Chapter Fourteen: Anne’s fate
I made sure I was outside of Anne’s house early enough the next morning so as not to attract attention so that I could catch her leaving for school. I had tried several times to call her, always receiving a message that “The number you have dialed is no longer receiving messages.” I ducked down in Craig’s truck and waited, hoping that nobody would notice me. I had no idea when school teachers left for school, but when it seemed as though she wasn’t leaving the house, I went to the door and knocked softly, hoping that Mrs. Kerns wasn’t out and about. Or was it Mrs. Kramer? Whatever.
An older gentleman answered, about the time that I was going to give up. Crew cut, sixty to sixty-five, obviously in fine shape, with just a little skin tone surrendered to gravity.
“John Danielson I presume.”
I looked a little startled. “And you must be Mister Gerald Hughes.” I stuck out my hand, and he grabbed it with a tight grip and pulled me inside.
“Call me Jerry.” He closed the door and motioned with his head for me to sit down. I did. “What the hell is going on?”
“Sir?” I gulped. Silence.
“My daughter finally told me all about you.”
He just eye-balled me, sizing me up.
“She told me about you, too.” Weak, I knew it immediately. “Is she home?”
A cloud passed in front of his eyes, but I couldn’t read him. “No.”
“You gonna turn me in for the bounty?”
That surprised him at first. Then he looked as though it made sense. “How much is it up to?”
“One hundred thousand dollars.”
A slow, low whistle. A little curl of his lip and an arch of his eyebrow. “Not bad. Last I heard it was twenty-five large.”
“Well? Are you?”
“No.” He saw disbelief on my face. “Not for your sake, for Anne’s. For whatever reason, she likes you. She never did have good taste in men.”
“I’d like to see her. When will she be home?”
A dark look passed over his face. “Cut the bull shit.”
He looked as though he was getting angry at me. I just gave him a puzzled look, with my brow furled a little bit. Then there was a tense pause. I wasn’t going to say a damn thing until he did. He looked like he was trying to peer down into my soul. I didn’t have a clue what he was thinking; I just had my stubborn up.
“She’s in jail.”
I gave a short, fake laugh, assuming that he was joking. Then I gave him a smirk. Then I got serious, when he never smiled. Come to think of it, he didn’t seem as though he was the type to joke around. “You serious?”
No response. No change in facial expression. He was serious. I was a mixture of puzzlement and concern. “Why?”
“Because of you.”
In his terse way he went on to explain that Mrs. Kramer had finally realized where she had seen me, after the forest fires had nearly killed two firefighters. Explosive and devastating though they were, the fires had not burned my campsite. Some of the items that I had left behind in my haste had been recovered. With both my fingerprints and Anne’s on some of them. And the items had been traced back to where they had been purchased, and her receipts had been recovered, showing that she had purchased them. And the Commonwealth’s Attorney was being a “hard nosed prick” as Jerry explained it, trying to put pressure on his “little Annie” in order to get her to tell everything that she knew about me. “Of course,” he said, her “worthless ex-husband” was using all this to get custody of “little Peaches” (Chloe). His shoulders sagged as he finished.
“I didn’t know… I had no idea… I’m sorry.”
“I see that.” He set his jaw and looked at me. “But what are you gonna do about it now?“
“What is she charged with?” I had a sick feeling that I already knew.
“’Aiding and abetting a felon.’ ‘Accessory-after-the-fact.’ ‘Harboring a fugitive.’ And a few others that I can’t recall off-hand.”
“Are you shitting me?” Short pause. Ok, dumb question: “Jerry” didn’t seem like he had “shitted” anybody in the past several decades.
I thought of Anne sitting in a county jail cell, and of her losing Chloe: “I’ll turn myself in…” I didn’t have a lot of conviction behind that. But I honestly think that I would have.
“How is that gonna help?”
Good question. I could see the headlines: “Felon whom ‘Annie’ ‘aided and abetted’ turns himself in.” Damn, this was one of those rare occasions where I wish I would have specialized in representing those who were accused of breaking criminal laws. I wanted desperately to know what was the right thing to do, so that I could do it.
Jerry finally convinced me to let him pull Craig’s truck into his garage so that we could “strategize.” I was exhausted, and tired of living on the lam, so I agreed. He fed me. I slept much of the rest of the day. And I drank with him beginning late that afternoon when he offered me bourbon, straight up. He wasn’t such a bad guy. OK, I may have drunk a little too much…
I woke up the next day with a splitting headache, and feeling as though I was going to puke. I was fully clothed, on top of the bedspread, even my shoes on. I obviously had not brushed my teeth. It seemed as though it was late morning. I stumbled into the bathroom, and then into the kitchen. Jerry was reading the paper and drinking coffee.
“Morning ‘Sunshine.’ Get your beauty sleep?”
I gave him a sick curl of the lip, and tried to close my eyes while standing up. I hate morning people. I hate guys who can hold their liquor. I hated Jerry right then.
“We gonna carry out your plan?” He seemed eager, almost like a little boy just before going out “trick or treating” on Halloween. Then he noticed my blank look. “You don’t remember?”
Silence. I knew I couldn’t bullshit Jerry. But I didn’t want to verbalize that fact. So I gave him a weak half-smile. Figure it out, Jerry.
“Ok, here is your ‘plan.’ I’ll wear the blonde wig and sneak you in as my lesbian lover. We’ll hide the straight razor in the German chocolate cake that we will try to bring into the prison. If the guards catch on, I’ll pull out my Derringer out of my bra, and point it at the…”
I catch on slowly, especially when I’m hung over, but I finally caught on that “morning person” Jerry actually did have a sense of humor. I smiled and gave him the “CUT” sign that every Director gives when he wants to stop the action on the set. I gave him a weak smile, and tried to swallow the bile from last night’s over-indulgence, and closed my eyes to keep out the bright light of day.
It wasn’t until after I’d had Pepto Bismol, AlkaSeltzer, several cups of coffee and even a little “hair of the dog” (in this case a nip of Irish whiskey in my coffee) that Jerry felt comfortable trying to start-up a conversation.
“You were all gung-ho to break into the jail and rescue Annie last night.” He smiled, as though that was somehow amusing. I just looked at him with a blank face. “Big talk from a guy who doesn’t even have a gun.”
“Well, I have a gun. Just can’t find it.”
“I’ve got plenty.”
Grunt. I figured, him being retired law enforcement.
“And no, you can’t borrow one to rescue her.”
“Why did you take me in? Aren’t you ‘harboring a fugitive’?
“A retired Sheriff…?”
He shrugged. “I was never one of those ‘by the book’ Sheriffs. I tried to keep the dangerous and the looneys off the street. Yeah, I played favorites with the locals. Not based on social status, but based on my knowledge of their character. When I knew kids, if they got in trouble but I knew that they were basically good kids, I cut them slack. Some Sheriffs run around trying to lock everybody up for every little infraction. I figured that Judges exercise discretion, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys did too, so why couldn’t I? I was a ‘Constitutional Officer,’ elected by the people. I figured if they didn’t like my use of discretion then they could elect somebody else. I lasted over two decades.” He smiled.
“Yeah, but harboring somebody charged with murdering a State Trooper?” My voice trailed off. It was a shock just to verbalize it.
“You said you didn’t do it. I believe you.”
“Last night. After I had administered enough ‘truth serum’ that I knew you weren’t lying.”
“’Truth serum’? What the?”
“Bourbon. You born yesterday?”
“The Sheriff of King William County said he saw me do it…”
“You trying to change my mind? Maybe yer right. Maybe I should turn you in. The house could use some major improvements.” He looked around. “Yup, new paint, new appliances, new big screen T.V…” He looked sideways at me, and saw that I wasn’t taking this too well. “Come on, son, lighten up—I’m kidding. Annie said you didn’t do it, too. She’s one of the best judges of character that I know.”
“Thought you said she had poor choice in men?”
“She does. She chooses men with flaws, like her ex. Or who are down on their luck, like you. You are the latest in a long line of stray kittens and injured wildlife that she has brought home and nursed back to health.”
“Be easier if she hadn’t taken me home.”
“That’s what I told her.”
“Well, since you’ve squashed my plan to save Anne, do you have any brilliant ideas?”
“I’m leaving now to visit her. I’ll let her know that you have been in touch and that you are safe.”
“Tell her I’m willing to turn myself in and take full blame. I’ll say that I forced her to help against her will, and threatened to kill her and her family if she called the police. I’ll do anything.”
“It might come to that. But first, let’s take this one step at a time. I’ll ask around. I’ve still got a lot of contacts. Le’ me see what I can do.”
“OK. I’d better be leaving.”
“Nonsense! You stay right here. It’s broad daylight.”
“I don’t want to get you arrested, too.”
“Neither do I. The last thing I want is having you seen leaving my driveway in broad daylight and then get caught. Stay here, at least until tonight.”
Further argument proved futile. I stayed.
Chapter 15: The Word on the Street