pride, one could never be sure. Residents loved their state and proudly wore t-shirts and hats to prove it. Her blue gaze returned his steady one, scanning him the same way he was observing her.
He let the door swing shut then stood for a moment, employing one of his favorite techniques. Nothing made people more uncomfortable than silence. Anxious to end the awkward quiet, people often began talking, unwittingly divulging important information.
This girl glanced around the nearly barren room. “You know, this space could really use a make-over. If you painted these walls a nice shade of tan and added a few plants, maybe a painting or two…you could really warm it up in here.”
His gaze went from her to the stark white walls. “No windows. Plants would die.”
She shot him a look. “Have you never heard of artificial plants? A few touches might help relax people.”
“Sure, I’ll get right to that. Shall we rename it the hospitality suite instead of the interrogation room?”
She held his gaze. The girl was not easily intimidated.
“Just a suggestion.” Her thin shoulders raised in a shrug. “You might get more information from your perps if you make them feel comfortable. Ever hear the phrase ‘you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’?”
A smart aleck. Fantastic. “I’ll pass your advice on to the federal government.”
He strode toward the center of the room and the only furniture, a metal table and chairs.
“Take a seat.” He motioned to one of the empty chairs and placed his mug, recorder, and notebook on the table.
He lowered himself into a chair. She did the same, mirroring his action.
“My name’s Agent Martinez.”
The girl placed her right hand on the table, her fingernails tapping out a rhythm. “Do I get to make a phone call to my lawyer?”
His eyes narrowed. “You have a lawyer?”
The tapping stopped. “Yes.” She lifted her chin, seeming to challenge his authority.
No wonder she seemed so calm. If she had a lawyer, she’d most likely been in trouble in the past. Good. Since she knew the drill, maybe she’d answer his questions quickly, and he could move on to the next room.
Just as he was about to begin, she scrunched her face.
“Well, I sort of do. I mean, it’s my dad. He’s a tax lawyer so I’m not sure how helpful he’d be. And he’s in Minnesota. But I could still call him.” Her self-assured features softened, making her appear much younger.
“You don’t need a lawyer.”
“But shouldn’t an adult be present to make sure my rights aren’t violated?” She tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.
“You’re seventeen, kid. You can be questioned without an adult present.”
A tilt of her head caused the errant lock of hair to slip out again. “But that’s a police policy. Is it the same when you’re questioned by the Feds?”
In spite of himself, he liked her spunk. “Yes.”
She bit her lip as she contemplated his answer. Finally, she nodded her consent then rested her arms on the table, interlacing her fingers. Her confident poise seemed to return. “Alright. What would you like to know?”
“Let’s start with the basics.” He held up his recorder to show he was recording the conversation. “Please state your name.”
“Do you live here in Colorado, Josie?”
“No. I’m from Minnesota. Lake Forest.”
“What brings you to Glenwood Springs?”
“But not with your dad, who’s still back in Minnesota.”
She nodded, then glanced at the recorder. “Oh. Um. Right. I’m here with my boyfriend, Ryan, and his family. We came for a family vacation with his grandpa, aunt, uncle and cousins.”
He flipped open his notebook. “They included you in their family reunion?”
“Well, it’s kind of a long story.” She leaned back and smiled…like he was an old friend she couldn’t wait to catch up with. “Earlier this summer, Ryan and I worked at a summer camp with his cousin and her boyfriend. We had a blast, so when Ryan’s family suggested a trip to Colorado, we thought it would be fun for the four of us to be reunited again.”
“The four of you who are now sitting in this FBI office.”
“Yep. Ryan and I, Sophie and Jake.” Her hand smacked the table. “Hey, you probably know Jake. Jake Taylor—the snowboarder. He’s a silver medalist.”
Years of training let Agent Martinez retain his stony outward appearance, but internally, he cringed at that news. This afternoon just kept getting better and better. He hadn’t realized Jake Taylor was one of the teens. That made things infinitely more difficult.
The star athlete had a certain knack for being in the news. Martinez needed to speed things along before the press somehow found out Taylor was sitting in one of his interrogation rooms—otherwise, he didn’t stand a chance of getting to the cabin tonight. The salacious news of Jake Taylor being questioned at an FBI field office would, without a doubt, be the lead story of every weekend broadcast, further complicating Martinez’s life and completely ruining his weekend.
“Okay. Well, Josie, let’s get right to it. Why don’t you start at the beginning and tell me about this week?”
Josie folded her legs into a pretzel shape, making herself “comfortable” on the hard chair.