Check! The game draws near, and you have so very few choices for survival. Your king is in jeopardy, and I will soon capture your queen. How do you feel right now? How does it feel to know there is nothing you can do to survive? You’ve played a masterful game. Unfortunately, my friend, it wasn’t good enough.
“When?” the governor asked. “Is she alright?”
There was a lengthy answer.
“I’ll be there in less than two hours. In the meantime, finish it. I have no intention of wasting taxpayers’ money on a trial. I want that sonofabitch dead. The bastard isn’t going to get away with it. I’ll talk to you after it’s done.”
He hung up and called his secretary. He told her to get his helicopter ready and to notify everyone that his daughter had been found and was safe. He was flying to San Jose.
The caller closed his phone and made a beeline for Captain Donald Black. He wanted to get there before too many cops were around. Maybe, if he was lucky, he could get in and out before anyone noticed. Maybe the grief-stricken man would take his own life. At least that’s how it would appear. Unfortunately, the caller was too late.
After catching his breath in the ambulance, Ben made a call, telling the listener to bring in Captain Black. One of two things had to happen: the captain either had to prove his guilt or his innocence. Either way, the captain had a lot of explaining to do. If he were guilty, he was going to fry, Ben thought. If he were innocent, then he would be the next target.
The captain appeared shocked when officers surged into the hotel room and restrained him, guns drawn. He seemed to have no idea what was happening, but he knew his best course of action was to do whatever they asked without resistance. He wasn’t without sin, but there wasn’t any way they could pin anything on him—nothing they could convict him with anyhow.
The captain wanted to speak with Detective Simeon right away. He wouldn’t talk to anyone else. Ben was the only person who would believe him.
Ben, Corey, and Cheryl headed back to San Jose, where they were going to keep the captain. He would be held at his hotel and nobody was to speak to him until Ben arrived—not even his attorney, if he asked for one. As far as Ben was concerned, the captain was still just a suspect, but he wasn’t going to take any chances with this man, no matter how close they had grown over the years.
When they arrived at the hotel, Ben asked everyone to stay out. He wanted to talk to the captain alone.
“Are you sure that’s the best approach?” Cheryl asked. “You do realize that this could be construed as a conflict of interest. I don’t want to take any chances of him getting off because of bad protocol.”
“I’m not going to say or do anything to cause a conflict of protocol,” Ben said. “For years this man has been a good friend and mentor. We have a lot of circumstantial evidence, but the evidence is pretty compelling. I want to at least give the man a chance to talk. He asked for me, and that’s exactly what he’s going to get. Now make sure everybody stays where they are. I’ll be back in a moment.”
The captain was sitting at the desk in the small room, one arm shackled to the metal frame. His head was bowed, and he looked distraught. Sitting in front of Ben was a long-time friend, companion, and, possibly, mass murderer. Conflict was raging in his head, yet when the captain looked up at Ben, the man’s demeanor changed. He no longer seemed scared. The captain looked almost serene, even comfortable.
“I understand you found the governor’s daughter,” he began, “Congratulations. I hope nobody got hurt.”
“Everyone’s fine. Thanks to you.” Ben wanted to see how Captain Black would respond to the accusation.
“What do you mean?”
“You tell me. You’re the one with all the answers around here.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Ben.”
“Look, Don, we both know that you’re a lot more involved than you want us to believe. I know you were involved with the ones we’ve already dug up. I don’t know everything, but I know that much. You should have told me that you knew them. You should have taken yourself off the case. Instead, you plopped yourself right down in the middle of it. What was that for, Don? You wanted to make sure you could manipulate the information we accessed, right?”
“Look, you know me, Ben! Do you honestly believe that I could kill all of those people? Why the hell would I do that?”
“Tell me about your niece and sister, Don. Tell me what really happened, and then maybe you’ll be able to answer your own question of why.”
The captain looked shocked. He’d taken great care and expense to ensure that nobody would ever find out about his family. He was dumbfounded. “How did you find out, Ben? Nobody knew about that—at least not anybody that would ever talk about it. So how did you find out?”
“You aren’t the only one with friends in special places, Don.”
This shook the captain. He hadn’t known the depth of Ben’s resources. He was in trouble and knew it.
“What do you want, Ben?” the captain asked. “Do you want me to tell you that I killed those people? Is that what you want? A confession? All right, Ben! You’ve got it! I want to make the following confession. Are you ready? Is the tape recorder playing? Because I don’t want you to miss any of it. And just for the record, I’ll wave my right to an attorney, and I understand all aspects of Miranda.”
Ben was already recording everything the captain said. “Alright, captain. I’m ready. Go ahead and confess.”
“Okay, Ben, here’s your confession.” The captain paused. “I am telling you the absolute truth when I confess to the following: I did not kill those people! Did you get that, Ben? Did you and all of those asshole friends of yours get that? I didn’t kill those people. You can do whatever you want with that information, but that is all I intend to say. I want to speak to my attorney. Anything else you need to hear will be coming from him.”
The captain stared at Ben. Neither of them spoke. The captain turned away from Ben. He was finished talking, and Ben knew it.
“You may not realize it, but I really haven’t convicted you yet,” Ben told him. “All I can tell you is that there are a lot of things adding up against you. I can’t help you if you aren’t willing to help yourself.”
“Help me?” the captain said. “You have no fucking way of helping me, Ben!” The captain was realizing that the past was about to bite him in the ass. “Whoever wants me guilty has set a trap and there’s no way for me to get out of it. I can only help myself by telling you the truth. I didn’t kill those people. It doesn’t matter if you believe me or not. There’s no way out of it for me, no matter what you or I do. Just let it go and do your job. Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen, Ben.”
Ben didn’t know how to proceed. He got up to leave.
Ben turned and looked at his friend.
“I don’t blame you for anything. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I know I was hard on you, but hell—I’m hard on everyone. No matter what happens, I don’t hold you responsible.” The captain turned away from the detective.
Ben left more confused than ever. Ben believed what the captain told him. Maybe it was a conspiracy or some kind of a frame. If it were, Ben would figure it out. For Ben, friendship wasn’t a matter of convenience. Friendship was a commitment for life. It wasn’t a matter of always agreeing with your friends; it was a matter of standing by them.
Cheryl and Corey met with Ben just outside the room. Ben’s head hung in dismay; he didn’t know what to believe. He wanted to believe his friend was innocent. Yet the evidence was certainly adding up against him. He wondered about the captain alluding to someone setting him up. Was a crime this elaborate possible, while setting up an innocent man? Ben didn’t think so. But then he couldn’t imagine how someone could do the crimes to begin with. These were not crimes of passion—at least not purely of passion. They were cold and calculated. Someone of immense intelligence had done them. The captain was smart, all right, but was he smart enough to do this? Ben just couldn’t get a handle on it.
“What do you think?” Corey asked him.
“I don’t know. Something just isn’t adding up here, and I can’t put my finger on it.”
“What do you think it is?” Cheryl asked. “Do you think it’s a setup? Is that possible?”
“I just don’t know. We need to get more information. We need to find out everything we can. We need to see if the captain was involved and, if so, how much. We need to check out his place and anything that might bring more of this to light. Right now we need to get him someplace safe. Make arrangements to take him to the station, and see about getting a search warrant for his home and any other place he might be connected. Maybe that’ll turn up what we’re looking for.”
The car and escort were ready within minutes. When everything was in place, Ben, Corey, and several officers took the captain in handcuffs out of the hotel and to load him into the car.
Nobody saw the muzzle flash hundreds of yards away. They only heard the echo of the shot after the captain’s head jerked spasmodically and exploded, the shell bursting through the back of the man’s head. The officer behind the captain went down as a fragment of the shell hit him in the neck. Blood poured freely from the captain’s still body.
Ben knelt beside his friend, covering him with his own body in hopes of protecting him from anther blast. It wouldn’t make a difference. Donald Black was dead. There was nothing anyone could do to change that.
Officers tried to ascertain the shooter’s location. Ben thought it was too late for that. Whoever it was certainly wasn’t going to stick around for long. He would find the shooter, Ben thought. In time, he would find him. Right now, he needed to take care of the business at hand. If possible, he needed to save his friend’s name.
“It’s done,” said the voice at the other end of the governor’s line. “He’ll never go to trial.”
“Good job,” the governor replied. “Stop by my office next week, and we’ll talk about your future. I think there just may be a position in the White House that’ll be open. You’d fill it quite nicely.”
“Thank you, Mr. Governor. It’s always a pleasure working with you. I look forward to seeing you soon.”
The governor hung up the phone and smiled. He knew that he had once again proven that nobody fucked with his family. He leaned back in his seat and rode to the hospital to see his daughter. He closed his eyes, not to sleep, but to enjoy the moment. There is justice in the world, he thought, even if I’m the one who has to make it happen. Others would come to believe in his justice once he was elected President of the United States.