Benz

by Rick Beck

Chapter 1

A Rick Beck Story

quillswritersrealm@yahoo.com

Editor: Jerry W

©OLYMPIA50 2017 All Rights Reserved

For David

For my friend Larry Rose. Thank you for your friendship.

As always, thank you Tracy for directing and caring about the words. I couldn't do this without you, lovely lady.

Thanks Brian H for an assist in writing Benz.

Prologue:

Take one prominent neurosurgeon, a lovely new acquaintance, a street kid and his girlfriend, and you get the ingredients for a criminal case that defies logic.

The unexpected meets the unexplained in a maze of dead end leads, as Angus McCoy sorts through the clues.

Angus knows a case doesn't go this wrong without some help. He intends to find out why, as well as who is behind it. Add one beautiful artist, who removes the eye witness from the scene of the accident, and Dr. Vincent Parsons is looking at jail time and the end of a career. The doctor doesn't intend to go down without a fight.

Benz is the vehicle that carries a professional team into a world of irregularities and miscalculations. Wes Mathews is determined to prove his client is innocent, but even one of San Diego's best defense attorney's is stymied. Wes tells his client not to worry, but Wes is plenty worried. The evidence he needs to get the verdict he wants may have been put purposefully out of his reach.

It's up to Angus McCoy to find the missing eyewitness who is the only person who can clear Dr. Parsons.

Riding High

Circles

Life is a circle
It goes round and round
Many times you're on top
Other times you're down

When you're riding high
Life is oh so fine
It's when your luck runs out
Friends are hard to find

Balmy nights are part of the San Diego allure, even though, after the warmest day, you can often use a sweater or a jacket in the evening. It was on a pleasant San Diego evening that Dr. Vincent Parsons met Ronnie Haggerty. It was one of those unplanned meetings neither of them could ever forget. While these were unlikely men to be depending on one another, circumstances put them together at the same time and same place for an event that would alter the course of their lives.

Vincent Parsons was a neurosurgeon who practiced in San Diego for most of his career. He was dependable, if self absorbed. His career had been on the fast track from the beginning. He was good, being the first to tell you or anyone who would listen. Twice married, his three children lived elsewhere, along with his former wives. He found family responsibilities to be a distraction from his ability to perform up to his standards.

There was no argument about custody of the children. He paid the alimony promptly, if not with good cheer. He admitted his marriages were a mistake. The wives never understood the duties he was charged to perform. They complained continually about inattention and neglect.

His attitude was that his work was far more important than missing a few dinners or birthday parties. He felt wives were incapable of understanding a man who held people's lives in his hands every day. They were selfish, not to mention a handicap to his career.

Ronnie Haggerty was a small time drug dealer. A handsome boy, his hair was thinning and his skin had paled even in the California sun. He still had his good looks, but they were lost in the malaise of uncertainty in a life that never quite got on track.

Ronnie never did well in school, and found skipping more fun than going to class. After his junior year it was suggested he leave school. Doing so without the knowledge of his parents, at seventeen his life wasn't taking shape. Moving from one pot party to the next was the way he spent his days.

Once his parents confronted him over his missing report cards, Ronnie found himself on his own, and he discovered methamphetamine as a means of avoiding his life. If grass had been his love, meth became his god. Constantly high, he sold on the side to make ends meet. Living with his friends, his charm and good looks kept him off the street, until it all got old.

By eighteen Ronnie's bridges were all in flames. He'd pushed his luck as far as luck could go, and he decided it was time to make a fresh start in one of those California beach towns, where living was easy and summer lasted all year around. This way it wasn't so important to have a regular place to live.

While old habits are hard to break, Ronnie hopes to find stability and maybe even a job. He was no longer a boy and his charm was running thin in most circles, but not at Plato's. After another week long party at his place, Ronnie decides he needs a good woman and he heads for the park.

The night of January 8th he'd been in San Diego three months. He'd made friends, knew all the local meth dealers, and had places to crash whenever he wasn't roaming the streets. He spent a lot of time in Balboa Park just off Laurel Street, where transient kids hung together under the trees, just inside the park boundaries.

It was safe there, and it was hard for anyone to sneak up on you if you were engaged in anything that might stretch the bounds of legality. This was Ronnie's fallback position. When he hadn't secured a place for the night, or simply didn't want to be indoors, he liked going to the park to beguile the other young vagabonds who hung out there.

Jennifer Bowers visited one of the hospitals where Dr. Parsons worked. Scripps hospitals were well respected and Jennifer delivered medical supplies from a local supplier. She often brought new items to be tried out by the staff, maintaining a cordial relationship with the nurses to gain access to the right people.

Vincent spotted Jennifer at the nurses' station in the neurosurgery wing, near his offices. She'd been standing on one leg with her other leg bent at the knee and extended at a right angle behind her. She was leaning on the counter talking to the head nurse.

Jennifer wore a beautiful purple dress that made her more stunning to see. Her auburn hair and pure white complexion were set off by a single strand of pearls that accented her handsome neck. He'd stopped with chart in hand, no longer in a hurry to get to his consultation. She captivated him.

She was tall, slender, and lovely to look at. As if on cue, her head turned. She looked directly at the handsome doctor, who was obviously looking at her. She had been noticed, and this brought a pleasant smile to her voluptuous lips. She turned her head back to the nurse, once she knew the message she was conveying had been received.

Dr. Parsons tucked the file under his arm and marched in strong, confident strides toward the nurses' station, until he stood next to her. He wasn't certain what his reason was for coming over. Once his eyes were lost in hers, he had no doubt he would ask her out. The head nurse blushed, having no doubt what Dr. Parsons was after.

"I'm Dr. Vincent Parsons, chief of neurosurgery. How have I managed to miss you all this time?"

"I'm sure it wasn't my intention. My name is Jennifer," she offered Vince her hand.

The nurse busied herself elsewhere.

"I'm in the mood for Italian food tonight. I don't have a dinner date. I'd love for you to fill that bill, Jennifer. Do you enjoy Italian?"

"I love Italian. What time?"

"Do you have a card, or here, take mine and leave a message giving me the time to pick you up and the address. I trust you live alone?" Vince probed.

"Yes, I do. I'll call and leave you the information. I like dinner at eight. I'm prompt and I expect you to be."

"Eight it is. Leave the address and we can pick up where we left off. I'm heading for a consultation at the moment. Nice to meet you Jennifer, who loves Italian."

Her eyes were on him as he walked away. He knew it but he didn't turn around. It had all gone better than if he'd planned it.

He'd long ago given up any pretense at modesty. There wasn't the time to waste on women who couldn't be bothered. He was a catch for any woman, without having any intention of being caught again, but he was rarely so smitten as the first time he saw sweet Jennifer.

If Vince Parsons wanted something he bought it, bargained for it, took it, or sent someone to get it for him. With women he fancied, he took them when he wanted one, and bought them when there wasn't time for a conquest.

It was obvious he could have Jennifer. The unbroken eye contact once their eyes met, her easy smile, left little doubt. She had quality and Vince's mind was on date two before they'd had date one.

He walked on clouds the rest of the day. Being absorbed by his work was nothing new. Being distracted by daydreams of his date was. Once in his Harbor Club penthouse residence, he showered, dressed nattily, and smiled approvingly at his image in his full length mirror. Driving his silver Mercedes Benz, he turned onto Broadway and to Jennifer's.

The Italian restaurant was a popular high-end eatery. Dr. Parsons had treated the owner successfully five years earlier. Being seated in front of the line was his reward. The owner stopped to sing Vince's praises, allowing him to bask anew in the sunlight of success.

Two small glasses of wine set the meal off as one of the best he'd enjoyed in some time. Jennifer had a mixed drink while they were waiting to order. She drank two glasses of port wine, which is what Vince drank. They were both pleased by the company they kept.

As he drove down Fifth Street past Balboa Park, she was giggling at one of Vince's jokes. Turning to look at her face, he couldn't believe his luck. She was a delight to be with and no doubt impressed by him. His stories were filled with details of his skills, and the influence he wielded in the world of medicine. She couldn't get enough.

His thoughts now rushed as he stole glances of her. She'd happily accepted his invitation to see his penthouse. The apartment faced the harbor and the Pacific Ocean. He described the view as breathtaking. As it took her breath away, he intended to kiss her passionately before he showed her his man-sized bedroom.

Vince wasn't sure if he'd call her tomorrow from work or wait, and let her call him first. After a fine meal, the prospects were perfect. It was his lucky day.

Good luck wasn't something Ronnie Haggerty was blessed with. There were two kinds of luck in Ronnie's life, none and bad. Living on the edge meant not expecting much. He wanted to change his life, but he was at a loss for how to accomplish this.

Ronnie was still attractive and he attracted girls that hung in the park, and that's where he went to feel more alive. Especially he liked Balboa Park when he was buzzing. The people there were all like him, in between this and that, halfway between here and there.

The meth was strong in San Diego. It was also more expensive. He'd found it came at a price he wasn't always sure he wanted to pay. After negotiating for what he needed, he needed the park and a girl to remind him he was a man skilled with women.

The young girls who once fell all over him now had to be wooed with fast talk and hard drugs. The last few times, he'd gone with the girls down in the canyons. Falling on hard times meant improvising.

As Ronnie walked up Fifth Street, his mind was on the girl he'd been with the last few times he went to the park. Sharon was young but passionate. She'd latched onto him the first time she saw him. Since arriving in San Diego, she was the only girl who showed more than a passing interest. At a time when he wanted a woman, Sharon came to mind.

She'd come in from Texas in December. A Christmas present for the boys in the park. She came equipped with condoms and a need to be loved. Ronnie wasn't interested in the condoms but supplied the love when he was around.

They'd gotten along well enough to dumpster dive together. She'd panhandled to feed him. If he showed up with meth, she took care of everything else and they invariably ended up in the canyons with romance on their minds. The sound of rustling palm leaves mingled with the sweet smell of night air. Love making took them away from the tough life they endured.

Ronnie hadn't thought of Sharon all week. He'd been hanging with Plato, a small time meth dealer who claimed to be connected. It was the drugs and the money that kept Ronnie going back to Plato. Plato thought of Ronnie as his boy. Ronnie couldn't bridge that hump, at first, until his need for meth grew. With no income the idea of being with Plato for meth no longer seemed so bad.

He was fed, given folding cash, and Plato had a way of making him feel wanted at a time he needed that. Many things became part of his routine without him planning it that way. It was true of Plato.

After a week of being high and lounging around Plato's, Ronnie needed to get away. He needed a woman. He knew he could give up Plato if his luck turned. He thought he might be able to kick meth, if there was something to distract him from it.

With Plato it was the drugs. Toots, and smokes, and then for the first time in his life there was a needle. Ronnie flew so high that night he didn't know what he'd done or with whom he'd done it.

Heroin was the ultimate high for Ronnie. He sensed after his first hit that it would swallow him alive if he used it again. The first shot introduced him to nights that never ended and days that never came. He rode the clouds for how long he wasn't sure, but he woke up in Plato's bed, when he woke up, and Plato was calling him his boy.

He'd struggled to pull himself away from the week long party, helping himself to the drugs. He told himself he wouldn't see Plato again. He made that promise after every lengthy party. It made him feel like he was finally in control of his life. Each time he went back, he knew he'd never leave Plato for good, if he didn't stop going back.

Ronnie knew what he wanted, but he lacked the ability to kick drugs and find a job he wanted to keep for more than a week. It's what he needed to do. It's what he wanted to do, but before long he was back at Plato's.

Sharon too had been busy all week. She'd met a man outside the First Interstate Bank, where she knew to panhandle there just after noon. Sometimes she got a meal, but this week she met Tony Padrosa, who wanted to take her home.

For most of the week she'd stayed with him. She'd never felt so clean, showering every couple of hours the first day. Room and board didn't come without a price, but Sharon had long ago sold her soul to the devil for a toot. Tony was a nice one. He was clean, neat, and didn't smell or ask for anything disgusting. He was pleasant and acted as if he liked having her around.

When she let herself out, she made a mental note that she'd return. She didn't say goodbye. She never said goodbye. Life wasn't a hello/goodbye proposition. You came and you went, and you made no promises about tomorrow. Even as she closed the door, she knew where she was heading and why. It was Friday night and Ronnie might be in Balboa Park and that's where she was heading.

She'd been greeted by the people she knew. They hung together under the first row of trees beyond Laurel Street, a block inside the park. She knew immediately Ronnie wasn't there. It was early and he liked to come up around dark. If he didn't come then, she'd go looking.

Sharon sat listening to the stories someone was always telling, as ten or fifteen others sat near. She'd smoked some pot, when it passed her way. One of the boys who favored her gave her some meth. He offered to take her places she'd never been before, but she laughed at his youthful exuberance, knowing he had little to back up his claim.

She held his hand, leaned to kiss him on the lips, making him blush, and then she excused herself. The man who could take her where she wanted to go was still absent, and it was time she went in search of love.

All of these things, seemingly unrelated, added up to four lives about to intersect at Balboa Park on Fifth Street. As Ronnie walked up the side of the street nearest the woods, two blocks below Laurel, Sharon was beginning to walk down on the opposite side of the street. A block below Laurel, as the Mercedes was crossing Laurel on the same side as Sharon, moving in the same direction in which she walked, still having Ronnie on her mind.

"Ronnie."

He heard the voice but he wasn't sure it was real. Ronnie was even higher than Sharon, and he was thinking as he walked, wanting to change his life, make something of himself, right after he spent the night with Sharon. He was probably imagining his name being carried on the wind.

"Ronnie."

He had heard it. It was Sharon's voice. He knew what he wanted was there for the taking. He looked to find her. There she was, coming between two parked cars on the other side of the street a half a block away.

It was obvious what was about to happen. The car was moving along at a modest rate of speed as the street light shined on its windshield. His brain calculated it all in about a tenth of a second. He tried to scream at her to stop, but she'd walked out in front of the car and there was the impact before he could make a sound.

She'd never looked at anything but him. The thud sickened him, buckling his knees. He watched her bounce off the windshield, roll across the hood of the Silver Mercedes, and off the car onto the ground. The car was stopped before she hit the street. He stood still, staring at her. She was forty feet away. He was frozen in place.

Vince had turned to look at Jennifer. He hadn't had enough wine to impair him. One glass while they waited for the food and one during the meal. He was six foot two and weighed two hundred pounds. Two glasses of wine didn't impact him at all, especially if he was eating. He'd taken his eyes off the street for no more than a second, a glance.

Where had she come from? He wasn't sure. He didn't see her until she was in front of the car. He glanced at Jennifer. That was all. It was time to have an accident.

When he saw the body spilling up on the hood and into the windshield, cracking it all the way across, he'd slammed on the brakes. He wasn't even doing thirty miles an hour. If only he hadn't looked away for that instant, maybe he could have stopped in time. He was always careful, especially after drinking at dinner.

He looked at Jennifer again. She was horrified and said nothing, staring out through the cracked windshield at an empty street. It was for real and he was a doctor. He needed to do what he could.

One life was ebbing out on the asphalt, one life was frozen in place, dumbstruck by what unfolded in front of him, one life was on the brink of ruin, as another was along for the ride. Four lives forever connected on Fifth Street.

Dr. Parsons leaped from the car. He went around to her side. He checked her vital signs. He knew there was big trouble.

Ronnie ran across the street. He ended up standing over them, looking down as if he was seeing a scene out of a movie.

"Sharon," Ronnie yelled.

"Do you know her?" Vince said, looking into his panicked face.

"Yes. She walked right out in front of you. It happened so fast. I didn't have time to yell. Is she…?"

"I need to call 911. Stay with her. Let her know you are here. It helps. There's a phone on the corner. I'll be right back."

Ronnie knelt beside her and looked at her peaceful face. There were two dots of blood, one under each nostril.

After making the phone call, Vince got his medical bag out of the car, moving back to Sharon's side.

"I called. The ambulance is on the way. It's only five minutes."

Ronnie stood, saying nothing, watching the doctor work. He felt his pocket. Should he ditch the drugs? There was nothing else he could do. He couldn't be there when the cops came. They might search him. He'd be in bad shape if they found his drugs. He needed to leave.

Backing away as Vince listened to her heart, feeling gently behind her neck, turning his ear to put it next to her lips, listening to her heart again before starting chest compressions.

Jennifer sat paralyzed, and he wouldn't ask her to become involved. At first Ronnie moved a few steps away. A cab went past, blowing his horn. Another car went around Vince's car. Ronnie stumbled backward as the doctor worked on Sharon.

He witnessed it all. The cops would want to talk to him. He was high and they'd know it. He had to leave before the cops came. He moved back a few steps, and then a few more, until he was on the other side of the street. He turned, moving into the woods, moving toward the road that ran inside the park. He would decide where to go once he got there.

The paramedics arrived while Vince was still working frantically on the girl. Then came the cops. They parked facing Dr. Parsons' car and the lights lit up the scene. The police escorted Vince back away from the paramedics. His protests were ignored.

He was a doctor. He was a great doctor. He could save her, but the police weren't interested in his career choice. They had to shield Sharon from him before he'd leave her.

"Have you been drinking, sir?" One officer immediately said.

"A couple of glasses of wine at dinner. She walked out in front of me. I couldn't stop in time."

"You need to take a breathalyzer test, sir."

"No. I won't. I'm not drunk. I had a full meal. I had two glasses of wine, the last over an hour ago. I'm fine. I'm a doctor. I'm Dr. Vincent Parsons of Scripps, officer."

"Yes, sir. I want you to follow my instructions. Please step up on the sidewalk. I think you are going to have to take the breathalyzer. If you haven't been drinking it will support that. It's for your protection," the cop said.

"I'm a doctor. I can help her. Don't you understand? She has a serious head injury. She needs me. I'm a specialist. I need to help her."

"I'm afraid you've done all you can do, doctor. You need to follow my instructions."

Vince suddenly felt like he was floating. There was a rush of panic that ran over him. He'd seen the cases coming through the emergency rooms where he worked as an intern. Drunks were killing people, but he wasn't drunk. He hadn't done anything. He never drank past reason when he knew he'd be driving. He was cautious. He was an excellent driver. He knew what the officer was implying.

"Doctor, please, follow my instructions. You aren't listening to me. I've got to make a record of this. You aren't co-operating, sir."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm a bit shaken. I don't want to incriminate myself."

"I know you don't. It's routine. Follow my instructions. It'll go better for you if you do."

"I can help her. I'm a neurosurgeon."

"Let the paramedics do their job. You've been drinking, and I can't allow you to touch her. May I see your driver's license and registration?"

Vince complied, looking at Jennifer through the cracked windshield. She seemed to be miles away. The paramedics prepared to transport Sharon.

"Put your hands behind your back," the officer ordered.

He hesitated to protest and he was quickly turned and leaned over the hood of the police car while being cuffed. His initial resistance was an effort to make them understand, but they wanted him to comply immediately.

"I didn't do anything. She came out of nowhere. She was jay walking."

"We give tickets for that Dr. Parsons. We don't run them down. You'll get your day in court. You are under arrest for suspicion of DUI. You've refused a breathalyzer, which can result in your license being revoked. This is a serious accident without witness corroboration. I'm following procedures to insure everyone is protected."

"There is a witness. A boy. He's right here somewhere. He saw the whole thing. He said he saw her walk out in front of my car."

"Did you get his name, Dr. Parsons? Where did he go? A witness can't just leave the scene of an accident."

"I don't know. He knew her. He said her name was Sharon. Look for him. He couldn't have gone far."

"Sure, Doctor! We'll look for him. You're going to take a ride with me. Watch your head."

Vince looked through the windshield of the police car at Jennifer. There was another police officer by her door. She sat facing him. She shook her head no and cried into her handkerchief. 'No,' Vince imagined she told them. "He didn't do anything. No, he wasn't drunk. No, he wasn't speeding. No, there wasn't time to stop.'

She walked out from between the cars. He replayed it in his brain and winced when he heard the thud.

Jennifer stood up and another police officer took her to a car parked behind his Mercedes. They put her in the front seat and turned out around his car and drove away. She didn't look at him when the car passed. The first police officer got in the car.

"Did she tell you I wasn't drunk? The girl came out between the cars. I didn't see her."

"She said you drank at dinner. She doesn't remember how much. She thought a mixed drink and wine. She said you were looking at her when you hit the girl. You weren't looking at the road. Drinking or not. Drunk or not. Doctor, you need a lawyer. Your best witness says you weren't paying full time and attention to your driving. Call your lawyer from the jail. Maybe he can help you out of this. I'll be taking you to central booking at the San Diego County Jail."

"I want a blood test. That will prove I wasn't drunk."

"Sure. That would be smart. Refusing it is an instant guilty plea to a prosecutor. Be sure to tell the deputy at the jail you want it."

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