by Rick Beck

Chapter 12

Change of Life

Vince was making final arrangements to sell his penthouse. It would pay his legal bills and allow him to keep the boat for the time being. As quick as they left the courtroom, Wes cut him loose to return to St. Vincent DePaul. Working without people looking at him like he was a criminal kept his mind off his trouble. Connie had become a source of strength to Vince, and she'd brought on board other nurses that were more than happy to assist a doctor at St. Vincent DePaul.

Windy liked to be on standby when she was off in case Vince needed her. She liked him and didn't go out much on her days off. She liked to come around lunch time so they could eat together. Vince enjoyed the company. It made him feel like there was less stress in his life.

On the other side of the ledger Doug called every once in a while to report he hadn't seen Ronnie. Usually Vince asked if he'd eaten and he ended up picking him up, sometimes with Gary and sometimes without him. They'd go shopping and Doug would pick up whatever was on sale and make a meal out of it.

"You didn't come for the blood test," Vince said as Doug had his back turned, working on dinner.

"No," he said. "I thought of it, but Gary was off with someone. We were going down together."

"Doug, you told me you looked out for him."

"I do, doc."

"You both need to be tested. AIDS is a disease. If it is treated properly, you can stay healthy. It you have it you need treatment. I don't like to keep bothering you with this, but I don't want to think of you boys getting sick and I won't be around to help," Vince said.

"I know you are looking out for us, doc, but we're out here and you can't do anything about that. I'll talk to Gary when he shows up."

"I can take your blood tests to a lab I use on Tuesday. We'll get the results back in a few days. If either of you have it you need to begin treatment. I can't chase you around and make you do it."

"I know," Doug said. "Come get us this Monday, after you get off. I'll fix us whatever you like and we'll stay over. We'll go with you to the clinic in the morning, and I'll make him stay with us, until we get some blood out of him."

"That would be fine, Doug. That's a good plan. Thanks."

"Why do you care if we got it or not, doc?" Doug asked.

"I care. I know you. You both do things that can expose you to the virus. I want to get you treated if you need it. If something happens to me, if I can't be around to help you I want to know you are getting treatment and have a shot at having a good life, Doug."

"That's okay. It's just people don't usually care. Oh, they care about what we got, but not about what we got that needs treatment. Young tender teens, you know. I try not to go that route. Some days the hunger wins, doc. I got to eat and I go where I can get some food."

"You can become a cook, Doug. We'll work on that. There's a school in town for that. I'll see about it after work one day."

"Teaches cooking? For real? Cool."

"You can learn enough you can be a cook anywhere. You find a restaurant where they'll complete your training and you'll have a skill that lasts a lifetime; no matter where you go, people eat."

"Yea, I suppose they do, doc. People got to eat. You're a smart dude," Doug said, unaccustomed to someone wanting to help him. "You think you're going to jail?"

"I don't know."

From the day Angus began to investigate the players, he knew he'd find them. He started with the paramedics. They'd be the easiest to find. They took a transfer to Los Angeles. Talking to them required the travel Angus tried to avoid. If he didn't go himself his operatives might not get what he needed to explain the disappearance of the two paramedics to his satisfaction. If he was lucky he'd get what he needed and be home the same day.

The paramedics filed a deposition with the prosecutor in San Diego before they left. They said that the girl was breathing and had been treated by the doctor who was on the scene. They always deferred to the highest authority on the scene. The doctor treated the girl and they transported her the five minutes to the emergency room.

Since their testimony supported the prosecution, with them providing no treatment, there was only the pre-trial interview that would tell Angus if they were being honest or hiding something. He found John Woodward first. He was coming to work a few minutes after Angus was sent to the firehouse where he worked a few miles up Interstate 5.

"John Woodward, Angus McCoy, private detective. I need to speak with you about a case you covered a few weeks ago in San Diego."

John Woodward walked toward Angus without seeming put off.

"What can I do for you?" he asked.

Angus had the copy of his deposition in his hand and he handed it to him. The man read his remarks before handing it back to Angus.

"Not much to tell. Pretty little girl. Broken neck. She was in pretty bad condition."

"You didn't treat her?"

"Monitored her. We had her in the ER five minutes after we picked her up. There were a lot of things we could have done, but there was a doctor there. He treated her. We transported her."

"Why'd you transfer the week after you covered this?" Angus asked.

"I wanted to get back to LA. I'm from the Valley. San Diego was nice but it wasn't home."

"Your partner transferred?"

"I heard that," he said, eyeballing Angus more carefully.

"You didn't discuss leaving San Diego?"

"I don't remember."

"Odd, don't you think?"


"Who got to you? Why did they want you out of reach?"

"Look, we ran that call by the book. Who do you work for?"

"The defense attorney. That's a courtroom answer. Why did you really transfer? I'm not after you or your buddy. I'm investigating a case that might send an innocent man to prison. There's something wrong with it. You aren't the only ones to disappear. Someone put a bug in your ear. I just want to know why. What made you transfer? Tell me that and I'm out of here and out of your hair. We don't need you."

"There's no civil law suit pending?" he asked.

"Why would there be a civil case? The criminal case is pending."

"It's what we overheard. We were in the DA's office, giving this deposition. Two men talking a few desks away. They said we could be held liable for her death in a civil lawsuit. They thought if we got lost, no one would look for us."

"Who would sue? The girl is still unidentified. First name is Sharon. We don't know where she's from. There's no lawsuit."

"We're a couple of working stiffs. We don't have any money."

"Exactly, John. No one will sue you. You followed procedure. The doctor treated her. Did he miss anything? I don't have an agenda. I'm looking for the truth."

"He looked like he knew what he was doing. I only saw him a minute before the cops forced him to move away from her. He didn't look impaired to me but that's merely my opinion."

"Is it an opinion you'd give in court if it might help him, John?"

"Yea, if there's no lawsuit, I'd say it in court. It pisses me off that I might have been set up. I'll testify."

"Thanks. If your buddy hears I asked about him, tell him what we talked about. Tell him neither of you are at risk."

"Curiouser and curiouser," Angus said, getting into his car to go the boarding house where Conrad Simpson lived.

He was the waiter who served Vince and Jennifer that night. He'd finally sent for his last paycheck. He worked two blocks from the rooming house. He wasn't expected at work that day.

Angus parked his car across the street from the rooming house and waited. For the first time, as Angus sat there, he thought of Sharon. No one had identified her yet. She probably wasn't from the west coast. He'd see to it the picture was more widely distributed. It was important to see to that Sharon got home if he could.

Angus wondered if Conrad Simpson was given the same quick shuffle as the paramedics. The two men planted to scare the paramedics into transferring out of San Diego was the first proof someone was engineering the case. Was that how they got rid of Conrad, or was it a different ploy that got him to leave town?"

As Angus considered the possibilities, Conrad emerged from the rooming house. He pulled himself up out of the car as Conrad reached the end of the sidewalk, turning toward the restaurant.

"Conrad. Conrad Simpson?" Angus yelled, realizing too late his approach was that of a police detective.

The result was predictable.

Conrad hesitated long enough to glace back at Angus before taking off. After a block Angus called off the chase, watching the young man run away from him. He wondered what made Conrad run.

Angus waited in a doorway across the street from the restaurant for about ten minutes before Conrad made an appearance. Conrad approached the restaurant with caution, looking through the windows before entering. Angus crossed the street and took his turn peeking into the window. Conrad was sitting in the rear booth, talking to a waitress.

Angus went around back, flashed his inadequate detective's license to prove he could come through the kitchen, and reaching through the door into the restaurant, he seized good old Conrad's shoulder. Angus could no longer outrun the nimble Conrad, but he could outthink him.

"Conrad Simpson, " Angus said. "So, we meet again. I'm Angus."

"Get off me!" Conrad complained.

Angus moved around to sit beside him, putting one finger up to his lips to indicate Conrad might want to shut up. Conrad sat with no escape possible. Angus took his time explaining who he was and what he wanted. Conrad relaxed when he realized he wasn't under arrest.

"I'm a two time loser. If I go down again it's my third strike."

"I'm here to discuss your serving some wine to a couple of diners at your restaurant. A third strike? Are they bootlegging their booze?"

"A guy, a big guy, almost as big as you, flashed his badge at me, when I came out of my apartment a few days after that accident. He says, I'm a two time loser and he aims to get me my third strike if I stay in his town. He's like serious. I'm not waiting around to see if he's serious. I thought I hadn't moved far enough when I saw you."

"Did anyone talk to you about the case involving the customers who were involved in that accident?"

"No, I saw it. It named the restaurant. I was sure I'd served them, but no one ever spoke to me about it. I left the following week, so I suppose someone could have come looking for me."

"Yea, me, Conrad. You're in the clear. Do you remember what they drank?"

"Wine, but that's what I served them at the table. I can't say if they had cocktails first. I think she may have had a cocktail with the meal or before. I can't be sure. I wouldn't be much of a witness."

"I was a cop, Conrad. The cop that rousted you? You got snookered. If he intended to see you did time, you'd be doing it before he ever told you about it. You don't have anything to worry about. He might, if I ever catch up with him."

"I wouldn't mind seeing that," Conrad said. "Thanks."

"Wes, yea, Angus. I need to see you right away."

"Angus, I've have plans to spend the evening with the woman I love. I need to remind her, she's why I do all this. Maybe remind me."

"Wes, tonight. You'll want to know what I found out."

"Okay. I'm giving my wife your home and office numbers. I'll instruct her to file all complaints with you from now on."

"Okay, Wes. I'll see you in a few hours. I'll take you down stairs for a drink if you stay in your office."

"You buying for a change?"

"Sure. I'll buy, Wes. Bye." Wes was waiting in his office when Angus arrived. He could tell by the way he was beaming that he'd found something important. They went down to the bar and Angus told Wes about his two interviews that day. Wes asked for the information about the dinner and the drinks the night of the accident for a second time.

"Okay, we've got the doctor drinking two glasses of wine, according to the waiter. Jennifer says he might have had a mixed drink. It's a wash. We still can't prove how much he drank. It wasn't excessive."

"We had the preliminary today," Wes said. "Dr. Parsons is going to be our best witness. He's solid and in command of his facts. If there's reasonable doubt in the minds of any of the jurors, he's the man that will move them toward us."

"I like the sound of that. I'm sorry I wasn't there. I felt the interviews were too important. What about someone getting to our witnesses? I thought you'd be livid."

"No, I've past livid. We were in front of Judge Hamilton."

"The Hammer," Angus said.

"He's tough but he's fair. He nailed Ben Green on several accounts. The judge wasn't impressed with the prosecution's motions."

"Ben Green? Why do I recognize that name?"

"He is their master of murder. He's tough too," Wes admitted.

"What do they want with him?"

"They fancy they'll put their cleanup hitter in and everything will just fall before him. Judge Hamilton wasn't impressed. I might take those doctored documents over for the good judge to see."

"You said they didn't help the case," Angus reminded him.

"It looks suspicious. It doesn't prove anything. Who wrote the words, blood test? Didn't someone sign the original? They file them without the clipboard. Why did someone want to put it back on the clipboard to copy it? This case smells and I think Judge Hamilton has a very nice nose," Wes said.

"I wouldn't test the Hammer's patience if I were you."

Wes laughed and took some of his drink. They still needed the witness. They had some circumstantial evidence to prove Dr. Parsons wasn't guilty of anything, but going into court with no more than that wasn't doing his job. He needed more and he intended to get it.

"No tox screen. They were lost. They are looking for other samples they took. No luck yet. No evidence Sharon was high."

"Let me get this straight. Along with all the other irregularities in this case, they've now lost a vital piece of information that might prove the girl was under the influence of alcohol or drugs."

"I don't make this stuff up, Angus. I called for the reports they promised me before the preliminary. That's what I was told. Must be misfiled. They're looking."

"I won't hold my breath," Angus said angrily.

"This brings us back to Ronnie Haggerty. We need him for trial. That gives us two months if we don't ask for a delay. It's what you need to do now. He's the only sure thing we've got."

"No, that's the problem. We don't have him and I don't know where to go to look for him."

"No isn't an answer we can live with."

"I'll find him, Wes. If he's alive I'll find him."

"I just hope it happens before our doctor is looking out from between the bars."

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