tagNovels and NovellasNo Controlling Legal Authority Ch. 18

No Controlling Legal Authority Ch. 18

byTheScribe©

Caleb was punctual as usual. He pulled into the parking lot of the Acock precisely at 2:00 p.m. and spotted Moon Dog's car immediately. He was steering into the adjacent parking space when he noticed Moon Dog waving him toward a space at the opposite end of the lot. He was rolling to a stop when Moon Dog reached the side of his car and opened the driver's side door.

"Hold on Moon Dog," Caleb yelped as the car rolled forward with his door open. He stomped the brake, and the tires screeched slightly on the slick asphalt as the car lurched to a halt.

"Come on, Judge, we've got to leave, NOW. We'd be gone already if we weren't waiting for you and had no way to contact you." Moon Dog's voice was edgy, and his face was grim.

"What's the matter, man? What the hell's happened?" Caleb sputtered as he leapt out of the car.

"Somebody was killed last night, Judge," Moon Dog responded gruffly with his customary directness.

"Wha? Who?" He gasped in alarm. "Not the girl was it, Dog?"

"No, the girl's alright; she's just upset and scared out of her wits. It was the janitor over at Hardwick School."

"What's the connection, Dog? I don't get it.

"Walk with me, Judge, her room's over there in the middle, Number Six; I'll brief you on the way."

Moon Dog recounted the events of the previous night in a crisp, clipped voice, conforming to the ingrained, business-like manner of a military scout giving a report of the night patrol, and, by the time the two men had crossed the parking lot, he had furnished Caleb with all of the essential particulars.

"So," Moon Dog concluded, pausing a couple of doors down the walk from Number Six, "I was a little concerned and called the school this morning, first thing, intending to ask to speak to Jackson, just to make sure Caruthers hadn't gotten to him. The school secretary answered, and she was crying and sobbing to the point she could barely talk, and, when I asked to speak to Jackson, she broke down completely and said `accident, accident, there's been a terrible accident.' Finally, a teacher came on the line and told me that the janitor had been found floating face down in the pool early this morning. They think he slipped on the wet floor and fell into the pool. He apparently hit his head on the way down, because he had a nasty gash and there was a good bit of blood on the floor beside the pool."

"You've told her, then?"

"Yeah, Judge, I didn't think it was my place to keep something like that from her."

"No, I guess not."

"She's taking it pretty hard, I'm afraid," Moon Dog volunteered.

"How come, Dog; I mean, I don't get the connection?" He was a little confused and tried searching his recollection of Moon Dog's report for a mention of the janitor.

"She and Jackson were pretty close. He realized that she was alone, lonely and vulnerable, and he sort of took her under his wing. He and Mrs. Jackson didn't have any children, so they sort of adopted her, believe it or not; unofficially, of course. She goes, or went, to their house for dinner after church most Sundays."

"Church?" Caleb croaked skeptically. "I didn't get the impression from your report that she was the church going sort."

"Don't worry, Judge, not her," Moon Dog answered with a knowing smile. Not much missed his notice, and he was quick to pick up on Caleb's misgivings. "The Jackson's went to church; your girl came for dinner after. I don't think your 'honey in the hotel' over there," he said, nodding toward Number Six, "was doing a lot of praying when she got down on her knees, unless, that is, you think, ah, er… Well, you know what I mean."

It was Caleb's turn to grin; Moon Dog's face was turning red with the effort of backing out of the corner he had painted himself into, and it occurred to him that Kenneth Starr must have reacted similarly when he handed his lurid report on the Lewinsky affair over to the House impeachment panel. Public recitation of sordid, sexual details was as out of character for Moon Dog's matter of fact military bearing as it had been for the straight backed, rock-ribbed religiosity of the Special Counsel, and the thought occurred to him that perhaps both Starr and Dog had poured on those very details in the hope they would serve to alienate their readers from the subjects of their respective reports. Could it be, he wondered briefly, that Dog had tried to turn him off to the girl by revealing all her secrets? If so, he laughed to himself, the effect was the opposite of what was intended, because the more he read, the more intrigued he had become.

"Sunday dinner, huh?" Caleb continued noncommittally, and Moon Dog breathed an audible sigh of relief at having been let off the hook so easily. He had watched Caleb as a young lawyer and knew he could be relentless in cross-examination, when he sensed discomfort in a witness.

"Yeah, Judge; Mrs. Jackson would sit on a stool and fry chicken in a big black, iron skillet, while Anne and Mr. Jackson, peeled potatoes or snapped beans from the garden, and, when the chicken was ready, Mr. Jackson would carry the Mrs. to the table and they would eat."

"Carry her?"

"Right. She couldn't walk; paralyzed from the waist down; hit and run driver crippled her about four or five years ago."

"Good grief, that's tough, man. Did they ever catch the driver?"

"Nope. I doubt they looked very hard, either; there's not a lot of concern around here for old black ladies, who take up too much space walking down the highway in the evenings. I believe the thinking goes something like 'they ain't got no business bein' out there in the dark in the first place, so what ever happens to `em is their own fault.'"

"I know all about that thinking; things aren't a lot better back home, either, but we're working on it.

"You know what your girl did, Judge?"

"Probably not," Caleb replied with the resignation of one waiting for another shoe to drop, "I don't recall much more than a passing reference to Jackson in your report."

"Well, hell, Judge," Moon Dog responded defensively, "You only gave me a week, for Pete's sake; I couldn't include every little detail of her entire life, could I? I gave you just what you wanted, without a lot of junk to fatten it up."

"Speaking of 'fattening up,'" Caleb grinned, "I am reminded of the matter of your expense account, but we'll talk about that later. First, you tell me what she did."

"Soon as she saw Mrs. Jackson and learned that she was paralyzed, and that Mr. Jackson had to pick her up and carry her bodily just so she could get out and sit on their porch, she called St. Louis and found a used, motorized wheelchair and bought it with her own money. The thing cost her $2500, which was a hell of a lot of money on her salary, but she figured she had gotten by on rice before, so she bought it and brought it back in the trunk of her car, and they were sitting on the porch when she pulled into the yard. The Jackson's were so grateful when she gave it to them, they broke down and cried, and Mrs. Jackson sent old Jackson into the house to fetch the shawl her great grandmother had knitted from raw cotton when she was a slave girl in Alabama, and she gave it to Anne, saying it was the only thing in the world she had to give that was worth to her near what that wheel chair was worth, but Anne wouldn't take it and told them that 'a gift of love requires only the gift of love in return.'"

"I'll be damned," Caleb muttered in some astonishment as he tried to assimilate this new characteristic into his impressions of the girl. He processed the information briefly, and then, looking at Moon Dog suspiciously, he challenged him saying, "How in the hell do you know all this stuff, Dog; where'd all these details come from? I can't believe you know what Mrs. Jackson's grandmother's shawl was made from; you're making this stuff up as you go along, aren't you?"

"Great grandmother," Moon Dog corrected him.

"Huh?"
"Mrs. Jackson's GREAT grandmother made the shawl from cotton that she had picked herself from the field. She picked it, carded it, dyed it, spun it into yarn and wove it all herself when she was sixteen years old."

"Goddamn, Dog, how do you know THAT? I know damn well you didn't interview Mrs. Jackson."

"You're asking me to reveal my sources, Judge."

"You're damn right, I am," Caleb declared in disbelief.

Moon Dog chuckled at Caleb's skepticism and relented. "Well, maybe this once, I could relax my rule a little."

"You better, Dog, cause this whole story's got so many details, it's becoming suspicious for fictitiousness."

"Now, Judge," Moon Dog grinned soothingly, "have I ever lied to you or told you something that wasn't straight?"

"Hell, no, Dog; of course not, but, man, this just doesn't smell right."

"Caleb," Moon Dog chuckled affectionately, "you're becoming more like your daddy every day. He would have said exactly the same thing, believe me. Of course, it doesn't smell right; it would take me and a team of ten operatives interviewing people twelve hours a day for three months to come up with half the stuff I put in my report."

"That's what I thought, Dog," Caleb responded with no little sense of relief.

"I got lucky, Judge; I got hold of her diary, and what it didn't tell me, my friend, I figured I didn't need to know.

"Diary?" he questioned skeptically.

"Yeah, you know, her journal."

"Oh, hell yes, I remember; you mentioned a journal in your report, didn't you?"

"I didn't just mention it, buddy; it IS my report."

"How on earth did you come by it, Dog; I can't imagine she would just hand over something like that?"

"Hell, no, she doesn't even know I saw it."

"How'd you find it, then? Didn't she keep it pretty well hidden? I mean, if I had a journal like that, I would keep it in a safe deposit box at the bank."

"Too inaccessible for her, I suspect. I found hers in her car."

"You searched her car?" Caleb protested incredulously.

"Certainly."

"And, her journal was in there?"

"Yep."

"Good grief, man, if I remember right, she'd been keeping it for years; it must run into the thousands of pages. She wouldn't have room for anything else in there, right?"

"Wrong, Judge, she had all of it stored on four little CD's. I had pretty well taken her car apart, looking for nothing in particular, when I noticed a pile of CD's on the front seat. I poked around in them for a minute and didn't see much but a bunch of that rock and roll crap that young people like nowadays, but then, I happened to notice that she had what looked to be four, identical, CD's of the Missouri University marching band, and it occurred to me that was an awful lot of band music for someone who was into rock and roll."

"I don't think it's called 'rock and roll' anymore," Caleb corrected abstractedly.

"`Shit,' then, if you want to call it what it is, if you ask me," Moon Dog grunted.

"Guess she didn't have any of 'The Doors' stuff in her collection, then," Caleb joked.

"The who?"

"Naw, dude, 'The Doors,' 'The Who' came later."

"What in the hell are you talking about?" Moon Dog growled in total confusion.

"`The Doors,' of course, man. I thought you were in Viet Nam. Hell, everybody in Nam knew 'The Doors.'"

"You damn well know I was in Nam, you impudent young whippersnapper, but I was near thirty at the time."

"Oops," Caleb laughed, "I guess the music stopped for you when Buddy Holly's plane crashed."

"Not quite; I made it to Simon and Garfunkle's break up," Moon Dog grunted, dismissing the digression. "You want to hear about the journal or what? If not, we need to get the hell out of here before that Caruthers bunch finds us."

"Right. Tell me quick."

"Not a lot left to tell. It was all there on the CD's. Thousands of pages, like you said. Everything she ever did, just about every thought she ever had, was in there. She would even go back and correct entries which she found out later were inaccurate or incomplete. I copied them to the hard drive of my laptop in ten minutes and left 'em where I found 'em."

"And, you believed everything she put in there?"

"Welllllll," he answered cagily, "pretty much. I think she had a pretty convenient memory for some things and put the best face on some of the stuff she talked about."

"You mean, she lied sometimes and made herself out to be more innocent than she really was?"

"Could be."

"Could be? I thought you checked out all your sources and verified their accuracy. Did I get that wrong?"

"I do usually; when there's time."

"I see," Caleb observed wryly, "so my hot shot investigator cut corners on me this time, and here I was positive that you personally performed a pelvic exam on Miss Anne to verify for yourself that she really was too small to accommodate that Archie fellow like she put in her journal."

"Oh shit, boy," Moon Dog laughed, "you know me a lot better than that; you want a pelvic done on her, son, you do it yourself."

"I certainly hope to, Dog," Caleb answered with an evil grin.

"You want me to introduce you to her first?"

"That would probably be a good a place to start."

"Come on then, Judge, she's waiting for you."

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