Before We Ask You Any Questions

“Hey, look.”



An unclothed woman in Washington, D.C. standing behind a "?" sign.
National Photo Company, 1922 (Library of Congress)


A question mark is apropos
When there are things you want to know.

Elsa Knight Bruno, Punctuation Celebration


Clown: I will Catechize the world for him; that is, make Questions and by them answer.

William Shakespeare, Othello


Let N(Q) be the number of questions.

Jun Harada, Masao Fuketa, El-Sayed Atlam, Toru Sumitomo, Wataru Hiraishi and Jun-ichi Aoe, Estimation of FAQ Knowledge Bases by Introducing Measurements (Knowledge-Based Intelligent Information and Engineering Systems)



Foley approached the Roadrunner from the left rear. Moran approached from the right rear.

Foley brought the shotgun out from under his raincoat. He lifted it slowly to the level of the windowsill of the Roadrunner and silently rested it there.

Moran stepped back two paces from the Roadrunner. He tucked the stock of the shotgun in at his waist with his right elbow. With his left hand he gripped the pump action. He brought the muzzle up to point at the window.

Jackie Brown, with his eyes closed, recovered from a long night of driving, and many frustrations.

Foley knocked on the window of the Roadrunner. Lazily, Jackie Brown turned his head. He opened his left eye. His gaze focused on the face of a stranger. “Yeah?” he said.

Foley made a cranking motion with his left hand.

Jackie Brown shook his head. He reached forward and rolled the window down. “Yeah?” he said again.

“United States Treasury,” Foley said. “You’re under arrest. Come out slow and easy and keep your hands in plain sight. One move and you’re a dead fucking man.” He brought the shotgun up with his right hand. He brought his left hand under the pump and held it steady.

“Holy shit,” Jackie Brown said. He looked to his right. Moran stood there, pointing a shotgun through the window. In front of the Roadrunner, two men advanced with revolvers pointed at him through the windshield. “Hey,” he said.

“Get out of the car,” Foley said. He reached in and lifted the door lock. He opened the door from the outside. “Get out.” The shotgun remained leveled at Jackie Brown’s head.

“Hey,” Jackie Brown said, swinging his legs out of the car. “Hey, look.”

Foley grabbed him as he got out. Foley turned him around. “Put your hands on the roof of the car,” Foley said. “Move your feet back.”

Jackie Brown did as he was told. He felt hands begin to pat him down. “What the fuck’s this all about?” he said.

Moran, Sauter and Ferris now came around the Roadrunner and stood together with their weapons pointing at Jackie Brown. Ames and Morrissey stayed put. Moran handed his shot-gun to Sauter, who let the hammer down on his Chief’s Special and leveled Moran’s shotgun. Moran removed his wallet from his hip pocket. He extracted a plasticized card from the wallet. In the blue-tinged glare of the parking lot lights, he began to read:

“‘You are under arrest for violation of a federal law. Before we ask you any questions, we want you to understand your rights under the Constitution of the United States.’”

“I know my rights,” Jackie Brown said.

“Shut the fuck up and listen,” Foley said. “Shut your god-damned mouth and listen to what the man’s telling you.”

‘“You do not have to answer any questions,’” Moran said. “‘You have a right to remain silent. If you answer any questions, your answers may be used in evidence against you in a trial in a court of law. Do you understand what I have read to you?”’

“Of course I understand,” Jackie Brown said. “You think I’m a fucking idiot?”

“Shut up,” Foley said, “and hold still or I’ll blow your fucking head off.” He rested the barrel of the Remington on Jackie Brown’s shoulder. The muzzle grazed the base of Jackie Brown’s skull.

“‘You are entitled to the advice of counsel,’” Moran said. “‘Do you have a lawyer?’”

“No, for Christ sake,” Jackie Brown said. “Of course I don’t. I just got arrested.”

“‘If you want a lawyer,’” Moran said, “‘you need only say so, and you will be given time to engage a lawyer, and to confer with him. You are entitled to confer with your lawyer before you decide whether to answer any questions. Do you understand what I have read to you?’”

Jackie Brown did not answer. Foley jabbed him with the muzzle of the Remington. “Tell him,” he said.

“Of course I understand,” Jackie Brown said.

“‘If you can’t afford a lawyer,’” Moran said, “‘the court will appoint one for you. Do you understand that?’”

“Yes,” Jackie Brown said.

“‘You may, if you wish, waive these rights and answer our questions. Are you willing to answer questions?’” Moran said.

George V. Higgins, The Friends of Eddie Coyle




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