No Controlling Legal Authority Ch. 10byTheScribe©
It was nearly four in the morning and nothing was moving. Even the dogs which had been prowling the neighborhood had stopped barking and had retired for the night. The Acock Motel's no vacancy sign threw a faint light onto the parking lot, which was empty except for Moon Dog's solitary car. He had parked beside a hedge in the deep shadows at the edge of the lot and the car was nearly invisible from the street beyond the motel lobby. Moon Dog had lowered the windows of his car so his breath wouldn't fog the windows in the cool night air; the interior was pitch black. Hunter was reaching for the door handle on the passenger side of the car, when, behind him, Moon Dog stepped out of the shadows and spoke in a low voice.
"Don't open the door, I rigged it to set off the horn and turn on the lights."
"Whoa, shit," Hunter gasped. "Don't sneak up on me like that, Dog, you scared the hell outa me."
"You're gettin rusty in your old age, Hunter, I heard you coming ten minutes ago. Could have shot your noisy ass three or four times, easy."
"No kidding, Dog, maybe that's because I been here for thirty minutes and already circled the damn motel twice making sure there wasn't anybody here but you and the girl, before I started over here to the car kicking' gravel and grunting like a pig in a hole, so's you'd hear me and not blow me full of holes."
"You're kiddin'; I didn't see you."
You weren't meant to, Dog. I stuck to the shadows. Every time you turned on that starlight scope of yours, your car filled up with green light, so I just stayed hid till it went out."
"I knew I was picking up too much light from that damn sign,” he snorted with a nod in the direction of the “no vacancy” sign. “Damn scope's made to amplify starlight; too much artificial light just overwhelms it."
"I could have shot your ass twenty or thirty times, old man; you're just lucky I wasn't Caruthers."
"Hell, Caruthers isn't coming here tonight. There's no way he could have trailed us here that quick. Besides, we got no proof that he'd actually shoot anybody, do we?"
"We do now."
"That's a fact, Dog; I've had quite a night."
"You want to get in the car and tell me about it?"
"Sure, if you disarm your alarm system first."
"Oh, hell, I was lying, it isn't rigged."
Hunter opened the car door and nothing happened. The interior remained pitch black, and he looked questioningly at Moon Dog.
"Well, I haven't forgotten everything I ever knew; I did take out the overhead bulb, so it wouldn't light up every time I got out to pee or something."
"Good man to share a foxhole with," Hunter laughed, and he slid into the car soundlessly. When they had taken up their positions, Hunter began to recount the night's events in a low voice.
“I left here and drove straight to the school. By the time I arrived the place was looking pretty well deserted, but I spotted a beat up old truck behind the building and called in the license plate. It was registered to an old fellow named Jackson, who is the janitor there. I figured he might have a pretty good idea about the things going on around there, and I thought the direct approach would be a lot faster than snooping around the principal's office in the dark, so I went in and found him mopping the halls. He was a little standoffish at first, but after I told him how I was there to help our little girl over there, he warmed right up.”
“What do you want to know?” he asked me.
“Everything,” I told him. “Whatever you think might help me protect Miss Anne. I don’t even know what she’s up against right now.
“Well, sir,” he said, “I can tell you this; Mr. Jerry, the mayor, now, he’s OK, but that wife of his and their no good kid, Archie, they’re bad people, fer sur.”
“How’s that, Jackson?”“
“`Cause, they’s the ones that got me fired up at the plant, and after I’s been workin’ up there well nigh thirty years without hardly missin’ a day.”
“Why’d they do that?”
“On account of that boy lyin’ and tellin’ his mamma that I tore up his car, when he was up here visitin’ his daddy, when he knowed hit was him that got drunk and sideswiped a fence post. They said hit’as me that drove the forklift into the side of his car, but hit weren’t me.”
“How come you were fired, if it wasn’t you?”
“On account of that woman, Mrs. Nancy, that’s why. She got all mad and come up here demanding Mr. Jerry fire that ‘goddamn black bastard’ what scratched up her little darlins’ car, so Mr. Jerry called me in and said they weren’t nothin’ he could do but do as she says and let me go.”
“After thirty years?”
“Yes, sir, thirty of them, but that weren’t the end of the story either. Mr. Jerry said he’d been thinkin’ that I’as gettin’ purty close to retirement and that he needed to find me somethin’ a lot easier than workin’ in that pallet factory, so he told me that I was comin’ down to the school to be the janitor starting the next day and that he’as givin’ me two times the pay.”
“Sounds like a pretty good deal for you, Jackson.”
“I couldn’t hardly believe my ears, and I asked him if that wouldn’t make the missus madder than hell at him, if she ever found out what he done? He said she wouldn’t ever know the difference `cause didn’t neither of them, her or Archie, know what I looked like or even what my name was.”
“Was he right? I mean, didn’t Archie recognize you here at the school?”
“Shoot no, mister. That boy didn’t no more know who this old nigger was than he knowed who his momma was. He did axe me once if’n he didn’t knowed me from somewheres, an’ I jes tole him, ‘Why no suh, Misser Archie, suh, you knows all’n us niggers be lookin’ jes alike; hit mussa been summun `sides me,’ an’ he jes scratched that empty ole haid of his’n and walked off an’ I ain’t heered no more ‘bout it after that.”
“But hadn’t he seen you at the plant?”
“I `spect so, out the office window, whiles he’s in the air conditioning, maybe, but that no account boy ain’t never got out where the work was goin’ on, so he ain’t never seen me no closer than from here to town, just about.”
“Archie and his mamma sound like quite a pair, Jackson; you have anything else you can tell me about?”
“I `spect you done heard `bout him forcin’ hisself on Miss Anne down in the Lounge the other night.”
“I know about that.”
“D’jew know she put him up to it?”
“How come you think that?”
“`Cause, she put him up to spyin’ on `em, and takin’ they’s pictures offen my ladder, that’s how come.”
“That’s kinda thin, Jackson.”
“Why don’t you go see for yo’sef?”
“Go see what?”
“What all goes on up there at they’s house up there on that hill.”
“At the Farber’s?”
“What goes on up there?”
“Oh my gracious, Mr. Hunter, bad stuff, that’s what. Stuff decent folk don’t talk about. Hit’s all there, recorded on them recorders.”
“How do you know what’s up there?”
“`Cause, the missus makes Mr. Justice send me up there to help clean up after they’s parties, and, whoee, is they ever a mess. I seen what they dos with them recorders stuck all over the house so’s you can’t move without havin’ yo’ picture took. They leave `em runnin’ lots of times, and don’t pay no `tention to no old nigger runnin’ a vacuum, and I seen plenty, yessir, plenty, so’s I’s knowin’ everthin’ what’s goin’ on up there.”
“And, you think I ought to go up there and see for myself?”
“Yessir, I does. You can take yo’self up there tonight if’n you’s a mind to.”
“They gone, pulled outa town right after Miss Anne took off. Mr. Justice, he say, they be gone two weeks at least.”
“Why’d he tell you about that, Jackson?”
“`Cause, she done tole him to send me up there to shampoo they’s carpets while they’s be gone, so hit’ll be clean when they comes home.”
“You’ve been doing that?”
“Yessir, ever night, cleanin’ them carpets and watchin’ they’s videos when I can.”
“Every night, Jackson? You go clean carpets at the Farbers’ every night after you get off work here?”
“Hit’s a big house and they’s lots of carpet.”
“How long you up there nights?”
“Mostly all night, then I comes down here to the school.”
“Good God, I hope she pays you well.”
“She don’t pay me nothin; she say I gets paid enough here at the school.”
“Some lady, Jackson.”
“You be goin’ up there, then, Mr. Hunter? I got me a key to they’s house, right here on my keychain; you be welcome to it.”
“I won’t be needin’ your key, Jackson; I know how to let myself in.”
“Maybe so, but you better be mindin’ they’s burglar alarm; hit’s one of them fancy ones what knows what yo’ be thinkin’ b’foe yo do.”
“You must know the pass code.”
“That I does.”
“Let me have it, and tell me where the control box is, and I’ll get out of your way, Jackson. You’ve been a big help; Miss Anne will appreciate your help more than you’ll ever know.”
“You gonna be seein’ her soon, Mr. Hunter?”
“Will you give her something for me?”
“Sure, Jackson, what is it?”
The gentle old man reached into the pocket of his bib overalls and extracted a small bundle. It was a flat, folded, square of paper hand towel, the brown kind that you find in the dispensers in public toilets. Jackson carefully unfolded the paper, revealing the contents to be what appeared to be nothing more than a little wad of strings.
“What’s this?” Hunter queried upon accepting the package.
“Hit’s her swimmin’ suit; I found hit by the pool that night after she run out on Archie. I guess she was too scared to go back and pick it up herself.”
“I’ll see that she gets it, Jackson,” he promised. “And, I’ll tell her it was you that found it and kept it for her; I know she’ll be grateful.”
“You have it with you now?” Moon Dog asked, interrupting Hunter’s narrative.
“Yeah, right here,” Hunter answered, and he pulled the plainly wrapped package from his pants pocket.
“Let me have it; I’ll give it to Caleb when he gets here this afternoon, and he can decide what to do with it.”
“Yeah, right, he’s coming, then; I guess I knew he would,” Hunter responded just a little sullenly. “You know he’s not half the man THE Judge was, don’t you?”
“Hunter, ain’t no man dead or alive that’s half the man that Colonel Montcastle was,” Moon Dog declared with conviction, “but the boy’s learning, and we promised the Old Man, before he died, that we’d help him however we could, even if it meant lettin’ him make his own mistakes.”
“So, you think this is a mistake too?”
“I didn’t say that, Hunter; let’s just let him play his hand and do what we can to keep him from getting killed or arrested.”
“Jesus H. Christ, Dog, his daddy was the best damn officer the Army ever had; what the hell do you think he’d say if he knew Caleb had us out here in the middle of the night babysittin’ some hot piece of ass for him?”
“I know what he’d say, Hunter, soon as the patrol came back in and reported what all the `hot piece of ass,’ as you call her, had been through and what Caleb was doing to help her, he’d tell us to shut the fuck up and get back to business, which is exactly what we are going to do, my old friend.”
“Yeah, you’re right, I guess.”
“Not a lot of room for guessing where the Colonel was concerned, Hunter; either you were with him or against him.”
“I never let him down, Dog; I won’t start now.”
“I never doubted it,” Moon Dog responded softly, and then, he continued, “That brings me back to the question at hand, buddy; I assume you made it into the Mayor’s house.”
“Did I ever. You would not believe the security in that place; it was like breaking into Ft. Knox. Doors had some kind of fancy digital locking mechanism that took me half an hour to figure out. Had me wishing that I had accepted Jackson’s offer of his key, but that would just have pointed the finger at him. Once I got the door open, the alarm system wasn’t any problem thanks to Jackson’s pass code, but that was only the beginning. That whole place is wired for sound and video, with motion and sound detectors everywhere, so whenever somebody enters a room, any room, a video and sound recorder starts up, sometimes several at once, and every thing that happens gets recorded. It took me a while to learn the system and erase all the video of me poking around. I imagine that they’ve got video recordings of everything that’s happened in that house for years.”
“What do you mean, `I imagine,’ you looked, didn’t you?”
“I tried, but they have most of the videos locked up in a vault that really did look like Ft. Knox. I figured it would take me a day just to open it up, and I didn’t have that kind of time, so I looked around and found about a month’s worth of tapes in a little control room just off the den. I figured they hadn’t gotten around to putting the more recent recordings into the vault, so I ran through most of them on fast forward and found a few that looked to connect to your lady friend in the room over there. Regardless, they gave me a pretty good look at the Mayor’s wife, buddy, and is she ever a piece of work.”
“That bad, huh? Worse, even, than what we learned about her from Anne’s last conversation with Rufus?”
“A lot worse, Dog.”
“Well, you better tell me about it; we got a while before sun up.”
“It’ll take a while; there were a stack of tapes. You still have that tape recorder with you?”
“Yeah, it’s right here,” Moon Dog answered, reaching into the back seat to retrieve his portable tape recorder.
“Yeah, new ones.”
“Good. Turn it on and don’t interrupt me till I’m finished. I’ll dictate my report from memory right now, `cause if I sleep first, I will surely forget half of what I saw.”
Moon Dog squinted, trying to read Hunter’s face in the darkness. He had been the best in Nam; the one recon scout in the whole Army with a truly photographic memory. He could lay under a bush beside the Ho Chi Minh trail for three days, watching and counting NVA regiments infiltrating south, and when he was extracted a week later, he could not only give numbers and troop strengths, he could tell you how many officers accompanied the troops, their ranks, what they were wearing, the side arms they were carrying and how many days had passed since their last shave, and he could do it completely from memory without a single note. Hell, Moon Dog recalled, he could even identify half of them by name from intelligence photographs he had looked at months earlier. He wasn’t a man to lose track of details, no matter how many or varied.
“It’s running, buddy; let her rip.”
Hunter started speaking, his voice rising and falling with the pace of the story like an actor reading parts from a script, and, almost immediately, Moon Dog was caught up in the tale and was being swept along in turbulent waters.
* * *
Jerry Farber was sitting in his kitchen, reading the newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee. He was wearing a white, freshly starched dress shirt and necktie. Dishes, with the remains of breakfast, had been pushed to the center of the table. He glanced over the top of his paper at the sound of Nancy Farber's voice.
"Just look at what the postman left us yesterday, would you, Jerry?" she muttered with a note of irritation as she entered the kitchen and made her way to the end of the dinette table opposite Jerry. She was waving a folded, note sized rectangle of scented, lavender paper at him. "It's another invitation from the Justices to a tea at the school; engraved no less. That makes three so far this year."
"You're not planning on making me go, are you?" The mayor sounded a little apprehensive; teas were not his cup of tea, you might say. "I went to one just last Spring, didn't I?"
"No, darling, you didn't. That was a coffee at the retirement center." She was paying little attention to him. She tapped her lip with the folded invitation, thinking.
"Darn," Jerry snorted, "I was hoping I had done that already. But, hell, aren’t three teas a little excessive? I mean how much tea can they be drinking out there, anyway?"
"I expect the headmaster's wife is getting a little desperate at this point."
"Who's desperate?" The mayor had picked up the newspaper and was losing interest in the conversation.
"The headmaster's wife; Imogene Justice," she repeated impatiently. "Put down that paper and talk to me, you know how I hate talking to the newspaper."
Jerry sighed and lowered the paper to his lap. "Sorry darling, I was just checking the soybean futures; what's bothering Mrs. Justice aside from the fact that she's too skinny and her tits are too small."
"Jerry Farber, you naughty man, you've been lookin at another woman again," she teased him good naturedly. "She's not that small; hers just aren't as big as mine." The mayor's wife leaned over and pulled the lapels of her robe apart revealing her considerable cleavage as she spoke, and she giggled when Jerry smacked his lips in appreciation.
"You're right, babe, you get the best booby prize for all time. I guess she just looks flat-chested standing next to you."
"I'll take that as a compliment, thank you very much," she laughed covering herself. "You really weren't looking at her, I guess. She's actually a pretty good looking woman. A little overdone in her hair style, perhaps, with it cut short and swept back like a boy's, but I guess she's just trying to look older, more mature."
"Why the hell would she want to do that? I thought all you women wanted was to look ten years younger than you are."
"Trying to look sophisticated, Jerry. Didn't you notice? She's got wannabe written all over her."
"Notice what?" He was genuinely puzzled; the machinations of women frequently left him perplexed.
"Oh God, men," Nancy huffed in exasperation. "Her clothes, you boob; she went down to Maxine's boutique and bought a whole new wardrobe not three days after she and Rufus moved into town. Maxine said she wanted to know what kinds of things I was wearing, cause she wanted the same for herself, and she ran up a bill that's gonna take her three years to pay off on the Headmaster's salary."
"Guess she needed something to wear to all those Goddamn teas."
Nancy was beginning a roll and ignored him. "And, how about her car; have you seen it?"
Jerry shook his head. "No, I can't honestly say as I have."
"Well, mister, it's a BMW, the big one, but Sheriff Briggs checked the registration for me and found out that they bought it used and didn't even have enough money left to put decent tires on it. The tires are so bald now that they can't go out in it if it rains."
"Sounds dire to me." Jerry knew it was best to sort of punctuate Nancy's sentences with brief little observations like that, just enough to show he was paying attention.
"Jolene, down at the "Clip, Curl & Chat," says she even brought in a magazine with a picture of Lady Diana and said she wanted to look just like her. How do you like that?"
"That Jolene must be a whiz with the scissors; they do favor quite a bit."
Nancy had to admit that even her girls had been amazed at the resemblance, but that didn't prove she wasn't a wannabe. She sensed that Jerry was slipping away, but plunged ahead anyway; "And, what's more, Jolene says that Imogene keeps asking about who the members of our bridge group are and how could she get asked to play with us."
"I never cared much for bridge, you'll recall; I always got the lousy cards, and you kept calling me a "dummy."
"That wasn't..." she began, but stopped and shook her head, "Oh, never mind, that's beside the point. She's a social climber, baby. She would like nothing better than to be invited to join our bridge group and play cards with us every Tuesday and Thursday. It would give her an entrée. Then, she could start socializing with us and all our friends, because we would have to invite her to all our parties, since we would be seeing her two days a week at the bridge club meetings."