First Draft Excerpt from Gifts of The Mother

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Julie's call was to her firm for both of us, which meant I could use mine to call RaDonna, but she didn't answer. I left a message about what had happened and what little I knew, asked her to apologize to anyone who came to the office, and to relay instructions for John which did not include him talking to clients in case I was here longer than tomorrow morning.

After the phone call, they tried pushing me into an interrogation room without waiting for the lawyer to arrive. Ramirez began, "What was your connection to Richard Shreder?"

I'd met an actor by that SAG name, but he wasn't a client and I didn't even know if that was his real name. "On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer any questions without my attorney present."

"What was your connection to Katherine Shreder?"

No idea, other than I presumed some relationship with the first name. "On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer any questions without my attorney present."

"What was your connection to Jeremiah Cartwright, a.k.a. Marcus White?"

Again, no idea. "On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer any questions without my attorney present."
"What was your connection to Jennifer Steldan?"

Isis. A small amount of light cracked through the window of understanding. "On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer any questions without my attorney present."

Ramirez must have seen some flicker in my face, "I knew it! You're in it up to your eyeballs!"

I sat there, silent.

"You and Ms. Ingmar were investigating the death of your ex-wife! There was a name - 'Osiris' - that your ex-wife's doctor blurted out as she died."

"On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer any questions without my attorney present."

"If you come clean, things will go much easier for you!"

"On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer any questions without my attorney present." I wasn't stupid enough to do Ramirez' job for him. Besides, the image of Ramirez trying to think was hilarious - I didn't think he had it in him. I let the smile show.

"We'll see who's smiling when all this is done, you smug son of a bitch!" He drew back as if to hit me.
I smiled wider. Recordings don't care who they hang, and I was sure the cameras were going. Handcuffed and under arrest, and I was still a better salesman than this nitwit.

He was too mad to care. He punched me in the mouth.

They don't tell you how much that hurts when you have no way to soften the blow. I don't think he knocked out any teeth, but my mouth was suddenly bloody, too. Now I had him for sure. Maybe he was used to getting away with it for average citizens - but I wasn't an average citizen. I'd be doing the public a favor by forcing his removal from the police.

I think he suddenly realized how much trouble he'd just put himself into. But before he could do anything else, in walked a middle-aged man in a suit as good as mine had been before Ramirez started roughing me up. If I had to guess, I'd say his ancestry was mostly black. "How nice of you to observe the Miranda proprieties, Detective," he began, "I see that you have been abusing my client physically, too. If I were in your shoes, I would want to make certain that recording does not go astray, or I will make a jury believe the very worst. Do not make things any harder on yourself than they have to be." Turning to me, "Mister Jackson, I am George Stuart from Morris Silver and Associates. I understand Julie Ingmar is your regular lawyer but she's under arrest as well." His speech was absolutely clear, correct, and careful. I knew successful actors who couldn't have been so precise in their pronunciation.

"Your understanding is correct, sir." My words were a little off - my mouth was sore and aching already, "Have you checked in on her yet?"

"You are the priority right now. Ms. Ingmar is a lawyer and understands what she should and should not do. I require a moment with my client, Detective. Out in the hall away from your recording." He didn't ask, he simply gave me a hand up and walked me out.

"Do you have any idea what this is about?" he asked.

"I recognized one of the names he mentioned. Assuming it's the same person, of course. I'm going to tell you the same thing I told Julie: I'm not stupid enough to jack around my own attorney. If it's what I think it's about, I was there but they accidentally did it to themselves. Nor would I believe what happened if I hadn't been there and seen it with my own eyes. But it would take too long to explain, and you'd probably think I'm crazy until Julie told you the same thing, and then you'd be thinking it's some sort of shared delusion. I will explain it all to you, but at the moment I'm not even sure what they're fishing for."

"I believe that will be enough for me to function effectively for the moment," he replied, and opened the door back into the interrogation room. He gestured for me to sit, so I did. "I believe this has gone far enough," he began, "My client is under arrest for murder, but he has not yet been informed of the identity of the alleged victim. Who was allegedly murdered?"

"We have a couple hundred mummified human bodies," Ramirez said, "And about fifty were still holding the plastic water bottles with either Mister Jackson's or Miz Ingmar's prints on them. There are also several thermal blankets with the same prints. We're still in the process of identifying all of the remains, but the water traces to a grocery outlet where there are recordings of Mister Jackson and Miz Ingmar purchasing said supplies."

"So you are claiming my clients murdered two hundred people then mummified them and issued their corpses water bottles and thermal blankets?"

"Jim Jones gave his people poisoned Kool-Aid."

"Have you analyzed the remnants in said water bottles to determine if there was anything toxic therein?"

"The lab hasn't found anything yet," Ramirez admitted.

"Then it seems far more likely to me that my clients were somehow rendering the best assistance they could under the circumstances."

"Then why didn't they call for help?"

"That may be a question you want to pursue, Detective, but it is your job to discover the answer. Nobody is obliged to deliver it to you gift-wrapped."

"I still want Mister Jackson to answer the question!"

Mr. Stuart turned to me with a gesture that he was passing the question on to me, but I figured out what I was supposed to do, "For the moment, I must plead the Fifth Amendment pending a private consultation with my attorney."

"So you're admitting guilt!"

Mister Stuart took over again, "Not at all, Detective. You know better than that. Mister Jackson requires expert consultation to understand the legal ramifications of what he may have done. There are any number of possible issues. For instance, is he liable to the heirs for the limits of the aid he rendered to the deceased, or for the fact he was unable to prevent their deaths? Perhaps he is concerned that he violated a parking ordinance, or even committed a moving violation in attempting to aid the deceased. He is limited in his understanding of such laws."

"You and I both know bullshit when we hear it, counselor."

"Perhaps you believe yourself unlimited in your ability to perceive truth, Detective, but I have lived enough to have seen the limitations of my vision. You may compare the evidence you gather and then re-evaluate it in the light of known events. My clients are in no way obligated to assist you in fabricating a fiction that results in their criminal convictions."

"I suppose we're done here, then."

"I require a few more moments with my client, Detective. In the corridor, unrecorded."

Once outside in the corridor, "I do not have to know what happened, Mister Jackson, but I hope for your sake you have a coherent explanation because police laboratories are getting better every year at exposing weaknesses and inconsistencies in testimony."

"I'll tell you everything that happened if you want, Mr. Stuart, but it's pretty fantastic. I'm still having a hard time believing it and I was there, and it will likely take a couple hours. We didn't kill those people."

"What did kill those people?"

"A mistake their leader made. It might not have been intentional, but it caused the deaths of everyone who drank from their communal pot."

"Are you saying they accidentally poisoned themselves? If so, what should we have the lab look for?"

"The pot was cooking, but there was human blood in it to my certain knowledge. Other than that, I don't know what was in it."

"Then how do you know there was something toxic?"

"I was told."

"Hearsay evidence. By who? One of the participants?"

"No. That's part of the story I'm having trouble believing myself." Looking around, "As I said, it's going to take a while, and I don't think this is the best place or time. As far as I know, they're still interrogating Julie."

"You have a point. It will be morning at least before bail will be set, so you are going to spend the night here in jail. Try not to arouse any of the other inmates. If necessary, pretend to be some ordinary person picked up for an unremarkable offense like traffic tickets. Do not call attention to yourself and do not tell any of your fellow inmates anything of your real predicament. Many of them will willingly inform on you, and given the nature of this case, the police will make a special effort to recruit informers. Understood?"

"Understood."

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on July 4, 2022 7:00 AM.

Excerpt from Preparing The Ground was the previous entry in this blog.

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