The Angel of San Diego

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Chapter 20 - The Jaws of Defeat

The ride back was a bit depressing. Robin knew little Jennifer Conroy was buried in that grave, but she might as well have been shot by rocket to mars. There was no legal way of exhuming Mr. Johnson to look under his resting-place; a psychic’s word doesn’t carry any weight in the courtroom. It isn’t prima facie evidence.

Nancy had helped the police solve many crimes in the past. Her rating was ninety-two percent in accuracy when she could “tune” in to a case. In spite of her reputation, the law does not officially recognize psychic abilities enough to allow a judge to issue any kind of warrant – especially an exhumation order.

When she had stood at the graveside she could sense that Little Jenny’s body was buried there. She felt frustrated that they couldn’t do anything about it.

“It’s a crime, Hawk, that that poor girl has to remain buried under a stranger’s coffin. I know she’s there. Robin knows she’s there, but nobody will believe us.” She sounded more sad than angry.

“If it’s any consolation, Nancy, I believe you”, Lt. Hawk said. He looked at her in the rear view mirror, “Did you get any other ideas or feelings there?”

“No, just the image of her body.”

“Too bad, I was hoping you might have gotten a fix on our perpetrator.”

“I’m sorry, Hawk. This is one of those cases that just doesn’t speak to me.”

“How about you, Robin…?”

“I don’t think so. I was concentrating very hard on finding her and blocked out the rest of it. I did pick up some interesting things on Mr. Johnson though.”

“Like what?”

“Like: he was a bigamist. He has two other wives and families who are wondering where he’s gotten to.”

“How in the world could he balance three wives and families?” Nancy asked incredulously.

“I’d like to know that myself,” Sgt. Tinker said.

“It seems our Mr. Johnson was a cross country truck driver. He spent a lot of time on the road – or so the wives think – so, he was able to leave them for long periods without them catching on.”

“Unbelievable,” Lieutenant Hawk shook his head.

“Yes, but true. One of them lives here in San Diego – she buried him. Another wife lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The other family lives in El Dorado, Kansas. The funny part is that he wasn’t really a truck driver. Sure, he owned the tractor rig, but he never hauled anything in his life”

“You’re kidding! How in the world did he manage to pay for all that?” Nancy asked.

“Even if he were a truck driver he wouldn’t be able to afford three families,” Sgt. Tinker remarked. “It’s hard enough having one. I should know because my dad was an independent.”

“Well, you’ve certainly got my curiosity up. What did he really do?” asked a puzzled Lt. Hawk.

“Nothing,” Robin replied.

“Wait a minute,” began Sgt. Tinker; “There’s no way some out of work trucker is going to be able to afford one family, much less three. You’re just making this up.”

“Afraid not… The man was a millionaire. Sure, he started out wanting to be a truck driver, but one-day he entered in the Irish Sweepstakes and won over a hundred million. He put it into the stock market and other investments. He made a ‘killing’ and never told anyone what happened.”

The Lieutenant scratched his chin. “Yeah, that would work. Even at five percent he’d be collecting about a million a year in interest. That’s about eighty-four grand a month. It wouldn’t be too hard to hide the money either because who would know the names of people winning the Sweepstakes? He could live off the interest for the rest of his life.”

“Couldn’t we all,” Sgt. Tinker agreed.

“Well I never,” Nancy sniffed.

“No, but he did,” quipped Robin.

They all laughed. It felt good to laugh. It seemed like they hadn’t laughed in a long, long time. The Jennifer Conroy case had been wearing them down. Now, after finding her, they couldn’t do anything about it.

“What about his other two families? Now that he’s dead what are they going to do?” asked Lt. Hawk as he braked for a red light.

“That’s why he told me his story. He wants me to set things right by informing the others that they are all taken care of in his will.”

“He told you?” Lt. Hawk was incredulous.

“Yes. He was quite adamant about it too. He even told me where the will is.”

Lt. Hawk turned to Nancy in the back seat, “He’s joking, right?”

“I guess I forgot to tell you about that, Hawk. Lately, Robin has been able to talk to people who have passed on; not everybody yet, but some.” Amanda Potts giggled. Nancy smiled to herself. Sgt. Tinker studied the back of Robin’s head in anticipation that it might begin spinning around and spewing pea soup.

Lt. Hawk shook his head, “You two never cease to amaze me. If I hadn’t seen what he did to the bedroom earlier, I would have thought you both raving mad; talking to the dead, indeed.”

Sgt. Tinker shivered at the memory of his encounter with the flying bric-a-brac.

Robin continued: “Anyway, he apologized for deceiving them all, but he says he loved all three women the same and couldn’t bear the thought of not being married to them. They will all be quite rich as soon as I tell them where the will is.”

“So where is this will?” Nancy asked.

“It’s buried in a Mason jar in the back yard of his San Diego home.”

“Sounds like a game show when you put it like that,” Nancy remarked.

They laughed again. Sgt. Tinker sat silently thinking his own thoughts.

“The real kicker here is that his San Diego Wife is a subscriber to my Psychic Help line.”

“Small world, isn’t it?” Lt. Hawk said.

A horn sounded angrily behind them. Sgt. Tinker jumped and swore.

Amanda Potts pointed at Sgt. Tinker, “Ooh. He said a bad word.”

“My goodness, Sergeant,” Nancy exclaimed. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Sorry. That horn caught me off guard. I was daydreaming.”

“So was Hawk, apparently,” said Robin.

“I was not. I…” The horn blared again only this time it seemed louder and longer. He put the car in gear and drove on. Nancy giggled.

“Don’t anyone say a word,” Lt. Hawk commanded.

They all laughed.

Lt. Hawk dropped them off at Nancy’s and drove back to the sheriff’s department. Later that evening, Nancy and Robin were sitting on the front porch to get out of the heat of the house. This time the tea was iced and it was one hundred percent black Ceylon tea. I’ll bet Hawk has the air on, thought Robin.

“Yes, but he doesn’t have the view we have,” Nancy said proudly.

“How long have you known him, Nancy?”

“About five years. We met, as you know, at the Pacer rally in Santa Monica.”

“I still can’t believe they actually have rallies for those things,” he said shaking his head.

“There are Pacer clubs all over America, young man. We’re just as dedicated to our cars as any other car club member would be.”

“So I’ve noticed – Although I can’t understand why.”

“You don’t need to know why. You just need to learn how to curb your tongue around them.”

“I’ve noticed that too,” he said with a grin.

“Do you want to know about Hawk, or do you want to make fun of my car again?” She sounded annoyed.

There was a short silence.

“Well?” she asked.

“I’m thinking,” he teased.

“You really are incorrigible, you know,” she said in a huff.

“Yes, and I work very hard at it too.” He grinned again.

“If I didn’t love you like a son, sonny…” she began sarcastically.

“I know,” he interrupted, “My address would be a Dumpster.”

“I was going to say, ‘you’d be in a lot of trouble’ – Besides, the Dumpster is too good for you.”

“Thanks, mom… So, what about our friend, Lt. Hawk?”

“That’s better. As I said, we met at the rally and struck up a friendship that has lasted until today.”

“When did he find out about your gifts?”

“At lunch the next day… He was discussing a missing child case that had the department baffled. I had a sudden epiphany and was able to tell him that the little boy’s dad had taken him. I described the car, his dad, and where they were.

“He was skeptical at first, but I gave him information that only the police knew about so he made a call. He didn’t mention me, of course, but he said he had it from a ‘reliable source’ so they checked it out and got them both alive.”

“Thank God for that,” said Robin.

Nancy knew that this Conroy case was taking a lot out of him. It always does when murder is involved, she thought.

“Anyway,” she continued, “Over the years I have been able to help him on a number of cases – not all them were missing children. I helped them catch the Coronado Strangler. The problem is that my powers are limited, and I can’t read every case that comes along. My gifts seem to be selective and heaven only knows why.

“Your powers, Robin, are so much stronger, you can tune into anything by just touching something someone else has touched. I just wish that your first case had been easier.”

“Me too… It’s so unfair that we can’t get someone to order an exhumation. I feel like I’ve failed her.”

“Don’t blame yourself. The law is the law; no matter how good you are the courts still have to follow the law of the land. Maybe a hundred years from now, psychics will be more accepted. It took about that long for psychiatry to get a foothold and in many instances that ‘science’ is less reliable than a good psychic in my opinion.”

“Why is that?”

“The Coronado Strangler was a former patient in a mental institution that was pronounced ‘cured’ by one of them. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that our child killer is also a former patient.”

They sat in silence. Nancy didn’t feel like knitting, so it lay by her side in the big double handled cloth bag she used for it. Robin leaned back in his chair and stared out over the city. He finished the last of his tea and put the glass on the little table next to him.

“Do you own a shovel?” Robin asked nonchalantly.

“I beg your pardon?”

He leaned forward toward Nancy. “The police may not be able to exhume our bigamist friend, but as a citizen…”

“You’d be arrested for grave robbing,” Nancy interrupted.

“Only if they caught me…”

“You mean us,” Nancy added firmly.

“There’s no sense in both of us getting arrested. You shouldn’t get involved.”

“I already am. I can be the lookout and drive the getaway car.”

“Are we talking, Pacer, here?”

“Let’s not start that again, boy. Besides there’s something you seem to have forgotten about.”

“What’s that?”

“Mr. Tibbs,” she said plainly.

He looked at her blankly.

“If you had that much trouble over touching a plush toy, consider the consequences of confronting her dead body. Even the dirt close to her will have emanations on it.”

Robin closed his eyes and lowered his head. All the enthusiasm he had about his plans disappeared in the reality of her words. “You’re right.” He sank back into his chair and said sadly, “I don’t seem to be having any luck at all with this case.”

They sat looking out over the city contemplating. Nancy broke the silence. “I, on the other hand, have a lot of young friends,” she said carelessly. Robin noticed that she had begun knitting again. He stared at his friend and benefactor. A smile crept across his face.

“Would they break the law for you?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time, dear.”

“If you pull this off for me, I will never kid you about your car again.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Besides, I’m doing this for her – not you.”

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