Paolo rushed over as soon as he got the call. His heart is hammering and he feels light headed as he runs towards Tulip; all he knows is that Krista is in the police station. Nothing else.
"Where is she? Is she ok? Did something happen to her?" he asks almost all at once. Images of Krista having been mugged, attacked, or worse have been flying around in his head during his drive to the police station.
Tulip hesitates a moment. Paolo thinks Krista is here as a victim of a crime.
This is going to be harder than she thought.
"Krista's fine," physically, Tulip mentally adds, "But she's not here because something happened to her." Seeing Paolo's confusion, she steels herself, then comes out with it, "She was arrested, Paolo."
His confusion magnifies. "Arrested? What the hell for?"
"Look, maybe it would be better if we sat down first-,"
"What did she get arrested for, Tulip?!"
"Paolo! Calm down!" Tulip is surprised to see her normally placid younger brother so angry. He has never yelled at her- or at anyone- before.
Anger and frustration melt into worry, "I just want to know what's going on."
Tulip resolves to face this head-on. Her brother deserves an explanation.
"Look, what I'm about to tell you, I'm telling you as Officer Winterly-Singleton, not your sister Tulip," Tulip prefaces.
The conflict of interest in this entire case is already too high. If the team was bigger, someone else could be doing this, would be doing this, for her. But Appaloosa Plains is small, and isolated. After travelling to the neighboring- but still far away- cities for undercover work, Tulip feels this more so than when she first joined the force. In the bigger cities, conflict of interest is avoidable, at least to a higher degree than it is here, where the criminals you arrest are your in-laws, or your high school prom date, or your old math teacher, and the people you work with have known you since kindergarten.
Paolo's back is already straight with anxiety and hyper-alertness, but it straightens even more as he listens to his older sister. To say that her tone worries him would be like saying rain is wet.
"Krista has connections to the local criminal element."
"I know that, everyone knows that, c'mon Tulip, the 'criminal element' here is composed of her immediate family," Paolo says with an eye roll.
"Her connections run deeper than that."
Paolo quickly puts two and two together.
"You mean...she's apart of it."
"Do you have any kind of proof?"
Tulip looks at Paolo and doesn't see her brother, but a man trying to protect his family. He can't believe that his wife is guilty of a crime. Or more accurately, doesn't want to believe it.
"If there wasn't any, we wouldn't be here right now," Tulip says softly.
Paolo presses for specifics.
Tulip can't give many, the case is too sensitive.
"All I can tell you right now is that there's enough evidence to charge her of committing several crimes. Serious crimes." Selling harvesters illegally in this sector is quite a serious crime, given how regulated their distribution is, given the nefarious activities they can be used for, but Tulip knows that Krista was brought in for far more than just that.
Active participation in smuggling and theft.
Complicity in criminal activity.
Krista could be going away for a long, long time.
One of the Parrotts will be behind bars, but it won't be the the orchestrator of all of this, so Tulip can deeply empathize with Paolo's anguish at not being able to help Krista.
"When can I see her?"
Tulip sighs. "Even I don't know the answer to that one. Officer Loveland is talking to her right now, it could be awhile. I'm going to be honest, Paolo, things don't look good for her."
Paolo groans with frustration and throws his head back against the couch. "Why is this happening?"
Tulip thinks back to how this entire investigation began.
It was several months ago on a Wednesday night. Tulip remembers the day because usually Wednesdays Rodney, her husband, would make a hamburger for himself for dinner, and they would watch some stupid comedy together.
That particular Wednesday she was running late for the movie because her work computer broke down. Again. Their tiny precinct couldn't afford an IT department and their computers were ancient dinosaurs. Tulip as both the rookie and the only officer with any handiness or technical skill was designated as the "IT expert", basically meaning she had to fix any and all computer problems. This was, of course, without the corresponding pay.
Stupid piece of crap, Tulip had thought sourly as she closed up the computer, how the hell did so many ants get inside of you anyways? The police precinct, while far from the cleanest place on the planet, or even Appaloosa Plains, did not have an insect problem, leaving this recent infestation a complete mystery.
Being an exterminator-computer repair woman was certainly not what Tulip had had in mind when joining the police force.
While she was giving the computer a test run before going home, Markus Sterling, her boss, came out of the interrogation room.
"Winterly, I need to talk to you."
"Good evening to you too, Captain Sterling," she had muttered. Captain Sterling was the most humorless blah of a person Tulip had ever met, as Xara had described him after meeting him at Tulip's wedding. While Tulip admired him for his leadership and good work, she had to admit that social interaction was definitely not one of his strong points.
"I have a criminal in the interrogation room... Keith Chandra. He demands to speak to you, and only you."
Tulip was bewildered, "What? Did he say why?"
Captain Sterling shook his head in the negative, "Only that he had evidence on Pablo Parrott, but would only divulge it after speaking with you."
"So, should I do it?" Please say yes, please say yes... Tulip had been not-so-subtly aiming for a heavier workload ever since she got her badge. This could be the first step towards cementing herself as a reliable detective.
He thrummed his fingers thoughtfully on his chin. "Pablo Parrott has been under investigation since before you joined the force. If Chandra has anything useful on him...."
Sorry Rodney, we'll have to do hamburgers and comedy another night.
"I'll do it."
Captain Sterling nodded towards his office. "I'll brief you."
Tulip had only been in here several times, twice before for promotions, other times to hand in paperwork. She sat ramrod straight in her chair. This was the first time that she would be briefed. Finally, what she had been working for was in her grasp- the real investigations, the cases that actually made a difference for people.
Captain sterling retrieved a folder from a cabinet on the other side of the room. He flipped it open and placed it on the table. Tulip couldn't see what was in it, beyond a few photos and what looked like police reports.
"I don't have to explain to you how sensitive this case is."
"No, you don't."
Captain Sterling nodded somberly, and handed the case file over to Tulip. "This is what we have on Chandra. You'll be able to see that there are some gaps in our files."
Tulip had always been a fast reader. Coupled with the brevity of the files, it didn't take her long to make her way through the folder. Some of the information she already knew, like his close association with his brother, Pablo. Some she did not. The reports indicated that he was a glorified errand boy of some kind, often taking care of minor dealings and other miscellaneous tasks.
"We also suspect that he's in charge of recruitment," Captain Sterling added, "But we have nothing solid to support that, so it's not in the file."
Tulip nodded. "Well, I don't mean to be dense, but if he's so unimportant, what could we get from him?"
"There's more to him than those files. He lawyers up every time he gets caught, and is normally very quickly bailed out by someone in the organisation- if he weren't important, they probably wouldn't bother. I suspect he's integral to their day-to-day operations, so they can't afford to have him spend even one night in jail."
The captain sighed. "Yes, suspect. It's what our intel alleges, anyways."
"We have someone on the inside. I can't tell you who, but they work with the Parrotts. They have dealings with Keith quite often."
"What should I be trying to get out of Chandra?" Tulip decided to focus on the task at hand.
"Find out what he has on Pablo. We need something concrete linking Pablo to his smuggling operations. Chandra probably already knows this. There must be something he wants to tell you, if he asked for you specifically."
Tulip nodded. "I won't let you down."
Captain Sterling looked to the side. Tulip was always so eager to work, so determined to prove herself. He'd seen so many officers like her quickly become jaded and broken after facing the reality of crime.
You can't save everyone.
The Captain stood on the other side of the double mirror, monitoring the progress of the interrogation. Keith would hardly be the first person she'd questioned there, but he would be the first "big" one. Tulip knew how important this was.
Keith was nonchalantly sipping at lukewarm coffee when she came in. Apparently the Captain had given him something to drink.
"They give Appaloosa's finest some pretty shit coffee," he commented, not even bothering to glance up at Tulip.
She waited until he finished his long gulp of coffee and put the cup away before speaking.
"You said you had something to tell me?"
"Well yeah, the coffee's pretty terrible. That's about it."
Tulip repressed the urge to roll her eyes, "Anything else?"
"Well yeah, I think that hat's pretty dum-,"
"Something important, Chandra?"
He scowled at the mention of his last name. Most people knew him as one of the Parrotts, or as Mark. His mother, Vallari Chandra, was long gone, and Keith didn't need any reminders of her.
Tulip took this as the beginning of their real conversation and sat down.
"Now, what is it that you wanted to say to me?" she repeated, smiling as she did so.
Keith wordlessly pulled out a USB drive and slid it across the table. "I want you to take a look at this."
She took the USB drive carefully and put it in her pocket. "What's on it?"
"Just look at it first."
"Why don't you just tell me?"
Keith adjusted him self in his chair, facing slightly away from Tulip. He then inspected his nails, choosing not to answer.
Tulip's eyes narrowed, "I don't have time for this." She began to stand up to leave.
"They're files," Keith said suddenly. "...on your family."
Tulip leaned forward in her seat, her eyes hard and piercing.
"Don't play games with me, Chandra."
"I'm not. Pablo had me follow your family around for a few days and collect information on them."
"Why do you think? In case your investigation started to get a bit too close... or if Krista went off the rails..."
"No, I mean, why are you giving these to me? You know information on my family isn't going to mean anything to the police department."
"There's other information on there, too."
"Financial records, from around the time of my father's death. It's proof of our 'criminal activity', the proof that I think you've been looking for, unless that undercover cop infiltrated our company for shits and giggles."
Tulip's eyes kept pinning him there, but confusion lanced through her thoughts. How did he know that they had someone undercover?
"And what guarantee do we have that these records are legit? For all we know, these have been altered."
"That's Pablo's personal USB drive. He's not organised- you've gotta know that the organisation is falling apart under his leadership by now- he just let me keep this for him. Besides, I would imagine that the police department has ways of verifying information- unless you really are the incompetent, donut eating stereotype."
This time Tulip doesn't even bother to hide her eye roll. "I don't get paid enough to deal with this," she said melodramatically. She pulled the USB drive out of her pocket and dropped it on the table, "Maybe you should bring it to someone competent next time."
She got up to leave. It was all apart of her strategy of course; there was something Keith was holding back. She felt it. Something not on the USB drive. She needed to know what it was.
Predictably, he snapped. He jumped from his chair, and for the first time in the entire time they had known each other, Keith looked genuinely worried.
"Wait, Tulip! Please. You need to take it."
"Why should I?"
Keith was scared. From the first day that he joined the business, he had been constantly terrified. His older brother, a once sociable if a bit emotionally intense fellow, had turned into a monster, the kind who contemplated murder with barely a second thought. Keith never wanted this life. He just wanted to take care of his mom and have fun.
But those kinds of things are too embarrassing to say out loud, especially to a cop, so Keith didn't tell her that.
"I want out. This shit's too serious for me- too many rules, too many consequences. I want to be able to relax without having to worry about going to jail or getting the crap beaten out of me for stepping out of line, you know? If Pablo is put away, and I can get a plea deal for helping out, then I can finally leave."
Tulip knew he wasn't telling the whole truth, but it was close enough. She put the USB drive back into her pocket.
"I'll look at what's on it."
They might not have had an IT department, but Tulip's tech skills were good enough to verify that the USB had no viruses on it and did indeed contain financial records, though some names were annoyingly redacted, as well as hundreds of photos of Xara, Paolo, Rodney, her niece and nephew, and her parents, along with some word documents describing their routines. Checking the authenticity of the financial records was a bit above her ability, so the USB still needed to be sent somewhere else to be verified.
Tulip was not surprised that her family was being watched. This did not mean that she did not feel sick to her stomach seeing their habits so thoroughly documented by someone like Pablo Parrott.
"Did you know that they were targeting my family?" she demanded to Captain Sterling, "Did the undercover operative know?"
His silence was answer enough.
She gripped her roiling stomach.
"They were planning to...to...even Tula and Gregory, they're-they're just kids," she gasped. Her niece and nephew were barely in elementary school. She couldn't wrap her head around the idea of someone hurting children. She had heard about it, of course, but in their tiny town, things like that weren't supposed to happen.
Captain Sterling hesitated, then put a comforting hand on her elbow. Her first glimpse into true crime. Many police officers experienced this moment at some point on the job. He could have told her that it was ok, that they would get the bad guys, but Markus Sterling had not become Captain without witnessing his fair share of disappointment and cases gone wrong. He could not promise something so enormous with certainty.
"Calm down, Winterly. It hasn't gotten that far. We need to focus on the case."
Tulip took a deep breath, and re-focused her thoughts. "Why did you think he asked to speak to me, anyways?"
The Captain shrugged. "I guess maybe because your sister-in-law works with him, so he thinks he can trust you."
Tulip's expression hardened at the mention of Krista. Aside from those few vague seasonal party conversations with Pablo, Tulip hadn't obtained any evidence showing a concrete link between Krista and the criminal underground. Krista's name showed up many times on the USB financial records, apparently being on their payroll and a front to sink some of their money into. If these files were legit, Krista was going to get into a lot of trouble... Tulip tried not to think about it.
Tulip knew, logically, that under normal circumstances that she wouldn't be involved with this investigation at all. Her promotion to detective was several months away, meaning she didn't have the clearance to know most of this information. Her being briefed and cleared to question him was only because Keith Chandra requested her presence, specifically.
And Keith must have known I was too low on the chain to investigate him...so why did he involve me at all? Tulip couldn't figure it out. True, her brother was married to a Parrott, but Keith must have already known that this fact would not garner him any favor with her.
So it must be something else... something he won't tell me. She didn't like it.
But she didn't have time to ruminate on it. Captain Sterling already had a plan.
"Ever since Kanoa Parrott moved to this town, the crime here has been...different. More focused on smuggling, more cut-throat. The captain before me, he didn't know how to handle it. This...this is an enormous opportunity, Winterly. We must seize it."
"I completely agree, but how are we going to do this? What if the evidence Chandra gave us isn't enough?"
"Leave that to me; I can talk to the DA and see what the scope of the evidence we have here is. If the files are legitimate, we can work with Chandra and infiltrate the organisation, more than we can do with an undercover operative who isn't 'apart of the family'."
"And if they aren't legit?"
The Captain shrugged, "Then we keep going with Plan A; the undercover cop. It will take awhile, but I have confidence in their abilities."
"What do I need to do?"
For the first time since she signed up for this job, Captain Sterling smiled at her.
"First, once we verify the contents of the USB, and if they are truly what they appear to be, you need to go back in there and tell Chandra this..."
It took most of the night, but Tulip did eventually go back into the interrogation room. She found Keith pacing inside, instead of sleeping like she expected.
"Man you guys can really keep a man waiting."
Tulip ignored his complaints. "It seems that your USB has some good information on it after all."
"Well, yeah, you think I would risk my life by betraying my brother otherwise?"
"The DA is willing to offer you some leniency, in exchange for some other...help."
"In a few hours, I will have an agreement- in writing- that you can look over. You can call a lawyer to verify the terms, but basically it's this; you're going to help us corner Pablo and find the rest of his associates, the ones redacted out on those documents you gave us, and make sure they're put away."
Keith scowled, "That's a lot that you're asking for. What do I get in return?"
Tulip suppressed a snarl of disgust, "Seven years in prison, possibility of parole after the 3rd year. You can get released earlier if you stay on your best behavior in prison, and you'd get your own cell."
Keith mulled it over. "Seven years? You must be kidding. That's way too long."
Tulip finally snapped. "That's a third of the sentence you would get otherwise! You do realize the records you gave us implicate you too. And it wouldn't be the first time you'd be in jail, so you wouldn't even get a first-offender deal. If you don't help us, you'll be going down with the rest of your company, do you realize that!?"
"I want to talk to my lawyer."
Tulip snorted. "I'll go call him."
And thus began their illustrious partnership.
Back in the present, Roman walks out of the interrogation room. His blank expression sends a flash of unease throughout Tulip.
She pushes Paolo back onto the couch when he tries to stand up. She needs to know what happened so she can keep her younger brother from doing anything rash.
"How did the interrogation go?" she whispers to Roman, glancing at Paolo who is up and hovering behind them.
"She...admitted everything. She didn't even call a lawyer- no, she refused to call one."
Tulip's mind is reeling. "Refused?"
"Yeah! I offered to call someone for her, but she said no..."
"So she's just...accepting it? Just like that?"
Roman sighs heavily. "I told her about the deal the DA is willing to offer her. She said she'll sign it once it comes in..."
"Ten to fifteen years in prison..." Less, after she cooperates with them as the plea deal will outline, but the thought of Krista in jail for even a year makes Tulip feel horrible.
Paolo can't keep to himself after hearing that.
"Fifteen years!? There's no way Krista did anything to get a prison sentence like that! What kind of evidence do you even have!"
"The charges must be inflated! You probably got the wrong person!"
"Paolo, stop..." Tulip tells her brother softly, "Krista committed crimes. She admitted it."
"Krista would never do anything like that! I bet she was coerced into saying that!"
Roman sighs. "All interrogations are recorded. You can see for yourself later, she admitted to her crimes completely by herself..."
For a frightening moment, it seems like Paolo is going to attack Roman.
"Roman, let Paolo talk to her."
Roman looks between Tulip and her brother and hesitates. "Are you sure?"
"It won't do any harm."
Roman wants to point out that Paolo could convince Krista to recant everything, and Tulip knows it.
"I'll be in the room with them, it's ok."
Roman sighs and relents. "If Captain Sterling asks..."
"I'll take full responsibility."
Paolo enters the interrogation room. His entrance catches Krista completely by surprise.
"Paolo what are you-,"
"What did they make you admit to? Tell me, I can help, we can get a good lawyer and I-,"
"They didn't make me admit to anything, Paolo. I'm guilty of all the charges."
"Krista, just because the police want you to believe that-,"
"Paolo, I did it. My inventing business, it was just a sham. It wasn't ever real."
She stands up and embraces him.
"I'm sorry, Paolo. I know you think I'm a good person...but I helped my brothers." The tears she's been holding at bay for the past few hours finally begin to flow. "I-I'm a criminal, just like them."
Paolo strokes her hair comfortingly. "Whatever you did, Krista... I'm sure it wasn't criminal. You are a good person..."
This just makes her cry even harder. She never deserved Paolo. She knew that as soon as he proposed to her. But it was so easy to pretend, so easy to keep reality away...
She can't hide from it now. She's made her choices, and now she has to accept the consequences.
Paolo withdraws. "Krista, you're not-,"
"A criminal?" she laughs bitterly, "I wish I wasn't, Paolo. But I am. I might not have directly stolen things for my brothers, I might not have been there when they robbed people, hid evidence, smuggled items... but I helped them. I gave them gadgets to make it easier, places to hide their stolen things...a business to funnel money through, to hide their activities. I-I...I'm an accomplice."
Paolo tries to process this information. The Krista he knows is a care-free, mellow person who often enters rooms then forgets why she came there in the first place. She wouldn't have the capacity to commit a crime.
Krista sighs, then smiles sadly. "It's...hard to accept, but I'm getting what I deserve..."
"What you deserve? How about me, and Tula? I can't accept that you would just abandon us!"
"That's why I'm doing this!" her voice comes out in a strangled sob, "The farther away I am from Tula, the better... she'll be free from my family. She'll have you a-and her grandparents..."
"But she won't have her mother!"
Tulip, who has been quietly observing from the other side of the double mirror, enters the room now.
"Paolo, you need to calm down, or else I'll have to remove you." She doesn't think Paolo would ever hurt Krista, not on purpose. But emotions are clouding, and in less than a few hours, Paolo's entire world has been turned upside down. He might say or do something he'll regret because of it.
Krista looks at her sister-in-law, her expression unreadable. "It's ok, Tulip..."
She turns back to Paolo and slides her hands into his.
"I-I'll help the police with their investigation, and they'll show me leniency. I won't be gone forever," she clumsily tries to comfort her husband.
"But if you'd just let me call you a lawyer-,"
Krista shakes her head, and forces a smile. "Even if I got acquitted of all charges, I would just be avoiding reality again. This is the only way I can make sure my brother can't get near Tula. She'll only be safe if he's in prison. Don't you see, I'm doing this for her," she tries to swallow the lump in her throat, "Let me protect our daughter, Paolo....please."
Paolo feels defeated. He can see in her eyes that there's nothing he can do to change her mind, but he can't just give up on her like this.
"But Krista, you don't have to do this. I'm sure the police can get by without your help, just let them handle it."
"But I do. That's what I've been trying to tell you this entire time. If I turn my back on this, they might catch him, but when? A year? Two? Ten? Twenty? As long as Pablo is out there, Tula is in danger. I have to do this."
He suddenly remembers the day that he proposed to her- the intense yearning he felt to keep her close. How he told her he didn't want to lose her.
He still doesn't.
Krista presses a kiss to his lips.
"I love you Paolo."
Tulip feels her cellphone vibrate in her pocket. She glances at the screen; a text from Roman. The DA must be here.
"We have to go, Paolo..."
He lets Tulip push him towards the door.
Krista watches as the two walk away.
While Tulip tries to tell him that she'll be there for him, Paolo feels nothing. He lets her guide him out of the police station, completely surrendering. The battle has already been lost.
Krista is gone, and there is nothing he can do.
AN: So this is where I complain about this chapter. I know that in real life the police probably operate far differently, but again, this is Sims 3, and Appaloosa Plains is a very small town. I imagine conflict of interest is inevitable.
I also have no idea how much jail time Krista would get in real life for the crimes listed in this chapter. You can imagine that the DA tailored her sentence, either to shorten it drastically since she's being very cooperative and hasn't been convicted of any crimes before, or that it's a harsh sentence because Appaloosa Plains has harsh penalties in general.
So why does Keith get a shorter sentence than Krista? Well...
A) he can be far more useful than Krista to the police and,
B) Him being an experienced criminal, I imagine he's covered his tracks rather well for the bigger crimes, and Tulip mentioned that he could have gone to jail for much longer without the plea deal, so I imagine there are still a few big crimes, and many small ones, that they can pin on him.
Also Captain Sterling was inspired by Captain Raymond Holt from the comedy police show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, both of them being humorless, no nonsense captains to their police teams. There are a few differences personality trait wise, such as Markus being family oriented and, curiously, a party animal, but for the depiction in this chapter he is pretty close to being a copy of Raymond Holt.