1. The Arrest 1
It was an unmarked car, just some nondescript American sedan a few years old, but the blackwall tires and the three men inside gave it away for what it was. The two in front were wearing blue uniforms. The one in back was wearing a suit, and he was as big as a house. A pair of black boys standing on the sidewalk, one with a foot on a scuffed orange skateboard, the other with a lime-colored board under his arm, watched it turn into the parking lot of the Estelle Barga Recreational Park, then looked at each other.
One said, “That’s Five-O.”
The other said, “No shit.”
They headed off with no further conversation, pumping their boards. The rule was simple: when Five-O shows up, it’s time to go. Black lives matter, their parents had instructed them, but not always to Five-O. At the baseball field, the crowd began to cheer and clap rhythmically as the Flint City Golden Dragons came to bat in the bottom of the ninth, one run down.
The boys didn’t look back.
Statement of Mr. Jonathan Ritz [July 10th, 9:30 PM, interviewed by Detective Ralph Anderson]
Detective Anderson: I know you’re upset, Mr. Ritz, it’s understandable, but I need to know exactly what you saw earlier this evening.
Ritz: I’ll never get it out of my mind. Never. I think I could use a pill. Maybe a Valium. I’ve never taken any of that stuff, but I sure could use something now. My heart still feels like it’s in my throat. Your forensic people should know that if they find puke at the scene, and I guess they will, it’s mine. I’m not ashamed, either. Anyone would have lost their supper if they saw something like that.
Detective Anderson: I’m sure a doctor will prescribe something to calm you down when we’re done. I think I can arrange for that, but right now I need you clearheaded. You understand that, don’t you?
Ritz: Yes. Of course.
Detective Anderson: Just tell me everything you saw, and we’ll be finished for this evening. Can you do that for me, sir?
Ritz: All right. I went out to walk Dave right around six o’clock this evening. Dave is our beagle. He has his evening meal at five. My wife and I eat at five thirty. By six, Dave is ready to take care of his business—Number One and Number Two, I mean. I walk him while Sandy—my wife—does up the dishes. It’s a fair division of labor. A fair division of labor is very important in a marriage, especially after the children have grown up, that’s the way we look at it. I’m rambling, aren’t I?
Detective Anderson: That’s okay, Mr. Ritz. Tell it your way.
Ritz: Oh, please call me Jon. I can’t stand Mr. Ritz. Makes me feel like a cracker. That’s what the kids called me when I was in school, Ritz Cracker.
Detective Anderson: Uh-huh. So you were walking your dog—
Ritz: That’s right. And when he got a strong scent—the scent of death, I suppose—I had to hold him back on his leash with both hands, even though Dave’s just a little dog. He wanted to get at what he was smelling. The—
Detective Anderson: Wait, let’s go back. You left your house at 249 Mulberry Avenue at six o’clock—
Ritz: It might have been a little before. Dave and I walked down the hill to Gerald’s, that grocery on the corner where they sell all the gourmet stuff, then up Barnum Street, and then into Figgis Park. That’s the one the kids call Frig Us Park. They think adults don’t know what they say, that we don’t listen, but we do. At least some of us do.
Detective Anderson: Was this your usual evening walk?
Ritz: Oh, sometimes we change it up a little so we don’t get bored, but the park is where we almost always end up before heading home, because there’s always lots for Dave to smell. There’s a parking lot, but at that time of the evening it’s almost always empty, unless there are some high school kids playing tennis. There weren’t any that night, because the courts are clay and it rained earlier. The only thing parked there was a white van.
Detective Anderson: A commercial van, would you say?
Ritz: That’s right. No windows, just double doors in the back. The kind of van small companies use to haul stuff in. It might have been an Econoline, but I couldn’t swear to that.
Detective Anderson: Was there a company name written on it? Like Sam’s Air Conditioning or Bob’s Custom Windows? Something like that?
Ritz: No, uh-uh. Nothing at all. It was dirty, though, I can tell you that. Hadn’t been washed in some time. And there was mud on the tires, probably from the rain. Dave sniffed at the tires, then we went along one of the gravel paths through the trees. After about a quarter of a mile, Dave started to bark and ran into the bushes on the right. That’s when he got that scent. He almost dragged the leash out of my hand. I tried to pull him back and he wouldn’t come, just flopped over and dug at the ground with his paws and kept on barking. So I snubbed him up close—I have one of those retractable leashes, and it’s very good for that kind of thing—and went after him. He doesn’t bother about squirrels and chipmunks so much now that he’s not a puppy anymore, but I thought he might have scented up a raccoon. I was going to make him come back whether he wanted to or not, dogs need to know who’s boss, only that was when I saw the first few drops of blood. They were on a birch leaf, about chest-high to me, which would make it I guess five feet or so off the ground. There was another drop on another leaf a little further on, then a whole splash of it on some bushes further on still. Still red and wet. Dave sniffed at that one, but wanted to keep going. And listen, before I forget, right about then I heard an engine start up behind me. I might not have noticed, except it was pretty loud, like the muffler was shot. Kind of rumbling, do you know what I mean?
Detective Anderson: Uh-huh, I do.
Ritz: I can’t swear it was that white van, and I didn’t go back that way, so I don’t know if it was gone, but I bet it was. And you know what that means?
Detective Anderson: Tell me what you think it means, Jon.
Ritz: That he might have been watching me. The killer. Standing in the trees and watching me. It gives me the creeps, just thinking about it. Now, I mean. Then, I was pretty much fixated on the blood. And keeping Dave from yanking my arm right out of its socket. I was getting scared, and don’t mind admitting it. I’m not a big man, and although I try to stay in shape, I’m in my sixties now. Even in my twenties I wasn’t much of a brawler. But I had to see. In case someone was hurt.
Detective Anderson: That’s very commendable. What time would you say it was when you first saw the blood-trail?
Ritz: I didn’t check my watch, but I’m guessing twenty past six. Maybe twenty-five past. I let Dave lead the way, keeping him snubbed up so I could push through the branches he could just go under with his little short legs. You know what they say about beagles—they’re high-toned but low-slung. He was barking like crazy. We came into a clearing, a sort of… I don’t know, sort of a nook where lovers might sit and smooch a little. There was a granite bench in the middle of it, and it was covered in blood. So much of it. More underneath. The body was lying on the grass beside it. That poor boy. His head was turned toward me, and his eyes were open, and his throat was just gone. Nothing there but a red hole. His bluejeans and underpants were pulled down to his ankles, and I saw something… a dead branch, I guess… sticking out of his… his… well, you know.
Detective Anderson: I do, but I need you to say it for the record, Mr. Ritz.
Ritz: He was on his stomach, and the branch was sticking out of his bottom. That was bloody, too. The branch. Part of the bark was stripped, and there was a handprint. I saw that clear as day. Dave wasn’t barking anymore, he was howling, poor thing, and I just don’t know who would do something like that. He must have been a maniac. Will you catch him, Detective Anderson?
Detective Anderson: Oh, yes. We’ll catch him.
The Estelle Barga parking lot was almost as big as the one at the Kroger’s where Ralph Anderson and his wife shopped on Saturday afternoons, and on this July evening it was totally filled. Many of the bumpers bore Golden Dragons stickers, and a few rear windows had been soaped with exuberant slogans: WE WILL ROCK YOU; DRAGONS WILL BURN BEARS; CAP CITY HERE WE COME; THIS YEAR IT’S OUR TURN. From the field, where the lights had been turned on (although it would be daylight for quite a while yet), there arose cheering and rhythmic clapping.
Troy Ramage, a twenty-year veteran, was behind the wheel of the unmarked. As he cruised up one packed row and down another, he said, “Whenever I come here, I always wonder who the hell Estelle Barga was, anyway.”
Ralph made no reply. His muscles were tight, his skin was hot, and his pulse felt like it was red-lining. He had arrested plenty of bad doers over the years, but this was different. This was particularly awful. And personal. That was the worst: it was personal. He had no business being part of the arrest, and knew it, but following the last round of budget cuts, there were only three full-time detectives on the Flint City police force’s roster. Jack Hoskins was on vacation, fishing somewhere in the back of beyond, and good riddance. Betsy Riggins, who should have been on maternity leave, would be assisting the State Police with another aspect of this evening’s work.
He hoped to God they weren’t going too fast. He had expressed that worry to Bill Samuels, the Flint County district attorney, just that afternoon, in their pre-arrest conference. Samuels was a little young for the post, just thirty-five, but he belonged to the right political party, and he was sure of himself. Not cocksure, there was that, but undoubtedly gung-ho.
“There are still some rough edges I’d like to smooth out,” Ralph said. “We don’t have all the background. Plus, he’s going to say he has an alibi. Unless he just gives it up, we can be sure of that.”
“If he does,” Samuels had replied, “we’ll knock it down. You know we will.”
Ralph had no doubt of it, he knew they had the right man, but he still would have preferred a little more investigation before pulling the trigger. Find the holes in the sonofabitch’s alibi, punch them wider, wide enough to drive a truck through, then bring him in. In most cases that would have been the correct procedure. Not in this one.
“Three things,” Samuels had said. “Are you ready for them?”
Ralph nodded. He had to work with this man, after all.
“One, people in this town, particularly the parents of small children, are terrified and angry. They want a quick arrest so they can feel safe again. Two, the evidence is beyond doubt. I’ve never seen a case so ironclad. Are you with me on that?”
“Okay, here’s number three. The big one.” Samuels had leaned forward. “We can’t say he’s done it before—although if he has, we’ll probably find out once we really start digging—but he sure as hell has done it now. Broken loose. Busted his cherry. And once that happens…”
“He could do it again,” Ralph finished.
“Right. Not the likeliest scenario so soon after Peterson, but possible. He’s with kids all the time, for Christ’s sake. Young boys. If he killed one of them, never mind losing our jobs, we’d never forgive ourselves.”
Ralph was already having problems forgiving himself for not seeing it sooner. That was irrational, you couldn’t look into a man’s eyes at a backyard barbecue following the conclusion of the Little League season and know he was contemplating an unspeakable act—stroking it and feeding it and watching it grow—but the irrationality didn’t change the way he felt.
Now, leaning forward to point between the two cops in the front seat, Ralph said, “Over there. Try the handicap spaces.”
From the shotgun seat, Officer Tom Yates said, “Two-hundred-dollar fine for that, boss.”
“I think we’ll get a pass this time,” Ralph said.
“I was joking.”
Ralph, in no mood for cop repartee, made no reply.
“Crip spaces ahoy,” Ramage said. “And I see two empties.”
He pulled into one of them, and the three men got out. Ralph saw Yates unsnap the strap over the butt of his Glock and shook his head. “Are you out of your mind? There’s got to be fifteen hundred people at that game.”
“What if he runs?”
“Then you’ll catch him.”
Ralph leaned against the hood of the unmarked and watched as the two Flint City officers started toward the field, the lights, and the crammed bleachers, where the clapping and the cheering were still rising in volume and intensity. Arresting Peterson’s killer fast had been a call he and Samuels had made together (however reluctantly). Arresting him at the game had been strictly Ralph’s decision.
Ramage looked back. “Coming?”
“I am not. You do the deed, and read him his rights nice and goddam loud, then bring him here. Tom, when we roll, you’re going to ride in back with him. I’ll be up front with Troy. Bill Samuels is waiting for my call, and he’ll be at the station to meet us. This one’s A-Team all the way. As for the collar, it’s all yours.”
“But it’s your case,” Yates said. “Why wouldn’t you want to be the one to bust the motherfucker?”
Still with his arms crossed, Ralph said, “Because the man who raped Frankie Peterson with a tree branch and tore open his throat coached my son for four years, two in Peewee and two in Little League. He had his hands on my son, showing him how to hold a bat, and I don’t trust myself.”
“Got it, got it,” Troy Ramage said. He and Yates started toward the field.
“And listen, you two.”
They turned back.
“Cuff him right there. And cuff him in front.”
“That’s not protocol, boss,” Ramage said.
“I know, and I don’t care. I want everyone to see him led away in handcuffs. Got it?”
When they were on their way, Ralph took his cell phone off his belt. He had Betsy Riggins on speed-dial. “Are you in position?”
“Yes indeed. Parked in front of his house. Me and four State Troopers.”
“In my hot little hand.”
“Good.” He was about to end the call when something else occurred to him. “Bets, when’s your due date?”
“Yesterday,” she said. “So hurry this shit up.” And ended the call herself.
Statement of Mrs. Arlene Stanhope [July 12th, 1:00 PM, interviewed by Detective Ralph Anderson]
Stanhope: Will this take long, Detective?
Detective Anderson: Not long at all. Just tell me what you saw on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 10th, and we’ll be done.
Stanhope: All right. I was coming out of Gerald’s Fine Groceries. I always do my shopping there on Tuesdays. Things are more expensive at Gerald’s, but I don’t go to the Kroger since I stopped driving. I gave up my license the year after my husband died because I didn’t trust my reflexes anymore. I had a couple of accidents. Just fender-benders, you know, but that was enough for me. Gerald’s is only two blocks from the apartment I’ve been living in since I sold the house, and the doctor says walking is good for me. Good for my heart, you know. I was coming out with my three bags in my little cart—three bags is all I can afford now, the prices are so awful, especially meat, I don’t know the last time I’ve had bacon—and I saw the Peterson boy.
Detective Anderson: You’re sure it was Frank Peterson you saw?
Stanhope: Oh yes, it was Frank. Poor boy, I’m so sorry about what happened to him, but he’s in heaven now, and his pain is over. That’s the consolation. There are two Peterson boys, you know, both redheads, that awful carroty red, but the older one—Oliver, that’s his name—is at least five years older. He used to deliver our newspaper. Frank has a bicycle, one of those that have the high handlebars and the narrow seat—
Detective Anderson: A banana seat, it’s called.
Stanhope: I don’t know about that, but I know it was bright lime green, an awful color, really, and there was a sticker on the seat. It said Flint City High. Only he’ll never go to high school, will he? Poor, poor boy.
Detective Anderson: Mrs. Stanhope, would you like a short break?
Stanhope: No, I want to finish. I need to go home and feed my cat. I always feed her at three, and she’ll be hungry. She’ll also wonder where I am. But if I could have a tissue? I’m sure I’m a mess. Thank you.
Detective Anderson: You could see the sticker on the seat of Frank Peterson’s bicycle because—?
Stanhope: Oh, because he wasn’t on it. He was walking it across the Gerald’s parking lot. The chain was broken, and dragging on the pavement.
Detective Anderson: Did you notice what he was wearing?
Stanhope: A tee-shirt with some rock and roll band on it. I don’t know bands, so I can’t say which one it was. If that’s important, I’m sorry. And he was wearing a Rangers cap. It was pushed back on his head, and I could see all that red hair. Those carrot-tops usually go bald very early in life, you know. He’ll never have to worry about that now, will he? Oh, it’s just so sad. Anyway, there was a dirty white van parked at the far end of the lot, and a man got out and came over to Frank. He was—
Detective Anderson: We’ll get to that, but first I want to hear about the van. This was the kind with no windows?
Detective Anderson: With no writing on it? No company name, or anything of that nature?
Stanhope: Not that I saw.
Detective Anderson: Okay, let’s talk about the man you saw. Did you recognize him, Mrs. Stanhope?
Stanhope: Oh, of course. It was Terry Maitland. Everyone on the West Side knows Coach T. They call him that even at the high school. He teaches English there, you know. My husband taught with him before he retired. They call him Coach T because he coaches Little League, and the City League baseball team when Little League is done, and in the fall he coaches little boys who like to play football. They have a name for that league, too, but I don’t remember it.
Detective Anderson: If we could get back to what you saw on Tuesday afternoon—
Stanhope: There’s not much more to tell. Frank talked to Coach T, and pointed at his broken chain. Coach T nodded and opened the back of the white van, which couldn’t have been his—
Detective Anderson: Why do you say that, Mrs. Stanhope?
Stanhope: Because it had an orange license plate. I don’t know which state that would be, my long vision isn’t what it used to be, but I know Oklahoma plates are blue and white. Anyway, I couldn’t see anything in the back of the van except for a long green thing that looked like a toolbox. Was it a toolbox, Detective?
Detective Anderson: What happened then?
Stanhope: Well, Coach T put Frank’s bicycle in the back and shut the doors. He clapped Frank on the back. Then he went around to the driver’s side and Frank went around to the passenger side. They both got in, and the van drove away, onto Mulberry Avenue. I thought Coach T was going to drive the lad home. Of course I did. What else would I think? Terry Maitland has lived on the West Side for going on twenty years, he has a very nice family, a wife and two daughters… could I have another tissue, please? Thank you. Are we almost done?
Detective Anderson: Yes, and you’ve been very helpful. I believe that before I started to record, you said this was around three o’clock?
Stanhope: Exactly three. I heard the bell in the Town Hall clock chiming the hour just as I came out with my little cart. I wanted to go home and feed my cat.
Detective Anderson: The boy you saw, the redheaded boy, was Frank Peterson.
Stanhope: Yes. The Petersons live right around the corner. Ollie used to deliver my newspaper. I see those boys all the time.
Detective Anderson: And the man, the one who put the bike in the back of the white van and drove away with Frank Peterson, that was Terence Maitland, also known as Coach Terry or Coach T.
Detective Anderson: You’re sure of that.
Stanhope: Oh, yes.
Detective Anderson: Thank you, Mrs. Stanhope.
Stanhope: Who could believe Terry would do such a thing? Do you suppose there have been others?
Detective Anderson: We may find that out in the course of our investigation.
Since all City League tournament games were played at Estelle Barga Field—the best baseball field in the county, and the only one with lights for night games—home team advantage was decided by a coin toss. Terry Maitland called tails before the game, as he always did—it was a superstition handed down from his own City League coach, back in the day—and tails it was. “I don’t care where we’re playing, I just like to get my lasties,” he always told his boys.
And tonight he needed them. It was the bottom of the ninth, the Bears were up in this league semifinal by a single run. The Golden Dragons were down to their last out, but they had the bases loaded. A walk, a wild pitch, an error, or an infield single would tie it, a ball hit into the gap would win it. The crowd was clapping, stamping the metal bleachers, and cheering as little Trevor Michaels stepped into the lefthand batter’s box. His batting helmet was the smallest one they had, but it still shaded his eyes and he had to keep pushing it up. He twitched his bat nervously back and forth.
Terry had considered pinch-hitting for the boy, but at just an inch over five feet, he drew a lot of walks. And while he was no home run hitter, he was sometimes able to put the bat on the ball. Not often, but sometimes. If Terry lifted him for a pinch hitter, the poor kid would have to live with the humiliation through the whole next year of middle school. If, on the other hand, he managed a single, he would recall it over beers and backyard barbecues for the rest of his life. Terry knew. He’d been there himself, once upon a time, in the antique era before the game was played with aluminum bats.
The Bears pitcher—their closer, a real fireballer—wound up and threw one right down the heart of the plate. Trevor watched it go by with an expression of dismay. The umpire called strike one. The crowd groaned.
Gavin Frick, Terry’s assistant coach, paced up and down in front of the boys on the bench, the scorebook rolled up in one hand (how many times had Terry asked him not to do that?), and his XXL Golden Dragons tee-shirt straining over his belly, which was XXXL at least. “I hope letting Trevor bat for himself wasn’t a mistake, Ter,” he said. Sweat was trickling down his cheeks. “He looks scared to death, and I don’t b’lieve he could hit that kid’s speedball with a tennis racket.”
“Let’s see what happens,” Terry said. “I’ve got a good feeling about this.” He didn’t, not really.
The Bears pitcher wound up and released another burner, but this one landed in the dirt in front of home plate. The crowd rose to its feet as Baibir Patel, the Dragons’ tying run at third, jinked a few steps down the line. They settled back with a groan as the ball bounced into the catcher’s mitt. The Bears catcher turned to third, and Terry could read his expression, even through the mask: Just try it, homeboy. Baibir didn’t.
The next pitch was wide, but Trevor flailed at it, anyway.
“Strike him out, Fritz!” a leather-lung shouted from high up in the bleachers—almost surely the fireballer’s father, from the way the kid snapped his head in that direction. “Strike him owwwwwt!”
Trevor didn’t offer at the next pitch, which was close—too close to take, really, but the ump called it a ball, and it was the Bears’ fans’ turn to groan. Someone suggested that the ump needed stronger glasses. Another fan mentioned something about a seeing-eye dog.
Two and two now, and Terry had a strong sense that the Dragons’ season hung on the next pitch. Either they would play the Panthers for the City championship, and go on to compete in the States—games that were actually televised—or they would go home and meet just one more time, at the barbecue in the Maitland backyard that traditionally marked the end of the season.
He turned to look at Marcy and the girls, sitting where they always did, in lawn chairs behind the home plate screen. His daughters were flanking his wife like pretty bookends. All three waved crossed fingers at him. Terry gave them a wink and a smile and two thumbs up, although he still didn’t feel right. It wasn’t just the game. He hadn’t felt right for some time now. Not quite.
Marcy’s return smile faltered into a puzzled frown. She was looking to her left, and jerked a thumb that way. Terry turned and saw two city cops walking in lockstep down the third base line, past Barry Houlihan, who was coaching there.
“Time, time!” the home plate umpire bellowed, stopping the Bears pitcher just as he went into his wind-up. Trevor Michaels stepped out of the batter’s box, and with an expression of relief, Terry thought. The crowd had grown quiet, looking at the two cops. One of them was reaching behind his back. The other had his hand on the butt of his holstered service weapon.
“Off the field!” the ump was shouting. “Off the field!”
Troy Ramage and Tom Yates ignored him. They walked into the Dragons’ dugout—a makeshift affair containing a long bench, three baskets of equipment, and a bucket of dirty practice balls—and directly to where Terry was standing. From the back of his belt, Ramage produced a pair of handcuffs. The crowd saw them, and raised a murmur that was two parts confusion and one part excitement: Ooooo.
“Hey, you guys!” Gavin said, hustling up (and almost tripping over Richie Gallant’s discarded first baseman’s mitt). “We’ve got a game to finish here!”
Yates pushed him back, shaking his head. The crowd was dead silent now. The Bears had abandoned their tense defensive postures and were just watching, their gloves dangling. The catcher trotted out to his pitcher, and they stood together halfway between the mound and home plate.
Terry knew the one holding the cuffs a little; he and his brother sometimes came to watch the Pop Warner games in the fall. “Troy? What is this? What’s the deal?”
Ramage saw nothing on the man’s face except what looked like honest bewilderment, but he had been a cop since the nineties, and knew that the really bad ones had that Who, me? look down to a science. And this guy was as bad as they came. Remembering Anderson’s instructions (and not minding a bit), he raised his voice so he could be heard by the entire crowd, which the next day’s paper would announce as 1,588.
“Terence Maitland, I am arresting you for the murder of Frank Peterson.”
Another Ooooo from the bleachers, this one louder, the sound of a rising wind.
Terry frowned at Ramage. He understood the words, they were simple English words forming a simple declarative sentence, he knew who Frankie Peterson was and what had happened to him, but the meaning of the words eluded him. All he could say was “What? Are you kidding?” and that was when the sports photographer from the Flint City Call snapped his picture, the one that appeared on the front page the next day. His mouth was open, his eyes were wide, his hair was sticking out around the edges of his Golden Dragons cap. In that photo he looked both enfeebled and guilty.
“What did you say?”
“Hold out your wrists, please.”
Terry looked at Marcy and his daughters, still sitting in their chairs behind the chickenwire, staring at him with identical expressions of frozen surprise. Horror would come later. Baibir Patel left third base and started to walk toward the dugout, taking off his batting helmet to show the sweaty mat of his black hair, and Terry saw the kid was starting to cry.
“Get back there!” Gavin shouted at him. “Game’s not over.”
But Baibir only stood in foul territory, staring at Terry and bawling. Terry stared back, positive (almost positive) he was dreaming all this, and then Tom Yates grabbed him and yanked his arms out with enough force to make Terry stumble forward. Ramage snapped on the cuffs. Real ones, not the plastic strips, big and heavy, gleaming in the late sun. In that same rolling voice, he proclaimed: “You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions, but if you choose to speak, anything you say can be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?”
“Troy?” Terry could hardly hear his own voice. He felt as if the wind had been punched out of him. “What in God’s name is this?”
Ramage took no notice. “Do you understand?”
Marcy came to the chickenwire, hooked her fingers through it, and shook it. Behind her, Sarah and Grace were crying. Grace was on her knees beside Sarah’s lawn chair; her own had fallen over and lay in the dirt. “What are you doing?” Marcy shouted. “What in God’s name are you doing? And why are you doing it here?”
“Do you understand?”
What Terry understood was that he had been handcuffed and was now being read his rights in front of almost sixteen hundred staring people, his wife and two young daughters among them. It was not a dream, and it was not simply an arrest. It was, for reasons he could not comprehend, a public shaming. Best to get it over as fast as possible, and get this thing straightened out. Although, even in his shock and bewilderment, he understood that his life would not be going back to normal for a long time.
“I understand,” he said, and then: “Coach Frick, get back.”
Gavin, who had been approaching the cops with his fists clenched and his fat face flushed a hectic red, lowered his arms and stepped back. He looked through the chickenwire at Marcy, raised his enormous shoulders, spread his pudgy hands.
In the same rolling tones, like a town crier belting out the week’s big news in a New England town square, Troy Ramage continued. Ralph Anderson could hear him from where he stood leaning against the unmarked unit. He was doing a good job, was Troy. It was ugly, and Ralph supposed he might be reprimanded for it, but he would not be reprimanded by Frankie Peterson’s parents. No, not by them.
“If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you before any questioning, if you desire. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Terry said. “I understand something else, too.” He turned to the crowd. “I have no idea why I’m being arrested! Gavin Frick will finish coaching the game!” And then, as an afterthought: “Baibir, get back to third, and remember to run in foul territory.”
There was a smatter of applause, but only a smatter. The leather-lung in the bleachers yelled again, “What’d you say he did?” And the crowd responding to the question, muttering the two words that would soon be all over the West Side and the rest of the city: Frank Peterson’s name.
Yates grabbed Terry by the arm and started hustling him toward the snack shack and the parking lot beyond. “You can preach to the multitudes later, Maitland. Right now you’re going to jail. And guess what? We have the needle in this state, and we use it. But you’re a teacher, right? You probably knew that.”
They hadn’t gotten twenty steps from the makeshift dugout before Marcy Maitland caught up and grabbed Tom Yates’s arm. “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing?”
Yates shrugged her off, and when she tried to grasp her husband’s arm, Troy Ramage pushed her away, gently but firmly. She stood where she was for a moment, dazed, then saw Ralph Anderson walking to meet his arresting officers. She knew him from Little League, when Derek Anderson had played for Terry’s team, the Gerald’s Fine Groceries Lions. Ralph hadn’t been able to come to all the games, of course, but he came to as many as possible. Back then he’d still been in uniform; Terry had sent him a congratulatory email when he was promoted to detective. Now she ran toward him, fleet over the grass in her old tennis shoes, which she always wore to Terry’s games, claiming there was good luck in them.
“Ralph!” she called. “What’s going on? This is a mistake!”
“I’m afraid it isn’t,” Ralph said.
This part he didn’t like, because he liked Marcy. On the other hand, he had always liked Terry, as well—the man had probably changed Derek’s life only a little, given the boy just a smatter of confidence-building, but when you were eleven years old, a little confidence was a big deal. And there was something else. Marcy might have known what her husband was, even if she didn’t allow herself to know on a conscious level. The Maitlands had been married a long time, and horrors like the Peterson boy’s murder simply did not come out of thin air. There was always a build-up to the act.
“You need to go home, Marcy. Right away. You may want to leave the girls with a friend, because there will be police waiting for you.”
She only looked at him, uncomprehending.
From behind them came the chink of an aluminum bat making good contact, although there were few cheers; those in attendance were still shocked, and more interested in what they’d just witnessed than the game before them. Which was sort of a shame. Trevor Michaels had just hit the ball harder than ever before in his life, harder even than when Coach T was throwing meatballs in practice. Unfortunately, it was a line drive straight to the Bears shortstop, who didn’t even have to jump to make the catch.
Statement of June Morris [July 12th, 5:45 PM, interviewed by Detective Ralph Anderson, Mrs. Francine Morris in attendance]
Detective Anderson: Thank you for bringing your daughter down to the station, Mrs. Morris. June, how’s that soda?
June Morris: It’s good. Am I in trouble?
Detective Anderson: Not at all. I just want to ask you a couple of questions about what you saw two evenings ago.
June Morris: When I saw Coach Terry?
Detective Anderson: That’s right, when you saw Coach Terry.
Francine Morris: Since she turned nine, we’ve let her go down the street by herself to see her friend Helen. As long as it’s daylight. We don’t believe in being helicopter parents. I won’t after this, you can be sure of that.
Detective Anderson: You saw him after you had your supper, June? Is that right?
June Morris: Yes. We had meatloaf. Last night we had fish. I don’t like fish, but that’s how it goes.
Francine Morris: She doesn’t have to cross the street, or anything. We thought it would be okay, since we live in such a good neighborhood. At least I thought we did.
Detective Anderson: It’s always hard to know when to start giving them responsibilities. Now June—you went down the street, and that took you right past the Figgis Park parking lot, is that right?
June Morris: Yes. Me and Helen—
Francine Morris: Helen and I—
June Morris: Helen and I were going to finish our map of South America. It’s for our day camp project. We use different colors for the different countries, and we were mostly done, but we forgot Paraguay, so we were going to start all over again. That’s also how it goes. After that we were going to play Angry Birds and Corgi Hop on Helen’s iPad until my daddy came to walk me home. Because by then it might be getting dark.
Detective Anderson: This would have been at what time, Mom?
Francine Morris: The local news was on when Junie left. Norm was watching while I did the dishes. So, between six and six thirty. Probably quarter past, because I think the weather was on.
Detective Anderson: Tell me what you saw when you were walking past the parking lot, June.
June Morris: Coach Terry, I told you. He lives up the street, and once when our dog got lost, Coach T brought him back. Sometimes I play with Gracie Maitland, but not too much. She’s a year older, and likes boys. He was all bloody. Because of his nose.
Detective Anderson: Uh-huh. What was he doing when you saw him?
June Morris: He came out of the trees. He saw me looking at him and waved. I waved back and said, “Hey, Coach Terry, what happened to you?” and he said a branch hit him in the face. He said, “Don’t be scared, it’s just a bloody nose, I get them all the time.” And I said, “I’m not scared, but you won’t be able to wear that shirt anymore, because blood doesn’t come out, that’s what my mom says.” He smiled and said, “Good thing I’ve got lots of shirts.” But it was on his pants, too. Also on his hands.
Francine Morris: She was that close to him. I can’t stop thinking about it.
June Morris: Why, because he had a bloody nose? Rolf Jacobs got one on the playground last year when he fell down, and it didn’t scare me. I was going to give him my handkerchief, but Mrs. Grisha took him to the nurse’s office before I could.
Detective Anderson: How close were you?
June Morris: Gee, I don’t know. He was in the parking lot and I was on the sidewalk. How far is that?
Detective Anderson: I don’t know, either, but I’m sure I’ll find out. Is that soda good?
June Morris: You already asked me that.
Detective Anderson: Oh, right, so I did.
June Morris: Old people are forgetful, that’s what my grandpa says.
Francine Morris: Junie, that’s impolite.
Detective Anderson: It’s okay. Your grandpa sounds like a wise man, June. What happened then?
June Morris: Nothing. Coach Terry got into his van and drove away.
Detective Anderson: What color was the van?
June Morris: Well, it would be white if it was washed, I guess, but it was pretty dirty. Also, it made a lot of noise and all this blue smoke. Phew.
Detective Anderson: Was anything written on the side? Like a company name?
June Morris: Nope. It was just a white van.
Detective Anderson: Did you see the license plate?
June Morris: Nope.
Detective Anderson: Which way did the van go?
June Morris: Down Barnum Street.
Detective Morris: And you’re sure the man, the one who told you he had a bloody nose, was Terry Maitland?
June Morris: Sure, Coach Terry, Coach T. I see him all the time. Is he all right? Did he do something wrong? My mom says I can’t look at the newspaper or watch the TV news, but I’m pretty sure something bad happened in the park. I’d know if school was in, because everybody blabs. Did Coach Terry fight with a bad person? Is that how he got the bloody—
Francine Morris: Are you almost done, Detective? I know you need information, but remember that I’m the one who has to put her to bed tonight.
June Morris: I put myself to bed!
Detective Anderson: Right, almost done. But June, before you go, I’m going to play a little game with you. Do you like games?
June Morris: I guess so, if they’re not boring.
Detective Anderson: I’m going to put six photographs of six different people on the table… like this… and they all look a little like Coach Terry. I want you to tell me—
June Morris: That one. Number four. That’s Coach Terry.
Troy Ramage opened one of the rear doors of the unmarked car. Terry looked over his shoulder and saw Marcy behind them, halted at the edge of the parking lot, her face a study in agonized bewilderment. Behind her came the Call photographer, snapping pictures even as he jogged across the grass. Those won’t be worth a damn, Terry thought, and with a certain amount of satisfaction. To Marcy he shouted, “Call Howie Gold! Tell him I’ve been arrested! Tell him—”
Then Yates had his hand on top of Terry’s head, pushing him down and in. “Slide over, slide over. And keep your hands in your lap while I fasten your seatbelt.”
Terry slid over. He kept his hands in his lap. Through the windshield he could see the ballfield’s big electronic scoreboard. His wife had led the fund drive for that two years before. She was standing there, and he would never forget the expression on her face. It was the look of some woman in a third world country, watching as her village burned.
Then Ramage was behind the wheel, Ralph Anderson was in the passenger seat, and even before Ralph could get his door closed, the unmarked was backing out of the handicap space with a chirp of the tires. Ramage turned tight, spinning the wheel with the heel of his hand, then headed for Tinsley Avenue. They rode sans siren, but a blue bubble-light stuck to the dashboard began to swing and flash. Terry realized that the car smelled of Mexican food. Strange, the things you noticed when your day—your life—suddenly went over a cliff you hadn’t even known was there. He leaned forward.
“Ralph, listen to me.”
Ralph was looking straight ahead. His hands were clenched tightly together. “You can talk all you want down at the station.”
“Hell, let him tell it,” Ramage said. “Save us all some time.”
“Shut up, Troy,” Ralph said. Still watching the road unroll. Terry could see two tendons standing out on the back of his neck, making the number 11.
“Ralph, I don’t know what led you to me, or why you’d want to arrest me in front of half the town, but you’re totally off the rails.”
“So say they all,” Tom Yates remarked from beside him in a just-passing-the-time voice. “Keep those hands in your lap, Maitland. Don’t even scratch your nose.”
Terry’s head was clearing now—not a lot, but a little—and he was careful to do as Officer Yates (his name was pinned to his uniform shirt) had instructed. Yates looked as if he’d like an excuse to take a poke at his prisoner, cuffs or no cuffs.
Someone had been eating enchiladas in this car, Terry was sure of it. Probably from Señor Joe’s. It was a favorite of his daughters, who always laughed a lot during the meal—hell, they all did—and accused each other of farting on their way home. “Listen to me, Ralph. Please.”
He sighed. “Okay, I’m listening.”
“We all are,” Ramage said. “Open ears, buddy, open ears.”
“Frank Peterson was killed on Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon. It was in the papers, it was on the news. I was in Cap City on Tuesday, Tuesday night, and most of Wednesday. Didn’t get back until nine or nine thirty on Wednesday night. Gavin Frick, Barry Houlihan, and Lukesh Patel—Baibir’s father—practiced the boys both days.”
For a moment there was silence in the car, not even interrupted by the radio, which had been turned off. Terry had a golden moment in which he believed—yes, absolutely—that Ralph would now tell the big cop behind the wheel to pull over. Then he would turn to Terry with wide, embarrassed eyes and say, Oh Christ, we really goofed, didn’t we?
What Ralph said, still without turning around, was, “Ah. Comes the famous alibi.”
“What? I don’t understand what you m—”
“You’re a smart guy, Terry. I knew that from the first time I met you, back when you were coaching Derek in Little League. If you didn’t confess outright—which I was hoping for, but didn’t really expect—I was pretty sure you’d offer some kind of alibi.” He turned around at last, and the face Terry looked into was that of an absolute stranger. “And I’m equally sure we’ll knock it down. Because we’ve got you for this. We absolutely do.”
“What were you doing in Cap City, Coach?” Yates asked, and all at once the man who had told Terry to not even scratch his nose sounded friendly, interested. Terry almost told him what he had been doing there, then decided against it. Thinking was beginning to replace reacting, and he realized this car, with its fading aroma of enchiladas, was enemy territory. It was time to shut up until Howie Gold arrived at the station. The two of them could sort this mess out together. It shouldn’t take long.
He realized something else, as well. He was angry, probably angrier than he’d ever been in his life, and as they turned onto Main Street and headed for the Flint City police station, he made himself a promise: come fall, maybe even sooner, the man in the front seat, the one he’d considered a friend, was going to be looking for a new job. Possibly as a bank guard in Tulsa or Amarillo.
Statement of Mr. Carlton Scowcroft [July 12th, 9:30 PM, interviewed by Detective Ralph Anderson]
Scowcroft: Will this take long, Detective? Because I usually go to bed early. I work maintenance on the railroad, and if I don’t clock in by seven, I’ll be in dutch.
Detective Anderson: I’ll be as quick as I can, Mr. Scowcroft, but this is a serious matter.
Scowcroft: I know. And I’ll help all I can. There’s just, I don’t have much to tell you, and I want to get home. I don’t know how well I’ll sleep, though. I haven’t been in this station since a drinking party I went to when I was seventeen. Charlie Borton was chief then. Our fathers got us out, but I was grounded for the whole summer.
Detective Anderson: Well, we appreciate you coming in. Tell me where were you at seven PM on the night of July 10th.
Scowcroft: Like I told the gal at the desk when I came in, I was at Shorty’s Pub, and I seen that white van, and I seen the guy who coaches baseball and Pop Warner over on West Side. I don’t remember his name, but his picture’s in the paper all the time because he’s got a good City League team this year. Paper said they might go all the way. Moreland, is that his name? He had blood all over him.
Detective Anderson: How was it you happened to see him?
Scowcroft: Well, I got a routine for when I clock off work, not having a wife to go home to and not being much of a chef myself, if you know what I mean. Mondays and Wednesdays, it’s the Flint City Diner. Fridays I go to Bonanza Steakhouse. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I usually go to Shorty’s for a plate of ribs and a beer. That Tuesday I got to Shorty’s at, oh, I’m gonna say quarter past six. Kid was already long dead by then, wasn’t he?
Detective Anderson: But at around seven, you were out back, correct? Behind Shorty’s Pub.
Scowcroft: Yeah, me and Riley Franklin. I ran into him there, and we ate together. Out back, that’s where people go to smoke. Down the hall between the restrooms and out the back door. There’s an ash bucket and everything. So we ate—I had the ribs, he had the mac and cheese—and we ordered dessert, and went out back to have a smoke before it came. While we were standing there, shooting the shit, this dirty white van pulled in. Had a New York plate on it, I remember that. It parked beside a little Subaru wagon—I think it was a Subaru—and that guy got out. Moreland, or whatever his name is.
Detective Anderson: What was he wearing?
Scowcroft: Well, I’m not sure about the pants—Riley might remember, they could’ve been chinos—but the shirt was white. I remember that because there was blood down the front of it, quite a bit. Not so much on the pants, just some spatters. There was blood on his face, too. Under his nose, around his mouth, on his chin. Man, he was gory. So Riley—I think he must have had a couple of beers before I showed up, but I only had the one—Riley says, “How’s the other guy look, Coach T?”
Detective Anderson: He called him Coach T.
Scowcroft: Sure. And the coach, he laughs and says, “There was no other guy. Something let go in my nose, that’s all, and it went like Old Faithful. Is there a doc-in-the-box anywhere around here?”
Detective Anderson: Which you took to mean a walk-in facility, like MedNOW or Quick Care?
Scowcroft: That’s what he meant, all right, because he wanted to see if he needed it cauterized up there inside. Ouch, huh? Said he had it happen to him once before. I told him to go down Burrfield about a mile, turn left at the second light, and he’d see a sign. You know that billboard by Coney Ford? It tells you about how long you’ll have to wait and everything. Then he asked if he could leave his van in that little parking area behind the pub, which is not for customers—as the sign on the back of the building says—but for employees. And I said, “It’s not my lot, but if you don’t leave it too long, it should be all right.” Then he says—and it struck both of us as weird, times being what they are—that he’d leave the keys in the cup holder in case somebody had to move it. Riley said, “That’s a good way to get it stoled, Coach T.” But he said again that he wouldn’t be long, and about how someone might want to move it. You know what I think? I think maybe he wanted someone to steal it, maybe even me or Riley. You think that could be, Detective?
Detective Anderson: What happened then?
Scowcroft: He got into that little green Subaru, and off he went. Which also struck me as weird.
Detective Anderson: What was weird about it?
Scowcroft: He asked if he could leave his van for a little while—like he thought it might get towed, or something—but his car was there all along, safe and sound. Weird, right?
Detective Anderson: Mr. Scowcroft, I’m going to put six photographs of six different men down in front of you, and I want you to pick out the man you saw behind Shorty’s. They all look similar, so I want you to take your time. Can you do that for me?
Scowcroft: Sure, but I don’t need to take my time. That’s him right there. Moreland, or whatever his name is. Can I go home now?
No one in the unmarked said anything else until they turned into the police station lot and parked in one of the spaces marked OFFICIAL VEHICLES ONLY. Then Ralph turned to survey the man who had coached his son. Terry Maitland’s Dragons cap had been knocked slightly askew, so it sat in a kind of gangsta twist. His Dragons tee-shirt had come untucked on one side, and his face was streaked with sweat. In that moment he looked guilty as hell. Except, maybe, for his eyes, which met Ralph’s dead-on. They were wide and silently accusing.
Ralph had a question that couldn’t wait. “Why him, Terry? Why Frankie Peterson? Was he on the Lions Little League team this year? Did you have your eye on him? Or was it just a crime of opportunity?”
Terry opened his mouth to reiterate his denial, but what was the point? Ralph wasn’t going to listen, at least not yet. None of them were. Better to wait. That was hard, but it might save time in the end.
“Go on,” Ralph said. He spoke softly, conversationally. “You wanted to talk before, so talk now. Tell me. Make me understand. Right here, before we even get out of this car.”
“I think I’ll wait for my lawyer,” Terry said.
“If you’re innocent,” Yates said, “you don’t need one. Put a pin in this, if you can. We’ll even give you a ride home.”
Still looking into Ralph Anderson’s eyes, Terry spoke almost too softly to hear. “This is bad behavior. You never even checked on where I might have been on Tuesday, did you? I wouldn’t have thought it of you.” He paused, as if thinking, then said: “You bastard.”
Ralph had no intention of telling Terry that he had discussed that with Samuels, but not for long. It was a small town. They hadn’t wanted to start asking questions that could get back to Maitland. “This was a rare case where we didn’t need to check.” Ralph opened his door. “Come on. Let’s get you booked and printed and photographed before your lawyer gets h—”
Instead of taking Ralph’s advice, Marcy Maitland had followed the police car from the field in her Toyota. Jamie Mattingly, a neighbor, had stepped up and taken Sarah and Grace to her house. Both girls had been crying. Jamie had been, too.
“Terry, what are they doing? What should I be doing?”
He twisted momentarily free of Yates, who had him by the arm. “Call Howie!”
It was all he had time for. Ramage opened the door marked POLICE PERSONNEL ONLY and Yates hustled Terry inside, none too gently, with a hand planted in the middle of his back.
Ralph stayed behind for a moment, holding the door. “Go home, Marcy,” he said. “Go before the news people get there.” He almost added I’m sorry about this, and didn’t. Because he wasn’t. Betsy Riggins and the State Police would be waiting for her, but it was still the best thing she could do. The only thing, really. And maybe he owed her. For her girls, certainly—they were the true innocents in all of this—but also…
This is bad behavior. I wouldn’t have expected it of you.
There was no reason for Ralph to feel guilty at the reproach of a man who had raped and murdered a child, but for a moment he still did. Then he thought of the crime scene pictures, photos so ugly you almost wished you were blind. He thought of the branch sticking out of the little boy’s rectum. He thought of a bloody mark on smooth wood. Smooth because the hand that left the print had shoved down so hard it had peeled the bark away.
Bill Samuels had made two simple points. Ralph had agreed, and so had Judge Carter, to whom Samuels had gone for the various warrants. First, it was a slam-dunk. There was no sense waiting when they already had everything they needed. Second, if they gave Terry time, he might take off, and then they’d have to find him before he found another Frank Peterson to rape and murder.
Statement of Mr. Riley Franklin [July 13th, 7:45 AM, interviewed by Detective Ralph Anderson]
Detective Anderson: I’m going to show you six photographs of six different men, Mr. Franklin, and I’d like you to pick out the man you saw behind Shorty’s Pub on the evening of July 10th. Take your time.
Franklin: I don’t need to. It’s that one there. Number two. That’s Coach T. I can’t believe it. He coached my son in Little League.
Detective Anderson: It so happens he also coached mine. Thank you, Mr. Franklin.
Franklin: The needle’s too good for him. They ought to hang him with a slow rope.
Marcy pulled into the parking lot of the Burger King on Tinsley Avenue, and took her cell phone out of her purse. Her hands were trembling, and she dropped it on the floor. She bent over to get it, thumped her head on the steering wheel, and began to cry again. She thumbed through her contacts and found Howie Gold’s number—not because the Maitlands had a reason to keep a lawyer on speed-dial, but because Howie had coached Pop Warner with Terry during the last two seasons. He answered on the second ring.
“Howie? This is Marcy Maitland. Terry’s wife?” As if they hadn’t had dinner together once every month or so since 2016.
“Marcy? Are you crying? What’s wrong?”
It was so enormous that at first she couldn’t say it.
“Marcy? Are you still there? Were you in an accident or something?”
“I’m here. It’s not me, it’s Terry. They’ve arrested Terry. Ralph Anderson arrested Terry. For the murder of that boy. That’s what they said. For the murder of the Peterson boy.”
“What? Are you shitting me?”
“He wasn’t even in town!” Marcy wailed. She heard herself doing it, thought she sounded like a teenager throwing a tantrum, but couldn’t stop. “They arrested him, and they said the police are waiting at home!”
“Where are Sarah and Grace?”
“I sent them with Jamie Mattingly, from the next street over. They’ll be okay for now.” Although after just seeing their father arrested and led away in handcuffs, how okay could they be?
She rubbed her forehead, wondering if the steering wheel had left a mark, wondering why she cared. Because there might be news people waiting already? Because if there were, they might see the mark and think Terry had hit her?
“Howie, will you help me? Will you help us?”
“Of course I will. They took Terry to the station?”
“Yes! In handcuffs!”
“All right. I’m on my way. Go home, Marce. See what the police want. If they have a search warrant—that must be why they’re there, I can’t think of anything else—read it, see what they’re after, let them in, but don’t say anything. Have you got that? Don’t say anything.”
“The Peterson boy was killed last Tuesday, I think. Wait—” There was murmuring in the background, first Howie, followed by a woman, probably Howie’s wife, Elaine. Then Howie was back. “Yes, it was Tuesday. Where was Terry on Tuesday?”
“Cap City! He went—”
“Never mind that now. The police may ask you about that. They may ask you all sorts of things. Tell them you’re keeping silent on advice from your lawyer. Got it?”
“Don’t let them coax, coerce, or bait you. They’re good at all three.”
“Okay. Okay, I won’t.”
“Where are you now?”
She knew, she’d seen the sign, but had to look at it again to be sure. “Burger King. The one on Tinsley. I pulled in to call you.”
“Are you okay to drive?”
She almost told him she’d bumped her head, then didn’t. “Yes.”
“Take a deep breath. Take three. Then drive home. Speed limit all the way, signal every turn. Does Terry have a computer?”
“Sure. In his office. Plus an iPad, although he doesn’t use it much. And we both have laptops. The girls have their own iPad Minis. And phones, of course, we all have phones. Grace just got hers for her birthday three months ago.”
“They’ll give you a list of the stuff they mean to take.”
“Can they really do that?” She wasn’t wailing again, but she was close. “Just take our stuff? It’s like something out of Russia or North Korea!”
“They can take what their warrant says they can take, but I want you to keep your own list. Do the girls have their cell phones with them?”
“Are you kidding? Those things are practically grafted to their hands.”
“Okay. The cops may want to take yours. Refuse.”
“What if they take it, anyway?” And did it matter? Did it really?
“They won’t. If you haven’t been charged with anything, they can’t. Go on now. I’ll be with you just as soon as I can. We are going to sort this out, I promise you.”
“Thank you, Howie.” She began to cry again. “Thank you very, very much.”
“You bet. And remember: speed limit, full stops, turnblinkers. Got it?”
“Headed to the station now.” And he was gone.
Marcy put her car in drive, then put it back in park. She took a deep breath. Then two. Then three. This is a nightmare, but at least it will be a short one. He was in Cap City. They’ll see that, and they’ll let him go.
“Then,” she told her car (it seemed so empty without the girls giggling and squabbling in the backseat), “we will sue their asses off.”
That straightened her spine and brought the world back into focus. She drove home to Barnum Court, keeping to the speed limit and coming to a full stop at every stop sign.
Statement of Mr. George Czerny, [July 13th, 8:15 AM, interviewed by Officer Ronald Wilberforce]
Officer Wilberforce: Thank you for coming in, Mr. Czerny—
Czerny: You say it “Zurny.” C-Z-E-R-N-Y. The C is silent.
Officer Wilberforce: Uh-huh, thanks, I’ll make a note of that. Detective Ralph Anderson will also want to talk to you, but right now he’s busy with another interview, and he asked me to get the basic facts while they’re fresh in your mind.
Czerny: Are you towing that car? That Subaru? You ought to get it impounded so no one can pollute the evidence. There’s plenty of evidence, I can tell you that.
Officer Wilberforce: Being taken care of as we speak, sir. Now I believe you were out fishing this morning?
Czerny: Well, that was the plan, but as it turned out, I never even wet a line. I went out just after sunrise, to what they call the Iron Bridge. You know, out on Old Forge Road?
Officer Wilberforce: Yes, sir.
Czerny: It’s a great place to catch catfish. Many people don’t like to fish for them because they’re ugly—not to mention that they’ll bite you sometimes while you’re trying to get the hook out of them—but my wife fries them up with salt and lemon juice, and they taste pretty damn good. The lemon’s the secret, you know. And you have to use an iron skillet. What my ma used to call a spider.
Officer Wilberforce: So you parked at the end of the bridge—
Czerny: Yes, but off the highway. There’s an old boat landing down there. Someone bought the land it’s on a few years back and put up a wire fence with NO TRESPASSING signs on it. Never built anything yet, though. Those few acres just sit there growing weeds, and the landing’s half under water. I always park my truck on the little spur road that goes down to that wire fence. Which is what I did this morning, and what do I see? The fence is knocked down, and there’s a little green car parked on the edge of that sunken boat landing, so close to the water that the front tires were half-sunk in the mud. So I went down there, because I figured some guy must’ve left the titty-bar drunk the night before, and run off the main road. Had an idea he might still be inside, passed out.
Officer Wilberforce: When you say titty-bar, you mean Gentlemen, Please, just out at the town line?
Czerny: Yeah. Yes. Men go there, they get loaded, they stuff ones and fives into the girls’ panties until they’re broke, then they drive home drunk. Don’t understand the attraction of such places, myself.
Officer Wilberforce: Uh-huh. So you went down and looked in the car.
Czerny: It was a little green Subaru. Nobody in it, but there were bloody clothes on the passenger seat, and I thought right away of the little boy that was murdered, because the news said the police were looking for a green Subaru in connection with the crime.
Officer Wilberforce: Did you see anything else?
Czerny: Sneakers. On the floor of the passenger side footwell. They had blood on ’em, too.
Officer Wilberforce: Did you touch anything? Try the doors, maybe?
Czerny: Hell no. The wife and I never missed an episode of CSI when it was on.
Officer Wilberforce: What did you do?
Czerny: Called 911.
Terry Maitland sat in an interview room, waiting. The handcuffs had been removed so his lawyer wouldn’t raise hell when he got here—which would be soon. Ralph Anderson stood at parade rest, hands clasped behind his back, watching his son’s old coach through the one-way glass. He had sent Yates and Ramage on their way. He had spoken to Betsy Riggins, who told him Mrs. Maitland hadn’t arrived home yet. Now that the arrest had been made and his blood had cooled a little, Ralph again felt uneasy about the speed at which this thing was progressing. It wasn’t surprising that Terry was claiming an alibi, and it would surely prove as thin, but—
“Hey, Ralph.” Bill Samuels hurried up, straightening the knot in his tie as he came. His hair was as black as Kiwi shoe polish, and worn short, but a cowlick stuck up in back, making him look younger than ever. Ralph knew Samuels had prosecuted half a dozen capital murder cases, all successfully, with two of his convicted murderers (he called them his “boys”) currently on death row at McAlester. That was all to the good, nothing wrong with having a child prodigy on your team, but tonight the Flint County district attorney bore an eerie resemblance to Alfalfa in the old Little Rascals shorts.
“So there he is,” Samuels said, looking in at Terry. “Don’t like to see him in his game jersey and Dragons hat, though. I’ll be happy when he’s in a nice pair of county browns. Happier still when he’s in a cell twenty feet from the go-to-sleep table.”
Ralph said nothing. He was thinking of Marcy, standing at the edge of the police parking lot like a lost child, wringing her hands and staring at Ralph as if he were a complete stranger. Or the boogeyman. Except it was her husband who was the boogeyman.
As if reading his thoughts, Samuels asked, “Doesn’t look like a monster, does he?”
“They rarely do.”
Samuels reached into the pocket of his sportcoat and brought out several folded sheets of paper. One was a copy of Terry Maitland’s fingerprints, taken from his file at Flint City High School. All new teachers had to be fingerprinted before they ever stepped before a class. The other two sheets were headed STATE CRIMINALISTICS. Samuels held them up and shook them. “The latest and the greatest.”
“From the Subaru?”
“Yep. The state guys lifted over seventy prints in all, and fifty-seven are Maitland’s. According to the tech who ran the comparisons, the others are much smaller, probably from the woman in Cap City who reported the car stolen two weeks ago. Barbara Nearing, her name is. Hers are much older, which lets her out of any part in the Peterson murder.”
“Okay, but we still need DNA. He refused the swabs.” Unlike fingerprints, DNA cheek swabs were considered invasive in this state.
“You know damn well we don’t need them. Riggins and the Staties will take his razor, his toothbrush, and any hairs they find on his pillow.”
“Not good enough until we match what we’ve got against samples we take right here.”
Samuels looked at him, head tilted. Now he looked not like Alfalfa from The Little Rascals, but an extremely intelligent rodent. Or maybe a crow with its eye on something shiny. “Are you having second thoughts? Please tell me you’re not. Especially when you were as raring to go as I was this morning.”
Then I was thinking about Derek, Ralph thought. That was before Terry looked me in the eye, as if he had a right to. And before he called me a bastard, which should have bounced right off and somehow didn’t.
“No second thoughts. It’s just that moving so fast makes me nervous. I’m used to building a case. I didn’t even have an arrest warrant.”
“If you saw a kid dealing crack out of his knapsack in City Square, would you need a warrant?”
“Of course not, but this is different.”
“Not much, not really, but as it so happens, I do have a warrant, and it was executed by Judge Carter before you made the arrest. It should be sitting in your fax machine right now. So… shall we go in and discuss the matter?” Samuels’s eyes were brighter than ever.
“I don’t think he’ll talk to us.”
“No, probably not.”
Samuels smiled, and in that smile Ralph saw the man who had put two murderers on death row. And who would, Ralph had little doubt, soon put Derek Anderson’s old Little League coach there, as well. Just one more of Bill’s “boys.”
“But we can talk to him, can’t we? We can show him that the walls are closing in, and that he’ll soon be so much strawberry jelly between them.”
Statement of Ms. Willow Rainwater [July 13th, 11:40 AM, interviewed by Detective Ralph Anderson]
Rainwater: Go on and admit it, Detective—I’m the least willowy Willow you ever saw.
Detective Anderson: Your size isn’t at issue here, Ms. Rainwater. We’re here to discuss—
Rainwater: Oh yeah, it is, you just don’t know it. My size is why I was out there. There are ten, maybe twelve cabs waiting around at that panty palace by eleven o’clock most nights, and I’m the only woman. Why? Because none of the customers try to hit on me, no matter how drunk they are. I could have played left tackle back in high school, if they let women on their football team. And hey, half those guys don’t even realize I’m a gal when they get in my cab, and many still don’t know when they get out of it. Which is just hunky-dunky with me. Only thought you might want to know what I was doing there.
Detective Anderson: Okay, thanks.
Rainwater: But this wasn’t eleven, this was about eight thirty.
Detective Anderson: On the night of Tuesday, July 10th.
Rainwater: That’s right. Weeknights are slow all over town since the oil patch more or less dried up. A lot of the drivers just hang around the garage, shooting the shit and playing poker and telling dirty stories, but I got no use for any of that, so I’m apt to go out to the Flint Hotel or the Holiday Inn or the Doubletree. Or I go out to Gentlemen, Please. They got a cab-stand there, you know, for those who haven’t drunk themselves stupid enough to try driving home, and if I get there early, I’m usually first in line. Second or third at worst. I sit there and read on my Kindle while I wait for a fare. Hard to read a regular book once it gets dark, but the Kindle’s just fine. Great fucking invention, if you’ll pardon me for lapsing into my Native American tongue for a minute.
Detective Anderson: If you could tell me—
Rainwater: I am telling you, but I’ve got my own way of telling, been this way since I was in rompers, so be quiet. I know what you want, and I’ll give it to you. Here and in court, too. Then, when they send that kid-murdering sonofabitch to hell, I’ll put on my buckskins and my feathers and goofy-dance until I drop. We straight?
Detective Anderson: We are.
Rainwater: That night, early as it was, I was the only cab. I didn’t see him go in. I got a theory about that, and I’ll bet you five dollars I’m right. I don’t think he went in to see the pussy-prancers. I think he turned up before I arrived—maybe just before—and just went in to call a cab.
Detective Anderson: You would have won that bet, Ms. Rainwater. Your dispatcher—
Rainwater: Clint Ellenquist was on dispatch Tuesday night.
Detective Anderson: That’s correct. Mr. Ellenquist told the caller to check the cab-stand in the parking lot, and a cab would be there soon, if not already. That call was logged at eight forty.
Rainwater: Sounds about right. So he comes out, right over to my cab—
Detective Anderson: Can you tell me what he was wearing?
Rainwater: Bluejeans and a nice button-up shirt. The jeans were faded, but clean. Hard to tell under those arc-sodium parking lot lights, but I think the shirt was yellow. Oh, and his belt had a fancy buckle—a horse’s head. Rodeo shit. Until he bent down, I thought he was probably just another Oilpatch Pete who somehow held onto his job when the price of crude went to hell, or a construction worker. Then I saw it was Terry Maitland.
Detective Anderson: You’re sure of that.
Rainwater: Hand to God. The lights in that parking lot are bright as day. They keep it that way to discourage muggings and fistfights and drug deals. Because their clientele is such a bunch of gentlemen, you know. Also, I coach Prairie League basketball down at the YMCA. Those teams are coed, but they’re mostly boys. Maitland used to come down—not every Saturday, but a lot of ’em—and sit on the bleachers with the parents and watch the kids play. He told me he was scouting talent for City League baseball, said you could tell a kid with natural defensive talent by watching ’em play hoops, and like a fool I believed him. He was probably sitting there and trying to decide which one he’d like to cornhole. Judging them the way men judge women in a bar. Fucking pervo deviant asshole. Scouting talent, my wide Indian ass!
Detective Anderson: When he came to your cab, did you tell him you recognized him?
Rainwater: Oh yeah. Discretion may be somebody’s middle name, but it ain’t mine. I say, “Hey there, Terry, does your wife know where you are tonight?” And he says, “I had a spot of business to do.” And I say, “Would your spot of business have involved a lap dance?” And he says, “You should call in and tell your dispatcher I’m all set.” So I say, “I’ll do that. Are we headed home, Coach T?” And he says, “Not at all, ma’am. Drive me to Dubrow. The train station.” I say, “That’s gonna be a forty-dollar fare.” And he says, “Make it in time for me to catch the train to Dallas, and I’ll tip you twenty.” So I say, “Jump in and hold onto your jock, Coach, here we go.”
Detective Anderson: So you drove him to the Amtrak station in Dubrow?
Rainwater: I did indeed. Got him there in plenty of time to catch the night train to Dallas–Fort Worth.
Detective Anderson: Did you make conversation with him on the way? I ask because you seem like the conversational type.
Rainwater: Oh, I am! My tongue runs like a supermarket conveyor belt on payday. Just ask anybody. I started by asking him about the City League Tourney, were they gonna beat the Bears, and he said, “I expect good things.” Like getting an answer from a Magic 8 Ball, right? I bet he was thinking about what he’d done, and making a quick getaway. Stuff like that must put a hole in your small talk. My question for you, Detective, is why the hell did he come back to FC? Why didn’t he run all the way across Texas and down to Old Meh-hee-co?
Detective Anderson: What else did he say?
Rainwater: Not much. He said he was going to try and catch a nap. He closed his eyes, but I think he was faking. I think he might have been peeking at me, like maybe he was thinking of trying something. I wish he had. And I wish I’d known then what I know now, about what he done. I would have pulled him out of my cab and tore off his plumbing. I ain’t lying.
Detective Anderson: And when you got to the Amtrak station?
Rainwater: I pulled up to the drop-off and he tossed three twenties on the front seat. I started to tell him to say hello to his wife, but he was already gone. Did he also go into Gentlemen to change his clothes in the men’s room? Because there was blood on them?
Detective Anderson: I’m going to put six pictures of six different men down in front of you, Ms. Rainwater. They all look similar, so take your t—
Rainwater: Don’t bother. That’s him right there. That’s Maitland. Go get him, and I hope he resists arrest. Save the taxpayers a piece of change.
When Marcy Maitland was in junior high (that was what it was still called when she went there), she sometimes had a nightmare that she turned up in home room naked, and everyone laughed. Stupid Marcy Gibson forgot to get dressed this morning! Look, you can see everything! By the time she got to high school, this anxiety dream had been replaced by a slightly more sophisticated one where she arrived in class clothed but realizing she was about to take the biggest test of her life and had forgotten to study.
When she turned off Barnum Street and onto Barnum Court, the horror and the helplessness of those dreams returned, and this time there would be no sweet relief and muttered Thank God when she woke up. In her driveway was a cop car that could have been the twin of the one which had conveyed Terry to the police station. Parked behind it was a windowless truck with STATE POLICE MOBILE CRIME UNIT printed on the side in big blue letters. Bookending the driveway was a pair of black OHP cruisers, with their lightbars strobing in the day’s growing gloom. Four large troopers, their County Mounty hats making them look at least seven feet tall, stood on the sidewalk, their legs spread (as if their balls are too big to keep them together, she thought). These things were bad enough, but not the worst. The worst was her neighbors, standing out on their lawns and watching. Did they know why this police presence had suddenly materialized in front of the neat Maitland ranchhouse? She guessed that most already did—the curse of cell phones—and they would tell the rest.
One of the troopers stepped into the street, holding up a hand. She stopped and powered down her window.
“Are you Marcia Maitland, ma’am?”
“Yes. I can’t get into my garage with those vehicles in my driveway.”
“Park at the curb there,” he said, pointing behind one of the cruisers.
Marcy felt an urge to lean through the open window, get right up in his face, and scream, MY driveway! MY garage! Get your stuff out of my way!
Instead, she pulled over and got out. She needed to pee, and badly. Probably had needed to since the cop had handcuffed Terry, and she just hadn’t realized until now.
One of the other cops was talking into his shoulder mic, and from around the corner of the house, walkie-talkie in one hand, came the crowning touch of this evening’s malignant surrealism: a hugely pregnant woman in a sleeveless flower-print dress. She cut across the Maitland lawn in that peculiar duck-footed walk—almost a waddle—that all women seem to have when they arrive at the far end of their last trimester. She did not smile as she approached Marcy. A laminated ID hung from her neck. Pinned to her dress, riding the slope of one enormous breast and as out of place as a dog biscuit on a communion plate, was a Flint City police badge.
“Mrs. Maitland? I’m Detective Betsy Riggins.”
She held out her hand. Marcy did not shake it. And although Howie had already told her, she said, “What do you want?”
Riggins looked over Marcy’s shoulder. One of the state cops was standing there. He was apparently the bull goose of the quartet, because he had stripes on his shirtsleeve. He was holding out a sheet of paper. “Mrs. Maitland, I’m Lieutenant Yunel Sablo. We have a warrant to search these premises and take out any items belonging to your husband, Terence John Maitland.”
She snatched the paper. SEARCH WARRANT was printed at the top in gothic type. There followed a bunch of legalistic blah-blah, and it was signed at the bottom by a name she at first misread as Judge Crater. Didn’t he disappear a long time ago? she thought, then blinked water from her eyes—maybe sweat, maybe tears—and saw the name was Carter, not Crater. The warrant bore today’s date and had apparently been signed less than six hours ago.
She turned it over and frowned. “There’s nothing listed here. Does that mean you can even take his underwear, if you want to?”
Betsy Riggins, who knew they would take any underwear they happened to find in the Maitlands’ dirty clothes hamper, said, “It’s at our discretion, Mrs. Maitland.”
“Your discretion? Your discretion? What is this, Nazi Germany?”
Riggins said, “We are investigating the most heinous murder to occur in this state during my twenty years as a policewoman, and we will take what we need to take. We have done you the courtesy of waiting until you got home—”
“To hell with your courtesy. If I’d turned up late, you would have what? Broken down the door?”
Riggins looked vastly uncomfortable—not because of the question, Marcy thought, but because of the passenger she was lugging around on this hot July night. She should have been sitting at home, with the air conditioning on and her feet up. Marcy didn’t care. Her head was pounding, her bladder was throbbing, and her eyes were welling with tears.
“That would have been a last resort,” said the trooper with the shit on his sleeve, “but within our legal right, as defined by the warrant I have just shown you.”
“Let us in, Mrs. Maitland,” Riggins said. “The sooner we get started, the sooner we’ll be out of your hair.”
“Yo, Loot,” one of the other troopers said. “Here come the vultures.”
Marcy turned. From around the corner came a TV truck, with its satellite dish still folded against the roof. Behind it was an SUV with KYO decaled on the hood in big white letters. Behind that, almost kissing the KYO vehicle’s bumper, came another TV truck from another station.
“Come inside with us,” Riggins said. Almost coaxed. “You don’t want to be on the sidewalk when they get here.”
Marcy gave in, thinking this might be the first surrender of many. Her privacy. Her dignity. Her kids’ sense of security. And her husband? Would she be forced to surrender Terry? Surely not. What they were accusing him of was insane. They might as well have accused him of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.
“All right. But I’m not going to talk to you, so don’t even try. And I don’t have to give you my phone. My lawyer said so.”
“That’s fine.” Riggins took her by the arm, when—given the size of her—Marcy should have been taking hers, to make sure she didn’t trip and fall on her enormous belly.
The Chevy Tahoe from KYO—“Ki-Yo,” as they styled themselves—stopped in the middle of the street, and one of their correspondents, the pretty blond one, got out so fast that her skirt slid most of the way to her waist. The troopers did not miss this.
“Mrs. Maitland! Mrs. Maitland, just a couple of questions!”
Marcy couldn’t remember taking her purse when she exited the car, but it was over her shoulder and she got the house key out of the side pocket with no trouble. The trouble came when she tried to get it into the lock. Her hand was trembling too badly. Riggins didn’t take the key, but closed her hand over Marcy’s to steady it, and it finally slid home.
From behind her: “Is it true that your husband has been arrested for the murder of Frank Peterson, Mrs. Maitland?”
“Keep back,” one of the troopers said. “Not one step off the sidewalk.”
Then they were inside. That was good, even with the pregnant detective beside her, but the house looked different, and Marcy knew it would never look quite the same. She thought of the woman who had left here with her daughters, all of them laughing and excited, and it was like thinking of a woman you had loved, but who had died.
Her legs gave out and she plopped onto the bench in the hall where the girls sat to put on their boots in winter. Where Terry sometimes sat (as he had tonight) to go over his lineup one final time before leaving for the field. Betsy Riggins sat down beside her with a grunt of relief, her meaty right hip thwacking against Marcy’s less padded left one. The cop with the shit on his sleeve, Sablo, and two others passed them without a look, drawing on thick blue plastic gloves. They were already wearing booties of a matching blue. Marcy assumed the fourth one was doing crowd control. Crowd control in front of their house on sleepy Barnum Court.
“I have to pee,” she said to Riggins.
“As do I,” Riggins said. “Lieutenant Sablo! A word?”
The one with the shit on his sleeve returned to the bench. The other two continued on into the kitchen, where the most evil thing they’d find was half a devil’s food cake in the fridge.
To Marcy, Riggins asked, “Do you folks have a downstairs bathroom?”
“Yes, through the pantry. Terry added it himself last year.”
“Uh-huh. Lieutenant, the ladies need to pee, so that’s where you start, and make it as fast as you can.” And, to Marcy: “Does your husband have an office?”
“Not as such. He uses the far end of the dining room.”
“Thank you. That’s your next stop, Lieutenant.” She turned back to Marcy. “Mind one little question while we wait?”
Riggins paid this no mind. “Have you noticed anything odd about your husband’s behavior over the last few weeks?”
Marcy gave a humorless laugh. “You mean was he building up to committing murder? Walking around, rubbing his hands together, maybe drooling and muttering to himself? Has your pregnancy affected your mind, Detective?”
“I take it that’s a no.”
“It is. Now please stop nagging me!”
Riggins sat back and folded her hands on her belly. Leaving Marcy with her throbbing bladder and a memory of something Gavin Frick had said only last week, after practice: Where’s Terry’s mind lately? Half the time he seems somewhere else. It’s like he’s fighting the flu, or something.
“You look like you had a thought there.”
“I did, actually. I was thinking that sitting next to you on this bench is very uncomfortable. It’s like sitting next to an oven that knows how to breathe.”
Fresh color rose in Betsy Riggins’s already flushed cheeks. On one hand, Marcy was horrified at what she had just said—the cruelty of it. On the other, she was delighted that she had gotten in a thrust that seemed to have gone home.
In any case, Riggins asked no more questions.
What seemed like an endless time later, Sablo came back, holding a clear plastic bag that contained all the pills from the downstairs medicine cabinet (OTC stuff, their few prescriptions were in the two bathrooms upstairs), and Terry’s tube of hemorrhoid cream. “All clear,” he said.
“You first,” Riggins said.
Under other circumstances, Marcy surely would have deferred to the pregnant lady and held her water a bit longer, but not under these. She went in, closed the door, and saw the cover of the toilet tank was on crooked. They had been probing in there for God knew what—drugs, seemed most likely. She urinated with her head lowered and her face in her hands, so she didn’t have to look at the rest of the disarray. Was she going to bring Sarah and Grace back here tonight? Was she going to escort them through the glare of the TV lights, which would undoubtedly be set up by then? And if not here, where? A hotel? Wouldn’t they (the vultures, the trooper had called them) still find them? Of course they would.
When she finished emptying out, Betsy Riggins went. Marcy slipped into the dining room, having no wish to share the hall bench again with Officer Shamu. The cops were going through Terry’s desk—raping his desk, really, all the drawers out, most of the contents piled on the floor. His computer had already been dismantled, the various components plastered with yellow stickers, as if in preparation for a tag sale.
Marcy thought, An hour ago the most important thing in my life was a Golden Dragons win and a trip to the finals.
Betsy Riggins returned. “Oh, that’s so much better,” she said, sitting down at the dining room table. “And will be, for a whole fifteen minutes.”
Marcy opened her mouth and what almost came out was I hope your baby dies.
Instead of that she said, “It’s nice that someone’s feeling better. Even for fifteen minutes.”
Statement of Mr. Claude Bolton [July 13th, 4:30 PM, interviewed by Detective Ralph Anderson]
Detective Anderson: Well, Claude, it must be nice for you to be here when you’re not in trouble. Refreshing.
Bolton: You know, it kind of is. And to get a ride in the front of a police car instead of in the back. Ninety miles an hour most of the way back from Cap City. Lights, siren, the whole works. You’re right. It was nice.
Detective Anderson: What were you doing in Cap?
Bolton: Seeing the sights. Had a couple of nights off, so why not? No law against it, is there?
Detective Anderson: I understand you were seeing them with Carla Jeppeson, known as Pixie Dreamboat when she’s working.
Bolton: You should know, since she came back in the cruiser with me. She also appreciated the ride, by the way. Said it beat the hell out of Trailways.
Detective Anderson: And the sights you saw, most of those would have been in Room 509 of the Western Vista Motel out on Highway 40?
Bolton: Oh, we didn’t spend all our time there. Went to Bonanza for dinner twice. They give you a damn good meal there, and for cheap. Also, Carla wanted to go to the mall, so we spent some time there. They have a climbing wall, and I killed that sucker.
Detective Anderson: I’ll bet you did. Were you aware that a boy had been murdered here in Flint City?
Bolton: I might have seen something on the news. Listen, you don’t think I had anything to do with that, do you?
Detective Anderson: No, but you may have information concerning the person who did.
Bolton: How could I—
Detective Anderson: You work as a bouncer at Gentlemen, Please, isn’t that correct?
Bolton: I’m part of the security staff. We don’t use the term bouncer. Gentlemen, Please is a high-class establishment.
Detective Anderson: We won’t argue the point. You were working Tuesday night, I’m told. Didn’t leave FC until Wednesday afternoon.
Bolton: Was it Tony Ross told you me and Carla went to Cap City?
Detective Anderson: Yes.
Bolton: We got a rate at that motel because Tony’s uncle owns it. Tony was also on duty Tuesday night, that’s when I asked him to call his unc. We’re tight, me and Tony. We were on the door from four until eight, then in the pit from eight to midnight. The pit is in front of the stage, where the gentlemen sit.
Detective Anderson: Mr. Ross also told me that on or around eight thirty, you saw someone you recognized.
Bolton: Oh, you mean Coach T. Hey, you don’t think he was the one who did that kid, do you? Because Coach T’s a straight arrow. He coached Tony’s nephews in Pop Warner and in Little League. I was surprised to see him in our place, but not shocked. You’d never guess some of the people we see in the pit—bankers, lawyers, even a couple of men of the cloth. But it’s like they say about Vegas: what happens in Gent’s stays in—
Detective Anderson: Uh-huh, I’m sure you’re as discreet as priests in the confessional.
Bolton: Joke about it if you want, but we are. If you want repeat business, you have to be.
Detective Anderson: Also for the record, Claude, when you say Coach T, you’re talking about Terry Maitland.
Detective Anderson: Tell me how you happened to see him.
Bolton: We don’t spend all of our time in the pit, okay? There’s more to the job than that. Most of the time we’re there, circulating, making sure none of the guys get their hands on the girls, and stopping fights before they get going—when guys get randy, they also can get aggressive, you must know that in your line of work. But the pit’s not the only place trouble can start, it’s just the most likely place, so one of us stays there all the time. The other one floats—checks the bar, the little alcove where there’s a few video games and a coin-op pool table, the private dance cubbies, and of course the men’s room. That’s where your drug deals are apt to go down, and if we see them, we put a stop to them and kick the guys out.
Detective Anderson: Says the man who’s got a jacket for possession and possession with intent to sell.
Bolton: All due respect, sir, but that’s just mean. I’ve been clean for six years. Go to NA and all. You want me to drop a urine? Happy to oblige.
Detective Anderson: That won’t be necessary, and I congratulate you on your sobriety. So you were circulating around eight thirty—
Bolton: That’s right. I checked the bar, then I started down the hall to take a peek in the men’s, and that’s where I saw Coach T, just hanging up the phone. There are two pay phones back there, but only one of them works. He was…
Detective Anderson: Claude? You kind of dropped out on me there.
Bolton: Just thinking. Remembering. He looked kind of funny. In a daze, like. You really think he killed that kid? I thought it was just because it was his first visit to a place where young ladies take off their clothes. It gets some guys that way, makes them kinda stupid. Or he might’ve been high. I said, “Hey, Coach, how’s that team of yours looking?” And he gives me this stare like he’s never seen me before, although I went to just about every one of the Pop Warner games Stevie and Stanley played in, and told him about how to run a double reverse, which he never did because he said it was too complex for little kids. Although if they can learn long division, they ought to be able to learn something like that, don’t you think?
Detective Anderson: You’re sure it was Terence Maitland.
Bolton: Oh God, yes. He said the team was fine, and told me he just stopped in to call a cab. Sort of like the way we all used to say we only read Playboy for the articles when our wives saw it in the bathroom beside the toilet. But I went along with it, the customer is always right at Gentlemen’s as long as he doesn’t try to grab a handful of tit. Told him there might be a cab or two outside already. He said the dispatcher already told him that, and thanked me, and off he went.
Detective Anderson: What was he wearing?
Bolton: Yellow shirt, jeans. Belt buckle with a horse’s head on it. Fancy sneakers. I remember those, because they looked pretty expensive.
Detective Anderson: Were you the only one who saw him in the club?
Bolton: No, I saw a couple of guys tip him a wave as he went out. Don’t know who they were, and you might have trouble finding them, because a lot of guys don’t want to admit they like to visit places like Gent’s. Just a fact of life. I wasn’t surprised he got recognized, because Terry’s pretty close to famous around here. Even won some sort of award a few years back, I saw that in the paper. Call it Flint City all you want, it’s really just a small town where most everybody knows everybody else, at least by face. And anybody with sons who are what you’d call athletically inclined, they know Coach T from baseball or football.
Detective Anderson: Thank you, Claude. This has been helpful.
Bolton: I remember one other thing, no big deal but kind of spooky if he really was the one who killed that kid.
Detective Anderson: Go on.
Bolton: It was just one of those things that happen, nobody’s fault. He was on his way out to see if there was a cab, right? I stuck out my hand and said, “I want to thank you for everything you did for Tony’s nephews, Coach. They’re good boys, but a little rambunctious, maybe because of their folks getting divorced and all. You gave ’em something to do besides hell around town.” I think I surprised him, because he jerked back a little before he shook with me. He had a good strong grip, though, and… see this little scab on the back of my hand? He did it with his pinky nail when we shook. It’s pretty much healed up already, wasn’t no more than a nick in the first place, but it took me back to my drug days for a second or two.
Detective Anderson: Why is that?
Bolton: Some guys—Hells Angels and Devils Disciples, mostly—used to grow out one of their pinky nails. I’ve seen some as long as those Chinese emperors used to have. Some of the bikers even decorate ’em with decals, like the ladies do on theirs. They call it their coke nail.
After the arrest at the baseball field there was no possibility of Ralph playing the good cop in a good cop/bad cop scenario, so he simply stood leaning against the wall of the interview room, looking on. He was prepared for another of those accusing stares, but Terry only glanced at him briefly, and with no expression at all, before turning his attention to Bill Samuels, who had taken a seat in one of the three chairs on the other side of the table.
Studying Samuels now, Ralph began to get an idea of how he had risen so high so quickly. While the two of them were standing on the other side of the one-way glass, the DA had simply looked a bit young for the job. Now, facing Frankie Peterson’s rapist and killer, he looked even younger, like a law office intern who had (due to some mixup, probably) landed this interview with a big-time perp. Even the little Alfalfa cowlick sticking up from the back of his head added to the role the man had slipped into: untried youth, just happy to be here. You can tell me anything, said those wide, interested eyes, because I’ll believe it. This is my first time playing with the big boys, and I just don’t know any better.
“Hello, Mr. Maitland,” Samuels said. “I work in the county DA’s office.”
Good start, Ralph thought. You are the county DA’s office.
“You’re wasting your time,” Terry said. “I’m not going to talk to you until my lawyer gets here. I will say that I see a sizeable wrongful arrest suit in your future.”
“I understand that you’re upset, in your position, anyone would be. Maybe we can iron it out right here. Can you just tell me where you were when the Peterson boy was killed? That was on last Tuesday afternoon. If you were somewhere else, then—”
“I was,” Terry said, “but I intend to discuss that with my lawyer before I discuss it with you. His name is Howard Gold. When he gets here, I’ll want to talk to him privately. I assume that’s my right? Since I’m presumed innocent until proven guilty?”
Quick recovery, Ralph thought. A career criminal couldn’t have done it better.
“It is indeed,” Samuels said. “But if you haven’t done anything—”
“Don’t try, Mr. Samuels. You didn’t bring me here because you’re a nice guy.”
“Actually, I am,” Samuels said earnestly. “If there’s been a mistake, I’m as interested in getting it straightened out as you are.”
“You have some hair sticking up in back,” Terry said. “Might want to do something about that. It makes you look like Alfalfa in the old comedies I used to watch when I was a kid.”
Ralph didn’t even come close to laughing, but one corner of his mouth twitched. That he couldn’t help.
Momentarily put off-balance, Samuels raised a hand to smooth down the cowlick. It laid flat for a moment, then sprang back up.
“Are you sure you don’t want to clear this up?” Samuels leaned forward, his earnest expression suggesting that Terry was making a bad mistake.
“I’m sure,” Terry said. “And I’m sure about the suit, too. I don’t think there’s a settlement large enough to pay for what you sorry sons of bitches did tonight—not just to me, but to my wife and girls—but I intend to find out.”
Samuels sat where he was for a moment longer—leaning forward, innocently hopeful eyes locked on Terry’s—and then he stood up. The innocent look disappeared. “Okay. Fine. You can confer with your lawyer, Mr. Maitland, that’s your right. No audio, no video, we’ll even draw the curtain. If you two are quick about it, maybe we can get this squared away tonight. I’ve got an early tee time in the morning.”
Terry looked as if he had misheard. “Golf?”
“Golf. It’s a game where you try to knock the little ball into the cup. I’m not very good at it, but I’m very good at this game, Mr. Maitland. And as the estimable Mr. Gold will tell you, we can hold you here for forty-eight hours without charging you. It won’t actually be that long. If we can’t clarify this, we’ll take you for arraignment bright and early on Monday morning. Your arrest will be statewide news by then, so there will be plenty of coverage. I’m sure the photographers will get your good side.”
Having gotten what he assumed was the last word, Samuels almost strutted to the door (Ralph guessed Terry’s comment about the cowlick still rankled). Before he could open it, Terry said, “Hey, Ralph.”
Ralph turned. Terry looked calm, which was extraordinary under the circumstances. Or maybe not. Sometimes the really cold ones, the sociopaths, found that calm after the initial shock, and buckled down for the long haul. Ralph had seen it before.
“I’m not going to discuss any of this until Howie gets here, but I want to tell you one thing.”
“Go ahead.” That was Samuels, trying not to sound eager, but his face fell at what Terry said next.
“Derek was the best drag bunter I ever had.”
“Oh, no,” Ralph said. He could hear the rage trembling in his voice, a kind of vibrato. “Don’t go there. I don’t want to hear my son’s name come out of your mouth. Not tonight, not ever.”
Terry nodded. “I can relate, because I never wanted to be arrested in front of my wife and daughters and a thousand other people, many of them my neighbors. So never mind what you don’t want to hear. Just listen a minute. I think you owe me that for doing it the nasty way.”
Ralph opened the door, but Samuels put a hand on his arm, shook his head, and raised his eyes slightly to the camera in the corner with its small red light. Ralph closed the door again and turned back to Terry, crossing his arms over his chest. He had an idea that Terry’s idea of payback for the public arrest was going to hurt, but he knew Samuels was right. A suspect talking was always better than a suspect clamming up until his lawyer arrived. Because one thing had a way of leading to another.
Terry said, “Derek couldn’t have been more than four-ten or -eleven back in Little League. I’ve seen him since—tried to get him to play for City last year, as a matter of fact—and he’s grown six inches since then. He’ll be taller than you by the time he graduates from high school, I bet.”
“He was a shrimp, but he was never afraid in the batter’s box. A lot of them are, but Derek would stand in even against the kids who’d wind up and fling the ball with no idea of where it was going. Got hit half a dozen times, but he never gave in.”
It was the truth. Ralph had seen the bruises after some of the games, when D peeled off his uniform: on the butt, on the thigh, on the arm, on the shoulder. Once there had been a perfect black and blue circle on the nape of his neck. Those hits had driven Jeanette crazy, and the batting helmet Derek wore didn’t comfort her; every time D stepped into the batter’s box, she had gripped Ralph’s arm almost hard enough to bring blood, afraid the kid would eventually take one between the eyes and wind up in a coma. Ralph assured her it wouldn’t happen, but he had been almost as glad as Jeannie was when Derek decided tennis was more his game. The balls were softer.
Terry leaned forward, actually smiling a little.
“A kid that short usually gets a lot of walks—as a matter of fact, that’s sort of what I was hoping for tonight, when I let Trevor Michaels bat for himself—but Derek wasn’t going to get cheated. He’d flail at just about anything—inside, outside, over his head or in the dirt. Some of the kids started calling him Whiffer Anderson, then one of them changed it to Swiffer, like the mop, and that stuck. At least for awhile.”
“Very interesting,” Samuels said, “but why don’t we talk about Frank Peterson, instead?”
Terry’s eyes remained fixed on Ralph.
“Long story short, when I saw he wouldn’t take a walk, I taught him to bunt. Lot of boys his age—ten, eleven—they won’t do it. They get the idea, but they don’t like dropping the bat over the plate, especially against a kid who can really bring it. They keep thinking about how much their fingers are going to hurt if they get hit with their bare hands out front like that. Not Derek, though. He had a yard of guts, your boy. Besides, he could really scoot down the line, and a lot of times when I sent him up to sacrifice, he ended up getting a base hit.”
Ralph didn’t nod or give any sign at all that he cared about this, but he knew what Terry was talking about. He had cheered plenty of those bunts, and had seen his kid fly down the line like his hair was on fire and his ass was catching.
“It was just a matter of teaching him the right bat angles,” Terry said, and held up his hands to demonstrate. They were still smudged with dirt, probably from throwing batting practice before tonight’s game. “Angle to the left, the ball squirts up the third base line. Angle to the right, first base line. Don’t shove the bat, most times that does nothing but send an easy pop-up to the pitcher, just give it a little nudge at the last split-second. He caught on fast. The kids stopped calling him Swiffer and gave him a new nickname. We’d have a runner on first or third late in the game and the other team knew he was going to lay one down—there was no faking, he’d drop the bat across the plate as soon as the pitcher went into his motion, and the kids on the bench would all be yelling ‘Push it, Derek, push it!’ Me and Gavin, too. And that was what they called him that whole last year, when we won the district. Push It Anderson. Did you know that?”
Ralph hadn’t, maybe because it was strictly a team thing. What he did know was that Derek had grown up a lot that summer. He laughed more, and wanted to hang around after the games were over instead of just heading for the car with his head down and his glove dangling.
“He did most of it himself—practiced like a mother until he had it right—but I was the one who talked him into trying it.” He paused, then said, very softly, “And you do this to me. In front of everyone, you do this to me.”
Ralph felt his cheeks heat up. He opened his mouth to reply, but Samuels was escorting him out the door, almost pulling him along. He paused just long enough to say one thing over his shoulder. “Ralph didn’t do it to you, Maitland. Neither did I. You did it to yourself.”
Then the two of them were looking through the one-way glass again, and Samuels was asking if Ralph was all right.
“Fine,” Ralph said. His cheeks were still burning.
“Some of them are masters at getting under your skin. You know that, right?”
“And you know he did this, right? I’ve never had a case sewn up so tight.”
Which bothers me, Ralph thought. It didn’t before, but it does now. It shouldn’t, because Samuels is right, but it does.
“Did you notice his hands?” Ralph asked. “When he was showing how he taught Derek to bunt, did you see his hands?”
“Yes. What about them?”
“No long pinky fingernail,” Ralph said. “Not on either hand.”
Samuels shrugged. “So he clipped it. Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Fine,” Ralph said. “I just—”
The door between the office area and the detention wing buzzed, then banged open. The man who came hurrying down the hallway was dressed in his Saturday night relaxing-at-home clothes—faded jeans and a TCU tee-shirt with SuperFrog hopping on the front—but the boxy briefcase he was carrying was all lawyer.
“Hello, Bill,” he said. “And hello to you, Detective Anderson. Would either of you like to tell me why you have arrested Flint City’s 2015 Man of the Year? Is it just a mistake, one we can perhaps smooth over, or have you lost your fucking minds?”
Howard Gold had arrived.
To: County District Attorney William Samuels
Flint City Chief of Police Rodney Geller
Flint County Sheriff Richard Doolin
Capt. Avery Rudolph, State Police Post 7
Det. Ralph Anderson, Flint City PD
From: Det. Lieutenant Yunel Sablo, State Police Post 7
Date: July 13th
Subject: Vogel Transportation Center, Dubrow
As per request of DA Samuels and Detective Anderson, I arrived at the Vogel Transportation Center at 2:30 PM on the date referenced above. Vogel is the main depot for land transportation in the southern part of the state, housing three major bus lines (Greyhound, Trailways, Mid-State) as well as Amtrak service. There are also the usual car rental agencies (Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, Alamo). Since all areas of the Transportation Center are well monitored by surveillance cameras, I went directly to the security office, where I was met by Michael Camp, Vogel’s Security Director. He was ready for me. Surveillance footage is kept for 30 days, and the whole operation is computerized, so I was able to review everything from the night of July 10th, as seen from a total of 16 cameras.
According to Mr. Clinton Ellenquist, the Flint City Cab Company dispatcher who was on duty on the night of July 10th, driver Willow Rainwater called in at 9:30 PM to report she had delivered her fare. The Southern Limited, which Ms. Rainwater has stated is the train the subject under investigation meant to take, pulled into the Vogel at 9:50 PM. Passengers disembarked at Track 3. Passengers going on to Dallas–Fort Worth were given the go-ahead to embark at Track 3 seven minutes later, at 9:57. The Southern Limited pulled out at 10:12. Times are exact, as all arrivals and departures are monitored and recorded by computer.
Security Director Camp and I reviewed surveillance footage from all 16 cameras, beginning at 9:00 PM on July 10th (just to be on the safe side) and ending at 11:00 PM, approximately 50 minutes after the Southern Limited left the station. I have all camera references on my iPad, but due to the stated (by DA Samuels) urgency of the situation, I will only summarize in this preliminary report.
9:33 PM: Subject enters the station through the north portal, which is the usual drop-off point for taxis and where most travelers enter. He crosses the main concourse. Yellow shirt, bluejeans. He has no luggage. Clear view of his face for 2 to 4 seconds as he looks up at the large overhead clock (still image emailed to DA Samuels and Detective Anderson).
9:35 PM: Subject stops at the newsstand in the center of the concourse. He buys a paperback book, paying cash. The title cannot be read, and the clerk does not remember, but we can probably get this if needed. In this footage, the horse’s head belt buckle can be seen (still image emailed to DA Samuels and Detective Anderson).
9:39 PM: Subject exits the station via the Montrose Avenue door (south portal). Although this entrance/exit point is open to the public, it is mostly used by Vogel personnel, as the employee parking lot is on that side of the building. Two cameras are placed to monitor this lot. Subject does not appear on either camera, but both Camp and I detected a momentary shadow, which we believe may have been the subject, heading to the right, toward a service alley.
Subject did not buy a ticket on the Southern Limited, either for cash at the station or by credit card. After several reviews of the Track 3 footage, which is clear and in my opinion complete, I can state with reasonable certainty that the subject did not re-enter the station and board the train.
My conclusion is that the subject’s trip to Dubrow may have been an effort to lay a false trail and thus confuse pursuit. My speculation is that the subject may have returned to Flint City, either with the help of an accomplice or by hitchhiking. It is also possible that he stole a car. The Dubrow Police Department has no reports of vehicles reported stolen in the vicinity of the Vogel Transportation Center on the night in question, but as Security Director Camp points out, one could be taken from the long-term parking lot without being reported for a week or even longer.
Security footage of the long-term lot is available, and will be reviewed upon request, but the coverage there is far from complete. In addition, Security Director Camp informs me that those cameras are due to be replaced and often malfunction. I think that, for the time being, at least, we would be better served pursuing other lines of investigation.
Det. Lt. Y. Sablo
Howie Gold shook hands with Samuels and Ralph Anderson. Then he gazed through the one-way glass at Terry Maitland, in his Golden Dragons jersey and lucky game hat. Terry’s back was straight, his head was up, and his hands were folded neatly on the table. There was no twitching, no fidgeting, no nervous sideways glances. He was not, Ralph admitted to himself, the picture of guilt.
At last Gold turned back to Samuels. “Speak,” he said. As if inviting a dog to do a trick.
“Not much to say at this point, Howard.” Samuels’s hand went to the back of his head. He smoothed the cowlick down. It stayed put for a moment, then sprang up again. Ralph found himself remembering an Alfalfa quote he and his brother used to giggle over when they were kids: You only meet your once-in-a-lifetime friends once in a lifetime. “Just that it’s not a mistake, and no, we haven’t lost our fucking minds.”
“What does Terry say?”
“So far, nothing,” Ralph said.
Gold swung his way, bright blue eyes glittering and slightly magnified behind the round lenses of his spectacles. “You misunderstand me, Anderson. Not tonight, I know he didn’t say anything to you tonight, he knows better. I mean at the initial interview. You might as well tell me, because he will.”
“There was no initial interview,” Ralph said. And there was no need to feel uncomfortable about that, not with the case they’d put together in just four short days, but he did, all the same. Part of it had to do with Howie Gold calling him by his last name, as if they had never bought each other drinks in the Wagon Wheel across from the county courthouse. He felt a ridiculous urge to tell Howie, Don’t look at me, look at the guy beside me. He’s the one with the pedal to the metal.
“What? Wait. Wait just a goddam minute.”
Gold stuck his hands in his front pockets and began to rock back and forth on the balls of his feet. Ralph had seen this many times, in county and district court, and braced himself. Being cross-examined on the stand by Howie Gold was never a pleasant experience. Ralph had never held it against him, though. It was all part of the due process dance.
“Are you telling me you arrested him in front of two thousand people without even giving him a chance to explain himself?”
Ralph said, “You’re a fine defense attorney, but God himself couldn’t get Maitland out from under this one. And by the way, there might have been twelve hundred people there, fifteen hundred at most. Estelle Barga Field won’t hold two thousand. The bleachers would collapse.”
Gold ignored this feeble stab at lightening the atmosphere. He was staring at Ralph as though he were some new kind of bug. “But you arrested him in a public place, at what one could argue was the moment of his apotheosis—”
“His apothie-whatsis?” Samuels asked, smiling.
Gold ignored this, as well. He was still studying Ralph. “You did it even though you could have put a quiet police presence around the field and then arrested him at his home, after the game was over. You did it in front of his wife and daughters, which had to be deliberate. What possessed you? What on God’s green earth possessed you?”
Ralph felt his face heating up again. “You really want to know, counselor?”
“Ralph,” Samuels said warningly. He put a restraining hand on Ralph’s arm.
Ralph shook it off. “I wasn’t the one who arrested him. I had a couple of officers do that, because I was afraid I might put my hands around his throat and choke him blue. Which would give a smart lawyer like you a little too much to work with.” He stepped forward, getting into Gold’s space to make him stop the back and forth rocking. “He grabbed Frank Peterson and took him to Figgis Park. There he raped the kid with a tree branch, and there he killed him. Do you want to know how he killed him?”
“Ralph, that’s privileged!” Samuels squawked.
Ralph paid no attention. “Preliminary forensics suggests he tore the kid’s throat open with his teeth. He may even have swallowed some of the flesh, okay? All that got him so excited that he dropped trou and spilled his spunk all over the back of the kid’s thighs. Nastiest, vilest, most unspeakable murder any of us will ever see, God willing. He must have been building up to it for a long time. None of us who were at the scene will ever get it out of our minds. And Terry Maitland did it. Coach T did it, and not so long ago he had his hands on my son’s hands, showing him how to bunt. He just told me all about it, like it was supposed to exonerate him, or something.”
Gold was no longer staring at him like he was a bug. Now there was a kind of wonder on his face, as if he had stumbled upon an artifact left behind by some unknowable extraterrestrial race. Ralph didn’t care. He was beyond caring.
“You’ve got a boy yourself—Tommy, right? Isn’t that why you started coaching Pop Warner with Terry, because Tommy was playing? He had his hands on your son, too. And now you’re going to defend him?”
Samuels said, “For Christ’s sake, shut your trap.”
Gold had stopped rocking, but he gave no ground, and he was still staring at Ralph with that expression of almost anthropological wonder. “Didn’t even interview him,” he breathed. “Didn’t. Even. I have never… I have never…”
“Oh, come on,” Samuels said with forced jollity. “You’ve seen everything, Howie. Most of it twice.”
“I want to conference with him now,” Gold said briskly, “so turn off your audio shit and close the curtain.”
“Fine,” Samuels said. “You can have fifteen minutes, then we’ll join you. See if the coach has anything to say.”
Gold said, “I will have an hour, Mr. Samuels.”
“Half an hour. Then we’ll either take his confession—which could conceivably make a difference between life in McAlester and the needle—or he’s going into a cell until his arraignment on Monday. Up to you. But if you think we did this lightly, you were never more wrong in your life.”
Gold went to the door. Ralph swiped his card across the lock, listened to the clunk as the double bolts let go, then returned to the window to watch the attorney enter. Samuels tensed when Maitland rose from his seat and started toward Gold with his arms out, but the expression on Maitland’s face was one of relief, not aggression. He embraced Gold, who dropped his boxy briefcase and hugged him back.
“Bro hug,” Samuels said. “Ain’t that just the sweetest.”
Gold turned as if he had heard, and pointed to the camera with its little red light. “Turn it off,” came his voice through the overhead speaker. “Sound as well. Then draw the curtain.”
The switches were on a wall-mounted console that also held audio and video recorders. Ralph flipped them. The red light on the camera in the corner of the interview room went out. He nodded to Samuels, who yanked the curtain. The sound it made as it covered the glass brought Ralph an unpleasant memory. On three occasions—all before Bill Samuels’s day—Ralph had attended executions at McAlester. There was a similar curtain (perhaps made by the same company!) over the long glass window between the execution chamber and the viewing room. It was pulled open when the witnesses entered the viewing room, and closed as soon as the prisoner was pronounced dead. It made that same unpleasant rasping sound.
“I’m going across the street to Zoney’s for a soda and a burger,” Samuels said. “I was too nervous to eat any dinner. Do you want anything?”
“I could do with a coffee. No milk, one sugar.”
“You sure? I’ve had Zoney’s coffee, and they don’t call it the Black Death for nothing.”
“I’ll take the chance,” Ralph said.
“Okay. I’ll be back in fifteen. If they break early, don’t start without me.”
No chance of that. As far as Ralph was concerned, this was now Bill Samuels’s show. Let him have all the glory, if there was any to be had in a horror like this. There were chairs lining the far side of the hall. Ralph took the one next to the photocopier, which was droning softly in its sleep. He stared at the drawn curtain and wondered what Terry Maitland was saying in there, what outlandish alibi he was trying out for his Pop Warner co-coach.
Ralph found himself thinking of the big Native American woman who had picked Maitland up at Gentlemen, Please and taken him to the train station in Dubrow. I coach Prairie League basketball down at the YMCA, she’d said. Maitland used to come down and sit on the bleachers with the parents and watch the kids play. He told me he was scouting talent for City League baseball…
She had known him, and he must have known her—given her size and ethnicity, she’d be a hard woman to forget. Yet in the cab he had called her ma’am. Why was that? Because even if he knew her face from the Y, he didn’t remember her name? That was possible, but Ralph didn’t like it much. As names went, Willow Rainwater wasn’t all that forgettable, either.
“Well, he was under stress,” Ralph muttered, either to himself or to the drowsing photocopier. “Also…”
Another memory came to him, and with it a reason for Maitland’s use of ma’am that he liked better. His kid brother, Johnny, three years younger, had not been much good when it came to hide-and-seek. Many times he’d just run into his bedroom and throw the covers over his head, apparently thinking that if he couldn’t see Ralphie, Ralphie couldn’t see him. Wasn’t it possible that a man who had just committed a terrible murder might be prone to the same sort of magical thinking? If I don’t know you, you don’t know me. Mad logic, sure, but it had been a madman’s crime, and it could explain more than just Terry’s reaction to Rainwater; it could explain why he’d thought he could get away with it even though he was well-known to lots of folks in Flint City, and an actual celebrity to sports fans.
But then there was Carlton Scowcroft. If he closed his eyes, Ralph could almost see Gold underlining a key passage in Scowcroft’s statement, and preparing for his summation to the jury, perhaps stealing an idea from OJ’s attorney. If the glove does not fit, you must acquit, Johnnie Cochran had said. Gold’s version, almost as catchy, might be, Since he didn’t know, you must let him go.
It wouldn’t work, it wasn’t even close to the same, but—
According to Scowcroft, Maitland had explained the blood on his face and clothes by saying something in his nose had ruptured. It went like Old Faithful, Terry told him. Is there a doc-in-the-box anywhere around here?
Only Terry Maitland had, with the exception of four years in college, lived in Flint City all his life. He wouldn’t have needed the Quick Care billboard near Coney Ford to direct him; he wouldn’t have needed to ask in the first place. So why had he?
Samuels came back with a Coke, a burger wrapped in foil, and a go-cup of coffee, which he handed to Ralph. “All quiet in there?”
“Yep. They’ve got another twenty minutes, by my watch. When they finish, I’m going to try to get him to give us a DNA swab.”
Samuels unwrapped his burger and cautiously lifted the bun for a peek. “Oh my God,” he said. “It looks like something a paramedic scraped off a burn victim.” Nevertheless, he began to eat it.
Ralph thought about mentioning Terry’s conversation with Rainwater, and Terry’s odd question about the doc-in-the-box, and didn’t. He thought about bringing up Terry’s failure to disguise himself or even to try to hide his face with sunglasses, and didn’t mention that, either. He had raised these issues before, and Samuels had swatted them aside, maintaining—and rightly—that they had no significance when stacked against the eyewitnesses and the damning forensic evidence.
The coffee was as awful as Samuels had predicted, but Ralph sipped at it anyway, and the cup was almost empty when Gold buzzed to be let out of the interview room. His expression made Ralph Anderson’s stomach contract. It wasn’t worry, anger, or the theatrical indignation some lawyers could muster up when they realized a client was in deep shit. No, this was sympathy, and it looked genuine.
“Oy vey,” he said. “You two guys are in big trouble.”
FLINT CITY GENERAL HOSPITAL
DEPARTMENT OF PATHOLOGY AND SEROLOGY
To: Detective Ralph Anderson
Lieutenant Yunel Sablo
District Attorney William Samuels
From: Dr. Edward Bogan
Date: July 14th
Subject: Blood Typing and DNA
Several items were tested for blood type.
The first was the branch used to sodomize the victim, Frank Peterson, a white male child, 11 years of age. This branch was approximately 22" long and 3" in diameter. A section about halfway down has been stripped of its loose bark, likely because of rough handling by the perpetrator of the crime (see attached photograph). Fingerprints were found on this smooth section of the branch; they were photographed and lifted by State Criminalistics before the evidence was conveyed to me by Detective Ralph Anderson (Flint City PD) and Trooper Yunel Sablo (State Police Post 7). I therefore state that the chain of evidence remains intact.
The blood on the last 5" of this piece of branch is O+, which is the victim’s type, as confirmed by Frank Peterson’s family doctor, Horace Connolly. There are many other traces of O+ on the branch, caused by a phenomenon called “splashback” or “sudsing.” These likely flew up as the victim was sexually violated, and it is fair to assume that the perpetrator also sustained splashback on his skin and clothes.
Traces of a second blood type were also found on the specimen. This was AB+, a much rarer type (3% of the population). I believe this to be the perpetrator’s blood, and speculate that he may have cut the hand he used to manipulate the branch, which he must have done with great force.
A great deal of O+ blood was discovered on the driver’s seat, steering wheel, and dashboard of a 2007 Econoline van found abandoned in the employees’ parking lot behind Shorty’s Pub (1124 Main Street). Spots of AB+ blood were also found on the steering wheel of the van. These samples were conveyed to me by Sgts. Elmer Stanton and Richard Spencer of the State Criminalistics Division, and I therefore state that the chain of evidence remains intact.
A great deal of O+ blood was also found on the clothes (shirt, pants, socks, Adidas sneakers, Jockey underpants) retrieved from a 2011 Subaru discovered at an abandoned boat landing near Route 72 (also known as Old Forge Road). There is also a spot of AB+ blood on the left cuff of the shirt. These samples were conveyed to me by Trooper John Koryta (Post 7) and Sgt. Spencer of the SCD, and I therefore state that the chain of evidence remains intact. No AB+ blood has been found in the Subaru Outback as of this report. Such blood may be found, but it’s possible that any scratches the perpetrator suffered in the commission of the crime had clotted by the time he abandoned the Subaru. It is also possible that he may have bandaged them, although the samples are so small that I think this is unlikely. They would be minor cuts, at best.
I recommend that any suspect’s blood type be ascertained quickly, due to the relative rarity of the AB+ type.
The line of samples awaiting DNA testing in Cap City is always a very long one, and under ordinary circumstances, results cannot be obtained for weeks or even months. However, due to the extreme brutality of this crime and the age of the victim, samples obtained at the crime scene have been put “at the head of the line.”
Chief among these is semen found on the victim’s thighs and buttocks, but skin samples were also obtained from the branch used to sodomize the Peterson boy, and of course there are the blood samples I have already discussed. A DNA report from the semen found at the scene should be available for potential matching next week. Sgt. Stanton told me the report might be available even sooner, but I have dealt with the DNA issue many times before, and would suggest that next Friday seems more likely, even in a priority case such as this.
Although it is outside protocol, I am compelled to add a personal note here. I have dealt with evidence from many murder victims, but this is by far the worst crime I have ever been called upon to examine, and the person who did it needs to be captured ASAP.
Memo dictated at 11 AM by Dr. Edward Bogan
Howie Gold finished his private conference with Terry at 8:40 PM, a full ten minutes before the half hour he had been allotted was up. By then, Ralph and Bill Samuels had been joined by Troy Ramage and Stephanie Gould, a patrolwoman who had come on duty at eight. She had a DNA kit, still in its plastic bag. Ignoring Howie’s oy vey, big trouble comment, Ralph asked the lawyer if he and his client would okay a DNA swab.
Howie was holding the door to the interview room open with his foot so it wouldn’t re-lock. “They want to take cheek swabs, Terry. You okay with that? They’re going to get them anyway, and I need to make a couple of quick phone calls.”
“All right,” Terry said. Dark circles had begun to form under his eyes, but he sounded calm. “Let’s do everything we have to do so I can get out of here before midnight.”
The man sounded absolutely sure that was going to happen. Ralph and Samuels exchanged a glance. Samuels raised his eyebrows, which made him look more like Alfalfa than ever.
“Call my wife,” Terry said. “Tell her I’m okay.”
Howie grinned. “Number one on my list.”
“Go up to the end of the hall,” Ralph said. “You’ll get five bars.”
“I know,” Howie said. “I’ve been here before. It’s kind of like reincarnation.” And, to Terry: “Say nothing until I get back.”
Officer Ramage took the swabs, one from each inner cheek, and held them up to the camera before putting each into its little vial. Officer Gould placed the vials back in the bag and held it up to the camera as she sealed it with a red evidence sticker. She then signed the chain-of-custody sheet. The two officers would take the samples down to the closet-sized room that served as the Flint City PD’s evidence locker. There it would once more be shown to an overhead camera before being filed. Two more officers, probably State Police, would convey it to Cap City the following day. Chain of evidence therefore remains intact, as Dr. Bogan would have said. Which might sound a bit prissy, but was no joke. Ralph intended that there should be absolutely no weak links in that chain. No slip-ups. No way to break free. Not in this case.
DA Samuels started to return to the interview room while Howie was making his calls by the door to the main office, but Ralph held him back, wanting to listen. Howie conversed briefly with Terry’s wife—Ralph heard him say It’s going to be okay, Marcy—and then made a second, even briefer call, telling someone where Terry’s daughters were and reminding the someone that there would be press clogging up Barnum Court, and to proceed accordingly. Then he came back to the interview room. “Okay, let’s see if we can’t sort this mess out.”
Ralph and Samuels sat down across the table from Terry. The chair between them remained vacant. Howie elected to stand beside his client, a hand on his shoulder.
Smiling, Samuels began.
“You like little boys, don’t you, Coach?”
There was no hesitation on Terry’s part. “Very much. I also like little girls, having two of my own.”
“And I’m sure your daughters play sports, with Coach T for a dad, how could they not? But you don’t coach any girls’ teams, do you? No soccer, no softball, no lacrosse. You stick to the boys. Baseball in the summer, Pop Warner in the fall, and Y basketball in the winter, although I guess you just spectate at that one. All those Saturday afternoon trips to the Y were what you might call scouting expeditions, right? Looking for boys with speed and agility. And maybe checking out how they looked in their shorts, while you were at it.”
Ralph waited for Howie to put a stop to this, but Howie kept silent, at least for the time being. His face had become an absolute blank, nothing moving but the eyes, going from one speaker to the next. He’s probably one hell of a poker player, Ralph thought.
Terry, however, had actually begun to smile. “You got that from Willow Rainwater. Must have. She’s a piece of work, isn’t she? You should hear her bellowing on Saturday afternoons. ‘Box out, box out, pick up your feet, now GO TO THE HOLE!’ How’s she doing?”
“You tell me,” Samuels said. “After all, you saw her Tuesday night.”
Howie grabbed Terry’s shoulder and squeezed before he could say anything else. “Why don’t we stop Interrogation 101, okay? Just tell us why Terry’s here. Lay it out.”
“Tell us where you were on Tuesday,” Samuels countered. “You started, go ahead and finish.”
But Howie Gold squeezed Terry’s shoulder again, this time harder, before he could go on. “No, Bill, it’s not going to work that way. Tell us what you’ve got, or I’ll go right to the press and tell them you’ve arrested one of Flint City’s premier citizens for the murder of Frank Peterson, thrown mud all over his reputation, terrified his wife and daughters, and won’t say why.”
Samuels looked at Ralph, who shrugged. If the DA hadn’t been present, Ralph would already have been laying out the evidence, in hopes of a quick confession.
“Go on, Bill,” Howie said. “This man needs to get home and be with his family.”
Samuels smiled, but there was no humor in his eyes; it was your basic show of teeth. “He’ll see them in court, Howard. At the arraignment on Monday.”
Ralph could feel the fabric of civility fraying, and put most of the blame for that on Bill, who was genuinely enraged at the crime, and at the man who had done the crime. As anyone would be… but that didn’t pull the plow, as Ralph’s grandfather would have said.
“Hey, before we get started, I’ve got a question,” Ralph said, striving for cheeriness. “Just one. Okay, counselor? It’s nothing we won’t find out, anyway.”
Howie seemed grateful enough to turn his attention away from Samuels. “Let’s hear it.”
“What’s your blood type, Terry? Do you know?”
Terry looked at Howie, who shrugged, then back at Ralph. “I ought to. I give six times a year at the Red Cross, because it’s pretty rare.”
Terry blinked. “How did you know that?” And then, realizing what the answer must be: “But not that rare. If you want really rare, you want AB negative. One per cent of the population. The Red Cross has people with that type on speed-dial, believe me.”
“When it comes to rare, I always think of fingerprints,” Samuels remarked, as if just passing the time of day. “I suppose because they come up so often in court.”
“Where they rarely figure in the jury’s decision,” Howie said.
Samuels ignored him. “No two sets exactly alike. There are even minute variations in the prints of identical twins. You don’t happen to have an identical twin, do you, Terry?”
“You’re not saying you have mine at the scene where the Peterson boy was killed, are you?” Terry’s expression was pure incredulity. Ralph had to give it to him; he was a hell of an actor, and apparently meant to play the string out right to the end.
“We’ve got so many fingerprints I can barely count them,” Ralph said. “They’re all over the white van you used to abduct the Peterson boy. They’re on the boy’s bike, which we found in the back of the van. They’re on the toolbox that was in the van. They’re all over the Subaru you switched to behind Shorty’s Pub.” He paused. “And they’re on the branch that was used to sodomize the Peterson boy, an attack so vicious that the internal injuries alone might well have killed him.”
“No need for fingerprint powder or UV light on those,” Samuels said. “Those prints are in the boy’s blood.”
This was where most perps—like ninety-five per cent—would break down, lawyer or no lawyer. Not this one. Ralph saw shock and amazement on the man’s face, but no guilt.
Howie rallied. “You have prints. Fine. It wouldn’t be the first time fingerprints were planted.”
“A few, maybe,” Ralph said. “But seventy? Eighty? And in blood, on the weapon itself?”
“We also have a chain of witnesses,” Samuels said. He began ticking them off on his fingers. “You were seen accosting Peterson in the parking lot of Gerald’s Fine Groceries. You were seen putting his bicycle in the back of the van you used. He was seen getting into the van with you. You were seen exiting the woods where the murder took place, covered with blood. I could go on, but my mother always told me that I should save some for later.”
“Eyewitnesses are rarely reliable,” Howie said. “The fingerprints are iffy, but eyewitnesses…” He shook his head.
Ralph jumped in. “I’d agree, at least in most cases. Not in this one. I interviewed someone recently who said Flint City is really just a small town. I don’t know if I buy that completely, but the West Side is pretty tightly knit, and Mr. Maitland here is widely known. Terry, the woman who ID’d you at Gerald’s is a neighbor, and the girl who saw you coming out of the woods in Figgis Park knows you very well, not just because she lives a little way down from you, on Barnum Street, but because you once brought back her lost dog.”
“June Morris?” Terry was looking at Ralph with frank disbelief. “Junie?”
“There are others,” Samuels said. “Many.”
“Willow?” Terry sounded out of breath, as if he’d been punched. “Her, too?”
“Many,” Samuels repeated.
“Every one of them picked you out of six-packs,” Ralph said. “No hesitation.”
“And was the photo of my client perhaps wearing a Golden Dragons cap and a shirt with a big C on it?” Howie asked. “Was that one perhaps tapped by the finger of the questioning officer?”
“You know better,” Ralph said. “At least I hope you do.”
Terry said, “This is a nightmare.”
Samuels smiled sympathetically. “I understand that. And all you have to do to end it is to tell us why you did it.”
As if there might be a reason on God’s green earth that any sane person could understand, Ralph thought.
“It might make a difference.” Samuels was almost wheedling now. “But you should do it before the DNA comes back. We’ve got plenty, and when it matches those cheek swabs…” He shrugged.
“Tell us,” Ralph said. “I don’t know if it was temporary insanity, or something you did in a fugue state, or a sexual compulsion, or just what, but tell us.” He heard his voice rising, thought about clamping down on it, then thought what the hell. “Be a man and tell us!”
Speaking more to himself than to the men on the other side of the table, Terry said, “I don’t know how any of this can be. I wasn’t even in town on Tuesday.”
“Where were you, then?” Samuels asked. “Go ahead, lay it on us. I love a good story. Read my way through most of Agatha Christie in high school.”
Terry turned to look up at Gold, who nodded. But Ralph thought Howie looked worried now. The stuff about the blood type and the fingerprints had rocked him hard, the eyewitnesses even harder. He’d been rocked most of all, perhaps, by little Junie Morris, whose lost dog had been returned by good old reliable Coach T.
“I was in Cap City. Left at ten on Tuesday morning, got back late Wednesday night. Well, nine thirty or so, late for me.”
“I don’t suppose you had anyone with you,” Samuels said. “Just off on your own and kind of gathering your thoughts, right? Getting ready for the big game?”
“Did you take your car or the white van? By the way, where did you have that van stashed? And how did you happen to steal one with New York plates in the first place? I’ve got a theory about that, but I’d love to have you confirm or deny—”
“Do you want to hear this or not?” Terry asked. He had, incredibly, begun to smile again. “Maybe you’re afraid to hear it. And maybe you should be afraid. You’re in shit up to your waist, Mr. Samuels, and it’s getting deeper.”
“Is that so? Then why am I the one who can walk out of here and go home when this interview is over?”
“Cool it,” Ralph said quietly.
Samuels turned to him, cowlick springing back and forth. Ralph saw nothing comical about it now. “Don’t tell me to cool it, Detective. We’re sitting here with a man who raped a kid with a tree branch and then tore out his throat like… like a fucking cannibal!”
Gold looked directly up at the camera in the corner, now speaking for some future judge and jury. “Stop acting like an angry child, Mr. District Attorney, or I’ll terminate this interview right here.”
“I wasn’t alone,” Terry said, “and I don’t know anything about a white van. I went with Everett Roundhill, Billy Quade, and Debbie Grant. The entire Flint High School English Department, in other words. My Expedition was in the shop because the air conditioner died, so we took Ev’s car. He’s the department chairman, and he’s got a BMW. Plenty of room. We left from the high school at ten.”
Samuels looked temporarily too perplexed by this to ask the obvious question, so Ralph did it. “What was in Cap City that would take four English teachers there in the middle of summer vacation?”
“Harlan Coben,” Terry said.
“Who’s Harlan Coben?” Bill Samuels asked. His interest in mystery stories had apparently peaked with Agatha Christie.
Ralph knew; he wasn’t much of a fiction reader, but his wife was. “The mystery writer?”
“The mystery writer,” Terry agreed. “Look, there’s a group called the Tri-State Teachers of English, and every year they hold a three-day midsummer conference. It’s the only time everyone can get together. There are seminars and panel discussions, that sort of thing. It’s held in a different city each year. This year it was Cap City’s turn. Only English teachers are like anyone else, it’s hard to get them together even in summer, because they’ve got so many other things going on—all the paint-up, fix-up stuff that didn’t get done during the school year, family vacations, plus various summer activities. For me it’s Little League and City League. So the TSTE always tries to get a big-name speaker as a draw for the middle day, which is when most attendees show up.”
“Which in this case was last Tuesday?” Ralph asked.
“Right. This year’s conference was at the Sheraton, from July 9th—the Monday—to July 11th, the Wednesday. I haven’t been to one of those conferences in five years, but when Ev told me that Coben was going to be the keynote speaker, and the other English teachers were going, I arranged for Gavin Frick and Baibir Patel’s dad to take the practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. It killed me to do it, with the semifinal game coming up, but I knew I’d be back for the practices on Thursday and Friday, and I didn’t want to miss Coben. I’ve read all his books. He’s great on plot, and he has a sense of humor. Also, the theme of this year’s conference was teaching popular adult fiction in grades seven through twelve, and that’s been a hot-button issue for years, especially in this part of the country.”
“Save the exposition,” Samuels said. “Get to the bottom line.”
“Fine. We went. We were there for the banquet lunch, we were there for Coben’s speech, we were there for the evening panel discussion at eight PM, we spent the night. Ev and Debbie had single rooms, but I split the cost of a double with Billy Quade. That was his idea. He said he was building an addition on his house, and had to economize. They’ll vouch for me.” He looked at Ralph and lifted his hands, palms out. “I was there. That’s the bottom line.”
Silence in the room. At last Samuels said, “What time was Coben’s speech?”
“Three o’clock,” Terry said. “Three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon.”
“How convenient,” Samuels said acidly.
Howie Gold smiled widely. “Not for you.”
Three o’clock, Ralph thought. Almost the same time that Arlene Stanhope claimed to have seen Terry putting Frank Peterson’s bicycle into the back of the stolen white van, and then riding away with the boy in the passenger seat. No, not even almost. Mrs. Stanhope said she’d heard the bell in the Town Hall clock announce the hour.
“The speech was in the Sheraton’s big meeting room?” Ralph asked.
“Yes. Right across from the banquet room.”
“And you’re sure it started at three.”
“Well, that’s when the TSTE chairman started her introduction. Which droned on for at least ten minutes.”
“Uh-huh, and how long did Coben speak?”
“I think about forty-five minutes. After that he took questions. It was probably four thirty by the time he finished.”
Ralph’s thoughts were whirling around in his head like loose paper caught in a draft. He could not remember ever having been so completely blindsided. They should have checked Terry’s movements out in advance, but that was Monday morning quarterbacking. He, Samuels, and Yune Sablo of the State Police had all agreed that questions about Maitland ahead of his arrest would risk alerting a very dangerous man. And it had seemed unnecessary, given the weight of evidence. Now, however…
He glanced at Samuels, but saw no immediate help there; the man’s expression was a mixture of suspicion and perplexity.
“You’ve made a bad mistake here,” Gold said. “Surely you two gentlemen see that.”
“No mistake,” Ralph said. “We have his prints, we have eyewitnesses who know him, and pretty soon we’ll have the first DNA result. A match there will clinch it.”
“Ah, but we may also have something else pretty soon,” Gold said. “My investigator is on it as we speak, and confidence is high.”
“What?” Samuels snapped.
Gold smiled. “Why spoil the surprise before we see what Alec comes up with? If what my client told me is correct, I think it’s going to put another hole in your boat, Bill, and your boat is already leaking badly.”
The Alec in question was Alec Pelley, a retired State Police detective who now worked exclusively for lawyers defending criminal cases. He was expensive, and good at his job. Once, over drinks, Ralph had asked Pelley why he had gone over to the Dark Side. Pelley replied that he’d put away at least four men he later came to believe were innocent, and felt he had a lot to atone for. “Also,” he’d said, “retirement sucks if you don’t play golf.”
No use speculating about what Pelley was chasing this time… always supposing it wasn’t just some chimera, or a defense attorney bluff. Ralph stared at Terry, again looking for guilt and seeing only worry, anger, and bewilderment—the expression of a man who has been arrested for something he hasn’t done.
Except he had done it, all the evidence said so, and the DNA would put the final nail in his coffin. His alibi was an artfully constructed piece of misdirection, something straight out of an Agatha Christie novel (or one by Harlan Coben). Ralph would begin the job of dismantling the magic trick tomorrow morning, starting with interviews of Terry’s colleagues and moving on to a back-check of the conference, focusing on the start and end times of Coben’s appearance.
Even before beginning that work—his bread and butter—he saw one possible gap in Terry’s alibi. Arlene Stanhope had seen Frank Peterson getting into the white van with Terry at three. June Morris had seen Terry in Figgis Park, covered with blood, at around six thirty—the girl’s mother had said the weather was on the local news when June left, and that pegged it. That left a gap of three and a half hours, which was more than enough time to drive the seventy miles from Cap City to Flint City.
Suppose it hadn’t been Terry Maitland Mrs. Stanhope had seen in the parking lot of Gerald’s Fine Groceries? Suppose it had been an accomplice who looked like Terry? Or maybe just dressed like Terry, in a Golden Dragons cap and shirt? It seemed unlikely until you factored in Mrs. Stanhope’s age… and the thick glasses she’d been wearing…
“Are we done here, gentlemen?” Gold asked. “Because if you really intend to hold Mr. Maitland, I have a great deal to do. High on the list is speaking to the press. Not my favorite thing, but—”
“You lie,” Samuels said sourly.
“But it may draw them away from Terry’s house, and give his children a chance to get indoors without being hounded and photographed. Most of all, it will give that family a little bit of the peace you have so recklessly stolen from them.”
“Save it for the TV cameras,” Samuels said. He pointed to Terry, also playing for some judge and jury. “Your client tortured and murdered a child, and if his family is collateral damage, he himself is responsible.”
“You’re unbelievable,” Terry said. “You didn’t even question me before you arrested me. Not one single question.”
Ralph said, “What did you do after the speech, Terry?”
Terry shook his head, not in negation but as if to clear it. “After? I got in line with everyone else. But we were pretty far back, thanks to Debbie. She had to use the bathroom, and wanted us to wait for her so we’d all be together. She was gone for a long time. A lot of guys also broke for the johns as soon as the Q-and-A was over, but it always takes the women longer, because… well, you know, only so many stalls. I went down to the newsstand with Ev and Billy and we hung out there. By the time she met us, the line was all the way out into the lobby.”
“What line?” Samuels asked.
“Do you live under a rock, Mr. Samuels? The autograph line. Everyone had a copy of his new book, I Told You I Would. It came with the price of the conference ticket. I’ve got mine, signed and dated, and will be happy to show it to you. Assuming you haven’t already taken it out of the house with the rest of my stuff, that is. By the time we got to the autograph table, it was past five thirty.”
If so, Ralph thought, his imagined gap in Terry’s alibi had just closed to a pinhole. It was theoretically possible to drive from Cap to Flint in an hour, the turnpike speed limit was seventy and the cops wouldn’t give you a second look unless you were doing eighty-five or even ninety—but how would Terry have had time to commit the murder? Unless the look-alike accomplice had done it, and how did that work, with Terry’s fingerprints everywhere, including on the branch? Answer: it didn’t. Also, why would Terry want an accomplice who looked like him, dressed like him, or both? Answer: he wouldn’t.
“Were the other English teachers with you the whole time you were standing in line?” Samuels asked.
“The signing was also in the big room?”
“Yes. I think they call it the ballroom.”
“And once you all had your autographs, what did you do then?”
“Went out to dinner together with some English teachers from Broken Arrow we met while we were standing in line.”
“Out to dinner where?” Ralph asked.
“Place called the Firepit. It’s a steakhouse about three blocks from the hotel. Got there around six, had a couple of drinks before, had dessert after. It was a good time.” He said this almost wistfully. “There were nine of us in all, I think. We walked back to the hotel together, and sat in on the evening panel, which had to do with how to handle challenges to books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Slaughterhouse-Five. Ev and Debbie left before it was over, but Billy and I stayed to the end.”
“Which was when?” Ralph asked.
“Nine thirty or so.”
“Billy and I had a beer in the bar, then we went up to the room and went to bed.”
Listening to a speech by a noted mystery writer when the Peterson boy was snatched, Ralph thought. At dinner with at least eight other people when the Peterson boy was killed. Attending a panel discussion on banned books when Willow Rainwater claimed to have taken him in her cab from Gentlemen, Please to the train station in Dubrow. He must know we’ll go to his colleagues, that we’ll track down the teachers from Broken Arrow, that we’ll talk to the bartender in the Sheraton lounge. He must know we’ll check the hotel’s security footage, and even the autograph in his copy of the latest Harlan Coben barnburner. He must know these things, he’s not a stupid man.
The conclusion—that his story would check out—was both unavoidable and unbelievable.
Samuels leaned forward over the table, his chin jutting. “Do you expect us to believe that you were with others the entire time between three o’clock and eight o’clock on Tuesday? The entire time?”
Terry gave him a look of which only high school teachers are capable: We both know you’re an idiot, but I will not embarrass you in front of your peers by saying so. “Of course not. I used the john myself before Coben’s speech started. And I went once at the restaurant. Maybe you can convince a jury that I came back to Flint, killed poor Frankie Peterson, and returned to Cap City in the minute and a half it took me to empty my bladder. Think they’ll buy it?”
Samuels looked at Ralph. Ralph shrugged.
“I think we have no further questions now,” Samuels said. “Mr. Maitland will be escorted to the county jail and kept in custody until his arraignment on Monday.”
Terry’s shoulders slumped.
“You intend to go through with this,” Gold said. “You really do.”
Ralph expected another explosion from Samuels, but this time the district attorney surprised him. He sounded almost as weary as Maitland looked. “Come on, Howie. You know I have no choice, given the evidence. And when the DNA comes back a match, it’s going to be game over.”
He leaned forward again, once more invading Terry’s space.
“You still have a chance to avoid the needle, Terry. Not a good one, but it’s there. I urge you to take it. Drop the bullshit and confess. Do it for Fred and Arlene Peterson, who’ve lost their son in the worst way imaginable. You’ll feel better.”
Terry did not draw back, as Samuels might have expected. He leaned forward instead, and it was the district attorney who pulled away, as if afraid the man on the other side of the table had something contagious that he, Samuels, might catch. “There is nothing to confess to, sir. I didn’t kill Frankie Peterson. I would never hurt a child. You have the wrong man.”
Samuels sighed and stood up. “Okay, you had your chance. Now… God help you.”
FLINT CITY GENERAL HOSPITAL
DEPARTMENT OF PATHOLOGY AND SEROLOGY
To: Detective Ralph Anderson
SP Lt. Yunel Sablo
District Attorney William Samuels
From: Dr. F. Ackerman, Head of Pathology
Date: July 12th
Subject: Autopsy Addendum/PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
As requested, my opinion follows.
Although Frank Peterson might or might not have survived the act of sodomy noted in the autopsy report (performed July 11th, by myself, with Dr. Alvin Barkland assisting), there can be no doubt that the immediate cause of death was exsanguination (i.e., massive loss of blood).
Teeth marks were found on the remains of Peterson’s face, throat, shoulder, chest, right side, and torso. The injuries, coupled with photographs of the murder scene, suggest the following sequence: Peterson was thrown violently to the ground on his back and bitten at least six times, perhaps as many as a dozen. This was frenzied behavior. He was then turned over and sodomized. By then Peterson was almost certainly unconscious. Either during the sodomy or directly after, the perpetrator ejaculated.
I have marked this addendum personal and confidential because certain aspects of this case, if disclosed, will be sensationalized in the press not just locally but nationwide. Parts of Peterson’s body, most specifically the right earlobe, right nipple, and parts of the trachea and esophagus, are missing. The perpetrator may have taken these body parts, along with a considerable section of flesh from the nape of the neck, as trophies. That is actually the best case scenario. The alternative hypothesis is that the perpetrator ate them.
Being in charge of the case, you will do as you see fit, but it is my strong recommendation that these facts, and my subsequent conclusions, be kept not only from the press, but out of any trial, unless absolutely necessary to secure a conviction. The reaction of the parents to such information can of course be imagined, but who would want to? My apologies if I have overstepped my bounds, but in this case I felt it necessary. I am a doctor, I am the county’s medical examiner, but I am also a mother.
I beg you to catch the man who defiled and murdered this child, and soon. If you don’t, he will almost certainly do it again.
Felicity Ackerman, M.D.
Flint City General Hospital
Head of Pathology
Flint County Chief Medical Examiner
The main room of the Flint City PD was large, but the four men waiting for Terry Maitland seemed to fill it—two State Police and two correctional officers from the county jail, widebodies one and all. Even though he remained stunned by what had happened to him (what was still happening), Terry could not help being a bit amused. The county jail was only four blocks away. A great deal of beef had been assembled to take him a little more than half a mile.
“Hands out,” one of the correctional officers said.
Terry put them out and watched as a new pair of handcuffs was snapped onto his wrists. He looked for Howie, suddenly as anxious as he had been at five, when his mother let go of his hand on his first day of kindergarten. Howie was seated on the corner of a vacant desk, talking on his cell phone, but when he saw Terry’s look, he ended the call and hurried over.
“Do not touch the prisoner, sir,” said the officer who had cuffed Terry.
Gold ignored him. He put an arm around Terry’s shoulders and murmured, “It’s going to be all right.” Then—to Gold’s surprise as much as his client’s—he kissed Terry on the cheek.
Terry took that kiss with him as the four men escorted him down the front steps to where a county van waited behind a State Police cruiser with its jackpot lights pulsing. And the words. Them especially, as the cameras flashed and the TV lights came on and the questions flew at him like bullets: Have you been charged, did you do it, are you innocent, have you confessed, what can you say to Frank Peterson’s parents.
It’s going to be all right, Gold had said, and that was what Terry hung onto.
But of course it wasn’t.