My friend Mariusz and I walk down Mazowiecka Street in downtown Warsaw. We’ve just had coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s a gray day, but we’re in high spirits. Then Mariusz stops.
“Did you hear about this?” he says, pointing to newspaper headlines about three 14- to 17-year-olds who beat a 29-year-old farmer to death with a wooden plank and peeled the skin off his face.
“Only huge eyes, without eyelids, are looking out,” goes the article. “The skin is gone.”
A copycat crime from a John Travolta movie? Horrible.
I buy three pink tulips for the mechanic’s mom. I’m going to visit the mechanic this evening and ask if he’s certain it was Greg who attacked him. He lives with his mom.
I’m interviewing a sociologist with soft, silvery hair and pale blue eyes at the Polish Academy of Sciences office, where she studies crime patterns. The sociologist wears a sweater and looks like my mom.
“How’d you get involved in crime?” I ask.
“I think breaking rules is more interesting than following them,” she says, sweetly.
When I walked in the mechanic’s apartment, I felt like I’d been there before. Greg’s girlfriend lives two blocks away in the same military-housing complex and has the same three-room layout, crystal, scent of strong tobacco, and tucked-away kitchen.
Swinging a slippered foot in the air, the mechanic tells me he went into a three-month rehab program in January 1996.
“It must’ve been hell to stop,” I say, forgetting he’d been to hell and back the night he was tortured by skinheads.
“Why’d you say in court you’re only 50-percent certain it was Greg who attacked you?” I ask.
“I just wanted to get out of there. I’m sure it was him.”
The mechanic says he picked the wrong man in the police lineup.
“The other guy was young and blond, too,” he says. “They all look the same.”
The mechanic was drinking the night he was attacked. That may have clouded his memory.
He’d signed a written statement saying he went to the hospital the night after he was set on fire. In court this week he said he went the next morning.
Now he says he went two days later.
“I’m sure of that,” he says, tapping a cigarette.
Finally the mechanic says he was attacked at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. Greg was working until 8 p.m., which his boss can verify.
The evidence against Greg seems shaky. What about the other crimes Greg is accused of–the beatings and two murders? Is the evidence just as shaky? That’s what I need to find out.