Keys

Chapter 35

They had gathered in a conference room in the Hall of Justice. Steve and Assistant D.A. Eric Karlson sat quietly while Gerry O’Brien laid out the reason for the meeting to their Oakland guests, Captain Paul Stewart, Sergeant Jerry Coleman and ADA Andre Cavellero. He had placed the small tape recorder on the table, piquing their interest. But before he played the tape, he asked for an update on the investigation so that they were all on the same page.

Things had begun to speed up again, much to everyone’s relief. Steve relayed the information about the Annenberg’s car being identified in the neighbourhood on the date in question, and the on-going ground search in San Francisco for the two .44’s.

Stewart had news about Annenberg’s two accomplices - Jermaine “J-Boy” Johnson, the second shooter, and Robert “B-Bob” Sampson, the lookout. Though pressured time and time again, neither had cracked even the slightest, though both had been offered generous ‘incentives’ to fold on their confederate.

It had taken awhile, and some serious digging, but OPD had unearthed and ‘confirmed’ rumours of large sums of money being deposited in unnumbered Swiss bank accounts, under fictitious names, for the families of the pair. Reportedly it was enough money that both families would be set for several generations, and an insurance policy guaranteeing the perpetual silence of the future prison inmates.

But, owing to the world-renowned discretion of Swiss banks, as well as Swiss banking laws, OPD reckoned that this was as far in this direction that they were likely to go – and no concrete proof would ever be uncovered that could be taken to trial. So as damning as this information was, it could do them no good. They still needed the guns.

News of the mysterious cash flow proved a fitting seque for O’Brien to introduce the tape. Though not revealing the identity of the procurer of the cassette, he did say he came into possession of it two nights earlier and that its bona fides were without question. Then, revealing nothing else, he hit the play button and sat back.

With amazing restraint, no emotion showed on anyone’s face as the tape played. When the excerpt was finished, O’Brien shut the recorder off and waited for a response. No one said anything, but most eyes eventually found their way towards Cavellero, whose expression had remained neutral.

Suddenly realizing everyone was looking in his direction, he cleared his throat and sat forward. “Well,” he said with a heavy sigh, “that’s … that’s very interesting, isn’t it?” He looked at O’Brien. “You know what we can and cannot do with this, of course.” O’Brien nodded. Cavellero looked at the youngest cop in the room.

“Steve, I know you have the most at stake here, and your opinion matters above any of us in this room. But even you must realize that we would be treading on very thin legal ground is we use this in any way, you know that, right?”

Steve nodded. “Yes, sir, I do.”

“All right, that being said,” Cavellero continued, “what do you think we should do with it?”

Steve took a deep breath and leaned forward. “I realize that everyone in this room wants to be able to exonerate Jack Elliott and, with a clear conscience, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Walter Annenberg the Third was the mastermind and principal shooter. And I also realize how frustrating it has been to not be able to find any concrete evidence in that regard.

“This tape provides us with no proof of culpability, but it does give us a weapon that we can use against Annenberg Junior’s reputation. And if we use it, it might make him back off with regards to any lawsuit he plans to proceed with, but does it prove that his son was the sick little bastard we all know him to be?”

The question was rhetorical but most of them shook their heads anyway.

“Walter Annenberg the Third is and was responsible for the deaths of three San Francisco police officers and the wounding of eight others, including my partner. I will never forget that as long as I live and I want to make sure that no one else does either.

“So, as far as I am concerned, at the present time I would like to sit on this tape until we are absolutely sure that no evidence exists out there that can tie Annenberg the son to the shooting. Then, and only then, would I give my consent to using this tape against Annenberg the father.”

Having said his piece, Steve sat back. O’Brien was staring at him with a discreet smile of pride. Impressed, Cavellero nodded his head. “Well said, Inspector. And I find I have to agree with you. Gentlemen?” He turned to the others.

Stewart looked at Steve with barely suppressed awe. “I have to admit, if it was my partner that was almost killed, I might not think twice about using that tape to go after the perp, but you make the moral high ground look pretty tantalizing.”

“Well, gentlemen,” said O’Brien, “I take it then that we table this cassette for the time being, continue the efforts to locate those guns and dig up anything else we can, and see where that gets us.” There were nods all around. “I say then that we meet back here in a week, if nothing has broken in the interim, and see if everyone still feels the same. Hopefully, something will have changed by then.”

# # # # #

Steve walked into Homicide to get the latest from Haseejian and Healey and was almost unpleasantly surprised to see Dr. Lenny Murchison sitting on the corner of his desk.

The psychiatrist stood as the cop approached. “I heard a rumour you were in the building. You know you can’t –“

“I’m not here officially, Lenny, I just came in for a meeting.”

“Ah, I see.” As Steve continued to ignore him, checking the desk and his phone for messages, Murchison ventured. “You know, it’s really only a formality – it won’t take long. Why don’t you drop by my office –“

Steve looked up quickly and the psychiatrist froze mid-sentence. “Not right now.” Realizing he was being a little harsher than he intended, Steve relented. “Sorry, bad timing. Look, I know you have a job to do.” He sighed quickly. “How about first thing tomorrow morning? Does that work for you?”

Murchison threw up his hands. “Perfect. Nine o’clock?” At the cop’s nod, he continued, “Then nine it is. My office.”

As the psychiatrist left the squad room, his place was taken by Haseejian, who had watched the little exchange from his desk. “You’re finally gonna talk to him so you can come back?”

Steve cocked his head. “Don’t have much of a choice, and I do want to get back to work. Lenny tells me it won’t take long.”

“Ha,” Haseejian snorted derisively. “So, you’re not supposed to be here, right?”

“I came in for a meeting – it seems like I can have those,” Steve explained. “So why don’t you and I go into Mike’s office and have a meeting?”

Haseejian chuckled. “Smart boy,” he mumbled as he followed his young colleague into the glassed-in room.

# # # # #

Steve came through his front door with a large pizza box balanced in one hand. “Dinner!” he called as he turned to close the door.

“Perfect timing,” said Mike as he entered from the kitchen. “I just set the table. What took you so long? I thought you were only going in for a short meeting this morning? I’ve been waiting to hear what you guys decided.” He followed Steve into the kitchen.

Putting the pizza box on the counter, Steve said, “Oh, I had a bunch of meetings with Norm and Rudy and a couple of others – off the record, of course,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m really not supposed to be in the office, as Lenny so graciously informed me.” He washed his hands at the sink.

“Oh, great, Lenny,” Mike said without enthusiasm as he opened the pizza box and smiled when he saw one half of it loaded with anchovies. “What did he have to say, other than that?”

Steve chuckled. “Nothing, actually. I am going to meet with him tomorrow morning and get it over with so I can get back to work.” He glanced at his partner sideways. “Now that I can tell him I’m sleeping without nightmares, I shouldn’t have a problem.”

Mike smiled warmly. “Yeah, I noticed you slept through the night last night.” He paused then met Steve’s eyes. “I really think I should be getting back to my own place. I’m okay to be on my own now.”

Steve turned away from the sink and leaned against the counter. He knew this was coming and he was prepared for it. “I agree, but on one condition. I want you to talk to Lenny first, make sure you get that ‘issue’ you mentioned dealt with, then you can go home. Agreed?”

Without expression, Mike stared at the young man for several long seconds then he smiled and nodded slowly. “Agreed.”

Steve grinned. “Let’s get this pizza on the table, I’m starving!”

# # # # #

Over dinner, Steve let Mike know about what had transpired in the meeting in O’Brien’s office that morning. By the time he had finished, there was no mistaking the pride in Mike’s eyes. Steve laughed self-consciously. “Say something!” he finally blurted out.

Mike just shook his head. “I’m speechless,” he said warmly. “I guess those Ethics classes really worked for you, didn’t they?”

Steve laughed again. “So,” he asked tentatively, “do you think I did the right thing?”

“You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?” Mike asked with his own laugh. “You little bastard…” he chuckled, then his face turned serious as his eyes remained warm and bright. “You know I would have been disappointed in you if you decided to use that tape. But I couldn’t tell you that. You had to make up your own mind.” With great affection, he reached out and put his right hand on the back of Steve’s neck, an action he had not been capable of doing since the shooting, and one they had both missed.

Steve raised his left hand and grabbed Mike’s wrist, and they stared into each others eyes for several long moments. Then Steve smiled, Mike growled and shook the younger man’s head, and they broke apart. Steve picked up his plate and walked to the counter, slapping Mike’s shoulder as he walked by.

He had just put the plate on the counter when the phone rang. He picked it up on the second ring. “Hello.”

Mike turned to face him. Steve’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Wait, wait…slow down, Norm, I can’t understand -- … Yeah… Yeah … You’re kidding …. No, I’ll be right --- No, of course, yeah … Okay, okay, well, yeah, call me when you know … right. Yeah, thanks, Norm.”

Steve hung up and turned to his partner, eyes wide. “They found the guns.”


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