home | login | register | DMCA | contacts | help | donate |      

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


my bookshelf | genres | recommend | rating of books | rating of authors | reviews | new | | collections | | | add



CHAPTER 30

The two days after Judge Marston's attempt to destroy the files pass in a blur of work that reminds me what it is to be a working lawyer. At nine o'clock Friday morning, Judge Franklin and I agree to an unconventional compromise worthy of Solomon. Without giving reasons, she makes it clear that she prefers not to charge Leo with obstruction of justice or contempt of court. Before I can argue this point, she tells me she considered recusing herself from the case but rejected the idea because Marston played as big a part in getting the black circuit judge elected as he did Judge Franklin. We both know I can go to the judicial oversight committee to plead for relief, but I sense that Eunice Franklin intends to offer me something.

What she offers is the boxes Marston tried to destroy, one of which contains three legal files, as Livy indicated. Marston's blatant attempt to destroy them has convinced Judge Franklin that he was attempting to hide evidence of criminal activity. She feels that a case can be made to the court of appeal that Marston's act justifies giving me access to these records. Moreover, Leo himself has agreed to this arrangement rather than be charged with obstruction or contempt. This tells me that the files, while probably damaging to Marston's reputation, will not contain proof of complicity in Del Payton's murder.

This agreement accomplished, the judge and I spend a few minutes getting to know each other. Eunice Franklin is fifty-six years old, and graduated from the Ole Miss Law School a year before Del Payton was killed. I can only imagine what she must have endured during her three years at that temple of Southern male traditionalism. She is a bit defensive about her court, and my "big-time" experience in Houston seems to be the cause of this. She warns me that she will run her courtroom with at least as much discipline as I am accustomed to in "the big city," and perhaps more. She will tolerate no antics or theatrics, either from myself or from Marston's attorney.

Leo will be represented by Blake Sims, the son of Creswell Sims, his partner of forty years. Judge Franklin has already instructed Sims that, considering the early trial date his client requested and got, they should have all discovery materials in my hands by the close of the business day.

She expresses strong misgivings about my intention to represent myself at trial, but says she cannot stop me from sabotaging my case if that is my intent. She defends the trial date along the lines I predicted to Caitlin, and adds that the recent racial tensions and violence played a part in her decision. With the mayoral election only four weeks away, she wants my inflammatory statements about the Payton murder resolved and hopefully forgotten by the time the voters walk into the polling booths on November 3.

Leaving her chambers, I feel a little better about the situation than I did walking in. Judge Franklin owes Marston some favors, but Leo's attempt to destroy evidence has made her angry. Under the blaze of scrutiny this trial will draw, Eunice may stiffen her backbone and run a relatively impartial court.

The media frenzy is already underway. Tying men like John Portman and Leo Marston to a dead black man is like waving a red cape in front of a herd of bulls. Twenty-four hours after my accusations hit the paper, Mississippi resumed its role as whipping boy for the nation on race. Celebrated authors and academics weighed in with windy and self-righteous op-ed pieces in every major paper from New York to Los Angeles. At the close of last night's newscast, a somber-faced Dan Rather recalled his days covering civil rights in Mississippi. Black media stars roundly condemned the state, speaking as though the lynchings of the distant past were still daily occurrences.

Contrary opinions were few, and the battle was becoming embarrassingly one-sided until this morning, when into the fray charged my old friend Sam Jacobs, the self-styled Mississippi Jew, who in a half-humorous letter to the New York Times pointed out that while Mississippi might seem behind the times to outsiders, it actually had its collective finger on the pulse of America. The Magnolia State, Sam opined, had given the world William Faulkner, Elvis Presley, and Tennessee Williams. And while that holy trinity of American culture ought to be enough for anybody, for skeptics there were also Robert Johnson, Richard Wright, Jimmy Rodgers, and Muddy Waters; Leontyne Price, Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette, and John Grisham; Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, four Miss Americas, and Oprah Winfrey. And while boneheaded nuisances like the Ku Klux Klan had committed atrocities to shame the South Africans, and slavery had come near to breaking an entire people, you couldn't by God refine gold without a fire. The state of Israel was created from the ashes of the Holocaust, and Mississippi was on its way to redemption. Why, the legacy of blues music alone, declared Sam, which was jazz and rock 'n' roll, had done more to end the Cold War than all the thin-blooded diplomats ever minted at Harvard and Yale.

How the Times selected Sam's letter I'll never know, but it prompted my editor to telephone and read it aloud to me over breakfast, claiming that the list of artists only bolstered his theory that great suffering produces great art, and since I'd had my share of the former, I should now move north to more civilized environs. I declared myself a loyal Southerner to the last and headed out for Judge Franklin's office. I forgot the article during our conference, but after I loaded Marston's charred file boxes into my trunk, I heard a Jackson disc jockey reading Sam's letter on the air as I drove to the Natchez Examiner building. Sam Jacobs will be a household name throughout the South by nightfall.

Caitlin has offered me her glass-walled conference room as a work space, plus staff volunteers to help me wade through the files. After I lug Marston's boxes into the conference room, she gathers her reporters, photographers, and interns for a brief orientation. The Examiner is used as a training ground for the Masters media group; thus the staff hails from all points of the compass. Not one among them is over thirty, and all are rabid liberals. I view this as a positive, for when the Marston camp discovers I'm using these kids against them, they'll almost certainly try to bribe a few for inside information. Youth and left-wing politics may give my team an immunity to filthy lucre that I couldn't hope to find elsewhere.

Caitlin's speech is modeled on those given by army officers requesting volunteers for particularly dirty missions. She succinctly summarizes my reasons for provoking the slander suit, then in broad strokes describes what we'll be looking for in the mountain of paper that will arrive later in the day.

"This is an unusual situation," she concludes. "Some of you may think I'm stepping over an ethical line by involving the paper in a legal proceeding that we'll be reporting on. That's true enough. But I stepped over a harder line when I printed Mr. Cage's charges. We'll be reporting this story the way papers reported stories in the good old bad old days. We're throwing the full weight of our media group behind a cause."

A buzz of approval runs through her audience.

"We are seeking the truth about a terrible crime, and I'll publish the truth as I find it, whether it conforms to my preconceptions or not. I think that lives up to the truest spirit of objectivity."

A burst of applause follows this. Two of the male reporters, whose goatees make them look like anarchists in a Sergei Eisenstein film, pump their fists in the air.

Caitlin brushes an errant strand of hair from her eyes and goes on. "Anyone who feels uncomfortable about this, see me in my office. You'll be excused with no questions asked and no negative consequences."

A blond guy in the back says, "And go back to covering board of supervisors meetings?"

"At least there's comedy at the supervisor meetings," squawks a dark-haired girl with a Brooklyn accent. "Try covering the flower shows."

Caitlin holds up her hands. "Before we disperse, I want Mr. Cage to say a few words."

Facing the ring of expectant young faces, I feel as I did addressing new assistant district attorneys in Houston, smart kids who concealed their idealism behind shells of aggressive cynicism. "First of all, everyone here calls me Penn. No exceptions. Second, when I made those charges against Leo Marston, I had no intention of setting foot in a courtroom. But Marston is a powerful man, and there is going to be a trial. That trial is five days from now. I have five days to prove Leo Marston guilty of murder."

Skeptical sighs blow through the conference room.

"The good news is, he's guilty. The bad news is, the people who know that won't testify. Your job is to wade through documentary evidence. You're looking for several things. First, illegal activity. You're not lawyers, but if it looks or smells dirty to you, it probably is. Second, any correspondence mentioning Ray Presley or the Triton Battery Company. Third, any reference to or correspondence with the federal government, particularly with FBI Director John Portman or former director J. Edgar Hoover."

"Whoa," says one of the anarchists. "This is like X-Files, man."

A ripple of laughter sweeps through the group.

"This case may be more like the X-Files than any of us wants to believe," I tell him. "Just remember that none of you are Fox Mulder or Agent Scully, okay? People are dying in this town, and they're dying because of this case. I don't want anybody in this room trying to win a Pulitzer by going after Ray Presley. He's killed before, and he probably set the fire that killed Ruby Flowers. He wouldn't hesitate to kill any of you if he felt you were a threat to him. Is that clear?"

Grim nods around the room.

"Are there any questions?"

One of the goateed reporters raises his hand. "This murder happened thirty years ago. It's gone unsolved all that time. Do we have a hope in hell of solving it in a week?"

"You're assuming that someone has been trying to solve it. This is a small town. In small towns there are sometimes truths that everyone knows but no one mentions. Open secrets, if you will. No one really wants to probe the details, because it forces us to face too many uncomfortable realities. We'd rather turn away than acknowledge the primitive forces working beneath the surface of society."

"Amen," someone murmurs.

"In the case of Del Payton, no one knew exactly who planted the bomb that killed him, but everyone believed they understood what had happened. An uppity nigger got out of line, so somebody stepped in and reminded the rest of them where the line was. Unpleasant but inevitable." My easy use of the "N-word" obviously shocks some members of the audience. "I believe this crime was misunderstood from the beginning. Del Payton's death may have had nothing to do with civil rights. Or only peripherally to do with it. His death may be old-fashioned murder masquerading as a race crime. And understanding that could be the key to solving this case."

Caitlin steps up beside me. "Any other questions? We've got work to do."

No more hands go up.

She sends everyone back to work with a two-handed "scoot" gesture. After they've gone, she sits at the head of the conference table, a skeptical look on her face.

"Penn, do we have any hope of tying Marston to Ray Presley or the crime scene in time for the trial?"

"That depends on what we find in the discovery material."

"Do you really believe Marston would send you anything incriminating?"

"I've found some pretty big surprises during discovery in my career. People make blunders." I motion toward the boxes the police saved from the fireplace at Tuscany last night. "And then there's that stuff. Maybe we'll get lucky."

Caitlin nods, but she doesn't look hopeful. "Do you realize that almost every witness who knows anything you need to tell the jury would have to embarrass themselves terribly by testifying? Frank Jones Betty Lou Jackson. Not only that, they'll be putting themselves in the killers' sights. Your ATF pal will testify, and maybe Lester Hinson, if you pay him enough. But the rest? No way."

"That's what subpoenas are for."

"You're not that naive. Portman, Marston, and Presley know about all these people, or soon will. And they'll try everything from bribes to murder to keep them quiet."

"That's why we have to crack Marston's nerve between now and next Wednesday."

"And if you can't?"

"Then we pray our long shots come through."

"And those are?"

"Peter Lutjens, for one. He's going for the Payton file in two days."

"I've been thinking about that. What exactly is he going to try to do? The file is forty-four volumes long. He can't walk out with it under his coat. He can't even photocopy it unless he has all night."

"He won't have to. Remember what Stone told us in Colorado? The file is forty-three volumes of nothing and his final report. That's all we need. Stone's final report."

"Lutjens knows that?"

"I talked to him this morning."

"What's the other long shot?"

"Stone himself."

She shakes her head. "Never happen. He's too scared. They've got something on that guy. Stone's not going to talk."

"I disagree. Whatever dirt Portman has on Stone is a two-edged sword. And Stone's conscience is working on him. It's been working on him for thirty years. Guilt is a powerful thing, Caitlin. Stone needs to unburden himself, and I think he'll come through for us. Or for himself, rather."

"What about Ike Ransom? What's his story?"

"I think Ike's got a personal grudge against Marston that has nothing to do with Payton. He knew I'd go after Marston if I had any kind of weapon, so he gave me the Payton case."

"But has he given you any real information? Any idea of Marston's motive for the crime?"

"Not really."

She drums her fingers on the table. "Motive, means, and opportunity, right? The means and opportunity are Ray Presley, but we're stuck on motive. Marston actually made public statements supporting civil rights in the sixties. I found them in the morgue here."

"I think it's money. Somehow Payton's death increased Marston's fortune or power."

"I can't see that. Financially, Payton was a nonentity."

"Maybe he was an obstacle to something. Some deal."

"What about sex?" suggests Caitlin. "Sexual jealousy. That's a common motive for murder."

The photo shrine in Althea Payton's house flits through my mind, followed by images of Del Payton huddled over his dinner table with Medgar Evers, talking about changing the white man's heart. "That's not it. Payton was a family man all the way."

"That's what they all say until they're caught with their wee-wees in the wrong cookie jar."

"It's not sex, Caitlin. It's money or power. That's what Marston lives for."

She sighs and gets up, then drops her left hand on the charred box of files. "I hope there's something in here."

"You've got to remember one thing. I'm treating this like a murder case, but it's not. It's a civil case."

"So?"

"So the standard of proof is lower. I don't have to prove Marston's guilt to twelve people beyond a reasonable doubt. I have to convince nine jurors that it was more likely than not that Marston was involved in the Payton murder. That means a fifty-one percent certainty. And the jury won't have to agonize over their decision the way a criminal jury would. Because their verdict won't send Marston to jail or to a gurney for lethal injection. Another jury will get that job."

Caitlin moves toward the door. "I think you're going to have a hell of a job convincing those nine people unless you figure out why Marston would want Payton dead. And prove it."

When she opens the door, the goateed anarchists pop through it with their sleeves rolled up and smirks on their faces.

"Mulder and Scully reporting for duty," says one.

Caitlin shakes her head and walks out, leaving me to deal with my new assistants.

In the forty hours between the end of my lecture on Friday and dawn on Sunday, we built a circumstantial case against Leo Marston. The only sleep I got was brief naps on the couch in Caitlin's office, taken while reporters, photographers, and interns worked in shifts over the boxes of Marston papers that arrived in desultory waves from storage rooms unknown. Only my anarchists- who did have actual names, Peter and Ed, prosaically enough-kept pace with me during this marathon. They seemed to see it as a holy mission, one in which iconoclasts could cheerfully take part.

Daniel Kelly moved through the building like the ghost at the feast, making wry observations, delivering coffee, and disappearing for brief reconnaissance patrols, which he called "checking the perimeter." Whenever Caitlin left the building to cover a story, Kelly went with her. The police scanner in her office enabled her to reach the scene of several racial altercations before the cops did. Most of these involved two or three individuals, and broke out in stores or restaurants, where inflammatory language was easily overheard. On two occasions these fights escalated into brawls, and Kelly proved his value both times by protecting Caitlin with his rather alarming skills.

Saturday morning, Ed the anarchist decided we needed fresh inspiration, so he sat down with a computer and inkjet printer and went to work. An hour later, he walked into the conference room wearing a T-shirt with nail boss hog emblazoned across the chest in red. I found it hard to believe that Ed had ever watched an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, but he assured me he'd followed it religiously as a child growing up in Michigan, and that most of his ideas about the South had been formed by this grotesque television show. By that afternoon, half the Examiner staff was wearing nail boss hog shirts, and their galvanizing effect was undeniable. Even Caitlin popped into the conference room wearing one.

But the work itself was tedious and exhausting. The master map that guided us on our paper journey into Marston's past was his 1997 tax return. It listed most of his business holdings (the number of Schedule C's and E's was astounding), and I immediately began drafting a supplemental request for production, using these as a guide. His form 1040 showed an adjusted gross income of over two million dollars for 1997, and the sheer variety of his holdings was staggering. Real estate, manufacturing, banking, timber. And despite the moribund oil business, he had recently struck a significant gas field in south Texas. What fascinated me was the variety of small enterprises in which he participated. Several fast-food franchises around town. A steam laundry. A Christmas tree farm. Hunting camps. Apartment buildings in the black sections of town. We even found a scrawled note listing income he had realized from arranging private adoptions over a period of twenty-five years.

In short, Leo Marston appeared to administer an empire of great and small dominions, all entirely aboveboard. On closer examination, however, a dark underside began to show itself. One of the boxes Leo had planned to burn contained records of a collection agency wholly owned by him. Listed as an officer of that company was one Raymond Aucoin Presley. This was the first tangible proof of a connection between Marston and Presley. We found copies of letters sent to hundreds of local citizens, demanding payment of debts on everything from materials bought through Marston companies to personal loans made by the judge. It wasn't hard to guess what function Presley served when these letters failed to bring payment of the outstanding balances. Most important, he was operating in this capacity during 1968, while serving as a Natchez police officer and in the month Del Payton was murdered. Closer inspection of Marston's other companies revealed that Presley was listed as a paid "security consultant" to several of them.

Another of the "burn boxes" contained records of land transfers made to Marston or his business partners. I noted the disturbing frequency with which the parcels of land had been sold by recent widows whose estates Marston's firm had handled. Many other sellers could be cross-indexed to debtors listed in the "collection-agency" box. It was a letter from this box that gave me my first glimmer of a possible motive for Payton's murder.

The letter pertained to a large parcel of land south of town, near the present industrial park. It was written in an oblique style, but from it I inferred that Marston had used a secret intermediary to buy this parcel of land. Thus, while Marston was not legally the owner, he controlled the parcel's future use and would receive all monies from such use, without anyone but the intermediary knowing about it. A related letter-this one from one Zebulon Hickson, the owner of several carpet factories in Georgia and Alabama- expressed interest in purchasing this land for use as a site for a new factory. Hickson also expressed concern about labor conditions in Adams County. He was aware that Natchez had long been a "union" town, but what concerned him more was the "wave of racial unrest" sweeping through Southern factories. This was clearly a euphemism for "nigger trouble." What made all this interesting was that the letters had changed hands in January 1968, a few months before Del Payton died. The situation was oddly similar to the present one, in which Leo Marston owns the land BASF needs to have adequate space for its projected facility.

On Saturday night, things began to turn our way. I had requested Marston's telephone records, but with the trial only a week away, I had little hope of getting them. Technically, phone records can be had at the touch of a computer key, but the phone company is a hidebound bureaucracy, and in actuality it can take weeks to get them. I'd put in a call to a Bell South executive in Jackson, who promised to try to expedite the process, and apparently he did. A local Bell South technician arrived Saturday night with a manila envelope containing Marston's phone records, logging all calls beginning the day before Caitlin's "libelous" article ran.

I hurried to Caitlin's office, and we pored over the printouts together. On the day the article ran, there was a call from Marston's law office to a number in Washington, D.C., at 1:45 p.m. Caitlin quickly confirmed this number as the main switchboard at the Hoover Building, headquarters of the FBI. The call lasted eighteen minutes. One hour later Marston's office had received a call from D.C., this one from a different number, which turned out to be John Portman's office in the Hoover Building. In all, six calls passed between Mars-ton's office and the Hoover Building that day, and several more had since. We could now prove that a link existed between Leo Marston and the director of the FBI, who had worked the Del Payton murder as a field agent in 1968, when Marston was district attorney. And while we could not know what was said during those calls, their timing indicated that they were almost certainly related to the Payton case.

Caitlin's father faxed us a steady stream of information on both Marston and Portman. Marston's Mississippi history was familiar to me, but his national political activities weren't. He is not only a powerful force in the Mississippi Republican Party, but he also has major influence in the national GOP. Like many Mississippians, Marston was a nominal Democrat for most of his life, voting Democratic in local elections and Republican in presidential races. But in the Reagan era he jumped ship and voted GOP straight down the line. A close friend and adviser of Senators John Stennis and "Big" Jim Eastland-Mississippi Democrats whose seniority gave them unparalleled power on Capitol Hill for decades-Marston became a major supporter of Senator Trent Lott, who eventually rose to the position of Senate majority leader.

John Portman's thumbnail biography fascinated me. Born to old money in Connecticut while his father "patrolled the coast" of Rhode Island for German U-boats in his yacht, Portman was raised in a cloistered world of governesses and squash courts. He attended Choate, then Yale, where he was tapped for Skull-and-Bones and graduated second in his class at Yale Law. He was the right age for Vietnam but did not serve (perhaps owing to a dearth of yacht units). And while the FBI seemed an odd choice for a blue-blooded lawyer, during the Reagan era these "street" credentials fueled Portman's meteoric rise into the upper ranks of the Justice Department. His stellar legal career as a U.S. attorney and federal judge was crowned by the poetic symmetry of returning to the fields where he'd begun, no longer a foot soldier but a general, and the media ate this up. The Hanratty affair provided the only bump in the road to his confirmation as FBI director, and since nothing could be proved, that came to naught. Portman sailed through the hearings without further trouble, and he has ruled the Bureau without a public misstep ever since.

In short, John Portman appeared to be a Teflon-coated bureaucrat with no visible weaknesses. His evasion of Vietnam service might be fertile ground for tabloids, but that wouldn't help my case any, and there was probably nothing to it anyway, or it would have exploded during his confirmation hearings. The more I learned about him, the more I became certain that the only way I would uncover his secrets would be if Dwight Stone decided to break his silence, or if Peter Lutjens succeeded in stealing Stone's final report from the Payton file in the FBI archive.

As I waded through the mountains of paper, eyes blurring, pulse skipping from caffeine, the tragedies of the past few days began to weigh heavily upon me. I'd involved myself in the Del Payton case for essentially selfish reasons, and because of my actions my parents' house had been destroyed, my daughter terrorized, and Ruby Flowers murdered. The sad irony was that I had returned to Natchez to help heal my daughter, yet she had not received my full attention for many days, and had not even seen me for the past two. Yet something drove me on. Despite the selfishness that had initiated my quest, I sensed a new, yet familiar energy stirring inside me. As I pored over the yellowed documents and musty ledgers, doing the sort of work I had done as a young lawyer, the sterile hollowness and free-floating anxiety I had felt in the months after Sarah's death began to fall away. I felt alive again. And I knew this: Annie would fare far better with a father who was fully engaged with the world than with one grasping at meaning while clinging to the past.

I was not laboring in a vacuum. I was surrounded by idealistic kids who had no doubt they were on the right side of a noble quest for justice. During the forty-hour marathon, rumors and snippets of information filtered into the Examiner building that opinions in Natchez were not as clear-cut or one-sided as I had imagined. Many whites interviewed about the Payton case stated on the record that if Del Payton's killer could be found, he should pay the maximum price, no matter who he might be or how much time had passed. They regretted that the battle between myself and Marston had generated such bad publicity for the town, but justice, they said, had to be served. A consensus was building that the rest of the nation had to be shown that Mississippi was not afraid to confront its old demons, if and when they could be dragged into the light.

The rumored riot of a few nights ago never materialized. On Saturday afternoon local black leaders staged a silent march to commemorate Ruby's death, and the hushed procession walked without incident from the bandstand on the bluff to the crossroads of St. Catherine Street and Liberty Road, where slaves had been auctioned before the Civil War. The symbolism of this destination was not lost on whites, but black restraint in the face of Ruby's murder was seen as a signal of black faith in Natchez's justice system.

The real whirlwind was taking place outside Mississippi. We stood in the eye of a media storm, quietly going about the business of justice while national figures raged and pontificated about our backwardness. I soon began to see this as a metaphor for the Payton case itself. Yes, Ray Presley was probably the man who planted the bomb that killed Del Payton. And perhaps Leo Marston had ordered him to do it. But it was clear to me that they had not acted alone. J. Edgar Hoover had not sealed the Payton file because it could potentially embarrass the state of Mississippi. And John Portman was not threatening me or punishing Peter Lutjens because of the local implications of this case. Nor was the fearsomely equipped sniper who shot at me from the levee the type of hit man an angry Southern businessman like Leo Marston would typically hire. Still more disturbing, I had begun to recall Dwight Stone's comment about the timing of Payton's slaying. Del was killed five weeks after Martin Luther King and three weeks before Robert Kennedy. Could there possibly have been some connection between a black factory worker in Natchez, Mississippi, and the explosive national politics of 1968?

As I pondered this question, my motive, which had begun as a quest for revenge and evolved with Livy's arrival into an exorcism of my past, began to change again. Like a stubborn coal lying dormant in the ashes, a desire for truth flickered awake in my brain. Fanned to life, this glowing ember dimmed the baser motives that had brought me thus far. Revenge against Leo Marston is a hollow and perhaps even self-destructive goal. For by destroying him, would I not also destroy the second chance I've been granted for a life with Livy? And what of my hunger for explanations from Livy? Is it her fault that I've carried confusion and bitterness inside me for twenty years like shrapnel from some undecided war, a war that a more mature man would have put behind him long ago?

Ten years before Livy disappeared from my life, Del Payton was brutally murdered. That's what's important. That's what has brought death back to this quiet town, and put the lives of those I love in mortal danger. I have but one riddle to answer. Ike the Spike told me that from the beginning. Not who killed Del Payton, but why. Because the why of it is as alive today as it was in 1968, and therein lies the answer to all my other questions. The relief that accompanied this liberating insight put me into a dead sleep on the couch in Caitlin's office late Saturday night.

When Sunday dawned, this was the sum of our knowledge: a potential land deal in 1968 that involved Marston and a Georgia industrialist concerned with "racial" labor problems in Natchez (a deal that, as far as we could determine, was never consummated); phone records proving suspicious contact between Marston and John Portman; and proof that Ray Presley had worked as a "security consultant" for Marston at the time of the Payton murder and while employed by the police department. It was a good harvest for forty hours' work, but with the trial only three days away, it wasn't nearly enough. All the nail boss hog T-shirts in the world wouldn't put me one step closer to proving Marston's complicity in the murder. And without that I would never unravel the tangled skein of lies, corruption, and official silence that made Del Payton's unpunished murder such a travesty, and forced my native state to bear the sole guilt which by rights should have been shared with others.

I needed a witness.

A star witness.

I needed Peter Lutjens or Dwight Stone.

At eleven a.m. on Sunday, I was about to call Stone to set up a secure call when Caitlin stuck a cup of scalding coffee in my hand and told me to go home and get dressed for Ruby's funeral, which was scheduled to begin in three hours.


CHAPTER 29 | The Quiet Game | CHAPTER 31