Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

J. Edgar Hoover Federal Building, Washington, D.C., December 2011

Arthur Tan rubbed his eyes and sighed. He seemed to be doing a lot of rubbing his eyes and sighing these days, and this case was seventy-five percent of it.

When he opened those eyes again, though, Stephen Reyes from Down The Hall was standing by his desk.

"Troubles?" Reyes said.

Tan gestured to the piles of twenty-year-old, fusty-smelling paper on his desk. "So I've got this guy in his fifties. Looks good for the recent series near Duluth. But."

"But serial killers don't start at 50." Reyes propped a hip on the desk, brow wrinkling with interest.

Tan waved at the smelly papers. "And I've got some stuff in other parts of the upper midwest back in the 90s that looks like it could be a part of the same series. But somebody's in jail for those. And we have a confession."

Reyes pursed his lips, and took the photocopy Tan handed him. He studied it for a minute, then his eyes closed in concentration. Tan thought about what Celentano had muttered once when he thought nobody was listening, about Stephen Reyes being a God-damned necromancer.

Then Reyes huffed through his nose and put the paper down. "The confession's no good."

"You think?"

"I'll write you a report," he said. "So you've got a paper trail. But no, I don't think this guy's good for it."

"So you think the confession was forced?"

"Forcing a confession is nothing. I could force a confession out of him in an evening."

Tan felt the matter of fact statement like a belly punch. "You're not saying--"

Reyes raised his eyebrows and smiled gently. "No. What I'm saying is that people are suggestible. Getting someone to say what you want them to say--that's easy. Getting them to believe what you want them to believe, just as easy. So easy you can do it by accident. You will do it by accident. You almost can't avoid it. Getting them to tell you what really happened--that is almost impossibly hard. Hey, do you think there's coffee?"

"Doc made a pot a while back, but it might be burnt. So how do you avoid suggesting, then?"

"Hang on, I'm going to get something to drink--no, wait, we'll do this first. What you do is try not to make up your mind in advance of the evidence. Keep your interviews open-ended. Your subjects can pick up what you want them to say from the questions you don't ask as easily as the questions you do. Special Agent, where are you going?"

Tan paused, half-risen from his chair. "I'm going to start a fresh pot...." He realized what had happened only as a slow grin dawned acros Reyes' face. "Wait. Since when do you drink coffee?"

Reyes tipped his head.

Tan sighed and sat back down. "Sometimes you're a little creepy."

"You think so? You should get Sol Todd to discourse on the notorious accuracy of eyewitness accounts."

"I thank my lucky stars you didn't go into advertising."

Reyes laughed. He tapped the paper on Tan's desk and made it rattle. "You got a miscarriage of justice here, Tan. What are you going to do about it?"

"Fix it," Tan said tiredly. "Just as soon as I get some coffee."

"Sit," Reyes told him. "I'll bring you one."

Only after the senior agent was gone did Tan realize that Reyes hadn't had to ask him how he took it.