|Blueprint for Murder Series: Jake Kingsley Apostle Island Mysteries By Dave Sullivan|
The dog pulled his mask over his head. Still holding the vicious-looking Doberman Pinscher head in his paws, Special Agent John Denton said, "Thanks, CoCo, I think I just said that."
"Well, if you said that, Jack, you were right," said CoCo the clown. "Jake, do you know who she is ... or was?"
Jake Kingsley leaned in between his two friends. CoCo pulled the hair away from the victimâ€™s face and looked to Jake for an answer.
Jake leaned in close to look. Then it hit him as he recognized the face. He gasped. He could hardly breathe! Struggling to hold back his emotions, his voice suddenly hoarse, he rasped, "That's Alex Van de Meer!â€
"Alex Van de Meer? Oh no!" CoCo stood and stared after Jake who had started to walk away.
"Who?" asked Denton.
A pirate approached. Looking down at CoCo and the womanâ€™s body, his shoulders began to shake. He put a hand on Denton's shoulder to steady himself. Charles Stanton straightened his glasses over the eye patch he wore. Then he answered Dentonâ€™s question, shaking his head. â€œItâ€™s Alex Van de Meer, Jack. Sheâ€™s a trial lawyer in Minneapolis. Works in Jakeâ€™s old law firm. She was there when he was still there. Before he quit to move up here. I had her as a student at the U of M Law School.â€ He looked at Denton and then back at CoCo still kneeling by the body. "What happened? How did it happen?"
Jake Kingsley's knees felt weak. Shock took over his body. The warm July evening had turned cool with a slight breeze off Lake Superior. He shivered, but not just from the temperature. He had known Alexandra Van de Meer well, had been her mentor when she started at Stratton, McMasters & Hines. Jack Denton and CoCo couldnâ€™t be wrong. Their combined experience in law enforcement exceeded fifty years, CoCo at Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for more than thirty and Denton's twenty-five plus in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They both said it. Alex had been murdered.
"What was she doing, here?" Denton asked. "She is not in costume. Does she have a connection to Bayfield or the Apostle Islands? Vacations here or owns a boat?"
"Not that I know of,â€ Jake answered. "I did get an e-mail from her a while back that she wanted to talk to me about a problem with one of her cases. I assumed she would call. I doubt she would come here because of that. I don't know why she is here."
"Well, something brought her here," said Denton. "Something pretty important, I guess. I don't think this was just a purse snatching or some kind of a random thing."
"Did you see her purse?" asked Martha Hoskins, CoCo's life partner who was dressed like a lion tamer, whip and all.
"Do we know she had one?" asked Charles, who had lifted his eye patch to see better.
"Charles," said Martha, "she was not in costume. I am sure she was carrying a purse."
Denton looked back toward the body. "Let's look."
The scene was interrupted by a loud and authoritative voice as its owner pushed through the onlookers.
"All right! Out of the way! Give us some room, please! Move out of the way!"
The voice belonged to Officer Jerrold Baldwin of Bayfield Police. Charles and Jake had encountered him before out on Stockton Island in connection with the body of a young woman found there. In fact, thought Jake, Charles, CoCo and Jack Denton were all there at that time, too. Coco had nearly come to blows with Officer Baldwin and might have if Jake hadn't restrained her.
"Oh, God!" It was CoCo. "Not again!" She spoke to Jake. "Do you remember this guy?"
"We all do, CoCo," said Charles. "I remember that you didn't like him at all and, as I further recall, neither did some of his own department's personnel. Jake, do you remember Jim Brennan?"
"The same. He didn't think much of Officer Baldwin, either."
"And here he is."
"Who?" asked CoCo.
"Officer Brennan," Jake answered. "Hi, Jim."
A man of medium height and build approached. He wore tan chinos, plain brown leather cowboy boots, a plaid sport shirt and a green and gold nylon windbreaker with a Bayfield P.D. patch sewn above a left front pocket.
"Hi Jake ... Charles." He was clean shaven with heavy eyebrows over clear blue eyes. He wore no hat. His hair was cut short and looked like it may once have been blond but was now mostly gray. He turned back to Jake.
"What have we got, Jake? You looked at the body?"
"We all did. CoCo's examination was the most thorough."
"Yeah," said Denton, "and we were about to examine the crime scene and look for her purse, but Officer Baldwin has fixed that pretty well."
Jim Brennan nodded. "With this crowd, there isn't much of a preserved crime scene, anyway, I guess. And, there's not a lot I can do about Officer Baldwin. He is what he is, unfortunately. That's why I came to you. I'll probably learn more here than over there."
Jake, Coco and Denton all gave Brennan a detailed account of what each had seen and experienced. It wasn't much. All they knew is that Alex Van de Meer had been killed in the middle of the crowd within a few feet of where they had been standing, that a sharp tool or thin-bladed knife had been plunged into the back of her neck apparently killing her instantly. Apparently no one in the crowd had seen anything out of the ordinary and didn't even realize what had happened when she fell.
"You know, Jake," said Brennan, "I retired up here from Minneapolis P.D. to get away from this kind of thing. I put in my time there and was just as happy to relax up here in a more laid-back life style. Kind of like you. We don't need this kind of thing up here."
"Well, you have it now," said Jake.
"And," Jake added, "unless this is some kind of random killing which Jack doubts and I agree with him, it probably has roots back in Minneapolis where you used to work. That's where she was from and that's where she did business. I don't think she had much connection with Bayfield."
"That being the case, I probably will need more from you. You'll be around?"
"Whenever you need me, Jim."
"Thanks, I'd better get over with Baldwin, then."
"I'll be talking to you," said Jake.
The crowd was beginning to disperse. Whether that was because of Officer Baldwin, the lateness of the hour, or the horrible event that had occurred in its midst, Jake wasn't sure.
The Killer was satisfied that his plan had gone off without a hitch. The killing had occurred quickly and only moments before Jake, Jack Denton and CoCo Cadotte found the body. It had occurred within feet of where they were standing.
Alexandra Van de Meer was speaking on her cell phone and moving through the crowd in the general direction of Jake Kingsley. It had to be quick.
Caught in the crowd before she could get to Kingsley, a long thin dagger was plunged into the back of her neck and up into the brainstem killing her instantly and with no sound. Revelers in the crowd jostled each other trying to move from one location to another with little or no direction. Many were feeling the effects of drink over the several hours since the evening party had begun at the Pavilion. No one noticed Alex go down or those who saw her thought she had too much to drink like most of them.
A French fur trapper grabbed Alex's purse and hurried away. He moved through the crowd with ease. He heard the clock strike one as he left the scene. In the shadows not reached by the party lights, the trapper discarded his costume in a dumpster. A clean-shaven man with a pale complexion and close-cropped yellow blond hair walked up the hill. Wendell Stockman drove an older, plain, nondescript Toyota out of Bayfield.
In Hayward an hour and a half later, he found a motel and went to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
Jake's group at the party consisted of his date, Mary Pelletier, dressed like an Indian maiden, which she was, actually; Charles Stanton, a pirate, and his date, Joyce Becket who was not in costume; Coco Cadotte and Martha Hoskins, the clown and the lion tamer; and Jack Denton, the Big Dog. They all began walking toward their respective lodgings. After walking Joyce to her apartment building and Mary to her car, Jake and Charles headed down to the public dock and Jake's boat, Resolution. They weren't going any farther that night.
It was after eleven the next morning when Jake woke Charles. But, it was still way too early for him. The last night's horrible events hadn't started until after two, he recalled. It was after four when they crashed on Resolution still moored at the public dock just a few yards from where Alex Van de Meer's body was found. Charles reflected that he was no longer used to those kinds of hours, if he ever was.
"Get up, Charles! We need to see CoCo and Jack Denton right away!"
"What? What for?" He tried to clear his still muddled brain and come fully awake.
"Listen to this." Jake held his cell phone to Charles' ear.
Charles listened, came wide awake and found his own phone. Martha Hoskins answered in a sleepy voice. When he inquired after CoCo, Martha said, "Charles, she is still asleep, but I will try to get her."
A minute later, another drowsy voice answered, "Hello? Charles, this better be good. I was still asleep."
Charles told her Jake had something important to discuss with her and with Jack Denton and asked if they could meet them at Maggie's for lunch, brunch, coffee or whatever within the hour and could she find Denton.
"I don't suppose you'll tell me what he wants to discuss, will you?"
"Jake said to just try to get you there. Have I succeeded?"
"I can't speak for the great Special Agent John Denton, yet, but you've got me and I will try to get him. See you there. Twelve-thirty?"
From the public dock, it took only a few minutes to walk to the restaurant. They had been at Maggie's not more than a few more minutes when CoCo arrived followed by a dreary looking Jack Denton. He was out of uniform in blue jeans and a pullover sweatshirt that proclaimed that it, or he, was the "Property of the U. S. Government."
"Coffee," he told the waitress. "Strong and black and keep it coming."
"The same," said CoCo as they joined Jake and Charles in their favorite back corner booth, "but I'll have a little cream."
"So, Jake," said Denton, "why did you call this meeting at what, after last night, is such an uncomfortable hour?"
"Because of this." Jake produced his cell phone. "I left this on the boat last night. This morning when I checked it I found this message. The phone says it was made about 1:50 a.m., when we were at the party."
The corner booth was fairly secluded. The adjacent booths and tables were empty. Jake put the cell phone on speaker and hit play. Her voice came through the tiny speaker clearly.
"Jake! It's Alex!"
The anxiety in her voice heightened the urgency of the message. Denton and Coco leaned forward close to the phone.
"I'm here in Bayfield, Jake! I can see your boat at the dock. It's all locked up so I guess you are somewhere in this crowd. I need to see you, Jake! Right away! It's about my e-mail to you, but worse! I need to see you right away! I couldn't call before and maybe shouldn't be calling now. I think I am being followed. I think I am in trouble, Jake. I need your help!"
The message stopped.
"Holy shit!" CoCo exclaimed, trying to keep her voice in a whisper. She looked around to see if anyone overheard. Apparently, not. In a lowered voice she asked, "What do you think she was scared of? What e-mail is she talking about?"
"Alex sent me an e-mail the other day, I told you. She wanted to discuss a problem she thought she had with one of her cases. I told her to give me a call when it was convenient for her."
"She was scared to death, it sounds like. Scared of what?" asked CoCo.
Denton agreed. "She sounds terrified."
"I have no idea," said Jake, "but apparently things changed and somehow or some way, I think we need to find out what changed and why."
"Sorry, but I probably can't help, officially."
"Oh, shit, said CoCo. "Too bad, I think we could use you."
"Well, unofficially, I can certainly have conversations with you all. But right now, it's a local matter being handled by local law enforcement. I can't do any investigation or use any Bureau people the way it stands now. And, also, I will be back in Milwaukee."
In Hayward, Stockman, usually an early riser, slept in. He hadn't gotten to the motel until nearly four o'clock. He couldn't figure out where he'd lost an hour. It can't have taken that long to drive to Hayward. But he had been too tired to think about it anymore. He had a late breakfast at Cooper's Family Restaurant on the main drag and got back on the road. Just outside of Hayward, heading south on U.S. 63, he called to report. He listened on his cell phone to the ringing on the other end of the call. He had one hand on the steering wheel and the phone to his left ear. Before the call, he had closed the driver's and passenger's windows to deaden the highway noise so he could hear clearly. This call was important to him.
"It is done."
"Good. Any problems?"
"Did she talk to anyone?"
"Are you sure?"
"How do you know for sure?"
"We have another job for you, now."
"The one we talked about?"
"Right. Ms. Van de Meer was somewhat of an emergency in terms of timing. We are not so pressed for time on this one, although it must be soon. Can you make it look like an accident?"
"If you wish. I can make it look like anything you want."
"I know. Your earlier work has been fantastic. No one had a clue. Your services are and will be appreciated. Same rate and the same deposits, half now and half on your report?"
"The balance on this one and the first half of the next one will be deposited before the end of business on Monday."
Stockman closed the call on his cell phone and continued driving south alongside the Namakagon River. A highway sign alerted him to an approaching scenic rest stop along the river. He parked the Toyota off the highway near a garbage dumpster. Standing beside the dumpster, Stockman looked around to see if anyone was near. No one. The cell phone he had used to report was a pre-paid, untraceable phone from Walmart. Throwing the phone to the blacktop, he stomped on it until the case was smashed. The broken phone went in the dumpster underneath other refuse. He was back out on the highway in five minutes. He lowered the windows, found an FM station playing oldies and hummed along.
The rest of Sunday and all of Monday, Jake spent in a blue funk aboard Resolution. Sunday afternoon, he and Charles had motored Resolution around Red Cliff Point and back to her dock in Raspberry Bay, hardly saying a word for more than two hours. He thought Charles knew better than to try to cheer him up. When dock lines and spring lines were cleated and fenders set, Charles left with little more than a nod. Jake went below and stayed there.
On Monday, he didn't take his usual morning run on the beach out to the Raspberry River and back. It was a typical, "beautiful day in paradise" in the Apostle Islands. The morning sun cast its golden rays over the lush green islands and the sparkling blue waters of the big lake. But, Jake stayed down below aboard Resolution wrapped up in his blankets up in the V-berth. At dinner time, he got up just long enough to heat some soup, eat most of it and go back to bed.
Tuesday morning found him up early. He had slept enough. He sat in the cockpit with a large mug of strong, hot coffee and a stale doughnut he found in a cupboard. Jake sipped his coffee and took another bite of the doughnut. It was truly stale. Any tougher and he could have used it for a dock fender for the boat. There was still another one below. He stepped into the hatch. Down below he brewed another cup of coffee, grabbed the other stale doughnut, turned on an oldies station playing music from the seventies. Adjusting the volume on the cockpit speakers, he sat back with coffee and the doughnut. Helen Reddy belted out the incredible lyrics of the Last Blues Song. Like Helen, Jake had been â€œcryin' and my-oh-my-inâ€ and now, may be with her help, he was â€œdoinâ€™ some thinkinâ€™â€ and it was â€œstartin' to sink in that life goes on.â€
Jake shut down the volume and finished his coffee. The remnants of the doughnut he threw to a gull waiting somewhat impatiently on the dock. Action was indeed the answer. What? It almost didn't matter. Helen was right. He reached for his phone and punched in Charles' number.
"Charles? How are you doing?" He said it as if he meant compared to what or whom?
Charles caught the inflection. I'm doing okay. I think the question is how are you doing?"
"I know. I've been out of it for a while."
"Bert says you went down below in that boat of yours and didn't come out for two days."
"Bert Hanson is a fine harbor master and a good friend, but maybe he should try minding his own business." Jake immediately regretted the statement. Maybe he hadn't the full benefit of Helen Reddyâ€™s therapeutic counsel, yet.
"Jake, you are Bert's business and mine, too, I hope you know."
"I know, Charles. I'm sorry I said that. You don't need to tell Bert."
"I won't ... for his benefit, but maybe not for yours. You need to get it together, I think."
"I agree. And I have. I've been listening to the advice of Dr. Helen Reddy this morning and I think I am cured or at least on the road to recovery."
"Never mind. Are you free, today?"
"Jake, I have been free and waiting since yesterday morning. I, too, had the blues, but recovered faster than you, apparently. Besides, no one would let me alone. Here I am in the solitude of my cabin on the hill and my phone was ringing off the hook. First it was Mary. Then it was CoCo. Even CoCo's mom, Gus Cadotte, called me. Then Bert called to tell me that Mary and CoCo were calling him. Everyone wanted to know what was going on with you but were afraid to ask â€¦ you, that is. They asked me frequently."
"Okay. I've been out of it. I'll make some calls. Let's get everyone together. Maggie's okay again?"
"For lunch? You bet. I'll make the calls and pick you up in half an hour."
As Jake and Charles arrived at Maggie's on Manypenny, Jake looked toward the marina. Sailors and crews were leaving their docks, heading out into the islands in warm sunshine under a clear blue sky interrupted only by the occasional light puff of white cloud. For a moment, Jake wished he could be going out with them, but, no, he had things to do and finally the drive to start doing them.
Mary Pelletier was there, waiting. She had a large table in the screen porch area off the bar. No other diners were on the porch. Bert and Sandy Hanson arrived right behind Jake and Charles. Jake sat beside Mary.
"I've been worried about you," she whispered.
"I know. Thanks. I'm okay, now. I've been listening to the advice of Dr. Reddy." He allowed himself a slight smile.
"Helen Reddy? How is Women's Lib and 'I am Woman, hear me roar' helping you?"
"Different song." Bert and Sandy were staring at them. "I'll explain later."
CoCo and Martha Hoskins arrived.
"Your mom is not coming?" asked Charles.
"She wanted to," said CoCo, as she pulled up a chair. "I told her, No. She would have brought her cat. The management might have minded."
"At Maggie's? I doubt that."
A waitress came and took lunch and drink orders. When she left, CoCo broached the subject on everybody's mind. "So, Jake, what's the plan?" They all turned to look at him, waiting for his response. He guessed they had been waiting a couple of days.
"I am hesitant to tell you all that I don't know, but I don't really. What I do know is that I have got to do something. I appreciate your offers of help, but I suspect almost everything to be done will be in Minneapolis where Alex lived and worked. I told Jim Brennan the night of the murder that I thought the solution to Alex's murder is in the Twin Cities somehow connected to her life there or the work she did as a member of my old law firm."
"But it happened here in Bayfield," said CoCo.
"It happened here, but I'll bet you it's a Twin Cities case."
"So you will be going to the Twin Cities?" asked Mary.
"Just long enough to talk to my old firm and see what I can learn. Maybe longer if I find anything worthwhile."
"I hope you're not planning to go alone, Jake," said Charles. "That is, without me."
"Thanks, Charles. I welcome the company."
"Jake, I forgot to tell you," said Sandy. "A Jim Decker called the marina this morning. Said he was your law partner." She pulled a note from her purse and put on her reading glasses. "He said that Alex's funeral is this Friday at 11:00 am at St. Matthew's Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis with a graveside ceremony after. He said you'd want to know."
Jake looked at Charles. "We'll start then."
The next day, Jake saw Officer Jim Brennan.
"I'll be going to Minneapolis to talk to my old law firm about Alex and her cases," he told Brennan.
"I'll be interested what you find out. Your work may give us a motive. Meanwhile, I'll do some old-fashioned police work right here and keep questioning witnesses."
The funeral at St. Matthew's Presbyterian Church was in the Morningside area of Minneapolis. Interment followed at Maple Knoll Cemetery on south Lyndale Avenue. Charles drove in his Cadillac Escalade, which he told Jake he found more comfortable for long trips, or short trips for that matter, than Jake's Jeep Cherokee. Jake liked the old Cherokee and was not ready to part with it, yet.
"We're not talking Grand Cherokee, here," Charles would explain to others. "Jake's is an old Cherokee that preceded the Grand Cherokees," he would say, "and rides as rough as any Jeep ever did, perhaps even in WWII. But he likes it. Myself," he would add, "I prefer the comfort and quiet of my Escalade, especially for long trips." In this case, Jake agreed the Cadillac was the better vehicle for the occasion. Its elegance and black color were quite suitable for a funeral procession.
They drove south through Hayward, turning west at Spooner to cross over to Minnesota and take I-35 south to the Twin Cities.
The sky had turned overcast. Looking south, dark clouds threatened rain. It was a funeral type of day. Jake hoped it would not be raining at the cemetery.
They had said only a few words all the way through Wisconsin and into Minnesota to the Freeway. The dark skies reflected the mood of both men. Finally, Jake spoke up first.
"We have lost a good friend. Here we are on our way to her funeral. We can hardly keep from asking questions in an effort to learn more but that probably isn't appropriate." Jake's need to know more fought to the front of his mind when he, too, wanted simply to say good bye to an old friend and colleague.
Grief and sorrow led the emotions among the mourners at the church. Jake watched people gather and greet one another in the hour preceding the funeral. She died so horribly and so early in life that it was difficult for most to "celebrate the life" of Alex Van de Meer as friends and relatives so often did at funerals. As hard as it was, a few made the effort before the services began. Most just tried to smile and shook hands or hugged. Everyone seemed in shock.
A few stood looking at a photo collage mounted on pasteboard on an easel near the church entrance. Jake studied pictures of various shapes and sizes, some color and some black and white; from 8 x 10 to as small as two or three inches square. They were set at different angles in what Jake thought someone intended as an artistic touch. The photos portrayed different parts of Alex's life. Photos grouped on the upper left showed a precocious little girl posing for the camera at what Jake assumed were various times during her grade school years. More pictures showed her growing into a pretty, young woman. There was Alex in cap and gown from college or law school, Alex biking on one of the trails and Alex with a jogging partner near Lake of the Isles. Near the bottom of the collage, Alex was seen in photos with family including pictures of her with her nieces and nephews.
"She really was something, wasn't she?"
Jake turned to see a tall gray-haired man of about sixty. He was taller than Jake, looking down slightly to make eye contact. He wore a brown business suit, yellow, button-down shirt and brown and blue patterned necktie. He was clean shaven and wore rimless eyeglasses.
Jake started to answer when the man said, "I have only gotten to know her fairly recently, but I found myself very impressed and while I didn't like her at all at first because she was on the other side, I ended up liking her immensely. It is a great loss."
Again, Jake started to say something, but the man just shook his head and wandered away.
Jake saw Charles standing near Jake's old partner, Jim Decker, now managing partner of Stratton McMasters & Hines. He walked over.
"Jake!" called Decker when he saw Jake. "Jake! It's good to see you. But, I wish it were under better circumstances."
"I understand you were there when she was killed."
"Very nearby, for sure."
"Very difficult, I'm sure. Charles has been telling me."
"It was hard."
Decker looked past Jake's shoulder. "Here come some of Alex's clients. Jake are you going to the cemetery?"
"Good. I'd like to talk with you some more. I think we need your help."
In St. Matt's, the nave held up to 350 people facing the sanctuary from which the funeral services would be conducted. Alex's open coffin was closed just before the scheduled service. As people moved to the pews in the nave, the closed casket, still resting on its funeral bier before the pulpit, was covered with a white cloth funeral pall. Jake and Charles took seats in the back beside Jim Decker and his wife Paula.
Alex's family sat in the front row. Decker had told them a little about the family. Her mother, Ellen Van de Meer, looked devastated. Alex's father, Thomas Van de Meer, looked shocked and overwhelmed. Alex's siblings, also obviously in distress, were trying to console their parents. The Van de Meer grandchildren, two teenaged boys, a three-year old girl and a baby that Jake thought was probably less than a year old, were with their respective parents. The baby rested in a hand-carried infant car seat placed on the bench beside a young blond woman Jake took to be her mother. The little girl sat next to the car seat acting like the older sister she probably was. The boys sat next to a different set of adults and were presumably brothers and cousins to the little girls.
The service was brief. Pastor Nelson spoke briefly about the great loss to everyone who knew Alex Van de Meer. None of Alex's family members spoke. At the Pastor's invitation, Jim Decker rose and walked to the pulpit where he extended his condolences to the family and spoke for a few minutes about Alex's career with the firm of Stratton McMasters & Hines, what a valuable partner she was and how they all would miss her.
As Jim Decker spoke, Jake was troubled by his last remark before the service began when Decker was interrupted by the arrival of some of Alex's clients. Jake left the Stratton firm after nearly twenty years because he was dissatisfied with the way many practiced law. He loved the law. The increasing lack of civility and the downright nastiness of many lawyers totally turned him away from the practice. So, he quit. At the time he lived alone, having been divorced early on from his brief marriage to a young surgeon when they realized their busy careers left no time for anything or anyone else. So, he sold his home and nearly everything else he had, bought an expensive sailboat and moved to the Apostle Islands never to return. His partner, Jim Decker had tried to talk him out of leaving and had maintained that the door would always be open for Jake's return some day. Jake hoped Jim wasn't thinking that "some day" had arrived.
Outside, skies had cleared. High overhead, the sun brightened and warmed the day. The blackened skies had held their moisture. Jake thought that was fortunate. The grass at the cemetery where people would walk would not be rain soaked. Mourners went to their cars and drove slowly out of the church parking lot. Some formed a line of cars with headlights on to follow the hearse and the family to the cemetery on Lyndale Avenue. Charles put the black Escalade into the line and followed along.
Standing by the gravesite, Jake and Charles were again joined by Jim Decker.
"You know Jake, we need help, here."
"I'm not sure what I can do, if that's what you're asking."
"We need someone who can move in and take over. Jake, that's you."
"Now wait a minute â€¦" Decker is not pulling any punches, thought Jake.
"I thought you said you were looking into the circumstances of Alex's death."
"I am. I did say that. I meant it."
"I think you said you wouldn't rest until you found out who did this and why."
"I said that, too. What's your point, Jim?"
"My point is that if you believe her death has something to do with one of her cases, as do I, there's no better way to find out what it is than getting into those cases."
"You mean handling them? Standing in for Alex?"
"That's exactly what I mean."
"I don't know â€¦"
"We need you, boy. Alex needs you. You need this opportunity to get into Alex's head and figure out who done this terrible thing to her."
Decker must have decided he'd gone far enough. He said, "I'll leave you to your thoughts. I'll call you tomorrow â€¦ if you haven't called me first." He left them standing there, walking back to where his wife, Barbara, was waiting, taking her hand and heading toward their car.
"I guess we have something to talk about on the way home," Charles said.
"I guess we do," said Jake, shaking his head.
Charles steered the Cadillac out of the cemetery and headed north on Lyndale toward downtown. He jumped on I-35W and drove north out of the Cities. The two men were silent, Jake obviously deep in his own thoughts. Charles turned off the freeway at the Rock Creek Junction exit to take State Highway 70 into Wisconsin. As they crossed the border at the St. Croix River, Charles broke the silence.
"Jake, I thought Jim Decker was definitely less than subtle about his request that you take over Alex's cases."
"He can't afford 'subtle,'" said Jake, turning from staring out the window at the river to answer Charles. "He needs help and he knows it. The fact that Alex's death may have some connection to one of her cases is something to attract our interest, but he really needs the help, regardless. If I guess right, Alex carried a heavy caseload, much of it major litigation."
"So, what will you do?"
"That's what I have been wondering for the last seventy miles. But, whatever it is, I don't plan to do it alone." He pulled a water bottle from the Cadillac's console cup holder and drank. "So, you have to help me decide. What do you think we should do?"
"Oh, good. I think I asked first," said Charles. "Well, whatever. I know you won't rest easy until you find out exactly what happened to Alex and why. The only way to find out if one of her cases is linked to her murder is to get into them big time. I will give whatever assistance I can and happy to help."
Jake was quiet. He resumed his staring out the window at the passing countryside. They were driving through the lake country around Grantsburg. Jake wasn't really seeing the breath-taking views the scenic drive offered.
After Spooner, they turned up Highway 63, passing through Trego and Hayward. As they drove through the tiny hamlet of Seeley where the speed limit slowed to forty-five, Jake finally spoke again.
"That's it, then. We'll tell Jim Decker we will help, but we can't commit to permanently replacing Alex on all of her cases. We'll start and see how it goes."
"That means we are going back. When?"
"We'd better take a couple of days to see to it that everything is in order at your place and mine. We may be gone for a few weeks returning only on the weekends. Can you do that?"
"I'll make it work."
"How about starting Monday morning at the Stratton, McMasters office? Go down Sunday afternoon?"
"I have commitments on Sunday evening and early next week. It will take me a day or two to get things cleaned up. You go ahead and I will follow later. Your first business will be with Decker anyway."
â€œSo, weâ€™ll call him tomorrow? We can put the landline in your cottage on speaker and both talk to him.â€
â€œYou certainly seem to be dragging me into whatever you do, Jake. Donâ€™t get me wrong. I said I am happy to help.â€ Charles pulled off the road at a rest stop along the Namakagan River a few miles south of Cable. Sitting in the car looking over the sparkling waters of the river known for its trout fishing, Charles said, â€œWhy wait until tomorrow, Jake? Call Decker now. Heâ€™s probably back at his office. You can put your cell phone on speaker.â€
Jake punched in the numbers for Deckerâ€™s cell.
â€œJim, itâ€™s Jake and Charles. Weâ€™re in the car on our way back to Raspberry Bay. I have you on speaker. Are you in your office?â€
â€œNo, Jake. We closed the office today. Barbara and I are at the new restaurant in the Sheraton Bloomington.â€
â€œThe what?â€ Jake looked at Charles who shook his head.
â€œItâ€™s the old Lâ€™Hotel Sofitel. You know, at 494 and Highway 100. Weâ€™re here with Carrie Parker, Alexâ€™s assistant, Sam Cooper and some others from the office. Weâ€™re just kind of commiserating and remembering Alex. What can I do for you, Jake. More importantly, what can you do for us?â€
Jake explained their decision.
"I am really glad you called, Jake. You, too, Charles. It is going to help us out a lot. Nobody else here can take over that caseload. Samâ€™s willing to try, but he knows he doesn't have the experience, yet. He wants you as bad as I do.â€
Jake stressed with Decker that his involvement in Alex's caseload and with the firm was to be only temporary. Decker understood, so he said, but both Jake and Charles weren't sure they fully believed him. When Jake "retired," Decker had assured him the door was always open for his return. Jake also made sure Decker included Charles in the plan including whatever compensation and expenses they both would receive. Decker mentioned professional liability insurance and assured them that they would be put on the firm's policy. With those details ironed out, they turned to the cases themselves.
"Carrie Parker and Sam will show you Alex's cases," said Decker. "She was busy, Jake."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"Aah! It's like riding a bike, isn't it? Right Charles? They say you never forget. But, Jake?"
"Listen to Carrie. The practice of law has changed because of developing technology. Everything is e-filing now and almost everything is done by e-mail. You use e-mail?"
"Yes, Jim." Jake rolled his eyes at Charles. "Sometimes I do."
"Well in the office, it's a little different." Decker said, "You know, we were hacked a couple of months ago. We don't seem to be missing anything, but we have gone to a cyber security firm. That's why the precautions," he explained. "Necessary for client confidentiality. The world and the practice of law have changed my friend. Now our e-mails are encrypted."
"Yeah, so only the sender and the recipient can read them. Listen to Carrie. So long, my friend. See you next week."
After the call, as they continued on toward home, Charles asked Jake. "Tell me about this young lawyer, Sam Cooper, Jake. I never had him. I think he went to Billy Mitchell." Charles referred to the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. "Do I understand that he is your cousin?"
"That's right. Sam's mom and I are cousins. Sam is about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old. He grew up in Wayzata out near Lake Minnetonka, attended the U of M and William Mitchell Law School. You were right about Billy Mitchell, but you wouldn't have had him anyway. You were retired before he got into law school. After law school, he joined Stratton, McMasters & Hines where he has practiced law since.
"At Stratton, he has been in the litigation section working mostly with construction cases with Alex Van de Meer, but I understand he is also doing some criminal defense as a Hennepin County Public Defender. Someone at the firm thought the firm should develop some criminal law expertise and Sam wanted the experience. I'm sure Jim Decker had something to do with that."
"Nope. I understand he has a girlfriend."
"Something tells me he will be seeing a lot more of you and not so much of his girlfriend in the coming weeks."
Still on the road, Jake called Jim Brennan.
"Jim, I'm calling to let you know what's going on." He explained the situation with Jim Decker and the Stratton law firm.
"I thought you were through fighting those battles. I thought you came up here to get away from that."
"I know, and I'm not sure it's a good idea, but we are going to give it a try, at least."
"Charles and I will be looking into Alex's cases."
"Well, you be careful old son. If the motive is in one of her legal cases, then somebody didn't want her doing what you are maybe about to."
"How is the old-fashioned footwork going? Wearing out the soles of those cowboy boots?"
"It's going. It's slow and tedious, but that's police work. I don't know how many people were at that party, but over a hundred were registered in the costume contest, you and Charles included. Are you aware that the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce people were taking pictures?"
Jake thought about it. "Come to think of it, I do remember. They use them on the Chamber website advertising the activities in Bayfield, the Apostles, the Big Top Chautauqua and all that. They took our picture."
"I saw it. You, Charles, Mary, CoCo and Martha all in costume. Two pirates, an Indian princess, a clown and a lion tamer. A pretty motley crew, I thought."
Jake smiled. It was a good time, he thought â€¦ until it was ended suddenly.
Well, we have those pictures that we're looking through. Some of the witnesses took pictures with their phones. A couple said that someone was using a video cam. Of course, some of the phone pictures might be videos also."
"How are your witness interviews going?"
"Slow. Do you know that over half of the party goers are from the Twin Cities?"
Jake was not surprised.
"So, will you be going there?"
"Some maybe, but I can get assistance from Minneapolis P.D. I've got some old friends there."
"And good luck to you, Jake. We'll keep at it up here, Jake. Keep me informed on what you're doing, Okay?
"You got it."
Jake stared out at the passing trees wondering if he had made the right decision. They were getting closer to home. Driving north on Highway 13, they would pass through Bayfield and continue on to Bay Harbor, the little fishing village on Raspberry Bay where Resolution was moored and where Charles' cottage stood at the top of Raspberry Point. The highway wound its way through the forest, generally following the shore of Chequamegon Bay. Jake watched a doe and a spotted fawn standing by the highway's edge, their eyes as large as saucers, ears winking at the Cadillac as it approached. Charles slowed in case they decided to cross. They didn't. The doe turned toward the woods, white flag of her tail standing straight up. The fawn looked confused and then ran after its mother. Jake wondered if he wasn't just as confused as the fawn looked.
That night, Charles had a group over for steaks on the grill at his cottage on Raspberry Point. Invitations had gone out before the tragic events of the previous Saturday. Neither Charles nor his invited guests saw any good in canceling. So much had happened in less than a week. Alex Van de Meer was gone and already buried. Jake was getting emotionally involved in a murder investigation and had now agreed to take over Alex's cases in litigation in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. Just a week ago no one could imagine such drastic changes taking place. Perhaps, Charles had told Jake, it is just as well to have a gathering to relax, enjoy each other's company and put aside the thoughts of the past week's unimagined events. But of course, they could not, entirely.
A bottle or two of an especially palatable Cabernet Sauvignon might help, Charles told Jake and Jake agreed. It would compliment the steaks nicely. Charles happened to have just such a wine, wonderfully aged in oak barrels along with a little more aging in the bottle in what he referred to as his "modest wine cellar." Not actually a cellar as he didn't have a basement or a root cellar, it was a closet, but a well-stocked closet.
The guests were Bert and Sandy Hanson from Hanson's Marina in Raspberry Bay; Martha Hoskins and CoCo Cadotte; CoCo's mother, eighty-three-year old Gus Cadotte and her cat, 8-Ball; Jake Kingsley and his "date," Mary Pelletier; Pete Cadotte, the tribal attorney and his wife, Jennifer and Joyce Becket, a lady of approximately Charles' age to whom he had been introduced by none other than Maggie of Maggie's on Manypenny. Joyce had recently moved into the Apostle Islands Tower Apartments in Bayfield down by the shore of Lake Superior in Bayfield where Gus Cadotte lived with 8-Ball.
These were Jake's friends. Charles, a retired law professor who had been Jake's teacher and mentor for many years. Upon his retirement and after his wife had passed away, Charles moved to the Bayfield area, building a cottage on Raspberry Point on land leased from the Chequamegon Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and where they were about to dine. He and Jake sailed Jake's ketch, Resolution, on the waters of Lake Superior and spent a great deal of time together.
Mary Pelletier was the Reservation Business Committee Chair of the Band. Jake liked to think of her as the Chief. She was someone in whom Jake had more than a passing interest. He thought, or maybe hoped, the feeling was mutual.
CoCo Cadotte and Martha Hoskins were life partners, having lived together since college. CoCo was now retired after thirty years as a forensic scientist at Minnesota's BCA. Martha had about the same time in as a Hennepin County prosecutor before she retired. Now both retired, they had a small home in Bayfield on the hillside overlooking the Madeline Ferry dock with a breathtaking view of the Apostle Islands.
Jake offered to grill the steaks. Charles gladly accepted. He opened the wine. Jake accepted a glass out on the deck by the grill. Joyce helped Charles deliver wine to those who desired and club soda or Diet Coke to those who preferred that.
Gus Cadotte took a stemmed glass of the Cabernet.
"To your health, Charles," she said raising her glass to Charles and to Joyce.
Charles and Joyce Becket had moved out onto the deck where Jake was starting the gas grill. He heard Charles explaining who everybody was although Joyce had met most of them once or twice before.
"Do you know Gus Cadotte?" Charles asked her.
"We live in the same building, but I had not met her before tonight. I just recently moved in there, myself."
"Well you know CoCo and Martha."
"Gus is CoCo's mother. She is Mrs. Annabelle Augustina Cadotte. She gets her mail addressed to and signs her name, 'A. A. Cadotte.' She told me once that she likes that it doesn't tell people whether she is a man or a woman and they don't know what to expect.
"She thinks the sign out in front of the building that advertises 'Adults Only' sounds like a porno movie house or an adult sex toy distributor, instead of a collection of aging retired people.
"She is a character. Never goes anywhere without that cat."
Joyce said, "I have seen her in the early evening out on the deck in the Adirondack chairs, sitting with the cat on her lap gazing out over the water, watching the sailboats go by."
Charles continued. "Gus and her husband, Bill, spent most of their adult lives in and around the Apostle Islands. Bill Cadotte was born and raised in the area. Gus met him in the Twin Cities where they both worked. At first, they spent weekends and vacations in the islands. Later, they had the small house on the hillside where CoCo and Martha live now. Gus was a high school teacher. She had summers off, so she was up here all summer with the kids while Bill came weekends and on his summer vacations. They had three different sailboats over those years. Their four children learned to love Bayfield and the islands. When Gus and Bill retired, they moved to the Bayfield house and continued their love of sailing and cruising among the Apostle Islands. Bill passed away several years ago. Gus, now eighty-three, I think, lives alone with 8-Ball. She is blessed with frequent visits from her kids.
"You should get to know her, Joyce. She's a hoot. A fun and wonderful person to know."
"And here she is, now," said Jake.
Gus stepped on to the deck holding her glass of wine. 8-Ball followed close behind. Looking at the grill, she said, "Jakey! You haven't put the steaks on, yet?"
"Jakey?" Charles gave Jake a questioning look. Jake shrugged.
"Yes, Jakey," Gus confirmed. "He and Petey Cadotte were little Hellions, I can tell you. But I kept them in line. Their parents used to bring them to visit. When they were real little, CoCo used to babysit for them. Later, they came to our house on their bikes to get fresh baked cookies. I think they could smell them a mile away!"
Charles looked at Joyce and rolled his eyes. "'Jakey' and 'Petey,'" he repeated. "Not hard to imagine, when you think about it."
"Well, it's true and look at them now." She looked almost straight up at Jake. Gus was only five foot two. "Jakey," she gazed up at him in awe, "you must be six feet tall!"
"Six-three, Gus," said Jake, "and thank you for sharing my early life history." To Charles, he said, "The grill is ready. I'm about to put the steaks on. Yours and mine are almost done already. Gus's, too," he grinned at her. "Better get people ready."
Charles, Joyce and Gus headed back into the house to get people seated for dinner. 8-ball seemed torn between his mistress, Gus, and the steaks on the plate on the grill's sideboard. Loyalty and affection apparently won over hunger and greed as the big cat turned, tail in the air, to follow Gus to the table.
"Well Charles," said Mary Pelletier after dinner, "you have done it again. The steaks were done perfectly. The salad was marvelous and the wine was superb." She lowered her voice and leaned toward him. "It's too bad the circumstances. Everybody is pretty down. Maybe it's better if they talk over what's bothering them."
"Thank Jake for the steaks, Mary. He was the grill master. As for the attitude, I think your right. Pretty soon, what everyone is thinking about will become the center of conversation. In fact, I think that time is now."
The group settled into more comfortable seating in the living room. Jake thought Charles and Mary were right. They were. The conversation turned to Alex Van de Meer. Better, he thought, to discuss it than to leave it the 800-pound gorilla in the room that nobody talked about.
Gus, who never pulls any punches and says whatever she wants or thinks, sat in the middle of the couch stroking 8-Ball who was curled up in her lap and asked, "Jake!" She must have decided to address him as an adult, now. "What are you doing about the lawyer that was killed by the Pavilion?"
A few of the others at first appeared stunned by Gus's directness, but then turned to Jake to see what he had to say.
"I haven't done much of anything, yet, Gus."
"Well, are you going to?" 8-Ball rolled over in Gus's lap and yawned.
"I just about have to do something. When Alex was killed, she was trying, apparently desperately, to find me and tell me or ask me something. She got to within a few feet of me when she was stopped. I can't just let that go. I have to know why she was trying to reach me. I have to know what it was she was going to say to me."
"Why would anybody want to kill her?" asked Sandy Hanson.
"There are really only a few basic motives for murder, Sandy," Jake answered. "Some people list ten or even twenty, but they can usually be boiled down to about five or six. A good short list would be greed, hate, jealousy, revenge, rage, and self-protection."
"How is rage different from hate?" asked Mary.
Gus answered her. "It's not exactly, my dear. Rage could involve hate or jealousy or revenge, but it is when one acts in a fit of rage that the act is different. It is sudden and uncontrolled. That's what makes it different. It's the rage. You get over that when you get older." 8-Ball, who appeared to have been listening to Gus, stretched a front leg in the air, closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
"That's exactly right, Gus. But," Jake said to everyone, "I think the motive here was self-protection."
"I thought self-protection was legal and not murder," said Jennifer Cadotte.
"You mean self-defense, Honey," said her husband Pete, the retired Army lawyer.
Jake nodded. "If someone had a secret which, if exposed, would mean financial ruin or prison, for example, that might very well motivate that person to kill someone else to protect against exposure of the secret. And that would be murder for self-protection."
"What's the secret?" asked Mary.
"That's what we don't know. That's what I want to find out."
"How will you do that?"
"At the moment, I have no idea. But, if keeping a secret is the motive, then we need to look for the secret, identify it and its connection to Alex's death and expose and eliminate it as a reason for possibly more murders."
"But, Jake, if you do that, aren't you doing the same thing that got Alex killed?" asked Gus.
"To quote the Bard, 'Ay, and there's the rub.'"
"The Bard. Shakespeare?" asked Mary.
"I've heard that phrase plenty of times," said Bert, "but I didn't know it was Shakespeare. From a play?"
"I don't know which one," Jake said. "I am not a student of Shakespeare. I only know that quote and 'The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.'"
Charles answered Bert's question. "'There's the rub' is from Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' speech. The lawyer killing is from Henry the Sixth."
"Well I think the quote is appropriate, here," said Mary. "There definitely is a 'rub' if Jake or anyone tries too hard to find out what Alex knew that got her killed. I don't think you should do it, Jake"
"Jim Decker has asked me to help. Charles and I discussed it and went over everything we all are talking about now. We decided to at least start and see where it all goes."
That same evening, Wendell Stockman sat comfortably in his Minneapolis home, feet up on the coffee table, a scotch and soda in hand and soft music coming from the enormously expensive audio-video receiver, amplifier and surround sound speaker system. He could crank up the sound so loud it could be heard all the way downtown, but he didnâ€™t. The old dusty Toyota was parked in the attached garage next to his gleaming black Cadillac Escalade. As promised, his client had made the deposits. They were safe and not traceable to him.
Concealment of his identity was crucial to his safety and success. No client knew his name, address, phone number or even what he looked like. In his business, Stockman used only pre-paid cheap cell phones with limited minutes. Clients with business called a number that went through a series of relays no one but Stockman understood. When he got a call, he returned it on one of the throw-away phones. He destroyed the phones when he was done. That's the way he did business. Payment was also untraceable to him. Deposits were made to accounts in fictitious names and later transferred to other accounts in other fictitious names, accounts of which the paying client had no knowledge. It was a system, undoubtedly not foolproof, but better than most, he thought. So far, he had had no problems.
Now it was time to begin planning the next project. â€œMake it look like an accident," was the request. No problem.
Planning was, after all, his fortÃ©. On that last project, Stockman had expected Alex Van de Meer to be at the party. His client got that information from somewhere. Stockman didn't ask. But the idea of a costume party provided an ideal setting. Nothing like hiding in a crowd, he knew from experience. His detailed plan included his own attendance in costume. Dressed as a French fur trapper with a coonskin cap, he had worn a full black beard and mustache. When the client mentioned the party, Stockman went on line to the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Bureau to get the party details. He even noted the costume contest rules and prizes although he had no intention of still being anywhere near when they handed them out. The clerk in the costume shop in St. Paul had told him a coonskin cap was the thing for a fur trapper. He had no idea, but he seemed to blend into the mostly costumed crowd. The party included several other fur trappers. Stockman had noted that one of them wore a coonskin cap also. That was good. Another one he saw had a red, wool knit skull cap.
Stockman's meticulous planning was his trademark. He believed in "Preparation, preparation and preparation." Someone had suggested to him once that too much preparation would take away from his ability to respond to unanticipated changes. He found the opposite to be true. The more prepared he was, the easier it was for him to vary the plan and deal with suddenly occurring changes while the plan was in progress. More than once his well-laid plan had to be abandoned in favor of another strategy when conditions warranted. So far, and he attributed this entirely to his careful scheming, he had come out just fine and the experience he found exhilarating. From his preparation, he knew Ms. Van de Meer's nickname was Alex. She was a forty-one-year old trial lawyer specializing in construction litigation. He did not know or exactly care why his client wanted her killed.
Moving through the merrymaking, he had scrutinized the faces in the crowd, not knowing what costume Alex was going to be wearing. He searched the faces of several pirates, a few Big Birds, several Little Red Riding Hoods, Snow White, a couple of clowns, an Indian maiden, a Snoopy and a large Doberman Pinscher.
The light was good enough for him to see faces and pick out features. The Pavilion's bright interior lights shone on the crowd through the open doors. Party sponsors had strung lights from poles in the park across from the Pavilion. Beyond the crowd, the light diminished quickly. The boat docks of the nearby Apostle Island Marina and its parking lot were in shadows that deepened farther away from the lights of the party.
Then he saw her. She parked her car in a place by the Pavilion where no parking was allowed and left it, hurrying through the crowd. She was not in costume but wore jeans, bright orange and green sneakers and a tan jacket. Her purse was a large shoulder bag. She still carried her car keys in her hand.
Stockman's employer had stressed the urgency of this job. Alexandra Van de Meer was not to have the opportunity to talk with a guy named Jake Kingsley. He was one of the pirates, Stockman had learned, the one with the ridiculous cloth parrot sewn on his shoulder standing near the Doberman. After he had blended into the crowd, he simply asked a woman dressed as a lady pirate with a black tricorn hat with a skull and cross bones above the brim. "Do you know where Jake Kingsley is?" he had asked. She had looked up at him holding a long neck beer in one hand and pointing with the other. "That's him right over there, the tall pirate with the stuffed parrot sewn on his shoulder and standing next to the big dog."
Alex did not appear to have seen them, yet. She was speaking on the phone and moving through the crowd in the general direction of the pirate and the dog. It had to be now.
Stockman caught Alex in the crowd. He plunged a long thin dagger into the back of her neck and up into the brainstem killing her instantly and with no sound. Revelers in the crowd jostled each other trying to move from one location to another with little or no direction. Many were feeling the effects of drink over the several hours since the evening party had begun at the Pavilion.
Stockman had made sure that no one observed what happened to Alex. Even when she went down on the grass, partiers would have thought she had simply stumbled. That gave him time to escape as he had planned. As he made his way through the crowd, he acted like the other revelers, even adding the appearance of some degree of intoxication. Just another drunk enjoying the party. God, he was good! His costume was disposed of in a dumpster back in the shadows with no attempt to hide it. He left an arm hanging out. He had even taken her purse, removing credit cards and cash and leaving it on the ground to look like a robbery. He had, however, immediately buried the credit cards and the knife in a different dumpster. If, for some reason, he were stopped and searched, nothing would be found.
He knew that some people would be using their smart phones as cameras. He wasn't worried about being identified if he was photographed in the crowd. After all, he was just a big, fat fur trapper that looked nothing like the real Wendell Stockman. Fitting his meticulous preparation and execution, he had even worn a disguise when he rented the costume. He put extra padding under his clothes to look heavy-set and wore a wig, mustache and eyeglasses. He gave a false name, address and phone number and paid in cash.
He had felt good that night. He had felt the thrill and excitement of the planning, the reacting to changes in the plan that so often happened, the act of killing and, perhaps most of all, the thrill and excitement of the successful escape, beating the risk of getting caught. No, it wasn't just the money. But, that was good, too.
And so, on to the next project.
Sunday afternoon, Jake drove to Minneapolis in his Jeep Cherokee. Charles stayed up in Bay Harbor, promising to follow Jake in a couple of days. Jake was pretty sure Charles' delay in coming to the Twin Cities involved his lady friend, Joyce Becket, in some way.
Jim Decker knew where Jake preferred to stay. Somewhere, he told Decker, in St. Paul's northern suburbs like Roseville, Arden Hills or Shoreview, near where he had lived most of his time with the firm. From having lived in the area before, he preferred the drive into downtown from the north, crossing over the Mississippi on the 3rd Avenue Bridge and on into the Loop.
Decker had him at a Marriott on Cleveland Avenue in Roseville, just off the I-35 Freeway. A residence hotel with suites instead of simple rooms, Jake thought it might be extravagant for him. All he needed was a bed. But, he might be there for a while. For an extended stay, the extra room and work space might be nice. He knew Decker well enough that, one way or the other, he had struck a good deal with the manager on price and would find a way to make it all profitable for the firm.
The hotel was set back from Cleveland Avenue surrounded by carefully tended green grass and perimeter shrubs. Free breakfast, a fitness center and indoor pool were among the amenities. A paved path surrounding the green space and the hotel provided a suitable place for residents to walk, jog, rollerblade or skateboard if that was their inclination.
Jake checked in just before six o'clock. Room, 404 was in the front of the building overlooking the green space and Cleveland Avenue just beyond. Three rooms made up what Marriott called a suite. The door opened to a sitting area with a couch, two comfortable chairs, a large screen flat TV and a desk against one wall. At the rear of this living room, a counter with overhead cupboards and two high stools formed a sort of kitchenette with a refrigerator, a microwave oven and coffeepot. Beyond the kitchen counter, an open doorway led to the bedroom. A huge king size bed dominated the room which also had a comfortable chair a small table and chair and another wall-hung television. The head of the bed was covered by a half dozen fluffy white pillows.
Both rooms had walls of rough stucco in a pale, subdued yellow, a finish Jake figured was sprayed on over block construction. Wall-hung artwork exemplified the usual hotel paintings that never seemed to change from one hotel to the other or one part of the country to another except in the American southwest where desert scenes and cowboys and Indians took over the decor. The third room was the bathroom with shower, vanity and mirror. Nothing special, there.
Jake found dinner at a nearby Red Lobster and settled in for a good night's rest before starting the task of learning about Alex's cases and getting back into harness, so to speak. He wished he felt more confident in his taking over in her absence.
First thing, Monday morning, Jake met with Sam Cooper and Carrie Parker in Alex Van de Meer's office. As they got to work that morning, Sam Cooper removed his suit coat, rolled his shirt sleeves midway to his elbows and loosened his necktie. He carried a yellow legal pad and had a pen in his shirt pocket. Carrie Parker was dressed in a conservative brown business pant suit over a beige blouse. Her graying hair was pulled back in a bun. She also carried a yellow legal pad, pen and her reading glasses.
To Jake, they clearly appeared ready to get down to some serious work.
Alex's office was clean and neat, dominated by a large desk, free of loose papers or files. An old-fashioned wooden tray with two-inch sides served as an inbox, a block of stained and varnished wood rested on the contents as a paper weight and also kept the contents from prying eyes. A telephone and intercom sat on the left side of the desk within easy reach. A credenza on one side held a flat screen computer monitor with a pullout keyboard underneath.
The office decoration was standard law office but with a distinctly feminine touch. Wainscot of Black Walnut burl covered the bottom thirds of all four walls. On three walls, a large floral pattern wall paper covered the area above the wainscot. The wallpaper color and pattern was not standard law office. The light, almost dusty blue background supported flowers and vines of subdued hues of green, yellow and occasionally rose and pink. A large window on one of those walls presented a spectacular view of the Minneapolis skyline from one of its highest points. The fourth wall, above the wainscot, was done in linen wall covering the color of parchment. This was the standard lawyer's "vanity wall" which held numerous framed diplomas, certificates of admission to practice before various state and federal courts, bar memberships and other awards and honors Alex Van de Meer had received during her years of practice.
Jake felt like an intruder. He said so.
"Please, Mr. Kingsley, you sit at the desk," said Carrie Parker.
"Ms. Parker, I'm not sure I should."
"It will be more efficient, I can assure you. Sam and I will sit in these client chairs and endeavor to bring you up to date on Ms. Van de Meer's most active cases."
"Well, all right," said Jake, "but, Ms. Parker, I am used to dealing with the people I work with on a first name basis. Do you think you could call me Jake?"
"Very good, Mr. Kingsley. I do think that would be more efficient, as well. Jake, it is then. I am Carrie." She pointed at Sam Cooper. "Around this office, we never call him anything but Sam, unless it's occasionally 'Sammy.'"
"Thanks for that, Carrie," said Sam. "Now that we are all acquainted, let's 'efficiently' get to work. Over there, Jake," he pointed to a work table set back in a corner of the office, "are parts of the files we are going to talk about."
The work table was piled high with thick brown file folders, rolls of blueprints, several three ring binders and several envelopes that appeared to contain computer disks, CD's or DVD's.
â€œWow.â€ Jake looked at the pile. "Those are just the active files?"
"Just some of the very active files," said Sam.
"The ones that require action in the next few days and weeks, Jake," said Carrie. "There are eight of them that require immediate attention, but that number will vary from to day to day as things develop. Actually, even the current ones are not all on that table. They wouldn't all fit."
Jakeâ€™s initial reaction was to immediately tell Jim Decker thanks, but no thanks, but he began to recall what it was like to have a heavy caseload of major litigation. He should have expected this.
Over in the corner were more spiral bound spec books and rolls of blueprints. "What are those?"
Sam answered. "Those are the rest of the spec books and plans for her cases. They don't fit in file folders. She keeps them there. But, back to the cases coming up now. Carrie made up a list with the tickler dates." Our office is in a transition to more electronic file management. Our tickler system is both on paper in the files and in a main tickler file as well as on an electronic tickler file on our office computer network. Carrie has control of it for all of Alex's cases." He handed Jake the list.
"There are a lot more than eight cases on this list," Jake said.
"All of Alex's cases are on that list, Jake," Carrie explained. "I highlighted the eight with which we are and think you should be concerned. Also, because the list is sorted according to the tickler system dates, they are all very near the top of the list."
"Well, lets' get going then," said Jake. "Where do we start?"
"We'll start with the case that has the first upcoming action," said Carrie. "That would be tomorrow."
Jake flinched. "Tomorrow?"
Carrie rose from her chair and moved to the work table. The file she selected was a dark brown expanding file folder containing several thinner manila folders labeled as to their contents. She placed the file and a set of blueprints on the desk in front of Jake, then returned to her chair.
"That," she motioned to the file in front of Jake, "is the Luomala case. It's actually the Hudson Builders case filed under the name of our client Hudson Builders, but there have been several Hudson Builders cases so we call it Luomala after the plaintiff. Summary Judgment motion is for hearing tomorrow morning in the Hennepin County Government Center in front of Judge Devereaux. Sam?"
"It's Axel Luomala against the prime contractor and some subs and suppliers involved in the construction of Mr. Luomala's apartment buildings over along the Mississippi River here in downtown. All four of his buildings in the apartment complex are the subject of the lawsuit. Plaintiff is suing for damages by reason of construction defects related to the windows. Defendants are arguing whether the defect is due to defective manufacture or to improper installation. Tomorrow, however, defendants are aligned in the motion for summary judgment."
"What's the basis of the motion?"
"Two-year statute of limitations for construction defects. Suit was started more than two years after discovery of the problem."
"Any doubt about that?" asked Jake, always thinking; framing the issues.
"Nope. The owner complained in writing more than two years before the Summons and Complaint were sent out for service. We have the prime contractor, Hudson Builders. Alex made the motion and the other defendants joined in it."
"What's wrong with the windows?"
"They leak. Plaintiff claims moisture gets in between the panes. They are double-glazed insulating windows. The claim is that they have lost their ability to insulate up to specs and they're fogged up and don't give the view they are supposed to. It is further alleged that the units cannot be rented the way they are."
"My recollection is that in order for the two-year statute to apply, the construction must be both defective and unsafe."
"Exactly right and that's the issue." Sam reached for one of the folders in the file. "Here is Alex's brief. We can leave you alone for long enough to read it and then we are available for any questions you may have.â€
Sam and Carrie left Jake alone to study. As Carrie was closing the door on their way out, Jake called to her.
"Yes, Mr. Kingsley â€¦ I mean Yes, Jake?"
"Carrie can you get me a copy of the statute of limitations?" He glanced at the brief in front of him. "It's Minnesota Statutes, Section 541.051. Do you have it in the Minnesota Statutes Annotated volume?"
"We do, but I can print it off our electronic library very quickly."
"Thanks, Carrie. I think I'd like to start with the book."
Carrie disappeared and returned shortly with a maroon volume.
Alone again, Jake leafed through the annotations in the pages following section 541.051. I never liked this statute, he thought. When it first came out, Jake had studied it and concluded that it did not apply to construction litigation. It seemed clear to him that it was designed to limit lawsuits brought for injury to persons or property other than the building itself. It would apply if a leaky roof caused damage to furniture, if a chemical in the building materials caused sickness to occupants or if the building fell over onto parked cars, etc. But, for correcting the defective condition itself, Jake thought it had no application. Eventually, the appellate courts had disagreed. So, now you had different time periods for suing over a defective building depending on whether the defect made the building unsafe or not even where there was no claim of injury or damage related to the alleged safety issue.
Shortly, he found what he was looking for. The position he had originally taken on the two-year statute of limitations was rejected in Griebel v. Andersen Corp., a Minnesota Supreme Court decision reported at 489 N.W.2d 521 (Minn. 1992). Justices Larry Yetka and Esther Tomljanovich disagreed with the majority. Justice Tomljanovich wrote what Jake had regarded as an excellent dissenting opinion, but it had not persuaded the majority of the Court. From then on, the two-year statute applied if the allegedly defective construction was also unsafe even if the owner was the only one hurt and the only damage was the defect itself. Jake shook his head just as he had done when the case was originally decided. Oh well, he thought, as he had back then, the law is the law. It is what it is.
He read the briefs that Alex and other counsel had written, made a few notes on a legal pad and declared himself ready for tomorrow's motion.
Just over an hour later Jake walked out to the area outside Alex's office to Carrieâ€™s work station. He told Carrie that he was ready for whatever she had planned for him next. Carrie buzzed Sam to join them.
"She used a tablet," Carrie began.
"You mean a legal pad?" asked Jake.
"No, a notebook."
"Right. A trial notebook. Actually, I think I taught her that."
Carrie smiled and shook her head. "No, Jake, an electronic tablet or notebook."
She looked to Sam for help.
"I'll show you," said Sam. He left the office for just a moment, returning with what looked like about a five-inch by eight-inch iPad or Nook or something. He opened the case revealing a screen with numerous icons of varying shapes and colors.
"I have one of those," said Jake. "Is it an iPad?"
"Jake, this is the new kid on the block. This is the souped-up hot rod. It has more onboard storage than you can imagine and beefs up to even more with the micro SD card. It's faster than hell and has so many options you can't keep track of them." He handed it to Jake. "Alex liked it because of all that and, most importantly to her, it has a USB port and can take and read flash drives. You know. Sometimes they are called memory sticks, zip drives, jump drives or a whole list of other names."
"I know what a flash drive is."
Carrie stifled a giggle. Jake glared her.
"What did Alex use it for?"
Carrie answered. "Alex did everything on flash drives. She also had me periodically back them up to a larger flash drive or portable hard drive."
"Why flash drives? Why not just use the computer's storage? Sam said this one has a lot."
"Alex worked on different computers. So, she carried flash drives from computer to computer. She liked this notebook, but not for drafting documents. That she did on that computer there," she pointed to the monitor and keyboard on the credenza, "or on her laptop at home."
"Another thing, Jake," said Sam. "You know how practically everything is discoverable now days, even what's in a lawyer's file. Alex claimed that what was on the flash drive was her work product and protected by the attorney work product privilege. With this notebook, she recorded her thoughts and ideas as she worked up a case. You'll even find the trial notebook you talked about. The pages are there on the flash drive ready to print and put in the binder for trial. Issues she raised, deposition questions, it's all here." He held up a small flash drive with a labeled tag.
"She had a flash drive for each case?"
"Sometimes more than one," said Carrie.
"You have a record of them â€¦ some kind of a log or index?"
"For those I backed up, I do. And I copied the indexes off the drives."
"You typed the table of contents for each flash drive?"
Carrie smiled. "No, Jake. I typed a list of the flash drives and files they were part of. Then I screen printed the contents and pasted that into the list."
Jake groaned. He looked at the notebook. "And I can read those flash drives on this?'
"Yes," Carrie and Sam said in unison.
"Okay," he said. "How do you turn it on? How do you use it? And, how do you turn it off?"
Carrie and Sam showed Jake how to operate the notebook. Having had an iPad, the operation was not entirely new to him. He had no interest in the camera, the weather app or the internet connection, although he found the internet and WiFi procedure were similar to what he was used to.
Carrie handed Jake a white plastic rectangular object about the size of a cigarette pack only thinner.
He took it, felt its smooth finish. "What's this?" he asked.
"That is the backup drive for Alex's flash drives. This is just like a flash drive, but it's bigger. Most of Alex's flash drives are eight or sixteen gigabytes or gigs, sometimes thirty-two. This holds five hundred.
"Alex liked to have her files with her without all the paper. She had the ones she was currently working on in her purse. They included a 'Notes' folder. That's where she put her private thoughts and ideas about the case. You won't find those in the paper files."
"So, that's how this is organized?" Jake held up the five hundred gigabyte flash drive.
"Yup. Just plug that black cord into the USB port on the side of the tablet and open the drive. You will see the list of folders, one for each file. Inside those folders, you will see my file index. As Sam told you, you will find the trial notebook outline and pages in many of them."
"Pretty well organized."
Carrie smiled. "Alex Van de Meer was very well organized. She told me once that she was taught that by some former partner in this firm. That wouldn't be you, would it, Jake?"
"Organization and preparation. They certainly are the keys to trial work."
"Well, if you have any questions about the electronic files, let me know.â€ She pointed to the stack of files, blueprints and spec books on the work table. "We have prepared a short list of the most pressing cases." Carrie handed him a sheet with a numbered list of eight cases with a descriptive paragraph and list of lawyers following each. "Sam will take you through them. More details are on the portable hard drive I just gave you."
Sam began to go through the list. Jake followed along. "The first case," Sam said, "is the Luomala case you just reviewed that is set for hearing tomorrow. Our client is Hudson Builders, the prime contractor. The windows leak. Owner is suing. We brought a motion for summary judgment on the basis of the two-year statute of limitations.
"Second is Beaumont Apartments. It's a premises liability case. We have the apartment owner. A tenant, Ms. Angela Fowler, was raped and beaten by an intruder who has not been identified. She sued the apartment owner and the security company. We cross-claimed against the security company. Depositions continue in a few days.
"The third and fourth cases on the 'super-active list' are up on the Iron Range. One in Virginia and one in Biwabik."
Jake thought about Minnesota's Iron Range northwest of Duluth. He had tried a few cases there. Understanding the culture and thought processes of Iron Rangers was a necessity if you could figure them out. It was always important to have a Range lawyer with you on the case.
Sam continued. "The Virginia School District is suing the Iron Range Steam Corp. because a burst steam pipe caused damage to asbestos pipe insulation. If it deteriorates and becomes friable, it is a health hazard and needs to be abated at great cost. The natives, that is, parents and local residents are agitated about this one, Jake.
"In Biwabik, the Biwabik HRA is suing the general contractor, the engineer and others regarding the construction of a building for housing for the elderly. We have the plaintiff. The builder used SPF, spruce-pine-fir instead of the specified number two Douglas Fir, which is harder. Using the softer wood made the load bearing walls too weak or at least weaker than engineered. It's a Section Eight housing contract through HUD. Expert witnesses are currently fighting over whether, when you include the drywall and insulation, the walls still meet the engineering needs."
Jake listened. He did not take notes. Sometimes notetaking interfered with one's attention and retention of the facts as they were presented. Knowing he would be given a copy of the summary sheet Sam was using, he decided to simply listen and listen closely.
"Next is Ander-Will Construction," said Sam. "I understand you met the company's principals at Alex's funeral."
"Bad fire there in a residential building. Three residents were killed and several suffered severe injuries. Our clients are Ander-Will and Willander Board Company which used to be a division of Ander-Will. The building had Willander Board drywall, but Ander-Will was not involved in the construction at all. May have just been a mistake by plaintiff's counsel in naming Ander-Will as a defendant. Plaintiff Holden Properties, the owner, sued Vinton Constructors, the prime contractor; Emerson Drywall Contractors, the drywall sub; Willander Board Company, the drywall supplier; Oglethorpe Architecture and Design Partners, the design professional, and, of course, Ander-Will.
"That brings us to number six. Evergreen Hospital vs. Allen Manufacturing Co., Behrendt Industries, Emerson Drywall Contractors, U.S. Gypsum and others. Jake, this is a leaky roof case. We have the owner, the hospital. Alex told me the roof is an old 2-ply rubber roof case, but the roof is not that old. She said it was some kind of alleged industry fraud that she said occurred before I was born. She used some kind of formula that was used in the advertising. I can't remember it, exactly."
"1 plus 1 equals 4," said Jake. Carrie looked up from her pad.
"That's it," said Sam. "That's what Alex said."
"It was supposed to be as good as the old standard built-up roof with roofing felts and asphalt. They did four plies. The 2-ply rubber roof was said to be equal to the four-ply roofs. The rubber roof did not hold up to its claims."
"Well according to Alex's complaint, neither did the sheetrock. It deteriorated under the leakage more than it should have, she says."
Jake was curious why such an old roof design could withstand the statute of limitations, but he did not know when the roof was installed, although he hadn't seen a 2-ply rubber roof in years.
"The next case is â€¦"
Jake interrupted Sam. "How many more on the list?"
"Do either of them have anything in the next week?"
Sam studied his notes. "No."
"Good. Then I think I have had enough for now."
"Sounds good. We'll leave the files with you. If you have any questions, let me know.
"Me, too," added Carrie who rose to leave.
Time to bring Jim Brennan up to date, Jake decided. He dialed Brennan's cell.
Jake explained what he had learned so far about Alex's cases.
"No offense, Jake, but they all seem pretty boring to me."
"I know. It's hard to see a motive for murder in any of them. How are you doing?"
"Well, we may be onto something. The Pavilion has a video cam mounted up on an outside corner for security purposes. It's aimed at the public dock but you can see part of the Memorial Park across the street. For around the time of Ms. Van de Meer's murder, the video shows the boats at the dock including your ketch and you can see part of the crowd. Shortly before the time the murder was reported, the video shows most of the party goers were just milling around, laughing and drinking. But one person was moving with determination. A big heavy-set guy dressed in a fur trapper costume."
"Fur trapper? I think I remember a fur trapper, there."
"Well, I'm told that's what it was. Deerskin shirt, wool pants and a coonskin cap."
"The one I saw was wearing a red wool skull cap."
"One of the witnesses said she got her costume for Little Red Riding Hood from a costume shop in Ashland. We're going there, next."
"Sounds like more progress than we're making."
"Jake, this big fur trapper was carrying something. Like a shoulder bag of some kind. It's hard to tell from the video."
"You mean like a powder horn or leather hunting bag?"
"I mean like maybe a woman's purse."
Jake thought about the fur trapper possibly carrying Alex's purse away from the scene. Was he taking the wrong approach looking at Alex's court cases? It looked like he was getting nowhere while Brennan and his troops were making progress. They had a suspect. They had pictures of the suspect. Never mind that they had no idea who he was, yet. They were making progress.
He collected the electronic notebook and external hard drive, loaded them into a leather briefcase provided by Carrie and started out for his car. As he was leaving, she handed him a pass for Alex's parking space where he would park the next day.
Jake was watching the evening news on NBC when Charles called. A Weather Channel meteorologist was explaining the situation with a tropical storm brewing in the Atlantic and heading toward the Caribbean with increasingly strong winds expected to reach hurricane level.
"What's up, Charles? You coming down soon? How is Joyce, anyway?"
The other end of the phone was silent. Finally, Charles spoke. "I sense a definite lack of respect, my boy. Yes, I have seen Ms. Becket, recently and no, it is none of your business, if you don't mind my saying so. I was calling to see how it is going and to tell you I will be down some time on Wednesday. That is, if you still want me. Maybe you have had a change of heart?"
Jake had it coming, he knew. His remark about Joyce Becket was probably uncalled for, but he could not resist. Charles was his closest friend. They sailed together. They strolled beaches together. They ate together. They drank together. Jake even stayed with Charles at his cottage after Resolution went into the cradle before winter and before they found a warmer place, usually in Florida, to spend some of the colder months. Nobody was happier than Jake, except of course for Charles, that Charles, a widower, had found comfortable female companionship.
"I have not had a change of heart and you should know better," he answered. Wednesday, you say?"
"I'll see you then. I have a motion hearing in Hennepin, tomorrow."
"Tomorrow, already? Decker's not wasting any time, is he?"
"No," agreed Jake. "He's not."
The next morning, Jake drove in from Roseville, taking the I-35 Freeway to the University Avenue exit, across Fourth Street to Central Avenue and over the Mississippi on the Third Avenue Bridge into the Minneapolis Loop. On his way in, Jake thought about what he was getting into. He had chosen to exit the practice of law and take up the life of a beach bum sailor for reasons he still believed in. Now, suddenly, he was back and not just to cover a lawyer for a hearing or two. He had a heavy caseload and a heavy schedule. Hell, he would even need some new clothes. His tan slacks and Navy blazer outfit could only be repeated so many times.
Once the Jeep was parked and he was seated at Alex's desk with a cup of black coffee, Carrie and Sam joined him to review the morning's motion hearing. Jake interrupted the file review to say to them, "I'm going to need some business clothes. Is there still a Juster's in Minneapolis?"
Sam raised his hands in the air. "I'm not sure," he said, "but that would be out of my league and my price range anyway."
Carrie provided the answer. "I believe Juster's was acquired by Young-Quinlan, but kept the name. I'll find the address for you. Do you want me to make you an appointment for a fitting?"
Jake couldn't tell if she was kidding or not, but just said, "No, thank you, Carrie. I'll just walk over and look around first."
As the hearing time approached, Sam and Jake walked over to the courthouse. They went through security before taking an elevator in the Courts Tower up to Judge Devereaux's courtroom.
In the moments before the judge arrived, Jake and Sam greeted the other lawyers. The other two defendants were represented by Matt Sinnott and Andy Quinn, both lawyers with whom Jake had worked in the past. Sinnott was the head of a small but prominent firm in downtown Minneapolis. He was okay to work with but could put up a real fight when so inclined. Andy Quinn was a well-known and capable lawyer. Mostly construction litigation. Everybody liked Andy.
The attorney for the plaintiff Axel Luomala, the owner of the apartment buildings, was Francis Holliday White whom everyone knew as "Doc." He was a diminutive white-haired man with rosy cheeks and a permanent smile. While he was probably called "Doc" because of his middle name and the infamous gambler, gunfighter and dentist who fought with Wyatt Earp at the O. K. Corral in 1881, more than a few attributed the nickname to his similarity in appearance to the one of the seven dwarfs who was called by the same nickname. Doc Holliday White was rather legendary in the Twin Cities. It was said that he would outwork you every time. When dealing with "The Doc," watch yourself, but know that he would always be fair and perfectly honest. If someone dealt with him otherwise, then it was no quarter asked, none given. He was particularly kind and even mentoring to young lawyers. Jake had always admired and liked Doc.
The greetings were cordial. Andy Quinn said. "Welcome back, Jake." They all took seats at the counsel tables and waited for the judge. The hearing began promptly at 9:30.
Judge Harry Devereaux stepped up to his bench, thanked the bailiff, rapped his gavel on its clapper, saying, "Please be seated," and settled into the high-backed leather chair behind the bench. Leaning forward, he looked at his calendar, removed a file from the stack at his left elbow and called the case, reading from the file cover. "This is the matter of Luomala vs. R. W. Hudson Builders, Inc., Brower Building Supplies, Inc. and Norman Windows Company, Inc. The matter is here this morning on defendants' motion for summary judgment." He looked out over the bench into the well of the courtroom. "Will counsel please note their appearances?"
"Francis White for plaintiff, your Honor."
Jake stood. "Your Honor, Jacob Kingsley, of Counsel to Stratton, McMasters & Hines and Sam Cooper of that firm for defendant R.W. Hudson Builders."
"Mr. Kingsley, it is good to see you here in court again. May I say that everyone here in the courthouse is shocked and dismayed at the tragic loss of Ms. Van de Meer. She was well-liked and well-respected around here. I have read her brief on this motion. I take it you are here in her stead?"
"I am, your Honor."
"Have you had enough time to get up to speed on this file?"
"I have and I have had help." He nodded at Sam. "Thank you, your Honor."
The judge turned to the other lawyers who noted their appearances.
"Andrew Quinn, Morley & Quinn for defendant Brower, your Honor."
"Matthew Sinnott, Sinnott, Bradley & Melton with Phillip Grover of our firm for defendant Norman Windows, Judge."
"All right. Mr. Kingsley, I believe it's your motion. You may proceed."
"Thank you, your Honor," said Jake as he stood to address the Court. It had been a long time. But, the whole process, the judge, the courtroom, opposing counsel and the issues to be argued all had a familiar feel to them. He wasn't sure he was glad to be back, but it did have a nice feel.
"Your Honor," he began, "this is a construction case involving â€¦"
Jake went through the basic facts of the case, describing the problem with the windows and how the leaks of air and moisture were affecting the building, its owner and would affect its potential occupants. This was, of course, the key to the application of the statute of limitations, the question being whether the defective construction was also "unsafe" within the meaning of the statute. He finished his argument with a renewed request for summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff's case.
"Thank you, Mr. Kingsley. "Mr. Quinn?"
"We join in the motion of defendant Hudson, your Honor.'
"The same, Judge. Defendant Norman Windows joins in the motion for summary judgment in favor of defendants and dismissing plaintiff's claim."
"All right, then. Plaintiff's counsel, Mr. White. You're up."
As the judge was inviting counsel to note their appearances, Wendell Stockman slipped in to the rear of the courtroom, taking a seat in the back row. The lawyers were seated at the counsel tables. The court staff, a court reporter and court room clerk, occupied their stations in front of the bench. In the aisle along the side of the room stood a uniformed bailiff. Otherwise the room was empty except for Stockman and one other man, also seated in the back row on the other side of the room.
Stockman studied him. He did not look like he was involved in the case. He had no contact with the lawyers up front. But he was interested. He listened and made an occasional note on a small pad he held at his knee. Stockman was dressed casually in dark blue twill pants with a knife-like, pressed crease; navy socks; black, tassel loafers, an open collar beige shirt and a medium brown corduroy sport coat with leather patches at the elbows. To Stockman "casual" was fine but not an excuse to be sloppy. The other observer was more formally dressed in a dark blue suit, with black brogan boots but wore a white turtleneck instead of a shirt and tie. From Stockman's observation, the man's neck was so thick he wondered if they even made a necktie that would go around it.
Stockman tried to listen to the arguments. He could hear all right, but what they were telling the judge didn't make much sense to him. The other man was still taking notes occasionally. He obviously had to make a more detailed report afterward than did Stockman.
Doc Holliday White stood to address the Court.
"Thank you, Judge," he began. "We oppose the motion because there are questions of material fact for trial here." Doc White went on to argue, quite persuasively, Jake thought, that the issue of whether the defect was unsafe was one for trial. It was a problem with the construction, certainly, he said, but the problem was one of fixing the defect rather than worrying about whether it was unsafe and might cause possible personal injury. "Give us a chance, Judge, and we'll prove to you that this is just a bad construction case that affects only the building, the fix and the loss of use until fixed. "Safety' does not enter into it. Thank you." He returned to his seat and waited.
"Mr. Kingsley, anything else?"
"Yes, Judge," Jake said, returning to his feet. Mr. White makes a compelling argument, one with which I used to be inclined to agree, but the appellate courts of this state do not agree. In Griebel v. Andersen Corp., 489 N.W.2d 521 (Minn. 1992), the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals in holding that windows which permitted infestation by flies in a cabin up on Lake Superior, near Lutsen, were 'unsafe' within the meaning of the statute. â€œThe Supreme Court went on to say, and I quote:
'Although the term 'unsafe' is used to refer to something that poses a risk of bodily injury, it's meaning is not limited to articles hazardous to physical well-being; 'unsafe' also means 'insecure.' Certainly, that second definition is appropriate in reference to the windows and doors manufactured and installed by defendants. One of the primary purposes of windows and doors is security against unwanted intruders of any kind. A window or door which fails to provide the expected barrier against unwanted elements such as rain or snow or living creatures such as flies or mosquitoes is insecure or unsafe whether or not the invader is hazardous to life and limb.'
"So, Judge, the Supreme Court specifically mentioned the intrusion of unwanted elements like rain and snow and it found and held that leaky windows are both defective and unsafe. This is a leaky windows case. The two-year statute applies. This case was begun more than two years after the discovery of the leaks. The facts are undisputed. The case should be dismissed."
"Thank you, Judge. And my thanks to Mr. Kingsley for the compliment. His quote from the Griebel case is correct, Judge, but doesn't answer the question of how the inquiry as to whether an improvement to real property is both defective and unsafe is to be made. And in this case it should be made at trial where all the pertinent facts can be placed before the finder of fact which should be the Jury."
Jake knew what was coming.
"In fact, your Honor," Doc White continued, "in the Griebel case, the court also said this:
'In our view, the question of whether injury to property or bodily injury or wrongful death arises out of a defective or unsafe condition is one which turns on the individual facts alleged in the complaint.'
"Judge, we didn't allege that the construction here was defective 'and unsafe.' We only alleged it was defective and my client is out the cost of fixing the defect and the loss of profit for loss of use when the apartments could not be rented. But we did allege that the windows leak and if that is to be determined to be unsafe or not is a fact question for trial and in this case for the jury.
"I should also point out, your Honor, that Griebel was not a unanimous decision. Justice Tomljanovich dissented joined by Justice Yetka. In her written dissent, she said that by defining 'unsafe' as 'insecure,' the majority was stretching the definition of 'unsafe' beyond that intended by the legislature."
"But you agree that is in the dissent, Mr. White?" asked Judge Devereaux.
"I do, your Honor, but I just meant to point out that at the time, most construction lawyers thought, like her Honor and apparently Mr. Kingsley, that this statute applied to personal injury and property damage cases, not the usual breach of contract cases construction lawyers normally pursue to get the buildings fixed and compensate for loss of use and so forth."
"I won't comment on what you and your colleagues may have thought before Griebel was decided," said the Judge, "but what Justice Tomljanovich wrote was in the dissent and, therefore, is not the law. The holding of the majority is."
"I appreciate and agree with that your Honor, I justâ€¦"
"You know there are two schools of thought about dissenting appellate judges," interrupted Judge Devereaux. "One is that a judge disagreeing with the majority should write a careful and authoritative dissenting opinion. The other is that such opinions all too clearly state what the law is not. From such opinions, it becomes clear that the arguments of the dissent were considered and rejected by the majority. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was sometimes called 'The Great Dissenter.' His dissenting opinions were so well-reasoned and eloquently drafted, that they made very clear what was not the law, making future potential modifications or even reversals more difficult. It would appear that Justice Esther Tomljanovich has done that, here.
"As Mr. Kingsley has noted, this is a leaky windows case. Griebel, the majority opinion and therefore the holding of the case, says that in a leaky windows case, the construction is both defective and unsafe, does it not?"
Matt Sinnott and his associate, Phillip Grover, were vigorously nodding their agreement.
Doc Holliday was still standing. "But, Judge, this is not that kind of a leaky windows case."
"That's right, Judge. These are special, and I should add, expensive, double-glazed insulating windows. The leaking is from the outside allowing moisture to get into the space between the panes affecting the insulation performance and causing the windows to fog up. They need to be replaced. In their present and defective state, the windows are opaque and ugly. The apartments can't be rented. These are high end apartments along the river in downtown with otherwise breathtaking views of the Mississippi and the downtown skyline. They are attractive to potential tenants for that reason among others. The foggy, nearly opaque windows are destroying the units' appeal and their marketability. My client is damaged. But, Judge, no water, or elements or 'intruders' of any kind are getting in the building or its apartment units, within the meaning of Griebel and I refer to the majority opinion."
Judge Devereux smiled as he made a note. He laid down his pen, removed his reading glasses and addressed Doc Holliday.
"But Mr. White, this is a motion for summary judgment and you are asking for a jury trial. You're not suggesting that the jury decide this motion for summary judgment, are you? Isn't that for the Court to do?"
Matt Sinnott and Andy Quinn nodded agreement. Young Phillip Grover nodded, too.
"Judge, I am not suggesting that you have a jury decide a motion for summary judgment. I am asking that you deny this motion because there do exist genuine issues of material fact and when that happens, Rule 56 says you are to deny the motion. If the jury decides that the construction is defective but not defective and unsafe, then the statute of limitations does not apply. If they decide it is both defective and unsafe, then it would be up to you, Judge, to decide the application of the statute and grant judgment at that time if you decide it applies and suit has not been brought within its limitation period."
"Hmm â€¦" Judge Devereaux stroked his chin in thought.
Doc's got him thinking, thought Jake.
So apparently, did Doc, who jumped in with, "Furthermore, Judge, one of my partners suggested I remind you of the U. S. Supreme Court case of Blakely v. Washington. It's a 2004 case reported at 542 U.S. 296 and at 124 Supreme Court Reporter, page 2537."
"But, Mr. White, I'm familiar with Blakely. That's a criminal case."
"I know, Judge, and you know I don't do much criminal law, but you also know my partner Martin Werner does. He thinks it applies and, after reading it, so do I. Prior to Blakely, judges who were considering statutory factors to support an upward departure from the sentencing guidelines in criminal cases, heard evidence and made their decisions sitting without a jury. Blakely holds that a criminal defendant has a right to a jury trial on facts used by a trial court to support an upward departure. Our Supreme Court applied the Blakely case in Minnesota in State v. Shattuck, 689 N.W.2d 785, 786 (Minn. 2004)."
"I'm sorry, Mr. White. I'm not sure I get your point. Those cases specifically deal with the rights of a criminal defendant. What application do you or your partner, Mr. Werner, think they have to this civil case?"
"Judge, in those cases, the Supreme Courts of both the United States and this state have held that when an individual has a right to a jury trial, fact questions the answers to which will have an impact on the outcome and ultimate result of that case are to be decided by a jury. My client has a right to a jury in this case and the fact question before you now certainly will have an impact on the outcome."
Judge Devereaux stared at Doc White, the judge apparently deep in thought, considering this argument.
Jake thought about the issue Doc White was raising. The Blakely and Shattuck cases had not been cited in Doc's brief. Whether that omission had been intentional or not, he didn't know, but he doubted it. Doc White kept working on a case even after the briefs were in and the preparation was done. He probably had coffee yesterday with Marty Werner who gave him the criminal cases. But, now the question was what Jake should do about it, if anything. Sometimes the more you argue an issue the more importance it takes on for the judge or a jury. He certainly was not prepared to argue the effect of these two criminal cases that he had never read.
Doc White went on. "You see, Judge, no one suggests that this is anything other than a jury case. The right to a jury guaranteed by our constitution applies here. Since it is a jury case as a matter of right, these cases stand for the proposition that any fact question the answer to which might bear on the ultimate outcome should be decided by a jury."
"But isn't this a matter preliminary to the jury trial?" asked the Judge.
"The preliminary matter is whether you should grant summary judgment which can only be done when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Here we contend that there is a huge question of material fact, that is, whether the defect makes the construction unsafe."
"I don't know." The Judge was shaking his head. "Anything else?"
"Nothing more, your Honor," said Doc White, adding, "Thank you,"' and sat down.
The Judge looked perplexed. "Mr. Kingsley?"
"Nothing further, your Honor, except to say that this is a civil case to be controlled by the applicable civil statutes and civil precedents. Thank you."
"Nothing else for Norman Windows, Judge."
"Nothing else, your Honor, except to say that Mr. White's argument has not persuaded us. Brower Building Supplies still requests summary judgment in favor of defendants."
Judge Devereaux smiled. So did Doc.
"All right, then, the matter is taken under advisement and a decision will be issued."
Jake stood as the judge left the courtroom. He and Sam began to gather their papers when he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Andy Quinn.
Jake looked at Sam who nodded.
"That sounds good about now. Downstairs?" He referred to the cafeteria in the Government Center's lower level.
"Nah! There's a new place in the skyway. It's kind of like a Starbuck's but it's not. Got some quiet tables."
"Sounds good." Jake closed his briefcase.
"Matt!" Quinn called. "Coffee?"
"Love to," Matt Sinnott answered, "but you guys took so long with that argument that I'm late for a meeting." Briefcases in hand, he and Phillip Grover rushed down the aisle for the courtroom door.
"No. At the Nicollet Coffee Bar down in the skyway."
"Ah! Count me in. I could use a good designer coffee after arguing with Jake Kingsley."
A few minutes later, they were entering what the sign over the door identified as "THE NICOLLET COFFEE BAR, Where the Coffee Break Lasts All Day!" Located one and a half blocks west of the courthouse in the skyway system, the shop took advantage of the great volume of foot traffic before work, the lunch hour, and after work. All day long, crowds of citizens hurried through the Minneapolis skyway system in air conditioned or heated comfort regardless of the time of the year in a city whose climate knew some pretty severe extremes. It seemed nobody could get to work anymore without a morning coffee or espresso in a paper cup wrapped in a brown insulated coffee cup sleeve to protect the worker's hands while rushing to work in one of the downtown offices. According to Andy Quinn, more and more of the sleeves and cups were now labeled "Nicollet Coffee Bar."
They approached the counter where customers lined up to order their specialty coffees many as high as five dollars and a few more than that. Andy Quinn ordered a dark roast Columbian coffee. Jake and Sam asked for the same. But Doc Holliday was different.
The cashier was a tall thin black woman who looked at Doc expectantly. He stretched to his full height and looked up at her. "I'll have a Cinnamon, Chocolate Iced Cappuccino, blended, with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles," he said. Her eyes widened slightly. She smiled as she wrote with a marker on the side of a plastic cup. When he added, "Decaf," she broke into a wide grin.
"What size?" she asked, still grinning.
At a table in the back, away from the skyway's rushing crowd, they sat watching people hurry by. Jake thought of the peace and solitude aboard the ketch Resolution and being at anchor somewhere in the Apostle Islands.
"How long do we have the pleasure of your company in the practice of law, Jake?" asked Andy Quinn. "I can't say it has been lonely without you, but your absence has been noticed and felt."
"If Jim Decker has his way," Jake answered, "I'll be back for good."
"Jim Decker," said Doc. "Now, there is a piece of work!"
"How so?" asked Sam, ready to defend his boss.
"Sam, Jim Decker is one of a kind. Makes me look like a junior associate. No offense, Sam. Jim has the best handle I know on the practice of law, how to make it work best for the client and how to do it profitably."
"But, Jake," Doc said, "If Decker is after you, watch yourself or you will be back here for good."
"No. I am here temporarily and to see if there is anything in any of Alex's cases that could explain why she was killed."
"Really! Do you think someone connected to one of her cases might be responsible?" asked Andy.
"I can't seem to find any other explanation or any other motive. But, I guess I can eliminate this case. I sure don't see any motive for murder in a leaky windows case."
"You never know," said Doc. "The mob is involved in some legitimate businesses. Sometimes, those businesses are there to cover up some other not so legitimate activity."
"In this case?"
"That's the word in some circles about Norman Windows."
"That's right," Andy said. "I've heard that. I even read that in a news magazine, but it was speculation. The article didn't talk about any subterfuge or cover-up. It just described Norman Windows as a legitimate business that appeared to be owned by the Mafia."
"Andy showed me that article," said Doc. "We all kidded Matt Sinnott about it. He was not amused. But, then," he continued, "in one of the depositions before Alex's summary judgment motion temporarily interrupted discovery," he emphasized the word temporarily, "I asked the Norman plant manager who his superior was and he said, so help me: 'Tony Castellano outa L.A.' pronounced just like that."
"I remember," said Andy.
"That's in a deposition transcript in this file?" asked Jake.
"Yep," Andy answered, "and I've got that news article in my file back at the office. Want a copy?"
"What's that got to do with Alex?" asked Sam.
"I was just thinking, Sam," said Doc, "that if Alex found out something about the Mafia or planned to use its connection to Norman Windows in this case, somehow, somebody in the Mafia might not want that to happen."
"Jake," said Andy, returning to the original subject, "when you left here, you had objections to the way things were going in the practice. Has that thinking changed?"
"Not as far as I am concerned. But have things changed here? This morning's hearing was downright cordial, without giving up zealous representation of our clients."
Andy answered. "Yes. Things have changed, but not for the better. If anything, things are worse and much worse than they used to be."
"He's right, Jake." Doc White swirled his straw through the whipped cream on his Cappuccino. "Most litigation, especially in the construction area, is in depos and motions. Hardly any trials anymore. In that environment outside the courtroom, without the presence of a jury or a judge, a lot of the lawyers get downright nasty. They are rude, devious, underhanded and just plain mean."
"I agree," said Andy. "It's pretty brutal out there. Jake, today's case had civility because you had Doc, Matt and me and because you were there. Some other lawyers would have made you so mad, it would be hard to concentrate on what you wanted to do and what you wanted to say to the judge."
"Exactly," said Doc. "That's why they do it. Hell, this is Minneapolis, in the center of 'Minnesota Nice.' You'd think these guys were from New York or Chicago!"
"Why New York or Chicago?" asked Sam.
"Because that's the way they do things in New York and Chicago, Sam. I was assembling some documents for a document production response in the office of my co-counsel in a Wall Street firm. She watched me organizing in response to the document request and said to me, 'We just pile them up, throw them in a box, shake it well and have it delivered to the other side.' We don't do things that way here, Sam, or at least we shouldn't."
"Well, anyway, Jake," said Andy, "it's good to see you. I wish you luck in your investigation and in the cases you have coming up. If you need anything at all, give me a call."
Doc stood and pushed his chair up to the table. "That goes for me, too, Jake."
Andy Quinn and Doc White left Jake and Sam at the table. Waving good-bye, they walked together out into the skyway toward their law offices.
Wendell Stockman ordered his coffee from the same lady who had served Doc Holliday. He sat at a table across the room from Jake and the others. Appearing to study his copy of the Star-Tribune, he watched Jake and his group. Although he was quite adept at reading lips, they were too far away for him to catch more than a few words here and there. Mostly he was just getting facial reactions.
He had tried to understand from what he heard and saw in the courtroom what the lawyersâ€™ positions were and the arguments they were making. He didnâ€™t know much about the case when he entered the courtroom. When the hearing was over, he didnâ€™t know much more. Lawyers. They could talk all day and not make much sense, at least to him. He didnâ€™t understand what they were saying most of the time. He didnâ€™t feel so bad, though. It looked like the judge didnâ€™t understand them either.
This lawyer, Kingsley, was taking over the caseload of Alexandra Van de Meer. Stockmanâ€™s client believed he was doing so to find out who killed Van de Meer and why. If he accomplished his intended objective, the purpose of the killings would fail. Whatever his client was trying to hide or cover up would be exposed. Stockman thought he had a good idea of how to stop Kingsley and said so. The client preferred not to take that option, yet. Less extreme options and even direct persuasion would be tried first. Stockman was directed to watch Kingsleyâ€™s progress and report. He wasnâ€™t told which case, if it even was a case, that the client was concerned about. Stockman knew that the client probably had other men working on the situation. But, he thought, none with his specialized skills.
Stockman directed his attention to the Sports section of the Strib as, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the lawyers leave. First came one of the defense attorneys and the little white-haired lawyer who had represented the apartment building owner. Kingsley and his young associate left a few minutes later.
Stockman put down his newspaper. He sipped his coffee while mentally reviewing what he had heard and seen that morning. Tapping numbers on a throw away cell phone, he listened to the ringing, ready to report.
Stockman told what he had observed in the courtroom and later in the coffee shop.
â€œThank you. Thatâ€™s important information.â€
The phone went silent. Stockman waited. The voice at the other end finally spoke. â€œHave you made arrangements for that other matter we discussed?â€
â€œThe target has been followed and his pattern established. An accident is soon to occur.â€
â€œGood. An â€˜accidentâ€™ is good. Let me know when itâ€™s done.â€
Stockman closed the connection. He removed the lid from his still half full paper coffee cup and put the phone into the hot liquid. Replacing the lid, he folded his paper, stood, putting the paper under his arm and dropped the coffee cup in the trash on his way out.
Back at the office, Jake sat in the chair behind Alex Van de Meer's desk. It hadn't gone so bad, he thought. He had enjoyed arguing the case before Judge Devereaux. He had enjoyed the camaraderie with counsel. He was somewhat disappointed about what they told him about the state of, or lack of, civility in most cases. But why should he expect anything to have changed? That is, after all, why he left. At that time, he thought things would only get worse. Apparently, they had.
"Well?" Jim Decker stuck his head in the door. "Is it like riding a bicycle or not?"
"I'm asking how it went, Jake. It looks like you survived."
"Oh, I thought it went well. I had a good judge and a good group of lawyers to work with. The legal issues were interesting."
"That's the spirit. You know Matt Sinnott called me about a week ago on that case."
"Yeah. He was concerned about who was going to argue Alex's motion. Didn't think Sam had the experience or would carry enough weight with Judge Devereaux. Said his client was very concerned about getting out of the case on that motion. He seemed to be concerned about what the discovery requests to his client might be. The motion stopped discovery pending a ruling by the Court. Matt thought Alex had a good chance of winning her motion for summary judgment. And, you know Matt. He could just ride on her coattails and get a good result for his client, but if the motion fails it wasn't his fault."
So, thought Jake, Matt's client didn't want the discovery and investigation Alex was sure to pursue preferring that the lawsuit simply end on her motion for summary judgment. Jake wondered how many other buildings had the windows in question. Or was it something else?
"You know," said Jake, "I thought everybody at the hearing was quite cordial, but, at coffee, Andy Quinn and Doc Holliday told me that it is still a jungle out there and getting worse."
"I know, I know. It's the same in divorce work. There is a new crowd in town that has been building up for years. They call themselves 'family law attorneys' and think they are following a higher calling than we used to or than some of us still do. Remember when some of your colleagues around here formed the American College of Construction Lawyers they modeled after the old American College of Trial Lawyers?"
Jake smiled at the memory that brought back. "I do."
"Same thing in divorce. Now, we have the 'AAML,' the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. There are even some who think that trial skills have no place in family law. How can you properly advise a client on settlement if you don't know how to try the case if it doesn't settle? You're a trial lawyer. I'm not pretending to have your jury skills. That's different. But, I know how to try a divorce case. Would you feel competent to advise your clients if you didn't have your trial experience?"
"No, I wouldn't."
"Oh, how I long for the days before no-fault divorce!"
"Jim, you are wishing for something that never existed in your professional lifetime."
"I know, but when you and I were starting out, it was a recent memory. I used to have coffee with some of the old downtown divorce lawyers to learn what I could from them. They remembered fondly some of the great battles they had. Infidelity was a huge issue. Hiding assets, another. Private detectives were used to prove extra-marital shenanigans or track down concealed assets or income. They were indeed battles. But, these lawyers were friends outside of the courtroom. They enjoyed their work. When I knew them, they were bored stiff with what others including the legislature were calling 'Family Law' and 'Marriage Dissolution.' They rued the day the legislature adopted no-fault divorce which they described as the beginning of the end."
"Are you a member of this AAML?"
"TouchÃ©, Jake. Guilty as charged. You got me." He held up his arms. "I am a member. I have to be a part of the 'family law community.' I have to participate and teach and go to meetings. I reserve these thoughts for late at night or when I am with someone like you."
Jake laughed. "Well, old friend, you seem to be doing well. Whether I have any change of heart is less than certain. I would have said not a chance, but this morning was kind of satisfying."
"I knew it. You know, I am an old bass fisherman. I like the challenge of enticing a big largemouth to my bait. It's not so easy. The fish sits back in the weeds, watching. You have to let the bait sit still and 'fish slow,' as they say. But, sometimes you have to twitch the bait a little to get the big fish to take interest. Then you set the hook."
"Don't try those tactics on me, Jim."
Decker grinned. "I haven't set the hook, yet, but the twitching has begun. You don't think it was an accident that your first case was with Andy Quinn and Doc Holliday, do you?"
"Did you talk to them?"
"Not to Andy and Doc. No. I didn't. I wouldn't. I just saw it on the schedule and saw to it that it was your first appearance. They are the kind of lawyers you were and wished everyone else was. Looks like I was right. I did answer Matt Sinnott's question as I told you, but that was all."
"Well, if you're going to apply your bass fishing tactics on me, I hope you practice catch and release."
"Not me. I fish for food. I like the challenge and the experience, but I also look forward to the later dining experience. My wife, Barbara, is the same. She is the consummate bass fisherman, or fisherperson. She can outlast any bass when it comes to patience. She also happens to be the finest bass cook anywhere. A couple of bass filets in her frying pan and you have something better than you can get in any restaurant. She doesn't believe in catch and release either. She says that's like spending the afternoon in the woods picking blueberries and at the end of the afternoon dumping the pail back in the woods. So," he added, "once you are hooked, I don't plan on catch and release. You are too important to this firm."
So, there it was. Out in the open. Decker was after bringing him back. Well, we'll see. That was not in Jake's overall plan. In fact, his plan was the opposite. Even after just these few days away, he missed the blue waters and white sand beaches. The summer was waning fast.
The next morning Jake enjoyed the free breakfast in his hotel. This was not the common "continental breakfast many hotels offered consisting of coffee, juice, milk and dry cereal and a stale blueberry muffin, if you were lucky. The buffet took up one entire wall of the large dining area. A bank of dispensers of freshly brewed coffee offered several flavors with or without caffeine and hot water for tea. The next stop held the food and plenty of it. The morning diner had the option of scrambled eggs, quiche, fried potatoes, sausage, bacon, grits, oatmeal, dry cereal, fruit, pancakes and French toast. At the end of the buffet an array of pastries tempted the hotel guest.
Jake filled a plate. A table in a corner provided a quiet spot to study while he ate. He deposited his food and his electronic tablet to free his hands to go back for coffee and juice.
While he ate, he went over the case on the flash drive that was set for deposition beginning early that afternoon. On the flash drive, the case was identified as Angela Fowler, Plaintiff vs. RDM Property Management Co., Orton Partners, LLC, dba Beaumont Apartments, and Minneapolis Security Company, Inc., Defendants. This was the premise liability case Sam had described.
Plaintiff, a Ms. Angie Fowler, lived in a one-bedroom, so-called "luxury apartment." She was in Unit 510 on the fifth floor of the six story Beaumont Apartments in the Loring Park neighborhood just off Nicollet Avenue in what is advertised as "luxury downtown living." Pricey, but opulent and showy with tennis courts, pool, exercise rooms with all the latest machines, a health bar and, of course, skyway access to the downtown office buildings, banks and fine restaurants. Everything upcoming young professionals they used to call "Yuppies" could want. There was even parking and street level storage units where a resident could store his or her bicycle for riding the many dedicated biking trails the city offered or for one's kayak or paddle board (the new fad) for excursions on Minneapolis's nearby lakes.
Sometime after midnight on the night in question, Ms. Fowler's apartment unit was invaded and she was forcibly raped. She claimed permanent physical and psychological damage.
That she had been sexually assaulted and suffered greatly could hardly be questioned. Whether it was the building owner's fault was another question. Alex had cross-claimed against the security company, asserting that if the apartment complex owners and managers were liable to the plaintiff, then the security company they hired was responsible and therefore to blame, thereby making it liable for plaintiff's damages. Alex's notes showed that despite the seriousness of plaintiff's claims, the security company's lawyer chose to question her sincerity, a dangerous ploy in Alex's view, according to her notes. Ms. Fowler was a sympathetic plaintiff who had done nothing wrong and had been seriously injured. Attacking her credibility would alienate a jury. The problem was, it could hurt Alex's client as much as the offending security company.
Alex's notes showed something else. She was working with the police who were still looking for the perpetrator. Her notes showed that Alex believed if the perpetrator could be found and identified at trial, it would help her client's case. The perp's method of entry, for example, could show that no amount of additional precaution could have prevented the incident and therefore her clients were not negligent.
Alex's notes identified a Minneapolis police sergeant with whom she had contact regarding the police progress. They also showed that she had gone out on her own, running down leads. The intruder had worn a mask. Alex believed that it might be someone Ms. Fowler would have recognized. Her notes listed several Twin Cities residents as possible suspects.
The depositions were scheduled to begin in the afternoon. Jake decided to concentrate on the depos and study Alex's investigation notes later. Two persons were scheduled. The first was a continuation of the plaintiff's deposition continued from an earlier date. Jake had a copy of the transcript of the first part. The second was a security company employee.
Jake planned to let Sam handle these depos and just observe. He had been pleased with the comradery and congeniality at his first court appearance. His possible remorse at rejoining the trial bar was fast diminishing.
Carrie and Sam were waiting. They went over the Fowler case until Noon. As Jake and Sam were leaving to have lunch on the way to the deposition, Carrie caught Jake. "You have a message.â€
"It came by courier."
"Yes, a rather unusual courier according to Madge at the front desk. Most of our couriers here in the downtown area ride bicycles and are quite young and thin. Madge said this one was a large man in a business suit who, she said, 'had no discernible neck.'"
"And the message?"
She adjusted her reading glasses, holding the message out at the right distance for her. "The message asks, although I'm not sure it is a request. That you, and I quote, â€˜Go to Ciao Bella at 2:00 pm tomorrow and come alone.â€™ It is signed â€˜Anthony Castellano.â€™â€ She handed him the note. â€œDo you know him?â€
Jake looked at the invitation. â€œNo, but the name sounds familiar. What's Ciao Bella?"
"Ciao Bella is an Italian restaurant just off of the I-494 Freeway. From here you could go out I-35 to 494, turn right on 494 and you are almost there. Are you going?"
"Any reason not to?
"Perhaps your own longevity?"
"Carrie I am sure I'll be fine right in town and in the middle of the day. Besides, we don't even know who this is or what it is about."
"Well, Carrie, I think I'll go. I'd take you with and buy you a fine Italian lunch, but," he handed the message back to her, "it says 'Come alone.'"
Carrie shrugged, looked at her watch and said, "You go on to your deposition. I'll write out some directions for you for tomorrow.â€
After "creating their own salads" for lunch at Allie's Deli in the skyway, Jake and Sam walked inside to the building that housed the law firm of Beeman, Bjork and Berman, a three hundred lawyer firm that had dominated, or at least they thought so, the practice of law in downtown Minneapolis for more than fifty years. Local lawyers sometimes referred to them as the "Bees" or the "Bumblebees." Their office was referred to by some as the â€œBeehive.â€
Frank Bannister, a partner in the firm had the security company. It was he who was questioning the plaintiff's veracity. He had the reputation of being a "wild man" at depositions. The depositions were to be held in his conference room on the forty-seventh floor. The firm occupied the top twelve floors of the fifty-two-story building.
First was the continued deposition of plaintiff. Ms. Fowler was an attractive blond in her late twenties. She appeared somewhat nervous, but surprisingly calm in Jake's estimation considering the situation. He knew from reading the prior transcript that the deposition was nearly complete but was continued because Bannister had insisted on Ms. Fowler's prior medical records. When plaintiff's lawyer Fred Garrison objected, Bannister had countered, saying, "You put this young lady's medical situation in issue in the Complaint, even claiming she has permanent injuries. I have a right to her complete medical records. We need to know what her medical condition was before her alleged injuries.â€ Reading the transcript, Jake thought he agreed with Bannisterâ€™s position regarding the medical records.
As the deposition began, Garrison noted for the record, "The record should show that this deposition was taken three weeks ago and was continued only for the purpose of defense counsel reviewing Miss Fowler's past medical records and is limited to that subject matter today."
"Nonsense!" Bannister nearly shouted. He was fully aware, thought Jake, that this deposition, like the earlier part, was being reported by a steno reporter but not recorded as a video tape deposition. The volume of his retort would only affect those present, including Fred Garrison and his client. The volume would not appear as anything in the written record. But Fred was tough. Tough enough?
"Bannister looked at the court reporter. "I would like the witness sworn."
"She was sworn in before," said Garrison. "She is already under oath."
"I would like the witness sworn."
The court reporter looked at Garrison who shrugged.
The court reporter said to Angie Fowler, "Raise your right hand. You do swear that the evidence you are about to give in this proceeding shall be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you, God?"
Bannister wasted no time in going after her. "Ms. Fowler, or, I can't remember, do you wish to be called Miss Fowler?"
"Either is fine."
"Ms. Fowler, your counsel has supplied me with your medical records which I have had a chance to review." He placed his hand on a thick stack of documents which he had just had the court reporter mark as "Angie Fowler Deposition Exhibit 23," a number of exhibits having been marked at the first part of the deposition. "Ms. Fowler, did you assist Mr. Garrison in getting these medical records that I had requested?"
"Are you representing here, under oath, that these are your complete medical records?"
"But," he held up some papers, "I don't see anything about the abortion you had four years ago at that abortion clinic that used to be out on Lyndale Avenue here in Minneapolis."
The room nearly exploded. Fred Garrison was on his feet. "You son of a bitch!" he screamed.
Careful, Fred, thought Jake.
"Where did you get that information?" demanded Garrison. "Let me see that!" He reached for the papers in Bannister's hand. Bannister deftly kept them from Garrison's reach, putting them back in his file folder.
"Where I got the information is immaterial. The real question is why it was not in the medical records you gave me and represented to be her complete medical records."
Jake and Sam stayed out of the fray.
Angie Fowler looked absolutely sick.
To the court reporter, Bannister said, "Ms. Germaine, would you please read the last question back?"
"The last question is a statement. I'll start with the last question and go from there."
"Thank you. We do not need a repeat of this last exchange between counsel."
The court reporter held up the paper in her stenograph. She read.
"Question: 'Are you representing here, under oath, that these are your complete medical records?'
"Answer: 'They are.'
"Question: 'But, I don't see anything about the abortion you had four years ago at that abortion clinic that used to be out on Lyndale Avenue here in Minneapolis.'"
"Thank you, Ms. Germaine. Well, Ms. Fowler?"
Angie Fowler held her head in her hands, sobbing. She looked up at Bannister. "How could you? You monster!"
"We'll take a recess," said Garrison standing. He took Angie Fowler by the arm and led her out of the room. Jake looked at Bannister who seemed undisturbed and was going through some of his notes. Jake and Sam stepped out of the deposition room and out into the hall by the elevators.
"Wow!" said Sam. "I've never seen anything like that!"
This was one of the reasons Jake had left the practice of law. Whether Ms. Fowler had had an abortion had nothing to do with her case, but if it could be somehow suggested that she had and that she used an abortion clinic down on Lyndale Avenue, some jurors would be turned against her to the detriment of her case even though wholly irrelevant. This kind of thing was also done to instill fear in the plaintiff as to what the trial would be like and frighten her into a cheap settlement or even to dropping the case.
"Do you think she really had an abortion?" asked Sam.
"I think that's what Fred Garrison is trying to figure out right now."
After almost a half hour, Fred Garrison returned without his client. "She is unable to proceed," he said. "I called someone from my office to come get her."
"You what?" Bannister was standing.
"I'm sending her home and I don't give a shit what you think!"
Careful, thought Jake, again. The transcript, remember.
"Well I hope she understands and you understand that this is not over." Bannister was still standing. "She will have to answer these questions! We are not leaving here without a new date and it better be soon!" He pulled a phone from his pocket and swiped the screen. Obviously looking at his calendar, he said, "A week from today. In the morning. 9:00 am. Right here. Any objection?"
"Fred Garrison nodded. Jake looked to Sam who was looking at Alex's schedule on his tablet and also nodded. "We don't object," Jake said.
They moved on to the next deponent.
After being sworn, he said, "My name is Gerald R. Schilling."
Sam began. This was his deposition. Jake watched.
"Mr. Schilling, my name is Sam Cooper. I represent RDM Property Management Company and Orton Partners, LLC., the owners and manager of Beaumont Apartments in this matter. You understand that I will be asking you questions about this case and you will be answering them under oath?
"Let's get on with it, sonny," said Bannister.
"Mr. Schilling, may we have the understanding that if you don't understand any question I ask, you'll let me know so I can rephrase it?"
"Just a minute!" Bannister leaned over the table and faced Sam. "You will have no understandings with my client or any of its employees. Do you understand that?"
"All right," said Jake, "that's enough. I'll ask the questions."
"No, you will not!"
"I don't see you listed as a counsel of record. I don't even know who let you in, here."
"Now, see, here â€¦"
"No! You see here. You are not entitled to participate in this deposition. In fact, since we have to come back for the rest of Ms. Fowler's deposition we can do this one at that time, too. This deposition is over!"
I guess things havenâ€™t changed after all, Jake thought as they left the Beehive. Bannisterâ€™s conduct was the kind of thing that had driven him from the practice. If it was going to continue this way, Jake had doubts about his effectiveness as counsel and as an investigator into Alex Van de Meerâ€™s tragic death.
Back at the office, Sam was beside himself. Carrie tried to calm him down. "Careful, Sam! You'll have a coronary!"
"He was terrible! She was right! He is a monster."
Jake just listened. He felt for Sam. He'd been there before, himself. When he had had enough, he retired to a sailboat in the Apostle Islands. Andy Quinn and Doc Holliday were right, though. Maybe things had gotten even worse.
"Carrie is right, Sam. We can't have you busting a blood vessel or something."
"Jake, I am twenty-seven. I am not going to have a stroke or a coronary. I'm just upset. I am really mad!"
"You know, some say, 'Don't get mad â€¦ get even.'"
"Let's think about that. Bannister was being a jerk on purpose, acting emotional and upset when he was not."
"Remember after Fred took his client out of the room, Bannister was perfectly calm, going through his notes like nothing had happened."
"I remember that."
"His conduct was perfectly controlled. His purpose was to intimidate Ms. Fowler and he succeeded. He wants her to be so afraid of the trial that she will not be a good witness. Also, he hopes that he has instilled enough fear in her that she will drop the case or settle very cheaply."
"But isn't that wrong?" asked Sam.
"I've heard the same explanation before from Alex," said Carrie.
"Of course, Bannister will not be that way at trial. That would alienate the jury against him. No, at trial he will be as smooth as silk treating the plaintiff with kid gloves. And, he will get in the abortion business somehow. He may simply ask her if the medical records supplied by her and her counsel are her 'complete' medical records. If she says, 'No,' he can ask what else there is. If she says, 'Yes,' that the records they supplied are complete, then the abortion records become relevant as contradicting her testimony and therefore going to her credibility as a witness."
"Well, I don't like the way he treated Ms. Fowler, but I'm mad because of the way he treated me."
"So, you want to get even?"
"Most of the time, it doesn't really do any good, but sometimes it just feels good." Jake realized he wasn't just thinking of Sam and how he was treated. He didn't like the way Frank Bannister had cut him off. He was mad, too.
"So what are you going to do?" asked Carrie.
"Well, we know Frank Bannister's plan is to change his behavior for trial and not have the deposition transcript be part of the trial. Suppose the transcript were read into the record at trial as the plaintiff's testimony?"
"You mean like you do for a witness who is unavailable at the time of trial?" asked Sam.
"But she has to be at trial, doesn't she?"
"Yes, she does, but maybe not testify. I read the earlier part of her deposition. After Bannister's questions, Fred conducted a fairly thorough direct examination. He covered the facts for liability and went through her testimony about her injuries and damages in detail."
"Yes, I wondered why he did that," said Sam.
"Because he has nothing to hide. He does not intend to try this case by surprise or ambush. A deposition like the one he did can alert the defendants and their insurers to what's coming. It can be invaluable in bringing about a favorable settlement."
"Oh. I hadn't thought about that."
"So, if we want to get even with Frank Bannister, even though it isn't directly related to the way he treated us in Mr. Schilling's deposition, what if we arrange for her testimony to be by deposition only?"
"Can you do that?"
"I'll bet that Fred Garrison either has by now or can get medical testimony that it would be detrimental to Angie Fowler's health to require her to testify and since there is the deposition, it should be used as her testimony. Then Bannister's ridiculous antics will appear before the jury as the transcript is read into the record. As I recall from my reading, Bannister was pretty vicious at the first deposition, too."
"He was. But, what about the abortion evidence?"
"There was none, "remember? Only a question. Since there is no evidence in the record and it would be irrelevant anyway, I think Fred could get that excluded by motion in limine in advance of trial. Maybe I should call Fred."
"I have his number," said Carrie.
"Wait a minute," said Sam. "We have a defendant also. Doesn't helping the plaintiff hurt us as well as the other defendant?"
"No, for two reasons," said Jake. "First, I have no intention of defending the way Bannister is doing. I will not offer any suggestion about her having an abortion which is wholly irrelevant and tremendously prejudicial. If this firm's partners feel differently, and I am sure they do not, then they have the wrong lawyer by having me handle this case."
Carrie spoke. "I am sure you are right. This firm doesn't practice that way. Neither did Alex."
"Second, Sam, if the use of the deposition hurts Bannister and the jury begins to dislike him and maybe mistrust him, that helps our claim that if the apartment complex is liable to the plaintiff, it is the fault of the security company he represents. It could help us in our crossclaim. So, what do you think?"
"Let's do it."
"Carrie, do a Notice of Appearance for me in the Fowler case to serve and file, reschedule the Schilling depo for next week. Bannister said next Wednesday. 9:00 am. And get me Fred Garrison on the phone."
While the Fowler case was fresh in his mind and since the depositions had been cut short, Jake spent the balance of the afternoon sitting at Alex Van de Meer's desk with the notebook and the Fowler flash drive entries.
Included in the amenities of Beaumont Apartments, if you could call it an "amenity," was that the building was a secure building. The recent development of the Loring Park neighborhood and the Loring Greenway, an automobile free walkway connecting the Nicollet Mall to Willow Street and Loring Park, had changed the area and its population makeup. But, it could still be a potentially rough area at night. Security was a big factor in the "downtown living" that Beaumont and other apartment and condo complexes in the area advertised that they provided. Minneapolis Security Company, Frank Bannister's client, provided the alarm systems, night and day watchmen, video surveillance cameras and other equipment all designed to provide for the safety and security of the residents. An intruder was just not supposed to be able to break in or sneak in to the building and to a resident's apartment unit. But, it had happened.
Jake turned to Alex's efforts to find the intruder. Her notes showed that she began with questions. Was this simply a random attack? Was it someone whom she didn't know who had been watching and stalking her? Was it someone she knew and would recognize without the mask? If it was someone she knew, what was the motive? Included in this flash drive folder of her notes were other documents. Alex had copied articles on rape, highlighting the parts describing rape as an act of power and not sex. What, Alex asked in her notes, was the reason for the exercise of such power and control here? Could it have been a message to Angie Fowler to back off? Angie Fowler was an investigative reporter for the local Fox affiliate. She had a reputation for loving the chase and uncovering the truth no matter whom it might hurt. She was not afraid of people in power, having said publicly, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." A winner of an Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative journalism, Angie Fowler made it her business to look into the business of others and report anything inappropriate. She certainly made enemies, some very powerful ones in some cases. But, rape? Was Alex reaching a little, here?
Jake thought about what Alex was doing. Even if she found the intruder who did this, would that help her client? It wouldn't change the premises liability and negligence issues, would it? Maybe if the intruder's method of entry were shown, that would reflect on whether there was anything the defendants might have done differently, but Jake thought identifying the culprit might just make Ms. Fowler's experience all the more horrible in the eyes of an increasingly sympathetic jury. Maybe Alex was just driven by her desire to see the rapist punished. Maybe, it was someone of financial responsibility to contribute to or pay plaintiff's damages. Doubtful.
But Jake was intrigued by Alex's idea that the intruder may have been someone who was a possible subject of one of the stories Angie Fowler was working on. Could that person want to eliminate Alex before she figured out who he was. Jake decided to contact the police sergeant Alex referenced in her notes. She had been working with a Sergeant Michael Shaughnessy of Minneapolis P.D. His department direct dial phone number and his cell number were in her notes. Maybe he would call this Shaughnessy tomorrow, thought Jake and made a note.
"Jake," said Carrie, standing in the office doorway, "an Officer Jim Brennan is on line three."
"How are you, Jim?"
"I'm okay. And you?"
"Frustrated. This is going to take some time."
"I know the feeling. I called to let you know we may have a lead or are about to get one, I hope.
"Well, sort of. We checked with the shop owner in Ashland who told us he rented out a bunch of costumes for that party. His records give names and contact information. We're checking them out now. I've also got a friend at Minneapolis P.D. checking costume shops in Minneapolis."
At the end of the business day, Jake remembered that Charles was to arrive that afternoon or evening. He looked forward to seeing Charles at the hotel for dinner. Pulling a roller briefcase through the skyway system, he headed toward Alex's parking garage. In his day, trial lawyers carried a big trial briefcase, or maybe two. Some lawyers, in moments of some degree of self-aggrandizement, had an associate or a paralegal or two carry the briefcases, marching through the skyways like big game hunters on safari leading a line of porters carrying supplies, guns and ammunition across the Serengeti Plain in east Africa. Many a senior lawyer, and probably many of those now-grown associates, whose backs complain of misuse over the years, wish they had had the wheeled briefcases back then and wondered why it took so long for roller briefcases to come into use when the wheel had been invented more than 3,000 years earlier.
His, which had belonged to Alex and was given him by Carrie, was a rich brown leather affair with two wheels and a handle that extended from the case when pulling it was in order. The handle had several levels suitable for tall or short lawyers or either with short or long arms. Of course, the briefcase's small wheels rolled along with less effort on the skyway system's smooth, level floors than might have been the case out on the streets and sidewalks of the city.
Whatever the history, Jake was glad to have that symbol of mankind's innovation as a part of his heavily laden case of files and, for him, homework. He had yet to adjust to the idea of paperless practice like, apparently Alex had, carrying only an electronic tablet and some flash drives in her shoulder bag. Carrie told him the roller briefcase was for going to court when Alex had to carry the printed trial notebook, legal pads and paper exhibits to introduce into evidence.
The parking garage was five blocks through the skyway from the office and three from the Hennepin County Government Center where the Hennepin County District Court was housed.
Jake rode the elevator from the second-floor skyway level down to underground Level C where his Jeep Cherokee was parked. Jake got on the elevator car alone. Stopping at the ground floor, the elevator door opened to receive three more passengers, a man and two women. The women entered together chatting happily about what Jake assumed were the events of the day or the people they had to work with. The man behind them looked tired. He wore a light green, summer-weight suit, blue shirt and yellow tie. The tie and collar were loosened. He held his suit jacket over his shoulder with his left hand and carried a heavy briefcase in his right. He nodded to Jake as he moved to the rear of the car. Again, Jake was thankful for Alex's roller briefcase. The man regarded it for a moment, probably a little envious and noting an intention to get one, thought Jake.
All three of his elevator companions exited the car at level B leaving Jake once again alone. At Level C, the doors opened to a man standing, waiting, impatient. Dressed in khaki pants, a sport shirt, blue and tan nylon windbreaker and a Twins baseball cap, this man did not look tired, but he was anxious and started into the car before Jake had started out.
"Excuse me," the man said. "Sorry. My fault. I'm in kind of a hurry."
"No problem," said Jake, pulling his roller bag through the open doors. "Good luck where you are going."
The elevator headed back up without Jake who had started toward his car. It opened at the skyway level and the man got out. As he strolled slowly along the skyway, he removed his hat, stuffed it in a jacket pocket, pulled a cell phone from his pants pocket and punched a number on speed dial. Out of habit, he ran a hand over his short cut blond hair as he waited for an answer. The answer came. The man continued to stroll down the skyway talking on the phone.
Jake headed toward his Jeep Cherokee. The ramp was dimly lit and quiet. Everything was the drab gray of unpainted concrete. Two stories underground, even though most parking spaces were vacant at that hour, the air was still and dank with a touch of the odor of gasoline, oil and exhaust. Nearing the Jeep, something didn't look right. As he approached, he saw what it was. The car was down by the right front tire. On closer examination, even from twenty feet away, he could see that the tire was flat.
Damn! What a time to have a flat tire. But when he thought about it he couldn't think of a good time to have a flat. Whatever, he didn't have time for it at that moment.
His old Cherokee had a rear mount spare tire. An aftermarket addition, he thought. He hadn't seen too many others with it. He looked at the spare. He thought about calling Triple A. Looking around the underground ramp with its low clearance, he wondered if they would even get in there. It would take longer than he wanted to wait. He wasn't even sure he had cell phone service underground in a concrete parking ramp. So, he threw his jacket in the backseat, rolled up his sleeves and got to work.
It had been years since Jake had changed a spare tire, but he guessed it must be like riding a bicycle, that is, if he could find the jack, lug wrench and whatever else he needed to get the job done.
A half hour later, he decided it was not quite like riding a bicycle, but close. In any event, he was once again behind the wheel and driving out of the ramp into downtown Minneapolis traffic. Heading out toward his hotel in Roseville, he stopped at a Holiday Station where he had been filling up with gas and where he had done business before he retired. Back then, he lived in Arden Hills and regularly drove by the station on his way to and from work. In his short time back at Stratton, McMasters and Hines working with Alex's current caseload, he had renewed his acquaintance with Barney Panger, the station owner who had taken care of Jake's cars for years.
He told the attendant what happened. The attendant took the tire from its mount and assured Jake it would be fixed the next day. Jake felt satisfied that he had taken care of a problem as well as he did and headed to the hotel.
Pulling into the parking lot, he recognized Charles' black Cadillac Escalade.
"You look worn out, Jake," said Charles from the hallway when Jake opened his door. "Shirt sleeves rolled up, tie askew â€¦ tough day?"
"Yes and no. But my clothes are this way because I was relearning how to change a flat tire."
"Really! And how did that go, my friend?"
Jake showed Charles into his room and sat on the couch. "Not so bad, really. The spare had air. I left the flat at the gas station. They said it would be fixed tomorrow."
"You could use a beer, I expect. Downstairs? And dinner after?"
"Sounds good to me," said Jake.
"Let's go, then. I need to be brought up to date on how you are doing, otherwise."
Over rare prime rib, baked potato with asparagus spears sautÃ©ed in olive oil and garlic, Jake brought Charles up to date on his progress, or, as he thought, lack thereof. He sipped his beer. Charles had red wine. "So, you see, Charles, I wouldn't say we are making progress. Maybe with you here, we'll get somewhere." Jake wasn't kidding. He had found many times in the past that with Charles present as a legal analyst and as a sounding board to Jake's thinking, results and solutions seemed to present themselves. He hoped that would happen this time.
"Thanks for the compliment, but it sounds like we have a long way to go, Jake."
Jake's cell phone rattled in his pocket. The caller announced that he was Barney Panger. Panger was the owner of the gas station where Jake had taken his flat tire for repair.
"Glad I caught you, Jake. Where are you?"
"Professor Stanton and I are enjoying the prime rib in the restaurant at the Marriott on Cleveland Avenue. What can I do for you?"
"It's about your tire, Jake."
"Barney, I told your mechanic that tomorrow would be fine. I certainly didn't expect to get you out of your home at this hour of the evening."
"The night kid at the station called me, Jake. He thought I should see the tire you brought in. He was right."
"What is it?"
"Jake are you making enemies again down there in the Loop?"
"Either that or you ran over a big knife that was standing up on the road waiting for you."
"Somebody did this to you, Jake. You didn't notice?"
"I guess I didn't look. I just changed it out for the spare and got on my way."
"You didn't hear anything? It must have made a pretty loud whoosh when it got stabbed."
"I didn't hear anything, but I have no idea when it happened or whether I was anywhere near."
"Well, this tire isn't going to be fixed. It's toast, I'm afraid. You need a new one."
"You can take care of that?"
"We can. Can you bring your Jeep by and leave it for a day? We'll check the other tires, replace this one, balance everything and you should be good to go."
"I can do that. I've got another ride at the moment." He looked at Charles who nodded. "I'll bring the Jeep by tomorrow morning on the way to work." He looked at Charles, again, who nodded, again.
"Do you think it's a message, Jake?" asked Charles after the substance of Barney Panger's call was related to him. "If it is a message," Charles continued, "I'd say it says, 'Back off or... or something bad will happen.'"
"Probably just some vandals. Kids, probably. Let's not get too over melodramatic, Charles."
The next morning, Jake was back at the Beaumont Apartments file, better known as the Fowler case, making a list of things he wanted to do in the case. He was wondering if it was the right time to contact this Sergeant Shaughnessy referenced in Alex's notes when Charles appeared in the doorway.
"'Melodramatic?'" He stood there, hands clasped over his rather substantial paunch. "I believe you even said, 'over melodramatic.' And you think some kids in downtown Minneapolis in a parking garage at the end of the business day picked your nearly ancient Jeep Cherokee out of all the Mercedes, Porsches, Cadillacs and Lincoln Town Cars to have fun with? With a big knife?"
Jake put down his pen. "What's happened to you, Charles?"
"Me? I have been meeting with Sam and Carrie getting the briefing you did about the urgent cases and the flash drive organization Alex used. Carrie tells me you are going to lunch this afternoon at an Italian restaurant on orders from someone named Castellano whose delivery boy has no neck at all."
"Yes, that. Carrie showed me the 'invitation.' You are to go alone." Carrie is worried and so am I. Do you know anything about this guy?"
"No, but the name is familiar. I've heard it somewhere, I think."
"I don't think you should go."
"You're getting like Mary. She didn't want me to do this at all."
"She may be right, Jake. Have you talked to her lately?"
"Yes, Charles, I have."
"Well good. You should. She's worried about you, too. So what about this lunch?"
"I'm going. Oh, can I borrow your car? Mine is in the garage."
Jake arrived at Ciao Bella just before 2:00. He parked Charles' Cadillac SUV in the half-full parking lot and walked to the entrance. As he entered, a large man in a business suit with a loose-fitting coat and a white turtleneck stood by the door. His shaved head sat squarely on his shoulders. Jake could not discern that the man had any neck.
"This way." The no-necked man led the way to a table near the back wall.
A man sat alone at the table cutting a slice of bread from a loaf on a cutting board. As Jake and No-Neck approached, the man dipped a slice of the bread in a saucer of oil, tasted it and reached for the glass of red wine in front of him. Seeing Jake and No-Neck, he lowered the wine glass and stood. He was a tall man, well-dressed in a dark, tailored business suit. He was clean-shaven with longish, medium brown hair with a touch of gray at the sideburns. He, or someone, combed his hair straight back with some kind of hair dressing.
The man extended a hand to Jake. "My name is Anthony Castellano. And you are Mr. Kingsley?"
Jake took the offered hand. The man's grip was firm. "Jake Kingsley, Mr. Castellano."
"Please be seated and join me."
Jake pulled out a chair and sat. Upon a nod from his new acquaintance, No-Neck disappeared in the direction of the main entrance.
Jake sat in silence. A waiter came by and looked at Castellano and Jake with raised eyebrows.
"Jake. May I call you Jake?" Jake nodded. "Jake, I've just ordered lunch, will you join me?"
"No thanks. I ate at my desk. I'm getting ready for some depositions."
"A shame. The food is excellent, here. And you really should eat in a relaxed atmosphere apart from work. It's healthier, you know. Well. A glass of wine, then? This is a very nice Chianti." He sipped his wine. "From Tuscany. This is the 2001." The waiter smiled and continued to hover. Jake was certain the waiter anticipated and would indeed get a substantial tip.
"No thanks, but I'll have a Diet Coke."
The waiter frowned. "Diet Pepsi?" he asked.
"All right, but make it the 2003."
The waiter looked confused. Castellano began to laugh.
As the waiter left, Castellano turned to business. "Jake, I am a businessman from Los Angeles."
"What kind of business are you in?"
"My partners and I own and operate Black Star Enterprises."
"It's a holding company. We have several interests." He paused and looked into Jake's eyes. "One of those interests is Norman Windows Company."
"Oh." Jake understood, now. He remembered where he'd heard the man's name before: the coffee shop conversation with Andy Quinn and Doc Holliday. What he didn't understand was where or just how far this was going.
The waiter returned with Jake's Diet Pepsi, a glass of ice and the wine bottle. He poured Pepsi into Jake's glass leaving the half-filled can, then turned to Castellano, added a little to his wine and left the bottle. Jake's silver, red and blue aluminum can looked inappropriate next to the wicker covered Chianti bottle.
"You are involved in that leaky window lawsuit going on here in Minneapolis," Castellano said.
"Yes, I just recently got involved."
"And you think that somehow in that lawsuit, you are going to find out who is responsible for your predecessor's death."
"Now, how might you know that?"
"Jake, we know all kinds of things. For example, we know you would rather be up north sailing the Apostle Islands in your own ketch, Resolution."
Now, Jake felt uncomfortable. How did these people know these things and how much did they know? It is usually thought that knowledge is power. Castellano and whoever he was teamed up with certainly had knowledge and, Jake was sure, all the power they needed or might choose to exercise.
"What is it you want?" he asked, sipping his Pepsi.
"We think you are looking in the wrong place. I happen to think you are on the right track looking for the answer in one of Ms. Van de Meer's cases, but it's not ours." He sipped his wine, replaced the glass in front of him and steepled his fingers. "But even though we are innocent and the answer does not lie with us, too pointed an inquiry into the ownership of Norman Windows could prove embarrassing."
"So," Castellano responded. "We want you to stop."
"To stop what? I can't stop representing my client."
"We are not asking that, Jake. We just want to avoid the pointing of fingers at the real owners of Norman Windows. It is a legitimate business which provides a much-needed, quality product to an important industry. Its ownership has nothing to do with the merits of this lawsuit."
"I think you are looking for someone else, Jake. Don't look at us too hard. In fact, in that respect, stop looking at us altogether. You get my message?" He sipped his wine.
The waiter arrived with his lunch, a platter of shrimp linguini and Hearts of Palm salad. Jake thought the guy must work out, run or something. If I ate like that for lunch, he thought, I'd weigh three hundred pounds. Castellano began eating but continued the conversation.
"Jake, we think you'd be better off looking at some of the parties in Ms. Van de Meer's other cases. He drew the cloth napkin from his lap and dabbed his mouth.
"You know something?"
"Let's just say we know a lot of things, as you have already seen, today, but we have to be careful whom we tell what we know and how we do it. You can understand that we don't want any attention."
"You know some people think maybe you people are responsible for the death of Alex Van de Meer."
"Well, they are wrong."
"I think they are just speculating."
"They would do well to avoid spreading such speculation around. You might tell them that."
The threat was clear. To Jake and anyone else. The message was, Don't accuse the Mob and don't tie Norman Windows to the mob â€¦ or else.
Castellano finished lunch, took a last sip of wine and rose to leave. "I think I have said what needed to be said. And I think you got the message. So, I will add something more."
Jake stood. "What's that?" Hadn't he said enough?
"In those other cases. You might try doing some materials testing."
"Testing? Testing what?"
"Look through your cases and think about it."
"Can't you tell me more?"
"Not now. I've told you enough for now. Good hunting, but remember, Norman Windows is out of season."
Jake watched him leave. He stopped the waiter, thanked him and handed him some bills. The large man with no discernible neck joined Castellano as they left the restaurant.
Back at the office, Jake, Charles, Sam, Carrie and Jim Decker sat in Decker's office reviewing the situation. Jake told them word for word what happened after he got to Ciao Bella.
"I didn't think you should go," said Carrie.
"Me either," agreed Charles.
"Since he is back in one piece and apparently unscathed, at least physically," said Decker, "I'd say it's a good thing he went."
"How so?" asked Sam.
"Because, Sam, we know more than we knew before. That's always a good thing."
"But, Mr. Decker," said Carrie, "it sounds like they threatened him."
"She's referring to No-Neck," said Jake. "He wasn't actually at the table during our conversation."
"Yes, Jake," said Carrie, "but I'll bet he wasn't far off and his presence was certainly a part of the threat."
"It certainly was," agreed Jake.
"So, what do we do about it?" Decker queried. "That's seems to be the issue. That's why you all are here. Right, Jake?"
"Right. Jim, this is your firm. The firm may be in the middle of something very dicey and maybe risky both to life and limb and to business and finances."
"Well," said Decker, "nobody is going to hand me my diploma and tell me to step aside. Haven't you got Doc Holliday White in that case?"
Jake smiled. "We do."
"Well, he doesn't take shit from nobody. Does he know about your conversation with Castellano?"
"Nobody but the people in this room."
"Shouldn't we get some help? Like Doc, Andy Quinn and some others?"
"I'm not sure, but I don't think so."
"Why ever not, Jake?" asked Carrie.
"It's Castellano, I guess. I know he was giving me a strong message, a threat or more accurately a promise as they say or an 'offer I can't refuse.' If he is correct that his group had nothing to do with Alex's death, and I am inclined to believe him, then I don't give a damn whether they own Norman Windows or even who in the hell 'they' are. Besides, I am interested in this Fowler case at the moment."
"Oh?" said Decker.
"I am. Alex thought maybe the intruder was one of the subjects of Angie Fowler's investigative journalism. If she had some real dirt on the guy, it might have been a motive for the attack. If Alex was getting close, it might have been a motive for her murder."
"Oh, God." Carrie gasped. "You don't mean it."
"It's a possibility. But I won't get to it right away. I've got a deposition in the Ander-Will case and a mediation with Clayton Zachary before I'll have time to get back to the Fowler case."
"Ander-Will? Who's being deposed?" asked Decker.
"The project manager for the prime contractor on the job," said Jake.
"Monday. The Z-Pop mediation is tomorrow."
"Well, keep our clients protected. We've been lawyers for Ander-Will Construction for years. Old Luther Anderson is a good client. I know you are being paid by their insurer, but Luther insisted that the insurance company hire us. Clayton Zachary has been with us since he was a kid."
"We are seeing the Ander-will people this afternoon to talk about the deposition. It's the first time I have met with them."
"Really? What time?"
Jake looked at his watch. â€œNot until four-thirty. They picked the time."
"Carrie," said Decker, "let me know when they get here, would you? I'd like to say hello."
"Yes, sir. Will you be joining the meeting?"
"Oh, no. I just want to say hello."
True to the arrangements they had requested, the principals of the Ander-Will Construction Company and Willander Board Company arrived just before 4:30 pm. Jake sat behind the desk in Alex's office. Charles pulled a chair up alongside. The clients were invited to sit in the wing-back client chairs facing Jake and Charles. Just behind and to the clients' left side, Carrie Parker sat at her small desk in the corner, notepad ready. Luther Andersen was there with his nephew, Fred Williams. They had met both men earlier at Alex Van de Meer's funeral. The third man they had met, Pete Andersen, was not there. Jake asked about him.
"Pete is my son and Fred, here, is my nephew," explained Luther. "Fred's mother is my sister, Erika. She married Fred Williams, Sr. right after we got out of college. Pete, whose full name is Luther Peder Andersen, is not involved in the business, although he is on the board of both companies. Pete is a vascular surgeon with what I hear is a successful practice out in Minnetonka. So far," he grinned, "I haven't had need for his specialty." He leaned forward and rapped his knuckles on the desk top. "Knock on wood." Leaning back in his chair, he added, "I guess if you are going to represent us, you should know the company history, don't you think, Fred?"
Fred Williams, who was still standing, smiled and took a seat. "You're right, Luther," he said, relaxing into the soft leather wing-back. "Why don't you start with the ancient history that you know so well." He looked at Jake. "You know this might take awhile. You don't have coffee or a Diet Coke, do you?"
Carrie rose from her seat. "We have either, Mr. Williams. Which would you prefer?"
"A Diet Coke, thanks."
"And you, Mr. Andersen?"
"Black coffee, thank you."
Jake was thinking how well Carrie adapted to the position of office gofer, which she was not, or as they used to say, "give that job to one of the girls," when she totally destroyed that image by admonishing the clients, "But, don't you start with your history until I get back. I want to hear this."
Jake said, "I think the history is important for us. Then I have some questions related to Monday's deposition."
Fred had suppressed a laugh as Carrie left. Now, he said to Jake, "You tell Jim Decker that if she ever gets tired of him, I have a place for her at Willander Board. In fact, if I can find out what he's paying her, I might try to hire her away, anyway."
Carrie reached over his shoulder with a can of Diet Coke. "Here is your Coke, Fred. We should talk, later."
Another secretary, Susan Mathew, stood behind Carrie with a tray with soft drinks and coffee. When the drinks were distributed, Luther Andersen sipped his coffee and began his story.
"Fred's dad, Fred Williams, Sr. and I were students at I.T., the Institute of Technology on the Minneapolis campus of the U. That was back in the slide rule days. We wore them on our belts like old west gunslingers. Fred was a chemical engineer. I was structural. My dad was a contractor. He had a small business called Andersen Construction and Excavation. Fred and I both worked for Dad in the summers. He did some jobs himself, but also worked as a carpentry sub or an excavation sub on bigger projects. Fred and I worked on some pretty big buildings in downtown Minneapolis during that time. We both loved it and decided that's what we wanted to do. Later, when Dad was getting ready to slow down, he said it was appropriate to turn the business over to his son, me, and his son-in-law, Fred. Eventually the business became Ander-Will Construction. We've grown a lot since then.
"Fred, Sr. worked for some years on the development of a better drywall board. Eventually, he found and patented the formula for what we called 'Willander Board.' It is higher quality and cheaper to produce than most boards out there. It did very well. So well, that it became a huge part of our business. Fred, Jr., here, followed in his father's foot steps and completed his engineering studies at the U, too. He got the idea to take Willander Board into a different company. His dad and I agreed. Unfortunately, Fred Sr. passed away a few years ago and didn't get to see how well his son has done with his invention."
Luther reached for his coffee, sipped and relaxed back in his chair. "So there you have it, the brief history of the Ander-Will and Willander Board companies. Fred?"
"I really have nothing to add," Fred said to Jake and Charles. Turning toward Carrie, he added, "You can note that Fred Jr. agreed with his uncle's statement."
Jake did a double take. Did Carrie Parker just blush? Inadvertent or controlled? Was she flirting with Fred Williams? Nonsense. Not Carrie.
The conversation turned to the next week's deposition of the prime contractor's job superintendent on the Hamel apartment building lawsuit brought by the developer, Holden Properties, LLC. Luther Andersen remained silent, listening and occasionally nodding. Fred Williams took an active role in the conversation, asking pertinent questions, listening carefully to Jake's comments and advice and providing helpful information and insight into the lawsuit and the construction project, itself. He would be a good client to work with, thought Jake.
The next day, Jake put the Fowler case out of his mind as much as he could. The Z-Pop mediation was to begin at nine o'clock. That needed his undivided attention.
Sam wanted to be at the mediation and learn. He had set Charles up with several files to review. Neither Charles nor Jake felt that Charles' presence was needed at the mediation. They agreed that his time was better spent on other files Sam and Carrie had labeled as "super-active."
For the mediation, Carrie had arranged three conference rooms for the mediator. One small one was for Jake and Sam and their client Clayton Zachary. Another one, slightly larger, was for the design professional, his insurance rep and attorney. The third was one of the firm's two large conference rooms where all parties and the mediator would meet at first and where the prime contractor's insurance adjuster and lawyer would remain when the parties separated for negotiations through the mediator.
The outside wall of the small conference room was glass from two feet off the floor to the drop ceiling. Vertical blinds drawn open to each side gave a panoramic view of the city southwest of downtown. The day promised clear blue skies, sunshine and warmth Stratton, McMasters & Hines was located in the IDS Tower on the corner of Eighth Street and Nicollet Avenue in the area where it was the Nicollet Mall. From the forty-seventh floor, Jake felt like he was actually looking down on the lakes, Harriet, Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.
Sam joined him. He was excited. He had not been to a mediation before. Together, Jake and Sam had reviewed the file. Sam was already familiar with the case.
Z-Pop Beverage Co., Inc. vs. Hjalmer, Johansen & Associates, P.A. and Midwest Contractors, Inc., was a suit by the owner, Z-Pop, against the design professional and the prime contractor on the construction of a new bottling and distribution plant in Shelbyville, Kentucky. This case had not been on Carrie's super active file list. Everyone wanted to mediate this case. After Alex's death, opposing counsel had dealt directly with Carrie regarding a date for mediation. According to the Complaint that Alex Van de Meer had drafted and signed to commence the lawsuit, an independent inspecting engineer had concluded that the roof trusses were inadequate. The roof should meet certain code requirements of the live load carrying capacity, the load carrying capacity over the weight of the roof itself or dead load. The engineer opined that the live load carrying capacity of this roof was zero. While Shelbyville is not in the extreme climates of the northern Midwest or New England where snowfall can be as high as two or even three feet in a single storm, Kentucky does get snow and the roof has to be able to hold snow and ice as well as other loads that may be applied. The parties were striving to find the right fix. Then, they had to agree on who would do it and who would pay for it. The answer, the parties agreed, was to fix the building rather than fight in court about it. The case was ideal for mediation. When all parties want to mediate and when all parties want to settle, the case is almost sure to ultimately settle.
"Why Kentucky?" Sam had asked when he first met the client.
"Location, location, location, Sam," Zachary had answered. "The Twin Cities aren't too bad, but the central part of the U.S. is close to everything by truck and highway. I-64 is just on the south side of Shelbyville. From our new plant, our trucks will be able to hop on the freeway in less than five minutes from the shop and be on their way to anywhere east of the Rockies. The deep south and the whole eastern seaboard are that much closer. Distribution time and costs are cut dramatically."
Although the case was in the courts of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Zachary had told Jake back at the Alex Van de Meer funeral, and he later learned from the file, that the parties had agreed to mediate in Minneapolis, the home of the plaintiff, the design professional who had worked for plaintiff on other projects and two of the three lawyers.
Sam was eager to see what would happen. "It can be pretty boring," explained Jake. "Half or more of the time, you just sit in your conference room waiting for the mediator to come back from meeting with the other side. When it's in your own office, like this is for us, you can step out to your own office and get some work done. But, be careful. You don't want the mediator and everyone else to wait while you get off the phone or can't be found. Clients get uneasy, too, about being left alone. They start thinking you have more important things to do than represent them in this case."
Sam Cooper carried a small spiral notebook with him that Jake had noticed before. Sam pulled it from a pocket and made a note. Jake thought it was a good idea. Sam wanted to learn and he intended to remember what he learned.
The room was just big enough for three or four people at most. A polished mahogany conference table dominated the room. Four reddish-brown leather wing chairs surrounded the table. a small sideboard held a telephone and a tray of glasses, coasters, a pitcher of ice water and soft drinks. Jake and Sam settled into chairs on the side of the table away from the door. Their client, Clayton Zachary, arrived fifteen minutes early.
"Good morning, gentlemen," he announced, as Carrie opened the conference room door and Clayton Zachary entered the room. Tall and thin like a runner, which Jake thought he was, Zachary was clean shaven with medium length hair that looked like it had once been sandy brown and was now laced with gray. He wore tan slacks over light brown, soft leather shoes with crepe soles, a soft yellow oxford cloth shirt, blue tie and dark brown blazer with a logo over the left breast pocket in lime green, shaped like a large "Z" in italics.
Clayton Zachary carried four of the long, narrow twelve packs of Z-Pop in cans the color of the logo on his blazer. He put one on the table and said to Sam and Jake, "These are cold. Help yourself."
San leaned forward, reaching for the twelve-pack. "I'll have a Zee."
"You bet, Sam! That's the attitude, son." Zachary handed the other three to Carrie. "Please put one of these in each of the other two conference rooms and the third one is for you and your coworkers. You do have a refrigerator around here, don't you?"
Carrie smiled. "We sure do, Mr. Zachary."
Jake knew that "Z-Pop," as it was called, was born in the kitchen of young Clayton Zachary's parents in their home in the St. Paul suburb of Arden Hills on the shore of Lake Johanna where Jake used to like to fish. It was a carbonated, grapefruit-flavored beverage without caffeine, something like Fresca, but with a certain tang that many thought made it delightfully tasty, refreshing and different than anything else. It was, according to Clayton Zachary, the secret formula that was the key to the success of the Zee.
Zachary and Z-Pop had been clients of Stratton, McMasters & Hines ever since Eugene Stratton had represented a young Clayton Zachary in a patent dispute with Coca Cola. It was before Jake's time at the firm. Zachary had developed and even named Z-Pop before he was out of college. He was a chemistry major and had been interested in food processing, and Z-Pop, since high school. While in college and for a short while after, he worked for Coca Cola. Little more than a "go-fer," he had barely anything to do with actual production, but was more involved in office work, administration, trucking, and distribution, subjects that were his actual personal interest in working for Coke. It was after he left Coca Cola, that he submitted the Z-Pop formula for a patent. Coke claimed it was the rightful owner of the patent of one of its own employees.
Gene Stratton was a bull dog, undaunted by the size and reputation of Coke and its lawyers. They produced their standard contracts for employees protecting the company and making it the owner of all patents, inventions and products of its employees. But, none of them were signed by Zachary who had been a college kid and recent graduate who was little more than a runner. Gene had investigated the facts. He visited the Arden Hills home of Mr. and Mrs. Zachary who well remembered their son's antics in their home developing what he later dubbed "Z-Pop."
"He was well-meaning, Mr. Stratton," Florence Zachary told Gene, "but he sure made a mess sometimes." She produced an envelope of pictures. Selecting three, she handed them to Gene. "These were taken for the insurance claim when Clay was a senior in high school." The pictures showed the kitchen of their home in what could only be described as the aftermath of some kind of explosion.
Gene Stratton used the pictures and the testimony of Clayton and Mr. and Mrs. Zachary and even the testimony of an insurance adjuster who had handled the familyâ€™s insurance claims to prove that Zachary had not developed the Zee formula while at Coke but before. The court dismissed Coke's case against Zachary. He and Z-Pop had been Stratton, McMasters & Hines clients ever since.
Z-Pop had a small beginning, but grew rapidly. At first, distribution was only local, in the Twin Cities metro, but gradually expanded beyond that and eventually grew to nationwide distribution and beyond. As it turned out, Zachary was skilled at advertising and promotion. He put free Z-Pop everywhere. Just as he was doing at this mediation, he brought product and put it in front of potential customers. He believed that once people tasted it, they were hooked, and a lot of people were. He used slogans like, "The end of the alphabet but the beginning of flavor!" Another ad he tried showed a kayaker paddling as hard as he could and below it said, "Bustin' for a Zee!" The makers of Olympia Beer put a stop to that one claiming it was too much like their ski hill ad showing a skier carving through the moguls at speed under which the ad proclaimed "Bustin' for an Oly!" The brewers of the beer, famous for its "Tumwater" from the Pacific Northwest, claimed that Z-Pop's ad made it look too much like it was connected to Olympia and was using their reputation. They claimed unfair competition using the authority of the old Standard Brands case about V-8 Vegetable Juice and "V-8 Vitamins." Zachary told those who would listen that Oly ought to be glad to be associated with Z-Pop and gain from Z-Pop's reputation. He copied the famous "Arnold Palmer" drink of half iced tea and half lemonade by creating the "Poor Man's Arnold Palmer' or "Arnold Palmer, Jr." which was half iced green tea and half Z-Pop. Arnold didn't mind at all.
As popularity grew, so did the need for increased and more efficient distribution. Thus, the construction of a new production plant at Shelbyville, Kentucky.
Carrie appeared in the doorway. "The mediator is ready in the large conference room."
Jerrod Monson stood as they entered the conference room. "Good morning," he said to Zachary, extending his hand. "I'm Jerry Monson. I'll be the mediator today. I have met these other gentlemen. Please have a seat over here and we will begin."
Mediator Monson sat at the head of the long conference table. Jake saw that he had positioned the parties so the prime contractor and his counsel were on his left, the design professional, Hjalmer Johansen and his lawyer were on the mediator's right and Jake, Sam and Clayton Zachary were in the middle at the other end of the table. He didn't know if it was intentionally done that way but Jake liked it. It put his client in the golden chair, the middle. The problem with the building was someone's fault, but not the owner's. Either the prime contractor, the architect or both were responsible, but not Z-Pop. Hopefully, they would realize that and reach some settlement, today, so progress with the new plant could continue.
The room was a larger version of the smaller room Jake, Sam and their client would be using. Eight of the leather chairs addressed the table. A few smaller chairs were set against the back wall where they would be available if needed. Two were in use as the mediation began.
The mediator started by explaining the process and reviewing his own qualifications. He gave the clients a written copy of his qualifications as required in some states and considered standard practice by most mediators. He spent several minutes stressing the fact that all disputes, including this one, involved some degree of emotion which had to be discussed, recognized and put aside before meaningful settlement negotiations could be had. He described himself as a "facilitative" rather than an "evaluative" mediator. He explained that meant that he wasn't going to tell them what their case was worth or how, in his opinion, it would come out in court, but he would facilitate a settlement whatever it might be and for whatever reasons to which the parties agreed. "The name of the game, today, is 'settlement,'" he said. When asked, no one had any questions. The mediator then sent them to their various separate conference rooms and chose to meet first with the plaintiff, Zachary, Jake and Sam.
In the plaintiff's conference room, Mediator Monson began. "I am meeting with you first because it seems to me that it is the other two parties who have to reach an agreement to solve your problem. Before encouraging them to do that, I need to know what you will be willing to accept and," he looked directly at Zachary, "how much you are willing to bend to get this done."
Clayton Zachary answered. "I am here to achieve a settlement. I am willing to cooperate and 'bend', as you call it, within reason. And," he added, grinning, "I have more Z-Pop in the car if we need it."
"All right." Monson stood. "That's helpful. Your cooperation and willingness to compromise gives me something to work with. Now, I'll see what I can get these other guys to do."
"One other thing," said Zachary. "Any agreement has to have privacy protection."
"You mean confidentiality about the terms of settlement?" asked the mediator. "That's not an uncommon settlement term, although I don't like it very much."
"Is it a problem?" asked Zachary.
Jake answered. "Clay, a lot of lawyers, myself included, don't particularly like confidentiality clauses because there is no specified remedy if they are breached. Do you make the person give the money back? Not hardly, but what, then, do you do? Also, it is hard to determine who really leaked the information that violates the confidentiality clause. Those clauses are fraught with potential problems and, in my opinion, and apparently Jerry's, they are better left out."
"You mean keeping the terms of the settlement confidential?" asked Zachary.
"That's right," said the mediator.
"That's not what I'm looking for."
"What, then? Non-disparagement?"
"What? What's that?"
"It's a term of the settlement agreement that neither party will disparage the other. It often is raised in emotional disputes like divorces, employment cases and so forth."
"Nope. Not interested in that either."
"What is it you're looking for, Clay?" asked Jake.
"By 'privacy,' I mean protection of my company's trade secrets. My business is successful because of my own production methods, my own marketing techniques, and of course, the Holy Grail of the soft drink industry, my own formula for Z-Pop. I am sure you all are aware that the stories are legend about the Coke formula and how it is protected. So, we take extra precautions for the protection of the privacy of our business. We enter into no deals unless they provide protection of our secrets. Most people don't mind and most people don't get much access to our actual production business, anyway. But we are extra careful. Even within our staff, we have precautions. Our computers require passwords that must be changed frequently. The computers shut down if they are not being used for a period of fifteen minutes and then need the password to be opened again. Our office e-mails are encrypted. Our cell phones are traceable and are monitored by our security company so none of our calls, texts, or e-mails on the phones are private. In other words, we are careful to a fault, but that's part of the business. Privacy is everything."
Mediator Monson said, "I don't see that as a problem. I am sure such a clause can be included and I doubt the other parties would have any objection. Do you have some language in mind?"
"I can have it e-mailed to me, here within the hour."
The mediator rose to leave. When he was gone, Sam Cooper spoke up. "Mr. Zachary, you have your employees' cell phones monitored?"
"Yep. Sam, you think that's wrong?"
"Oh, no. Not if they understand and agree. I just didn't know that was done or how much you can do. I have heard that you can buy software that you put on the phone in question and then you can read texts, listen to calls or read e-mails made on that phone from your computer or your own cell phone." He turned to Jake who must have appeared disinterested, which in fact he was. "They sell this software so you can keep track of what your kids are up to or check up on your spouse if you think he or she is unfaithful." He grinned.
"Oh, good. Just what the world needs," responded Jake. "Technology is indeed truly wonderful."
Zachary laughed. "We make better use of it than that. And I am glad we have it."
Jake suddenly remembered something Decker had told him. He reached for his yellow pad and made a note. He looked at his watch. The mediator had been gone twenty minutes. It was just over an hour since they had started. "And the waiting continues," he told Zachary. "We keep sitting here and waiting until Monson comes back with something. It could take a while longer. If we get to the Noon hour, we won't break for lunch. We'll have sandwiches brought in. The mediator will continue to work through lunch."
"Doesn't he eat?"
"On the run, mostly. Or sitting with which ever group he happens to be meeting with when lunch arrives."
"How long will it take?" asked Sam.
"If Jerry Monson concludes that this is a case that won't settle and he is sure of that, it could be over quickly. But Jerry doesn't give up easily. I have seen him go as late as eleven o'clock at night and even later. Remember, his instructions said, 'No return flights and no dinner plans, please!'"
"Well," said Zachary, reaching for his own Zee and leaning back in his chair, "since we have more time to kill, tell me, Jake, about Alex Van de Meer. Carrie told me that you are not just taking over her cases to help out, but you are actually investigating her murder and looking for the killer. True?"
"Well, what are you learning? As I told you at the funeral, I was appalled and then angered when I heard about it. Alex was a fine lawyer. I felt quite comfortable with her handling this case."
"Clay, I haven't found much of anything, yet. Had a few ideas but none of them panned out."
"Are you thinking it might have something to do with one of her cases? The ones you are handling, now?"
"Maybe. I sure don't think your case provides anyone with a possible motive, but we keep open minds until everything but the truth is eliminated."
"Mostly, it's Sam, Carrie and me and Charles Stanton, who is a retired law professor and friend of mine, and Corrine Cadotte, a retired forensic scientist."
"Anything I can do to help? I thought a lot of Alex."
Jake glanced at the note on his pad. "I 'm not sure, but I think you may have, already."
Zachary looked at Jake funny. So did Sam.
The mediation continued through the lunch hour and late into the afternoon. Jerrod Monson spent most of his time with the two defendant groups. Only occasionally did he visit plaintiff's room and mostly to report that he was still working on possible settlement.
At just after five-thirty, he presented a possible settlement that Zachary found acceptable with a few changes. His changes were accepted. The proposed settlement involved a division of the cost of correcting the structural problem before construction continued. In a compromise, the prime, Midwest Contractors, and its subs would do the work, thereby saving on the damages Z-Pop would get if they were measured by the cost of a new contractor whose charges would include profit and overhead charges. The architect, or rather his insurer, would contribute financially. Also, Z-Pop would agree to some extra charges by Change Order to the original contract to allow the prime some additional compensation for the corrective work. For Z-Pop, it was probably less than the litigation would cost, even if it prevailed in court. A Mediated Settlement Agreement form supplied by the mediator was filled out by hand and signed by all concerned. Every participant would leave with a signed copy. Now correction of the problem in Shelbyville would be accomplished, allowing the construction project to get back on track.
Zachary was quite satisfied with the result and said so. As he was packing up to leave, he said, "Jake, about Alex Van de Meer. I'm glad someone is doing something, but you be careful, son. Again, if there is anything I can do to help, just let me know."
Jake thanked him. Zachary left, leaving the Z-Pop behind. Sam grabbed one on his way back to his office.
Charles and Jake dined at the Red Lobster near their hotel, waiting to go north until the morning. Saturday morning, they drove north in Charles' Cadillac Escalade, leaving Jake's Jeep and its new tires in the hotel parking lot. Barney Panger had decided that Jake needed another new tire on the left front to match the new on the right front.
Arriving at Bay Harbor at mid-day, Jake checked out Resolution, found her ship shape and, following Charles' advice, he called Mary Pelletier.
"I wondered if you were coming home," she said, her tone not as warm and friendly as usual.
"Sorry. I have been preoccupied and a little busy."
"Well, are you going to get busy about seeing me?" Her tone was changing. He could almost hear her smiling.
"A stroll on a beach and dinner on Madeline Island?"
" And what beach did you have in mind?"
"Julian Bay. The Singing Sand Beach. It's one of your favorites."
"It is my favorite. But Jake, it's after one. Julian Bay is a long way from Raspberry Bay where you are."
"I can meet you at the Red Cliff Bay Marina in twenty minutes and we can be on the beach in another fifteen."
"Did you buy a helicopter?" She was having fun with him and him with her.
"Nope. I'm not talking about Resolution. I can drive to your office and we can take one of your Band's Boston Whalers over to Stockton and Julian Bay, swim, walk, splash and then return where we can drive to Bayfield and take the ferry over to Madeline for dinner."
"An impressive plan. I accept."
"Oh, oh. I forgot."
"I forgot my car is in the Twin Cities. Can you drive?"
"I'll pick you up in twenty minutes. Be ready."
They drove to the marina on Red Cliff Point near the Chequamegon Band's tribal offices. Jake was glad they had the use of one of the Band's Boston Whalers instead of trying to sail in Resolution. The winds were calm and the seas were flat. They took a run out by Devils Island before heading to Julian Bay. The lake was a mirror of glass, reflecting the red earthen sea caves and lush green of the shoreline forest. The sea caves gave Devils Island its name. In high winds and waves, the island's "devils" could be heard howling. As they sped past Cat Island toward Julian Bay, wispy puffs of cotton traveled slowly across the sky. When one crossed in front of the sun, a momentary shadow covered the water as though the sun had winked at those below.
After a pleasant afternoon in the sun on Stockton Island's famous Singing Sand Beach, Mary and Jake enjoyed a Lake Superior Whitefish dinner at The Pub on Madeline Island. A few glasses of wine later, Mary navigated the tribe's SUV back to Red Cliff Bay and past the tribal offices to her home on Red Cliff Point. If he was nice, she proposed to bring him home the next morning.
The next afternoon, Jake was finishing up his clothes in the laundry in Hanson's Marina when Charles found him.
"I've been looking for you. You haven't been around. I'm wondering what the plan may be. The Ander-Will deposition is tomorrow and since I am the only one with a car here, I assume I will be driving to the Cities later this afternoon." He looked at his watch. "In fact, I assume pretty soon. He looked at Jake's pile of clean laundry. "You are planning to pack that so we can get going?"
"I am." Jake smiled. "I'll be ready to leave in twenty-five minutes."
"You certainly seem cheerful enough." Charles paused, looking at his watch. "All right. Twenty-five minutes it is. I'll be back ready to go."
On Monday morning, Jake, Charles and Sam walked through the skyway system to the Lasalle Plaza on La Salle Avenue less than three blocks from their office in the IDS Tower. The deposition was scheduled at Bob Jones' office at 9:30 in the Ander-Will case. While they were in the climate-controlled comfort of the skyway system, it was also a beautiful day outside. Down on the streets below, people walking the sidewalks and waiting for the traffic lights were dressed in light summer clothes. The morning news shows had advertised the day to be "near perfect" with pleasantly warm temperatures, but not so warm as to be uncomfortable. Inside the skyway system, Jake and Sam were comfortable in their suits and ties. Jake wore a new blue serge suit from Juster's.
Fred Williams met them at Bob Jones' office. They greeted the other lawyers, introduced Fred and the deposition began.
The video operator announced the case. "This is a deposition of Allen J. Knight being taken by video tape in the case of Holden Properties, LLC vs. Vinton Constructors, Inc., Emerson Drywall Contractors, Ander-Will Construction, Inc., Willander Board Company, Inc., and Oglethorpe Architecture and Design Partners, P.A. We are here in the law office of Swanson, Miller and Jones, Attorneys at Law in the La Salle Plaza in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The time is 9:35 a.m. You may swear in the witness."
The steno reporter raised her right hand and asked the witness to do the same. "You do swear that the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"
Despite being at the table with the other lawyers and despite his client's presence, Jake was having a hard time concentrating on the case. His primary interest was in finding Alex Van de Meer's murderer. This wasn't helping. It was taking him away from what he was driven to do. He knew this would happen. Having let Jim Decker talk him into handling Alex's cases, however temporary, was taking him away from the hunt for justice for Alex. He glanced over at Fred Williams who sat between Charles and Sam waiting to see how things would develop and, thought Jake, to see what Jake would do. So, he tried to put Alex and the killer he sought out of his mind and concentrate on the case before him.
The case involved an apartment complex in western Hennepin County that burned to the ground killing three and injuring several of its tenants. Three fifteen story towers joined by the first and second floors of common areas, Hamel Towers had boasted 230 affordable apartment units minutes from the 494 Freeway with access to downtown Minneapolis by I-394 or Highway 55.
Jake sat watching the witness. In Alex's place, Jake was representing defendants Ander-Will Construction and Willander Board Company. Alex had filed a motion, which was pending in District Court in Hennepin County where the case was venued, to dismiss Ander-Will because it had been improperly named and had nothing to do with the construction project. The plaintiff, Holden Properties, claimed the fire-rated partitions called for in the specs were defective and did not provide the fire protection called for by the contract. It sued the architect for insufficient plans, and insufficient inspection and project supervision. It sued the prime contractor, Vinton Constructors, the drywall sub and the drywall supplier. Ander-Will was named in the mistaken belief that it was the drywall supplier along with Willander Board Company. Long before this project, as Luther Andersen had explained at their meeting, the Willander Board Division of Ander-Will Construction had split off and become a separate company. Alex had anticipated no opposition to the motion. Neither did Jake.
So, his real job was the representation of Willander Board Company, the drywall supplier on the job. A problem with the building was originally discovered, before the fire, when plumbers opened a pipe chase to repair a leak. A maintenance worker observing the plumbing work discovered that the pipe chase which ran from the basement to the top floor carrying water pipes that supplied water to the entire building, was only separated from the hallways to which it was adjacent by a single sheet of drywall plus insulation installed on the back of the drywall for noise suppression. The plans and specs called for one-hour rated fire partitions in all interior walls between individual units or units and hallways or other spaces and two-hour partitions between floors. Since the pipe chase penetrated the floors, it should have been protected by a two-hour partition all the way around claimed the owner and its architect.
The parties and their lawyers had been working to try to find a solution without the necessity and expense of a lawsuit, Alex's notes had explained. Fred Williams had verified this yesterday. The contractors argued that the drywall around the pipe chase coupled with the insulation would test out at a two-hour partition. Willander Board Company had supplied several sheets of its fire-rated, 5/8" thick Willander board for testing. Fred told Jake he had told his people to cooperate with the lawyers in providing materials necessary to test out their theory. Before the testing was complete, the building burned. The evidence upon which their testing theory was based was gone. Lawyers for the other defendants still thought they could make the argument based on the plans and specs as to what was in the building and the testing of equivalent materials. Alex's notes indicated she was not so sure.
After the fire, with its horrific results, she was leery of defense arguments that called for no recovery for the owner and, therefore, for the victims, especially when she thought her client had little liability exposure, anyway. Later, when questions were raised as to whether the construction met the plans and specs regarding fire-rated partitions, another maintenance worker told his supervisor that the drywall only went about a foot or less above the dropped ceilings. Each story was ten feet in height. Pre-stressed concrete slabs separated the stories. The finished ceilings were eight feet in height. If the maintenance worker's memory was correct, the drywall installer probably used four by nine drywall sheets which carried the wall partition just inches above the dropped ceiling. Therefore, the one-hour vertical partition did not exist because it was incomplete. But, the fire destroyed the evidence. The wall board had burned like it was soaked in gasoline, some witnesses said. The maintenance worker had taken no pictures. No one else remembered what he claimed to have seen. In any event, the maintenance worker could not testify to the situation beyond the small area of the building he had observed.
The origin of the fire remained unknown. The fire destroyed the evidence regarding the pipe chase and the above-the-ceiling deficiencies. One observer had said that the building went up like an explosion. She had never seen anything burn so fast.
After the fire, Holden's lawyer, Robert Jones immediately started suit. Jake knew Bob Jones from way back and liked him. When Jake first got into the case in Alex's notes on the flash drive, he called Bob, who was happy to chat with him. When the fire occurred, Bob told Jake that he had immediately realized the potential problem for his client. If the owner knew about the danger and neither informed the tenants nor evacuated them nor did anything to protect them, the potential liability could be horrendous. Bob decided and his client agreed that the best move was to help those injured and the families of those who did not survive, to cooperate with their lawyers and to go after the parties to the construction to establish their fault and show that the owner, Holden Properties, did not know of the extent of the problem or possible danger before the fire occurred.
Alex's, and now Jake's, position was that, while devastating in its outcome, this was not a supplier problem, but a contractor problem, that the prime and the drywall installer were responsible and Willander Board Company in supplying the drywall had no contractual or other duty to plaintiff in the construction, including the drywall installation. Plaintiff, the prime contractor, the architect and the drywall installer all joined in the claim that Willander Board Company did not provide adequate instructions about how to achieve the specified one and two-hour fire-retardant partitions using its Willander Board brand drywall.
The deposition witness, Allen Knight, was the project manager for the general contractor Vinton Constructors. He looked uncomfortable. He was seated at the end of the table with lawyers seated along both sides waiting to ask him questions. The video camera was positioned so Mr. Knight's head and shoulders would appear on the television screen. The camera would not be moved. For the entire deposition, only the witness would be filmed. The lawyers would be heard only as voices from behind the camera. Knight wore an ill-fitting tan suit with a white shirt and green necktie. The collar looked too tight. Knight looked like he would much rather be in work clothes and out on some jobsite than sitting in this deposition facing these lawyers.
Eight lawyers were present. Five sat at the table. Three sat in chairs away from the table against the wall, observing. The steno reporter was seated near the witness but out of the camera's view. Bob Jones, as plaintiff's lawyer who had noted the deposition, hosted the party. Bill Waters had the prime contractor, Vinton. Fred Erickson had Emerson Drywall and Margaret Bellamy had the architect. They all sat at the table waiting their turns to question the witness. Sam Cooper and Charles sat against the wall with Fred Williams. Next to them was Doc Holliday White. Doc had two death cases and three injury cases coming out of the fire, Bob Jones was sharing information with him, having taken the position that the property owner would do everything it could to help the tenants and their families and put the blame on the defendants who created the problem.
Bob began the questioning. He identified the witness, got his construction background and then turned to the project itself. "Before you came here today, did you review the plans and specs for the Hamel Towers Apartments?"
"Nope. Nobody told me to."
Jake smiled to himself. Some things never seemed to change. Some lawyers told their witnesses to prepare for a deposition, some told them to do nothing at all and that ignorance was a virtue. Most told them one thing or the other depending on the particular case and the issues involved, but ignorance was usually safe except where the witness, like Mr. Knight in this case, was directly involved in the construction and worse, in a supervisory position. Then a good cross-examiner would try and sometimes succeed in showing that the witness was ignorant of matters he should have known about on the job. Bob Jones appeared to have decided to take that approach.
Bob stood and approached the witness with a roll of blueprints. Spreading them out in front of the witness and, thought Jake, intentionally inserting himself into the video view, he continued his questioning. They weren't blue with white lines like the blueprints of old. They really were "white prints" but still called blueprints or drawings or just plans.
"You are familiar with these plans, aren't you?" Bob asked.
"I've seen them."
"Didn't you study them thoroughly during the construction?
The witness did not answer.
"As the prime contractor's project supervisor, wasn't that part of your job?"
"Objection!" announced Vinton's attorney, Bill Waters. "Calls for a legal conclusion. Don't answer that question."
"You're instructing him not to answer?"
"I am. You can ask him fact questions but not try to get him to reach legal conclusions."
Let it go, Bob, thought Jake. You have made your point and will be able to make it again in court. This looks like a witness that should be subpoenaed and testify live in court and not just through the video deposition record.
Bob Jones rolled back a few sheets of the blueprints to the place he wanted. "Directing your attention to page A-12, do you see the drawing showing the composition of the wall between the apartment unit and the adjacent hallway?"
The witness leaned forward to examine the blueprint. He brought reading glasses out of his breast pocket and leaned in to look at the place lawyer Jones was indicating.
"You see this arrow pointing toward the wall?"
He looked closely. "You mean here?" he pointed.
"That's right. Will you please read what it says at the beginning of the arrow."
"Objection," said lawyer Waters, the exhibit speaks for itself."
"Mr. Knight, since neither we nor the jury will be able to hear the exhibit speak for itself, would you kindly give the exhibit an auditory voice by reading what it says right there?"
The witness looked at Bill Waters who shrugged.
The witness read aloud. "This partition shall have a one-hour fire retardant rating."
"Of course, you were aware of that during construction were you not?"
The witness didn't answer.
Jones proceeded, fishing for the next objection. "But, you knew, didn't you that it was part of your job to be aware of these requirements of the plans and specs, didn't you?"
"Objection! We have been through this before, counsel," said Bill Waters. "He will not be answering questions that call for a legal conclusion and that one does."
"No, it doesn't and I will insist on an answer. My question is not asking him to tell me what the law is, but what he thought his job was. It goes to his competence and whether he was properly trained and instructed by his employer, your client, Vinton Constructors." To the witness, he said, "You may answer."
"Just a minute!" Waters interrupted. To the witness, he said, "You understand, Al, that you are to tell what you might have thought based on your experience and what you knew or thought at the time and not what you may think the contract documents legally require?"
The witness nodded.
"The witness may answer."
"Well, Mr. Knight? Would you like me to have the court reporter read the question back?"
"No, I'll answer.â€
"That was the architect's job."
Margaret Bellamy straightened in her chair and stared at the witness.
Bob Jones continued. "You mean the architect? You mean Ogelthorpe?"
"No. I don't know any Oglethorpe. Their man on the job was Dean Bergstrom."
"Did you believe at the time that this Mr. Bergstrom was responsible for seeing that the one and two-hour partitions in the blueprints were properly installed?"
Bill Waters came to attention and started to object, but paused for a moment and then nodded to the witness and said nothing.
"That's right. That was his job. He was the inspecting architect on the job."
"Then as project supervisor, what was your responsibility?"
"Objection," said Waters, "but he may answer if he can."
Jake made a note. Waters was no longer going to fight Bob Jones as long as his witness was laying the blame on someone else.
Margaret Bellamy spoke up. "Defendant Oglethorpe Architecture and Design joins in the objection. The question calls for a legal conclusion that this witness cannot make."
Witness Knight answered. "My job was to coordinate the various trades, like drywall, electrical, mechanical and so forth to keep us on schedule. And," he added, "I did okay. We came in on time."
Bob Jones opened a thick specification book and held it in front of the witness. "Turning to Division 21 entitled 'Fire Suppression,' do you see the specifications regarding fire-rated partitions?"
Knight looked at the book and nodded.
"Your answer?" asked the steno reporter in a sharp voice.
Jones nodded and explained to the witness, "That's right, Mr. Knight, you have to answer out loud so the reporter has something to write down. You understand?"
The witness nodded; then said, "I understand."
"So, you see this provision in the specifications in which it says, and I quote, 'Wall partitions required to be one or two-hour partitions must be intact from the concrete floor to the underside of the concrete floor of the next story above.'" Holding the book close to the witness and pointing with his finger, Jones asked, "Have I read that correctly?"
Witness Knight adjusted his reading glasses and examined the proffered page. "Yes, I guess so."
"You guess so? Do you agree that I have read that spec exactly correctly? Do you want me to read it again? I can do that."
"No. You read it correctly."
"Then you agree, don't you, that the plans and specs for Hamel Towers Apartments require that the rated walls extend from the concrete on one level all the way to the concrete of the floor above?"
Knight nodded. "Yes," he added.
"Did they what?"
"Did the drywall extend above the dropped ceilings all the way to the upper concrete of the next floor or not?"
"I'm sure it did, but you'd have to ask Dean."
"Dean Bergstrom, the inspecting architect on the job. If there was anything wrong, he would have let me know."
"Objection!" It was Margaret Bellamy. "The witness is not in a position to say what another person would or should have done. Calls for a conclusion of the witness; no foundation; move to strike."
Jake was reminded why he left the practice of law. The lawyers were vultures; scavengers ready to tear the witness apart like he was road kill on some country highway. The only difference was the lawyers took turns â€¦ most of the time.
The questioning and testimony went on like that for a while. Bob Jones was laying the groundwork for establishing construction defects that were directly related to fire safety in a building that had burned down causing death, injury and destruction. He would start the fight in which the prime and the architect would blame each other, thereby making Bob's case for him. But, Jake knew, eventually they would join together going after the drywall defendants and also back at the owner. It was the same old dance where, eventually, someone got left without a partner when the music stopped.
Bob's problem was whether he could prove that the damage caused by the fire was caused or increased by the walls not being up to the fire-rating required by the plans and specs. Would the fire have caused less damage or injured fewer people if the walls had been correctly built? Who knew? Since as plaintiff, Bob had the burden of proof, it remained to be seen whether he ultimately could prove causation, that is, whether the damages claimed were the direct and proximate result of the alleged defects in construction. Doc Holliday faced the same problem in his injury and death lawsuits. Unfortunately for the plaintiff in this suit and the plaintiffs in Doc's cases, the fire destroyed the evidence that might have helped them meet their burden of proof.
When Bob Jones was done, the other lawyers took over each asking questions designed to protect his or her client. Jake asked only a few questions to establish that Knight knew nothing about the activities of Willander Board Company or Ander-Will Construction regarding the actual installation of the drywall by Emerson Drywall or whether they even had a presence on the job except for delivery of drywall to the site.
When everyone else was done, Bill Waters asked no questions and said simply, "We'll read and sign." While the deposition witness could not change the transcript of his testimony, he could read it and correct errors or explain answers in an attached sheet with his signature. At trial, when confronted with a question and answer from the transcript he or his lawyer didn't like, the lawyer could refer him to the signing sheet for his explanation. The right to read and sign was often waived, but Bill Waters was being extra careful.
After the depo, Doc Holliday approached Jake. Fred Williams was standing nearby.
"I'm glad you're here Jake," Doc said. "They had one other deposition and an early mediation in this case. Bob has cooperated with me from the beginning. He invited me to attend with him. Except for Bob, the lawyers were downright vicious toward Alex Van de Meer."
"Really? Why, do you think?"
"They just didn't like Alex, I guess. She fought fair and square and with civility, something they don't even understand, I sometimes think."
"What about Margaret?"
"She was as bad as any of them, maybe the worst. She would enter the room with a scowl and never change. She put down Alex whenever she had the chance. I think it bothered Alex, a lot."
"He's right, Jake," said Fred Williams. "They were downright mean to Alex. He's right about Alex, too. It did bother her. I wanted to say something to them, but she wasn't having any of it. She told me not to do anything."
Jake pictured Fred Williams wanting to come to Alex's rescue from a group of intimidating lawyers. Good for him. But, he thought, he was pretty sure that Alex was able to handle herself, especially when it came to ignoring the harrying from other lawyers which, in itself would infuriate them and quite possible throw them off their game. All in all, he decided, Fred Williams was a good client, but Alex was also a good lawyer. He hoped he would be able to do as well for Fred and the Willander Board Company as she had been doing.
At the office the next morning, Jake and Charles brought themselves up to date on the current "super-active cases. Little had changed since they both got briefed.
"You know, Jake," said Charles, "I'm not sure the answer to Alex's murder is in any of these cases. No offense to Alex or to you, but these are pretty dry cases. It's hard for me to imagine a motive for murder in any of them with two possible exceptions."
"Most of it is pretty mundane stuff," said Jake. "Interesting only to a construction lawyer."
"Oh, I didn't say they weren't interesting. Some pretty intricate contract and property issues. But the Fowler case with its violence is different and I did see something in one of the other cases that piqued my interest regarding a possible connection to Alex's murder."
"It wasn't in the file, but somewhere else."
"The Virginia School District case against the Steam Corporation."
"What got your interest in that case?"
"The death threats against Alex Van de Meer."
"Since you hadn't mentioned it, I thought you didn't know. There's nothing about it in the file."
"How did you find out?"
"Jake, I believe that your 'retirement' to the good ketch Resolution has managed to keep you away from anything resembling current events. I, on the other hand, occasionally watch the news and read the paper."
"Charles, what are you talking about?"
"I thought the case sounded familiar. I remembered seeing something about demonstrations outside the courthouse. Students and parents were protesting. In particular, they were complaining about the steam company's defending against the district's claim for damage to the asbestos. They carried signs and placards with things like, 'We're Steamed Up!!' and 'The Steam Company Wants to kill Our Kids!'
"At the time, I didn't pay much attention and I didn't realize that Alex was involved. Going back, I see that some of the protests were directed at her, personally. Jake, some of the signs said things like 'Death to Iron Range Steam's Lawyer Van de Meer.' One angry looking Iron Ranger carried a big placard on a staff labeled, 'A. Van de Meer' under a cartoon drawing of the grim reaper carrying a scythe. A local lawyer told NBC News that he was representing a number of parents who were considering a lawsuit on behalf of their children who attended the school."
"Keep digging on that case, Charles. See what more you can learn. Meanwhile, I've got the Fowler depos again tomorrow and then I plan to get back to that case in depth."
Sam came into the room carrying several pages. "Judge Devereaux has issued his order on our motion in the Luomala case."
"That was quick."
"He denied the motion. He said simply that there are genuine issues of fact. No attached memorandum with his reasoning. Didnâ€™t refer to those criminal cases Doc Holliday cited in his oral argument. No legal authorities cited at all except Rule 56 on summary judgment. The Order sets a discovery deadline.â€ Sam handed the pages to Jake. â€œJake, Alex had already had me prepare some initial interrogatories and document production requests to send out. Should I go ahead?"
Jake quickly scanned the document. He looked at Charles. "Well in court appearances so far, I am oh for one." He looked at Sam. "Yes, Sam. Go ahead and serve the discovery requests."
The next morning and just a week after the Fowler case deposition disaster, Jake and Sam were back in the deposition room at Beeman, Bjork and Berman. Charles stayed back at the office working on Alex's other cases.
Fred Garrison was present. Frank Bannister was there. Mr. Schilling was there. The plaintiff, Angie Fowler was not.
"Where is your client, Mr. Garrison?" Frank Bannister looked about to pounce.
"She's not coming."
"What? I'll have attorneys' fees for this! I think the judge will make you pay them, personally!"
Jake stepped in. "You aren't out any time or fees, Frank. You had to be here for our Schilling deposition, anyway."
"I would tell you to mind your own business, but I see you have become counsel on this case. But, this is between me and Mr. Garrison, there. So stay out of it!"
Fred Garrison interjected. "My client will not be here. She will not be deposed further. She will not testify at trial."
Bannister began to grin.
"We will use her deposition as her testimony."
"What? The Hell you will!"
"I have affidavits from two doctors who are convinced that if she is required to testify anymore in this case it will be dangerous to her health."
"You cannot do that! She's the plaintiff. She has to testify and I have the right to cross-examine!"
"The affidavits are attached to a Motion in Limine to permit the use of the deposition for her testimony and to exclude your questions about abortion on the ground that the subject is immaterial, irrelevant and prejudicial. Here. I am serving a copy of the motion on you at this time and on Beaumont Apartments' counsel as well." He handed a copy to Jake.
"You can't do this!" Bannister screamed.
Bannister must have noticed because he turned on Jake. "You did this!"
Jake responded. "Beaumont Apartments will join in the plaintiff's Motion in Limine. We are ready to proceed with the Schilling deposition. We expect more civility than the last time."
Sam began the deposition of Mr. Schilling. Bannister said nothing. Jake couldn't tell if he really was being civil or that he was too mad to do anything. Jake thought neither was probably correct. Frank Bannister never got mad. He was under control all the time. But Jake did think Bannister was thinking about a way to get even.
The Schilling deposition was over before Noon. Sam had handled it well. Frank Bannister had made no more interruptions.
Walking back in the skyway, Sam met a friend from law school. They decided to have lunch together and invited Jake. Figuring that Sam wanted to regale his friend with the tale of the deposition he had just taken, Jake decided to take a working lunch and stay with the Fowler case. Charles was lunching with some old law school faculty friends and was leaving to go back up to Raspberry Bay after lunch.
Walking back in the skyway, Jake thought about Alex's notes. Alex had been pursuing an unusual tack. Was it one that had brought her trouble? He stopped at the Orient Express in the skyway to order Chinese take-out. With a combination platter of Chicken Almond Ding, fried rice, an egg roll and paper-wrapped chopsticks, he walked back to the Stratton office leaving a wake of unmistakable aroma. Several people smiled at him, whether with amusement or envy, he couldn't tell and he didn't care. The enticing bouquet wafting up from his lunch urged him to pick up his pace.
Back at the desk with the plastic top of the styrofoam platter removed, chopsticks unwrapped and broken apart, and his first mouthful of the savory chicken and sweet almonds in his mouth, he propped up the tablet to a standing position in its case and began to read.
Alex had been pursuing the intruder who attacked Angie Fowler. She believed that by identifying the intruder, it would take the heat off the apartment owners she represented and lay the blame on the intruder and the security company. The Jury could decide who had what part of the blame. A bold thought. If she succeeded, a bold move. Now it was up to Jake. First, did he agree with her approach? More importantly for him, was this approach what got her killed? What had she found out? He scoured her notes looking for answers. Finding very little that he hadn't already read, he called the police department and asked for Sergeant Shaughnessy.
"This is Shaughnessy."
Jake introduced himself. He explained what he was doing and how it related to both the Van de Meer murder and the Fowler assault.
"I am familiar with both cases," Shaughnessy said. "The Fowler assault happened at her apartment in the Loring Park area. That's in our First Precinct. First Precinct offices are over on the other side of Hennepin Avenue behind the Gay Nineties Bar. You know where the Gay Nineties is?"
"Unfortunately, I do. I think I went there on my twenty-first birthday. That was a long time ago."
"Well, it's changed since then, but some things are the same. Anyway, the Fowler case is First Precinct. The Van de Meer murder happened in Bayfield. It's not even a Minneapolis case."
"Are you First Precinct?"
"Me? Nope. I'm just an old sergeant serving out my time in administration."
"Oh? I understood you were helping Alex Van de Meer on the Fowler case."
Jake was definitely getting confused. "I am taking her place on the Fowler case, at least temporarily."
Jake ignored that for the time being. "I am also working on her murder case, that is, I am investigating it and trying to see if one of her lawsuits has a connection."
"I know that's not a Minneapolis case, so I understand that you can't help me there."
"I might be able to help."
Jake wasn't just getting confused anymore, he was there. "Thank you," he said. "I truly appreciate having your cooperation, but do you mind my asking how you can help or why you are helping if Fowler is a First Precinct case, you're not First Precinct and Alex's murder isn't even a Minneapolis or even a Minnesota case at all?"
"I don't mind your asking."
Jake waited. This guy was something else.
"In the order you asked your questions, I was helping Alex on the Fowler case because she had the idea from her review of Ms. Fowler's past reporting and her current work for future reporting that the intruder was one of several prominent Minneapolis citizens Ms. Fowler may have been investigating with the idea of some kind of exposÃ©. If Alex is right and one of our local civic leaders is a possible rapist, Administration wants someone on it. That's me. As far as Alex's case in Bayfield, Jim Brennan asked me to help you, if I can. He said you were okay. I worked for a lot of years alongside Jim when he was on the force here. I owe him."
"Brennan called you?"
"He did. I asked him how he was doing up there in Paradise. He said fine until he drew a homicide."
"So, did Alex tell you who these prominent suspects are?"
Again, Jake waited.
Shaughnessy took his time. "I think it's time we met. I've said more that I normally would without a face to face."
"I think that's a good idea," Jake agreed. He wanted to see this dude â€¦ "face to face."
"Anytime. Now?" Jake asked.
"Where are you?"
"How high?" "
"I heard that. Sorry about the pun. It's a natural reaction for those of us down here at ground level." He paused. "With the elevator ride and walking through the skyway, you could be here in about fifteen or twenty minutes."
"Where are you?"
"You know the old courthouse?"
"I do. I've argued before the Court of Appeals in one of the old courtrooms, there. I don't know if it was an old courtroom from Municipal Court or from District Court before they built the new Hennepin County Government Center."
"If you tried cases in those courtrooms and you call the Hennepin County courthouse 'new,' you're a lot older than I am. You must be about ninety-five."
"I didn't try cases in those courts. The Court of Appeals used some of those courtrooms for oral argument after the government center was built. I've been around a bit, but I'm not ninety-five. You?" Jake was beginning to like this guy.
"Like I told you, I'm just an old sergeant putting in his time. Oh, I put my time in out on the street and down in the trenches. And I had no desire to rise in the ranks to one of those political jobs, telling the people below you what to do and kissing the backsides of those above you. So here I am and I don't mind a bit. In another year or two, I'll be calling Jim Brennan to find out how he did what he did. I, too, have been around a bit and I, too, am not ninety-five â€¦ yet."
"How do I find you?"
"Room 130. They'll find me."
Jake walked through the skyway to the old courthouse, now Minneapolis City Hall or sometimes referred to as the Municipal Building although Jake understood that the county still owned and occupied a fair piece of it. A tunnel under Fifth Street connected it to the County Government Center where the District Court and other County offices are housed. Approaching in the skyway to the Government Center, from which he would take the tunnel to City Hall, Jake had an elevated view of the grand old building.
Its address was 350 south Fifth Street, but it occupied the entire square block from sidewalk to sidewalk, from Fifth Street to Fourth Street and Third Avenue to Fourth Avenue. Built between 1888 and 1909 of rose granite with red peaked roofs and cupolas, the structure was an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, Jake once read. The roofs were later replaced with copper which has taken on a characteristic green patina. At the Fourth Street entrance, an immense marble sculpture of "Mississippi- Father of Waters" reclines in a five-story rotunda. Lawyers who tried cases in the old courthouse were said to have rubbed his big toe for luck before going to court. It must have been something, thought Jake, to try cases there in the old days of the heroic courtroom battles of yore.
Shortly, Jake sat facing Sergeant Michael, "call me Mike," Shaughnessy in a small room barely big enough for the two of them. Jake wasn't small and Mike Shaughnessy wasn't smaller. Gray hair cut short, ruddy complexion and piercing blue eyes that looked like they had seen everything. But, the most striking part of the impression he gave was his size. He was a big, big man. Jake guessed him at six, five or six and close to 275 pounds or more. He was not fat, but he was big. He wore civilian clothes, a gray suit, white shirt and red tie. He shook hands with a grip like iron.
They continued the conversation they had been holding when they had adjourned for this "face to face,"
"So, you were helping Alex because she might be about to implicate some prominent citizen?"
"Or citizens. Once the questioning starts and the accusations begin, other media types will smell gossip and rumor. Even better, when they realize it may involve one of their own. That's when the fan gets dirty, if you know what I mean. Police Administration and City Administration don't want any of that, if it can be helped. If it can't be helped, they want to be able to escape the collateral damage.
"First Precinct has an open case. Alex was sent there first. I think they thought she was barking up the wrong tree or something. With her possibly about to talk about important people, being suspects, apparently she got that much from Fowler, the Inspector for the First sent her over to Admin, maybe just to get her out of their hair. As I said, I think the upper echelons didn't want any accusations directed at our local prima donnas without their knowing about it and maybe having some control. So, instead of ignoring her or just blowing her off, they put me on it.
"After listening to her, I thought she might be onto something. She was one smart lady, that one. Admin had me there as more of watchdog, but I began to think she might come up with the answer.
"Her murder might not be a Minneapolis case, but I bet it's connected. Jake, if I can be of help in finding her killer, you got it."
"I appreciate that." Shaughnessy meant it. He could be a big help. "You said Alex hadn't told you any names of these possibly suspected prominent local citizens."
"Nope." He folded his massive hands in front of him on the desktop, fingers intertwined. "No, she didn't."
"Why not, do you think?"
"She didn't know, yet. She was working with Ms. Fowler. I gather she had a good relationship with her. Better than I could have had I'm sure. If Alex had got any useful information out of Fowler, she would have told me."
"What do you think was the problem?"
"Fowler is a reporter and she is scared. Those are two reasons. First, I imagine she is scared that this guy will come after her again if she says anything. Second, you know how reporters are about their sources. She gives one up, she may never get another. Besides, if she thinks there's a Pulitzer in it, and they all do, or at least hope, she won't say anything until she has the scoop."
"So, what do we do?"
"I told you I'm sure I would not have the kind of trusting relationship with Ms. Fowler that I think Alex was developing. I mean, look at me. You think a female victim of male abuse and dominance is going to use me as a father confessor?"
Jake had to agree. Whatever Shaughnessy might be in reality, or inside, he did not look like a source of much compassion or understanding. Although, Jake was beginning to realize, he probably really was.
"You have a woman partner over in that office?" Shaughnessy asked.
"There are two female lawyers. Neither does this kind of work or anything like the Fowler case. Why?"
"This is going to be up to you, but you cannot do it alone. You need a woman with you."
"Alex had a very good paralegal who is now working with me."
"She is that."
"Go see Ms. Fowler and take her with you."
"I can't talk to her. She is a plaintiff in a lawsuit. She is represented by counsel and I am on the other side."
"How was Alex doing it?"
"I don't know. I don't know, but if she was, I have a suspicion how."
"You gonna let me in on it?"
"She could talk with Angie Fowler with her counsel's permission."
"You know him?"
"I've known Fred Garrison for years. Besides, this could very well be in his client's best interest and he owes me one."
"Well, there you go." He stood, towering over Jake, putting out a hand the size of a Virginia ham. "See how everything works out? You'll keep me advised?"
"I will and thanks."
Back at the office, Jake told Carrie about the Shaughnessy meeting.
"You really think I can be of help?" she asked.
"He thinks so. If he knew you as I do, he'd be sure."
Carries face flushed, slightly. "When do we do it?"
"We need Fred Garrsion's permission and that of his client, first. See if you can get him on the phone. Tell him I'll buy coffee and that I want to meet face to face. Please?" he added. Carrie grinned, saluted and headed off to her work station.
"What's all the intrigue, Jake?" asked Fred Garrison as they sat down at the Nicollet Coffee Bar. The place was becoming one of Jake's hangouts.
Jake explained the situation, including Shaughnessy's advice that a woman be involved.
"You supposed correctly. Alex did have my permission to talk to my client with certain obvious reservations. You want the same thing?"
"I'd have to be there," said Fred. "At least at first. After all, you're opposing counsel in a lawsuit to which she is a party."
"Okay then. I'll talk to Angie. I will recommend that she cooperate with you. But, remember, I want to know everything you know and I want to know what, if anything you intend to do with that knowledge."
They met Angie Fowler the next morning in a conference room in Fred Garrison's office. Carrie and Jake had gone over the case thoroughly until Jake was satisfied that Carrie knew just as much as he did, which he acknowledged wasn't much.
Angie Fowler was edgy. She looked worried. Fred sat beside her, lending support. "Remember, Angie," he said, "these people are on your side. I've made sure of that. I trust them. But, if you are uncomfortable at any time, let me know and we'll stop. You understand?"
Carrie stood and leaned over the table, putting out her hand. Angie took it, hesitantly. "Angie, I'm Carrie Parker. I know you already met Jake at your deposition. I am working with him now. I worked with Alex." Carrie returned to her seat. "We think she might have found something out in your case that put her in danger. We're trying to figure out what that may have been. We're hoping you can help us."
Angie Fowler sat still for a moment. Then she said to Carrie, "I'll try to help. I liked Alex."
Jake asked a few questions but he could tell she was uncomfortable. Sergeant Shaughnessy was wise beyond his years. Maybe just even with his years, Jake decided, remembering that Shaughnessy described himself as just an old cop biding his time. He said, "Fred, may I see you a moment?"
"Angie, I have to talk with Jake. Are you comfortable here if we step outside?"
She nodded. Looking at Carrie, she said, "I'll be okay."
Outside the conference room, Fred said, "You are going to ask that your legal assistant be allowed to visit with Angie alone and not just today and not just here."
"That's right. Well?"
"Well I agree. I didn't miss the eye contact between them after which Angie said she'd be okay in there without you and me. They already have made a connection. Of course, I will advise her that it is entirely up to her, but it is her choice after all and if she agrees, so do I."
"Jake, I know we trust each other, something I can't say about all the bar, but I think you should have something in writing that shows my and Angie's consent to you and your legal assistant contacting her outside my presence. I'll send you an e-mail."
Clearly Fred Garrison was among the few remaining straight shooters in the practicing bar. He reminded Jake of the days when a lawyer who lost would call the other lawyer to extend congratulations on winning. Who did that anymore? He bet Fred Garrison would.
Before they left, Carrie made arrangements to see Angie at her apartment on the weekend.
That evening, Charles called. He had stayed in Raspberry Bay. Something to do with Ms. Becket again, Jake thought.
"Good evening," said Jake. "How's Joyce?"
"I called earlier to see what you have planned for this weekend," said Charles, "but your cell phone said you were not available. I left a voice mail."
"Oh," Jake turned to look for his phone. "I think I had it turned off while we were meeting with Angie Fowler and Fred Garrison."
"To answer your question, Ms. Becket is fine. So, what meeting? Who is 'we?' With Angie Fowler? Fred Garrison? Jake, what have you been up to?"
Jake filled him in on that meeting and also the earlier meeting with Mike Shaughnessy. "It was Shaughnessy who suggested I have a woman deal with Angie Fowler."
"Sounds like a wise man."
"I think he is. More than he looks."
"When will Carrie meet with her?" Charles asked.
"She meets with Angie Fowler on Sunday. I'm not sure how much she will get, but she told me she was going to take it slow and easy. 'One step at a time,' was what Carrie recommended. She said Angie Fowler is still pretty hesitant about almost everything. Angie Fowler is scared."
"So, what are you doing this weekend and where?"
"It's been a long day. A long week. I need to rest and to think all this out. I need to be alone, I think."
"And you will let Mary know?"
"I will. I'll call her right after this."
"I think you'd better."
As soon as Charles said good-bye, Jake called Mary Pelletier. She was not happy that he was not coming home, but she said she understood. She repeated her concern that Jake was up to a dangerous activity. It got Alex Van de Meer killed and it might get him injured or, she said, "worse." She told him to be careful and keep Charles with him as much as possible.
Jake understood her concern and felt a little of it himself. Maybe that's why he needed some alone time to think all this out.
The next day, Jake voiced his concerns about the Fowler case. "You know,â€ he told Carrie, â€œsomeone knew where Alex was on the night she was killed and what she was doing. Somehow, somebody was following her moves. If he or she is doing that now, you could be in danger." He wondered if Mary's paranoia was rubbing off on him. Of course, it wasn't really paranoia if someone was really out to get you.
"Jake, why don't you go up to that boat of yours and relax? I'll be all right. You need the rest and relaxation. I thought 'R & R' was what that sailing yacht was all about."
"Nope. I'm staying here for the weekend."
"You're right. I need the R & R, but Resolution and the Apostle Islands won't provide that now."
"I don't understand."
"I like being on the boat. Everything you say is true but that's because I live aboard. She's always ready to go. I don't do like the weekend sailors and their rush with supplies and equipment hurrying to relax. I start out relaxed. No, I am staying here and I am probably taking the day off for a mental rest, but right here in the Twin Cities."
Jake spent Saturday outside. Starting from the YMCA on Ninth Street, he ran at an easy pace along a familiar route he had used often when still working. He ran down toward Loring Park, did a turn around the lake, then crossed over the Freeway near the old Hennepin-Lyndale bottleneck and on to the Lake of the Isles. There, he paused, caught his breath, sipped some water and began strolling along the Parkway, enjoying the view, nodding to passing walkers, joggers and cyclists. He was in no hurry. He chuckled to himself. Being in no hurry was a talent he had developed and cultivated during his years aboard Resolution. Only recently, had he not been that way. It was time to restore that attitude. He would better manage the stress of Alex's caseload and her murder investigation if he were not hurried and not harried.
He settled into an easy jog as he headed back toward downtown.
On Sunday, Jake slept in. He had a big breakfast at the hotel buffet while reading the Sunday Star-Tribune. He left the notebook and flash drives in his room. After breakfast, he drove the Jeep down Cleveland Avenue to the University of Minnesota "Farm Campus" and across by the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on Como Avenue to Como Park. There, in warmth and sunshine under a cloudless sky, he strolled around Lake Como, had a hot dog from an outside vendor, walked through the zoo and then spent more than an hour in the Conservatory. This large building of white columns supporting a domed roof of greenhouse glass and glass walls was filled with rows of colorful flowers, lush tropical plants, sunken gardens and an orchid house.
Way back in law school, Jake had often studied at the farm campus library and student union where he found things a little quieter and away from the hustle and bustle of the law school on the Minneapolis campus. Often, he would take a break at the nearby conservatory as he was doing now. It was quiet, peaceful and calming. Troubles seemed to drain away in that environment. It still worked.
While Jake was struggling to get his mind settled down, he knew Carrie was meeting with Angie Fowler. They were to meet at Angie's church on Nicollet Avenue and planned to have lunch at an outside patio table at the CafÃ© and Bar Lurcat, attend an outdoor concert at Loring Park and then go back to Angie's apartment to discuss her case some more. Charles was coming back that night. They would both hear Carrie's report in the morning.
When Jake got back to the Marriott, he saw Charles' Cadillac in the lot. He went directly to Charles' room and found him unpacking. "You're here earlier than I expected, Charles."
"I was at home for three whole days. I got what I needed done and thought I should get down here in time for a comfortable dinner and a good night's sleep before we start in the morning. I think the week is going to be busy."
"It's good to have you back." Jake sat on the couch.
"Here, I have something for you," Charles said as he lifted a briefcase up onto the coffee table. He reached inside the soft leather briefcase and produced a nickel-plated revolver.
"Charles! What are you doing with a gun?"
"Self-protection. And for your protection, too."
"I would have sworn you were against guns, at least handguns and automatic weapons."
"You're right, Jake." Charles answered, carefully placing the pistol on the table pointed away from either of them. "I have long believed that the adult population of the United States, the ones that are supposed to be able to lawfully have guns, have demonstrated that, collectively, they do not have the maturity or responsibility to be allowed to have them. More in this country than in any other civilized nation, we hear daily on the news that another school or nightclub or grocery store has been shot up and people injured and killed. While in nearly every case there are those that defend guns or even suggest, God help us, that the answer is to get more guns in the hands of others so 'when a bad guy has a gun, he is more likely to meet a good guy with a gun.' Every case I have heard or read about can be summed up in the same phrase: 'It's too bad he had a gun.'"
Jake sat on the couch listening. This was the Charles he was used to.
"So," Charles continued, "I have always thought the answer is to get rid of the guns. Certainly hunters should be able to have rifles and shotguns for hunting, but there is no need for pistols and fully automatic machine guns with large magazines and lots of ammunition. Get rid of them, I say. Make them all illegal."
"What about the Second Amendment?"
"A political problem, but does the Second Amendment give the right to individual citizens to have firearms?"
"What?" Jake sat forward, waiting for Charles to continue. Then he said, "I guess I already know what you are going to say."
"Of course you do. Basically, the Second amendment says that because a militia is necessary to the security of a State, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed. It does not say an individual citizen may possess a gun for just any old reason. But, just a few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the Heller case that the amendment protected the right of an individual to have a gun and use it for any lawful purpose such as self-defense."
"And you are accepting that?"
"While I think the Second Amendment doesn't exactly say that either, there's a fair argument that the first words do not limit the rest of the sentence and regardless of the militia-related reason, there is no limit on the protection afforded the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Besides, I have to accept it. It's now the law."
"I sense there is something else."
"Very perceptive. I have always believed there is one major defect in my reasoning against guns. I have never lived in an area where a gun might be needed for protection. Up on Raspberry Point? Bayfield? Out on Lake Superior? Of course not. Even in the Twin Cities, I had a comfortable home in a quiet suburban neighborhood that was regularly watched by the police. Of course there are areas of Minneapolis where I would not want to go alone at night, but I never went there, at night. I didn't need a gun. And with more and more terrorist shootings, maybe nowhere is as safe as it used to be. I haven't needed a gun. But, some people do. Some people live in those unsafe cities or neighborhoods. They may need guns." He pointed at the pistol on the table. "And maybe we do, too, now."
"You know how to handle that?"
"I believe I do. How about you? And, how about this?" He produced another pistol, this one a black, carbon-fiber, automatic pistol, which he placed on the table. "That's a Glock. Shoots a nine millimeter parabellum, I'm told. Mine is a .357 Magnum revolver."
"You expect me to carry that?"
"I think you should. Someone else expects you to and told me to tell you so."
"Your friend, Mary. She gave these to me. These are Tribal Police property, along with this." He pulled boxes of ammunition from the briefcase and put them on the table. Two boxes each.
"Mary gave these to you?"
"Yes, she did. And, she offered to send a couple of tribal officers to protect us, but we both decided that might be troublesome for them as well as us."
"She didn't say anything to me when I was up there."
"She thought, and I think correctly, that I was an easier mark; that I could be persuaded more easily."
No doubt, thought Jake, looking at the lethal looking hardware now on the hotel room table.
Back in the office on Monday morning, Carrie reported to Jake and Charles.
"She's pretty scared, still. I got a list of names of people she was working on. I'm not sure if I have gotten as far as Alex, but I think maybe. I'm not sure she gave any more than this list to her. Maybe I will get more, next time. I am meeting with her again, Wednesday morning. I think she is getting used to me."
"What is she holding back?" asked Charles, "and why?"
Jake answered. "Shaughnessy said something that may be the reason. Actually, he said there were two reasons. First, she is scared that the guy will come back if she says anything. Second, she is a reporter, an investigative reporter. She would not let go of her research unless and until she knows she isn't going to use it. The way Shaughnessy explained it, all investigative reporters think they are Woodward and Bernstein and it's Watergate all over again. Or at least, according to Shaughnessy, they all hope so."
"How many on the list?" asked Charles.
"We'll take the list to Shaughnessy," said Jake. "We'll see what he thinks."
"No time like now."
Carrie placed the call. Shaughnessy was not in. She was given and dialed his cell phone number, handing the phone to Jake. Jake listened for a minute, then said, "Thanks, Mike we'll see you then.
"He's not available today. We can see him tomorrow morning."
Jake and Charles worked on Alex's other cases that afternoon. They were in the middle of the Virginia School district case when Jim Brennan called. Jake put the desk phone on speaker.
"Jake, we might have something. Well it's certainly something, but I'm not sure if it will take us anywhere."
"You've certainly got my attention."
"Minneapolis P. D. looked at several costume shops in Minneapolis. There's a Party City, a Halloween Supply Shop and the Costume Center. We actually found some rentals at two of those places for the party in Bayfield. Party City rented a fur trapper costume for that party, but the costume was a small size and could not have fit the guy we saw on video. Besides, the cap was wrong.
"They may have found something over in St. Paul. At the Midway Costume Rental Shop on University Avenue, a William Stafford rented a large size fur trapper costume with a coonskin cap. The clerk remembers the guy. Tall, heavy-set, dark hair, mustache, thick glasses. The clerk thought he would look the part, except for the glasses. The guy paid cash for the rental and the deposit. The costume has not been returned. I told you we found a fur trapper costume in a dumpster by the marina. I'm bringing it down to show the people at the rental shop. I'm sure it's the one they rented."
"Did they have an address on this Stafford?" asked Charles.
"Yeah, but it doesn't exist. Neither does the phone number he gave. And, there is no William Stafford that we can find."
"Any DNA off the costume?" Jake asked.
"Nope. No luck there. Of course, we don't have anything to compare it to anyway."
"That sounds promising," Charles said after the call ended. "At least he seems to be getting somewhere." He looked at the file spread out before them. "You know, Bert Hanson was worried that handling Alex's caseload would keep you so busy that you wouldn't have time to go after the murderer. I wonder if he's right."
I wonder, thought Jake.
The next morning, Shaughnessy held the single page in his hand. "You know who these people are, don't you?"
"I know one of them," said Jake. "In fact, he is a client."
"Well, like the others on this list, he is one of the Twin Cities' favorite sons. Creator and owner of Z-Pop, which is going international in its distribution. He also is one of Minneapolis' bigger philanthropists. He is enormously popular. What does Angie Fowler think she has on him?"
"That's just it. We only have these names for now. I think you were right about Angie Fowler."
"I thought so, but I think Alex was going to get the information. I hope your legal assistant can too."
"What about the other names?" asked Charles. "I thought I recognized most of them, but I don't know a lot about them."
"Let's see." Shaughnessy examined the list.
"Number one is Logan Bradbury. He is CEO of Nathan Hotels. I'm sure you both have stayed in one at one time or another."
"I have," said Jake.
Charles agreed. "I have and I liked them."
"Well, it's a huge chain and growing. Bradbury is the founder and was the sole owner until he took the company public, a few years ago. I heard the stock tripled on the big board after it came out."
"Popularity in the community?"
"He is beloved. Let's say that. Of course, there have been some rumors like there always will be with someone as successful as he is. But, they have never been substantiated as far as I know."
"And you would know?" said Jake.
"I would know."
"What rumors?" asked Charles.
"Oh, insider trading, stock manipulation and that kind of thing. If it's true, he could be looking at felony charges, public disgrace and some serious time. But nothing of substance has ever turned up. Just rumors, I guess, probably from someone jealous of his success."
Shaughnessy looked at the list. "Second is Gina Louden. She is a Minneapolis City Councilor, an up and comer in the local political scene. You're looking at the next Governor or member of Congress."
"Angie hinted to Carrie that some of these were favorable stories and this might be one of them," said Jake.
"Why so close-mouthed, especially about favorable stories?"
"Carrie says she thinks Angie is afraid if she reduces the list by the favorable stories, she will be pointing out the attacker and he will come back to get her, maybe for good this time."
Shaughnessy nodded affirmatively. "I can't disagree with her reasoning."
"So," said Jake, "let's assume for the moment that Ms. Louden is not a suspect. Who's next?"
"I agree with you. We can skip over her, but, you know, of course, what assumption is the mother of? Next is Clayton Zachary. We talked about him. Next after Zachary is Arnold Levine.
"Like the others on this list, Arnold is a local hero. Born here. Grew up here. Up in Northeast Minneapolis, or as they say, 'Nordeast.' He played round ball for the Edison High School Tomcats. An All American at the U, he enlisted right after college. As a young lieutenant, Arnold won the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery in battle, saving several of his men at great danger to himself. Back here, he coached the Wayzata High Trojans for many years while also serving as a member of the Minnesota State Legislature. As a winning coach, he was revered. As a legislator, he was respected. He is truly a local hero."
"And if Angie Fowler has some dirt on him?" asked Jake, suspecting he knew the answer.
"Couldn't happen. He's so clean, he squeaks. Besides, he's too old to hurt, now. Jake, Arnold Levine is ninety-seven years old! That Medal of Honor was for service in the invasion of Normandy in 1944! He's a WWII hero! Anybody goes after him, now, is cutting his or her career off at the knees."
"Angie's story about him must be going to be favorable, then."
"Must be. Might even be for an obituary. This whole town will be in mourning when Arnold goes. But there will also be a wake to celebrate his life. Even a parade, I imagine."
Shaughnessy looked back at the list.
"Fifth is Stephen Robillard. That would be his Honor, Judge Stephen Robillard. He is a Federal District Judge appointed for life by the president. I'm not sure he can be touched with any investigation no matter what it produces. I'm not sure that's good, but it is what it is."
"I know what you mean. I have a lawyer friend who says it's too bad about the federal judges that he calls 'Lifers.' He says when they get to Heaven, they will be sadly disappointed because even an all-powerful, divine being can't possibly elevate them to the status they have already elevated themselves in life."
Charles coughed and shifted in his chair.
"Finally, and last on the list," said Shaughnessy, "is Madeline Cross? Jake, tell me youâ€™re not serious,â€ said Shaughnessy.
â€œWho is she?â€
â€œYou donâ€™t know?â€
â€œSergeant," said Charles, "Jake has been a beach bum for some time now. He and current events are not really acquainted.â€
â€œEver hear of Minnetonka Gyms, Jake?â€ Shaughnessy asked.
â€œCanâ€™t say I have. Is it like Goldâ€™s Gym or L.A. Fitness?â€
â€œYeah, but fancier and more geared toward women. They have all the standard stuff, treadmills, elliptical trainers, stairmasters, machine weights and free weights. But, they also have personal trainers, aerobics classes, yoga classes, meditation training, wellness classes and juice bars.
â€œHers is quite a story. Madeline Cross grew up out in Paynesville where they grow all those turkeys. After graduating from Paynesville High School, she left for the Twin Cities, taking classes, here, to become certified as a yoga instructor and personal fitness trainer. At the beginning, Madeline worked in a health club at a country club out in Wayzata. She found her style and personality attracted women to the club and her classes. She talked some banker into financing a new gym and health club of her own. She started the first one out by Lake Minnetonka. It was a big success. From there, it was steady expansion. Now, there are three in the Twin Cities and she has them across a five-state area."
"How do you know all this?" asked Jake.
"Madeline Cross has been interviewed on television shows several times. She was on the cover of Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine last month. I read the article."
"So, now she's big money?"
"I heard she got a buyout offer from a national chain for 122 Million dollars. She turned it down.â€
â€œAnd if Angie Fowler had some dirt on her?â€
â€œDepends on what it is, but it could be devastating. Minnetonka Gyms are built on Madelineâ€™s rags to riches story and her glamour. All the ads have pictures of her. Women who want to be like her or just want to be pampered on their way to good health, flock to Minnetonka Gyms. Men go there, maybe to see the women. If sheâ€™s dirty, the glamour is gone and so is the company image. Women will stop going to the gym. Maybe the men, too. It would be like finding out a beloved and trusted newscaster is a pedophile, like learning your favorite quarterback is on illegal steroids, or being told your surgeon cheated on his med school exams.â€
â€œWorse. Madeline Cross didnâ€™t get where she is without stepping on a few toes. She is aggressive. In business, she is said to be ruthless. She can be and has on occasion been malicious and vindictive. She has a renowned temper. He or she who screws with Mad Maddie Cross will regret it.â€
â€œInteresting," said Jake, "but it doesnâ€™t lend anything to the Fowler case or Alexâ€™s murder. Angie Fowler knows that her attacker was a man.â€
â€œShe would know and the rape kit results confirm it.â€
"The rape kit?" asked Charles.
"Sometimes called the sexual assault kit. Developed thirty or forty years go to make the collection of evidence in those cases uniform and following a certain protocol. This one contained semen."
"Oh," said Charles.
â€œSo, that leaves Logan Bradbury, Clayton Zachary or Judge Robillard.â€
"That's assuming Alex's suspicion was right about Angie Fowler's attacker and assuming your suspicion about Alex's killer is right. Remember about what I said assumption is the mother of."
"Well, thanks for your help."
"You should know I am keeping Jim Brennan up to date on what's going on. Are you in touch with him, too?"
"I have been," said Jake, "although I haven't had much to report lately."
"We need to keep him informed."
The next day, Jake and Charles listened as Carrie related the details of her second meeting alone with Angie Fowler.
"Angie confirmed that the story on Gina Louden and Arnold Levine are favorable. Definitely a career oriented person, that one. Everything she does is steered toward moving her career forward. She wants a Pulitzer. She wants someday to be on a big network like Dana Bash on CNN or Andrea Mitchell or Katy Tur on NBC. She's just twenty-seven years old and thinks she can make it."
Carrie explained that when Angie Fowler told her that the stories about Gina Louden and Arnold Levine were favorable, she did not talk about the other people she was working on. She confirmed what Shaughnessy had told Jake and Charles last week about Louden being an up and comer on the local political scene. Angie Fowler wanted to ride with her up the ladder. She had more to say about Arnold Levine. She even acknowledged Shaughnessy's comment about her writing an obituary in advance. When he passes, Angie told Carrie, it will be big news, even nationally. "He was a wonderful man," she had said, "I interviewed him three times. We both knew the interviews were to preserve his story. He thought it was great and hoped it would help my career. He even insisted that I have more camera time. I told him. 'This is about you.' He said, "It's about both of us, Angie.' He is wonderful!"
"Sheâ€™s still scared," Carrie told Jake and Charles, "but she's tough. I think she is now starting to get back to normal and about to get back on track with her reporting."
Sam entered the room just as Charles asked, "Nothing about the others?"
"One, but I have been sworn to secrecy."
"You can't tell us?" Charles asked, incredulous.
"I can tell you, but she hopes you will preserve her confidence unless it's important to finding her attacker and solving Alex's murder."
"So, you can tell us," said Jake. "We might have to confront the ones she is investigating."
"She understands that. She's still a little mixed up but she appreciates what you are trying to do."
"Who is the one she told you about?" asked Charles.
Jake, Charles and Sam listened as Carrie described Angie Fowler's work on the Z-Pop phenomenon and Clayton Zachary. Jake had known Clay Zachary for some time. He was a longtime client of the firm. Jake and Sam had just been through a mediation with him. Carrie was there, too. He found it hard to believe that Clay Zachary was anything other what he appeared to be, a prosperous, entrepreneur with a success story most would envy.
"Angie dug up some old stuff on Zachary's battle with Coca Cola," Carrie said.
"That was a long time ago," said Jake. "Eugene Stratton of this firm represented Zachary."
"I know. Angie referred to her research as 'preliminary research.' I'm not sure she even thought it would produce something, but she was 'fishing,' as she called it."
"Hmmph," Charles grunted. "Some of these wannabe Woodwards and Bernsteins should be careful. Their so-called 'digging' can cause innocent people a lot of trouble."
"She knows that, Professor. She says she is careful. Apparently, there were witnesses from Coke who said that not only did Zachary develop Z-Pop when he was working for Coke, but that he did it on company time using company equipment. They also claimed that he actually stole a Coca Cola formula for a grapefruit soda they had developed but had yet to market."
"Oh. oh," muttered Charles. "But, that was years ago. There must be statutes of limitation."
"If the allegations had substance,â€ said Jake, â€œI wouldn't want to argue that he is saved by the technical loophole of a limitations statute. That's like saying, 'Sure it's true, but you can't sue me, now.' There goes his reputation and likely that of Z-Pop."
"And,â€ added Charles, "if the allegations are true and can still be actionable in court, he could lose Z-Pop, and maybe have to repay all the profits he has gained, with interest. That would destroy anybody."
"Do you suppose that's why he was being so careful at the mediation to protect the Z-Pop formula?" asked Sam.
"God, I hope not." sand Jake. "We'd better see him right away."
They met Clayton Zachary at his office in the Z-Building out on France Avenue South. It was an old three story red brick structure that Zachary had purchased and rehabbed for office space. It was not involved in Z-Pop production although a large supply of that product was always on hand on the premises.
"You're joking!" said Zachary when Jake told him why they were there. "I thought that was all behind me. Aren't there statutes of limitations you lawyers use?"
Jake explained his concern about using a statute of limitations as a defense in the court of public opinion.
"Who is it that is accusing me this time?"
"Clay, I'm afraid I cannot tell you that, at least at this time."
"What? Why not? Wait a minute. Why are you involved? What's going on?"
"One of Alex's cases has a possible connection to Alex Van de Meer's murder. It involves background material on several prominent local citizens. You are one of them, I'm sorry to say."
"Damn! Are you serious?"
"I'm sure you have an answer," said Jake, "but we will follow every lead. We find the solution by eliminating all other possibilities."
"I understand. And, I appreciate what you are doing about Alex. I think I can clear this up." He reached in a desk drawer and pulled out a single piece of stationary bond. He held it up for them to see. The letterhead was Coca-Cola in its trademark italic letters. "This is from the then President of Coke. I keep it here handy because I like to look at it every now and again to remind me what we are doing, here. The president says in this letter that they don't accept the statements of a few disgruntled employees, that they hold no grudges and wish me success." He turned with his back toward them, facing his computer. "What was the date of Ms. Fowler's unfortunate attack?"
Jake told him. Angie was attacked nearly a year ago, now. Her recovery was slow, but according to the deposition testimony Jake had read, that was to be expected and should not be rushed.
Zachary moved the mouse back and forth on its pad. "Ah, here it is. I was not around here on that date. Z-Pop sponsors a Little League team, here in Minneapolis. Both boys and girls. They were pretty good last year, better than this year. This year it's the girls who are winning. On the dates you mentioned, I was with the boys in Indianapolis at the Midwest Regional Tournament. We lost in the second round. The boys stayed through the week to watch. I left after the third day. We traveled in on Saturday. The boys played Sunday and Monday. I flew back on Tuesday. The boys stayed to watch through the final game on the following Saturday. On the first Saturday night, when you say the attack occurred, we attended the opening ceremonies. I was asked to give a speech which I did. It was recorded. I have a copy."
"We had to do this, you know," said Charles. "No offense."
"None taken. Here," he reached into a small refrigerator by the door, "have a couple of Zees for the road going back downtown."
As they were leaving, Zachary put a hand on Jake's shoulder. "Jake, I told you once before, I am glad someone is trying to do something about Alex's murder. If you need anything, let me know."
"Thanks, Clay. I can't imagine what that would be, but if something comes up, I will call."
On the way back, Charles drank his Z-Pop and said, "Well, that leaves Logan Bradbury and the Judge. When do you think Carrie will get that information, if ever?"
"She is visiting Angie Fowler as we speak."
Back in the office, Jake sat at Alex's desk deep in thought. He was glad Clayton Zachary was cleared. He hoped his knowledge of Zachary as an acquaintance and as a client of the firm had not made him favor a suspect. Had it? If Angie Fowler's attacker had the motive to kill Alex because she was onto him, does an alibi like Zachary's necessarily get him off the hook? Who really killed Alex? The evidence indicated that if it was someone on Angie Fowler's list, then it was one of three of the four men listed. But did the guilty man have to be in Bayfield on the evening of July 9?
"A hundred dollars for your thoughts." Charles entered the room, tablet in hand. "Never mind I've got some valuable ones of my own." He held up the tablet. "I Googled our remaining suspects. Want to see?" He handed Jake the tablet. "Here's the Judge."
Jake read from the small screen.
"I notice a lot of the Wikipedia sites on federal judges do not include pictures," said Charles, "but some do. That one does."
Jake studied the picture. Judge Stephen Robillard was pink-faced and clean shaven with graying and thinning hair. In the picture, which was only his head and upper body, he wore his black robe. He wore no eyeglasses, but Jake assumed, given his age which Wikipedia listed at sixty-three years, that he wore glasses for reading to correct naturally occurring presbyopia that afflicts almost everyone who reaches such an age. Of course, in this day of various eye surgeries and contact lenses, who knew? You could no longer tell by looking at a still photograph.
Judge Robillard, the article went on, had been born in St. Paul, attended high school there, followed by undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota and the study of law at Billy Mitchell, now Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul. Judge Robillard was appointed to the United States District Court, District of Minnesota, fourteen years ago. Like all federal judges, he was appointed for life and would continue to receive his salary when he retired after age sixty-five, with at least 15 years of service. Like many federal judges he would probably work to age sixty-five or seventy and then go on "senior status," receiving no additional pay, but making way for his seat to be filled by a new judge. The salary for a District Judge was about $200,000. For Judge Robillard, the "Rule of 80," age (minimum of 65) + years in service = 80 was right around the corner. When he turned sixty-five he would have sixteen years in service and already have reached the Rule of 80. Not much Angie Fowler's investigation could do to him. Shaughnessy was right. You can't touch the Judge. Jake said so to Charles as he returned the tablet.
"Not necessarily so, Jake," Charles responded. "Even federal judges appointed for life have certain rules. They can be impeached. If Judge Robillard has been particularly naughty, the House of Representatives can impeach him and, if they do, the Senate will try him and could convict him."
"So, they impeach him and he's off the bench. With that retirement package, which will be his in less than two years, what does he care?"
"Well, I suppose the potential scandal and damage to reputation is a motivating factor. But, the conviction on impeachment could cost him those benefits. I direct your attention to the case of Judge Ambrose Johnson, late of the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Judge Johnson was charged with sexual harassment of two court employees over a period of years and then committing perjury during the subsequent investigation. He was convicted by the Senate on all charges. He was sentenced to prison for seven years. The Second Circuit took away all his benefits. No disability, which he tried to claim, no health insurance, no pension. He was done. The Second Circuit said he should not be able to continue to profit from his own wrongdoing at the government's expense."
"You think Angie Fowler has enough on the Judge to persuade the House to bring articles of impeachment?"
"Anything less and I don't see how he can be touched. He's a federal judge, appointed for life, whose compensation is guaranteed and cannot be reduced according to Article III of the Constitution, other than unusual circumstances like I just mentioned."
"I wonder what Angie has on him. Did you look at our other suspect, Logan Bradbury?"
"I did." Charles tapped his tablet's screen. Handing it over to Jake, he said, "Here he is."
Logan Nathan Bradbury, according to the article Charles had found, was the founder and owner, before going public, of Nathan Hotels, Inc. operator of some 200 hotels across the continental United States. There was even a Nathan in Honolulu. Bradbury was born and raised in Minneapolis, attended Wayzata High and played ball for Coach Levine. It's a small world, thought Jake.
Bradbury received his B.A. and MBA degrees from the University of Minnesota. While still a graduate student, Bradbury managed some financing and bought the old Buckingham Hotel on Lasalle Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. A college friend who was in law school at the time advised him to set up a corporation, helping him with the paperwork. Bradbury named his company after his mother, whose birth name was Anna Nathan and who gave him his middle name. The Buckingham did well. It has long since been converted to apartments, but it was an extended stay hotel when he bought it. People who were summer residents elsewhere often stayed in the Buckingham over the winter months. The grand old building, the article said, still retained its historic charm but had modern additions like the pool, sauna and fitness room. Bradbury had fallen into it. Whether he had the brilliance to anticipate future growth or not, the expansion of upscale living accommodations, dining facilities and recreation attractions in the Loring Park area made the old Buckingham, now Buckingham Apartments, a property whose value skyrocketed after he bought it.
But, not long after he bought the Buckingham and before its meteoric rise in value, Bradbury invested in more hotels, stretching himself much thinner than his MBA training advised. Again, the article noted, whether genius or plain luck, Bradbury came out on top. Eventually growing to over 200 hotels, some with gambling where it was legal, Nathan Hotels, Inc. joined the ranks of the Forbes 500 corporations. Logan Nathan Bradbury became one of the richest men in the country.
As his prosperity grew, so did his philanthropy, which he attributed to his mother as well. Bradbury gave back to his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, funding the construction of Bradbury Hall on the west bank campus across the Mississippi River from the original east bank campus with its iconic grassy mall running from Northrup Auditorium south to the Coffman Student Union and lined with the buildings that were the original campus of the university. Bradbury Hall featured classes in business finance, accounting, human resources, marketing and other business-related subjects.
Bradbury created a scholarship fund for students interested in hospitality management. He served on the University's Board of Regents. Some said he should have a statue at the U like Hubert Humphrey had at Minneapolis City Hall.
Jake put down the tablet. "Wow," he said. "I had no idea he was all of that. He might be tougher to bring down than the Judge."
Charles was nodding his agreement when Carrie walked in the office. She was out of breath. "Wait until you hear this," she gasped.
Charles got Carrie a Diet Coke while she caught her breath.
She sat, sipped the Coke, got her steno pad out of her purse, flipped it open and started her report.
"His majesty, Logan Bradbury is a horse's ass!" she began.
Her blunt statement surprised Jake. Charles said, "Don't hold back. Be sure to let us know how you really feel."
She glared at Charles. "Actually, they are both horse's asses, but we'll start with Bradbury. He is a womanizing, sexual predator who uses his rather immense riches and power to take advantage of women in the workplace; who harasses women in violation of all that is moral, legal and just plain right; who gropes and touches his employees and God knows what else." She took a gulp of Coke and continued. "He should be indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison forever but that's not good enough. Parts of his body should be removed from him!" She slammed the Diet Coke can down on the desk. Brown soda and tan foam erupted from the can.
Jake said, "I'm glad you followed Charles' instructions and let us know how you really feel â€¦ or is there more?"
Carrie seemed to be calming down. "No," she said. "That's about it on Bradbury, except for the specifics, the jerk. But don't expect me to calm down as I tell you the facts. And, Charles, I'll need more Diet Coke."
Carrie laid out the evidence Angie Fowler had collected on Logan Bradbury. Bradbury commanded an immense business empire. Within Nathan Hotels, Inc., he wielded total power. Even outside the company he had incredible leverage and control with such persons as might be involved as suppliers of goods or services to his hotels. He traveled a great deal, visiting Nathan hotels at locations all over the country. When away from Minneapolis, Angie reported, he began to make sexual advances towards several women in different locations who were in his employ. He literally accosted a woman in Phoenix who was the sales representative for a local company who offered linen services to the hotel. He told her everything would be all right and she would get the sale if she "cooperated." He had suites at many of the larger hotels where he would "entertain" the objects of his advances. He apparently took the position that it was consensual sexual conduct. It was not.
Angie Fowler had thirteen women, scattered across the country who were prepared to come out and accuse him of shocking conduct over a period of years. Jake saw the detailed statements they had given Angie. They told a shocking story of sexually deviant behavior, harassment and abuse. Their shame, guilt and personal loss leapt from the pages of their affidavits. At the time of her assault, Angie had been prepared to break the story on the news in Minneapolis where it would hurt the most. Lawsuits all over the country would no doubt follow.
This would ruin Logan Bradbury. His heroic image would be destroyed. Indictment and criminal prosecution in a number of states would send him away for more years than he had left. In an age of punitive damages, civil lawsuits could take everything he has and may ever have in the future. He would be done. Period.
What would Logan Bradbury do to avoid all that? Jake shuddered to think. But even if he silenced Angie and later Alex, what about the women? These were women who submitted to abuse because they were intimidated and afraid. Angie Fowler was their strength. Without her, Logan Bradbury might continue to win and go unscathed. From what he had read, Jake was sure Bradbury would think that way.
What about the Judge? Carrie detailed what Angie Fowler had on Judge Robillard. The good Judge had really stepped outside the bounds of propriety. He had violated at least three of the Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Angie Fowler had a courthouse snitch who sold the Judge out. With the snitch's help, she was able to document the Judge's indiscretions. Judge Robillard had taken bribes to influence the outcome of court cases. The amounts were staggering. In some cases individual payments to him exceeded $750,000.
"This is incredible, Jake!" Charles looked up from his own copy of the materials Carrie had provided. "Now I realize how little money I was making at the law school!"
"It is a real danger," said Jake. "Everyone understands the need for an independent judiciary. It is important that judges be beholden to no one. But, unfortunately, that's not the way it is, always. Most state court judges have to face election every so often. Challenges to incumbent judges are becoming more frequent. Sitting judges have to think about how their actions will be regarded in a contested election instead of whether they follow the law and are the exercise of sound and compassionate judgment. Salaries are often not enough to persuade the best and brightest to leave private practice. The federal courts system does the best at preserving the independence of the federal judiciary with life-time appointments, no elections, and salaries that are at least higher than most state courts, but it's not always enough."
"Jake, you said earlier that you and Shaughnessy thought the Judge couldnâ€™t be touched because of his considerable and secure financial position. I disagreed then and I still do now, but what I don't understand is why, in light of that, he would take a bribe. Now, he could lose everything."
Carrie muttered, "The son of a bitch deserves to lose it all."
"It's all about the money, Charles. The times and the value of money have changed. Once a judge might make $30,000 and get into financial trouble. Loans, gifts or bribes of $10,000 or $20,000 were a big deal to the understandably financially strapped judicial officer. Now judges make a lot more in salary, but even the 'lifers' on the federal courts at more than $200,000 a year for life look at some of their brethren at the bar and envy their larger incomes. Although the judges do much better than the vast majority of practicing lawyers, they still can get greedy. Their desired lifestyle, palatial homes, fancy German automobiles, travel to exotic lands, even private schools and Ivy League college educations for their children and on and on all cost money in large amounts. Now days, when a judge gets in financial difficulty, the money is big.
"And the amounts of the loans, gifts or bribes are now so huge, they are more than tempting to a sitting judge. The criminals have the big money. Back in the eighties, the United States Attorney for Minnesota was going after a drug kingpin who ran an operation here in Minneapolis. This guy and his partner shared profits of between $600,000 and $1,000,000 in one six-month period. The money is huge. The profits aren't getting any smaller. Same with the big class action tort cases. The amounts in controversy are enormous. Judgments sometimes bankrupt large corporations. The gifts, loans and bribes are getting bigger. In some cases, depending on the judge, they can be too big a temptation to resist. Once a judge falls into that trap, he is under the power of someone else, literally forever. There goes the independent judiciary."
"He should be shot," Carrie whispered.
"Apparently, Carrie," said Charles, "Angie Fowler is very persuasive. You're ready to shoot one of these guys, castrate the other and then put them in prison forever."
"I am. I do have a question, however. When Judge Robillard took these bribes, how could he do anything about what goes on in court? Can he even affect the outcome?"
"Good question," Jake answered. "Although not as much as before the Sentencing Guidelines, the judge certainly has some leeway in sentencing. As to the outcome of the trial, it is often said that everything a lawyer does in a jury trial is for the benefit of the jury. Where he or she sits at counsel table; whether she moves around the courtroom when handling exhibits, where that is permitted; attitude and physical reactions during bench conferences; even whether she drinks from the water glass at counsel table. Everything. Same is true of the judge. While he should not be trying to persuade the jury, if he is, like after taking a bribe and agreeing to affect the outcome, then, like the trial lawyer, the littlest things can make a difference. What judges can do to influence juries has almost no bounds. How he cleans his glasses, eye contact with jurors, nods of the head, facial expressions, things lawyers never see, slight rulings on jury instructions. It all can have an effect on the outcome. The judge's performance may cause a jury to go for a lesser included criminal charge, reach a verdict of not guilty or be unable to reach a unanimous verdict of guilt. That only takes persuading one juror. The effect on the outcomes of big civil cases have even more possibilities. Even a little thing can influence the case. It's like shaving points in basketball. It's not whether you cause a win or a loss, but how the final score matches with the published point spread that the big gamblers are betting against. When the fix is on, the outcomes of civil cases and even criminal cases can turn on the points shaven, so to speak."
"I repeat. He should be shot."
"What do we do now?" asked Charles.
"Go see Sergeant Shaughnessy."
"Now?" Charles looked at his watch.
"No. It's getting late on a Friday afternoon. We just got this information. You know how Shaughnessy has been. He'll help us, but he isn't anxious, nor are his superiors, to start going after some of the Twin Cities' local heroes. I want to sit on this over the weekend and give it more thought before we see him."
"Yes, Charles, the weekend. We have no depositions, meetings or court appearances on Monday, so, if you can get your Cadillac warmed up, let's drive north."
Charles looked at Carrie, grinning. "We're outa here!"
Charles' mood driving north was jubilant to say the least. "Did you let Mary know you are coming?" he asked.
"I did. We are having dinner at Little Nikki's in Cornucopia. She is meeting us there, so step on it."
"That's right. We."
"The three of us?"
"No. Mary is picking Joyce up on her way."
"Well, I'll be damned! You ae a sneaky little bugger, sometimes." If possible, Charles' mood improved. He eased the speed of the Cadillac up another five miles per hour.
At Little Nikki's, they met the ladies who already had a table and a glass of wine. Dinner was pleasant, tasted good and Jake was glad the conversation did not involve the investigation or anything to do with the Twin Cities. When they left, they split up. Joyce Becket went with Charles and Jake went with Mary. On the road to Bay Harbor in her pickup, Mary said, "You know you are going to have to tell everyone what's going on."
"I know. Maybe we can setup a meeting tomorrow."
The next day a meeting was indeed held. At the Hanson's Marina offices. Everyone was there. Bert and Sandy Hanson. Martha and CoCo. Gus and 8-Ball. Mary, Charles and Joyce Becket. Even Jim Brennan was there, on Jake's express invitation and request.
"I think Charles will agree," Jake told them, "this has been a frustrating experience. I still believe the answer is in one of her cases, but the work required on all of her caseload is keeping us busy and away from the search for the murderer."
"I was afraid that might happen," said Bert.
Jake brought them up to date on where they were. He told about their interest in the Fowler case and Carrie Parker's latest report on the judge and Logan Bradbury. He explained Sergeant Shaughnessy's involvement and his position regarding the investigation."
"I know Mike Shaughnessy," said Bert. "Big son of a bitch. A good cop and a good man."
Jim Brennan nodded.
"Do you think you will be able to get any proof on that judge or on Bradbury?" asked Mary.
"I think I agree with Ms. Parker," growled Gus, stroking 8-Ball's back. "The judge should be shot and the other guy, well, he should get what I had to do for 8-Ball. For 8-Ball it was for his own good. Sounds like the same would apply to Bradbury."
"Mom!" CoCo whispered. Martha laughed and patted Gus's back. "Go get 'em, Gus."
Roger Simpson drove the narrow, winding roadway with care. He was anxious to get to the house at the end of the road. He was anxious to see Wendy. On the previous evening over a superb dinner and champagne at Lord Fletcher's on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, Roger had asked and Wendy had said yes. He was anxious. He had the ring in his pocket, checking it every few minutes to make sure it was still there. He was in a hurry. But the road was dangerous and he knew better than to push it. Wendy lived in St. Paul with another woman who worked downtown. She had gone home for the weekend to her parents who lived high above the St. Croix River north of the Cities where it was the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wendy often went home to her parents on the weekend. Recently, Roger had been joining them for dinner on Saturday nights. They were all going to discuss the engagement tonight. Actually, Simpson thought maybe he was supposed to ask Wendy's parents for her hand. He had left Minneapolis earlier, driving north to cross the St. Croix River between Taylor's Falls, Minnesota and St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin where he turned south toward the home of Wendy's parents. They lived several miles south high above the river at the end of the secluded two-lane blacktop. He had just a few miles to go.
The road wound around the side of the hill. In places, the downhill lane came dangerously close to the edge where it was more than a hundred feet to the river below. The area known as the Dalles of the St. Croix is a deep gorge where the river runs between towering cliffs of basalt. In several locations on both sides of the river, the Minnesota and the Wisconsin side, the road widened enough for scenic overlooks protected by five-foot, chain link fencing at the cliff's edge. Otherwise, the road was narrow, winding and unforgiving. While his BMW Z3 Roadster could certainly handle the road, it could handle it just as well at reasonable speeds. But, both car and driver seemed anxious to get to their destination. He loved the little roadster. He loved driving it this way, with the top down and the wind in his hair. Would he have to give it up in favor of a mini-van when they married? Maybe not until they had kids? He reasoned that if he was careful with his finances and worked hard, he would be able to keep the roadster even if he had to store it for a few years. He was sure Wendy would understand. She liked the little car, too.
A winding S curve lay just ahead.
Rounding the curve, he saw a black SUV parked just off the blacktop on the shoulder on the outside of the curve at one of the scenic overlooks. Parked on sand and gravel just off the roadway, the SUV was about fifty feet from the edge of the cliff. A man stood beside the car waving vigorously with both arms.
On the left side going uphill, the road had almost no shoulder, the road being close up to the rock face going upward. Simpson slowed, pulled off to his right and parked next to the SUV.
The man put his arms at his sides. Simpson looked him over. He had brown hair and a neatly trimmed moustache. He wore black slacks with a blue dress shirt under a navy cardigan sweater. Simpson guessed he was from one of the few other homes up at the end of the road. There weren't many and they were fairly far apart. Not within sight or sound of each other.
The man came around to the driver's side of Simpson's car. "Oh, God! Am I glad you stopped! There might not have been another car for hours!"
"What's the problem?"
"No problem," the man said as a black, automatic pistol materialized in his hand. Simpson found himself staring into its barrel.
"Look, mister, I don't have much money, but I'll give you whatever I have." Simpson was scared, but he knew better than to do anything other than to cooperate. So cooperate he would and maybe nothing serious would happen. They were alone on a lonely road at night. Simpson knew this road well. He had visited Wendy and her parents at the top many times. The man was right. There might not be another car for hours.
"I will be grateful for that," the man said. "Money is always helpful. But first we need to get to know one another better. Shut your engine off. Hand me the keys. Come over to my car and let's have a little drink."
Simpson was confused. Exactly what did the man want of him? He would be late getting to Wendy's. "I don't understand. I don't really want a drink."
"Oh come on. You wouldn't refuse to have a drink with me, would you?" The gun was still pointed at Simpson. The ugly hole of the barrel looked as big as a cannon.
Simpson cut the ignition. The man put his hand out. Simpson surrendered the keys. The man motioned with the pistol. "Come on out of there. Join me in my car."
Simpson followed the directions he was given. He soon found himself in the front passenger seat of the SUV. It was a Cadillac Escalade. The man produced a bottle of some kind of liquor. Simpson thought it was whisky. The man removed the cap and took a long drink. "Now, it's your turn," he said, handing the bottle to Simpson.
Simpson held the bottle not sure what to do. The man became impatient. "Drink!" he commanded.
Having decided that cooperation was the only way to get out of this predicament and not knowing what this man was up to, Simpson decided to go along. He raised the bottle to his lips, taking a tiny sip of the brown liquid. He choked and gagged, nearly dropping the bottle. The liquor burned his throat.
"That's because you didn't take enough," the man said. "Too much air with your booze."
Simpson tried to answer, but couldn't find his voice.
"Here, let me show you." The man held the bottle up to Simpson's mouth. "Take a big drink!" Simpson started to gag, but controlled himself and swallowed. He felt a mouthful of the foul liquid slide down his throat. He felt a burning sensation down to his groin. Never had he experienced anything so terrible.
"Another," the man said, pushing the bottle toward Simpson. Simpson took another swallow and another and the man seemed satisfied.
The man drank from the bottle again. Simpson was not a hypochondriac, but he wondered for a moment if he should be sharing a drinking vessel with this strange man. No, he thought. No germs could live in that stuff. He also realized that he didn't care if he was sharing a bottle with a stranger. At least the gun had been put on the dashboard pointing toward the windshield. That it was no longer pointed at Simpson was a relief to him.
Simpson looked at his watch. He should have been at Wendy's by now. He wasn't sure how long the man and he had been sitting in the Cadillac drinking whisky, he thought it was whisky, but they had been there awhile. Funny, his watch was blurry. He couldn't tell the time.
The man was looking at the bottle. "Half full yet, or is it half empty," he said. "Not bad for a couple of amateurs." He pushed the bottle toward Simpson. "But we have work to do. You first â€¦ or you next. You have got to do your share."
Simpson drank. The liquid didn't burn anymore. It occurred to him that he could clearly see his companion. Although, he was getting somewhat blurry, he was not trying to hide his appearance with the bright interior lights of the Cadillac shining on them both. Simpson thought that was significant somehow, but he couldn't remember why. Encouraged by the man, he drank some more. He was beginning to feel dizzy. He tried to tell the man, but he couldn't get the words out straight.
"You're doing good, champ," the man said. "We'd better get you back in your car. You're supposed to get somewhere, right?"
Simpson reached for his wallet to get out his money, but the man put out his hand. "No, no," he said. "I don't want your money. We're drinking buddies, now."
That's right, thought Simpson. Drinking buddies. Everything was going to be all right.
The man got out of the Cadillac and came around to Simpson's side. The pistol remained on the dashboard. The man helped him out, walked him around to the roadster and helped him in. He was a nice man. Very helpful. He even put the keys in the ignition and started the engine. The man had a cane. Simpson hadn't noticed before that the man used a cane when walking. Simpson didn't think he had. The man walked around to the passenger side, reached down and slid the gear shift into drive and punched down on the gas with the cane.
The powerful little car lurched forward toward the edge of the cliff, blasting through the fence which simply was not designed to hold back a moving car. Simpson felt the wind in his hair. He felt like he was floating. The nose of the roadster started to dip downward. Simpson thought he could see lights far below along the river. Then he screamed.
Back by the Cadillac, Wendell Stockman removed a brown wig and moustache, ran a hand over his short blond hair, climbed in behind the wheel and backed onto the roadway, stopping the car on the blacktop surface. He got out of the car, leaving the engine running. With a small whisk broom, he swept away the Cadillac's tire tracks, leaving the tracks of the roadster. He got back into his car and headed down the hill speaking into a cell phone as he went.
Jake and Charles met with Sergeant Shaughnessy in his office in City Hall. Jake related the details of Carrie's report on Judge Robillard and Logan Bradbury.
"I'll be damned." Shaughnessy said when Jake was finished. "I deal mostly with state court judges, here in Hennepin County. Don't have much to do with federal court. You're satisfied with the evidence she has on both men?"
Jake handed him a large manila envelope. "I made a copy of the files for you. She had one on each man. What I see there is pretty incriminating."
"Enough for a motive for murder? For the attack on Ms. Fowler?"
"I don't know, maybe. We know that rape is not about sex. It's about control. In this case, it may have been meant to leave a message, which obviously it did. As for murder, self-protection can be a murder motive. When the victim presents personal destruction, scandal and loss of lots of money, it can be pretty strong motive, if the killer thinks he can get away with it."
"I hear that," agreed Shaughnessy. "Let me spend some time with these files. You'll be around?"
"We will. You have my cell phone number. You can call Charles if you can't reach me."
Charles wrote his number on a piece of paper and gave it to Shaughnessy.
Jake sat in the deposition room at Bob Jones' office thinking not about the depo but about the search for Angie's killer now reduced to two people, both sons of bitches he concluded from seeing Angie's evidence. But which one? He tried to concentrate on the testimony. Once again Jones had the Hamel Towers blueprints spread out before the witness. This time the witness was the project architect's representative, Dean Bergstrom. This was not a video deposition the only reporting was by the steno reporter who had sworn in the witness. The same players were present. Jones was still trying to show that the installation of drywall was insufficient and did not follow the plans and specs. Doc Holliday was in the room observing. Jake was sure that Doc and Bob Jones had consulted about how to approach this deposition. Once again, Jones was asking about the specs for one and two hour fire retardant partitions.
"Showing you page A-12 of the plans, do you see the drawing showing the composition of the wall between the apartment unit and the adjacent hallway?"
"And you agree that these plans require that wall to be a one hour wall?"
The witness studied the drawings. "Yes."
"These are the blueprints prepared by your employer, Oglethorpe Architecture and Design Partners, P.A., aren't they?"
"And do you agree that the spec book contains the requirement," Jones read from his notes, "'that one or two-hour partitions must be intact from the concrete floor to the underside of the concrete floor of the next story above.' "You are familiar with that requirement?"
The witness was silent, apparently in thought.
Before he could answer, Jones asked, "I have the spec book right here. Would you like me to show you that provision?"
"No. I am familiar with that."
"Okay," said Jones, ready to pounce. "And you understood, didn't you, that it was your job as the project architect's manager or inspector on the job site to see that these specs were followed?"
"Objection!" cried Margaret Bellamy. She stood to address Bob Jones. Her voice was raised. Had this been a video depo, Jake thought, she would not have been so loud. He doubted she would be standing to make the objection and he was sure she would not be trying to be so intimidating. "The question calls for a legal conclusion. You will not ask this witness to make legal conclusions about a construction project that is governed by many pages of written contract documents. They are to be interpreted by the court, not this witness. He is instructed not to answer." She sat.
Bob Jones was unfazed. He went on with his questioning without further ado. Good for him. Jake knew Jones had been around long enough to know better than to let that kind of rancorous grandiloquence get under his skin. There was no jury here. There was only the written record. What mattered was what the witness said and the court reporter put in the transcript. Nothing else. The bombastic shouts and screams of opposing counsel who don't really know any better mean nothing when the deposition is over.
"So, did they?"
"Did they what?"
"Did the partitions go all the way to the concrete floor above?"
"What I saw did."
"Did you see everything?"
"I think so."
"Are you saying that during your supervision and inspection on this job that you never saw any drywall partitions where the drywall did not extend all the way from floor to the next floor above?"
Margaret Bellamy appeared to relax. Jake saw a slight smirk appear on her lips.
Jake shook his head. The same old bullshit. His mind returned to the Judge and the Hotelier. Which one, indeed? Like Jones and Doc Holiday, he needed physical evidence. Wait a minute! Something was bothering him. Something someone said recently, but he couldnâ€™t put his finger on it. He leaned forward quickly, making a note on his legal pad. What is it, he wondered. Bob Jones looked at him strangely.
Margaret Bellamy brought his thoughts back to the deposition. Rather than simply indicate for the record that the witness would read and sign the deposition, Margaret Bellamy inquired. "Mr. Bergstrom, on cross-examination by Mr. Jones, you testified that you never saw any drywall partitions where the drywall did not extend all the way from floor to the next floor above. That's not exactly true, is it?"
Bob Jones straightened in his chair. Doc Holliday came to attention. Jake found himself sitting forward, watching and listening.
The witness looked bewildered.
"Mr. Bergstrom, you were on this job from the beginning, weren't you?"
"Back when they were excavating and preparing the site?"
"Before there were any walls?"
"Were you there when the walls were just studs with no wall covering?"
"Were you on the site on behalf of the architect when the drywall installation was partially completed?"
The witness looked like he was beginning to understand. "Yes," he said. "I was."
Jake, however wasn't sure he did. The fact that the witness saw partially completed walls during construction wasn't going to make it look like he was lying during Jones' examination. He wasn't going to be impeached at trial for that. But Margaret persisted.
"So, Mr. Bergstrom, during construction, you did see some walls where the drywall did not go all the way from the floor to the concrete ceiling which would be the floor of the next level, is that correct?"
"Were you on the job right through to the completion of construction?"
Margaret Bellamy paused and then asked what became her final questions. "So, Mr. Bergstrom, when the job was complete did you see that the partitions that were identified on the blueprints as one or two hour partitions did in fact go all the way to the concrete ceiling above?"
The witness paused and the replied. "Yes, I did."
"If you had seen any walls that did not follow the blueprints in that regard what would you have done?"
"I would have notified the drywall installer, Emerson Drywall to come and finish the job. But that didn't happen."
Margaret Bellamy closed her notebook. "We'll read and sign, she told the reporter."
Bob Jones knew better than to examine further. That would just be arguing with the witness who would repeat his statement and become stronger and stronger in his testimony.
So, there it was. Plaintiff's proof of negligence and breach of contract regarding the drywall installation depended on the testimony of one maintenance worker, untrained in construction and unsupported by any physical evidence and now refuted by the direct testimony of a trained construction inspector. Bob Jones and Doc Holliday White were in trouble. At this point, Doc had a better case against Bob's client than either of them had against the architect or drywall installer. But, it wasn't over, yet. Whether this witness was being truthful or not, he certainly was given direction by the questions from his employer's attorney. Whether he was coached as to that last question was an open question in Jake's mind, but he was sure that Margaret would not knowingly let the witness commit perjury. However, the difference between knowing and plausible deniability was sometimes gray.
Down in the skyway, Jake caught up with Doc Holliday. "Doc, what do you know about Judge Robillard?"
"Tough judge, but a good judge. At least he used to be. Why?"
"Oh, I'm just curious. His name came up in something we are working on." Jake did not like holding back information from his friend, but he was not about to malign a sitting judge in front of another lawyer and start rumors that might not be true, even though he firmly believed the facts. "Why do you say, 'he used to be?'"
"He's been acting strange the last few years. I just figured like most judges who get burnt out after about ten years, it's happening to him. He's getting black robe disease."
Acting strange? Black robe disease? And what about Bradbury? He was younger than the judge, presumably more virile. Virile. Thatâ€™s it!
"Mike?" Jake was calling Shaughnessy on his cell phone from the skyway.
"Hi Jake. What's up?"
"Mike, I'm coming to see you. Are you available?"
"I'm right here. How soon?"
"Right now. I'm on my way."
Ten minutes later, Jake was sitting across from Mike Shaughnessy.
"You seem excited," Shaughnessy said.
"I am. I've found a way to get evidence to prove which one of them is the killer, or at least Angie Fowler's attacker!"
"And what would that be?"
"You mentioned the rape kit the other day."
"You have semen! You have DNA!"
"Uh, oh. I'm afraid to ask what you are suggesting."
"We get DNA from both the Judge and Logan Bradbury and compare to the DNA of the assailant! It will show which one it was!"
"Jake, Jake, I'm not sure where to begin. You didn't do much criminal law did you?"
"Some. Not much."
"Well, there's a little constitutional thing called wrongful search and seizure. We hear about it all the time from criminal defense lawyers. Evidence obtained in violation is inadmissible. You get good stuff, drugs and whatever. The perp is clearly guilty. The evidence is thrown out and you lose your case. DNA requires a sample, like from a used coffee cup or glass, a discarded cigarette butt or something like that. I am taught by our assistant county attorneys, that the Supreme Court has ruled that you can take a saliva swab from a person who is under arrest, but we don't have anything to arrest these guys for."
"Yet," answered Jake.
"Yet? I told you, Jake, why I'm on this at Admin's order and it's not still at First Precinct. If you think anybody in these City offices is going to authorize the arrest of a sitting federal judge or the head of one of the biggest hotel chains in America, you are dreaming."
"What if I get the DNA?"
"Hmmh. I guess that depends. I suspect it would still be unlawful search and seizure even if not done by law enforcement. But I don't know. I can't imagine the judge in Hennepin County, or anywhere, who would sign a search warrant for either of these guys. You don't have probable cause and you would need a Hell of a lot of probable cause for either of these two. Your information from Ms. Fowler may appear damaging to them, but it does not point to the involvement of either of them in her attack or Alex Van de Meer's murder. Besides, I can tell you, it would take weeks or months to get the BCA to do the comparison and issue the results."
Jake thought for a minute. "And if I get the DNA and the results quickly?"
"I don't see how you can do that, but as long as you aren't committing a crime, I can't stop you. But I won't help. You understand why I can't?"
"I understand. Give me a minute."
He pulled his cell phone. As it rang, he looked up at Shaughnessy who was watching him.
"Martha is CoCo, there?"
"Hi, Jake. What's up? She's here. Hang on."
"When CoCo answered, Jake explained the situation.
"How are you going to get the DNA?" she asked.
"I have no idea at the moment, but it will come to me."
"We'll be ready to leave at your call, Jake."
Jake thanked her and hung up.
"CoCo? CoCo Cadotte from BCA? You know CoCo Cadotte from BCA?"
"Who is Martha? I am afraid to ask."
"From Hennepin? The former prosecutor?"
"You don't kid around, do you? Those are some pretty heavy hitters. I have worked with them both. I take it you are planning to go through with some cockamamie scheme you haven't even figured out, yet. Well, I can't even wish you luck and I don't want to know what you are doing, but I want to know what happens."
What to do? How to get something with DNA on it? Jake had no idea where to start. He had never met Bradbury. He had appeared occasionally in front of Judge Robillard in years past, but had no connection with him for years. Who knew these guys? Then an idea began to form.
"Z-Pop Beverage Company."
"Is Clayton Zachary there?"
"Who may I say is calling?"
"Jake! What can I do for you this fine day?"
"Clay, remember you said if I needed help to call you and you would help?"
"I do remember. I meant it. What can I do?"
"Do you know Logan Bradbury or Judge Robillard?"
"Sure. I know Logan. I've met the Judge, but don't really know him that well."
Jake explained what he needed.
"How about a used wine glass?"
"What? How would you do that?"
"Practically in the bag, son. At least for Logan Bradbury. I bet I can get one from the Judge, too."
"This weekend, I am hosting a gala celebration at the Children's Theatre in Minneapolis. It's really to get donations for that wonderful institution. It's a $200 a plate dinner after which we will all see Alice in Wonderland which the theatre company has been doing for years. I've seen it before. It's great. Like they say, you don't have to be a kid to enjoy their performances. Right before dinner at the cocktail hour during which they are serving wine and beer, I'm giving a speech in an attempt, successful, I hope, to get more money out of the attendees' pockets before the show begins."
"What about Bradbury and Robillard?"
"Logan is coming. I asked him. He has already RSVP'd. I'm sure if we get an invitation out to the Judge, he'd probably come. It's a big event. As they sometimes say, everybody who is anybody in Minneapolis will be there."
"And the wine glasses?"
"Wine will be served and there will be water glasses as part of the table settings. They are bound to drink out of one or the other. Probably both. I can have a waiter pick them up and identify them."
"It's almost too good to be true."
"Jake, I know Logan. He's a bit of stuffed shirt for my taste, but I get along with him. I don't really know the Judge. Has this got to do with Alex?"
"Then okay, I'll take care of it."
It was Wednesday when Jake heard from Clayton Zachary.
"Jake, the Judge is coming. How do you want me to handle the glasses?"
"I am having a forensic scientist named CoCo Cadotte call you and tell you what to do."
"Cocoa? strange name."
"It's CoCo, spelled C-o-C-o. Both C's are capitalized. It's a long story. She'll tell you what to do."
Jake called CoCo.
"Jake, tell him to make sure someone puts those glasses in protective envelopes. Also tell them we want forks, spoons and anything else they might put in their mouths. Toothpicks, anything. Make sure we have someone who can clearly identify which items belong to which man. We need to preserve the chain of evidence. Make sure â€¦ Oh, Hell! Can I go to the party?"
"You might have to ditch the cargo pants and hiking boots."
"Jake, for God's sake!"
"Do you drink Z-Pop?'
"Puke me out the door!" The phone went silent. "You know, I've never tried it."
"I'll get an invitation. I think I can have it at the door for you."
"Martha and I will be there. We'll see to the proper collection of the evidence."
"I'll get you a room at our hotel in Roseville. You can stop here to change for the party."
Jake was waiting at the hotel when the ladies returned from the Children's Theatre. They were giggling and having a good time. He sniffed, but did not smell alcohol on their breath.
"You stayed for Alice in Wonderland?"
"We did," said Martha. "It was wonderful. We sat with Mr. Zachary."
"What about the evidence?"
"Not to worry, Jake," CoCo said. "We properly labeled and packaged everything. Clayton Zachary found a secure place to store it and someone to watch over it while the players were performing. We have his name. We have the evidence which is now in our exclusive possession. The chain of evidence is intact."
"The lab. I made some calls. We can work tomorrow."
"I have told you before. I have a connection. Besides, Sunday is better for them when their people are not using all the space and equipment."
"CoCo," asked Jake, "is their age a factor? Neither of these guys is a spring chicken. Might they have E.D.? Can they even produce semen?"
"Erectile dysfunction? Jake, at your age you should not be worried, if you are. At their age, what are they, sixty-three and sixty-six? E.D. is the inability to get and sustain an erection long enough for sexual performance. When and how often that occurs certainly is a function of age among other things, but the equipment should normally work well into the seventies. Even if it doesn't work all the time, even the aging male body can produce semen," she giggled, "if stimulated enough."
CoCo called from the BCA lab in St. Paul. "We'll be ready tomorrow morning," CoCo told Jake.
They gathered in a conference room in City Hall. It was a bigger than Shaughnessy's tiny office. A good thing. Present were Mike Shaughnessy, Jake, Charles, CoCo Cadotte, Martha Hoskins and Carrie Parker.
CoCo looked serious. "We have good news and bad news," she began. "The good news is that we got plenty of DNA, enough to establish a DNA profile for each man, the Judge and Mr. Bradbury. The bad news is that the DNA from Ms. Fowler's rape kit is not a match for either of them. Further bad news is that the DNA from the rape kit is not a match to anything in all of the law enforcement data bases to which we have access. But, you already knew that. Minneapolis P. D. had already done that. Because we had the databases available we double checked it. Nothing. Nada."
Shocked silence. Finally, Charles spoke. "You mean it was neither one of them?"
"That's right," confirmed CoCo, "and know this. These tests didn't just fail to prove it was either one of them. These tests conclusively proved that it wasn't either of them and that it was someone else, entirely. The test result is an exclusion or, I should say, two exclusions."
"CoCo," asked Jake, "Do you remember I asked about E.D. and whether these guys could even do the attack on Angie Fowler?'
"Is it possible that one of these two had the same concern and got someone else to attack her?"
"A hit rapist? For hire? I know rape is not about sex, but that's a stretch, no pun intended."
"What do we do?" asked Carrie.
"It looks like we, and Alex, too, have been barking up the wrong tree," said Jake. "We need to rethink our approach."
Shaughnessy leaned back in his chair. "I sure want to thank you all for dumping these investigations in my lap."
Martha and CoCo looked at him strangely. Jake thought that, as it turned out, they were rather saddling Shaughnessy with two serious criminal investigations that no longer pertained to what he and the others were working on. "What will you do?" he asked.
"Don't get me wrong. These people need to be arrested and charged. Not however, before we meet with Angie Fowler and all of her witnesses. In the meantime, I hope you all can keep this under wraps."
They all nodded.
"I don't know much about federal judges. Can we prosecute them?"
Charles answered. "I know of nothing that gives federal judges immunity from prosecution for state crimes. As far as possible removal of Judge Robillard from office, I think that is up to the Eighth Circuit. A conviction of a state crime is probably a good reason."
Shaughnessy turned his attention to Carrie.
"Carrie, if it's okay with Jake and your law firm, can you help me with Ms. Foster? I don't think she would respond well to me alone."
"I'll help. Do you have a gun?"
"I do. Why?"
"I think the Judge should be shot. Do you have a knife?"
"Don't ask, Mike," warned Jake. "You don't want to know."
As they were leaving, Shaughnessy approached CoCo and Martha. "It's good to see you both again. Jake tells me you two are up in Bayfield, like Jim Brennan. I hear he's in uniform up there."
"He doesn't wear a uniform," said Martha. "He's relaxed and taking it easy. When do you hang up your spurs, Mike?"
"Oh. maybe next year, but I'm not sure what to do. Around here, lawyers and doctors go to Phoenix or Tucson to retire, or maybe to Sarasota, down in Florida. Apparently, we in law enforcement go to Bayfield Wisconsin. You like it?"
Jake and Charles listened in.
"What about the winters?"
"Cold and deep snow. The lake is frozen. To get to Madeline Island, you drive across the ice."
Shaughnessy trembled. "Sounds bad."
"Oh, no, Mike. It's fine when you're sitting inside by a warm fire with your feet up, a cup of hot chocolate and a good book."
"Mike," said Jake, "you should meet Bert Hanson. He'd straighten you out."
"Bert Hanson from Chicago P. D.? I've worked with him on some cases in the past. How do you know Bert Hanson?"
"I live on a sailboat in the summer months. It's moored at Hanson's Marina. Bert took over from his dad. He runs the marina now."
"Brennan has a fishing boat, you know," said Martha.
"So I've heard. "Hmm. Jim Brennan and Bert Hanson. Well, I'll be damned."
Back in the office â€¦
"Maybe we're concentrating too hard on Alex's cases," said Jake.
Charles looked up from his laptop. "You think?"
Jake thought about Alexandra Van de Meer. They had concentrated so much on her caseload and the pressures of taking over her cases that he hadn't thought about much else. He knew next to nothing about her personal life. Certainly, that might bear on the reasons she was killed. Maybe her cases had nothing to do with her death.
"Maybe," he said again. "I wonder about Alex's personal life."
"Then we should talk to Carrie," said Charles.
They found Carrie at her workstation.
Carrie looked curiously at both men. "Is something wrong?"
Charles answered. "No, Carrie. Nothing is wrong. It's just that we wonder if we are not overlooking something by concentrating only on her cases."
"Yes. We need to learn more about her. Tell us about Alex."
Carrie had stopped her typing. She turned to face them. "About Alex?" she asked. "What do you mean? What about her?"
"Well, Charles and I have a fair idea about her as a trial lawyer, at least what we can learn from her preparation, her notes and correspondence, which is a lot, but what about her personal life? Outside the courtroom and outside the office? Where did she live? What did she do away from work? What about her family? Who did she see or with whom did she spend her free time?"
"Well, there wasn't a lot of that," Carrie answered, "free time that is. She was busy here. Alex was close to three thousand billed hours per year. Mr. Decker had been telling her to cut back and, as he put it, 'get a life.' He told her she would burn out early if she didn't take care."
Carrie became quiet, apparently deep in thought, staring at her computer screen. After a moment, she said, "I think I can answer most of your questions. Alex shared a lot with us here in the office."
"Let's go into her office. Charles found his way to the refrigerator and brought three Diet Cokes. As they sat, he put one on the desk for Jake and opened and handed one to Carrie. Jake and Charles prepared to listen. Charles had a pen and legal pad ready for notes.
Carrie began her story of Alex Van de Meer.
"Alexandra van de Meer was forty-one and single. She confided in me that she had been married once, but it hadn't worked out."
Charles interrupted. "Any battles during or after the divorce?"
"No. She said it was a friendly divorce. Their careers just didn't mesh."
"Any kids?" asked Jake.
"Sorry about the interruptions," said Charles. "We need to explore every possibility. Please continue."
"I understand. Alex lived in a condo in Edina, close to where the Crosstown Highway crosses 169."
"I know that intersection," said Charles. "It's a big cloverleaf between Hopkins and Eden Prairie near Bredesen Park. To get to work, I imagine she would have taken 169 or the old beltline, Highway 100, north to I-394 and on into downtown and back the same route in reverse to go home."
"That's right," said Carrie. "I had to go out to her place more than a few times. That's the way she told me to go."
"Did she rent or own?" asked Jake.
"It was a condominium. She bought it a few years ago."
"What is happening to it?"
"I don't know. Her family had the keys. I assume it will go up for sale."
"Can we see it?"
"I can check with the family."
Continuing, Carrie told them what she said she knew about Alex's personal life, again pointing out that she couldn't have had much of a personal life because of the time she devoted to her work at Stratton, McMasters & Hines. Alex did not currently have any steady romantic interest as far as Carrie knew. She had a cat. She wasn't home enough for a dog. Carrie thought she had an arrangement with a neighbor in the condo complex to care for the cat when she, Alex, not the cat, was traveling. The cat's name was Due Diligence. Alex called her Dewey.
Carrie knew, also, that amazingly enough in addition to her office legal work for the firm, Alex did some volunteer legal work with Legal Aid in Minneapolis. Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid Society provides free legal services to people in need in twenty central Minnesota counties. Its Pro Bono Volunteer Program enlists private attorneys to volunteer their services in their respective fields usually teaming up with a Legal Aid staff attorney. Alex, Carrie explained, worked with Attorney Amy Walters on landlord-tenant issues with rental unit tenants who could not afford lawyers. "Alex did not keep files here on those cases," Carrie said.
"At her home?" asked Charles.
"I think they are just at the Legal Aid office."
"But she appeared in landlord-tenant court in Hennepin County?"
Charles made a note on his legal pad. "I think I will be going to the Court Administrator's office at the courthouse."
"What about her purely personal life?" asked Jake. "You have told us she had no current romantic interest that you know of. What else did she do? What about friends and family?"
"Alex felt strongly about exercise. She belonged to the downtown YMCA on Ninth Street just a few blocks from here. At the lunch hour or before or after work, she often ran out of the Y down around Loring Park or even down to Lake of the Isles."
"I used to run the same route myself," said Jake. "Ran it just a couple of weeks ago, in fact."
Carrie continued. "Her condo complex has a pool and gym which she used. She loved to ride her bike on the trails in Minneapolis. There are a lot of them all over the Twin Cities. She enjoyed that on weekends in the moderate weather and when she wasn't right here working."
"Alex's parents are Thomas and Ellen Van de Meer. I'm sure you saw them at the funeral with their other children and grandchildren. Alex had an older brother and a younger sister. Tom, Jr. is married to Grace. They have two teenaged boys. Suzanne who is under thirty and more than ten years younger than Alex was one of those unexpected afterthoughts and a joy to the entire Van de Meer family. She is married to John Morrison, an engineer with Metro Testing Company. We have used his company to provide expert witness testimony in the past. Suzanne and John have two girls, a precocious three -year old named Annabelle and the baby, Helen, who they call 'Honey.' Alex doted on her nieces and nephews. The boys and Annabelle are crazy about her. No doubt Honey will be, too." Carrie hesitated. "I can't believe I just said that. This is difficult. It's hard to realize that she is gone. The boys and Annabelle have lost her and Honey will never know Alex."
Carrie took a sip of her Diet Coke, trying to regain her composure. "So there you have it," she said, "the story of Alex Van de Meer. Any questions?"
"I am sure we will have some," said Jake. "as we look into her life in greater detail. But, you were very thorough. Thank you, Carrie."
"You know I worked with Alex for nearly ten years. I cared for her very much. She was like a daughter or a younger sister to me. I thank you both for what you are doing. I will help as much as I possibly can. You have only to ask."
"We know and thanks."
They spent the next morning at Alex's condo. Carrie, Jake and Charles arrived at the Edina-Bredesen Homes condominium complex at 9:00. Alex's unit was Number 1202. She had stunning views of the surrounding countryside, including the green space of nearby Bredesen Park and a view of the lakes to the northeast, Lakes Harriet, Calhoun and Lake of the Isles, the same lakes visible from her downtown office, but looking from the other direction.
The unit was not large, but efficiently laid out. While Carrie stood aside and watched, Jake and Charles wandered around getting an initial impression of her home and the way she lived. Like her office, everything was neat and in its place. The rooms were well furnished and not cheaply so. A little too modern, too much steel, chrome and glass for Jake's taste but fitting for what he understood of Alex's personality.
"I am tempted to get pretty nosy, here," he told Carrie. "Do you think her family will mind?"
"When I got permission to let you in, Alex's mom said look at whatever you want wherever you want. Anything that will help is all right. Just don't leave it a mess, she said."
"We need to look at everything," agreed Charles, "if we are to learn anything at all. Maybe even her garbage?"
"Charles!" Carrie looked at him. "I'm pretty sure that's gone."
"What about her wastebasket here, inside? I think I will start in her office," said Jake.
Alex's condominium was a two bedroom, one and a half bath unit with living room, kitchen area open to the living room, laundry room and a walk-in storage closet and pantry. In the underground garage she had a parking space and a storage unit. Jake started in the guest bedroom she had converted to an office while Charles began in the living room and kitchen area.
Jake seated himself at the desk and looked around. The desktop was clean. No pens or pencils. They were on a rear credenza within easy reach. No pads, no papers, no inbox, nothing but a clear glass surface and a black leather desk pad centered in front of the chair. He examined the credenza. Besides the pencils and a flat screen computer monitor and keyboard, its top, also glass, held nothing else except two small potted plants. They looked real because they were badly in need of water. Jake thought they were African violets. Strange, he thought. The furniture all steel chrome and glass, nothing out of place, practically nothing there at all, a person who might be away traveling a fair amount of the time and yet she had plants that needed care and she kept a cat or it kept her. One never knew about that.
And pictures, or the lack thereof. There were none anywhere except two framed photos, about five by seven, he guessed, on the back credenza. In one, a posed group portrait at what must have been a family gathering in which he recognized Alex with, apparently, her parents, siblings and nieces an nephews. In the other, a large calico cat, seated in a window sill, back slightly arched and tail hanging straight down from the sill looked back at the camera through pupils that were simply vertical slits in a sea of jade green. This was, presumably, Dewey. She was white with patches of orange and black. Jake had once heard or read that all calico or tri-color cats are female. He had nothing to dispute that and he had understood Dewey to be a girl cat.
Still seated in Alex's home office, Jake called for Carrie.
Jake pointed to the clean desk surface. "Carrie, where is her desk phone? Where is her calendar, her rolodex, or address book?"
Carrie smiled. "Alex didn't have a landline, just a smartphone and the police in Bayfield have that. I am trying to get those things back for the family, but it will be a while yet. They're supposed to call me when her things can be released. The rest you have."
"I do? Where?"
"On Alex's tablet that we gave you."
"You mean on that flash drive?"
Charles entered the room, listening.
"No, Jake on the tablet."
"You mean the thing I plug the flash drive into?"
"How do I find it or them?"
"You have to open the apps."
"The apps. You know, like from the App Store?"
Charles grinned and shook his head. "You'll have to excuse him, Carrie. For the last few years, he has had the wind in his hair, sand between his toes and sand in his brain, I think."
Carrie went on. "On her tablet, Alex had applications, or 'apps' for calendars, reminders and ToDo lists. They were uploaded to the cloud so they synced with her smart phone and her office and home computers."
"What cloud and why did they sink?" asked Jake.
Charles started to laugh out loud and Carrie looked worried.
Jake grinned. "You two. I understand more of this than you think."
Carrie looked relieved. Charles waited with interest.
"What you are saying," said Jake, "is that on the tablet you gave me, I can access her calendar and planning information."
"Exactly." Carrie's relief was apparent.
"And you can show me."
"I certainly can."
"Did you say you were waiting for a call from Bayfield Police?"
"That's right. I have asked to be notified when Alex's things are ready for release. I am doing that for the family.'
"Can you call them and ask what the items are that they have?"
"I can try."
That afternoon, Jake sat at Alex's desk reviewing the Virginia School District file when Carrie walked in. He was making notes on a yellow legal pad. He still liked pen and paper and had not developed Alex's method of electronic note taking on flash drives. He looked up from his work.
"Bayfield Police finally got back to me, Jake. There were two flash drives in Alex's purse. The purse was found on the ground near something called the Ship's Store at a marina near the crime scene, a woman named Officer Reardon said. Her cell phone was found a few feet from her body. There were no credit cards, driver's license or cash in the purse except a coin purse with change in it. They still have the purse and cell phone. They can't release them, yet."
"They have her cell phone?"
"They do. I was surprised it wasn't in her purse. She was ultra careful about her cell phone."
"I think I know why it wasn't in her purse," said Jake. "She called me and left a message. Must have been right before she was killed. She probably had it in her hand when she fell."
"Why do you say she was 'ultra careful' with her phone?"
"She lost it twice, Jake. The first time was about six months, ago. That time she never found it. The second time was about two months, ago. She told me the complete story the next day here at the office. She had been out shopping and running errands on Sunday. When she found that her phone was missing, she ran around to all the places she had been, looking. Then, she remembered bumping into a man outside Walmart and spilling her purse. The man was apologetic and nice, Alex said. He helped Alex pick up her things. So, Alex went back to Walmart to look where her purse had spilled and she checked in with Walmart, but no luck. Later, Alex's sister, Suzanne, e-mailed her that Walmart had called her because her number was listed in Alex's favorites on her phone. Alex hustled back to Walmart where someone had turned her phone into Customer Service. She was all worked up about it when she told me the next day. Since then she was ultra careful."
"I'd say she was lucky," said Jake. He paused a moment, thinking. "Very lucky." He jotted a note on his legal pad.
"No question. Do you want me to do anything more about the police in Bayfield?"
"Well, we need both the flash drives and the phone, or what's on them at least. Carrie, can you copy a flash drive?"
"I'll send my friend Bert Hanson with his wife Sandy to see what they can do."
"Officer Reardon was polite, but I'm not sure her superiors will let anyone interfere with their evidence. She wouldn't tell me if they had looked on the flash drives to find out what, if anything was on them."
"Bert was a Chicago cop for over twenty years. He knows most of the Bayfield police and they know him and who he was. He talks copspeak. He can get cooperation that you and I cannot. I'll talk to him this weekend. I'm sure Jim Brennan will cooperate. Bert can talk to him."
Charles came into the room. "Found something interesting in Housing Court, people."
He sat in one of the client chairs. "I checked on line at the court records site searching for cases in which Alex was listed as counsel. I found several in Hennepin County and decided to start with those as the courthouse is here. I went to the courthouse to look at the files. Here is the one I found interesting.
"Jennifer Wiggins vs. Harold R. Schramm. Plaintiff Wiggins is a single mom working two jobs and living in an apartment owned by the defendant Harold Schramm. Legal Aid brought suit against Schramm because conditions of the unit made it truly uninhabitable although Ms. Wiggins and her two young children were living there. Alex got involved after suit was in progress. She made a couple of appearances in Housing Court.
"This Schramm is somewhat notorious it seems. He is like the King of the Slum Landlords. His battle with Legal Aid and Alex got some local news coverage. The building in which the plaintiff was living had been condemned. Schramm was under orders to fix certain defects or the building would be torn down. He kept making excuses for the delay in repairs. Local media reported his verbal battle with Alex claiming she was, and I quote, "a rich-bitch fancy lawyer down here wading in the mud trying not to get her high heels dirty." He claimed he was doing good by providing affordable housing to those who would otherwise be homeless. The arguing was not pretty and looked like it could get violent. In one Order, the judge admonished Schramm for his comments in court."
"Where are these apartments?"
"In the Hawthorne neighborhood. You know, up along the Mississippi, up towards Lowry Avenue."
"Up there?" Jake was surprised.
"Can you get us an appointment with this Legal aid lawyer?"
"I'll do it," Carrie said.
Jake and Charles sat down to dinner at the Red Lobster. Charles pondered the menu over his dry martini. When the waiter returned, he ordered the Live Maine Lobster. Jake had the Wood-grilled Salmon with Brown Butter. Of course, Jake mused, Charles wasn't going to eat his lobster live, or raw, like it sounded or like sushi or something, but it was live when the waiter brought it by on its way to the boiling pot. Charles raised his glass in final toast to his upcoming dinner and turned to Jake to steer the conversation back to work.
He said, "Carrie got us a meeting with Amy Walters. She is seeing us at the Stratton office. She told Carrie she would prefer that. The Legal Aid Clinic is a little crowded for us, she thought."
"Did she say anything about the case?"
"No and Carrie didn't think she should ask. I agreed, figuring it was better for us to hear it together and here it all instead of what partial information she might give Carrie over the phone."
Jake sipped his Scotch. "Good," he said.
"You think this might be the answer?"
"I'm not sure, but we have to know. Certainly, there seems to be some motive and some expressed antagonism toward Alex. Stopping her by whatever means cannot but help the landlord."
"But why such an obvious murder?" asked Charles. "Wouldn't you think he or they would want it to look like an accident?"
"I wondered about that. I think the way it was done was meant not only to stop her which it obviously would, but to stop anyone else who might follow."
"You mean ...?"
"That's right. Like you and me. Like CoCo, Martha, Bert and anyone else who might try to take up where Alex left off. They might not have been anticipating us, but they knew someone would have to take over Alex's caseload, maybe someone at Stratton, McMasters and Hines."
"But this case isn't with the Stratton firm and it isn't part of her regular caseload."
"Exactly. That's what makes this case more likely than the others. It has anger and emotion. Alex is not likely to be followed by another lawyer. It is a Legal Aid case and already has a Legal Aid attorney in Ms. Walters. Legal Aid doesn't have the man power to pursue the landlord the way Alex did and was going to. It wouldn't take much if anything to deter legal aid from digging further to do what Alex probably would have done."
"Hasn't the digging already been done by Alex?"
"My bet is there is more and the defendant does not want further in-depth inspection of his dealings and his properties."
Dinner was served. Charles' lobster had transformed from greenish-brown to bright red and was steaming, but not moving. He dug in with a lobster fork and shell cracker. Jake watched as he approached his salmon, a much easier task. The waiter returned with a white wine for Charles and club soda for Jake.
Jake noticed a man dressed in a coat and tie at a nearby table who had noticed the lobster going by on the waiter's tray and now watched with interest as Charles tackled the meal before him. The man sat alone. The waiter brought him a brown bottle of beer and no glass. The man sipped from the bottle as he watched and then returned to peruse the menu.
The meeting with Legal Aid lawyer Amy Walters was a surprise and a bust. To begin with, she arrived early. To add, she brought someone with her. That someone was a complete surprise.
Jake and Charles were seated in Alex's office when Carrie buzzed and announced, "Ms. Walters is here. She is not alone," she added.
Carrie showed them in. Amy Walters was a petite woman with short dark brown hair in a beige pantsuit with a pale blue blouse. Jake guessed she was in her early thirties. She had a friendly smile but looked capable of being all business. She looked like a litigator. Jake liked her right away.
But who was it she had brought to what Jake and Charles expected to be a private meeting?
He was a tall man. Gray-haired, clean shaven with rimless glasses. He wore a conservative, navy business suit and black wing tips. Looked like Florsheims to Jake. He had seen this man somewhere before.
Jake stood and looked up at the man who put out his hand. â€œGood morning! Iâ€™m Harold Schramm.â€ He looked at Jake. â€œWeâ€™ve met before.â€
Schramm looked deep in thought, stroking his chin. â€œI remember! Donâ€™t know why I didnâ€™t think of it right away. It was at Alex Van de Meerâ€™s funeral. You were by that stand with the photos of Alexâ€™s life. A sad day, that one."
Jake remembered, now. This was the man who said he didnâ€™t like Alex at first, but had changed.
Amy Walters interrupted his thinking. â€œI brought Harold with me to help explain what has happened and what has not been made public, yet."
They sat and Amy began. Carrie sat to one side taking notes.
â€œYou see,â€ said Amy, â€œthe Wiggins case has been settled, but in a way you canâ€™t quite imagine.â€ She smiled at Schramm. â€œHarold?â€
Schramm leaned forward, clearing his throat. He talked with his hands. â€œSee,â€ he waved a long arm out in front of Amy, â€œwe, that is Amy, Alex and I, were going to announce the settlement when things, or our agreed changes, got further along. We have the Housing Courtâ€™s approval and, I would say, blessing.â€
Amy Walters nodded.
Schramm continued. â€œAs you may know or have surmised, this was acrimonious litigation. But Alex put a stop to that. Instead of fighting me and threatening me, like I have experienced before, she persuaded me that changes would be better for everyone. She convinced me. She was somethinâ€™ else."
It looked like Alex's Legal Aid case was going to be another dead end in the search for her killer. But, Jake was curious to hear what had happened.
"As I say," Schramm went on, arms and hands waving in the air, "Alex Van de Meer and Amy Walters persuaded me to change my ways. They were very persuasive."
Amy Walters smiled.
"Under the terms of our settlement, Most of my Hawthorne buildings are being rehabbed. Renovations include replacement of wiring, plumbing, carpeting, heating, air conditioning and appliances. They will provide clean, modern living conditions. Tenants are being provided temporary housing while the work is done. There will be no increase in rent.
"The Housing Court judge complimented me and said she hoped other apartment owners serving low-income tenants would get the message and follow suit. While the settlement has been signed and sealed, it has not been delivered. That is, it has not been officially filed in court so we can complete most of the work and announce it to the public when it becomes a reality. I guess that's why you didn't know about it."
"That's right," said Amy. "That's why I thought Harold should be here this morning."
"You thought right," said Charles. "It's a wonderful story. Mr. Schramm, you are to be congratulated. You, too Amy."
"Tax increment financing helped," said Schramm. "Once the settlement idea was formed, the City and the Housing Court were eager to make this happen."
"There's more," said Amy. "Wait 'til you here this. Tell them, Harold."
"You mean the park?"
He said to Jake and Charles, "All of my Hawthorne buildings are close together. Essentially adjacent. While most are being renovated, two are being torn down. The area opened by their demolition and an adjacent empty lot we purchased are being transformed into a park and playground for the residents with playground and outdoor fitness equipment, a wading pond, landscaping and paved walkways throughout."
"Harold, tell them."
Schramm paused, put his hands on the desk. "It will be called Van de Meer Park."
After they left, Charles settled himself into one of the client chairs and Carrie into the other. They looked across the desk at Jake.
"Quite a story," said Charles.
Carrie dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. "It's wonderful," she said.
"So, we're back to looking for the answer in one of her cases?" It was Charles.
"I guess." Jake answered. "We've eliminated her Legal Aid cases. There is nothing else in her personal life, what there was of a personal life."
"There sure wasn't much of that," agreed Charles. "Carrie, you were right. Just about her whole life was right here in this office or somewhere working on her cases, nearly all of the time." He looked over toward the work table loaded with specification books and rolled plans. In the corner of the office were more thick spec books and rolls of plans. "Are those blueprints and spec books all related to her cases?"
Jake turned toward the stacks of files and construction documents, then back to Charles, nodding. "They are. Those are the plans and specs for her current open construction cases."
"One of those rolls may be a blueprint for murder, I'm thinking."
Jake retrieved a roll of blueprints and placed it on the desk between them. "But which one?"
With no more clue as to the answer to Alex's murder and no idea where to look next, Jake was back to the scheduled appearances he had to handle. The deposition of Fred Williams in the Ander-Will case started after lunch in Bob Jones' office again, in the Lasalle Plaza. Bob had noted it and he began the examination. This was not a video tape deposition. Only the lawyers, the witness and a stenographic court reporter were present.
Bob Jones began with the usual introduction and then turned to Willander Board's participation in the project, or lack thereof, as the testimony he elicited clearly showed. Jake had known this was coming. He had alerted and prepared Fred. Fred was as smooth as silk. By the end of Jones' direct examination, it was patently obvious that the Willander Board company only supplied drywall and had nothing to do with the construction or construction decisions made at the jobsite. He was shown the blueprints and acknowledged their fire retardant requirements saying he relied on the installer to follow them. If the installer had followed the plans, Fred testified, there would be no problem. Willander Board would do the job for which it was designed and manufactured. Willander Board, he added was the best product on the market and just about everyone knew it. That's why plans and specs so often specified "Willander Board or equivalent." In Fred's view, he testified, there was no equivalent, although with a smile he admitted some prejudice on that issue.
Fred was smooth and so was Bob Jones. Bob's plan, and he definitely had one, was to lay the problem at the feet of the prime contractor, Vinton; his drywall installer sub, Emerson and the project architect, Oglethorpe. Bob believed, as did Jake, in picking the theme of the case and sticking to it. Lawyers are trained to spot issues. They learn to argue in the alternative. When answering a question in a law school exam, you had to raise all the issues and write in your blue book, if they still used them, Jake thought, "The issue is ... and if not, the issue is ..." and so forth. But don't try that with a jury or a lot of judges. Many trial lawyers believe, and Jake agreed with them, that if you argue an alternative theory, you just weaken your main argument. Juries believed that if you felt you had to argue an alternative theory, you really didn't believe in your main theory and so why should they?
Bob had decided that the horrific results of the fire could not be ignored or defended. He had chosen to support the injured and those families who had lost loved ones by suing the wrongdoers and establishing their fault. His client agreed. Toward that end he was supporting Doc Holliday White and his clients and Jake and his clients. The fault lay at the feet of the prime, the drywall installer and the architect. Bob Jones intended to prove it. To go forward in front of the court and jury as a guardian of the injured and a seeker of justice was a lot better, he had concluded and told Jake, than arguing that they shouldn't get anything. They should be compensated. Just not by his client. That was his chosen theme of the case. He would stick with it.
Bob's direct examination, took a lot of the potential steam out of the other lawyers' cross-examination. They did question Fred about the efforts that he and other defendants had made to show that Willander Board plus the insulation might have satisfied the two hour requirement, but that didn't count when the drywall did not go all the way to the concrete slab above the dropped ceiling. That, Fred testified, was an installation problem not a product problem.
Jake was satisfied with Fred William's testimony. He instructed Fred on the record that he may waive the reading and signing. Fred said he would. The court reporter wrapped things up and everyone headed for the elevators.
Coming off the elevators and entering the skyway level, Jake saw that clouds had moved in over the afternoon. Overcast skies threatened rain. Dirty clouds heavy with moisture moved across the city. Once again, Jake thanked the city fathers in Minneapolis and St. Paul for creating and maintaining two of the most expansive skyway systems in the country. Rain or shine, snow and bitter cold or unbearable heat and humidity, all commonplace conditions in the Twin Cities, one could make his or her way around the downtown areas in climate-controlled comfort even with picturesque views of the extreme weather conditions on the other side of a pane of glass.
Charles looked out and said, "We need the rain." People always said that. Or they said, "We certainly don't need any more rain." Jake never knew and wasn't sure how they did. He didn't think it was because he was less observant, although that was a possibility. Perhaps it was because he didn't care, though he didn't think that was really true either. He guessed it was because although he noticed and observed the weather, he didn't retain it in his memory for future reference. Charles and a lot of others apparently did.
They paused in the skyway level to do a quick post mortem with Fred Williams. Doc Holliday was there also, planning to walk with Jake back toward his office.
"How'd I do?" asked Fred.
"I think you did fine," Jake answered. "Doc?"
"Great. He did great," Doc answered. "You did great," he told Fred. "And so did Bob Jones. He did a wonderful job of setting the mood for this case, but we still have problems."
Sam and Charles had moved closer to hear the conversation.
"Oh, what's that?" asked Fred.
Doc answered. "Oh, it's not a problem for you or your company, but it's a problem for Bob and for my clients as well. Bob has the burden of proof in his case and I do in my coming cases. that means we have to prove negligence or breach of contract or," he mused, "'negligent breach of contract' whatever that really is. We also have to prove causation, that is, that the fire was caused by the negligence and that the devastation, injuries and death would not have occurred but for the negligence of the defendants."
Sam Cooper spoke up. "I didn't think 'but for causation' was the test."
"Right Sam. Right you are. The jury won't be instructed on â€˜but for causation,â€™ but they will be told that they have to find that the negligence, if they find any, is a direct and proximate cause of the damage and the injuries and death. It may be a distinction without a difference, at least from the jury's perspective. And the problem we have is the fire was so complete, that the evidence we need was destroyed."
"I agree with lawyer Jones and I am intrigued by the explanation you all have given about the way he is handling the case," said Fred. "I also agree that the injured and families of the deceased deserve compensation, but I am glad the problem of proof you describe does not affect my company."
"Understandable," said Doc. "I don't see how our burden of proof problem affects you. If anything, the lack of evidence helps you since it tends to relieve everybody of any responsibility." He shook his head. "Too bad for plaintiffs."
"Does this lack of evidence you describe mean your cases are over?" Fred asked.
"No," Doc answered. "At this pre-trial stage, we've got issues of material fact to be decided by a jury so we won't be thrown out on summary judgment motion. I think we have enough to get to a jury, but you can bet that at the close of plaintiff's case-in-chief there will be motions for judgment at that time. Jake will no doubt join in them at that time on your behalf."
"Then if we survive those motions," Doc went on, "it is up to the jury. Predicting jury outcome is a skill some people claim to have but nobody really does. At that point, it's a real turkey shoot. Anyway, you did fine."
Sam asked why Bob Jones had taken Fred's deposition at all if he is a friendly witness.
"Bob wants to control this litigation and have it stick to his theme no matter what defendants may try to do," said Jake. "He wants it to be clear to the court and a jury so that if the defendants try defenses that go off the reservation it will be apparent to those who will decide this case. No surprises. So, he is laying out his position from the get go. Fred will be a witness not only for us, but for Bob's theme of his case. Right, Doc?"
"Right. And, Sam, I'm not here as a guest of Bob because he likes me. My presence reminds defendants of the additional significant damages claims out there. If we have another mediation, my clients' claims will be in there for settlement consideration, too."
"Well," Fred looked at his watch. "Time for me to get going." He looked at the sky. The sky had begun to unload the retained moisture. "I'm glad I'm parked inside. As Luther would say, 'It looks like it's going to rain like a cow pissing on a flat rock.' See you all later." He turned and left.
"Your client is a smart man," said Doc. "And, I take it, a good client to work with?"
"He is both," said Jake as they started down the skyway.
When they got back to the office, Sam said, "Jake, we have a document production request to answer."
"Which case?" Jake asked.
"Ander-Will Construction and Willander Board Company. The Hamel Towers litigation. Should I just copy what they sent us and send it along?"
"Let's see it."
Sam returned shortly with a large cardboard box. He laid it on the desk and said, "I'll be back."
"Two more boxes like that."
"Who gave you this?" asked Charles.
"It came from the Willander Board office."
"Whoever did this should practice law, in New York or Chicago," said Jake. "This is a paper blizzard of sorts. Does our client do this much work?"
"They have given us all the drywall they have supplied to anyone for the last fifteen years. It's a lot.â€
"Bring me the document production request. Let's see what was actually requested."
Charles stared at the boxes and shook his head. "This is one of the reasons I stayed in academia."
"This is one of the reasons I retired early," said Jake.
They looked at the document production request Sam brought in, instructed Sam on how to try to pare down the document response and decided to head back to the hotel.
Walking to the parking ramp, they decided that like their client Fred Williams, they were grateful they had the skyway and they were parked inside. Outside the gullywasher continued. Fred's quote of Luther Andersen about a cow and a flat rock seemed accurate. They were also grateful to be heading home if you could call the Marriott home. It had been a long day. Pulling out of the parking lot onto the street, Charles put the windshield wipers on high. It was still hard to see. He took it easy and moved slowly with traffic to the Third Avenue Bridge, over the river and on out of downtown toward Roseville.
Parking in the open lot at their hotel, Charles found an umbrella in the back seat. Together they used the single umbrella to go to the hotel entrance. Jake took it back alone for their briefcases and files. They were wet and somewhat bedraggled as they gathered their belongings and headed to their rooms. Jake swiped his key card at 404. Pushing the door open, he knew something was wrong right away but what it was didn't register. He reached the light switch by the door. The switch controlled a wall light between the sitting area and the bedroom. It barely illuminated the sitting area. The light was dim, but he could see that the whole place was a disaster. He pushed the door wide open. It got stuck on some towels on the floor and remained open. He dropped his briefcase. He could hear the bedroom TV. He had not left it on.
Glassware was smashed on the counter. The bags of coffee were torn open and spread on the couch and then apparently wet down with the two liter diet coke bottle he had had in the fridge. The laptop he had at the desk was smashed. He picked his way through the rubble to look in the bedroom, pausing when he realized he didn't know if someone was still in there. The silverware was scattered on the counter and floor. He grabbed a large kitchen knife and moved slowly to the bedroom. The drawers in the bedroom were pulled and tossed on the floor and the bed. His clothes scattered everywhere. No one was there. Everything on the bed was wet. He saw what looked like a maid's bucket on the floor. The bathroom was also empty but a mess. The toilet bowl was full of paper and towels. His shaving kit was dumped in the sink. A tube of toothpaste was squeezed empty. On the mirror, toothpaste spelled out the words, "LEAVE NOW."
Jake heard a noise at the door. He turned. The dim light did not illuminate the sitting room. A man's silhouette filled the doorway. He still held the knife.
"You, too?" It was Charles.
The front desk called the Roseville Police whose office was not far away near County Road C and Lexington. Two officers arrived. Jake also called Sergeant Shaughnessy who spoke to the two officers. A Ramsey County deputy responded to the call and joined the Roseville Police. While law enforcement dealt with what they referred to as "the crime scene," Jake and Charles went down to dinner promising not to leave the hotel. Their still damp clothes and the circumstances made dinner seem an unpleasant prospect, but Charles announced that he was hungry. So, Jake struggled to adapt. What else was there to do?
In the restaurant, Charles ordered a beer, and keep them coming, and a greasy, his words not the menu's, hamburger and fries. Jake said he'd have the same. When their beers came, Charles took a huge slug through the foam and said, "One or both of us is going north tomorrow. Everything is ruined here but the cars."
The cars! They had driven into downtown in Charles Escalade. Jake felt at his side. He still had his car keys in his pocket. He ran from the table out of the restaurant and the front door of the hotel. The rain had letup but a residual drizzle dampened Jake even more. The Cherokee was where he left it. The tires seemed okay. He saw no marks on the body that weren't there before. He carefully unlocked the door and peered inside. All seemed well. Nothing that he could see was out of place. He inserted the key in the ignition. Half expecting to be blown to smithereens, he turned the key. The Jeep started normally. The engine sounded fine. He killed the engine, locked the car and returned to Charles who was still sitting at the table. The burgers had arrived. Charles looked at Jake for an answer.
"Everything looks fine," Jake said.
Jake arrived at the office dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt.
"You look relaxed," said Carrie. "Not working, today?"
"Come with me, Carrie, so I don't have to do this twice."
In Jim Decker's office, Jake explained to Decker and Carrie about how he and Charles had found their rooms last night. "Everything was tossed and ruined. I managed to get these clothes into a dryer in the hotel's laundry room. Charles is back there now washing the clothes that are washable and can be saved. Then we are going shopping and leaving to go home to reorganize and get what else we will need."
"Oh my God!" Carrie gasped. "Who could have done this?"
"I have no idea. The Roseville police didn't find anything, yet. They talked to Sergeant Shaughnessy. I'm going to stop to see him on my way back."
"Whoever it was wanted to send a message," said Decker. "I'd say they succeeded. Perhaps we'd better quit looking for Alex's murderer."
"Not a chance," said Jake. "We'll be back as soon as we get our stuff together. By Sunday, for sure. We'll be here Monday morning."
R. J. Clark parked his pickup and walked to the front of the building. Glass doors opened into an atrium. The elevators were at the rear.
Clark stepped into the elevator. Two men and one woman got on with him. The woman punched the button for the third floor. She turned to look at Clark as the doors were closing. "What floor?" she asked him. He guessed the others were with her since she didn't ask them.
"All the way to the top, I guess," he answered, trying not to sound as miserable as he felt about going where he was going.
She punched the button. The elevator began to move.
On the third floor, the doors opened and the others left him alone. No one else got on. At his floor the doors opened again and he stepped out into a reception area. Clark had never been here before. All his prior meetings had been at one of the many projects or in a coffee shop or restaurant.
A pretty receptionist ushered him into a private office and left, leaving the door slightly ajar. The man he came to see was seated behind a large desk. Its polished surface held very little except a phone, a pen set and a yellow legal pad. The man behind the desk nodded and silently directed Clark to one of the two leather, wing-back chairs facing the desk.
"R. J. Clark," the man said, "what brings you here? My secretary told me you said it was important. Actually, I think the word she used that you apparently used was 'urgent.'"
The big soft chair put Clark into a sort of slouch that put him much lower than the man with whom he was meeting. He felt vulnerable. Shifting his weight to the front of the chair and leaning forward gave him a little more height, but he was still looking up at his host. He felt at a disadvantage as he began to speak. He should have remained standing, he thought.
"I am concerned about our arrangement," he said. "Things are happening that suggest we could be getting into real trouble with the law."
"Oh, I don't think so," the man said. If we just keep quiet, everything will all blow over."
"But I don't see how we can keep quiet."
"That's easy, but if you are concerned, let's set a time when we can get together and go over everything and if we are going to do something about it, we can do it together. I have a meeting this afternoon, so it will have to be in a day or two. When is convenient for you?"
This was a turn of events Clark didn't expect. Well, if it was soon enough he would wait to hear what would be said. Was it possible that they could do something that would fix things for both of them?
"I am flying some of my staff to St. Louis on Sunday for meetings the first part of next week. We will be coming back on Wednesday night. Can we meet on Thursday?"
"Name the place."
"Our offices? You know where they are?"
"I think so. Give the address to my secretary on your way out. Are you flying commercial?"
"No. I'm taking the company plane. We fly out of the Flying Cloud Airport down in Eden Prairie. It's easy to get out and it's easy to get into St. Louis, too."
"I had forgotten you are a pilot. What kind of plane? A Leer jet or something?"
"No, no. It's a Cessna 210, seats six, but it gets the job done."
"Do you fly into the main airport in St. Louis?"
"Yep. Lambert-St. Louis International."
The man chuckled. "I only know it as 'STL.' I fly commercial. From MSP to STL, it's less than two hours, flight time. You can get out of here fly to St. Louis and get where you're going in under three hours usually."
"Right. Takes us a little longer. It's about a 450 mile flight, airport to airport, Flying Cloud to St. Louis."
"Well," the man stood and extended his hand, "have a good trip and I will see you on Thursday.â€
Clark left the office. Standing waiting for the elevator, he wondered exactly what had just happened. He wasn't sure he could trust this man, but perhaps he had no choice. At least he would wait to see what would happen in the next week.
After Clark left, the receptionist placed a phone call and spoke quietly into the phone.
Sometime later, responding to a message to call, Wendell Stockman punched numbers into another throw-away cell phone.
"I have another job for you," his client said. "This is special situation."
"Go ahead," Stockman said. "Give me the details."
Traveling north out of the Cities in Charles' Escalade, they stopped at a Walmart to get new luggage, underwear, socks, toiletries and shaving equipment. At a J.C. Penney's, they both bought several pairs of slacks, blazers, shirts, neckties and shoes. It wasn't Juster's, but it would have to do for the coming week or longer.
On the way, Jake called Mary and Charles called Joyce. Trying to put them at ease wasn't working with either of them.
Back at Charles' cottage, they sorted out their purchases, packed their new luggage and sat on the deck with a cold beer still trying to deal with what had happened.
"So, what do we do next, Jake? I'm not giving into these threats."
"We keep at it, I guess, but we keep our eyes open. Something we are doing must be right. At least it is annoying somebody. But for the life of me, I don't know what it is."
Charles finished his beer. "Well at the moment, we have other things to worry about and their names are Joyce and Mary."
Charles dropped Jake off at the marina where he borrowed a pickup and headed toward Red Cliff Bay and Mary where he expected to hear "I told you so."
The next morning, Jake awoke to one of his favorite scenes. It was quiet across the marina. Recreational fishermen were already gone, out on the lake searching for salmon and trout. Commercial fishermen had gone out even earlier checking nets for whitefish, salmon and trout. Other boaters were either at their jobs in the cities or not up yet. In the gentle morning breeze, halyards fluttered against aluminum masts with a light ringing you would barely notice later when boaters were active and moving about the docks and marina facilities.
Jake made coffee from a Keurig one-cup, electric coffee maker. At the dock, Resolution had shore power. A number of electric devices were available and contributed to the comforts of what Jake knew as his home for about seven months of the year. He took the coffee and a doughnut out to the cockpit.
Mary had been okay. She was worried, but glad to see him. She did not like him going back to the Twin cities but understood what he had to do.
"Good morning, Jake." Bert Hanson came strolling down the main dock
"Come aboard, Bert. Coffee?"
"I already got mine." He held up his cup as he climbed aboard and settled into the cockpit seat across from Jake.
"So, what good are you up to this morning?"
Bert reached into his pocket and held out his hand. "Here are your flash drives, Jake."
"You got them? I wasn't sure Bayfield P.D. would let them go."
"These are copies. Sandy went with me with her laptop and made the copies right there at the front desk. Only took a few minutes. She says you owe her for the flash drives she used to make the copies. $12.50 each at Walmart in Ashland.
Jake took the two flash drives. One was red and one was orange. They were not labeled in any way. He looked at Bert. "What did the two flash drives look like? Were they labeled?"
"They looked about the same as those. About the same size. A little different shape. They were different colors. One was gray and one was blue. They were not labeled."
"Did you or Sandy look at the contents?"
"We did, but I couldn't make much sense out of one of them. The red one has pretty boring stuff about some lawsuits that I guess she was working on. One of the files couldn't be opened without a password." He pulled a small notepad from his pocket and put on his reading glasses. "The name of that file is Wilson-Jennings vs. Leventhal. The other flash drive, the orange one, looked like personal stuff related to credit card accounts, bank records and a list of passwords. That flash drive also had a file you couldn't open without a password. That file was called '1st Bank of the Ozarks.' Personal banking stuff, I guess. Sandy says you can't be too careful about identity theft."
"Funny," said Jake. "I don't remember any Wilson-Jennings case on her case list. Maybe it's something that has already been taken care of and closed out."
"I suppose. You won't know until you open it, if you can."
"From what you're saying, Bert, I gather you didn't try the passwords on the protected file on the other flash drive."
"Nope. Sandy said sometimes if you try too many incorrect passwords it corrupts the file or something and then you can't open it at all. So, we left that to you. Good luck."
After Bert left, Jake went below and put the flash drives in the small, plastic case that held his five hundred gig flash drive with all Alex's cases on it. He planned to review them in the Cities when he next worked on Alex's case list.
Stockman arrived at the Flying Cloud Airport at eight-thirty that evening. In the growing dusk, he moved toward the hangar where Emerson Drywall Company's Cessna was kept inside. He wore coveralls. He wasn't sure he would be challenged, but intended to move with confidence so it looked like he belonged there. In a cargo pocket in the right leg of the coveralls he carried a flat, plastic container filled with white powder.
Twenty minutes later, he was back in his car, the nondescript Toyota he used for work. Five miles up the road, he stopped at a gas station, wriggled out of the coveralls, put them in a paper bag and threw them in a dumpster near the back of the station. Back on the road, he headed for home.
The next morning, Wendell Stockman parked his work vehicle in a parking ramp on Lasalle Avenue. He walked the short distance to the Loring Greenway and on it to Loring Park where he sat by the Berger Fountain and waited. It was 6:00 am. Weekend runners, joggers and inline skaters were starting to appear on the paths throughout the park.
Resolution lay at anchor in the protection of the Raspberry Island sand spit. Jake and Mary relaxed in the cockpit after an invigorating morning swim. All swims in Lake Superior are invigorating â€¦ or colder. Jake was glad he had come home. Mary seemed glad, too.
Jake's cell phone rang down in the cabin below. He decided to ignore it. Mary went below to answer the call. She came back into the cockpit handing Jake his phone, saying, "Your office on line one."
"Jake!" It was Carrie. An out-of-breath, excited Carrie. "Jake, Angie Fowler has been attacked again!"
"She was attacked in Loring Park this morning. Mike Shaughnessy called me. He said he tried you but couldn't get through."
"Carrie, I'm on my boat. I'll head into the marina and be on my way as soon as I can."
Mary insisted on joining him. Mary took one of the Band's SUV's. Charles was not going back to the Cities until later. "Call me on my cell," he told Jake. "Let me know what you find out."
They arrived at the hospital mid-afternoon. Carrie caught them in the hallway. "She's okay, Jake. A little shaken up. More scared than anything. There was no sexual assault." She turned to Mary. "Hi. I'm Carrie Parker."
"I thought so." Carrie smiled.
Mary looked at Jake.
A uniformed patrol officer was stationed outside Angie's room. Carrie explained. The cop looked at their identification and let them in.
Angie Fowler was sitting up in bed. "I'm feeling a little foolish," she said to Jake. "I guess this was just a mugging. Nothing was taken and I wasn't really hurt. Can you get me out of here?"
Jake wasn't sure what to say. He didn't want her to descend into the fear and despondency that had long followed her original rape, but he wasn't sure that this was just a random mugging either. He decided against saying anything that would affect her positive recovery â€¦ for now. He would talk with Shaughnessy in the next few days.
The next morning, Jake arrived at the office, early. Mary, who had tribal business back in Bayfield, left right after an early breakfast at the hotel. Charles was on his way.
In light of this second attack, Jake was looking back over the Fowler notes. Sam Cooper and Carrie rushed in.
"Jake, did you see the news?" asked Sam.
"The president of Emerson Drywall, R. J. Clark, was killed in a plane crash!"
"Jake, you can read it on your tablet," said Carrie. "Here, let me show you."
She powered up his tablet, holding it so he could see the screen. Jake watched. Using the search engine, Safari, she searched for "Airplane crash Iowa." From the list on the screen, she selected a Minneapolis Star-Tribune story. Carrie moved back to the front of the desk and sat beside Sam and watched while Jake read.
By Karen Jensen- Star-Tribune-
SMALL PLANE CRASH KILLS FOUR NEAR BURLINGTON, IOWA
The crash of a small private aircraft on its way from the Twin Cities to St. Louis, Missouri crashed in southeast Iowa Sunday killing three men and one woman, all from the Twin Cities Metro area.
Apparently, a little over an hour out of St. Louis on their way to the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL), they began to have trouble. The pilot, R. J. Clark tried to reach BRL, the Southeast Iowa Regional Airport at Burlington, Iowa. The plane crashed about ten miles northwest of Burlington. Clark and three business associates were aboard. There were no survivors. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash. "The pilot radioed that he was having engine trouble," said one NTSB representative. "He may have been trying to put it down on Highway 61, but he didn't quite make it."
The persons aboard the plane were R. J. Clark, President of Emerson Drywall, a Minneapolis- based contractor, Melissa Brown, John Dermott, and William Parkins, all employees of Emerson.
Jake closed his tablet. The Clark deposition was important to Evergreen Hospital's case. They had scheduled it for a little over two weeks away. "Sam," he asked, "have you given any thought to what this does to the Evergreen case?"
Clark was going to help with the proof of the roofing fraud. Years before, he had been involved in many projects where the old 1+1= 4 roofs did not work. He had repaired or replaced a lot of drywall on various jobs because the roof leaked.
"A little," Sam answered. "We noted Clark's deposition because he was going to go after the roofing manufacturer, Behrendt Industries. We believed his testimony would have shown a pre-meditated fraud by the company after they knew the product was not as good as they advertised. It would have made our case."
"Me, too. That's what I thought."
Sam beamed. Carrie smiled.
"Who are these other people who died in the crash? The Strib says they were Emerson employees, too."
It was crazy. Stuff happening that made no sense. Not knowing what else to do, Jake thought about the flash drive copies Bert had given him. He called for Carrie. "Carrie, Bert Hanson says the flash drive we got from Bayfield Police has a file that cannot be opened without a password. I don't know the password. Sandy Hanson says that if you try too many passwords, you may corrupt the file and never be able to open it. "
"Carrie smiled. "I'm not sure if Sandy is right if it is just a password protected word document which it probably is if it is just some of Alex's notes she wants kept secret. Let me see it."
"I left it in my hotel room with my big flash drive and tablet."
"You're frowning. Before, you were smiling."
She grinned. "I frowned because you should carry your tablet and flash drive all the time, at least when you are working. Their size and convenience to carry was a reason Alex used them."
"I don't carry a huge purse like she probably did."
Grinning even broader, she added, "I smiled earlier because this is your lucky day. Some time ago, Alex gave me a list of a half a dozen passwords that she told me would only be used if she had notes or documents she wanted kept private. I kept it on my computer and in my desk so if she forgot or needed to have me open a file I could. Of course, in the process of giving me the list, she pretty well memorized them. But, she said, if anyone were hacking into her computer, or got ahold of her flash drives, the passwords would not be there." Still grinning, she said, "Do you want them?"
"Of course. Thank you."
Carrie stepped out to her cubicle and returned with a sheet of paper. "Here they are."
Jake looked at the list.
"How did she come up with these?" he wondered aloud.
"Let's see," Carrie walked around behind Jake to look over his shoulder. "The first one is just tapping the keyboard keys to the far left starting with 1 down to z and then repeating with the caps lock on. That one usually fits even the most difficult of password requirements. You see it's got both caps and small letters, a symbol and a number. The second is her first car. Dewey2 is her cat with a 2 added. Fourth is her phone extension here at Stratton. Five is her birthday and six is the race number she had when she skied the Birkebeiner in northwestern Wisconsin from Hayward to Cable two years ago." She moved back to the front of the desk. "See? It's very simple."
"I will try them."
For lunch, Jake drove out to the hotel and picked up the flash drives. With a break in his appearance schedule, he decided to look at the copies of the flash drives that Bert had given him.
Sitting at Alex's desk and using her office computer, Jake tried Alex's special passwords. She had been truly paranoid and obsessed about protecting her attorney work product, he thought. In this day and age where everything was digital and electronic and hacking, whatever that really is, was everywhere, he could understand her concerns.
He inserted the red flash drive into the USB port on Alex's computer. After opening the flash drive on the computer screen, he tried to open the Wilson-Jennings vs. Leventhal file. A window appeared on the screen which directed him to "Enter password to open file" and provided a space in which to do just that. He entered the first on the list Carrie had given him. He typed in 1qaz!QAZ and clicked on OK. The window changed. It said, "The password is incorrect. Word cannot open the document."
The Help window gave the following further instructions:
This error can appear if you try to open a password-protected Word document and you do not provide the correct password.
Passwords prevent unauthorized access to documents. A password-protected document can only be opened if the correct password is supplied. If you forget or lose the password, you cannot open the document.
NOTE: Passwords are case sensitive. Before entering a password, verify that the CAPS LOCK keyboard option is not turned on. If you are using a multi-lingual enabled computer, make sure that the language that was used to create the password is enabled when you enter the password.
Jake noted that it said nothing about how many passwords you could try before being shut out altogether. He had six to try before he was assured of success. That was assuming any one of the six was the right password for this document.
He clicked on the file name to open it. The window appeared again. He typed in 88Olds%. The window changed, telling him again that the password was incorrect. He typed in Dewey2. Same result. What if he ran out of times to enter the password and lost the file? He had already used half of the passwords. Worried about what Sandy called "corrupting" the file or locking himself out, Jake stepped out to Carrie Parker's workstation. "Carrie, do you have an extra flash drive?"
"I do." Without getting up she reached up on a shelf to one side of her cubicle. Her hand closed on a small black and white plastic box that was open on the top. As she set the box down on her desk, Jake could see that it was full of small flash drives.
"Here." She handed him a black one.
Back at Alex's desk, Jake put the new flash drive into an open USB port in her computer. Under "This PC," in File Explorer, it showed on the list as "Removable Disk (G:)." Jake renamed it "WILSON-JENNINGS COPY. He went back to the red flash drive, selected the Wilson-Jennings vs. Leventhal file and clicked on "Copy" up in the upper tool bar. Back to the Wilson-Jennings Copy flash drive, he clicked on "Paste." Momentarily, the Wilson-Jennings vs. Leventhal file appeared on the screen. That worked pretty well, he thought. Now, presumably I can do anything with the red flash drive without hurting the copy I just made. To be certain, he removed the Wilson-Jennings Copy black flash drive from the computer, put it on Alex's desk and returned to the computer and the red flash drive.
He clicked to open the Wilson-Jennings vs. Leventhal file. He typed Stratton103 in the window and was rewarded with the same rejection. He tried Meer1123 and Birkie147. No luck. What the Hell? It must be some other password not on Carrie's list. Probably should get Carrie in here, he thought. Then, not trusting his skill or accuracy with the keyboard, he decided to go through the passwords again. If he had corrupted the file or been locked out, the computer hadn't told him so. Plus, he had a backup copy of which he was quite proud and still had that to work with even if he had been locked out on the red one.
He started at the beginning of the list with 1qaz!QAZ. For sure that was one he could easily screw up. He carefully selected each key, then hit OK. Same as before. He continued going through the list, typing with great care. It was Dewey2, Alex's cat, that finally worked. When he clicked on OK and waited, the window disappeared and the file opened. It was a Word document. Jake read what were Alex Van de Meer's notes. They were terse to say the least:
___ Check in two weeks
Jake closed the file and highlighted it on the flash drive menu and right clicked. From the list, he selected "Properties." The Properties information showed the file was created in June, just three weeks before Alex was killed. What the devil was she up to? What could these notes or this guy, Roger Simpson, mean? And what was the Wilson-Jennings vs. Leventhal file? It was not among the cases that Sam and Carrie called the "super active" files. He checked his big flash drive that supposedly had all of Alex's one hundred or so open files. No Wilson-Jennings or Leventhal.
She appeared in the doorway. "Yes, Boss? You called?"
Properly, and not so subtly, put in his place, he apologized. "I get a little old fashioned sometimes." She smiled knowingly as if to say, I understand and I sympathize with you for your inadequacies, but she didn't let up. "You wanted some coffee? I can get one of the girls to get it for you."
"Okay, I get the message."
Carrie burst out laughing. "Oh, my! You are way too much fun to pick on." Then, just like that, her expression changed. "So, Jake, what can I do for you?"
"Ever hear of Wilson-Jennings vs. Leventhal?"
"What kind of case is it?"
"Well, Wilson-Jennings is a shopping center developer and manager. They do small strip malls, but they specialize in enclosed malls like the Mall of America but on a much smaller scale and in smaller cities across southern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin and in northern Iowa. There are two here in the Twin Cities Metro, one in Bloomington and one in Chanhassen, I believe. Mostly they are in smaller cities up and down the Mississippi River. They usually have one or two decent anchor stores and provide good locations for small local businesses. Wilson-Jennings is a good company."
"And the Leventhal case?"
"Have you ever heard of Spa La Reine? It is a franchise operation for beauty salon and day spas offering hair styling, cutting, coloring; manicure, pedicure and just plain pampering."
"Doesn't sound like I would go there."
"Oh, you might. Sometimes the best men's haircuts are by beauticians in a salon, although most men don't realize it. Your most likely use of it is for a gift certificate for your lady friend ... or," she started to smile, "your legal assistant."
"Subtlety, or lack thereof, noted. But who or what is Leventhal?"
"Maurice Leventhal had a string of those franchises which he put into malls like those developed by Wilson-Jennings. The mall developer lines up the anchor store or stores, like J.C. Penney, Sears, and so forth. The mall sales people then go shopping for other shops, stores, restaurants and fast food outlets. Most like to have a salon and nail place. The mall reps then sign these outfits up and work with them for what they need in their respective spaces before the mall is built. As you can imagine, a beauty salon takes special construction for all the electrical and plumbing needs. Maurice Leventhal and Wilson-Jennings got into a spat over the salon to be put in the Mississippi River Mall down in Wabasha. Leventhal was not satisfied with what Wilson-Jennings built and tried to back out of the deal. That would have disturbed the grand opening. Having Spa La Reine there, ready for business on opening day with opening day specials was important to Wilson-Jennings. Wilson-Jennings sued in state court in the Third Judicial District in Wabasha County. Alex had the plaintiff Wilson-Jennings. She got Judge Norman to order an early mediation. I got to go. It was fun. The parties met with the mediator, worked things out and the mall opened on time with ladies getting styled and manicured on opening day. Wilson-Jennings even had a drawing for free manicures. Alex and I went to the opening and had our nails done and dined at the Outback, Alex's treat. It isn't large, but it is a beautiful indoor mall right on the Mississippi. As an indoor mall, it provides comfortable shopping in the heat of summer and the dead of winter. Down there alongside the river, either weather condition can be brutal."
"But what is Alex doing with the case, now?"
"Now? Jake, that case was closed over two years ago."
"Look at this." Jake turned toward the computer screen, moving the mouse on its pad. Carrie came around the desk for a closer look. She was looking over Jake's shoulder when he found the right screen. He entered the password again and the file opened. "See?" He pointed toward Alex's cryptic notes.
Carrie studied the screen, shaking her head in puzzlement. "This is bogus."
"This is a fake entry. She just used the name of an old case she remembered so it would look authentic, but these notes relate to something else."
"What something else?"
Carrie studied the screen. She shook her head. "I'm sure I don't know. Nothing looks familiar and I never heard of this Roger Simpson." She studied the screen again. She reached for the mouse. "May I?"
Jake pushed back from the computer, rose and offered her the chair. She moved the mouse. Her fingers flew over the keyboard. The screen changed several times. Then, she stood and returned to the other side of the desk. Jake remained standing, waiting.
"Bear with me," she said. "I am just thinking out loud here, you understand."
"Alex Van de Meer had a heavy caseload. She worked on many cases at one time, but, as you have seen, only about eight or ten, sometimes as many as a dozen, are super active at any one time. These are notes she kept on a flash drive in her purse under a false but authentic-looking file name with password protection. She really didn't want anyone to see them but her."
Jake imagined he could hear the gears turning in her mind. He could see the changing expressions on her face as she thought over the puzzle. "Keep thinking, Carrie. Is Jim Decker around, today?"
"What? Oh, yes, I think so. Do you need him?"
'I think we are about due for an update for him on our progress with Alex's cases and with trying to solve her murder. I think he needs to know about this newest development."
They met in Decker's office. Jake brought the flash drive with him. Carrie set it up on Decker's computer and showed the screens and how the password had to be used to get to Alex's notes.
"Wilson-Jennings vs. Leventhal?" queried Decker. "I thought that was settled a couple of years ago. Trish!" As Decker used the truly old-fashioned intercom, just yelling when you wanted something, Jake thought, I 'm not the only old dinosaur around here.
Trish appeared in the doorway. "Yes, Boss? You called?"
Jake suppressed a chuckle. Carrie was not so successful. She laughed out loud and clapped her hands. Trish grinned.
Oblivious to the reactions of those in the room, Decker said, "Trish, can you get Rex Hines in here? Sam Cooper, too?"
Trish grinned at Carrie. "Right away, Boss!" She saluted and left.
Decker looked at them. "You know, she has been acting strange, lately. Carrie, can you print out these notes?"
Jake saw Carrie hesitate and her right hand start to come up from her side. He saw her lips quiver.
"Please?" said Decker.
Rex Hines of Stratton, McMasters & Hines was the son of Gerald Hines, one of the original name partners. Gerald was still around some of the time and still had an office, but not the big corner one he had occupied for years before he began to cut back. Like his father, Rex was a transactional lawyer. He stayed away from the courtroom, counseling his business clients and utilizing his litigation partners when his clients needed representation in court.
"In here, Rex," said Trish holding the door.
"Yes, Boss," said the man who entered.
Decker looked up from his desk. "Is everybody a little nuts around here, today?"
"I think your natives are getting a little restless," Jake said, a comment for which he received That Look from Carrie.
Rex Hines was in his late thirties, Jake guessed. He was of medium height and build, but looked fit like maybe he worked out. He didn't have the lean or even emaciated look of many runners, but more the look of a gym member who used machines and free weights. He was clean shaven with thinning, dark brown hair. He had yet to start the graying at the temples which was almost sure to occur. He wore rimless eyeglasses. While his partner, Jim Decker, was coatless with his sleeves rolled up, like he always was at work in the office, Rex Hines wore a dark blue three-piece suit looking like he was off to an important contract negotiation.
Trish held the door for Sam Cooper. "In here, Sam," she said.
They all waited, including Decker. Sam said nothing. They stared at him, waiting.
"What?" he finally said.
"Oh nothing," said Decker. Jake has just been reminding me that we may have a friendly mutiny going on around here."
"Oh that," said Sam. "But not me, Mr. Decker."
Decker shook his head. "Well, he said, let's get down to business. Carrie and Jake, it's your show."
They explained to Rex and Sam what they had found on the password protected flash drive, where Alex had kept it and how they had obtained a copy. Carrie handed out a printed copy of the one page of notes.
Rex Hines studied the page of notes. Then he said, "We were handling the leasing for the mall in Wabasha when that Leventhal matter came up. Alex brought suit down there to get an early mediation going as a means of getting things resolved quickly. I was there. It was very interesting. Alex did a marvelous job. In fact, with her help, I have used mediators to help resolve issues during contract negotiations and before any dispute that might lead to court action. It has been very effective. Carrie was there, too. Carrie, what was the name of that beauty salon Leventhal owned?"
"Spa La Reine."
"Right. Our client thought it mandatory that we get that shop in the mall and by opening. As usual, they turned out to be right. But, Jim, that was closed out over two years, ago. That's in Closed Files in the storage unit out in St. Louis Park. I don't see anything in these notes that would have any relation to that case."
Jake said, "Carrie thinks the use of the old case name is just a subterfuge. She told me it's just a way Alex must have used to conceal these notes but make it look like they apply to a real case other than the one to which it really pertains." Carrie nodded agreement. Jake asked them all, "Do any of you know who this Roger Simpson guy is?"
"I don't," said Decker. "Rex?"
Rex Hines shook his head.
"Carrie," Decker asked, "You've never heard of this Roger Simpson?"
"No," she answered, "but that's not unusual. Alex would sometimes get ideas and pursue them without putting anything in the file unless and until it developed into something. I think sometimes she was worried about discovery and possibly having to disclose what she was up to and what she was thinking. I can tell you that she firmly believed that what she was thinking or planning was none of anybody's business but hers."
"I think I know who he is."
Everyone turned toward Sam.
"He works with Alex's brother-in-law, John Morrison, at Metro Testing over on University Avenue in St. Paul. Or, I should say he worked there. He was killed in an auto accident up near Taylors Falls on the St. Croix River."
"He was?" asked Jake. "When was that?"
"Two or three weeks ago. It was on the news."
"I heard something about that," said Decker, "but I didn't know who the person was or that he worked with John Morrison."
"Did you say, 'on the river?'" asked Jake.
"Yep. Drove off the cliff and went down about a hundred feet to the river below. It was in the river gorge they call the Dalles of the St. Croix."
"You say it like it was intentional."
"May have been."
"The authorities had not excluded that possibility last that I heard."
"When did you say this happened?"
"About three weeks ago, I think. I can check."
"Please do. I'd like to see whatever you have on it," said Jake. "Carrie, can you get Charles and me an appointment with John Morrison?"
At the end of the day, Jake found Charles waiting for him at the hotel.
"You're back," Jake said.
Over cocktails at the hotel bar, Jake filled Charles in on the day's happenings.
"You've been busy."
"Keeping up on Alex's cases and investigating her murder are quickly becoming competing endeavors. The plane accident in Iowa took out an important witness in our Evergreen Hospital case. That's the one with the 1 + 1 = 4 fraud by roofing industry leaders. Clark was the head of defendant Emerson Drywall. He was one of the few experienced construction people who had been around long enough to remember the details. That was to be important proof for our client's cause in that case."
"What will you do there?"
"I intend to do a search, national if necessary, for an expert who can expose the old fraud scheme and make it stick in this relatively new case."
"That's going to irritate some pretty substantial members of the roofing industry, isn't it? Isn't the issue you raise one that they think is long gone?"
"For sure. Alex knew that and so do I."
"Your text while I was driving down told me we would be meeting with a testing engineer tomorrow. Who is that?"
"You read the text while you were driving? Charles!"
"I did not. I pulled to the side of the road and read it."
Jake explained about Alex's hidden notes and the mysterious Roger Simpson. "I want to find out what he was doing for Alex. The guy we meet with tomorrow is his boss and also happens to be Alex's brother-in-law."
Charles drove the Cadillac east on University Avenue toward St. Paul, early the next morning. He turned right on Malcolm Avenue SE. and into a parking lot next to the building on the corner that housed Metro Testing Company. The low flat-roofed building had a beige-painted stucco finish, few windows and little advertising. Only a sign on the small entrance door announced "Metro Testing Co." with the address number, 3028 University Avenue. Toward the rear of the building off Malcolm Avenue a large and tall garage door was capable of handling big trucks and equipment.
They entered the front door and were immediately met by a young woman seated at a reception counter who looked up in anticipation. She smiled broadly. Before Jake could speak, she said, "Mr. Kingsley? And Professor Stanton?"
"You have caught us," acknowledged Jake.
She blushed. "Mr. Morrison is expecting you." She touched a button on a desk phone and announced, "Mr. Morrison, Mr. Kingsley and Professor Stanton are here. Thank you." She replaced the handset in its cradle. "Mr. Morrison will be right with you."
A door behind her opened and a tall man emerged. He wore tan slacks with tasseled burgundy loafers and a Navy blazer over a light blue button down shirt and a brown and yellow tie. He walked quickly to Jake and extended his hand. "Good morning. I'm John. It's a pleasure to meet you. My wife wants to meet you one day as well. She is glad and I am too for what you are doing regarding the tragic loss of her sister, Alex. Please join me in my office." He led them back through the door to the rear of the office space.
Charles and Jake took seats facing John Morrison as he sat behind his desk. The difference between this office and that of the lawyers' offices was remarkable. None of the "vanity" hangings adorned the walls. No diplomas, no artwork. A large white board occupied one wall with a basket of colored markers and erasers hanging alongside. Wall-mounted shelves held rule books, technical indexes and volumes. Behind the desk was a standup level drawing board with a roll of blueprints spread out with what look like pieces of quartz used as weights holding down the corners. A large, stained, porcelain coffee mug occupied a central position on the prints. This was a workplace, not necessarily a meeting place.
John Morrison began the discussion. "From your phone call, I understand you think that one of our engineers, Roger Simpson, was working on something for Alex. I am not aware of it if he was."
This came as a surprise to Jake. Apparently to Charles as well, because he asked, "You mean he wasn't working on anything for her?"
"No. I don't mean that. I am just not aware of it, if he was."
"I thought you were in charge, here," Charles persisted. "I don't mean to sound rude, but I don't understand."
"Not to worry. I don't believe you are being rude. I can explain. You are right. I am in charge since Ralph Evans retired a few months ago. But, as you may have noticed, this is a workplace. We test materials. We test sound and noise levels. We do chemical, metallurgical and mechanical testing. We test coatings, electronics and anything else you can think of. We operate in a relaxed environment, here. I hate to sound like we are like the photos and videos you see of technical workers in Silicon Valley, but in some sense we are. In my new position, I have to wear a tie sometimes, but most of our people don't. For example, Roger would normally be dressed in jeans and a tee shirt from Grateful Dead or something like that. But, he buried himself in his work and he was brilliant."
"But you don't know what he was working on?" Jake was afraid they were at a dead end, here.
"Not necessarily. If, as I think you are suggesting, Alex asked him to test something and keep it quiet, Roger may well have done that. We haven't done anything with his work area. When I know more about what you think they were doing, I think I can figure out more than we know now. What have you got?"
Jake showed him the printout of Alex's notes from the password protected flash drive.
"Hmmh. I can see why you are concerned. There is no date on this memo."
Jake responded. "The computer says she created it or at least last modified it on June 23, just three weeks before she died."
"May I keep this?" Morrison held up the printout.
"You may. Need anything else?"
"I don't know. Let me get to work on this. I'll call you when I know something or have more questions. I can reach you at the Stratton office?"
Jake gave him his cell phone number as well.
From Charles' car, Jake called CoCo. Martha answered the phone. "She's right, here, Jake." He heard Martha say, "It's Jake."
"Hi, Jake. What's up?"
"What are you lovely ladies up to this morning?"
"Uh, oh. Do I feel the pinch coming on? You need something from us again? We are basking in the mid-morning sunshine, looking out over this idyllic island paradise debating whether to go beach walking and agate picking, this afternoon, or to take the kayaks out and paddle to Basswood Island. What about you, Jake?"
"I need you to do something for me."
"CoCo's tone abruptly changed. "Any time, Jake. You know that." Jake heard Martha in the background ask, "What is it, Coce?"
"CoCo, do you think you and Martha could go down to Polk County to do a little investigation of an auto accident on the highway by the St. Croix River down from Taylor's Falls but on the Wisconsin side?"
"Well, that may be the question."
"Tell him yes, Coce." Martha was still in the background , but closer to the phone.
"Did you hear her?"
"We're on our way, Jake!" Martha had to be right on top of the phone, now.
"Specifics?" asked CoCo.
"I'll e-mail what I've got and what I am looking for, if I even know."
"As Martha said, we are on our way, or will be shortly."
Morrison called the very next day. Jake received the call on his cell phone.
"I think I have found what you were looking for."
Good, thought Jake. It was about time something happened. But what? "I'm listening," he said.
"I found some notes, Roger had in a file at his workstation. Alex's name and number were on them."
"Could you tell what he was doing for her?"
"It looks like he was testing some drywall material. His notes are pretty hard to decipher without him."
Drywall? "Any idea where the drywall was from?"
"I would have to assume she provided it."
Jake had to think. Why would Alex be having drywall tested? There was the case up in Biwabik where the issue was whether the added strength of the wall board would bring the total wall strength to what was needed. He supposed you would have to run tests to determine that strength. Sam said Alex had thought the drywall in the Evergreen leaky roof case had deteriorated too quickly. Also, of course, she represented a drywall manufacturer, but Willander Board was tested all the time and one of the best boards on the market. And in that case, it appeared the problem was related to installer error, but the evidence was gone. Why test drywall? Who made it, where was it from and what case was it for?
"Oh, I'm sorry. Just thinking. And, call me Jake."
"Jake, do you want us to redo his tests?"
"What? How can you do that?"
"There is a pile of drywall scraps here in his evidence locker. I should say there are two piles. They are labeled I and II. I assume these are what he was testing."
"Did you say 'scraps?'"
Yeah. It's not like we have any full or even half sheets here. These are broken pieces of varying sizes, maybe a foot and a half square at the biggest. Looks like they came out of a demolition project. Some look like they were cut out, straight edges and all that. Others look like they were ripped out by hand or with some demolition tool."
"Do his notes say where it is from?"
"Nope. I assume Alex had that information."
"Well, I'm not sure what to think. I don't know what the scraps are from or why Alex was having them tested, but maybe the answer is in the test results. Do you know what tests were being performed?"
"I think so. There's only so many things you would test drywall for, like its original properties, the effects of age, deterioration, water damage, mold, toxicity, lead in the painted surfaces and a few other things. This doesn't look like particularly new drywall. As I said, it looks like it came out of a demolition job."
"Is it destructive testing?"
"Some. Most is not. Anyway, we don't need much and he's got these piles, here."
"All right. go ahead and let me know what you find out. Thanks."
"Bill the Stratton firm?"
Jake thought for a moment. The cost would undoubtedly be billed to the client, but he didn't know yet who that was. It would be done anyway as part of the investigation into Alex's murder if he had to pay for it himself. "Yes, for now. We'll sort that out with the client later."
"Any idea how long?"
"I am on it as of now. If this is about Alex, it's top priority. Early next week?"
As Jake finished the call from Morrison, Carrie came in followed by Charles. "A CoCo Cadotte has been trying to reach you. She said they are on their way here."
"I'll be interested in what they learned," Charles said.
Thirty minutes later, CoCo and Martha were seated in Alex's office.
"I don't like it, Jake," said CoCo. The Polk County Sheriff's office was very accommodating. They didn't have much reason to suspect other than accident except the way the car appeared to go straight over the cliff as though it was intentionally driven there."
Martha added, "They didn't have a lot to go on, but they gave us all they had. We went up to the site. We took pictures and we have copies of the Sheriff's pictures. Based on what you gave us, we looked at the possibility of accident, suicide and something altogether different than either of those."
"Lawyers!" CoCo shook her head. "She means we looked at the possibility of murder."
"What did you find, CoCo?" asked Charles.
"I think we found murder."
"What have you got," asked Jake. He had been worried about this.
"I don't think we have enough to prosecute," said Martha, "even if we knew who did it, which we don't, but I agree with CoCo's opinion. Somebody did this to Mr. Simpson."
"Jake," said CoCo, "the photos the Sheriff's office has show the tire tracks in the dirt. They never wavered. He drove straight off the cliff. He was a guy who preferred Coke and fruit juice, and I suspect an occasional joint, to alcohol in any great quantities. "
"How do you know that?" asked Charles.
"We talked to a devastated young lady named Wendy. She described Roger, told us about his preference for soft drinks over alcohol. She did not tell us about his possible use of grass. I surmised that from the pictures she showed us, his jeans and rock group tee shirts. Anyway, guys, Roger Simpson was not a drinker, yet the autopsy showed a blood alcohol content of .24. That's high for anybody. Remember, in most states it is illegal to drive with more than .08. Martha?"
Martha Hoskins took the ball Coco handed off, continuing their report. "Wendy gave us a lot. This guy was not suicidal. She told us he was happy in his work. He was engaged to be married. They got engaged the night before out at Lord Fletcher's on Lake Minnetonka. He was on his way to see Wendy and her parents. They were going to announce their engagement to her parents the night he was killed. Jake, the Polk County Sheriff's deputies found the engagement ring in his pocket. Wendy did not know that was coming. Another fact, perhaps insignificant, is Roger's love of the little roadster he was driving. His BMW Z3. Wendy told us he would never hurt that car. She said if he decided to commit suicide by car, he would have rented one rather than hurt his roadster. This guy had everything to live for. He was young, just engaged to be married, on his way to meet his girl and give her the ring, driving a fancy little car he loved. He was just not a candidate for suicide."
"We were at the site nearly four weeks after the crash," said CoCo. Weather has changed the site I'm sure, but using the photos and examining the ground at the scene, I am pretty sure that another vehicle was there next to the tracks made by Simpson's car. I could be wrong, but I think there is evidence that another car was there and someone took steps to cover up or erase its tracks, like it was never there."
"How do you explain the alcohol content if he was not a drinker?" asked Charles.
"Someone made him drink it or even poured it down his throat," said CoCo. "We've seen both before."
"So," said Jake, "where does that leave us?"
"Yeah," said Martha. "What's it got to do with Alex?"
"Charles knows I don't like coincidences."
"Me either," agreed CoCo. "Do you see coincidences, here?"
"Think about it. Alex Van de Meer was killed. A scientist with whom she was in contact regarding expert testimony in one of her cases died in a car accident that is somewhat suspicious and may have been suicide. The head of the prime contractor whose deposition was scheduled in one of her cases died in an airplane accident. In one way or the other, both of the deceased men had a connection to Alex. The evidence in one of her cases was destroyed in a fire. Her client's project supervisor died of a heart attack. And now we find that she was having someone test drywall samples."
"So what are you going to do?" asked Martha.
"I think I will go visit Mrs. Chet Alcott."
The next day, Jake drove south out of downtown on I-35. The Alcotts lived in a small ranch style home with attached garage on Colfax Avenue in Bloomington. The house was set back from the street. He parked the Jeep in the driveway. Someone had carefully tended the flower gardens at the front of the house. Jake saw rose bushes; petunias in purples, whites and pinks; daffodils and others he could not identify. The bright colors bordering the thick, freshly mowed green grass and standing against the beige stucco walls was more than pleasing to the eye. It bespoke of someone who cared a lot about the home and its grounds. He approached the front door. The large glass pane in the upper half of the door gave one inside a good view of the caller. Of course, it also gave the caller a good view of the inside, thought Jake. He pushed the doorbell button.
Presently, the door opened. Standing in the doorway was a small woman of about fifty-five to sixty by Jake's estimation. She wore blue jeans, sneakers and a yellow sweater over a white blouse. She sleeves of the sweater were pushed up halfway to her elbows. He gray hair was cut short. She wore no glasses, but had a pair pushed up into her hair. They were not sunglasses but had clear lenses so Jake assumed they were for reading and close work.
"May I help you?"
â€œMrs. Alcott, my name is Jake Kingsley. I work with a law firm here in Minneapolis that represents Ander-Will Construction where your husband used to work. I am working on a case right now and I think your husband might have known something that might be important.â€
â€œPlease come inside, Mr. Kingsley.â€ Jake stepped inside. Old fashioned shag carpet covered the living room floor. A leather couch and matching chairs faced a huge entertainment center featuring a large flat screen TV. Magazines were carefully arranged on a coffee table in front of the couch. Book shelves on a side wall held a dozen or so hard-bound volumes, some paperbacks and a collection of CD's and DVD's. Everything was in order and freshly dusted and vacuumed. A small black dog of indeterminate lineage wandered over to Jake sniffed his lower leg, tail wagging. Jake reached down to pet him or her, but the dog scrambled away, hiding behind Mrs. Alcott, staring back at Jake.
â€œDon't mind Buster. He's friendly but takes awhile with strangers. Come on. Follow me. We don't want to stay in here. She turned and walked out of the room. Buster followed in her wake. Walking away, she said over her shoulder. â€œMy husband has been gone for two and a half months, Mr. Kingsley. I'm not sure I can be of much help to you.â€
She led him into a large kitchen area with a breakfast nook. Pointing to a seat for him, she said, â€œCoffee? I have some fresh-brewed.â€
Jake accepted. The coffee came in an ornate eggshell cup and saucer with a small spoon. She set out the same for herself and a matching sugar and creamer set. She added cream and sugar to hers and stirred. Jake drank it black. As he raised the delicate cup to his lips, the strong coffee aroma said Columbian and foretold rich flavor in what Jake, a coffee drinker, considered one of life's ecstasies.
â€œWhat can I do for you?â€ she asked.
â€œTell me about your husband and his work.â€
â€œChet didn't bring his work home most of the time. But right before he got sick, he was nervous about something at work. A moment of sadness crossed her face. â€œI think his work killed him.â€
â€œYou do? Why?â€
â€œI know Chet was a little over weight and he still smoked. I quit years ago. Chet still smoked. But, Mr. Kingsley, Chet had just had a physical. His blood pressure was good. An electrocardiogram showed his heart was fine."
"You said his physical was fine. His heart was normal?"
"That's right. But Chet was concerned about something at work. I could tell. He didn't tell me just what it was. He worked for that company for many years. He loved the owners, Luther Anderson and Fred Williams Sr. and they loved him. He was treated very well. He would do anything for them.
"I wonder what was wrong."
"Chet was a perfectionist, Mr. Kingsley. I'm sure it had to do with one of the construction projects he oversaw."
Mrs. Alcott had nothing more to offer. A pleasant woman who had been left alone, thought Jake. Chet Alcott had been a lucky man until two and a half months ago.
Having learned little from the widow Alcott except to be suspicious of her husband's death, Jake returned to the office and Alex's strange way of secreting her notes.
"Carrie, tell me more about Alex's compulsion with secrecy regarding her work product. It seems a little paranoid to me."
"Compulsion is an understatement. Alex explained it to me, but I thought maybe she was going a little overboard, too.
"Just how compulsive was she?" He wondered aloud.
"Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, without a doubt," said Carrie. That's not fair. She wasn't nervous or upset about it. She enjoyed it. It was like a spy thriller and she was the spy."
"I wonder. I just wonder."
Jake reached for the small plastic case that Carrie had given him for the 500GB flash drive and in which he had placed the red and orange flash drives that Bert and Sandy had copied from the Bayfield Police. He held up the orange drive for her to see.
"And that is?"
"Remember I asked you about the 1st Bank of the Ozarks?"
"Sure. That's where Alex has an account near her time share in Treasure Island, Florida."
"There is a file on this flash drive called that. I tried to open it but the passwords you gave me didn't work. I was just experimenting with the passwords. I didn't worry about it because this whole drive is just personal banking stuff. I finally got the work drive opened and forgot about this one."
"But, the passwords didn't work?"
"No, but they didn't work on the other one for me the first time through, either. I don't have the keyboard skills you have."
"Why do you care about her banking in Florida?"
"Remember, you figured out that the Wilson-Jennings vs. Leventhal label was a trick."
"Oh my God! Give me that! Where is her password list?"
She pushed the orange flash drive into the USB port and began tapping keys. The file finally opened with Meer1123. More notes and just as cryptic:
1106 P, H
H Med S
cause and origin
Thos. A. - 336-4127+
"What does it mean?"
"I'm not sure," said Jake, studying the screen. "When did she make it?"
Carrie right clicked and selected Properties. "It says, 'Last modified on July 08.' Jake that's the day before she was killed!"
They looked at the notes. Carrie printed out two copies so they could study them. She sat across from Jake, staring at the notes. Jake did the same. He picked up the desk phone and dialed. Using 612, a Minneapolis area code, and dialing 234-6331, he got a phone company recording. "The number you have dialed is not in service." He tried area code 651, 763 and 952, all Twin Cities metro codes. Same result. Not in service or no such number. He tried 507, south of the Cities. He even tried 218 for northern Minnesota. Still no result.
"No luck?" asked Carrie.
If they are real phone numbers, they aren't from around here."
Carrie studied the notes. "Do you see the dash after the number we assume is for someone named Ben S?"
"I don't think that's a dash. I think it is a minus. Up above the phone number is followed by a plus. Same with the last number for 'Thos. A.'"
"What does it mean?"
"It means Alex didn't want anyone who might find these notes to know what the real phone numbers are."
"You have got to be kidding."
"No. And Alex wasn't either. She was serious about something." Carrie got a legal pad and a pencil and began fooling with the numbers.
"What are you doing?"
"Adding and subtracting. Here, try these." She tore off the top sheet and handed it to Jake. He put the phone on speaker so Carrie could hear and began dialing the list of numbers she had written. He stuck with 612 and 951 to start.
Carrie kept working. Jake kept dialing.
Then the call was answered. Jake jumped at the voice at the other end. He didn't hear exactly what the party said.
"Hello?" the voice said.
"I'm sorry," he said, "who is this speaking?"
"Who are you trying to reach, Sir?" answered a pleasant female voice, no doubt that of a business office receptionist. She was polite but businesslike at the same time.
"I'm sorry, I was trying to reach a," he glanced at the notes, "George K."
"You mean Mr. Kennedy?"
"Yes, that must be him."
"One moment, please."
"Mr. Kennedy, my name is Jake Kingsley. I'm a lawyer with Stratton, McMasters & Hines. I'm calling because . . ."
"You're with Alex Van de Meer's firm."
"That's right, I . . ."
"I was very sorry to hear what happened. I didn't know her well, but she seamed like a fine lawyer. Finer than a lot of them. No offense."
"Mr. Kennedy, we found your name and number, sort of, in Alex's notes. We don't know why. Do you? We don't even know who you are."
"Yes, I know. I'm not sure she wanted anyone else to know for now. How do I know you are who you say you are? Again, no offense."
"Mr. Kennedy, I'm not sure how I can convince you over the phone."
"What's the cat's name?"
"What's the name of Alex's cat?"
"You mean Dewey?"
"I guess you are who you say you are. Alex told me to ask that if I wasn't sure. What do you need?"
"For starters, who are you?"
"This is the business office for St. Croix Property Management Company. I am the Chief Property Maintenance Supervisor. I hope you are properly impressed."
"Apparently you had some business with Alex Van de Meer."
"I did. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say she had business with me."
"I have been taking over her cases at the request of her firm where I used to be a partner. You are referenced in her notes. I am anxious to find out what your business was."
"Over the phone?"
"In person would be better."
"I agree. I am here this afternoon."
Jake took down the address and made an appointment for three o'clock.
He turned his attention to Carrie who was writing on her legal pad. "How did you get that number?"
She smiled. "Like any good code breaker," she answered. Partly intelligence, partly ingenuity, a lot of trial and error and mostly dumb luck."
"So, you found the answer, but what is it?"
"I started with the upper number, the one followed by a plus. I added one to the last numeral to increase the total by one. I added one to each of the numbers. The one that worked is the phone number plus one added to the last number of the exchange and to last number to be dialed."
"What about the next phone number?"
"I'm hoping for an ace on that one. I am giving you only one number to dial. As far as the area code goes, you're on your own." She handed him a yellow sheet with one number.
"How did you get it?"
"Assuming Alex followed the same code, the adjustment is to the third and last numbers, but this time it is minus one."
Jake took the number. "You know, I'm worried about this one."
"See at the bottom? It says 'cause and origin.' In my experience, that's a reference to fire." He chose 612 and dialed. The answer came in two rings.
"Sandelin Forensic and Fire Investigation Services. How may I help you?"
He looked over at a broadly grinning Carrie who was fist pumping the air with both hands.
"May I speak to Ben, please?"
"Mr. Sandelin is not in right now. Would you like to leave a message on his voice mail?"
"No thanks. I can call him back. When will he be in?"
"He said he would be back before Noon."
"Thank you. I'll call back then." He hung up the phone. The consternation he felt must be showing on his face because Carrie asked, "What's the trouble?"
"Oh nothing. There's something familiar about this last name and number."
She glanced at the notes. "You mean for 'Thos. A.?'"
"Right. It is more than just familiar. I know a Thos. A. What does your code breaking say this number should be?"
Carrie scribbled on her pad and turned it toward Jake.
"A 33 exchange. That's downtown, isn't it?"
Carrie shrugged her shoulders indicating she didn't know.
"Perhaps I am showing my age, but way back the downtown Minneapolis telephone exchange was Federal like downtown St. Paul was Capital. 33 is the old Federal like 22 is the old Capital. So, I think it's downtown. So, it's also probably 612. He dialed.
"Schramek, Allen, Newman & Hale, How may I direct your call?"
"Tom Allen, please."
"Thos.? Jake Kingsley, here. Do you have a minute?"
"Jake Kingsley! If Jesus Christ, himself, had called I couldn't be more surprised. How are you, old friend? Where are you? And what are you doing calling me?"
"Tom, I'm in Minneapolis at my old firm. Can I buy you a cup of coffee and have a quasi-confidential conversation?"
"Sure, Jake. When?"
"The sooner, the better."
"Do you know the Nicollet Coffee Bar in the skyway?"
"I do. I can be there in fifteen minutes. You?"
"See you there and then."
Jake checked his watch. 9:00 a.m. Still early. He reached for his jacket hanging on the wooden clothes tree in the corner. He explained to Carrie. "Thos. Allen is an insurance defense lawyer specializing in fire loss cases. The issues in fire cases require a specialized knowledge of the science of fire. So, the facts and science are specialized. Lawyers in that area of the law have to be specialized, too, specialized like Thos. Allen. I thought Alex's note looked familiar. Allen, who also goes by Tom, informally, signs 'Thos.' That's how his name appears on his business cards and his office letterhead. Most of us lawyers refer to him as 'old Thos.' It's an old-fashioned abbreviation of Thomas that he latched onto when he started out. It's like Wm., Benj., and Robt., and what else? Oh yeah, Chas." Probably without thinking about it, that's how Alex noted his name, as 'Thos.' It rang a bell with me."
"What are you going to talk to him about?' As he went out the door, Jake replied, "I'm going to ask him what the Hell he knows about what Alex was doing. Hand me that page of her notes."
Thos. Allen was ordering a coffee when Jake arrived. Jake watched him standing at the counter. Thos. hasn't changed a bit, thought Jake. He wore a charcoal-gray three-piece suit with a gold watch chain across the pockets of the vest. Of medium height with a slight paunch, he was clean shaven with steel rimmed eyeglasses under dark, thick eyebrows. His thinning hair, flecked with gray was combed back with precision with a knife perfect part on the left side He dressed to impress insurance company representatives. He dressed to intimidate other lawyers. He dressed to sway jurors. He knew what he was doing every step of the way. He was successful at it. Among the Minneapolis and the entire Twin Cities and Minnesota practicing bar, he was well-respected.
He turned and saw Jake approaching. "Jake! Hello!" To the counterman, he commanded, "Give this man whatever he's drinking!" He held out a credit card.
Thos. selected a booth along aside a wall while Jake ordered his coffee. Jake got a Colombian roast, with milk, iced and blended. He was learning more from Doc Holliday than just about the law. As he approached the table, the counterman rushed over with Thos.'s credit card and a bill for him to sign.
"So, Jake," he said after the bill was signed and the counterman left, "What brings you off of Lake Superior, to our fair city and to my door?"
"Alex Van de Meer was working on something that I think got her killed."
"I heard about that. I was sorry to hear it. You may not know because you have been away, but most of us downtown here thought a lot of her. She was like you used to be. Full of vigor and hadn't lost her idealism. I half expected her to get overworked, jump ship and leave like you did. I have occasionally had the impulse to do it myself, but I have it pretty good here in my own little niche. In my own little world, nobody fucks with me. But, you think she was killed because of something she was working on?"
"I think so, but of course I can't be certain, yet." He explained about Alex, her flash drives and her notes. He handed Thos. the single page of her last notes.
"Why does she use just the initial of my last name? My phone number is wrong."
"I think she was trying to conceal what she was doing from any prying eyes. She apparently thought that other lawyers would try to get into her work product through the current discovery rules."
"That is a problem, Jake."
"So, I am trying to find out what these notes are about. I thought maybe you might know."
"I do know, Jake. No question about it."
"I'm glad I called you, then. What do you know and how do you know it?" Jake sat back, sipping his coffee through a straw and waited.
"I talked to Alex about this." He held up the notes. "It was just like this." He glanced around the coffee shop. "In fact, it might have been right here. I think it was."
Jake listened and waited.
"She was curious about one of my cases. Called me about it. I think I was the one who suggested coffee. He looked at the notes again. This 'Ben S' in her notes above my name is undoubtedly Ben Sandelin, a cause and origin fire inspector I have used a lot." He pulled his cell phone, touched an icon and glanced at the screen. "His phone number is wrong, too. Close, but wrong."
Jake waited. Thos. would get around to the full story in time. He was particular about laying out the full background.
"We started with some discussion of her case and with fire loss cases in general. We talked about fire inspectors and what they can and can't figure out from the remnants after a fire. She was trying to determine, if possible, why the fire in her case had burned so fast and so completely. Apparently, there was some question about whether the contractor or subs had built the required fire rated partitions to spec. But, she said her building was completely destroyed and any evidence with it. I gathered she was trying to protect the drywall supplier by blaming the drywall installer, the prime contractor and the inspecting architect. I told her you never know what a good cause and origin specialist will find when others think there is nothing left. But I told her to be careful."
"You know these cause and origin guys are a funny crowd. They frequently testify as expert witnesses. They all seem to know what cases are out there and who among them is doing what. They also seem to know and remember what side their bread is buttered on. I've seen cases where a homeowner's lawyer hired a cause and origin investigator and the insurance company on the other side knew the results before the hiring lawyer did. As you can imagine, fire insurance companies and their law firms do a lot of the bread buttering in this area of litigation. I heard another one testify that other fire investigators had told him to stay away from one case because, in their words to him, it would ruin his career."
"And Mr. Sandelin?"
"Ben Sandelin is different."
"He works for the one who hires him. Not as an advocate, you understand. He does his investigation purely as a neutral. But he can support his conclusions. He is a dynamite expert in the courtroom. Judges and juries are impressed with his competence. They believe what he says."
"You're saying, he is honest, loyal, trustworthy and skilled in his investigation technique. Sounds like he's a Boy Scout."
Thos. smiled. "Yeah, I know, but he is for real. Skilled investigator? If it's arson, this guy can pinpoint the point of origin, tell you exactly where and most likely when and tell you if the guy used a Zippo or a farmer match."
"And the case you discussed with Alex?"
"Ah, yes. The Hastings Medical Services Center case. Burned to the ground during construction. It was nearly complete. I've got the Builder's Risk carrier. A group of doctors got together to build a new building which would house their individual offices as well as an imaging outfit and a lab for blood work and so forth. Besides owning their own offices, they stood to make some money on the leasing to the imaging and lab outfits as well as having those services close at hand for their patients. And, of course, they would own the building. The location was good. Do you know Hastings?"
"This building was between Lake Isabelle and the Mississippi River just a few blocks from Regina Hospital. Convenient to the docs and their patients. A pretty smart deal for the docs, all in all. Then it burned. Or, maybe I should say exploded."
"Well, not really, but it went up so fast, it was crazy, the witnesses say. When firefighters arrived, there was nothing to do but keep onlookers out of danger. Fortunately, there were no building occupants, yet. The fire occurred overnight, so no workers were there either. The building was destroyed but no one was hurt."
"How is it that you have a case?"
"As I said, I've got the Builder's Risk Insurance carrier. The claim under the policy is on behalf of the builder and the owner. Payments would be to the owner for what the doctors have lost and to their builder for its loss including loss of profit. Investigation showed the construction was over budget and the builder was overextended. He was late in paying some of the trades on the job. A few had recorded mechanic's liens against the property. I put Ben Sandelin on it. He found a tiny bit of evidence in a protected corner of the rubble that showed burn patterns from an accelerant. Arson. Looking further, we found that certain pieces of equipment that would normally be left on the construction site had been removed before the fire. Some of the paperwork that would typically stay in the construction trailer had been removed."
"Jake, you know how it is. People who are going to torch their homes or businesses to collect insurance make sure no one is inside. They save their photo albums and memorabilia. It's something that doesn't happen in a truly accidental fire. If an insured is responsible for arson, of course, there is no coverage for that insured. This guy's pretty adamant that he didn't do it. We took a three hour Statement Under Oath as permitted by the policy and he didn't budge. I have to admit that he seems believable, but Sandelin says it's arson and there is no one else with a motive to torch the place."
"If the place burned to the ground, how did Sandelin find the point of origin?"
"One of the possible points of origin, Sandelin says. What he found were burn patterns for an accelerant on some wallboard in the lower level of the building."
"If everything else burned, why didn't that?"
"It was in the back of a cabinet under a metal counter. Apparently, the counter protected it from further burning and the fire was so hot above the counter, Sandelin said it sucked all the air out of the space underneath. No more oxygen, there; no more fire, there."
"What was Alex's interest?" Jake asked although he was beginning to see what that might be.
"As I said, she said she has a case where the building burned so fast some called it an explosion, too. Her fire happened before mine, but she was interested in possible similarities. She said all evidence of anything was destroyed in the fire in her case. So, I put her onto Sandelin. Maybe he could find something about the fire partitions. I don't know. This George K. in her notes is undoubtedly George Kennedy. He is a construction project supervisor and property manager the doctors' group hired to represent them on the job. I'm sure he was recommended to Alex by Ben Sandelin."
"And your case?"
"Oh, I'm plodding along. The builder is a nice guy with a good company and a good reputation. I think a jury will find him believable. As you know when the defense of arson is asserted against a fire policy claim, the insurer has the burden of proof. That's me. I'm not interested in pinning the fire on this guy if he didn't do it. I'm looking for any other explanation. Maybe some kid or kids were high on some recreational substance and decided to engage in a little friendly vandalism and it got out of control. Or maybe the docs had some competitors who didn't like the idea of their fancy new building. All pretty unlikely, I know, but if I eliminate every other possible cause, then the charge of arson against the builder becomes more plausible as the only explanation left."
Jake thanked Thos. Allen for the information. He explained Alex's paranoia about this situation and asked Thos. to keep the conversation confidential for now. Thos. agreed. They finished their coffee. Leaving together, they split up in the skyway to go to their respective offices.
"How long will it take to get to Hastings?" he asked Carrie as he passed by her cubicle.
"To the courthouse?"
"No. To that appointment with George Kennedy at three."
"To Hastings, it's forty-five minutes to an hour and fifteen depending on traffic. You won't know exactly where you are going so figure an hour and a half to be safe.'
"You took down the address, didn't you? Can you get the location on your cell phone?"
"Sure, but â€¦"
"You're coming with, aren't you? That is, will you?"
Carrie beamed. "I sure will. You need to call that Mr. Sandelin. Will you do that before we leave?"
Jake checked his watch. Quarter after eleven. "I will. I'll try him right now.
Ben Sandelin was in. His office was south on Lyndale Avenue. Sandelin agreed to meet at twelve fifteen.
Jake grabbed his coat. "Sandelin is at 60th and Lyndale. It's on the way. Let's go. We can get lunch on the way from there to Hastings."
Their meeting with Ben Sandelin was short. His appearance was surprising. Jake wasn't sure what to expect. What did a cause and origin fire inspector look like? He envisioned a smaller man perhaps, one who could make his way around the rubble in the aftermath of a fire, like those small in stature, but incredibly brave at heart, tunnel rats from the Viet Nam war. Ben Sandelin was at least six eight and 250 pounds. He could have played for a NFL team. Maybe he did.
Sandelin got right to business. "Alex Van de Meer was interested in the work I did in Hastings. I had Thomas Allen's permission to help her. I assume that applies to you, too?"
"I just left him."
"What do you want to know?"
"Everything you can think of. Then, we may know enough to ask some questions."
Sandelin described his investigation and how he found a point of origin where an accelerant was used. His opinion was clear. There was no question in his mind as to the cause of the fire. The fire was intentionally set. It was arson.
"Why would an arsonist start a fire inside a cabinet like the one in which you found your evidence?"
"That's not clear. Maybe he thought that was good place. He may also have started accelerant in closets or other similar spots. More likely, he splashed gasoline or kerosene or something similar around the room and it got into the cabinet because the cabinet door was opened. Then somehow the door got closed. Then you had a limited volume just airtight enough for the hot fire above to suck the air out and extinguish the fire there."
"So, you are prepared to testify, if called, that it's arson?"
"Yep. No question about it."
"Do you have pictures or some kind of evidence besides your testimony?"
'"For sure. I've got photos and samples of the drywall showing the burn pattern before the fire went out."
"You have drywall samples?"
"Tom Allen has them now. but there are more."
"Where are they?"
"If you are working Alex Van de Meer's case and you have talked to Tom Allen, you must know about George Kennedy."
"We are on our way to see him, now."
"He has some more drywall scraps removed from the inside of that cabinet."
After the Sandelin meeting, they hopped on the Crosstown, driving past Fort Snelling to Minnesota Highway 55 and the Mendota Bridge over the Minnesota River just upstream from its confluence with the Mississippi. As they began to leave the congestion and drive through a more rural landscape, Carrie asked, "What do you make of our meeting with Mr. Sandelin?"
"I want to find out what Alex's interest was in this Hastings case. I think her notes suggest it meant more to her than just a similar case. I'm curious about the drywall samples he says Kennedy has. We'll find out, soon."
As they approached Hastings, they stopped at a McDonald's, choosing to eat inside as they had plenty of time. They arrived at St. Croix Property Management just before three.
Kennedy welcomed them. Jake liked him right off. Kennedy was a man of about sixty years of age. It quickly became clear that Kennedy had been around construction for most of his life. He spoke with the authority that comes from extensive experience. He was relaxed and dressed comfortably in what Jake assumed were work clothes for him, suitable for being on a job site. A short-sleeved pullover, and khakis over tan leather work boots. A hard hat on the desk suggested he had just come from a job site somewhere.
"I hope you didn't mind my suspicions about you," he said. "Alex Van de Meer told me she wanted what she was doing kept strictly confidential. Said she was concerned about other lawyers in her case. I thought she was maybe being a little too suspicious of her fellow lawyers, but I had no reason to question her wishes. I've had a few issues with lawyers myself."
"Oh?" said Jake. "It did sound on the phone like you may have had some lawyer problems before."
"I've been working construction sites for over forty years. Thirty of that has been as construction supervisor or as an inspector. I worked for several general contractors and developers. I was ten years on the job as an inspector for an architectural firm. We'd get a defect somewhere and instead of figuring out how to fix it and get on with the job, lawyers would sometimes get involved. I swear it was more expensive to litigate with the lawyers than it was to just fix the problem."
"I hear that," said Jake. "I said the same thing to some friends not long ago."
"I thought you sounded different on the phone. Maybe you are like Alex. She was okay."
"I met this morning with Thos. Allen, a fire insurance lawyer. We, Carrie and I, met with Ben Sandelin, a cause and origin fire inspector. You are our third stop. He handed Kennedy the single page of Alex's notes.
He looked at it. "My phone number is wrong."
"She was more paranoid than you thought."
Kennedy looked up at Jake, eyebrows raised.
"All those phone numbers are off just a little bit, to hide them, I guess. Carrie figured out the code. Kennedy glanced at Carrie who nodded with a smile.
"Sandelin said you had some drywall samples from the building," said Jake.
"I did. They were scraps that had been removed from a cabinet in the lower level of the building. Ben kept the ones that showed the burn pattern he found."
"You did have the samples? Don't you have them anymore?"
"Nope. I gave them to Alex.â€
The drywall scraps at Metro Testing! But why would Alex want to test those? Jake asked himself.
Kennedy stepped to a file cabinet. "She signed for it. Had me sign, too. Something about chain of possession of evidence, she said." He pulled a manila folder, extracted a single sheet and handed it to Jake.
The receipt was in Alex's stylish handwriting in blue ink. It showed that she received from George Kennedy seven pieces of drywall scrap from the Hastings Medical Services Center building. It was signed by both Alex and George Kennedy. Jake handed the receipt to Carrie.
Carrie asked, "May we have a copy?"
"Do you know what kind of drywall it was?" asked Jake.
"Sure. It was spec'd in the plans. I saw the trucks and watched it being off loaded at the job site. It was all Willander Board."
Jake and Charles met with John Morrison first thing the next morning.
"Have you ever heard of Chinese Drywall?" Morrison asked.
Jake thought for a moment and replied, "It sounds familiar. It was defective, wasn't it?"
"I never heard of it," said Charles. "It's from China?"
Morrison explained. "Around 2004 to 2007, we had a sort of building boom that was brought about by several hurricanes in Florida followed by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in 2005. There was a resulting shortage of American-made drywall during that period. So, a lot of drywall was imported from China to meet the building needs in this country at that time. This imported drywall contained abnormal amounts of sulfides. The warm and humid climates in the Southeast encouraged emissions of volatile chemicals including dangerous sulfide gases. Besides health hazards, the gases corroded metals like those in electrical wiring, refrigerator and air conditioner coils. The drywall deteriorated and would normally have to be replaced.
"So," asked Jake, "this drywall you tested is like Chinese Drywall?"
"We tested both samples, I and II. They are the same. Compared to this stuff, Chinese Drywall would pass Consumer Product Safety Commission standards with flying colors."
"I don't understand," said Charles. "Worse? How? I still don't understand."
Morrison continued. "The board we tested is similar to Chinese Drywall in that it has an ongoing chemical reaction which, like the Chinese Drywall produces sulfide-based gases, but it also produces heat and changes the chemical composition of the wall board making it extremely flammable. The chemical reaction is slow, transforming the substance of the wall board over, I would guess, a period of years increasing the flammability of the drywall and the likely hood of spontaneous combustion from the heat given off by the reaction."
"I thought the gypsum in the board is not flammable," said Jake.
"It isn't, but other parts of the board are, the paper covering and so forth. Special drywall for fire retardation uses fiber embedded into the mix to make the board hold up longer."
"But, not this board?"
"Not this board."
"Holy crap!" Charles paused. "Where's it from?"
"You tell me. If it's still anywhere, it should be removed. I told you, it looks like Roger's supply came from a demolition."
"John, asked Jake, "what would happen if a fire was caused by arson?"
"You mean if someone intentionally lit fire to a building with this stuff?"
"I would be like a bomb. Arsonists usually start multiple points of origin. It would go up so fast, the guy would be lucky to get out of there alive."
Driving back, Jake tried to make sense out of what they had been told. As they turned into the garage it hit him.
"Charles! They're destroying the evidence!"
"Itâ€™s the Willander Board and they are destroying the evidence by burning the buildings!"
"Oh my God!"
Jake looked at his watch. Still early. He pulled his cell phone hoping he had reception inside the parking garage. He did. "Carrie! Tell Decker we want to meet right away!" We are on our way in."
Jake looked across the desk at Jim Decker. "So now we know what Alex knew."
They were all there. Charles, Sam Cooper, even CoCo Cadotte and Martha Hoskins who had stopped to see Jake before heading back up to Bayfield. Jim Decker had just joined them. Sam moved to stand by the wall.
Decker settled into one of the client chairs just vacated by Sam. Jake saw that he looked nervous. Unusual for Jim Decker the "old divorce lawyer." Unusual for James Decker, Esq., the managing partner of an established downtown Minneapolis law firm. But these were unusual circumstances. Decker steepled his fingers in thought. "And what she knew and what we now know is what got her killed?"
"I'm sure," Jake answered.
"What do we do?" Decker asked the question, but they all turned to Jake for the answer.
"First we get the list of properties that received Willander Board over the last five years. It came not long ago in the information we requested of our client to respond to a request for document production. It's a big list. I was hesitant to send it out as we received it because it looked like a paper blizzard to me. We were intending to work with the client to pare it down to what really responded to the request. We think we can pare it down some. We are pretty sure that the fake board was not used before five years ago. I think we can discount private homes and sales to building stores like Lowes or Home Depot. It's the reasonably large buildings where Fred would have seen the opportunity for profit. Eventually, maybe all buildings on the list will have to be checked. Sam and Carrie can start through the list, check what kind of properties they are and notify local law enforcement and fire departments. CoCo and Martha, get in touch with Jack Denton and find out what he can do to help.
"Next, we have a client meeting."
"What?" Several of them said at once. Decker straightened in his chair. "Are you nuts, Jake?"
"Look, Fred doesn't know yet that we know what Alex knew. We need to get him to acknowledge it, somehow. A client meeting connected with the case is all I can think of."
Decker thought about a meeting with a desperate criminal who used murder to protect himself right here in the law office he led. "I don't like it. It's too dangerous. We'd have to get everybody out of here."
"No. That would give it away. Everything has to be as normal. He's been here many times. He would know immediately if anything was different."
Carrie spoke up. "Jake, most of our people here can't know what is going on. Otherwise, they might give it away. Can you do that? Is that fair to them? I'm for it, but it's Jim's call."
Everyone looked at Decker. He nodded. "Carrie's right, Jake. So are you. We have to do it in a way that everything looks normal. The only way to do that is as Carrie's says, for everything to be normal. I hope you now what you are doing."
CoCo and Martha came back in less than ten minutes. CoCo held her cell phone up toward Jake. "I think we've got help for Sam and Carrie with that list. Jack Denton says he can have twenty agents here in a few hours. He's already on a plane to come here, right now. He says this is violent crime and across state lines. Therefore, he says, the FBI can and will be able to help. I gave him Mike Shaughnessy's name. I'm sure they are coordinating now."
"Good. Thanks, and tell Jack I said so."
"You'll be able to tell him yourself in a little over an hour."
"He can get here that fast?" asked Charles.
"He says," CoCo responded, adding, "Your taxpayer dollars at work."
"I suppose we need space for these twenty agents to work," said Jake.
"Not to worry, Jake," said Martha. "I called my old office. The Hennepin County Attorney's office will have space available whenever needed."
Denton's government jet landed a short time later. He came right to the office.
â€œWe need a client meeting, Jack,â€ Jake told Denton. â€œThere isnâ€™t enough evidence to nail him. You can see that. He has to admit at least part of what he has done.â€
â€œI donâ€™t like it. I wouldnâ€™t like it even if we had an undercover agent doing what you plan. Itâ€™s just too dangerous.â€
â€œHeâ€™s right, Jake,â€ said Charles.
â€œEverything weâ€™ve got is supposition. We can show itâ€™s a defective and dangerous wallboard. We can show arson. But itâ€™s supposition that the arson was part of a coverup. And, there is nothing to show who is behind the defective board and the arson. There is even less to identify Alex Van de Meerâ€™s killer or to show that these other deaths are connected. We need some confirmation from him.â€
â€œHow do you propose to get that?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. Somehow, I have to confront him in a way that doesnâ€™t make him just deny everything. So, I have to be alone.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think so,â€ said Charles.
Jake and Denton turned to look at him.
â€œDonâ€™t tell me no. I have been with Jake in the other client meetings with Fred Williams. He would not think anything out of the norm. In fact, if Jake met with him alone, Fred might think that unusual.â€
â€œIâ€™ll call to set it up,â€ said Jake. â€œJack, can you be close by with some heavy duty help?â€
â€œI can have extra heavy duty help but how close by depends on where you meet.â€
â€œHere in the office. Itâ€™s where we would normally meet. You can have people right around the corner.â€
â€œThe sooner, the quicker. Iâ€™ll call him, now.â€
â€œWillander Board Company. How may I direct your call?â€
â€œFred Williams, please. This is Jake Kingsley.â€
â€œGood morning, Mr. Kingsley. Iâ€™m afraid Mr. Williams is not here, today. I believe he is at home. Iâ€™m sure he would want to talk to you. Do you have his cell phone number?â€
â€œI think I do, but not handy. Can you give it to me?â€
Jake dialed the number she gave him.
â€œFred, itâ€™s Jake Kingsley. We have an important issue that has come up. We need to see you right away. Your receptionist at work said I could call you at home.â€
â€œThatâ€™s right, Jake. Iâ€™m glad you called. Whatâ€™s up?â€
â€œI think itâ€™s better discussed in person, Fred. Are you available today?â€
â€œI can be if you can come out here. Iâ€™m working with a contractor here. He should be done by three. Iâ€™m not planning to go into the office after that.â€
â€œMeet at your home?â€
Denton shook his head and silently mouthed, â€œNo way!â€
â€œWhere is your house, Fred?â€
Fred gave him an address in Edina.
â€œCharles and I will be there at three.â€
â€œSee you then, Jake.â€
As Jake hung up, Denton said, â€œYou shouldnâ€™t have done that, Jake.â€
Jake looked at his watch. We have four hours to get ready.â€
â€œIâ€™ll get on it. This is a private residence. Weâ€™ll get a drive by in a nondescript vehicle to see how to set up. I imagine we will be a van parked nearby when youâ€™re in there. Can we send an agent in with you as a paralegal or something?â€
â€œI donâ€™t think so. Anybody besides Charles and me and I think heâ€™ll clam up.â€
â€œHave you got Shaughnessyâ€™s number? Weâ€™ll want him in on this. Jim Brennan, too.â€
Later, an FBI technician fitted Jake and Charles with radio transmitters hidden in their clothes.
â€œWe both need wires?â€ asked Jake.
â€œTo be safe,â€ said Denton. â€œIn case one malfunctions or you get separated.â€
â€œAre we set then?â€
â€œWe have an electricianâ€™s van that will be parked nearby before you get there.â€
â€œAn electricianâ€™s van?â€
â€œNot really, but thatâ€™s what it says on the outside. Inside our people will be listening and ready to roll. Shaughnessy will be close by, too.â€
â€œSounds good. Charles, you ready?â€
â€œJake?â€ Denton asked. â€œDid you say Williams was working with a contractor?â€
â€œThatâ€™s what he said. Said he would be done by three.â€
â€œWeâ€™ve had people watching the house since before Noon. No activity, no contractor's truck. If he has a contractor there, the guy walked to get there. Be careful, Jake.â€
Charles drove. They arrived at the Williams home just before three oâ€™clock. Turning into the driveway, they saw a white van parked two doors up the street. A sign on the back door announced the presence of â€œJordan & Son Electrical Contractor.â€
Fred Williams met them at the door. He was dressed in khakis, tassel loafers and a blue sport shirt. Jake, curiosity aroused by Dentonâ€™s information, looked for signs of some kind of home repair or remodeling. He saw nothing. If there wasnâ€™t anything, why had Fred said so? If there was no home project or contractor, what was Fred doing at home?
Fred led them to his home office. He sat at his desk which faced two upholstered wing back chairs. As they sat, Jake looked around taking note of the layout and how Denton and his troops would enter when they arrived. The doorway faced the desk furniture from the side with Fred on the left and Charles and Jake on the right. Jake thought the arrangement to be acceptable. Denton would be able to instantly assess the room. Nobody would be in front of any one else if that was important. Jake thought about saying something to alert Denton through the transmitter to the layout of the room, but decided not to risk it. He opened his briefcase and began what he hoped would get them the answers they needed.
Fred spoke first. "My secretary said you needed to see me about the Hamel Towers case. Something about a motion regarding Ander-Will Construction?"
"That's right, Fred," said Jake. "but more than that. We'll start with the motion. You know that Alex Van de Meer had planned to move for summary judgment on behalf of Ander-Will because that corporation wasn't involved in any way with the construction of Hamel Towers."
"That's my understanding."
"If the case settles, we won't have to waste time and money on the motion."
"That makes sense, but if it doesn't settle?"
"If it doesn't settle, some of us at the Stratton office are thinking it may be better to keep Ander-Will as a party, have Luther testify, show the jury the fine reputation that company has and then move for a directed verdict as to Ander-Will at the close of the evidence rather than the motion for summary judgment before trial."
Charles interjected. "We're thinking Ander-Will's reputation and history will be beneficial to Willander Board Company who will still be a defendant."
Fred stroked his chin. "I like it. I think you are right about our benefitting by putting Ander-Will Construction's history and reputation in front of the jury. But, Jake, can't you make the same kind of motion at trial for Willander Board?"
"We can and probably will depending on how the evidence goes, but it is not as likely to be granted. Ander-Will had nothing to do with the construction. Your company did supply the drywall."
"Hmmh. I guess that makes sense. I'm glad you're on this. What you're doing is appreciated. You said there was more?"
Jake shifted his weight in his chair. "Yes. When Alex Van de Meer was working on your case, she discovered a connection with another building. It also burned so fast, observers likened it to an explosion without the bang. Very similar to the fire at Hamel Towers. Samples of the drywall in that building in Hastings and from the Hamel Towers have been tested. Test results show that the drywall in both buildings was defective and highly flammable."
"Wrong. There was no drywall left after the Hamel Towers fire. Everyone in the lawsuit has been lamenting over the fact that the fire destroyed all the evidence. In any event, this 'testing' you refer to can't have been from Hamel Towers. That was all Willander Board which is as safe as you can get. If there was anything else in the Hamel towers, I don't and I didnâ€™t know about it. I think we can show that with our own witnesses. What was this other building to which you refer?
"The Hastings Medical Services Center.''
"I know that job, too. All Willander Board. Perfectly safe. Jake, can't you depose whoever did the testing and find out where and how they got what they tested?"
"We have that information. The samples tested were from the Hastings building and the Hamel Towers. They were defective and highly flammable."
"I will not believe that until I see the evidence for myself. But, if what you say is true, how do we figure out what happened?"
"We think maybe it's time you fessed up to what was going on."
"What? You're my lawyer and you're accusing me of something. Can you do that? Has the insurance company put you up to this?"
"No, and the insurance carrier cannot. They pay me, but to represent you, not the insurance company. If the insurance company has an issue, they have to get another lawyer to bring a Declaratory Judgment action to contest coverage or raise any other issues between it and the insured. So, we represent you and Willander Board Company.â€
"Then what's going on? If you say anything like this to anyone else, I could have your license."
"There are rules about preserving client confidences, but that's not the case here, since our information did not come from you. And, those rules make an exception when the knowledge includes the future or ongoing commission of a crime, especially one which is likely to result in imminent danger or death."
Fred's attitude changed suddenly. He seemed to calm down. "Okay, I buy that. But, I didn't know anything about what you are accusing me of. You have to help me figure this out, Jake."
This isn't working, thought Jake. Have I been wrong? Is he sincere? Is it someone else? If so, who? Might as well go for it.
"Here's what I figure," Jake said. "You started making this cheap drywall and passing it off as Willander Board. You sold it on big jobs where a lot of drywall was called for. On those jobs, you could make a much bigger profit than with your regular high quality board. You could increase the profit even more by giving installation subs a deal so they got the bid and you got the order. You didn't think you were getting what you deserved from the parent company and old Luther Andersen and even your father before he passed away. So, I'm betting that much of that fat extra profit went directly into bank accounts you have, probably under an assumed name.
Jake continued to watch for a reaction. Finally, something, but not much. What there was Jake had not expected. Fred did not appear surprised. He did not deny. Fred's face had the look of confirmation. He nodded slightly as if he was beginning to realize what was happening.
Jake kept going. "The fires caused death and injury to people who had a right to live their lives!"
Finally, Fred reacted. He put his head in his hands and sobbed. "I'm sorry! I didn't know the drywall would become dangerous! His voice was a harsh whisper. Jake wasn't sure it would be heard in the van outside.
"But you were far worse than that, Fred. You caused the death of Chet Alcott, an engineer named Roger Simpson and R.J. Clark, the president of Norman Windows!" Jake couldn't prove any of that, but it was time to go for it, make the challenge and see what happened. "And you murdered Alex Van de Meer!"
Fred looked up, the tears in his eyes suddenly replaced with shock. "What?! I don't know what you're talking about. I did none of those things!"
"That's enough, Fred!" Irene Williams entered the room. She held a lethal looking revolver in her right hand. Jake found himself staring at the menacing black hole at the end. He couldn't take his eyes off it. The gaping black hole might as well have been a field artillery cannon. The damage would be the same, total. But, the barrel seemed unusually long. A silencer? Jake suddenly realized that Fred and Irene Williams, or at least Irene, had not only come prepared, it was as if they or she knew what was going to happen.
Fred looked at his wife and the pistol in her hand. He was still in shock.
"What's the gun for?" Jake asked, standing and backing away from the desk. He hoped the others were on the job and listening.
"We need time to get away," Irene's voice dropped. She snarled like a junk yard dog at an intruder. "We need something to slow others down. I have prepared for this possibility. By the time the authorities are alerted and know who they're looking for, Fred and I will be gone. In the wind. They'll never find us. I had hoped you had not found what Ms. Van de Meer did. But, apparently you have. I don't know how you did. I eliminated those who knew. Fred didn't have the guts. He's just too nice a guy. I had to take over. Yes, Fred," she told him, "I had those people killed. They would have ruined our lives, our future. I had no choice."
Jake hoped she would keep talking. "So, it was you?" he said edging backward.
"It started with Chet Alcott. That old fool was going to raise the issue of what he thought was defective wallboard. I couldn't have that. I found a guy, a real professional who could make it look like a natural heart attack which was perfect for chain smoking Chet. I got hooked up with a computer hacker who got me into the Stratton firm e-mails. I knew where Alex Van de Meer was, where she was going and who she was dealing with and why. After Chet, she, that young engineer and Mr. Clark were the only ones who knew or suspected. With them gone, no one was left who posed a danger. We weren't making or selling the cheap board anymore."
"Are you behind the arson?"
"Arson?!" Fred shouted. "What arson?"
"We found out the fires at the Hastings Medical Center and the Hamel Towers were intentionally set, Fred."
"We had to destroy the evidence, Fred," Irene said. "The only sure way was to burn it."
"Who set the fires?" asked Jake. Keep her talking.
"The same guy. I don't even know his name. Getting ahold of him was a real convoluted process."
"How did you know the cheap drywall was so flammable and dangerous?"
"There was a fire in a building out in Pierre, South Dakota. Same thing," she said. "Fire so fast, fire fighters couldn't do anything. They called it almost explosion-like. We figured out it was the cheap board that was defective. Fred stopped the production and sale of that immediately, but we still had a bunch of buildings out there. I knew we had a problem. I was taking care of it until Ms. Van de Meer came along, and now, you.
"You had me worried Mr. Kingsley. I was afraid you'd catch on, so I made preparations. When I couldn't get you to back off with the car sabotage and the wrecking of your hotel rooms, and I couldn't throw you off the scent with the second assault on Ms. Fowler, I got together funds we have hidden in various banks and gathered the travel necessities I have had put away for some time. Fred is home today, because we are about to leave. He should not have allowed you to come here, but he was afraid that might signal our departure too soon. He may have been right about that. He thought he could meet with you and you would leave. He was wrong about that. In any event, we will very shortly be where no one can find us and with adequate funds to stay there forever."
"You won't get away with it," said Jake, still hoping for time. "There's a van full of FBI agents parked up the street. I'm sure they are on their way here, now."
"Nice try, Mr. Kingsley. I don't think so. You came here not sure what to expect. You didn't have enough time to do anything and for all you knew your suspicions could have been entirely wrong. No, we will be able to get away and disappear, except for the problem of you two. We'll take care of that problem right now."
The pistol came up, black hole still staring at Jake, like a field artillery cannon.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jake saw movement from Charles. A shot rang out, the sound deafening in the small room. The pistol flew from Irene's hand. She grabbed her right hand with her left. Blood was spurting from her hands. Her face was in agony. The door burst open. Jack Denton and two agents rushed in, guns drawn. One agent grabbed Fred, pulled his hands behind his back and handcuffed his wrists. Another agent grabbed Irene and cuffed her wrists behind her back, calling out the door for paper towels or something to stop the blood. The agents guided Fred and Irene out the door. They were not gentle about it.
Jake turned toward Charles. So did Jack Denton. "I don't believe it, Charles!" Denton exclaimed. "You shot the gun out of her hand?"
"Yeah, Charles," said Jake. "Where did you learn to shoot like that?"
"I hear we've got Wyatt Earp in here," said Mike Shaugnessy as he entered the office. Charles stood there looking in shock still holding the gun but down at his side. Jim Brennan, who came in behind Shaughnessy, said to him, "Charles, in a tight situation always shoot at the center of mass. That gives the greatest likelihood of a hit and brings the target down right now. But you hit her in the gun hand with that? That's a .357 magnum, isn't it?"
"I was aiming for her chest," said Charles, shaking his head.
"Well, it worked out all right," said Denton. "I'm sure you saved Jake's life." To Jake, he said, "We got your message and came running, but if not for Charles, it looks like we might have been too late."
"I thought Irene was about to pull the trigger. Apparently, Charles thought so, too." Jake put his hand on the back of the desk chair. "I need to sit back down."
"Me, too," said Charles who collapsed back into his chair.
Stockman loaded his work car, the old beige Toyota, for the trip to Bayfield. A backpack in the trunk had the tools and materials he needed. Someone had written "Wash Me!" in the dirt on the trunk lid. Stockman used a rag to wipe it out. He didn't clean it. He just obliterated the words. He liked the road dirt on the car that made it even more nondescript, but he didn't want the words written in someone's idea of humor that someone else might remember later. A plain, older sedan that no one would notice was what he wanted.
The backpack contained his tools of the trade when arson was what he was about which wasn't often anymore. Stockman was a killer for hire. That was his profession. He was good at it. But, things had not always been so. Like any profession, he had to work into it. It wasn't like most professions where you could apprentice to an experienced practitioner and learn the ropes. He was self-taught. For Stockman that had not been a problem. He had always been good at doing his own research and learning a subject better than most others. That, combined with meticulous preparation, made his work better than that of other "professionals."
That had been the case with arson. Stockman had started out as an arsonist, that is, after a youth of stolen cars, a few minor burglaries and other less than lucrative ventures. His first venture in arson did not go well. At only eighteen, he didn't know what he was doing. He got caught. He got off easy because of his age and it being his first offense of anything that the authorities knew about. But, he persisted. He found that a lot of otherwise honest and upstanding citizens were more than willing, even eager, to burn down their homes or places of business to get rid of a problem property and recover the insurance proceeds at the same time. He did his research. He studied fire investigation or what the so-called experts called "cause and origin investigation." He owned and studied the national Fire Protection Association's NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations and Kirk's Fire Investigation by DeHaan and Icove. In further pursuit of his compulsive need for painstakingly precise and complete preparation, he even took a fire science course on cause and origin investigation in Alabama. He had never been anywhere in Alabama before. He had no connection there. He used an assumed name. He did not apply for the Fire Investigator Certification at the end of the course. He paid with a pre-paid debit card in the name of William Stafford, his nom de plume for his registration and test papers. No one knew that Wendell Stockman had ever been there, but William Stafford had finished at the top of his class.
He had left arson behind some time ago but now, he was temporarily back. This was different. It was for one of his clients in his other work. And, the money was good. For the torching of several buildings, he had been able to name his own price. Which he did.
The Toyota was loaded and filled with gas. He left the Twin Cities heading north toward Bayfield. He would arrive in the early evening. The sun was still fairly high in the western sky, but night would be falling as he began his work. Perfect.
Jake and Charles were seated in Resolution's cockpit ready to enjoy the coming sunset with a cold beer.
"Maybe now we can get back to the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed," said Charles, taking a pull on his long neck. "What about the arsonist? Irene had somebody hired for that work."
"Denton tells me they are working on Irene for that information," Jake answered. "That's why you aren't hearing about the Williamses on the news. The FBI and local law enforcement are keeping a lid on it until they find and stop the arsonist. They are identifying the buildings involved and hope to catch they guy before he finds out his client has been caught and no longer needs his services."
"A little dangerous, isn't it?"
"Denton figures they'll get him that way, but, if they don't, he'll keep on burning and killing, just for someone else."
Charles thought about that and changed the subject. "My only regret about this area, Jake, is that unless you are out on the lake, you don't really see the sun set. Even then the high ground beyond the north shore and at the Duluth end prevents one from seeing a real sun setting on the horizon."
"I know. It's not like the blood red sunsets on the Pacific or on the Gulf Coast in Florida. But you still see the colors if there is a partly cloudy sky to reflect the rays of the setting sun."
"True, indeed. I think we're about to get that now. It will all be over in less than an hour. But for now, pink and orange skies in our immediate future."
Jake's cell phone rang. It was Sam Cooper. "Jake!" He sounded excited. "Jake! You remember that document production in the Ander-Will case? In it is the list of buildings constructed using Emerson Drywall and Willander Board."
"Yeah," said Jake, examining the western sky. "It's supposed to."
"Jake! The Apostle Islands Tower Apartments in Bayfield is on the list! That's Gus's building!"
"Call the Bayfield fire Department and Police! I'll try to do the same!"
Jake clicked off the call and punched in 911. He told Charles, "Head for my Jeep. We are going to Bayfield in a big hurry. They ran down the dock and jumped into the Jeep. Jake handed Charles his phone. Accelerating out of the parking lot, the Jeep's rear tires threw gravel out the back. He explained the situation to Charles as they headed up the hill. Charles in turn explained to the 911 operator.
Jake steered the Jeep up the narrow two-lane blacktop toward Bayfield. Even going the speed limit was dangerous on that road. Jake ignored the speed limit going faster than the road wanted, but the Jeep Cherokee with its stiff suspension that Charles disliked held the road and managed the curves. In less time than the law allowed they were in Bayfield heading down toward the shore where Gus's building was located. Night had fallen, but the whole area was ablaze with flashing lights from the light bars of squad cars from Bayfield Police and tribal police and fire trucks.
What Jake saw surprised him. Among all the flashing lights, everyone seemed to be just standing around. No one looked like it was the emergency they had called in. As Jake pulled up as close as he could get he saw Jim Brennan walking, not running, actually strolling, toward him. He was smiling.
Jake and Charles climbed out of the Cherokee and faced Brennan.
"I hope you didn't hurry, but I'm sure you did. Perfectly understandable. Probably broke a few traffic laws, too, I suppose."
"Jim! What's going on? Why aren't people doing anything?"
"Come with me."
They followed Brennan to the front of the building. Jake was completely unprepared for what they saw. Standing by the front entrance was Gus Cadotte, holding 8-Ball in her arms. On either side of her like palace guards were two elderly ladies with blue hair and twelve-gauge shotguns held diagonally across their chests at what Jake remembered as port arms.
Every ten feet or so beyond the "palace guards," stood more old women with firearms. One diminutive lady in black slacks, tennis shoes and a light blue cardigan cradled a large hunting rifle in her arms. A 30.06, he thought, or a .308, with a scope, no less. It looked huge in front of her tiny body. But, Jake thought, she looked like she knew how to use it and would, if necessary. Among the armed guards, he saw two men, both elderly, both sporting lethal looking handguns.
Although they couldn't see all the way around the building, it appeared to be surrounded by gun-toting senior citizens.
Charles was staring at the spectacle. "Oh. my god!" He pointed.
"Look! That's Joyce!"
Emerging from the front entrance and approaching Gus, was Joyce Becket. Gus held 8-Ball. Joyce held a 30-30 Winchester lever-action carbine. A John Wayne gun in a determined lady's hands. She scanned the scene out front with all the police and flashing lights. Then she spotted Charles, smiled and waved.
"See, Jake?" said Brennan. "You needn't have rushed. Gus has had things under control since before we got here."
"How did she know to do anything?"
"She said someone named Sam called her. He told her the building was a firetrap and someone may be coming to torch the place."
"Now that you're here, do they need to keep guard like that?"
"Not really, but I don't want to insult them or their effort or their fearless leader." He grinned. "For all we know, they may have prevented a disaster."
"Where'd they get the guns?" asked Charles, obviously still in wonder at seeing his lady friend packin'.
"This is deer, duck and grouse country. Most families have a shotgun or two or a .22. A lot have deer rifles. When these people moved into retirement living, I guess they didn't throw them away."
"Are they loaded?"
"They appear to be. I asked the same question of Gus. She said they were. 'What did you expect, Officer?' she asked me."
"Oh my God!" CoCo Cadotte came running into the scene. Martha was just behind. CoCo looked at her mother standing defiantly with the army of seniors. "What has my mother done? What is this? A standoff?"
Brennan laughed. He explained the situation to Coco and Martha. "So, you see, she may well have saved the day. She is a hero, or is it heroine?"
"Oh God." CoCo was obviously relieved but still had a troubled look. "You know I will never hear the end of this." Then she grinned broadly and started toward her mother.
"You know, Jim. That building is still a firetrap. Nobody should stay in there."
"Oh, there's nobody upstairs. Gus alerted them all. Told them no one could be above the ground floor. They were working on setting up cots in the main rec room. She's something else. We've got people working on relocating them temporarily until we can figure out what to do."
Earlier, Wendell Stockman had parked the beige Toyota, on Manypenny Avenue in Bayfield. He walked down toward the Apostle Islands Towers building. A small backpack he carried on one arm contained the tools and materials he needed.
Approaching the back of the building to use the rear service entrance, he saw them. Two old ladies and an old man were standing and talking in the light from the bulb above the back door. One of the women was gesturing and pointing. In her other hand she held a black automatic pistol. She looked like she was giving orders. The other two were also armed. The man had a shotgun, 20-gauge by Stockman' estimate. The other woman carried an over and under double barrel shotgun-rifle combination. Looked to Stockman like the barrels were 20-gauge or maybe .410 shot and .22 long rifle. The two women stayed by the door. The man moved along the back wall about thirty feet and took up a position there, scanning the surrounding area, looking.
Looking for what? Stockman had no doubt. They were looking for him or someone like him to arrive. Someone figured out what was going on and alerted the residents of this building. He couldn't imagine why there were no police present. Then he heard the first siren.
Wendell Stockman was a survivor. He had been involved in criminal activities, arson and murder for hire, for a lot of years and except for once a long time ago, he had never appeared in court. He survived because he was careful. He survived because he was prudent. Given the armed guards at the Apostle Islands Towers, no matter their age, prudence dictated immediate departure. The better part of valor and all that. With the screams of sirens filling the night, Wendell Stockman turned and left.
Fifteen minutes later the beige Toyota was out of Bayfield traveling south on Highway 13. Stockman did not make his usual call to report. He would wait until he had a more positive account to give.
The next afternoon, the old Toyota was on the road again. This time Stockman was traveling south on U.S. Highway 52 through Rochester and on to Decorah, Iowa. He figured it for about a three-hour drive. Decorah was just fifteen miles over the Minnesota-Iowa border. His objective was a HUD building along the Upper Iowa River not far from Luther College. It was owned by a local Housing and Redevelopment Authority to provide housing for the elderly. The building was similar to the one in Bayfield except that one was privately developed.
In Bayfield, he had been surprised by the action of the tenants with their weapons at the ready and the approaching police. He would be on extra alert in Decorah, but he was always on extra alert. That's why he survived yesterday and would survive again, today. He did, however, want to complete this Decorah job so he would have something positive to report his client tonight.
The old Toyota rolled along the highway. Highway 52, like a lot of roads in Minnesota that were subject to the stresses of freeze and thaw in the often harsh Minnesota climate, needed road work. In Minnesota, it was said that there are two seasons, winter and road repair. The Toyota was a rough ride over the ridges and potholes. Stockman would have much preferred his Escalade that would take him where he was going in quiet, smooth, climate-controlled comfort with an after market $2,000 sound system of his choosing delivering soft music to his ears.
He crossed the border at dusk.
Entering Decorah, he had little trouble in finding the HRA building. He parked the Toyota half a block away and proceeded on foot, carrying his back pack. Old fashioned looking street lights gave off a decorative glow but didn't brightly illuminate the area. He could see clearly into buildings through their windows where the interior lights were on. Walking slowly past the front entrance, he saw a young black woman sitting at the front desk. The next window was to some kind of recreation room. Two elderly women were working on what he assumed was a jigsaw puzzle. A couple sat in adjacent stuffed upholstered chairs reading, the woman from some type of electronic tablet and the man from an actual book. Four more seniors sat at a table playing cards. Stockman assumed it was bridge. One person's hand was laid out before her and she did not appear to be playing but only observing. She and her partner must have won the bid. She must be the dummy. He moved on. Looking up the side of the building, he saw scattered lights on in the apartments.
As Stockman passed out of sight of the front desk, the young black woman spoke into a handheld two-way radio.
Three men and a woman, dressed in dark uniforms and kevlar vests exited a minivan parked behind the building. One of them, the woman, held a similar two-way radio. She motioned to the others, pointing to different spots along the back wall where the men stationed themselves. As they took their positions, two drew automatic pistols from their belt holsters. The third man carried a Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun capable of firing 800 9 x 19 mm Parabellum rounds per minute when on fully automatic. The woman with the radio moved behind the minivan to conceal herself from the direction they had been told to expect an intruder.
Stockman moved toward the back of the building. Reaching the rear door, he tested the handle. Locked. He expected that. A pick gun from his backpack opened the door quickly. Stockman pulled the door open and prepared to duck inside when he heard a shouted command.
"Stop right there! FBI! Stop where you are. Put down the weapon! Two men stepped away from the side of the building. One had a pistol held out at arms length, both hands on the grip. Stockman couldn't tell if his finger was on the trigger. The other man carried a deadly looking automatic rifle of some kind. At the moment it was aimed down at the ground.
Making a split-second decision, Stockman yanked the door further and ducked inside, slamming the door closed behind him. Shots rang out. Bullets slammed into the outside of the steel door. Inside, he looked around for cover. He was in a room full of tools and workbenches. This was part of the maintenance crew area. The door was not a general entrance, but a utility entrance only. Stockman had known that from his prior research. He started out an inner door that would take him into the main part of the building.
"A woman's voice ordered him to stop and put his hands up. "Freeze!" she shouted.
Stockman ducked back into the utility room and ducked behind one of the workbenches. From his backpack, he pulled a nine millimeter pistol. He waited. He was facing the outer door.
With a deafening blast, the door blew open, hanging at angle on its lower hinges, the rest having been destroyed by the blast. No one was visible through the entrance. A shadow passed in front of the doorway. Stockman fired two shots. No sound. No reaction. A dark form ran across the opening but back across the parking area. Stockman fired. A metal panel on wheels appeared in the doorway. A menacing looking barrel protruded from it's surface. A shield! Stockman began firing. So did the officer behind the shield. 800 rounds per minute poured into the utility room and into Stockman.
The firing lasted only seconds. Then, all was silent. The shielded agent withdrew. Outside they waited and watched.
Inside, Stockman lay on his back, head against the wall. He looked down at the mess the machine gun had made of his body. Blood poured from his gut. He could see part of his entrails showing through the gaping hole. Some of the blood came in spurts which he assumed meant an artery. He was amazingly clear of mind and felt little pain. That would come, he was sure, if he lived that long.
In the few moments he had left, Stockman assessed the situation. Although he had never believed this would happen to him or that he would ever be caught, the risk was always there. That's part of what made what he did exciting for him. His mind began to fade. Oh well, "live by the sword, die by the . . ."
The next day, they all met in the office conference room. Carrie Parker and Sam Cooper were there. Carrie had put out a plate of crackers and cheese. An ice chest near the door was full of cans of Diet Coke and Z-Pop, the latter courtesy of Clayton Zachary who was also present. Jim Decker sat near the head of the table. Martha and CoCo were there with Gus and 8-Ball. Mike Shaughnessy and Jim Brennan sat next to them. Jack Denton sat on the other side. Jake and Charles sat at the opposite end of the table from Jim Decker. Mary Pelletier and Joyce Becket had joined Jake and Charles on the drive down that morning. Mary sat next to Jake.
Decker raised a Diet Coke can in the air. "A toast!" he said. "To Jake Kingsley, Professor Charles Stanton and to all of you here for all you have done in resolving what has been a difficult problem for all of us and for this law firm. I thank you. And, to Alex Van de Meer, whose loss has been great for all of us. She would have appreciated the way this was handled. She would have been, and I am, proud of all of you."
Everyone nodded. Everyone drank, either Diet Coke or Z-Pop. A few whispered, "Hear, hear!"
"Some of us have a few questions, Jake," Decker said. "I know I do." He sipped his Diet Coke.
"My first question," Decker said, "is what happens now? With Fred and Irene Williams? With you? With Alex's cases. And with this firm? You know what I mean."
Sam Cooper popped another cold Zee. Clayton Zachary nodded his approval.
Jake sat back. He, too, had a Zee. "Jack, Mike and Jim have a better idea than I about what will happen to Fred and Irene. I suspect it's the Graybar Hotel for them for a long time."
"It might as well be forever, as far as they are concerned," said Mike Shaughnessy. Denton nodded his agreement and added, "Irene is lucky there is no death penalty here."
"Too bad," said Gus. "Jake, I still don't understand how they knew so much, like what Alex Van de Meer was doing, what she knew and that she was going to be at the party in Bayfield. They even seemed to know what you were doing when you were down here."
"Clay and Sam first put me onto the answer to that at the Z-Pop mediation."
Clay Zachary and Sam Cooper both straightened, curious looks on their faces, and looked to Jake to hear what he would say next.
"Clay was explaining how their security and privacy policies at Z-Pop include monitoring e-mails, phone calls and texts of their employees. Sam mentioned software you can put on a cell phone to monitor your kids or others. It got me thinking. Jim told me, when we first agreed to look at Alex's cases, that the firm had been hacked and had gone to encrypted e-mail. Carrie told me that Alex was ultra-careful about her cell phone because she had lost it twice. The second time, she bumped into a man outside Walmart who graciously helped her pick up her spilled purse. Then her phone was missing but later was turned in at Walmart. I'm sure the nice man who helped her was working for Irene and installed the software Sam was talking about. I think from then on, they knew everything Alex was doing and where she was doing it."
"Oh my God!" Carrie whispered.
"Mike, I understand you guys figured out the killer for hire-slash-arsonist," said Martha.
Shaughnessy nodded. Brennan answered. "Wendell Reginald Stockman. Jack's FBI people found him on a national data base. Surprising they had him at all. He hasn't been in trouble with the law since he was eighteen. Got nailed for arson back then, but he was just kid. Had he been any younger, he would have been in Juvenile Court and there would no record of him at all. With Irene Williams' information, we will be able to connect him with the murders of Chester Alcott, Alex van de Meer, Roger Simpson, and R.J. Clark as well as the second assault of Angie Fowler in Loring Park. I've got him on murder one. Jack and Mike have him on three murders and at least two arsons, one of which included felony-murder because of the deaths involved."
"As a prosecutor, I would have liked to have a chance at him in front of a Hennepin Jury."
"You would have had to stand in line, I'm afraid, Martha," said Denton. "Had he lived, authorities would have been seeking to charge and convict Wendell Stockman for crimes of murder, arson and attempted arson in Bayfield County, Wisconsin; Wabash County, Minnesota and Winneshiek County, Iowa, besides Hennepin County.
"Perhaps it's better that it came out the way it did," Clayton Zachary said. "Somebody saved the states and counties a lot of prosecution money."
"He did," Shaughnessy commented. "He knew what he was probably in for. We think we would have found him to be involved in many more murders over the years. He decided to die by the sword he had lived by for so long."
Everyone was quiet as Shaughnessy's words sunk in. Decker broke the silence.
"I repeat, my question about you Jake"' he said. "Where do you go from here?"
"From here?" Jake said. "Charles and I are going to go sailing for the foreseeable future. At least until the Apple Festival and maybe until the snow flies."
"And Alex's cases? asked Decker.
"Alex's cases are in good shape at the moment. Sam and Carrie have them well in hand. If they need me, they know where to reach me unless we are out on the water with cell phones and the marine radio all turned off."
"And the firm?" Decker persisted. Carrie glared at him and drew her finger across her throat.
"Well, we'll talk about that later." Decker muttered.
"I have a question," said CoCo raising her hand. She was back to her usual uniform of cargo pants, hiking boots and a denim vest.
"What's that, CoCo?" asked Charles.
"What about the Judge and Logan Bradbury? We went after them and failed to make the connection with the DNA, but you got a lot of dirt on both of them. I was hoping for Jake's idea, that one of them had E.D. and hired a 'hit rapist.'"
"Actually, he wasn't far off, at least on the idea that the wrongdoer was hired," said Charles. "It turns out that the killings in this case and the arson were done by someone who was hired and by a woman. Maybe that happened in the Fowler case, too. If we had thought about that, we would not have let Madeline Cross off so easily."
"Oh that would have been just great," said Shaughnessy. "But to answer CoCo's question, Judge Robillard has been charged with bribery under the state statute. I think Jack here has some federal charges for him as well. The prosecutor in Hennepin has asked for a speedy trial. While I believe they will wait until we are at least through the trial level in the state's case, I understand the federal Eighth Circuit has appointed a panel of judges and lawyers to consider whether to recommend impeachment."
"He's in the toilet," said Denton. "He will lose everything and then go to jail."
"He should be shot," muttered Carrie.
"If anything, Logan Bradbury is in worse trouble," said Shaughnessy. What Angie had was the tip of the iceberg. Turns out, a long time ago, he was way too friendly with some young girls and boys in his youth work program at the Nathan hotels. Several of them, now adults, have come forward. You know what they do to child molesters in prison?"
"They should cut of his â€¦"
"Carrie!" Jake cautioned.
"Well, they should. Mike Shaughnessy has a knife. He told me."
Mary had been sitting quietly listening. She had played little part in the process except to hear about it from Jake on the few occasions she got to see him. Now, she asked, "What about Angie Fowler? Will she be okay? Will she resume her career? I didn't see it, but I heard she was on the news after this all came to light."
Carrie answered. "Angie is fine. She has recovered, almost completely, I think. She has the same drive and vitality I think she must have had before the attack. She understands the second attack was a ruse to throw Jake off the trail in the quest to find Alex's killer and avoid the danger of his finding out about the fake Willander Board. She is ready to fight and to pursue her Pulitzer and get to her goal of national news broadcasting. The story she is working on right now is this one. She thinks she has an exclusive arrangement with Jake and Charles and this firm."
"What about her case?" asked Mary.
Jake answered. "Her civil case will go on. We may never know who the intruder was, but a jury will decide if she recovers damages and who pays them."
"Another question," said Decker. "Remember your meeting with the mafioso and his no-neck bodyguard? What ever happened with that?"
"I took Tony Castellano's advice and laid off Norman Windows," Jake answered. "I withdrew Alex's discovery requests looking for the ownership of Norman Windows. This morning, after all this hit the news, I received a package from Norman Windows delivered by courier. I didn't see the courier. Inside, an unsigned 'Thank you' card accompanied a bottle of Chianti Classico, a fine red Italian wine from the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany in Italy where the grapes are grown and the wine is made. I know because a small brochure inside told me about the wine and its history. Sam said I should share it with Norman Windows' lawyer Matt Sinnott. Charles said absolutely not. I think I'm with Charles on that one."
"Anything else?" Decker looked around. Charles raised his hand. "Charles?"
"I forgot to tell you all," he said. "I have solved the mystery of the Pavilion Clock,"
They all looked at him in surprise.
"The Bayfield Public Works Department guy told me. It turns out the old clock, which has been there for many years and was kept even after the 1997 renovation of the Pavilion, is very difficult to reset. They are afraid if they open it up to reset it, it will get damaged and not work anymore. Everyone likes the sound of its chimes. That can't be replaced. Years ago, the clock, which originally had to be wound, was converted to electrical power. Since it runs off A.C., and since alternating current is regulated to sixty cycles per second, it keeps perfect time. It just cannot be reset. So, it tells the correct time all winter. It just doesn't get reset for Daylight Savings Time. You know, Spring forward and Fall back? It doesn't Spring forward and is off an hour all summer."
"Can't they just unplug it and plug it back in when it tells the right time?" somebody asked.
"Apparently, they know that if you turn the power off and back on too many times, the jolt will ruin the works."
"Are you sure about this, Charles?" asked Martha Hoskins. "CoCo and I live in Bayfield now and we lose power every now and then when a storm blows through. That must happen at the Pavilion, too."
"The clock has a backup battery system," Charles said. "It never loses power. You know, I think they just like it this way. The old clock has character."
"So, that's it," said Decker. "Thank you, Jake and all of you for all that you have done. Now it's time, I guess, for all of us who still work at this firm to get back to work. Your clients and your time sheets await."
As they rose to leave, Sam Cooper said, "Who could imagine all this coming out of a construction law practice. Maybe I should stick to criminal law. Construction litigation is too dangerous. I thought it was just big, thick spec books and rolls of blueprints."
"In this case, Sam," said Charles, "they were blueprints for murder."
A few days later, a big man stepped out of his Jeep Wrangler in front of the Bayfield Police Department. At the desk, a middle-aged woman in uniform asked him what he wanted.
"To speak to Officer Brennan. James Brennan."
"Can I give him a name?'
"Shaughnessy. Mike Shaughnessy."
Some time later, no one looked at a calendar, Resolution drove through the water at a solid nine knots. With the starboard rail nearly in the water on a close reach, Jake called for a tack as they passed Raspberry Island Light to starboard.
"Ready to come about!" he shouted.
"Ready!" six voices shouted their response in unison.
"Here we go!" Jake began to turn the big wheel, bringing Resolution's bow into the wind.
The port winch screamed as Bert hauled in the jib sheet and Charles left the starboard winch to tail for Bert. Mary handled the main sheet. Resolution straightened, then fell off the wind, heeling over hard, picking up speed and sending the port rail toward the water. Jake checked the crew. Mary, Bert and Charles worked the lines from the cockpit. Sandy sat forward in the cockpit. CoCo and Martha were up on deck hanging on. Everyone was grinning with excitement.
The clear blue sky held no clouds. The day was warm. The thickly wooded shoreline was beginning to show autumn colors. The wind was fresh. The sailing was superb.
"Ease the Main!" Jake commanded as Resolution rounded the eastern end of York Island. Mary loosened the main sheet, letting the main ease out to port. Bert eased the jib sheet until the telltales, the strips of yarn on the sail, were streaming straight back from the sailâ€™s leading edge on both sides indicating proper sail trim. Resolution slowed and straightened some as she glided in toward York Island's long sand beach.
At its east end, the beach ends at a heavily forested promontory that protects much of the beach from an east wind. In its lee, close by the beach, the water was calm and the breeze light. The crew dropped sails and lowered the big plow anchor. Jake started the auxiliary, reversing to set the anchor in the sandy bottom.
Sandy Hanson announced to everyone, "I am going below for cold beverages. You have your choice. Beer or Z-Pop. Clayton Zachary sent us a couple of cases."
"Beer!" they all shouted.
"The beer is compliments of Hanson's Marina," she said as she handed the frosty cans to crew. "Here's yours, Jake. It's good to have you back."
"Hear, hear!" said Martha Hoskins from the deck.
"Yeah!" echoed CoCo Cadotte sitting beside her.
"Yeah, Jake," said Bert. "I bet you two are glad to be back and continue your lazy beach bum lifestyle." Bert raised his beer in toast. "
Oh, sure, Bert," said Sandy. "You'll be joining them as soon as you can sneak away."
"They're right you know," said Mary. "It is good to have you back. I hope you will stay for a while."
Jake sipped his beer.
Charles spoke up. "I think Jake enjoyed his work on Alex Van de Meer's cases more than he let on. He has always loved the law. He was more engaged in the practice than many. Alex was like Jake and Jake was like Alex. I think he just got some of his enthusiasm back."
"What exactly are you talking about, Charles?" asked Martha.
"Jake?" said Charles reaching into his pocket. Jake pulled a business card out of his wallet.
"Here," he said as they both showed the cards to the others. Each held out an engraved business card proclaiming that they both were Attorneys at Law and â€œOf Counselâ€ to Stratton, Mc Masters & Hines, Attorneys at Law, 80 S. 8th St., Suite 4799, Minneapolis, MN 54102.
"Oh, my God!" CoCo looked at Jake and Charles. "Not you two!" Then she started to laugh. Everyone started to laugh, including Jake and Charles.
"After that," said Sandy, "I need a swim. The beach looks too good."
"Yes. And maybe if we get Jake's feet on the sand," added Mary, grinning, "he'll come to his senses."
And, the story goes on â€¦
Dave Sullivan is a retired Minnesota State District Court Judge. After practicing law for thirty years in Duluth, Minnesota, he was appointed to the District Court Bench and was chambered in Duluth for ten years until his retirement in 2006. Dave and his wife, Kath, live in Madeira Beach, Florida and Bayfield County, Wisconsin.
OTHER BOOKS BY DAVE SULLIVAN:
A Courthouse Christmas: Short stories including: The Night Before Christmas in the Courthouse; The Christmas Jury and A Christmas Carol [Subject to Cross-Examination] (previously published in print)
The Case Against Digger Moss (previously published in print) (published as an ebook at
Smashwords in 2014)
The Ultimate Resolution (published as an ebook at Smashwords in 2013)
Island Treasure (published as an ebook at Smashwords in 2014)
Murder on Stockton Island (published as an ebook at Smashwords in 2016)
Murderer on Ice (a novella, unpublished as yet)
Courage (a short story, unpublished)