“Have a seat.” Aaron cleared a stack of paper off a black plastic chair in his cluttered closet of an office. An ever-changing collection of maps, photos, and notes made it impossible to guess the color of the walls, and the small metal desk was buried under piles of manila case file folders. Judging by the detectives’ offices, Richmond was a downright dangerous place to live.
His gray upholstered chair rocked backward as he settled into it and looked at me expectantly, the genial manner that made him the department’s king of confessions evident in the smile that lit his round face. Aaron’s charm was his central talent. He had a real gift for getting people to talk to him, and was nearly as good at keeping his own hand close. Often, reporters left his office with little or nothing, and felt like they’d somehow been done a favor. Not me. Usually, anyway. Aaron and I had a nice little groove where he tried to bullshit me, I called him on it, and then we bantered until I talked him out of some actual information. It wasn’t personal.
It was the job. Personally, I liked Aaron, and the feeling seemed to be mutual.
“Who is our unfortunate friend who was shot in the head?” I asked.
Aaron flipped a page on a legal pad. “Darryl Anthony Wright, African-American male, age twenty-five. Formerly a resident of cellblock seven at Cold Springs.”
I jotted that down and pulled the police report on the Noah Smith murder from my bag.
“Are you guys looking for some kind of Charles Bronson wannabe?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger and chuckled. When he looked up, his hand slid down his face so his fingers rested over his lips and muffled the first part of his answer.
“Not pulling any punches today, I see. But I think so.” His hand dropped to the desk and he shook his head. “I can’t say anything for sure without ballistics.”
“When is the report supposed to be back?” I smiled as I scrawled his words into my notes. That was easier than I thought.
It took about thirty-five seconds to figure out why.