Sunday, June 12, 2005

Chapter Five (Complete)

Detective Varajian felt like Cassandra on the walls of Troy, preaching disaster to the heedless Trojans as they rejoiced and triumphed over the Greeks' gift horse. Aside from himself, all of the officers involved in the arrest were so utterly thrilled to have gone from the discovery of a body to the arrest of a suspect in less than three hours that they would not stop celebrating and gloating long enough to consider some of the finer points of what had just happened.

And though Varajian positively ached to berate Spevik and the other officers for their headlong rush up all those flights of stairs and into a private home without convincing cause, and their even more headlong and humiliating arrest of what might quite possibly be an innocent person, he dared not criticize his fellow officers in front of their superiors — such is not well-tolerated among officers of the law, by either the superior or the subordinate. Institutional law enforcement requires at least the pretense of internal unity in order to function, and Varajian did not get where he was without learning to play the game of diplomacy; he knew how to avoid ruffling feathers while getting his work done, and how to save his criticisms for "constructive" private conversations.

In keeping with this philosophy, Varajian dipped his oar into Spevik's report to the Captain whenever he felt it possible to do so without disparaging anyone else, pointing out the little problems of the case: the lack of video coverage of the murder itself, his opinion that the Vandervere boy did not fit the MO, the fact that he had not responded specifically when read his Miranda rights; he couched his objections as Devil's Advocate "what-if"s, but said anything he could think of to burst their bubble... and was terribly disappointed that nobody took his leads, not even the Captain, whose job it was to poke holes in reports. They were too busy patting their own backs and envisioning laudatory press-conferences to care much about the details.

"But we have a confession!" Spevik exulted, acting as if Varajian were being a silly old lady to object in any way to such a stellar arrest, even hypothetically.

"Not a full confession," Varajian pointed out, "Not an official confession. And he never answered that he understood his rights."

"Why don't you have a full confession yet?" Captain Gerrie Morris asked, startled out of her complacency by this information; she was a fairly tall and imposingly thick woman with freckled russet-brown skin and a slightly masculine salt-and-pepper Afro, her deep jovial voice and cheerfully maternal demeanor belied by small suspicious eyes and a lengthy crocodile's smile.

"Varajian wanted to let the kid calm down before we talked to him, so we came in to report first," Spevik said with a tone of disapproval. He'd been all for browbeating a more direct and specific confession out of Vandervere before he thought to ask for a lawyer, but Varajian was the senior officer and his will prevailed.

"He was no use to anyone, blubbering incoherently. I didn't want a confession the judge will just throw out on a charge of duress," Varajian defended his official position.

The truth was, though, that the boy's disconsolate weeping broke his heart, and he thought it was cruel to interrogate someone crying his eyes out so piteously and dressed only in a gold-embroidered black towel; he'd given the suspect a pair of City Jail coveralls to put on, as well as a paper cup of water and a box of tissues, then left him alone in an interview room to pull himself together.

"Well, get in there and get his confession written down and signed," Captain Morris commanded, "And make sure he's given and understands his Mirandas... Varajian's right, we have to dot our I's and cross our T's on this case. I want a tight show, and I want it moving before the press starts in on us."

"What's your problem, Varajian?" Spevik hissed at him as they made their way across the busy Homicide bullpen toward the interview rooms.

"This arrest stinks, is my problem," Varajian responded, coming to a stop in the outer room behind the two-way mirror that allowed them to watch Vandervere sniffling pathetically and using most of the box of tissues to mop his streaming face, "You moved too fast, you went too far, and this is going to be a fucking disaster."

"What do you mean it’s a disaster? How is it a disaster?"

"To begin with," Varajian rounded on Spevik and vented the fury that had been building up in him all morning, "your actions were unprofessional and undisciplined: you followed those idiot uniforms following that idiot concierge up seven whole flights of stairs, letting yourself get caught up in the emotion of the chase. Instead of leading your subordinates and making a safe, measured approach to that apartment, you let a hysterical civilian take charge and you followed him. Second, you broke into that apartment on the flimsiest of pretexts, a fucking dropped tray... not a gunshot, not a scream for help, but a tray of broken china. Third, you commanded and allowed the destruction of extremely valuable property belonging to an extremely powerful person. Don't you know whose apartment you broke into?"

"No, should I?" Spevik shot back arrogantly, but with rather less arrogance than before.

"If you had a brain in your head, or if you had stayed to take statements and secure the scene instead of parading that poor kid though a mob of press photographers, you would know. While you were doing victory laps around the squad car and preening for the reporters, I was being dressed down by Valerien de Seguemont, one of the richest men in this town and very popular with the boys in City Hall. The other guy, the one in the feathered robe? That was Marque Willard-Wilkes, another of the richest men in town... in fact, his family was here for the founding of San Francisco, and he probably owns a good quarter of the city's real estate. They are each so powerful that they can, and probably will, have both of our heads on a stick by the end of the day."

"Oh?" Spevik tried to appear unimpressed, but failed.

"To return to the destruction of property: the door you ordered broken down was three hundred years old, an irreplaceable family heirloom from Paris. The vase that got broken was over two hundred years old, and cost more money than both our salaries put together. I don't think they can blame the china set on us, directly; but if they do, we can say goodbye to next year's salary, too."

"They can't do anything to us," Spevik stuttered a little with shock, "we were doing our job."

"What I know of de Seguemont, he won't do anything to us, he has always been a staunch supporter of the SFPD... though I wonder just how tireless his fundraising efforts will be after this fiasco. And you can bet your ass his insurance company is going to be after the Department for restitution if you can't show sufficient cause to have broken down that goddamned antique door."

"Shit," Spevik wondered how much of his pay might be docked if such a thing happened.

"And here's another thing you might have known if you read any part of the newspaper besides the funnies and the sports: de Seguemont's first cousin is Richard Allenwhite, and rumor has it that Allenwhite and Willard-Wilkes are pretty buddy-buddy, too. Your little commando operation this morning may well have just brought the entire Bugle down on all of our heads."

"Fuck!" Spevik swore, suitably awed. Richard Allenwhite was probably the richest man on this side of the continent, and his influence reached beyond City Hall to encompass Sacramento, the White House, and the UN; and moreover he ran an immense business empire that encompassed two national television networks, fifteen magazines, dozens of radio stations, and an impressive number of newspapers... including the best-circulated local paper, The San Francisco Bugle. He was also known to take great pleasure in crucifying enemies in his media, and was a dangerous man to cross.

"Now do you see why I call this a disaster?" Varajian was satisfied that he'd instilled a proper sense of fear into Spevik, but he knew it wasn't enough.

"It's not a disaster," Spevik decided after thinking for a minute, "I mean, Vandervere is guilty. Nobody is going to take us to task if we had to break a few doors and vases in order to bring a killer to justice. This Seguemont guy isn't going to sue us over his door when he realizes we probably saved him from being murdered the same as Marshall. Imagine what Allenwhite would do to us if we didn't catch that kid before he stabbed his cousin and his buddy."

"If that kid is guilty of anything more serious than jaywalking," Varajian threw a glance at Danny, who was finally composed and was trying to rinse the salt tears from his big faunish eyes by dripping water into them from a fold in the cup's rim, "I'll give you a crisp new ten-dollar bill."

"You're on," Spevik grinned, "Let's go get that confession."


Danny's red-rimmed eyes darted from one detective to another as they seated themselves at the old enameled steel conference table. He wasn't sure what to do, couldn't guess what the expected behavior might be in this kind of situation. And then the detectives simply looked at him expectantly, as if waiting for him to make the first move. But what to say? How to act? Danny was completely lost, and just went on looking from one to the other in hopes of getting some direction.

"When you were read your rights," Varajian asked quietly, "did you understand them?"

"Of course," Danny replied, having to clear the phlegm and tears from his throat to make himself heard, then tried on a smile, "Right to remain silent, right to an attorney. I watch a little television."

"Okay, I just wanted to make sure," Varajian wished the kid had watched a little more television, or had enough plain common sense to know he should avail himself of those rights; but he knew it wouldn't look good to his superiors if he encouraged a suspect to clam up, "You also understand that our conversation is being recorded and videotaped?"

"All right," Danny responded, trying to think if he'd done anything embarrassing in this room while he was alone. Aside from crying like a little girl and fussing prissily with the orange jumpsuit, there was nothing that would be particularly embarrassing.

"For the record, can you give us your name and address?"

"Danny Vandervere, 125-A Ford Street, San Francisco."

"I thought your name was Marcus," Spevik broke in.

"My whole name is Marcus Daniel Vandervere IV, after my grandfather; and Grandpa Marcus was still alive when I was growing up, so my family calls me Mark-Daniel," Danny explained, babbling to fill the uncomfortable silence, "But I prefer to be called Danny. I think it suits me better."

"And where were you born?" Varajian asked after another uncomfortable pause.

"Vandervere, California."

"Isn't that your last name?" Spevik was confused.

"Both. My great-great-great grandfather... is that right? Yes, three greats," Danny counted backward on his fingers, trying to sound informative rather than self-aggrandizing, "Charles Vandervere the first, he founded the town in 1885 and built a paper-mill there. The family have lived there ever since."

"And what do you do for a living?"

"Nothing, really. I get an allowance from the family Trust, and I have some rental property," Danny admitted sheepishly, embarrassed to admit his privileged idleness to these working men.

Detective Varajian wrote down all this information on his pad and the silence resumed, the two detectives looking expectantly at the suspect and the suspect looking expectantly at each of them.

Varajian found himself musing on how unexpectedly attractive Danny looked in the unflattering jumpsuit: the way his well-turned body filled out the sack-like garment as if it had been tailored for him, the way his milky skin was complemented by the impossible laundry-dulled angry orange color, the way he'd turned the collar up jauntily and zipped the front to exactly the right level to accentuate the length of his neck and the meaty sculpture of his chest, the way he'd casually rolled the sleeves and the legs to make light of the fact that the jumpsuit was far too short for him. And even with his eyes and nose red and puffy from crying, his face was just breathtaking, a fascinating combination of handsome and pretty that stunned and appealed from every angle. His beauty glowed like firelight in the ugly little room.

Spevik wasn't impressed with that beauty. He could see the kid had an admirable build on him, and wondered how he got his hair to fluff out like that, but the doe-eyes and the succulent mouth had no effect on him. He in fact found his dislike of the suspect growing as he sat there looking at him, thinking about living off a family trust and growing up in a town named after your own great-great-great-grandfather. The beauty that entranced Varajian only made Spevik distrust him: too pretty, and pretty-boys are always assholes.

Danny, on his side of the table, found himself calming down now that he was no longer alone with his self-recrimination and fear. He thought about choosing to remain silent, but he thought that silence only made people look more guilty; besides, if he had killed Marshall, even accidentally, he believed he should fess up like a gentleman and take his punishment; and though the contemplation of such punishment scared the piss out of him, he felt a certain swelling pride in his own noble ambition to pay society's price with his head held high: life as he knew it was over, but Marcus Daniel Vandervere IV would not stoop to whining, pleading, or excuse-making.

He knew he should call a lawyer, but he had no idea whom to call... the lawyer he kept on retainer dealt only in real-estate, probate, and other property matters; the only other lawyers he knew were the Vandervere Trust attorneys, none of whom practiced criminal law. His father was a lawyer, a criminal lawyer even, who had practiced as a defense attorney for a few years before becoming Prosecutor, and then later Mayor, of the city of Vandervere. But Danny would rather gouge out his own eyes than ask his father for help... so he waited until he could remember which, if any, of his boyfriends was a criminal defense attorney. In the meantime he intended to cooperate with the police.

He hated the tiny, windowless, dirty-looking room with its chipped greenish off-white enamel walls and dark veiny red-orange linoleum floor; he hated the hanging fluorescent light-fixture and the discolored acoustic ceiling and the great flat smudged mirror that obviously wasn't really a mirror; he hated the heavy and uncomfortable taupe-colored steel chairs and the dented green-linoleum-topped table; and he hated the cheap and scratchy bleach-smelling polyester-blend jumpsuit against his bare skin. But the effort of trying not to think about the possibility of spending the foreseeable future in such rooms and such clothing kept his mind fully occupied. Besides, the older of the two detectives opposite him had such a calm and gentle face that he felt himself relaxing... this might not be so bad.

It was an accident, after all. He knew enough from the occasional television courtroom drama that killing someone by accident was still a crime, and that his anger would probably make it Manslaughter One rather than Two. But he had no police record, he'd never committed a crime before; maybe he'd get probation, or community service, or something not too horrible to contemplate.

"Why'd you kill Marshall?" Spevik finally broke the silence, shooting the question so brutally that Danny and Varajian both flinched.

"I didn't mean to," Danny said quietly after swallowing a few times, "I was just so angry, I couldn't see straight. I didn't intend to kill him."

"Why were you so angry?" Detective Varajian asked quietly, soothingly, his deep voice instilling confidence and comfort.

"Well, it's embarrassing," Danny demurred, but forced himself to go on when the black-suited younger detective started fidgeting impatiently, "He did things to me... he wasn't very nice."

"So you killed him because he wasn't nice?" Spevik sneered so violently that Danny flinched again.

"I told you, I didn't mean to kill him. But he ripped my clothes and pushed me around, and after he tried to handcuff me, I guess I just lost it. I really saw red," Danny laughed a little, "I always thought that was just an expression. But my field of vision actually went red."

"Do you remember killing Marshall?" Varajian asked, hoping the boy could offer a temporary-insanity plea.

"No..." Danny started and stopped short, then shook his head a little to clear it, "I mean, I didn't black out or anything. But I didn't kill him on purpose. It was an accident."

"How the hell do you 'accidentally' stab someone?" Spevik yelled, his head lunging toward Danny, who drew back in shock.

Varajian pinched the bridge of his nose again, completely disgusted with his impetuous partner; standard procedure required that the detectives not be the first ones to mention the mode of death, they had to wait for the suspect to volunteer it. How Spevik got promoted to detective with such a shoddy grasp of methodology and so little self-control, he simply couldn't understand.

"Stab?" Danny blinked at the irate young detective after a long silence, completely flabbergasted, "I didn't stab him. Was Marshall stabbed? With a knife?"

"But you killed him, you said," Varajian interposed, hoping he could save the interrogation without offering the suspect an alternate story he could use.

"Actually," Danny said after a moment's thought, a meditative pause that Spevik interpreted as calculation and Varajian interpreted as dawning realization, "He said I killed Marshall. I believed him. But I didn't stab anybody. I wouldn't even know how."

"Okay, we seem to be getting confused here. Let's back up," Varajian resettled himself in his chair and rested his arms on the table, his hands folded together in front of him, presenting the suspect with a picture of a nonjudgmental listener, his most effective pose for getting someone to talk, "Why don't you tell us what happened, in your own words, so we can understand."

"Where do you want me to start?" Danny asked, unconsciously mimicking this pose and facing Varajian squarely and calmly.

"Start with Mr. Marshall. Where did you meet him?"

"At The Brat," Danny answered, "it's a bar off Polk Street."

"A hustler bar," Spevik put in contemptuously, getting up out of his chair and drifting toward a corner where Danny couldn't see him.

"Is it?" Danny responded dishonestly, not wanting to go into the whole story of why he had gone to a hustler bar in the first place, but also not wanting these detectives to think he was a hustler; he was irritated by the detective moving outside his range of vision, but tried to remain calm.

"You met Mr. Marshall at The Brat," Detective Varajian wrote a little note on his pad, just Met at The Brat, big enough that the suspect could see it... another bit of stage-business to gain trust and confidence from a suspect, though he wished he could get Spevik to settle down and stop spooking the kid.

"Yes, and after we talked for a while, we decided to go back to his place."

"To talk some more?" Spevik jeered. Varajian wanted to throw something heavy and sharp-cornered at him.

"When we got to his apartment, he offered me some cocaine," Danny worked hard to ignore the hovering Spevik and tried to tell the story without any flair or drama, assuming that it would sound better to police detectives without his usual embellishments, "I didn't have any, but he did two lines. He gave me a drink, a martini, but I didn't drink it because I saw something in the glass, some kind of powder."

"Okay," Varajian said, jotting down a few more key words in block letters on his pad, just to keep the story moving.

"After a while we went into the back room. It was a sort of playroom, and there was this big waterbed thing in the middle full of oil. He ripped my shirt, and then he tipped me into the playpen thing without asking me if I wanted to play in it. I didn't mind so much, about the oil I mean; the shirt I did mind about but he said he'd replace it... I just would have preferred to be asked."

"Of course," Varajian prompted, relieved that Spevik had tired of hovering and was now leaning against the wall beside the mirror, where the suspect could see him.

"We played around in the oil for a little while, it was kind of fun; he said he wanted to fuck me, but I wouldn't let him, and then he tried to handcuff me to the side. He got one side of the cuffs on me..."

"Your right or left hand?" Varajian wondered, pencil poised.

"Right hand," Danny confirmed after holding up both his hands and looking at them to be sure, "I struggled with him and I eventually got loose. I think I broke his nose in the struggle. His nose bled, anyway. I got out of the playpen and tried to find the key to the handcuffs. I couldn't find it in the room, so I went through the apartment looking. I couldn't find it anywhere, and Marshall wouldn't tell me where it was, he just kept whining about his stupid bloody nose."

"Of course."

"So I decided to just leave with the cuffs on."

"You just walked away?" Spevik asked, finally catching on to Varajian's method and speaking gently.

"Well, I yelled at him. And I hit him," Danny admitted with just a touch of shame, "I slapped him really, really hard and I threw him away from me."

"And then what?" Spevik prompted.

"And then I messed up his living room and threw his cocaine out on the floor. It was stupid and childish, but I was really angry."

"And then...?"

"And then I left," Danny folded his arms across his chest and leaned back.

"What else?" Spevik prompted again, more forcefully, his irritation making his voice even sharper than usual.

"Nothing else," Danny said with a tone of defensiveness in his voice... he didn't want to discuss Valerien and Marquesa in this place, with these people. As far as he was concerned, The Story of Marshall ended when he left Marshall's apartment, and The Story of Valerien & Marquesa started when he got on the elevator: they were not and should not be connected.

"Why did you say you killed Mr. Marshall?" Varajian asked, hoping that this would get to the bottom of things.

"I thought maybe I'd hit him so hard that he'd passed out and drowned in the oil," Danny responded after another inadvisably long pause to collect his thoughts, a pause that could be interpreted by a suspicious viewer as getting his story straight.

"And you deny stabbing Mr. Marshall?" Varajian supplied the next line.

"Absolutely!" Danny was relieved that the detective seemed to understand him, and relieved beyond belief to discover that he hadn't, after all, killed a man, "I was angry, but I didn't want to kill him. And I certainly wouldn't have stabbed him if I had wanted to kill him. What a horrible thing to do."

"I don't believe you," Spevik said matter-of-factly, leaning on the table and staring into Danny's face, "You're lying."

"I am not lying!" his touchy honor was offended and he let it show, stupidly allowing generations of Vandervere arrogance to come surging up from the place Danny had buried it long ago, "How dare you? I was perfectly willing to take my punishment when I thought I'd killed Marshall; but I didn't stab him, and I'll be damned if I'll let you call me a liar to my face!"

The situation might have erupted into an altercation, Spevik looked like he was about to strangle the suspect, and the suspect looked like he was going to start breathing fire; but at that moment, the door opened and Captain Morris's head popped in, "I'm sorry to interrupt, Detective Spevik, but you have an important phone call."

"Can I get you some coffee, or something?" Detective Varajian asked Danny after Spevik stormed out of the little room.

"I'm sorry I swore like that," Danny apologized, mortified that he'd yelled at an officer of the law.

"We've heard a lot worse. I'm going to step out until Detective Spevik is free, we always like to have two officers in the interview room. Can I bring you back some coffee?"

"Yes please," Danny smiled at the detective, without intending to attract but with as much force behind it as his most carefully rehearsed seductions.

"Cream and sugar?" Varajian felt the impact of that smile in the middle of his chest.

"Black, please."

"We'll be back in a few minutes."


"What the hell is going on in there?" Morris demanded when Varajian closed the interview room door behind him, "Why is he recanting his confession?"

"Perhaps because he didn't kill Marshall?" Varajian offered.

"Or perhaps," Spevik spat with rage, lisping the word slightly to mock his partner's fussy diction, "Perhaps while you were letting Princess Rosepetal in there get her little cry out, and then interrupting my report with your stupid objections, and then laying me to filth out here about broken doors and Allenwhites, that poor kid as you so like to call him had enough time to think up a story to cover his confession."

"And perhaps," Varajian spat right back at him, "if you had brought him in for informal questioning, allowing him to get dressed and leave through a back door that wasn't covered with photographers, instead of arresting him right off the bat and letting the entire world know about it, you would have found out that he didn't kill Marshall before you got the rest of the Department involved in your stupidity."

"Fuck you, Varajian," Spevik pronounced the words with dangerous evenness.

"Okay, guys, that's enough," Captain Morris stepped between the two detectives and gently pushed them apart, "There's no point in fighting. Spevik is right, you shouldn't have given him the opportunity to collect himself and come up with a story, you should have gotten the confession on tape, using careful language to prove there was no duress. But remember that you fucked up, too, Spev. You handed him a perfect opening for his story by mentioning the murder-weapon. Your behavior throughout the interrogation was dangerously undisciplined."

"But..." Spevik tried to protest the criticism but was cut off.

"And I agree with Varajian that we should have done this more quietly; this is going to be a high-profile case, and we don't need to commit ourselves until we have some evidence. But we have him in custody, and we'd better keep him. Vandervere remains our best suspect, our only suspect. He had access, opportunity, and motive. I think you'd better book him."

"Are you sure that's wise?" came a confident and resonating voice from the hall. Turning to the open door, the two detectives and the captain were dismayed but not really surprised to see Rodney Casterman, Esq., the famous and flamboyant defense attorney, striding into the room as if he owned it. He was a tall, elegantly narrow, and dramatic-looking but not handsome middle-aged man with a leonine mane of silver-streaked auburn hair and an ostentatiously expensive pinstripe suit that somehow looked so right on him that one couldn't really call it flashy.

"I might have known you'd show up on this case, Casterman," Captain Morris greeted the defense attorney with a hearty handshake, as if they were the best of friends when in fact they loathed each other passionately. She introduced the two detectives and then indicated the large Saks Fifth Avenue shopping-bag the attorney was carrying alongside his Herm├Ęs ostrich-skin briefcase, "A little lunchtime shopping?"

"Apparently it's not enough to arrest shirtless suspects anymore; television audiences have become so jaded," Casterman opened the bag of clothing to show its contents, "So the Department has taken to hauling in naked boys wrapped scantily in bath-towels. You can search the bag for weapons, of course, but this ensemble was carefully chosen to conform to safety regulations."

"I suppose you'll want to meet with your client right away?" Morris made a welcoming gesture toward the door into the interview room.

"A meeting you will observe closely, I'm sure, your little noses pressed against the glass," Casterman reached for the doorknob, but stopped before turning it, "Ordinarily I would request a private room, but I don't wish to incommode you. As a professional courtesy, you will of course shut off the recording equipment and that cunning little intercom? Attorney-Client Privilege and all that."

"Incommode?" Spevik repeated the word when the lawyer had gone into the interview room and the intercom had been switched off, "Who the hell talks like that?"

"The most successful defense attorney money can buy talks like that," Morris griped, "'Baffle them with bullshit' is his motto. This kid's got a good chance of getting off no matter what we do. But since Casterman will make the case newsworthy, and since pretty-boy and his little towel are going to be on the front page of every paper in town tomorrow morning, we'll have to make a good fight of it. Spevik, call up Griggs and find out if we have enough evidence to book him."


"Please tell me that you weren't foolish enough to both confess and recant without representation," Casterman challenged Danny the moment he stepped into the room, without prelude or introduction, or even waiting for the door to close behind him.

"I beg your pardon?" Danny was startled out of his lonely reverie; he was really looking forward to the coffee Detective Varajian had promised, and was busy worrying about why the policemen were taking so long to come back.

"Don't you know better than to talk to cops without an attorney present?" the lawyer seated himself at the table, touched his somewhat extravagant coiffure and the perfect knot of his fat scarlet Sulka tie, "I'm sorry, I'm being terribly rude: I am Rodney J. Casterman, Esquire... at your service."

"Danny Vandervere," he reached across and shook hands, noting as he did the excellent manicure, the strength of the long expressive hands, and the slightly loud but beautiful onyx-and-moonstone checkerboard cufflink in the not-quite-oversized white cuff.

"I'm so accustomed to people knowing who I am that I have become quite lazy about introducing myself," the attorney struck an exaggerated magazine-cover pose; his face at three-quarter profile made one think of a predatory bird, his small blue eyes, prim little mouth, and slightly recessive chin were all out of scale to the quite impressive nose and noble sloping brow.

"I know who you are, Mr. Casterman," Danny leaned back and smiled, "I met you and your lovely wife Fiona at the opera. It was Don Giovanni."

"My dear boy, I never remember anything that happens at the opera. I only go to please Fiona, as pleasing Fiona is my one true vocation. But though I have to cough up for Orchestra seats all season and am forced to escort her, I am not required to pay the slightest attention; I go into a trance the moment I step out of the car, and stay there until I get home. Even a face as stunning as yours gets lost in the general fog."

"What I don't know is how you come to be here," Danny continued, trying to decide if he liked the lawyer; he was theatrical and amusing, but Danny sensed something false about him, as if the theatricality and amusement were merely a distraction from something else... until he knew what that something-else was, he would have to reserve judgment.

"Of course! I was so upset by the information that you had confessed and then recanted before I could arrive that I quite forgot my commission. The Baron de Seguemont sent me to represent you, and I must apologize to you, as I did to him, that it took me so long to get here; I was halfway to Carmel for the weekend when I received the call. And," he placed the shopping bag on the table with a magician's flair, "Mr. Willard-Wilkes sends these with his compliments and hopes they fit."

"Oh, thank God!" Danny dove into the shopping-bag the way a man dying in the desert might dive into an oasis, "this jumpsuit is driving me insane."

Without further ado, Danny got up and stripped off the uncomfortable garment before rummaging through the bag, pulling articles out and examining them closely; each item was fondled and hugged before being laid down on the table in the order that he would put them on.

"Not very shy, are you?" Casterman chuckled, casting a meaning glance from Danny's cock to the two-way mirror.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Danny paused and looked up from the task of wrestling the new t-shirt out of its plastic packaging, "I didn't think."

"I don't mind, I would probably do the same thing if I'd been wearing one of these ghastly things next to my skin," the lawyer looked Danny over as if he were a statue in a gallery; and, he thought, if I had a body like that, I'd show it off every chance I got.

"It was a little itchy, and I felt so vulnerable without underwear or shoes," Danny said after pulling on the t-shirt and boxer-briefs. They were smooth and soft and cool, comfortably form-fitting and wonderfully flattering, exactly the size and brand he usually bought. He pulled on the beige silk socks, which were thick and extraordinarily soft, then stepped into a pair of straw-colored linen flat-front pants that fit like a dream, accentuating his crotch and ass but not binding him anywhere, "These fit exactly. How did Marquesa know my sizes?"

"I believe you are not entirely unknown to the sales staff at Saks," Casterman opened his briefcase on the table and extracted a sleek leather note-pad folder and a gold Waterman pen, "I was told that a certain gentleman by the name of Andrew was extremely knowledgeable about your sartorial habits."

"Andrew is a good friend," Danny sat down and slipped on the buttery-soft caramel kidskin loafers, smiling at the memory of several encounters with the small, thin, fastidious but surprisingly filthy-minded personal shopper, then pulled on an exquisite cashmere v-neck sweater that was the exact same shade of warm chocolate brown as his eyes, "he knows what I like."

"Apparently: that outfit absolutely sings on you. I'm afraid I had to remove the belt and the watch Mr. Willard-Wilkes bought from the bag, they were quite lovely and matched the shoes exactly, but they might have been confiscated; fortunately the shoes are soft-soled and laceless. We must be prepared for the unpleasant possibility that you might have to remain in holding for some little time."

"I figured I'd be here for a while," Danny admitted, running his fingers through his hair and plucking his curls into better order with the help of his dim reflection in the false mirror, "but do you think they'll really keep me? I thought we cleared up the misunderstanding about me killing Marshall."

"Hardly 'cleared up,' my dear," Casterman extracted a slender high-tech digital recorder from his briefcase and set it in the middle of the table, "I lurked in the hallway and eavesdropped on the detectives conferring outside this room as long as I could; the older gentleman, Varajian I believe his name is, seems convinced of your innocence; but everyone else seems to be looking for a way to keep you for booking and trial. I expect the forensics team is right now being asked to produce sufficient evidence to charge you."

"But I told them the truth!" Danny objected.

"My poor benighted child, I'm sure you did; but these detectives are not automatic truth-detecting machines. At least two of them believe you are lying."

"I never lie!"

"You just did, dear boy. Everybody lies, they can't help it, they don't even know they're doing it half the time. Now, let's leave the lofty realms of Truth-with-a-capital-T to the philosophers; we shall focus our attentions on the much more attainable realm of Proof-with-a-capital-P," Casterman turned on the recorder, opened his leather note-pad folder, uncapped his gold fountain-pen, and poised himself to interrogate his new client, "I need for you to tell me exactly what you said to these detectives, and what they said to you, as best as you can remember, word-for-word if at all possible, starting from the moment they entered Baron de Seguemont's apartment."


Detective Varajian remained in the outer room as his partner and his captain went off on their various errands, watching Danny and his lawyer talking... ostensibly to monitor their activities and make sure nothing untoward happened, but really because he was completely enchanted with Danny and couldn't tear himself away.

When Danny suddenly shucked off the orange jumpsuit, Varajian thought for a brief moment that he might actually have a heart-attack, but decided that he was overreacting; it was really more like being punched in the gut. The breath was knocked out of him, he got the first spontaneous erection he'd had in a good twenty years, and the sight of Danny standing innocently but shatteringly naked with a cashmere sweater pressed luxuriantly against his smooth face burned itself permanently into Varajian's memory.

After Danny was dressed again and seated opposite his lawyer, Varajian managed to pull himself together; but he was still riveted to the spot, unable to take his eyes off of Danny's face as he talked. He didn't really think he was falling for the suspect, but many of the signs were there: he felt a sort of painful happiness in his heart, and he was entirely entranced by watching the boy... the way his hands and eyes and mouth moved as he told his story to the lawyer, the panoply of attractive expressions his exquisite face assumed, all that beauty animated and alive, hypnotic and invigorating at once.

"You're in love with him," Spevik accused, leaning in the doorway with a bundle of manila folders and a sheaf of evidence bags clutched in his arms.

"Don't be ridiculous," Varajian replied automatically; but when he looked over at Spevik, he noticed the clock on the wall above his head and was amazed to discover that more than an hour had passed; he hadn't moved an inch or once taken his eyes off the suspect in all that time.

"You've got the hots for Pretty Boy," Spevik continued, "That's why you're fighting me on this arrest. You want him to go free so you can have a shot at him."

"You're way off base, Spevik, and you should think carefully before you accuse me of impropriety," Varajian said warningly; but it started him wondering, Is my attraction clouding my judgment? He didn't think it was possible, but then he hadn't thought it was possible that he could still get a spontaneous erection at his age.

He'd never before been so attracted to a suspect, so he had no basis for comparison, no way of knowing if a powerful emotional and sexual attraction was sufficient to short-circuit his ability to read character. The doubt Spevik introduced started to nag at him, and he found himself questioning every assumption and decision he'd made since bringing Vandervere in.

He didn't have much time to think about this problem, though; the bare little room was filling up fast as the various people attached to the case arrived for a conference. Dr. Griggs turned up first with another bundle of evidence-bags and folders, followed closely by Captain Morris and District Attorney Clarice Fitzgerald.

Varajian always thought the DA looked exactly like a female DA should look, as if she'd been chosen by a casting agency rather than elected: neither pretty nor ugly, but simply okay-looking, with severely bobbed chestnut hair and a slim but not svelte figure, dressed in a no-nonsense blue suit, white blouse, and oxblood pumps. Her only jewelry was a plain stainless-steel watch and two small pearls in her earlobes, and her makeup was carefully neutral. She appeared a good deal younger than she actually was, with an fresh Irish complexion, but was for all intents and purposes a generic blank.

"So let's get everything on the table," Fitzgerald started the meeting in her clipped, unexceptional voice, "What have we got? Griggs?"

"We have an enormous amount of evidence placing Vandervere at the scene, but since he admits to being at the scene, it's not very useful... except to impress a jury."

"I will worry about what impresses a jury, you worry about giving me the evidence," Fitzgerald loathed the ME's circumlocutory manner and did not intend to suffer it, "I heard something about a video-tape?"

"Digital video recording, actually, or DVR as it's commonly known. It is particularly interesting, and may be either damning or exculpatory, depending on how it's viewed; but, if I might venture another legalistic assumption, a judge might allow the defense to suppress the video, since it is essentially pornographic."

"That'll depend on the judge. What about the murder weapon? Prints? DNA?"

"Well," Griggs settled in to lecture, leaning against a cupboard and crossing his arms and ankles, "the murder weapon was a large chef's knife with an oak handle, of high-quality German manufacture but rather old; the lacquer had worn off and the wood expanded slightly, I would assume from being washed in a dishwasher, a criminal abuse of fine cutlery. Therefore the wood handle would of course hold no prints. Sometimes one can locate a small partial print on the rivets, though partial prints tend to be dismissed, and frequently DNA evidence can become trapped in the porous wood grain, but..."

"Get to the point," Fitzgerald interrupted the lecture impatiently, "Prints or no prints?"

"If you would allow me to present the evidence in the order by which..." Griggs started to protest.

"Don't fuck with me, Griggs," Fitzgerald warned sharply, "I'm not in the mood. Just tell me, without the bullshit, are there fingerprints or DNA on the knife?"

"A clear index print on the blade and a tiny sample of skin tissue on the handle," Griggs admitted, deflating like an untied balloon; he bade a sorrowful farewell to the masterful speech he had prepared, which included a disquisition on the nature of the vegetable oil as a preservative, the general impossibility of getting prints off a wood-handled knife, the story of how he'd masterfully referenced the prints and DNA from Vandervere's clothing and effects to the evidence at the scene, and the gripping narrative of how he'd proven that it was possible, and even probable, for the index-print of a hand the precise size of Vandervere's to be left on the blade of the knife even though one doesn't ordinarily handle knives by the blade.

"Excellent, that's quite enough to bring him to trial," Fitzgerald wrote down the evidence in one-word bullet-points on her clip-board, "Thank you. That wasn't so hard, now, was it?"

Bitch, Griggs thought to himself.

"What else? Spevik? Please tell me Vandervere has a rap-sheet?"

"Officially, he's clean as a whistle," Spevik tried to reorder his evidence for brevity, hoping to impress the incisive DA, "But I talked to a cop in Vandervere's home town, and he indicated that even if the suspect had engaged in criminal activity, he wouldn't have a record. Vandervere's father is the mayor, his third-cousin is the police chief, his uncle is the president of Vandervere Paper Mills, the only large-scale employer in the county, and his family owns the newspaper. Nobody named Vandervere has a criminal record in Vandervere, California, and the cop I talked to dropped a lot of hints that the Vandervere kids run wild all over that town."

"Lack of records is tiresome, but we can make the circumstances work in our favor. Did you find anything else about him?"

"I did," Spevik preened a little at the success of his first folder-full of information, then went on to the next, "I pulled his bank records and credit history, tax rolls, all that. He has an allowance on a family trust, about eighty thousand a year paid quarterly, but he inherited seven million from an aunt two years ago; he spent it already, mostly on real-estate... two apartment buildings, a small one that he lives in and a larger one nearby.

"With the exception of some overdrafts early last year that were paid off by the Trust as advances on the allowance, he appears to live within his income; however, I noticed large payments to an insurance company, so I tracked it down and found that Vandervere has a lot more property insured than he ever bought. About four million, all tolled. They wouldn't tell me what was insured without a warrant, but the insurance company specializes in jewelry, antiques, and art, so I think it's worth following up. I talked to the suspect's cleaning-lady and she tells me his apartment is like a museum, and he paid to have her bonding insurance increased to a million dollars."

"You got all that in the last hour?" Fitzgerald was impressed. Varajian was impressed, too, finally understanding how the impossible young man had been promoted into the prestigious Homicide Detail; Captain Morris beamed at Spevik as if he were something she'd hatched from an egg.

"I also did a websearch and pulled up a lot of membership rosters, he belongs to several art and literary societies, Stanford Alumni, he's even in MENSA. There were pictures, too, mostly from these lifestyle magazines; Vandervere goes to all the big parties and fundraisers in town, and he hangs out with a lot of very rich men. Rich old men, in particular," Spevik shot that directly at Varajian, who bristled irritably.

"I was curious," he went on, pleased with having the floor for so long without being interrupted as Griggs had been, "so I got his PDA, it's one of these cell-phone mini-computers, and hacked into the address book and calendar. I think there's pretty good evidence in there that he's a hustler. High-end hustling, but still prostitution. There were some famous names in there, too, names that might not like being publicly connected to Vandervere in this light."

"How did you get his PDA?" Griggs demanded, shocked that physical evidence had been taken out of his realm.

"I worked on some of this with Dr. Griggs's assistant, Charlie Putnam," Spevik pronounced the name clearly, making sure the DA knew where credit would be due, "He was dealing with Vandervere's clothes while Dr. Griggs worked on the body and the murder-weapon.

"The jacket and pants had Marshall's blood and hair on them, as well as Vandervere's hair and seminal fluids. There were also a wallet and the PDA in the jacket, along with some keys and a lot of quarters, all with Vandervere's fingerprints on them. There was a thousand dollars in hundred-dollar bills in the bottoms of the boots, and another couple hundred in small bills in the wallet with some credit-cards and membership-cards."

"Putnam is my trainee, not my assistant," Griggs corrected, furious to find himself so thoroughly undermined by a rookie detective and the credit for obtaining the reference DNA and fingerprints assigned (however correctly) to an underling.

"You said 'hacked into,'" Fitzgerald ignored the fuming ME, "Does that mean it was password-protected?"

"Yeah," Spevik admitted with the perfect balance of rue and pride, "It was easy... I noticed his initials are also Roman numerals, and his password turned out to be 1505-4, that's what MDV-IV translates into. I know it's technically invasion of privacy, but if you don't use the information, it's a no-harm/no-foul; and if you do need it, you can subpoena the device."

"True," Fitzgerald allowed, "but I don't think we'll want to use it. We're talking about murder here, not prostitution. It is suggestive, though, and we might be able to use some of those rich old men as pressure-points. Good work, Spevik. Do you have anything to share with us, Detective Varajian?"

"No," Varajian was caught off-guard, but managed to rally smoothly, "This is Spevik's collar, I'm just the co-pilot."

"Varajian thinks Vandervere is innocent," Spevik pointed out maliciously.

"Any reason, Detective?" Fitzgerald asked.

"Call it a hunch," Varajian wanted to throttle Spevik, the little bastard had so neatly made him look a fool; he was nevertheless awed by this display of Spevik's real skills... who knew such a Machiavellian mind lurked beneath that muscle-bound, knuckle-dragging exterior? "I don't think he fits the MO. The kid just looks innocent."

"He is awfully pretty," Fitzgerald allowed, turning to the two-way mirror and studying the suspect, "I think I'm going to find myself on television with him in the near future. I'd better get my hair done."


"Well, darling boy," Casterman capped his pen and took a deep breath when Danny reached the end of his story, "You have a wonderful narrative style and an admirably retentive memory. Your impressions of Spevik and Varajian were masterful. But you are, and I say this in all kindness and consideration, a blinking idiot."

"I'm sorry," Danny apologized, ashamed of his stupid confession and feeling guilty for his misguided nobility in determining to cooperate with the police without legal representation.

"No use crying over spilt milk," Casterman shrugged, then consulted his notes, "You said that Spevik used your full name when he arrested you?"

"Yes, he did. He even pronounced it the way I would, running the first two names together and stressing the Van," it finally occurred to Danny how odd this was, that the cops knew his whole name long before he told it to them.

"Then, unless you dropped your wallet in Marshall's apartment, they must have audio or video evidence of your encounter with Marshall," the attorney pointed out, "I assume you said your name in full to him for some perfectly rational yet entirely moronic reason."

"I did, right before I hit him. I left the apartment a couple of minutes later. And I know I had my wallet, I checked it when I was waiting for the elevator. Hey, if the time I spent in that stupid playroom was recorded, they must know I didn't kill him!" Danny smiled triumphantly.

"If they knew that, my sweet, you and I would be having this conversation at a charming little bistro I know, about two blocks from here. Divine rabbit cassoulet. No, Marshall must have had that room bugged, but the killing itself can't be on the tape. Now, did you touch anything in Marshall's apartment besides his cocaine stash?"

"I touched pretty much everything," Danny admitted, "When I was looking for the handcuff key."

"Well, hopefully you didn't touch the murder-weapon. You say Marshall was stabbed? Did they say what with? Did you touch any knives or letter-openers or swords or spears or curtain-rods in his apartment?"

"I don't think so," Danny giggled slightly at the absurd image of a man being stabbed with a curtain-rod, "I looked through a drawer full of knives in the kitchen, and there was a letter-opener on the desk in the study, but I didn't pick a knife up or anything."

"Ah, well, this is just useless conjecture until we know what the cops are working with. Shall we see what our jolly chums in blue have to say for themselves?" Casterman got up from the table and crossed over to the door, which he opened and called out, "Our conference is concluded, my dear friends. Please do come in."

The DA and the two detectives came into the little interview room, crowding it to capacity, while the ME went back to his basement and Captain Morris watched from the outer room. Danny looked from one to another hopefully, and Varajian watched him closely as the lawyers talked... he seemed so innocent, but Spevik's accusation of lust-suspended judgment, along with learning of Danny's financial and social habits, made Varajian deeply uneasy in his surmises about the boy's character. Besides, he'd believed Spevik was nothing but a muscle-headed goon, and look how accurate that judgment turned out.

"Mr. Vandervere," Clarice Fitzgerald addressed Danny formally, "these detectives will take you downstairs now for booking. You will be charged with second-degree murder."

"I am authorized to post bail in any reasonable amount," Casterman cut in hastily, "so you may deliver him to the rear entrance when you're done taking fingerprints and whatnot."

"The People will be requesting remand," the DA informed him, "Initial investigations indicate a flight risk."

"Well then, Ms. Fitzgerald, I will see you at Mr. Vandervere's bail hearing... which you will no doubt wish to expedite. In the meantime, my client wishes to claim the hospitality of Protective Custody."

"What does that mean?" Danny panicked when Spevik cuffed his hands together in front of him, then took him by the elbow and led him out of the interview room, "I'm going to jail?"

"Be brave, child," Casterman called out behind him, "We'll have you out as fast as humanly possible."

Varajian wanted to stop this, but he didn't know how, and it broke his heart to see the terrified boy led off across the bullpen toward the elevators. And while he should have accompanied Spevik, he was quite literally paralyzed by the war raging between his infatuation and his doubts, so he simply stood sad and motionless in the hallway.

"But I can't go to jail," Danny pleaded with the uncaring Spevik as he was led down a broad hall to the Intake/Release Facility, "I'm innocent!"

"That's what they all say," Spevik laughed at him, then handed him over to the officers in charge of booking, "This one goes to Protective Custody, make sure you don't dent him... his owners are very picky. See ya, Pretty Boy."

Danny was very tempted to weep at this point, his rage and confusion and fear cresting dangerously behind his eyes; but he simply refused to give that odious young gorilla Spevik the satisfaction of seeing him cry again. Instead, he raised his head up as high as he could and turned to face the Intake officers with the cheerful equanimity of a young chevalier on his way to the guillotine, "Well, gentlemen, lead me to it!"

9,203 Words ~ 18 Pages


Robert Manners said...

Regular readers might notice that I changed the DA's name from Gratton to Fitzgerald... I wanted it to be more Irish-sounding, and also wanted it to have a different sound from some of the other names. There have also been some slight changes to reflect new information I've had to work around. You can look in the previous-draft sections of this chapter for the originals.

Chip Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chip Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chip Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chip Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.