When We Were Married Ch. 06DbyDanielQSteele1©
(c) Daniel Quentin Steele – 2011
October 14, 2005 – FRIDAY - 7 p.m.
My name is William Maitland. I am the official second in command and unofficial lead prosecutor for the tri-county area of Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties in Northeast Florida. I prosecute bad people and try to clean up the messes they make in their own and other people's lives.
For the past six months I've thought the mess I've made of my own life, over the past decade since becoming a prosecutor, was beyond redemption.
On the plus side I've escaped death, found out that casual sex doesn't have to be meaningless sex, and that there really is a life beyond divorce. That last is a hard lesson that I've paid dearly to learn, but I'm beginning to believe there really are Second Acts in our lives.
I've looked into the heart of some terrible darknesses, not least of which is inside me. It's getting harder to believe that I'm as moral and incorruptible as I once thought I was, but I tell myself that I am trying.
Right now, I am shivering a little as I walk out of the courthouse headed toward my Escalade parked down the street.
The weather in Jacksonville had swerved from unseasonably hot to chilly in the space of a week, as it was wont to do, and the temperature was already in the 50s and looking to fall into the 40s by the time it got dark. Alright, not that bad if you were a Yankee, but for an almost life-long Florida boy, it was chilly.
I had prepared, wearing a nice black turtleneck sweater over black slacks, dress black shoes, and the rest of the outfit that Austin insisted I wear most of the time to keep the image up. I'd brought an electric razor to work with me and shaved just before I left. I reeked of cologne and didn't think I needed a shower too badly.
I'd considered running by the condo for a quick shower, but I had a 7:30 p.m. date with Myra. While I knew she was a nice lady, I wasn't sure how many more times I could stand her up without her getting a little peeved at me.
I should have left earlier, but there were always last minute critical things that needed doing. I was still trying to postpone Sutton's murder one trial until Wilbur Bell slowly recovered in the hospital from a heart attack that, by all accounts, should have taken him out. Luckily he was a tough old bird and I wanted him to be able to walk into the courtroom for Sutton's trial and testify that he had seen Sutton driving out of his mother's Ocala home on the night that Sutton's wife and unborn son had been murdered.
I had videotaped his testimony, but live testimony always trumped tape.
On another potential major case for me, the whole office was watching at long range the maneuvering to put the Mexican cartel warlord on trial. Nobody else had died lately, but there was an anticipation like the silence before a thunderstorm breaks. No one knew yet where the trial was headed as the feds deliberately kept their plans a deep dark secret.
On the distant horizon I watched the legal maneuvering to see where the trial of New York financial whiz kid Bobby Kelso would wind up, out of the glare of the New York City media world. It would be one of the biggest court events in years, wherever it ended up. How often did you have a hotshot Wall Street financial whiz kid arrange for mob hits on his wife and her lover, only to change his mind at the last minute and save both their lives, while taking a bullet meant for her lover. However, a mob gunman had died after Kelso's crisis of conscience, so the Money Man was being tried for Murder One because his plot had led to a man's death during the commission of a crime. It was so perfect a media story with sex, love, big money, murder and the mob all mixed together. Television execs were probably having orgasms just thinking of the ratings they'd get covering his trial.
If it came to me I couldn't even imagine how heavily the media would cover it - I'd probably have to live in the courthouse until the trial was over, but I really hoped that trial didn't come to me. Although I was honestly worried about the cartel trial, I would have no problem sending a drug thug to his death. I would, however, have really serious misgivings about sending a man, whose wife had driven him over the edge and who yet had made the right choice in the end, to death row or lifetime imprisonment. Yes, I saw myself in him! I hadn't tried to kill Debbie or Doug, but if things had gone differently...who knows?
I waited every day to hear a report of Paul Donnally's body being discovered, or Paul and Paula being found somewhere in a murder/suicide. I didn't know how I'd live with that if it turned out I'd made a very bad decision. So far, so good. They had both vanished back into comfortable anonymity, although I'd called Gil Tucker one time and he said that Donnally was making it, day by day. He had never called Dr. Teller, but I held out hope that eventually he would.
As I slid into the Escalade I made a conscious effort to push all that out of my mind. In thirty minutes I'd, for the very first time, be walking up to Myra's condo door and see what she looked like away from the courthouse. I still, even now, couldn't see exactly what she saw in me. Strip away the fame from a devastated daughter's throw-away remark after her father's death and a reporter's story that caught fire, and I was just another 42-year-old short, bald, divorced guy.
Whatever 'it' was, I was glad she saw it. Maybe if something – eventually – developed, she'd explain it to me. I was thinking of breasts, that smile and those green eyes when I heard the sudden wail of a police siren. I glanced in my rear view mirror to see flashing blue lights. What the hell! I looked at my speedometer and saw I was doing 60 in a 55 mph zone on I295. There was no way that God could throw another road block in the path of my eventually meeting Myra somewhere away from both our courthouse identities.
I pulled over to the side of the road, leaving the motor running. Sometimes showing the State Attorney ID helped, not always but sometimes. The Jax deputy had barely stopped when he was out of the cruiser and striding quickly toward me. I started to get curious - this deputy wasn't acting like a man making a traffic stop.
"Chief Martin says would you please – let me quote him – get your head out of your fucking ass and turn your cell on."
Someone up there hated me. I never turned my cell off, but this one time, one time in all the years I had worked for the State Attorney's Office, I did. I figured one night off would not cause the world to stop turning, and the one time I try to get a little privacy, they send a cop out with flashers and sirens wailing to hunt me down. There was no justice.
I pulled it out of my pocket and punched the power button. As soon as the screen came to life the Cranberries' "Linger" rang out and I hit the talk button.
"Martin, to what do I owe the pleasure? You realize that I left word with the office that Brandon was taking my calls tonight. I'm flattered that you guys can't live without me, but unless the world is ending, I really am off the clock."
"Did you hear about the murder this morning?"
"Which one? I know there was the guy that died in that drive by over on Jammes and a guy's body was found way off San Jose. Pretty busy day, but..."
Jacksonville, while a wonderful place to live and no Detroit, was definitely the murder capitol of the Sunshine State. I never had quite figured out how we could put Miami in the shade, murder wise, but my hometown had racked up more murders than any other metropolitan area. Of course, as a consolidated county we were a hell of a lot bigger geographically than most other major cities, but still, we were a pretty violent bunch.
Anyway, two homicides in a day was a pretty active tally, but there had been plenty worse since I'd been with the SA. Why was Martin calling me up, on my off time, about one murder?
"You get any of the details?"
"No, I heard we didn't have an ID and this has been a busy day. I figured I'd hear about it sooner or later."
"We put the clamps on this one early and we've been keeping quiet about it so we could do some checking before we released anything. The car was in a wooded lot behind that Walmart shopping center, the one that hasn't been developed yet. Some kids skipping school looked in it, then freaked and called their parents."
"What was in it?"
"A dead guy, in his 30s, maybe early 40s. Hispanic, not badly dressed. The ME says he was probably dead a couple of days. He was more than likely killed elsewhere - then the body and the car were dumped there last night."
"They come up with a cause of death?"
"The ME came up with a couple of contenders, but probably having his head sawed off didn't help."
"He had a couple of bullet holes in him, and they'd tortured the hell out of him, but the ME figures he was still alive when they took his head off. Or at least started the process."
"That doesn't sound good."
"Not for that poor bastard anyway, They cut his head off and when they dumped the car they laid him down in the seat and put his head in the seat beside the body. Next to the plastic bag where they put his hands after they sawed them off."
"Makes it sound like it wasn't a run of the mill car jacking or robbery, definitely not somebody pissing off somebody else's husband or boyfriend."
"No, this was an outside job, a professional job."
"How do you know?"
"We had to go through the feds and then the Mexican federal police to get an ID, but we found out he was Cartel muscle. He worked with a partner we haven't found, but he'll probably be fished out of the St. Johns, if the body ever turns up."
"Cartel? THE Cartel."
"Yeah, the Cartel whose Mendoza is going to be tried somewhere, if the feds can ever find a place to do it."
I began to get a very bad feeling.
"Why did you have a cop pull me over to tell me this?"
"When we had the car searched, we found some bags with belongings in them. A couple of guns, some drug paraphernalia and some cocaine, apparently for recreational use, some cameras...and some photos."
"What kind of photos."
"We weren't sure at first. There were some photos that appeared to have been taken at a school, and headshots of a kid. Then we found photos taken with a telephoto lens of the same kid, going to school, going around the school campus, getting into a private car. That's what tipped us off."
"Who was the kid?"
"We didn't know who the kid was until we got a clear shot of the woman picking him up after school."
"Who was he?"
"The woman picking him up was your ex-wife, Debbie. The boy was your son."
He must have said something but I didn't hear him. It was as if I standing at the far end of a very long, dark tunnel. I saw BJ, but I didn't see him as the gangly adolescent he was. No, I saw him as a one-year-old toddler taking his first steps, holding onto a glass coffee table as he launched himself across the couple of feet between him and Debbie's waiting arms. I saw her take him into her arms and I wished then with every thing in me that my father could have seen him for even an instant.
The young cop pushed my arm.
"Are you alright?"
I ignored him and listened to Martin on the cell.
"....one of our detectives who had been at a baseball game with his son when you were there with your son recognized him. As soon as we knew, we tried to call you but you weren't answering your phone. We tried to call Ms. Bascomb, but she had left her office and we can't reach her. We don't have numbers for your kids so we've got cruisers headed to your house right now."
"You can't reach Debbie?"
"Sorry no, we just started 15 or 20 minutes ago. She could be shopping and left her phone behind, or in the shower. It could be anything."
I felt a sudden sharp pain in my chest. I knew it was psychosomatic. I've been afraid in my life, but I knew that any fear I'd ever experienced in my life was only the palest shadow of the emotion that was beginning to build in me. It was like looking out to sea and watching a tsunami build strength as it approached. I knew I had to start moving or I'd be paralyzed.
"I'm headed for my house, Martin. I'll meet the units there. Send your guys and tell them to kill any son of a bitch that even looks suspicious to them anywhere around there."
I clicked off and told the young deputy, "I'm going to be breaking every speed law you ever heard of. Give me a spare flasher and get behind me with your siren going."
Thirty seconds later a blue light was flashing on the Escalade. I was hitting 60 going on 90 and on the way home – Debbie's home – with a cop wailing behind me. As I drove one-handed, I hit her number on the cell. It rang endlessly...!
I gave up and dialed Roy Bascomb's home phone. It ran four times and then Cathy picked up.
"Cathy is Kelly there?"
"Bill? Bill, what is it?"
"Cathy, is Kelly there?"
"Where is she?"
"I think....I think she had a date. She wrote down a number for a girlfriend's house. They were going to meet their boyfriends there and go out to a party."
"Call the number, Cathy, NOW! Tell Kelly there's an emergency. She needs to get back to you. Don't let her tell you no, make her come back...NOW!"
"But...okay - but what do I tell her."
"Don't tell her anything. Just tell her to get back there. I'll explain later. It's an emergency and ask her if she has any idea where BJ is. Is Roy there?"
A moment later:
"Bill? What's going on?"
"Roy, do you have a gun?"
There was a silence.
"Yes. I've got a .38 I always keep in my bedroom."
"Get it out and go get Kelly if she needs a ride home. Make her come home. Call the cops. Tell them you're my father-in-law and tell them they need to send some units to your place. Keep the place locked until you see uniforms, and don't let them in until you see ID. And Roy, if anyone else shows up and tries to come in, kill them. Don't warn them, don't talk to them. Shoot them."
"Bill, what is happening?"
"I can't explain Roy, not now. Just do it. Call the cops."
I tried Debbie's cell again, then the house phone. Images of the carnage in Texas invaded my mind and I couldn't get the pictures out.
On the eighth ring I heard, "Hi. Bill, is that you?"
I felt like an iron collar had been released from around my throat and I could breath again.
"Debbie, why haven't you been answering your phone?"
"Um....uh....I was in the tub."
"For thirty five minutes or more?"
"Is that a crime now? Honestly, Bill-"
"I'm sorry, Deb. I didn't – It's just that I've been trying – we've been trying – to reach you for awhile."
"Okay, I didn't mean to snap. It's just - the kids are out - and believe it or not I'm not doing anything but watching some TV and eating ice cream. It's been a long week so I took a long, hot, restful bath."
"Debbie, listen to me carefully. Are the doors locked?"
"Uh, yeah. Yes. Why?"
"Don't ask questions. Is the Glock in the safe? Is it loaded?"
"Go straight to the safe but look around when you leave the bathroom. If you see or hear anything, if you even have a bad feeling, get back in the bathroom and lock the door. Put that chair in front of the mirror jammed up against the door and stay away from the door."
"Bill....what...tell me what's going on?"
"Just listen, it would take too long. If you think it's okay and no one's in the house, go straight to the safe and get the Glock. Go back in the bathroom but take a home phone and cell with you. If you see anyone other than a uniformed cop, or me, in the house, shoot to kill. Don't hesitate. Even if it's a cop, make them show ID."
"You're scaring the shit out of me."
"Good, baby, good. I want to scare the shit out of you. Being scared could keep you alive. Now, where is BJ?"
"Where is he?"
"He was going to go over to that Tommy Wilson's house. They were going to hang out, maybe see a movie."
There was a momentary twinge of....something. I didn't recognize the name. It was a friend he'd made since I'd moved out of his life - just another reminder.
"Call the Wilsons. If he's still there make sure he stays there and call me back. Tell him a police cruiser will be coming by to pick him up. Get the Glock, then call the Wilsons. If he's there, call me back. Move as quick as you can."
"Don't talk - MOVE."
I hung up on her, then called Martin back.
"Send in uniforms at my place and my in-laws. I told them to shoot anybody but a uniform, and tell your guys to be ready to show their ID."
"They should be at your ex's house within a minute. Give me the in-law's address and I'll try to have somebody there in 15 minutes."
I'd nearly been wiped out in accidents a half dozen times in the last several minutes, but the flashing lights and the sirens saved my ass several times as I approached San Jose and pulled off on the way to my – Debbie's – house.
My cell rang and Debbie said, "I've got the Glock and a patrolman named Suggs is here. I've seen him in the courthouse and in the PD office. I let him and his partner in."
"Let them do their thing but stay away from windows and you hold onto the Glock anyway. Have you had a chance to call the Wilsons?"
"No, I was just going..."
"Hang up and call them, Deb. The first second you get confirmation BJ's there, call me back."
The cell rang and Martin was saying, "Slow the hell down, Maitland. Rutledge says you're hitting 90 and have nearly killed a dozen motorists. You're getting ready to get onto residential streets. Our guys are there and no one is going to get at your ex. Don't kill yourself getting there."
I made myself take my foot off the gas and slowed to 60 and then 50 as I headed toward what had been my home. I even stopped for red lights.
The cell rang as I was approaching my former residence.
Cathy Bascomb said, "Roy is on his way to pick up Kelly. A police officer just called here and I told him where Roy was headed, described his car and they said they would meet Roy there and escort them back here."
"Thank you Cathy and thank Roy. I'll call you guys in a few minutes and tell you what's happening. In the meantime, stay close to the cops that are headed your way."
"Bill...this is scary. Is this for real?"
"I don't know, Cathy. I hope this is all a false alarm but, be careful."
There were already three police cars parked on the street in front of the house, with two sets of officers checking out the front and back. Neighbors were coming out of their houses as cops waved them back inside. I pulled into the drive and was out of the door before the motor had stopped turning.
Two cops made a human shield in front of me and had their guns drawn as I held out my State Attorney ID, which is a photo ID. I stopped long enough for them to glance at it and then pushed past them as they gave me a nod. They were reacting the way I wanted them to.
I was inside the door before it hit me and I slowed in mid-stride. I'd only been here twice in more than six months and each time had been painful. It felt too damned good to be in here, but I made myself trot forward toward the den.
She came out dressed in shorts and a light blue blouse that as usual she was bulging out of. Her hair was wet and hanging straight down behind her. I instantly got hard, remembering the last time I'd had that fantastic body in the shower, but this time I didn't care about letting her know the effect she had on me and I didn't bother to hide it.
She was in my arms and I was pressing her hard against me, feeling her soft tits flatten against me, burying my face in her still moist, fragrant hair. After a fraction of a second of resistance she molded herself against me. I could feel her heart beating against me.