Shannon Driving stared at the ceiling of his assigned Criminal Psychologist Investigator’s office. His old Army tee shirt was sweat soaked and hung like a wet dishcloth on his bony shoulders. “You’ve had water damage ma’am. Like, whoever fixed it, screwed up the patch.”
“Mr. Driving.” The irritation in her voice told him his comment was not well received. “Let’s get back to you. Tell me about your family.”
He was assigned to the investigator by the sheriff’s department – in his words as harassment, supposedly to help them determine if he was capable or indicated a propensity to violence, at least enough to be considered a suspect; although they admitted there was no real evidence to charge him. Shannon considered it part of the normal police hazing, he as a PI, had to endure. Private investigators are considered “bottom scrapers” by most law enforcement. Much of PI work is done on the edge or even contrary to law enforcement investigations. Shannon often said he got less respect than the courthouse lawyers.
Shannon chuckled. “Okay, here we go again.” He wondered if she put on fresh makeup between clients. She was entirely too pasted in his opinion.
He plodded along. Most of the questions had been asked during the sheriff’s interrogation, but Shannon knew the routine. He once offered to copy his background information for the next interview – to save time. Currently he was the potential suspect in the death of his mother and a man named Frank Larson. “My mother’s name is Teresa Ann Duncan, I think that’s how everyone knew her. My father was Edwin Driving of Yadkin County. Don’t ask me anything about him; cause other than his last name,” he paused. “I didn’t even know he existed till my mother told me a few years ago that he had died in Greensboro. I understand he built septic tanks and burial vaults or something to do with cement.”
She wrote a note on her pad. “Your mother was married to Edwin Driving?”
Shannon shrugged. “Maybe, I really don’t know. Suppose so. Mom had a series of men friends; she wasn’t too keen on most of them. I don’t remember their names.”
“You have siblings, brothers and sisters?” The Investigator didn’t look up.
“Maybe yes, maybe no.” Shannon considered the question. “I think mom said there was a half brother in Central Prison in Raleigh. Maybe that’s an uncle. Not so much on family knowledge, I didn’t ask, nobody told me. I grew up virtually alone in the trailer with mom – she had me when she was sixteen, seems she worked days and evenings when I was in school, I think an old aunt or someone looked after me till I was school age, I was sent off to friends and relatives a lot.”
The investigator pushed hair out of her face and leaned toward Shannon. “Your mother was seeing Frank Larson?”
He shook his head. “You’re asking if she was shacking up. Yeah, they were living together.”
She pushed her hair off her forehead again. “Do you live at the same location?” The investigator had a habit of pushing a lock of hair back every time she looked up from her notes.
Shannon made a mental note of the habit, then said, “I had a room there, supposedly, just storage, no bed; cause I moved into an apartment downtown almost six years ago, that’s like when I moved back to Wilmington; however, I occasionally went out there to get stuff, like winter clothes or CDs, mostly just junk stored there. Haven’t been invited nor found a need to go out there in months. I used her address as a permanent addy. Car insurance rates are cheaper at her mailing address. She puts any mail I get in a Walmart bag and hangs it on door where my stuff is stored. Usually junk mail, if it’s anything important looking she calls me.”
“You had a key to her house?”
“To the trailer. Yeah,” Shannon fiddled with his keys and held up a silver door key on a key ring. “I’ve got one here.” He anticipated her next question. “It’s a single wide, on a dirt road, on the edge of Pender and New Hanover Counties. Mailbox side of road is Pender, the trailer sits in New Hanover.”
The Investigator shifted in her chair. “How about Frank Larson, what was your opinion of him?”
“He was a mean, drunk, controlling, S.O.B. for starters. My opinion is that the world is better without him.” Shannon felt his face burn. “Before you ask, I don’t know of any family he might have had.”
“What was your contact with him?” She asked the question without looking up, busily making notes.
“I tried not to have any - until last week. He lived with my mother. Other than that, I had no other relationship. In the vernacular of country folk, I never drank a beer with him. I saw the guy at the trailer a few times over the last few months, maybe as much as every other time I went out there. Which in six months was probably no more than two or three times, and that was probably the last time I was out there, about six months ago. Wait, that’s a lie, I went out there a couple of months ago to pick up a car insurance notice. It was in the bag with junk mail.”
The Investigator looked at a note. “You had a business relationship? Right?”
He snickered. “He hired me, if that’s what you’re asking.”
The Investigator tilted her head. “Hired you?”
“He gave me a crisp hundred dollar bill so I would spy on my mother.” Shannon still had the cash in his wallet. “Just a sec.” He pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and placed the $100 bill on the desk. “There, the cash total of my relationship with him.”
“Really?” She looked up quickly and swiped the hair out of eyes.
Shannon crossed his arms. “Yip. His money, I don’t want it. I already paid the taxes on the hundred dollar income - I figure it’s my penalty for talking to the guy.”
The Investigator thumped her pen on the desk. “Why?”
“Why’d he hire me? Uh, well. As I remember he said he believed mom was cheating on him. I guess that was why. You know, seeing someone on the side.” Shannon took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his upper lip. “He wanted me to follow her and take notes, that is make a diary of her movements and contacts, he didn’t pay for or mention pictures.”
The investigator jotted on her pad. “Did you?”
“He was a client with a pre-pay. I told him for surveillance it was $50 per hour. I’d give him 2 hours. I have some pretty disgusting clients; Larson was just another one with easy money.”
She looked up quickly and pushed the hair off her forehead. “Except he wanted you to spy on your mother.”
He shrugged. “Yeah.”
“So you treated him as a customer of your agency?” The Investigator apparently realized she was headed into a territory not previously explored. “Where did you get your Private Detective training?”
Shannon decided to answer both questions. Though she was seated behind a desk he figured she was probably in her early 30s, married, with children. With her graduate degrees displayed on the office walls she would have little respect for his education or his line of work. No need to try to impress her. It was a lost cause.
“Yeah, like I said, he was a customer, I wrote a receipt and showed it as income. As to my qualifications, I got Private Detective training in the Army and later at Johnson Community College. I also served in a couple of small town police departments in central North Carolina. I am licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, and New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick Counties and a special permit in the City of Wilmington. Although the ballistics department has my handgun I am also licensed to conceal and carry.”
“So, you followed her,” her deadpan expression let Shannon know that the woman dismissed his resume as he expected.
He put a finger on the side of his nose. “As I remember, and keep in mind I have this written down in a diary. Okay, for two hours. She left the trailer around 9:45a.m.; that’s an estimate cause I picked up her trail on Sidbury Road at the Methodist Church around 10:00a.m.; I was headed for the trailer and there she came toward me. I ducked into the church parking lot. Followed her and then she arrived at Belk right at 10:25a.m., I witnessed her buying women’s underwear, and then spent some time looking at women’s clothes, trying on slacks and things, same in the shoe department. I didn’t see her buy more than the underwear, so that’s all I put in the diary because that is what I witnessed, I just said she looked at clothes; but, she carried several sacks to the car, and then she drove to the dry cleaner where she works, but was there only a minute or so because by the time I got turned around she was back in her car and headed for a Burger Restaurant in Ogden. Got a drive through order and drove back the opposite way on Sidbury, I assume she arrived back in Pender County with Larson’s lunch. Let’s see, that was at twelve noon. I watched her turn onto Sidbury Road. That’s where I left it. Bingo, two hours plus. I met him the next day – on Friday, about noon, gave him the diary and the receipt.”
“And that was it?”
Shannon chuckled. “Hardly. He wanted me to follow her again the next week, but he didn’t want to pay me. Said he’d already given me the $100. He wasn’t about to pay me more for something I oughta be doing anyway.”
She put her note pad aside. “What’d you do?”
“I laughed at him and started to get up but he grabbed my jacket and pulled me down.”
“Where were you?”
He grinned. “BoJangles. The one in Ogden.”
“What’d you do?”
“Nutin. He said he would cut my, well he would damage me if I didn’t follow through.” Shannon made an unconscious fist with his left hand. “He gave me that ‘or else,’ stare, that’s the way he was a pure bully.”
The Investigator had quit taking notes and was more interested in the story. “What happened next?” She leaned back in her desk chair.
“He got up and left. I watched him drive off, then I left.” Shannon leaned back. “Went back to my apartment, watched two ball games – Braves at seven, Yankees at nine, drank a beer during each, and went to bed.” He paused, and then said, “Alone.”
She leaned back to the desk, picked up her pad, and continued to make notes. “Anybody witness all this?”
“Not that I remember. Café was virtually empty. I think some guy walked through. Maybe a couple teenage clerks in the back or something maybe a manager running around. I guess there was person at the drive through cause there was a line of cars and it was busy when I walked in.” He paused. “I didn’t go to the office and I didn’t see anyone when I climbed the stairs to my apartment, or hear anyone. After a quick nap, I got up and I did a bunch of accounting work, did some internet research, watched the ballgames on television, and then hit the sack at, like I said. I guess it was about midnight. I told all this to the sheriff’s deputy.”
She wrote an entry on her pad. “How about Monday?”
He thought for a second. “Got up at 7a.m. on Monday, made breakfast; well, bagel and coffee; anyway, showered, and drove out to mom’s cause the dry cleaner she works for called me at a quarter till seven and said she didn’t show up and didn’t answer her phone, apparently, mom’s the one who opens the store in Kirkland - a community so named in northern Wilmington.”
The investigator made a hand motion indicating he should continue his story.
“That’s when I found them, the door was unlocked, but that’s not unusual. I popped open the door and a blast of foul odor hit me. Because of the way the door swings I saw Frank lying in a pool of blood in the hallway by the bathroom. On the right side of the door mom was sitting in the big blue chair. Looked to me that they both had been shot. I know cause mom was just sitting there slumped and bug eyed with a hole in her forehead. Her feet were spread eagle on the floor in front of the chair. I didn’t check Frank. He was face down so I just surmised it was him. The smell was bad enough I knew they had been there awhile.” He looked up at the Investigator. “That’s when I called 911 and a sheriff’s deputy showed up, looked in the trailer, then called in, and within an hour - half of the Pender County and New Hanover County Sheriff’s departments, fire departments, and EMTs converged on the trailer. I was taken out and driven to Wilmington, for whatever reason. You can ask them. They also brought my car which tells me they didn’t figure to keep me. Although they asked my permission to look through my car.”
“Or, they figured they’d have to drive you back,” she corrected. “Lazy.”
Shannon moved comfortably. “Are we about done?”
“A few more questions.” The investigator pointed her pen. “You don’t seem too upset over her death.”
“Yeah, maybe a little stunned, other than that don’t know why except maybe I kinda expected it. I mean, I saw a lot of death in Iraq; some guys I was really close to; maybe I’ve become hardened; but if anything I thought Frank would probably kill her and run off.” Shannon thought for a second. “You know, while I didn’t look around much but I don’t remember anything missing not that I would know anyway. I think the television was still there. I didn’t look into the room where I kept stuff, but there wasn’t much to steal.”
“So it wasn’t a robbery?”
Shannon shook his head. “I don’t know that. I suppose I’ll have to go out and inventory the trailer to be sure, like I said, not that I would know all of Frank’s possessions and I hadn’t been out there for awhile.”
“Know anyone who had a grudge against your family, Frank, or your mother?” The Investigator turned a page on her notebook.
“Family, not that I’m aware, though I’ve had a number of angry husbands threaten me during divorce proceedings. Mom didn’t have enemies that I knew of, I once heard her say that she didn’t like the current President, but she really didn’t discuss much, just went to work, came home and in the last few months, took care of Frank. Now, Frank, I never met anyone who much cared for him except Mom and few bar guys he hung with. But, until he hired me to follow her, I didn’t have much contact other than to say hey, the few times I saw him at the trailer.”
She looked up. “He confronted you at BoJangles right? And you said he hired you the day before?”
Shannon measured his words. “Yeah, actually a couple of days before; he came by my office on Wednesday and wanted mom followed Saturday, her day off, gave me that $100 bill.” He thumped the money on the desk. “Then, Sunday morning, he met me at BoJos for the results. Monday, Mom’s boss called me, that’s when I found them.”
“You know somebody told the police they heard you two arguing. That is you and Mr. Larson.” She tapped her pencil. “You said earlier that BoJangles was empty.”
“A few people coming and going,” Shannon considered his next thought. “Larson may have been loud enough for some of the crew to hear him, but we were like in the front - middle, close by the front window.”
The Investigator looked at her watch. “Detective Roberts wants to see you again, when you leave here.”
“Does that mean I can go?” Shannon started to push up from the chair.
She opened a drawer. “I have a couple of tests, poor choice of words, a couple of sheets of questions for you to answer – cognitive ability reviews.”
Shannon laughed. “I’ve done a hundred of those. I can’t draw stick figures and I still have no idea who Sacagawea is. But, I can match numbers with the best of them. And, if you had asked me to remember five objects at the beginning of today’s interview I could repeat it.”
She laughed. “I don’t read them, an analyst will.”
The investigator handed Shannon the two sheets. “There’s a desk in a private room next door. When you’re done bring them back.”
Shannon grinned and took the two pages to the room and dropped them in the wastebasket. After a couple of minutes he returned to the investigator’s office. She was not there so he picked up the $100 bill off of the desk, turned and left the building.