Doing Something by Cole Parker

A sixteen year old boy faces major life changes, ones he hates,
and there isn’t anything he can do about them but make the best of it.


Chapter 18



We’re in Lindsey’s car, sitting on a postal drop.  Well, I tell Trevor that’s what we were doing, and then I have to explain it to him.  Chase just grins; he loves cop-show terminology.

A lot has happened since we visited Mary and Donna.


--- --- {} --- ---


When we’d returned from Bedford, we’d spoken extensively with Dad and the Mussos.  They all thought we were crazy, that we should give what we had to the police.  I gave them my reasons why we shouldn’t do that, including not turning in Donna and Mary.  Dad had wanted nothing more than to do just that, and had insisted we do.  I argued against it.  I told him they’d cared for Carly, hadn’t hurt her, that Mary was mental and they’d never do something like that again.  I asked him, what was gained by throwing them both in jail for the rest of their lives other than vengeance?  He asked what was wrong with a little vengeance.

So I pulled out my trump card.  “Dad,” I said, “if there’s a trial, Carly’s testimony will be needed.  Even if we’d be allowed to have her simply give a deposition, it would be traumatic for her, and maybe the defense would get a ruling ordering her to be in court.  You certainly don’t want her to have to do that, do you?  Face Mary in court.  Make her see Mary crying?”

It was a lively discussion.  Dad hadn’t thought about Carly testifying, but still didn’t like the idea the women wouldn’t be punished for what they’d done.  I told him their own consciences were doing that.  He remained stubborn, and I hadn’t really won the argument unless you considered that the two women hadn’t been arrested yet.  Dad had agreed to let it go for the moment.  We had bigger fish to fry.

The Mussos were as reluctant as anyone would expect them to be to have their kids involved in anything dangerous, and I couldn’t guarantee what we were going to do wouldn’t have some risk involved in it.  But Lindsey and Trevor both were adamant about seeing this through to the end. I didn’t think the danger was very high, and I wanted them there.  There was something else, too.  I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but—I didn’t want to do this alone. 

There was a long and sometimes loud discussion about our intentions, too.  I think what helped was that the four of us would be together, and there was truth in that thing about there being safety in numbers.

It seemed to me I made a convincing argument when I said it was unlikely we would attain the outcome that we all wanted without going the extra mile by ourselves.  Everything I had was supposition; everything I thought could easily be scoffed at by the police.  We wanted more than that. 

In the end, everyone had agreed we’d do this, even if the adults weren’t happy about it.  But we had their grudging blessings, we made our preparations, and we were ready.


--- --- {} --- ---


“How long do we have to wait?” Trevor asks.  “I brought my tunes this time.”

I adjust my sunglasses.  They are my disguise, along with a baseball cap.  Chase has sunglasses, too.  He also recognized the picture of the black man, but couldn’t put his finger on who he was, either.  But the fact Temms lives in Kinnessa means he might recognize either Chase or me, so we are both disguised.  No one else has to worry about being recognized.  I don’t think Chase does, either, but I’m playing it safe.

To be as safe as possible, I’ve moved to the backseat of the car and taken the right seat, the farthest away from the store we are watching.  Lindsey is in the front passenger’s seat, and the driver’s seat is empty.  We want it to look like four kids waiting for a parent to come back to the car. 

“As long as it takes,” I say, answering Trevor’s question.  I’m feeling no sympathy for him.  He’s in the back in the middle between Chase and me, and the size of the backseat means I’m pressing him up against Chase.  Although I’m sure there’s nothing going on between them, I’m only sure in my rational brain, not my emotional one.  I’m always a bit edgy when those two are together.  Trevor knows it, too, and plays it for what it’s worth.

Chase asks, “You’re sure Temms will come today?”

We’ve been over this before.  “Of course, I’m not sure.  But I think he will.  If I were in his shoes, I’d come today.”

It’s nine o’clock in the morning.  The four of us slept the previous night at my house.  It felt good being home again.  The renters had moved out two days before. 

We’ve checked out the address I’d got from Donna and found it’s one of those shops that has mailbox rentals for customers willing to pay for a box that is safer and more private than getting home delivery.  It also does shipping, package wrapping, that sort of thing.  It opens at nine.  We’ve been here more than a half hour already.  I’d wanted to be sure we’d get one of the parking places we’d scoped out the day before.  Where we are gives us a good view of the front of the store, and even a little bit of the inside is visible through the front window.

We are parked on the street in a row of cars.  There is nothing that makes us stand out at all, I think.  I hope.  I wish we had tinted windows.  I didn’t think of that till this morning, and it was too late by then.

Someone opens the door from inside the shop and hangs an OPEN sign in the window.  Lindsey and I slide down in our seats a little.

Chase says, “In a book I read, the guy sitting on a house always has a cup or a bottle to pee in.  How’re we going to pee in a bottle with Lindsey in the car?”

Lindsey says, “I’ve already seen your equipment.  Why would you be shy now?”  

And Chase says, “Seeing me and seeing me pee are two different things.”

Trevor says, “We don’t have a bottle anyway,” which ends the discussion.

We sit for two hours.  People have gone into and come out of the shop.  But not Mr. Temms.  I begin thinking if he doesn’t come early, he probably won’t come at all.

A car pulls up and parks across the street from us, right in front of the shop.  Its driver’s door opens.  Then I see him and take a quick breath.  Mr. James Temms, aka Detective Sergeant Martinez.  Not a black man at all, but instead, just who I’ve been expecting.  He stands on the street after getting out and with the door still open looks around.

If this is a cop car, it’s an unmarked one.  I think it’s probably his personal car.  He locks the door and turns toward the shop.  Evidently, when he scanned the area, we didn’t look suspicious to him.  We were just four kids sitting in a car, the windows open and rock music pouring out.  There was nothing about that to merit a second glance.  I’d slid down in the seat so I’d not even been visible to him.

Obviously satisfied there’s no surveillance, he enters the shop.

“That’s him,” I say.  “Chase?  Trevor?”

Chase says, “Already on it.  Got all that.”  Trevor doesn’t answer.  I quickly get out of the car—turned away from the store so my face can’t be seen—and Trevor simply slides out behind me and walks across the street, past the store, glancing inside as he walks, and down the street a ways so when he walks back he’ll be approaching the car from behind.  I’m back in the car with the door closed before he’s halfway across the street.

Detective Martinez is only in the store for a minute or two.  He comes back out with a yellow envelope in his hand and gets in his car.  He doesn’t drive away.  He sits in the car, fumbling with something below window level so we can’t see what it is.  Then he gets out of the car and throws something that he’s wadded up into a nearby trash container.  The only thing we can see is that the wad is yellow.

Trevor walks back up the street, passing Martinez as he’s returning to his car.  Trevor stops alongside it and, looking farther up the street, calls out, “Hey, Ricky!  Ricky!  Wait for me.  I got a stone in my shoe.  Hold on a second.”  He crouches down and fiddles with his shoe.

I can see Detective Martinez glance at him while he’s shouting, and I hold my breath and put my hand on the door handle, but then he ignores Trevor and gets back into his car.  Trevor stands back up, takes a glance into the side window of his car, then jogs down the street toward the supposedly waiting Ricky.

Detective Martinez starts his car and drives away.  Trevor walks to the trash barrel, reaches in, and pulls out a wadded yellow envelope.  He turns to us and smiles, then walks across the street toward our car, the envelope visible in his hand.  He comes all the way to us and stops about a foot away from Chase’s window.  Chase rolls down the window, but keeps his video camera running, recording a long, clear shot of the envelope and the address on it.

Then he turns off the video camera.


--- --- {} --- ---


I have a tie on.  My neck itches.  I haven’t worn a dress shirt in months, maybe in over a year, and  I had to buy a new one.  I washed it, but the collar is still itchy.

I’m on one side of a conference table along with my father and Carly.  She doesn’t like us leaving her with a babysitter, and my father doesn’t much like doing it, either.  He’s told her she’ll have to be quiet, which is hard for her.  But she wanted to come and promised not to talk.  Much.  She has her coloring book and is scribbling in it with her crayons.

My father’s lawyer and the lawyer who represents Dad’s company are on our side of the table, too.

On the other side of the table are the District Attorney, an Assistant DA, and a stenographer.

I’m doing the talking.  Dad wanted me to, and I know more to tell than he does anyway.  The officials were surprised, but hadn’t objected.

I tell them the whole story, about how the kidnapping went down, how Dad moved us away from Kinnessa so he could write an account of how his family had disintegrated after Carly went missing and to escape Martinez’s harassment.  I don’t explain how he used his computer to look for Carly.  That was mostly illegal and would never come out as far as I was concerned.  I do tell how I’d gotten together with my friends and we’d thought of a way to investigate Carly’s disappearance, how we’d found Carly, and how Detective Martinez was involved.

I do all the talking.  It’s my story to tell, and I’m telling it.  Dad is helping Carly with her coloring and alternately cuddling with her; she likes the attention.  He doesn’t even appear to be listening to me talk, but I know he is.  He’s come a long way back from where he once was.  Maybe all the way.

The DA looks at me and says, “And just how much of this, this—well, I seem to want to use the word ‘fairytale’, but let’s keep it polite.  How much of this can you prove?”

He’s a big, gruff man, and he puts people in jail for a living.  He’s smart and has listened to people lie to him convincingly all his career.  He’s very good at putting the people he’s talking to on the defensive.  It would be easy to be intimidated.  I’m trying really hard not to be.  The fact is, everything that we did wasn’t entirely legal, so I do have to be careful.  So I don’t say, ‘Thanks for being polite,’ the words dripping with sarcasm like I wish I could.

I look him in the eyes, which I find I can do without too much trouble, and ask, “And just what about any of this seems like a fairytale to you?”

“Most of it,” he says.  “Maybe all.”  He sits up straighter.  “How you found Carly almost by accident, for one thing.  That a police detective is blackmailing someone for another.”

“I didn’t find Carly by accident.  We—my friends and I—came up with an idea and followed through with it.”

I tell him about us brainstorming ideas while sitting behind Lindsey’s barn, and about her inspiration that anyone kidnapping a child to raise as their own would move away from Kinnessa.  How all we had to do then was get a list of suspects and see who’d moved.  How we’d followed up on that.

“OK, hold it,” he says.  “Just how did you get a list of suspects?”  He glares at me, thinking he’s put me on the spot.

Of course, I’d known that question would come up.  It was one of the dangerous ones because the way we’d got the list was a felony.  So I’d thought about it and had come up with a pretty slick answer, one that I found a little amusing, but perfect.

“I already had it,” I say.  “I told you how Detective Martinez was hassling Dad.  You can verify that by asking him, or even better, ask Chase Gooding and Sergeant Fredericks of the White Oak Police Department.  They both witnessed some of it.  But, Martinez was harassing us, and I got mad at him a couple of times, and when you get mad at him, he gets mad right back.  His temper is worse than mine.  Anyway, I was angry and I shouted at him, telling him he wasn’t doing anything at all to find Carly.  He yelled back at me that he was questioning all sorts of suspects, I said, ‘Prove it,’ and he went to his car, came back, and handed me the list.  It was titled something like ‘Interviews, Carly Hodges Investigation’.  Something like that.  He gave it to me, and I told him he’d made it up and I didn’t believe it and needed to look at it, then closed the door on him.  I only needed a second.  Our computer printer has a copying feature.  I copied the list, then took the paper back to him, opened the door and handed it back.”

“Why’d you do that?”

I look surprised.  “Just what I told him: I wanted to see if he was making it all up.  And I couldn’t even think with him breathing down my neck like he’d been.  Couldn’t see if anything on the list looked screwy, or if anything seemed to be missing.  So I made a copy.”

He looks pensive. I know what he’s thinking.  If he asks Martinez, Martinez will deny it.  And there we’d be.  No skin off my nose.  And we had a legal reason established, sort of established, why we had the list.  They’d never be able to prove it didn’t happen that way.  It seems like a perfect lie, to me. 

I manage to keep my smile to myself.

He figures out there’s nothing to pursue about the list, but he remains on the offensive.  “You seem to like accusing Detective Martinez of things,” he says.  “What about this blackmail, can you prove that?”

“Yes and no,” I say.

“Tell me,” he says.

“OK.  But I need to explain the background first, so you’ll know why I suspected him in the first place.”

He nods.  I pour a glass of water from the carafe in front of me and drink about half of it.  Then I begin.

“Throughout all this, I kept getting the feeling that things weren’t exactly as they seemed.  Just little things, things that meant nothing by themselves.  Well, I like things to make sense.  So when things don’t seem right, I think about them and wonder why and try to figure them all out.  I’ve been doing that all my life.

“The first thing that never made any sense to me about Detective Martinez was how he acted, right from the beginning.  He was harassing us, making us angry, doing things that seemed pointless to me.  Like phoning us to come to the station in the middle of the night and then denying he’d done it.  Searching our house when he had no warrant and so it was illegal for him to do.  Only coming by our house when he knew he’d be interrupting our dinner.  Getting really, really mad for very small reasons.  That was what first made me think something was screwy with him.  So I started to wonder why.  I thought about that for a long time before I could come up with an answer.  But I knew something was wrong there.  I just knew it.”

I move my eyes away from the DA because he is showing no expression at all, and it’s hard to look at that too long.  I choose his assistant to look at for the next part.

“What really brought him into focus was when Lindsey came up with her idea that a kidnapper would take off after the crime.  We had a list of possible suspects, and she said, why not try to see who’s moved?  And it worked.  It eventually led us to Carly.”

Carly hears her name and turns to me.  “Twoy?” she said.”

“Yeah, I’m talking about you, beautiful girl.”

She smiles and returns to playing with Dad’s fingers.

“I didn’t figure out right then that that meant Detective Martinez was dirty, but it made me think,” I resumed.  “Later on, I think it was when we’d seen Carly in the park and were working out how to grab her, one of us said something about how we were just kids and should get adult help.  That sort of struck me.  Maybe I put that together with Lindsey’s idea; maybe that’s why I figured out that Martinez should have, and maybe actually had, gone through the same process we had.  Because, if we could do that—come up with that idea and follow it up—didn’t it make sense that a trained and experienced investigator could and would have done the same thing?  Wouldn’t that have been one of the first things he’d have looked at?”

The DA moved in his chair, turning to the assistant, then back to me.  He didn’t say anything, but I could see his face had changed.  

“Thinking that maybe he had done that and knew all the time where Carly was and hadn’t told us, well, it seemed a bit farfetched, and so I tried to figure out why he might do that.  The thing I came up with first was that he was so pissed at us, me mostly, because of the things I’d said to him, that he was not finding her even though he knew where she was just to punish us.  As time passed, however, and I thought more on it, that seemed implausible.  He’d get a lot of plaudits for finding her.  Maybe even a promotion.  The only thing he was getting that I could see by withholding her discovery was vengeance on us, or me.  So I looked for other reasons he might have for keeping her whereabouts secret.  Money was the obvious one, the first I considered.”

I stop because this bit will be tricky.  I have to sell this, and he isn’t going to like it.  At all.  I am going to admit to doing something illegal.  Well, technically illegal.  Maybe.

“I was eventually convinced that Martinez had known almost from the start where Carly was; it was the only thing that explained his behavior, like I’ve said.  He was getting mad, in my opinion, because he thought if we got mad at him, we’d focus on him and not pay as much attention to the investigation itself, to the fact he wasn’t making any progress finding Carly.

“But I knew that it would be almost impossible to get anyone to believe that he knew who the kidnapper was and that he was blackmailing her.  So, I set out to prove it, because I didn’t want him to get away with it.  One reason was because it had occurred to me that if he was doing this with Carly, what about other kids?  Maybe Carly wasn’t the only one, maybe not even the first.  And what about that other little girl who went missing a short time ago?  Martinez was in a perfect position to do the same thing with any child going missing in his jurisdiction.  I thought Martinez needed to go to jail, and I needed to find a way to get you guys to believe me.”

Now was the tricky part.  I didn’t stop; I just plunged in.  “So, I went back and talked to the kidnappers.”

“WHAT?”  The DA doesn’t just say that, he comes out of his chair and booms it.

I remain seated and as calm as I can.  “I went back to talk to them.  I told them I knew they were being blackmailed and asked for details.  They were surprised I knew, but admitted it and told me what they could.  They told me they put fifty $20 bills in a yellow envelope, addressed it to a Mr. James Temms, and sent it the first of every month to an address they then gave me.”

“Wait!” he says, and says it loudly.  “You knew where they were?  And you didn’t tell us?”  

“Well, yes.”  I don’t tell him about them moving from where they’d been.  Explaining everything involved in that would take me places I didn’t want to go.  A simple ‘yes’ would work much better.

“But you had to tell us that!  It’s obstruction of justice to know about a crime and not report it.  You knew they’d kidnapped your sister.  You knew where they were.  You had a legal responsibility to report it!”

I’ve been expecting this.  I don’t know if my rationale will be enough, but it’s all I’ve got, and seems persuasive to me.  It will also help to sound exasperated when I speak, so I do.

“Who was I supposed to report it to?” I ask, faking surprise and annoyance at his outburst.  “If I’d reported it to the cops, it would have been assigned to Detective Martinez.  I could imagine all sorts of terrible things happening then, like the kidnappers accidentally being shot while being captured so they couldn’t be questioned about any blackmail.  Then where would I be in trying to show that Martinez is guilty?  Any chance of anything being proven against Martinez would die along with them.”

The DA isn’t satisfied.  “You seem to have figured out how to get around that, though.  You came to us with this now.  You could have done the same thing then.”

“Yeah, but then I didn’t have anything to make you suspicious of Martinez except speculation.”

“And you do now?” 

“Yeah.”

“Well, let’s have it.  But you’re still in trouble for not reporting this earlier—when you knew where the kidnappers were.  I’m sure they’re long gone now.”

“Then let’s settle that before anything else,” I say, being as firm as I can.  “I didn’t know they were the kidnappers till I spoke to them in their home and they admitted it.  Before that, all I knew was they were with Carly at a park in Bedford.  They easily could have been watching her for someone else, babysitting her.  I didn’t know.  I don’t think there is any legal responsibility to report suspicions.”

The DA looks at his assistant, who looks back.  Then the DA turns back to me.  “But you did know after talking to them.  You had to tell us then.”

“Except if I had, I wouldn’t have the proof you now want me to give you.”  I stare at him, a challenge in my eyes.

“That doesn’t make any difference,” he says.  Loudly.

I am about to open my mouth when Dad’s lawyer speaks.  I have forgotten all about him.

“Dave,” he says, and I quickly realize he and the DA know each other, “aren’t you going a little afield here?  Obstruction of justice is very tricky to prove, as you know, and is usually concerned with concealing a crime.  You guys already knew of the crime and were supposed to be investigating it.  What Troy did was not report something that the detective assigned to the case already knew.  Or at the very least something that Troy thought he knew and certainly had reason to believe he knew.  You’d be on awfully shaky ground trying to prosecute that.  And think of the public opinion you’d get.  You’d be trying to punish a 15-year-old boy for solving a crime that your guys hadn’t solved and for taking down a dirty cop in the process—a boy, incidentally, who was a hero for rescuing his kidnapped sister.  You’d be prosecuting a boy who’d saved his sister when your own police department hadn’t been able to.  Without him, she’d still be with the kidnappers and Martinez would still be collecting blackmail money.”

The DA actually turns beet red, and he takes the opportunity to have a sip of water himself.  He looks at his assistant who seems to be occupied in paperwork on the table in front of him and is avoiding his boss’s glance.  Then he turns back at me.  “Moving on,” he says, “what’s this ‘almost-proof’?”

“So I’m not in trouble here?” I ask.  Might as well get that put to bed, I think.  In front of witnesses.

The DA grimaces, and says, “Well, if the kidnappers have taken off…”

I don’t say a word.  The two officials look at each other, and then the DA says, “Screw it.  No, due to the circumstances we have here, we won’t pursue this.  OK?”

“OK,” I say.  “All right, then.  We learned from the kidnappers that they were sending $1,000 to someone named James Temms on the first of each month along with the address they were sending it to.  So, we found out how long it takes for mail to get from Bedford, Nebraska, to Kinnessa, Missouri, and then staked out the mail drop Martinez was using.  And we got this.”

I open my laptop and bring up the video Chase had shot.  We all watch the entire sequence, from Martinez arriving to him leaving, and Trevor recovering the envelope with the name James Temms clearly shown.  The DA watches it three times.

“The problem is,” he says, “this doesn’t really prove anything.  It doesn’t link him positively to any kidnappers.  We’d need something from them to tie him to what we see here.  What we have here could be explained as part of a case he was running, to get proof of something or other.  This doesn’t mean squat without the testimony of the kidnappers.  Just your saying you heard from the kidnappers is hearsay and inadmissible in court.”

“It does show that he’s guilty,” I argue.  “It shows him receiving money addressed to Mr. Temms and then throwing the incriminating envelope away.  If he was gathering evidence, he’d have kept the envelope.  But, that’s what I meant about the proof.  I know it’s shaky.  But I can substantiate it a little better.  I will in a minute.  There are details here that I should point out.  One, the kidnappers sent the money in a yellow envelope.  You see Martinez walk out of the shop with a yellow envelope in his hand.  You see him fiddling around out of view of the camera, but common sense tells you he’s taking the money out of the envelope.  Then, what’s he going to do?  He’s going to get rid of that envelope as quickly as he can because of the name on it, the only name the kidnappers know.  And what does he do?  Exactly that.  He throws the envelope, a yellow envelope, away in a trash can in front of the mail drop.  And one of us, Trevor, is there to recover it.  Lucky us, you think?  No, I don’t think so.  We thought about it in advance and decided one of the first things he’d do is get rid of that envelope.  He was sure to want to get it out of his possession as quickly as he could.  That’s what we figured, and that’s what happened.  Our only luck was he didn’t empty and dispose of the envelope inside the postal store, but we didn’t think he’d do that where he might be observed.  So, we got the envelope.  It must have Martinez’s fingerprints on it.  He wasn’t wearing gloves.”

“But there’s no chain of evidence!” the Assistant DA says.  “This Trevor kid could have taken another wadded yellow envelope out of the trash.  He could already have had one with Martinez’s fingerprints on it and switched them inside the trash can.  Martinez will claim he was set up.”

“Which is why I said the proof was shaky,” I retort, “but think about it.  At trial, is a jury going to believe us or him?”

The guy is tenacious and ignores my question.  “We don’t even have any verification that what you say the kidnappers told you was actually said.  You could be making this up to trap Martinez.”

I don’t answer right away.  I wait.  I want what I say next to be heard clearly and thought about.

When I do speak, it’s with even more exasperation in my voice.  “What I was trying to do here wasn’t get Martinez all sewn up for you.  What I was trying to do was convince you, just you, that he’s guilty.  It really isn’t my job to do the rest.  I’m a kid.  I’m not prepared for or capable of something like that: sewing up a perp for delivery to trial.  But I could, and did, collect enough evidence that you should be convinced by now to investigate Martinez.  If you do that, you’ll nail him.  He isn’t very smart, and he’s arrogant, and, well, that’s your job.”

The DA seems unsure just how to answer that because the facts are supporting what I’ve been saying, and nothing his office or the police department has done can come close to refuting the results I’ve come up with.

While he’s thinking, I move on.  “I do have more for you.  I thought this conversation would go like this.  I thought you’d make the objections you have.  Well, I’ve got something that should convince you.  Not prove anything that you can’t argue about, but convince you of his guilt.

“We made another video, one we shot before we left Bedford for the last time.”

I open my laptop again.  And start a different video.

It shows Mary on the couch, a blanket over her, and Donna next to her.  Mary looks even weaker in the video than she had in person.  She relates to the camera how she’d taken Carly and why, and then Donna tells her part.  She also goes into detail about the blackmail.  Then she adds what I hoped would be the kicker.

“Troy has asked me to record the serial numbers of the twenties I’m sending Mr. Temms this time.  I have done that and given him a copy.”

I’d wanted that to be the final proof needed.  But, I get something I hadn’t expected.

Before I can turn off the video, I find Carly beside me.  She’s climbed out of Dad’s lap and come to me.  She’s looking at the laptop’s screen. 

“That’s Mama Mawy,” she says.

The DA is looking at her.  I shut off the video, then hand him the list of fifty serial numbers.  “I’ll bet he still has some of them.  It’ll be pretty hard for him to explain where he got them, and if he says he was collecting evidence, then he’d better still have all of them, because how could he explain why some are missing?  I’ll bet he’s spent some of them.” 

I smile mirthlessly at the DA.  “He can say I somehow forced them on him, into his possession, but how credible do you think he’ll actually be, facing a jury—in court?”


Continued


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