“Sheriff Bradshaw tells me you’ve seen some gang activity that you wanted to report?” Agent Parson asked. His voice was dry, dead. His eyes calculating and unemotional. He sat with a rigid posture that made Cal’s back ache.
Cal looked over to the sheriff. How could he tell him that this was the guy. Clearly he couldn’t let Agent Parson know what he knew. Sheriff Bradshaw sat forward and steepled his fingers, his eyes watching Cal from under bushy eyebrows.
Cal looked back at the FBI agent and gave a weak cough. “Could I get some water?” He asked.
Agent Parson’s eyebrow twitched minutely.
“Yeah,” the sheriff said, pushing back from his desk. “I’ll get you a cup.”
The sheriff left the room.
Cal cursed inwardly and looked around the room in an attempt to act casual. There was a picture on the shelf of Sheriff Bradshaw with Cal’s dad.
“That’s my dad,” Cal said, pointing to the picture. He looked back at the FBI agent with a smile.
Agent Parson continued to stare at Cal.
“What did you want to tell me?” The agent asked. His tone remained even and unperturbed. “Did you witness a crime occurring?”
“No,” Cal said. “I mean, I don’t think so. It was dark, so it was hard for us to see.”
The sheriff returned and handed a cup of cold water to Cal. Cal welcomed the break in conversation and took a sip of the water. The sheriff sat back down behind his desk.
“Us?” The agent asked. “Who were you with?”
Cal squirmed. He didn’t want to pull Angel or Oscar into this, and he definitely didn’t want to give Oscar any justification for his paranoia.
“Y’know,” Cal said. “Just me and some friends.”
“I’ll need their names,” Agent Parson said.
Cal was running out of options. The cool, grey eyes stared at him. It felt like they were pushing into his mind. He had to give a name. He wanted to protect Angel from this. She had enough problems with authority already, but Oscar was his best friend. Could he really chose a beautiful, interesting girl over his best friend?
“Oscar,” Cal said. It seemed so.
“Oscar who,” the agent said patiently.
“That’s Oscar Martinez,” the sheriff said. “Mexican kid. His dad’s a defense lawyer.”
“His family is Honduran,” Cal corrected looking at the sheriff.
“Who else?” Agent Parson asked, cutting off the sheriff before he could respond to Cal.
“That was it,” Cal said, trying to keep the worry out of his voice. “Nobody else.”
“You said you were with friends, plural,” the agent said.
Cal cringed and internally criticized himself for being so careless. He decided to go on the offensive. Knock the agent off the track.
“Aren’t you going to write any of this down,” Cal asked the agent who continued to sit rigidly upright with his hands folded in his lap.
The agent leaned toward Cal slightly. “I have an excellent memory,” he said.
“It was,” Cal said. He paused, trying to bring up some name that the sheriff would believe. His mind was blank. He looked at the agent, the gray eyes boring into him. “Angel.”
“Angel?” the agent asked, this time looking to the sheriff.
“Ah, there’s some trouble,” the sheriff said shaking his head at Cal. “That’s Beth Massenburg.”
Beth, thought Cal. Angel’s name is Beth? It seemed a pretty ordinary name, though the more he thought about it, the more unique it sounded.
“Ms. Massenburg has caused some problems in the past,” the sheriff continued. “Nothing all that serious, but we’ve gotten to know her mom pretty well. Broken home. Dad’s in New York, mom’s here teaching at the community -”
“That’s fine,” the agent said, interrupting the sheriff’s story time.
For once Cal was glad for the agent’s presence. The sheriff could go on and on about things. He’d soon be talking about people who Cal had never met, and distant relations. It was nice to have somebody cut him short. Until those gray eyes focused back on him.
“And what did you and your friends thing you witnessed?” Agent Parson asked.
“Well, I’m not sure,” Cal stalled, trying to piece something together. He looked down at his feet.
“We saw some kids buying alcohol,” Cal said, relieved that he had found a cover story.
“Sheriff Bradshaw mentioned something about Mr. Walsh,” the agent continued.
“Mr. Walsh?” Cal asked, trying to be the picture of innocence. “No.” He turned to the sheriff. “Sorry, sheriff, I think you misunderstood. Mr. Walsh killed himself. That’s what the kids told us.”
“The kids who were buying alcohol?” The sheriff asked, his face screwed up in a confused frown.
“Yeah,” Cal said. He’d have to stick with the story to get the sheriff convinced.
“Mr. Cannon,” the agent said. “I’m on assignment to investigate organized crime in the northwestern states. The sheriff said you had some gang related incident to report. Or did he misunderstand that as well?”
“I thought you would want to know about the kids drinking,” Cal said. “Y’know part of the whole alcohol, tobacco, and firearms thing.”
“That would be the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,” the agent said. “The ATF. I work for the FBI: Federal Bureau of Investigation”
“Oh,” Cal said with what was intended to be an innocent chuckle. “Well of course. Never mind then.”
“Mr. Cannon,” the agent said, again with very little emotion. “Did you know it’s a federal crime to provide false testimony to a federal agent?”
Cal sat in shock. Things had been going so well.
“No,” Cal replied in a small voice. “No. Didn’t know that, no.”
He tried to think of what the punishment for a federal crime would be. Firing squad? Life in prison?
“Well, now you do.” Agent Parson said as he stood up. “I’m a very busy man.” Gray eyes stared down at Cal. “Don’t waste my time again.”
The agent left. Cal listened to him walk down the hall.
“That could’ve gone better,” he said, looking towards the sheriff.
The sheriff met his eye with a frown.
“I think you’d best get home,” the sheriff said.
“Yes, sir,” Cal replied and slunk out of the office.