Since both Maria and Arnaldo refused to provide any more information to me, I decided to go to the top.
After all, my inner voice told me, if you want someone to break the rules, go see the people who actually make the rules, because they do it all the time.
Unfortunately, visiting hours for the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater had already expired by the time I left Chaska late Friday afternoon. My first chance to see Cesar was at eight fifteen Saturday morning in the prison’s noncontact visiting room. So that’s where I was, sitting on a stool attached to the wall that resembled a toilet seat. Cesar was sitting on a molded chair inside a tiled room the size of a closet. A brick wall, iron bars, and reinforced glass separated the two of us.
I picked up the black telephone receiver so I could speak to him, yet he did not pick up his. Instead, he merely gazed at me through half-closed eyes, his expression as vague as the dark side of the moon.
I returned the receiver to the cradle and found my cell phone. I called up the photograph of Navarre that Riley had sent me and pressed the phone to the glass. Cesar glanced at it and yawned some more. I called up the photo of an angry-looking Arnaldo, the one where he was wearing a 937 Mexican Mafia T-shirt, and pressed that against the glass. Cesar took one look at it and snatched his telephone receiver off the wall. I quickly grabbed mine.
“Where did that come from?” he asked.
“I took it in the parking lot of a restaurant that your brother and his Mexican Mafia friends set on fire Wednesday night.”
“Nine-Thirty-Seven don’t exist no more. It’s gone.”
“Arnaldo seems to be reviving it. Both he and Maria.”
I used the names of Cesar’s brother and sister on purpose to see what kind of reaction it would provoke. Yet Cesar gave me nothing but a blank stare. I recalled the photograph of Navarre and pressed it against the glass again.
“He calls himself Juan Carlos Navarre,” I said. “Who is he really?”
“You a cop?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Who are you then?”
“My name is McKenzie. Look, you’re not the only one searching for Navarre. There are a couple of others, too. One of them raped and murdered a friend of mine to get information. That’s who I want.”
“I don’t care about you or your friend.”
“You do care about Navarre. Help me find him.”
Cesar leaned back and prepared to hang up his phone. I rapped on the glass with my receiver.
“You dumb jerk,” I shouted.
Cesar brought the receiver up to his mouth as if he wanted to give me a few choice words before hanging up. I beat him to it.
“Hey, asshole. Do you want Arnaldo to join you in here? He’s looking at an arson rap. Maybe you can share a cell with him. And Maria? Pretty girl. Why don’t you just punch her ticket to the women’s prison in Shakopee as an accomplice? We’ll see how long she stays pretty. You fucked up your life; you want them to fuck up theirs?” I found Arnaldo’s pic again and showed it to Cesar. “He’s wearing a fucking gang sign on a T-shirt. How long do you think he’s going to last before the cops grab him up?”
Cesar stared at the photograph of his little brother.
“Arnaldo is trying hard to find Navarre—for you. Only he and his crew haven’t got the smarts for it. I do. Give me something to work with. Once I find Navarre your people can do whatever you want with him. I don’t care. He means nothing to me.”
“You give him up?”
“In a heartbeat,” I said, wondering at the same time if it was true.
Cesar stared at the pic of his brother some more and leaned forward. He whispered into the receiver.
“Who is he?” I asked.
“Traidor? Traitor? Did you say traitor?”
Cesar hung up the phone without answering, left the visiting room, and made his way back to his prison cell.
I called Bobby Dunston from the prison parking lot.
“I need a favor,” I said.
“It’s nine o’clock,” he told me. “At nine thirty I’m leaving the house. I’m taking Shelby and the girls to TCF Stadium to watch the alma mater play Ohio State.”
“The Gophers are going to get crushed.”
“You are the most negative person I know, McKenzie. How do you even get through the day?”
“I need a favor.”
“So you said. I’m saying if I can’t do it in the next thirty minutes, it’s not going to get done.”
“Can you reach out to someone for me?”
“Anyone involved with the Nine-Thirty-Seven Mexican Mafia thing that’s still around.”
“Everyone’s still around, McKenzie. You’re the only one who quit.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Like you haven’t heard that before, my inner voice said.
“There’s a detective in West St. Paul that worked the case,” Bobby told me. “He’s the guy I spoke to Thursday morning—the one who gave me the intel I passed on to you.”
“Can you ask him to meet with me?”