The WoodsHarlan Coben
Lucy wanted to Google the name "Manolo Santiago"- he was probably a reporter doing a story on that son of a bitch, Wayne Steubens, the Summer Slasher but Lonnie was waiting for her in the office. He didn't look up when she entered. She stopped over him, aiming for mild intimidation.
"You know who sent the journals," she said.
"I can't be sure. "
Lonnie took a deep breath, readying himself, she hoped, to take the plunge. "Do you know much about tracing e-mail messages?"
"No," Lucy said, moving back to her desk.
"When you receive an e-mail, you know how there's all this gobble-dygook about paths and ESMTP and Message IDs?"
"Pretend I do. "
"Basically it shows how the e-mail got to you. Where it went, where it came from, what route via what Internet mail service to get from point A to point B. Like a bunch of postmarks. "
"Of course, there are ways of sending it out anonymously. But usually, even if you do that, there are some footprints. " "Great, Lonnie, super. " He was stalling. "So can I assume you found some of these footprints in the e-mail with that journal attached?" "Yes," Lonnie said. He looked up now and managed a smile. "I'm not going to ask you why you want the name anymore. "
"Because I know you, Lucy. Like most hot chicks, you're a major pain in the ass. But you're also frighteningly ethical. If you need to be tray the trust of your class-betray your students and me and everything you believe-there must be a good reason. A life-or-death reason, I'm betting. "
Lucy said nothing.
"It is life or death, right?"
"Just tell me, Lonnie. "
"The e-mail came from a bank of computers at the Frost Library. "
"The library," she repeated. "There must be, what, fifty computers in there?" "About that. " "So we'll never figure out who sent it. " Lonnie made a yes-and-no gesture with a head tilt. "We know what time it was sent. Six forty-two p. m. the day before yesterday. "
"And that helps us how?"
"The students who use the computer. They need to sign in. They don't have to sign in to a particular computer-the staff did away with that two years ago, but in order to get a computer, you reserve it for the hour. So I went to the library and got the time sheets. I compared a list of students in your class with students who had signed up for a computer during the hour between six and seven p. m. the day before yesterday. "
"There was only one hit with a student in this class. "
Lonnie walked over to the window. He looked down at the quad. "I'll give you a hint," he said. "Lonnie, I'm not really in the mood-" "Her nose," he said, "is brown. " Lucy froze. "Sylvia Potter?" His back was still to her. "Lonnie, are you telling me that Sylvia Potter wrote that journal entry?" "Yes," he said. "That's exactly what I'm telling you. "
On the way back to the office, I called Loren Muse.
"I need another favor," I said.
"I need you to find out all you can about a phone number. Who owned the phone. Who the guy called. Everything. " "What's the number?" I gave her the number Raya Singh had told me. "Give me ten minutes. " "That's it?" "Hey, I didn't become chief investigator because I have a hot ass. " "Says who?" She laughed. "I like when you're a little fresh, Cope. " "Don't get used to it. " I hung up. My line had been inappropriate-or was it a justifiable comeback to her "hot ass" joke? It is simplistic to criticize political correctness. The extremes make it an easy target for ridicule. But I've also seen what it's like in an office workplace when that stuff is allowed to go on. It can be intimidating and dark.
It's like those seemingly overcautious kid-safety rules nowadays. Your child has to wear a bike helmet no matter what. You have to use a special mulch in playgrounds and you can't have any jungle gym where a kid could climb too high and oh yeah, your child shouldn't walk three blocks without an escort and wait, where is your mouth guard and eye protection? And it is so easy to poke fun at that stuff and then some wiseass sends out a random e-mail saying, "Hey, we all did that and survived. " But the truth is, a lot of kids didn't survive.
Kids did have a ton of freedom back then. They did not know what evil lurked in the darkness. Some of them went to sleep away camp in the days when security was lax and you let kids be kids. Some of those kids sneaked into the woods at night and were never seen again.
Lucy Gold called Sylvia Potter's room. There was no answer. Not surprising. She checked the school phone directory, but they didn't list mobile numbers. Lucy remembered seeing Sylvia using a Blackberry, so she e-mailed a brief message asking Sylvia to call her as soon as possible.
It took less than ten minutes to get a response.
"You wanted me to call, Professor Gold?"
"I did, Sylvia, thank you. Do you think you could stop by my office?" "When?" "Now, if that's possible. "
Several seconds of silence, Sylvia: "My English lit class is about to start," she said. "I'm presenting my final project today. Can I come by when I'm done?" "That would be fine," Lucy said.
"I should be there in about two hours. "
"Great, I'll be here. "
"Can you tell me what this is about, Professor Gold?"
"It can keep, Sylvia, don't worry about it. I'll see you after your class. "
It was Loren Muse. I was back in the courthouse the next morning. Flair Hickory's cross would start in a few minutes. "Hey," I said. "You look like hell. " "Wow, you are a trained detective. " "You worried about this cross?" "Of course. " "Chamique will be fine. You did a helluva job. " I nodded, tried to get my head back into the game. Muse walked next to me.
"Oh," she said, "that phone number you gave me? Bad news. "
"It's a throwaway. "
Meaning someone bought it with cash with a preset number of minutes on it and didn't leave a name. "I don't need to know who bought it," I said. "I just need to know what calls the phone made or received. "
"Tough to do," she said. "And impossible through the normal sources. Whoever it was, he bought it online from some fly-by-night posing as another fly-by-night. It'll take me a while to track it all down and apply enough pressure to get records. "
I shook my head. We entered the courtroom.
"Another thing," she said. "You heard of MVD?"
"Most Valuable Detection," I said.
"Right, biggest private-eye firm in the state. Cingle Shaker, the woman I have on the frat boys, used to work there. Rumor has it they got a no-expense-spared, seek-'n-destroy investigation going on with you. " I reached the front of the courtroom. "Super. " I handed her an old picture of Gil Perez.
She looked at it. "What?"
"Do we still have Farrell Lynch doing the computer work?"
"We do. "
"Ask him to do an age progression on this. Age him twenty years. Tell him to give him a shaved head too. "
Loren Muse was about to follow up, but something in my face stopped her. She shrugged and peeled off. I sat down. Judge Pierce came in. We all rose. And then Chamique Johnson took the stand.
Flair Hickory stood and carefully buttoned his jacket. I frowned. The last time I'd seen a powder blue suit in that shade was in a prom picture from 1978. He smiled at Chamique.
"Good morning, Miss Johnson. "
Chamique looked terrified. "Morning," she managed.
Flair introduced himself as if they'd just stumbled across each other at a cocktail party. He segued into Chamiques criminal record. He was gentle but firm. She had been arrested for prostitution, correct? She had been arrested for drugs, correct? She had been accused of rolling a John and taking eighty-four dollars, correct?
I didn't object.
This was all part of my warts and all strategy. I had raised much of this during my own examination, but Flair's cross
was effective. He didn't ask her yet to explain any of her testimony. He simply warmed up by sticking to facts and police records.
After twenty minutes, Flair began his cross in earnest. "You have smoked marijuana, have you not?"
Chamique said, "Yeah. "
"Did you smoke any the night of your alleged attack?"
"No?" Flair put his hand on his chest as though this answer shocked him to the core. "Hmm. Did you imbibe any alcohol?" "Im-what?" "Did you drink anything alcoholic? A beer or wine maybe?" "No. " "Nothing?" "Nothing. " "Hmm. How about a regular drink? Maybe a soda?" I was going to object, but again my strategy was to let her handle this as much as she could. "I had some punch," Chamique said. "Punch, I see. And it was nonalcoholic?" "That's what they said. " "Who?" "The guys. " "Which guys?" She hesitated. "Jen7-" "Jerry Flynn?" "Yeah. " "And who else?" "Huh?" "You said guys. With an s at the end. As in more than one? Jerry Flynn would constitute one guy. So who else told you that the punch you consumed-by the way, how many glasses did you have?" "I don't know. " "More than one. " I guess. "Please don't guess, Miss Johnson. Would you say more than one?" "Probably, yeah. " "More than two?" "I don't know. " "But it's possible?"
"Yeah, maybe. "
"So maybe more than two. More than three?"
"I don't think so. "
"But you can't be sure. "
"You'll need to speak up. "
"I don't think I had three. Probably two. Maybe not even that much. " "And the only person who told you that the punch was nonalcoholic was Jerry Flynn. Is that correct?"
"I think. "
"Before you said 'guys' as in more than one. But now you're saying just one person. Are you changing your testimony?"
I stood. "Objection. "
Flair waved me off. "He's right, small matter, let's move on. " He cleared his throat and put a hand on his right hip. "Did you take any drugs that night?"
"Not even a puff from, say, a marijuana cigarette?"
Chamique shook her head and then remembering that she needed to speak, she leaned into the microphone and said, "No, I did not. " "Hmm, okay. So when did you last do any sort of drugs?" I stood again. "Objection. The word drugs could be anything- aspirin, Tylenol. . . "
Flair looked amused. "You don't think everyone here knows what I'm talking about?" "I would prefer clarification. " "Ms. Johnson, I am talking about illegal drugs here. Like marijuana.
Or cocaine. Or LSD or heroin. Something like that. Do you under stand?"
"Yeah, I think so. "
"So when did you last take any illegal drug?"
"I don't remember. "
"You said that you didn't take any the night of the party. "
"That's right. "
"How about the night before the party?"
"The night before that?"
Chamique squirmed just a little bit and when she said, "No," I wasn't sure that I believed her.
"Let me see if I can help nail down the timetable. Your son is fifteen months old, is that correct?"
"Have you done any illegal drugs since he's been born?"
Her voice was very quiet. "Yeah. "
"Can you tell us what kind?"
I stood yet again. "I object. We get the point. Ms. Johnson has done drugs in the past. No one denies that. That doesn't make what Mr. Hickory's clients did any less horrible. What's the difference when?"
The judge looked at Flair. "Mr. Hickory?"
"We believe that Ms. Johnson is a habitual drug user. We believe that she was high that night and the jury should understand that when assessing the integrity of her testimony. "
"Ms. Johnson has already stated that she had not taken any drugs that night or imbibed"-I put the sarcastic emphasis this time-"any alcohol. "
"And I," Flair said, "have the right to cast doubt on her recollections. The punch was indeed spiked. I will produce Mr. Flynn, who will testify that the defendant knew that when she drank it. I also want to establish that this is a woman who did not hesitate to do drugs, even when she was mothering a young child-"
"Your Honor!" I shouted.
"Okay, enough. " The judge cracked the gavel. "Can we move along, Mr. Hickory?"
"We can, Your Honor. "
I sat back down. My objection had been stupid. It looked as if I was trying to get in the way and worse, I had given Flair the chance to offer more narrative. My strategy had been to stay silent. I had lost my discipline, and it had cost us.
"Ms. Johnson, you are accusing these boys of raping you, is that correct?"
I was on my feet. "Objection. She's not a lawyer or familiar with le gal definitions. She told you what they did to her. It is the courts job to find the correct terminology. "
Flair looked amused again. "I'm not asking her for a legal definition. I'm curious about her own vernacular. "
"Why? Are you going to give her a vocabulary test?"
"Your Honor," Flair said, "may I please question this witness?"
"Why don't you explain what you're after, Mr. Hickory?"
"Fine, I'll rephrase. Miss Johnson, when you are talking to your friends, do you tell them that you were raped?" She hesitated. "Yeah. " "Uh-huh. And tell me, Ms. Johnson, do you know anyone else who has claimed to be raped?"
Me again. "Objection. Relevance?"
"I'll allow it. "
Flair was standing near Chamique. "You can answer," he said, like he was helping her out. "Yeah. " "Who?" "Coupla the girls I work with. " "How many?" She looked up as if trying to remember. "I can think of two. " "Would these be strippers or prostitutes?" "Both. " "One of each or-"
"No, they both do both. " "I see. Did these crimes occur while they were working or while they were on their leisure time?" I was up again. "Your Honor, I mean, enough. What's the relevance?" "My distinguished colleague is right," Flair said, gesturing with a full arm swing in my direction. "When he's right, he's right. I withdraw the question. "
He smiled at me. I sat down slowly, hating every moment of it. "Ms. Johnson, do you know any rapists?" Me again. "You mean, besides your clients?" Flair just gave me a look and then turned to the jury as if to say, My, wasn't that the lowest cheap shot ever} And truth: It was. For her part, Chamique said, "I don't understand what you mean. " "No matter, my dear," Flair said, as if her answer would bore him.
"I'll get back to that later. " I hate when Flair says that. "During this purported attack, did my clients, Mr. Jenrette and Mr.
Marantz, did they wear masks?" "No. "
"Did they wear disguises of any sort?"
"Did they try to hide their faces?"
Flair Hickory shook his head as if this was the most puzzling thing he had ever heard. "And according to your testimony, you were grabbed against your will and dragged into the room. Is that correct?" "Yes. "
"The room where Mr. Jenrette and Mr. Marantz resided?"
"They didn't attack you outside, in the dark, or some place that couldn't be traced back to them. Isn't that correct?"
"Odd, don't you think?"
I was about to object again, but I let it go.
"So it is your testimony that two men raped you, that they didn't wear masks or do anything to disguise themselves, that they in fact showed you their faces, that they did this in their room with at least one witness watching you being forced to enter. Is that correct?"
I begged Chamique not to sound wishy-washy. She didn't. "That sounds right, yeah. " "And yet, for some reason"-again Flair looked like the most perplexed man imaginable-"they used aliases?"
No reply. Good.
Flair Hickory continued to shake his head as though someone had demanded he make two plus two equal five. "Your attackers used the names Cal and Jim instead of their own. That's your testimony, is it not, Miss Johnson?"
"It is. "
"Does that make any sense to you?"
"Objection," I said. "Nothing about this brutal crime makes sense to her. "
"Oh, I understand that," Flair Hickory said. "I was just hoping, being that she was there, that Ms. Johnson might have a theory on why they would let their faces be seen and attack her in their own room- and yet use aliases. " He smiled sweetly. "Do you have one, Miss Johnson?"
"A theory on why two boys named Edward and Barry would call themselves Jim and Cal?"
Flair Hickory walked back to his desk. "Before I asked you if you knew any rapists. Do you remember that?"
"Good. Do you?"
"I don't think so. "
Flair nodded and picked up a sheet of paper. "How about a man currently being incarcerated in Rahway on charges of sexual battery named, and please pay attention, Ms. Johnson - Jim Broodway?"
Chamique's eyes grew wide. "You mean James?"
"I mean, Jim or James, if you want the formal name Broodway who used to reside at 1189 Central Avenue in the city of Newark, New Jersey. Do you know him?"
"Yeah. " Her voice was soft. "I used to know him. "
"Did you know that he is now in prison?"
She shrugged. "I know a lot of guys who are now in prison. "
Tm certain you do"-for the first time, there was bite in Flairs voice-"but that wasn't my question. I asked you if you knew that Jim Broodway was in prison. "
"He's not Jim. He's James-"
"I will ask one more time, Miss Johnson, and then I will ask the court to demand an answer-" I was up. "Objection. He's badgering the witness. " "Overruled. Answer the question. "
"I heard something about it," Chamique said, and her tone was meek. Flair did the dramatic sigh. "Yes or no, Miss Johnson, did you know that Jim Broodway is currently serving time in a state penitentiary?"
"There. Was that so hard?"
Me again. "Your Honor. . . "
"No need for the dramatics, Mr. Hickory. Get on with it. "
Flair Hickory walked back to his chair. "Have you ever had sex with Jim Broodway?"
"His name is James!" Chamique said again.
"Let's call him 'Mr. Broodway' for the sake of this discussion, shall we? Have you ever had sex with Mr. Broodway?"
I couldn't just let this go. "Objection. Her sex life is irrelevant to this case. The law is clear here. "
Judge Pierce looked at Flair. "Mr. Hickory?"
"I am not trying to besmirch Miss Johnson's reputation or imply that she was a woman of loose morals," Flair said. "Opposing counsel already explained very clearly that Miss Johnson has worked as a prostitute and has engaged in a variety of sexual activities with a wide variety of men. "
When will I learn to keep my mouth shut?
"The point I am trying to raise is a different one and will not at all embarrass the defendant. She has admitted having sex with men. The fact that Mr. Broodway might be one of them is hardly stapling a scarlet letter to her chest. "
"Its prejudicial," I countered.
Flair looked at me as if I'd just dropped out of the backside of a horse. "I just explained to you why it is very much not. But the truth is, Chamique Johnson has accused two youths of a very serious crime. She has testified that a man named Jim raped her. What I am asking, plain and simple, is this: Did she ever have sex with Mr. Jim Broodway or James, if she prefers-who is currently serving time in a state penitentiary for sexual battery?"
I saw now where this was going. And it wasn't good.
"I'll allow it," the judge said.
I sat back down.
"Miss Johnson, have you ever had sexual relations with Mr. Broodway?" A tear rolled down her cheek. "Yeah. " "More than once?" "Yeah. "
It looked like Flair was going to try to be more specific, but he knew better than to pile on. He changed directions a little. "Were you ever drunk or high while having sex with Mr. Broodway?"
"Might have been. "
Yes or no?
His voice was soft but firm. There was a hint of outrage now too.
She was crying harder now.
I stood. "Quick recess, Your Honor. "
Flair dropped the hammer before the judge could reply. "Was there ever another man involved in your sexual encounters with Jim Broodway?"
The courtroom exploded.
"Your Honor!" I shouted.
"Order!" The judge used the gavel. "Order!"
The room quieted quickly. Judge Pierce looked down at me. "I know how hard this is to listen to, but I'm going to allow this question. " He turned to Chamique. "Please answer. "
The court stenographer read the question again. Chamique sat there and let the tears spill down her face. When the stenographer finished, Chamique said, "No. "
"Mr. Broodway will testify that-" "He let some friend of his watch!" Chamique cried out. "That's all. I never let him touch me! You hear me? Not ever!" The room was silent. I tried to keep my head up, tried not to close my eyes.
"So," Flair Hickory said, "you had sex with a man named Jim "
"James! His name is James!"
"-and another man was in the room and yet you don't know how you came up with the names Jim and Cal?"
"I don't know no Cal. And his name is James. "
Flair Hickory moved closer to her. His face showed concern now, as if he were reaching out to her. "Are you sure you didn't imagine this, Miss Johnson?"
His voice sounded like one of those TV help doctors.
She wiped her face. "Yeah, Mr. Hickory. I'm sure. Damned sure. "
But Flair did not back down.
"I don't necessarily say you're lying," he went on, and I bit back my objection, "but isn't there a chance that maybe you had too much punch-not your fault, of course, you thought it was nonalcoholic- and then you engaged in a consensual act and just flashed back to some other time period? Wouldn't that explain your insisting that the two men who raped you were named Jim and Cal?"
I was up on my feet to say that was two questions, but Flair again knew what he was doing. "Withdrawn," Flair Hickory said, as if this whole thing was just the saddest thing for all parties involved. "I have no further questions. "