The Interrogation of Gabriel James

The Interrogation of Gabriel James

by Charlie Price
The Interrogation of Gabriel James

The Interrogation of Gabriel James

by Charlie Price


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Winner of the Mystery Writers of America's 2011 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Fiction

American Library Association Quick Picks for Young Adults

Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List

Eyewitness to two killings, fourteen-year-old Gabriel James relates the shocking story behind the murders in a police interrogation interspersed with flashbacks. Step by step, this Montana teenager traces his discovery of a link between a troubled classmate's disturbing home life and an outbreak of local crime. In the process, however, Gabriel becomes increasingly confused about his own culpability for the explosive events that have unfolded.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312641610
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 05/08/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.54(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.52(d)
Lexile: HL650L (what's this?)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Charlie Price works with kids in at-risk schools, mental institutions and psychiatric hospitals. He is also an executive coach and a consultant who conducts business workshops. He lives in Northern California.

Read an Excerpt


I STOOD AT THE BACK of a small crowd in a bleak cemetery north of the Yellowstone River, the second funeral I had attended this week. A pastor waited at the head of the grave for someone to offer any last remarks. No one did. The deceased’s father stood closest to the coffin, hands cuffed in front of him, long gray hair moving when wind gusted. A deputy sheriff stood beside him, and, farther back, the cuffed man’s daughter stood with my mother, both of them in solemn black dresses that didn’t look like they would ever be worn for anything but a funeral. There was no music. If there had been any eulogy, I had missed it. I knew other people in the crowd, some from our school, some from the Community Center.

Though last week’s warm chinook had cleared snow from the surrounding hills, the ground underfoot was cold and solid, the dust bound by ice. In the distance, clouds drifted southeast toward Hardin and Crow Agency. Other than blasts of wind and people’s shoes creaking, it was quiet. Too far from the interstate to hear traffic. Too near the dead of winter for most bird songs. The pastor, a liberal theology teacher from a local college, cleared his throat. “Well,” he said, “I guess that’s all.” It sounded like an apology. Everybody began walking back toward the cars except the father and the deputy.

I stopped to watch, wondering whether the man would throw dirt on the coffin. The deputy took a step back but the father didn’t move. He was looking straight out past the grave, out toward the Prior Mountains where a falcon circled above empty rangeland.

Yesterday I had been standing in a different cemetery out the direction he was looking, where they buried another young man. That young man had killed the person being buried today. I knew there was a lot more to the story than that. I knew enough to wish that time could collapse like an old telescope, that some events once seen in greater detail would disappear from the horizon, gone for good. Gone forever.

THE NEXT DAY, Monday, I walked ahead of a deputy sheriff named Childress and a representative from the Billings Police Department into an uncarpeted room in the County Annex.

“We could have done some of this at your house,” Childress said. “You’re not under arrest.”

I waited but she didn’t say “yet.”

“I’m not exactly . . . I don’t want to talk about this at home,” I said. The concrete floor smelled stale, the room was too small and too warm. It made my concussion throb.

There were a couple of chairs on one side of the table. I took the single on the other side and noticed my reflection in the wall mirror to my right. I hadn’t slept much last night and my face was dull and colorless like a specimen in bio lab. I wasn’t sure if I was headed for jail, wasn’t sure how much of this was my fault, but I’d come up with a plan. Just answer their questions. Don’t lie, but don’t elaborate. Don’t let your guard down or give them anything to use against you. It was a familiar strategy, pretty much the way I’d operated with adults since Dad left.

Childress sat. The Billings police guy stood, leaning against the wall by the door.

“We’re recording this,” Childress said.

It wasn’t a question but I nodded.

She turned on the machine and went through the intro. Introduced the BPD guy as Kosich.

He looked familiar but I couldn’t place him. Career Day, maybe.

When Childress finished, she recited the Miranda thing. “Just in case,” she said.

I had to say yes, I understood.

“Do you want a lawyer present?” she asked.

“Should I have a lawyer?” I had been hoping this wouldn’t be quite so major.

“Do you need one?” she asked.

She didn’t ask in a challenging way, didn’t put anything into her inflection, but I knew this was an important question. They’d said they just wanted to hear my story. Right. But if I asked for a lawyer wouldn’t I seem guilty of something right away? It would be an escalation. But what if I said something stupid and incriminated myself? I had no idea what they could pin on me if they wanted to. I couldn’t decide.

“If you want one, it’s your right. We’ll stop and do this a different way.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. “I can get one later if I want. Right?”

She nodded.

“Then no, this is okay. For now.”

“Why don’t you start at the beginning?” she said. She folded her hands on the table between us.

“I’m not sure what the beginning is,” I said. It was true. I never caught up with what was happening.

“What do you know about the fire?”

“Not much. I saw it, Anita saw it from the highway when we were driving back the day before school started.”

“Anita . . .”

“I don’t want to drag her into this.”

“You already have.”

“Anita Chavez.”

The deputy waited.

“She’s a junior like me. We go to the same school. At the time she was my girlfriend.”

“Driving back. From where?”

“It doesn’t matter. What do you guys say? Not relevant.”

Childress gave Kosich a long look. Took a deep breath. Waited.

“We’d been camping.”

“Just the two of you.”

I nodded.


I didn’t say anything.

“Going to be juniors,” she said.

I listened for her disapproval. She spoke so flatly I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

“Your folks know?” she asked.

“They knew we were away for the weekend. Road trip.” I wasn’t sure whether to say the rest. Guess it wasn’t a secret anymore. “They didn’t know we were with each other.”

Kosich scratched his jaw with his thumb. Other than that, the room was still.

“How did the Ray girl feel about that?” Childress asked.

“I didn’t know her then.”

“Go on,” she said.

“So Anita saw the fire, thought maybe it was a fuel tank at the airport. We got closer and saw it was all along the base of the Rims. I dropped her off—”

“Dropped her . . .”

“At a friend’s house to pick up her car.”

“And the fire was already started.”

“I didn’t start the fire.”

“And your friend . . .” She paused to pull a small spiral pad out of her shirt pocket and thumb through the first pages until she found what she wanted. “Willoughby . . .”

“Wib. He didn’t start the fire either. He fought it. Got the burns trying to save a blue spruce at the side of his property.”

She waited.

“Up Cactus Drive at the base of the Rims, the far east side of the fire. He told them that at the hospital.”

“He save it?” This from Kosich.

I couldn’t tell if he cared or if his question was some incomprehensible strategy of interrogation.


“Then what?” Childress asked, easing back in her chair, settling in.

“Home,” I said. “I figured young kids caused the fire. By accident. Too stupid to burn the big yucca plants and old trees, black the rocks on purpose.”

“Didn’t you and your friends start a fire near Willoughby’s house a couple of years ago?”

How did she know about that? “That was some other kids. We never found out who.” My forehead was dripping. I could feel it. I thought she could see it. Great. I’ve been here one minute and I’m already sweating like a TV crook.

Childress could have been a barrel racer. She was compact, with strong hands that were clean but rough. Her face was similarly weathered, dotted with a few freckles high on her cheeks, and her washed-out blue eyes held me and made me uncomfortable.

“And that night, what did you do?”

“Stayed home.”

Excerpted from The Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price.

Copyright © 2010 by Charlie Price.

Published in 2010 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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