THROWING IN THE TOWEL
Sean is asked by a boxing trainer to find out why a promising teenage boxer has suddenly become morose and depressed. Before Sean gets around to doing so, the young man is found dead; an apparent suicide after having jumped off a building. Motivated by guilt, Sean convinces Cindy to leave the public defender’s office and join him in a private investigation agency with the death of Damiyun Walker as their first case. Cindy and Sean become both business partners and lovers.
They discovered that Damiyun had found out that a thirteen year old Vietnamese girl was being used as a sex slave by a local gang and he was killed when he tried to rescue her. The homicide detective looking into these two deaths also ends up dead under circumstances which indicate someone in law enforcement is behind running the sex slavery of Vietnamese girls in Portland. Sean, a Vietnam vet, has to connect with his past contacts in the Marine corps to find out who in Portland has the connections in Vietnam to get these girls past ICE enforcement, and ends up in a show-down with the ringleader.
REQUEST FROM A FRIEND
“You want me to spy on one of your kids?” I asked, incredulous.
“Not spy, investigate,” Paul Short corrected.
I was sitting in Paul’s office, such as it was, at the Sweet Science Gym. Paul ran a gym and trained boxers. As a former boxer myself, we had a nodding acquaintance. One of his current fighters, Ricky Preacher, was a young man that I’d originally gotten into boxing several years ago. The “Sweet Science Gym” was in the “Black” part of town to the degree that Portland, Oregon, has a “Black” part of town. Back in the 1950's almost all of Portland’s African-American citizens had lived in Vanport, a mini-city in the northeast part of Portland made up of cheap houses that was home to the shipyard workers during World War II and who had opted to stay. In the early 1950's the famous “Vanport Flood” wiped out all those cheap houses built in a flood zone, and the African-Americans who didn’t drown or leave town moved into the Albina neighborhood, although today much of that area has been gentrified and Portland’s Black residents live all over town. I still felt somewhat ill at ease here as if I were an intruder.
As gyms go, Paul’s was fairly typical. It was housed in what had been an old warehouse back in the thirties and remodeled only to the degree necessary for practical use. One section had been partitioned off so locker rooms with showers could be added. Otherwise, it was mostly open space with body bags and speed bags in places and an elevated ring in the center. About thirty young black men were working out when I walked through to the back to talk to Paul.
Paul Short, like many of the better trainers, had fought in the middle weights and was a boxer, not a slugger. He was just over six feet tall, muscular but not large, had dark, blue-black skin and grey hair cut very short. Like most boxers, he had lots of scars on his face. I had dropped by to talk to him about Ricky’s next pro fight when he had asked to talk to me about one of his young men, Damiyun Walker.
“Personally, I don’t see what the difference is between spying on someone and “investigating” him, as you put it. What do you expect me to do?” I asked, fidgeting uncomfortably on the steel folding chair that I was sitting on.
“If I’d know’d what to do, I wouldn’t be axing you,” he said, chomping on a thick stogie that he seemed to chew more than smoke. He was from New Orleans and still had the marked speech patterns of a Southerner. He took the cigar out of his mouth and leaned forward in his chair.
“Sean, this kid’s in some kinda jam. He don’t talk to nobody no more, he don’t come to work out regular like he used to, and he don’t seem to care ‘bout nothing. I axed him what de problem is and he say he ain’t got one.”
“Maybe you ought to believe him.” I said, running my hand threw my hair in a nervous gesture.
“He sixteen years old. He lives three blocks from Columbia Village. Chances of him bein’ in serious trouble pretty damn good. You want I should forget about it? He’s one of my boys. That what you do with your kids? Let somebody jam them up and just shrug it off?” Paul demanded, jabbing his cigar at me.
“I don’t know what you think I can do.” I answered.
“I don’t know what you kin do. I ain’t an investigator.” he said, jabbing at me some more with his cigar.
“I’m not either. I an ex-boxer and former landscaper.” I argued.
“I seen your name in da paper ‘bout that Rejuvenation Gym. You investigated that.”
“I had help.”
“So ax your hep. There’s some serious shit goin’ on wid this kid.”
“Okay, tell me again what’s going on, in detail, and I’ll talk to Cindy about it.” I relented.
“How many times I got to say it? I don’t know what is goin’ on. See, Damiyon is real regular-started training when he was twelve years old. He won golden gloves when he was fourteen-dat two years ago. He come to da gym every day. He work out hard every day. He talk to everybody here. He’s a nice kid. He goes to school regular, he gets good grades. He even speaks French. Then two months ago, he start skipping his work-outs. When he here, he don’t have nuthin’ to say. I ax him, ‘you thinking ‘bout state this year? Its’ in a few months you gotta work out and he say he ain’t sure he gonna fight. So I says, “what wrong with you, son, you don’t wanna fight no more?” and he say, he real busy with school, ain’t nothing wrong. I tell him, you got a girl knocked up, you got some of the gang-bangers hasseling you, you got trouble at home you tell me, you my boy. I ain’t callin’ the cops, you just tell me and we fix it. He think on that a long while and say, he ain’t got no trouble.
I say, you got trouble, son, so just tell me and we get it settled. He just shakes his head says, he ain’t got no trouble, and he goes back to the bags. So he ain’t gunna tell me.”
“You think he’s having trouble with a girlfriend?”
“No. He’d tell me. I talk about that kinda thing with my fighters all da time. Girl trouble, gang trouble, school trouble, family shit, all that. If he won’t talk to me, its gotta be serious shit, I mean SERIOUS shit. He only sixteen years old. He need hep.”
“And you don’t have any idea what it could be?” I asked, standing up to go.
“I just done tol’ you dat.”
“I don’t know what I can do to help short of spying on him, but I’ll talk to Cindy. She might have some idea.” I started to leave.
“You gunna come see Ricky fight?” he asked, relighting his cigar.
“If I’m not dead, I’ll come see Ricky fight.” I assured him.
“You gunna call me ‘bout Damiyun?” he asked, putting the cigar down.
“Yeah, after I talk with Cindy.” I was about halfway out the door by then.
“Like tomorrow?” he pressed.
“Like, as soon as I can get a hold of her. She’s pretty busy.” I was almost all the way out of the office.
“Sean, this boy’s in a world of hurt.” Paul said, looking at me with an intense expression.
“I hear you. I’ll see what I can do.”
I left the gym feeling irritated. I don’t know what Paul thought I could do to find out what was bothering his fighter other than spy on the kid. If directly asking didn’t work, what else was there? Search his room, bug his phone, follow him around town? I knew that part of my frustration was my own ignorance. I really had no idea where to start to help this kid. I didn’t have any children of my own, so I wasn’t exactly an expert on troubled teenagers.
Maybe, just maybe, he’d been arrested for committing a crime and had a criminal charge hanging over his head, one he didn’t want to talk about. If so, Cindy could find out.
Cindy was my not-really-official girlfriend who had investigated my case when I had a claim against a drunk driver who had totaled my truck and my body. She worked full time for the Public Defender’s office as a criminal investigator and moonlighted on private cases. Surely if someone had a criminal charge pending, Cindy would know how to find out. All this information must be on computer somewhere, and if it wasn’t she could ask one of her friends in the police bureau. As an unusually attractive woman, Cindy knew a lot of men who seemed happy to make themselves agreeable to her, myself included. The only positive thing about this new burden that I’d let Paul dump on me was that it gave me a business reason to call Cindy.
I had seen very little of her in the last month. She had a particularly difficult murder case to investigate. Four men had been present in a small house when a three year old girl had been dropped off by her mother to spend the night there since one of the men was the estranged father. The girl had been found dead the next morning, strangled and raped. All the men present denied being guilty and each said they had no idea who did it. The public defender’s office was defending one of the men and Cindy was the lead investigator on the case.
Cindy was one of the better investigators at the PD’s office, so she was often asked to work the murder cases and she ended up with more than her fair share of major cases. But, since her salary as a public defender investigator was on the lean side, she worked additional hours for private attorneys investigating civil cases such as car accidents where someone like myself had been injured.
My car accident two years ago had left me permanently but not seriously disabled. I had to have several of my vertebra fused which meant no heavy lifting, no boxing, no long hours bending or stooping. Since the man who hit me had carried a large amount of car insurance, I was now wealthy enough to be able to live off my investments and not have to work.
But, since I had not wanted to spend my life eating bon-bons and watching soaps, I was designing gardens for other landscapers. I did a little bit of gardening at my own house, nothing heavy, and often went to my friend, Bruce Ferrell’s, gym to help train young boxers. I was well enough to do some sparring, but five rounds was out of the question. I’d stopped boxing professionally many years ago.
So, all in all, my life was pretty low-key. That’s a nice way of saying it was boring. And then Maybelle Preacher, Ricky’s grandmother, had come to visit me while I was still convelenceing after my accident, and told me that Ricky had quit training at Bruce’s gym and had joined the Rejuvenation Gym. She had a lot of doubts about it, and would I, as a former boxer, go check out the gym and make sure that Ricky was getting appropriate training? Since it sounded like a simple thing to do, I had agreed only to find out there was a lot wrong with the Rejuvenation Gym. I had enlisted Cindy’s help to do some checking on it, and we’d ended up involved with some major fraud and murder before we had been able to tell Maybelle just exactly what was wrong with her grandson’s new trainers.
Not too long after that, Cindy had been assigned to investigate a murder case where the Public Defender was representing the accused, a convicted wife-beater and former boxer. It was not the open and shut case that everyone thought it would be. The man’s attorney felt that he had been framed, and that the motive lay in his past when he was boxing, so I was asked to look into his past. As a former boxer, they figured I would be more likely to spot something odd.
I had enjoyed playing Sherlock Holmes but even more had enjoyed spending time with Cindy, a very stylish, very attractive biracial woman in her late thirties who had quit the FBI to do some real investigative work by joining the Public Defender’s office. But now she was on the verge of leaving them to start her own practice so she could up her rates and reduce her hours. This meant taking on heavy cases with the PD’s office to pack her resume with experience, and taking work on the side to build up enough of a nest egg to go out on her own. The result being that in the last month, she had been working better than 80 hours a week and had not had much time to spend with me. I’d seen almost nothing of her in the last three weeks. I knew that if I called her to see if she’d like to go to a movie with me, the answer would be no, she was too busy, but if I asked her to lunch to discuss a teenager in trouble, she just might say yes.
When I got home from the Sweet Science Gym, I called Cindy to find, as I expected, that she was out, so I left her a lengthy message on her voice mail.
I was not surprised when I didn’t get a return phone call for the next three days. I had seen enough of Cindy’s work to know how time consuming it was. If she hadn’t been able to get home until well after mid-night because she’d been in strategy sessions with the lawyers she worked for, I certainly didn’t expect her to stay up and call me. She’d call me when she had a break. I hoped.
When Cindy did get back to me, I explained the situation in more detail and asked if we could meet for lunch. I think we both knew that we didn’t need to discuss the situation face to face in order for her to go run a computer check on this young man to see if he was facing any criminal charges, but I wanted the excuse to see her, and she, apparently wanted an excuse to see me as she agreed to meet for lunch the first part of next week.
Tuesday we met for lunch at Alessandro’s. The advantage to Cindy in this restaurant was that it was just across the street from the courthouse. I liked it because it was on the same block as the parking garage and they had the best Fetuccini Alfredo in town.
It was a posh place, for Portland, silver flatware, cloth napkins, tuxedo clad waiters, long expensive wine list. It was popular with lawyers and judges because of its proximity to the courthouse, but according to Cindy, you almost never saw a public defender there because of the menu prices — not to mention the fact that nearly half of any conversation between members of the PD’s office had to do with trashing judges which made Alessandro’s a bit awkward.
“Well, we do not have to discuss any judges today,” I said, pulling out Cindy’s chair for her.
“Thank God for that. Crime does get to be tiring as a subject of conversations, although James the God has been known to say that when you are tired of crime, you are tired of life. Easy for him to say, he just administrates. He doesn’t work the front lines.”
James the God, I knew, was the head administrator of the office. Cindy, as usual, was looking stunning in a crisp white dress shirt unbuttoned just enough to show off a bit of cleavage, but not enough to be considered immodest, with a sky-blue tailored jacket that showed off her neat waist, and a matching sky-blue skirt. The outfit was accented with a red scarf that matched her earnings and shoes. She wore her hair in a soft afro which looked good on her in spite of the fact that as a fashion statement, it had gone out with the 70's. She had milk-chocolate colored skin which always seemed to look good with the bright colors she wore.
“So what are you going to do about this kid who’s in trouble?” she asked after we had given our order to the waiter.
“I’m clueless. Short believes that if it were the usual sort of trouble, girls, schools, drugs, gangs, that Damiyun would have told him.”
Cindy wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Terrible that in this day and age gang trouble and drug trouble is considered the “usual sort of thing” but it certainly is for a poor black boy in Northeast Portland. So if its not the usual, what do you think it could be?”
“The only thing I could think of was a criminal charge. Maybe he was arrested for something.” I explained. The waiter had come by with the bottle of wine I had ordered, allowed me to taste it, and after approval, filled our glasses. I took a sip.
“An arrest in itself isn’t any big deal. Find me a Black teenager who hasn’t been arrested in this town, if for nothing else than for driving while Black.” Cindy said.
“But maybe he’s looking at some serious jail time. What if he pulled an armed robbery or is charged with something heinous, like rape?” I suggested.
“That would be easy enough to check on, assuming he was charged as an adult. If he was charged as a juvenile, the file will be sealed and no one will have access to it but the DA and his lawyer.” Cindy explained
“What are the chances of him being charged as an adult?” I asked.
“If it were something really serious, like armed robbery or rape, he would almost certainly be charged as an adult since he’s sixteen. Kids are being charged as adults even if they are as young as thirteen if it’s a serious crime.”
“Can you find out for me?”
“You can do that yourself. Just go to the courthouse. On the first floor is a long counter with signs that say, “traffic/crime.” You give them the boy’s name and they will tell you what his record is and if he has any pending arrests.” she told me.
“Really? I thought that type of thing was secret. I mean, employers can’t refuse to hire you if you were arrested but not convicted.”
“They are not supposed to use that against you. They are supposed to contact the State Police for an official conviction record, but lots of them just try the county courthouse which keeps records of all cases where there has been an arrest. It’s only secret if it’s been expunged, or if it is a juvenile case. Of course, county records only tell you what has happened in that county. If you want to check someone’s state-wide arrest record, you would have to go to every county courthouse in Oregon or use the OJIN computer system which you have to subscribe to. The only place where the information is centralized is the State Police and they only give out information on convictions.”
“Okay. I can do that. So, supposing he hasn’t been arrested for anything. What else could I do?”
“Ask Ricky. They train together. Maybe he’s mentioned it to Ricky. But, assuming he hasn’t told anyone, and it won’t do you any good to ask Ricky, or ask his parents, or ask his teachers, then if I were you, I’d check the divorce records. That’s usually what causes clinical depression in most teenagers, a court fight between their parents. You check that on the OJIN computer on the second floor if it’s in Multnomah County.
Personally, I doubted that any of these efforts would produce anything. It seemed too simple. But, it was a place to start.
“So how is work going?” I asked after our food had arrived.
“It’s driving me nuts. The more I look into this murder case, the more I think our client did it. If that’s true, I don’t want to be in the same room with the man, much less defending him.”
“When are you going to go out on your own?”
“Soon, I hope.” she answered, twirling pasta onto her fork.
“How many more murder cases do you have to do before you think you’re ready?” I asked, oblivious to my food for the moment.
“It’s that and a lot of other things. I need to have the capital to start on my own and I need private clients,” Cindy said, taking a bite of fettuccini.
“So you’re thinking what, a couple more months, a year?” I pressed.
“I don’t know. I guess I’m just waiting for everything to fall into place.” she answered, reaching for a slice of garlic bread.
“Doesn’t sound like much of a plan,” I argued, still ignoring the food.
“I’ve been too busy to do much planning,” she said.
“And always will be,” I thought to myself.
We finished lunch and I went back home. I wasn’t all that interested in plinking away at the court computer which was still on a DOSS system. There was plenty of time for me to get around to doing that. Mostly I was busy being depressed about the fact that it was so difficult to see Cindy. Lunch was the first time I’d seen her in what seemed like ages and I had no idea when I might get to see her again. I knew what her life was like when she was in the middle of a murder investigation. It would be unreasonable of me to expect her to make time for a social life, but she was always in the middle of a murder investigation. She worked 80 hours a week, on salary, so it wasn’t as if she got paid over-time, and didn’t have time in her life for any people except those connected with her work — which I no longer was.
Once back home, I got myself a beer, plunked myself down into a chair in the living room and sulked. It was time that I faced facts. Cindy didn’t have time for me in her life and unless she was going to make some major changes, I would need to find someone else. Having lunch every three weeks wasn’t a relationship and I wanted a relationship. I wanted to get married again. I wanted someone to come home to besides the dog.
I spent the rest of the week in a funk. I was depressed, bored, and lonely. I had very little to do with myself, now that I had no vocation, lots of money, but no purpose. I had no reason to get up in the morning. I knew that I should go back down to the courthouse and check out Paul’s fighter, but I wasn’t really interested, and besides, I had lots of time. I could get around to it later. It’s not like there was a deadline I had to meet.
So I puttered around the house, cleaned things, walked the dog, did some light yard work when the weather permitted, did the weekly grocery shopping and spent one day getting some new clothes, watched a lot of re-runs of movies, pondered where I might meet someone I wanted to date, and otherwise, wasted my life. I was hoping Cindy would call to check up on my project, or ask me to lunch, or out for drinks, or something, but she didn’t.
Saturday morning, bored with my life and tired of my own company, I went down to the Bertie Lou for breakfast. Alex and Donny, who had owned it when I moved in, had divorced and sold out to Robert, an ex-hippy who now worked for a living. He ran the café along the same casual lines, hiring very friendly help and keeping the price of coffee low.
I sat at the counter as usual and Carol poured me a cup of coffee while Robert and Mario, the Mexican cook, debated the value of playing paint-ball. “Mario from the Barrio” was an avid player. Robert thought it was overly-hyped and too expensive. Whenever I was tired of reading the paper, I would stare at Mario and try to read the tattoos on his shaved head. I had only made out three so far.
It’s an interesting café where the help all drops whatever they are doing whenever a school bus goes by so they can run outside and wave to the kids, but then anytime a cop car goes cruising slowly by, all the staff, including Robert, duck behind the counter. I ordered the Oak’s Bottom Omlette — mushrooms, cheese, bacon and hollandaise sauce. I wanted to order the biscuits and gravy, but I had already had that twice this week, and Robert refused to let anyone order it more than twice a week because it was so high in fat.
I poured out my troubles to Carol, mentioned that Cindy was never available, she was totally absorbed in her job, that was not likely to change, and I needed to meet someone new. She commiserated, and we chatted about good places to meet people. My sister always insisted I should meet someone in church, but Carol thought I should join a health club and look for someone there. Robert suggested looking through the “other” catagory in the Willamette Week Personals. I told him I wasn’t that desperate.
Some diners came in and Carol left off the conversation to go wait on them. I picked up the newspaper so see what was going on in the world. Not much new was happening nationally or internationally, so I looked over the local news.
A flock of Emus has apparently escaped from a farmer’s ranch near Sweet Home and the large, aggressive, and unfriendly birds, some two hundred of them, had stampeded through the downtown, terrorizing school children and small dogs, much to the chagrin of local police who apparently have never been trained to handle a large herd of angry emus and were quite at a loss as to what to do in this somewhat novel situation. It wasn’t covered in their tactical manual.
Robert and I debated the use of dogs for this situation. He thought it a bad idea to subject a dog to a kick by the bird, but I thought a dog like Kelly, my Blue Heeler, could probably manage a herd of Emus’ since she was used to herding cattle and I would think they were equally dangerous. Mario served me my ommlette and I turned to the back page of the paper.
“Local Teen Kills Self” read the headlines on a two inch article. I glanced at it, “Local Jefferson High School Junior, Damiyun Walker, was found dead early this morning after apparently jumping off the roof of a building. Police believe that death was instantaneous. They have ruled the incident a suicide. Investigators are interested in hearing from anyone who may have witnessed the event. It is estimated that he died between 2 and 4 A.M. His body was found by a teenage boy who was delivering papers in the neighborhood at about six in the morning.”
Damiyun Walker. The name rang a bell. Oh, my God, I thought, suddenly remembering. That was the young man that Paul Short had wanted me to investigate. I stared at my food, my appetite gone. I finally resolved to call Paul and tell him that I hadn’t done anything.
I paid for breakfast and went home to call Paul, but I found he’d called me. I played back the message on my answering machine
“Sean, this is Paul Don’t bother with Damiyun. He’s dead. Thanks for your hep.”
“Six stories up, that would do it,” I said, staring at the top of the Marquais building.
Cindy and I had gone over to northeast Portland to see where Damiyun had died. The Marquais building had once housed several shops on the first floor and apartments on the rest, but had been closed for non-compliance with code provisions many years ago. According to the man who ran the Quick Mart across the street, the “for sale” sign had been sitting in the window for at least the last fifteen years. No one had been interested. It didn’t look as if anyone had been interested in developing this part of town since the 1930's.
We were on Mississippi, on a section of the street between the river on one hand and the overpass on the other. There wasn’t much through traffic down here, hence no business development. Most of the apartment complexes in the area were near or under the over-pass, making them undesirable to anyone but the poor. The businesses on this strip of street were those everyone needed, a laundromat, a convenience store, a liquor store, a tavern, a gas station and a mechanic’s shop. The buildings which had housed more ambitious enterprises, like the Marquais, were now boarded up and empty. Four blocks east towards the more frequented part of the city was the Sweet Science Gym where Damiyun had trained. According to the owner of the Quick Mart, young men would buy fortified malt liquors in quart bottles and go up to the roof of the Marquais to drink. The cops weren’t likely to bother them up there. He didn’t know how they got to the roof.
Cindy and I starred at the building from the front. All the first floor windows were boarded up. No one has been getting into the building through them. There was a main entryway but it had a steel gate in front of it which was padlocked shut. It didn’t seem possible that anyone was getting to the roof from the inside of the building. We crossed the street and went down a narrow alley between the Marquais and its neighbor to survey the place. There was a fire escape down this side of the building, but it stopped well short of the ground floor. It wasn’t possible to get to the back of the building which was fenced off. I looked around for a way up.
There was a large trash bin next to the building across the alleyway. I found that by putting my foot up on the sill of the boarded window here, I could pull myself up to the top of the trash bin. Once on top of it, I could reach the fire escape on this side. I climbed up one set of ladders to a landing and found the rest of the way was blocked by a steel grate. However, from here, I could jump across the narrow alley, some six feet, to the landing of the fire escape on the Marquais building and from there, I climbed up to the roof. Cindy followed after me.
“You suppose the police found this way up?” I asked.
“I doubt it. I’ll bet they called the owner and went up through the inside, assuming anyone bothered to go up here at all,” Cindy said, catching her breath as we surveyed the roof.
It was clear from the debris that this area had seen a lot of activity. Mostly there were a lot of empty quart bottles of malt liquors, but also empty McDonald’s bags, some used condoms and a stack of pornographic magazines somewhat soggy from having been left out in the weather. There was a small little room where the stairs from the inside came out onto the roof. We looked at it, but it was locked.
The roof was tar paper and the edge had a raised bit of stone around it, no higher than two feet. It would be the easiest thing in the world for anyone to jump off or fall off if he were drunk.
Cindy and I both walked over to the side where Damiyun had jumped, looked down at the pavement, and then stood back from the edge.
“Why do you think the police said it was suicide when he could have just as easily accidentally fallen off if he were drunk?” I asked, looking at all the empty beer bottles.
“I’m guessing two reasons; first of all, if its suicide and not an accident, his family can’t sue the owners of the building, secondly, his family can’t collect any insurance, assuming they have any and they probably don’t.”
“That’s not evidence.”
“Most likely there wasn’t any evidence, one way or another. If they rule it an accident, with no evidence that it was an accident, and some relative decided to sue the building owner, the insurance company who has to defend that lawsuit is going to jump on the police with both feet for making a determination that left them with their ass in a sling. On the other hand, if they rule it suicide, there are no grounds for a lawsuit, and no one to take issue with their determination. Besides, they might have talked to his friends, and they might have told the police what Paul Short told you that Damiyun was depressed and upset lately.”
“Kinda hard on the family, isn’t it?” I asked. “After all, suicides can’t be buried on sacred ground,” I pointed out my Catholic background.
“I doubt the police would take something like that into consideration.”
Suicide, for Catholics like myself, was a very serious matter. It meant eternal damnation and was extremely distressing, to say the least, to the family. Religion aside, I think that if I’d had a teenage boy end up on the pavement, I’d much rather believe that he fell when he was drunk than to believe he was so unhappy with life that he did it on purpose.
“What do you think?” I asked Cindy.
“From what Paul says, he was unhappy and depressed. It seems possible to me that he left the gym unhappy, came down here, drank a lot, got more depressed and jumped off. Though I have to admit, it would be very easy to fall off here if you were drunk enough.” she answered.
“Don’t you think you’d leave a note?” I queried.
“Not if it was an on-the-spot decision, and not if I was killing myself over some situation that I was too embarrassed to discuss with anyone,” Cindy was starring at the roof.
“Sean, look at this area here,” she pointed. I looked where she was pointing and saw what appeared to be scuff marks and a tear in the tar paper. I studied it.
“Looks like someone had a scuffle. Maybe some of the kids got into a fight up here sometime,” she said, bending down and getting a closer look.
“Looks awfully close to where Damiyun went over the edge.” I noted.
We walked back over to the edge of the roof and looked down. From here, you could still make out the faint chalk marks on the pavement that had circled the body.
“I don’t think those scuff marks are enough to base a theory on,” I said.
“Yeah, but it’s an interesting point. Did you bring your camera?”
“It’s in the trunk.”
“How about you get some pictures of this while I go talk to the guy in the liquor store?” Cindy suggested.
We went back down the way we’d come up. I crossed the street to get into my car, and Cindy headed for the liquor store half a block down the way.
It was now two weeks since Damiyun had died. It had taken me that long to talk Cindy into leaving the public defender’s office.
“I can’t leave now, I’m in the middle of a murder investigation,” was her first response to my suggestion that she go private.
“And as long as you stay there, you will always be in the middle of a murder investigation,” I pointed out. Cindy thought about that. It was true. There would never be a time when she was at the PD’s office when she wasn’t swamped with work. She couldn’t wait until she had no major cases before going private, because that time would never come.
“I don’t have the capital to do it now,” was her second response.
“I’ll loan it to you.” I said.
“I need a big case from a private employer.” she argued back.
“I’m hiring you on one.” I said.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to borrow money from a friend, and I’d be borrowing your money and then billing you for work.”
“Cindy, you want out. Here’s your chance. Take it.”
She had to think about it.
“I’ll need to rent an office someplace,” she had told me when I called her to discuss it again.
“If I do criminal cases, I can’t use my home as an office,” she pointed out.
“No,” I agreed, remembering her luxury condo on the river. It was not a place to invite convicted thieves, robbers, and burglars. Why give them an easy way to case the joint and a password through the front gates?
“So get an office.” I said.
“That takes money.”
“I’ll loan it to you.”
“I don’t think that it’s a good idea to borrow from a friend,” she said again. And round and round we went. But, finally, we had worked it out. She would leave the PD’s office, I’d set her up financially as a partner, so I’d share the income from the enterprise, but she would not be liable to pay back the money I had fronted.
When we first started, I’d felt like a kid with a new toy. We’d found a small suite of offices in the building that housed the train depot, a classic 1890's building on the National Register of Historic Places. Trains went through a few times a day, but not often enough to be a serious distraction. The building was all wood, stone, brick and lovely. It was right down by the river front, and out of the way of major traffic, but close enough to the Broadway bridge to be easy to reach from just about anywhere in town. There was a pedestrian sky-bridge crossing the tracks over to the condo complex where Cindy lived. She was less than a ten minute walk from the office. Finding a place there had been her idea. She had already known there were office suites here, I wouldn’t have had any idea. Up on the third floor, there were offices on only one side of the building, afternoon sun came in through the windows on the east side, bathing the hallway in soft gold light. On the other side were the offices with windows in the door and transoms above each.
We had an office suite on the third floor which one reached via a creaky old elevator with an accordion iron door. The suite itself had a small reception room, a large office, a smaller office, and some storage space and closets in back. The neat gold lettering on the door read Matasar and O’Conner. Cindy insisted, since I was investing money in this, that we partner and put both names on the business. I had my lawyer set us up as a limited liability corporation, we had business cards and stationary printed, took out some ads, and Cindy quit her job with the understanding she would still have to appear from time to time in court to give evidence on the cases she had already worked. Since she was no longer an employee, she would receive no pay for this time, but only the required five dollar appearance fee. Twice, after we first opened shop, she had had to spend all day in court waiting to testify only to be told she would not be needed.
I went back to Paul Short, and talked to him about the situation. Damiyun’s family did not believe he had killed himself, and had been looking for a lawyer to sue somebody, or to have some kind of investigation conducted, but couldn’t get any help. Cindy had met with Damiyun’s mother, DeMaya Walker, and indicated we would take this for a very low fee for the sake of experience, and possibly payment if it proved to be an accidental death that the family could sue for. It didn’t do to explain that I was personally financing our time on this because I had felt guilty about having not helped out when Paul had asked me to. I hadn’t met our client yet. We had that arranged for later this week. Cindy has used her contacts in the police department to get a copy of the police investigation, such as it was, and then we set out to see for ourselves where it had happened.
The police report had been very short. Damiyun’s body had been found at six in the morning by a passing motorist. The autopsy report had indicated he had died from a fall, and that he had had a moderate amount of alcohol in his system at the time. It was estimated that he had died between midnight and 3 A.M. The police had talked to his mother and sister, and to one of his teachers who had all confirmed that he had been moody and depressed. The state medical examiner had ruled the death a suicide and that was that.
I got our new camera with zoom lens out of the trunk of my Benz go-devil. I bought this with the money I got out of the lawsuit even though the drunk who had hit me had been driving a Benz. That was actually a good thing. If he’d hit me with an SUV I’d probably be dead.
The camera set was new. I’d bought it when Cindy and I had opened our investigative agency. This was a new Nikon digital with extra long lens and extensive operator’s manual that I hadn’t read yet. Fortunately, the camera did almost all the work for me. All I had to do to get great pictures was put it on automatic, turn it on, point it and click. I had the equipment in a backpack, and headed back up to the roof.
Accosting me on my way was one of a group of three transients. I reached into my wallet and gave one a five dollar bill. He was very grateful and polite about it. I have been told that it is a bad idea to give money to “bums”. I have been told that this just enables them in buying drugs or booze, but I still give them money. I think that hard-core addicts are going to get the money from somewhere anyway, better I give it to them than they mug someone for it. I also believe that what they do with their money is not my responsibility; maybe some of it will go to booze, maybe if they get enough, some will go to food. I give them money because they ask, and because I think it helps for them to know that some people care enough to hope that they use the money for something they really need.
I got back up on the roof. It took only seven minutes this time since I knew the route up.
Having picked up a book on forensic photography, I tried to remember the basic steps of taking pictures to be used as evidence. The first thing I did was take a 3 x 5 card out of the backpack and write on it, “March 6, Marquais Roof Damiyun Walker Investigation” and took a picture of the card. I divided the roof up into imaginary grids, and took photographs of every area, most with multiple shots of each “bracketing” my shots with different exposures to make sure one would be correct. I diagramed the grid I’d used to divide up the roof shots on a notepad. I also went back to the edge and took photographs of the pavement. I then took out a photo log sheet and wrote down notes on each of the pictures taken, writing down the exposures for each frame. Finished with what I thought I needed to get, I changed lens, putting on the long lens just to see what it could do. I had never used it.
I stood at the edge, focused on my car, mostly to make sure no one in this questionable part of town was molesting it, and then found I could focus in on the group of transients and get clear shots of their facial features. I took a few pictures just to get the feel of the lens. I could see that Cindy had finished talking with whomever in the store and was now waiting by the car. I took a few pictures of her, and then rejoined her.
“Hey, you a cop?” asked one of the transients as I walked by.
“He ain’t no cop.” argued his female companion.
“You ain’t a cop, are you?” he asked again.
“He ain’t no cop. I know he ain’t no cop,” the woman said again, insistently.
“No, I’m a private investigator,” I said, feeling ill at ease with my new title.
“I told you,’ the woman said.
“You here about that guy that got pushed off the roof, ain’t ya?” he asked.
I stopped just abreast of him, almost not believing what I had heard.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m here about the guy who was pushed.”
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