Benz

by Rick Beck

Chapter 15

A Little White Lie

Just before five that afternoon Vince and Doug sat across from Wes in his office.

"Young man, there are certain questions I must ask you now, and your entire future depends upon your answer. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," Doug said, beginning to shake.

"So, what about the bag? Tell me what was in the bag."

"She said it wasn't hers. She said I had it when I came up. It was black. Kind of a knit thing. It was fat. Had a lot of shit in it. I mean junk. Heavy junk. You think I look in a girl's pocketbook? I'm not that kind of a boy."

"You had possession of the bag and that's where the drugs were found, am I correct so far?"

"Yes, sir," Doug said defeated. "It wasn't my bag."

"This next question will make the difference, son. Don't rush your answer. I'll give you time to think. We need to take our time here. Your entire life may well hang in the balance."

"Yes, sir," Doug said softly, resigned to going to prison.

"Any cross dressing in your background? Brothers? Fathers? Uncles?"

"No, man. That's sick. What kind of question is that?"

"The bag contained a dress, a pair of lace panties, bra, some lady doodads. Lipstick. Eyeliner and a dozen other items that no self respecting lad would be caught dead carrying around with or without the bag.

"You're off the hook, son. Even a prosecutor couldn't deny this evidence. He told me he was dropping all charges against you. They've lost the girl and have no way to identify her. It's over. You won't even have to testify against her."

"Oh, man," Doug said, massively relieved. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Vince. Man, I can't believe it. I got my life back. Oh, man, you scared the shit out of me. I thought I was a goner."

"Yea, and I'm hungry. I'm sure Wes wants to go home. Time for you to earn your keep, Mr. Douglas Whitmore," Vince said. "Thank you, Wes. I couldn't stand by and watch them railroad Doug. I hate asking you to do extra work, but I couldn't live with myself if I could have done something for him and didn't."

"At this point, Vince, doing this did me more good than it did Doug. Even a small victory is encouraging. I needed that. You two enjoy your dinner. I've got to get home to mine," Wes said.

"Anything you want tonight, Vince. If I don't know how to cook it, I'll make something up," Doug said.

"Well, luckily my wife is a genius with food and I'll sympathize with you two as I dine on her latest creation," Wes said, standing up in front of his chair. "Time to let her know I do remember where I live."

Doug wasn't quite done yet. He stopped everyone dead.

"I lied to you, Vince. I'm sorry. He's here. He's over in the jail. I couldn't tell you. I should have told you. They threatened me."

"Who's here?" Vince said, listening to Doug's new seriousness.

"Ronnie is here. He's in the jail. They told me if I told anyone I'd be charged with… something or other, but the guy took my name and checked with the deputy to make sure I told him the truth.

"I was afraid to tell you. He said he'd bury me in solitary if I opened my mouth. He has my name. I'm sorry." "Ronnie?" Vince said.

"Ronnie?" Wes said.

"Ronnie," Doug said.

"Tell me where you saw him?" Wes said. "No one is going to do anything to you, but I might go after the guy that told you that. Conspiracy to withhold evidence is also a serious crime. How do you know he's there?"

"I went to sick call the week before I was released from custody. That would have been not last week but before last week. He came in with two guards after they put us on the bench next to the doctor's office to wait. He saw me first. I wasn't paying any attention.

"He said, 'Hey, Douglas. He calls me Douglas. He was smiling. He was happy to see me. 'What are you doing here?"

"They pushed him right past me into the doctor's office and shut the door. They must have gone out another door. I didn't see him again but some big dude in a black suit came over to me. He told me what he'd do to me if I told anyone I saw Ronnie. The man was serious."

Wes Mathews was already dialing Angus McCoy's number as he sat back down, unbuttoning his light gray suit coat.

"Gentlemen, give me a few minutes. I need to compare notes with my investigator. I'll only be a few minutes."

Vince and Doug went into the outer office.

"Angus. You aren't going to believe this. I got a kid in my office who saw Ronnie at sick call over in the jail maybe 10 days to two weeks ago. We found him, Angus. He's been a hundred yards from my desk all the time. I'm going to check immediately what he's in there for and who has him. The kid said he was getting high powered treatment. What's it sound like to you?"

"Sounds like he's in jail. No telling who has him or what he did. But I've been to the jail, over at the county offices, and the sheriff's department a dozen times each. No record.

"We got one kid saying something and that big stone wall still stands. Let me see if I can shake something loose. Now that I know he's there, it helps, but if they don't want him found, I can't make them hand him over."

"Stay loose, Angus. We'll need to tie this thing up before I put on my defense. This may be the break we've been waiting for. After you get him, we've got to pray Ronnie testifies in favor of our client."

"Wes!"

"Yea, Angus, I'm listening."

"Don't breathe a word of this near a prosecutor or anyone who might figure out we're onto them. We don't want to lose him now. I want to see him. I want to know he really exists," Angus said.

"Me too on that one, Angus. I'll put a gag on everyone on my end. You do what you need to do to pin his whereabouts down."

"One other thing, Wes. When Vince testified as an expert witness against Clark, it was the first time Clark ran for D.A. It took him four years to get elected, after he lost that second case."

"Where do you get this stuff?" Wes asked.

"I'm an investigator, Wes."

"You think he'd risk his entire career to settle a grudge, Angus?"

"You're the attorney. What would an attorney do? I was a cop for twenty years. I believe anyone is capable of anything. I just make the pieces fit, Wes. It's your job to use those pieces to prove your case."

"It's hard to believe he's that vindictive. The motive fits."

"I just give you the facts. Let me get on finding Ronnie before they can move him. Make sure this is kept quiet if you can."

"I'll tell everyone to hold their horses."

"How did you know that was the year Clark was running for office?" Wes asked, curious about what Angus found out.

"The library, Wes. I went back and looked at old copies of the Union, covering the dates of the trials, when they were on opposite sides in court. Motive, opportunity, and he can make all of this happen with a wave of his hand."

"You read it in the Union? And how did our illustrious District Attorney pull it off?"

"As the District Attorney of San Diego, Vince's file crosses his desk the Monday morning after the accident, or he read about it in the paper and he goes in search of the file. He has the power to pull any string his little old black heart desires. What I'm saying is, he couldn't resist using his power to get even. He gave the orders and he left you standing out in the cold."

"Doesn't seem like you think much of the good D.A., Angus."

"I don't like him. You've seen the stunts he pulls to get publicity. He's crazy about publicity." Angus said. "Nailing a prominent doctor, especially this one, would tickle his fancy. The ultimate rush of power."

"He hasn't said a word about this case, Angus. What's your point?"

"That's my point. It's the thing that stands out in this case. DUI DOCTOR KILLS GIRL. DUI DOC NEGLIGENT. DUI DOC ARRAIGNED. Lots of hot political headlines, Wes.

"No Clark. Not once. No statement. No standing in the courthouse door, promising stricter laws. No nothing at all. Silence. Clark loves publicity. Why is he so quiet about this particular case?"

"He's gone up against Dr. Parsons on Clark's turf and Parsons kicked his ass. Mano a mano," Wes observed thoughtfully. "Why isn't Mr. District Attorney gloating over taking the doctor down?"

"He appears to be staying above the fray but my hunch is, when I get a look behind the stonewall, I'll find Clark engineering the conspiracy to convict Dr. Vincent Parsons."

"Sleight of hand. Don't look at me. Look at the shiny object over there," Wes said.

"Bingo, Wes. I knew you'd see it my way. Wish I could prove it, but that's my theory. The dates are right and the story fits. I know you'll never find a smoking gun on Wendell Clark's desk but he's behind the stonewall and every roadblock we've encountered. I'd bet my wife's Frank Sinatra record collection on it."

"No, Clark's too clever and too ambitious to get caught tampering with a case. His career would be over and he loves the power. He can ruin anyone and he is feared. If it's true, Angus, odds are you'll have trouble proving it."

"Is there some way to get the articles and court papers into this case, Wes? Put the spotlight on Clark. Put him under oath, make him lie on the stand or confess?"

"Not in Judge Hamilton's court there isn't. He's leaning our way. I've got to be careful not to push him away. We know who and how, but it's all supposition. Did you copy those news stories about Parsons beating Clark in court? I want copies of those."

"You don't think I was going to let you ask for them and have to go back and dig them out of the archives a second time, do you?"

"I want to copy those," Wes said. "I want them just in case. It can't hurt having them. They could come in handy."

"I brought you the topper if you're interested in hearing it. I saved it for last in case you started yelling. I figure you can't yell and laugh at the same time."

"Do tell. What else did you find?"

Angus slipped a page out of his briefcase and began to read.

"The headlines read: 'Clark Withdraws. Today Wendell Clark announced he would withdraw his name from the race for District Attorney of San Diego, saying he was too busy with his current caseload to devote the time necessary to make a successful run. He added, he wanted to spend more time with his family.'

"He lost the case on Tuesday, Wes. He withdrew on Thursday," Angus said. "I'd call that a correlation. The gun she is smoking."

"We need someone to say Clark put his hands on this case, and I could get all of this information in front of Hamilton. Without probable cause, Angus, there is no way Hamilton will look at it. As appealing as your version of events is, the facts in this case stand alone. We need something to swing the jury to us or someone who says Clark tampered with the case. If we prove he did we get everything in. We may not prove Dr. Parsons is innocent, but the reasonable doubt is obvious. At this point I'd settle for that."

"Maybe Ben Green would turn on Clark?" Angus said.

"He'd rather let me pull his teeth with a rusty pair of pliers. What I'm wondering is, did all those prosecutors who've been replaced on this case get replaced? Maybe one objected to something he was told to do and quit the case because of that? We can get to Clark that way."

"Give me the list. I'll interview them all," Angus said.

"Look for a name on that list of someone who has left the prosecutor's office, after he left this case. Clark wouldn't keep him around if he thought he might say, 'Clark told me to do it.'"

"Conscience," Angus observed.

"Conscience," Wes repeated. "It's all I have on short notice."

"I've got some momentum on my side. Give me a few days and I'm sure I'll come up with something. First I'll find someone over at the jail who owes me a favor. See if I can't get a lead on Ronnie."

"Angus, a few days is all we have. Don't let me down, buddy. We go to trial Thursday. The prosecution will be done in a day. I'm lucky if I can make my case last a day on what we have. If Judge Hamilton is in a bad mood, he might not let me take the whole day."

"I'll do what I can, Wes."

"I owe you a drink, my friend. You never cease to amaze me, Mr. McCoy."

"At times I amaze myself, Wes," Angus said. "We're only on third base. We'll celebrate once we cross the plate."

The phone call ended.


Vince and Doug stopped at the store to shop for dinner. They were upbeat. The day turned out well for both of them. Things seemed to be improving, after a long slide downhill. When they reached the boat, Gary was sleeping on the cushions at the stern.

"Gary, where have you been?" Doug asked, as Gary wasn't quite sure where he was.

"Oh, Doug. Hey, doc," he said, looking over Doug's shoulder as they hugged.

"I was so damn worried about you. I got busted. Vince got my ass off. His attorney is my attorney. He's this totally big dude. Scared the shit out of me, Gary. Then he said I'm clear. They dropped the charges. The guy is like totally the best lawyer ever."

"Cool," Gary said.

"How'd you know where I was? Where have you been?"

"Guy liked me. He got paranoid he'd get busted if someone saw me at his house. Dropped me off this morning. The guys at the park described the car you got into. I knew it was the doc. I been waiting since forever, dude. Where have you been?"

"Getting my ass pulled out of a big mess. You gained weight. You've grown, dude," Doug said, hugging him again. "I thought you was dead."

"No, not yet. I've grown? That reminds me, what's for dinner anyway?" Gary asked.

Vince laughed at the incoherent reunion he was witness to.

"Pizza Hut? We'll celebrate," Vince said.

"Cool," Gary said.

"Let me get this stuff in the cooler and I want the fat man's pizza," Doug said.

"Fat man's pizza?" Vince asked.

"All the junk on it. Piled way up. If we can afford it, I mean."

"We'll break the bank tonight," Vince said, happy to see Gary. "What do you want on yours?"

"Artichokes, anchovies, black olives."

"Artichokes?" Vince said.

"He's weird. Some places actually have those things. I wouldn't touch them. They look nasty."

It was a large pizza with everything on it for Vince and Doug and Gary ended up with most of what he wanted on a medium pizza. The two boys ate like they hadn't had a meal in a month and the cups of soda were large enough to float Vince's boat.

"Doug's staying on the boat with me. You want to live on a boat?"

"Sure," Gary said. "Beats living under a tree."

"He's the chief cook and bottle washer. That leaves the decks to be swabbed. Can you handle it? You'll be my first mate."

"There's what, six feet of deck? Yea, I can get onboard with that, doc. Get it? Get onboard? On board the boat?"

Doug and Vince shook their heads as Gary pushed another piece of pizza into his mouth.

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