Benz

by Rick Beck

Chapter 14

Sailors & Such

It took a little over an hour for Doug to shop and for Vince to get the boat out on the water. The bay was smooth, and the wind uncharacteristically calm, but the sleek sloop didn't require a lot of wind.

The indirect sun appeared and disappeared from between the fluffy mid-day clouds, shining enough to make being on the water pleasant. Vince felt great once he'd maneuvered out of the marina. He was becoming a more adept sailor and dreaded the idea of no longer being able to sail. He'd hardly been on the boat the entire time he'd owned it and now it was his refuge.

His life was in limbo and sailing gave Vince a peaceful calm. It wasn't enough, but it was enough to make him smile, enjoying his ability to get away from the land and leave his troubles behind. The freedom sailing offered him was a freedom that could be fleeting. The calm he embraced might well be the calm that came before the storm.

He wanted to make the most of the final days before his trial began. He watched Doug on the bow, lying on his stomach, dipping his hand into the passing water, running it through his fingers and allowing it to flow back into the bay.

There was the same urge to head for the mouth of the bay and set a course due west and let the Pacific swallow him. He wasn't skilled enough to risk sailing beyond the mouth of the bay. He was a respected doctor and running away, even under these circumstances, wasn't his style. It didn't stop him from wanting to run. He understood how desperate men might.

They tied up at the marina late that afternoon. Doug sat in the stern, watching Vince secure the sail. He had a far away look on his face.

"What's up, Doug?" Vince said, making Doug sound like doc.

"What?"

"Where'd you go? We're back."

"Oh, yea," he said sadly. "Does a DUI guy and a guy guilty of possession go to the same prison, doc?"

"Can't say. Haven't been to prison yet."

"We might be seeing each other sooner than you think. I got busted for drugs back a month or two ago."

"You didn't!"

"Yea, I did. They weren't my drugs but the girl dropped a dime on me. Said they were mine and not hers. She lied and I bit the dust."

"But they were hers?"

"Yea, I ain't dumb enough to walk around with drugs on me. I can't afford drugs. You wait around the park and someone offers you something. I don't hold. I didn't anyway, until I offered to carry her bag. Big mistake. I was trying to get something off her. I was being nice because I thought I could get laid."

"You were with a girl? They were her drugs? You were carrying her bag?"

"Right on all counts. Dumb, huh?"

"Doug, swear to me. Look me in the eye and swear to me you're telling me the truth."

"What? I'm not lying. I'm telling you the truth, doc. What's that prove? They nailed my ass for possession. I'm looking at a nickel or more."

"We'll see," Vince said, not sure what he was going to do but knowing where he was going to start. "I need to go up and make a phone call. You see what you can rustle up for dinner. I'm starved."

"I just happened to buy dinner when we picked up the things for lunch. You don't think I spent twenty bucks on lunchmeat and chips?"

"I wasn't paying attention. I figured you needed the change, when you didn't give me change."

"Aw, doc, that's bogus. No one's been better to me than you. I wouldn't steal from you."

"Hey, I'm just a dumb doctor. I didn't give it much thought."

"If you say so. I'll start dinner, while you're gone. I got the salmon you liked so much."

"That's great. I never gave a thought to dinner. I won't be long."

"Can I stay until you find out what's going on? I mean, it is safe here," Doug said, after a minute. "I love the water."

"Sure. You can sleep up front in one of the mate's berths, or you can bring the bedding up on deck and sleep under the stars," Vince said, not remembering where Doug lived.

"No. I get enough stars. I think the berth would be pretty neat."

Vince knew what he had to do. It's not something he'd do ordinarily, but he didn't have much time to help Doug, and he'd do what he could before he couldn't."

He walked up to the parking lot where he often used the phone.

"Wes, Vince. I need to ask you a favor."

"What do you have in mind, Vince."

"A homeless kid from the park, Doug, has been arrested for possession of drugs. They're screwing him over. Do you have ten minutes in the morning you can give to me? I'll bring him in and you can hear his story."

"I've got a meeting with Judge Hamilton at eight thirty in the morning. Can you be in my office at fifteen to eight? I'll come in early. I've got to make some copies of some documents."

"We'll be there."

"Vince?"

"Yes," Vince said.

"Don't get your hopes up on this kid. You know he's guilty as sin don't you?"

"No, I don't think he is. He didn't ask for my help. That's my idea. I'll be waiting at the door of your office when you get there."

Doug hated getting up so early. Donuts made all the difference, when they stopped on the way to meet Wes. Before eight they were sitting in his office. Wes went into the outer office to make copies of three sheets of paper he took with him.

"Tell me about the drugs," Wes said from the other office.

"I was carrying this chick's bag, Linda Cameron. I was trying to get a little off her. I was...."

"You were doing what with what?" Wes said, straining to understand the boy.

"I wanted to get into her pants. She'd been with a couple of guys in the park. They said she she'd give it up. I was horny. I carried her bag for her. You know, being a gentlemen? The dope was in the bag. The cops stopped us. They nailed me with the dope. She denied the bag was hers, and said she didn't even know me. Didn't even know me! I thought she was hot. What a bitch."

"How old was the girl?" Wes asked.

"Sixteen. I don't know how old. She said eighteen but I say eighteen too and I'm seventeen."

"She was only sixteen? Don't you know that's too young to be…? It's too young," Wes decided.

"Sure it's too young, unless that's your age. She said she was eighteen. I was horny. The other guys were getting some. I didn't want to miss out on a good thing."

"You never did have sex with her?"

"No, the cops interrupted my play. We was just walking."

"You was," Wes said, smiling to himself.

"Yea, I was."

"You were walking when they stopped you?"

"We were talking about going up in the trees, but the cops showed up before I could finish my pitch. She was going to go, too. I could tell. It wouldn't have been so bad if they busted me after I got what I was after. I didn't even get my shot."

"No, I suspect not. How long were you locked up?" Wes asked, putting the papers in his briefcase, once he was done copying them.

"A week, two, three. I don't know. Too long. They gave me this paper," Doug said, digging into his back pocket and pulling out a torn and tattered official court document.

"Fine. I can do this. You don't mind if I keep it?" Wes said. "I'll need it to call the prosecutor to ask him to take a peek into that little girl's bag."

"She weren't no little girl. She had a set of hooters on her," Doug said, indicating a rather extraordinary size. "I didn't even get a look."

"Son, we can go to jail just for listening to you talk about what you wanted to do to a sixteen year old child," Wes revealed.

"You can?" Doug said with total alarm in his voice.

"No, but you'd be smart thinking they could. We'll work something out. They took the bag with the entire contents of the bag or they just took the drugs?"

"They took it all," Doug said.

"What else was in the bag? Describe the contents to me."

"I don't know. I don't go fishing in no girl's bag. Could be anything in there," Doug said suspiciously.

"Drugs even," Wes said. "You were carrying the bag. You had the drugs in your possession."

"I understand that now," Doug said.

"You going to be somewhere I can get in touch with you later?"

"I'm with the doc. I'm his cook," Doug said proudly, looking at Vince for confirmation.

"You want me to check in later?" Vince asked.

"I've got some business after Judge Hamilton. I'll call the prosecutor's office to chat about Doug's case. He's as clean as a whistle, Vince. He didn't know about the drugs. No one would make up the story he told us. Keep your pants zipped up, kid and you might make it to eighteen," Wes said.

"I take my pants off to do it," Doug explained.

"You got a thousand bucks, kid?" Wes asked.

"No, sir," Doug said, eyes open as wide as saucers.

"You'll have to owe me then. Lawyers cost money."

"Am I going to prison?" Doug asked.

"No; I do suggest a sex education class. It might save your life."

"I could teach that class," Doug said.

"He's a comedian," Wes said. "He might have a future. A funny cook? It could be a new fad."

"I'm going to send him to school to learn more about cooking," Vince said. "He'll always be able to find work that way."

Wes shook his head, looking into Vince's face.

"Mother Teresa in San Diego. You know you were an arrogant bastard when I first met you. If you hadn't had money, I wouldn't have defended you. Now I'm glad I did."

"I don't have any money," Vince confessed.

"And you aren't an arrogant bastard any longer. I've got to get over there. Judge Hamilton will want me waiting at his door

when he comes in. I made him come to work early," Wes laughed, standing up and exiting through the door in his office that led into the hallway outside his office. Vince and Doug followed him.

"He's cool," Doug said as they waited for the elevator. "A little naïve. I bet he don't get many girls."

"No, his wife probably discourages it. He's one of the best attorney's around. If anyone can get you off, he can."

"Will I be able to sue them for false arrest?"

"I wouldn't push it if I were you," Vince said firmly.


Judge Hamilton glanced at the three pages and in less than a minute he'd put them together and carefully aligned them using his ink blotter to make sure all the sides of the three pages were even. He then bounced them lengthwise against the blotter, being careful to keep them perfectly aligned as he stared at them.

"Ben, what's your opinion?" Judge Hamilton asked.

Ben Green had all three sheets of paper spread out on the briefcase on his lap. He picked up one and looked at it, put it down and picked up the next, looking at it.

"It's a sheriff's department form they fill out when someone comes into the jail. It's the same one. All three are the same."

"No," the judge said, still working to keep the pages aligned. "One was copied while still on a clipboard. There's a second copy of the same document, minus the clipboard," he said, running his finger across the top to make sure there was no sheet of paper out of alignment. "The words, blood test, are written under where the clip on the clipboard would have been. The third copy of the same document was written by someone different, and yet it is the same information, minus two words, blood test. Why do you suppose that is, Ben? We'll stick with you for the moment," he said, moving his face down so his eyes could look over top of the pages to be sure no sheet stood higher than any other sheet.

"I don't know. I don't know the source of any of the papers. They don't tell me anything if I don't know where they came from and how… someone, got a hold of them," he said, glancing at Wes. "No telling which came first and which came last."

"Your turn, Wes. Where did you get these?" Judge Hamilton asked, sitting up perfectly straight in his chair, as he looked directly at Wes. "Why three times? You are persistent."

"The first copy came from the prosecutor's office with other documents in the case. The fact it was copied on the clipboard bothered me. I couldn't figure out why anyone would do something so stupid. I called a fellow who has access to the files at the sheriff's department. He made a copy of the same document for me, minus the clipboard. Later, I told the prosecutor's office I'd lost my copy and requested a replacement; that's what came, and you are right, it's a perfect reproduction of the original, minus the words, blood test. It was obviously filled out especially for me."

"What do we do, Wes?" Judge Hamilton asked.

"I don't know, Your Honor. I wanted you to see it. I don't like it. I don't like this case. I don't like the fact the entire staff of prosecutors has been on this case. I just wanted to show it to you. I found it… irregular."

"Yes, and we have a problem. There's nothing on any of these sheets that changes anything. Yes, your client said he asked for the blood test, when he got to the jail, and the words, blood test could indicate that he did. The fact it was under the clip on the clipboard would indicate it was the deputy who wrote down his request, and then when he clipped the page back to the clipboard, it's likely he never saw those two words again. Nothing intentional. He's busy. An unfortunate oversight. Another deputy comes on duty. The night passes. No blood test, and the law is clear, refusing a breathalyzer test is proof of guilt. You do understand that? The system isn't out to get your doctor, do you think?"

"That's why we're here," Wes said. "We're just supposing. I just supposed you should see it."

"It's not against the law to make a mistake. It's not against the law not to give a blood test that has been requested. Your client was responsible to see to it he covered his ass with a blood test. We all know ass covering is always on someone's mind when they find themselves locked up in our lovely jail. A lot of mistakes but I can't allow this in as evidence. It isn't really evidence, is it Wes?" Judge Hamilton said. "Simply proof of an imperfect system."

"I know. I didn't expect it to come in, Your Honor. I decided you needed to see it. You are the judge and you should know these things."

"Thank you, Wes. Yes, it is interesting. Ben, anything to add?"

"No, sir. It sounds right to me. You can't use it at trial. No one can say what the history of those documents is. Too many copies to be certain of the meaning of any one document. They're all the same."

"We can guess," Judge Hamilton said . "I like speculating about how certain things happen. Like why someone would want to put a document back on a clipboard before making a copy of it.

"That third copy, however, every single mark on the original is on this copy," Judge Hamilton said, lifting up the third sheet of paper and admiring the perfect printing. "Only one reason someone went through all this trouble. Blood test! Someone purposely wanted to delete two words that suggest Dr. Parsons indeed asked for a blood test. We can't prove that but we can speculate."

"I'm just a prosecutor. I'm not able to draw such conclusions."

"All that set aside, I'd like to know who did this printing. I'd hire him to do mine. A fine steady hand, don't you think, Ben?

"Blood test. Blood test. Blood test. A doctor would know a blood test is far more accurate in establishing the precise amount of alcohol in your system. No one volunteers for a test that will prove his guilt. You volunteer for a blood test when you know what the results will be. I bet fewer than one in a hundred booked on DUI ask for a blood test.

"Well, I'd love to sit and chat some more, gentlemen, but I have court. We can only speculate on what all these pages mean. I'll spend some time giving it some more thought if I find the time, and I'll see you Thursday."

The judge stood up and exited through the door behind his desk. Ben set the three sheets of paper down on the corner of the judge's desk, going out of the door that led to the hall. Wes sat for a moment, composing his thoughts. He picked up the phone and dialed.

"Yes, Mr. Hamlet, this is Wes Mathews. You're handling the Douglas Whitmore proceedings?"

"Yes, sir. That's my case. I've got the file here somewhere."

"I'm taking it pro bono. In the interest of fairness, I want to make you aware you are about to embarrass yourself and your department. I realize it's an oversight and in the interest of justice, I wanted to advise you before it ends up creating a lot of unnecessary litigation for both of us"

"I've got the kid's file right in front of me. I'm reading the police report and it looks like an open and shut case to me. The kid had drugs in his possession. The only embarrassment is yours, I fear. Nice try, Mr. Mathews. We go for broke on these cases. We want the drug addicts off our streets."

"Call me, Wes, Harold," Wes said with a jaunty tone in his voice. "Have you looked in the bag where the drugs were found by the eager officers? We won't ask how they came to be looking in that bag, yet."

"The bag? What bag? I didn't see a bag. No, like I said, police report is clear. I'll have the evidence ready by the time we meet in court. What's in the bag, Mr. Mathews? Should I guess?"

"Ah, there's your embarrassment. Look in the bag, where the police found the drugs, and you won't need to ask anymore questions. The girl denied the bag was hers for obvious reasons. In spite of the contents of the bag, the officers chose to believe her," Wes said.

"Look in the bag to establish ownership. Mr. Whitmore was merely an innocent party carrying a young lady's heavy bag. Once you look in that bag you can call to tell me what you want to do."

"Do you have a number where I can call you, Mr. Mathews? I'll need to check this information for myself. I have a break in about an hour. I'll go over and check the evidence room at that time."

"Tell your secretary to dial my number. All the prosecutors know Wes Mathews. I look forward to hearing from you, Harold."

"Yes, sir. I'll call you back later this morning."

Wes hung up the phone knowing he was playing the odds. If what was usually in a woman's bag was in this bag, it wasn't the boy's, and any prosecutor with adequate gonads would see it immediately. Wes needed a victory. Even a cheap strategic one helped.

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