Chapter Sixteen: Jerry’s Decision
We ate in silence. I pushed canned green beans around in some sort of gravy, with some unknown cut of pork. The gravy couldn’t save the pork from being grossly over-cooked. It was just some dinner that Jerry cooked up after politely asking me to stay where I was until he decided what to do. Jerry’s food tasted bland—no salt diet was my guess. But it was the first food that I had that day and I wolfed it down. But Jerry finished first.
“Graff says that you talked about being a member of a militia.” His eyes tried to peer into my soul.
I was going to finish chewing before answering, bide my time to make sure that I made no mistakes. Then I caught his facial expression indicating that he took my silence for assent. I showed him my half chewed cud as I said:“That’s bull shit.”
He didn’t hesitate: “Graff says that you often went into the woods to practice your marksmanship with your friends.”
Cautiously, after washing the food down with milk, “That’s true.”
Faster now: “Graff says that you even went into the woods at deer season and pretended to be deer hunting, when you were actually practicing militia tactics.”
“What? Yes, I went deer hunting, and yes I pretended to be deer hunting while my son actually did the hunting. But I wasn’t ‘practicing militia tactics,’ I was usually just sitting there enjoying the outdoors, or reading a book with a rifle in my lap, while my son did the hunting.”
Faster: “Graff says that you came to see him recently and threatened to kill him if he didn’t keep his mouth shut about what he knows.”
“I went to ask for money. I can’t access any of my money. Besides, he owes me thousands of dollars from our law practice partnership. I only asked for what was mine.”
“So you did threaten to kill him!”
I looked at him calmly: “Absolutely not. That is a lie.”
“That’s not what he says.”
I just looked disgusted. I’d seen Joe’s junk-yard dog side many times. Hell, we would even argue over whether the other guy properly counted his strokes in our weekly heads-up golf matches years ago. We once almost came to blow over a disagreement involving a couple hundred dollars.
His temper was fast and deep. But he was also ruthless when he had an advantage. Generally, he fancied himself to be an honest man, but he had an incredible ability to rationalize in order to make it seem as though what he was doing was the right thing to do, no matter how under-handed it was.
“You going to believe somebody you’ve never met over me?”
“What’s his motive to lie?”
“To be able to steal all the money he owes me?”
“And what is the Sheriff of King William County’s motive to lie?”
He had me there. I started to reach inside my pants pocket. Jerry tensed up, suddenly alert. I pulled out a couple of folded sheets of paper that I had written on while Jerry was gone. I wordlessly handed them to him. He hurriedly read them but did not comment.
“I suppose you still have a pair of handcuffs? Cuff me and let’s go. I’d rather you have the reward than anybody else right now.”
Coincidentally he had the cuffs in his coat pocket. He took them out slowly. I just looked at him sadly. “I thought you believed me.”
“I did. Trust everybody, but cut the cards.” He snapped them on my hands behind my back. “Let’s get this over with. “
The night mountain air was cool. It seemed as though the stars never seemed so bright. Fallen leaves crunched under foot as I staggered out to his car. A beautiful full moon lit my way. A “hunters’ moon” I vaguely recalled hearing before.
It occurred to me that this might be my last night to ever see them. Damn! Why didn’t I at least ask Jerry for a couple of shots of his bourbon before we left?
I was not familiar with Virginia jails, having only gone inside (as a lawyer) three times in my entire twenty year career. I didn’t imagine that they had penthouse views of the stars at night.
We drove in silence. The few times that I caught a glimpse of Jerry’s face he at least seemed disturbed. Good, as I didn’t want the guy who was getting one hundred thousand dollars reward to enjoy doing it.
“You know they are probably going to fry you,” his first words in many minutes.
“That possibility has been weighing on me for weeks.”
“You don’t care?”
“Hell yes I care. But what other options do I have? Run until they catch me, while Anne rots in jail?”
“One part of your story has been eating at me, like a piece of gristle caught in between my teeth.”
“I don’t care any more. I don’t care. Obviously, you don’t believe me. I get it. So? You are going to get the damn reward, you want to get me to give a signed confession written in my own blood, too? You are retired, remember? It’s not your problem any more.”
He just let me rant. “Did you kill Graff’s wife?”
“What do you care? Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I’m an evil serial killer. Maybe…”
He interrupted. “I care. I want to know.”
“Then explain how ballistics matched that gun to the murder of Graff’s ex-wife.”
“I don’t know. Maybe ballistics is just trying to frame me.”
“Yeah, brilliant idea. That must be it. God, I’m glad you weren’t a criminal defense lawyer. You’d be laughed out of court, ‘Counselor.’”
“Maybe they are just floating those bogus claims to try to up the ante, to get me captured, to drum up interest.”
“I told you, I have connections. These are not bogus claims.”
“Anybody else ever fire that pistol, after you bought it used?”
Damn, he did have good connections. He knew I had purchased it used. “Sure, lots of people. My son, my nephew, Craig, any number of his kids may have, Butch, his son may have too.”
“Far as I know.”
“Ever loan it to anybody?”
“I don’t remember. I have a shitty memory. I loan anybody any of my stuff. Anybody who asks. My boat, my car, any of my guns, anything except money. I don’t lend money. We almost there?”
“Yeah. Who’d know?”
“Whether you ever loaned out that gun?”
He turned on his signal for a right hand turn. I thought we must have arrived. Instead, he pulled into parking for some business that was closed for the night and turned around. He wordlessly drove back the way we had come. I guessed that he had forgotten something.
Inside, he demanded information on how to contact my son. I gave it to him, reluctantly. My son and I weren’t getting along at that time—a long story. I had not talked to him in over a year.
I heard Jerry’s end of the conversation. I sensed a little hostility on my son’s end. He generally respects law enforcement authority, but he didn’t seem to want to say or do anything to help his father. Jerry was terse, in his Sheriff-interrogator mode. Jerry abruptly ended the conversation.
“Is it true that you haven’t spoken to him in over a year?”
“Yeah. Phone runs both ways. He could have called me, you know?”
“You have not had any communication of any kind with your son in over a year?”
“Same goes for the internet and the mail, and travel. Far as I know it even applies to telegraph and smoke signals.”
“Hey, smartass, I’m trying to help here. You don’t know how hard it was to turn around and drive away from a hundred grand.”
And then he let me go.