Pain & Gain, Part 2

Miami's Sun Gym gang developed a taste for blood and money. The police could have stopped them before they killed somebody. But they didn't.

The robbery bureau? Du Bois was dumbfounded. "Gary, are you kidding me?" he asked. "You're going to transfer a complex, nasty case like this to robbery, which is already dealing with 10,000 purse snatchings and smash-and-grabs? You're shit-canning this case. Why?"

Porterfield said his supervisor, Lt. Ed Petow, had concluded that the basic elements of the case were robbery. Yeah, Du Bois thought, and Oswald was guilty of illegally discharging a firearm in a public place. "Face it," he said, "the bottom line of almost every crime is an attempt to illegally gain money or property." But this case was brutally different.

Du Bois knew he'd just heard the death knell to any serious investigation. Worse yet, it would leave the goons on the street. They still had Schiller's money, but when that ran out, they'd snatch and torture someone else.

Porterfield led them to Metro-Dade Police headquarters, a couple of miles away, as Du Bois followed in his car. Schiller couldn't believe they'd blown him off after the information they'd provided.

"Hey, Ed, I mean ... robbery?" Schiller began. "This is kidnapping, attempted murder, conspiracy ... torture."

Du Bois tried to cheer him up but was in shock himself. In the short drive to police headquarters, the solid professional landscape he'd cultivated over the past two decades had metamorphosed into a surreal, receding mirage.

As Porterfield escorted them to the robbery bureau, Du Bois noticed a lone detective seated in the waiting area. The man was smirking at them and softly clapping his hands. Schiller went to his interview, and Porterfield walked off down the hall with the detective who'd just applauded their arrival. Du Bois approached the bureau's secretary. "Why was that detective clapping and staring at us?" he asked.

"Well, don't tell anyone I told you," she replied as she peered over her shoulder, "but SID called over here this morning and said we should expect an Academy Award-winning performance and story from Mr. Schiller today."

That's it, Du Bois, thought. This investigation is doomed. SID had poisoned the Schiller case. But why? He had to get outside for some air. He had to think.

It was there, on a balcony, that homicide Capt. Al Harper, who'd first suggested the case go to SID, came upon him. Du Bois was pacing, confused and angry. "What are you doing here?" Harper asked, surprised to see him.

"This is where SID sent us."

"Something's wrong," said Harper. "That case doesn't belong in robbery."

Schiller was having a rough time of his own with Sgt. Jim Maier, head of a task force designed to stop tourist robbers, and robbery Det. Iris Deegan. Three times during the interview, Deegan interrupted to warn him it was a crime to file a false complaint. The police don't have time to ride around pursuing every wild story we hear, she said.

Schiller might have expected skepticism from his State Farm claims agent, but not from the police. "Listen," he said, "do me one favor. Follow up on Du Bois's leads. These are dangerous people; other people could be harmed. If you're wasting your time, throw me in jail." Why on earth weren't Deegan and Maier eager to arrest these guys? Why were they so insulting? Why were they making the victim feel like a criminal?

Finally he had to ask: "Do you think I'm making this whole thing up? Do you think, what, I don't know, I've got this huge imagination?"

"Yeah," Deegan said, "we think you're making it up."

There was still the question of the polygraph, which Ed Du Bois had requested from the outset. No one seemed to recall that now. Sergeant Maier turned around and challenged Schiller: Would he be willing to undergo a polygraph?

"Give it to me now!" he said. "I've got nothing to hide!" This was, in fact, just why he'd stayed over an extra day.

There was a catch, though. The test would have to wait, not until later that day or anytime over the weekend. He'd have to come back the following Tuesday. Weeks ago, when he'd set up the trip, SID knew he had a narrow window. It was Friday and he'd already extended the visit, and on his own dime. He was broke. The Sun Gym gang had his money and probably was looking for him.

To hell with them all. He was going home.

Schiller emerged from the interview room looking stunned and close to tears. Maier followed him and told Du Bois that unless his client was in Miami the following Tuesday for more interviews and a polygraph, the police weren't going to take his complaint any further. One look at Schiller, and Du Bois knew he wasn't about to stay around for more of whatever they'd just dished out.

Du Bois turned to Maier: "Tell me, just what is wrong with this case?"

"I don't speak to private eyes," the sergeant answered.

"Is that a personal policy or a department policy?" asked Du Bois. The conversation was giving him chills. He had a long history with Metro police; he'd worked as an outside contractor hundreds of times. He'd solved capital cases. Now they thought his client was a laughingstock, and they lacked even the decency to offer some crumb to pacify him. Yet the crimes against Schiller involved violations of almost every Florida felony statute.

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