[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 88
Chapter 17 (4 of 11): Interviews
Interview room number three was a small, typically claustrophobic affair. Phoebe liked its booth-like, beat-up look, the tacky furniture, lack of windows, and dark institutional green. Thousands had endured verbal beatings here; hundreds had confessed. The mirror on the wall fooled nobody and helped to grow the guilt in the guilty. At one short end of the table the video camera with its intense cyclopean light captured the interviewee’s performance for posterity.
At two o’clock Phoebe, Ulla, and Willard were ready. Phoebe sat on the side of the table nearest the door, and Ulla and Willard on the other side. Pete Anders was standing by the video camera fiddling with buttons and levers. Internal scheduling had put number three down for two for an interview with Officer Darling. This fact had aroused a certain amount of interest on the tenth floor, and a couple of the commissioner’s factotums were crowded into the viewing room behind the two-way mirror.
When Fabian was escorted into the room by a watch officer, he was placed at the short end opposite the camera. Phoebe greeted him neutrally. She was somewhat taken aback by his looks. She remembered him as a man who wasn’t bad looking, but the years had not been kind. He was heavier than when she had known him five years or so ago, but he also looked as though he had been working hard to lose some weight. The sallow skin of his face kind of hung a little on him. Phoebe checked his file: born in 1955. That would make him forty-eight. Now, she charged herself, keep this neutral.
“Good afternoon, Officer Darling,” she said, smiling.
“How are you,” he replied. He’d put his forage cap on the table and was scratching his buzz cut. He seemed pretty relaxed.
“We are going to be recording this interview on both audio and video. Do you have any objections to that?”
“Fine with me.”
Phoebe started the audio.
“Rolling,” Pete answered, and when the intense light came on everybody flinched momentarily.
Phoebe spoke at the Panasonic. “This is an interviews with Officer Fabian Darling in the matter of the murder of Trinh Cao, case number H-2004-01-12-01. Officer Darling is not at this time a suspect. Present are video technician Pete Anders, detectives Ulla Sundelius and Willard Garrett, and myself, chief of detectives, Phoebe Light. It is Thursday the fifteenth of January 2004, and the time is 2:04 in the afternoon.” She turned to Fabian.
“Do I understand correctly, Officer Darling, that you have agreed voluntarily to this interview?”
“Do you want a representative of the patrolmen’s union to be present?”
“That’s not necessary.”
“Do you wish to have legal counsel present?”
“That won’t be necessary, either.”
“On behalf of my colleagues and myself, we thank you for helping us in this investigation.”
Darling stirred on his seat. “I want whoever did this as much as you do. I’m here to help in any way I can.”
“Thank you,” Phoebe acknowledged. “We appreciate your readiness to help, and we thank you for giving us hair samples yesterday.”
“Like I said, I’m happy to help.” He rubs the short nub of hairs on his head.
“Thank you again.
“Detective Sundelius will initiate the interview.” Everybody looked at Ulla, who was examining some papers spread out before her on the scarred table.
“As a formality, Officer Darling, you acknowledge that you were romantically involved with the victim, Trinh Cao?”
“Yes, I was.”
“And …” Ulla shuffled some more paper, “… you are not married?”
“I was. Divorced now.”
“Fine, we’ll come back to that point later. Apparently Ms. Cao’s parents were under the impression you were married.”
“I know. I can see why.”
“And why was that, do you think?”
“Because I was in fact married when I first met Trinh.”
“And that was when?”
“That was in early 2000.”
Ulla made a notation.
“And your divorce?”
“And there was a connection between these two events?”
“No.” He sighed. “Not really. My marriage had been on the rocks for a long time. Maybe Trinh … maybe meeting her accelerated something that would have happened eventually anyway.”
“I see.” She shot Phoebe a glance, who nodded back to her.
“Just for the record, can we go through some of your background?”
“No problem. There’s nothing to hide.”
Phoebe was watching Darling closely. He was of course a police officer, and he had been a homicide detective. He knew all about interrogations and interviews, and he certainly knew that even if he wasn’t, as she had said at the start, “at this time a suspect,” he would be equally aware that he was not excluded as a possible suspect “at a later time.” Yet he still seemed relaxed and in no way trying to avoid forthright answers to the questions being put to him. A sociopath could pull that off without difficulty, but Fabian Darling, whatever else he might have been, was not a sociopath. Interesting, she thought.
“You graduated from the university here in the city, is that correct?”
“Right. In 1978. A degree in sociology.”
“And then you went into the army.”
“And ended up in the military police in Korea.”
“That’s right. I served for eight years. Re-upped several times.”
“And I see you have an honorable discharge. And you received several citations for meritorious service.”
Darling made a dismissive wave with his right hand. “It was nothing.”
Phoebe did not think this was false modesty.
“Nevertheless,” Ulla said. She turned her face to Willard, who was sitting next to her. “Detective Garrett with continue the interview.”
TO BE CONTINUED