The Way You Say My Name Ch. 18bywavyscribe©
Dillon threw himself towards Jamie, taking them both to the ground as glass showered the room. Mitch wasted no time following suit. Dillon tensed as he heard another shot being fired at almost the same instant, this one different in pitch. Worse though, was the silence that came afterwards.
He looked to Jamie. “Are you all right?”
“I’m not hurt, just pissed as hell that someone is shooting at us.”
Mitch, who was lying beside them, said, “Make that two someones.” When Jamie and Dillon both gave him blank stares, he said, “Unless I’m losing it, we have two separate guns firing on us.”
Well, fuck. Wasn’t that nice to know? Dillon reached for the cell phone he hoped he’d remembered to put in his pocket when they’d left for the auto-parts store what seemed like a lifetime ago. Pay dirt. He was just about to pull it out and call nine-one-one, when Sadie’s voice came floating through the window. “Are you boys all right in there?”
Jamie’s breath rushed out in a jagged rasp. “Oh God. Aunt Sadie’s out there by herself.” He struggled to get up. “We have to help her. We have to--”
Sadie’s voice came through just in time to put a stop to Jamie’s panic. “Jamie, if you’re through having the little episode I’m sure you’re having right about now, get your rump down here and help me tie this rascal up before the police arrive. I’m reasonably certain as to where his shot went. I know you’re all right.”
Dillon rose, pulling Jamie up with him and checking him from head to toe for injuries. He found a couple of shallow cuts on Jamie’s hands and arms, but nothing more serious. Jamie repeated the same inspection on Dillon and was quickly satisfied that Dillon’s cuts were no worse than his own. Mitch, too, seemed okay as he came to his feet and brushed the glass shards from his t-shirt and jeans. He had a few cuts himself, but all three of them seemed to have escaped any real harm. Sadie’s voice came through again as they were heading to the door. “Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. Somebody better get down here right now and shut this piece of trash up before I shoot him again.”
That was all it took to get them moving. The three of them were out the door, across the deck, and down the stairs in a heartbeat. Good thing Dillon hit the on-switch for the floodlights around the apartment as he was going out the door. He wouldn’t have gotten the full effect of what he was seeing, otherwise.
Sadie was standing at the base of the old oak tree which provided shade and privacy to Jamie and Dillon’s apartment. She was wearing a pink nightgown, a fuzzy purple robe, and a pair of honest-to-God bunny slippers. She was also holding a still-smoking twelve-gauge shotgun, the barrels trained on Dan Morgan’s quivering, bleeding body. Dillon, Jamie, and Mitch stopped just a few feet from the pair, shock and amazement keeping them rooted to the spot.
Morgan was lying on his side, the black silk turtleneck he wore peppered with holes from the middle of his back, up. His arms were sprawled out beside him, his black-trouser-encased legs curled in a fetal position. He started whimpering and pleading the minute he saw Jamie.
“James, thank God. You have to help me. Your aunt’s gone crazy. I was coming over here to ask you a question about the G.S.A.” Morgan’s normally oily voice was thick with obvious pain, but Dillon felt no sympathy. “This crazy old witch blasted me the minute I came into the yard. No warning, no reason. You have to call an ambulance. I’m dying.”
Sadie held the gun steady, her eyes pinned to the bead at the end of the barrels. A bead directly in line with Morgan’s head. “You’re not dying, you miserable weasel. I knocked your sorry self out of that tree with birdshot.” Sadie snorted. “Dying, my eye. I’ve been bird hunting at my daddy’s knee since I was old enough to hold a rifle. Not to mention the fact that I was the Reed County Country Club’s reining skeet champion six years in a row. Believe me, if I’d wanted you dead, you would be. You wouldn’t even be breathing, let only sniveling like the coward you are.” Sadie’s voice took on a menacing quality that sent chills coursing over Dillon’s skin. “But this is a double barrel shotgun, and I’ve only fired one shot. Do you know what that means?”
Morgan stammered a full ten seconds before getting out, “N-no.”
“It means, my boy, that I have one shot left. And you can bet your worthless butt that the second shell doesn’t contain game load. No, sir. It’s a slug, and I have no objection whatsoever to firing it directly into your empty skull.”
Mitch and Jamie were too shaken to speak, but Dillon went back to something Sadie had just said, “Aunt Sadie, did I hear you right? You shot Morgan out of that tree?”
“That’s exactly what I said. I was just heading down to the kitchen for a late night snack when I heard a noise in the back yard.” She spoke to Dillon, but never took her eyes off Morgan. “At first, I thought maybe I’d heard you and Jamie coming in from a date or some such, but when I looked out, I could see that your living room light was on, meaning you were probably up in the apartment, already. I felt like I should check on you, just to make sure everything was all right. I never go outside this late at night without some sort of protection, so I grabbed my father’s shotgun. Thank the heavens above I keep it loaded. The first thing I saw when I stepped out the back door was this imbecile,” she inclined her head towards Morgan, dislodging one green curler in the process, “climbing through the branches of that old oak. Even with the security lights on, I couldn’t tell just what he was doing until he got about twenty-feet up, just level with your living room window. That’s when the no-account-son-of-a-bitch pulled a revolver out of his pants and took aim.” Sadie gave a put-upon sigh. “Only a true idiot would use a pistol to shoot someone from that range, but his ignorance worked to my advantage. Morgan and I fired at almost the same instant, but my shot unbalanced him causing his shot to go wild. The recoil from the revolver, combined with the pain of the birdshot I sent up his way, knocked his fool ass out of the tree.” She nodded towards a shadowed spot a few feet away. “I believe you’ll find his weapon over there in the bushes. He dropped it when he fell.”
Even as injured as he was, Morgan kept protesting his innocence. “She’s crazy, I tell you. Looney as a tune. All I did was walk across the yard--”
Jamie spoke then, his voice laced with so much rage and raw hatred even Dillon flinched. “You’re the liar, Morgan. Or should I say, Uncle Jared?”
Morgan’s eyes went absolutely wild. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You have to help me, James. I’m bleeding to death.”
Mitch stepped up. “You know exactly what he’s talking about, you piece of shit. And I’m going to tell the cops every last one of your dirty little secrets. When I’m through with you, you’ll be lucky if they don’t crucify your ass.”
Morgan’s face twisted into a snarl, as much from the pain as anger. “Oh yeah? Who’s gonna believe the word of a ten-dollar whore like you?”
Dillon narrowed his eyes. “If you’re so innocent, Mr. Morgan, then how did you know Mitch used to be a hustler?”
Watching Morgan try to backtrack his way out of that one would have been funny if the guy hadn’t been so pathetic. As it was, Morgan’s pleas of denial made Dillon feel like he was going to be sick. Of course, Dillon’s nausea could be attributed to the fact that Morgan had just tried to kill them. The approaching sounds of sirens brought Dillon’s mind back into focus and away from his churning stomach.
A swarm of police officers and sheriff’s deputies filled the yard, but Dillon’s attention was centered solely on Brandon Nash, who was bearing down on them at a fair clip. He had his weapon drawn, but re-holstered it the minute he caught sight of Sadie and her shotgun.
“Miss Sadie, you wanna tell me why the principal of Plunkett High is lying in a bleeding heap with the end of that big ole’ gun you’re holding pointed at his head?”
Jamie answered for her. “Because Dan Morgan is a liar, a child molester, and a killer. I can prove it, Brandon. I think he killed Ben and his former foster father, and I know for a fact he just tried to kill us.”
Morgan was really desperate now. “You think I killed Ben? No, Burke did that. Don’t you see? He’d have killed me, too, if I hadn’t gotten to him first.” He raised one trembling arm and pointed to Mitch. “This is all your fault, you bastard. If you hadn’t come to Reed tonight, none of this would be happening.”
That was all it took to set the lot of them off. Mitch started shouting, swearing to see Morgan pay for what he’d done. Sadie was also carrying on about making Morgan pay, but not for his crimes. No, she wanted him to pay for the damage done to her window and the cleanup of any broken oak branches from her yard. Jamie was listing Morgan’s believed sins one by one, from blackmail, on. Dillon was doing his best to tell Brandon the story as he knew it, when Brandon put two fingers in his mouth and gave an ear splitting whistle.
“Hold on just a damn minute here. Miss Banks, give me that gun.” Once he’d gotten it away from her, Brandon emptied the slug from the chamber and handed it off to one of his deputies. “Bag that for me, please. And search the bushes around the house and the base of that tree. I’m almost certain I heard the word ‘revolver’ somewhere in the jumble of explanations and accusations they’ve all been spouting.” When the deputy was gone, Brandon rolled his eyes. “Why is it always you people? Thank God one of your neighbors heard the shots and called it in.” The ambulance pulled up, and a team of paramedics rushed out and headed towards Morgan. Brandon spoke to the man in charge. “Take Principal Morgan to County General, and make certain they understand that he’s to be kept under lock and key. From what I’ve just heard, I’m pretty sure he’s guilty of something.” Motioning for one of his deputies to step forward, Brandon said, “Dewey, send two of our men along with the ambulance, and have the rest of them canvas the scene.”
Dewey nodded. “You got it boss. Uh, what do you want me to do with them?” He pointed to Sadie and the rest.
Brandon sighed. “Take every last one of them down to the station, Miss Banks included. Oh, and Dewey?”
Brandon raked his fingers through his hair. “Make sure we have plenty of coffee. This ought to be one hell of a long story.”
Jamie knew even before he turned over everything he’d been hiding for so long that he was looking at some serious trouble, but after five hours of answering questions and going through the story time and again, Jamie was starting to realize just how screwed he really was. Not even when the sheriff left to process all that evidence, was Jamie capable of feeling any relief. Brandon had been gone for almost an hour by Jamie’s count, leaving him alone in the interrogation room to stew about what was to come. If Bran’s intention had been to drive Jamie crazy with guilt and worry, it was sure working.
Just when Jamie thought he was gonna crack, the door opened and Brandon came back in. He looked haggard and worn, but not exactly angry. More like resigned. He sat down across from Jamie and slapped the folder he was holding on the table. “Go ahead. Read it.”
Jamie reached for the folder, not certain he wanted to open it, but doing so, anyway. Scanning the top paper, he said, “What is this?”
“A list of all the evidence you’ve turned over to us tonight, as well as a summary of your statement. Read over it and see if we’ve gotten it all. Oh, you might not want to read that last page, though.”
“Why? What’s on the last page?”
“A list of all the things I could charge you with right about now.” Brandon smacked his hand down on the table. “Jesus Christ, Jamie. What in the hell were you thinking?”
Damn. He just had to ask what was on that last page. But Brandon had asked him a question, and Jamie was gonna answer it. He was tired, and scared, and not a little bit angry. No, Brandon asked him a question, and damned if Jamie wasn’t gonna answer it.
“I wasn’t thinking, Sheriff.”
Brandon made the mistake of taking Jamie’s statement as an apology. “You’re damn straight you weren’t thinking. You--”
Jamie stood up, cutting Bran off in the process. He was filled with a rage he hadn’t felt since the night Ben died. All the months of worry, of agonizing over who killed Ben and why, mixed in Jamie’s gut along with the all-consuming fear that he could’ve lost Dillon to Morgan’s bullet tonight. And all of it was due to the fact that Jamie couldn’t let well enough alone, with no one to believe him or offer him help, besides. All of that helpless wrath was what Jamie turned on Brandon, now. “Like I said, I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that my best friend was murdered and no one would believe me because they thought he was nothing but a two-bit hustler who deserved what he got.”
“Now wait just a minute, kid--”
Jamie gave him no quarter. “And I wasn’t thinking about the fact that Ben left me in charge of forty-two thousand dollars worth of dirty money and a letter that nearly destroyed an innocent guy’s life.”
Jamie shook his head. “I’ve been waiting. Waiting for the truth to come out. Waiting for the same guy who killed Ben to come after me and Dillon. And that’s exactly what he did, Sheriff. Morgan came after me and the man that I love all because you dropped the fucking ball. I came to you for help and you let me down. You charge me all you want. Hell, it’s about time you sent someone to prison. Might as well be the guy who cracked the case you were too damn incompetent to break yourself. But whether you charge me or not, keep your damned lectures to yourself. Save them for someone who gives a shit.”
A deep, throaty chuckled sounded from the doorway. Jamie looked up to see a grinning Hank Kilgore standing just outside the interrogation room. Jamie had been so into his tirade, he hadn’t even heard the door open.
Kilgore said, “He’s got your number, Nash.”
Jamie looked at Brandon, surprised to see that he was smiling. “He may have my number, Kilgore, but you have to admit, he’s got yours, too. It’s a piss-poor day indeed when an eighteen-year-old kid cracks a case that two police departments and a ream of seasoned detectives couldn’t.”
Kilgore nodded. “True, but the kid had help. If I hadn’t screwed up and left Carpenter’s file within easy reach, James here couldn’t have swiped that paper with Mitch Harding’s name and contact info on it.” He turned to Jamie. “Do you have any idea how much trouble you should be in for that, kid? Tampering with evidence, coercion of a witness.” Kilgore grinned, again. “Practicing detective work without a license.”
Kilgore held up his hand. “Calm down, James. I talked to the D.A., and there won’t be any charges filed against you.”
Jamie sank back down into his chair, some of the frustration and anger subsiding as he digested what Kilgore had said. “There won’t be?”
Kilgore shook his head, his magnificent braids trailing over his shoulder. “Nope. You have your buddy Nash, here, to thank for that one. I may be grateful to you for giving us our prime suspect in Carpenter’s murder, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t ready to lock your lily-white ass up for screwing with my files. Lucky for you, Nash and I made a deal.”
“What kind of deal?”
Brandon answered that one. “Hank has a case he wants me to profile for him.”
“Profile? You mean, like F.B.I. stuff?”
Brandon nodded. “I was with the F.B.I. before I came back to Reed and ran for sheriff.” He laughed. “Despite what you might think, I’m not totally incompetent. No, I prefer to think of myself as only an occasional imbecile.”
Jamie’s own angry words flashed back to him. Before he could say anything, Kilgore said, “I’m not even gonna touch that one. As it so happens, I gotta run, anyway. Morgan just came out of surgery. I want to be there to question the bastard as soon as the anesthesia wears off.” Kilgore patted Jamie on the shoulder. “I know I should be grateful to you for everything you did, James, but heartfelt thanks aren’t exactly my style.”
“Not arresting me is thanks enough.”
Kilgore threw back his head and laughed. “I like you kid. I swear I do.” He left before Jamie could respond.
Jamie swallowed hard. He was still mad as hell, but he knew he owed Brandon for getting his ass out of a sling with Kilgore. He needed to say something, but he wasn’t sure what. As it happened, he didn’t have to say a word. Brandon did it for him.
Pointing to the file in Jamie’s hand, Brandon said, “If you’ll read over your statement there on the last page and sign it, I’ll send it over to the D.A.’s office and we’ll wrap your part of the investigation up. I’ve sent your aunt home already, though God knows if my deputies are still in one piece after taking her back to her house. She was one pissed off lady.”
Jamie didn’t doubt that, but it wasn’t Brandon’s statement about his aunt that had Jamie narrowing his eyes. “I thought you said all the things you were gonna charge me with were listed on the last page.”
Brandon’s grin was one part cockiness, two parts caring. “Yeah, well, I had to say something, didn’t I? From the minute I brought you in here, I could tell that you were about ten seconds away from imploding. I had to do something to get all that stuff out of your system.” When Jamie started to speak, Brandon held up his hand. “Before you start trying to take back what you said or make it sound better than it was, don’t. You were right. I did drop the ball.” Brandon sighed and leaned back in his chair. “It might surprise you to know this, Jamie, but I’m not perfect.”
Jamie bit back a smile. “No? Really?”
“I know, I know. It shocked the hell out of me, too, the day I realized it.” He came forward again, resting his elbows on his desk and looking Jamie right in the eyes, making his sincerity impossible to doubt. “I let you down in a big way by not believing you when you told me about Sledge and how you were sure he wasn’t the one responsible for Ben’s death. Of course,” Brandon wrinkled his nose, “you knew a few things that I didn’t, namely blackmail and extortion, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a job to do. I should have investigated your claim.” Brandon stood up and extended his hand. Jamie rose to his feet and grasped it, surprised at how comforting Brandon’s warm strength was to him. “I’m sorry, kid. Sorry for not listening, and sorry you didn’t feel like you could come to me for help.”
“That sorry business works both ways. I owe you for not coming to you in the beginning, the minute I found out about the money and then the pictures.” Jamie dropped Brandon’s hand and closed his eyes, the memory of Morgan’s shot and the sound of breaking glass still ringing in his ears. “Dillon begged me to go to you for help, but I was too damn stubborn. My mistake could’ve cost him his life.”
Jamie heard movement and opened his eyes to see that Brandon had rounded the desk and was now standing over him. He laid his hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “It takes one hell of a man to admit his mistakes, Jamie. I almost lost Nate once because of a mistake I made. I left him alone with the wrong man, and Nate almost paid for it with his life. It took me months to forgive myself for that one, and still, I have trouble accepting it.” Brandon shuddered. “Take my advice, kid. Spend a good, solid hour beating yourself up over it, and then let it go. Life’s too short to what-if yourself into an early grave.”
Jamie nodded. “I’ll do that.” He shuffled his feet as Brandon gave his shoulder one more squeeze and then returned to his side of the desk. Jamie had one more question to ask, and it was one he dreaded. “What happens now, with Morgan?”