The two met Roy in the diner a block away from the precinct. He’d insisted on having an hour first, to grab a shower and civilian clothes. Once they had their coffee and gave their orders, Payton settled back and looked at him with a meditative frown.
“This isn’t going to be a conventional interview, Mendez,” she noted. “If it bothers you, let me give you my apologies in advance.”
Roy finished stirring creamer into his coffee and took a swig before putting his cup down, sitting back and answering, firmly, “I ain’t no spook.”
Cipolli chuckled and nodded. “We already know that, Roy. You went through one of our full background checks after that incident with the little girl and the drugs.”
“Full background? Just look at my birth certificate!”
“Mm,” he mulled. “That doesn’t mean a lot. Some spooks are folks who come from right here on Earth. But, like I said, we’ve confirmed you aren’t one of those. Okay?”
Payton cleared her throat, and Cipolli then appeared to realize something. It created a long enough pause for Roy to pick up on what the man had just confirmed for him. “So it’s true that the rest really don’t come from Earth.”
Most people believed it to be the case, but the government never admitted it. The official stance on spooks remained ‘unexplained phenomena.’ Extraterrestrial origins were never admitted to.
The younger detective looked rueful. “I should have worded that differently.”
“So what else do you know about them?” Roy pressed. “What else are you keeping from the rest of us?”
Payton pressed her lips together tightly and shook her head. “Roy, we have special training in Spook matters. Top secret stuff. I honestly would rather tell you patrol officers everything I know, because it would help you guys a lot. But it’s against the rules.”
“Whose rules?” he demanded. Except for rules about ongoing investigations and privacy, he couldn’t imagine anything in the St. Louis MPD regulations forbidding giving out vital information about spooks and their origins.
“Roy,” Cipolli interrupted. “Drop it. You don’t have sufficient need to know, so we can’t tell you. It’s rules we don’t have any choice except to follow. That’s all we can say to you about it.”
Roy scratched his cheek, wondering whether to pursue it. Making trouble for the only people who seemed to know anything about what happened to Jack didn’t seem like a good plan.
With a shrug, he asked instead, “Then what’s this about? The only contact I have with that abduction case is what happened night before last, and I already went over that with the other detectives.”
She nodded. “Yup. We’ve already been over your debriefing report. But we want to talk to you about your partner.”
“What about Jack? He ain’t no spook, either!”
“Keep it down, Mendez,” Cipolli advised in a low voice. “Just hear us out, okay? We just have to do the same screening on him that we did on you. It’s just procedure.”
He controlled his temper and nodded. Payton shook her head with an amused look. Cipolli had taken out a pad for taking notes, but he seemed to be doodling some random scribble on it. It might have a structure of some sort, like a mandala.
“First of all,” Cipolli asked, do you know much about his past?”
Roy nodded “Some. We’ve been friends ever since I moved to this district. What are you looking for?”
“Just verification of a few items. First of all, did he talk to you at all about his childhood?”
“Yeah,” Roy nodded. “Not a lot though. He don’t like talking about it. Sounded like he had it pretty rough.”
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