Fools Rush In (The Sam McCain Mysteries Book 7)

BOOK: Fools Rush In (The Sam McCain Mysteries Book 7)
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Fools Rush In
A Sam McCain Mystery
Ed Gorman

For many of those who suffer the incurable cancer called multiple myeloma, there was one person we turned to above all for information, guidance, and wit—Chris Hollyer. MM took your life, Chris, but it will never take the patient and gentle spirit you left behind.

Contents

Prologue

Part 1

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Part 2

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Part 3

Twenty-one

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Twenty-four

Twenty-five

Twenty-six

Twenty-seven

Twenty-eight

Twenty-nine

Thirty

PROLOGUE

I
AM SITTING HERE
waiting for social caseworker Jenny Kosek to finish testifying on behalf of my client Dink Holloway, the nickname stemming from the fact that he’s about five-two and weighs just over one hundred pounds.

The May day is so warm and sky-blue that I want to get out of court and just run my red Ford ragtop up and down the old river road. It’s like sitting in school on such a day and watching the minute hand on the wall clock piss you off by moving so slowly. Surely the nuns sneak in at night with screwdrivers and trick the timing mechanism in some way.

Of course, back in my school days I wasn’t a lawyer and I wasn’t accountable for the fate of an eighteen-year-old compulsive thief named Dink. Now I can’t gaze out the window. I have to pay attention.

With this case Dink graduates from juvenile to adult court and I can tell you that the judge, who dealt with him when she worked juvie, is not happy to see him.

Jenny Kosek has clearly been seduced by Dink’s charm. She doesn’t even seem to mind that he is married and has at least one child somewhere among the local population. Quite an accomplishment for somebody of his callow years. He’s a leading man in miniature, and the miniature gives him an advantage not even Charlton Heston and Rock Hudson have

most women want to (a) mother him and (b) put him on the path of the righteous.

Now, I’m as much given to a sociological view of criminality as anybody else in my time. Yes, poverty breeds crime; yes, it’s difficult to escape the temptations of crime when your old man beats on your old lady and you have holes in your shoes; and yes! If only we combine patience with punishment, we will surely rehabilitate our criminals.

Even given my misgivings about Dink

I only took the case because his mother literally slapped my hands together and began, in between pleas, kissing them

Jenny’s review of his history had me convinced that Dink deserved all the sociological pity and patience we could bestow on him. When Jenny described Dink’s stealing the car only so he could take his dying grandmother back and forth to her medical appointments … well, as much as I’d laughed at him when he’d laid that particular myth on me—“You should be able to come up with a lot better stories than that by now, Dink! Shit, you’ve been stealing stuff since you were two!”

somehow there in the courtroom, and coming at the end of Jenny’s longish retelling of the Dink story, somehow I felt kind of moved by it. Maybe the little prick wasn’t as bad as he seemed.

And even the judge, Harriet “Hang ’em” Hillman, dabbed once or twice at her eyes.

A month earlier there’d been some trouble in court, a man exploding when his brother testified against him. The man pounded his brother into unconsciousness
before
the guards at the back or the bailiff at the front could stop him.

Now, there was a cop in blue standing next to our table. He’d been glaring at Dink the whole day. As Jenny herself got choked up, the cop glowered at Dink again. He’d probably had to deal with too many Dinks in his time.

Jenny left the witness stand and the judge started to get up so she could go to her chambers and consider all she’d heard today. But then she stopped herself, sat back down, and said, “While I would ordinarily sentence you to time in prison

at least two years

I see a mitigating circumstance in the fact that you stole the car to help your grandmother. I condemn your lawlessness, but I applaud your humanity. I’m going to sentence you to five years of probation. You are to report to your probation officer twice a month. He or she will be assigned to you sometime in the next few days. Do you realize how fortunate you are not to be going to prison?”

We were standing up now.

“Yes, Judge,” Dink said, sounding little-boy sincere as only he can. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. You’ve given me an opportunity to turn my life around completely.”

Jenny choked on her tears so loudly, the effect was that of a gunshot.

All the usual followed: standing while the judge was leaving, interested people in the pews heading for the doors, the prosecutor coming over to shake my hand and tell me as always how much he liked my red ragtop, Jenny kissing me on the cheek and coming close to kissing Dink on the mouth, and the cop looking irritated that we were all standing around because he obviously wanted to get out of here and get back to shooting people.

So, finally, when it was all over and Dink and I were out in the hall and heading for the great outdoors, me thinking that maybe the judge was wise not putting Dink in the slammer

it was just then that the cop from the courtroom came exploding through the doors and said, “There you are, you little bastard!”

He didn’t honor law or social rules. He just grabbed Dink by the hair, held him up a foot or two off the marble floor, and said, “Gimme back my billfold.”

Dink looked at me with those spaniel eyes and said, “I didn’t take his wallet, Mr. McCain. I really didn’t!”

But the cop wasn’t waiting. He jammed his right hand into the right pocket of Dink’s lightweight jacket and pulled out a billfold.

“Oh, God, Officer! I don’t have any idea how that got in there! I really don’t.”

Dink had, of course, picked the cop’s back pocket. I was wondering what old Hang ’em Harriet would have to say about giving Dink another chance now.

Don’t worry. We’ll see more of Dink later.

PART ONE
ONE

O
N THE DRIVE OVER,
I decided to leave it in the hands of the gods.

If Richie Neville’s cabin door was unlocked, I’d go inside. If not, I’d turn right around in my red Ford ragtop and head back to my office. I wouldn’t pick his lock, as I’d considered doing. State bars frown on lawyers who work night jobs as felons.

Neville lived just outside the city limits of Black River Falls, which, in this August of 1963, had reached 37,000 in population, thanks to an influx of young marrieds who looked upon us as a suburb equidistant from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

God had just flipped the switch and filled the early evening sky with stars. The stretch of river to my right was serving as a racetrack for speedboats, and on the far shore, among the moonglow birches, you could see campfires—hot dogs and s’mores and portable radios bursting with rock and roll—and in the ragged piney hills above, a freight train rattling through the prairie night.

Too good a night to risk my primary career as an attorney and my secondary career as a private investigator for the court of Judge Esme Anne Whitney.

But something ugly was going on, and it was that very same Judge Whitney, who was also risking some serious legal trouble of her own, who’d convinced me that we both had to put a stop to it now.

For ten minutes I traveled a narrow gravel lane, and then I descended into a wooded hollow that smelled of loam and skunk and apple blossoms.

I pulled the ragtop off the road and stashed it behind a copse of hardwoods.

The rest of the trip would be on foot.

“You mean her Negro boyfriend?”

“Yes, McCain, I mean her Negro boyfriend. His name is David Leeds.”

We were in her courthouse office. This was about an hour before I left for the cabin. Thunder booming. Rain slashing the mullioned windows. And Her Honor, perched on the edge of her desk, shooting rubber bands at me and hitting me every other time or so.

She had a small box of the damned things on one side of her, and on the other side she had a snifter of brandy. Someday, years from now, when I was dying from a terminal illness and nothing mattered anymore, I’d find the courage to tell her about an organization called AA.

She tamped herself another smoke from her blue packet of Gauloise cigarettes. She was a good-looking woman in her early sixties. She escaped to New York whenever possible and that showed in the cut of the designer suits she favored and the faintly snotty way she dealt with plebeians such as me.

“Do a lot of people know about it?”

“They stay in Iowa City most of the time, thank God. He’s in school there. But it’s bound to get around. That’s the first problem.”

“Well, she’s what, twenty, twenty-one? It’s sort of up to her, isn’t it?”

“Why don’t you just call me a bigot and get it over with?”

I smiled. “I was saving that for later, Judge.”

“The fact is, I’m not a bigot at all. I merely want to see Senator Williams get reelected. And since he’s a Republican, I’m sure you’re more than happy about his daughter seeing a Negro.”

She hooked another rubber band to her thumb and finger and let fly. It struck my small Irish nose and bounced off.

“I’ve never met Leeds. But I guess he’s very bright. He’s in law school, I understand.”

“He’s a Negro. A very handsome young man of twenty-one, I’m told, but a Negro nonetheless. And I say that with no prejudice whatsoever. You’ll remember that it was my party, the Republicans, that freed the slaves.”

“Oh, I already knew you weren’t a bigot. You have a Negro gardener, a Negro horse groomer, and a Negro maid.”

“I know you’re being sarcastic, McCain, but that’s just because your party didn’t free the slaves.”

There were several hundred arguments that came to mind but they’d be lost on her.

“So what we have,” I said, “is a semipopular Republican senator in a tight reelection race this coming fall who doesn’t want it known that his innocent young white daughter is dating a Negro.”

She eased off the edge of her desk and walked over to one of the long windows, where she looked out at the wind-lashed summer trees. The rain tormented the glass. She held her elbow in the palm of her right hand and smoked with her left. I saw a watery portrait of her in the dark pane.

“You know what people see on television every night on the news, McCain. All these civil rights marches. All these threats those people make. Everything was fine a few years ago. I just don’t know what happened. Anyway, most people are already stirred up by everything they see on the evening news. And if it were to be known that their beloved senator—and he is beloved no matter what you say, McCain—if they knew that the daughter of their beloved senator—a very beautiful young girl who has had every advantage a wealthy father could possibly have given her—if they knew that she threw everything away, including propriety and moral values … well, how could they ever vote for him?”

Now I got up, grabbed a bunch of her rubber bands, and walked over by the window. I began firing them at her from the side.

“So let me understand this, Judge. When you see all those impoverished people who haven’t been able to vote or find decent jobs or send their kids to decent schools or do anything about all the police brutality generation after generation—it irritates you?”

BOOK: Fools Rush In (The Sam McCain Mysteries Book 7)
3.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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