The door burst open, pieces of wood flying off from the breach. A woman screamed on the inside as we came running in, guns raised and flashlights on, pointed in every direction.
“Hands up!” our squad leader yelled, pointing his gun at her. The woman inside instantly complied, throwing her arms up as high as she could, a look of terror on her face. I pulled out a pair of handcuffs and locked her hands behind her back.
“What are you doing here?” she shrieked.
“Searching for a fugitive, ma’am. Sit tight,” was his terse reply.
One by one the rest of our team yelled out “Clear!” as they searched the rest of the house, finding nothing of interest.
“Where is he?” I asked sternly.
“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Her voice trembled. Her body shook. But I ignored it. I had seen enough crying women throughout my years as a US Marshall for it to not affect me anymore, especially when it was obviously faked.
“Ma’am, don’t mess with us. You piss him off—” I nodded at our leader “—then you’re going to have some problems. I adjusted the cowboy hat on my head which had slipped slightly in the breach. Or maybe it was just a habit and I just used that as an excuse.
“I don’t know what you guys are talking about!” she insisted.
I sighed. It was getting old. Everyone always said the same thing. Unless they were innocent, but that didn’t happen too often. “You really want to spend the rest of your life in jail? For him? A guy who’s killed upwards of ten people? Because, you know, obstructing an investigation, harboring a fugitive, knowing what he was doing and not reporting it…you’re looking at at least thirty years to life.” Of course I was exaggerating; we couldn’t prove anything except maybe the obstructing an investigation, but only if we found him. And even if we did prove that, she’d only get a few years at most. But she didn’t know that.
She was trembling more now. “I…I d…don’t know what you’re t-talking about.” Yeah, there that line was again. Always the same with these people.
“So really? You’re willing to go to prison, for life, because of him? Have you ever been to a prison, ma’am?” She shook her head nervously. “Didn’t think so. With a guy like this that you’re protecting, you’re gonna be placed with the worst of ‘em. I mean the murderers, the psychos. If you even last a week I can guarantee your life will be hell. Prison is a horrible place, especially for a woman.”
More tears began streaming down her face. “Look, ma’am, all you have to do is tell us where he went. Then we’ll be on our way, and you can live your life.” She nodded slowly, carefully.
“Alright. Jen, get over here, take her statement,” I said to another member of our team. I stood up from where I had crouched down near her and adjusted my shirt and tie.
“So what do you think?” our leader asked me once we were a few paces away.
“She’s scared, she’s loyal, she probably hates cops. But she’s even more scared of going to prison.”
“Yeah, you have a way of describing it to people to make think that way, don’t you?”
I smiled. “What can I say? It works.”
“Alright, well listen, you take Jen and Aaron to wherever she says he is. I want this search to be over.”
“You got it.” I tipped my hat to him and walked away.