True blue, p.35
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       True Blue, p.35

           David Baldacci
slower 1  faster

  “Most people accused of a crime are guilty, Mace, you know that.”

  “Well, you know something, big sister?”


  “I wasn’t guilty.”


  CAN I SMOKE in here?” asked the Captain.

  “No, nonsmoking building,” said Roy as he wrote some notes down.

  “Hey, is it time to eat?”


  “I’m hungry.”

  “I know. Okay, so you got in on Friday a little after six. Hid in the closet by the stairs on the main floor. Then around eight you went up to the fourth floor and settled in for the weekend. What time did you leave on Monday morning?”

  “Can’t remember.”

  “You have to try, Lou.”

  The Captain seemed confused by the use of his real name. Roy noted this and said, “Lawyer-client thing, I need to start using your real name.”

  “But I tell you what, those damn Twinkies were stale anyway. What’s the fuss?”

  Roy ran a hand through his hair and wondered why it wasn’t falling out with all the stress he was under. “The fuss is they’re not charging you with stealing Twinkies, they’re charging you with murder.” He pointed his pen at the Captain. “If you get no other concept down, Lou, please get that one.”

  “I didn’t kill nobody. I would’ve remembered something like that.”

  “Please don’t make that sort of statement to anyone ever again. And the evidence says otherwise, namely that you did rape and kill her.”

  “Why I got you. Two hundred bucks. You send me a bill.”

  I will, to whatever prison you’ll be spending the rest of your life in.

  “Them cheapskates anyway.”


  “Twinkie people. Only time I heard church bells.”

  Roy put his pen down and stared helplessly at the man opposite him. It seemed like the Captain was finally really losing all touch with reality. “Church bells?”

  “Yep. Why’d they have to lock up that refrigerator anyway?”

  “Lock what refrigerator?”

  “The one where I was staying. They didn’t lock up the toilet. Or the Twinkies. And they ain’t never had much in there anyway so why lock it up?”

  “Lock it up how?”

  The Captain made a circling motion with his hands. “Big old chain.”

  Roy had a momentary vision of Mace holding a “big old chain” as a weapon on the fourth floor the previous night when unknown people were coming after them.

  “Did they wrap it around the fridge to keep it closed?”

  “Why else? Big old padlock. Tried to pick it with my knife. No way, no how. Bet they had Pepsi in there. I like Pepsi better’n Coke.”

  “Was the chain on there when you got to the fourth floor?”

  The Captain thought about this. “Don’t know. I think I went to sleep. But it was on there when I woke up.”

  “Well, that makes sense, Lou, if they thought someone was stealing the food from inside it. They’d lock it up after hours.”

  “Oh, right. Didn’t think of that. You smart, Roy. Glad you’re my lawyer.”

  “Okay, what about the church bells?”

  “Yeah, nothing to eat. Ain’t staying there. So’s I left to look for some food.”

  “Church bells? You mean you left on Sunday?”

  “You sure I can’t get me a smoke?”

  “I’m sure. You were talking church bells?”

  With a vacuous expression the Captain said, “Don’t they still have church on Sunday or did they pick another day?”

  “No, it’s still on Sunday.” Roy thought quickly. There were several churches whose bells could be heard at his building. He’d experienced their pealing himself when he’d worked weekends. “So you didn’t actually stay in the building all weekend. You left on Sunday?”

  “Well, yeah, didn’t I already tell you that?”

  “No, you didn’t!” Roy snapped. “Before you said you left on Monday morning.” He drew a calming breath and reminded himself that while his client was nearly sixty, his mental ability was closer to that of a young child. He said in a regular tone, “We’ve been going through the timeline for an hour now and you never mentioned that, Lou.”

  The Captain held up Roy’s watch. “’Cause this ain’t my watch, Roy. I can’t tell no good time with yours.”

  Under different circumstances Roy might’ve laughed. “Okay, but once you left, did you come back?”

  “No, sir. For what? No food is no food. I got me some grub.”

  “Did you buy it or find it?”

  “I got two hundred dollars. I bought it.”


  “Little grocery store. Man I fought in ’Nam against, he runs it. Only he likes me now. Ain’t never once run me off like some other folks.”

  Roy had a sudden inspiration. “The little shop next to the Starbucks on Wisconsin?” He’d bought some food for lunch there on occasion and had met the owner.

  “Yeah, that’s right. Starbucks? Sure could use me a cup of java about now.”

  “And this happened on Sunday when exactly?”

  “They have bananas and apples right outside the door like when I was a kid. Bought me some. He likes me now, but back in ’Nam we were trying to kill each other. I sure remember him all right. He shot me and I shot him. Name’s Yum-Yum or something.”

  Roy knew that the Captain hadn’t fought against Yum-Yum, whose name was actually Kim Sung. He’d emigrated not from Vietnam but from South Korea into the United States and was only in his early forties. But it didn’t matter anyway. Even if the man could place the Captain outside the building on Sunday he could still have sneaked back in to the fourth floor later and attacked Diane on Monday morning. Yet at least it was something. “Did you still hear the church bells when you bought the bananas?’

  “Oh yeah.”

  “Sun was high up in the sky?”


  “Okay, how about Sunday night and Monday morning?”

  The Captain gave him an alarmed look. “What about ’em? They happened, right?”

  Roy took a moment to press against the throbbing pain he had in his left temple. “Yes, they happened. Right on schedule. But, see, if we can find some people who saw you on Sunday night and Monday morning then we can tell the police that you didn’t kill… that you didn’t steal any more Twinkies on Sunday or Monday.”

  A light finally seemed to dawn in the Captain’s emerald eyes. “Oh, right. That’s the truth, I didn’t. No more damn Twinkies. They were stale anyway. And stale Twinks? Not even Pepsi can make that taste good.”

  “Okay, I’ll check with Kim, I mean with Yum-Yum, and get his statement. So was there anyone else who you saw?”

  “Nope. Just went down by the river and got inside the runoff pipe. Slept there.”

  “And you saw no one? How about somebody in a boat? Early morning rower? Run into anyone when you climbed out of the pipe?”

  “I’d have to do me some thinking on that, Roy. And I’m tired.”

  The Captain put his head down on the table and within a minute he was asleep.

  Roy watched him while thinking it would be so easy to just get up and leave. Go back to his cushy job making his big bucks in fancy Georgetown. He didn’t need this hassle, taking all the hits for defending some homicidal homeless lost cause. It was like Ackerman had said. Give up the golden egg for this?

  But he didn’t get up. He just continued to stare down at a man who’d pretty much sacrificed his life so Americans could keep on being fat and happy. He said in a tired but clear voice, “I’m going to do my best for you, Captain. And even if we don’t win, we’ll both go down fighting.”

  The Captain grunted and then sat up. He looked around groggily. “Is hon gone?”

  “Hon? Oh yeah, she’s still gone.”

  “Two hundred dollars, Roy.”

  “Captain, you don’t have to pay me. I’m doing
this pro bono, I mean I’m doing this on my dime.”

  “How I got it.” The Captain looked embarrassed. “Peed in a cup.”

  “Excuse me?”

  The Captain gazed at the tabletop and said in a hushed voice, “Peed in a cup.”

  Roy sat forward, still looking confused. “Someone paid you two hundred dollars to pee in a cup?”

  “Not pee, the other thing.” Now Roy could really see pink in the man’s cheeks because he was blushing.

  “The other thing?”

  “They gave me a magazine to look at. Couldn’t say this in front of hon.”

  “A magazine?”

  “Girlie magazine. Not pee. You know. The other thing.”

  “You mean?”

  The Captain eyeballed Roy with a knowing look. “Two hundred dollars to look at a girlie magazine.”

  Roy leaned forward and gripped the Captain’s arm. “Where did you do this?”

  “G-town. Not too far.”

  “Was it a fertility clinic, a sperm bank?”

  The Captain just looked at him with a blank expression.

  “Forget that, can you remember when you did it?”

  “It was daylight.”

  “Okay, can you remember exactly where this place was?”

  “Uh… It was white.”

  “Can you describe the person who asked you to, uh, pee in the cup?”

  “Some guy.”

  “Never mind, I’ll find it!” Roy banged his briefcase closed and raced out of the room.


  MACE LEFT the mansion and walked over to the guesthouse. Alisha and Tyler were sitting at the dining room table eating a meal that Herbert had prepared. Mace sat down next to Tyler, who alternated between carefully forking mashed potatoes into his mouth and taking large gulps of milk.

  “I know, the food here is pretty terrific,” said Mace, as she watched the little boy.

  “Do you live here?” Alisha asked her.

  “For now. You all settled in?”

  Alisha nodded. “I can’t believe it. I mean just yesterday I was in my little apartment and then at Social. And now. It’s like a dream. It’s like a movie.” She gazed around the expansive room in wonder. She looked over at her son. “I think Ty likes it here too.”

  “Wait’ll I show you the gym. It’s got an indoor basketball court.”

  Ty’s eyes widened.

  “You hear that, Ty?” said his mother. “A basketball court.”

  “He likes basketball?”

  “Oh, yeah. Don’t get a chance to play much. But he likes watching. He was watching from the window when your friend kicked Psycho’s butt. Shoulda seen Ty clapping and jumping.”

  Mace said, “I can show you some cool moves if you want, Ty.”

  The little boy took another mouthful of food and looked at his mother.

  “That’d be good, right, Ty?”

  He nodded quickly.

  Afterwards they walked over to the gym. Mace got a ball and took Ty onto the court while Alisha watched. Mace bounced the ball between her legs, turned, and shot. The ball swished through the hoop, barely grazing the net.

  Ty’s face lit up and he looked over at his mother. Alisha clapped and Ty clapped too, his little arms pumping away. Mace took his hand and they moved closer to the basket. “Hang on one sec, Ty.” She hustled over to a switch on the wall that raised and lowered the basket. She cranked it down to about five feet high and rejoined Ty. She instructed him how to hold the ball and then helped him with the first few shots. Three missed, but the fourth one found the bottom of the net.

  Ty opened his mouth, and though no sound came out it was clear that he was shouting for joy. Mace showed him to how to bank a shot in. Every time he made a basket he would open his mouth, raise his arms in triumph, and then look at his mother. A few minutes later Alisha and Mace chased Ty all over the court as he bounced the ball and played keep-away. Thirty minutes later the two women sat down on a section of pullout bleachers while Ty kept bouncing the ball and hustling around the court.

  “Okay, I’m officially worn out,” said Mace as she watched the little boy run.

  “He wears me out too. That little apartment ain’t big enough to keep him tired. But it better than some alley.”

  “You should feel good you got out of that, Alisha. Real good.”

  “That man, Mr. Altman, he say we can stay here long as we want to. And he say he got some folks to look at Ty.”

  “He’s a very kind man. If anyone can help Ty, he can.”

  Alisha looked around the immense building. “But we can’t be staying here too long. I need to get me a real job. Take care of Ty good. Get going on my own.”

  “That will all come, Alisha. It’s all part of the program. Mr. Altman will explain it in more detail.”

  “Yeah, that what he said. He wants me to get my GED and then he talking maybe college.”

  “That’s great.”

  She looked worried. “I don’t know. Folks in college they real smart. And the way I talk and all.”

  “The way you talk is fine. And I wonder how many of them could have survived what you did. You can do this. You’re smart too.”

  Alisha smiled. “Sound like my granny. Be anything you want to be.”

  “You can.”

  Alisha stretched out her hand and placed it over the top of Mace’s. “Thank you.”

  “Have you talked to Darren?”

  “Unh-uh. Thought he call me, but he ain’t.”

  “And he knows what Psycho did to you?”

  “I know I shouldn’t told him. He in prison when it happened.”

  “What was he in for?”

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