They were taken to a room and interrogated by a no-nonsense cop, a detective in a black sport coat. He was built like a soccer player, stocky and still muscular in middle age, thinning salt-and-pepper hair combed back. He introduced himself as Captain Ferrara. McCabe told him their names and told him they were students at Loyola University.
Chip said, “We weren’t actually stealing the taxi.”
Ferrara said, “No? What were you doing?”
Chip said, “We were drunk. It was a joke. Scherzo.”
Captain Ferrara said, “Scherzo? This is how a man makes his living and you dismiss it as something trivial, unimportant. You have too much to drink and use this as an excuse? The man’s automobile is damaged. Now he has no way to earn a living, support his family.”
Chip said, “I’ll buy him a new one.”
He held Chip in his laser gaze, eyes locked on him. Chip said, “You know who Senator Charles Tallenger is, right?”
He sounded drunk.
Captain Ferrara stared at him, studying him.
Chip said, “Well I’m his son, Charles Tallenger III.” Captain Ferrara didn’t say anything, didn’t seem
impressed, gave him a stern look.
Chip was a smartass, but McCabe had never seen him turn on this arrogant superiority. Based on the captain’s expression it didn’t seem to be going over very well.
Chip said, “I have to make a phone call.”
He said it like a spoiled Greenwich rich kid, which McCabe decided was redundant, maybe even tri-dundant if there was such a word.
“It’s my right as an American citizen,” Chip said.
Captain Ferrara said, “You are a prisoner, you have no rights. In Italy, you are guilty until proven innocent.”
Chip said, “I don’t think you understand what I’m saying.”
The captain’s face tightened, like he wanted to go over and knock Chip on his ass. He said, “No, I think you are the one who does not understand, but you will.”
He turned and walked out of the room and closed the door. McCabe said, “Do me a favor, don’t say anything else, okay?”
Chip said, “What’s your problem?”
“You’re being an asshole. Every time you open your mouth the situation gets worse.” He’d never seen Chip act like this before. Jesus.
“You want to get out of here?” Chip said. “We’ve got to tell these idiots who they’re dealing with.”
“All you’re doing is pissing him off,” McCabe said, “making things worse. I’m in this thanks to you, and I don’t want you talking for me.”
Captain Ferrara never came back, and a few minutes later a cop in a uniform came in and cuffed McCabe’s hands behind his back and took him to the garage and pushed him in the rear seat of a Fiat. Two heavyset cops squeezed in on both sides, flanking him like he was a hardened criminal, a flight risk.
The cops sitting next to him had breadcrumbs on their jackets and there was a comic-opera quality about them, big men in fancy, over-the-top uniforms with red stripes running down the sides of the pants and white leather sashes worn diagonally across their jackets, and matching white leather holsters. They held their brimmed blue hats in their
laps. McCabe thought they looked like cops from some made-up Disney dictatorship.
They pulled out of the garage and turned right and drove down Via del Corso past Victor Emmanuel, the Wedding Cake, also known as the Typewriter, past the Colosseum and the Forum and Campidoglio, the cops talking about Italy playing in the World Cup.
The cop on his left said, “Did you see Grosso score the winning penalty?”
The cop on his right said, “How about that crazy Frenchman?”
“Unbelievable,” the cop behind the wheel said. “Zidane’s a madman. Ten minutes to go, he headbutts Materazzi.
That was the game.”
“It was a factor, sure,” said the cop to his right.
The cop to his left said, “A factor, it was the difference.”
The driver glanced in the rearview mirror and said, “What are you, head of the Zidane fan club?”
“I don’t like him,” the cop to his right said. “But you have to admit he is one of the all-time greats – up there with Vava and Pele.”
“How much have you had to drink?” the cop to his left said.
When they got on the autostrada, McCabe said to the cop on his right, “Where’re we going?”
The cop looked at him and grinned like something was funny.
Twenty minutes later McCabe understood why, the walls of a prison looming in the distance, 3:30 in the morning. The cop on his right said, “Rebibbia. Your new home.”
He’d heard of Rebibbia, the prison for hardcore cons, and wondered why they were taking him there. Stealing a taxi didn’t seem serious enough. They drove along a fence topped with razor wire, the prison set back on acres of flat open land.
They entered the prison complex and McCabe’s carabinieri escorts took him into the processing area, released the cuffs and handed him over to the Polizia Penitenziara, a prison cop signing a form and giving it to one of the carabinieri cops, making the transaction official.
Then he was standing in line with at least twenty other prisoners – some he recognized from the holding cell – wait- ing to be processed. Each prisoner was photographed and fingerprinted. Then they went through a room where they were given a blanket, a tin cup, a spoon, a bar of soap, a towel.
McCabe heard Chip’s voice and saw him at the far end of the line. “I’m an American. My father is a US senator. Capisce?” The guard looked bored, his expression saying he had no idea what Chip was talking about, but there was no way he could mistake Chip’s attitude, his arrogance.
McCabe said, “Hey, Tallenger, with your connections I thought you’d be out by now. Don’t they know who you are?”