True blue, p.34
True Blue, p.34David Baldacci
“I did. He said it was between you and him.”
“And it is, Beth. Between him and me.”
“I didn’t think we kept secrets from each other.”
“You’re the police chief. I am not going to put you in a compromising situation.”
“What happened to Kelly was a one-in-a-million shot.”
“I’ll take those odds.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“No, Beth, what’s ridiculous is me spending over a decade laying it all on the line to protect people, only to have it all crater when someone framed me for shit I don’t even remember. I lost two years of my life in prison where every day seemed like it would be my last one. Now I’m out but can’t do the one thing that I was born to do. What, did you think I was just going to forget it? Say, ‘Oh, well, shit happens’?”
The two women stared at each other, neither one seemingly willing to give in.
Beth’s phone buzzed. She didn’t move to answer it.
Mace said, “Better grab it. The law waits for no one, not even two pissed-off sisters.”
Beth finally broke off eye contact and snatched up her phone. “Chief.” She listened and then clicked off. “That was Lowell Cassell.”
“I already know. Dockery’s DNA didn’t match.”
“No, it was a perfect match. It was, without a doubt, his sperm inside Diane Tolliver.”
ROY SAT at his desk vigorously squeezing his miniature basketball in his right hand. His anxiety was justified. His secretary Janice had popped in to tell him that the entire firm had been sent an e-mail from Chester Ackerman about his connection with Diane’s alleged murderer. She’d gone on to say that right now Roy was about as popular with his coworkers as Osama bin Laden would be.
He’d tried to defend himself. “Janice, will you hear me out. I—”
The slamming door had cut him off.
He clicked on his computer and started checking his e-mails. Work still had to be done and he and Diane had been in the middle of shepherding several large acquisitions through to closure. Ackerman had not yet assigned anyone to take over Diane’s work permanently, so Roy was carrying the laboring oar on the legal end. He didn’t mind that, but he missed being able to kick ideas around with her, or go to her when something didn’t make sense. He wished he could go to her right now, because he was perplexed.
Your death makes no sense to me, Diane. Can’t you tell me what happened? Who killed you?
That line of thought was clearly not going to get him anywhere. He returned some calls, opened some files, pulled up some half-finished contracts on his computer, and pored over laborious notes he’d taken at a recent client meeting. He worked for a couple more hours and then checked his e-mails again. There were lots of new ones, some from clients, some from friends, and a few from coworkers telling him to basically get his head out of his butt over defending Diane’s killer.
For some reason, he scrolled far down the list and checked one old e-mail.
It was the last one he would ever get from Diane Tolliver.
We need to focus in on A-
Okay, they’d gotten that piece and run it down for naught. Roy’s gaze next ran over the initials at the bottom of the e-mail.
It was her initials, for Diane Louise Tolliver. He’d seen her full name on several diplomas she had hanging in her office. As he thought about it, her initials being there made sense, but it also didn’t make sense. Roy quickly checked a dozen other e-mails that Diane had sent him over the last few months. None of them had her initials at the bottom. She invariably signed her e-mails, when she bothered to do so at all, by simply typing “Diane.”
For some reason those initials seemed familiar apart from Tolliver’s name. Was there another reason she had put those letters in the e-mail? A backup in case the A-1 reference yielded nothing? Thinking back to the highly organized and intelligent lawyer that Diane had been, Roy had to admit that the woman’s employing a second clue hidden in the same e-mail was entirely plausible.
But why direct all these clues at him? He worked with her, sure, but they weren’t really close friends. Then again, maybe she didn’t have any close friends. The woman used a paid escort, after all, when she wanted to go out. But why not go to the police? If she had learned of some criminal activity or even suspected something illegal was going on, why not just go to the cops? As far as Roy knew, Diane had never done any criminal work, but she was still a lawyer. She knew her way around the legal system better than most.
But I was a criminal defense attorney. Was that why she was sending me the clues?
A sudden fear gripped him. He stared at the tiny webcam mounted at the top of his computer monitor. What if they were watching him right now? But then his fears receded. Mace had been in here on the night she’d found out about the A-1 clue. They’d talked about her discovery here. If someone had been watching and listening, they would’ve gotten to the mailbox before Roy and Mace had.
He slid open his desk drawer, pulled out a Post-it note, and hastily stuck it over the webcam, pulling his fingers quickly back as though the damn thing might bite him.
His cell phone rang.
It was Mace. Her few words hit Roy harder than Psycho had. “I’ll meet you there in twenty minutes,” he said. He grabbed his jacket and sprinted out of the office. The Captain most definitely needed a lawyer now.
He’d just been formally charged with first-degree murder.
GOT SOME damn good news today, Roy.”
Roy and Mace were sitting across from the Captain. He’d showered and his wet hair was now slicked back, his revealed widow’s peak solid gray. With part of the street grime gone, Roy could actually see some pink skin on the man’s face. The Captain was also now wearing a prison jumpsuit. A shackle belt was around his large waist, though his hands and legs were free for the time being.
Roy could see that the Captain had once been a very handsome fellow. His features were sharply defined, there were remnants of a square jaw, and a pair of green eyes was now visible with the shaggy hair out of his face. The only time he got cleaned up was to be charged with murder. The irony was not lost on Roy.
He and Mace exchanged glances. He said, “What’s that, Captain?”
“They found my cart.”
“Who, the police?”
The Captain nodded. “They came and told me. Seemed happy about it.”
“I’m sure. Look, Captain, do you understand what’s going on here?”
The Captain sighed heavily. “Damn Twinkies. Always the damn Twinkies.”
Mace said, “They don’t shackle Twinkie thieves, Captain.”
He looked at her with benign curiosity. “Do I know you, hon?”
“We met once. It was a pretty electrifying moment for you.”
“Okay, hon. If you say so.”
Roy hunched forward. “The photo of the woman I showed you yesterday? They’re charging you with raping and killing her in her office.”
Strangely enough, the Captain laughed. “I know. They told me that. The cops just kidding, Roy.”
“So you didn’t do it?”
“No, sir. They got me on the Twinkies, though. And the tools, don’t forget the tools, Roy. I took ’em. For the money.” He glanced at Mace and added woefully, “Three dollars, hon. Guy in a turban ripped me off.”
“Right, the tools, you told me,” said Roy wearily. “So you my lawyer?”
Mace looked expectantly at Roy. “Are you his lawyer?’
Roy hesitated, but only for a moment. “Yeah, I am.”
“Then I got money to pay you,” said the Captain.
“I got two hundred dollars. Cops took it, but they said they’d give it back.”
“Where’d you get two hundred bucks?” asked Mace quickly.
The Captain looked e
Roy stood and paced. “Do you know what DNA is?”
The Captain squinted. “I think so, yeah,” he said unconvincingly.
“Well, they found your DNA on the dead woman.”
The Captain’s face brightened. “Are they going to give it back?” He shot a glance at Mace. “It’s mine, right? So I’ll get my cart, my money, and my DNA. And I won’t never take no more Twinkies, swear to God.”
Roy let out a small groan and leaned against the wall. Mace walked over to him and whispered, “Has he always been this out of it?”
In a low voice he said, “He can carry on a basic conversation, gets simple concepts okay, but the abstract stuff is way beyond him. When I repped him on the assault three years ago, he was starting to show some early signs of dementia. He got a suspended sentence mainly because the prosecutor was a Vietnam vet too. But that was a simple assault. He’s not going to get cut any slack for murder in the first. The problem is, he can carry on a conversation and he understands some things, so no one is going to buy that he didn’t know what he was doing.”
“I guess the moral is, if you’re going to go nuts, go all the way.”
“And they have his sperm in Diane’s body. And he’s admitted to being in the building at the time in question. How the hell do I defend that?”
“You can’t. We just have to find the truth. It’s the only way.”
“Yeah, well, what if the truth is he did rape and kill Diane? What then?”
“I don’t know. But my gut is howling that this whole thing stinks.”
“Well, when you can get a jury to listen to your gut, let me know.” Roy turned back to the Captain and pulled out a legal pad and pen from his briefcase. “Captain, I need you to focus for me. We need to go through some timelines. Can you do that?”
The man looked worried. “I don’t know. They took my watch, Roy. I ain’t no good with time without my watch.”
“It’s okay, you can use mine.” He slipped it off and handed it to his client.
Mace said, “While you go over the case with him I’m going to have a chat with my sister.”
WHEN MACE ARRIVED at Beth’s office her sister was hastily shoving files in a briefcase. “Got two minutes, Mace. Late for a bunch of meetings.”
“I’ll walk with you. Thanks for your help with Alisha and Tyler, by the way.”
“I’m assuming you’re here for some more help.” When Mace didn’t say anything, Beth added, “They called me when you two showed up to see Dockery. So is Kingman going to rep him?”
“Looks to be the case. Dockery said you found his cart?”
“That’s right. And would Kingman like to know what we found in it?”
“You have to tell him that anyway, Beth.”
“He’ll get all the proper evidentiary disclosures from the prosecutor’s office. Well, at least I assume he will.”
“What do you mean you assume he will?”
Beth gave her a knowing look. “Take a guess on who’s trying the case?”
“Oh hell, not Mona? She’s got an office full of homicide hounds to do that kind of work.”
“Did you really think she was going to pass up a case like this? Fine upstanding female law partner in G-town struck down by a homeless nutcase and then stuck in a fridge? She’ll get tons of ink on this. She’s probably getting her hair and nails done as we speak. She won’t do the heavy lifting, but rest assured she will be the voice of the U.S. Attorney’s Office at all press conferences and other media opportunities. She’ll probably do the closing argument too. If the case gets that far.”
“Why wouldn’t it?”
“Ever heard of a plea bargain? Although Mona won’t plead this out unless your guy takes the max. She’s not going to pass up her chance to get on Larry King for anything less than that.”
“So what did they find in the cart?”
“Tolliver’s missing panties and her purse. Credit cards and cell phone and office key card were inside but there was no cash.”
Mace’s mind flashed to what the Captain had said.
I got two hundred dollars.
“Two hundred dollars found on Dockery,” said Beth, seemingly reading her sister’s mind. “It does not look good, Mace.”
“I still don’t think the guy did it. I mean, look at all the other stuff going on here. The key Diane sent Roy. This Andre Watkins character. The guy rolling his apartment. The people after me. How do they all tie into Tolliver being murdered?”
“Did you ever stop to think that they don’t? I agree that there is something strange going on with Tolliver and the stuff with you. But her being killed by Dockery might have been a simple crime of opportunity that has no connection to the other things.”
“I just knew you were going to say that.”
‘Because it’s so… freaking logical!”
“My apologies for being so freaking logical.”
“But look, Dockery said the police found his cart, so it was missing. Anybody could’ve planted that stuff in there. And the other trace found at the crime scene too.”
“Let’s not forget the sperm in the woman’s vagina. Does Kingman want to make the argument that was planted too?”
“Believe me, I get the point.”
“How is his firm going to feel about Kingman defending the guy accused of murdering one of its partners?”
“Probably not too good.”
“So why is Kingman doing it?”
Mace gave her an exasperated look. “Why don’t you ever just call him Roy?”
“I only call my friends by their first names, with the exception of Mona. And I only do that because I found out she hates her name.”
“He’s doing it because he believes Dockery is innocent. Same as me.”
As they walked down the hall, Beth said, “Did you ever wonder how a guy like Dockery is able to sneak into the building like that and no one ever sees him? Sounds to me like he had some inside help.”
“What are you saying?”
“Maybe your lawyer friend is repping Dockery because he has a guilty conscience? He helps the guy get in the building, Dockery ends up going berserk and killing Tolliver, and Kingman comes in to help clean up the mess.”
“So you think Roy actually believes Dockery is guilty?”
True Blue by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on40 votes