They dragged him into Interrogation #2 so quickly and so roughly that his feet hardly touched the floor. He was shoved into one of the decrepit wooden chairs and had to work at not tipping over. He'd only been wearing the cuffs for a half an hour when they'd nabbed him at the bus station, and already his shoulders were aching horribly - he felt like he'd played a 12-hour game of pond hockey. The younger of the two detectives walked around back and undid the shackles, and he let out a hefty sigh of relief.
The room was small, dark and confining. Rene began sweating, the film of moisture hard to miss on the pasty white skin that no amount of southern sun seemed able to disguise. The cops who'd hauled him in stood one on either side of the table, glaring silently down at him. Silent, he thought, as the long cold northern nights of his youth.
"I...I didn't do anything," he stammered, unable to bear the unspoken accusations he saw on their faces. It sounded hollow and he could hardly blame them for the looks of skepticism they gave back.
"Sure, Rennie. We believe you," sneered the older of the two men, a sarcastic grin creeping up one side of his face.
"That's pronounced Ren-ay, not Rennie," he mumbled.
"Oh, right," replied the veteran detective, turning a chair around and straddling it. "I forgot. Everything ends with 'ay' up where you come from. Or should I say, 'eh'?"
Rene shot him a dark, sulky look but didn't bother replying. It irked him to see the younger detective hide a smirk at his expense. Damned Americans always seemed to get the best of he and his countrymen!
"So tell us, Ren-EH," said the younger one with the dark Latino looks. "What was it that possessed you to walk into the Immigration and Naturalization Service this morning and dismember the director with an ice axe?"
"I'm telling you, it wasn't me," he replied haughtily. "I was out getting a coffee and a doughnut at the time."
"A doughnut, huh? Are you sure you don't mean...a donut?!" hollered the younger detective, slamming his fist onto the table. With a start, Rene remembered the cop's name - Curtis. And the other guy was Briscoe.
"That's what I said!"
"Yes, but when you say it, you add a bunch of letters in there that don't belong," said Briscoe accusingly.
"What...what the...what difference does that make??? And how the hell do you possibly know how I meant to spell it by the way I said it?!" Rene screamed in exasperation.
Briscoe glanced knowingly at his partner, seemingly pleased with the reaction he'd inspired in their suspect. "We're detectives, Mr. Balcer. We know these kind of things."
Rene realized then that they were goading him, trying to get him to admit to something he wasn't ready to admit. He pursed his lips tightly, determined not to let the cops wrest what little control he still had away from him.
"OK, smart guy," Curtis drawled, "Let's talk some more about your snack break. Where did you go?" The detective leaned in close so that he could watch Rene's response carefully.
Sweat broke out anew on Rene's forehead. "Uh...it was the...uh... the Tim Horton's on 38th, I think..."
Briscoe's eyes narrowed with suspicion. "The Tim-what?"
Rene realized his mistake and quickly tried to compensate. "What I meant...um...it was ...uh...Dunkin' Donuts! Yeah, that's it!"
"That's crap, Balcer, and I'm getting tired of wading into crap!" Curtis pointed a menacing finger in his face.
"Rey...Rey, settle down," urged Detective Briscoe. He turned his attention back to the suspect. "Okay, Rene. You were at the donut shop at the time of the alleged attack. Then how do you explain - THIS?!"
Rene's heart stopped beating momentarily when Briscoe shoved the plastic evidence baggie in front of him. "What? It looks like a bow tie. It could be anybody's, eh?" He tried to hang on to his composure as best he could, but his grasp was becoming tenuous at best.
"Oh sure, Ren-EH. Why, every one of our suspects could have picked up this little beauty at..." He turned the bag so Rene could see the tiny label on the back of the tie, "...the Hudson Bay Company!"
The color drained from Rene's already pallid face and he realized that there was no point in prolonging the charade of innocence. "Fine! I admit it! It was me. Oh God , it was me..." He dropped his head down onto his arms and began sobbing.
"It'll go easier on you if you tell us everything now," assured Curtis, backing off enough so that he could take a seat at the opposite end of the table.
"I know it was wrong; I don't know what came over me! I've always been so quiet, so complacent - ask anyone!" Rene wailed.
"Then what happened today?" coaxed Briscoe. "Was it the pressure of having grown up on the barren tundra, freezing your butt off in a insufficiently insulated igloo?"
"I...I..." Rene was fighting to get the words out but seemingly unable to admit the horror out loud.
"It's because the INS was going to deport you back to Canada, isn't it?" Curtis prompted gently.
"Yes," gasped the perp. "The thought was more than I could bear."
"What's so terrible about getting sent home to your own people?" asked Briscoe, his brows furrowed as he tried to rationalize such an irrational act.
"For as long as I could remember, my friends and I would wander down to the border crossing on Saturday afternoon and watch the Americans come across. Oh, they were all so magnificent! Giants amongst people, confident and worldly. Just being there made me realize how shamefully insignificant I was as a Canadian. I wanted what they had...I wanted to be one of them!" There was a faraway look in Rene's eyes as he remembered.
"And just when I realized my dream, those sons-of-bitches at the INS found out that I'd entered the country illegally, and they were drawing up the deportation orders. When I heard, I snapped, went crazy. I wasn't in my right mind, I swear!"
"How did you come over? On a boat late at night across the Great Lakes?" queried Rey.
"No, I tied myself to the chassis of a maple syrup truck leaving Quebec for Vermont. And I earned the right to be here, dammit! Do you know how many times the ropes loosened and I was dragged along the highway until the trucker had to stop for a back bacon sandwich and a beer?"
There was a new rage building in Rene's eyes, and Briscoe tried to get him to relax again. "It's okay, Balcer."
"No it's not!!! You don't understand! I'm a writer. I was doing so well; I was making something of myself down here! I can't go back! I won't write any more 'Hinterland Who's Who' vignettes for the CBC!! I won't do it!!!" Rene was wild eyed, having lost his tenuous hold on reality once more. He grabbed at Rey and was able to pull the cop's gun from his holster. He pointed it crazily from one detective to the other.
There was instant tension in the room. "Now, Ren-EH..." said Lennie slowly, standing and backing up, "you don't want to do this. Just put the gun down before you hurt yourself."
"You shouldn't be worried about me, mon ami! You should be worried about yourself!" Rene shook the gun again.
"I want you to listen to me. No one is going to send you back to Canada, okay? I can promise you that much." Briscoe kept him talking, distracting the man long enough so that Curtis could begin to edge along the wall behind him.
"What do you know? I'm pretty sure that the INS won't be giving a lot more consideration to my green card application." Rene wiped at his forehead with his sleeve, a small look of hope on his face at the detective's words.
"You killed an American citizen, pal. Not only will the DA not deport you, but he's gonna make sure that you face trial and are incarcerated in one of our fine United States prisons for the rest of your natural life! You'll never have to go back there again."
"Never? Oh, thank God!" Balcer let the gun drop slightly and Curtis jumped him from behind. Rene didn't offer him any resistance, though, and gave up the weapon readily.
"Haven't had a lot of experience with firearms, have you, Rene?" said Lennie as Rey once again cuffed the suspect.
"No...but how could you tell?" Rene felt immense relief and a new sense of peace.
"Well, you had it pointed towards yourself. That was my first clue."
"Come on, Canuck. Back to lock-up until we can have you arraigned." Curtis opened the door and took Balcer out and towards the holding cells. Lennie walked out through the front to where Jack McCoy and Abby Carmichael were watching through the one-way glass.
"Poor bastard," said Briscoe, shaking his head. "Is he gonna get the needle for this one, Counselor?"
"Naw, are you kidding? The jury hears what that guy went through, they're gonna want to give him a ticker tape parade. We'd never get a conviction with the death penalty. Besides, I think this is going to be an easy plea. Being in prison here for the next thirty years or so has to beat the hell out of going back to a God-forsaken country like Canada." Jack shrugged and packed the file away into his briefcase.
"I think we should all take a moment to thank our lucky stars that we were fortunate enough not to be born Canadian, gentlemen," croaked Abby, her voice hitching with emotion.
The two men nodded solemnly and walked back to the squad room in silence.