Keys

Chapter 37

“Gentlemen, this way, please.” San Francisco ADA Gerry O’Brien ushered the two well-dressed men across the threshold of the Bryant Street conference room. The one carrying the briefcase led the way, as they chose chairs opposite the three men already seated along the far side of the long table.

As O’Brien closed the door and crossed to the head of the table, he began speaking. “Before we start, allow me to make introductions.” He gestured towards the guests. “This is Walter Annenberg Junior and his lawyer, Morris Greenspan. Gentlemen,” he nodded to the newly arrived pair, “allow me to introduce Oakland ADA Andre Cavellero, SFPD Homicide Inspector Steve Keller, and SFPD Homicide Lieutenant Mike Stone.” All parties exchanged cordial nods, whether the feelings were genuine or not.

O’Brien continued as he sat. “We’ve asked you here, gentlemen, to bring you up to date on our investigation into the shooting that happened here in San Francisco several weeks ago, and the connection it has with the subsequent shooting that took place in Oakland and with which you are, unfortunately, intimately involved.”

While O’Brien talked, Steve took the opportunity to surreptitiously study the millionaire sitting across the table. Walter Annenberg Junior exuded smug entitlement, from his bespoke Brooks Brothers suit to his well-coifed hair to his solid gold wedding ring. He looked the kind of ostentatious blowhard that Steve had assumed he would be, and it took all of the young cop’s discipline to remain mum.

Steve unobtrusively glanced toward Mike and was amused, but not altogether surprised, to see the same emotion reflected in his partner’s face, albeit subtle enough that only someone as familiar to each other as they were would notice.

“So, without further preamble, I’d like to ask Lieutenant Stone to begin. Lieutenant.” He looked at the senior officer, almost unable to keep the admiration out of his eyes.

“Thanks, Gerry,” Mike said with a nod as he got carefully to his feet, picked up a stack of file folders and papers that had rested on the chair beside him and put them on the table.

For the first time since the shooting, Mike was wearing a suit and tie. Steve couldn’t resist a slight smile, and he dropped his head and cleared his throat softly, hoping the others hadn’t noticed his unprofessional display of affection.

Mike very deliberately took his time laying out the file folders and papers in front of him. Annenberg began to fidget and cast a quick, almost angry glance at his lawyer. Greenspan caught the movement but seemed to choose to ignore it.

The display of closed files and blank papers now carefully laid out on the table, Mike straightened up and faced the two men opposite him. His voice was strong and steady as he began.

“On Monday, July 7th of this year, three young men made their way into the underground parking garage here, the Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant Street, San Francisco, and opened fire on eleven high-ranking officers of the San Francisco Police Department.

“I am now going to lay out for you the events that happened before, on and after that day.”

Mike reached for a manila folder at the right side of the table, opened it, and slowly and purposefully took out the top piece of paper. “On Saturday, June 21st, a young man walked into Robbie’s Gunshop in Livermore, California and purchased a Smith & Wesson M29 forty-four calibre revolver. Robert Evanshen, the owner of the store, remembers selling the gun that day because the purchaser was a polite and well-dressed young man who paid in cash. He provided the gunshop owner with what looked like a legitimate I.D. – belonging to one Daniel Morrison, with the address of a residence in San Francisco.

“Evanshen had no reason to doubt this young man was who he said he was so, with the paperwork filled out and the cash changing hands, the sale was made.”

Mike laid the piece of paper on the table; it was the official police report of the interrogation of the gunshop owner a few weeks after the purchase of the gun in question.

“The next day, a similar purchase was made at the Palo Alto Gun & Rifle Store. The owner there, Phillip Maynard, also described to our investigating officers the same young man, with a legitimate-looking I.D. in the name of Daniel Morrison, purchasing an S&W M29 with cash.” A second police report was placed on the table beside the first.

“That pattern was repeated the next weekend, in gunshops in Millbrae and Riverside.” Mike added two more police reports to the two already on the table, then took the time to stack them, glancing at Annenberg as he did so. “Four Smith & Wesson M29 forty-four calibre handguns.”

Mike straightened up and smiled coldly. “Daniel Morrison, the ‘purchaser’ of these handguns, doesn’t exist. Surprising, isn’t it?” As he reached for another file, he noted with well-concealed satisfaction the quick smug expression that flashed across Annenberg’s face.

“But these incidents weren’t the first in the string of events that brought us all to this room today.” Leaning over the table, he looked directly at Annenberg, the blue eyes boring unflinchingly into the millionaire’s dark brown ones. “Six days before the Livermore gun purchase, three young men, one white, two black, walked into the backroom of an Oakland dive and demanded to see the ‘boss’, an individual who made his living dealing drugs and pimping women.

“For reasons beyond understanding, these young men demanded to become a part of this… person’s gang. As a joke, hoping to get rid of these …outstandingly stupid young men, this particular individual told them that they only way they could get into his gang was for them to kill a cop.”

While this fact was common knowledge amongst both law enforcement and the criminal underworld in the Bay Area, it was still not widely known to the general public. Mike’s words had the desired effect; Greenspan inhaled sharply and Annenberg stiffened in his chair.

Mike straightened up and opened the file he was holding. It contained a stack of coloured 8x10 photos. Once more with deliberate precision, he laid the 10 photographs side by side on the table, facing the millionaire and his lawyer, identifying each one as he did so.

“Lieutenant Charles Bidwell; Captain Derek Collins; Lieutenant Alan Donner; Lieutenant John Yu; Captain Roy Devitt; Captain Robert Jeffries; Captain Dan Hollister; Lieutenant Carl Macklin; Lieutenant Ron Callahan and Lieutenant John Burkhardt.” Mike paused, then looked at Annenberg across the table. “These men were leaving a meeting, going out to lunch. At 1:12 on the afternoon of Monday, July 7th, they stepped out of an elevator and into a hell that none of them could have anticipated. They were in the parking garage of their workplace; not on the street, not on patrol.

“Less than 15 seconds later, twenty-three shots were fired, thirteen of which hit their targets. All eleven of the officers there that afternoon were struck by those bullets; three of them died.” Mike put his fingers on Bidwell’s photo and slid it across the table closer to Annenberg. “Charlie Bidwell was the first to get hit. He took a bullet in the stomach. He survived the shooting that day but he died the next morning.” Putting the fingers of both hands on the next two photos, he slid them closer as well. “Alan Donner and Derek Collins never had a chance. They were killed on the spot, both shot in the head.”

Mike straightened up and stared impassively, unblinking, at the seemingly unruffled millionaire. Steve, who had been watching his partner closely, inhaled deeply; he knew what was coming next and steeled himself.

After several long silent moments, Mike continued. “I was hit with the second bullet.” This time Annenberg audibly caught his breath; Greenspan seemed to deflate where he sat, looking down and closing his eyes. “It went through my chest. I don’t know what happened after that; I woke up in ICU the next day, with my partner by my side,” he said simply, with a nod in Steve’s direction. “I was one of the lucky ones.”

Letting his words hang in the air, Mike unhurriedly picked up and opened another file folder. “On Friday, July 18th, after following up on a description provided to us by someone in the vicinity of Bryant Street at the time of the ambush,” Mike emphasized the word, “these two young men were detained and questioned.” He laid photos of Jermaine Johnson and Robert Sampson on the table. “After questioning, it was revealed that they were indeed two of the participants and that there was a third, but they have and continue to refuse to name their accomplice. They have remained in custody and have, in fact, been charged with murder and conspiracy.”

As Mike slipped the 8-pack with the photo of Walter Annenberg the Third out of the folder and placed it carefully on the table, Steve was not surprised to see Greenspan’s eye widen as he anticipated challenging its validity.

Mike left his fingers on the 8-pack for emphasis as he continued. “Using excellent police work, the Oakland Police Department narrowed down the search for the third accomplice – the white boy. Winnowing their suspect base to a mere eight choices, all four of the gunshop owners or employees who dealt with the young man who purchased the M29’s identified your son,” Mike stabbed at the photo with his forefinger for emphasis.

Greenspan leaned forward abruptly and opened his mouth. Continuing to stare at Annenberg, Mike barked sharply, “Relax, Mr. Greenspan, I do realize that this photo array isn’t legal and wouldn’t hold up in court. Please believe me when I tell you we don’t need it.”

Mike straightened up and, with a small self-satisfied smile, reached for another folder. Steve looked down, trying to reign in his escalating glee. “It seemed Mr. Sampson proved a little more cooperative than Mr. Johnson. He told the interrogating officers that the two M29’s that Mr. Johnson used were tossed into the Bay near Coit Tower.” Mike placed another two photographs on the table. “Two of the four guns were recovered, and, surprise surprise, the serial numbers matched.”

Annenberg had regained his smug indifference. Not very much of what he had heard up until now, it seemed, was pointing in the direction of his deceased son, as far as he was concerned.

Picking up another photo from the folder in his hand, Mike looked at it for a long moment before placing it on the table. It was a picture of a red sports car. “Recognize this, Mr. Annenberg?”

The millionaire’s eyes widened slightly as they settled on the image before him, then he looked back up at the police lieutenant with studied nonchalance. “What’s this supposed to be?” were the first words out of his mouth since he had entered the room.

“You don’t recognize it?” Mike asked facetiously with a smile. “The ’72 cherry red Pontiac Trans Am that belonged to your son but was registered in your wife’s maiden name? You should have kept a better eye on your son and his car; seems this little beauty was parked a little too close to a fire hydrant about twelve blocks from this building at 12:57 pm on Monday, July 7th. Coincidence?”

Annenberg shifted uncomfortably, and Mike couldn’t resist a smile. He was closing in; it had been a long time since he’d been in a position of such power, and it felt wonderful.

Picking up another photo, he dropped this one on the table between the millionaire and his mouthpiece. “Gentlemen, meet Keith McMillan. He’s a resident of, shall we say, the seamier side of our wonderful city, what you might call a street person. Turns out he played the most important role in this little tale of ours.”

With studied deliberateness, Mike placed the final four enlargements on the table. Two were of revolvers, one a serial number etched in metal, and the last one a close-up of the rim of a bullet.

“Two days ago, Mr. McMillan handed over a bag containing two Smith & Wesson M29’s that he found in a flophouse that wasn’t very far from where your son’s car was parked on that Monday afternoon. Hmmm? Another coincidence, do you think?” he asked with a wry smile, glancing at his colleagues for the first time.

Then, losing his smile but his eyes still registering his barely concealed anger, Mike faced Annenberg again. “Unfortunately for us, the guns were wiped clean and their serial numbers had been filed down.” He paused, allowing the millionaire’s smug grin to briefly resurface. Then he pounced, and Steve smiled inwardly, remembering how just the day before Dan Healey had left him twisting in the wind before his final revelation.

“Ballistics proved that these two guns were used in the shooting. As a matter of fact, I believe one of them was the gun used on me.” He paused, and Annenberg leaned back and met his eyes defiantly. Mike waited just the right amount of time before he smiled confidently, and watched Annenberg’s face collapse in sudden fear and confusion, knowing that the tables had been turned and not in his favour.

“A clever boy, your son. A clever and sadistic sociopath.”

Annenberg quickly sat up straight and began to rise, his face flushed with rage. Steve half-stood, but Mike’s slight head turn in his direction stopped him in mid-motion and he sat back down.

Mike snorted derisively, and casually reached towards Annenberg, who tensed. Mike’s hand dropped onto the second last photo – the serial numbers. He tapped the photo a couple of times for emphasis.

“Clever? Without a doubt. But not perfect. You know, your clever little boy may have wiped down the guns and filed off their serial numbers, but he’s not smarter than the entire police department. You see, our lab boys are pretty good at their jobs, and they have ways of raising filed off serials numbers that would just amaze you.” Mike’s smile grew wider.

“See that number?” He watched closely as Annenberg’s eyes flicked down to the photo and back up. Mike reached over to the first pile of documents he had placed on the table, and took off the top copy. With barely a glance down, he placed a finger above a series of numbers on the form. “See that?” he asked, not looking down. “If you look really carefully, you’ll see that the numbers in the photo match the numbers on this form exactly. That’s the serial number of the revolver purchased in Richmond. Coincidence?”

Greenspan leaned forward. “None of this implicates Walter the Third in any way, you do know that right?”

Mike stood straight again and his posture seemed to sag in defeat. He nodded dejectedly, and Steve saw Annenberg glance at his lawyer with delight in his eyes.

Mike’s right hand went to his mouth and he rubbed his index finger over his lips. Greenspan looked at Annenberg and nodded and the two men began to stand. Mike stood straighter and dropped his hand. “Oh, I’m sorry, did you think I was done? I’m so sorry, my mistake – there’s one more piece of evidence I need to show you.”

Greenspan and Annenberg slowly sat back down, eyeing the lieutenant warily. Mike leaned across the table, smiling chillingly, and tapped the last photo – the one of the rim of the shell casing. “Do you remember me telling you that in those 15 seconds of terror in that garage that twenty-three shots were fired? Did that number not resonate with you?”

Annenberg was still looking at Mike in confusion, but Greenspan’s expression changed from one of challenge to one of resignation. He knew what was coming.

Mike met the millionaire’s eyes evenly and triumphantly. “He missed one, that clever little boy of yours. He left one of the bullets in the chamber of one of his guns. And that, Mr. Annenberg, “ he said, pointing to a mark on the photograph, “is a perfect nine-point match to your son’s right thumb.” Mike froze where he stood, his blue-eyed stare boring deep into Annenberg’s shattered confidence.

Everyone in the room tensed as the stand-off continued, neither man moving or even seeming to blink. It was Annenberg who eventually glanced away, turning briefly to his lawyer. “Let’s get out of here,” he snapped as he got to his feet, Greenspan following.

As they crossed briskly to the door, Mike’s commanding voice stopped them. “One more thing, Mr. Annenberg.” The millionaire turned arrogantly, but said nothing.

Once more relaxed, Mike reached down and picked something off the seat of the chair beside him. He reached towards Annenberg and placed a small tape recorder on the table. Both Annenberg’s and Greenspan’s eyes flicked down to the machine and then back up to the cop, confusion and hesitation in their looks.

“What the hell is that?” Annenberg asked with disdain.

Mike smiled knowingly and his eyes rapidly, almost imperceptibly, shifted towards Greeenspan, a move that only Annenberg could see. “I believe you’re a member of the Bohemian Club, aren’t you, Mr. Annenberg?”

The four men on Mike’s side of the table held their breath as the millionaire, seemingly struck dumb, stared down at the tape recorder, not moving. Slowly he raised his head and stared into Mike’s eyes. “We’re done here,” he spat out viciously as he turned abruptly and stormed from the room, his confused attorney scrambling to keep up.


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