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You Help, We Help
"Huh. ‘Paula’... Isabel Allende… Any good?"
"Well, I haven’t finished it, but yes… I s’pose… Sad…"
"Oh yeah? How’s that?"
"Well, you know, it’s about her daughter. She was really sick and she died, and it’s all about how she looked after her but in the end…"
"She still died? Sounds depressing to me. But then, I’m not much of a reader myself. Hey… Isabel Allende… Wasn’t she the president’s daughter or something?"
"No. He was her uncle I think. I don’t remember. I’m sorry, I can’t think right now… Ummm… Can I have a cigarette?"
"Sure! One of yours? Huh, we don’t get Luckies here. Oops, sorry… Light."
"Thanks. Actually, can… Can I have my lighter please?"
"Sorry, it all has to be marked and bagged. I’ll leave it on the table for now though. So: ready to go on?"
"I... I suppose."
"Good, okay then, let’s resume… Ahem… This is Officer Robert Felton of the Australian Federal Police, the time is 2.05 a.m. and I am now recommencing the interview. Present are Margarita Morales, Officer Amanda James and myself. There was a break of six minutes in which the interviewee went to the bathroom, drank a cup of tea and smoked a cigarette. Maggie, do you agree that this is what occurred during the break, and that you were not made any threats or inducements and that no matters related to this matter were discussed during that time?"
"If you agree, please say ‘I agree’."
"Oh. Umm… I agree."
"Thank you. Now, you were telling me about the meeting. You went to the house and…?"
"Which house? In New York?"
"No… Wasn’t there a house in Buenos Aires? I thought there was a house…"
"Oh yes, but before there was the house in New York. I thought you meant that one."
"Okay, tell me again about New York."
"Well, it’s like I said: I took the house-cleaning job because after my boyfriend left me it was very hard. Miguel is very hard to manage, he needs special care and it’s very expensive."
"Miguel’s your son, right?"
"And he’s sixteen and he’s retarded, you said?"
"Yes, I already told you…"
"Of course. Please, go on."
"Well I told the man there…"
"What man. The owner?"
"Yes. I told you before…"
"That’s okay, I’m just refreshing my memory. I don’t mind if you tell me again. So: the owner…?"
"You told the owner? About Miguel?"
"Yes, yes, about Miguel".
"Well what did he say?"
"He was very nice. He said he understood and that it must be hard. He said he was very happy with my work and that he’d be happy to recommend me. He said he had some friends…"
"He was suggesting these friends could help you make some money?"
"Well, yes, I thought…"
"So you decided you’d like to meet his friends."
"Yes of course. I was very desperate. Miguel was so difficult, and I couldn’t pay any more for the carers and the day care. I sold my car and everything. I was grateful for any work."
"So where did you meet again?"
"In the coffee shop. I already told you…"
"Yeah, sorry, it’s been a long night… So can you describe them? There were two, right?"
"Uhmm, yes. They were both short and dark, Central American maybe, or Colombian I don’t know, we spoke in English. One had a moustache…"
"But you speak Spanish right?"
"Yes, but the owner spoke English so we spoke English."
"I see. And what did these gentlemen tell you? They had a proposition for you, is that right?"
"They said if you were to run an errand for them they’d give you a substantial sum, correct?"
"How much did you say? Five thousand, wasn’t it?"
"And this didn’t strike you as funny?"
"You didn’t think it was unusual for someone to offer that much money to deliver a package?"
"Yes… No… I don’t know. They said they had something valuable to be delivered and didn’t trust the mail."
"It never occurred to you to ask what that something was?"
"I… I don’t know… They looked like businessmen… I thought maybe emeralds or something… I’ve heard things before… But all I could really think about was taking care of Miguel."
"So, let me see if I’ve got this correct… You needed money to take care of Miguel, and to get it you were prepared to ‘run an errand’ to Australia, no questions asked."
"And it could maybe be something illegal, like smuggling gems. Is that right?"
"Well, I suppose.."
"Come on Maggie: is that right or not? That’s right, isn’t it? Isn’t that what you’ve been telling me?"
"Well I mean, what happened was…"
"Don’t tell me again what happened, just tell me if I’m right so far."
"I’m sorry, I’m confused. I don’t know what you want me to say."
"Look Maggie, it’s a very simple proposition I’m putting: you needed money, a substantial sum of money, and you were not very discriminating about how you went about it, isn’t that so?"
"Let me put it another way: you needed money, right?"
"Yes, of course, I mean the way things were, I was alone and Miguel was…"
"Bad enough not to ask where it might come from, right?"
"But I never…"
"Well did you ask?"
"No… no… no…"
"So you wanted money and thought it could even be illegal, but you didn’t ask any questions, right?"
"Right. Thank you. Now… Hey… Maggie, are you okay? Maggie? Interviewee unwell, interview suspended at 2.11 a.m. I am now pausing the tape… You okay? Your puffer? Sure… There… Is that better now? Just relax, take your time… Hey Mandy, how long before we need to do the magistrate thing again? An hour? Sweet. we’ll have a pretty good interview record by then. I might use this break to check on something… Sarah? Sarah, hi, it’s Rob… Fine… Listen, can you get onto LAPD? I need a background check on this Margarita Morales: Chilean born, US resident. I’ll send the passport along. I specially want to know if she’s got a retarded kid… Yeah, with that much stuff on her she’s gonna go down for sure, but a retard might get her a discount… So how’s things, anyway? … Yeah, same… Hey, listen, how ‘bout I come down myself and we make the call now? I’ll bring coffee. Great… See you then. Listen Mandy, can you hold the fort? I’m going down to see Sarah."
"Sure. So, you’ll be in the stationery cupboard if we need you then?"
"Smart arse. Hey, she’s got a bit of colour back; that’s good… Maggie: you’re being very helpful."
"How long will I…?"
"Not much more, maybe another hour or so"
"No, I mean, how long could I…"
"Sentence-wise you mean? That’s not my department. But if you help us, then we can help you, right? Now sit tight, I’m just going to sort something out. While I’m gone you think real hard about anything else you remember. These are very bad people, and you’ll be very helpful to us if you help us catch them."
"Helping is good?"
"Helping is great, so hang in there and try to remember all you can. Officer James will assist you, okay? Right Mandy, I’m off."
"As much as I can standing up. Later."
"Can… Can I have another cigarette please?"
"Sure, here… And your lighter too? Huh, Zippo…Nice."
"Oh, yes… My, my son gave it to me. He saved up his pocket money for months… Oh, sorry, sorry."
"That’s okay; here, here’s the tissues. Don’t worry Maggie, not much longer to go now."
"Have I… I mean, so I’m being helpful? He said I was being helpful, didn’t he?"
"Yes Maggie, he did and you are. Very helpful indeed."