Beth wasn’t ready for an interrogation this morning. The moment she stepped into work Sosa called her cell. If she wanted to see the interrogation with the number one suspect, head down to the precinct.
She walked a few blocks over to the precinct and Mikey buzzed her in. He told her Sosa was in the interrogation room already, but they should watch the interrogation from a monitor in a nearby cell. The rooms were converted from old cell blocks, and smelled of mildew and strangely, of the sea.
On the TV screen she saw Mario sitting in the corner, with a cup of something, and Sosa was sitting across from him, in his usual dark blue suit.
On the monitor, Sosa was speaking.
“Where were you June 12th?”
Mario sighed. “I’ve told you. I worked at Firenze. I went to Tony & Nik’s, saw Tony, got some Fernet.”
“Do you know what time you left?”
“No, not sure.”
“Was Tony there when you left?”
“Uh, yeah I think so.”
“Did you see Jane there too?”
“Yeah. Sure, I think that was her. That was the first night they met.”
“So tell me, Mario, what did you do when you left?”
“I went home.”
“Where is home?”
Mario sighed again. “I told you. Up Broadway, near Guadelupe church.”
“Is that Chinatown?”
Mario pushed his water away. “I told you. That’s not Chinatown. That’s fucking North Beach.”
“Mario, you seem to work a lot of jobs. That must be tough, working all the time. Why did you take a second job?”
“I just do it for fun. I like those guys. I sub in once in a while.”
“So let’s go back to that night- you walked home, and did yous top anywhere on the way?”
“Did you see anyone?”
“Sure. Friday night, it’s hoppin’.”
“Did you call anyone when you got home?”
Mario laughed. “No man, I got home and I crashed.”
“Working too hard?”
“Yeah. I’m on my feet all day. Then when I sub in for someone at Firenze, the night goes on even longer. But I don’t get it, why have you pulled me in here?”
“You are our number one suspect for this murder. And I want to clear you, believe me, I do.” Sosa chuckled like it was foolish to ever have pulled Mario into this. “Just, you know, it doesn’t look good- you left before Tony, we have that verified, and you were at the scene, and yes- we have some other evidence that links you. But make it easy for us, give me something to take you off this list.” Sosa waved a paper around. From the monitor, Beth thought it was a blank piece.
Mario gulped. “Shit. I uh, wait, hold on.” He sipped his water. “I don’t get it, I mean, tons of people were there. Why me? What about Diego? He was bartending at Tony & Nik’s.”
“Mario, remember the body outside Caffe Trieste? Did you know this guy- George Butler?”
“You were on early at Trieste. The day is June 9th.”
“Yeah, we had a milk pick-up that day Tony found the body. I have to get there at 7 to load up the fridge.” Mario’s head sunk lower. “No, don’t know George Butler.”
“That’s the victim’s name. Do you know Roger Hart?”
“His body was found by Jane, up on Mason and Pacific. I believe that’s about two blocks from your house. See, Mario, I don’t want to say this, but all of these victims were found near where you live and work.”
“That’s not hard here in North Beach. I mean, Tony, he lives right up there at Leavenworth.”
“Mario, what were you doing that morning of the 9th.”
“I was loading milk.”
Sosa waited silently. After five minutes or so, Sosa broke the silence, speaking very softly. “Why did you do it, Mario?”
Mario combed his hair with his hand, sipped his water. “What are you talking about?”
Back at the monitor, Mikey and Beth looked at each other.
“You don’t like it that we go to Roma’s, do you?” Sosa asked. “You don’t like it that we call everything around Columbus, Chinatown, do you?” Sosa continued in his quiet voice. “And what really gets you are these dot-commers filling up your neighborhood, isn’t it?”
Mario dismissed Sosa with a wave of his hand. “Oh come on. Nobody would kill over that.”
Sosa continued. “Thing is, your parents, and your grandparents, all grew up here in this neighborhood. A neighborhood that you can barely live in.”
Mario looked up at Sosa. “You have no idea what it’s like.”
A chill went through Beth’s spine. She gripped her arms tighter and leaned in farther to the monitor.
“Last December, I was taking some pannetone to my grandmother’s house up on Union. Some Brooks Brothers loser was talking on his super fancy Nokia about buying some hot new internet company, all the while pissing this long stream on my grandmother’s house, like we’re some huge toilet to him. Like those people who make sure to say ‘Grazie’ and ‘Bonna Serra’ like they’re into some Rick Steve’s fucking European vacation. I just hate the fucking Bay Area losers that traipse in here from their pink micromansions in San Jose and expect us to speak Italiano and make a double tall skinny mocha. Saying they’re locals. I’m a fucking local. And we’re not your toilet, or your playground. This is where we live.”
“So what happened after you left Tony & Nik’s?”
“I was just sick of it that day. Worked all day at the restaurant, nobody tipped well. Then the bar was full of all those snooty types, and if there’s any bar that is safe from partying wealthy kids, it’s Tony & Nik’s, then that opera group came in. The last straw though was some fucker pissing all over the sidewalk. I shot him. Covered him up. Made him look like a panhandler.”
“The guy in the park? June 9th?”
“That was my first. I had always thought about it. What if I just bashed this guy’s skull in? Could I do it? Before I even finished thinking about it, I was doing it. He was some guy that wanted to buy my grandmother’s house, I guess, because he was talking on his cell phone right in front of her house, criticizing the paint, the stairs. He was going the first floor and put in parking. That was my dad’s old bedroom. I knew she’d sell too, because she wanted me to have the money, to move away. Fucker. I bashed his head into the wall. ”
“The victim in front of Trieste?”
“You’d think I was safe, coming into work early where nobody was around. We got graffiti tagged the night before so I was painting over it, waiting for the milk delivery, and this guy walks up the street, like he’s about to say something to me, then opens his mouth and vomits a few feet away. Like people don’t work here, don’t live here.”
“Mario, I’m booking you on three counts of murder in the first degree.”