When We Met
by b soiree
see all disclaimers in Chapter 1
“Hi, Abbie?” Nyri adjusted the car phone head set, “This is Nyri again. I hate talking to machines. I thought you’d be in your office awaiting the judge’s decision. Hope your closing argument went well.”
She checked the rear view mirror. “Listen, some strange things are happening--are you aware that both our perps have been kept in a secured area of the closest federal prison? Slick’s transported to the courthouse each day, and everyone’s been very hush hush about it.”
Nyri sucked in a deep breath, “Man, that’s a big red flag to me. It sure has Drug Enforcement written all over it, don’t you think? It would be just like them to try and pull the rug out from under us at the last minute if that’s what he demanded. We NEED a conviction against Slick to put to rest his “I’ve never had anything but consensual sex” argument. What have you heard? Anything?”
Forced to slow by a truck in the middle lane, Nyri checked the fast lane and cursed at finding it full. She eased her foot off the gas and glanced at her watch. “Okay, something else strange. I got a call from one of Mr. Turcots’ attorneys, the young guy--third seat, requesting an emergency meeting at the prison. Did they call you? Is that where you are? He says it has to do with father’s rights. Why call me? I’m not an attorney.”
She sped up to close the gap behind the truck. “I left a message for you earlier about the third thing--the pack of notes Turcots sent me this morning by messenger. Turned out to be ‘love’ notes for each victim including the non-present three young mothers, saying how much fun he thought they’d had together, how he hoped they could arrange other ‘dates,’ and maybe end up having children together. Can you believe that? That sadistic sociopath!”
Nyri scowled, “Their real purpose, of course, was to scare the guano out of the poor women. I guess he thinks my investigative firm represents all of them, but I can’t believe he’d think we’d just pass notes out for him. He’s devious, though, so maybe the notes were really meant for our benefit just to prove he can. He’s cocky enough.”
She flicked the turn signal. “Considering their underlying purpose, the judge will undoubtedly want to know about them. However, Turcots did NOT write a note to the young girl for whom he’s on trial.”
She checked the rearview mirror again. “Maybe he figures that makes his correspondence of no consequence in this trial. Jerk. Wonder how he got them past his attorneys? Anyway, the DA’s office should have them. I sent them to you by messenger right after I got them.”
Nyri quickly transferred to the empty spot that opened in the fast lane. She sped past the truck then signaled and pulled back into the middle lane in front of him. “It’s a ways to the prison. Okay, I’ll call again after I’ve heard what they want. Call me before if you can. If my number won’t work inside the prison, reach me through the prison office. Bye.”
Slimy jerk. Slick didn’t have to do much to make Ruby and Lonnie’s life miserable, not to mention all the other women’s. She heard the distinctive sound of a fax coming in on her car printer. “What’s Temple sending now?” She reached her arm across the seat to grab the paper. Driving and reading was not an easy job. Better check this out there.
Carefully she dialed her phone. “Hey guys, this is Nyri.” She hurriedly passed another car in the heavy traffic. Damn, I’m gonna be late! “I can’t believe it--I’m getting nothing but recorded messages today. I’m traveling to hell and gone to meet with Slick and one of his attorneys to discuss father’s rights. I don’t know why, I’m no attorney. Oh, I just got the results on Bethy’s DNA. Can’t examine it and drive, too, so I’ll check it when I get there. I’ll call back probably after this meet. Bye. Oh, do you know anyone named Rachel or Misty that might be Slick’s victims? Bye.”
Pulling into the lot, Nyri looked around. The darkening summer storm clouds looked ominous, but then prisons were forlorn places anyway. She glanced at her watch. Late! Damn! Hurriedly she scanned Bethy’s results, looked again, drew out a felt pen, blackened all private info, jammed the paper in her briefcase and ran to the prison entrance.
Abbie wasn’t there. Nyri took a deep breath and stood behind the heavy window in the prison door looking passively down the scratched and scraped walls of the corridor at Slick’s young attorney entering a corridor room. He’s late, too. Where are the other two ambulance chasers I wonder? And why not meet in town? Slick’s legal beagles were not court appointed advocates, that she knew. She’d been cross examined by them. They were definitely high priced talent. Who’s paying them?
If the Colombians shelled out the bucks, they hadn’t bargained on his conviction looking so much like a slam dunk. Every defense had been professionally turned aside by the prosecution, and despite their talent, his team hadn’t made the old “the police were at fault” defense stick. But now that she knew Slick was being furtively transported each day, how could the Colombians have arranged that? No, it couldn’t be them. Who was paying? The feds? Oh gods, I hope not.
Finally Nyri was escorted down the same corridor to the same room. Inside was a table with two chairs on one side and two on the other. Slick and his attorney were already seated together waiting.
The young attorney wore a very expensive Italian silk suit, plumb colored shirt and black silk tie. His wavy hair was slicked back into place above his tanned features. A heavy gold ring with a large, many-carat diamond glittered on his finger. His nails were professionally manicured and his shoes well shined. He had the look of amused superiority on his face.
One of the sleezoid clique! I guess Abbie’s not gonna be here. So, why me? Nyri moved to just outside the open door. She paused to do a quick search of her briefcase to make sure everything she needed was there. She inhaled the essence the attorney had left in passing. Jeez, he splashed on the aftershave for this one. She patted her jacket pocket then checked her phone to make sure she’d left it on.
“Goldilocks is here,” Slick sneered.
“Come in, come in.” His attorney called. Noticing Nyri’s delay, he added, “I assure you, Mr. Turcots is no threat to you.” No older than Nyri, his voice had the balm of a man assuming an accomplished fatherly appeal to women. He sat back, folded his linked hands like a mountain peak under his chin, and smiled patiently.
She checked her watch. “Let’s get this over with.” She moved with businesslike precision to the chair opposite the attorney and sat down. She placed her briefcase on the floor and slipped out of her blazer, adjusting it to hang on the back of the empty chair.
“Tell the truth,” Slick demanded immediately, “You’re working for Jocko, aren’t you? I know you’re working for all my girlfriends there in court. So, did Jocko hire you to harass me? Does he want you working with them to get even? Is that it? Is he behind all this?”
This is why they called me? Nyri wanted to laugh. He was still worried about Jocko. Gone was the smooth talking Slick from the police station who’d tried to convince the officers they’d meant the girl no harm. Fortunately the girl’s drug tests had proved otherwise.
“Those were not ‘girlfriends’ in court, Mr. Turcots,” she replied calmly. “They were victims, rape victims. Hopefully, you’ll go to trial for your crimes perpetrated against them. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a serial rape conviction wasn’t extremely likely after this trial.”
Slick laughed heartily, “No way.” His attorney smiled silently. “I didn’t rape anybody,” Slick’s tones became silky, “I’ve never had anything but consensual sex in my whole life. I’m a handsome guy. Why would I need to rape anyone? Those girls give it away. Can’t blame a guy for accepting.”
Ah, the slick Slick is back. She could feel him eagerly awaiting a reply. She made none. He whispered to his attorney, “Jocko didn’t hire her. He’d of whacked me, not put me in jail. Not his style.”
“Perhaps,” his lawyer whispered back. The young attorney examined Nyri. Was she or wasn’t she hired by Jocko? “I’ve researched you, Miss Davis,” the young attorney said to Nyri.
“Of course you did, considering that I testified for the opposition. And I presume you found no connection between me and this Jocko creature you mentioned from Colombia.”
Slick stiffened but his attorney answered quickly, “Perhaps. But we both are aware that some ”connections” are impossible to find.”
Slick leaned forward, his eyes turned to suspicious slits, “How’d you know Jocko’s from Colombia?”
It was Nyri’s turn to turn smug, “I have my ways.”
The young attorney withdrew a tape recorder from his briefcase and clicked it on. He gave the day, time and location plus all those present. Then he gave his own name as the one speaking. “Let’s don’t beat around the bush, Miss Davis. Let me ask you for the record, did Jocko Deazzo hire you to help bring suit against my client? Please consider your answer carefully. Perjury is a serious crime.”
Nyri wanted to laugh, but held it back with difficulty. I guess he didn’t want to taint his client’s ‘good name’ by bringing a vicious drug dealer like Jocko up in the trial proper, or he’d have asked that question in court. She looked straight into the attorney’s grey eyes. Should I answer? Oh heck, why not? She took care to speak clearly as she leaned directly toward the tape recorder. “No.”
Slick sat back and crossed his arms. “She’s lyin’.”
His attorney contemplated her warily. “Perhaps.”
Slick put on his sly, velutinous persona, “So, which of my mommy girlfriends are you representing then? Is it little Rachel? She was my favorite. A sweet, innocent little beauty. Young. Real young. A virgin, you know. She wanted to please me so badly. And she did. She did. After that she was EVERYbody’s dream girl.”
You make me sick, you creep! I should have let Lonnie tear you apart. Nyri knew he was trying to get to her. She forced down the bile in her throat. “Exactly why did you call this meeting?” she asked the attorney. “You mentioned father’s rights. Was that a ruse?”
Slick lolled back in his seat, hanging one arm over the chair back, “It wasn’t a ruse,” he answered for the attorney, “Some of my girlfriends like little Rachel had bambinos after we...” he made a crude motion at his crotch, “you know, had consensual sex.” He leaned forward and smirked, “I’m a real first-class he-man in that department, Goldilocks, if you’re interested.”
“Mr. Turcots, please,” his attorney inserted. Nyri said nothing.
“Oh, sorry. So anyway, along come the kiddies. And that makes me a daddy, and that’s why this meeting...I have father’s rights.”
“Not from rape victims,” she replied.
“If you could prove that, you wouldn’t be here to discuss father’s rights,” Slick’s sanctimonious gaze was now piercing.
Touché, she thought with annoyance. But we CAN prove this one. And we’ll build the next case on this one, if the feds don’t... She stiffled an unhappy sigh at that prospect. “I guess we’ll wait till tomorrow and see.”
“Tomorrow means nothing,” Slick scoffed. A glint of satisfaction shone in his eyes, but his attorney shot him a fervent glare of warning.
Oh gods, you ARE going to testify for the feds, aren’t you? Crap! Nyri maintained her cool, “In what way does tomorrow mean nothing?”
Slick laughed. “You’re assuming the judge thinks I’m guilty. Maybe he doesn’t. He might find me ‘not guilty.’ Ever think of that? I’m an innocent man after all. I was set up. He’ll see that. And once I’m released, the very first thing I’ll do is petition for all my rights as a father.”
In your dreams. “Rapists have none of those rights,” she replied.
“My client has never been found guilty of rape,” the attorney corrected.
“And I won’t be now, either,” Slick smirked. His lawyer grimaced.
Warning bells were going off in Nyri’s head. He’s testifying. Gods! I’ve gotta call Abbie. This could change everything. She took a minute to study Slick. You’re EXPECTING a last minute reprieve, with no penalties for your crimes at all. But you’ve been proved guilty convincingly. COULD the feds pull off a reprieve if that were your demand for testifying? Not easily I wouldn’t think. But maybe, if they found some archaic technicality to throw the case out. She became despondent but buttressed herself, Come on girl, even if it’s true the world won’t end. Keep on task. Serve your clients.
She clasped her hands on the table. “In regards to my clients in court and the notes you sent them...”
“What notes?” Slick’s attorney looked askance at his client.
Slick shrugged, “Wasn’t important. It had nothing to do with this case.”
“The DA has them, and the judge might think differently,” Nyri countered. “In any case, you and your cohorts will not be allowed to harass these women any longer. I expect restraining orders to be filed against you.” Slick looked indecisive. His attorney raised a brow. “Most felons get away with further crimes because no one is paying attention. Well Mr. Turcots, rest assured, we’re paying attention.”
Slick shrugged while the end of his mouth crinkled. “They still love me.”
This man’s a slave to his audacious pomposity. Nyri thought back to the flunkies on choppers her clients told her Slick had sent in the past with love notes of introduction urging ‘dates.’ He’d planned it to terrify the women, and it had worked. Some moved away, but he still found many of their new locations. He’d picked the toughest, most disgusting of the drivers for his errand. One had a scruffy beard with his gut hanging over his belt and the other had missing teeth and dirty clothes he hadn’t changed in years. But they were careful to follow the letter of the law. A few victims called the police, but no charges could be filed.
I’ll see to it that won’t happen again. But on the rights issue, if you aren’t convicted, what kind of legal reach might you still have? They’re going to whisk you into hiding after all. What legal atrocities would you still be capable of? Your mouthpiece there has been worthless at giving any legal opinions.
“The way I see it,” Slick aloofly leaned back and put a foot on the table...
“Put your foot down, please,” the attorney asked. They could see the guard hurrying their way. The attorney’s attention moved to him.
Slick lowered his foot, “As far as my children are concerned, I have every right to visit my little bundles of joy. Remember, none of these mommies filed a complaint against me. So I think I’ll seek custody. Show you how reasonable I am, it could be joint custody.”
Psycho babble, hopefully. The lawyer appeared not to be paying attention at all now. “Rapists have none of those rights,” Nyri repeated.
“Uh, my client has never been found guilty of rape,” the attorney parroted, turning back their direction. He glanced at his watch.
Got a hot date? What’s going on? Why is this attorney so unconcerned with what his client’s saying? He’s only half listening to this crap.
“You gotta prove it.” Slick laughed then did a hands up, “Okay, to be fair, let’s say I do end up in jail for something. Even then I’ll have rights. I’ve instructed my attorneys to see to it that I get everything I deserve.”
If only that were true. Nyri noticed the attorney wasn’t even trying to appear interested now. This is all bogus. Is it for this sicko’s amusement? “This is a waste of time,” Nyri said pushing back her chair.
“Hold on,” Slick’s voice became urgent. “Wait. I’m just saying rape’s gotta be proven. It wasn’t, cause all my dates were consensual. I look forward to being a father,” he continued. “Really. I take it seriously. And I’ll convince a court of that.”
The attorney now looked across at her with partial interest. “My client’s never been convicted of rape.”
“So you’ve said. Well, tomorrow, sir, your client will either be found guilty of attempted rape or he won’t. If he isn’t, it will undoubtedly be because some agency, say something like, oh, the Drug Traffic Unit, interfered.”
Both men shot upright in their chairs.
Got your attention now, don’t I? Nyri leaned towards the recorder, “Did you get that, or did you want me to speak louder?” Yep, the Drug Enforcement Unit is going to be exceedingly unhappy with you boys for letting information like that slip out before they’ve sprung their trap.
The attorney cleared his throat. “Uh, I don’t know where you got that information, Miss Davis, but...”
“Please, young man,” Nyri said to the attorney, “Your client has insinuated as much since I’ve been here. Better play that tape back. In any case, from what I can see, these bogus father’s rights claims are moot even if he’s not convicted tomorrow.” I hope.
“Tomorrow’s case will be decided on the merits of the case. I think it is totally irresponsible of you to throw around terms like Drug Enforcement. That is not something to be toyed with, Miss Davis.” The lawyer frowned.
“It certainly isn’t,” she replied. “I agree wholeheartedly.”
“Why would it be moot or what you said?” Slick asked. “You don’t know.”
“True, I’m no attorney,” she glanced at the silent attorney across from her, “But simple logic says that once you testify against the bad guys, you’re placed in the Witness Protection Program. Their job is to make people disappear. Forever. They’re very good at it. Poof, you’re gone and so are any bogus father’s rights claims. Make any kind of contact with any of these women, and, believe me, your enemies will be aware.”
“Seems to me they’d all be in jail,” Slick scoffed. “IF I testified, I mean.”
“They’re NEVER all in jail. You know that. File anything legal yourself and they’ll know. Commit another rape, and they will use national crime reports to hunt you down. I did, after all, and we easily found where you were. Next thing you know, your enemies locate you and...bang, you’re dead. Of course, they could do horrible things to you before then.”
“I’m not afraid of you.”
Nyri laughed mirthlessly. “You misunderstood. I didn’t mean that I’d still be searching for you. I won’t. You’ll be gone as far as I’m concerned. No, I’m talking about Jocko’s minions. I assume that’s who you’ll be testifying against. I can’t help but think they’ll be watching crime reports for rape--your kind of crimes. Personally, I’d bet on it.”
“Stop, Ms. Davis! No one has said my client will be testifying against anyone!” The attorney’s ringless hand anxiously raked through his hair.
“I told you she lied about Jocko,” Slick said aside to his attorney. Otherwise, he ignored the man, as did Nyri. “You don’t know,” Slick turned to Nyri. “Maybe I’ll get rights for my family, for my mother. These are my kids, her grandkids. My attorneys could handle everything whether I’m here or not. I’ll have them working night and day.”
“That’s spurious,” Nyri looked to the attorney, who suddenly dropped something on the floor. “You’re saying a law firm would leave themselves open to interrogation from angry mobsters seeking revenge and believing the firm knew where you were or how to contact you after your damning high wire testimony?” She watched Slick hide a sly grin. “No, didn’t think so.” Waste of my time. She reached for her jacket to leave.
“Let me make this clear, Mr. Turcots has NEVER said he’d be testifying for the feds or anyone else,” the lawyer emphasized, returning upright.
“Hold on,” Slick petitioned. “Wait!” he flattened out a paper on the table with smugness, “THIS is really why you’re here. These three names.”
If he expected her to earnestly lean forward and look, he was disappointed. She paused, reached into her briefcase and pulled out a paper and a notepad. She flattened the paper on the table.
“THIS,” she said, “is what will get a serial rape conviction against you...now or later. It will follow you wherever you go.”
Slick didn’t move. His attorney reached across the table. “May I?”
“Certainly.” She noticed both men were looking at it.
“It’s got my name on it,” Slick said. What is it?”
“Have you ever had a DNA test done?” the lawyer asked his client.
“Never,” Slick replied.
The attorney scrutinized the paper. “This is not from a court appointed lab,” he concluded, “It’s not a legal copy.”
“It’s not,” she acknowledged. “The version for a trial would likely be done at the FBI Lab. This is from a private lab. But, as you know, genetic signatures, like fingerprints, don’t change. Different labs, different times, but same results. That’s how it is. DNA doesn’t lie.”
Checking the paper’s date, the lawyer mused, “So long ago.”
“That’s correct. Months. We’ve been collecting evidence a long time. We’re quite ready for your client.”
Realizing the implications, Slick exploded, “How in the hell did you get this?” He threw the paper down and jumped threateningly to his feet.
The guard quickly moved toward the door. “It’s all right,” Slick’s attorney assured the guard. “Sit down, Mr. Turcots!” he hissed.
Slick noticed the guard’s reluctance to leave and obeyed hesitantly, but his eyes were spitting fire.“ I didn’t give you permission to get my DNA.” He turned to his attorney, “Can she do this?”
Nyri half yawned. “Maybe you spit on the public sidewalk or left sweat at the gym. If so, you’ve turned your DNA over to whoever’s willing to collect the sample.” She reached for her copy and placed it back in her briefcase. “And it’s really too late to try and muzzle this information. Besides, it’s going to turn up in every victim’s rape kit, with more victims constantly coming forward. And a word of warning, it won’t matter what identity you have in the future. Should you rape someone else, your DNA will always prove it’s you.“
‘There’s no crime if the activity is consensual,” Slick emphasized the word ‘consensual.’ “And you have to prove it isn’t.”
“It wasn’t consensual this time, and we did prove it. But if you’re gone, you’re gone. However, should you consider harassing the mothers on your list during the time you’re testifying for the feds, you could be in really serious trouble.”
The attorney brought a fist tentatively to the table, “I want to make this very clear, NO one has said Mr. Turcots will be testifying for the feds!”
Slick glanced at him then glowered at Nyri, “What trouble?”
“Let’s say you were able to get around the feds and find a smalltown hick judge to back up your bogus claims. You would instantly find yourself with at least a stalking charge or harassment suit filed against you...and just when the government’s trying to palm you off as a credible witness. Heck, they’d have so many charges against you all together that you’d have to give up your Grandmother to get clear.”
The attorney leaned forward, “Miss Davis, I insist you quit alleging that Mr. Turcots is testifying for the feds. NO ONE has made that claim!”
“I would be credible, particularly since I’m looking to do the right thing as a father.” Slick’s monumental ego showed in his arrogant grin.
“Ah, contrair.” Nyri withdrew his DNA report and another paper from her briefcase. She pushed them across the table. “A little something you overlooked. See here, here and here?” she asked. “Look carefully. Now look at this one. Here, here and here.”
“So?” Slick looked up puzzled.
The attorney edged over to see. Nyri watched the attorney’s dismayed eyes look from the papers to her. She turned toward the recorder and spoke clearly, “I’m showing Henry Joe Turcots and his attorney, she gave his name, a copy of Mr. Turcots’ DNA and that of Baby Doe 1 born to Jane Doe 1, a woman on his list. Mr. Turcots is advised to cease and desist from attempting any contact by himself or anyone else whatsoever with this woman and/or her child from this moment on.”
“What the fuck..?” Slick scowled in bewilderment.
Nyri pulled the papers back and returned them to her briefcase. “Explain it to your client,” she suggested as she stood and snapped her briefcase closed. “As far as I’m concerned, our meeting is over.”
Slick looked at his attorney uncertainly. “What?”
“They don’t match,” the attorney said quietly.
“So what?” Slick looked from his attorney to Nyri.
The attorney stared at Nyri and said nothing more. Nyri lifted her case then lifted the attorney’s tape recorder. She brought it to her mouth. “It means, Mr. Turcots, you’re NOT the father of this woman’s child. There are NO father’s rights to be claimed by you, bogus or otherwise. NONE whatsoever! Zip! Zero! Nada!” She returned the recorder to the table. “I told you--DNA does not lie.” She slipped on her jacket. “See you in court tomorrow, gentlemen. Guard!”
Slick sat dismayed. His attorney checked his watch and rubbed his chin.
Nyri walked away. It was hard keeping the smile from her face. She’d known it since she read Bethy’s report, but now she could consider it. He’s not the father. Slick is NOT the father. She felt exultant but diffident at the same time. He was testifying. Their current trial could be in deep trouble because of it. The look of surprise on Slick’s face, though, had been gratifying. Of course, it didn’t mean he hadn’t raped Ruby or that he wasn’t aware who the father likely was. Not that he’d ever give Nyri’s team the information. She checked the time. Gotta get ahold of Abbie.
So, what would Ruby and Lonnie think of this when they found out?
Nyri listened to the click of her heels as she hastily walked the corridor. That dispicable man! I feel like I should wash my hands. Knowing Slick would be moved away was some kind of relief, even though it meant leaving most of her clients’ cases unresolved. And for Ruby the bad news was that now Nyri didn’t have a clue who the father was. But the good news was that she sure as hell knew who he wasn’t!
“Watch your back, bitch,” Slick called threateningly as the guards prepared to move him out. She could hear his attorney talking to him in a lowered voice.
She clicked off the tape recorder in her jacket pocket. “Hope I got that.” Her smile disappeared. “More to the point, better watch your own back, lowlife. Jerks like you don’t give up your criminal activity that easily. And this time rape could very well prove fatal to you.”
Finally she heard the small door inside the large prison door shut behind her with an ominous, echoing clank. She saw the double rows of razor wire above the fence and smelled the warm, heavy scent of summer rain. Armed guards were in the towers, but no one was walking outside the prison but her. She reached for her cell phone and dialed Abbie. Busy.
Damn! She dialed another number. “Temple,” Nyri said, “Call Evin and tell her the sooner she can wrap up the top-secret sale she’s working on for my program, the better. Say there’s more profit in it for her if she can move it along faster than planned. Do it right now.”
“What’s the rush, Nyri, if I might ask?”
“I feel like my head’s on the block here. The sooner the responsibility of it is legally out of my hands, the better.”
“Uh, I guess I don’t know exactly what you mean. So,” Temple heartened, “I’m sure you’d rather talk to Evin yourself. I can give you her number.”
“No. I don’t have time.”
“C’mon, Nyri, she’s going to ask why you want it done faster and I won’t know. She’ll tromp all over me. But you could explain it easily. Besides, she really likes you. She never wants to talk to me.”
“For crying out loud, quit whining, Temple and call her. She’s not going to snap your head off.”
“Yes she is,” he whined, “She’ll say ‘HA!’and go after me like a buzz saw.”
Nyri found herself snickering. She probably will. Nyri said nothing.
“All right, boss. I’m on it. But see what happens the next time you want me to hold Simone off for you.”
“Yeah, yeah.” You’ll do it, Softy, and we both know it. Bless you, Temple. Nyri signed off with a chuckle then tried Abbie’s direct line again. Still busy. Crud! She dialed Lonnie and Ruby’s condo, getting the machine. “Me again. I’ve got good and bad news about Bethy’s DNA. Call me.”
She tried Abbie’s number once more. Come on! Come on! Finding it still busy, she jammed the phone into her pocket. She glanced back at the prison. “Stay out of trouble, Slick, and you’ll stay alive and well in hiding.” She scowled, “And I hope you choke on every breath of your new life.”
As she got to her car, her cell phone rang. She pulled it from her pocket while she clicked ‘unlock’ on her red Wrangler. “Nyri, it’s Abbie,” the Prosecutor’s distraught voice echoed. “It’s what we feared. Two of Mr. Turcots’ attorneys and I have been in a battle, uh, conference with the judge and officials from the feds for the last two hours. The feds tried very hard to put an end to this trial before a verdict could be recorded. Fortunately, I got a chance to show the judge the notes Mr. Turcots wrote. I really think that was what tipped the scales. They pressed the judge with exceedingly strength, but he refused to be swayed. He said he’d give his verdict tomorrow in this case, then they could make whatever deal they wanted with Mr. Turcots.”
“So he might find him guilty?” Nyri asked.
“I’m sure hoping so.”
“Woohoo. At least my clients will have some completion.” Nyri did a little happy dance by the car then slipped into the driver’s seat as heavy rain drops began to fall. “It would stop his nonsense. I’ve been trying to call you to tell you Slick expected to have no verdict tomorrow. So I knew he was testifying. What I didn’t know was why his attorney bothered being here. The man was worthless. And why call me anyway, I wonder?”
“To tie you up. His team’s afraid of you, Nyri. You’re ex FBI and they know you’re the one who got the evidence that’s hopefully bringing tomorrow’s conviction. They wanted you distracted while their bargaining was going on.”
“As if I could do anything to stop the bargaining.”
“They thought you could. And you’re right, Turcots and his pal, Ace, have been in protective custody all this time. I’m surprised they were able to keep it secret. The two ARE going to be testifying for the feds. All kinds of drug arrests are going down throughout three states right this very minute. Guess they decided they had to spring their trap right now.”
“I can see why. But this rape case...?” Had Nyri misunderstood? “There’ll be a verdict?”
“Attempted rape, Nyri. You stopped them before they committed the ultimate act. Yes, we prevailed and the judge will still rule tomorrow. There’s all kinds of security being put in place. I can’t even begin to tell you about it all. Let’s just say it’s rapidly becoming a three-ring circus.”
“Guess the judge won’t be handing out any ninety year sentence now.”
“Not even close, friend. Not for the fed’s star witness. Ace will get off completely without a trial for the attempted rape. Timing is everything.”
“Then I’m glad Slick got tried first. Damn, though. What about the girl they tried to rape? What about her? What kind of justice will you be able to get for her now? Not to mention ALL his many other victims.”
“Nyri,” Abbie’s voice softened. “You know how strongly I feel about victims. But you also know that I don’t represent the victims in court. I represent the state.”
“I’m aware of that. I was still hoping for at least a decent sentence, two to five years maybe. We have such conclusive evidence against him. His intent was blatantly obvious.”
“Yes, but this is attempted rape, with no rape cases in his history, remember? You know as well as I do that a very long sentence was never all that likely. Now if we could have tried the other rape cases you had lined up against him like we talked about, shown he was a serial rapist, then it would have been a different story.”
“I can’t tell you how many girls he’s harmed already.”
“You told me. I know. And I hate this as much as you do.”
“But you think a deal’s been struck and his sentence will be minimized?”
“I’m afraid so. Let’s just say, we’d best plan on it. I have to call the girl and her family and prepare them for it.”
“You thinking it will be months instead of years?”
“Oh yeah. Easily. Probably as many months as they need him to testify. That way they can keep him in an isolated cell. Then it will be settled on time served and they’ll move him off into hiding somewhere.”
“You know what worries me? A new life doesn’t mean he’ll stop raping. Did you know that the profiler I hired to study him didn’t think he’d stop at all? In fact, he thought Slick might escalate to killing his victims to get away with his crime, if the circumstances became significantly more difficult for him. You’ve got to make sure the Marshall’s office understands that before they whisk him into hiding.”
Abbie heaved a heavy sigh. “Let’s hope he stops.”
“Hope won’t do it. You’ve got to make sure they know what he’s likely to do. Promise me you’ll do everything you can to make them understand.”
“I’m not at liberty to promise anything, but yes, I will talk with them. Will that do? Remember, we can’t prove anything about what he’ll be doing once he’s hidden. And don’t forget he’s going to be putting a lot of drug dealers and criminals away for a good long time. Most of these are very bad people, Nyri. And some are very highly placed. I know one can’t balance one crime against the other. But that’s going to be what they’ll throw back at me.”
“I know. Thanks for agreeing to talk to them. All I can say about the whole thing is damn, damn, and double damn.”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself.”
“If he’s not the father, then who is?” Lonnie asked above Bethy’s cries. She sat down, her legs suddenly unsteady. Slick’s not the father. The thought refused to make sense. They’d gone grocery shopping after Ruby and the baby picked Lonnie up at work. Now they were finally home.
Ruby sat in the rocker preparing to breast feed their daughter. She repeated softly, “It wasn’t him. All this time I assumed..”
“Sorry. I don’t know who the father is,” Nyri said over the phone. “I pulled up the files of the two friends that went to Texas, assuming they were likely candidates. They didn’t have a DNA test on the dead one, uh, Dink. Robert E. Lee “Dink” Stevenaire. So he’s still a possibility. There is a brand new DNA result for Johnson “Buddy” Drendal, but Lonnie, it doesn’t match. It rules him out.”
“It’s not Slick and it’s not Buddy Drendal in Texas?”
“That’s correct. And it’s not two of his flunkies, two other drivers who got into a brawl at a dockside tavern in Tacoma. Somebody left bloody fingerprints on the till when all the money was stolen in the melee. The prints were smeared so they ran DNA tests on the blood and on all the main characters. It was amazing, they caught the thief plus a whole slew of felons who thought they’d gotten away with various other crimes. These two pals of his were among them. I’ve checked their DNA and it doesn’t match either. Thank heavens.
“Jeez, will we ever know?”
“Maybe not. Is Bethy okay?” Nyri wasn’t used to hearing her crying.
“She’s hungry, she’s tired, and her gums hurt,” Lonnie said. “Ruby just changed her and is getting ready to feed her.” She looked toward the kitchen. Guess I’d better get her other baby food out to be heated.
“Oh, just double checking. Is Ruby sure she wasn’t pregnant before the attack? Could Bethy be her ex-fiance’s child?” Nyri asked hopefully.
Lonnie’s eyes shifted to Ruby. “No, she was very sure it wasn’t his.” She mouthed the word ‘Raleigh’s’ to Ruby, who shook her head no. The baby finally accepted the breast and began to suckle. Ruby gently rocked the now quiet baby as she ate. “Ruby split up with Raleigh two or three months before the attack. No, she’s very sure.”
“Too bad. Okay, I had to double check. You know this doesn’t mean Slick didn’t rape her,” Nyri noted. “It just means someone else did as well.”
“Ruby always considered that a distinct possibility,” Lonnie noted sadly.
“Tell Ruby I can try testing the parents of this Dink fellow to get some inkling if he was the one. Other than that, I don’t know where to look.”
“So, we might never know.”
“That’s possible. I’ll check all the current drivers at the motorcycle shop. They’re arresting them all. We’ll see if any of their DNA matches.”
“Is there any indication it was one of them?”
“No. Wait. There was a guy who went to Florida, some friend of this jerk. But, you know, I’ll double check again, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t meet the time limits. I’m sure he headed south before Ruby’s attack.”
“The donor really might be unknown.”
“That’s a distinct possibility. However this ‘Dink’ fellow has moved up to the top of my list. Course he’s the only candidate at the moment.”
“When will you know?”
“These things take months, Lonnie.” If I can find his parents and get some DNA from them. IF.
“Okay. And Nyri, only tell me, please. Ruby still doesn’t want to know.”
Ruby shook her head. This news left her confused. All this time...
“I understand. But consider... we might never know. This could be a case of being careful what you wish for, you just might get it.“
“Yeah. So Slick can make no claims? And no one else can either unless they can prove their paternity.”
“Sure looks that way.”
“That’s a relief. So, maybe it’s better that we don’t know,” Lonnie sighed. But a part of her still wanted to know.
“One more thing,” Nyri continued. “Do you know someone named Rachel or Misty, victims of this guy?’”
Lonnie quickly asked Ruby then replied, “No, why?”
“Well,” Nyri hesitated, “apparently they’re other victims with a child. I, uh, need to tell you that this jerk called out the names ‘Ruby’, ‘Rachel’, and ‘Misty’ informally in court. I’m pretty sure most everyone remotely close heard and assumed he was speaking of victims, but whether anyone there knows Ruby really exists or not I don’t know. And I haven’t met anyone yet who knows anything about a ‘Rachel’ or ‘Misty’.”
“Is it in the court record?” Lonnie asked, holding her breath.
“What he called out? No, nothing like that. It was before trial. And he was cuffed afterward for his disorderly conduct.” Mostly against me.
“What did he say exactly?” Lonnie asked. Anything that dirty buzzard had to say about Ruby, she wanted to know.
Nyri scoffed, “What he said was if we had a Ruby or Rachel or Misty in our group to tell them their babies’ father had rights, and he was going to exert every one of them.”
“Not any more,” Lonnie replied. “Not with our baby.”
“No,” Nyri agreed. “Not with Bethy.” Or the others, either, I hope.
But who is Bethy’s father? Lonnie felt gobwalloped. Will we ever know? She looked at Ruby, who looked just as puzzled as she felt.
As anticipated the judge found Henry Joe Turcots guilty on all charges. He was, however, sentenced to just four months in prison. Those would be the four months it would take to have him testify against all those arrested on drug charges, in particular the bosses where he worked and those who dealt with his bosses.
Ace was to be moved away early. He would testify first then would be quickly put in the Witness Protection Program.
Rocky was also expected to testify to all he knew, including the murder of the driver. Imbedded as a special witness for the task force, he was offered protection and a different undercover job with the Drug Trafficking Unit in another area. From what Nyri could gather, he jumped at the offer. She couldn’t help but wish him the very best wherever he ended up.
Several weeks later Ruby held the baby by her hands while the youngster tried to walk on the blanket, bouncing in place occasionally with her uneven steps. How big their little girl was getting. Settling her on the blanket propped against several pillows, Ruby watched Bethy grab for the nearest toy. A favorite. It made noise.
When the phone rang, Ruby grabbed it, positioning herself on the floor next to the baby.
“Hi Ruby,” Nyri said cheerfully. “My agents were able to locate Dink’s parents, both bar fly smokers, and get some DNA samples, so they can be tested to see if there’s a biological relationship to Bethy.”
“What does that mean exactly?” Ruby asked, “They know about Bethy?”
“No, they don’t know. It means those results along with Bethy’s will tell us whether or not their son Dink was the baby’s father. If he was, we can go from there. Did you get the picture I sent of this Dink fellow?”
“His mug shot? Yes.” Ruby’s features became solemn, her voice a whisper, “He was the other fellow, Nyri. You know, the one with Slick Turcots that night at the dance.”
The night of the rape! “He was?” Nyri kept excitement out of her voice. Then Dink’s VERY probable. “He’s a definitely possibility then.”
“Is it expensive? The testing?”
“To be honest, Ruby, it’s not inexpensive. Could run up to a thousand or so if it’s done for courtroom use. But doing it privately costs less, and Bethy’s already been tested, so that only leaves the possible grandparents. We’ll keep the costs down all we can.”
“A thousand!” Ruby swallowed. The raise had helped, but their climb out of debt was a slow one. Especially with new bills being constantly added.
“What do you want me to do?” Nyri asked.
Ruby pondered. “Let me talk to Lonnie and call you back, all right?”
“Sure,” Nyri agreed. “You have my number.”
“Honey?” Ruby said over the phone. She knew Lonnie was dealing with a rush order. She explained what Nyri had said. “What do you think?”
Lonnie didn’t hesitate. “Tell her to go ahead. We can’t stop now, hon. It’s the last person we know to check. We have to find out.”
Ruby chewed her lip. “Do we? Even if it costs us up to a thousand dollars? He’s dead after all.” Lonnie was silent. Ruby sighed, “All right. You’ll have Nyri give the results to you, though, right?”
“Yes, darlin’,” Lonnie agreed. “Don’t worry.”
Lonnie and Ruby moved on into fall with less stress but a lingering bittersweet feeling. They read about the trial in the papers every day and were amazed at the retinue of people caught including judges, police officers and small town officials. But Slick Turcots was out of their lives, likely for good.
“I’m getting used to it,” Ruby said.
The sun splattered flickering patterns of autumn light through the heavy tree canopy onto the soft path winding its way upward through the warm, sweet-smelling woods. Indian Summer had turned the leaves brilliant red and yellow hues. They climbed the path beside the small creek quietly, their hiking boots making little sound as they worked their way toward the top. It was easier than before. They were in much better shape than they had been.
“What, hon?” Lonnie asked.
“The donor is unknown,” Ruby replied.
“Is she too heavy?” Ruby asked, moving upward behind Lonnie. “She’s getting so big.”
“Yeah, where does time go?” Lonnie pulled her braid forward and craned her neck to look at Bethy in the sling on her back, “She’s asleep.” The baby had grown immeasurably. Her angelic face was tucked in between Lonnie’s shoulders, her fist in her mouth, her eyes shut tight. How many times had they climbed these trails like this, sometimes alone in the forest? It was amazing the topics they discussed as they hiked.
Ruby looked around at their surroundings. “It’s funny, sometimes I think of something and tell myself to make a note of it, you know, to discuss in counseling. Then I laugh, cause I’m not going to counseling any more.”
“So you miss it?”
“No, not really--only in that sense. I was really glad I worked with Charlotte. She helped me a lot. But she’s right, I don’t need the help any more. Besides, I talked over most everything with you anyway.”
“Yep.” Ruby pulled out her bottle of water and took a long swig. Lonnie found her bottle and did the same. Both stood quietly listening to the ardent gossip of the birds in their tree-shrouded surroundings.
“It’s so beautiful here,” Ruby breathed. “Oregon’s a fantastic place--forests, snow topped mountains, rivers, lakes, the ocean and there’s business areas if you want that.”
“Uh huh.” Lonnie put the water back and started them up a steep incline. “And the rain. Don’t forget the rain.”
“I’ve grown to like the rain.” Ruby said between careful steps. The sweet calling songs of the birds echoed melodic replies to one another as the women steadily climbed, contentedly observant. At last Ruby spoke, “You know the downtown church where the minister who joined us preaches?”
“Yes,” Lonnie replied. “What about it?”
“Maddy seems to think that pastor’s really good. They go from time to time, she said. And she said quite a few of the girls you know go, too.”
“Uh huh,” Lonnie wiped some sweat from her brow and placed her boots carefully on the steep path. It wouldn’t do to slip with Bethy strapped to her, especially now that she was heavier to balance.
“The minister’s latest sermons had to do with poverty and society’s biblical and moral responsibilities in regard to it. That’s important, huh? Oh, and they run a soup kitchen on Saturdays for the homeless. The line goes clear around the block. They’re always looking for volunteers.”
“Do you think...” Ruby concentrated on climbing. She had to take nearly twice as many steps as Lonnie to cover the same distance.
“Do you think we could go sometime?”
“To volunteer?” Lonnie turned to scan Ruby’s face. The blonde was struggling up the path. Lonnie reached out a hand to help pull her up.
“Well, that and to attend services too.” Ruby said, breathing heavily.
Lonnie shrugged. “I don’t know why not.”
The largest smile Lonnie had ever seen crossed Ruby’s face. “Really?”
“Sure.” Lonnie noticed the flush on Ruby’s cheeks. “I think maybe my steps are too long. Why don’t you lead off, hon?”
“Okay,” Ruby advanced ahead.
They moved quietly through the woods. “You know what I was thinking?” Lonnie asked after a while. The soft pine needle packing on the path cushioned each step. The sweet scent of pine surrounded them.
“What?” Ruby asked, grabbing a shrub to balance herself as the path leveled out. They’d begun to take the steeper, more difficult trails now that they were both in so much better shape.
“I was thinking it was time to think about what comes next.”
“What do you mean?” Ruby twisted around to look at Lonnie. “What does come next?”
“Hey, no sloughing off. The leader has to keep up the pace.”
Ruby laughed and started walking again. “All right. All right. Slave driver. I can walk and talk and chew gum at the same time. Got any gum?” They both chuckled. “So, what does come next?”
“Well,” Lonnie drawled. “I was thinking that maybe it’s not good to raise an only child. After all, they can be so spoiled. And I’ve seen little kids, only children, who act like adults cause that’s all they know. They’re surrounded by adults. I mean, they don’t ever get a chance to be a kid.”
Ruby stopped. “You don’t want an only child?”
“Keep moving,” Lonnie’s eyes twinkled. Ruby started walking again and Lonnie continued, “Well, I wouldn’t give Bethy up for sure. But I would prefer her to have some playmates more her own age as she grows up.”
Ruby stopped dead in her tracks and turned around. “Are you saying you want more children?”
“Uh, well, yes. Is that bad?” The brunette came to a halt.
Ruby’s smile was like sunshine. “Bad? No, not at all. I just wasn’t sure you wanted more.”
“Sure I do. Always have. I love being a parent. And didn’t you say you wanted more? When we talked about setting up college funds, I remember you said you wanted all your children to have a chance to go to college. All--that means more than one.”
“I would push for them to go to college, hon,” Ruby warned, “All of them.”
“That’s fine. I’d encourage that, too.”
“Yeah. I understand how important a college degree can be. But if they aren’t cut out for school or they hate it, I can’t guarantee I won’t be on their side.”
“Wow!” Ruby plopped down on a nearby log. “I’ve gotta sit down. Wow!”
Lonnie remained standing and continued, “So I’ve been figuring. Spacing is important so that we have time to recover financially and developmentally from one before the next one comes along. We’ll have time to save and still have both close enough in age to be playmates. I figure three years between, maybe a little less. I don’t want it to sound like finance is the major consideration. It isn’t, but it is important. After all, we want to raise happy, healthy kids, and that means we have to be able to afford the things that will keep them that way.”
“You’ve got this all worked out,” Ruby beamed.
“Well, not worked out, exactly. I’ve thought about it, yes. Why?”
“So how many children do you have in mind?” Ruby grinned.
“Well, I’m thinking three is perfect, don’t you think so?”
“And the male donors?”
“Oh, well, there are a lot of ways that can be handled.” Lonnie drank some more water and adjusted the snoozing baby. “Sometimes you have a family member that agrees to donate. But the most obvious is through a clinic where the male donors are not identified. I’m not real familiar with how a clinic works, but we can certainly find out, uh, when Bethy’s old enough to have a little brother or sister.”
“And that would be when she’s two years, three months?” Ruby asked.
“Uh, about two, yeah. That gives us time to get out of debt and save for the next one. What do you think?” Lonnie looked expectantly at her partner whose grin had not stopped since the conversation began.
“I like it,” Ruby agreed, patting the log. Lonnie moved beside her and sat down carefully so as not to hit the baby’s feet on the log. They both put a gentle hand on the sleeping baby. Above a flock of birds could be heard chattering in the tree tops. “I like the whole idea,” Ruby whispered, bringing her hand back. Green eyes raised to blue, “I particularly like the idea of a clinic where male donors are unknown. That would make Bethy no different from any of our other children.”
“Mmm, well, true I suppose,” Lonnie agreed.
“The only question is,” Ruby grinned, “who will give birth? You or me?”
“That’s easy...you,” Lonnie smiled contentedly. “You’re a wonderful mother.”
“I was thinking maybe it should be you,” Ruby teased.
Large blue eyes centered on Ruby. “Don’t you want to have more?” the brunette asked. “I thought you said you did.”
“I think it’s a grand idea for us to have more. But ycapable. And since it’s your turn....”
“Wait,” Lonnie swallowed. “Hold on. Me? Having a baby? Maybe we should rethink this. Maybe one is enough.”
Ruby laughed. “You’re not going to go chicken on me, are you, babe?”
“Cluck cluck?” Lonnie asked softly, swallowing. Ruby laughed and pulled Lonnie to her feet.
“C’mon, darlin. We’ll think on it.” Ruby sashayed up the trail.
Do I want to have the next one? Lonnie asked herself as she followed behind. Gods, I’ve never even considered it. Childbirth hurts, doesn’t it? A lot? Like, a whole lot? She watched Ruby happily marching ahead on the path. Oh gods! Cluck, cluck, Ruby. Cluck, cluck.
Nyri poured a cup of coffee and sat down at her long desk, pushing the keyboard holder further inside and extending the spreadsheets on top. There were signs of industrial sabotage in her new client’s business, and she was sure the clearest clues might very well be found inside these pages. All she had to do was find the tiniest strand in order to unravel the whole thing.
“What are you looking for exactly?” Temple asked.
Nyri positioned her finger and proceeded to burrow into the columns of figures that she was sure did not add up. “A fiduciary plume,” Nyri replied, searching for the familiar but subtle telltale patterns.
When the phone beside her rang, the compact blonde picked it up with her off hand, without losing her place on the never-ending sheet. “Yes.”
“Nyri, there are some gentlemen here to see you.” Vicky’s soft voice had an urgency to it. She tried to speak with a calm dignity but it was obvious she was rattled. “They have badges and a warrant.” Nyri flipped a switch on the freestanding bank of camera monitors and saw the attractive young woman five floors down eyeing the gentlemen outside the street door holding badges and a warrant up to the glass.
The entrance to Nyri’s investigative service was in an unimpressive grey building on the uptown side of West Burnside. Their downstairs office street door was kept locked requiring key and thumb entry or someone to admit anyone needing entrance. It was certainly not designed for walk-in business, since that was not how their work developed. “Should I let them in?” Vicky asked nervously.
“Yes,” Nyri’s eyes instantly located Temple. “Some gentlemen with a warrant. Downstairs,” she noted, nodding to the screen. Temple looked up from the computer screen he was working on at his desk.
“What’s this about?” he asked, his forehead wrinkling.
“Guess we’ll find out.” Nyri looked once more at the monitor. The six men were huddled together, their suit jackets pulled tight against the elements. She glanced out the top floor windows at the flag on a downtown building snapping briskly in the wind. Some Octobers were wet and dismal, one storm after another moving in, but not this one. This year’s tenth month was proving to be dry, crisp and windy.
“Give us two minutes, then key the elevator to this floor,” Nyri said to Vicky before she replaced the receiver in its cradle. “Let’s clean this up,” she said to Temple, activating the hidden monitoring system. Making a mark where she left off, she carefully folded the spread sheets and put them inside a folder that she locked in the room’s floor safe. Her work was private and not for the view of anyone, official or otherwise. Temple shut down his computer as the sound of the elevator neared.
The elevator pinged its arrival at their floor. Nyri rose and pressed her thumb to the electromagnetic fingerprint pad for the sensors in the door to read. It activated the ‘unlock’. The doors opened and six men stepped off. Nyri punched numbers into the state of the art alarm system mounted near the lift. “Gentlemen,” she said turning toward them, “I’m Nyri Davis. How can I help you?”
“Heavy duty security,” one man scowled. “You don’t just get in here.”
“We make people angry,” Nyri smiled, “Some with unlimited resources.”
Her eyes scanned the sober-faced men, noting the nondescript blue suits, button-down white shirts and muted ties, showing only a slight difference of styles and hues. She glanced at their dark shoes--rubber soled--then her eyes moved to where she knew pistols and clips were hidden. “Tell me if I’m wrong,” she snickered, “Two DEA, two FBI and two from the new Drug Traffic Unit, the DTU.” Wonder where the U.S. Marshal’s office is in this multi-jurisdictional force? Surely they’re represented somehow.
“Miss Davis,” the dour lead man lifted the warrant in his hand without any response to her remarks, “we have a warrant.”
“So you do. If I might, Agent....” she put her hand out for the folded paper. She brought her eyes to his, “Agent what exactly?” she asked. Temple kept behind her, trying his best to remain anonymous.
“Special Agent in Charge B. R. Whitaker,” the first man replied none too happily. “DTU. We’ll just look around,” he motioned to the others.
“Holy Moly!” the youngest member breathed. He was one of the FBI members she assumed, “This equipment is primo!”
“Hold it,” she stopped them. “Might I read the warrant first, please?”
“Listen, lady,” the next agent in line replied, “Step aside. We don’t have to get your permission to look around. We have a warrant.”
“Your company asked you to be rude today, did they?” She asked sarcastically as she read, “Ahhh, yes, I see,” she handed the paper back to Agent Whitaker. “You needn’t trouble yourselves, gentlemen,” she watched all the men but one step further into the room, each determined to start looking in a different direction regardless of what she might say.
“Hello, Ned,” she said confidently to the man waiting patiently, a smile dancing in his eyes.
“Hi, Shadow,” her old FBI partner replied. “You understand what we’re after?” The others stopped and stared at the two since one of their own seemed to know this woman.
“Sure. It’s in the warrant,” she replied.
“You must have been expecting it,” he remarked.
“Can’t say that I was. The finished product was sold to a top-secret government agency who shall remain unknown. Even so, this program doesn’t locate innocent, law abiding people, you know. It locates crimes that fit whatever m.o. you punch in for it to find. In fact, I thought I had made it far too generalized for you folks to take exception to it.”
“C’mon, Nyri,” Ned replied laughingly.
“All right, Ned.” She turned to Temple. “Temple, these gentlemen have a warrant to secure all our odds and ends of the program I developed to screen and locate serial crimes in America.” Temple stiffened, but Nyri’s expression remained neutral. That program interfaced a zillion different systems across the U.S. It was not just a simple program.
“You understand that the sale occurred many weeks ago and was legal in every way?” she quickly asked Ned.
“We know,” Ned replied.
“As I just said, it went to a top secret organization whose name I can’t even mention. Part of the terms of the sale. But you can check with my attorney, Evin Sinclair of Kirkpatrick, L’Homme and Sinclair. If they can get permission, they can tell you any details that you might need to know. Or,” she spoke slowly, considering, “are you here on the secret organization’s behalf?”
Ned lifted an eyebrow.
“We, of course, no longer have any finished copies on site.” Nyri confirmed, “Also conditions of the sale.”
“We have a warrant, for crying out loud,” Special Agent Whitaker emphasized, tapping the paper impatiently.
Nyri shrugged. “All I have are fragments, nothing much.” Seeing no response from the men she continued, ”Maybe I should check with my attorney first. After all, I am bound by the terms of a sales contract.”
“Look, lady, we’ve got a federal warrant demanding that you turn over all information regarding that program to us. If you don’t do it willingly, we’re authorized to take it from you unwillingly.”
Nyri glanced at the paper in his hand. “All right. Get the Winnow file, please Temple, and give it to them.”
“Nyri?” Temple asked, knowing the amount of work that went into its development. These men would take everything away, and they could forget about it. It would no longer exist except buried deep in the workings of whatever secret organization ultimately purchased it.
“I assume you have already gotten authorization from the purchasing agency. I don’t want them turning up on my doorstep all pissed about your having any part of it.”
“Of course we have that worked out,” Special Agent Whitaker scowled.
“We do, Shadow,” Ned assured.
“Okay. Get it, Temple, please,” she replied, “And give it to them.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Temple moved to the floor safe, worked through the numbers, opened it, removed the Winnow file, and instantly spun the dial to secure the closing. He handed the file to Agent Whitaker.
“Now we check all your computers to make sure you have no parts of it in memory anywhere. And we’ll need to check in your safe to make sure no other copies are secured there.”
“Hold it,” Nyri said, seating herself at her desk. Her foot eased to where a concealed hard flap on the floor covered a button designed to instantly erase the memory on all the machines. She had backup copies of her current files, updated daily, kept stored in the hidden safe in the hidden shelving area, but the time it would take to reinstall everything would put her far behind. “I have sensitive client information on my computers,” she said worriedly. “There’s no way I want you gentlemen to become privy to any list of my clients or their businesses. That’s NOT in your warrant.”
“I have a disc,” the young FBI agent smiled, holding up the item. “It is designed to search out the information that we’re looking for and nothing else. If it finds anything, it stops and brings it up so it can be easily erased. Otherwise it just runs through your files to the end, touching nothing. All your files shall remain private. You have my word.”
What’s your word worth? Nyri thought sarcastically. “It makes no copies of our information?”
“Absolutely not,” the young man replied.
She looked at his face. She was trained to read people’s expressions. Nope, he’s lying. “No,” Nyri replied. “Not good enough.”
Ned saw Nyri’s strained face. “Wait.” He turned to Nyri. “Is that all, Shadow? The file you took from the safe, is that your only file on this?”
“Yes, Ned. That’s it. That’s everything I have on Winnow.”
“The program’s not installed on other machines?”
“It once ran on that one. Never has been installed on the others.”
“It’s not trashed somewhere where you can still retrieve it?”
“Like I said, that’s the only machine that has ever run it. It’s not on there now. But you can run your disc on it, if you’d like to satisfy yourself.”
“That should do it,” Ned remarked, “Then I believe we’ll be done here. Oh, what about the police departments who tested your program?” Ned turned back to Nyri.
“Now Ned,” she scoffed. “I’m sure you have that information already. There were two police units, as I’m sure you know.”
“And they are?”
“Seattle and Boise.”
“And that’s all?”
“That’s all. If legality is the problem, I had this program checked through my legal department. It’s completely legal for sales and usage across the U.S.. Every bit of it. No laws were broken in the design or development.” But that’s not it, is it? You’re protecting your powerhouse witness, I’ll bet.
Ned’s look confirmed that the legality of the software was not in question. “You don’t have any other data that includes this information,” he asked, “work copies--copies that didn’t turn out as you’d expected, that might have some of this still on it, transmissions, anything?”
“No. Anything I have is in that file.”
“Does any other company have copies of this program? A company checking its legal status or any other company for any other reason?”
“Only the one that bought it. The police forces that I mentioned were the only other ones that ever had a copy of it. Those were recovered and destroyed as part of the sale.”
“All right then, thank you very much. We’ll be leaving now.”
“Wait just one minute,” Agent Whitaker said angrily. “We WON”T be leaving now. We need to check out everything--the software she has in that cabinet and everything installed on every computer.”
All eyes went to the impressive computers set up in the room, both banks of wall computers and desktop equipment. There was other equipment as well in a locked cabinet, monitors, microphones, satellite systems, transmitters of various kinds, receivers, with, unbeknownst to them a hidden, locked wall of shelves inside the wall storing cameras, trackers, listening devices, and so on.
“She said she gave us everything she had that we were looking for. There’s no need to look further,” Ned replied. “I’ll vouch for her.”
“I’m in charge,” Agent Whitaker said belligerently, “And I say what we’ll do. We’ll go through everything. And that includes the wall of cabinets.”
That caught Nyri off guard. The cabinets? Why? She truthfully had given them everything she’d developed. Jeesh, this is going to be one long afternoon. Nyri moaned inwardly. Ah well, get it over with, girl.
“Let me see your disc, young man,” she said tiredly.
The young FBI agent handed her the disc, and she ran it on a wall machine, paying avid attention to the digits and code running rapidly down the screen though he tried to talk to her as she was scanning. She watched carefully for anything invasive or destructive. “Oops, hold it,” she said, stopping the running digits. She quickly typed something before the young man could stop her then continued running the items quickly through the screen. “Tricky,” she smiled. “I’m sure you weren’t aware that you had a folder to store selected files collected from each machine. A soft blush rose to his cheeks.
Come, come, young man, she thought without emotion. This is the nineties. The world wide web reins supreme, geek knowledge is growing exponentially, technology firms pop up daily to challenge the old guard, wars are being fought, figuratively of course, between Davids and Goliaths, and yesterday’s giant is today’s dinosaur. If you didn’t know it was there, and we both know you did, you’re dabbling in the wrong business.
“It’s all right, Ned,” Nyri said as the disc run ended. “Temple will be happy to run this disc--ONLY this disc--through every machine. It will verify we have no other copies on those. Go through my software library, if you must, just don’t mess up my filing system. I’ll personally show your expert our other computers. And I’ll show you, Ned, inside that locked cabinet, my desk drawers, and in the safe. However, there will be some sensitive files I will point out but will NOT show you the contents.”
The lead man scoffed, “Lady, you’re not running this show.”
I WILL protect confidentialities. “All right, hold it please.” Nyri grabbed the phone. “I thought we’d be able to work together here. The business we run is of a highly confidential nature. Any information you men happen to come across, even company names that do not pertain to this warrant, shall have to remain confidential. To that end, I would like to place a call to Donald Forecastle before you touch anything.”
Donald Forecastle was the new regional director of the DTU. She knew him when he’d worked for the DEA. She had recently negotiated with him regarding Rocky. She chose to call him now since the Agent in Charge of this little group seemed to be with the DTU. She could have called the FBI Regional Director since she’d been employed by that Agency and knew the Director well. She kept from smiling when she noted the DTU agents straighten at the mere mention of Donald Forecastle’s name.
“I’m sorry, Shadow,”Ned’s voice was truly regretful at the inconvenience. “Of course you can place the call. Do you want his number?”
“No. I have his private cell number. Thanks anyway.” That brought a wide-eyed response from the DTU agents, who stared at each other for a heart stopping moment. They barely knew the Regional Director’s office number, much less his private cell phone number. Who was this woman?
Nyri checked her Rolodex and dialed. “Donny,” she said cheerfully. “This is Nyri Davis. Hi. Playing a round of 18?” she smiled. “Yes, we will have to try the back nine there sometime. It’s a fantastic course. Uh, listen, I seem to have some of your agents with a warrant in my office, and what I’m concerned about is the confidential nature of my business as they go through my files. I want to be assured that any information they might see that does not apply to their warrant does not leave this office.”
She paused. “No, no. There’s no problem complying with the warrant. Nothing like that. In fact, I’ve already given them every last bit of my Winnow file. Now they want to examine everything to assure themselves nothing more is left. I don’t mind the disk checking on my machines, but when they start looking through my confidential files, I get nervous.” Nyri smiled faintly at the shell-shocked faces around her. “The head man seems to be a Special Agent Whitaker. Yes, B. R. Whitaker. Okay.”
She held out the telephone to Agent Whitaker. “Donald Forecastle would like to talk to you.” The man all but stood at attention. Nyri moved over by Ned and began to talk in soft tones. “How’s your wife, Ned?” she asked calmly. “Doing okay? She looked lovely the last time I saw her.”
“Janet’s fine,” Ned answered almost shyly.
“Oh, and I assume Shorty told you what a great job she did for me? She really was quite remarkable, you know. She’s a fantastic kid.”
Ned looked around and smiled. Same old Shadow. Shake the socks off the good old boys. “She is a great kid and she’s very proud of the work she’s done for you,” Ned grinned. He could see the tension of the other men as they stood on one foot then the other listening to Special Agent Whitaker saying, “Yes, sir. Yes, sir.” Finally the agent hung up, replacing the receiver with a delicate touch as though the phone might break.
“Thank you, Miss Davis,” Mr. Whitaker said, his face betraying nothing. “It seems we have what we came for. We won’t bother you any further.”
“Thank you, Special Agent Whitaker,” she replied. “But I really do want you to be satisfied that your search was complete. I merely ask that your men not touch anything themselves. Temple and I will run through all the equipment with you so you can see for yourselves.”
She addressed Temple, “Do a quick run through of the software in the cases. Run six wall machines at one time if you need to. Shouldn’t take forever that way.” He nodded.
“Young man,” she nodded to the computer expert, “Now I’ll show you our other computers.” She looked over at Ned. Then I’ll show you inside the desks, locked cupboard and safe, Ned, so you can verify that we have no software hidden there. I’ll point out the confidential files, but can’t let anyone look in them.”
“You got it,” Ned agreed. He knew she was doing this for his benefit. If anything happened, anything that appeared that she still had a copy, she did not want it falling back on Ned’s head.
“If the rest of you will follow Temple, please,” she moved to the banks of computers, “and young man, follow me.”
“Excuse me, ma’am,” the young FBI computer expert stepped up to Nyri, “You wouldn’t happen to be THE N. Davis, would you, the FBI Agent who rooted out the Empyrean Operation single-handedly with a computer?”
Nyri grinned. “Afraid so,” she remarked, “Guilty as charged.”
“Holy Moly! That’s a classic, way before my time.” Nyri blinked. Suddenly she felt very old. She’d been out of the Agency less than a year. The young man began to pump her hand. “Wait till I tell the office that I met you today. They won’t believe it. You’re a legend. And Ned never said he knew you. He talked about someone named Shadow, but he never said that was YOU, N. Davis, THE N. Davis! Holy Moly!” She saw Ned put his hand in front of his face to hide a snicker. So this was Ned’s partner.
“Apparently not that well known a legend,” she slowly pulled back her hand then moved to the first computer. Or I wouldn’t have had to pull rank.
Without the physical interference of the men, assuring the agents that they indeed had every smidgeon of her Winnow program went quite smoothly. Finally Temple locked the cases and tossed her the keys as the men headed toward the elevator.
She all but scandalized Ned then by throwing her arms around his neck, giving him a giant hug, then whispering something in his ear.
“Yesss,” he grinned his ear tips and neck turning scarlet. Her hands slid down to his sleeve as she added, “And Ned, you rascal, come by and see me sometime. We can talk over old times.” She gave his sleeve a little shake. Ned’s new partner’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head.
“I will, Shadow,” Ned promised, his face and ears a deepening red. Quickly he stepped with the others into the elevator. Ned made the motion of tipping a hat he wasn’t wearing. She saluted before punching in alarm numbers. She pressed her thumb to the pad and saw him wink as the elevator doors closed on the troupe.
“Nyri,” Temple said worriedly as the men disappeared. “That file really was all we had of that program. All that work. It’s gone.”
“I know,” she unlocked the safe and pulled out the spreadsheets then opened them on her desk. “Most of it was destroyed already anyway. There wasn’t that much left there.”
“What about the Police Departments?”
Nyri snorted, “I’m sure teams contacted them to search their equipment at the same time our little team was here contacting us.”
“Really?” Temple asked quietly. “They’d hassle whole police departments that did nothing but test a program?”
“You’re kidding, right?” she asked. Her finger moved down the column. “When those fellows have a goal, they move the earth to reach it.” She worked quietly then sighed, “Either they were working on behalf of the secret purchaser, or...I’d heard Slick had finished testifying and was about to be secreted away. This might well confirm that.” She shrugged, “In any case, it’s time to officially stamp our case against Henry Joe Turcots ‘closed.’”
Temple stood watching her. “He didn’t hassle any of the women after your meeting, even though it appeared that he had plans to.”
“Here’s the thing. Once he had a rape conviction, his whole premise fell apart and he knew it. And he knew we knew it. That’s why he was pressing so hard to have our case thrown out.”
“But sending love notes before the verdict. Didn’t he think they’d count?”
“I’m not sure. There’s no telling what a psychotic risk taker thinks. But he’d gotten away with his sadistic crap for so long time, I think he assumed everyone was too dumb to catch him.”
“You caught him.”
“Did I? Four months isn’t much of a deterrent.” She didn’t look up.
Temple’d love to never hear Turcots’ name again. He looked at Nyri’s lowered head. Was she angry about how this case turned out? She hadn’t said much. Well, at least she got paid good money for her program. Not that she’d ever get any public credit for it.
“One thing,” she said without looking up. “Ned looked good.”
“That old rake,” Temple chuckled, sitting back at his desk, “You can still make him blush like you always could. I swear he nearly turned purple. What did you whisper to him anyway?” Temple had to laugh. Ned had spent half his time blushing when he and Nyri worked together. Here they don’t meet in nearly a year, and he’s blushing at her hand again.
“I told him there’s something awfully sexy about a guy in an FBI uniform wearing a hidden gun, and I asked if Janet knew how safe he always had been around me?” She grinned as she followed her finger down the columns, “Thing about Ned is, some fellows just can’t resist a woman whispering in their ear. Brings out the blushing boy in them, even if they know her preferences don’t include guys.”
“Some guys never fully believe that,” Temple sighed. “Even when you constantly appear in the paper with Simone at city functions as the city’s ‘notable lesbian couple.’”
“I guess,” Nyri smiled. “Sure makes guys easy to tease. Oh, I guess you’d better sweep the room before you get started and check the computers, just in case. No telling who the kid had working with him out in the truck.”
“Oh....my....God! The FBI would do something like this?” Temple’s indignation nearly made her laugh.
Nyri lifted a brow. It said it all.
Temple’s hand flew to his chest. “The DEA too? The DTU? Why?”
“I suspect because their normal surveillance couldn’t get past all the copper wire mesh and other barriers we installed when we redid this top floor. All their fancy radio signals, satellites, heat sensors, devices to hear and see through walls don’t work here. Must drive them crazy.”
“Did they plant transmitters do you think?”
Nyri grinned. “Maybe not. Wouldn’t be too effective, but signal sweep for them in case. Actually,” she laughed, “I slipped a handful of these tiny keyboard interrogators into Ned’s pocket. That young computer expert partner of his tried to plant them on all our computers.” She dropped a one inch item on her desk. “Little, huh? I saved this one to check out. I’ve seen them before. They’re amazingly intrusive but only take three seconds to install.” She grinned, “and three more to uninstall. That boy’s not all that good yet. But just in case, better check everything.”
“Blimey,” Temple huffed and got up to get the sweeping equipment. “Why’d they try to bug us?”
“Who knows. Maybe they’re investigating whether we’ve got an illegal connection to Big Foot’s Police Force. They have to make sure we’re working for the right side of the law, you know.”
“We are!” Temple said irately. “But how will they know that?”
“They’ll figure it out when they investigate from Big Foot’s end.” Nyri looked up. “I turned on the cameras when they came in. You can see what each man was up to. I suspect the only one planting much of anything was the computer kid. Ned probably wasn’t even aware.” She chuckled. “I used to have to do that kind of thing and even as his partner Ned never knew when I was doing it.”
“Who okayed this?” Temple’s hands went to his hips, elbows out. He was the picture of indignation. Nyri turned away to hide her chuckle.
“Well, let’s say there’ll be stop gaps to protect the big brass. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t completely aware of it.”
“Did Donald Forecastle know about it all that time he was talking to you?”
“I’m sure he probably did,” Nyri replied.
“Won’t that be embarrassing for him the next time you meet?”
“We’ll never mention it, either of us. We know how the game’s played.”
Temple shook his head. “When will the FBI kid know he was caught?”
“Oh, he knew the minute he hooked up his laptop in the van. And once Ned found the items in his pocket. The kid’s other software program tried to slip behind the firewall and into our password protected database. It’s quite an ambitious program. Those commands I punched in disabled their folder and made sure their target program was erased as requested but nothing else was touched. Besides, everything we do is encrypted.”
“So we do still have a copy of parts of Winnow at least?”
“Gracious, no. Most everything was erased a long time ago according to our sales contract. All our copies are long gone.”
“Oh, crud.” He was silent for a moment then asked worriedly, “Do you think these agencies will open a file on us now?”
Nyri laughed. “The FBI had a file on me before I left there.” She paused then added quietly, “It made them nervous that I decided to quit and go into business for myself.” She sat back in her chair with a smug grin. “That little old file makes for some really interesting reading. The latest updates are something a girl can be proud of.”
“How do you know what’s in your file?” Temple asked, dismayed.
Nyri looked over and rolled her eyes. “Temple, I’m surprised at you. You know the company employee’s very first rule in the investigative business. When in doubt.......”
“Don’t ask?” he questioned.
“Don’t ask,” she replied.
Concluded in Chapter 16
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